Smiler Takes On 12 in 12 (part 2)

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Smiler Takes On 12 in 12 (part 2)

Denna diskussion är för närvarande "vilande"—det sista inlägget är mer än 90 dagar gammalt. Du kan återstarta det genom att svara på inlägget.

Redigerat: nov 26, 2012, 1:17am

Hi, I'm Ilana. I may or may not reach my target of 144 books this year, but as long as I'm doing lots of great reading, it hardly matters, does it? :-)

1. The First Half 1901-1951 12/12 - COMPLETED
2. Tea with Georgie, Vickie & Eddie - 18th & 19th Century Classics 9/12
3. Picked for me - chosen from my shelves at random by LTers 10/12
4. Guardian Knows Best - Guardian 1000 12/12 - COMPLETED
5. The Dark Side - Crime & Mystery 12/12 - COMPLETED
6. Going Places - International authors & places 12/12 - COMPLETED
7. Young at Heart - Children/YA/Fantasy 12/12 - COMPLETED
8. Hot Off the Press - Published since 2011 12/12 - COMPLETED
9. Visual Treats - books on art, photography, design, or just beautiful books 7/12
10. Beyond Fiction - non-fiction 9/12
11. Litérature Française - read in French 10/12
12. From My Treasure-Trove - off the shelf (acquired before 31/12/11) 9/12

Total read: 126/144
Only 18 to go!

I'm also an active member of the 75 Books Challenge for 2012, and that thread can be found here.

Picked for 13/13
1. The Last Child by John Hart - avatiakh
2. Le fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux - avidmom
3. A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot - calm
4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - casvelyn (also: EBT1002)
5. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay - SouthernKiwi
6. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford - NielsenGW
7. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas - mamzel (GR)
8. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory by William Manchester - banjo123
9. I, Claudius by Robert Graves - PaulCranswick (also: lyzard)
10. Dragonwick by Anya Seton - lyzard
11. The BFG by Roald Dahl - Whisper1
12. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - jolerie
13. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks - EBT1002
14. The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch - kidzdoc
15. A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd - souloftherose
16. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - msf59
17. Les liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos - bohemima
18. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - lunacat (also: msf59)
19. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - luvamystery65
20. The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg - -Eva-
21. A Dance to the Music of Time Anthony Powell - sibyx
22. Music & Silence by Rose Tremain - LizzieD
23. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty - DeltaQueen50
24. The Elephant's Journey by José Saramago - bahzah
25. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - phebj
26. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry - Donna828
27. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque - kiwiflowa
28. Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson - gennyt
29. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson - lilianboerboom
30. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - LittleTaiko

I've got LOTS of great picks and unfortunately have to end it! Thanks for playing along!

1. avatiakh: "engaging page turner"
2. avidmom: "romantic, creepy, and downright scary"
3. calm: "it was a very good story; you have it down as recommended by me; it is on audio; also I would be interested to find out what it is like in the original French"
4. casvelyn: "It's long, but it's brilliant." (also: EBT1002: "because I have it on my TBR pile and it seems like we should read it.")
5. SouthernKiwi: "great historical fiction, a powerful coming of age story where the relationships and the strength of the human spirit are features. It was one of my favourite books right through high school."
6. NielsenGW: "Plus, the Mongols break every historical rule about civilzations and culture."
7. mamzel: "you should join us for the group read next year!" (GR, also: luvamystery65: "a wonderful long and interesting literary journey")
8. banjo123: "because I want to know more about Churchill, and if you read it, I can read your review"
9. PaulCranswick: "history brilliantly written with a wonderfully gossipy narrator. It has a bit of everything: farce, murder, sex, politics and family in a heady, witty brew. One of my personal top tens." (also: lyzard: "you can consider this a second vote")
10. lyzard: "since that came up in our conversation about Gothic literature, and because I should have read it too, and this should inspire me to finally pick it up. Perhaps we can do a shared read?"
11. Whisper1: "the creativity, the genus of the story and the warm, wonderful feelings it generated long after the last page was read"
12. jolerie: "funny, irreverent, and most of all, truthfully funny! I gave it a five star when I read it earlier this year."
13. EBT1002: "because I read it a few years ago and loved loved loved it."
14. kidzdoc: "1978 Booker Prize winner"
15. souloftherose: "because it's in my TBR pile too and it might prompt me to read it!"
16. msf59: "one of my top reads of the year. Yes, it's YA and yes it's a tear-jerker, but I also think it's wonderful"
17. bohemima: "one of the most compelling books I've ever read. Not nice characters, but a fascinating look at one section of French society."
18. lunacat: "the only book I studied at school and actually enjoyed delving into" (also: msf59: "I thought it might be one that might not work for you.")
19. luvamystery65: "I don't immediately have a category to put it in"
20. -Eva-: "to make sure that at least one Swede is represented. I'd be interested to see what you think of the French version."
21. sibyx: "should be on my Top Ten Novels by Men list. Great story, great writing, great characters, and a thoughtful view of the middle-decades of the last century. (1930-1970ish)."
22. LizzieD: "It is a lovely, lovely book"
23. DeltaQueen50: "one of my all-time favorite books"
24. bahzah: "yu love elephants (so do i).
- though short, tej is a book of substance"
25. phebj: "It instantly demonstrated the benefits of the TIOLI challenges to me because it had been sitting unread on my shelves for almost 20 years"
26: Donna828: "It's a fairly short book filled with wonderful writing"
27. kiwiflowa: "demonstrates how destructive a war can be to an entire generation."

(all the above will somehow help me define my 13/13 theme and/or categories...)

Redigerat: okt 13, 2012, 6:51pm


Category #1: The First Half 1901-1951

1. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck ★★★★⅓ (review)
2. The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck ★★★★⅓ (review)
3. Troubles by J. G. Farrell ★★★★½ (review)
4. ♫ Fear by Stefan Zweig ★★★★½ (review)
5. ♫ Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman Stefan Zweig ★★★★½ (review)
6. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck ★★★★⅓ (review)
7. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan ★★★⅓ (review)
8. A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor ★★½ (review)
9. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor ★★★★½ (review)
10. ♫ Part of the Furniture by Mary Wesley ★★★★½ (review)
11. A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor ★★★★⅓ (review)
12. ♫ All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West ★★★★★ (review)

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898 - 1995)

Redigerat: okt 26, 2012, 3:16pm

Category #2: Tea with Georgie, Vickie & Eddie - 18th & 19th Century Classics

1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole ★★★★ (review)
2. ♫ Dracula by Bram Stoker ★★★★ (review)
3. ♫ The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ★★★★½ (review)
4. ♫ David Copperfield by Charles Dickens ★★★★ (review)
5. My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault ★★★★★ (review)
6. Persuasion by Jane Austen ★★★★ (review)
7. ♫ Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens ★★★¾ (review)
8. ♫ The Warden by Anthony Trollope ★★★⅓ (review)
9. ♫ Tess of the D'Urbervilles ★★★★½ (review)

Possibilities from my shelves


Redigerat: nov 26, 2012, 1:12am

Category #3: Picked for me - chosen from my shelves at random by LTers

1. ♫ Fight Club by Chuck Palaniukh (Picked by Deern) ★★★½ (review)
2. ♫ Études de Femmes by Honoré de Balzac ★★★★½ (review)
3. ♫ Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon ★★★★⅓ (review)
4. ♫ The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carré - Guardian 1000 (Crime) ★★★⅓ (review)
5. The Global Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger ★★★½ (review)
6. The Glass Room by Simon Mawer ★★★★⅓ (review)
7. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud ★★★★ (review)
8. Blindness by José Saramago ★★★★½ (review)
9. Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman ★★★★ (review)
10. No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod ★★★½ (review)

Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood - Picked by MickyFine
Études de Femmes by Honoré de Balzac - Picked by bucketyell
The Global Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger - Picked by msf59
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Branddon - Picked by avatiakh
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré - Picked by casvelyn
Arabian Nights: Four Tales from a Thousand and One Nights by Marc Chagall - Picked by Donna828
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - Picked by DragonFreak
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver - Picked by calm
No Great Mischief by Alasdair MacLeod - Picked by KiwiNyx
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer - Picked by DeltaQueen50
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk - Picked by Deern
Le Grand livre de la tendresse by Jacques Salomé - Picked by LauraBrook
Blindness\ by José Saramago - Guardian 1000 (Science Fiction & Fantasy) - Picked by Whisper1 - Group Read
Caravan of Dreams of Idries Shah - Picked by PiyushChourasia
The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1) by Jonathan Stroud - Picked by -Eva-
Candide by Voltaire - Picked by Fourpawz2
Native Son by Richard Wright - Guardian 1000 (Crime) - Picked by EBT1002
Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman - Picked by bohemima

Redigerat: nov 26, 2012, 1:09am


Category #4: Guardian Knows Best

1. ♫ Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - Guardian 1000 (Love) ★★★★⅓ (review)
2. ♫ The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark - Guardian 1000 (Comedy) ★★★¾ (review)
3. ♫ Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - Guardian 1000 (Love) ★★★★⅛ (review)
4. ♫ Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley - Guardian 1000 (Crime) ★★★★⅓ (review)
5. ♫ The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark - Guardian 1000 (Comedy) ★★½ (review)
6. ♫ Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Guardian 1000 (Crime) ★★★★⅓ (review)
7. ♫ Any Human Heart by William Boyd - Guardian 1000 (Family and self) ★★★★½ (review)
8. ♫ I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - Guardian 1000 (Love)★★★★ (review)
9. ♫ Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks - Guardian 1000 (War and travel) ★★★⅓ (review)
10. ♫ The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton - Guardian 1000 (Love) ★★★★⅓ (review)
11. ♫ Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - Guardian 1000 (Family and self) ★★★★⅓ (review)
12. ♫ The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford ★★★★½

Redigerat: okt 27, 2012, 12:45pm


Category #5: The Dark Side - Crime & Mystery

1. ♫ To Fear a Painted Devil by Ruth Rendell ★★★⅓ (review)
2. ♫ A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes ★★★★½ (review)
3. ♫ The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura ★★★ (review)
4. ♫ Death and Judgment / A Venetian Reckoning by Donna Leon ★★★½ (review)
5. A Murder of Quality by John Le Carré ★★★★ (review)
6. ♫ Running Blind / The Visitor by Lee Child ★★★¾ (review)
7. ♫ The Crazy Kill by Chester Himes ★★★★ (review)
8. ♫ Stettin Station by David Downing ★★★★½ (review)
9. ♫ The Suspect by Michael Robotham ★★★★ (review)
10. ♫ Lost by Michael Robotham ★★★⅓ (review)
11. ♫ The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes ★★★½ (review)
12. ♫ The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie ★★★★⅓ (review)

Image by Thomas Allen

Redigerat: okt 13, 2012, 6:50pm


Category #6: Going Places - International authors & places

1. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett ★★★★ (review)
2. ♫ Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd ★★★★½ (review)
3. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís ★★★★ (review)
4. ♫ Letter from an Unknown Woman by Stefan Zweig ★★★★½ (review)
5. ♫ The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark ★★★ (review)
6. ♫ Katherine by Anya Seton ★★★★¼ (review)
7. ♫ Restless by William Boyd ★★★★⅓ (review)
8. The Observations by Jane Harris ★★★★⅓ (review)
9. The Coroner’s Lunch by Collin Cotterill ★★★★ (review)
10. Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill ★★★★⅓ (review)
11. ♫ Muriel Spark: The Complete Short Stories ★★★¾ (review)
12. ♫ Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner ★★★★½ (review)

Redigerat: nov 26, 2012, 1:09am


Category #7: Young at Heart - Children/YA/Fantasy

1. No One Noticed the Cat by Anne McCaffrey ★★★¾ (review)
2. ♫ The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo ★★★ (review)
3. ♫ The Difference Engine by William Gibson ★★½ (review)
4. The Seeing Stone by Holly Black, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi ★★★⅞ (review)
5. ♫ Doomsday Book by Connie Willis ★★★ (review)
6. ♫ The City & The City by China Miéville ★★★★ (review)
7. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Illustrated by Maira Kalman ★★★★ (review)
8. ♫ Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper ★★★★ (review)
9. ♫ The Maze Runner by James Dashner ★★⅞ (review)
10. ♫ Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card ★★★★⅓ (review)
11. ♫ The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ★★★★ (review)
12. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury ★★★★½ (review)

Illustration by Charles Santore

Redigerat: okt 13, 2012, 6:50pm


Category #8: Hot Off the Press - Published since 2011

1. From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón ★★★ (review)
2. ♫ On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry ★★★★½ (review)
3. The Last Song by Eva Wiseman ★★★★ (review)
4. ♫ The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ★★★★⅓ (review)
5. ♫ The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye ★★★★ (review)
6. River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh ★★★★½ (review)
7. ♫ Being There by Jerzy Kosinski ★★★★★ (review)
8. A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman ★★★★ (review)
9. ♫ The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce ★★¾ (review)
10. ♫ Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn ★★★⅞ (review)
11. ♫ Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel ★★★★½ (review)
12. The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam ★★★★★ (review)

Redigerat: nov 26, 2012, 1:14am

Category #9: Visual Treats - books on art, photography, design, or just beautiful books

1. Paris: Made by Hand by Pia Jane Bijkerk ★★★★ (review)
2. The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sís ★★★½ (review)
3. The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sís ★★★¾ (review)
4. In Between: Guy Bourdin by Shelly Verthime ★★★★⅓ (review)
5. It's Lonely in the Modern World: The Essential Guide to Form, Function, and Ennui by Molly Jane Quinn ★★★¾ (review)
6. Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud by Martin Gayford ★★★★½ (review)
7. ABZ: More Alphabets and Other Signs by Julian Rothenstein ★★★½ (review)

The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts Stephanie Cormer
Beware Wet Paint Alan Fletcher
Auguste Rodin: Drawings & Watercolors Antoine Le Normand-Romain
The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson David P. Silcox

Ispiration/bulletin board by artist Fiona Richards, Cartolina Cards

Redigerat: nov 5, 2012, 8:15pm

Category #10: Beyond Fiction - non-fiction

1. ♫ Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson ★★★ (review)
2. ♫ Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick ★★★★ (review)
3. ♫ Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson ★★★★⅓ (review)
4. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman ★★★★ (review)
5. On Cats by Doris Lessing ★★★★ (review)
6. Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei by Peter Sís ★★★★ (review)
7. ♫ The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester ★★★★½ (review)
8. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell ★★★★★ (review)
9. ♫ The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls ★★★★ (review)

Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris by Michael Allin
The Confessions of Saint Augustine St. Aurelius Augustinus
Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home Susan Hill
Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

More options From my shelves

Redigerat: nov 26, 2012, 1:16am

Category #11: Litérature Française - contemporary & classic French lit (read in French)

1. L'Assommoir by Émile Zola ★★★★½ (review)
2. Le vieux chagrin by Jacques Poulin ★½ (review)
3. L'élégance du hérisson / The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery ★★★⅓ (review)
4. ♫ Le mystère de la chambre jaune / The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux ★★★ (review)
5. ♫ Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac ★★★★¾ (review)
6. A Love Affair ★★★⅓ by Émile Zola (review)
7. ♫ Leon l'Africain by Amin Maalouf ★★★¾ (review)
8. ♫ Candide ou l'optimisme by Voltaire ★★★★⅓ (review)
9. ♫ César Birotteau by Honoré de Balzac ★★★⅓ (review)
10. ♫ Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert ★★★ (review)

Possibilities from my shelves.

Redigerat: okt 27, 2012, 1:25pm

Category #12: From My Treasure-Trove - off the shelf (acquired before 31/12/11)

1. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin ★★★★⅓ (review)
2. The Secret River by Kate Grenville ★★★★ (review)
3. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh ★★★★½ (review)
4. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi ★★★⅞ (review)
5. Queenpin by Megan Abbott ★★★½ (review)
6. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel ★★★★⅓ (review)
7. East of Eden by John Steinbeck ★★★¾ (review)
8. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck ★★★⅓ (review)
9. ♫ The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley ★★★½ (review)

Photo: The baroque library at the Abbey of St. Florian in Austria

Redigerat: jul 15, 2012, 3:29pm

Category #4: Guardian Knows Best - Guardian 1000 (Family and self)

79. ♫ Any Human Heart by William Boyd ★★★★½
(Also read for TIOLI #6: a book with the word “boy” or “man” in the title or author's name)

Logan Mountstuart's story, which spans every decade of the 20th century (born 1906, died 1991), is told through his personal journals, which he has kept off and on at various stages of his life. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, he moved to England with his English father and Uruguayan mother as a young boy. The earliest pages of the journals having been lost, the story picks up sometime in LMS's teens, when he made a pact with his two best friends which in one case, had lasting consequences. He decided to become a writer and published a successful novel after attending Oxford university, and his early success led him to meet some of the leading figures of the arts and letters, making for plenty of namedropping, from Hemingway (encountered in Spain during the civil war), to Picasso (whom he interviewed for an article), to Evelyn Waugh (who kissed him on the mouth), to name just a few. But his acquaintance with the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson may have had dramatic consequences, as he believed the duke, with whom he had fallen out of favour, later betrayed him during WWII, leading to two years of internment in Switzerland after a failed intelligence mission. Because of the nature of the documents through which we get to know LMS, we are presented with many facets of his life, from intimate details about his loves and lovers to little anecdotes and comments about a wide variety of topics and people.

LMS certainly lived an exciting life, but this book having been highly recommended to me by various people, and having read two of Boyd's books before, I had high expectations, and while I thought the story was very good for the most part, I wasn't so impressed with all the cameos and appearances of famous people in his life and kept wanting more, which is why the novel suddenly became absolutely fascinating to me when, as an old man, LMS hit hard times and had to go to extreme measures to eke out a living and fight to hang on to his dignity and sense of self, even as he found himself unable to write the novel that might have put him back on the map. By then end I was completely won over and quite fascinated by this monumental construction, which is one I'll have to find time to read again in future, as I'm sure I'll enjoy it very differently now that the whole picture has been revealed. Strongly recommended.

Redigerat: jul 14, 2012, 10:39pm

Category #8: Hot Off the Press - Published since 2011

80. ♫ Being There by Jerzy Kosinski ★★★★★
(Also read for TIOLI #14: In honor of 'Don't Step on A Bee Day' - Read a book whose title begins with a 'B')

Chance is a simple-minded man who has always lived in the same house, where he's always taken care of the garden. He's never learned to read and write and never set food outside the grounds of the house, not even to see a doctor. But his life is turned upside down when the "old man"—the owner of the house—very sick in his very old age, passes away without making any provisions for Chance. Indeed, as far as the insurance company is concerned, Chance doesn't exist at all and might never have lived in the house, since there's not a scrap of paper mentioning him or his role in the household. What Chance does have is a thorough understanding of the world based on the countless hours he has watched television, as well as a very good set of clothes which fit him to perfection and which had once belonged to the old man, so that when he steps out onto the street with his bespoke (to another man) suit and elegant valise and meets with an accident with a chauffeur-driven limousine, he is immediately taken in by the passenger of the car, a Mrs. Rand, and brought to her home to be attended by her ailing husband's doctor who is often there on house calls. The husband, Mr. Rand, when he asks Chance about himself, mistakes our hero's reply and understands that his name is Chauncey Gardiner, whom he assumes to be a successful and very astute businessman based not only on his clothes, but on the remarkably wise observations Chance makes, wherein speaking only of what he knows—which is limited to the realm of gardening—his remarks are taken as being incredibly clever and profound. Before he knows it, Chance is introduced to the President of the USA (a close friend of the Rands) and becomes the man of the hour.

I had seen the movie version when I was just a young girl, where Chance was famously interpreted by Peter Sellers, and I remember the story and the acting making a strong impression on me. So when I saw this newly released (and inexpensive) audio version interpreted by none other than Dustin Hoffman, I pounced on it. Needless to say, Hoffman's reading is brilliant, and the story is still just as excellent and darkly funny as I remember it being, and still all too relevant today. I've only given a five-star rating once before so far this year, and this recording fully deserves a full score as well.

jul 14, 2012, 11:18pm

I'll listen to anything Dustin Hoffman reads - & I have this strange notion I've seen this spoofed on Pinky & the Brain, Pinky as Chance of course.

jul 15, 2012, 2:18pm

I had to look up Pinky & the Brain on YouTube, since I wasn't familiar with them before. I watched the episode where Pinky becomes a guru in India and is visited by the Feebles (Beatles). I wish I could find the Being There spoof now!

I've looked for other Dustin Hoffman recordings on Audible, but the only other available one, at least here in Canada is Horton Hears a Who. I wonder if there are any others?

jul 16, 2012, 4:51pm

I've seen the movie-version of Being There as well, but it was much too long ago for me to remember - time for a "rewatch," I think, since my copy of the book is at my mum's house. :)

jul 16, 2012, 8:54pm

Eva, seriously, I strongly recommend this audio version, whether you usually "do" audio or not. It's under 3 hours long, and you can get it for free from if you sign up for their 30-day (free) trial. But yes, the movie is great too and I plan on watching it again soon.

jul 17, 2012, 1:17pm

Only three hours - is that an abridged version? I do listen to some audiobooks, but not as much as you (I've only finished one so far this year and am in the middle of another). I'll check if my library has an audio-copy.

jul 17, 2012, 2:49pm

It's a very short novel, so no, it isn't abridged. Highly doubtful you'll find the audio at the library as it's just been released by Audible and as they only do dowloadable MP3s, I don't know if libraries can purchase them for lending. Maybe.

jul 17, 2012, 4:14pm

I thought the papercopy I had seemed thicker than that, but maybe the font was huge... That's a shame about the audiobook - I'll stick to the movie for now. :)

jul 17, 2012, 5:03pm

Eva, sometimes I'm really shocked when I realize that a book I had assumed to have at least 400 pages ends up having less than 200... all depending on the thickness of the cover and weight of the paper stock used, apart from the font size of course. We can compare notes on the movie soon! :-)

jul 22, 2012, 5:50am

My library has some audio that's downloadable. It's possible - Hope you liked the Mousarishi! There's a Pinky & the Brain episode where Pinky runs for president. That's what I was thinking sounded like Being There.

jul 22, 2012, 3:45pm

There's a Pinky & the Brain episode where Pinky runs for president

I'll have to look for that one! :-)

jul 23, 2012, 10:37am

damn now I've got the song in my head "one is a genius, the other's insane...."

jul 23, 2012, 11:00pm

So sorry about the song. It's catchy. But it's better than that "We are young so let's light the world on fi-yer..." song that the teens were singing all winter without having a clue what it was about.

jul 24, 2012, 12:32pm

No kidding! Getting so drunk you have to be carried home? Such a shame. It could have been an all time great teen anthem.

jul 24, 2012, 11:09pm

Category #8: Hot Off the Press - Published since 2011

81. A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman ★★★★
(Early Reviewers, also read for TIOLI #9: Read a book with a Deckle Edge, and 12/12 Category #8: Hot Off the Press)

This novel is mostly set in 1951 and describes the paths it’s three main characters have taken in the war's aftermath. Christine, formerly a teacher at a girl's private school in England, has fled to Shanghai, ostensibly after uncovering a horrible secret about the first man she had ever let herself fall in love with. She is a gorgeous woman and used to having men bend over backwards to accommodate her, but Han Shu, the owner of the upscale bar she’s been frequenting decides her credit is no longer valid in his establishment, and Christine, who's come to the last of her meagre teacher-salary savings, is desperately in want of a means to earn a living. Her most pressing need is feeding the opium addiction which has taken over her life, and against her better judgment, she finds herself accepting a job from Han Shu, who hires her to give private instruction in a home he keeps in a run-down neighbourhood, presumably an establishment to help young orphaned girls.

Meanwhile in Long Island, Oscar is a fabulously wealthy man with a sprawling domain on the beachfront, and a house which is always filled with guests. We know little about his past when the story begins, only that he’s an Englishman, that "Oscar" is an assumed identity and that he's never gotten over the aforementioned Christine. As the story evolves, we come to learn about his complicated past, how he built his fortune after the war, and what role Christine played in his life. One semi-permanent fixture in his home is Marilyn, a photographer who’s made a name for herself with the harrowing images captured in London during the war. She escapes from her Manhattan residence weekly to Oscar’s swank retreat to sort out her work and what she fears are too strong feelings for her husband to find some kind of solace in the arms of one of Oscar‘s friends.

I rather enjoyed this complex and mysterious novel and the morally skewed individuals who people it, each with their own reasons to lie and deceive, each with their own share of light and shade. The settings she creates for them are convincing, and they are believable as complex, living, breathing characters, even though at times they seem almost too archetypal. The prose flowed easily, save for a few awkward moments when it seemed Nayman had tried too hard to reach for poetic imagery and came up short, but overall, and unlike many other reviewers, I found this to be a very good novel and well worth my while.

jul 24, 2012, 11:10pm

Category #1: The First Half 1901-1951

82. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor ★★★★½
(Group Read with Virago Modern Classics, TIOLI #10: a book by an author whose surname could also be a first name, 12/12 #1: The First Half 1901-1951)

I absolutely loved this book about a character who, almost from the first, I couldn't help loving to hate, and yet, also from the first, couldn't help liking a little bit too. Angel (for Angelica) Deverell has always lived in a fantasy world of her own making, and while some would have called her a liar as a young girl, she would have retorted that she was simply imagining a better living for herself, well within her reach. In the earliest years of the 20th century, we find Angel at fifteen being taken to task for using vocabulary in a composition which is much too sophisticated for her, smacking of plagiarism. Though she lives above the grocery shop owned and operated by her mother, Angel likes to imagine herself living at Paradise House and being waited upon by an army of hired help, though she's never laid her eyes on the place, nor does she wish to—and risk diluting her perfect fantasy of it—and the only real information she has on the great house is provided by her aunt Lottie, who has worked there as lady's maid for eighteen years, since "Madam" herself arrived there as a young bride. When word gets around she’s telling lies to her schoolmates, Angel decides her schooling is over and resolves to become a successful writer, in spite of the many protestations and outrage this decision causes her mother and aunt, this latter having paid for her niece to attend a private school so she can have better chances in life. When it becomes clear Angel will not budge from her decision, aunt Lottie comes back with a job offer from the great house as a lady's maid to the young lady Angel has been named after. Angel is outraged and in characteristic fashion, thoroughly insults her aunt for making such a suggestion. Feigning sickness to buy herself time, Angel pens her first masterwork, The Lady Irania, which in reality is a farce of a novel, florid and utterly lacking in sophistication, albeit it tells a story set among the highest strata of English society. Determined to find a publisher, she sends the manuscript around, undeterred by rejection, until one publisher, Theo Gilbright of Gilbright & Brace, sees a potential moneymaker in what might become a party-piece and face utter ridicule or become a runaway bestseller; his letter suggests a generous advance and invites Angel to a meeting in London. The partners expect to meet a doddering old maid smelling of camphor, and are confronted instead with the humourless young girl, who categorically refuses to make any changes whatsoever to her book, even though she has someone opening a bottle of champagne with a corkscrew as one of many glaring mistakes. The gamble pays off, and Angel becomes the fabulously wealthy author she had determined to become, which only encourages her to continue indulging her every whim and vanity. This was my second novel by Elizabeth Taylor, and it made me want to get my hands on everything else she's ever written, although I'm assured by various readers that this novel is not typical of her work. All the same, this is a wickedly entertaining little book which I have no doubt I'll be reading again. My NYRB edition features an introduction by Hilary Mantel; I wisely kept it for the end which definitely helped to prolong the pleasure.

jul 29, 2012, 10:57pm

Category #9: Visual Treats

83. The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sís ★★★¾
(Also read for July TIOLI #8: the author's initials form a commonly used abbreviation or initialism or acronym - p.s. post scriptum)

After seeing several people rave about this book, I almost decided to purchase it sight unseen, but instead put in a purchase request at the library and was lucky enough to receive it within a couple of weeks. I thought the illustrations were lovely of course, being a fan of Peter Sis's work as I am, but I can't say I was all that taken by the project a whole, no matter how badly I wanted to be. Perhaps it was my head space, but this Sufi poem didn't appeal to me all that much in this abridged version (not that I've read the original), and the spiritual message which I'll resume here as being "the power is always within you", doesn't do much for me in my current state of mind. I saw many comments were made about the choice of paper for this Penguin Press edition, and I can see why it might have appealed, but it so happens that as a designer I've seen many types of paper samples in my career, and I've never been fond of this particular paper texture, which is meant to imitate linen. Perhaps if my expectation hadn't been so high I would have been blown away by this book, but as it is, I just found it to be quite good, but no more. I partly lay the blame on Sís himself; I've looked at and read quite a few of his books by now and have come to expect from him the kind gorgeous imagery he seems to deliver every time with his unique style and personal imprint. That being said, I strongly recommend this book; it's an excellent project, call me blasé, that's all. I'll just have to get my hands on the more recently released edition by SelfMadeHero and see if a change of mood and paper texture might up my appreciation factor.

jul 29, 2012, 11:00pm

Category #6: Going Places - International authors & places

84. The Coroner’s Lunch by Collin Cotterill ★★★★
(Also read for July TIOLI Challenge #8: the author's initials form a commonly used abbreviation or initialism or acronym - c/c cubic centimetres)

In the first book of the Dr. Siri Paiboun series which begins in 1976, we're introduced to the good doctor, seventy-two years young and newly made the official coroner of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, a nation recently taken over by the communist party, which Siri himself has helped come into power. But the coroner seems a reluctant communist and is definitely not happy about this new position, having only worked with live patients before and never performed an autopsy. As it happens, he has two very helpful and entertaining side-kicks in nurse Dtui, who helps him takes notes and aspires to take on more responsibilities, and Geung, who has Down syndrome, a condition which apparently comes with the gift of an amazing capacity to remember details, which comes in especially handy as Geung previously worked with the former coroner and is able to steer Dr. Siri in the right direction as the latter figures out what his job entails exactly. Of course, some of the bodies that come to him bear clues of foul play, and the doctor, working in conditions that could be said to be the polar opposite of the high-tech CSI seen on tv, must make do with what tools and methods are at his disposal. Siri is a rational man of science, so he can't figure out what his strange dreams are about, in which the patients who've ended up at the morgue come to visit him, seemingly to give him clues about how they came to die. It's difficult to describe the type of dry humour found throughout, which makes this a very amusing read. Much fun is made at the expense of the complications created by the new communist regime and it's inefficient methods, overbearing bureaucracy and already widespread corruption. I jumped on this book after seeing the series recommended by innumerable LT members, and though the first chapter didn't exactly grab me, things soon picked up and by chapter 3, I was made a Siri fan too.

jul 30, 2012, 4:33pm

Aren't Siri, Dtui, and Geung just so, so charming! Glad you got a chance to get to know them.

jul 30, 2012, 10:43pm

Yes, they indeed are charming. This time around, I'm tempted to "do an Eva" and read them all one after the other... I've already ordered Disco for the Departed from the library and should be getting it sometime this week!

jul 31, 2012, 1:28pm

Always glad to lure more people into the binge-reading club. :) I'm mowing through The Dresden Files right now, trying to pace myself, but we'll see how that goes... :)

jul 31, 2012, 3:00pm

I'm sadly coming to the end of this series and I envy you just starting it. Enjoy!

aug 1, 2012, 2:31am

The Doctor Siri books are a little difficult to find here, but I really need to find a copy of Thirty-Three Teeth. They're quite different to everything else I've read - in a great way.

aug 1, 2012, 1:15pm

In library now - will run over to see if they have any Colin C in the audio books right now. :)

aug 2, 2012, 2:10pm

#35 Eva, what are The Dresden Files? I'm seeing Jim Butcher turn up, is that it? I don't see myself become a habitual binge-reader as far as series go (because let's face it, we're all binger readers in general here on LT!), but definitely can't wait for Disco for the Departed to become available at the library!

#36 I'm hopeful that he'll continue past the 8th book, though of course for all I know, he might have ended Dr. Siri's life with that one. Not something I'd want to know in advance, talk about a major spoiler!

#37 Alana, I definitely agree that Dr Siri is entirely original. I don't believe I've read anything set in Laos before either, come to think of it, and even when I click on the "Laos" tag, Cotterill's books come up first. I hope you can get your hands on the other books in the series without having to incur too much expense.

#38 Katie, do you know, the first thing I did was check out this series on Audible, but I couldn't stand the narrator and doubt I'd listen to the audio version even if it was available at the library. He just sounds completely bored or something. Consequently I'm not sure what to wish for you; that you did find it or not... either way, I hope you enjoy the series!

aug 2, 2012, 2:34pm

Yes, The Dresden Files is the fantasy series by Jim Butcher. It's really entertaining if you're in the right mood. Binging is my thing! :)

aug 2, 2012, 4:39pm

I had a quick look Eva, and I don't know if I'd enjoy this particular series. I'm fairly recent to some forms of fantasy and magic and wizards aren't themes I'm naturally drawn to. I'll have to visit your thread soon to have a look at your review to see if they tempt me!

aug 2, 2012, 6:22pm

I wouldn't call it a must-read series, but if you're in the right mood it's quite funny and entertaining.

aug 2, 2012, 7:40pm

Glad to see you enjoyed A Mind of Winter since I'm just starting it now and had noticed a lot of mediocre reviews. It certainly starts out well. Hope I end up enjoying it as well!

Redigerat: aug 3, 2012, 12:12am

#42 Eva, I might try it out sometime if I'm feeling more adventurous in the fantasy category.

#43 I hope you enjoy A Mind of Winter too. I was quite surprised when I saw that so many people didn't seem to like it. I thought it was quite good. It wouldn't make my favourite books of all time list, but I thought it was plenty entertaining.

eta: I hope you'll let me know what you thought of it in the end!

aug 4, 2012, 4:58pm

Hi there! I finished and very much enjoyed A Mind of Winter. My review/thoughts are in my thread if you're interested.

aug 6, 2012, 2:39pm

Thanks for the link to your thread. I'm really happy you liked the book and I liked your review for it too.

aug 10, 2012, 2:42am

Thanks for the warning on the narrator. I found Colin C, but it was something like book 8 in the series so I passed. Lucky me?

Redigerat: aug 10, 2012, 6:00pm

Well, you can decide for yourself whether that was good or not by listening to a sample here:

aug 10, 2012, 8:49pm

OMG - that sample reminds me of a history show Prince Edward used to have. He'd be telling all these dreadful stories about how a king had his head chopped off, just by this calm stream, and they hung his head by his hair in this tree right here... etc... but his voice was so refined that it put me to sleep within 3 minutes, no matter how much caffeine I'd consumed after 3:00.

aug 10, 2012, 10:01pm

I tend to listen to quite a lot of British narrators, so it isn't so much the refinement of his speech as much as the monotony of his delivery that put me off. These books really are very humorous and a lot of fun, but he makes them sound like the obituaries or something. Maybe he got caught up in the fact that a coroner is the main character.

aug 11, 2012, 5:58pm

Oh dear, that reader sounds like he's doing an airport announcement - dear Dr. Siri deserves something much better than that. Prefereably someone with a slight Lao accent. :)

aug 11, 2012, 7:10pm

Eva, I think even airport announcements are more stimulating that this guy, I don't know whoever cast him for the series was thinking... it's not like there's a lack of great narrators out there! A slight Lao accent would have been nice, you're right—though I can't say I know what that sounds like.

Redigerat: aug 11, 2012, 7:16pm

Category #12: From My Treasure-Trove

85. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel ★★★★⅓
(tutored read, also read for July TIOLI #7: *more than 300 pages* with *a multiple word title*)

Now that Bring Up the Bodies is out, this book is old news already, but I thought my timing was excellent before moving on to book 2 in the trilogy. I tried to read WH back in 2009, got to about 100 pages and gave up. There was the small matter of the pronoun "he" throughout to designate Cromwell which has been much talked about and which forced this and many other readers to reread entire paragraphs over and over again to figure out who was being discussed. But perhaps even more of an issue for me was that at the time, I was a complete newcomer to Tudor history and didn't know any of the main characters or the historical happenings and significance of what takes place in the novel. By the time I approached this book again this June, I at least had a better grasp on who Henry VIII was (he of the eight wives, who wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon, the first one, so he could wed the second, Anne Boleyn, whom he ended up putting to death when she couldn't produce a male heir and HVIII's attentions had already moved on to the next pretty young thing, Jane Seymour). But I still had no idea who Thomas Cromwell was, nor of his role in Henry VIII's court, nor of the part he played in that specific business of getting his boss to transition smoothly between his breeders wives. The ultimate weapon which helped me conquer those pesky stumbling blocks which are British History, the Tudor family tree and the religion, morals and usages of the period, was one of our own LT members (Chatterbox) who offered to tutor me and share her vast knowledge on this era, which has apparently been one of her lifelong areas of interest. The result was that I was able to enjoy the full implications of the story along with countless anecdotes I would not have understood passing references to otherwise. Whereas I had previously been annoyed with Mantel for writing a book that required foreknowledge and a good grasp on the material at hand, this time I could see how the fact that she dispensed with writing lengthy explanations allowed her to write the book she did, and I was even able to enjoy her unique writing style and that wickedly dry British sense of humour I've always loved. Still had to re-read whole paragraphs to figure out who the darn "he" was, but at least this time I was able to figure it out eventually. All the same, I didn't give it a 4.5 rating for that reason, though I enjoyed it enough to want to reread it on my own in future.

(on the main page my review is hidden away here:

Redigerat: aug 11, 2012, 7:16pm

Category #2: Tea with Georgie, Vickie & Eddie - 18th & 19th Century Classics

86. ♫ Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens ★★★¾
(Group Read, also read for July TIOLI #4: a title that suggests sharing)

Another of Dickens sagas wherein the reader has plenty of time to settle down and come to consider each of the characters of the novel as very old acquaintances (yes, this one was serialized too of course). There's a very amusing premise here about the pursuit of wealth and it's consequences: a disagreeable man having made a great fortune from dust (which is just what is sounds like), leaves his great wealth to his son on the condition that he marry a certain young lady named in the will. The young son, who is to arrive from overseas, is found drowned and presumably murdered. The dustman's fortune ends up going to his long-suffering servants, a coupe of very simple folks by the name of Mr and Mrs Boffin, who are among a huge cast of characters, including a mysterious man (the mutual friend of the title), the young woman who was meant to marry the dustman's son, and several despicable characters that you just love to hate, with most everyone coming to meet the end they deserve in what is a most perplexing final plot twist which took away from my general appreciation of the story (hence not quite 4 stars), though that is a question of personal taste only. Great narration on this audiobook version read by David Timson.

aug 11, 2012, 7:18pm

Category #6: Going Places

87. Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill ★★★★⅓
(Also read for July TIOLI #8: the author's initials form a commonly used abbreviation or initialism or acronym - c/c cubic centimetres)

This is the second book in the Dr. Siri series, now officially a favourite of mine. This time there is a mistreated bear on the loose in Vientiane and people being randomly mauled to death, though of course things aren't quite as they seem; our coroner meets with a very unusual person in what might be the garden of Eden, and the communist party has called a meeting for all the shamans of Laos, which Siri of course manages to attend as one of the mystics. This chapter, called "Doin' the Exorcism Conga" had some of the funniest, laugh out very loud moments in the book, with the party official demanding that the shamans summon the spirits to give them an ultimatum and essentially get them to toe the communist party line. I intend to devour these books one after the other and worry about having come to the end of the series later.

aug 11, 2012, 7:20pm

Category #9: Visual Treats

88. In Between: Guy Bourdin by Shelly Verthime ★★★★⅓

Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) was a fashion photographer I discovered in my early teens via picture spreads in Photo magazine, a French monthly publication which is still in print and features a wide variety of work by professional photographers from diverse field, from fashion and travel to war reportage, portraiture and fine arts (and plenty of nudes, which were my initial models for my budding drawing efforts). Bourdin became a protégé of Man Ray after doing his army service and by 1955, his work started being regularly featured in Paris Vogue, a bible among style-conscious readers. Bourdin is credited with having been among the first to fully exploit the possibilities offered in the format of a magazine double-page spread, and the book's horizontal format was conceived to display his images at their full advantage. His signature style was honed between the 60s and 80s; always pushing the envelope with daring, overtly sexual (some might say sexist), often outrageous concepts and an ultra saturated colour palette, Bourdin never compromised his ideas to please his clients and it's obvious when looking at his incredibly imaginative and often disturbing images that only a man of vision and great conviction could have created the strange worlds he captured on film. All without recourse to the electronic technology contemporary photographers and viewers now take for granted: no digital imagery, no photoshop and limited retouching capabilities. This book, destined to become a collector's item, is beautifully produced by German publisher Steidl and features over 270 of Bourdin's photos covering his entire career.



Redigerat: aug 11, 2012, 8:37pm

I'm just about to sign up for Audible myself and must say I'm very grateful they have those samples. You'd think reading a book is just reading a book, but a poor reader can just murder, can't it!

Love the Bourdin-photos!!

aug 11, 2012, 8:55pm

I'd say liking the narrator is of prime importance with audiobooks. I've you're not quite sure about someone's style or voice, best to skip it, because yes, they can make or break the experience. The really great ones actually make the audio ever better than the print book, and that's always a lot of fun.

aug 11, 2012, 9:10pm

I may have to make a wishlist on Audible based on favorite readers rather than books. :) (Can you make wishlists on Audible??)

aug 11, 2012, 9:34pm

You can definitely make a wishlist on Audible. When I find a narrator I like, I look up everything they've done and often end up adding books to the WL I'd never considered reading before!

aug 11, 2012, 9:48pm


aug 12, 2012, 6:18pm

Category #4: Guardian Knows Best - Guardian 1000 (Love)

89. ♫ I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith ★★★★
(Also read for July TIOLI Challenge #7: a book of *more than 300 pages* with *a multiple word title*)

Seventeen year-old Cassandra Mortmaine keeps a journal in which she introduces us to her family, which has the privilege of living in a beautiful, albeit crumbling English castle. Her family are so poor none of them ever get enough to eat, they all wear tattered clothes and most of the furniture has long ago been sold off. Things haven't always been so dire, because once upon a time her father published a successful novel and they lived very comfortably, but many years have gone by since then and instead of working on a new project, he sits in his study obsessively reading mystery novels, insisting that he'll never write again. Their young stepmother Topaz makes a very meagre income as an artist's model, but that won't keep any of them fed and warm. Sister Rose is a rare beauty, and might have hopes of making a good marriage and pulling them all out of their misery, but of course there aren't any eligible men around, nor are there likely to be any in this small country town where nothing ever happens. Nothing happens that is, until one day two men show up at the door unannounced, wanting to take a tour of the castle. We know things are going to change drastically with this new arrival, and they do. But while Cassandra struggles with new feelings—the novel threatened at that point, to my great annoyance, to become a teenage angst-ridden paean to unrequited love—there were plenty of surprises in store so that by the end I was very sorry to lose such a likeable narrator. Though it was written in the 1940s, this is a very modern romance that doesn't fall into clichés. I absolutely loved Jenny Agutter's narration on the audiobook version, so much so that I'll be seeking out other books read by her.

aug 12, 2012, 7:24pm

Category #11: Litérature Française - contemporary & classic French lit (read in French)

90. ♫ Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac ★★★★¾
(Also read for August TIOLI #21: Read a middle-length work; 150-288 pages total)

Set in the historic French town of Saumur, which is surrounded by vineyards and produces some of France's finest wines, we are first introduced to Eugénie's father, Félix Grandet, and told how in the early 19th century, having married a rich merchant's daughter, he came to amass a vast fortune, in part due to his business acumen but also by having inherited the estates of his grandmother, his mother-in-law and grandfather-in-law, all in the same year. Grandet produced what was considered to be the best wine in the country, so that his fortune was constantly increased, and we are soon shown what manner of despicable meiser he was. Nobody in this small town, where everybody knows his or her neighbour's business, knew exactly the extent of the man's fortune, so scrupulous was he to hide any sign of it, though many were those who were certain (and not wrongly) that he hid away a great pile of gold which he liked to admire regularly. Though he could easily afford to live like a great lord, Grandet employed only one person in his service, the old Nanon, who showed her master an unwavering devotion and in return was made to work like a dog. Far from spoiling his wife and only daughter Eugénie, the despotic Grandet forced them to work at mending all the household's clothing, this task keeping them busy from morning to night.

I won't detail here the extent of the man's avarice, because Balzac obviously took great delight in describing his mean creation, with a plot which continually underlines and confirms Grandet's sordid nature. Eugénie is a loving daughter who takes no offence at her father's constant mistreatment. The story takes off on Eugénie's 23rd birthday; the families of Grandet's lawyer and of his banker have been invited, both groups having high hopes of marrying their sons to the heiress. An unexpected guest also makes an appearance: Grandet's handsome nephew Charles Grandet, freshly arrived from Paris. The young man is a true Parisian dandy, such as are never seen in Saumur, and makes a not entirely positive impression, but Eugénie, seeing the splendour of her cousin's appearance, is suddenly made aware of the shabby state of their house. Charles has been sent over by his father, who has very suddenly found himself bankrupt, and has hopes that his brother Félix will take the spoiled young man under his wing and help him find an adequate means of earning a living. It seems that Balzac first had the idea for the great undertaking that was The Human Comedy (which consists of 91 finished works), while writing Eugénie Grandet in 1833. Though the subject of avarice is certainly a distasteful one, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which will from now on rank among my all-time favourites. The experience was made all the more pleasurable thanks to the narration on this audiobook version by the French actor André Dussollier.

Redigerat: aug 12, 2012, 9:07pm

Category #8: Hot Off the Press

91. ♫ The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce ★★¾
(Also read for TIOLI #2 a book from the 2012 Booker Prize longlist)

Harold Fry and his wife Maureen have been holding on to what has become a truly dreadful marriage over the past 20 years. One morning, while Maureen bickers at him about the jam, Harold opens a letter from his old friend Queenie, who writes to let him know that she is dying of cancer. Harold hasn't heard from Queenie in many years and decides to write her an answer right away, but as he is about to drop off the letter in the mailbox, he decides that a letter just won't do and that instead he should make his way to see her in person. On foot. Over a distance of some 600 miles. He's told Maureen he was just dropping off the letter at the mailbox, he hasn't taken his mobile phone, isn't wearing adequate gear to make such a long journey, and his sailing shoes aren't likely to hold up or be very comfortable on such a long trek, but no matter, he's determined that positive thinking will somehow save Queenie from her terminal cancer, and what started as one man's journey eventually becomes a national sensation.

I was prepared to like this book very much. I loved the premise and knew it wouldn't be a cheery affair, but perhaps I wasn't in the right mindset to fully appreciate it. As we follow Harold through his long march, we are made to witness the wanderings of his mind, with remembered glimpses from an unhappy past. I fully appreciate the message here, that his journey is one to save himself and his marriage, that walking helps him mull over difficult things he would have otherwise kept buried away, that it's all about self-healing, but I wasn't comfortable with the repetitive nature of Harold's thoughts, circling over and over around events that are only hinted at, and that we know will be revealed toward journey's end. It all reminded me too much of my own journey, my own obsessive thoughts over past hurts and tragedies, and perhaps felt too close for comfort. Or perhaps this just wasn't a great fit for me, though I'm sure this story is and will be fully appreciated by many. Fantastic narration on the audio version by Jim Broadbent.

aug 12, 2012, 9:08pm

Category #12: From My Treasure-Trove

92. East of Eden by John Steinbeck ★★★¾
(Read for Steinbeckathon, TIOLI #16: a cover that is boring, uninteresting, uninspiring, or mostly brown)

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” - Book of Genesis, Chapter 4, King James Version

Two families, now living in the Salinas valley, are at the core of this novel. There are the Hamiltons, the head of which, Samuel, made his way from Ireland to California to become a poor farmer on a great unyielding expanse of land which nobody else wants, and of which the narrator is a descendant. Then there are the Trasks, who originally had farmland in Connecticut, and have also eventually made their way to Salinas. The title of the novel and the themes of that story certainly influenced Steinbeck strongly in this sprawling novel. Adam Trask had a younger brother, Charles, who was smaller than him, but of a violent and dangerous temperament. Charles had always made himself sick with envy that their father seemed to favour Adam. He had never gotten over the fact that to offer a gift to his father, he'd saved and scrimped to buy him a pocket knife, which his father thanked him for and kept in a drawer, while Adam had given him a puppy which the old man took everywhere with him. Charles did indeed intend to kill his brother one day, but then Adam was sent by this loving father into the army, and Adam, a reluctant soldier at best, was made to fight in extermination campaigns against the Indians. A good portion of the beginning of the novel is dedicated to Adam's story, but we are also simultaneously, through alternating chapters, introduced to Cathy Ames, who from earliest childhood has all the makings of a psychopath—though Steinbeck describes her as having a "malformed soul"— who grows up with an incredible talent and taste for manipulation.

I first read this novel when I was 16. Or at least, I'm awfully sure I did, because some paragraphs read like déja vu, but most of it was entirely new to me. The parts about Cathy came back to me quite vividly. I was fascinated by her then, and I was fascinated by her this time around too. She is described as being quite beautiful, with wide-set blue eyes and a small rosebud mouth, and she is vicious and utterly devoid of feelings, but I was continually fascinated every time she made an appearance. Like watching a wild and dangerous animal circling it's prey. There were many fascinating characters in this book, including Lee, the Chinese servant working for Adam who is more like a member of the family, with his strong intellect and scholarly leanings, he becomes a great friend of Samuel Hamilton, who, with his curious and ever-searching inventor's mind became a favourite of mine too. The whole construction is a very complex one, which isn't surprising coming from Steinbeck. But in my mind, the novel is split in two parts. There is the part before Adam's children become characters in their own right, and there is after. While it could be argued that the scope of the story is in many ways much simpler in what I arbitrarily consider to be the "second part", mostly taking place as it does in one household, which is the Trask's, who have at that point moved to the town of Salinas proper, it felt to me like it was an entirely different novel, even though many of the main characters are in it. As I write this, I'm "speed-reading" the novel again in my mind, to try to find a way to explain why I felt there was such a strong division and why I felt that the "first part" was more cohesive as a novel, even though there were that many more characters, places, time periods and events described within it. I couldn't say. All I know is that in my memory, East of Eden was about "my" first part, and the rest was entirely foreign to me, interesting as it was. All this means is I'll have to read this novel again sometime in future, and maybe my combined memories will come together with the person I'll be when I'm reading it again to form the cohesive whole which Steinbeck considered his magnum opus.

Redigerat: sep 3, 2012, 2:16pm

Category #8: Hot Off the Press

93. ♫ Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn ★★★⅞
(Also read for August TIOLI #17: embedded first name in either the title or author's name - Lynn)

Most people have heard of this story by now, about a young couple, Amy and Nick, who's marriage just may have a few problems. Amy is the only child of psychologist parents who've made a fortune on a series of books featuring the "Amazing Amy" character, a girl so perfect that her real-life counterpart can't ever hope to live up to her image. Born and raised in New York City, the mecca of the publishing industry, she eventually found work being a writer of sorts for women's magazines. Nick on the other hand comes from a small town in Missouri, and made his way to the Big Apple, also to make a living writing for magazines. When they meet, they are fascinated by one another, both for how clever they are, and the fact that they're both gorgeous doesn't hurt either. They marry and live happily ever after. Not. After making their home in NYC for the first few years of their marriage, they both find themselves out of work when the magazine industry comes crashing thanks to the internet. Against Amy's true wishes, Nick convinces her to move back to his small hometown, where Nick finds perfect contentment, whereas Amy feels like a fish out of water. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to an empty house which looks like the scene of a crime. Amy's gone without a trace, and as the police start investigating, they quickly come to suspect that Nick has murdered her. Of course, this might have something to do with the fact that plenty of evidence makes him look guilty as hell.

Two things about this novel. 1) I couldn't stop listening to the audio version narrated by two readers who alternate between Nick's and Amy's first person accounts, and finished it in two days. 1.5) I hated this story because 2) These people really do exist in real life, only they don't necessarily resort to psychotic behaviour... or at least, not on that scale. I've got to hand it to Gillian Flynn for being an amazing storyteller. She builds up the various elements of this thriller in a way that has the reader constantly on the edge of the seat and makes two truly despicable characters absolutely fascinating case studies of the state of matrimony in the 21st century. For those of us who aren't married, this novel is like a warning signal not to believe it when someone seems to be too good to be true, because they inevitably are; having done the rounds of the dating scene in a big city, I can personally vouch for that.

sep 3, 2012, 2:16pm

Category #9: Visual Treats

94. It's Lonely in the Modern World: The Essential Guide to Form, Function, and Ennui by Molly Jane Quinn ★★★¾
(Also read for August TIOLI #21: middle-length work between 150-288 pages total - 175)

From the book description: "From the creators of the wildly popular Web site, this essential guide is for today's hipsters what The Official Preppy Handbook was for prepsters. Featuring detailed illustrations, beautifully staged photos, and helpful charts, this master manual is perfect for aspiring modernists, those who love them, and, of course, those who love to hate them."

I remember the Official Preppy Handbook very well, because when I was 16 I had my very own copy which I pored over for endless hours, both because it made fun of preps in a really amusing, snarky way, and because, well... I needed to figure out how to pass myself off as one. Many years later, I've now found a new bible in ILitMW. As a designer, I've daydreamed endless hours away wishing for a minimalistic, sparse, well-designed and stylishly appointed home, but as this book makes amply clear, keeping such a home takes complete dedication and an unwavering commitment, not to mention a very deep wallet, which few of us can afford. Beautifully designed and illustrated with plenty of tempting visuals (some more scary than tempting, to be honest), this book is divided into various sections that are both helpful guidelines for those looking to achieve the perfect hipster haven, and snarkily funny for those of us who can only watch from the sidelines.

There's no lack of material to quote from here, but here's one morsel I found particularly delectable, which also sums up the attitude required to pull off this kind of lifestyle (from the "Outdoor Furnishings" section):

Most people have become attached to the idea of "comfort" when sitting. With modern furniture, however, it's important to rethink your concept of what is comfortable. In a thickly cushioned chair, your body may be supported—but at what price to your design values? Your intellect? Your psyche? How comfortable are you with losing those aspects of self? It's better to focus on the pure joy and thrill of being close to high design than to slump into an overstuffed chair for a nap.

Best of all is the epilogue, which talks at some length about (famously gay) architect Philip Johnson's "Glass House" in New Canaan, Connecticut, which features no less than fourteen different buildings on the forty-seven-acre property. After describing what each space was built to contain, the final paragraph gave this far-from-minimalist reader some measure of comfort:

The lesson: if you can't let go of your book collection, then it's only logical to build a house for it. Or if you need a place to kick back and watch reality television, build another house. If your boyfriend is a world-famous art collector, build another house. And if you can't figure out where to stash the circuit board and furnace—you guessed it—build another house. Because the only way to become a true minimalist it to be conspicuously maximalist.

Redigerat: sep 3, 2012, 2:19pm

Category #9: Visual Treats

95. Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud by Martin Gayford ★★★★½
(Also read for August TIOLI #7: a book someone recommended to you in the last month)

Lucian Freud (8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011) was considered one of the greatest living artists until his death last year. A friend of Picasso, Giacometti and most famously, Francis Bacon, he was also the grandson of that other Freud. When figure painting went out of style in favour of abstraction in the 50s and 60s, he continued working from the model. According to the wikipedia entry, "his works are noted for their psychological penetration, and for their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model." Part of the discomfort for the model would have been the fact that Freud demanded that his model be available to him on a regular basis for indeterminate periods of time, which usually meant many months, with multiple sittings every week, working at a famously incredibly slow pace, some paintings took over a year to complete, which for the models meant hundreds of hours posing under the painter's scrutiny. Martin Gayford, an art critic who's also written a book about Van Gogh, knew Freud and suggested posing for a portrait while writing about the experience for a book project, an idea which the painter apparently heartily encouraged as one of the project's most fervent champions. This is surprising when one knows that Freud shied away from photographers and journalists his whole life, preferring to retain his privacy and let others interpret his work as they wished. Gayford obviously took copious notes throughout his sittings, and quickly establishes that Freud, far from demanding that his models sit still for hours on end, on the contrary likes to engage his models in lively conversation and see the various expressions which animate each individual. Though the book is presented in the form of a journal of sorts, with each entry prefaced by a date, what emerges through all the fascinating conversations during nine months of sittings, restaurant meals and taxi rides, is the portrait of a brilliant mind of great intellect with fascinating views and amazing life experiences. This book, published by Thames & Hudson, who mostly produce high quality art books, is illustrated throughout with paintings from different periods of Freud's long and very successful career. A must for art lovers of every kind and certainly for Lucian Freud fans.

Redigerat: sep 3, 2012, 2:46pm

Category #2: Tea with Georgie, Vickie & Eddie - 18th & 19th Century Classics

96. ♫ The Warden by Anthony Trollope ★★★⅓
(Tutored read, also read for August TIOLI #4: Title either begins or end with the same letter as the one above)

A clergyman, Mr. Harding, is accused of abusing of his privilege of receiving a high income for very little work, and that church funds are being misappropriated; both accusations made by a young reformer who also happens to be in love with the clergyman's daughter, and influences those who are directly under the clergyman's protection and benefiting from his generosity. Mr. Harding is well-loved by all, and the combination of savage media outcry and his unimpeachable honesty pushes him to take actions which are against his best interests. Can't say I absolutely loved this novel, but in the context of the tutoring thread in which Liz and Genny both provided lots of useful information about the clergy and moral attitudes of the time and so on, certainly helped this modern reader appreciate the story a lot more than I would have without my mentors.

sep 3, 2012, 2:23pm

Category #6: Going Places

97. ♫ Muriel Spark: The Complete Short Stories ★★★¾
(Read for August TIOLI #16: a cover that is boring, uninteresting, uninspiring, or mostly brown)

I'm not sure how one goes about reviewing a collection of short stories, especially one as comprehensive as this one, with over 40 stories which have no common theme or motif. What this book demonstrated most clearly to this recently minted Muriel Spark fan was just how creative and imaginative this writer was. Her novels are certainly brimming with unusual characters and circumstances, but in the short story format she also allowed herself to play around with different genres, throwing in plenty of fantastical and paranormal elements. I can't say those were my favourite kind of stories, as I tended to favour those stories which had more in common with the Muriel Spark I adopted after reading Memento Mori and Loitering with Intent, to name just those two. Quite a few of the stories took place in the African continent, and I supposed the author must have lived there at some point. A quick Google search and an article entitled The First Half of Muriel Spark by Roger Kimball yielded the following information:

"Muriel Spark’s sojourn in Africa was the opposite of pleasant: a failed marriage, poverty, little prospect of leaving before the end of the war, few friends with literary interests. (Doris Lessing was living someplace in Rhodesia at the time, but the two writers did not meet until many years later.) Nevertheless, she continued to write, poems mostly, and collected material for some of her best-known stories. Africa, as much as Edinburgh, formed her as a writer. It also made her an adult. It was in Africa, she says, that she “learned to cope with life.” “It was there that I learned to keep in mind … the essentials of our human destiny, our responsibilities, and to put in a peripheral place the personal sorrows, frights and horrors that came my way.”

Horrors there were aplenty. The racial situation was barbaric. The Afrikaner women with whom Muriel mingled were full of smug stories about how uppity blacks had been “fixed.” There was, for example, the farmer who discovered a young black boy standing outside the window of his wife’s room, peeping in at her while she breast-fed her baby. For this violation, the farmer shot the boy dead. The woman who told Spark this story only lamented that the farmer had been sent to prison for three years for killing the boy. “I was unable to speak,” Spark reports. “I simply stared at the woman.”

Muriel Spark obviously used material from real life as creative fodder; the above true account was fictionalized by her in the first story in this collection, The Curtain Blown by the Breeze, one of my favourites because it demonstrates all the strengths which make me appreciate this writer so much: a sense of story with characters that are complex and interesting, an unflinching look at people at their worst, distinguished by a healthy dose of mordant humour.

In all, I'd say I probably fully enjoyed less than a third of the stories, but even those I didn't particularly take to overall had plenty of interesting elements that made them worthwhile. A must for Muriel Spark lovers and those interested in exploring a writer with plenty of range.

sep 3, 2012, 2:25pm

Category #1: The First Half 1901-1951

98. ♫ Part of the Furniture by Mary Wesley ★★★★½
(Also read for August TIOLI #1 new-to-you author chosen from a list of author names generated at “Literature-Map" - Muriel Spark)

Seventeen year-old Juno Marlowe is heartbroken after having seen off her two best friends, bound for their army service during WWII at a London train station. Adding to her sorrow and confusion is the recent memory of a threesome which she hadn't planned for and didn't necessarily consent to, but before she has a chance to sort out her thoughts and feelings, she's grabbed by a kindly stranger who pulls her into his house for protection as an air raid is underway. The man is obviously in poor health, and even as he has innocently asked Juno to lie by his side, soon passes away, but not before having first written a letter to his father about the young girl. All these events are covered very quickly at the start of the story however, and the rest unfolds when Juno has made her way to the father's farm out in the English countryside. It's a wartime tale about the sorrow of loss and the hope new beginnings bring with wonderfully colourful characters, and best of all, Wesley's gorgeous prose. I wish I could do this book justice, because it is one that definitely deserves to be read an enjoyed by many. Wesley herself is an interesting character, as it seems she only took up writing in her 70th year after the passing of her husband, and went on to become a bestseling British author in the last 20 years of her life. Definitely an author I'll be reading a lot more from. This audio version was narrated by Samuel West, who could possibly be the love of my life, or at the very least, my very favourite narrator.

sep 3, 2012, 2:59pm

Reminds me again that I must read more Muriel Spark, I may just track that collection down!

sep 3, 2012, 3:42pm

Oh, Muriel Spark is so wonderful—I definitely encourage you to read more of her work! I've got a bunch of her books on my wishlist, and still have two on my tbr: Aiding and Abetting and The Bachelors.

sep 4, 2012, 10:58pm

I listened to the sample of Gone Girl, but it only had the male voice and didn't quite jive with me. I might give it a shot on audio after all.

sep 6, 2012, 11:39pm

Man with a Blue Scarf sounds fascinating. WL!

sep 7, 2012, 1:18pm

#74 Eva, I wouldn't say the narrators were my absolute favourites of all time, but I did find they were perfect for this particular book.

#75 It really really is! One of those books I might revisit eventually.

sep 13, 2012, 2:45pm

Category #12: From My Treasure-Trove - off the shelf (acquired before 31/12/11)

99. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck ★★★⅓
(Also read for Steinbeckathon and August TIOLI #14: title includes one or more of the colors from your country's flag)

As I'm sure many have said before me, this little book is not an easy read, and in this coming of age story, our little boy Jody is in for some very tough life lessons. It's probably helpful to know from the outset that the four stories that make up this book are meant to explore different themes and are not to be read as four continuous chapters, which is how I approached the book and consequently was confused by the lack of continuity. Jody is a young boy living on a ranch around Salinas, California sometime at the beginning of the 20th century. He lives with his mother and father who are both strict with him—and in the case of his father also a stern disciplinarian—as well as Billy Buck, a ranch hand whom Joey looks up to. The red pony in question is the focus of the first story, The Gift, in which the young boy learns difficult lessons about life and death, and discovers his own capacity for killing. The themes of the Western settlers and the natives to the area are also explored. What I came away with was that Steinbeck felt he needed to establish himself as a realistic author in what was his third published work, and as such set out to break down any romantic notions a boy could have about living on a ranch, having horses, having a strong father figure, and the great adventure that was conquering the West. Rather a difficult read, especially for animal lovers like myself, but I think, an important one as it helps to see Steinbeck's ability to create a very real world with characters that breathe and have their own motivations, all the while exploring existential themes, all in a small packaging where very little, if anything at all, is wasted.

sep 13, 2012, 2:49pm

Category #4: Guardian Knows Best - Guardian 1000 (War and travel)

100. ♫ Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks ★★★⅓
(Also read for August TIOLI #1: new-to-you author chosen from a list of author names generated at “Literature-Map" - William Boyd)

I was very much looking forward to reading this book set in a period which fascinates me, the early 20th century and WWI, and had big expectation considering it was the recipient of many awards and mentions and seemed to be highly appreciated by LT readers. Though there were many elements there to hold my attention, I never quite connected with the story or the characters. Stephen Wraysford finds himself on a business visit in Amiens, France in 1910, where he quickly falls in love with his host's wife, Isabelle Azaire. She is the much younger wife of a local textile baron with whom she has little in common, and in no time at all she and Stephen are exploring their passion and sexuality in very explicit erotic interludes which had me blushing and simultaneously worried I'd picked an erotica book by mistake. But the reality of war and trench warfare comes in stark contrast to this love affair. This part of the novel, which makes up a good part of the story is just as explicit in describing the battles and countless deaths and maimed bodies, and while the anti-war message is made amply clear, the disillusionment Stephen goes through failed to touch me, because the spectacle of blood and gore and flying body parts made me feel like an indecent voyeur and as such cut off from complex emotions. The added layer of story, with Stephen's granddaughter attempting to decipher some of the encrypted diaries he left behind felt awkward and unnecessary. If it was meant to provide a different perspective from which to view the events, it didn't quite work for me. Having said all that, it's a good story and I did appreciate much of the narrative, but it failed to impress and is not one that I'll be likely to revisit.

sep 13, 2012, 2:51pm

Category #1: The First Half 1901-1951

101. A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor ★★★★⅓
(Also read for August TIOLI #8 book published as a Virago Modern Classic)

"An old woman, who had seemed to be a mound of rusty clothes, stirred and lifted her head. Her hands lay on her lap as if they were separate from her body, two little sleeping animals."


"The sun seemed to touch their bones, poured into them as if they were hollow like cups. Even the trees below in the valley looked dazed. Nothing moved, but the heat shimmering until the view was like a bad photograph."

Camilla, Frances and Liz have always spent summers together in a contented trio of perfect female friendship at the cottage owned by Frances, but things are different this summer, and Camilla feels more lonely and detached from the two other women than ever. Frances has always had her painting to sustain her, though she's also always gone out of her way to dispel any notion that she might be an eccentric artist and would rather be praised for her crab apple jelly than her painting. This year however, she is suffering more than ever from the effects of old age and her painting style has gone through a dramatic change, and not necessarily for the better. Liz, for her part, has found some kind of contentment in a marriage to a man she is not sure she loves, but in any case, her newborn baby occupies her completely and creates a distance between the two women, who've been used to sharing late night secrets and laughter together, to the annoyance of their old friend. Small wonder then, that Camilla should find herself irresistibly drawn to a shady but very handsome man she's met on the train to this fictional town of Abingford. We know from the beginning of the novel that something is bound to go terribly wrong, if the gruesome event Camilla and Richard have witnessed at the train station and which has acted as an icebreaker between them is to be taken as any kind of omen. Not very much happens, other than the normal activities one does on vacation; sitting in pubs, taking walks on the grassy hill-side, a picnic, a drive, picking wild flowers, another walk, in the driving rain this time. Yet so much happens in the interactions of Taylor's fascinating characters and the complexity of their own thoughts and feelings. There is that, and there is the gorgeous prose. The gorgeous prose which seems effortless, yet is so very evocative and for me, a wealth of imagery worthy of several paintigs. My third book by Elizabeth Taylor, and I look forward to many more.

sep 13, 2012, 2:54pm

Category #4: Guardian Knows Best - Guardian 1000 (Love)

102. ♫ The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton ★★★★⅓
(Also read for August TIOLI #8: published as a Virago Modern Classic)

Newland Archer, one of Old New York society's crowned princes (so to speak) is overjoyed about his recent engagement to the perfect May Welland. She too has a perfect pedigree, is a pretty young rose just starting to come into bloom, is innocent and beyond reproach in every way, well trained to be the ideal dutiful wife. But when he gets better acquainted with May's spirited and independant-minded cousin Ellen Olenska, just recently returned from Europe and scandalizing all of New York with her revealing dresses and foreign way of speaking and behaving, Newland is at first shocked and then completely taken over by passionate love. So much so that he is in fact determined to drop May and marry the countess Olenska instead. What he forgets to take into account is that his desire to embrace a life of freedom and equality will not be tolerated by his peers. A wonderful look at New York's upper crust in the 1870s, whose lives revolve around being seen at the opera and inviting the right people to dinner parties. Wharton exposes a world she knew firsthand from the distance of the 1920s, and what she shows us is just how regulated life was among the elite in a New York which was cosmopolitan, but prided itself on it's rigid and old fashioned conventions. Because this is Wharton, we know this love story is not likely to end with a Happily Ever After, but along the way she touches on interesting themes and presents us with a fascinating cast of characters who may not be likeable, but don't lack for entertainment value. A story I will definitely revisit in future. This audiobook version was narrated to perfection by David Horovitch and is definitely recommended.

sep 13, 2012, 2:58pm

Category #3: Picked for me - chosen from my shelves at random by LTers (picked by -Eva-)

103. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud ★★★★
(Also read for August TIOLI #3: Read a book about an alternate Earth)

In this first book of the YA Bartimaeus trilogy, we're introduced to an England where the ruling classes are all magicians. Nathaniel's parents have sold him off to be trained in the arts of sorcery and he is put in the care of the despicable and unworthy Arthur Underwood, a magician of mediocre abilities who fails to recognize the genius and zeal of his young charge. But Nathaniel makes the best of Underwood's vast collection of volumes on wizardry and quickly reaches a level of ability far beyond his years. After suffering a searing humiliation by a visitor, a powerful magician by the name of Simon Lovelace, eleven-year-old Nathaniel decides to take his revenge and teach Lovelace a painful lesson. When the story begins, he has just summoned the 5,000-year-old djinn Bartimaeus for the first time to order him to do his bidding. Bartimaeus is a powerful entity who is understandably annoyed about being bossed around by a mere boy and he is hell bent on finding a flaw in Nathaniel's methods which will enable him to return to the world of spirits. In alternating chapters, we get the first person accounts of Bartimaeus, a prideful being with an acerbic sense of humour, and the details of Nathaniel's doings in an adventure filled with action and plenty of unlikely events. I didn't know whether I'd warm to this story before picking it up, always being a bit wary of the fantasy genre, but I loved this fun little romp and will definitely look out for the other books in the series. One fun bonus was the numerous annotations found in the sections narrated by Bartimaeus.

sep 13, 2012, 3:29pm

Hi Ilana, both Muriel Spark and Elizabeth Taylor are authors that I am considering trying for my "Authors I am Afraid of/Authors I Want To Try" category next year. Memento Mori by Spark and At Mrs. Lippincote's by Taylor are the only books by these authors at my library. Do you think they would make good first tries for these authors or should I search further?

sep 13, 2012, 3:30pm

I loved this series. Will you continue?

sep 13, 2012, 8:01pm

#82 Eek! Judy, I was going to comment in surprise that you've already got next year's categories figured out, but just realized with a start that we're less than 4 months away from the new year! I don't know where my head is sometimes! So 13 categories eh? Have you got them all figured out already and have you posted about them somewhere? I'm behind on all the threads as usual. You're inspiring me to do a "Female Authors" or perhaps more specific "Female Authors Discovered on LT" category, because there are already quite a few I could include, and so far I've been very pleasantly introduced to those I've tried out. Thinking of Elizabeth Taylor or course, but also Mary Wesley, Iris Murdoch, Ruth Rendell (you contributed to my discovering this one), there are 4 Barbara Pym's on my tbr, and it seems every day I'm discovering new ones (well, new to me anyway, since they are mostly rather old).

I'd say Memento Mori is a great way to start with Muriel Spark. I made the mistake of starting with the best known of her books, The Prime of Miss Jean Brody and didn't know what to make of her. Another great favourite of mine is Loitering with Intent. I think that and MM show her in top form. I do intent to go through her entire bibliography because she's certainly never boring! As for Elizabeth Taylor, I've only read 3 of her books so far, and At Mrs Lippincote's is still sitting on my tbr, but the feedback on that one seems to have been mostly very positive. I really loved Angel, but that one is apparently not at all representative of her work. Definitely do consider giving Mary Wesley a try too, she's another author I'll be reading a lot more of for sure.

#83 Oh yes, I will definitely continue. I hope the others are as good as the first book as it was a very fun ride!

Redigerat: sep 13, 2012, 11:07pm

Thanks Ilana, I will probably go with those books since I can get them free from the library, I will definitely add Mary Wesley to the list as well.

Surprise! The 2013 Category Thread is up and running. A lot of us have already set up our threads. You can find the Challenge HERE Looking forward to seeing you over there.

sep 13, 2012, 11:11pm

Judy: wow, am I ever behind the times! I'm really struggling to keep up here on LT this year since I decided to spend less time on the computer. I guess I'd better start thinking of categories!

Redigerat: sep 17, 2012, 12:04am

Good to hear that The Amulet of Samarkand was good - it's one of those I keep wanting to buy!

ETA: Oh, yes, I did pick that one, didn't I? I do have good taste. :D

sep 17, 2012, 8:03am

Ditto what Eva said (except about the picking bit).

sep 18, 2012, 1:25pm

#87 Eva, you did a good job picking, especially as I insisted it be done at random. I'll do a similar category in '13, only this time I'll ask people to pick whatever they choose.

#88 Definitely good fun. YA is always hit and miss with me, but this is one series I'll be following.

sep 18, 2012, 2:00pm

Category #7: Young at Heart

104. ♫ The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ★★★★
(Also read for September TIOLI #2: author's first name includes an "a" and last name includes a "z")

This story, set in WWII Nazi Germany, is told from the unique perspective of Death, who has taken a special interest in a little girl called Liesel Meminger, who is taken in by poor but loving foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. We don't know for sure why her mother has left her with this couple, but Hans quickly takes on the role of the loving father as a foil for Rosa, who mostly shows her affection by means of her acerbic tongue. When she comes into their home, Liesel, who doesn't yet know how to read, has already stolen her first book, The Grave Digger's Handbook in tragic circumstances, a book which she ends learning practically by heart when Max takes it upon himself to teach how how to read from it, since there are no other books around the house. There are plenty of tragic elements in this novel as can be expected, and Death forewarns us about some of them early on, which still doesn't take away from their impact once the narrative has taken us through all the happenings leading us to the expected sad events. What emerged most clearly from this story for me was the universal truism that friendship, love and compassion are what make the world go round even in the worst of circumstances, and that books, any books, no matter how hateful, such as Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, with a little imagination can hold what amounts to a magical power to take us to a place of greater safety.

sep 18, 2012, 2:02pm

Category #4: Guardian Knows Best - Guardian 1000 (Family and self)

105. ♫ Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf ★★★★⅓

All the action within this novel takes place during one day and evening as Mrs Clarissa Dalloway, an upper class woman, is first preparing for, then throws a party in the evening. While still at home before she sets out to run her errands, she is visited by Peter Walsh, a man she's known since she was a young girl and who once asked her to marry him. For the whole of the novel, we wander from one stream of thoughts to another, with Clarissa's mind wandering from the moment's happenings and backwards into the past, then without preamble we are following Peter's thoughts, then Clarissa's husband and so on, with the author's focus wandering between every person encountered in the novel. Clarissa thinks about the life choices she has made. Peter has just come back from India and is seeking a divorce from his wife now that he has fallen in love with a much younger married woman. Clarissa's husband has bought her flowers and intends to tell her he loves her, something he presumably hasn't said in a very long time. There is Doris Kilman, the teacher of Clarissa's daughter Elizabeth, who, while she venerates the young girl to a degree that borders on desire (or as much desire as a religious fanatic will make allowances for), despises her mother Clarissa for all she stands for as a society woman living a life of ease and luxury. We meet Septimus Warren Smith, sitting in the park with his wife; he is a war veteran suffering from a very bad case of shell-shock who is being treated for suicidal depression. His wife is concerned because he talks to himself and to his deceased army friend Evans, who may have been much more than just a buddy, and together they are waiting to meet a psychiatrist who will suggest a course of treatment for the young man.

I had a couple of false stars with this book over the years, never making it past the first couple of pages, and must say one needs to be in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate this short, yet very profound novel. Having just finished reading A Room of One's Own I found myself in the right mood for more of Woolf's deep reflections on life and how we are affected by circumstances and the people we are surrounded by, whether by choice or happenstance. Once one gets accustomed to the flow of words, which doesn't follow a traditional narrative style with chapters and commentary, but pours forth in an organic way meant to mimic a real-life experience, one is transported by the portraits Woolf paints of these people, whom we get to know from the inside out, as opposed to the other way round. Because of this, there is a timeless quality to this novel, even though the events it alludes to are very much fixed in the London of the 1920s.

Narrated by the much recommended Juliet Stevenson.

sep 18, 2012, 2:20pm

->89 Smiler69:
I think I would have picked it regardless, since I want to read it myself. :)

->90 Smiler69:
I did enjoy that one a lot - especially the voice of Death was well done - but I read it when it was super-hyped and that brought it down a little. It's always a bad idea to read books at the top of their hype, isn't it?! Try to take a look at a papercopy when you're at the library or bookstore next - it has some illustrations!

sep 18, 2012, 2:23pm

#92 Oh yes, someone else mentioned the illustrations, and I actually DO have a paper copy... will check that out today, thanks for the reminder!

sep 18, 2012, 9:43pm

Great review of Mrs. Dalloway Ilana.... Thumb! I loved it when I read and I agree with you.... one needs to be in the right frame of mind for Woolf's stream of consciousness writing style.

sep 18, 2012, 10:12pm

Hi Lori, now I've read a couple in a row, I feel like I'm in the right mental space to take on more of her work. As it happens I got both Jacob's Room and The Voyage Out on audio from the library, so it's very likely I'll tackle one, if not both of those soon.

Redigerat: sep 23, 2012, 10:14pm

Category #1: The First Half 1901-1951 -- COMPLETED!

106. ♫ All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West ★★★★★
(Also read for TIOLI #9: 9 words in the title or a word in the title or author name that is 9 letters or longer)

“On the contrary, said Lady Slane, that is another thing about which I've made up my mind. I’m going to become completely self indulgent. I’m going to wallow in old age. No grand-children, they’re too young; not one of them has reached forty-five. No great grandchildren either, that would be worse. I want no strenuous young people who are not content with doing a thing, but must needs know why they do it. And I don’t want them bringing their children to see me, for it will only remind me of the terrible effort the poor creatures will have to make before they reach the end of their lives in safety. I prefer to forget about them. I want no one about me except those who are nearer to their death than to their birth.”

“She had had enough of bustle and of competition and of one set of ambitions writhing to circumvent another. She wanted to merge with the things that drifted into an empty house, though unlike the spider, she would weave no webs. She would be content to stir with the breeze and grow green in the light of the sun and to drift down the passage of years until death pushed her gently out, and shut the door behind her.” *

When Lady Slane’s husband passes away well into his 90s, her six children and their spouses set about determining how she will spend the rest of her life: she will divide her time between each couple, living in their homes and contributing to the expenses in a manner which will be amply profitable to them. But 88 year-old Deborah, who has always effaced herself behind her husband, the former Viceroy of India and a member of the House of Lords, decides otherwise; she will move into her own house in Hampstead, thank you very much, and furthermore, she will only invite elderly people like herself who have similar priorities and share her views on life. Now that she is closer than ever to dying, she wants nothing to do with the constant striving and ambitions of the young. Having installed herself in her new house, she makes a very good friend of the cottage’s owner, the elderly and very thoughtful Mr Bucktrout, who sets about renovating and redecorating the house at his own expense so she can live in greater comfort. Then a vague acquaintance, a man from her distant past in India, Mr FitzGeorge, who has become a millionaire and an eccentric renown for his collection of fine art, reintroduces himself into her life. He has always been in love with the once beautiful Lady Slane, and they form a special kind of friendship which will influence the rest of her ladyship’s few remaining years.

Vita Sackville-West, who among her many passionate love affairs, famously had Virginia Woolf as a lover, here explores how a woman who has both money and rather more than a simple room of her own might choose to live out her final years, having the ability to free herself of social constraints. The back story about the close friendship between these two authors was far from my mind when I chose to read this book, so it turned out to be a very timely read so shortly after revisiting Woolf’s A Room of One's Own. I loved and took comfort in these reflections on old age, and how one might eventually look back on life from the distance of a great many decades, having acquired completely different priorities from those of earlier years. I also found it strange and intriguing that these reflections resonated perfectly with my own at this stage in my life, albeit my 93-year old friend I’ll call “Lisel” considers me to be a mere young girl still, all things being relative, as always.


* These quotes were transcribed from the audiobook version and as such are not fully accurate. For instance, the punctuation was pure guesswork, and I hope Vita Sackville-West isn’t spinning in her grave for the liberties I took, as I certainly mean no disrespect.

The of the novel, comes from the last line of John Milton’s Samson Agonistes, a portion of which Sackville-West used as the book’s epigraph:

His servants he with new acquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismissed,
And calm of mind, all passion spent.

eta: added quotes and generally reedited text.

sep 21, 2012, 11:26pm

Category #6: Going Places - International authors & places - COMPLETED!

107. ♫ Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner ★★★★½

This was a reread, for which I treated myself and supplemented my print copy with the audio version narrated by Anna Massey, who won a BAFTA Award (British Academy Film Awards) for her interpretation of Edith Hope, the main character of this novel for a TV adaptation in 1986. The novel is set at the Hotel du Lac, located on lake Geneva in Switzerland, an exclusive family operated business which caters to a clientele which demands high quality and appreciates traditional values. A successful author of romance novels, Edith has been sent there by her friends after an unfortunate incident for which she is expected to atone and must gain in maturity. She meets the few other guests of the hotel close to the end of the tourist season, including the elderly Mrs Pusey and her much too young-looking daughter Jennifer. Mrs Pusey's, who has chosen Edith as a would-be admirer and companion, has an overbearing demeanour and a lifestyle which revolves around buying very expensive things, which make Edith reflect on her own life choices and personality. She also meets the attractive Mr Neville, who offers an easy solution which could change her life for the better (according to some). This is one of those lovely novels where not very much happens in terms of action, but where the characters and their conversations and inner workings are fascinating to read about. It was a five-star read for me the first time around, but now that I'm discovering many other wonderful British authoresses (awful word, sorry, but "female authors" sounds equally wrong somehow) such as Elizabeth Taylor, Muriel Spark and Iris Murdoch, to name just those, I find myself comparing Brookner's Booker Prize winning novel with other works of equal value which makes giving this one the special and rare honour of being counted among the best of my all-time favourites a little bit harder to do. All the same, a deeply satisfying novel I am sure to revisit again and again.

sep 24, 2012, 5:56pm

Two categories completed - congrats!!! Haven't read anything by Sackville-West before, but have always meant to, so I'm putting this one on the wishlist.

sep 24, 2012, 7:16pm

Eva, The Edwardians was quite good too. Very different novels, but they're both worth reading for sure.

sep 25, 2012, 12:50am

Congratulations Ilana on completing 2 categories!

sep 25, 2012, 2:31pm

Thanks Judy, don't know if I'll finish them all, but it's been fun getting there so far!

sep 30, 2012, 8:13pm

Category #8: Hot Off the Press - Published since 2011

108. ♫ Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel ★★★★½
(Also read for September Series & Sequels, September TIOLI #16: first published in 2012)

The second instalment in the Wolf Hall trilogy takes place in the now familiar court of Henry VIII, with a king who has become disenchanted with wife #2, Anne Boleyn. There's the fact that she has failed to produce a male heir, and there's also the problem that HVIII isn't so keen on giving it another try with her, as he's fallen out of love and can't understand what he ever saw in her in the first place. Besides which his attention is now wholly taken up with upcoming wife #3, Jane Seymour. Thomas Cromwell's job is once again to extirpate his boss from a marriage the king insists shouldn't have taken place in the first place (an argument which is beginning to sound like a familiar tune). But this queen has signed her own death warrant, making Cromwell's job relatively easy. There are rumours that Anne has been bedding many lovers, and all he, Cromwell needs do is to get her men to implicate one another. When one young man begins to squeal following vague allusions to torture, it soon comes to light that Anne has been bedding anything and everything she has ever laid eyes on. There might be some exaggeration to this claim, but Cromwell's work is soon accomplished, and Anne, disbelieving the turn of events, is sent off to the tower to await what she fervently believes will end with Henry's pardon and loving embrace, though Cromwell knows, and history has shown that she was soon to part with her head. Hilary Mantel once again excels in bringing to life the actors in this real-life tragedy. But where Cromwell almost seemed like an essentially good man who had simply done what he had to do to survive and make a name for himself in the first book, here is seen as much more manipulative and lacking in sympathy for his opponent, though Mantel had also shown Anne Boleyn as a character few would have grown especially attached to.

Almost impossible to put down, I initially reluctantly picked up the audiobook version feeling almost certain this particular book would not work on that format, but was once again pleasantly surprised. Simon Vance does an excellent job as always, with a reading which makes Mantel's brilliant prose flow and sparkle. Even the "He, Cromwell" Mantel used throughout to help the reader along, and which many readers found jarring, seemed completely appropriate as delivered by this narrator. Much recommended, whichever format you opt for.

sep 30, 2012, 8:15pm

Category #7: Young at Heart - COMPLETED!

109. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury ★★★★½
(Also read for September Series & Sequels, TIOLI #9: 9 words in the title or a word in the title or author name that is 9 letters or longer)

What can I possibly add about this wonderful little book which manages to capture all the best parts of summer along with timeless life lessons about the impermanence of all things, in wonderfully evocative, poetic prose? At first I was a bit doubtful as to whether I could give this little gem the attention it deserved, because it asks the reader to slow right down and drink in the words while paying attention to every nuance and simile. But then with the chapter about the joy of buying new sneakers that so many other reviewers mentioned, I was pulled right in; the irresistible attraction of new sneakers that seem to have the power of making you run faster, jump higher, be almost like a godlike thing for at least a brief period of time before the power of marketing and the smell of newness are replaced with the fact that they're just another pair of shoes... Wonderful. I didn't expect the novel to be broken up into a series of sketches, each exploring different themes, presenting us with different characters and slices of life around Green Town, a quiet midwestern town where tradition sidles along with eccentrics and fantasy and even a touch of depravity and horror.

My initial reaction was one of slight disappointment. This book seems to have resonated so deeply with many readers who described it in loving terms in recent months, but I can't say I fell in love with it the way many of you did. Perhaps because I couldn't at all relate to the kind of life and surroundings the Spaulding boys, who are at the heart of it all, enjoyed, having never had a family unit, or stayed in any one place long enough for it to get all that familiar, or get to really know my neighbours, having mostly lived in the city since I was born, so that it all seemed to me like an idealized fantasy and reminded me of all the things I had missed out on. That part wasn't too great. But one of the advantages of taking a week or two after finishing a book before writing about it is that one can let it linger and let various impressions settle and others come to the surface. And what emerges now is that this book isn't so very different from The Martian Chronicles. Whether in Green Town or in Mars, we are shown how very strange life is, the whole cycle of life is explored, along with so many of the oddities it can encompass. And no matter where one comes from, or what kind of childhood one has had, we are all daily witnesses of how strange and wonderful and fun and scary life can be.

I liked a lot, and will definitely revisit Green Town in future.

sep 30, 2012, 9:01pm

Great review of Dandelion Wine.

sep 30, 2012, 9:43pm

Thanks! :-)

okt 6, 2012, 10:57pm

Category #11: Litérature Française - contemporary & classic French lit (read in French)

110. A Love Affair ★★★⅓ by Émile Zola

In the eighth novel of the Rougon-Macquart cycle, the central character is Hélène Grandjean, née Mouret. Recently widowed shortly after having moved to Paris from Marseilles with her now deceased husband and their child, she now lives in a cozy apartment with her daughter Jeanne and a servant. Jeanne has inherited the nervous illnesses of her great-grandmother and when the novel begins, has just been suffering from seizures. The bulk of the novel describes Hélène's struggle between her need to be a good mother to Jeanne, a very difficult and temperamental child who happens to be maniacally jealous of anyone whom she suspects might take away an ounce of her mother's affections from her, and her growing passion for Dr. Deberle, who is her landlord and neighbour and comes to Jeanne's rescue in the first pages of the book. This was my least favourite book in the series so far. Jeanne is a detestable child, and spends the better part of the novel being very sick and manipulative, and Hélènes affections for her daughter and the good doctor are equally filled with pathos. Much of the novel takes place in the close confines of the one-bedroom apartment, making for a very claustrophobic feeling, only leavened by Zola's description of the Paris scenery at each and every last chapter in the five-part novel. That being said, bad Zola is still Zola. Not particularly recommended unless you, like me, have set for yourself the task of reading the whole series.

okt 6, 2012, 11:01pm

Category #10: Beyond Fiction

111. ♫ The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester ★★★★½
(Also read for September TIOLI #9: 9 words in the title or a word in the title or author name that is 9 letters or longer)

To tell the tale of how the first truly comprehensive dictionary of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary (or OED) came into being, Simon Winchester chose to focus on one of it's most dedicated contributors, Dr. W. C. Minor, who contributed close to ten thousand definitions. What the man in charge of the committee which oversaw the compilation of the vast amount of information that went into this book, Professor James Murray, did not learn until came the time to honour the volunteers who'd helped put together this monumental work, was that Dr. Minor had been doing all his research and submitting his findings from rooms he occupied at an insane asylum. He was expected to remain there till the end of his natural life, after having been found guilty of murder and also been proved to be completely out of his mind. A fascinating story backed with great research, I'd been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, and it did not disappoint. Because I take a personal interest in matters pertaining to mental illness and it's cures, I was particularly impressed with the last chapter of the book, where Winchester talks about Dr. Minor's diagnosis, which at the time was thought to be simple paranoia but is now recognized as schizophrenia:

"One in a hundred people today suffer from schizophrenia: Nearly all of them, if treated with compassion and good chemistry, can have some kind of dignified life, of a kind that was denied, for much of his time, to Doctor Minor. Except, of course, that Minor had his dictionary work. And there is a cruel irony in this—that if he had been so treated, he might never have felt impelled to work on it as he did. By offering him mood-altering sedatives, as they would have done in Edwardian times, or treating him as today with such antipsychotic drugs as quetiapine or risperidone, many of his symptoms of madness might have gone away—but he might well have felt disinclined or unable to perform his work for Doctor Murray. In a sense doing all those dictionary slips was his medication; in a way they became his therapy. The routine of his quiet and cellbound intellectual stimulus, month upon month, year upon year, appears to have provided him with at least a measure of release from his paranoia. [...] One must feel a sense of strange gratitude, then, that his treatment was never good enough to divert him from his work. The agonies that he must have suffered in those terrible asylum nights have granted us all a benefit, for all time. He was mad, and for that, we have reason to be glad."

That quote alone earned the book an extra half star.

okt 7, 2012, 3:06am

Great review of The Professor and the Madman. That book has been on my wl for awhile now. Your review bumps it a little higher up on the pile!

okt 7, 2012, 12:21pm

I waited a long time to read this book and thought it was just as good as many reviews promised it to be. Hopefully you'll find this to be true when you get to it too!

okt 8, 2012, 12:24pm

I like Winchester's books. I haven't read this one yet, however. Something to look forward to.

okt 8, 2012, 2:58pm

I have three other of his books on my wishlist so far: Krakatoa, Atlantic and The Man Who Loved China. Which have you read and loved?

okt 8, 2012, 4:18pm

Loved Krakatoa, loved parts of Atlantic (one chapter about cod was particularly interesting). I have TMWLC but haven't read it yet.

okt 8, 2012, 5:28pm

I was quite impressed with his narration on the audio version as well. I don't usually like authors reading their own works, with Neil Gaiman so far being a rare exception (and actually one of my favourite narrators), but Simon Winchester does a good job too.

okt 10, 2012, 2:42am

I've just brought Winchester's Atlantic today and I'm looking forward to it. I've never read anything by him, so your review of The Professor and the Madman is encouraging.

okt 11, 2012, 12:39pm

Alana, based on this one book I've read by him I'd say Winchester is definitely an author to look out for. Atlantic has been on my wishlist since it came out. I hope you enjoy it!

okt 13, 2012, 6:49pm

Category #8: Hot Off the Press - Published since 2011 - COMPLETED!

112. The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam ★★★★★
(Also read for September TIOLI #9: 9 words in the title or a word in the title or author name that is 9 letters or longer)

"From then on, Percival took the hoard of metal out of the safe at night and slept with it under his mattress. This required two trips up the stairs, lugging one valise each time. He kept the pistol under his pillow. Two weeks after the meeting in the hut, the night before an ancestor worship day, Percival dreamt of his father. It was an old dream from his childhood, one of flying. They soared high over a cold, jagged peak. It was the Gold Mountain for which Chen Kai had abandoned his home, a mass of sharp glittering angles and dagger crags of lustrous wealth. Percival congratulated his father on his success, but bragged that he himself would become yet more wealthy. Even as Chen Kai nodded with approval, saying that a son must surpass the father, Percival began to fall from the sky. His power of flight was gone. He hurtled towards the ground, calling out in terror to his father, but falling alone to be impaled by gold shards." — Chapter 7

"The big Peugeot floated through the streets, and Percival reflected on his luck at winning it back. The Americans were close to giving them the special certification, Mak had recently reported, and good luck came in threes. The Sun Wah Hotel was just a few blocks away. The proceeds of the money circle sat in an envelope next to Percival. It was due at the Teochow Clan Association by the end of the next day. In the glancing headlights, a girl's smile flashed, plucked out of darkness. Others walked nearby. Through his fluid cognac haze, he saw their light steps, their slender thighs quick in darkness. If nothing else, this war had brought miniskirts to Saigon". — Chapter 9

This is one of those books that connected with me on such a deep level, that it is difficult for me to explain why I loved it so much. It is not by any means a happy story with likeable characters. In fact, it takes place at a time and place plagued by bitter conflict and brutality: Vietnam during the 60s and 70s. The novel's protagonist is a deeply flawed man who prefers to hold on to his old, outdated mode of thinking and his unrealistic ideals rather than allowing even a glimpse of reality to sink in, so that I was sometimes tempted to shake him by the neck to snap him out of his stupor. He has the arrogance to believe he is the master of the little world he inhabits, while willingly ignoring the forces that have the power to take it all away. He is a man who can love deeply, but who's attempts at filling a great void might impel him to quite literally gamble everything away. Yet there is also charm here, with glimpses of a beautiful place; Vincent Lam paints sceneries with his words that are so vivid, I sometimes had the impression I was watching it all happen before my eyes. And not least of all, there is the presence of a woman who beguiles us, who cannot do otherwise than make the reader fall a little bit in love with her.

Percival Chen would probably define himself first and foremost by his Chinese heritage, which identity informs his every decision. He is also a businessman, a father, a gambler and womanizer, and the owner of the Percival Chen English Academy, located in Cholon, Vietnam. Born in China, he has always fervently held on to his Chinese values and culture, which he has scrupulously handed down to his son, Dai Jai. Percival's own father established what became a thriving business in Cholon, and built a large and well appointed residence, Chen Hap Sing, which also accommodated storerooms for the rice he made his fortune on. Now in Percival's hands, Chen Hap Sing houses his English Academy, which is run with the help of one of the teachers he employs, his friend Mak. Through a network of mysterious contacts Mak maintains and the discreet bribes he hands out to the authorities, Mak is instrumental in ensuring that the academy keeps it's elite status, making it a highly profitable enterprise.

The story takes off in 1966, when an official new directive is given that every school must include Vietnamese language in it’s curriculum. The Vietnam war is raging and tensions are high, and Percival's refusal to make this concession will have far-reaching consequence. When Dai Jai, wanting to make his father proud gets in trouble with the local authorities and is put in detention, Percival rightfully fears for his son's life when it is suspected he is being kept at the National Police Headquarters, where prisoners are routinely tortured and put to death. As usual relying on Mak and his connections, Percival is willing to pay any price to free his son. An anonymous contact is found; he may be able to rescue the young man, a nearly impossible mission, but demands an extortionary fee. With no other options and time being of essence Percival empties his coffers and borrows heavily against the value of his property to ensure Dai Jai's safety. But following his rescue, the authorities are still hell-bent on making an example of Dai Jai, and Percival sees no other choice than to send him away, once again having to rely on highly costly contacts and incurring yet more debt. Dai Jai is to go to China, where Percival is absolutely certain he belongs, against his ex-wife's better judgment. He has always focused solely on making money in order to finance his taste for gambling and whores, choosing to ignore the political turmoil that surrounds him. Therefore, Percival has no notion that in the re-baptized People's Republic of China, sons of businessmen and landowners are prime targets for punishing measures, once again firmly holding on to his romanticized memory of a homeland he left long ago and where he likes to think he will join Dai Jai eventually.

With his son gone and Mak taking over the administration of the school, the lure of gambling as a means to pay off his debts proves impossible to resist, and before long Percival is spending all his spare time playing high-stakes mah-jong tournaments, where alcohol and beautiful women add fuel to his obsession. When he first sees the exquisite Jacqueline at a casino, he is willing to risk all his gains for one night of pleasure with the splendid creature, never imagining for a moment the consequences such an encounter will have for him and everyone he holds dearest. All the while, as the war gets fiercer day by day and the fall of Saigon becomes imminent, Percival is far from suspecting the harsh realities he will eventually be forced to face.

Might there be hope for a sequel? Probably unlikely, but I will certainly look forward to Vincent Lam's next literary effort.

okt 15, 2012, 2:25pm

111> I've read a bunch by Winchester and have not been disappointed yet. Professor and the Madman is an obvious favorite (high on my list, anyway) and slated for a re-read next month. The Meaning of Everything forms a sort of addendum to "Professor" and was also excellent. The Man Who Loved China is good, but not his greatest work. The Map That Changed the World is perhaps one of the few readable books on geology.

Winchester reminds me a lot of Bill Bryson, who can make many topics both relevant to each other and fun to read at the same time.

okt 15, 2012, 4:47pm

I love that, when you just completely click with a book and it really hits something fundamental in you - the power of literature, eh?!

okt 15, 2012, 9:33pm

#117 Gerard, I've just read your profile page and had to smile to myself at the thought that my LT and RL libraries would probably drive you crazy!
My wishlist here on LT is probably bigger than most other collections, I stack some of my books sideways and have allowed huge piles of them to grow on my sidetables for lack of shelf space, and in some cases, have put little trinkets in the front of the shelf (where the art books are kept, but they're still easily accessible... :-)

Thanks for the recommendations on Winchester. I was sort of hoping there would be more recommendations for The Man Who Loved China, because it's one of his topics that appealed to me most. The making of the OED fascinated me, so I've added The Meaning of Everything to my ever-growing wishlist. I hesitate to do the same with The Map That Changed the World simply because geology isn't a topic I'm particularly interested, but I have a couple of other of his books on the WL too, so it's just a matter of time before I read another book of his!

#118 Eva, it's very rare that I give a 5 star rating. So far this year, I've only given that rating to 3 books out of 140 (that's just over 2%). I checked for the last couple of years too, and it was 4% in 2011 and 9% in 2010. Anyway, all this to say that while I enjoy a lot of what I read, for it to get the full marks means it's surpassed any expectations I might have had and made me want to reread it again immediately. Usually, it's almost impossible for me to describe why exactly I'm so drawn in, but then true love has always been undefinable, hasn't it? ;-)

Redigerat: okt 24, 2012, 11:24pm

So. Now for a bit of fun: I need your help, be you a commenter or a lurker. I'm trying to put together my 2013 challenges and am having a hard time coming up with categories, but I do know a) I need to read more from my tbr and b) I'd like to have people choose a selection of books for me. Last year, I made people pick at random, but this time, I'll give you the option of actually choosing what specific books from my tbr you think I should read in 2013. The only caveat is that I'd like you to tell me, in few words (or a few lines!) why you think I should read it (or direct me to your review if you've written one). One pick per person. To select a book, just pick my "To Read" collection, where you'll find nearly 750 titles to choose from. I'll allow for up to 20 selections or so (I also posted this request on my 75ers thread); books selected more than once will simply be given higher priority.

Thanks for playing, I've gotten lots of great recommendations!

okt 15, 2012, 9:59pm

#119 -- Thanks for not taking my profile too seriously. :) It's usually a good conversation starter among those of us who have waaaaay too many books.

Now, if I may be so bold (and quick on the trigger as well), I would suggest Isaacson's biography of Einstein for one of your random picks (#120 above). First of all, he's a major figure in our collective culture and I think reading a well-executed biography of him is key to understanding his place in our history. Also, I am a big proponent of both non-fiction reading and science education. While Isaacson doesn't go super-deep into the math behind his theories, his explanations of early quantum mechanics and Einstein's relationships are probably the best I've read.

okt 15, 2012, 10:19pm

Ok. You've just caught me with my pants down, so to speak, Gerard. :-|

I have many audiobooks in my collection, as you may or may not have noticed. I always, always, ALWAYS make sure to get unabridged versions, because otherwise... I just don't see the point. So, out of roughly 400 audiobooks in my possession, there are all of 3 abridged version. THREE. That's 0.75% (I'm not particularly science or math oriented, but I've always had a thing for percentages). One of those was bought by mistake. Another one is The Iliad, which I read in Greek Studies and which I got ONLY because it's read by Derek Jacobi, a fantastic actor and narrator as I'm sure you'll agree, and the third is... you got it. So. What to do?

And thanks for participating by the way. I really love this game. :-)

okt 15, 2012, 11:25pm

I suggest that next year you read Anna Karenina. It's long, but it's brilliant. When I read it two years ago, I was surprised at how quickly I got through it and that it didn't really read like the stereotypical verbose and tangential nineteenth-century novel. It really illustrates changes in Russian culture at the time and shows how one decision can change so many lives. Also, a movie version is coming out later this year, and it looks beautiful.

okt 15, 2012, 11:42pm

Great review of The Headmaster's Wager. I am anxious to read it---I love Mah Jongg, but we only play for quarters.

I really liked Isaacson's Einstein biography as well. I am reading Anna Karenina now, and find it depressing because I know the end.... I think I will have trouble getting through it.

I am going to suggest you read Cloudstreet I haven't read it myself, but recently read another TIm Winton books which I really liked. All disturbing and full of dysfunctional characters.

Redigerat: okt 17, 2012, 1:18am

I'd suggest The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay for your reading next year. I read it when I was 13 or 14 and it sticks in my mind as great historical fiction, a powerful coming of age story where the relationships and the strength of the human spirit are features. It was one of my favourite books right through high school.

It's about time I reread it actually.

okt 16, 2012, 7:48am

#122 -- Fair enough. Then as a backup choice, I would like to put Weatherford's book on Genghis Khan in the hopper. I read it 3 years ago and was markedly surprised at how rich a biography could be put together by such little source information. If you're looking for an introduction into early Asian history, this is the way to go. Plus, the Mongols break every historical rule about civilzations and culture.

okt 16, 2012, 12:40pm

#123 Casvelyn, I love Anna Karenina and have been looking forward to reading the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation for a long time. Mind you, I also got an audio version read by a narrator I like very much, but it's one of those books I intend on rereading more than once. It was my first "adult" novel—I read it first when I was 12 and fell in love with it. I read it again when I was 17 or so, and it'll be interesting to revisit it now that I'm older than the protagonists... Do you know who they've cast in the movie version? Thanks for playing!

#124 The only Mah Jong I've ever played is the individual computer version, so I have no idea what it's like playing in a group, though I suspect it's very different.

I guess I'll have to get my hands on the unabridged Einstein biography. In truth though, I was worried about the scientific jargon, and talk about formulas and what have you, which is why I made an exception and got the abridgement, first because that's what they had at the library, but also because I figured it might focus more on the man and less on science. However heretical that might sound...

I'm sorry to say though that your selection isn't valid. Cloudstreet isn't on my tbr, but still in my wishlist collection. You need to pick the "To Read" collection, as the idea is to get me to read more from my own shelves.

#125 Great selection Alana. That book was on one of my original wishlists before I joined LT as I saw it mentioned on BBC's Big Read and thought I needed to get my hands on it. I mooched a copy in 2010 and look forward to getting it off my shelf to make room for something else! I love that you sold yourself on it all over again while you were telling me why I should read it! :-)

#126 Genghis Khan it is then. When I read the synopsis I thought this book might really interest me. I don't read much non-fiction as you may have noticed, so you and I come at NF from two opposite directions, quite literally, and I'm always a bit skittish about it.

Let's see...: "In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization. Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege."

Yep, I'm in! :-)

okt 16, 2012, 1:22pm

If you haven't already gotten to it, Maus is my suggestion - it may be the best Holocaust novel I've ever read and its simple drawing style is so disarming that you can't help but immerse yourself in the story. It's the one I recommend to anyone who hasn't read a graphic novel before to show that "comics" can be just as literary as any other format. Also, if they realize they don't enjoy reading sequential art, they've at least read one of the "Majors." :)

okt 16, 2012, 1:57pm

You actually have The Count of Monte Cristo a couple of times on your list so you should join us for the group read next year!

okt 16, 2012, 2:41pm

Here's the cast for Anna Karenina. I know Keira Knightly tends to generate debate when she's in period films, but personally I like her. I'm not much of a Jude Law fan, though. Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay, though, and that's got to be worth something.

okt 16, 2012, 3:14pm

Mah Jongg is super-fun. We play Airforce rules, though, so Chinese people think we are doing it all wrong.

So trying again, I will go with The Last Lion because I want to know more about Churchill, and if you read it, I can read your review.

okt 16, 2012, 8:53pm

#128 Eva, that's an awesome selection and I love you explanation of why I should read it. But... it's already on the list for 12/12 and was selected precisely for my "Picked for me" challenge. I'll definitely make room for it before year's end because I'm long overdue on this one. I wanted to read it when it originally came out, but chickened out because was afraid of stuff dealing with the Holocaust (I think living in Israel traumatized me on that front). The good news is you get to try again! :-)

#129 Mamzel, I did notice you were having a group read of The Count of Monte Cristo, so will definitely slot it in for whatever months that's at. I have two copies because one is in book form and the other is on audio (gotten from the library). I get through audiobooks much faster than the original kind, and I think the narrator for this one is really good, so there's a good chance I'll opt for the audio version.

#130 Holly Cow! I was going to start bitching and moaning about the cast because... well I like Keira Knightly in period movies but I've lived with this novel in my mind and soul practically all my life so... But just watched the trailer and I MUST see this movie as soon as it comes out! If anything, it's just incredibly visually stunning. WOW! I guess it won't make a difference if I see the movie before reading the book since after all it'll be my third reading of it, so not like I don't know how it ends! ;-) or rather.... :-(

#131 The Last Lion eh? Well I've always been fascinated by Churchill the man and wanted to know more about him too, so thanks for giving me a reason for picking it up in this decade! Plus, if I like the first book, I believe there are two other instalments? Or might be just on other. Every biography about him comes in multiple volumes anyway. Obviously, there's lots of ground to cover.

I want to know more about Churchill, and if you read it, I can read your review.

Clever! :-)

Redigerat: okt 18, 2012, 1:35am

lol Ilana, I'm just trying to work out which category I can fit The Power of One into for next year. It'll be interesting to see if it holds up to my memory of it, that's always the great test :-)

okt 17, 2012, 12:32pm

I'll be interested to see what you think of Maus - it's not an easy read, but you know that already. Make sure you have some time after to digest. :)

The Power of One was Alana's suggestion, and I might just put that on my own wishlist. :)

okt 17, 2012, 4:19pm

Ilana my pick for you is also The Count of Monte Cristo which I consider to be just a wonderful long and interesting literary journey. I'm glad it was suggested and you will be participating in the group read. It is a book that should be shared with many.

Another book you have on your TBR pile is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Initially, I was going to recommend it to you, but I hesitated. I'm glad I listened to that inner voice. This is a book that should call to the reader and will call you when it is your time. I've had it for over a year. I delve into from time to time but it wasn't my time to deal with it yet. My time has come and I will spend next year with it.

Your TBR list is outstanding! I need to stay away from it or mine will take off like a train off the tracks! :)

okt 17, 2012, 9:23pm

I'm curious about Maus too. I'll definitely be looking forward to your thoughts.

okt 17, 2012, 10:46pm

#133 Alana, part of my motivation for having people pick for me at this particular juncture is I thought the picks might help me better define my categories... or not.

#134 So... Eva, do you want to pick something else?

#135 Hi Roberta, I'm glad you decided as you did regarding the Yoga Sutras because I'm completely in agreement that one should only read on spiritual matters when the time feels right. And this is definitely not the right time. I have a whole series of religious texts I bought as the collection was on sale. I'm not sure if it was such a great purchase, other than the fact they're at my disposal, because the books are very small, which makes for tiny, difficult to read text. But then, that's what they invented magnifying glasses for!

So you're sure you want to stick to The Count of Monte Christo and not come up with another book altogether?

#136 Katie, I'll be looking forward to my thoughts too! :-) I mean by that that when the first book came out in the mid-80s, I was seriously considering purchasing it, but chickened out in the end. So it's been in the back of my consciousness for nearly 30 years now. Talk about expectations!

okt 17, 2012, 11:31pm

Alright my dear Ilana, I combed through your TBR list again and what I would pick for myself I have narrowed down to fiction A Thousand Splendid Suns and non fiction Polio: An American Story. The polio book I am actually going to add to one of my categories for 2013 (medical). I'd like to read the Khaled Hosseni book too, but I don't immediately have a category to put it in. There you go. Pick one or if doesn't work for you that is perfectly alright. You are reading my top pick The Count of Monte Cristo which is one of my all time favorite reads.

okt 18, 2012, 12:30pm

Then I'll go with The Ice Princess to make sure that at least one Swede is represented. :) In the original, the language is written to fit the area where it takes place, so it may come across as a little odd. I've heard that the English translation is a little wonky, so I'd be interested to see what you think of the French version.

okt 18, 2012, 7:06pm

#138 Roberta: both those books have been on my tbr for far, far too long. In fact, Polio is now physically sitting on a side table in a pile I've designated as books to read this year. I haven't been picking from that shelf very much, I must say, but I will definitely try to fit it in this year. Therefore, I'll list the Khaled Hosseini book for 2013. Can't understand why I haven't gotten to it yet, considering I gave 5 stars to The Kite Runner... the perils of too many books I guess.

#139 Then I'll go with The Ice Princess to make sure that at least one Swede is represented

Excellent, and a very good reason for picking a book! As I understand it, most scandinavian novels are translated into French before they reach the English market. Not sure why that is, do you have any idea?

okt 20, 2012, 2:09am

Hi Ilana, I've been browsing through your "To Read" list and I was able to narrow my choice down to three. I couldn't pick a favorite of those three, so I simply did Eenie Meanie Mini Moe and came up with Lonesome Dove. This is one of my all-time favorite books but it's quite the chunkster so, if it doesn't fit in with your next year's plans, let me know as I have still have my other two choices to offer.

okt 20, 2012, 11:03am

I'll second Judy's pick of Lonesome Dove. It is a wonderful book. It is long but it introduces you to some extraordinary characters. For me personally, because my Dad is a cattle rancher, it holds special meaning to me, but I think anyone that loves a good cowboy story would enjoy it just as much. You will laugh, cry and want to throw something at Woodrow Call's head sometimes. Don't worry, his stubborn head is hard so no harm will come. :)

okt 20, 2012, 8:02pm

->140 Smiler69:
Because the French have an inherent dislike for the English and prefer any other language?? LOL! Or, perhaps because our royals are originally French? We even have a language academy based on L'Académie française thanks to that royal connection. (Well, you all know ours - it's the one that hands out the Nobel Prize in Literature.) I think the Germans are also quick to translate especially our mysteries, but I'm not really sure why - maybe the Germans dislike the English too... :)

okt 20, 2012, 11:15pm

#141 Hi Judy, I had in mind that I might do a pyramid challenge for the 13/13 and have one doorstopper for the relevant category, so Lonesome Dove it is. I got it as a Christmas gift from my 75ers Santa (Claudia/bahzah) and it landed on my wishlist because it was so highly recommended by several people in our group. It'll probably take me many weeks to get through it, but I'm sure it'll be worth it. Thanks for playing!

#142 Roberta, I wouldn't say that I'm especially attracted to cowboy stories, since that whole world is so very far from anything I've ever known in my life, but of course that all depends on the treatment, and I've heard so many good things about this one that I have a feeling I'll be drawn in too. Thanks for sharing your impressions of this book.

#143 Hm. *scratches head, unconvinced*

okt 20, 2012, 11:33pm

->144 Smiler69:
LOL! Me too. :)

okt 22, 2012, 10:49pm

Category #3: Picked for me - chosen from my shelves at random by LTers (picked by Whisper1)

113. Blindness by José Saramago ★★★★½
(Also read for TIOLI #1: random tag generator - deaf fiction, 12/12 Group Read)

Well, just finished Blindness in the last hour and am doing something I never do usually, which is skipping ahead of several books awaiting comments/reviews to put down my first impressions. I listened to the audiobook all the way through and read the last chapter from the physical book and was surprised to discover the way Saramago jumbled up all the dialogue and action into long running sentences. Confusing. The narrator did a really great job on the audio with a very sensitive and nuanced reading. What shocks me most about this book is that I did not hate it, and it did not make me feel depressed. Not even a little bit. I have a long history with this book, because it was first recommended to me several years ago by someone who is now an EX-friend. Long story, but he came to stay at my place as a guest for what I assumed was a few days, ended up staying 2.5 months, ate all my food, drank all my booze, ran surcharges on my internet connection, made long distance calls on my mobile phone, used up all my petty cash and left me alone and with an empty fridge during Christmas week. And the whole time, all he kept saying is "You'll understand everything when you read Blindness" and "You can only get the meaning of life by reading Blindness" and "this book has all the answers, read it". And so on, till the very last thing I felt like doing was to pick up Blindness of course. Then, in a funny twist of fate, I asked my fellow LTers to pick books for my 12/12 challenge, but my instruction was that they had to be picked at random with some system I had devised, and who should pick this book but a dear sweet lady who favours children's books (Linda/Whisper1) and who I'm sure must have been taken aback when she saw what she'd landed for me.

So with all that history, I'm sure it's not too surprising that I was dreading this book. In fact, I was looking forward to it the way I'd look forward to having several teeth pulled without the benefit of local anaesthetic. Funny how anticipation colours so much of what we read. Expect to love a book to bits, and you're more often than not let down. Expect a book to take you to the depths of hell and despair, and you end up feeling like life, when you take a good look around and it's a beautiful sunny autumn day with a loving puppy by your side... really is generally really really good. I guess I just took it all as a parable and all the ugliness didn't phase very much because, I'm sorry to say it, but all too often, seen behind the veil of clinical depression that is my cross to bear, that is sort of the way I view humanity. I liked The Dog of Tears a lot and felt he brought an element of whimsy to the whole thing. And I loved the doctor's wife. Absolutely adored her. She seriously kicked ass and didn't let all the horrors get the better of her, though all the while she suffered through it and had what seemed like very genuine feelings and reactions. Somehow I was able to identify with her perfectly, which might be a bit brazen on my part; I haven't seen the movie, but the cover image of the audiobook shows the movie cast and I was imagining Julianne Moore the whole time, whom I of course ADORE. So yes, a bit presumptuous on my part to compare myself to that incredible lady. The ending was a complete surprise, so that really, the feeling I'm left with is similar to the feeling I had today; waking up grumpy, tired, having had strange and disturbing dreams and not wanting to engage with life and whatever obligations I had, only to discover that really, when you're able to really look around and SEE the world around you, there is so much beauty there to be found. And though my eyes and inner vision all too often make me see the ugliness and depravity that inhabits the human psyche, I'm also able to fly with the wind and ride on soft, cottony clouds and feel on top of the world because I've got a loving puppy who also licks my tears when I cry, which makes it all ok. All the same, I'm not recommending this book unless you're willing to look at the underbelly of humanity and accept that it is just as real as the sky above and the trees and the sunshine and laughter and forgetting.

I do realize this can't really be considered as a useful review, but there are plenty of those around I'm sure.

okt 23, 2012, 11:15am

I love the history you had with this book. I'm amazed that you still went ahead and read it. It actually gives me more incentive to read it. Thanks for the story.

okt 23, 2012, 11:55am

I thought it was an excellent review! And makes me want to read it now! :) Did you understand why your "friend" thought it would make you understand his mooching off of you, though??

okt 23, 2012, 2:39pm

Are you still taking recommendations for 2013? If so, I'd like to suggest To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. This is the book where I discovered the wonderful world of Connie Willis. Her books combine so many things that I enjoy reading about - history, humor, mystery, and of course time travel.

okt 24, 2012, 11:24pm

#147 Hi mamzel, I hope I've given sufficient warning about how bleak the book is, as wouldn't want anyone getting the impression it's a joyful affair!

#148 Eva, the only thing I can think of as to why he thought I should read it was maybe to clearly illustrate how disgustingly cruel some human beings can be to one another, thus making his actions seem innocent by comparison!

#149 Hi Stacy, thanks for the suggestion. Adding To Say Nothing of the Dog to the list, which makes a total of 30 books chosen for me. I think I'll stop after this one. Thanks so much for playing along!

okt 25, 2012, 4:30pm

That's just mad. I am glad your friend is an EX-friend and won't come around anymore. :)

okt 25, 2012, 7:17pm

He had a lot going for him and was a longtime friend, but I'd never realized how toxic he was. I can't afford to have harmful relationships given my mental condition, and indeed, no one should tolerate them. I think I'm getting better at identifying those and am really happy to say I feel like I am surrounded by really great people—and I'm including my LT friends in that statement!

okt 26, 2012, 1:53pm

Doesn't matter what your mental condition is - toxics need to go bye-bye! :)

okt 26, 2012, 2:19pm

Much agreed! :-)

okt 26, 2012, 2:21pm

Category #11: Litérature Française - contemporary & classic French lit (read in French)

114. ♫ Leon l'Africain by Amin Maalouf ★★★¾

This story is a fictionalized biography of a real-life character who was known as Leo Africanus. Born al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi in Granada Spain in 1494, where the first part of the novel takes place, we learn quite a lot about the history of the Muslims who, having conquered that part of the world in the 8th century were then driven out when Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered the land and imposed the Catholic religion by giving the Muslims the choice of converting or leaving, under threat of being taken into slavery. We follow Leo Africanus as he travels to North Africa and then takes on a role as a diplomat and travels extensively, eventually to be captured and enslaved to be given as a 'gift' to Pope Leo X in Rome, where he was baptized and eventually given a very important role. He also became a scholar and published several works which were widely popular, including his autobiography which Maalouf no doubt based himself on. This is a rare case where I wish I had read the book instead of taking in the audio version as the narrator's delivery didn't inspire me and rendered what should have been a fascinating story, quite flat, and my rating reflects that. But the book has great value as a way of learning about the early 16th century up to the sack of Rome in 1527 and is a great saga about a fascinating real-life character.

okt 26, 2012, 3:15pm

Category #2: Tea with Georgie, Vickie & Eddie - 18th & 19th Century Classics

115. ♫ Tess of the D'Urbervilles ★★★★½
(Also read for TIOLI #8: Read a book by a dead author)

Tess Durbeyfield is still only a young girl when he father learns from the local clergyman that he is one of the last living descendants of an ancient English noble family, the D'Urbervilles. As Tess's family is very poor, they soon convince her to present herself to an old woman and her son by that name who live nearby, as they believe them to be their rich relations, to ask them to help them in their dire need. What none of them can know is that these supposed relatives have only come by the name after purchasing it once having made a fortune to elevate themselves from their origins as humble merchants. When Tess presents herself at the D'Urberville house, she is greeted by Alec D'Urberville, a young man who quickly proves to be a womanizing bully who claims to be in love with the beautiful young Tess and contrives to have her live under his roof and work for him under false pretences. He uses every means at his disposal to break down Tess's defences and takes advantage of her one day, which, because this is a 19th century novel and no unmarried woman could have a sexual encounter without the most disastrous consequences, will of course determine the course of the rest of poor Tess's life and end in great tragedy. I’ve seen many people comment on Hardy's proclivity for writing depressing stories about doomed heroines, but if you happen to be in the mood for a fine 19th century tragic bucolic romance, this is just the ticket. Having grown up with Nastassja Kinski famously playing the role of Tess is Roman Polanski's classic movie, that young woman's fragile beauty was at the forefront of my mind throughout, which helped make the story that much more poignant somehow. A novel I'll be sure to revisit in future.

okt 26, 2012, 9:25pm

Great review of Tess. I still haven't read it. I love Hardy's writing, especially his poetry, but have to be in a mood for a tissue-box novel.

okt 27, 2012, 12:41pm

Thanks Katie. I came to poetry very late and only fairly recently, so didn't know Hardy was a poet as well as a novelist, but I'm not surprised that he was a man of many talents. You definitely need to be in the right mood to fully appreciate this novel, but when you are, it certainly hits the spot! :-)

okt 27, 2012, 12:44pm

Category #5: The Dark Side - Crime & Mystery - COMPLETED!

116. ♫ The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie ★★★★⅓
(Also read for TIOLI #8: Read a book by a dead author)

I discovered Agatha Christie in my teens, when the prospect of every one of her books was a promise of excitement and thrills. Revisiting some of her most well-liked titles in the past few years, I was more often than not left slightly disappointed. Of course the novelty of Chirsite's style and approach has worn off and simply could not seem as original as it had long ago, and the whole concept of "comfort reading" hadn't quite taken hold of me yet. Strange that I had never read this first instalment in the series before. Set in a great mansion, the Styles Court of the title, an elderly heiress is suspected of having been murdered by strychnine poisoning. Captain Hastings is a guest at Styles and suggests to bring in Hercules Poirot to quietly work out the mystery to avoid alerting the media in what is a high profile case and most likely a crime motivated by greed. Published in 1920, there are several references to the Great War, giving this novel a historical context, something I have never noticed with the other books in the series. The characters of Hastings and Poirot seem fully formed and Poirot's methodology already well in place, and I was finally won over by the charm of what is by now a comfortably familiar formula with two well-known main characters. David Suchet's delivery on the audio version is of course impeccable.

okt 27, 2012, 1:24pm

Category #12: From My Treasure-Trove - off the shelf (acquired before 31/12/11)

117. ♫ The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley ★★★½
(Also read for TIOLI #7: a title starting with these letters (in rolling order): J*A*S*P*E*R)

It took me quite a while to get into this book. In fact, I gave up on the audiobook version about halfway through and then decided to return to it maybe a week or ten days later. When I stopped listening to it the first time, it wasn't so much that I wasn't enjoying it, but I simply couldn't bring myself to care enough to pay attention, and I'd find I'd been listening without hearing for long stretches of time. While this does happen frequently, as I often get lost in my own thoughts (with traditional books also), I usually go back a few paragraphs and pick up again where I drifted off, but here, again, I just couldn't be bothered. Initially, part of the problem I had was with the narrator, Jayne Entwistle, a fully mature woman who's natural voice is that of a ten or eleven year-old, which was passably disconcerting, besides which Entwistle seemed like she was reading the whole thing with a huge smile plastered on her face, which seemed to me unnatural and annoying. But then there is also the issue that I need to be in the right frame of mind to read YA novels, as with every other kind of book, and at first, the concerns of a child, albeit a very clever one dealing with a peculiar set of circumstances, simply bored me. What can I say, I'm still young, but I can be a grumpy old lady often enough. So I dropped it at that point and thought I might return to it someday with the actual physical book, which I've had on my shelves for a number of years. Then, something changed some days later, and I was suddenly in the mood for something sweet and slightly tart, and little Flavia de Luce seemed like just the ticket.

Little Flavia, motherless, living in a great decaying mansion with her two older sisters who seem to despise her and a father more interested in his stamp collection than the world and people around him, is fascinated by chemistry and poisons in particular. When she discovers a man dying in their cucumber patch who expired after uttering one last, cryptic word, Falvia's first murder mystery case is underway. Her father is taken under custody by the police and when Flavia visits him in prison they have their first real talk ever, and what emerges is a tale from his childhood involving a suicide prompted by a philatelic crime involving the disappearance of a pair of priceless stamps. Some have argued that Flavia sometimes seems too clever for her years, but I thought she corresponded perfectly to what my idea would have been of a resourceful heroine when I was Flavia's age. I got used to Jayne Entwistle's strange voice as it was perfectly suited for our little child detective (though I did still wish she'd smile less), and I was left with an irresistible urge to get a proper album and start sorting out what has slowly been developing into a genuine stamp collection, the likes of which I hadn't has since I was well... ten or eleven years old. Very likely I'll follow up with the next in series when the proper mood strikes again.

Redigerat: okt 27, 2012, 2:37pm

Category #10: Beyond Fiction

118. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell ★★★★★
(Also read for TIOLI #1: read a book picked by using the Random Tag Generator - tag: zoology)

To begin, I should say I fell in love with this book before I’d even read the first page.

First, there was the fact that it was set in Corfu in the 1930s. I spent five glorious months living in Greece (in Crete actually) and was relishing jumping into this tale about the unusual Durrell family* making their home on a Greek island, where I could all too well imagine the quality of the light, the taste of the figs and grapes, the accent of the locals as they muddled their way through approximate English, the goats hopping along rocky outcroppings and the sound of their clanging bells and poignant bleating, the twisted ancient olive trees, the multitudinous variations of blues of sea and skies...

Then, there was the promise of all kinds of strange creatures, and fascinating descriptions of their physical attributes, behavioural characteristics and social habits. Four legged creatures, winged creatures, creatures with pincers and claws, creatures that live under rocks, creatures that hunt in the dark, creatures with homes on their backs, not to mention the two legged creatures that were family and friends, all of which could be made to live in a home (at least temporarily) or put into jars for closer observation.

Not least, there was the cover of the new Penguin Essentials edition with it’s beautiful and fun illustration by the very talented Scottish artist Brian Cairns in a style that speaks to me as a big kid and lover of creatures big and small, and as an artist and designer too of course.

But what earned this book the distinction of earning a full five-star rating (the 4th book out of nearly 150 read so far this year, making it part of a very exclusive 2.72% club) was the fact that from the first page to the last, my expectations were not only met, but exceeded, provoking laughter and much delight and happiness. My only regret is that I did not discover Gerald Durrell in my childhood and teens, which might have set the course of my entire life in a very different direction. Thankfully, it’s never too late to discover a kindred spirit, or the value of finally finding one’s own ideal kind of comfort reading.

Best of all? There are two more books in the Corfu Trilogy and Gerald Durrell penned a great deal of other amusing zoological tales besides to finance his extensive conservation efforts. The wonder is he claimed not to enjoy writing and doing it only for the money, which hardly seems believable given how much humour and charm he exudes.

* Lawrence Durrell aka “Larry” (author of The Alexandria Quartet, currently sitting on my shelves) was little Gerry’s oldest sibling.

okt 27, 2012, 2:52pm

He he he! I love My Family and Other Animals. I did find it in my teens from a friend who also had a large, crazy family. Great review.

okt 27, 2012, 4:36pm

Katie, have you read all three books in the trilogy? Would you say the two others are just as good? Read any others of his?

okt 27, 2012, 9:17pm

I haven't read the other three. I have read novels of his that are good, funny reads but they don't quite have the charm of My Family and Other Animals. My friend read the others and loved them, but My Family is her favorite. After all, how could you top Larry with a fictional character?

okt 28, 2012, 4:16pm

You have to buy Flavia's character completely or I don't think the series works very well - and the wrong reader will not help with that. "sweet and slightly tart" is an excellent description!

okt 28, 2012, 4:45pm

#164 Good point. In any case, before I'd even finished My Family, I went and ordered two other of those new lovely Penguin editions with covers illustrated by Brian Cairns, A Zoo in My Luggage and Encounters With Animals. As I said, I'm sure they'll make perfect comfort reading when the mood strikes.

#165 Agreed Eva. I think at first she mostly annoyed me, the way I imagine she annoys her older sisters, since I don't always have patience for children. But then a change operated in me and I bought her character wholesale as you say, which turned around the whole experience for me. I'm sure most of us are influenced by our moods in our reading choices and appreciation, and I tend to be especially moody, so the experience I described in my comments with this book isn't so out of the ordinary for me! Also, I should say that I also came around to liking the narrator, and even her constant silly grin throughout, because it seemed right and proper that Flavia should smile a lot while recounting her tales. After all, she has a lot to be proud about and she likes to be an annoying little tyke! ;-)

okt 28, 2012, 4:48pm

Well, we all enjoy being annoying little tykes ourselves (at least sometimes), don't we...?! LOL!

okt 28, 2012, 4:51pm

He-heh! :-D

Redigerat: okt 28, 2012, 8:31pm

Category #11: Litérature Française - contemporary & classic French lit (read in French)

119. ♫ Candide ou l'optimisme by Voltaire ★★★★⅓
(Also read for TIOLI #8: Read a book by a dead author, AND picked for me by Fourpawz2)

I had never read Voltaire before, but of course while being educated in French, heard about him since I was a schoolgirl. Candide is one of those books that seems familiar to you all your life until you actually pick it up and inevitably are surprised. The story centres on Candide, a young man who from the first is thrown out of the comfortable and opulent home he has lived in with his uncle the Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh (and with this name, we have our cue that things are about to get absurd and amusing) after he has dared to kiss the Baron's beautiful daughter Cunégonde whom he is in love with. Up until then he had been educated by the sage Dr. Pangloss, a professor of "metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology" and self-proclaimed optimist, who teaches his pupils that they live in the "best of all possible worlds" and that "all is for the best" (as described in wikipedia). As soon as he leaves the castle he is captured and forced into joining the military, and thus begins a journey filled with one unlikely adventure after another, with Candide going from disaster to disaster yet all the while his love for Cunégonde remains intact. Voltaire meant for the story to be a sendup of adventure romance novels, giving him every opportunity to criticize the army, the wars, the governments, religion and the twisted values of the Western world. The beauty of this book is Voltaire's inimitable satyrical style, and his "more is more" attitude to storytelling here makes for a very amusing and entertaining adventure, and best of all, it's ultra short too, which makes it easy to pick up for eventual periodic rereads.

okt 28, 2012, 7:47pm

You have just read two of my favorite books-- Tess and My Family and Other Animals.
I am glad that they both worked for you.

okt 28, 2012, 8:28pm

Oh yes, they sure did! :-)

okt 28, 2012, 8:32pm

Category #11: Litérature Française - contemporary & classic French lit (read in French)

120. ♫ César Birotteau by Honoré de Balzac ★★★⅓
(Also read for TIOLI #8: Read a book by a dead author)

César is a man of rustic origins from the Touraine region, and we are told he is not particularly bright, but is an honourable and upright man who always does the right thing. At the start of the novel, in 1819, he owns a successful perfume shop, La Reine des Roses, is the deputy mayor of his arrondissement in Paris, and has just been awarded the Legion of Honour for his loyal services to the crown. During the revolution (1789-1799) he took part in the Royalist uprising against the Republic, at one stage confronting Napoleon Bonaparte and suffering an injury from him, an event which he mentions often in conversation. Married to Constance, his wife of nineteen years who has always worked by his side and helped him run his business, and a beautiful woman he is completely devoted to, they have a daughter, Césarine whom they cherish and have great hopes of marrying off to a prosperous notary.

The novel begins with Constance waking up from a nightmare in the middle of the night; she has seen herself both behind the counter at the parfumerie and as a pauper come in to ask herself for a charity. César isn't lying by her side as he is unable to sleep; he's too excited about some big plans he's been hatching. He's about to invest heavily in property speculation with borrowed money; he also plans to expand his business with a new hair oil product, which he is certain will make him immensely rich. And to celebrate all the good fortune they have already enjoyed and the great wealth which they're about to come into, he plans to make extensive renovations to their home with the help of a highly touted architect and then throw a grand ball involving huge expenses. His wife desperately tries to dissuade him from such erratic spending and risky investments, but César is convinced he's onto something big. Which of course, sets him up for a spectacular failure, with the spectre of bankruptcy close at his heels. What César can't know is that a former employee of his is out to destroy him and will do all he can to see him utterly and completely ruined and publicly humiliated.

The story had a lot going for it, with intrigue and amusing details about the launching of a beauty product in the early 19th century in a business which smelled strongly of charlatanism (pun intended). Having worked in the beauty industry myself, first at a luxurious beauty salon in my youth and then in a women's publication, I found it rather incredible how little things have changed in that industry in two centuries of scientific and social progress. But then vanity has always been a part of the human condition. What kept me from enjoying this novel as much as I might have is that Balzac made great efforts to explain in quite a lot of detail what a bankruptcy involved in Paris in those days, and also spent a lot of time describing plots involving speculation and banking and bankers, all of which was completely unintelligible to me and doesn't as a rule interest me much besides. So while I was sure I would love this novel, I must say I was slightly disappointed. But all the same, Balzac is an excellent storyteller and his observations on human nature and society have a timeless quality. Recommended if the world of finance interests you, or, if you're willing to put up with lots of financial stuff for the sake of reading Balzac, as I did.

nov 1, 2012, 6:58am

catching up and see that there's some great reviews here as usual - my family and other animals is a perennial favourite of mine, read it a few times, glad you liked it - I had to do Tess of the D'Urbervilles in school and hated it at the time, I wonder if I read it for pleasure I'd change my mind...

nov 1, 2012, 4:17pm

I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would force a child to read Tess in school. I completely agree that is a perfect way to make someone dislike that book, and would probably have felt the same way. Maybe it was intended as a cautionary measure against sex out of wedlock? In which case, there's an additional reason right there to hate it. I did fall in love with the story when I was still just a young child, but that was entirely because Nastassja Kinski played the lead in the movie and I thought she represented the epitome of the romantic heroine. I think it's the kind of book you might enjoy as an adult now you know what the main themes are and can decide when the mood is right for it.

nov 2, 2012, 12:06pm

Luckily? I remember nothing about the plot.... I may give it a go some day

nov 2, 2012, 1:23pm

In the meantime I'm pretty sure you have plenty of other reading options. :-)

nov 2, 2012, 1:50pm

-176 a couple yes ;-)

nov 2, 2012, 9:38pm

I read Tess as a sophomore in high school but it was my choice for a literature project. It was at the time of the movie. I too loved Nastassja Kinski in the role. She was born to play the part. I couldn't help but love the book after seeing the movie. I remember that after reading my paper the teacher asked me to share it with the class. She was such a Shakespeare fan, but told me that my paper convinced her to give the book a go. Most movies don't do the book justice but for me this one was a rare exception. One day I will have to reread.

nov 2, 2012, 11:04pm

Roberta, if you loved Tess in high school, then I don't see why you shouldn't love it just as much or better now that you're all grown up! They've apparently come out with a restored version of the movie, I think this year? I'd love to see it.

nov 2, 2012, 11:07pm

Oh I didn't know they restored the movie! I'll have to look out for it.

nov 3, 2012, 12:13am

Great review of Candide - and you're making me want to pick it up for a re-read. I remember finding it hysterically dark.

nov 3, 2012, 2:44pm

#180 I only found out about it when I looked for photos of Nastassja Kinski and found some of her and Roman Polanski at Cannes for the screening of the restored movie. I'm not counting on my library getting that version, but you never know. Have you seen the BBC adaptation from 2009? I may watch that soonish.

#181 Katie, "hysterically dark" is a good way to sum it up. :-)

nov 4, 2012, 12:40pm

Ilana I haven't seen the 2009 version, but I checked and my library has it. Will have to check it out.

nov 4, 2012, 2:00pm

#183 Again, I only found out about the BBC adaptation during that same google search, when I was looking for images of Nastassja in Tess... i.e., when you type in "Tess" now, it's this brunette, brown eyed girl who comes up in the images.

nov 4, 2012, 4:28pm

Even if the 2009 is a fabulous adaptation, she (the brunette, brow eyed girl) is not Tess. :)

nov 4, 2012, 6:42pm

I felt the same way about it, but I'm willing to keep an open mind and see how I feel about it after I've actually seen the miniseries!

nov 5, 2012, 8:14pm

Category #10: Beyond Fiction

121. ♫ The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls ★★★★
(Also read for TIOLI Challenge #1: Read a book found through LT’s Random Tag Generator - (biographies))

The first thing Walls tells us about at the opening of her memoir is how she was all dressed up one night being driven to some swanky event or another in Manhattan when she looked out the window and saw a homeless woman digging through trash... and recognized her as her mother. She was so bummed out by this that she felt she couldn't face a crowd of swells and keep pretending she was just like one of them, so she opted to skip the soirée and go back home. Eventually she decided she didn't want to continue being ashamed of her past, which was the motivation for her to write this account of her formative years. The story she proceeds to tell us is a harrowing one and tells of unspeakable neglect, to the point of complete insanity, and indeed, it becomes very clear that severe mental instability was probably what drove her parents to so obsessively dedicate themselves to living a non-conformist lifestyle. As an example, the second episode she tells us about is how, as a three year old, she was cooking hotdogs over the stove when her dress caught on fire and she suffered 3rd degree burns which required her to get skin grafts. Her mother had been fully cognizant of what little Jeannette had been doing and often let the little girl cook by herself as she was occupied in her studio, working on her paintings. The hospital staff where she was being treated were highly suspicious that little Jeannette was probably a victim of parental abuse, which she emphatically denied. Then he father, convinced that hospitals and doctors did more harm than good, took her away from there before she had been fully recovered and brought her to a witch doctor instead. From then on, the story unfolds, recounting the travails of a family which went from one disastrous situation to another, with an alcoholic father who couldn't keep a job and a mother who refused to take her responsibilities, and put her aspirations to be an artist before her children.

It's a distressing tale, and I've seen reviewers comment that Walls had probably put a creative spin on the facts to tell a more dramatic story, but I'm not so sure that her story owes more to fiction than reality. From a personal point of view, the level of dysfunction in her family made my strange upbringing seem completely normal and conventional in comparison, but then, hopefully that would be the case for most readers as well. However, having been a witness to very strange and unconventional situations and known people who were most definitely living on the fringe of society, I know that her story is unfortunately all too possible. Walls has a dispassionate way of recounting her past and gives us just enough detail so we can imagine ourselves right there with them all too well, but I found it was impossible to look away; it was an absolutely fascinating observation of a catastrophe extending over several decades, yet it also told of incredible resilience and love, and of siblings who truly looked out for one another and not only survived, but managed to become well-adjusted adults. Walls was able to surmount all the difficulties she faced and get an excellent education, and went on to become a successful journalist, so that while she tells us of her "white trash" background, she's able to describe it to us with intelligence and detachment and deliver a book that I'm almost ashamed to say was a pleasure to read (or in this case, listen to).

nov 5, 2012, 8:20pm

The Glass Castle sounds like a really good book. I agree with you that it was probably not exaggerated. As a nurse I've seen so many things that I don't doubt stories like these are true.

nov 5, 2012, 9:41pm

As a nurse I've seen so many things that I don't doubt stories like these are true.

I'm sure you must see all kinds of stuff Roberta. Must be hard to take sometimes. Make that 'often'...

nov 6, 2012, 1:07pm

Excellent and thoughtful review of The Glass Castle! It read as true to me also, and I kept thinking of the irony that amidst the disgraceful neglect, her parents did give their children that intangible something ("the glass castle") that helped them succeed in their own lives.

nov 8, 2012, 8:50pm

#190 Good point about the glass castle, though somehow my interpretation of that dream house was that it was an illustration of just how impractical and delusional her father was. What seemed to me to be the empowering image was that gift of a star, which showed the more positive side of him as a dreamer.

nov 8, 2012, 8:53pm

Category #3: Picked for me - chosen from my shelves at random by LTers - picked by bohemima

122. Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman ★★★★
(Also read for TIOLI #2: tag with the word 'time': all time favourite)

Well, I started writing comments the day after I'd finished reading The Complete Maus, and while I think I'm over my initial distress, there's no denying it's brought back plenty of bad memories. I'd only gotten as far as the following: "I think Maus II has traumatized me all over again. My shrink and I have come to the conclusion some years back that I've long suffered from PTSD for a range of traumatic episodes in my life, one of which was having been exposed to the horrors of WWII at a young age. I don't know why they thought it was a good idea to show 10 or 12-years olds all that footage and those photos, and bone and tooth fragments and tattered concentration camp uniforms and stories about Jews being turned into lampshades and soap, and I don't know what else when I was living in Israel. Shouldn't children be innocent of such horrors? Isn't that what childhood is about??!"

In any case, yes, when I lived in Israel as a child, we were repeatedly "reminded" of these horrors of the holocaust and taken to various holocaust museums and shown footage in the classroom, especially on Yom HaShoah, which is a commemoration day held in Israel and abroad. I remember being horror stricken, yet completely fascinated by those images of hundreds of skeletal naked bodies heaped into piles, which have never left my mind. I've always known of course that the better part of my Jewish father's side of the family had ended up killed in the camps, and how my father himself remained alive, although he was born in Siberia in 1940 is entirely owing to my grandmother who apparently had nerves of steel and was endlessly resourceful, which of course is the first thing you find out about any Jew who came out of WWII and lived to tell about it, though luck also plays a large role in a great many of those stories. If anything, Spiegelman's book has reminded me once again that I need to sit down and record my father's stories about the past before they are gone along with him.

So, those are my overall random impressions about the Holocaust. Now what about the book itself? I remember well when the first book was published in the mid-80s and I saw it displayed at my favourite book shop, which held all kinds of nifty titles which were hard to find everywhere else, and where graphic novels and comics held a place of honour. I wanted badly to buy it, but there was the price, which was steep for one like me who's income came for occasional babysitting gigs. But beyond that, I was terrified to find out what Art Spiegelman's version of the Holocaust was, having been exposed to a great many already, none of which were pretty or joyful affairs (which goes without saying). But about a week or so ago, I finally got my courage up to pick up the omnibus version containing both volumes, which I had finally purchased a number of years ago, yet didn't have the nerve to actually read until then.

Spiegelman's approach is unique not only for the obvious reason that he chose to tell his father's story in a comic strip format, but also because, instead of simply relating his father's story as a simple observer, he chose to include himself in it too, describing his misgivings about his approach to writing and illustrating the book and his anxieties as to whether he would manage to convey the story in a convincing way yet be respectful too. What I found especially touching was that the book delves just as much into his own relationship with his father as it does into his father's past. Like countless other survivors, Spiegelman senior carried deep emotional scars which gave expression to a full range of neurotic behaviour. Far from glossing over the old man's maddening personality traits, Art Spiegelman shared with us even those aspects which gave truth to the anti-semitic and stereotypical view that Jews are miserly to the extreme, though he did so with trepidation, which he also shared with the reader. His father was so strongly attached to his money and possessions that he was not beyond rationing out wood matches, returning half-eaten cereal boxes to the supermarket, and refusing to pay for his second wife's basic personal expenses, though it was given to us to understand that he had plenty of money in the bank. I could only too well sympathize with the author's overbearing guilt about how difficult it was for him to spend time with the old man, even if only on rare occasions and for short amounts of time. Seen from the outside, a Jewish man's neuroses can be seen as funny in the extreme, which is something Woody Allen has capitalized on during his whole career to often hilarious effect. At one point in the book, his father, who had been in ill health for some time, got extremely sick and evidently needed constant care. His wife had left him at the point, unwilling to continue living with the generally ill-tempered, close-fisted man. Yet one can completely understand Art's categorical refusal—which he had to express repeatedly—of living in the same household with his father, who, as he was all too realistically described, must have been impossible to live with. I've often heard, that children of Holocaust survivors are victims and survivors themselves, as was confirmed to me by one such daughter I had many conversations with, a woman who had become a psychologist and therefore had plenty of interesting insights to share. It seems inevitable that parents who have suffered great trauma, as have Holocaust survivors, often make their children feel that their trials and tribulations can never equal that which they experienced. And perhaps as a consequence, the survivor's guilt the parents are plagued with is all too often shared by their children, an aspect also presented in Maus very convincingly, though in Art Spiegelman's case this guilt was augmented by the fact that his mother had taken her own life without leaving a note when he was a young man.

The first book covers a period from the mid-1930s and into the early 40s, and describes how Spiegelman Sr., living in Poland, met his wife, and his relationship with her extremely wealthy family, the fruit of which they generously shared with the young and attractive man he had been. Then soon enough came the oppressive restriction which continued increasing over the years until they lost all their possessions and liberty. Art's father was an amazing resourceful man, and he shows how he was able to avoid capture for he and his wife, even as the rest of the family were taken one by one. I was absolutely engrossed with this first part, which in many ways is pure action adventure, though mixed in with the author's own existential questioning, which creates a very unique context for a Holocaust story. The illustrations are fairly simply rendered with plenty of amusing details. Here, I should probably mention that one of the most important aspects of the book, which also explains the title, is that Spiegelman chose to represent the Jews at mice, and the Nazis as cats, and I suppose the anthropomorphism was meant to create an emotional remove from the horrors beings described. In many ways this is an effective device, but my experience was that I did not see the animals and couldn't simply stay on the page and the illustrations without imagining the actual people and settings. This is probably part of the reason I found book II: And Here my Troubles Began, so very difficult, because in this volume, we witness the concentration camps, particularly Auschwitz, where the living conditions and the daily struggle to survive, as so many are put to death in a variety of ways, are described in quite some detail. Yet, there is also the incredible story of resilience and survival against the odds, all of which makes for a powerful experience. No wonder this comic book won a Pulitzer prize, this is most definitely deep stuff and very original in it's presentation. A must.

nov 8, 2012, 11:18pm

Thanks for the very thoughtful review of Maus. Its been years since I read it and I've been thinking of a re-read.

nov 8, 2012, 11:24pm

The pleasure was mine. I can imagine I'll want to reread it eventually, but not for a good long while.

nov 9, 2012, 12:19am

Great review of Maus, Ilana. I have that one on my candidates list for my 2013 reading, but it was added as more of an option than a must read. I now feel properly informed about the story and I am now more compelled to pick it up and read it for my 2013.

nov 9, 2012, 11:40am

In my library we have the Maus series in the Holocaust section, not in with the graphic novels. I book talk it when I present nonfiction books.

nov 9, 2012, 1:18pm

>192 Smiler69: Ilana, this is an amazing, thoughtful, moving review of an amazing work!

nov 9, 2012, 4:42pm

Beautifully written, Ilana. Growing up in Sweden, we too had our fair share of Holocaust education at a too early (?) age, but the importance of the having the knowledge obviously took precendence. Maus is definitely a masterpiece in its genre and I am happy that you finally did get to experience it.

nov 9, 2012, 6:22pm

#195 Hi Lori, I guess most of us tend to pick up books according to what most inspires us at any given moment, and two things I'd say about Maus is that this book definitely needs to be approached when you feel ready for it and that yes, it is a must!

#196 In my library we have the Maus series in the Holocaust section, not in with the graphic novels. I book talk it when I present nonfiction books.

That makes a lot of sense, especially for a YA readership which may have no idea what they are getting into. This is one of those books I wouldn't recommend jumping into blindly, other than to those who continue to affirm that the Holocaust never actually existed.

#197 Thanks so my Ivy, that's very nice of you to say! I guess you could say I put my heart into it, so I'm glad you thought it was worthwhile.

#198 Eva, I definitely don't regret having had the Holocaust education, I just wish they had dosed it a little bit through the years, you know... maybe not present the starkest and most disturbing images right away. But then, it's also very likely my memory is faulty and they did do that... I was easily traumatized as a child, and this was definitely a whopper!

nov 9, 2012, 6:34pm

Probably any picture from that time shown to a kid will result in shell-shock, but I think the countries that were particularly close to the events (i.e. various European countries as well as Israel) teach it just a little more roughly than elsewhere in the world - as a deterrent, perhaps. It's not an easy one to deal with - and flashbacks will happen all through life I think. For example, I had braced myself, but going to Yad Vashem was still an extreme experience.

nov 9, 2012, 7:22pm

Wonderful review Ilana, Maus is definitely one I'll pick up one day.

nov 9, 2012, 7:23pm

Eva, I've been extremely reluctant until now to expose myself to anything to do with the big H. Have read very little fiction about it, though I do have a growing collection on my tbr, and also seen few films, though there are some great ones I'll need to catch up on eventually. I certainly can't see myself visiting a Holocaust museum or concentration camp anytime soon. Haven't been to Israel in over 25 years mind you, so when I do return I have no idea what I'll want to/be able to cover. All I know is I can't face going back alone for some reason.

nov 9, 2012, 7:23pm

#201 Thanks Alana!

nov 9, 2012, 8:09pm

Well, it was a very difficult but rewarding visit, so if you think you can muster it, go, but definitely not alone! I went by myself, but ended up with walking with a group of IDF-kids and we got talking about their experience versus mine, so it took some of the edge off.

nov 10, 2012, 1:19am

Yes, very thoughtful comments on Maus. They don't teach it that gently in the US either, but we probably don't spend as much time on it. I'm a para in the schools - I'll bet you knew that already - and last winter I was in classes studying US slavery, the holocaust, Hotel Rwanda and the US Civil Rights movement - All in November to January - The gloomy weather here is bad enough to get you down, but eventually I knew it was seeping into my out-of-school life. But we do have to teach it. The kids don't know. What they pick up outside of school is an odd mix of who-knows-what from popular media - Nazi Zombies.

nov 10, 2012, 8:38am

Excellent review of Maus, even if I still don't think I want to read it. I studied the Holocaust in school when I was 12 as well--I think I read 30-some books about it (I was homeschooled, and we used actual history books instead of a textbook). I'm mostly glad that I studied back then, because I don't have the courage to study the Holocaust now. Then I felt a sort of morbid fascination with the subject, like a train wreck I couldn't stop watching, but now I just feel the worst sort of revulsion in the pit of my stomach. Probably the more appropriate response, but not conducive to further study.

I did visit a concentration camp in Germany (Sachsenhausen) back in 2008. I don't think I could ever visit a place like Auschwitz. I really don't remember much about the camp, except that it was a beautiful, perfect, amazing day--the sun was shining, the sky was bluer than I'd ever seen it before, the birds were singing, the breeze was blowing--and it all felt so wrong, like this visceral and deeply-held certainty that in a place like that nothing should ever be beautiful again.

nov 10, 2012, 11:15am

@206 Well said casvelyn.

nov 10, 2012, 3:14pm

#205 My, that does sound like a heavy curriculum for the gloomy winter days. But then, I guess it would feel oppressive no matter what the weather. I guess you were just as well to cover all that in one go, but I doubt I could handle it for several months in a row. I prefer taking in the crimes of humanity in small doses, than you very much! :-S

#206 and it all felt so wrong, like this visceral and deeply-held certainty that in a place like that nothing should ever be beautiful again.

I agree with Katie, that's very well said casvelyn, and though I haven't been to a concentration camp, I know just what you mean.

No comparison at all, but on days that I feel the world crashing in on me and it's beautiful and sunny, perfect kind of weather, it makes the depression feel that much worse somehow. Lately though it's been gorgeous out and I must say I'm enjoying it tremendously, even if mostly seen from indoors. :-)

nov 10, 2012, 4:17pm

I got hit with that all at once. As for the students, slavery is 7th grade. Holocaust & Hotel Rwanda is 8th grade. Civil rights is in our "Smart" classes all grades in January, but for some reason it isn't an official part of the middle school curriculum. It should be, but I think the curriculum makers (in this case the MN legislature) tends to avoid recent history because it can get controversial.

nov 10, 2012, 6:08pm

Civil rights is still considered "recent history"? Really??

nov 10, 2012, 8:27pm

When I took Recent American History in undergrad (six years ago), the class covered 1950 to the present, which includes the Civil Rights Movement, as well as women entering the workplace as equals of men and changes in laws and public perception regarding homosexuals. However, some civil rights addressed pre-1950 in the US include abolition of slavery, child labor laws, and women's suffrage. So it really depends which civil rights one means.

nov 10, 2012, 10:18pm

I mean the '60s mostly, and the Civil Rights Movement. It's still recent history if there are younger grandparents around who can say "I was there and it wasn't that way."

nov 16, 2012, 10:43am

sadly I've never read Maus something I'll have to rememdy in 2013 I think - great review! I vividly remember visiting the Jewish quarter in both Prague and Warsaw, can only imagine what it would feel like to visit somewhere like Auschwitz

nov 25, 2012, 5:34pm

#213 psutto, I do think you need to do yourself a favour and read Maus. Thanks for the compliment on my review. I didn't do much thinking when I set down to write it—just went with the flow. I wish it was always that easy! Speaking of which, I'm behind on many many many reviews at this point. Hopefully will make the time for them before the month is out... in just 5 days, YIKES!

nov 26, 2012, 1:02am

Category #4: Guardian Knows Best - Guardian 1000 (Love) - COMPLETED!

123. ♫ The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford ★★★★½
(Also read for TIOLI #18 someone wearing a hat or other headgear on cover)

I'd been wanting to read something by Nancy Mitford for quite some time now, as her titles accumulate in my tbr and on my wishlist, and this classic of hers did not disappoint. This is a genre of novel I've discovered in the last year or so and have grown very fond of: the observation of an eccentric English family during the war by a female British author. The observer in this case is Fanny Logan, who's mother (known as "The Bolter") had Fanny at a young age and has no interest in mothering and is always busy scampering off somewhere with one of her many lovers or husbands. Fanny has been taken in by her aunt and uncle, the Radletts of Alconleigh, an upper class family with decidedly upper-crust concerns. Fanny is particularly fascinated with her beautiful cousin Linda, who discouraged from pursuing studies as were most young women of her time, takes to forging her love life with great gusto and inevitably ends up making a big muddle of it. I enjoyed the audiobook so much that I rushed ahead and purchased the ominbus edition containing the follow-up novel, Love in a Cold Climate. One of those books I'll very much look forward to rereading.

nov 26, 2012, 1:12am

Category #3: Picked for me - chosen from my shelves at random by LTers - Picked by KiwiNyx

124. No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod ★★★½
(Also read for TIOLI #10: LT Average Rating of 4.00 to 4.50 - 4.01)

I very much wanted to love this novel about the MacDonald's family from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia which, many generations after leaving Scotland is still strongly attached to it's Highlander Scottish roots and the original MacDonald, Calum Ruadh ("the red Calum"), who in 1779 crossed the pond with a wife and twelve children. The wife didn't make the passage alive, but the children did, as did a dog the elder MacDonald had wanted to leave behind in the old country, though she tossed herself at sea and followed the boat until they had no choice but to take her aboard at the risk of seeing her drown, so intent was she to prove her love and undying loyalty. At the beginning of the book, the narrator visits his older brother, a sadly worn out alcoholic all but incapacitated by his addiction. Throughout the novel, the narrator recounts their family history, both of recent and ancient past, and we learn of the special bond shared by the brothers and the whole MacDonald clan. In retrospect, as I write these lines now I see I actually did appreciate this novel on a deep level, but it was a difficult reading experience, for the tale it tells is far from cheerful and filled with much drama and pain.

nov 26, 2012, 1:14am

Category #9: Visual Treats

125. ABZ: More Alphabets and Other Signs by Julian Rothenstein ★★★½
(Also "Read" for TIOLI #9: first letter in the title words Scrabble value >6 Smiler69: - (14))

Other than a foreword by the publisher and a charming introduction by Georges Perec—a short text called The Alphabet, this is a book to look at rather than to read, as it is filled with alphabets, signs and various typographic specimens, mostly dating from the early part of the 20th century. The book description from the publisher says it all:

Delightfully unpredictable, ABZ is a wonderbook of typography, graphics, and symbols. Julian Rothenstein turns his idiosyncratic eye towards eccentric alphabets, emblems, and logos discovered in avant-garde modernist publications and other curious sources. Hundreds of examples of graphic ephemera sit side-by-side in inimitable Redstone fashion, mixing peculiar charm with useful reference in one stunning package. Special features include an amazing alphabet, circa 1926, created from photographs of a dancing woman; original test-types for opticians charts; pages from sign artists manuals; and coolly elegant designs from fin de siècle French, German, Italian, and Czech journals. Nearly all of this rare and beautiful material is reproduced here for the first time since its original publication. An art book like no other, ABZ is a collection of typographic oddities taken to the next level of appreciation.

I discoverd Redstone when I was a graphic design student and had purchased the first book Alphabets and Other Signs (1991), now lost among many moves in my student days. I've since purchased a few of their highly collectible agendas; they truly do have an original way of presenting their material which makes for very fun and exciting viewing. Recommended for lovers of type, design and graphic ephemera.

nov 26, 2012, 1:16am

Category #11: Litérature Française - contemporary & classic French lit (read in French)

126. ♫ Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert ★★★
(Also read for TIOLI #5: title completes the phrase, "I am thankful for...")

What an incredibly unpleasant woman! I usually have nothing against an unlikeable protagonist, as they often make for interesting reading subjects, but this Madame Bovary had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Fickle, vain, selfish, materialistic, disloyal, unappreciative and self-delusional as she was, I kept waiting for something truly horrible to happen, other than her habitual small hypocritical cruelties to her husband and her constant infidelity. (slight spoiler here) Her tragic end was too long in coming and even there, she somehow didn't offer satisfaction. (end of spoiler) She is bored with her life, married to a husband who idolizes her but offers little intellectual or romantic stimulation, she is bored with her little daughter and her perfect little bourgeois home, even as her husband puts no restriction on her spending so she can decorate it with every possible amenity she might desire. She is bored with reading... bored with life. The kind of woman who, even were she to live in this modern world and have all the choices she might desire, would probably still marry a boring rich man so she could go right on being bored and insufferable. I only rated this book with three stars because it IS Flaubert who writes beautifully of course, but I was bored out of my mind throughout. Maybe it's catching?

nov 26, 2012, 2:41am

LOL!!! Bored bored bored! Bored as a ping pong ball!!! I didn't hate Madame Bovary as you did. IMHO, it is beautifully written and part of the beauty of it is that it goes on long after it should've ended. But yes, she is unlikable, unpleasant and spoiled. She creates her own *tragedy* out of something a better woman could've thrived with. Annoying, yes?

As for ABZ, I'm dying to see a copy. Hopefully my library has it. My father was a graphic artist, pre-computer days, so I grew up with type catalogs that he gave to me once he got a new one. I loved looking at all the fonts! & ABZ sounds like it's filled with creative, decorative fonts.

nov 26, 2012, 2:47pm

Madame Bovary is terrible! I can't stand her either - so utterly whiny about things she caused herself going awry.

nov 28, 2012, 4:17am

Going to read maus next year, and making a mental note to avoid madame bovary!