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Constant Reader > What I'm Reading - April 2012

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message 151: by Rusty (last edited Apr 15, 2012 12:07PM) (new)

Rusty | 93 comments Still Alice is a marvelous book - so enlightening and so very good. I certainly understand more about dementia now and how those who have it must try so hard to cope with their world. I would be interested in how others felt when they read this unusual novel.

message 152: by Flora (new)

Flora Bateman (BookwormFlo) | 211 comments I'm currently about 1/3 of the way into The Hunger Games and have just gotten started on White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke which has been really good so far.

message 153: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 431 comments Started The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, which argues that the Renaissance was jump-started in part by the rediscovery of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura in the early 1400s. It gets a bit sappy when he tries to do historical recreation, but the parts about book-hunting in monasteries and the recreation of manuscripts is fascinating.

message 154: by Philip (new)

Philip | 1271 comments That does sound interesting, Geoff, thanks.

message 155: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 431 comments I'm liking it; it definitely makes me want to read the Lucretius, which I've not. Apparently, it's a pretty trippy poem, philosophically independent of the Greek and Roman system of gods and also of all the Eastern religions.

message 156: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 867 comments just started Woodcutter by Reginald Hill - new author to me, although he is known in the UK for his TV detective series Daziel and Pascoe but I've never watched it. I pick this up after it seemed to be forever in front of my eyes on audible, call it fate, now I am 2 hours into the audio quite hooked

message 157: by Rusty (new)

Rusty | 93 comments Reading Fireflight by Sophie Jordan - a fantasy. Looks good so far.

message 158: by Jane (new)

Jane | 469 comments The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau. Lovely, spare novel about a boy who loses everything to war and is brought to the U.S. I have to say I am really enjoying it in spite of the grim subject.

message 159: by Janet (new)

Janet Leszl | 1163 comments Rusty wrote: "Still Alice is a marvelous book - so enlightening and so very good. I certainly understand more about dementia now and how those who have it must try so hard to cope with their world. I would be ..."

I enjoyed that one too. Thge author did a good job of showing the slow progression & frustration it caused.

message 160: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 809 comments Back from a mini-vacation ... lots of reading, so bear with me...

The Girl Who Married a Lion - Alexander McCall Smith

This is a collection of fables, legends and myths from two countries in Africa – Zimbabwe and Botswana. These traditional stories share many characteristics with folk tales from neighboring regions. But while they may be a part of the oral literature of Southern Africa, the lessons taught are universal in that they explore emotions common to all humankind – greed, envy, pride, ambition, love, kindness, generosity.

Smith explains in the forward that he has done little more than record the stories, though he has added some description of landscape and expanded on emotional reactions to make them more understandable and entertaining to a wider readership.

I found them interesting – some more than others – but I got bored. Part of this I think is due to my realization about half way through the collection that I was missing the humor and “lilt of the language’ present in Smith’s #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I guess I had expected to find more his signature style in his telling of these stories. I’m sure I would be similarly bored by a steady diet of Aesop’s fables or The Brothers Grimm. After all, in an oral tradition you would hear only one or two such stories at a time, not 30+ in one sitting.

message 161: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 809 comments A Bitter Veil - Libby Fischer Hellman

For this historical thriller, Hellmann has chosen the time frame of 1977-1980, during the Iranian Revolution. Anna Schroder meets fellow grad student Nouri Samedi in a Chicago bookstore. They share a love of poetry, which is what begins their relationship. Despite their different cultures, they find in each other qualities which complete them, and fall in love. But when they return to Nouri’s native Iran, Anna is confronted with a greater cultural and religious divide than she had anticipated.

Hellmann has obviously done her research and she presents both sides of the many issues that resulted in the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini (at least in my opinion). I found the lead characters rather naïve, but I reminded myself of their youth and idealism and how each had been somewhat sheltered by his/her family, and went with the flow. I was completely caught up in the story of Anna’s increasing isolation, the limited (or lack of) options, and her resolve.

In the Author Note at the end of the novel, Hellmann explains how the idea for the book came to her – her fascination with a story of one woman’s struggle against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But, she says, she felt stymied because the story had no crime, and she writes crime fiction. So, on the advice of a friend she invented a crime around which to build her plot. I have news for Hellmann – she does a fine job of writing fiction without the crime (which, in this case, I felt resolved a little too neatly). What I found most interesting about the book was Anna’s journey from a naïve college student to a strong and resourceful young woman.

I’ve passed the book on to my husband, who loves reading about international issues and intrigue. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

message 162: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 809 comments The Drop - Michael Connelly
Audio book performed by Len Cariou

This is the latest Harry Bosch mystery. I don’t want to give anything away so will dispense with the plot summary except to say that Harry and his partner are working a cold case when they are also assigned a priority case, investigating the death of a powerful councilman’s son.

Connelly writes a fast-paced, intricately plotted story, but he also explores his characters’ motivations, which makes the books more interesting to me. Doesn’t hurt that he manages some twists and turns I never saw coming.

Cariou does a pretty good job of narrating, but his naturally “gravelly” voice makes it more difficult to voice the women.

message 163: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 809 comments Othello - William Shakespeare

This is perhaps Shakespeare’s darkest play – featuring characters that are flawed and damaged, but which completely captivate us. Our title character – Othello, the Moor - is a highly regarded general. As the play opens he has recently eloped with the lovely Desdemona, to the consternation of her father and others who were hopeful suitors. Egged on by Iago (one of literature’s most reviled villains), they accuse Othello of somehow bewitching Desdemona, but the couple successfully convinces everyone that their love is true and pure.

Iago is a true sociopath. Rules do not apply to him, and duplicity is second nature to him. His oily manner convinces everyone that he has only their own best interests at heart while he plants seeds of doubt everywhere, ensuring that everyone becomes suspicious and disheartened. Iago uses the other characters as his pawns some sort of game he plays for his own benefit. He particularly targets Othello, recognizes the chink in his armor is his relationship with Desdemona, and manages to turn this noble general into a homicidal, emotional wreck.

I do wonder how Othello, Cassio, and Roderigo (among others) can be so easily swayed by Iago. Othello, in particular, should be able to see through this smarmy false friend. I’m completely perplexed by Emilia’s role in this tragedy. How can she abet her husband’s evil plans? Is she really so clueless?

Shakespeare writes a true psychological drama, exploring the darkest human emotion and motivation.

message 164: by Sue (new)

Sue | 3216 comments Finally reading Where the Dog Star Never Glows, a wonderful collection of short stories in multiple settings, all well drawn, with their primary focus individuals searching for relationships near and far, sometimes in the next room. I'm half way through and loving it. I recommend it already even though I haven't finished it yet.

message 165: by Russell (new)

Russell Warnberg | 1 comments I have been reading through Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series. If there are any of you out there who are familiar with the CBS Jesse Stone series and haven't read any of Parker's novels, I highly recommend it.
I also would appreciate you folks out there checking out my new novel, Edge of Redemption, a crime drama that takes place in Maine. It is available wherever fine books are sold. My website:
I spent the past half hour reading through many of the comments above and have concluded this is going to be a fine group to be part of. I look forward to more.

message 166: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jhaltenburger) | 138 comments Two more down, 23 to go-- finished Deeply, Desperately Deeply, Desperately (Lucy Valentine, #2) by Heather Webber (loved it-- did she really quit writing this series??) last night, and Crocodile on the Sandbank Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters tonight while I was cooking dinner. Really enjoyed it too, and fortunately the series is pretty good sized!!

message 167: by Danielle (new)

Danielle McClellan | 37 comments John wrote: "I know someone who became addicted to the Montalbano series, ending up reading them all at once. Now, she admits she's having withdrawal. "

The Bruno novels might well provide a little methadone boost for withdrawal symptoms from Montalbano. My other new favorite series is the Charles Lenox series (think Victorian gentleman detective) by Charles Finch. A Beautiful Blue Death is the first of these.

message 168: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 867 comments Lots of reading Book Concierge - I read the AMS The Girl who Married a Lion collection over a year ago and I quite liked it as well but do agree with you that you need to do this type of stuff in small doses. Perhaps reading these was for me more of a learning exercise on what inspired AMS from Africa for his No1 LDA writings episodes. Note to self must read more Michael Connelly, been too long since I read the first Harry Bosch and since I seem to be in a thriller mode right now although I am thinking about having to read The Hunger Games, a bit like what it was like with Harry Potter - what is all this hype about? Every kid seems to be reading them. How are you getting on with it Flora?

message 169: by Ruth (last edited Apr 18, 2012 07:41PM) (new)

Ruth | 9060 comments I just finishedThe Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen. It was headed for 4 stars, but petered out with 3. Here's the review I posted.

At first I couldn't put this down. But about 3/4 through I felt it began to get repetitive. I began to tire of all the endless speculation about people's psyches and motives. By the time it ended, no I can't say ended, more like stopped, I was no more near understanding them than I was in the beginning.

message 170: by Grace (new)

Grace | 38 comments Ellie wrote: "Last night I finished Flash and Bones (Temperance Brennan, #14) by Kathy Reichs by Kathy Reichs and I've started reading Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult by Jodi Picoult this morning."

Love Kathy Reichs! Have you read all of hers? I think there was only one that I did not like as much as her others.

message 171: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 47 comments I'm reading The Recognitions- it's very long and I think I may be reading it the rest of my life (just kidding) but I'm loving it more and more and really beginning to appreciate its dark humor.

message 172: by Geoff (last edited Apr 19, 2012 04:54AM) (new)

Geoff Wyss | 431 comments Ellie, The Recognitions is one of the most challenging books I ever read. I felt at least mildly stupid the whole time I was reading it. More often moderately than mildly. More often very.

message 173: by John (new)

John | 1373 comments I've started listening to The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, terrific narration, plot okay so far, but reviews make me cautious about sticking with it.

message 174: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 47 comments Geoff wrote: "Ellie, The Recognitions is one of the most challenging books I ever read. I felt at least mildly stupid the whole time I was reading it. More often moderately than mildly. More often very."

Thanks Geoff-at least I feel less alone! :)

message 175: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Brown-Baez | 96 comments I am on a kick with historical fiction. Just now
The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax.
It took me a while in the beginning as the technical musical language and composers are not familiar to me. But the interweave of his musical journey with Europe's political-historical changes and especially Spain is fascinating. It's based on musicians who lived during that time.

message 176: by Aoibhínn (new)

Aoibhínn (aoibhinn) I finished reading Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult by Jodi Picoult last night and today I've begun reading Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma by Tabitha Suzuma.

message 177: by Aoibhínn (last edited Apr 19, 2012 03:30PM) (new)

Aoibhínn (aoibhinn) Grace wrote: "Love Kathy Reichs! Have you read all of hers? I think there was only one that I did not like as much as her others."

I've read all her books in the Temperance Brennan series and I liked them all except for Flash & Bones. Which one was it that you didn't like?

message 178: by Carol (new)

Carol | 6937 comments I am reading The Talented Mr. Ripley and I am enjoying it . Lots to discuss in the upcoming discussion.

message 179: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 856 comments I read Love and Fatigue in America by Roger King, an author who lives with the same illness I have - chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in most of the world. I stopped reading most books about my illness long ago, but this one caught ny attention because it received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. I thought that it was beautifully written, painfully honest, and very funny in many places. I am going to have the opportunity to participate in a webinar with the author next month - a new experience for me. It should be fun!

message 180: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 809 comments Just finished The Talented Mr Ripley - will hold off on posting a review until we get to our discussion. Really looking forward to that!

message 181: by Sue (new)

Sue | 3216 comments Wilhelmina wrote: "I read Love and Fatigue in America by Roger King, an author who lives with the same illness I have - chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in most of the world. I stoppe..."

The book and webinar sound interesting Wilhelmina. I've bookmarked both.

message 182: by Carol (new)

Carol | 6937 comments Posted myself a reminder. I did not realize how dibilitating this disease is. I hope to come away better informed.

message 183: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Martin | 644 comments Sylvia wrote, "read The Expats (pretty good).
also read The Pearl by John Steinbeck and really liked it-as I do all of his works."

Have you read Steinbeck's TO A GOD UNKNOWN? I'd not heard of it until someone recommended. Very good. I plan to re-read it this year. Also plan to read Grapes of Wrath (can't believe I've not yet read this.)


message 184: by Zorro (new)

Zorro (ZorroM) I am reading Swamplandia!. So far, so crazy!

message 185: by John (new)

John | 1373 comments Bailed a couple of hours into The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, disliking to characters and not feeling the plot was really going anywhere either - terrific audio narration though.

message 186: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 809 comments Say Her Name – Francisco Goldman
Audio book narrated by Robert Fass

Goldman found the love of his life in a decades younger grad student (not his student) from Mexico. He gave his heart to the brilliant, witty, exuberant Aura, and they were looking forward to starting a family when she was tragically killed during a beach holiday. This unexpected tragedy affected Francisco and Aura’s mother in ways no one expected. Francisco was completely bereft and lost in his grief. Eventually he wrote this “novel” – a barely fictionalized story of Aura and of their love.

I had such high hopes for this book. Everything I had read about it and what I was told by others who had read it (and whose opinion I trust) led me to believe this would be a wonderful testament to an enduring love that ended tragically. I was able to go hear the author speak when he was on the book tour, and was touched by his sincerity and emotion.

So what went wrong for me with this book? At first I thought it was the fault of the narrator. Fass does not have the right voice for this book. His tone is not “round” enough to tell the story of the Mexican Aura Estrada. Yes, I know the narrator of the book is Francisco, who was born and raised in the United States, but I’d heard the author read excerpts from the book, and Fass doesn’t sound like what I remembered Goldman sounding like. Still, I really do not think I can blame Fass and the audio version for my lackluster reaction. I have the text as well, and looking through it, reading sections on my own … I just don’t find the “heart” I was expecting.

I will say that the section where Goldman relates that final day at the beach is absolutely riveting. My heart breaks for Aura and Francisco, and all their friends and family, even for the “bystanders” who witnessed the events and tried to help, or shied away in horror. I wish the immediacy and emotion of these chapters had been present earlier and throughout the book.

message 187: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jhaltenburger) | 138 comments 'Nother one down, 22 to go, not reading all that quickly at the moment because I've had a lot of distractions this week! Finished Death by Diamonds (A Vintage Magic Mystery #3) by Annette Blair and what a great cozy mystery series this is. About 40% through Friday Mornings at Nine by Marilyn Brant which I thought I'd find more compelling than I do so far. About halfway through The Help by Kathryn Stockett which I'm actually liking better than I thought I would.

message 188: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 431 comments Finished Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve. My review:

If you're interested in how the works of classical authors made it through the middle ages or the tension between pagan authors and the Church who often had a hand in preserving them or in a clearer idea of Epicurean thought than most of us probably have, this is worth a read. It falls somewhere between a scholarly and a popular work (coming closer to the latter) and will probably occasionally irk both sets of readers, but Greenblatt's precis on how Lucretius's 'De Rerum Natura' helped spur early-Renaissance humanist thought is at least a pretty good jumping-off point to further reading.

message 189: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 431 comments Also finished Andy Mulligan's Trash, which I liked well enough that I'm going to use it in my English I class next year.

message 190: by Ellie (last edited Apr 22, 2012 12:48PM) (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 47 comments I've actually become so enraptured (at least for the moment) with William Gaddis's The Recognitions by William Gaddis that I can't even read in my usual multi-book fashion (not totally true: I'm sneaking some of James Thompson's Lucifer's Tears (Inspector Kari Vaara, #2) by James Thompson because I'm very invested in the characters, their relationships, and the crime as well as Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman by Stephen Kelman because my library reserve came through and I find the language intoxicating, the energy intense and the narrator entrancing). However, TR has most of my heart and soul (and a good thing it is-I'm only at page 440 in this marathon 900+ page book). Gaddis is hilarious, bitter, cynical, and despite of all that (or maybe because) romantic and idealistic as well). I don't know how long I will maintain my enthusiasm for this bleakly comic novel about authenticity, religion,life, art, and humanity.

message 191: by Aoibhínn (new)

Aoibhínn (aoibhinn) I've finished Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma by Tabitha Suzuma and now I'm reading Hot Six (Stephanie Plum, #6) by Janet Evanovich by Janet Evanovich.

message 192: by Ann (new)

Ann | 2207 comments I recently finished Tana French's FAITHFUL PLACE, about a hard boiled policeman with a very dysfunctional family who tries to discover what happened to his first love, who disappeared many years before. I figured out who done it pretty early on. I started out barely able to put it down, but ended up somewhat disappointed with the way she wrapped everything up. I often have this trouble with detective books. Any one else?

message 193: by Sara (new)

Sara (Seracat) | 1665 comments Ann wrote: "I recently finished Tana French's FAITHFUL PLACE, about a hard boiled policeman with a very dysfunctional family who tries to discover what happened to his first love, who disappeared many years b..."

I find Tana French's books incredibly satisfying, but then I normally don't care that much about the mystery.

message 194: by Ellie (new)

Ellie (EllieArcher) | 47 comments I have the same problem Ann-I'm usually disappointed by the solution part of mysteries.

But like Sara, I love Tana French, but again, more for the relationships and location atmosphere than for the mystery.

It doesn't hurt that I'm Irish-American. Without necessarily going to the extremes of a novel, I think French captures the ways in which Irish families can dysfunction (when they do).

message 195: by Sherry, Doyenne (new)

Sherry | 7106 comments I'm with Ellie and Sara. I think I had the mystery part solved fairly early on, too, but sometimes I think it's more realistic that way, because the obvious one probably really IS the one who done it. I really have liked all of French's books. I like how they are linked in a very minor way to the others, but they touch on them, so the reader feels at home.

message 196: by Sue (new)

Sue | 3216 comments I haven't read French's books yet but have a feeling I may like them. The relationships and motivations are a lot of what I like in a mystery novel.

message 197: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 809 comments Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen
Lucky You – Carl Hiaasen

Two redneck felons from Miami win the Florida Lotto, but so does a quiet black woman from a small town known for its religious shrines. The men figure they shouldn't have to share their prize, especially with a Negro, and so they set out to steal her ticket. But JoLayne Lucks isn’t taking this injustice lying down. She has a noble purpose in mind for her share of the winnings and she’s not about to let those scumbags destroy her dream. With the help of a reporter who has lost his interest in features writing, she sets out to track the felons down and retrieve what is rightfully hers.

This is Hiaasen at his best. The novel is full of quirky (or downright insane) characters – a man who drills his own stigmata in order to get donations from the faithful, a woman who is “married” to the oil stain on the highway that looks “just like Jesus,” an assistant managing editor who begins speaking in tongues when he encounters a dozen baby turtles near a “weeping” statue of the Virgin Mary. And these are the good guys!

Throw in a little love interest, more than a few guns, the help of a mysterious federal agent, three co-conspirators who haven’t one brain between them, and two women who are far smarter than the criminals, and you have a recipe for a fast, enjoyable romp through the Florida landscape.

message 198: by Sherry, Doyenne (new)

Sherry | 7106 comments Book Concierge wrote: "Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen
Lucky You – Carl Hiaasen

Two redneck felons from Miami win the Florida Lotto, but so does a quiet black woman from a small town known for its religious shrines. The..."

I listened to this on audio and I thought it was a lot of fun.

message 199: by Sara (new)

Sara (Seracat) | 1665 comments Just finished listening to Carry the One-- a lovely, funny, sad novel. It reminds me a lot of The Year We Left Home without so much melancholy. Which is not to say it's comic--it follows a trio of siblings and their lovers, friends, and children over 25 years, beginning in 1983 following the wedding of one of the siblings. A car-load of wedding guests, stoned and drunk, hits and kills a young girl, and changes all of the survivors lives forever.

Really moved by this one, especially because the ending held up and proved pitch-perfect.

message 200: by Carol (new)

Carol | 6937 comments Trying to read The Secret Scripture let's say it hasn't capture me as yet.

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Books mentioned in this topic

The Secret Scripture (other topics)
Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal (other topics)
The Death of the Heart (other topics)
Loving Frank (other topics)
April 1865: The Month That Saved America (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Dennis Lehane (other topics)
William Boyd (other topics)
David Mitchell (other topics)
Amitav Ghosh (other topics)
Reginald Hill (other topics)