The History Book Club discussion


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message 1: by Jill (last edited Jan 16, 2016 12:15AM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Pamela, here is your new thread in 2016. Happy reading in the new year.

Our Required Format:


1. My Early Life, 1874-1904 by Winston S. Churchill by Winston S. Churchill Winston S. Churchill
Finish date: January 2016
Genre: (whatever genre the book happens to be)
Rating: A
Review: You can add text from a review you have written but no links to any review elsewhere even goodreads. And that is about it. Just make sure to number consecutively and just add the months.

message 2: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments Thanks so much, Jill.

message 3: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments JANUARY

1. Irène (Verhœven, #1) by Pierre Lemaitre by Pierre Lemaitre Pierre Lemaitre; translated by Frank Wynne Frank Wynne
Finish date: January 3, 2016
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Rating: B+
Review: Irene introduces diminutive Commandant Camille Verhoeven of Paris in the first of a series of French noir crime novels written by award winning French writer, Pierre Lemaitre. This novel won several prizes for crime fiction as did the next in the series, Alex. M LeMaitre also won the Prix Goncourt for his novel, Au revoir la-haut. This is an extremely well written thriller. It is also very violent and the descriptions of that violence are quite graphic. So it's not a book for those who prefer cozy mysteries.

Having said all that, I enjoyed it a lot. The action is fast-paced, the characters are interesting and well developed and the plot takes enough twists to satisfy. The story begins with a brutal and bloody murder that leaves even the detective squad stunned and horrified by the violence of the killer. When Commandant Verhoeven recognizes several features of the scene as reminiscent of the famous Black Dahlia case, he begins to realize that they may have a serial killer. A second murder patterned after another well known case confirms this and the squad realizes the killer is re-creating famous fictional murders. They call him The Novelist. To reveal more would spoil a great chase, but take it from me, this is crime fiction at its very best.

Alex (Verhœven, #2) by Pierre Lemaitre Au revoir là-haut by Pierre Lemaitre by Pierre Lemaitre Pierre Lemaitre

message 4: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:53PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 2. The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #1) by Robert A. Caro by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro
Finish date: January 11, 2016
Genre: History, American History, Biography
Rating: A
Review: This is the first in a four volume opus about President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It covers his birth and early years until his surprising defeat in his first run for the U.S. Senate. I came of age during his Presidency and so I remember what a larger than life figure he was and how powerful he was in the Congess at that time.

The Path to Power is the story of how he began to obtain that power. It begins with his birth, of course, in the Hill Contry of Texas along the Pedernales River and proceeds through his college years and work in Washington to his first election to the House of Representatives in 1937. Mr. Caro gives a less than flattering picture of Johnson, but a balanced one. He was a dedicated and hard worker in pursuit of what he wanted but was also manipulative and sly, fawning to older men who could be of help. He seems to have had an instinctive feel for political manuevering.

This is an excellent history and the writing style is not only rational but also makes Texas, Washington, D.C. and the people in both places come alive. There is a feeling of immediacy in Mr. Caro's prose that makes you feel as if you are involved in all the action. Additionally, he does a very good job of explaining the background on political movements (Populist Party), campaigns, and the personal history of various characters without losing the flow of the narrative. I am looking forward to the next three volumes.

message 5: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:54PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 3. Civil War Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott by Louisa May Alcott Louisa May Alcott
Finish date: January 12, 2016
Genre: Memoir
Rating: B
Review: After briefly serving as a nurse in a hospital in Washington, D. C., Louisa May Alcott returned to her home in Massachusetts and wrote a series of essays which were published in the newspaper Commonwealth. She was only active for approximately 6-8 weeks before she got sick and was advised to go home. These essays relate the things she saw and did in that short time.

The tone is, oddly, very lighthearted considering the subject matter. However, Miss Alcott said of herself that she preferred
to approach her duties cheerfully and with a touch of humour in order to make it more pleasant for the men in her care. Her admiration for their bravery is evident in the way she writes.

The essays give a very good idea of how some of these hospitals operated and the terribly hard work of the nurses of that day. Even though this is a short work, Miss Alcott paints a complete picture of this part of the War.

message 6: by Peter (new)

Peter Flom Pamela wrote: "2. The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #1) by Robert A. Caro by Robert A. CaroRobert A. Caro
Finished: January 11, 2016
Genre: History, American History, Biography
Rating: A
Review: This i..."

The next three volumes are just as good and the fifth and final one is in the works.

message 7: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments Glad to hear that, Peter. I didn't know there was a fifth one. Looks like Johnson and I will be buddying up for a good part of this year!

message 8: by Peter (new)

Peter Flom It's not clear when the fifth volume will come out. That one is going to cover his presidency.

message 9: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments I kinda wish I'd known that before I started. I got the first four as a present from my husband aand just assumed that was the whole biography.

message 10: by Donna (last edited Jan 14, 2016 08:40AM) (new)

Donna (drspoon) What a great present! I have been meaning to get to these. It's amazing that there are four volumes before we even get to the presidency. I believe Mr. Caro is 80 - a life long commitment!

Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro

message 11: by Peter (new)

Peter Flom Caro's first big book was also great: The Power Broker Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro.

Mr. Caro is fascinated by power and its uses and abuses. In the earlier book, he studies Robert Moses, a much lesser known figure than LBJ. That came out in 1974 and surely required many years of work, so, Caro has been analyzing powerful men for 45 years or so.

message 12: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments He won the Pulitzer for that one, didn't he? He can certainly hold a reader's interest.

message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter Flom Yes he did. And yes he can.

message 14: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:54PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 4. March Violets by Philip Kerr by Philip Kerr Philip Kerr
Finish date: January 14, 2016
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction
Rating: B
Review: The first book in the Bernie Gunther series. I was intoduced to this series last year through a challenge In which I needed a "Z" title. So I read The Lady from Zagreb and really enjoyed it mainly because of the twist of having it set in Nazi Germany.

This first book sets the scene and gives some of the back story on Bernie. He's called in by a rich industialist to find jewels apparently stolen during the murder of the businessman's daughter and her husband. Since their house was torched after they were killed, Bernie knows this is no ordinary theft. The investigation takes him in many directions, including the concentration camp at Dachau, where he comes close to dying. He even gets hired by Goering to investigate a missing person.

I'm sure I'll continue with this series as I very much enjoy the historical background. The author blends ordinary everyday happenings into the story line i.e, the Nazi's attempt to deal with unemployment by forcing women out of the workplace and back to the home, the introduction of more and more "ersatz" consumer goods and Goering's beginnings at art theft. It's set at the time of the Olympics and there is quite a bit of social commentary on events surrounding the preparations. Besides all that, the crimes Bernie investigates are good, too.

The Lady from Zagreb (Bernard Gunther, #10) by Philip Kerr by Philip Kerr Philip Kerr

message 15: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) That sounds like a series I need to check out, Pamela.

message 16: by Samanta (last edited Jan 16, 2016 12:02AM) (new)

Samanta   (almacubana) Is it bad that I'm thrilled every time I see Zagreb or Croatia mentioned in a book written by a foreign author? :)

message 17: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) And I think of you each time I see Croatia mentioned, Samanta!!!!

message 18: by Samanta (new)

Samanta   (almacubana) Thank you for that, Jill! :) It's just that we are a very small country, and have been apparently insignificant throughout history, so I always squeal like a little girl when I see that a plot is developed here. I just finished a book where the protagonist were supposed to have their next adventure in Zagreb, but they never made it here.

message 19: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments I know what you mean, Samanta. I get like that whenever I see a character named Pamela in a book. When I was little all the heroines were named Nancy Or Patty or Ann. It's always a thrill when you can relate to something.

message 20: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:55PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 5. Negroland A Memoir by Margo Jefferson by Margo Jefferson Margo Jefferson
Finish date: January 15, 2016
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: B-
Review: Ordinarily I am not a big fan of memoirs. Basically because it's difficult to distinguish between what actually happened and what the author remembers as having happened. In this case it doesn't really matter if everything is absolutely true to memory as the author has written far more than an ordinary memoir. True, it is a book about the author's childhood and upbringing but it is also a very powerful comment on race in mid 20th century America. Particularly some of it's more hidden and subtle aspects.

Miss Jefferson comes from a background and economic status that separates her family from the majority of African Americans and, also, most white ones as well. These are what used to be called the negro elite, wealthy and black Americans who lived(and probably still do) separate and apart from both black and white in several cities across America. They lived and socialized together and knew each other much like Mrs. Astor's famous 400. They didn't have much in common with the rest of their race and were not accepted for the most part by whites in their economic or professional niche.

Miss Jefferson tells her story well and we get a clear picture of people trying hard to be "a credit to her race". Well educated with beautiful manners and high acheivement levels, she shows us the mental price to be paid for attempting to be perfect in a place and an era that wouldn't allow Negoes to fit in no matter how perfect.

This is a sad and poignant story of a time that, hopefully, is over. Predjudice, however, is not.

message 21: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:55PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 6. Submission by Michel Houellebecq by Michel Houellebecq Michel Houellebecq; translated by Lorin Stein
Finish date: January 18, 2016
Genre: Literature, Fiction, French
Rating: A
Review: Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, said "The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think...". She was speaking of the Bible, but the principle can be equally applied to Michel Houellebecq's newest book Submission. Published in France on the same day as the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo it soon became embroiled in controversy for its supposed anti-Islam slant. M. Houellebecq is one of France's most well known and widely published modern authors. His books are known for the disconnectedness of his protagonists, direct descriptions of sexual acts and subtle satire on modern life in France. Submission is no exception to this and adds the twist of an Islamic takeover of France through a coalition between the left and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Francois, the main character and narrator, is a professor of Literature at the Sorbonne. An expert on the obscure Joris-Karl Huysmans, a nineteenth century Decadent writer, Francois lives a strangely singular life. He has no friends, his relationships with women are limited to his students and of short duration and are basically simply sexual. He appears not to be interested in much of anything, including his own work. It's through him that the novel unfolds.

Houellebecq's main point here seems to be the weakness inherent in modern French culture, especially the intellectuals and politicians. The conquest of France by the Islamists is not so much a conquest as it is a "giving in". After all, these are moderate Muslims and what's the difference seems to be the major response here. We see all of this through Francois' reactions and for the most part, he is simply bored and vaguely uninterested. On the last page we find him contemplating his conversion to Islam in order to get his job back along with the promise of three young wives and a salary three times higher than before.

Contrary to the early noise about Submission, this does not read or feel like and anti-Islam novel. The satire in this book is extremely subtle, so much so that you're never sure if Houellebecq really means what he's saying or not. It's certainly an intensely well done essay on modern Western life. There is very little action taking place in Submission but it does make you think.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee by Harper Lee Harper Lee

Joris-Karl Huysmans Joris-Karl Huysmans

message 22: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:56PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 7. Still Waters (Sandham, #1) by Viveca Sten by Viveca Sten Viveca Sten; translated by Marlaine Delargy (no photo)
Finish date: January 20, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Foreign
Rating: C
Review: This is the first in a series of best selling mysteries in Sweden. Viveca Sten is a popular writer and her Sandhamm mysteries have also been made into a TV mini series in Sweden. I picked this up because one of my reading resolutions this year was to read more modern foreign literature. I don't know if this qualifies as "literature" but it was enjoyable. The main action takes place on the island of Sandhamm in the Stockholm archipelago and there are many descriptions of the island, its history and the surrounding areas in the book.

The story is conventional for this kind of mystery novel. A detective, a sidekick and a series of unexplainable murders. The characters are likeable, the story just interesting enough. It was not terribly difficult to figure it out pretty much from the beginning but interesting to see how the main characters would manage. This is a nice story for a few hours of pleasure reading.

This is the only one of the series currently translated into English. The second will be out in early spring of this year. You can watch the series on several online sources but, apparently, only in Swedish. No English subtitles.

message 23: by Pamela (last edited Mar 06, 2016 04:45PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments FEBRUARY

8. Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #2) by Robert A. Caro by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro
Finish date: February 11, 2016
Genre: American History, History, Biography, Non-Fiction
Rating: A
Review: The second book in Robert Caro's monumental biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson and, perhaps, the closest to the stated purpose in writing it of its author. Robert Caro has said in interviews that he is more interested in the means by which famous people accumulate power and the nature of power itself. This volume, which concerns itself with the 1948 campaign for the U.S. Senate by Johnson is certainly all about power. Not only Johnson's, but the people with whom he surrounded himself and cultivated.

In 1948, Johnson made his second bid for a Senate seat and was aware that if he lost, his career in politics would be over. He was not prepared to allow this to happen. His major opponent turned out to be Coke Stevenson, at that time the most admired and beloved figure in Texas history. He was known as Mr. Texas and was thought impossible to beat. He was and this is the story of exactly how Johnson stole the election from Coke.

The entire story is full of jaw dropping incidents that took place in this election. The theft was blatant even in Texas where stuffing the ballot box and paying for men's votes was, in some precincts, commonplace. The end result was fought out in court and finally wound up in front of Justice Black of the Supreme Court. This is a mind boggling political story and a real treat to be reading in this primary season. It makes you look at everyone with a more than usual jaundiced eye.

message 24: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Caro is such an excellent historian and his Johnson biography held me in thrall.

Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro

message 25: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments It certainly is that way for me. I am deliberately not reading more than one a month so as to prolong the pleasure.

message 26: by Peter (new)

Peter Flom All the volumes are excellent. Johnson was such an interesting person!

Caro's book on Robert Moses is also fantastic. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro

message 27: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments You're right, Peter. On both counts. Johnson really is amazing; a brilliant politician but not, I think, a very nice person. The way he treated people, including his wife, is appalling and his vulgarity is unbelievable.

message 28: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:56PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 9. Kepler's Witch An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother by James A. Connor by James A. Connor James A. Connor
Finish date: February 13, 2016
Genre: History, Biography, Non-Fiction
Rating: C+
Review:Johannes Kepler was a late 16th century astronomer, sometimes astrologist and dabbler in philosophy. He developed some of the first scientific principles of astronomy, discovered the elliptical orbit of planets and developed a series of laws of optics that were an important influence for Newton. He also wrote a theory about what he called an anima movens which led later to Newton's concept of gravity. He also had the misfortune of trying to do all of this in the middle of the Thirty Year's War and, for some years, while his mother was being tried (and eventually convicted) for witchcraft...a seemingly popular pastime of the 16th century.

It is easy to see that the author, James Connor, has a tremendous admiration for Keppler. In his forward he compares him to Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Keppler was a man who tried to promote religious peace in an era that was hostile to that concept. He was a devout Lutheran who, never the less, was excommunicated from the Lutheran Church. Basically for advocating tolerance and adhering to his own conscience.

I wouldn't reccomend this to anyone unless you have a strong interest in either Johannes Keppler or side issues of the Thirty Year's War but it was surprisingly good. It switches between excerpts from Keppler's letters and the author's viewpoint and is written in a chatty, almost gossipy style. Rather like having a friend from the 16-17th century write to fill you in on what's going on.

message 29: by Pamela (last edited Jul 21, 2016 07:36AM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 10. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash by Wiley Cash Wiley Cash
Finish date: February 14, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Southern Lit.
Rating: C
Review: "...And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.." With this begins the story of religion, murder and vengence in a small southern town. The center of the story takes place in a storefront, evangelical church led by a strange pastor who appears out of nowhere. They follow this passage from Mark and handle snakes, drink harmful things and walk through fire to show faith. They lay hands to heal. Unfortunately, this leads to the death of a young mute boy, a death that may, in fact, be murder.

This is the first novel by this author and is told through three viewpoints, an elderly follower in the church, the sheriff and the dead boy"s younger brother. There are many undercurrents running through this book but they fit together well with the main story and the author is at his best when speaking through the younger boy. It is more the way the tale is told that appeals here. The plot itself is pretty obvious but Mr. Cash knows his subject and is able to bring it to life. I was often reminded of the stories of Flannery O'Connor.

I also like the title, which is quoted from Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again : “Something has spoken to me in the night...and told me that I shall die, I know not where. Saying: "[Death is] to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”

The King James Bible by Anonymous by Anonymous(no photo)

You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe by Thomas Wolfe Thomas Wolfe

Flannery O'Connor Flannery O'Connor

message 30: by Pamela (last edited Jul 21, 2016 07:38AM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 11. Looking at Pictures by Robert Walser by Robert Walser Robert Walser
Finish date: February 19, 2016
Genre: Art
Rating: D
Review: I can't remember anymore what prompted me to want to read this. I know it sounded unusual and I like reading about art. Robert Walser was a Swiss/German poet and writer who was never successful enough to support himself by writing but was greatly admired by his contemporaries and by later, particularly German, writers. He did most of his work at the turn of the last century so the language here is a bit archaic. He seems to be enjoying something of a revival as his books are in reprint.

It was certainly an unusual book. Instead of normal art explanation or critique, each of these short essays was more of an uninhibited ramble and at some points seemed to have nothing to do with the piece under discussion. He puts himself into each artwork and imagines an elaborate and fanciful story. Some are good; some are almost unintelligible (to me at least). It's as if he wrote down whatever thought came into his head and made no attempt to relate them to the picture. Still, his language and style are occasionally delightful, especially if you like whimsy.

I think I was expecting more of a normal book about art with each piece discussed on its merits and technique. This is far more a book about the philosophical merits of art itself and the artist's place in modern society.

message 31: by Pamela (last edited Feb 19, 2016 10:58PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 12. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (MacKenzies & McBrides, #1) by Jennifer Ashley by Jennifer Ashley Jennifer Ashley
Finish date: February 19, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Rating: C+
Review: It is what it is. I needed a romance for a challenge and this one was a doozy. Goodness. It's hot in here. I feel I might faint!

message 32: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) That made me laugh, Pamela!!

BTW, don't forget that our format is "Finish date" rather than "Finished". Just a little nit but we want to remain consistent. Thanks.

message 33: by Samanta (new)

Samanta   (almacubana) Hahahahahaha, Pamela :D

message 34: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 13. The Stranger by Albert Camus by Albert Camus Albert Camus; translated by Matthew Ward
Finish date: February 20, 2016
Genre: Classics, Fiction
Rating: A
Review: Camus' Mersault is the ultimate disconnected human being. Basically, nothing matters to him and one thing is seen as ultimately no more important than another. He simply exists, with very little personal involvement or emotion and with no explanation of the past, no thought of the future. He feels that nothing much "matters" in life.

The book begins with his mother's death, opening with the famous line "Maman died today."* He knows people, even has a fiance, but they are not really friends or lover because he relates only on a superficial level. When he murders an Arab on the beach, even that is only something that happens without his real control. In fact, he can come up with no comprehensible reason for why he ended up doing this other than the blazing sun and head throbbing heat. His trial winds up centered around how he treated his mother. Did he really love Maman? Or did he put her into a home simply to be rid of her? Does he care about anything, feel remorse, believe in God? the reader see his thoughts; the jury, only his actions. Ultimately, his fate hinges on things that have nothing to do with guilt or innocence in the normal context. Camus himself said of this book, " In our society any man who does not weep at his mother's funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death..."

This is one of the finest examples of literature of the absurd. There are others, such as Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot, Joseph Heller's Catch-22 or anything by Franz Kafka. They all explored the themes of existence in a meaningless universe where absurd things happen to men and nothing they do can fix them; where life is a random series of odd and unexplainable happenings. What struck me while reading this version is the idea of how Mersault might be thought of and treated in today's world. No doubt he would be judged autistic or, perhaps, suffering from Asberger's. At the very least, we would consider that he had very poor "social skills" and perhaps make allowances for what he does. Not so Camus who knew that even in a meaningless universe, we are responsible. Our deeds ultimately define our life.

* For an interesting discussion on this line and its meaning in The Stranger, see this link:

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett by Samuel Beckett Samuel Beckett

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller by Joseph Heller Joseph Heller

Franz Kafka ]Franz Kafka

message 35: by Pamela (last edited Feb 24, 2016 07:54PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 14. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist by John Ajvide Lindqvist John Ajvide Lindqvist
Finish date: February 22, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Horror
Rating: F
Review: The suburbs. Not the clean, attractive and open suburbs of the upper middle class. No. These have more in common with the banlieues of French cities or the inner city housing units of the USA. Large, impersonal, slightly decepit buildings that are home to the poor, the uneducated and the despairing. Here the men are unemployed and alcoholic; the women, single mothers or part time prostitues. A young boy so bullied he begins to act out fantasies of revenge with the kitchen knife and the rest of the boys spend their time getting high by "huffing"...sniffing glue. You get the picture. This is a bad place. Add a vampire child figure and her pedophile protector to it and you have the plot of this idiotic book.

This is not the sensual vampire literature of Anne Rice nor Bram Stoker's evil Dracula. This is just violent, bloody nastiness. It was on a list of books recommended by Stephen King and I kept on with it because I kept thinking, "Stephen King recommended this. It must get better." It doesn't. If I had known what it was, I would never have picked it up. I detest vampire fiction and this is the worst of the lot.

Dracula by Bram Stoker by Bram Stoker Bram Stoker

Anne Rice Anne Rice

message 36: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 15. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough by David McCullough David McCullough
Finish date: February 24, 2016
Genre: American History, Biography, History, Non-Fiction
Rating: A
Review: Factual, enjoyable reading from David McCullough. Excellent history, as usual.

message 37: by Dimitri (new)

Dimitri | 600 comments Pamela wrote: "14. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist by John Ajvide LindqvistJohn Ajvide Lindqvist
Finish date: February 22, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Horror
Rating: F

This is one of the rare examples where a film adaptation outshines its source material: Lindqvist does rely primarily on shock value. Watch "Låt den rätte komma in" and the American remake; there are subtle differences and the two of them have separate strengths and weaknesses.

message 38: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments Dimitri wrote: "Pamela wrote: "14. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist by John Ajvide LindqvistJohn Ajvide Lindqvist
Finish date: February 22, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Horror

I'm sure you are right, Dimitri. When I was looking at other reviews on this book after I finished, I saw many references to the films. The book itself seems to get rave reviews from other readers but many of them are like you and think the films were better.

message 39: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments Dimitir, have you read any of Linqvist's other books? I'm curious to know if they are all like this one?

message 40: by Dimitri (new)

Dimitri | 600 comments Pamela wrote: "Dimitir, have you read any of Linqvist's other books? I'm curious to know if they are all like this one?"

No.... I'll let you know.

message 41: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments Sorry, Bentley. It's fixed now. By the way, welcome back.

message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Thank you Pamela.

message 43: by Pamela (last edited Mar 17, 2016 05:17AM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments MARCH

16. Fordlandia The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin by Greg Grandin Greg Grandin
Finish date: March 13, 2016
Genre: American History, History, Non-Fiction
Rating: C
Review: In 1928, Henry Ford decided to secure a natural rubber supply for the Ford Motor Co. and purchased some 4,000 acres along the Tapajos river in Brazil, a tributary of the Amazon. As it turned out, the land he purchased for a large sum could probably have been gotten for free from the Brazilian government. This was the first of a series of bad decisions that eventually resulted in colossal failure. He also decided to build middle class America in the center of the Amazonian jungle. At this point in his life, Henry Ford was completely convinced that the way to end poverty and disease lay in exporting the "true" American values of discipline, hard work for wages (an important distinction here as the inhabitants of the jungle operated on barter fueled by debt), hygiene and, of all things, square dancing. Fordlandia is the story of that endeavor.

Ford poured millions of 1920's dollars into the community he built and eventually created a small town that looked a lot like his ideal - Dearborn, Michigan. Small wooden houses, all with flower and vegetable gardens, a school, hospital, dance hall and swimming pools (one for the white staff and one for the indigenous workers) were built and roads in this village were even paved. Henry Ford then proceeded to attempt to regulate every aspect of the native peoples' life. Needless to say, this did not go over well. Eventually in 1930, there was a huge and devasting workers' riot.

This should have been a fascinating story. What could be more interesting than an industrial giant who tries to impose his will on both men and jungle? Unfortunaely the author couldn't seem to decide what story he really wanted to tell. Every chapter led to small wanderings off onto jungle side paths of Brazilian slave revolts, Ford's bizarre antique collecting, his hatred of unions and troubles with workers, etc. Only the last few chapters that dealt strictly with the growing of rubber and the attempt to establish Fordlandia were on topic and told a remarkable story. If the writing had been more lively and the plotting more cohesive, it wouldn't have taken me two weeks to finish this one. To say the writing is boring is an understatement. Still, this is a really good tale, or would be, in better hands.

message 44: by Pamela (last edited Mar 28, 2016 05:22AM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 17. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut by Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut
Finish date: March 17, 2016
Genre: Fiction
Rating: B
Review: One of Kurt Vonnegut's lesser known works, this is a story about moral dilemmas and the decisions that lead to them. Vonnegut said of Mother Night that it was the only story of his whose moral he knew. "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be". It is another example of post-war existential and absurdist literature.

The story opens in an Israeli prison where the main character Howard W. Campbell is awaiting trial for crimes against humanity for his role as a propagandist in Nazi Germany and writing his memoirs for the Israeli archives. Mr. Campbell is an American citizen who lived and stayed in Germany throughout the war and eventually became a high ranking Nazi himself. Maybe. He claims to have been working as a spy for the United States after being recruited in 1935 at the Berlin Zoo by one Frank Wirtanen. Unfortunately there is no proof of this. The story is told from start to finish (including the intro) as if it were factual and, at times, has led to lively discussions among Vonnegut fans as to whether or not Campbell was a real person (he was not; the story is fiction). Campbell's character has been compared to Mersault in Camus' The Stranger. After having just read this, I did not find the comparison that apt. Both are alienated from the world and despairing but Campbell is different in that he is, or has been, more engaged than Mersault and is also consumed by guilt over his role. Mersault was not. Both believe that love is the sole and most important thing in life.

Campbell's story is told through his memories and we see just how he came to be what he was and the effect his work had.When his identity is revealed that sets the story in motion, he becomes a hero to local neo-nazi groups in America because of the validation they feel he gave them during the War. His guilt leads him to turn himself in to the Israelis to face trial. He expects and almost looks forward to his hanging and is none too pleased when Wirtanen shows up to validate his story of spying. Now he must return to living in a world in which he no longer finds pleasure or meaning.

This is short novel, less than 300 pages and told in the style that later made Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle such bestsellers. Finely crafted by an expert writer, it was a pleasure to read. It was written and published in 1961 while the trial of Adolf Eichmann was going on in Israel. For those of us who remember that time, the book has the feel of that trial and, in fact, Campbell meets Eichmann briefly in prison.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut by Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut

The Stranger by Albert Camus by Albert Camus Albert Camus

Adolf Eichmann (no photo)

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Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments 18. The Admirals Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King—the Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea by Walter R. Borneman by Walter R. Borneman (no photo)
Finish date: March 28. 2016
Genre: American History, History, Non-Fiction, WWII
Rating: B+
Review: Centered on the the four men who achieved 5 star rank in the wartime U.S. Navy, The Admirals.. is an excellent short biography of the personalities, capabilities and leadership styles of the four very different men who led the way to victory in the naval war in WWII. Beginning with their attendance at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and following their individual journeys from Leahy's first war experience in the Atlantic in 1898, through the days of WWI, the story culminates in a review of the major events of their lives - their service in WWII. Each man was surprisingly different but all had the dedication to duty and care for country that distinguishes a great leader.

If this book has a flaw, it is that it concentrates almost solely on the war in the Pacific and Leahy's years as advisor to Roosevelt. Almost no attention is paid to King's views on the conduct of war in the Atlantic. Still, this is not a history of the War as fought; it is a fascinating look at the men who fought it and what made them prepared to do so.

message 46: by Pamela (last edited Apr 11, 2016 03:31PM) (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments APRIL

19. The Tragedy of X (Drury Lane Mysteries) by Ellery Queen by Barnaby Ross(no photo), writing as Ellery Queen Ellery Queen
Finish date: April 4, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Rating: D
Review: Originally published in 1932 The Tragedy of X is mostly typical of the classic age of mysteries from between the Wars. A host of characters from upper class victims to commonplace detectives dealing with a convoluted plot with little overt violence. The writing is good, full of metaphor and detailed descriptions. And that is the problem here. Far too much extraneous writing that doesn't matter. Lovely prose but it does nothing to advance the plot and can, in fact, distract the reader. At one point I was so involved with reading the prose that I literally lost track of one of the murder victims and was surprised when he was mentioned again during the windup phase (which was intensely long). Normally I love mysteries from this era but this proved to be the exception. Perhaps it would be different if I had read it in 1932!

message 47: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Great review, Pamela. I read that book years ago (not in 1932!!!!!) and you pretty much are spot on about the great writing but confusing plot. Sometimes I think that the classic detective/mystery books can be an acquired taste but I love them.

message 48: by Samanta (new)

Samanta   (almacubana) Jill wrote: "Great review, Pamela. I read that book years ago (not in 1932!!!!!) "

Oh, Jill!! You're killing me! :D :D :D :D

message 49: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments Jill wrote: "Great review, Pamela. I read that book years ago (not in 1932!!!!!) and you pretty much are spot on about the great writing but confusing plot. Sometimes I think that the classic detective/mystery ..."

Thanks, Jill. I love them too and usually read a lot of them, but this one was too much hard work for little results. I did read somewhere that E.Q.'s others are good and it's only the Drury Lane ones that are not so hot.

message 50: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (winkpc) | 621 comments Samanta, you crack me up!! :)

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