calm counting 12 in 12 - part 2!
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So the categories are
Current affairs - contemporary fiction (12 of 12)
About the past - non-fiction history (12 of 12)
Long ago and far away - historical fiction (medieval and earlier) (12 of 12)
More from the past - historical fiction (post-medieval) (12 of 12)
Chills down my spine - horror and mysteries (12 of 12)
Once upon a time - mythology, folklore and fairytales (12 of 12)
Unlikely things - fantasy (12 of 12)
New friends/Old friends - recommendations, early reviewers, new to me authors, continuing series/authors and re-reads that don't fit anywhere else - basically a pot pourri category. (12 of 12)
To space and beyond - science fiction (12 of 12)
It's Greek to me - books in translation (12 of 12)
Need to know - non-fiction (12 of 12)
Great books I should have read - classics and prizewinners/nominees (12 of 12)
Completed my minimum target on 20 June! Well on track to complete the full 12 in 12:)
books read list
1) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
2) The Idea of Prehistory by Glyn Daniel
3) The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight by Gina Ochsner
4) Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley
5) The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones
6) Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
7) Sea Dragon Heir by Storm Constantine
8) The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart
9) Marvels and Magic edited by Richard Barber
10) Brother to Demons, Brother to Gods by Jack Williamson
11) Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
12) Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian
13) People of the Lake: Mankind & Its Beginnings by Richard E. Leakey
14) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
15) The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess
16) White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
17) Crown of Silence by Storm Constantine
18) Ragnarok The End of the Gods by A. S. Byatt
19) Blow on a Dead Man's Embers by Mari Strachan
20) Shadow's End by Sheri S Tepper
21) The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
22) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
23) Bleak House by Charles Dickens
24) The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
25) God's Philosophers by James Hannam
26) We Never Make Mistakes by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
27) London Under by Peter Ackroyd
28) Kil'n People by David Brin
29) The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
30) The Girl in the Box by Sheila Dalton
31) Tallis' Third Tune by Ellen L Ekstrom
32) The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
33) The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
34) The Way of Light by Storm Constantine
35) Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai
36) In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse
37) The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
38) Helen of Troy by Margaret George
39) The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby
40) On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
41) The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
42) Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
43) Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman
44) Britain BC: Life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans by Francis Pryor
45) State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
46) Heroes and Saints edited by Richard Barber
47) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
48) Abbeys, Priories and Cathedrals
49) Stardust by Neil Gaiman
50) The Stars My Destination (Tiger, Tiger) by Alfred Bester
51) Women in the Wall by Julia O'Faolain
52) A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore
53) In the Shape of a Boar by Lawrence Norfolk
54) One Blood by Qwantu Amaru
55) The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
56) The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
57) Eva by Peter Dickinson
58) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
59) The Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts
60) The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor
61) It's Time by Pavel Kostin
62) In Praise of Cats by Max Cryer
63) Katherine by Anya Seton
64) The Knot Garden by Gabriel King
65) A.D. 500 A Journey Through the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland by Simon Young
66) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
67) The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill
68) Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
69) Dewey by Vicki Myron
70) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
71) Now You See Me by S. J. Bolton
72) Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer
73) Imajica by Clive Barker
74) Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
75) Stonemouth by Iain Banks
76) Silk by Alessandro Baricco
77) An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
78) A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths
79) Illywhacker by Peter Carey
80) Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill
81) From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple
82) Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris
83) The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveney
84) The Ruby in Her Navel by Barry Unsworth
85) Dead Scared by S. J. Bolton
86) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
87) The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
88) Lies by Enrique De Heriz
89) The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
90) The Garden of Martyrs by Michael C White
91) The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
92) Infinite West Travels in South Dakota by Fraser Harrison
93) East of Eden by John Steinbeck
94) Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood
95) Ash by Malinda Lo
96) History and Romance by Richard Barber
97) Spiderweb by Penelope Lively
98) Coraline by Neil Gaiman
99) Morality Play by Barry Unsworth
100) Jezebel by Eleanor de Jong
101) The Women's Decameron by Julia Voznesenskaya
102) Flood by Stephen Baxter
103) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
104) Dissolution by C. J. Sansom
105) The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
106) Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
107) Soul Catcher by Michael C White
108) Fireworks by Angela Carter
109) The Cathars by Malcolm Lambert
110) Silence by Shūsaku Endō
111) Ark by Stephen Baxter
112) The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler
113) The Magician King by Lev Grossman
114) Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura
115) The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
116) A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
117) City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish : Greek lives in Roman Egypt by Peter Parsons
118) The Valleys of the Assassins : and other Persian travels by Freya Stark
119) Baudolino by Umberto Eco
120) Initiate's Trial by Janny Wurts
121) Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
122) The Android's Dream by John Scalzi
123) 1421 The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies
124) English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
125) Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
126) Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
127) 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
128) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other stories by Washington Irving
129) Roads & Trackways of Wales by Richard Moore-Colyer
130) Hunting Midnight by Richard Zimler
131) The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
132) Genesis by Bernard Beckett
133) The Fire Gospel by Michel Faber
134) Justinian's Flea by William Rosen
135) Always Coming Home by Ursula le Guin
136) Perfume by Patrick Suskind
137) Hunting the Ghost Dancer by A A Attanasio
138) The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by Andrew George
139) The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran
140) The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
141) A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
142) The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel
143) The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen
144) The Hammer and the Cross by Robert Fergurson
category 1 Current affairs - contemporary fiction (to keep this reasonably broad this is from 1950 to now and includes books from anywhere around the world written in English)
1) The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight by Gina Ochsner (5 - 7 January)
2) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (25 - 27 January)
3) Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai (16 - 17 March)
4) State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (13 - 15 April)
5) A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore (24 - 26 April)
6) The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (1 - 3 May)
7) Stonemouth by Iain Banks (10 - 12 June)
8) Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris (28 - 30 June)
9) Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood (23 - 28 July)
10) Spiderweb by Penelope Lively (29 - 30 July)
11) The Swan Thieves by Eizabeth Kostova (16 - 22 September)
12) A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (21 - 23 September)
category 2 About the past - non-fiction history
1) The Idea of Prehistory by Glyn Daniel (3 - 7 January)
2) People of the Lake: Mankind & Its Beginnings by Richard E. Leakey (21 - 25 January)
3) London Under by Peter Ackroyd (29 February - 2 March)
4) Britain B.C. by Francis Pryor (1 -13 April)
5) The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor (19 April - 13 May)
6) A.D. 500 A Journey Through the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland by Simon Young (14 - 21 May)
7) The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt (1 - 8 July)
8) The Cathars by Malcolm Lambert (22 July - 31 August)
9) City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish by Peter Parsons (1 - 25 September)
10) 1421 The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies (3 - 19 October)
11) Justinian's Flea by William Rosen (2 - 16 November)
12) The Hammer and the Cross by Robert Fergurson (14 - 30 December)
category 3 Long ago and far away - historical fiction (medieval and earlier. This is anything pre-Tudor so from prehistory to 1485)
1) Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley (7 - 8 January)
2) The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess (28 January - 2 February)
3) The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (22 - 27 February)
4) The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby (31 March - 4 April)
5) Women in the Wall by Julia O'Faoliain (21 - 24 April)
6) Katherine by Anya Seton (13 - 16 May)
7) The Ruby in Her Navel by Barry Unsworth (3 - 5 July)
8) Morality Play by Barry Unsworth (30 - 31 July)
9) Baudolino by Umberto Eco (23 September - 3 October)
10) Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones (11 - 15 October)
11) The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (7 - 9 November)
12) The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel (2 - 6 December)
category 4 More from the past - historical fiction (post-medieval - let's say from the Tudors to post WWII - 1485 to 1950)
1) The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart (14 - 16 January)
2) Blow on a Dead Man's Embers by Mari Strachan (13 - 15 February)
3) The Cure for Death by Lightening by Gail Andersson-Dargatz (8 - 10 March)
4) Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant (7 - 9 April)
5) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (18 - 25 May)
6) An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (12 - 20 June)
7) The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny (1 - 3 July)
8) The Garden of Martyrs by Michael C. White (14 - 17 July)
9) Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (12 - 15 August)
10) Soul Catcher by Michael C White (24 - 28 August)
11) The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler (7 - 12 September)
12) Hunting Midnight by Richard Zimler (1 - 7 November)
category 5 Chills down my spine - horror and mysteries
1) The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones (8 - 10 January)
2) White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (3 - 4 February)
3) The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (3 - 4 March)
4) The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (7 April)
5) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (15 - 18 April)
6) The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths (3 - 5 May)
7) The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill (25 - 26 May)
8) Now You See Me by S. J. Bolton (31 May - 1 June)
9) Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill (27 - 28 June)
10) Dead Scared by S. J. Bolton (5 - 7 July)
11) The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (15 - 19 August)
12) Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (19 - 24 August)
category 6 Once upon a time - mythology, folklore and fairytales
1) Marvels and Magic edited by Richard Barber (7 - 21 January)
2) Ragnarok The End of the Gods by A. S. Byatt (12 - 13 February)
3) Helen of Troy by Margaret George (26 - 31 March)
4) Heroes and Saints edited by Richard Barber (25 January - 15 April)
5) In the Shape of a Boar by Lawrence Norfolk (27 - 29 April)
6) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (6 - 9 May)
7) Ash by Malinda Lo (28 - 29 July)
8) History and Romance edited by Richard Barber (6 June - 29 July)
9) Jezebel by Eleanor de Jong (31 July - 4 August)
10) The Fire Gospel by Michel Faber (10 - 11 November)
11) The Epic of Gilgamesh (15 - 26 November)
12) A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong (28 - 30 November)
category 7 Unlikely things - fantasy
1) Sea Dragon Heir by Storm Constantine (10 - 13 January)
2) Crown of Silence by Storm Constantine (8 - 12 February)
3) The Way of Light by Storm Constantine (11 - 15 March)
4) Stardust by Neil Gaiman (18 - 19 April)
5) The Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts (9 - 12 May)
6) The Knot Garden by Gabriel King (16 - 18 May)
7) Imajica by Clive Barker (2 - 8 June)
8) The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint (17 - 18 July)
9) Coraline by Neil Gaiman (30 July)
10) The Magician King by Lev Grossman (12 - 15 September)
11) Initiate's Trial by Janny Wurts (3 - 10 October)
12) Hunting the Ghost Dancer by A A Attanasio (22 - 25 November)
category 8 New friends/Old friends - recommendations, early reviewers, new to me authors, continuing series and re-reads that don't fit anywhere else - basically a pot pourri category.
1) Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris (22 - 24 January) - continuing series
2) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (21 - 22 February) - old friend/re-read
3) The Girl in the Box by Sheila Dalton (4 - 6 Match) - ER
4) Tallis' Third Tune by Ellen L. Ekstrom (7 - 8 March) - Hobnob with authors giveaway
5) One Blood by Qwantu Amaru - (30 April - 2 May) - ER
6) Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski (26 - 28 May) - new to me author/LT recommendation (SqueakyChu)
7) A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths (20 - 21 June) - continuing series
8) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (7 - 8 July) - old friend/group read/re-read
9) Infinite West Travels in South Dakota by Fraser Harrison (9 - 22 July) ER
10) Fireworks by Angela Carter (7 - 30 August) - favourite author
11) Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell - favourite author (21 - 23 October)
12) The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman - new to me author (26 - 29 November)
A Poet and Bin-Laden by Hamid Ismailov - ER (7 - temporarily abandoned)
category 9 To space and beyond - science fiction
1) Brother to Demons, Brother to Gods by Jack Williamson (21 - 22 January)
2) Shadow's End by Sheri S Tepper (16 - 18 February)
3) Kil'n People by David Brin (28 February - 3 March)
4) The Stars My Destination (Tiger, Tiger) by Alfred Bester (19 - 20 April)
5) Eva by Peter Dickinson (4 - 6 May)
6) Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (8 - 9 June)
7) The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (12 - 14 July)
8) Flood by Stephen Baxter (7 - 10 August)
9) Ark by Stephen Baxter (1 - 7 September)
10) The Androids Dream by John Scalzi (15 - 16 October)
11) Genesis by Bernard Beckett (9 November)
12) Always Coming Home by Ursula le Guin (11 - 19 November)
category 10 It's Greek to me - books in translation
1) Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian - Chinese translated by Mabel Lee (16 - 25 January)
2) We Never Make Mistakes by Alexander Solzhenitsyn - Russian translated by Paul Blackstock (21 - 29 February)
3) In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse - Dutch translated by Anita Milller and Lewis C. Kaplan (17 - 23 March)
4) Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman - Swedish translated by Joan Tate (9 - 12 April)
5) It's Time by Pavel Kostin - ER Russian translated by James Rann (12- 13 May)
6) Silk by Alessandro Baricco - Italian translated by Guido Waldman (14 June)
7) Lies by Enrique De Heriz (8 - 12 July)
8) The Women's Decameron by Julia Voznesenskaya (4 - 7 August)
9) Silence by Shūsaku Endō (28 - 31 August)
10) Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura (13 - 18 September)
11) 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (23 - 31 October)
12) Perfume by Patrick Suskind (20 - 21 November)
category 11 Need to know - non-fiction
1) Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah (7 - 11 January)
2) God's Philosophers by James Hannam (3 - 28 February)
3) The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (3 - 12 March)
4) Abbeys, Priories and Cathedrals (14 - 18 April)
5) In Praise of Cats by Max Cryer (13 - 15 May)
6) Dewey by Vicki Myron (29 May)
7) Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer (21 May - 4 June)
8) From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple (16 - 30 June)
9) The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark (26 - 30 September)
10) Roads & Trackways of Wales by Richard Moore-Colyer (20 October - 1 November)
11) Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran (18 - 28 November)
12) The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen (1 - 13 December)
category 12 Great books I should have read - classics and prizewinners and nominees
1) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (27 December - 5 January)
2) The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck (19 - 21 February)
3) Bleak House by Charles Dickens (5 - 27 February)
4) The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck (24 - 26 March)
5) On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin (4 - 6 April)
6) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (28 - 31 May)
7) Illywhacker by Peter Carey (21 - 27 June)
8) East of Eden by John Steinbeck (18 - 25 July)
9) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (10 - 12 August)
10) English Passengers by Matthew Kneale (16 - 20 October)
11) Tortilla Flat. by John Steinbeck (20 -21 October)
12) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other stories by Washington Irving (9 - 31 October)
Time to start catching up on the little I have made comments on in September - I am a few books behind but hope to get to them very soon:)
111) Ark by Stephen Baxter (1 - 7 September)
This is the sequel/companion book to Baxter's Flood. In the first we learn about the rising waters engulfing the world; in this one we follow as some people attempt to create an Ark - an escape for a few people from the flood. There are a few characters that appear in both books but on the whole this focuses on a different set of characters - the young people who are trained to crew the Ark. To begin with I found some of the technical details of the construction of the Ark a bit hard but as the story continues I got drawn into the characters fates.
I must admit that I preferred Flood slightly more but this is still an interesting read. The stresses on society as the water level grows; the fate of the young people who may be the last hope of the survival of the human race and the conflict of being in a small space for an extended period of time as they seek a new home are all worth reading. Like Flood this novel covers a long period of time but, somehow, it isn't quite as cohesive. Still good and I will read more Baxter and hope that he revisits some of the characters and their continuing stories in the future.
112) The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler (7 - 12 September)
This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Set against the pogrom against the Jews, and New Christians, of Lisbon in the early Sixteenth Century a young man, Berekiah, focuses on the murder of his uncle. Despite the violent background to the murder Berekiah is sure that this murder has been committed by a friend or associate of his uncle.
Zimler has created an evocative novel. The background of the violence against the Jews adds tension to the story. The characters are diverse, and on the whole, well fleshed and believable. The historical research seems sound to me and the resolution to the murder had me guessing until the end. I'm definitely going to read more of Zimler's work.
113) The Magician King by Lev Grossman (12 - 15 September)
This is the sequel to Grossman's The Magicians so there will probably be spoilers for the first book in these comments.
Following the end of The Magicians Quentin, Julia, Janet and Eliot are now Kings and Queens of Fillory. Quentin has matured some between the two books and continues to do so as this story unfolds, he is still Quentin though:) During a hunt someone unexpectedly dies and Quentin and Julia go on a quest, leading them to places they do not want to be. Interspersed with this story are chapters about Julia's past and how she became a witch. The actual quest and the meeting with characters new and old was good fun. To be honest I actually found Julia's story the more interesting but also unsatisfying in that I am still unclear about some aspects of her life.
Overall a good sequel, with less of the teenage angst, drinking and sex of the first. There is still strong language, death and violence - some of the language seems unnecessary but the death and violence does fit the story. Grossman has successfully written his own version of a fantasy novel, the themes are all present and not too over the top in the context of the story.
I hope to see what Grossman does with these characters next and I will definitely carry on reading his work.
114) Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura translated by Mark Ealey (13 - 18 September)
For such a short novel this one is very atmospheric and poignant. It covers three years in the life in an isolated coastal village in medieval Japan as Isaku, the young narrator, takes on the role of provider for his family. The father having sold himself for three years in order to provide grain for his family - a tradition of the village during the lean years. As Isaku learns more about the traditions of the village and what his vague memories of the previous O-fune-same mean to the survival of the villagers we learn with him. There is a certain repetition to the story - the appearance of the blossom on the nearby mountain in the spring; the short fishing seasons as various species make their appearance and the rituals that the village holds in order to attract the O-fune-same. But Isaku's reactions to these seasonal happenings develop as the story unfolds.
Sad and powerful, even in translation, the day to day life of such a marginal community as seen through young Isaku's eyes is wonderful. This was my first Yoshimura novel it probably won't be my last.
115) The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (16 - 22 September)
A noted painter, Robert Oliver, is arrested for attempting to damage a painting in a museum and sent for psychiatric help. Unfortunately he refuses to speak; obsessively paints the same woman and reads some nineteenth century letters. His psychiatrist, Andrew Marlow, becomes increasingly exacerbated by his patient and contacts the man's ex-wife in order to delve into the mystery. Interspersed in this story are the letters and, later, more complete chapters about their author.
Kostova has successfully created a fictional back story in the nineteenth century - complete with a little known Impressionist artist and her family. The reason for Oliver's obsession is never fully explained but I still liked reading about Marlow's quest to help his uncommunicative patient. I loved most of this novel but was disappointed by its abrupt ending. Maybe the characters are not the most fully fleshed but on the whole the story drew me in and kept me turning the pages. I just wish the ending had been stronger.
116) A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (21 - 23 September)
What to say about Ishiguro's debut novel? This is a difficult one, enigmatic and perplexing. From my limited knowledge of Ishiguro there are certain themes I recognise - the unreliability of memory and the after-effects of social change. In this one the narrator is Etsuko a Japanese woman living in England who after the suicide of her oldest daughter is visited by her youngest daughter. During this visit Etsuko remembers her time living in Nagasaki just after the Second World War; her friendship with another woman, Sachiko, and a visit from her father-in-law.
There is something shadowy and unreliable about Etsuko's memories. Things are not explained directly and most of the story comes sideways, subtly building up a picture that is disturbing. I'm still not entirely sure of everything that happened to Sachiko and her daughter; why or how Etsuko ends up in a second marriage to an Englishman. What happens in her relationship with her daughters.
This is hauntingly beautiful though. I love the way that Ishiguro's builds a story and the images he uses but I was left unsettled and unsure at the ending. No answers but worth reading anyway.
117) City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish : Greek lives in Roman Egypt by Peter Parsons (1 - 25 September)
In the nineteenth century archaeologists digging near the Nile in Egypt discovered a treasure trove of ancient papyri. What they found includes classical literature; personal letters; administrative records and much more. Translating this vast collection is still going on but Peter Parsons describes what is known about life in Oxyrhynchos, the City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish, mainly during the period of Roman rule through these documents.
Starting with the history of the discovery and the archaeologists Parsons then divides the documentary evidence into different subjects. There are some great illustrations - both of the site and the papyri; the story of life covered by the source material and the extracts that Parsons includes builds up into a fascinating picture of the times.
This is a good popular history, reasonably well laid out. The wealth of details included about the inhabitants and their daily life; the recovery of texts that were thought lost and the fact that the work of translation continues made this worth reading. Now I just need to wait and see what else will be uncovered from this treasure trove of papyri.
You are probably heading into the start of your weekend now - I am heading into lunch - so I hope you have a good weekend!
I hope to have a good weekend too. Hope you enjoyed your lunch and have a good weekend yourself:)
hailelib - I borrowed that one from the library after reading a review over in the 75ers by nandadevi - their review is on the work page.
Eva - I know what you mean. I picked it up not knowing that it was a part of a series but looking at the books there doesn't seem to be much continuity - just different members of the same family during different periods of history. I have borrowed the second from the library which is set in the nineteenth century; the third seems to be seventeenth century and the fourth twentieth. Not sure how that is going to work, presumably they are in publication order:) Haven't managed to find copies of the third and fourth ... yet!
That is good to know! Maybe I can dare to start without actually owning the second one. :)
118) The Valleys of the Assassins : and other Persian travels by Freya Stark (26 - 30 September)
This is a collection of essays about Freya Stark's travels in Persia in the early 1930's. In her preface she admits that these travels were mostly for fun - not any serious purpose. so, accompanied only by local guides, this is a personal account of a woman who was travelling just because she could. Though she did have an interest in the geography, history and archaeology of the region. She meets various peoples - Kurds, Shia and others - during her travels; attempts to visit certain sites of potential archaeological and historical interest and describes the landscape she travels through. Along with some more personal musings.
There were some aspects of this that I did not like - a casual attitude to illegal activities; a degree of "looking-down" on some of the people she meets - but on the whole this was a fascinating insight into a culture that was undergoing change and is even more changed now. I think that the author's attitudes were very much of her time, and bearing this in mind, I did enjoy reading about her travels.
I must admit to being not so sure as my non-fiction reading seems to have really slowed down:) I could rearrange some of the fiction books finished into different categories to balance them out a bit more but then I would have to go and change the numbers in the posts:( So I think I will just try to focus on finding books that aren't in the completed categories:) Not sure I can do that.
Hadn't thought of cheating (is it cheating if you allow for overlaps?) but then I'm not sure how much overlap there can be in my categories except - historical/mystery and contemporary/mystery - bearing in mind that the two categories I have completed are contemporary and mystery I'm not sure how helpful that would be:) The other option would be to overlap translated works - that might work:)
We'll see what December brings I might end up doing some book juggling.
13 in 13 will definitely need a re-think as I doubt very much if I could get to 169 books:)
category 3 Long ago and far away - historical fiction (9 of 12)
119) Baudolino by Umberto Eco (23 September - 3 October)
Baudolino is a wonderful work of historical fiction, full of marvellous stories. In 1206 during the sack of Constantinople a Byzantine court official, Niketas, is rescued by Baudolino and, while in hiding, Baudolino starts to tell his life story. A fantastical tale unfolds - from his boyhood meeting with Frederick Barbarosa and his days as a scholar in Paris and his later travels as he searches for the kingdom of Prester John.
Baudolino is the epitome of unreliable narrators. His imagination leads him to see Saints and unicorns as a boy and the later lies and fabrications during his life lead on a quest that is, at least partly, because of the stories he and his friends tell. Eco has created a believable medieval world - from the descriptions of every day life in various countries; to the more fantastical possibilities of what might be found beyond the edges of the known world which hark back to the stories told in Herodotus' Histories. Eco has obviously done his research into the period and the translation by William Weaver reads very well.
This was a re-read for me, I first read it about ten years ago and, to be honest, I did not remember it as one of Eco's better works. Fortunately I was wrong - this read confirms that Eco is a wonderful author and storyteller.
Lori - I liked the film as well, obviously a lot is left out but the visualisation of the monastery and its library was very good. Maybe having seen that you might find the novel easier to read.
120) Initiate's Trial by Janny Wurts (3 - 10 October)
This is the ninth book in The Wars of Light and Shadow but the first in a new sequence - Sword of the Canon. I am trying to think what to say about it without giving away anything that came before, though if you are going to read this you will need to have read the previous volumes.
The first book that introduces the world of Athera is called The Curse of the Mistwraith and that curse has an affect on everything that follows. I love the world that Janny Wurts has created. The issues and characters are not black and white; there is an ambiguity about most characters and their actions - people are doing things that they think are in the best interests of the side they are on (and there are many sides). I feel for most of the characters, there might be one or two who I think are completely wrong-headed but that is my reading of the text.
I have said to other people that Janny Wurts writes the thinking person's fantasy. The questions of motive; ethics and morality are revealed in rich prose in a vividly imagined world. I have no idea where the series is going or how many books are needed to reach the author's intended conclusion but I am going to carry on reading them.
Great progress on a full challenge!
I think Eco does have a reputation for being "difficult" but I like challenging books and interesting ideas and, as far as I'm concerned, Eco writes good books:)
I'm still hopeful of doing the full challenge - we'll see:)
121) Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones translated by Nick Caistor (11 - 15 October)
I heard that this was along the lines of Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, the story of the building of a medieval cathedral but it isn't really about the cathedral but about one man's life. used to describe life more generally in 14th century Barcelona, over the 55 years it took to construct the Santa Maria de la Mar.
The main character, Arnau Estanyol, lives a rags to riches life and there is a lot of interest in his story. Life was bleak for many in the Middle Ages and Falcones has captured that. Unfortunately the author seems to have tried to pack in too much information about the hardship of life for serfs; women, Jews and others and on occasion the book reads like a history textbook.
The strange thing is that I just wanted to know what happened next so there must be a good story in there. I also found this a quick read for such a long book - I got through the 600 pages in a few days. I did learn more about the history of Barcelona, and Catalonia, I just wish there had been a few more positive things happening to the characters.
Eva - I suppose Cathedral of the Sea does have some positive moments. I just think that the author had to use all his research. It was an interesting read though.
psutto - yes The Name of the Rose is one of Eco's easier books. I would say that Baudolino is easier again:)
Janny says that there are only two more books too go and she is working on the next one at the moment. She comes across as very approachable and does spend some time in The Green Dragon group.
Dave - nice to see you here:)
Katie - it does have a few problems and is a bit of a chunkster though I did find it a quick read for its size:) Hope you do get around to that Spanish category someyear:)
I have been reading in October but am way behind on writing book comments. I'm still more or less on track for the full 12 in 12 though I do need to read more NF:( I might have to rethink what I do next year.
I'm just going to list the books that I read in October and try to catch up on comments sometime soonish:)
122) The Android's Dream by John Scalzi (15 - 16 October)
I didn't think this was as strong as Old Man's War, the first Scalzi novel I read, but once I got past the first chapter, which I found rather juvenile in its humour, I thought this was a fun romp of a book. There are nods to other works and even an invented religion but on the whole this is a fast paced work that takes our reluctant hero on a quest to prevent Earth's destruction.
123) 1421 The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies (3 - 19 October)
Gavin Menzies was a submariner for many years and when he saw a map that seemed to show a remarkably accurate map of the world that dated before European exploration he looked for who and when could have provided the evidence to produce such a map. He turned his attention to Fifteenth Century China and the last of the Treasure Fleets before China's policy of isolation was introduced.
I must say that I did find this over long and there is a great deal of speculation and much repetition - especially once you get to the appendices! There are points that seem to prove his thesis but others seem a stretch and there might be alternative explanations. China was indeed a fascinating country at the time and their ships were marvels of engineering. The use of prevailing winds and currents could account for where Menzies believes this fleet travelled and, if the maps are anything to go by, someone has to have surveyed a great many lands before the European sailors.
Unfortunately he does seem to imply that some evidence has been (and is still being) suppressed due to the Euro-centric history of the world. I had heard of the events that led to China becoming a closed region and can believe that some of the evidence for the things they had done was destroyed because of the new policy but Menzies stretches the evidence to fit his theory and I am not entirely convinced though I am open to learning more. Overall I consider this to be an interesting but flawed book, but then Menzies does not claim to be a historian or a writer.
124) English Passengers by Matthew Kneale (16 - 20 October)
125) Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (20 - 21 October)
Steinbeck definitely has a way with words making even a group of drifting, purposeless characters appealing in a strange way. Set shortly after the First World War Danny returns to Tortilla Flat to discover that he is now the owner of two houses. For someone who has spent his life basically homeless, spending his days drinking and maybe finding a woman to pass some time with this is a big change, or is it. "Renting" one of the houses out to a friend leads to more and more of Danny''s friends ending up under Danny's roof.
This is more a series of short vignettes of life among this group of characters. Most of whom have a similar lifestyle to Danny. It is a short book, only 176 pages, and doesn't have the depth of some of Steinbeck's other work but there are still instances of Steinbeck's masterly descriptions of nature and people's lives. Not his best work but still worth reading.
126) Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (21 - 23 October)
Agnes Shanklin is the protagonist of this enchanting novel. A spinster school teacher from Ohio who seems to have lived the life her mother thought she should for most of her life. The effects of the Great War and the Influenza Pandemic change her licircumstances and she decides to take the trip of a lifetime - to Egypt and the Holy Land. The back cover only gives part of the story - there is more here than Agnes travelling to Egypt and meeting the attendees of the Cairo Peace Conference in 1921. It is more about Agnes' whole life - where she comes from and where she ends up.
Mary Doria Russell used biographies, autobiographies and other works to create an evocative picture of Agnes' life and the characters of the real people she meets. She is a very talented writer and I love the feel of the time. Agnes' growth as a person is plausible though I must admit to having a slight problem with some points in the novel, which would definitely be spoilers if I mentioned them:) I'll definitely carry on reading Russell's work though.
127) 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (23 - 31 October)
1Q84 - Q for question. An alternate world with subtle changes; two main characters who slip, separately, into this world, unknowingly seeking the other.
It is 1984 Japan, Aomame is late for an appointment and taking an emergency stair off an expressway leads her to notice a change. The police have different uniforms and then she notices two moons in the sky. Tenjo rewrites a young girl's story for a competition - a story where there are two moons in the sky, the girl weaves an air chrysalis and the little people are doing something. It takes him longer to notice that things have changed. In the first two books Aomame and Tenjo's stories are told in alternate chapters. A third narrator is added in the third book - at first I wasn't too sure about this additional voice but in the end it works.
I'm not sure on how many changes have been made to the Japanese original - this is an adaptation not a straight translation. Having two translators also seems a bit bizarre but to be honest I did not notice a change in voice so both men seem to have done a good job.
I loved this book though in some ways I am left with more questions than answers. Murakami delivers something that has more than a touch of the strange but still makes compelling reading. Bizarre, thought provoking, enigmatic but, in my opinion, well worth reading
128) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other stories by Washington Irving (9 - 31 October)
I was looking for something slightly spooky for Halloween and remembered the film of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. There are some slight touches of the supernatural but on the whole these are not spooky stories but more a glimpse of a former way of life. I didn't always get the humour but am pleased to have read this collection.
Thanks Katie - over in the 75ers there has been a Steinbeckathon this year - at least one of his books every month. It has definitely encouraged me to pick up some of his books:) This month reads are Travels With Charley and The Pearl. I haven't read any of his NF yet ... maybe I should:)
A bit behind on updating my reading so far this month - I'll try to get some quick comments down.
129) Roads & Trackways of Wales by Richard Moore-Colyer (20 October - 1 November)
This is a study of the development of roads and trackways in Wales from the Romans to the Turnpikes. So from the 1st to the 19th century. This is a lot of history but the development does seem to go in stages - obviously people were travelling around before the Romans but it is as good a place as any to start. Divided into five chapters Moore-Colyer focuses mainly on one area for section - so for The Romans it is the mid-west of Wales; the next section is about the medieval roads that led to and from Strata Florida Abbey; then the 17th century roads of Radnorshire; the long standing Drover's roads across the border to England and finally the regulation and development of the Turnpikes.
To some extent this is a walker's book, as many of the routes are not so accessible to modern methods of transport. He includes grid references along the way and hand drawn maps of various sections of the routes. There are a lot of black and white photographs of the areas discussed and various other documents that are relevant to the subject. In places the text is dry but also, for me, there are hints of a wry humour and great titbits of local history. The edition I read was printed in the 2007 (the second edition) but this has little revision from the original 1980's text and there have been changes to the landscape, especially the much complained about Forestry Commission monoculture.
I'm not familiar with all the areas he covers but I am a long term resident of West Wales and have been on a lot of the roads he mentions. I'm not sure of a wider audience for this book but, if you plan on visiting the area; have an interest in the local history or the development of road systems I think this book is worth a read.
130) Hunting Midnight by Richard Zimler (1 - 7 November)
I really enjoyed the first The last Kabbalist of Lisbon and looked forward to reading this the second of the Zarco series of books. Jumping forward to the early nineteenth century we are introduced to a new set of characters but the affect of the anti-semitic past lives on. Our protagonist John Zarco Stewart is the son of a Scottish father and a Portuguese mother. Midnight is an African bushmen who returns with John's father to the family's Porto home.
It is probably unfair to say that I preferred the tighter focus of the first in the series, where a murder mystery held the plot together and the action covered a much shorter period of time. This is still a very good novel and an interesting story but I do feel as though the traumatic events are skipped over to some extent. Having a second narrator suddenly appear in the second part of the novel was also a bit of a jar though I did come to love her story and the way it intersects with John's.
I will definitely carry on reading Zimler's books. I do like the way he writes and the focus on a little known, to me, aspect of history - the fate of Portugal's Jews over the centuries.
131) The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (7 - 9 November)
132) Genesis by Bernard Beckett (9 November)
This is a stunning novel, short it may be but Beckett packs in a lot of ideas and the climax is something I did not see coming. Basically a young adult - Anaximander is undergoing a four hour oral examination in the hope of gaining a place in The Academy. Her chosen subject is Adam Forde a man who held a pivotal role in this post-apocalyptic world.
From names and ideas Beckett's world has a link back to Plato's Republic but he puts his own spin on the ideas. As Anax defends her thesis more and more is revealed. This might be a book with an unusual format but it is well worth reading.
133) The Fire Gospel by Michel Faber (10 - 11 November)
This is part of the Canongate myths series. This one is loosely based on the story of Prometheus who stole fire from the gods, gave it to humanity and suffered a terrible punishment. The protagonist is Theo, an Aramaic scholar, who discovers a fifth gospel in a war-torn Iraqi museum. What follows is his adventures and misadventures after his translation is published. This fifth gospel is nicknamed the fire gospel because of the inflammatory effect of the contents and Theo's subsequent publicity tour .turns increasingly bizarre.
There is a very episodic feel to this book. We are given no idea of how long there is between the events described. Theo himself is not the most appealing character but I still enjoyed his story. This is a quick read which could probably have done with being more fleshed out.
I'm well-traveled in Scotland and reasonably well-traveled in England, but for various reasons, I have always managed to miss Wales. It's on the schedule to be rectified, but who knows when... Putting Roads & Trackways of Wales on the list for when I get closer - I do want to do some walking, especially on routes with little if any traffic.
134) Justinian's Flea by William Rosen (1 - 16 November)
Well written, well researched and informative. If you are just looking for a book about the plague you will get a lot more in thus book - the history of Justinian and how he became emperor; the various people who were migrating into the fractured Roman Empire; how and why the plague became an epidemic and the history of the time of various other empires, Persian and Chinese. This is a wide ranging variety of subjects but Rosen's talent means that all the pieces do come together. Definitely gave me a picture of the Sixth Century world.
135) Always Coming Home by Ursula le Guin (11 - 19 November)
136) Perfume by Patrick Suskind (20 - 21 November)
137) Hunting the Ghost Dancer by A A Attanasio (22 - 25 November)
138) The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by Andrew George (15 - 26 November)
139) The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran (18 - 28 November)
140) The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman (26 - 29 November)
141) A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong (28 - 30 November)
This isn't about actual myths per se but a look at the role of myth in society from prehistoric times to today. I do think that it was very readable and describes the changing nature of myth since prehistoric times. Including how the use of myth, as part of religion, helped people deal with life and how the split between religion and society has led to problems so that artists and writers are filling the gap left by the loss of mythology in our daily lives. But because it is so short there is no real depth to her discussion of the topic.
142) The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel (2 - 6 December)
If you have read this far into the series you know more or less what to expect. Sometimes reads as though she copy/pastes large sections from textbooks but I still like what she has done with this imagined past.
143) The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen (1 - 13 December)
Mix of a Discworld story as the wizards and Hex create a universe and try to influence life and real Earth science mainly about geology and evolution. I thought it was a good basic background for various scientific theories and I also enjoyed the Discworld aspect. Probably not for anyone with no Discworld background though.
144) The Hammer and the Cross by Robert Fergurson (14 - 30 December)
I am going to have to take this into account for next years challenge. There is no way I could do a full 13 books in 13 categories so I am going to have to take the next day to think about how I am going to organise things. I will be setting up a thread in the 2013 Category Challenge Group but will probably be as bad as keeping it updated as I was this year:(
See you all in 2013:)
Congratulations on your finish.
hailelib - I guess I just fancied a bit more pleasure reading, not that I don't enjoy reading NF but it can require a bit more brain power:) I'm definitely still going to have NF categories next year!
Dave - thank you
Eva - I did have one open category but it filled up pretty early!
Still trying to work out how to structure my 2013 challenge thread. I decided not to think about it until I completed this years but haven't left myself a lot of time for creativity or originality. Oh well I guess it doesn't really matter until I read my first 2013 book:)