An alternate-history detective story. The novel is set in 1949 in an England that negotiated a peace agreement with the Third Reich just 9 years previAn alternate-history detective story. The novel is set in 1949 in an England that negotiated a peace agreement with the Third Reich just 9 years previously. An aristocrat is murdered at the Farthing estate on the eve of an election and in the midst of social change in democratic Britain.
This was feeling like a 3-star book until the last handful of chapters. Also, this excellent review from BunWat gives me much more respect for the book and the setting.
Dogs are awesome. This is one of those emotion purging books. When you read this (assuming you connect with the story) you will feel. I sobbed at sobbDogs are awesome. This is one of those emotion purging books. When you read this (assuming you connect with the story) you will feel. I sobbed at sobbed at places, I laughed in others - especially at crows. The story was better written and more philosophical than I expected. Yay to Lowered Expectations!
I could see where people would find it sappy, though. It may or may not be the book for you, but I had fun reading it over the last two days....more
There was a farmer who wasn't happy with the money he was making from his crops. He heard there were fortunes to be made huntingThe Farmer and The Pig
There was a farmer who wasn't happy with the money he was making from his crops. He heard there were fortunes to be made hunting fungi in the forests. He sold his oxen for one very expensive pig that he was told would hunt out the fungi. Once they were in the forest, he said, "Pig, time to earn your keep!" To which the pig replied, "I'm afraid you have been fooled. I eat slop and lie around all day in my own filth. I'm not worth the price you paid."
I'm feeling really guilty giving this 2.5 stars, but the book is just not for me; I need to move on to all the other books I want to read.
Each story iI'm feeling really guilty giving this 2.5 stars, but the book is just not for me; I need to move on to all the other books I want to read.
Each story is centered around a Big Idea -- and the ideas are huge, mind bending, and thought-provoking. You'll think about them after you put the book down.
For me, the ideas were so huge, everything else went out the window. It took me a while to figure out why after reading this for a bit, I was feeling so flat, even slightly depressed. I think (but I'm not certain) it's because there is virtually no description of setting or characters.
Chiang doesn't create a fully stimulating world - it's a book with intellectually stimulating stories only. Which on the face of it I should love, but in this case his writing just doesn't resonate with me.
I also want to mention that I've re-classified this book as speculative fiction, rather than sci-fi. Some of the stories do have sci-fi elements, a couple have fantasy and mythological components, and yet none of those genre elements are overly heavy. ...more
Mind's Eye is classic Sacks. It's a collection of essays with a focus on case studies. This time they were loosely based around the theme of the Mind'Mind's Eye is classic Sacks. It's a collection of essays with a focus on case studies. This time they were loosely based around the theme of the Mind's Eye - or how our perceptions of the world translate to imagery in the mind. As usual, he looks at people who have some sort of injury, illness or deficit to tell us about the normal functioning processes.
Sacks has never shied away from including his own illnesses and problems in his books. (To wit: A Leg to Stand On and Migraine.) This time felt brutally personal as he shared both his life-long problem with prosopagnosia (face blindness), and his recent battle with a melanoma tumor on his retina. The latter altered then robbed him of his sight, and we see the normally upbeat the resilient doctor become alarmed, depressed, anxious and doubting. His Melanoma Diary is included verbatim, describing his thoughts as his vision changed day-to-day through the cancer treatments.
The last chapter, which was also titled "Mind's Eye", is very detailed, filled with citations, and had more of a scholarly and philosophical tone than the other case-study/memoir chapters. However, it really brought together the deeper themes in the book: the difference between perception and mental imagery. I suspect this chapter has been published elsewhere before inclusion in the book.
One of the best things I took away from the book is the difference between people who are strong visual imagers and people who do a more abstract type of mental imagery. In that last chapter, he discusses quite a few cases of blind people who have either maintained a very strong sense of visual imagery despite their deficits. He contrasts those with cases where the blind person has completely shifted their mental imagery towards aural, texture, and more abstract imagery. (It turns out Sacks admits he has almost no capabilities to pull up mental visual images, and he attributes some of this to his prosopagnosia.)
It took me a long time to think about the differences, but I think there are strong parallels with my fellow physicists. At work, I have always been a very strong visual, "graph it" person -- I think best about a physical relationship or concept if I can imagine the graph or other physical representation. My husband, at the other extreme, likes to think much more abstractly in equations, and rarely graphs things in his head. As I've chatted with other folks over the years, physicists tend to fall into one or the other category - and I think this is what Sacks is talking about in the last chapter. ...more
5-stars for the first third, 3-stars for the middle section, then 4-stars for the end bits. In all, a 4-star read. I rJuly 1, 2011 Big Read selection.
5-stars for the first third, 3-stars for the middle section, then 4-stars for the end bits. In all, a 4-star read. I really liked the writing in particular. Helen is a fantastic, interesting character, and despite my 3-stars for the middle section, I loved seeing her grow and change into the woman she becomes.
I'm still trying to figure out why in a culture where visiting with friends, staying at their houses for long periods of time was normal, those same friends wouldn't travel the distance to attend weddings?...more
For any of you who have yet to read The Count of Monte Cristo, I wanted to point out that it's worthwhile findingOctober 1, 2011, Big Read selection.
For any of you who have yet to read The Count of Monte Cristo, I wanted to point out that it's worthwhile finding the Buss translation. Two reasons:
1) There have not been many (any?) modern translations, and the older (read: free) translations are bowlderized. There is infanticide, lesbianism, suicides, transvestism, drug-fueled dreams and more. Don't deny yourself that kind of fun.
2) Since most of the translations are old, the word from Buss and from smart friends who know (and speak French) is that the typical English translation sounds way more antiquated than the original French does to a French speaker. This was and is a popular novel, so go for the modern translation that tries to keep that mood intact.
I loved reading that within 3 years of the first publication, there was already a parody, Le Comte de Monte-Fiasco. Personally, I kept referring to it either as The Sandwich Book, or Moldy Crisco....more
I'll have to think about whether I want to write a full-on review for Les Mis. I do want to quickly mention that my rApril 1, 2011 Big Read selection.
I'll have to think about whether I want to write a full-on review for Les Mis. I do want to quickly mention that my rating is partly a relative one compared to War and Peace - a similar, sweeping novel that was in part inspired by Les Mis. Les Mis wins the great novel war, hands down. The characterizations are brilliant. The action (when it happens) is compelling. Hugo has a great sense of pacing, timing, and building up climaxes. Both suffer greatly from mostly irrelevant non-fiction commentary and asides. I swear those are there to build up the authors' egos. Mon dieu!...more
Here's the thing that surprised me the most about War & Peace: it's extremely reA Review in Three Parts:
I. The Analytical Analysis
II. The Review
Here's the thing that surprised me the most about War & Peace: it's extremely readable. It's not filled with difficult or outdated language. (At least in the P&V translation.) It doesn't have long, hard to parse sentences. The action and dialogue is fairly straight-forward. The characters become easy to follow. If you are freaked out by War & Peace because you think it's hard, it's not. Although you will have to power though the utterly dull and overly-populated intro party scene. Gah.
However, War & Peace is filled with endless diversions, especially history primers and theological discussions of death and minutia of battles. Tolstoy goes off on tangents, and it can take a while to get back to the story. I know some people love those tangents - I didn't. Tolstoy failed to reel me in, and make me care about the logistics of war, or his philosophies of physics in the social sciences.
One quick note on the P&V translation - they left in the original French and German with translations in footnotes/endnotes. I found their annotation style to be clunky at best. In retrospect, I would have chosen the Briggs translation, even though it's not available in ebook format.
What's sad is that for the first half of the book, I read slowly, deliberately, and researched stuff outside of the book. I wanted War & Peace to be a rich experience. I was reading this with quite a few people in a group, and thought I could really appreciate why people call this The Great Novel Evar! But after 650-odd pages and 6 weeks, I still wasn't engaged with the characters, the story, or the history. So I started to read faster just to get through it.
I'm not saying it's a horrible book, though. The characters are well defined, and they grow and change over the years of war, struggle and collective bourgeoisie. Quite a few people in the group read-along fell in love with some of the major protagonists. Certainly for me the "home-front" story was more compelling than any other aspect of the story.
Here's one way I can tell whether a book is rising above an average read for me. Do I think about the characters, the story, or the issues outside of reading the book? For War & Peace, except for our group discussions, this was a resounding No. Discussions of ladies' facial hair was the most thrilling aspect.
I had a hard time getting War & Peace to rise about a "meh" for me, even considering it's proper historical literary provenance.
III. Some Russian* Things I Learned
*Not all of these things are Russian. But they are in War & Peace....more
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemiO Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around!
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways.
Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself?
I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more filthiness between the lines of the book. I can see why it got Lewis renounced as MP. Naughty, naughty man. But thanks for giving us such a fun book!
--------- I just wanted to update my review with a list of the cool words I found in The Monk:
* probity: integrity and uprightness; honesty. * opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy. * Mountebank: a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc. * perfidy: deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery: perfidy that goes unpunished. * iniquity: gross injustice or wickedness. * prolix: extended to great, unnecessary, or tedious length; long and wordy....more
Kingsley Amis was notorious for liking a good drink. He was a Scotch man, but found ways to appreciate all drink. Except maybe wine. He was self-admitKingsley Amis was notorious for liking a good drink. He was a Scotch man, but found ways to appreciate all drink. Except maybe wine. He was self-admittedly clueless about wine. Shame. This book is a collection of his boozy writings, and even a pub-style trivia quiz section.
Anyway, on Saturday night we decided to try one of his more delicious sounding drink recipes/descriptions. (His recipes were really more about the commentary on its effects or origins or place in society.) Here's the makings for an Old Fashioned:
And the result:
It was yummy and balanced - a definite add to our regular rotation. I have to admit though that we didn't do the full 3oz of Bourbon. We cut it back to 2. In general Amis was keen on minimizing the mix-ins, and maximizing the alcohol content high. A little too high for my taste, even though we had some fabulous Labrot & Graham Woodford Reserve thanks to our generous friends.
I had to deduct a star for the old-fashioned sexist nature of the book. Amis and his musings were a product of his time. Luckily it didn't diminish too much from the hilarious quotable gems. Such as:
"And most experts will tell you that the bloom begins to fade from a martini as soon as it is first mixed, which may be pure subjectivism, but, in any drinking context, subjectivism is very important."
"You will find it a splendid pick-me-up, and throw-me-down, and jump-on-me. Strongly dis-recommended for mornings after."
Finally I give you Amis's rebuttal on the widely held belief that mixing alcohols gives you a wicked hangover the next day: "An evening when you drink a great deal will also be one when you mix them." QED...more
If you want some spaceships, wormholes, planetary conflicts, plasma guns, shenanigans and mercenaries,Fun! Just good, unadulterated, space-faring fun.
If you want some spaceships, wormholes, planetary conflicts, plasma guns, shenanigans and mercenaries, then this is totally for you! It's one of those books that I could just escape into - entertainment to avoid the world. But when I wasn't reading the book, I wasn't thinking about it at all. The writing is simple and straightforward.
Although this is the 3rd book in a long series, it more or less stands on its own. However, there are many allusions to the pre-history and other happenings in the universe, I can't help but wonder if they are just a set-up for the rest of the series, or if I'm missing out on some information from the first two books? There were a few moments that felt like they were supposed to be "Da-da" reveals, that were lost on me.
So, here's the awesome thing: Baen offers this book as a free (and DRM-free) ebook download, so thank you muchly to Baen and their awesome services. ...more
I read this last night in an insomniac fit. It was cold and dark and rainy, and I was alone. I can't think of a more fitting setting for reading this,I read this last night in an insomniac fit. It was cold and dark and rainy, and I was alone. I can't think of a more fitting setting for reading this, unless you were in an old farmhouse with drafty windows, sitting by a stove in your rocking chair. Throw in a batty old lady, and you could be in Starkfield itself!
I love creepy stories - ones that slowly start to overwhelm you with that sense that something just ain't right. "Oh dear, this isn't going to go well." The build-up of foreshadowing, imagery and the character's emotional state leads to a bit of fear and a bit of panic.
At first I thought Ethan Frome felt like a modern gothic - it reminds me a lot of Shirley Jackson's short stories, or the desperation of Daphne du Maurier. But then folks smarter than me pointed out that Wharton is considered to be part of the U.S. Literary Naturalism movement. Ethan Frome is certainly dripping with pessimism. Supposedly Wharton wrote ghost stories as well, so maybe she was a genre straddler? At any rate, if you like modern gothic, make sure you read Ethan Frome.
I loved Wharton's use of color throughout the book. In such a bleak place as the isolated farm in winter, the little village of Starkfield, and the struggling characters that inhabit the story, everything feels so drab. Then Wharton throws in the bursts of color: the red streak in Mattie's hair, the red pickle dish, a red flushed face and the red sun at the end of a winter day. Blue appeared as the sky, the shadows on the snow and a blue haze. Wharton seemed to know how to put just the right amount of vivid imagery and objects to set the scene.
"The sled started with a bound, and they flew on through the dusk, gathering smoothness and speed as they went, with the hollow night opening out below them and the air singing by like an organ. Mattie sat perfectly still, but as they reached the bend at the foot of the hill, where the big elm thrust out a deadly elbow, he fancied that she shrank a little closer."
Finally a note about Wharton herself. She had an unhappy marriage. So much so, that her doctor recommended she spend more time writing stories as an outlet for her stress and anxieties. She ended up having a love affair the same time as she was getting a divorce. This is a woman who understood the temptation and passion of illicit love, as well as the misery of being bound by life's choices.
Also, look at Edith's doggies. Just look at em!
(Not one of them looks very happy, do they?)...more