Mount TBR 2013 Reading Challenge discussion

Level 3: Mt. Vancouver (36) > Dog Eared Copy's Ascent - SUMMITTED!

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm in! Instead of coming up with a list before hand, I think I'll just report in as I go along :-)

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

The first book/step on this trek will be The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I'm involved in another challenge wherein one of the six books to be read is a book with an emotion in the title (e.g. The Joy Luck Club.) Another participant in the challenge will be doing a buddy read with me starting tomorrow and it looks like we'll be reading at least two other Edith Wharton titles in 2013! I'm excited as The Age of Innocence is one of the oldest books on my TBR shelf and, Ethan Fromme was a 2011 purchase that I finally will be making time for :-)

message 3: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) Ethan Frome is amazing. Enjoy!

message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:20PM) (new)

01.The House of Mirth (by Edith Wharton)
(In my stacks since 11/21/2012)

I finished HOM earlier today along with a blogger friend of mine; and we were just discussing what we thought "the word" might be! Tomorrow we're discussing Lily Bart vs Jane Eyre and, also "Oh, Lily!" moments (a.k.a "Is Lily stupid or what?" (I contend that she is, but I suspect my blogger friend is going to defend her!)) Later on, we're going to watch the movie together a la tweetchat. The more I think about this book, the more I marvel at the story's construction and Edith Wharton's writing. I haven't sorted out all my thoughts on the book yet, at least not enough for a review, but I do highly recommend it, especially as a book club selection: There are a lot of things to talk about! :-)

Next up for me is Dennis Lehane's Gone Baby Gone :-)

message 5: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) Tanya/dog eared copy wrote: "The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
1. The House of Mirth (by Edith Wharton)
(In my stacks since 11/21/2012)

I finished HOM earlier today along with a blogger friend of mine; and we were just dis..."

Sounds like a great plan with the movie add-on. I love Wharton from Ethan Frome ( but I already said that :)

Looking forward to when you sort out your review!

message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:19PM) (new)

02. Gone, Baby, Gone (by Dennis Lehane)
(In my stacks since 09/08/2012)

I finished Gone Baby Gone this afternoon and I have to say that I think it's Lehane's best in the McKenzie/Gennaro series so far! At first, I was wary about diving into it as the subject was about a child being kidnapped and I admittedly have a hard time with crimes that victimize children. I did something I very rarely do: I read the last chapter to see if I could handle it. It looked like I could so I went ahead, but between the first and last chapters, there are places Lehane took me that I really would rather not have gone. I actually stopped reading the book for about a week to collect myself. But despite the darkness, the lack of the deftly applied comic relief Lehane has used in the previous three novels in the series (e.g. Bubba) and a couple of glaring continuity errors, the overall plot with its surprises really paid off in the end. And FYI, even after having pre-read the last chapter, I was still surprised by the ending!

Next up is Cannery Row (by John Steinbeck.)

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 12, 2013 06:58AM) (new)

MichelleCH wrote: "Looking forward to when you sort out your review!"

I finally wrote the review for The House of Mirth (by Edith Wharton)! :-)

EDIT 03/30/2013: I have exported my lists and reviews from goodreads. You can see my review of The House of Mirth (by Edith Wharton) at my blog:

message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:19PM) (new)

03. Cannery Row (by John Steinbeck)
(In my stacks since 01/22/2011)

04. Fables, Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) (by Bill Willingham et al)
(In my stacks since 11/23/2011)

Today my daughter was at home with the flu. Between naps (for the both of us!) I was able to finish Cannery Row (by John Steinbeck) and a graphic novel trade volume that had been sitting unread in my shelves since 11/23/2011: Fables, Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) (by Bill Willingham et al.) I wish I had read Cannery Row before I read Tortilla Flat last year. I think I would have appreciated TF more and, as it is I think I will have to revise my thinking about it as being about a bunch of drunk, lazy, cheating losers. I may even have to re-read it at one point! Cannery Row made me realize it's about courage to not be pretentious and hypocritical... I'll have to think about the two books in relation to each other when I sit down to write my reviews.

The Fables gn is the ongoing story of life in Fabletown, the shadow community of fairy tales characters in New York. Characters from The Arabian Nights make their way from Baghdad to NY to establish diplomatic ties. Things go awry when a genii is released... Usually the Fables trades feature a different lead illustrator for each single; but this time the art was consistent through the four parts. The Ballad of Rodney and June was clearly a separate storyline so having a different hand here wasn't inappropriate.

I think somehwere along the line I will have to schedule a review writing week-end; but until then, Onwards! I have another Fables volume waiting for me and then a buddy read starting this week-end with Margaret (Dead Eye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut) to be followed by The Age of Innocence (by Edith Wharton.) :-)

message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:18PM) (new)

05. Fables, Vol. 8: Wolves (by Bill Willingham et al)
(In my stacks since 12/03/2012)

I read Fables, Volume 8: Wolves this afternoon. I usually rate the Fables trades at 4 stars; but this one was a little disappointing. The Big Bad Wolf, incarnate as Bigby Wolf had exiled himself from Fabletown. Mowgli is charged with his return. There wasn't as much cleverness or smart plotting as with the previous Fables. The art work reverted to the multiple contributors style as well. Hrumpf.

Tonight I'm starting Kurt Vonnegut's Deadeye Dick, a buddy read with Margaret :-)

message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:16PM) (new)

06. Deadeye Dick (by Kurt Vonnegut)
(In my stacks since 11/17/2012)

Sooo, in a rather shocking turn of events, I picked up Vonnegut's Deadeye Dick last night and finished it this afternoon! I had reserved a week to read it, but it was a quick read!

My initial impressions are that it's a surprisingly lightweight novel. I was expecting something more solid or literary in presentation. There's a part at the very beginning where KV ascribes meaning to three or four things in the story itself, but I can't help but feel he's really making fun of people who try to ascribe meaning to things in his book!

So now that I've basically got a week freed up to read something else from my stacks, I've picked up a short story collection, Swim Back to Me (by Ann Packer.)

message 11: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:16PM) (new)

07. Swim Back to Me (by Ann Packer)
(In my stacks since 06/09/2012)

Last year, I attended readers' retreat at which Ann Packer spoke and engaged with fans. I bought books that each of the eight authors of the retreat wrote; but as I did not attend Ann Packer's session, I didn't read her book until now. Swim Back to Me is a collection containing a novella and five short stories in the literary fiction style a la The New Yorker: Each story reveals the emotional life of the protagonists and the neural synapse misfire which causes them to do something unexpected. Inasmuch as each of the characters is portrayed realistically, there is that moment wherein each does something rather incredulous. This is not a collection of stories for people who like definitive resolution to their tales but rather for those who like to look at the threads of life's fabric. The novella and the last short are distantly related; but otherwise each story is a stand-alone.

Next Up: The Age of Innocence (by Edith Wharton)

message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:16PM) (new)

08. The Age of Innocence (by Edith Wharton)
(in my stacks since 07/24/2009)

YAY! This was a book that had been living in my oldest stack! I had listed it in last year's challenge, but had managed to summit Mt Vancouver (then 25 books) without having read it! It's a gorgeous book about love, sacrifice and duty set in New York in the 1870s. Newland Archer has the announcement of his engagement to May Welland moved up so that two society families would show in support of the socially marginal Countess Olenska. The Countess in turn, provides Newland Archer a glimpse of the world beyond his tightly circumscribed venues. To describe the novel as a tragedy, romance, melodrama or even satire would not be incorrect; but at the same time it would be too much. Wharton writes with greater subtlety than any of those terms would suggest.

Next Up: She Got Up Off the Couch and Other Heroic Tales from Mooreland, Indiana (by Haven Kimmel.)

message 13: by Bev (new)

Bev | 329 comments Mod
Tanya/dog eared copy wrote: "The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

08. The Age of Innocence (by Edith Wharton)
(in my stacks since 07/24/2009)

YAY! This was a book that had been living in my oldest stack! I had listed it in..."

This is one of my stops up Everest...glad you were able to clear it out!

message 14: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) You are on a roll! Go, go, go :)

I love following your progress, you are reading some great books. I very much enjoyed my read of Cannery Row last year.

message 15: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 11, 2013 06:23PM) (new)

MichelleCH wrote: "You are on a roll! Go, go, go :)

I love following your progress, you are reading some great books. I very much enjoyed my read of Cannery Row last year."

Thank you for your encouragement! I've really had a great time focusing on my stacks and backlist titles this year! Also, it's been great discovering books that I forgot I had!

It won't be on my Mount TBR list, but I'm hoping to snag a copy of Sweet Thursday the next time I'm out on a book foray!

message 16: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:15PM) (new)

09. She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana (by Haven Kimmel)
(In my stacks since 03/03/2012)

I finished She Got Up Off the Couch this morning and I have very mixed feelings about it. The memoir is ostensibly about the author's mother who, quite literally, one day got up off the couch, went to college and then proceeded to become an English teacher. But much of the novel seemed to be more about Haven Kimmel herself, with a few stories about her mother thrown in. The book could just as easily have been given a title about her father and sister and/or herself. The book is set in the seventies, with the Quaker faith and the poverty which informed the author's childhood and is rendered with nostalgic detail and a child's perceptions. There's actually quite a bit of charm and humor in the telling, though I wondered if the religious hillbilly angle might have been a little bit overplayed. "Couch" is a follow-up to Haven Kimmel's best-selling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy. On one hand, I wish I had read "Zippy" before "Couch" and on the other hand, I feel like I've had quite enough and am glad that there isn't another follow-up book that I might feel obligated to acquire.

Next Up: The Great Gatsby (by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:14PM) (new)

10. The Great Gatsby (by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
(In my stacks since 12/07/2012)

I just finished The Great Gatsby this afternoon. This was one of those books that I thought that I must have read, until I started reading it and realized that I somehow never did; or if I did, it was so long ago that I remember nothing of it! It's the story of Jay Gatsby, a man who went to extraordinary lengths to recapture a bit of his past in hopes of creating the future he wanted. After having read Wharton, I can't say that I found Gatsby's world particularly appealing, but the pathos of the characters was intriguing, if a bit closed to truly deep examination.

Next Up: Wintergirls (by Laurie Halse Anderson; narrated by Jeannine Stith)

message 18: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 21, 2013 07:02AM) (new)

Slight detour on my climb up Pike's Peak! I started the audio edition of Wintergirls (by Laurie Halse Anderson; narrated by Jeannie Stith) and didn't care for it. The writing sounds great; but the production takes away from the story: the audiobook publisher "enhanced" the narrator's voice for certain interior monologues and phone messages, and other phrases don't seem to make sense. Chatting with someone else who had read it in print, she mentioned that the audio would have to suffer owing to the way the text is laid out in the copy. I went and picked up a copy of the book at the library and I see what she means. I'm going to read the print, but because the dead-tree edition isn't on my TBR list, it won't count.

My "Next Up" will have to wait until I see how long it will take me to get through Wintergirls.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Alright, I finished Wintergirls (by Laurie Halse Anderson) this afternoon. The story is a first person narrative about an anorexic girl. The writing was absolutely riveting, hypnotizing in it's lyricism and style. I don't really care for Young Adult novels as they often contain dumb-downed language; but this was really beautifully done if the subject difficult.

And now it's time to tackle The Religion (by Tim Willocks)! This has been holding the #1 position on my goodreads TBR list the longest. It was on my list last year, but I've been avoiding it because of its length (600+ pages.) It's calling to me now though!

message 20: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) Tanya/dog eared copy wrote: "MichelleCH wrote: "You are on a roll! Go, go, go :)

I love following your progress, you are reading some great books. I very much enjoyed my read of Cannery Row last year."

Thank you for your en..."

There is a library book sale this weekend I want to go to- I haven't been on a book foray in a while!

I need to reread
The Great Gatsby, it has been at least 10 years since I've read it. I wonder how I will feel on a second go-round!

message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 02, 2013 08:14AM) (new)

I posted a question about The Great Gatsby to my personal FB page and got the following comments:

***Why*** is The Great Gatsby (by F. Scott Fitzgerald) considered a Modern Classic? It's often on required reading lists, and embedded in our cultural consciousness. But *why*? I'm not being facetious. I really don't know. I read it recently and was underwhelmed; but I'm open to admitting that I "missed" something.

Can I just say how relieved I am to read this? I've always thought the same thing, and thought it again a couple of years ago when I had to revisit it for a project. I'll confess to feeling this way about any number of "Modern Classics." So I'm also curious as to others' opinion on why this is one is so important.

I'll stand up for it as a a modern classic. From a literary POV, I think it expanded the idea of having a narrator who isn't the book's main protagonist. That had been done before -- Moby Dick, for example -- but we see things through Nick's eyes in a way that was unique.

From a social POV, it was one of the first books that divided Old Money and Noveau Riche. Earlier books -- Edith Wharton, Henry Adams -- had drawn a distinction between old/new society, but this was a thoroughly 20th century take on money and society. (Dreiser tilled some of the same soil, but he wrote about the Midwest, so "society" was as big an issue.)

It also gets a lot of attention because it is an example of "what might have been" for Fitzgerald. If you compare it to This Side of Paradise or even The Beautiful and the Damned, it's a much more mature, original structure and language. It also takes on social issues in a more frank way than the previous novels did.

I was a huge Fitzgerald fan when I was in school, so it was one of my favorite books for a long time. But I started re-reading it a few years ago, though, and it seemed a bit stilted to me now. I guess I like my cynicism straight, rather than with a romantic chaser, these days.

Years ago I was in a book club where we only read classics for three years, in chronological order. It was one of the most exciting things I've ever done. You get to experience how incredible these books are, how they explode writing in a way that had no precedent. There are things in this book that simply never existed before, the way Fitzgerald wrote, the sentences themselves, the understanding of something so particular to that moment, but also to the psychology of a young America. I often feel the same way you guys do about things others might go crazy over, and I totally respect it. But I'm gonna throw my hat in the pro-Gatsby ring.

For sheer reading pleasure, I used to like "Gatsby" more than I do now. The class aspect of the story--the uselessness of the privileged class, and the way their idleness is a stamp of membership that can't be attained by Gatsby or Carroway--had its appeal in my post-college dropout years. And the idea of desperately wanting someone you can't have (oy!). From a writerly standpoint, the book is an amazing technical achievement. There is the symbolism--the eye looking over the wasteland, and the green light at the end of the pier--brilliantly run through the entirety of the narrative. There is the use of a technique called counterpointed characterization: We learn a lot about Gatsby before actually encountering him "live" at the party. While the characterization paints Gatsby as a legendary figure, he is so underwhelming when we meet him that the narrator doesn't even recognize him. We then track Gatsby over the rest of the narrative, and (presumably), at the end, we get the legendary aspect for ourselves. Melville uses the same technique to intro Ahab in "Moby Dick," btw.

"The Great Gatsby" was on my MFA reading list and I read it again for the first time in some 20 years. This time, in light of all the post-colonial and Marxist theory I've studied, I was appalled by the blatant racism and anti-semitism, even as I could appreciate the technical aspects--the sensation black film students must feel at being forced to watch "Birth of Nation" to catch all the snazzy techniques Griffith employs. And because Gatsby is so clearly a stand-in for Fitzgerald, there is no doubt these attitudes emanate from the author himself. The character of "W.P. Mayhew" in "Barton Fink" is actually more Fitzgerald than Faulkner.

Anyway, Tanya, all that is to say I agree with you. "Gatsby" is just so much sentimental claptrap when you get down to it. Still, I don't loathe it the way I do ANYTHING by Hemingway. I'm always baffled by that man's presence in the canon.

Now, interestingly enough, when you read Hemingway in chronological order of all the classics, it can make your head pop off your neck. There is literally no one writing anything like the way Hemingway writes before he did. Now, that's basically just the way everyone writes, really. That simplicity didn't exist before. I do not read Hemingway now, and his content doesn't interest me, but the way he writes just did not exist. I only had this visceral experience because of reading everything in order. It was mind-blowing. And man, Dostoevsky makes you explode. Simply no one was writing like him before him, either.

I Dostoevsky.

I agree, Hemingway seems more modern -- even commonplace -- now. I can appreciate him more now, though, than I did as a student.

I'd take issue with [LB]'s observation about Gatsby as a stand-in for Fitzgerald. I think he was supposed to be modeled after Gerald Murphy, the painter and Mark Cross heir, who with his wife, was also a model for the couple in Tender is the Night.

I haven't read it since I was a sophomore in HS, so it's been a while. Take what I'm about to say with that in mind. I mark my lifelong obsession with reading and studying literature with the moment I picked that book up. What I remember engaging me was the symbolism and how it gave the book added layers of meaning. It made me want to read everything more deeply.

Well, you can model a character on another person but still have that character embody your views. But I don't want it to seem that I take issue with the text because of an issue with the author--the work is what matters. I just don't know that the book is as aware of the class issues being explored as we are examining the text now--post Depression, New Deal, Great Society, etc. The distinction in Gatsby is Old Money vs New Money (as you mentioned) but that doesn't question the overall ethos beyond the narrowness of inclusion. I mean, the poor are all just brutes in that novel. You mentioned Edith Wharton, and I think she is much sharper and more aware of class issues in "House of Mirth." I can see why people do love "Gatsby" though. The quality of the prose is amazing.

That's really what it is for me. The quality of the prose. the sentences. The descriptions.

I read Gatsby for the first time as an adult, and I remember it was one of the most moving, memorable, riveting experiences of literature I'd ever had, after reading deeply and widely throughout my life. Nothing had ever resonated with me as Gatsby did. Nothing had ever gotten into my subconscious the way that story did. I still think it's magnificent and magical.

I have to say you are all right. The book is nothing but contradictions. It is underwhelming & overwhelming , magical or not, trite in a modern era but socially in the vanguard of its time. It is racist and anti-semitic as Fitzgerald was a product of a non-politically correct time. We look at literature with the same eye with which we view history, a revisionist perspective that colors the text. But, it was an exciting literary experiment in its day, ahead of the curve. And, I believe that is what makes it a modern classic. TS Eliot was a racist, an anti-semite and a misogynist but that doesn't deter my appreciation of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. And that is another hotly debated classic.

Agreed. If I were teaching a college English class I would have "Gatsby" on the syllabus, but only because I would historically contextualize the text to discuss economic and social issues of the time. Rather than avoiding the problematic aspects of the text, I would explore them instead. How is the text emblematic of the age? I would approach "Invisible Man," by Ellison or "Grapes of Wrath" the same way with respect to the 30s. If I were teaching a writing class, I would use "Gatsby" to discuss the writing techniques--the prose, the counterpointed characterization and physical descriptions. But I won't read the book for pleasure again because of the racism, the same way I won't pop on "Birth of a Nation" for viewing pleasure. At issue is not the personal view of the writer--I could tell you things about James Joyce with respect to his wife (and her underwear) that might sicken you if you didn't already know, but that doesn't diminish my appreciation of his work. The problem for me is that, as an African-American, I can't get by the bridge scene with the blacks in the cab without getting sick to my stomach. The issue is that there are racist views expressed by the text itself--it's a given that I, as a reader, should view the people in the cab the same way. I don't. T.S. Eliot doesn't express racist and anti-semitic views in "Prufrock"--just his squeamishness about sexual relations with women. That's the difference.

Also--I also agree that we can't judge historical figures by the values of our society at the present time. That is a scholarship error referred to as "presentism." BUT, we can judge those figures by the standards of their own time. Sam Clements, for instance, was a progressive in his day. People freak about his use of the "n-word," but that is honestly in writing--necessary realism. He was progressive in American civil rights and a force in the anti-African colonialist movement. So not everyone WAS uniformly racist in that (or the subsequent) era.

What about James Joyce's wife's underwear?

lol--he once wrote his wife and asked her not to bathe for a week. Or to change her underwear. He then instructed her, at the end of the week, to mail the underwear to him. Freaky-deaky!

Ew. Smelly.

Definitely one of the fouler fetishes I've heard of.

Thank you all for sharing your insights regarding The Great Gatsby! This is a book that I thought I must have read in high school, but when I sat down a couple weeks ago to indulge, nothing was familiar! As [KN] is able to testify, this may be due to a huge mental block I have in regard to my high school years Anyway, late last year I read The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt (by Caroline Preston) which is scrapbook narrative of a woman in the 1920's. I got it in my head that I wanted to read some F.Scott along with the Edith Wharton novels I was planning on reading in 2013...

I read The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence before I got around to The Great Gatsby (It would be interesting to know what Kathe's book club read before The Great Gatsby!) After having experienced Wharton, F. Scott came across as "simple" and the symbolism seems artless (this latter may me a matter of cultural over exposure.) There wasn't enough action for me to engage with nor enough of the character's interior life revealed for be to feel invested in any way. Intellectually there was very little grist either with it's asymmetrical structuring and diffuse plot points.

I'm not a hater, it's just not the book for me. Il'l keep my copies on the shelf for now however and keep everything that's been said in mind as I read other of F. Scott Fitzgerald's works.

I also want to add, that this whole thread is why I love social media and having smart friends.

message 22: by Megan (new)

Megan I have to say that I have always thought that The Great Gatsby was over rated and have put that down to not being American, thus the Great American Dream being less powerful for me. In NZ we talk about a number 8 wire mentality - that's perhaps a version of the same powerful cultural metaphor.
But then I listened to John Green talk about the first chapter of The Great Gatsby...I still don't have a great affinity for it, but I think I appreciate it a lot more. You can see the John Green talk here:
It's worth a listen.

message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 13, 2013 09:30PM) (new)

Megan wrote: "I have to say that I have always thought that The Great Gatsby was over rated and have put that down to not being American, thus the Great American Dream being less powerful for me. In NZ we talk about a number 8 wire mentality - that's perhaps a version of the same powerful cultural metaphor.
But then I listened to John Green talk about the first chapter of The Great Gatsby...I still don't have a great affinity for it, but I think I appreciate it a lot more. You can see the John Green talk here:
It's worth a listen. "

Thank you, Megan! I found the clip highly entertaining. I don't particularly agree with John Green on the notion of The American Dream as being a plagiarized concept; and he suffers a bit from "presentism" (applying current ideas to past works); but I do like his breakdown of the symbolism and irony in the context of class structure. The American Dream was a phrase coined in the 1930s during The Great Depression in America and applied retroactively to embody American history (a bit of presentism in on its own!); but it was a bit of a pipe dream then and absolutely in its death throes now.*

I think the closest American expression to the NZ term, "Number 8 Wire" might actually be "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps." It's not really about hope or even the American Dream, but a sort of "can do" attitude that relies on self-motivation as opposed to dependence on a program. I think both expressions do play a part in the whole idea of individual ambition. It's interesting that both expressions have their origins in frontier practice.

There's a part of me that wishes that Edith Wharton had written The Great Gatsby, even while recognizing that she couldn't have. Maybe The Great Gatsby could only have been written by F. Scott in the same way only Wharton could have written The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence - from the position of one writing what one knows. I think the simple prose style and the heavy handed symbolism of The Great Gatsby are what many people find positive aspects of Fitzgerald's writing because it's easy. I agree with you that The Great Gatsby is over-rated.

* Wealth Inequality in America ( - a 6+ minute video clip; NOT POLITICAL! Just a visual aid about the perceptions of wealth distribution in the USA :-)

message 24: by Megan (last edited Mar 04, 2013 11:17PM) (new)

Megan I think presentism might be one of the most difficult things to overcome when approaching literature from another age because it is insidious and like cultural perspective largely blind to the reader/interpreter.

Interesting to think about who else could have written The Great Gatsby. Coming from an English Lit background and only recently coming to the great American literature classics I wonder also about Moby Dick and whether it suffers from the same difficulties with cultural clash?

I have to admit to not having read Edith Wharton although I know I should have. Where do you recommend starting?

message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 05, 2013 07:39PM) (new)

Megan wrote: "I have to admit to not having read Edith Wharton although I know I should have. Where do you recommend starting? "

I would start with a short story, "Roman Fever." It is an exquisitely wrought story that's an exposition in descriptive writing and emotional tension. It is "Wharton Concentrated!" It's also one of my favorite short stories ever! It's about two women who have a little chat while visiting Rome ;-)

From there I would read The House of Mirth and then The Age of Innocence. The two novels very much compliment each other thematically and I find it interesting how much more sophisticated Wharton becomes in executing ideas with subtlety and without obtuseness. If you go on to read other novels, I would read The Buccaneers last. The Buccaneers was Wharton's last novel and she didn't get to finish it! It was completed by a Wharton scholar, Marion Mainwaring. It's been years since I visited it (and I will be going back to it later this year) but it's "off" just enough to let the reader know that it's not pure Wharton. Still good and worth the time though :-)

message 26: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:13PM) (new)

11. The Religion (by Tim Willocks)
(In my stacks since 07/24/2009)

Tannhauser, former Jannisarrie under Sulieman the Great and current mercantile opportunist becomes embroiled in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. This book has all the ingredients of a book I should have loved: It is historical fiction, military fiction, romance and epic in scope. The history deals in a period that I happen to have particular interest in and for once didn't deal with the Tudors! The clash between the Knights of Saint John the Baptist (Hospitallars) and the Moslem forces arrayed against them is the stuff of high drama and legend. Moreover, Willocks created a voice for the book, an epic voice, nearly stentorian in style which conveyed the mood and attitudes of the characters as much as the material being shaped into the story. So why did I only give it three stars? Because the poignant moments became rather cliche in feel; because the despite crying at one point in the book (a passage that related the true meaning of The Religion), I never "felt" engaged with the characters (who were all perfectly imperfect) or immersed in the story; and finally because "they promised me cannibalism" and they didn't deliver.

"They promised me cannibalism" is a catch phrase between my DH and I indicating that the hope or promise of some excitement isn't fulfilled. Many years ago, we attended a truly bad play. It was so bad, that I wanted to leave at intermission. This is extraordinary in and of itself because I never leave a play in the middle, believing that there will be some redeeming "thing" that will have made the evening worthwhile. DH however, didn't want to leave because we had friends on stage and they would have noticed that we weren't there at the end of the play. So, DH told me that "there would be cannibalism." Owing to the fact that this was an avant garde piece, I thought it that this was entirely possible and didn't even consider that he might be joking. Needless to say, the play had no cannibalism and we were forced to deal with friends afterwards who couldn't help but ask, "So how did you like it?" (Lots of thin smiles from me while DH lied through his teeth so as to not hurt their feelings.) Anyway, in regard to this book, I had been told that there was just "page after page of gore and violence." This was what I was therefore expecting. Now, while there is quite a bit of gore and violence, there certainly wasn't an unrelenting delivery of such. In fact, there was just as much political intrigue, philosophizing and romance (deep and profound love immediately understood) as there was gore and violence. Keeping in mind that this is a recounting of a very intense military campaign (tens of thousands of soldiers, civilians and slaves slaughtered on both sides on a tiny island when the tools of war were things like pikes and halberds, the gore and violence did not seem misplaced or gratuitous.)

On May 23, 2013, the second in the Tannhauser trilogy, The Twelve Children of Paris which deals with The Huguenot Wars (France) is scheduled for release. If the book happens to cross my path during one of my forays, I might pick it up; but I'm not pre-ordering it or setting aside part of my book budget for it.

There is an audio edition of this book narrated by Simon Vance. I did wonder if I mightn't have enjoyed the story more as audio. Simon Vance also narrated the non-fiction title, The Great Siege: Malta 1565 which I'm thinking of adding to my stacks ;-)

Next Up: Lipstick Jungle (by Candace Bushnell)

message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:12PM) (new)

12. Lipstick Jungle (by Candace Bushnell)
(In my stacks since April 18, 2011)

I may be crucified for saying this, but I found there were favorable comparisons between Candace Bushnell's writing and Edith Wharton's! Though Wharton was much more gifted in terms of conveying subtlety and more artful in conveying lushness regardless of setting, both Bushnell and Wharton wrote about the same social stratum and the same setting (New York City.) Both carry at the heart of their writing simultaneously a familiarity, affection and contempt for the upper milieus in which they travel as well as a keen awareness of the circumscriptions of being a woman in male dominated venues. Wharton's women contain the ambitions of those who sense but cannot quite articulate much less achieve their goals as it would place them beyond the pale. Bushnell's women understand quite clearly their ambitions, banish their qualms and pursue their goals, though not without a price.

This was my first Candace Bushnell novel and I was expecting something much more frivolous. I was pleasantly surprised and am looking forward to reading One Fifth Avenue (which I have in the stacks) and Sex in the City (which I would have to acquire. Heck, I might even check out the cable series on DVD!) :-)

And with Lipstick Jungle (by Candace Bushnell), I have summited Pike's Peak! YAY! I have a couple of new releases on hand that I would like to tackle before I start climbing Mont Blanc and at that time I'll move this thread over to the second level :-)

message 28: by Bev (new)

Bev | 329 comments Mod
Woo Hoo! Onward and upward!

message 29: by Hayes (last edited Mar 12, 2013 04:42AM) (new)

Hayes (Hayes13) Love your FB conversation about Gatsby. I don't have time to read all of it now, but I will come back to it. Thanks for sharing that.

Congratulations on summiting!

message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan | 108 comments Ditto on the FB Gatsby conversation. Congrats on getting to the top. Excelsior!

message 31: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 13, 2013 06:35PM) (new)

Onwards and upwards! This next peak may take me a little longer to summit as I will be reading new acquisitions alternating with books from my stacks. On the other hand, I don't have any chunksters like The Religion (by Tim Willocks) to slow me up for the next couple of months either! I'm starting my climb of Mont Blanc with Royal Road to Fotheringhay (by Jean Plaidy.) After having read The Religion, you would think that I would have had enough of 16th century historical fiction; but this account of Mary, Queen of Scots called to me :-)

message 32: by [deleted user] (last edited May 28, 2013 10:14PM) (new)

I'm still reading Royal Road to Fotheringhay (by Jean Plaidy) but it's slow going as I've been distracted by "life!" In the meantime, I have been able to listen to an audiobook that's been in my audible library since 03/03/2010!

13. Bangkok Tattoo (by John Burdett; narrated by Paul Boehmer)

Does the end justify the means? What if your religion says, "yes"? Your Government? Politics? This is the question that fuels the action of Bangkok Tattoo, a mystery set in the red light district of Thailand. A john has been discovered stabbed, flayed and castrated in a hotel room and the obvious suspect is the prostitute who was with him last. But of course, nothing is as it seems, especially when obfuscation of the truth works to everyone else's advantage! John Burdett's plot, as in Bangkok 8, the first-in-series, is equally intricate and surprising in its twists and surprises. It is also more graphic in his descriptions of sex and violence; and there is more anti-Western sentiment expressed through the narrator directly to the reader/listener. The descriptions of the sex trade, the frankness of sexual topics, and even of the whole "farang" (Thai world denoting a Westerner) thing can get a little tiresome; but the interweaving of the main and subplots that comes to a jaw-dropping denouement in the final hour of the audiobook make it worth wading through the near "screeliciousness" of the prose.

message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 09:11PM) (new)

14. Royal Road to Fotheringhay (Stuart Saga, #1) (by Jean Plaidy)
(In my stacks since 07/24/2009)

This is charming and well researched historical account of Mary, Queen of Scots told primarily from her childhood through to her imprisonment after the disastrous marriage to Bothwell. In the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, readers have become accustomed to the rather salacious versions of events that authors such as Philippa Gregory provide as an accounting of Tudor tales. By comparison, this mid-century offering seems a bit quaint, but fans of Mary Stuart will no doubt feel as moved by the tragic course of events of the star-crossed queen as ever.

Up Next: Green River Killer (by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case)

message 34: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 07:10PM) (new)

15. Green River Killer: A True Detective Story (by Jeff Jensen and illustrated by Jonathan Case)
(in my stacks since 11/23/2011)

In the 1980s, a serial killer was on the loose in King County (Washington state), targeting prostitutes. Over the course of two decades, the killer remained elusive until new DNA technology was brought into play. Green River Killer is a graphic novel chronicling the investigation from someone within six degrees of the investigation - Jeff Jensen is the son of one of the investigators, Tom Jensen. Green River Killer is told in a series of b&w panels, featuring present day scenarios as well as flashbacks. Though I tend to prefer the highly stylized and color art of Mike Mignola (Hellboy), the choice of black & white inking for this true crime story was perfect. One feels this story as a bit of reportage in the league of newspaper journalism.

message 35: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 11, 2013 08:22PM) (new)

16. Ethan Frome and Selected Stories (by Edith Wharton)
(in my stacks since 11/22/2011)

After reading The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, my head was full of menus & place settings, art, manners and haute couture; but this collection of five short stories is causing me to re-think the frustrations of the characters of those aforementioned books as psychological tortures! Edith Wharton has a dark side and her talent for providing the reader with a glimpse that feels like a grotesque tease is en par excellence.

In Ethan From, the eponymous character and his New England setting are a far cry from the social milieu of New York City. Ethan is a poor farmer whose dreams of a technical career are thwarted when his parents die and leave him without the monies to continue his college career. Zeena, his mother's nursemaid, becomes his wife and a sickly rag of a person who needs to be taken care of in turn. Mattie, his wife's indigent cousin, comes to the New England farm to minister to Zeena and in general help out about the farm... And so the scene is set-up for an ugly story, ruthless in its slow reveal and, gruesome (both physically and psychologically) in consequences.

The Pretext is a finely wrought exposition of internal emotional turmoil. Margaret, an older woman living out the less than exciting life as the wife of an academic, is introduced to a younger man. The agonies of this tension are like the labored breathing of a convalescent: immaterial and yet with its own weight.

Afterwards features a young American couple who retire to an old estate in the South of England. Having cashed out his mining interest, the husband is able to afford the life of isolated leisure that his wife and he had always aspired to. Afterwards is a ghost story! I did not see this coming and was all the more affected by it for having been surprised! Edith Wharton writes horror stories! Who knew?! Apparently, if my DH is to be believed, everyone but me!

The Legend and Xingu are both stories that lampoon intellectual pretentiousness. In The Legend, a literary critic-cum-author builds a career out of analyzing the works of an obscure writer; and in Xingu, a local club of six women who meet regularly to discuss "elevated" ideas as manifest in the arts. An author is invited to one of their meetings and things go badly... Afterwards and Xingu both expose academic frauds, but the results are not what you might expect! Xingu is very amusing and I have to say that if I ever create a book club, I'm naming it "Xingu!" :-D

All of these stories show snippets of devices and themes that Edith Wharton will bring to bear in full force in The Age of Innocence, which is not to say that they are lesser works. Each short shows how finely polished each of Wharton's writing facets are :-)

Next Up: The House at Riverton (by Kate Morton; narrated by Caroline Lee)

message 36: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 23, 2013 10:11PM) (new)

17. Chariots of Fire (by W.J. Weatherby; based on the screenplay by Colin Welland)
(in my stacks since 11/17/2012)

I'm still listening to The House at Riverton (by Kate Morton; narrated by Caroline Lee)! It's a mystery, but with a very slow start. I'm about 5 hours in and so far nothing has really happened. Needless to say, I'm not hooked yet; but I'll hang in there as so many of my friends have recommended it. OTOH, they also recommended A Discovery of Witches (by Deborah Harkness; narrated by Jennifer Ikeda) which I absolutely loathed. Hmmm...

Anyway, while I continue to debate whether or not to continue with The House at Riverton, I did read a backlist title, Chariots of Fire (by W.J. Weatherby.) When I first saw it at one of the library sales, I thought to myself, "I had no idea that it was a book first!" Well, it wasn't. It turns out that it's a novelization of the movie. To the authors credit, even though I hadn't seen the movie in thirty years, I was able to recall the scenes very clearly through his prompts. But really, it wasn't very good writing: There were odd shifts in POVs and a little obvious didacticism which made me wonder if this book was meant for a juvenile audience. Regardless, it was a short novel (176 pages) and now that I've burned through it, back to the donate stream it goes!

Next Up: K.I.A. (A Dr. Kel McKelvey novel by Thomas Holland)

message 37: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 26, 2013 09:48PM) (new)

Well, I made an executive decision and dnf-ed The House at Riverton (by Kate Morton; narrated by Caroline Lee.) After having listened to seven of the nineteen hours and there being no mystery or even a feint in that direction, I dumped it and googled the plot summary. I definitely made the right decision because I know if I had waded through eleven more hours for that story, I would have been pissed!

There are a lot of people, e.g. Downton Abbey fans I suspect, who would love this story though so I won't spoil it; but the set up is that 98-year old Grace is approached by a film director about an event that happened in Grace's past, and of which the director is making a movie of. During and after WWI, The House at Riverton, set in England, was the home of minor nobility into which Grace was in service as a maid. During the 1920's, a promising young poet commits suicide at The House and speculation abounds without any resolution confirmed even 70-some years later. The literary conceit is that the film director's interest sets off a series of flashbacks and Grace herself feels compelled to finally tell the truth in a tape recording to her grandson.

My issue with The House at Riverton is that the set-up is excruciatingly slow and well, boring. Yes, Morton is very good in setting up scenes descriptively, but nothing ever really happens and the things that do happen are little molehills that she tries to fool us into believing are mountains.) And while I would love to say that this is done in favor of the novel as a work of literary-fiction, I can't really say it succeeds there either. The pathos is too polished and distant for the reader to dig into.

My second issue is with the audio production: It's the narrator. She's Australian. And yes, I know that Kate Morton is Australian. That makes Caroline Lee the perfect voice for Kate Morton; but not the perfect voice for the book. Many listeners won't or can't make the distinction but once you hear the Aussie lilt, you can't un-hear it. As Grace is a 14-year old English girl/98-year old English woman not from Guernsey much less Australia, it's the wrong voice. Lee tells the story well and no one can fault her for her "Yes, Miss"-es; but often the odd inflection in the narrative jolts the listener out of the story.

Anyway, I'm definitely not going to count this one on my journey up Mount Blanc as I covered less than half of the material. Onwards...

Still reading K.I.A. (A Dr. Kel McKelvey novel by Thomas Holland.)

message 38: by C. (last edited Apr 27, 2013 07:55AM) (new)

C. (Riedel) Hi Tanya! I'm Carolyn. Regarding "Chariots Of Fire", a film this 80s buff did not see, I surmise that some plots/action are best on screen - good writing or not. I *adore* the cameraderie, humour, hope, action of all the Star Treks but wouldn't dream of reading sci-fi.

You have me worried about "The House At Riverton" although now I'm forewarned. I have it and two of Kate's others. I'm unaccustomed to 'chunksters', much of my material reaching 300 pages, thus I hope I like something about it much better.

message 39: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 30, 2013 10:56AM) (new)

C. wrote: "You have me worried about "The House At Riverton" although now I'm forewarned. I have it and two of Kate's others. I'm unaccustomed to 'chunksters', much of my material reaching 300 pages, thus I hope I like something about it much better. "

Hi Carolyn! I will readily admit that, when it comes to The House at Riverton that it's probably me. Right now, I'm not in a very patient mood and waiting for the penny to drop in THAR was wearing on me. The thing about audio is that you can't really listen faster without distorting the delivery and so I was forced into the pace that the narrator read. I'm not saying that the pacing was too slow, in fact it was right for the material, just that in listening I can't adjust my pace.

If you've read/liked The Thirteenth Tale (by Diane Setterfield), The Remains of the Day (by Kazuo Ishiguro), and/or Downton Abbey, I think you would love THAR for its atmospherics. If you had the patience to drive through the first 60% of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (by Stieg Larsson), you'll have no problem waiting THAR out. If you like low simmer mysteries, again I think this is a great choice.

All that said, I loved all the books that I cited above but THAR didn't work for me for the reasons I posted (#37) above. I think it's where my head is at right now. Perhaps if I had picked up in print or if I had been in a less restless mood, it would have gone over better. I may pick it up again (in print) now that I have a clearer idea what to expect.

message 40: by C. (last edited Apr 27, 2013 08:45AM) (new)

C. (Riedel) Thanks for taking the time to write out a spiel with me, Tanya. :) Nothing happening for ages is one problem I had with three books: "Graven Images", Audrey Thomas, "The Hatbox Letters, Beth Powning, "The Gathering", Anne Enright. If I had the personality type that allowed me to not finish, it would be these; except that Beth Powning's story got very good later. The issue with the others is that after wading through all of that, we were not rewarded with the scenes / topic that were advertized, for more than a line.

With Kate Morton, I'd like to verify that the big plot line happens at some point. If you go into my 2012 folder for the above, you'll see why else I disliked them. If there is lack of action, it is still great if you fall in love with the protagonist or environment.

I haven't read Kazuo Ishiguro, Stieg Larsson, nor watched "Downton Abbey" but have a copy of Diane Setterfeld's mysterious-sounding book.

message 41: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 30, 2013 12:01PM) (new)

18. K.I.A. (by Thomas Holland)
(In my stacks since 12/18/2012)

A couple of years ago, I listened to and loved the novel, Matterhorn: A Novel of Vietnam (by Karl Marlantes; narrated by Bronson Pinchot.) Never one for Vietnam war stories, this book nonetheless changed the way I looked at that war and the American soldiers who went over there. Immediately, I wanted to find and read other Vietnam War era books and novels and happened across this one at a Friends of the Library shop. Upon closer inspection though, I discovered that it was the second in the Dr. Kel McKelvey novels, and being a serial reader, tabled it until I could get around to getting the first-in-series, One Drop of Blood. To be honest, I completely forgot about it until late last year when I was drawing up books that I wanted to read from my TBR list (using a random number generator) and K.I.A. popped up! I was then prompted to order ODOB, which I read last month.

One Drop of Blood is a forensic thriller featuring Dr "Kel" McKelvey, a burnt out forensic anthropologist working for the military identifying the remains of soldiers who have died overseas. When the DNA lab results of a body recovered from a Vietnam War engagement site are linked to a homicide in Arkansas that happened inexplicably before the soldier's deployment, Kel is drawn into the investigation. FBI Special Agent Michael Levine, working the frayed remains of career after an impolitic decision to proceed against a corrupt politician, works the case from the federal angle. The two experienced but embittered men team up to unravel the mystery set in the South, land of racism, peanut Cokes, hot sticky nights, cheap motels and diners staffed with colorful characters. It sounds like a great recipe for a mystery, but somehow the ingredients don't really mesh together. Sections lack transitional grace and some passages come across as somewhat didactic. Protags were drawn as rather unrelentingly tired, pathetic and caustic, which made it difficult to sympathize with their challenges or even sense of humor. Stronger editorial oversight might have helped, but there was enough promise in this first-in-series to make the reader look forward to the next title, K.I.A.

And yes, K.I.A. is a better written novel: Sections flow with greater polish, there is less "tourism," and the characters have wives, kids and even a dog (though admittedly they are all just stage dressing.) In this story, the remains of a Vietnam War soldier are repatriated to the U.S. and await identification confirmation at the lab in Hawaii. Unfortunately, the results are negative and the pursuit of maternal DNA for a positive match are not forthcoming. Kel heads back into the South where "Shuck" Devereaux, a Chief Warrant Officer with the Army is investigating the deaths of Vietnamese immigrants and connections are made between Kel's "K.I.A" case and Devereaux's serial murderer.

The plot and action lines of both books are very good and I was looking forward to reading more of Holland's novels to see if he developed a stronger stylistic imprint but unfortunately it looks like these two books are it!

Up Next: The Little Book (by Selden Edwards)

message 42: by Diane (new)

Diane Will (Inver) | 38 comments Shame you didn't enjoy House at is a bit of a large read to hold you interest.

message 43: by [deleted user] (last edited May 25, 2013 07:47PM) (new)

19. The Little Book (by Selden Edwards)
(in my stacks since 08/02/2009)

Oh. Wow. This book took me completely by surprise even though it's been hanging around in my stacks for years! Wheeler Burden, noted athlete, musician and editor finds himself transported back fo Vienna, 1897. He encounters a number of the age's luminaries and cafe denizens who epitomize the time and place of Fin de Siecle. He also encounters a number of people of his own ancestry whom he must be careful about interacting with. Along the story arc, his own life in post-war America is alluded to and connections are made. I could probably spend hours trying to explain what this book is about, but really, it's impossible to do it justice. The complexity and well-crafted structure make this a "don't miss." There is a sort of sequel to it, The Lost Prince which came out last year. I'm only sorry that I didn't read The Little Book sooner so that I could have ridden the comet's tale of buzz that the second novel generated.

Next Up: Lamb (by Bonnie Nazdam)

message 44: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 03, 2013 10:13AM) (new)

The Quick & Dirty Review I wrote for:

The Little Book
by Selden Edwards
Published 08/14/2008 by Dutton/Penguin Group (USA)

WHO: Frank Standish Burden, III a.k.a. “Wheeler” Burden a.k.a. Harry Truman: Student at St. Gregory’s prep school, Harvard drop-out, Noted athlete, rock star, author/editor…

WHAT: Finds himself having traveled back in time…

WHERE: From an entryway at an apartment building in San Francisco to the Ringstrasse in Vienna where he meets luminaries of Fin de Siecle thought and practice as well as certain ancestors…

WHEN: From 1988 to 1897…

WHY: “We’ve had a chance to see what each of us is like”… “We… thought we could change the world around us”… “We thought we were omnipotent.”

HOW: Speculatively, the shift in time/space was a matter of strong self-will; perhaps one of pre-determination; perhaps no more than a sub-conscious impulse made manifest as a coping mechanism or to make sense of things.

+ Tightly constructed novel on both a basic narrative level and on an allegorical level: The story is well crafted to tether moments, relationships and things from the past with those in the future; The psychological allegory along Freudian lines is masterful.

+ Descriptive passages are rich with detail that tantalize the reader into wishing s/he were there (interesting sort of uber meta experience in itself)

- Impossible to describe and do the novel justice

message 45: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 03, 2013 10:14AM) (new)

The quick & dirty review for:

20. Lamb
by Bonnie Nazdam

Published September 13, 2011 by Other Press

WHO: David Lamb, a deceitful, delusional, aging and divorced man who is currently in a relationship with a much younger co-worker…

WHAT: seduces an eleven-year old child off of a parking lot…

WHERE: in Chicago and takes her to a ramshackle cabin in Colorado…

WHEN: and over the course of twenty days…

WHY: tries to instil the idea of ultimate truth and beauty and love…

HOW: by showing her a world far different from where she came from and providing her with memories that will carry her through her life.

+ As I was completing the WHO and HOW entries above, I realized that Bonnie Nazdam has created an interesting construct of paradoxes that creates an underlying tension of unease beyond the obvious one derived from WHAT David Lamb is doing.

- Though not graphically explicit, one senses the sexual undertones and it’s quite stomach churning, especially if you are a parent. Let’s make no mistake about this, David Lamb is a pedophile and there is no way to feel about him other than revulsion. It is no special writing skill on the author’s part to invoke this sentiment as there is no other way to feel about a pedophile. The usage of pedophiles (as well as child killers, child abusers, etc) are cheap and lazy shots by writers because it limits the reader’s response. Nothing that Nazdam has done here tempers that and you really have to wonder why she even tried.

Next Up: Either Dead Beat (The Dresden Files #7 by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters) or
The Time Traveler's Wife (by Audrey Neffenegger)

message 46: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 06, 2013 08:12AM) (new)

21. The Time Traveller’s Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger

Published 2004 by Harvest/Harcourt, Inc.

WHO: Henry deTamble and Clare Abshire,…

WHAT: a time traveller and the woman he loves…

WHERE:play out their drama in a meadow at her parent’s home and against the backdrop of Chicago, IL…

WHEN: from Sunday, June 16, 1968 - Thursday, July 24, 2053…

WHY: in a story of destiny/fate filled with romance, comedy and, tragedy alike…

HOW: all in concert with Henry’s Chronic Displacement Disorder (CDP)

+ The Time Traveller’s Wife is a tightly constructed and well edited story. The timeline is not linear, but by confining most of Henry’s adventures to a segment of time tethered to specific relationships that are linear, and in the past and present tenses, the story doesn’t become unwieldy or fantastical in scope.

+ Events are plausible. There’s no magic or supernatural effect deployed in the story.

+ 8 Kleenex story. Admittedly, this may also me a “minus." The Time Traveller’s Wife is definitely a tear-jerker, filled with emotional yearnings never fully requited even as the characters play out the scripts of their lives. Each victory in determinism is bittersweet, every hope tinged with the wistfulness of knowing it may not be actualized. Readers will be able to identify and emphasize with these feelings, which are magnified in the story and thereby giving the reader access into the life and world of The Time Traveller’s Wife.

-There are a couple segments where it is not clear what Henry’s appearances signifies. It is less of a case loose ends and more of a situation in which the appearances are not strongly enough linked to a relevant event in the story. For example, Henry appears in the kitchen, beaten and bloody. Why?

-It is not clear as to how much Henry’s father knows or understands about Henry. Though a secondary character, Henry’s father plays a significant role; but knowing whether ignorance or ambivalence is a factor in his relationship with his son would help the reader develop a clearer picture of the dynamics. Likewise, the nature of Inga (Henry’s one-time girlfriend,) as well as what she knows and when, is not explicit. This again lends a vagueness as to the tenor of their relationship and is slightly problematic in a key, tension-filed scene.

OTHER:Years ago, I started listening to the audio edition ofThe TIme Traveller’s Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger; narrated by William Hope and Laurel Lefkow.) My ambivalence towards the production was due to the narration: The narrators didn’t quite pull off the age ranges either in pitch/tenor or affectation convincingly. When I lost the CDs, I didn’t care, but I sensed that I might like the actual story so I purchased a print copy of The Time Traveller’s Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger.) I apologize, but I do not remember who I purchased it from; but it’s been in my TBR stacks since 08/10/2009!

Next Up: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters) and; Domestic Violets (by Michael Norman.)

message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 09, 2013 05:31AM) (new)

I just came back from a three-week vacation and haven't written the reviews yet, but I summited Mont Blanc (plus 1!) This week I'll be writing and posting quick & dirty reviews/comments on these books and then leveling up to Mt Vancouver! :-)

22. Dead Beat (The Dresden Files #7, by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters) - in my queue since 11/23/2011;

23. Domestic Violets (by Matthew Norman) - dnloaded to my nook on 07/01/2012);

24. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (by John Le Carre) - in my stacks since 11/21/2012 and;

25. Mystic River (by Dennis Lehane) - in my stacks since 07/20/2012.

message 48: by Bev (new)

Bev | 329 comments Mod
Tanya/dog eared copy wrote: "I just came back from a three-week vacation and haven't written the reviews yet, but I summited Mont Blanc (plus 1!) This week I'll be writing and posting quick & dirty reviews/comments on these b..."

Congratulations! We see you waving away there atop Mont Blanc! Good luck with Vancouver!

message 49: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 08, 2013 03:32PM) (new)

22. Dead Beat
The Dresden Files #7
by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters

15 hours, 8 minutes
Book published by Roc in 2006
Audiobook published by Penguin Audio, 2010

WHO: Harry Dresden, wizard and licensed detective…
WHAT: deals with the threat of necromancers…
WHERE: who have come into Chicago…
WHEN: on Halloween (when the threshold between the mortal and preternatural world is low) - and incidentally also Harry’s birthday…
WHY: to cast a mega-spell that will create a demi-god of one of the necromancers…
HOW: by harnessing the power of dead spirits and following the Word of Kemmlar, a book of a very powerful past necromancer.

+ The Dresden Files is a terribly uneven series, but this is one of the better ones. Butcher has pared down the cast of characters to a manageable size and, nicely balanced the action and comedy.
+ The plot lines are always interesting in that they are creative, original and clever. C’mon! Zombies! Necromancers! A Fallen Angel! A dinosaur named Sue and… Mouse!
+ There were no obvious continuity errors, as past novels in the series tend to be fraught with.
- But it must be said that Butcher also tends to dwell overmuch on the pathos of Harry and, the action scenes always require a bit of forgiveness on the part of the reader or listener in terms of choreography.

+ James Marsters has a wonderfully rich voice that lends itself directly to the character of Harry, meaning that the listener detects no delineation between the narrator and the character.
- Over time, the distinctiveness of each in the cast of characters has leveled off (e.g. Bob seems to sound less British as the series continues.)
- There is a neat plot twist involving one of the characters but the revelations falls a little flat. Because the scenes which would have teased the listener weren’t shaped to cue the listener with a little tell, or were underplayed, the twist is anti-climatic.

I purchased and dnloaded a digital copy of Dead Beat (by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters) from the now defunct audiobook dnload web-site, on 11/23/2011. I loved their discounted prices and expanding selections, but always had a problem playing the files: At any given point during the listening experience, the audio would jump back to the beginning of the file playing or, ahead to the next file. I never did find a fix for this issue and had to deal with it several times during this listening experience :-(

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23. Domestic Violets
by Matthew Norman
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on 08/09/2011
General Fiction

WHO: Tom Violet, an aspiring writer living in the shadow of his Pulitzer Prize- winning novelist-father…
WHAT: is stuck in a dead-end job and a deteriorating marriage…
WHERE: while doing time at the office and returning home to the upscale neighborhood of Georgetown (Washington, DC.)
WHEN: In the weeks between the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winners and the acceptance ceremony, Tom Violet’s father moves in with his son, adding to Tom’s struggle to remain afloat in a sea of implicit and explicit expectations.
WHY: Tom walks a fine line between self-destruction and survival as he determines who he is…
HOW: through his self-deprecating wit and boldness, and by negotiating the relationships of those most important in his life.

+ This is a light read with an original and interesting, plot twist. Matthew Norman keeps a tight rein on the satire, keeping the tone suburban and never succumbing to the temptations of becoming too dark, scathing or maudlin.

- The resolution of the story is somewhat awkwardly executed and vaguely unsatisfying. I’m not really sure I buy it as the story itself doesn’t sell it: There is a lack of narrative to support the transition from the selfish to the noble.

- The same sensibility that kept the overall timbre of the novel light also denied the story the gravitas which would have hooked the reader to feeling Tom’s angst as opposed to watching it.

OTHER: I purchased and dnloaded a digital eBook copy of Domestic Violets (by Michael Norman) during an eBook sale that HarperCollins was running in May, 2012. For some reason, I thought this was a lit-fic novel and had been putting it off until I was in the right frame of mind; but when I started reading it, I realized that the novel was more comedic in tone.

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