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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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3/2/14 2:41 P

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Everyone will call this novel Dickensian, which is a just comparison. Tartt outdoes Dickens, however, in her philosophical, ruminative mode. If you know Victorian literature, you will see our hero, Theo Decker, as Oliver Twist, as Pip (could this have been the inspiration for the character of Pippa); as Heathcliff even, as a bit of John Dowell from "The Good Soldier" (but much more in control of his narration and his insights, as Kafka's Josef K. and you will find nods to Little Nell and even Middlemarch. In many ways, this is meta-literature but without the po-mo show of cleverness and self-consciousness.

I know that the use of the adjective "Dickensian" has roused some combat--I simply use it to mean a very populated book with significant themes and characters. Tartt has some sentences and paragraphs that can rival Dickens--sometimes she gets into that writerly, almost poetic cadence of rhetorical power.

But this book does not seem the least bit derivative; over the heavily plotted picaresque lies a narrative of dealing with death and redemption. The sustaining power of art to provide a sturdy bedrock of consolation in the midst of life's biggest horrors and grief underlies the narrative in an absolutely smooth and natural way. This novel is compulsively readable and and even loveable--no matter how far afield the character may stray.


Read it. Set aside time so you can read chunks of it--chapters and not just pages---at one sitting.

Columbus, Ohio
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CARIOLA
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2/14/14 6:22 P

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Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith

As most of you probably know (due to publicity about the recent film based on Sixsmith's book), this is the true story of a young Irish woman sent a to convent to give birth, and of the son who was taken away from her at the age of three--sold, in effect, to an American couple. Fifty years later, Philomena reveals her secret to her family and launches a search for the long-lost son that she has always felt has been looking for her.

In a New York Times interview about the film, Steve Coogan, who plays Sixsmith, says, "“We didn’t want to become overly involved in the life of Anthony Lee or Michael Hess. What appealed to me was the search for the son and the tragedy of not being able to see him grow up. That’s how Philomena experienced it; it was just out of reach, just beyond her.” This explains the main difference between the movie and the book, which focuses predominantly not on Philomena's search but on the successful but sad life of her son.

Anthony Lee was just three when he was adopted, as an afterthought, by the sister of an American bishop and her husband. The family, who had three boys of their own, had always wanted a daughter, but medical problems prevented them from trying again for one of their own. When she met Mary at Sean Ross Abbey, Marge was struck by the affectionate, dark-haired little boy who hovered over her like a protective brother. And so the two were adopted together. Like all of the young mothers at the abbey, Philomena Lee was forced to sign papers giving up all rights to her son and agreeing never to attempt to find or contact him.

It is the story of Anthony, renamed Michael Anthony Hess, that fills most of Sixsmith's pages: growing up in a strict Catholic family in the Midwest, trying to please an adoptive father who hadn't been too keen on his adoption in the first place and becoming an over-achiever as a result, struggling with his sexual identity, rising to a major post in the Reagan administration, and, always, being haunted by the memories of Ireland and the feeling that the mother he left behind was looking for him. Realizing the effect this loss has had on his life, especially on his ability to feel close to other people, Mike makes several visits to Sean Ross Abbey in hopes of learning more about his origins, but, following investigations into wrongdoing by the Irish government, the books are closed (or lost, transferred, or burned) forever.

The final chapters return to Philomena's encounter with Sixsmith and their efforts to locate Anthony, a journey that comes to a bittersweet end.

I have to agree with the LT reviewer who questioned the account of Michael Hess's emotions. Although Sixsmith did interview people who had known him well (including his sister Mary, former coworkers and lovers, and several friends), all of these people admit that Mike was a very private man who compartmentalized his life and rarely revealed anything personal to anyone. So while Sixsmith does a fine job of imagining what Mike may have been thinking or feeling, it came as rather a shock in the end to realize that the man himself had not been consulted in the writing of this book. It also made me suspect that Sixsmith was promoting an agenda beyond telling Philomena's story and advocating for more open adoption laws.

But all this is in retrospect. Despite these concerns, Philomena is a moving and engaging story. Four stars here. I'm eager to see the movie version; although the emphasis shifts from Mike to his mother, that's to be expected when Judi Dench has been cast in the title role.

~Deborah

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"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." (Hamlet, 2.2.250)


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CARIOLA
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2/14/14 6:22 P

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Fools by Joan Silber

As in her wonderful collection Ideas of Heaven, Joan Silber again creates a loosely connected 'ring of stories.' Characters from one tale drop into another decades later, sometimes as a mere mention, sometimes as an older but perhaps no wiser self. But what connects them all is a sense of loss, a search for meaning, and a link to the spirit of anarchy. And, of course, the lingering concern that one has been played for a fool.

The title story, first in the collection, sets the tone and establishes the framework. It's the 1920s, and Vera, born and raised in India by missionary parents, and her husband Joe are living in a beach house with a group of fellow anarchists whose main goal is to save Sacco and Vanzetti from the death penalty. Despite their earnestness, hypocrisy abounds--and lives begin to change. No one ends up following the expected path. One of the story's main characters is Dorothy Day, who later became a founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

In the course of "Fools," we learn that one of the wild young things, Betsy, left her husband Norman and ran off with an older speakeasy owner to run a hotel in Palm Beach. The second story, "The Hanging Fruit," focuses on their ne'er-do-well son, Rudy, who flees to Paris after several damaging escapades, only to be made a fool of again. One of his Parisian girlfriends reappears fifty years later in the collection's final story, "Buying and Selling," with an American friend, who happens to be one of Vera's daughters. Vera's older daughter, Louise, narrates "Two Opinions." Her father Joe was the only one of the original anarchists who stuck to his ideals; but the question is, was it really the right thing to do? And how has it affect her life? "Better" tells the story of Marcus, a newly-single gay man spending a weekend with friends and reminiscing about his former partner. He picks up an old book--which just happens to be a memoir written by Betsy's ex-husband. In "Going Too Far' we meet Gerard, the son of an employee at the Palm Beach hotel. He's searching for something, he's not quite sure what, but he recognizes a similar spirit in Adinah. It's only after they marry and become parents that he realizes that their spiritual destinies lie in different directions.

I'm not sure this description gives a very good sense of Silber's loosely connected collection, so let me quote a blurb from the back cover by Jim Shepard that does it much better:

"Fools is a wonderfully winning exploration of impetuousness in all of its appealing and appalling forms, and its deftly interconnected stories are devoted to those dreamers who act rashly and out of their better natures, who never quit asking the world, Can't you do better than that?--a question certain to become increasingly urgent as this twenty-first century progresses."

Silber is a wonderfully perceptive writer who creates characters that are simultaneously unique and familiar. Although I still think Ideas of Heaven is her best collection to date, Fools is also highly recommended.

~Deborah

****************
"The principle is competing against yourself. It's about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before." (Steve Young)

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." (Hamlet, 2.2.250)


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CARIOLA
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2/14/14 6:15 P

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Best book I've read so far this year:

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Initially, I wouldn't even look at this because I hated her last book, Eat, Love, Pray. But this one is not a memoir, it's historical fiction, and it's quite wonderful. The main character is an American woman, born in 1800, who becomes a scientific expert in mosses. That sounds boring, but the story of her life is not! And it is beautifully written.

Here is my LibraryThing review:

The novel focuses on the life of Alma Whittaker, pampered daughter of a wealthy American botanical merchant, who has enough spare time on her hands to study a specialty of her own: mosses. The story covers more than 100 years, beginning with Alma's birth, backtracking to explain how her English father made his fortune and ended up in America, then moving through her charmed childhood, lonely young womanhood, a disappointing late marriage, a series of middle age adventures, and finally, into her last years. At its heart 'The Signature of All Things' is Alma's gradual blossoming from a short-sighted, rather selfish person living in an insular world into a fully-developed member of the human community, one willing to care about others and take the time to understand their feelings, needs, and motives. Gilbert uses the world of plants--particularly mosses--as a metaphor for the human world: under the microscope, each moss colony is a world unto itself, yet each continually tests its boundaries, tentatively or aggressively reaching into other worlds.

If all this sounds dull, believe me, it isn't. Alma has quite a few adventures along the way, including an extended visit to a remote island in the South Seas. And Gilbert peppers the novel with wonderfully drawn characters: her practical but rigid Dutch mother and her business mogul father; Prudence, the beautiful adopted sister who struggles to catch up to Alma intellectually but remains emotionally distant; the painter of orchids who seems to be Alma's soulmate; the flighty new neighbor who insists on befriending the Whittaker sisters, bringing laughter into their house; Tomorrow Morning, a charismatic native evangelist; and many, many more. Add to this the fact that 'The Signature of All Things' is an exquisitely written and finely researched book.

While I won't be going back to read 'Eat, Pray, Love,' I will most certainly be looking for Gilbert's earlier works of fiction. Highly recommended.

Edited by: CARIOLA at: 2/14/2014 (18:19)
~Deborah

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"The principle is competing against yourself. It's about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before." (Steve Young)

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." (Hamlet, 2.2.250)


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CURTIOSITY
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1/2/14 6:25 P

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I just finished T.C. Boyle 's When the Killing's Done.

Boyle is definitely an exceptional writer, but sometimes his skill with the language becomes self-indulgent. One reviewer hit it for me - When the Killing's Done is over written and under par.

World's End and Drop City were both top drawer novels in my opinion, and several of his other novels came close to being top drawer, but not so with When the Killing's Done. The shipwreck opening is wonderful. The description of the singer turned sheep rancher is really good. Unfortunately, the other major characters, despite being annoyingly over-written, remain annoyingly one-dimensional.

When the Killing's Done is Boyle's attempt at delineating differences between animal rights activists, environmentalists, and the US Forestry folks in terms of personalities, motivations, and agendas. He does illuminate certain elements of irony, futility and folly inherent in the these various groups and in the lives of individuals who wanna make folks "do right", and in the concept that humans can somehow undo ... uh... just about anything major.

All in all I think When the Killing's Done is a verbose mess. I am a fan of T.C. Boyle, so I do not regret having read it, but I don't recommend taking it on unless you have to.




To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

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SKNNBTT
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1/2/14 3:57 P

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I have finished two books so far this year. "The Reason I Jump" by Naoki Higashida and "Annie's Ghosts:A journey into a family secret" by Steve Luxenberg. Was halfway through them at the end of the year.

Presently I am reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin.





Edited by: SKNNBTT at: 1/2/2014 (15:59)

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TERI-RIFIC
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12/20/13 8:12 A

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The Christmas Mystery
Jostein Gaarder

I read this every Christmas. It is about a strange Advent Calendar and a little girl traveling through time and across Europe to reach Bethlehem. It's not for everyone, but if you like it it can become a Christmas tradition.

Teri
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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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12/6/13 3:52 P

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I just finished BIG BROTHER by Lionel Shriver, a contemporary novelist who often writes "issue" novels, the best known being "WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN" which is told from the point of view of the mother of a high school mass snipet.

BIG BROTHER is told from the point of view of Pandora, a successful business woman in Iowa. her older brother has moved from 163 pounds to 386 in just two years and she is determined to have him shed the weight--for the sake of his health but secondarily for his ability to work and to sustain friendships.

The book describes the spartan diet they embark upon together. What happens when they both stop wanting to eat? Pandora could stand to lose 20 pounds, but not the 50 she seems to lose. The book is not entirely successful for a couple of reasons---I would have loved some more connection between over-eating and more than flawed family relationships. Did her brother REALLY gain over 200 pounds at age 40-something because they had a lousy father?

All of Shriver's books examine societal problems and this one is not quite as successful as some of the others I have read. It's a compelling read, however, and it ends up leaving us with more questions than answers.

Columbus, Ohio
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CURTIOSITY
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10/12/13 12:54 P

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Borges fans !!! I just found what was for me a fascinating link to Borges' 1967-68 Norton Lectures on Poetry (and everything else literary) - I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! XXX Jim Ann

http://www.openculture.com/2012/05/jorge_luis_borges_1967-8_norton_lectures_on_poetry_and_everything_else_literary.html

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

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OWL_20
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9/16/13 9:12 A

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Loitering with Intent by Peter O' Toole

Memoirs done by the man himself. To me, it actually reads like fiction since he has an almost stream of consciousness method to his writing. The first of 2 books, this details his life from the beginning with his father at the race track to his acceptance into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. It's a fascinating read.

Barb USA, EST

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people. - Orson Welles



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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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8/6/13 1:30 P

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THE DARLINGS by Cristina Alger


Alger is a NYC attorney and a former financial analyst with Goldman Sachs whose first novel, The Darlings is a tightly plotted look at the downfall of a Ponzi Scheme in late November of 2008. Readers will immediately think of Bernard Madoff and his family. I don't know if she had him specifically in mind, but it certainly seems like it.

This novel takes place over the course of 5 days in which the entire Ponzi Scheme comes unwound and is discovered by the press. We get to see all of the players---the men and women in power, their families, their dogs, the members of the press, the investigators, the would-be whistle-blowers, etc. Alger tells us with precision what happens exactly but she (wisely) does not attempt to analyze her characters too closely at all. Indeed, just a depiction of their speech and their behavior is condemnation enough.

People do terribly wicked things without seemingly giving anything a fault except having a cover-up strategy and managing to get rid of any investigations. But they seem to tell themselves that they are great family members or that they really love their dogs so if they fraudulently deprive a lot of people of billions of dollars they did it out of love. Alger very cleverly shows us how these shallow grasping criminals manage to justify their actions under the guise of making the wife or the children happy. They are morally bankrupt but think that they are decent people because they take their dogs for a walk.

It is a very good read but you won't find many characters to like (some of the minor ones) and you will be disgusted by the lack of ethics and honesty that seem endemic to Wall Street. Without mentioning the name "Madoff" I am left with the strong idea that anyone pulling off such a Ponzi scheme must have a number of unethical enablers who know precisely what they are up to. It's not a one-person show! Sometimes an underpaid secretary or a journalist or a minor member of a firm starts to figure things out. And if they cannot be bought off, then the scheme comes tumbling down.

And should you ask questions if your husband or your father gives you endless wealth?

Alger writes well and this novel is another cautionary example of the old saying that "the unexamined life is not worth living".

Columbus, Ohio
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PATRICIA4472
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6/22/13 7:56 A

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Friends-
Thanks for the recommendations on The Cooked Seed as well as Intuitive Eating! Just thought I'd drop by this thread and see who is reading what.

As I mentioned in the chat thread, I'm trying to finished Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I really like it, but for me, it's one of those books that I put down and pick up again later, rather than a steady read. Maybe I need to process her journey along with my own...

My name is Pat and I live in Wisconsin...


CARIOLA
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6/19/13 8:17 P

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THE COOKED SEED: A MEMOIR by Anchee Min

Having enjoyed Min's first memoir, I looked forward to reading The Cooked Seed, which picks up roughly where Red Azalea left off. That book detailed Min's sometimes up but mostly down fortunes in Communist China: she had been plucked from oblivion in a labor camp to play the role of the proletarian heroine in a film to be made by Madame Mao's company, but the cultural sweep that followed Mao's death and his wife's execution left Min among China's living dead. She was "a cooked seed"--one that would never sprout, never amount to anything; she would merely dry up and be blown away. Her only hope was escape to America.

The Cooked Seed opens with Min's struggle to learn (or fake) enough English to get accepted into an American university and get a visa. But once here, more troubles ensued. Finding work was essential, but her limited English (a barrier to her studies) and the lack of a permanent work visa left her with few opportunities, and she soon found herself working five low-paying jobs just to get by. Even so, Min never lost sight of the fact that at least there were opportunities and choices, and she never lost faith in her belief that hard work would eventually bring rewards. In the years that followed, she experienced many hardships and disappointments: homesickness, loneliness, exhaustion, serious illness, rape, extreme poverty, racial intolerance, a bad marriage followed by divorce, and more. But eventually, she found her voice and began to write. And Lauryann, the child she had so desperately longed for, gave her a future worth living for.

About twelve years ago, I had the opportunity to host Anchee Min and her daughter when she was invited to speak on campus. As she describes in the book her pride in Lauryann's dancing (she had won many competitions for both ballet and folk dancing), I recalled how her talk ended with a little performance in which Lauryann took part. The love between mother and daughter was apparent; but I would not have guessed that this confident little girl (who was then about ten years old) would be going home to help install drywall and repair plumbing in the small run-down apartment building they owned. Min explains that she needed to teach Lauryann to be independent and to know the value of hard work. Years later, it would be Lauryann who pushed her mother to "dig deeper" into her feelings about her past and to write this book as a means of helping other women who feel trapped in similar situations. "She was my repayment to America," Min writes.

"Today, life means getting to know myself more, staying in touch with myself, making improvements upon myself, and, most of all, enjoying myself. The cooked seed sprouted. My root generated, deepened, and spread. I blossomed, thrived, and grew into a big tree."

The Cooked Seed is a moving and inspiring portrait of a woman who embodies the concepts of perseverance, determination, and resourcefulness in the face of great obstacles. Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

~Deborah

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"The principle is competing against yourself. It's about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before." (Steve Young)

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." (Hamlet, 2.2.250)


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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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5/29/13 11:43 A

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INTUITIVE EATING: A Revolutionay Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Although I was familiar with most of their ideas before reading this book, the book left me a bit inspired and I followed its premises for a couple of days and will continue to do so. As long as they work. It takes a big leap of faith to eat "intuitively" when your best intuitions have failed in the past. Intuitive eating does require discipline, observation, and mindfulness. The authors believe that if you intuitively decide to eat 12 cakes and have permission to do so that you won't really go that far. I think you will have needed to struggle with diets and various programs before you are ready for this invitation to a binge. Will you binge? I have not thus far nor have I wanted to.

Columbus, Ohio
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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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5/27/13 8:44 P

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THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer

THE INTERESTINGS is a book of great depth and insight. It follows six characters who meet at summer camp in 1974 up through the present--along with, to varying degrees, new friends, new relationships, and family members. Although there are a many historically resonant moments, more than anything this is a book about character growth and development. I am not the only one who has compared this book to the works of Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides. Such comparisons are helpful only on the superficial level that I remember vividly the details of the books, characterization, and themes of these novelists and I will remember "The Interestings" as well. In short, people are realizing that Wolitzer is a first-rate novelist.

The genius of the novel is that is shows such different characters, who are well-developed, as they grow and change against the backdrop of history but more importantly against the backdrop of the Great Themes of Human Life. Friendships. Family. Talent. Loyalty. Lies. Truths. Illness. Depression. Passion. Parenthood. The work-place. Money. Jealousy. Death.

One of the reasons that the books is so successful is the character of Jules (a woman). She is the primary character and we get her point of view much more frequently than that of any other. We come to know,
trust, and (mostly) respect her point of view as she grows and matures, and reflects upon the people in the world about her.

Wolitzer's writing is deliciously complex. She has the ability to bring a fantastic sense of humor to bear alongside the more tragic and weighty events of the novel. She's got a deft ability to create newand exciting metaphors and to make vivid comparisons.

I can guarantee that this book will be, in December, prominent on the Best Books of 2013 lists. I am also planning to read some of her earlier works . The last review I submitted here was about a popular, well-reviewed book (The Uninvited Guests) that I know I won't remember. I will remember this one. Like Franzen and Eugenides, mentioned earlier, I would put this book in the tradition of the solid and memorable literary realism that was perfected by the great 19th century novelists Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Trollope, and Thackeray.

Some reviews say that they cannot identify with the characters or that the characters are not likeable. I have never read in that way. I don't read looking for characters to admire or to like but instead I like for characters who can provide insight to the vast panoply of the human condition. Shakespeare's Hamlet instructs the players to hold "the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, her scorn, her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure."

Wolitzer has done a spectacular job of holding up the mirror to human nature of the past 40 years.

Columbus, Ohio
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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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4/18/13 12:02 A

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RAGE AGAINST THE DYING by Becky Masterman.

I liked this book, a thriller, a good deal and I think it must be that Masterman is a really good writer. The books has flaws---some of the events really stretch one's credulity and suspension of disbelief is essential more than a few times...
and yet...the book kept me reading and kept me thinking about it when I was not reading it. I did not find it instantly forgettable. I will read books by this author again.

In spite of some flaws--moments where you want to shake the heroine and scream at her and tell her that she's being crazy--I really liked this book. I rarely get to involved and engaged in a book and its characters. A very careful and smart reader could figure out what's going on. I did not, but I credit Masterman for giving us the clues we could use.

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AWESOMECHELZ
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4/14/13 11:13 A

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THE FASHION HOUND MURDERS BY ELAINE VIETS

Josie Marcus has been hired to check out a big pet store's involvement with puppy mills. When an employee who clued her into the mills' existence shows up dead, Josie realizes that sinking her teeth into this case could mean getting bitten back!

Like in all her books, this cozy mystery is a combination of humor and important life issues in this book as well. The story is great in educating one about puppy mills, pet adoption, hoarders, and so on. Also, at the end of the book, lots of great shopping tips for your pets.

The characters are very real and likable, and I really enjoyed the story especially since I am an animal lover myself.

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4/13/13 11:38 P

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THE DINNER by Herman Koch

Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner to talk about their teenaged sons. The sons have committed "a horrific act", and the novel details how each set of parents react to and act on this knowledge. It is narrated by one of the brothers.

While I initially found the book interesting, as it went on I came to dislike the narrator and found the actions of some of the adults to be more terrible than "the horrific act". I concede it explores "the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy" (from Chapters-Indigo review). That said, it would be my hope that most people, genteel or not, would choose a different solution.


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4/9/13 9:17 A

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THE OBITUARY WRITER by Ann Hood

3 stars

This novel was an engrossing one but I was left with the sense that I will have forgotten the reading experience quickly. I think that the purpose might be to highlight women's lives in the early 20th century and again in 1961--the book revolves around two women who have lost their lovers and who have to "settle" for second best in the long run. What worked for me: the excitement about the inauguration of JFK and the way people were so enchanted with him and his young, lovely wife. I remember it well myself. What did not work so well: the depiction of "the obituary writer". She could have developed into an intriguing character with her writing talent and her imagination but she chose to treat her very real gift as a kind of temporary purgatory.

Fun to read; easy to read; quick to read but in essence it's no better than a "woman's beach book".

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MINANCY
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2/24/13 7:26 A

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COLD SASSY TREE,
Cold Sassy Tree is a 1984 historical novel by Olive Ann Burns. Set in the U.S. state of Georgia in the fictional town of Cold Sassy (based on the real city of Harmony Grove, now Commerce) in 1906, it follows the life of a 14-year-old boy named Will Tweedy, and explores themes such as religion, death, and social taboos. An incomplete sequel to the novel, Leaving Cold Sassy, was published in 1992 after Burns' death.

I actually read this book last year, but it came to my memory yesterday as one of the best books I have read. The author makes you love the characters, marvel at the setting and enjoy the space in 1906 time. It is short and rewarding read. I have not read the sequel.


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CURTIOSITY
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Pearls of wisdom strung back-to-back overwhelm me and can wind up relegated to my "just another necklace" box. The Wabi chapter of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, like the human heart, is located just left of dead center in the book. The pages preceding Wabi establish credentials and context for it's delivery. Reading this less-than-2-pages-laid-out-face-to-face-thus-avoiding-the-interruption-of-a-page-turning, I feel like I do, cocooned in blankets, lying on the hood of the Volvo out in the east pasture at 2 AM watching the Geminids.

Edited by: CURTIOSITY at: 2/8/2013 (13:37)
To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

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PARASELENIC
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2/8/13 12:41 P

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ZOMG I loved the elegance of the hedgehog-- so durned beautiful!

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To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright. ~Walter Benjamin


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CURTIOSITY
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2/7/13 2:02 P

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Hi there,

I think that Piercy is a splendid poet, but I have neglected her novels for a good while now (so little time, so much to read.) Your mention of Women on the Edge of Time reminds me how much I appreciated her prose in that book and Gone to Soldiers as well. I must away to the library to revisit this old friendship.

Thanks!

PS. Libby - I have been searching for M. Heyns' work for ages - The Typewriter's Tale has been recommended to me repeatedly, but my library hasn't found anything and the prices for his books on Amazon are absurd. I will add Lost Ground to my wanna list, sigh. You would think that South Africa was on a different planet.

PPS. I am slurping up The Elegance of the Hedgehog... in fact, I just ordered a copy through Abe-books (I go to amazon for reviews and to get some idea of how common various books are - but I very seldom buy from them... or Walmart.)

Edited by: CURTIOSITY at: 2/7/2013 (14:15)
To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell


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PATRICIA4472
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2/7/13 8:38 A

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Hi -
I haven't read any fiction by Marge Piercy (Woman on the Edge of Time) but may look for it. I've only read her poetry...


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1/30/13 10:43 P

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I remembered a few "old" books I enjoyed:

Mary Stewart's Merlin series (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills...I can't remember the last title)
Shogun, by James Clavell
The Journeyor, by Gary Jennings
and The Physician, by I-can't-remember-who



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1/29/13 10:50 P

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Just finished a book I wish would carry on..... So loved reading it.
Lost Ground - Michiel Heyns. He is a South AFrican writer some of whose other books I have loved (others liked). This one was an incredible story - including a bit of mystery unfolding in surprising ways - beautifully written with many many layers and nuances about South Africa and about loss, and discovery. I would be interested in knowing how well it translates for people in other countries as some of its beauty is the familiarity of the small town where it takes place and the people and issues that confront it.
He has not only written about South Africa - and has published some great novels based on famous people. The Typewriters Tale combines fact and fiction to explore aspects of Henry James' life and those around him from the perspective of James' typist.


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CURTIOSITY
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Oh Grace, ... a real bookstore. In my mind it will be very small, perhaps occupying a period house that has been re-fitted a bit, with comfy old chairs stuck back in nooks day-lit through sash windows... Someone just made tea and you have all the time in the world. My spirit is in your pocket.

I haven't thought about or read Woman on the Edge of Time in such a long time! Speculative fiction from the 60's and 70's can be very interesting to reconsider. Often the concepts are spot on but the MO seems dated. I particularly enjoy re-watching the movie Fahrenheit 451 every few years for the conceptual truths it evokes. Since the early 90's I have gotten to go on a number small-plane aerial surveys of SE-TN into SW-NC with a friend who works for the TN Natural Heritage Program. Of course he has particular things targeted for data collection, but I get to ride, look, draw, photograph and think (it is far too noisy for conversation without headgear, which I decline to wear). What is now most painfully evident to me is that it is no longer possible, regardless of how small the plane or how low one flies or how remote the area, to be out of sight of at least one cell tower. Fahrenheit 451's fish bones are about a community. Cell towers assume than vast areas of wilderness are simply places that are waiting to be developed - the people who erect them fancy themselves pioneers. As I view these things my mind stays clear and analytical. As I write this, I weep.

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell


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GRACEMCDOG
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Just got an email notice that the Gail Tsukiyama books I reserved are ready! Going to town on Saturday to get them. Also going to look for Anchee Min's book, Red Azalea.

I've just remembered another book I loved and would like to read again. I loaned my copy out and never got it back. 'Woman on the Edge of Time' by Marge Piercy.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Mohandas Gandhi


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CURTIOSITY
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1/21/13 2:52 P

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I love Anchee Min and agree that Red Azalea was hot, hot, hot.
I am a painter with an overweening passion for color theory. I have no doubt that Shades of Grey was a dud for many readers (I have stopped recommending it to friends) but imagine my surprise and delight! That makes one, count 'em one, truly color-based novel in existence (of course my memory sucks squirrels.)

About formulaic books - usually the first ones are good. I find Ian McEwan somewhat formulaic - and it irritates the budge out of me. He is a fine craftsman, so I expect more of him when it comes to plot devices.

50 shades - I had too much fun in me misspent youth - in terms of sexuality and art, a C is the worst grade one can get, methinks. I would say ho-hum, but that would be hard on hoes.

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell


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PARASELENIC
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1/21/13 2:28 P

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They're both rather formulaic-- but between the two Tom Holt is better. He tends to take a classic and turn it on it's head with a comedic twist.... his wiki page can help to illuminate more-- from opera stories to faust, no classic is safe.

As for Robert Rankin-- I HIGHLY recommend his Brentford series- but you should start with the first. I haven't read all of them (there's a ton of em-- okay not a ton, but like 15?) The first 5 are fabulous and viciously funny with great anti heroes as the central characters.

With Jasper Fforde-- Shades of Grey is his only novel that I didn't like. I have a new "dragon" book in my kindle by him but haven't gotten to it yet.


Also, by the by-- for kindle and e-reader folks: my girlfriend did some pre-read and review stuff for a few publishers and as a result I've got a large amount of books that I can email to anyone if they're interested--

I have all 50 shades (for ereader from this girlfriend), but haven't read a one. I don't mind erotic fiction, but I don't search it out... speaking of erotic, though... the steamiest love scene I've ever read is from Red Azalea by Anchee Min-- which is another fantastic read I would recommend. It's a very unique look into living in Mao's China as a woman. I don't even think the scene was intended to be so steamy, but MAN.

If you're looking for anything in particular, just let me know. It's best to give me author/ titles as that's what they are stored by-- if you say "I like romances", I'm lost in this database...

~para
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To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright. ~Walter Benjamin


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CURTIOSITY
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Last summer a dear librarian friend (with whom I share absolutely no common ground in terms of books or music) insisted that I would love, love, love a book called 50 Shades of Gray. I haven't had TV for 20 years, often forget to turn on NPR, have canceled all of my subscriptions and haven't spent time in a good doctor's office in quite a while, so I had never heard of it. The next time I went to the library I spent long minutes staring, slightly cross-eyed, into the middle distance, trying to remember the name of the book. (Any more, when thinking, I am told that my facial affect resembles a toddler making diaper surprise - needless to say I do not draw a crowd.) Aha! "Shades of Gray"! I cried. In response, a delightfully grubby young man with tribal tats and abundant piercings actually took me by hand to the Jasper Fforde shelf - and the rest , as they say, is history. (I loved Shades of Gray, some of the Thursday Next series and the Nursery Crimes.) As for "50 shades... ewwww.

I have never read Robert Rankin or Tom Holt. This almost feels better than money in the bank.

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell


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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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1/21/13 11:47 A

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Thank you for all of the fantastic recommendations! I really appreciate getting to find out new authors or new titles.

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PARASELENIC
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1/21/13 6:37 A

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Moore is a great candy read! I also love tom holt and Robert Rankin for candy reads...... a step up from candy (but still extremely enjoyable) is jasper fforde..... his nursery crime and Thursday series are great! Apologies for punctuation...on my kindle where the keyboard is lacking ......

~para
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To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright. ~Walter Benjamin


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CURTIOSITY
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1/20/13 9:18 P

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Foucault's Pendulum is indeed a splendid book. I like Eco's writing in general. The Name of the Rose is a perennial fave (good movie too.)

I just looked through the Book Sense Awards (love that internet!) - I enjoy the books they choose, so rather than listing them... check it out and know that I have read and recommended all (yes, all) of their fiction winners. On the other hand, Cormack McCarthy's The Crossing notwithstanding, I am seldom bowled over by Pulitzer winners. The University library I frequent is stuffed with Man Booker winners, which I enjoy usually, but not always.

CHEEZY READS - (satisfaction criteria? think Mac 'n Cheese):

I just finished re-reading Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job - I love it. I also loved Lamb and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. Don't get me wrong, Moore's name probably doesn't belong on the same page as Umberto Eco - but that naughty boy makes me laugh and sometimes my need for comic relief trumps my need for intellectual stimulation. I mention this because posting about the "great books I have read" tends to slip me into great moments in literature mode. How illiberal (not to mention ineclectic) of me!

I have read vast quantities of Natural History (fiction & non-fiction). For decades (and perhaps even yet) The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre was required reading for primary school students in Japan. I cherish Fabre's essays. Autodidacts steal my heart. I recommend the work of Sue Hubbell (A Country Year & A Book of Bees in particular), because I find that she is not all that well known, despite the NY Times Notable Book awards. A Swampwalker's Journal by David Carroll is precious to me in the way that Fabre's essays are. Evelyn Fox Keller's book about Barbara McClintock (A Feeling For the Organism) definitely floats my boat. 'Nuf fer now.

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell


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1SALMON1
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1/20/13 6:21 P

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Hello all!

Someone mentioned Humberto Eco and I have to second that with emphasis on Foucault's Pendulum which is - - - well, words fail me. It's wonderful - complex, scary, surprising. Just great writing delivering a great story.

Also - Susanna Clarke's book, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's a historical novel set in England but history has been re-vamped to include an earlier history when magic was practiced in England. Her book is about how magicians came back to England. If Jane Austen had been given a different scope of time and society to choose her subject matter she might have written such a book (Though I don't think Austen would have had any patience with the idea of 'magic') But Clarke's tone, & the vivid way she captures character, remind me of Austen. A substantial book, too!

Finally - Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. (She's also written Gilead and Home which I have read, but Housekeeping is my favorite). I've been thumbing through it looking for a bit to share & the upshot is I have to re-read it... here's a bit about the town of Fingerbone after flood waters have receded...

During those days Fingerbone was strangely transformed. If one should be shown odd fragments arranged on a silver tray and be told, "That is a splinter form the True Cross, and that is a nail paring dropped by Barabbas, and that is a bit of lint from under the bed where Pilate's wife dreamed her dream," the very ordinariness of the things would recommend them. Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable, and finally has come to look and not to buy. So shoes are worn and hassocks are sat upon and finally everything is left where it was and the spirit passes on, just as the wind in the orchard picks up the leaves from the ground as if there were no other pleasure in the world but brown leaves, as if it would deck, clothe, flesh itself in flourishes of dusty brown apple leaves, then drops them all in a heap at the side of the house and goes on. So Fingerbone, or such relics of it as showed above the mirroring waters, seemed fragments of the quotidian held up to our wondering attention, offered somehow as proof of their own significance.

Be well, everybody!



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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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1/16/13 9:23 P

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I have only read 6 from Para's list and 13 from Grace's. I don't know if I can come up with a really good list but among the authors alive and still writing today I tend to seek out:
Toni Morrison
Anne Tyler
Ian McEwan (I don't like all of his works)
Kate Atkinson
Zadie Smith
Anita Brookner
David Lodge
Ishiguro
AS Byatt
Jonathan Franzen
Richard Russo
Jeffrey Eugenides
John Irving
Brad Leithauser

I am sure that there are others and I am sure that each of the writers above has an uneven list of works.

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GRACEMCDOG
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1/14/13 8:52 P

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I was thinking the same thing about Para's list. I've read 9 and made a notation of the other 6 because the 9 I read are all favourites. There are so many on my list of loves that it seems sort of absurd to try to write them all down, but here are some that jump to mind.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Tin Drum by Gόnter Grass
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger
Raise High the Roof Beams Carpenter by J. D. Salinger
Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
WLT by Garrison Keillor
The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor
Jazz by Toni Morrison
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
One Flew Over the Kuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Farewell to Arms by Hemmingway

Mysteries: Anything by Tony HIllerman


You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Mohandas Gandhi


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CURTIOSITY
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1/14/13 7:46 P

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I wholeheartedly agree with 1Salmon1's T. H. White recommendation - Once and A Future King is superlative - and I haven't read it in eons, so.... on my check-out list it goes.

The 15 faves that Paraselenic posted also are much appreciated. Half of the list included books I have read and loved and the other half were books I have not read yet. Love that list fodder.

Thank you, M'ams!

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell


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GRACEMCDOG
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1/14/13 5:44 P

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I wish I'd had your foresight in that regard. I was not aware that the series is unfinished until I was well embarked and it was too late to turn back. The guy is no spring chicken so bite your tongue! I will be so unamused if he croaks before they're finished. Actually, I'm not sure I have any faith in him 'finishing' them to any sort of degree that will leave me satisfied in the slightest. This opinion is based on the way he wrote books 4 and 5. Ha ha. Don't you wish you knew what I meant by that???

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Mohandas Gandhi


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PARASELENIC
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1/14/13 2:43 P

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I refuse to start the Game of Thrones until the author either finishes the series or dies. They are epic and I'm sure I would love them, but if it takes 15 years for the entire series to be completed I would have to start over and re-read the first few as I'm sure I would have forgotten (or jumbled with other series) by the time the last one came out. They sound fantastic, tho!

~para
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To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright. ~Walter Benjamin


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I will look for that. Have had a romantic soft spot for all things Arthurial since, as a 15-year old girl, I saw Camelot with 61 other starry-eyed girls at a theater in San Francisco. They were all swooning over Nero as Lancelot. I was puzzled by that. It was obvious to me that Arthur was the ideal to fall in love with.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Mohandas Gandhi


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1SALMON1
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1/14/13 12:52 A

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May I enthusiastically suggest The Once and Future King by T. H. White. It is somewhat based on a medieval french book - the english title would be The Death of Arthur. Disney got The Sword in the Stone from it, and Broadway got Camelot from it; but the book is vastly better than either of those derivations. If you like warm vivid characters, humor and sorrow, accurate and engaging deptictions of another era, beautiful writing, magic, falconry, history, courtesie - oh, this book has it all.



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PARASELENIC
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1/11/13 10:46 P

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I'm going to post my faves here, in a list in no particular order. I would recommend any of these at any time, repeatedly. I'm probably going to have to comeback and update as I remember. As a general rule, these are books that I would gleefully re-read at a moment's notice.

The Gone-Away World
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Things They Carried
House of Leaves
Catch-22
Crime and Punishment
The Martian Chronicles
Alice in Wonderland
Essays (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Tales of Soldiers and Civilians
The Blithedale Romance
The Wasp Factory
A Canticle for Liebowitz
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Breakfast of Champions

More to be added, I'm sure. Feel free to sparkmail me if you have questions about any of these.



Edited by: PARASELENIC at: 1/14/2013 (14:40)
~para
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parasite removal: July 2014.

To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright. ~Walter Benjamin


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QUERIDAANA
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1/11/13 3:31 A

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I liked the hunger games.

It's the journey. We can do this.


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GRACEMCDOG
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1/9/13 12:12 A

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I finished the five books of Song of Ice and Fire (The Game of Thrones series) by George R. R. Martin. I have to say I found them addicting. I don't want to do any spoilers because I know others are reading them, but...have you ever come across any author, besides Shakespeare, who was so fond of killing off his major characters??? It drove me nuts! Sometimes I found it quite upsetting, really, because he does such a fine job of getting you emotionally invested in his characters and then _____bye bye! Maybe it's too much like real life...

Edited by: GRACEMCDOG at: 1/9/2013 (16:28)
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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1/7/13 7:05 P

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Thank you everyone! I also recommend:

www.librarything.com/home
and
www.goodreads.com/

Both Library Thing and Good Reads are great places to find inspiration and ideas.

Columbus, Ohio
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Leader: Spark People Eclectic Readers
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•*΄) ♥ NATALIE ♥ =^..^= *΄)
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CRABADA
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1/7/13 3:54 P

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This isn't exactly a recommendation or review, but this seemed like the best place to post this list of the 2012 Bestsellers. It's from Publishers Weekly. Thought the team might find it interesting:

www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/indus
try-news/bookselling/article/55383-the
-bestselling-books-of-2012.html?utm_so
urce=Publishers+Weekly%27s+PW+Daily&ut
m_campaign=1d181dee94-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email


Enjoy!
Courtney

Courtney

★ At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you.

★ A year from now you will wish you had started today.

★ Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit.


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POPSY190
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1/7/13 3:17 P

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This is from the catalogue in our local library. The book was mentioned in a blog
cclblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/better-la
ter-than-never-how-to-talk-about-books
-you-havent-read/

so I looked it up. I think the notes are enough - I don't think I'll be tackling the book!
How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read
Bayard, Pierre(Book - 2007)

Preface -- Ways of not reading. Books you don't know (in which the reader will see, as demonstrated by a character of Musil's, that reading any particular book is a waste of time compared to keeping our perspective about books overall)
-- Books you have skimmed (in which we see, along with Valéry, that it is enough to have skimmed a book to be able to write an article about it, and that with certain books it might even be inappropriate to do otherwise)
-- Books you have heard of (in which Umberto Eco shows that it is wholly unnecessary to have held a book in your hand to be able to speak about it in detail, as long as you listen to and read what others say about it)
-- Books you have forgotten (in which, along with Montaigne, we raise the question of whether a book you have read and completely forgotten, and which you have even forgotten you have read, is still a book you have read)
-- Literary confrontations. Encounters in society (in which Graham Greene describes a nightmarish situation where the hero finds himself facing an auditorium full of admirers impatiently waiting for him to speak about books that he hasn't read)
-- Encounters with professors (in which we confirm, along with the Tiv tribe of western Africa, that it is wholly unnecessary to have opened a book in order to deliver an enlightened opinion on it, even if you displease the specialists in the process)
-- Encounters with the writer (in which Pierre Siniac demonstrates that it may be important to watch what you say in the presence of a writer, especially when he himself hasn't read the book whose author he is)
-- Encounters with someone you love (in which we see, along with Bill Murray and his groundhog, that the ideal way to seduce someone by speaking about books he or she loves without having read them yourself would be to bring time to a halt)
-- Ways of behaving. Not being ashamed (in which it is confirmed, with regard to the novels of David Lodge, that the first condition for speaking about a book you haven't read is not to be ashamed)
-- Imposing your ideas (in which Balzac proves that one key to imposing your point of view on a book is to remember that the book is not a fixed object, and that even tying it up with string will not be sufficient to stop its motion)
-- Inventing books (in which, reading Sōseki, we follow the advice of a cat and an artist in gold-rimmed spectacles, who each, in different fields of activity, proclaim the necessity of invention)
-- Speaking about yourself (in which we conclude, along with Oscar Wilde, that the appropriate time span for reading a book is ten minutes, after which you risk forgetting that the encounter is primarily a pretext for writing your autobiography)
-- Epilogue.
Translation of: Comment parler des livres que l'on n'a pas lus?.

Statement of responsibility:Pierre Bayard ; translated from the French by Jeffrey Mehlman.






Penny, Christchurch, NZDT

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ers.com


Genealogists live in the past lane.
The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better.


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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO
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1/6/13 5:21 P

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You can go into some detail here about books you have really enjoyed (or books you wanted to hurl across the room). Or books that made you think "meh".

Edited by: ADAGIO_CON_BRIO at: 1/6/2013 (17:30)
Columbus, Ohio
**********
Leader: Spark People Eclectic Readers
***********

*΄¨)•*¨) -:¦:- •*΄¨)•*΄)
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