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What did you read last month? > What I read November 2015

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message 1: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments


Share with us what you read in November 2015 !

Please provide:

~ A GoodReads link
~ A few sentences telling us how you felt about the book.
~ How would you rate the book


message 2: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Here are my November reads.

I'm still reading The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Keep Moving And Other Tips About Old Age by Dick Van Dyke Keep Moving: And Other Tips About Old Age by Dick Van Dyke
Nonfiction
Rate 4/5
I really enjoyed this light quick read. Dick Van Dyke seems like such a positive person that you can't help but smile as you read this book. Well done !

Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola
Fiction
Rate 3/5
I read this book because I went to see the Roundabout Theater production of this novel. The novel is quite dark. That said it kept me engaged.


message 3: by Michele (new)

Michele Weiner | 161 comments Slade House I expected David Mitchell, but I got Stephen King. Not really awful, but not up to Mitchell's standards. It's about a house and a set of twins who are maintaining their lives by eating the souls of strangers who catch their eye due to their unusual attributes. 3 stars
Six of Crows A YA book about a teenaged gang boss (or underboss, technically) named Kaz Brekker and his friends, some of whom have magical powers. Kaz has a backstory, of course, which I won't reveal, but suffice to say that he is hiding his psychic injuries behind an angry persona. Kaz accepts an extremely dangerous mission from a merch (merchant) in town, and the gang has a hair-raising adventure. 3.5 stars

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter The details of Rosemary's life are pretty well told, and fascinating. But the author appears to misunderstand or to be unwilling to grapple with her actual diagnosis. Maybe a small criticism, but significant to me. 3.5 stars

Everything, Everything 4 stars I liked this YA tale. The characters were fun. But I figured out the plot too early. It was really just a fairly pleasant book. Probably not really a 4 star effort, now that I think about it.

Salvage the Bones 4 stars This was a raw story about extreme rural poverty involving premature sexual activity, drugs, dog fighting, alcoholism, and how people in impossible situations learn to take care of each other. Hard to read, but ultimately uplifting.

A Spool of Blue Thread 3 stars A family saga about a Baltimore family over three generations. Pretty good until the end, which petered out after the stunning crisis.

Allegiance 3 stars Mystery set in the Supreme Court and Philadelphia. I enjoyed the settings and the inside information. The plot escaped my notice much of the time, and it was too long. As a mystery, not that good.

The Last of the President's Men 4 stars I love reading about Richard Nixon, and learned things I didn't know about the weird president, but Alex Butterfield, the President's Man of the title, was also pretty weird and very conflicted.

Welcome to Night Vale 3 stars. Based on a podcast, this book is strange and clever at times. Better ideas about barbecues, librarians, etc than plot, however.

Hope to find better books this month.
Michele


message 4: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Thanks for sharing Michele.

I own but have not yet read Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-72 by Rick Perlstein
If I ever get to this book from my overflowing bookshelves I'll take a look at The Last of the President's Men. It sounds interesting. You usually can't go wrong with a Bob Woodward book.


message 5: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9471 comments Thanks for sharing, Alias & Michele. I'm sad to report that the only book i read in November is The Bully Pulpit. I'm determined to finish it this year, so doubt i'll be reading anything in December, either. I feel adrift!

Michele, it's good to read your comment on Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread. She's a favorite of mine but i haven't heard much on the boards about this latest one.

deb


message 6: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments madrano wrote: "Thanks for sharing, Alias & Michele. I'm sad to report that the only book i read in November is The Bully Pulpit. I'm determined to finish it this year, so doubt i'll be reading anything in Decembe..."

Deb, The Bully Pulpit is pulling down my stats, too. However, I am glad I am reading it. It's just very slow reading for some reason.


message 7: by Mkfs (new)

Mkfs | 189 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Deb, The Bully Pulpit is pulling down my stats, too. However, I am glad I am reading it. It's just very slow reading for some reason. "

My god, it sounds like you guys are reading some Brain Pain reads!


message 8: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism
is our current Group Read. You can check out our Group read Folder to read more about the book. It's not too late to join us ! I know I'll be reading this book all December. I hope to finish it by then.

It's a rainy day, so I think I may just relax and read a bit of Bully Pulpit today.


message 9: by Amy (new)

Amy (amybf) | 514 comments I finally finished "The Bully Pulpit." I had to just focus and plow through -- it did flag somewhat in certain spots and I was afraid I would lose interest if I didn't. I did end up getting a lot out of it and I'm glad I read it. Will try to update additional notes in the discussion thread.


message 10: by Petra (new)

Petra | 968 comments Alias, I have Therese Raquin on my TBR list. "Dark" might be a good choice for January reading.

In November I read:
Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages 2-star - I was expecting a decent historical fiction piece. This book had no conflict/tension and there was a lot of modern feminism in it that didn't work with the story.

Someone Else's Love Story (4-star) and My Own Miraculous (3-star) - My Own Miraculous is a prequel to the other. I really enjoy Joshilyn Jackson's writing. These two books are no exception.

The House at Riverton - (audio) 4-star - the second of Kate Morton's books that I've read. I like her style. She does seem to copy the style from book to book, if these two books are any example. Because of that, I'll space them out a bit but I'm looking forward to reading her other books.

The Book of Colors - 5-star. Lovely story of maturing and personal growth & understanding. This was a lucky GR Giveaway that I was happy to win.

Church of Marvels - 2-star. The author graduated from a Writing Workshop. This book read like a Workshop assignment. There's a good story behind this bad writing; there's hope that the author will hone her skills, I suppose. If she does, she could write a good story one day. This isn't it.

The Well and the Mine - 3-star. I enjoyed this book and will look for more by this author. The last line is perfect and the rest of the book is quiet in what it has to say.

Amsterdam - 5-star. Another great Ian McEwan book. I think this is my favorite so far.

Like a Haystack: Life from My Perspective - 4-star. This was like listening to a friend tell of her memories. It's from the heart. Not literature but easy to read. Another GR Giveaway win.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald - 3-star. This is a strange era/group of people for me to read about. Everytime I read about them, I feel as if they were just pampered, spoiled rich kids who had no idea what "real life" was about. Lots of partying and drunkenness.

Silent Scream - (audio) 3-star. As a mystery, this was pretty good. The characters weren't the most likable and some of their actions (particularly re: relationships) seemed childish. A good book to listen to, though.

Freud's Sister - 2-star. Here is a woman who history forgot. There's almost nothing known about her, other than she was one of Freud's sisters. The author had lots of wiggle room in writing a novel about her life. We can't assume that any of this is true. Way too much Freudian philosophizing and sadness. This woman didn't have one moment of pure happiness and joy. I hope her real life was better than that.


message 12: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9471 comments Petra, yours sounds like an up & down reading month. It's so hard to predict but at least you have them off your TBR list. I hope December is better for you.

Pinkie, you seemed to enjoy the books you listed. Nicely done. I'm glad you shared links to your comments, too.

Amy, i'm glad to know someone in the group has finished it. I'm trying to read more regularly so that i can finish this month. Thus far i've made it to chapter 13, reading 3 chapters yesterday.


message 13: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Amy wrote: "I finally finished "The Bully Pulpit." I had to just focus and plow through -- it did flag somewhat in certain spots and I was afraid I would lose interest if I didn't. I did end up getting a lot o..."

Thanks for sticking with it. It's hard to get a group read going and when the book is difficult it's doubly hard. I look forward to your comments in the Group Read thread.


message 14: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Petra wrote: "Alias, I have Therese Raquin on my TBR list. "Dark" might be a good choice for January reading.

.."


Wow! You did quite a bit of reading in November, Petra. Well done !

I look forward to reading your thoughts on Thérèse RaquinTherese Raquin.


message 15: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Thanks for sharing Pinkie ! Glad you enjoyed your reads.


message 16: by Mkfs (last edited Dec 03, 2015 03:33PM) (new)

Mkfs | 189 comments Under the Skin by Michael Faber. I decided to give the movie time to fade from my mind before reading this, and it turns out that is not necessary: the movie and the book are very different, almost unrelated. I won't go into it too much except to say that the woman is driving around the Scottish highlands, picking up hitchhikers with the worst of intentions. Entirely unambiguous, unlike the film. Four stars.

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien. Brain-Pain reading. Writing about writing: it's usually annoying, often clever, and occasionally satisfying. This one was pretty good, once you give it enough time to lay a foundation. Enjoyable language, a good selection of well-formed characters to learn about, some minor tension that gets resolved fairly neatly at the end. Three stars.

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg. A layman's book on how math and stats ought to be used, but aren't. I am now able to articulate why most uses of bayesian analysis make me uneasy: turns out there are assumptions being made implicitly which bias the results, and this happens more often than not. Anyways, highly recommended. Five stars.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. How can you go wrong with a globe-trotting, generation-spanning story set in and around the NYC and SF punk scenes of the late 70s and early 80s? Ask Jennifer Egan. Uninteresting characters, stories that either ring false or are mind-numbingly pedestrian. Just not that good. Two stars.

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Itao Calvino. Brain-Pain reading. I read this back in the early 90s, and forgot just about everything about it. The gimmick that Calvino uses here is the book is written in second-person, to You as the reader, and You encounter a series of novels whose first chapter lures You in, only to discover that the remainder of the tale is lost. This is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book for the metafiction devotee -- only without any actual choices. Four stars, lopping off the fifth because the ending was rather silly.

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber. I'm pretty sure the only stuff I've read by Fritz Leiber was his sword-and-sorcery series Fafherd and the Grey Mouser (or something like that, I was pretty young). The premise of this one sounded interesting: a bunch of personnel on leave from a Time War are stuck in a room outside of time, trying to figure out if their side is winning or losing. The narrative, though, whoa was that painful. I guess the choice to tell the story from the first-person vantage of a 29-year-old brothel worker from Chicago was not a good one. Nothing against brothel workers, or Chicago for that matter, but perhaps not the best perspective on things like physics. In the end, nothing really happens, and the tale wasn't told well. Two stars.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. Perhaps the Fritz Leiber book left me yearning for a real time-travel novel. Well, this wasn't it. I guess you could take this as a coming-of-age tale or some sort of therapy for parental abandonment, using time travel as a metaphor (stuck in the past -- get it? you sure? because we can spend the next 100 pages running the idea into the ground, if you like). An occasional moment of insight, but generally just very, very tedious. I'll give it a star.


message 17: by Mkfs (last edited Dec 03, 2015 12:11PM) (new)

Mkfs | 189 comments Petra wrote: "Amsterdam - 5-star. Another great Ian McEwan book. I think this is my favorite so far. "

I really liked that one, especially the gradual reveal of the composer's character. A lot of reviewers seem to think it is so-so, which surprises me.


message 18: by Amy (last edited Dec 03, 2015 01:26PM) (new)

Amy (amybf) | 514 comments My reads for November:


NONFICTION

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin: Still gathering my thoughts on this tome to share in the Group Read thread. On the whole, I did learn a lot from this book and I'm glad I read it as part of my presidential challenge. I learned that while he was a good president, I don’t much care for Teddy Roosevelt as a person. And I grew to greatly admire William Howard Taft as a person, although his presidency wasn’t much to write home about. And I pine for the golden olden days of journalism, when people would wait breathlessly for their copies of magazines with 30,000-word investigative articles about topics such as oil monopolies and tariff acts. Ah, those were the days. Somewhere between 3.5-4 stars.

On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt: A memoir by a woman who grew up in the mountains of Berchtesgaden -- just steps from Adolf Hitler's alpine retreat. The author gives an unflinching look at how she was shaped by a childhood spent living under a dictatorship, and how her parents were swayed by Hitler’s rhetoric into supporting the Nazi party. I picked this up because I actually know another woman who grew up living right inside Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden (her father was Hitler’s elevator operator) and I wanted to see how the two women’s accounts compared. A good look at how –and why—people are influenced by propaganda. 3 stars

The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy: I love Pat Controy's novels, but this memoir was uneven, rambling and repetitive. (For such a gifted writer, why is "pretty" the only adjective he seems to know how to use to describe the women in his life?) This book does provide insight into the Conroy family dynamic in a way that offers explanations behind Conroy's novels, however. 2.5-3 stars


FICTION

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra: This is a giant, sprawling novel (900-plus pages). It details the lives of Police Inspector Sartaj Singh and Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India. It starts with a fateful meeting between Singh and Gaitonde, and then goes back and explains in alternating chapters the events that led up to their final encounter. I bought it because I have an inexplicable fondness for Indian literature and I so enjoyed A Suitable Boy, and I was hoping it would be a similar reading experience. “Sacred Games” was good, but I still liked “A Suitable Boy” better. 3.5 stars

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: In an interview in the back, the author says that the motto of this book might be "Even if you do the best you can, you still get screwed." I would whole-heartedly agree with this assessment. This book delves into the question of what happens if you love God and you live your life in ways that you believe would please Him -- but it seems as though God doesn't love you back. In fact, it seems as though God is cruel and vicious. What do you do with that? The writing was strong, but the narrative slogged down at too many points for me. I did find myself racing through the last 60 pages. But I had to force myself through the first 340 pages to get there. 3 stars

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Finally got around to reading this one—I must be the last person on the planet. Not quite sure what all the fuss was about it. It was a pleasant-enough book, but it didn’t knock my socks off. The chapters were annoyingly short, which made the narrative too choppy (I hate that). A decent historical fiction, but not one that will stick in my head. 3 stars

The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff: This book, which is soon to be in theaters as a movie starring Eddie Redmayne, is loosely based on the true story of Lili Elbe, a Danish transgender woman and one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment surgery. Elbe was born Einar Wegener and was a successful artist under that name. She was also married when she decided to have the surgery. This book explores the question of what really makes a marriage when one partner grapples with his/her sexual identity. 3 stars

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny: Book #8 in the series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the people of Three Pines. Still love Penny’s writing – her books are more than just mysteries; they are really more like literary mysteries. She writes with a fluidity and grace that is like poetry. Having said that, the story itself this time didn’t grab me as much as previous outings. Still, I’ll read on to wherever Penny is going to take me. 3 stars.


message 19: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Mkfs wrote: "Under the Skin by Michael Faber. I decided to give the movie time to fade from my mind before reading this, and it turns out that is not necessary: the movie and the book are very dif..."

Wow! You read some heavy duty books this last month! I enjoyed reading your synopsis very much.


message 20: by Alias Reader (last edited Dec 03, 2015 02:34PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Amy wrote: "My reads for November:


NONFICTION

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin: Still gathe..."
-----------
On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt: A memoir by a woman who grew up in the mountains of Berchtesgaden -- just steps from Adolf Hitler's alpine retreat. The author gives an unflinching look at how she was shaped by a childhood spent living under a dictatorship, and how her parents were swayed by Hitler’s rhetoric into supporting the Nazi party. I picked this up because I actually know another woman who grew up living right inside Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden (her father was Hitler’s elevator operator) and I wanted to see how the two women’s accounts compared. A good look at how –and why—people are influenced by propaganda. 3 stars


Thank you for reading our Group read of Bully Pulpit. Your insight and comments have added a lot to my enjoyment and understanding of the book. I'm still reading it but hope to finish it this month.


On Hitler's Mountain sounds interesting. Were the two women's account similar ?


message 21: by Michele (new)

Michele Weiner | 161 comments To tell you the truth, you guys put me off The Bully Pulpit for all time. And I like Teddy, too.

Thanks for all the suggestions.
Michele


message 22: by Emma (new)

Emma (elpryan) | 168 comments Only managed to finish one this month:

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 3/5. I used to read Mary Roach's columns in the Reader's Digest and I like her sense of humor, which she injects into this book and gives it a sense of much needed levity to distract from the alternating seriousness, gore, and general morbidity of discussing what happens to bodies donated to science. This was an interesting, if occasionally uncomfortable, listen.

Hopefully I can finally wrap up the 3 books I have started by the end of the year.


message 23: by Emma (new)

Emma (elpryan) | 168 comments Amy, glad to see your review of All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoyed that one a lot. For me, the short chapters helped keep up the pace of the story (or maybe I'm just lacking in attention span lately :)) but can see your point in the other direction.


message 24: by Amy (last edited Dec 04, 2015 05:54AM) (new)

Amy (amybf) | 514 comments Emma wrote: "Amy, glad to see your review of All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoyed that one a lot. For me, the short chapters helped keep up the pace of the story (or maybe I'm just lacking in attention span l..."

This was one of my chief complaints about The Da Vinci Code, too. It seemed as though each chapter was 2 or 3 pages long -- just as I would start to get into the narrative, boom! End. On to the next person/event/action in a new chapter. It really disturbs my momentum.
On the other hand, though--it did make it easy to speed through the book.

PS I love Mary Roach, too. :)


message 25: by Amy (last edited Dec 04, 2015 07:33AM) (new)

Amy (amybf) | 514 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Amy wrote: "On Hitler's Mountain sounds interesting. Were the two women's account similar ? ..."

They were fairly similar, yes. Irmagard Hunt, the author, wrote about going to school with some of the children of the top Nazi officials, and how to her they were just "Herr Speer, Albert's dad." The woman I know has told similar stories about Goebbels, Himmler, Goering and Hitler -- how to her, they were just regular people who came in and out of her house. For instance, she said Hitler was "a funny man" who loved the aquarium they had, and he would always stop and talk to her about any new fish in it. My oldest son did a history project in 9th grade about Hitler's rise to power, and he spent hours with her listening to all the stories and looking at her photos. She helped him understand what the economic situation was like in Germany at the time, and how the Nazis used propaganda to warp their message into one that German citizens would believe. And then after that, he spent time talking to another woman who had survived one of the concentration camps. The entire experience really made history come alive for him. (And his history project, titled "Adolf Hitler: The Wrong Man at the Right Time," won first place in the history day competition that year. :)


message 26: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Emma wrote: "Only managed to finish one this month:

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 3/5. I used to read Mary Roach's columns in the Reader's Digest and I like her sense of humor, which

Hopefully I can finally wrap up the 3 books I have started by the end of the year.
..."


I hope you end the year strong and finish the 3 books you have begun.

Interesting book. I remember when it came out. The reviews were positive. Though the subject matter might be too much for me.


message 27: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Emma wrote: "Amy, glad to see your review of All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoyed that one a lot. For me, the short chapters helped keep up the pace of the story (or maybe I'm just lacking in attention span l..."

I'm a fan of short chapters, too.


message 28: by Alias Reader (last edited Dec 04, 2015 06:54AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Amy wrote: And his history project, titled "Adolf Hitler: The Wrong Man at the Right Time," won first place in the history day competition that year. :) .."

Thank you for answering my question.

Wow ! Your son's project sounds fascinating ! That would make a great book.

On the same general topic, I just borrowed from the library, Voyage of the Damned: A Shocking True Story of Hope, Betrayal, and Nazi Terror
I then want to see the movie which is titled, Ship of Fools.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059712/


message 29: by Amy (new)

Amy (amybf) | 514 comments Alias Reader wrote: "On the same general topic, I just borrowed from the library, Voyage of the Damned: A Shocking True Story of Hope, Betrayal, and Nazi Terror
..."


That sounds really good, Alias. Let me know how you like it.


message 30: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 239 comments Interesting reads by all in November. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers has been on my TBR list for some time. I have added The Danish Girl to the list. Thanks.


message 31: by Lesley (last edited Dec 04, 2015 06:43PM) (new)

Lesley | 239 comments November didn't bring me any better reading unfortunately. I will definitely take a different approach in the new year!

4 stars.

Vanished London private investigator David Raker goes looking for missing man Sam Wren, and uncovers multiple murders. Audio. Quite good.

3 stars

The Stand A deadly plague wipes out people and animals throughout The States, leaving a few to resurrect some semblance of society. Way too long but still enjoyable. Reminds me of The Road

Carol Bored socialite Carol meets a bored shop assistant in a NYC department store and love follows against constraints of the 50s. Looking forward to seeing the movie with Cate Blanchet in the leading role. Audio.

2 stars

The 39 Steps, The Red House on audio, Candide.


message 32: by Alias Reader (last edited Dec 04, 2015 06:34PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16965 comments Lesley, I thought The Stand was vastly superior to The Road.

It was the same general topic but Kings book was a great page turner. I think it's Kings best novel.


message 33: by Emma (new)

Emma (elpryan) | 168 comments The Road frustrated me because I wanted to know what happened. The Stand was way too long but mostly captivating, I just wish I'd found an original edition.

Amy, that sounds like an incredible project. Amazing to have access to perspectives from both extremes.


message 34: by Emma (new)

Emma (elpryan) | 168 comments Alias Reader wrote: "I hope you end the year strong and finish the 3 books you have begun. "

Thanks, Alias!


message 35: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9471 comments Mkfs, i wasn't aware of the film or book Under the Skin. I'll have to check it out. How did i miss the film, i wonder?

I have only read that Italo Calvino once and had not been warned that the first chapter is repeated in different forms. I was lost initially, then delighted. Of course frustration filtered in, as well.

Amy, your son's project sounds like a good work of research. I hope he has good memories of creating it. And what an opportunity to learn history first hand. Thanks for the book title, too.

Lesley, Vanished sounds intriguing. Did you read author Tim Weaver's earlier Raker mysteries? Can they be read out of order?


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