The History Book Club discussion


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message 1: by Becky (last edited Jan 29, 2011 06:30PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments JANUARY

1. Too Much Happiness Stories by Alice Munro Alice MunroAlice Munro
Finish Date: January 2011
Rating: B
This is a book of fairly similar short stories which have been published elsewhere. They're a little creepy. But the one which stands out and which really brings my rating up is the last one and the title story. It's really quite different.

Too Much Happiness is a fictionalized version of the life of Sofia Kovalskaya (1850 - 1891), the noted Russian mathematician, author and feminist. I read it twice - I could probably read it

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 34788 comments Mod
Becky, thank you for this add and it sounds like you really enjoyed this book.

You entered everything perfectly; but don't forget to put the month in caps and bold so you can track your reading by month easily.

Good job getting your thread off the ground for 2011.

message 3: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jan 05, 2011 08:45AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) Alice Munro is one of my very favorite authors. I have it on my Wish List, and always good to have more information. Thanks for this!

message 4: by Becky (last edited Jan 29, 2011 06:30PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 2. Legacy of Ashes the History of the CIA by Tim Weiner Tim WeinerTim Weiner
Finish Date: January 2011
Rating: A

Brilliant expose of the CIA’s history from its inception to 2006.  Weiner reports on the intelligence community (CIA, FBI, etc.)  for the New York Times.   This is his third book and it won the National Book Award in 2008.   

A Legacy of Ashes is detailed and complex, focusing on the personalities and issues which have resulted in the downfall,  if not the virtual demise,  of the agency. The CIA has had directors who have enlarged or diminished the mission,  a few rogue agents,  several unfortunate incidents and so much more.    Presidents who don’t understand the nature of  the agency have misused it or ignored it.  The public has got a bit tired of it.  

We need the sort of information the CIA (at its best) can provide especially in this day and age, but information alone is not enough, while conducting coups is a bit much. Meanwhile, a spy culture of the sort the CIA developed, relished and wallowed in is way out of date.

What's next?  

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 34788 comments Mod
Glad you liked it; you may want to take part in some of the other discussions coming up. Just check the upcoming reads and see which one you would like.

message 6: by Becky (last edited Jan 29, 2011 06:30PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments January
3. City of Thieves by David Benioff David Benioff David Benioff
Finish Date: January 2011
Rating: B+

Intense and brutal historical fiction dealing with the siege of Leningrad and a young man's coming of age. When a Hollywood screenwriter visits his grandfather in Florida he hears the story of Lev Beniov, a teenager in WWII Leningrad. Lev meets a young soldier named Kolya while in jail for some minor thing. Together they’re sent on an impossible mission and travel around the destroyed and Nazi infested countryside. Reading this I recall other books about Russia's devastation and WWII - Europe Central (William Vollmann), The Madonnas of Leningrad (Debra Dean), Stalingrad (non-fic. Antony Beever).

Elizabeth (Alaska) Becky wrote: "January
3. City of Thieves by David Benioff by David Benioff David Benioff
Rating B+"

This was one of my favorite reads of last year.

message 8: by Becky (last edited Jan 29, 2011 06:29PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 4. Cleopatra A Biography (Women in Antiquity) by Duane W. Roller Duane Roller Duane Roller
Finish Date: 01/06/2011
Rating: A-

This is a fine, somewhat scholarly work on the great queen who spiked imagination and inspired so much art and literature. Roller states in the introduction that he is trying to create the Cleopatra of the ancient sources. He succeeds admirably but context sometimes overwhelms direct biography - that may be necessary with this subject.

I think it’s probably important to have some background in Cleopatra and the names, geography and politics of the age prior to reading this book.

Also of note, without straying from the sources Roller does his best to strip Cleopatra of the “hussy” reputation she’s acquired since Cicero's dislike of her which was apparent in his works and which subsequent male historians and playwrights have embellished on. He focuses on her strengths as a leader and toward the end, as a woman.

If you’re looking for a good book on Cleopatra try
Cleopatra A Life by Stacy Schiff by Stacy Schiff If you’re looking for a bit more analysis go with the Roller.

message 9: by Becky (last edited Jan 29, 2011 06:29PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 5. Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler Mordecai RichlerMordecai Richler
Finish Date: January 2011
Rating: A

Fascinating historical fiction with some interesting undertones of magical realism. Solomon Gursky was the grandson of Ephraim Gursky who apparently joined the fated John Franklin expedition of 1845 but didn’t die with them.

The protagonist is Moses Berger, a writer and the son of L.B. Berger, a self-aggrandizing poet who worked for the Gursky family. Moses is struck by an obsession to find Solomon who apparently died, conveniently, in a plane crash on his way to the far northern reaches of Canada Moses sets up a cabin near Pelly Bay to do his research but this research takes him all over the Western world.

The plot is very bizarre with Ephraim Gursky setting up some investments which his grandsons parlay into a million dollar enterprise. But the descendants of Ephraim also have some lethal squabbles.

Much of the book is set in the far north reaches of Canada near Pelly Bay where Eskimos convert to Ephraim's and then Henry’s orthodox Judaism. The rest of the tale takes place in all sorts of places from Montreal and New York to London and Africa.

The book is dense with all kinds of allusions, from Biblical to Prohibition mafia - I loved that. But it feels like Richler wrote the story down on 3 x 5 cards and shuffled them leaving it to the reader to piece the events together. I wasn’t so crazy about that.

I’m not really going to recommend this book to anyone (unless you like big baggy monsters) but I did thoroughly enjoy it.

message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 22, 2011 10:35PM) (new)

Bentley | 34788 comments Mod
Hi Becky, great reviews. Thanks for getting the completion dates in. Was there a rating for message 10?

message 11: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments I also had two entries for Cleopatra! (good grief)

message 12: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments Becky wrote: "I also had two entries for Cleopatra! (good grief)"

Now you have to go back and read it again! (smile)

message 13: by Becky (last edited Jan 29, 2011 06:27PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 6. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick Cynthia Ozick Cynthia Ozick
Finish Date: January 2011
Rating: A+
Historical fiction - takes place between July and December 1950 in New York City, Paris and California. This book is very loosely based on Henry James' The Ambassadors, but I think Ozick simply started from a similar point and took it in her own direction. It's probably more interesting if you've read the James novel but it's not necessary.

Bea Nightingale is a divorced school teacher who lives in New York City. Her brother, Marvin Nachtingall, a rich bully living in L.A. commands Bea to go to Paris to retrieve his adult son, Julian, who has somehow got stuck there. Bea goes and finds Julian in bad shape and with a woman, so she can't manage to get him home. Then Iris, Marvin's daughter goes to fetch Julian, but she too, stays on. The mother of Julian and Iris is from a family of very old, East Coast money and Marvin can outdo them in that department but he can't quite get their status. He wants his son back desperately for various reasons having to do with his (and Bea's) immigrant background.

The story unfolds as truth, half-truth, lies of omission and commission are told. Much of the story develops through letters back and forth between the characters as they try to control their own lives as well as, quite often, the lives of others.

It's a short book, relatively easy to read but very thought provoking. I recommend this to any reader.

message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 34788 comments Mod
Great job Becky, you have the format down and you have followed the guidelines. You are off to a great start.

message 15: by Becky (last edited Jan 29, 2011 06:28PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 7. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith Tom Rob Smith Tom Rob Smith
Finish Date: January 2011
Rating: B+

This is great detective fiction with a rather different twist. Child 44 takes place in Stalinist Russia where, according to the state, crime doesn't exist - only spies and spy and traitor hunting is far more important than solving crimes.

But Secret Police agent Leo Demidov becomes convinced that the deaths of several children is not the work of spies but of a single demented and criminal mind. As Leo starts checking this out, he realizes that he himself is now an enemy of the state and likely to be targeted for arrest, prosecution and possible execution.

This is a page turner in the standard contemporary detective fiction sense but there is the added interest in the historical. Apparently the case is based on a true story and the picture Smith paints of Stalinist Russia rings totally true. (I remember reading and hearing about it in the 1950s.)

message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 29, 2011 02:24PM) (new)

Bentley | 34788 comments Mod
Becky, check PM. Thanks.

Love mysteries myself and this looks like a great one.

Here is the format once again:


1. My Early Life 1874-1904 by Winston S. Churchill Winston S. ChurchillWinston S. Churchill
Finish date: March 2008
Rating: A
Review or a Few Words about book: You can add text from a review you have written but no links to any review elsewhere even goodreads. And that is about it. Just make sure to number consecutively and just add the months.

message 17: by Becky (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:44PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments FEBRUARY
8. The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley Jane Smiley Jane Smiley
Finish Date: February 2011
Rating A-

Set in 14th century Greenland and told in the manner of the old Norse tales, Jane Smiley's The Greenlanders is certainly a tour de force - a masterpiece. This is a fictionalization of the last hundred years or so of Norway's Greenland settlement.

The trouble is that she takes 580+ pages to complete her tale. I was fascinated for the first 300 or so but then I got bored. Yes, I have to acknowledge the brilliance of the entire thing, but much of it is repetitious and it's divided into only three chapters plus a short epilogue. The style is dense, almost ponderous, but it's consistent and so the reader becomes accustomed to it and I actually found it enjoyable reading - at first.

Why is it a masterpiece? I suppose because Smiley captures the essence of settlement people. There's something int here which rings so true. Smiley includes everything from religion to festival traditions and from folk tales to clothes and gender roles. Smiley seems to have been very thorough in her research but perhaps she could have edited it more thoroughly.

message 18: by Becky (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:43PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 9. Stone's Fall by Iain Pears Iain PearsIain Pears
Finish Date: February 2011
Rating B+
Remarkable historical fiction set starting out in 1952 and going backwards to 1867. Set mainly in London, Paris and Venice. Told by three different narrators, each telling his part of the story within his own time frame and place.

The plot is basically that the very rich John Stone has died from a fall from his mansion window leaving a strange entry in his will. His widow hires Matthew Broderick to find the person. That's just Part 1. Parts 2 and 3 go back in time to find the connections.

Many of the people and places are historical - the book is well researched but that only adds to the tale.

message 19: by Becky (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:43PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 10. Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier Ian FrazierIan Frazier
FInish Date: February 2011
Rating A-

This is a basic travelogue of Siberia (if there is such a thing). Frazier traveled there 5 times, the third time makes up most of the book. There is a lot of history included which was fascinating and I also enjoyed the tale of the road trip. On the downside I thought it could use a bit of editing because it was very long and boring in some places - probably a lot like Siberia.

But Frazier writes well and the history was fascinating so overall I have to give it high marks.

message 20: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5614 comments Becky, love your reviews and the variety of your selections - good stuff! Don't forget to add the author link in addition to the book cover and photo. You should be able to add them to your posts 9 and 10 above. Thanks much.

message 21: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments oops again

message 22: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments MARCH
11. Love in the Time of Cholera  by Gabriel García Márquez Gabriel García MárquezGabriel García Márquez
Finish Date: March 2011
Rating A-

Set in turn-of-the-century, post-colonial Colombia, Dr. Juvenal Urbino is dead and what is his widow to do?

Back-story, the young Fermina Daza, the daughter of a rich but disreputable trader, was in love with Florentino Ariza, a young, poor and disreputable poet. Fermina’s father sends her away.

Life goes on. Fermina returned and married Dr. Urbino while Florentino has his lovers. Fermina has children and Florentino inherits a ship-works. Now Dr. Urbino is dead.

I loved the first half or so and then it got bogged down in the married life of Fermina and the love life of Florentino. It picked back up again in the last 1/4 or so.

There is only the barest hint of magical realism in this book. One Hundred Years of Solitude is still Garcia’s best, imo, although Autumn of the Patriarchs was very good.

message 23: by Becky (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:43PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 12. Day A novel by A.L. Kennedy by A. L. Kennedy

Finish Date: March, 2011
Rating C

Set in Germany and England during and just after WWII, Alfred Day, a tail-gunner for the RAF finds himself as an extra on a movie set about the war. The story is told from both second and third person points of view. The plot switches between Day's life on the set, his memories of the war and earlier home life. The language is heavily laced with Scottish slang and profanity. This book has received rave reviews but although there were a few funny or insightful parts, it's just not my personal cup of tea.

message 24: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments Beautiful! Thank you. :) I'll delete my earlier comments so it doesn't clutter up your thread.

message 25: by Becky (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:50PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 13. A World Lit Only by Fire by William Raymond Manchester William Raymond Manchester by William Manchester
Finish Date: March, 2011
Rating C-

Manchester was great writer of history for a long time, but he missed the mark with this one.

The book is divided into three major parts, The Medieval Mind, The Shattering, and One Man Alone. The first and third parts are pretty interesting. The second part is a long diatribe against the Catholic church in which it sounds to me like he found old Protestant propaganda and accepted it verbatim. The third part is about Magellan including a fairly detailed account of his voyage through the straits.

To Manchester's credit, in an author's note at the end he did acknowledge his lack of expertise in Medieval source material.

message 26: by Becky (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:51PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 14. The Winter Queen (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #1) by Boris Akunin Boris AkuninBoris Akunin
Finish Date: March 2011
Rating - B+

I was often pretty bored by this historical fiction about the very young and handsome Russian detective, Erast Fendorin, goes about tracing the apparent suicides of one or two young dandies and ends up becoming involved in a conspiracy for world domination.

I really enjoyed the first half - it was different, fun and rather cleverly done. The writing style was not so great but the sense of place, Russia in the late 19th century, drew me in.

But then came the amazing adventures of Erast who manages to escape from every kind of trick and trap like some kind of Russian Houdini-trained Indiana Jones. It is said by one of the characters that Erast has an incredible halo of luck but Erast calls it fate.

Then towards the very end, as some technology is described and the conspiracy is concluded, my interest picked up again. The first few paragraphs of the last chapter are beautifully written.

Finally, I discovered I’d developed a real fondness for Erast and I may pursue the reading of a few more - 5 of the 11 have been translated into English.

message 27: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 15. The Prestige by Christopher Priest Christopher PriestChristopher Priest
Finish Date: March 2011
Rating: C-

This started out to be a very, very good book. I was totally enjoying it. The story-line and setting were wonderful, Vance giving a great reading as usual.

Then somewhere a bit more than half-way the good old fashioned Victorian suspense drama turned into science fiction or horror or something and my disbelief became unsuspended. It really rankled to have such a great story turn into such hog-wash.

message 28: by Becky (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:57PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 16. Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption  by Laura Hillenbrand Laura HillenbrandLaura Hillenbrand
Finish Date: March 2011
Rating A -

Louis Zamperini was a little scrapper as a child but turned into an Olympic runner. Then came WWII and Louis was able to get into more troubles including being stranded at sea, chased by sharks and taken prisoner by the Japanese.

This is a bit hard to believe but it apparently did happen to Zamperini - truth is sometimes stranger than fiction - this story would never sell if it were fiction. (heh)

message 29: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments Becky wrote: "... and my disbelief became unsuspended..."

I think I'm going to have to find a place to use this phrase. I really like it.

message 30: by John (new)

John E | 106 comments Elizabeth S wrote: "Becky wrote: "... and my disbelief became unsuspended..."

I think I'm going to have to find a place to use this phrase. I really like it."

It is a great line. Congratulations Becky.

message 31: by Becky (last edited Apr 01, 2011 06:24AM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 17. Endgame Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady by Frank Brady
Finish Date: March 31, 2011
Rating: A-

Audiobook - read by 
Ray Porter

The full title of this fascinating and insightful biography is End Game: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness.

And that’s what it is - a remarkable rise from a poverty stricken childhood to the heights of international fame - then to bad boy stunts and finally madness. From what I’ve read, Frank Brady knows his subject; he knew him and his circle of friends well enough to gain access to information previously not revealed. He takes the story through the ongoing legal battle for Fischer’s estate in 2009 - the contenders include the US government among others).

The book itself is written like a novel with suspense and great story-telling techniques. I was enthralled, spell-bound. I felt like I knew most of the characters and was able to watch as Fischer developed and changed.

Ray Porter does an excellent job, good voice, pacing and clarity.

message 32: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments APRIL
18. The Girl from the Coast by Pramoedya Ananta Toer Pramoedya Ananta Toer Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Finish Date: April 1, 2011
Rating: A-

Pramoedya Ananta Toer is the most well known author from Indonesia and he writes about his homeland, its people and heritage. The Girl From the Coast is supposedly based on the story of his grandmother and follows her from village girl to nobleman’s “practice” wife. The story really shows the inequities between nobility and lower classes in turn-of-the century Indonesia.

The book is fairly fast paced, especially toward the end, and filled with intrigue and social complications. Toer writes clearly and fully develops the main character - the other characters are pretty shadowy figures compared to her.

I hadn’t thought much of the book from the title and front cover. I really expected something far less than what it is and was very pleasantly surprised.

message 33: by Becky (last edited Apr 07, 2011 06:13AM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 19. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather Willa CatherWilla Cather
Finish Date: April 3, 2011
Rating: A+

Yes, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I finished a second full reading just a few days ago. Cather’s style, her subject-matter, her characters, her themes all work together and they touch my heart.

From the Cardinal’s hillside residence in Rome Fathers Jean Marie Latour and Joseph Vaillant are sent as missionaries to what is now New Mexico but was then the territory of the Gadsden Purchase newly acquired by the US. The year is 1848 and the book tells the stories (yes, that's plural) of theses two fast friends and their work in the territory for the next 40 years. Father Latour is based on the historical figure of Father Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fé and Kit Carson and John Fremont are mentioned along with others.

message 34: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 20. Water Music  by T.C. Boyle T.C. BoyleT.C. Boyle
Finish Date: April 9, 2011
Rating C+

This was a disappointment considering how I enjoy most of Boyle's work. I came across the Scottish explorer Mungo Park while reading The Age of Wonder How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmesby Richard HolmesRichard Holmes and was fascinated. Park explored the west Africa area around the Niger River in 1795 and 1805. He published his own book in 1899.

And I discovered that Water Music was about Mungo Park and it was by Boyle! (Perhaps I expected too much?)

There are lots of places where this book drags. There are lots of places where the reader laughs out loud. To give Boyle some credit - it was his first novel.

message 35: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 21. Travels in the Interior of Africa - Two Volumes by Mungo Park by Mungo Park
Finish Date: April 10, 2011
Rating B

This book is an account by Mungo Park of his first voyage to the Niger River area of Gambia and Mali, Africa. It's a rather amazing work. On this adventure he had only one person with him, Mr. Johnson, an ex-slave who had returned to the area. Johnson could speak and translate English, he knew the area and many people of the area.

Park covers all manner of things from his little adventures in being robbed, cheated and scared to death as well as the geography, languages, religion and education of children. It's a pretty standard travelogue - the difference being that it takes place in 1797 in the wilds of Africa where slaves are still being bought and sold and shipped out to the US - where the English still want to beat the French in colonization and exploitation.

I think it was meant as a guide to those who would follow him as the number-words of about 5 different languages are listed as well as a fair glossary. He had adventures with lions and elephants and vengeful tribesmen. I think it was cleaned up a bit for the general public and because I suppose he didn't really want to write things which would set further exploration back. He wanted to make a favorable impression on the African Association back in London.

It's a good book -

message 36: by Becky (last edited Apr 21, 2011 06:34PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 22. Just Kids by Patti Smith Patti SmithPatti Smith
Finish Date: April 15
Rating: A-

This book is almost not historical - it takes place in the 1960s and early '70s. Patti Smith is now a famous musician but then she was the girlfriend of Robert Mapplethorpe who died of AIDS in 1985. The book is a tribute to their relationship.

So far this doesn't sound too promising but Smith won the National Book Award for her efforts and it's well worth the read. The way she captured the Manhattan scene of 1969 is truly excellent. The whole book is wonderfully well written. Smith is a professional no matter what medium she's using for her art.

message 37: by Becky (last edited Apr 21, 2011 06:49PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 23. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon Thomas PynchonThomas Pynchon
Finish Date: April 15
Rating A

Another book from the late 1960's early '70s. This time it's the L.A. scene in what I can only call a nostalgic satire.

Larry "Doc" Sportello, a stoned private detective, is hunting the currently missing very rich boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend Shasta. Doc wanders into all sorts of territory which will be familiar to Pynchon fans. There's paranoia and the evils of capitalism, entropy and interior spaces.

I think this book has had a better reception in Southern California than elsewhere. And it's "Pynchon light" - easy reading - and very funny.

message 38: by Becky (last edited Apr 30, 2011 09:21AM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 24. I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita Karen Tei YamashitaKaren Tei Yamashita
Finish Date: April 20, 2011
Rating A

A third book about the same period of time in a different place - this time it's San Francisco - Chinatown, to be exact. At least this is the focal point for the action - the characters take off all over the world.

The book is comprised of 10 novelettes, each starting with the hotel but with different characters and a different year. The years stretch between 1968 and 1977. The characters are all politically active dealing with issues from San Francisco State Univ. policy on ethnic studies to the grape workers' strike in Delano, Ca. Each novelette is a bit different - but they're all somewhat alike. This was obviously researched very carefully.

Yamashita writes beautifully but the style is not always a straightforward narrative. Some of the sections are written in bullet format, some as plays, some as graphic novels. It's an amazing book.

message 39: by Becky (last edited Apr 30, 2011 09:20AM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 25. Beasts  by Joyce Carol Oates Joyce Carol OatesJoyce Carol Oates
Finish Date: April 21
Rating: A-

Another book about the 1970s! (I'm going to get off this kick pretty soon, promise!)

Oates is a very talented and very prolific author. I have only read one other book by her - Broke Heart Blues by Joyce Carol Oates and it was okay but nothing to take prizes. I think Beasts is a better book.

About 20 years after the fact, GIllian is in Paris and remembers the events which happened at the small private New England college she attended during the days of "free love" and "no guilt." A professor, Andre Harrows and his wife Dorcas are a focus for the women of the literature department. Andre is very handsome and charming - his wife artistic. They encourage the young women and offer many things, dinner at their home, private tutoring, internships, travel - maybe romance - maybe more. But the women are forbidden to talk so they are talked about.

It's a very suspenseful, very well written book. It didn't strike me as creepy at all as some reviews have suggested.

message 40: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5614 comments You are really cruisin' with your challenge and some interesting stuff. My to-read pile is growing. :-)

message 41: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Thanks Alisa. Yes, I've been doing pretty well this year. I'll likely be reading even more after school lets out in May and then I'm retired! I'm probably looking at about 200 total books read this year. (?)

message 42: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5614 comments Impressive! Keep up the good work. I envision myself becoming a complete bookworm when I retire but that is not in my immediate future. I will live vicariously through you. :-)

message 43: by Becky (last edited Apr 30, 2011 09:20AM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 26. The Warmth of Other Suns The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson Isabel WilkersonIsabel Wilkerson
Finish Date: April 29
Rating: A

This book is good. It's very good. It’s the unwritten history of the Great Migration as told through the eyes of a very few (three +) of the hundreds of thousands of people who lived it, There is also substantial information of a more academic nature. There's even some arts and literature included as many blurbs from the works of Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and others are featured in epigraphs.

Wilkerson has written a remarkable book. On the down side it’s repetitive and about 150 pages too long. But even with that - it's riveting.

The narrative takes us from the pre-WWI days of seriously harsh Jim Crow laws and lynchings through 2008 or so. It’s broken into 5 basic parts and within those parts the life-stories of the three main subjects is told. Each subject lived in a slightly different time period and came from a different part of the South. They are each quite different.

** Ida Mae Brandon Gladney relocated from Mississippi to Chicago in 1928. She was basically a wife and mother but also worked out in the field with her husband as a sharecropper. She may have been briefly employed briefly in Chicago. She and her husband had a good boss in Mississippi but the main worry was beatings and attacks on family members. Her husband is a hard worker and very religious.

** George Starling moved from the citrus and sugar cane area of Florida to New York City in 1943. He tried college but was rebuked by his father and ended up in farm labor including trying to organize during WWII. He also was worried about lynch mobs and had more reason to be so. He got a fairly good job in New York and continued to be outspoken.

** Robert Joseph Pershing Foster came from Louisiana in 1953. He was a very ambitious practicing doctor, married to the daughter of a prestigious Southern college who had no place to really grow. So he moved to Los Angeles thinking he could succeed there. He did, but not without hardship.

The "Parts" of the book are divided by the experiences of the subject’s lives not by an overarching actual chronology. The dates are given regularly but there is something about the stories that it seems like the same time frame, over and over.

1. In the Land of the Forefathers - tells the history of each of the main subjects, Jim Crow laws, and some additional academic type information.

2. Beginnings - more info on the individuals at the beginnings of their journeys. This is the specific why of their leaving.

3. Exodus - the actual leave-taking, getting out of there. Each subject’s story is told alternating and a bit at a time along with some more academic material, statistics, background, etc. history of trains, migrations of peoples. Pershing has a hard time in the desert.

4. The Kinder Mistress - Their lives in their chosen cities, for better or worse. New York had a huge black population which was apparently more accommodating of the influx. Chicago had some very serious housing issues and political barriers. Even L.A. was not totally welcoming of the newcomers. Sometimes it was the migrants themselves who were racist.

5. Aftermath - Their continued connections to the South and what became of these characters. The story continues through the Civil Rights movement and points towards Obama’s presidency. There is some information on the lives of the children and grandchildren of the migrants.

The book is often choppy hopping back and forth between these subjects and some academic background for the migration. The information gets repetitive. I really enjoyed the more academic information.

I think a huge part of Wilkerson’s reason for writing this was to show how these people were like immigrants of other nations. They had left so much under such duress and the new country was so strange and hard for them. But it was so much better where they got, a return was not the common thing, although many did that.

One disappointment is that I think the regular book had photos but they weren't included in the Kindle edition.

Sorry for the length here - It's probably one of the best books I'll read this year.

message 44: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5614 comments Becky, great review. I have heard so much about this book and am very eager to read it!

message 45: by Becky (last edited May 01, 2011 08:53PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments MAY, 2011
27. Apollo's Angels A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans Jennifer HomansJennifer Homans
Finish Date May 1, 2011
Rating A+

The hype has been that Homans says ballet is dead (or in a deep sleep) but that’s totally beside the point and it’s not the story she tells in the great bulk of the book.

Not only is Apollo’s Angels authoritative and definitive, it’s also the first written history of ballet as a whole. Homans is in a good position to write it, she’s dance critic for the National Review. She was a professional dancer who danced with a number of first class US ballet companies (including Balanchine's) and with a wide range in her repertoire. She is also a PhD in Modern European history from New York University where she teaches the history of dance. She knows her stuff.

The book starts with the statement that ballet has come to an end. She ends the book with the statement that ballet has come to an end. What falls between is everything that happened from the marriage of Henry II to Catherine de Medici in 1533 when the history of ballet begins, to the death of Balanchine in 1983.

Homans moves from the origins in Renaissance France to the developments of the Enlightenment, the storm of the French Revolution, the acrobatics of Italy, the preservation in Denmark, Russia before, during and after their Revolution, the English revival, Balanchine’s America and finally, an Epilogue - what's next, some new genius?

The book is incredibly well researched and documented. The history of Europe is necessarily included. It’s easy to read if you’re interested and have some small background. The wonder is that it’s Homans’ first book - but maybe it's the book she was meant to write.

I don’t know if I agree with Homans about the state of ballet today or not. Ballet has changed so much in the last 500 years that I really think a dry spell of 25 or so years makes it a bit too early to tell. I think for sure we will always have dance.

message 46: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5614 comments Another great review and what looks to be an interesting book. You are doing well on the challenge, great progress with what looks to be terrific stuff.

Don't forget to number your book entries, I am sure on that last one it was an inadvertent omission.

Nicely done, Becky.

message 47: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments 28. Arc of Justice A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle Kevin Boyle Kevin Boyle
Date FInished: May 7, 2011
Rating: A

Dr. Ossian Sweet had come a long way by 1925. He'd left the violence of Florida for the north and Europe to get his education, started a career and married a wonderful woman. Now he was buying a home.

The trouble was that the home was in a white neighborhood of Detroit and the neighbors really believed in their improvement association known as the Waterworks Park Improvement with its friends in the police force and the KKK.

So one night not long after Dr. Sweet and his wife moved in he was entertaining a few friends and family. They all had guns available because Sweet knew trouble was brewing. A "mob" arrived and racial slurs shouted and then stones were thrown. FInally guns were fired and the police arrived to take all of the people in the house to jail. Later they were all booked on charges of murder.

Enter Clarence Darrow and other attorneys backed by the newly formed NAACP. The second half of the book is about the trials (several hung juries) with all-white juries and white neighbors and police up against one black family with its armed friends. You can smell the fear from all quarters in this book.

It's riveting. Kevin Boyle is a history professor in Michigan and most of the material was taken from interviews and court documents. The book reads like a novel - a very suspenseful novel if you don't know the outcome.

message 48: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5614 comments Becky wrote: "28. Arc of Justice A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle Kevin Boyle Kevin Boyle
Date FInished: May 7, 2011
Rating: ..."

Becky, great review. I read that book last year and found it very compelling. It does read like a novel.

message 49: by Becky (last edited Jul 13, 2011 01:41PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Thanks, Alisa. I read The Warmth of Other Suns The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson and enjoyed it so much a friend recommended Arc of Justice A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boylewhich I'd looked at last year sometime and had in my tbr pile but not read. These two books have shed light on a whole era I'd really only heard a bit about - not much.

message 50: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5614 comments Yes, I saw your review of The Warmth of Other Suns and have heard great things about it. That one is on my to-read list. If you find these of interest you might also check out the Civil Rights thread from time to time, as I am adding things there as well.
The Warmth of Other Suns The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson by Isabel Wilkerson
civil rights thread ~

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