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Book, Books, Books & More Books > What Are You Reading / Reviews - February 2017

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message 1: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
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Read any good books lately? We want to know about them.

Enter your reading list and/or reviews here. Did you like it? Hate it? Feel lukewarm? Share your thoughts with us.

Happy reading!

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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Lost City of the Monkey God A True Story by Douglas Preston by Douglas Preston
4 stars

This was an absolutely fascinating read. A page turner that never let's up, in spite a lot of scientific discussion, and it's all true. Mr. Preston joins an expedition into the rain forest of Honduras to look for the ruins of an ancient city that had never been excavated. From the original spotting of the location with the use of airborne lidar, hacking through the rain forest vegetation, encountering deadly poisonous snakes, finding an extraordinary archeological site and contracting a devastating disease--the action just never lets up. I could just barely put it down!


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
4 stars

A friend recommended this book to me and at first, I was afraid he'd been mistaken. It's not that I didn't like the story or the reader, I really enjoyed the reading done by Charlie McWade, but he indicated that it was one of the best books he read in 2016 and it was just hitting me as a fairly so-so read. But...once I was far enough along to realize the real intent of the story, it grabbed hold of me and I'm really glad that I stuck with it. A faraway kingdom in crisis, the royal family pronounced lost and a nobleman with a plan to save the country from a civil war. Three boys of just the right age and look are selected from surrounding orphanages and trained in princely ways. One will be crowned as the next King who will then be guided in all ways by the power seeking nobleman. Things don't go exactly as planned...but do they ever?


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
4 stars

It's been awhile since I read The Raven Boys and I was afraid that I'd have a difficult time remembering the characters and the world of (and around) Aglionby Academy but...it all came rushing back. The ley lines are flickering and causing power outages and surges and they must be fixed. Ronan is the only one of our fearless band that can do that and since he is a dream thief he needs to avoid getting caught by the Gray Man, release his mother from her catatonic state, save his brothers and get the power flowing uninterruptedly through those ley lines. Surprise after surprise greets the reader throughout the book. A great addition to The Raven Cycle.


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Death of a Dapper Snowman (Stormy Day Mystery #1) by Angela Pepper
Death of a Dapper Snowman by Angela Pepper
3 stars

This was a freebie that I had on my Kindle that helped me to fulfill one of my "challenge" catagorys and it turned out to be a quick, fun cozy. Stormy Day (yep, that's her name and she has a sister named Sunny) has moved back to her hometown after a shakeup in her busy job in a busier city. Now she must get used to the quiet streets which are home to people that know everything about your business (and everybody else's). Her dad was a well known police officer when she was growing up. He is currently in the hospital but Stormy has never forgotten how much she used to enjoy helping him solve mysterious crimes. As a favor, she is picking up his cat for a trip to the vet. The cat has run into the neighbors yard and Stormy decides to take a selfie with the adorable snowman there before continuing her pursuit of the cat. Stormy, who is a little OCD, isn't happy with the angle of the snowman's head and decides to attempt to fix it. Imagine her surprise when the head breaks off and there's an actual body inside. And the story is off and running presenting a number of misadventures, misunderstandings and misdirections. Just a cute read for a cozy day.


message 6: by James (new)

James F | 1315 comments Alphonse de Lamartine, Meditations poetiques [1820, 1823] 667 pages [in French; Kindle]

The next author (after Stendhal) in my French literature reading project, Alphonse de Lamartine was the first important Romantic poet in France, the equivalent of Novalis some twenty years earlier in Germany. The two are similar in their religious themes, their conservative opposition to the first French Revolution (although Lamartine became more or less the Kerensky of the 1848 Revolution), and their to me almost unreadable poetry. They have an importance in literary history, but I don't enjoy either one; they represent most of what I dislike in Romantic literature.

The book I read was an inexpensive Pilgrim Classics Kindle edition containing both the original Méditations poétiques of 1820, later called the Premières Méditations poétiques, together with a later commentary by Lamartine on many of the poems, and the Nouvelles Méditations poétiques of 1823, as well as two shorter works, the prose essay Des destinées de la poésie and the verse La Mort de Socrate. It also includes as an appendix the rather poor (English) Wikipedia stub on Lamartine. Although that article, and the other internet references I checked, say that the first collection was published in 1820 and contained 24 poems, this edition contained 41, some of which had dates in the 1840s; presumably he continued adding to it in later editions and this is the latest version, although I couldn't find any confirmation of that. The second collection (in this edition at least) contained 26 poems, again many of which were dated long after 1823.

The occasion for the first collection was the death of his love, referred to as Julie or Elvire; some online sources identify her as Julie Charles, the wife of the famous scientist (remember Charles' Law from high school physics?). This is another similarity to Novalis, and many of the earliest Romantics. (It reminds me of the children's book series, You wouldn't want to be a ... -- you wouldn't want to be a Romantic poet's girlfriend, they all die). All three of the works in this book are praises of death; the love poetry is basically, "I love you, and we're going to die." Lamartine is credited with being a great nature poet, but I don't agree; his nature is very generic, all peaks, abysses, shadows, waves, and stars, everything is a symbol for something otherwordly and religious -- although he was Catholic, the religion is also pretty generic, more Platonic than Christian except for one or two passages. The second collection is supposed to be more upbeat after his marriage to an Englishwoman who is merely described in all the sources as "rich", but I didn't see much difference; it's all angels and dying. The poem about Socrates is obviously more of the same, a version of Plato's Phaedo corrected to be more Christian.

I had some other poetry of Lamartine's on my list to read, but after reading this I think I'll pass; I may still try one or two of his prose works.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman – 5*****
What a joy this book is! Backman peoples the novel with an assortment of quirky characters, who form a community, and despite himself, Ove joins with them. I laughed aloud so often, and I felt for Ove’s. I also rejoiced at his triumphs, and marveled at his strength of character. I worried about him and cheered him on. I absolutely fell in love with Ove.
LINK to my review


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
Feb 6 - Currently Reading

TEXT - Exodus by Leon Uris Exodus / Leon Uris
AUDIO in the car - Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5) by Jim Butcher Death Masks / Jim Butcher
MP3 Player AUDIO - Days of Awe by Lauren Fox Days of Awe / Lauren Fox


message 9: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Book Concierge wrote: "A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove
– Fredrik Backman – 5*****
What a joy this book is! Backman peoples the novel with an assortment of quirky characters, who form a communi..."


If you get a chance, watch the movie. It has subtitles but my mom and I both enjoyed it so much and I think it follows the book very closely.


message 10: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Stand Captain Trips by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
The Stand: Captain Trips by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
5 stars

Absolutely amazing graphic novel. The illustrations are beautifully done, although some frames certainly portray some gruesome scenes. It's been years since I read the original novel about a superflu that decimates the world's population. I've never gotten around to reading the expanded version, although I have it, and yet the characters, their names and circumstances have so completely come back to me. The more I read graphic novels, the more I enjoy them and this one is, so far, exceptional. If you've read The Stand and enjoyed it, I would certainly recommend this graphic recreation of it!


message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (melissasd) | 766 comments Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2) by Charlaine Harris
Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
(Sookie Stackhouse#2)
4 ★

Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is having a streak of bad luck. First her co-worker is killed, and no one seems to care. Then she comes face to-face with a beastly creature that gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn't enjoy it).
The point is: they saved her life. So when one of the bloodsuckers asks for a favor, she obliges - and soon Sookie's in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She's supposed to interview certain humans involved, but she makes one condition: the vampires must promise to behave and let the humans go unharmed. But that's easier said than done, and all it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly....

My Thoughts
Eric loans Sookie out to some vampires, so she travels to Dallas, Texas with Bill. We meet some pretty interesting characters while she's there. The most appalling for me were the humans at the Fellowship of the Sun church. They were terrible examples of humans, in my opinion. For those of you that are fans of the TV series, you may be disappointed when you read this one. There are a few major differences that change the whole TV series story line. I wish I knew why they did things like this. One of my favorite parts was an Eric situation involving a pink shirt and spandex pants. A laugh out loud event. Overall I enjoyed the book. It's a quick, fun read. I just wish the chapters were shorter.


message 12: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Detective Kubu Investigates by Michael Stanley
Detective Kubu Investigates by Michael Stanley
4 stars

Just a quick read to complete a challenge to read a book set in Africa. The stories about Detective Kubu take place mostly in Botswana. This little volume consists of 4 short stories. I enjoyed each of the stories but my favorite was Neighbors. Just a little friendly disagreement about property lines, a dog and a goat...and how quickly a situation can deteriorate. I also really enjoyed the interview that Michael Stanley conducts with Detective Kubu, asking him, among other things, if he knows or has met Precious Ramotswe (of The Number One Ladies Detective Agency fame). He has not but I think it might be fun if the 2 of them worked together sometime!! A fun, delightful read.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry
The Jesus Cow – Michael Perry – 4****
When a calf is born on Christmas Eve with the distinct face of Jesus on his side, bachelor farmer Harley Jackson knows he’s in for a struggle. Michael Perry is known for his nonfiction essays on life in small-town Wisconsin; this is his first novel. Perry has a gift for describing people and situations; he makes the ridiculous totally believable. I am reminded of Carl Hiaasen, but with more heart. There are a few scenarios that really stretch credulity here, but on the whole I enjoyed the novel and we all need a little light entertainment now and again.
LINK to my review


message 14: by James (new)

James F | 1315 comments Lorna Goodison, Supplying Salt and Light [2013] 121 pages

The third Jamaican poet I have read this year, after Claude McKay and Kei Miller, and the first contemporary woman poet I have read in a long time; compared to the McKay and Miller poetry, hers at least in this collection is much more personal and less objective, less explicitly political. It's still excellent and I'm glad to have read it.


message 15: by Larry (new)

Larry Woods | 2 comments The Solace Of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel.


message 16: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs
The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobb
4 stars

I was not looking forward to reading this book. I am very unpolitical--don't judge me--and do not know as much about our history as I should!! So, my first impression was that "Hamilton" is just such a craze right now, so I guess the subject will turn up in a book club as well. But, now that I've read it, I'm really glad that I did. I enjoyed the read and learned something at the same time! I had no idea that Alexander Hamilton was from St. Croix or that he was illegitimate--neither fact makes any difference to me but it's interesting to know. I loved learning about both him and his wife, who I found to be fascinating and certainly an incredibly strong woman. And the best part is that if I ever get to go see the Broadway show, I'll have a better background knowledge to understand all that rap music. If you enjoy historical fiction regarding the political nature of our country when it was young, you will no doubt enjoy this book.


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben
Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben
3 stars

After starting this, I realized that I had read it previously but I remembered only a small portion of it so I enjoyed it again. Myron Bolitar is a sports agent and in this first novel of the series, the girlfriend of one of his clients has recently disappeared. No body has yet been located but an article of her clothing was left in a garbage can and it's presumed that she's dead. One day, the client calls Myron and arranges to meet him. The surprise he has is that he's been given a copy of a sexually themed publication with a picture of his girlfriend in a phone sex advertisement. For the rest of the story we follow Myron as he hunts down what really has happened. It was really interesting to me to read about how the background of the sex industry works. The reader, Jonathan Marosz, does a great job as Myron and I love the wise cracking character that Mr. Coben has developed. I always appreciate relative social references in a book and Myron's delivery is great. A good beginning to a mystery series. I'll be reading the second book of the series in April since it's the selection for my Mystery Book Club.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5) by Jim Butcher
Death Masks – Jim Butcher – 3.5***
I like this series mostly because I really like Harry. I love his puns and his self-deprecating humor. I like that he’s a decent guy who inflicts violence on the bad guys, and generally behaves like a gentleman. However, as I continue the series I find the plots more and more formulaic, although this installment has a few plot twists and some characters that lend additional interest.
LINK to my review


message 19: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
4 stars

I have never read any of the previous Coulter books so really had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. The book is told from the perspective of elderly Hannah Coulter as she looks back on her life. She has lived a long, mostly happy, productive life but has become more reflective in her advanced years. Although I enjoyed the book, it made me a little sad, maybe because it made me think about my own life. Hannah's life, although lived during some of the same years as mine, was not easier by any means but simpler. Hard work, family and neighbors were the keystones of her existence, without the distractions of modern technology and rushing life styles. There is nothing earthshaking about this read but I think it will make you think about how our world has evolved into a much more introspected place and feel a sadness for the loss of a gentler lifestyle.


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Melissa (melissasd) | 766 comments Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports (Maximum Ride, #3) by James Patterson
Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson
(Maximum Ride #3)
4 ★

In MAXIMUM RIDE: SAVING THE WORLD AND OTHER EXTREME SPORTS, the time has arrived for Max and her winged "Flock" to face their ultimate enemy and discover their original purpose: to defeat the takeover of "Re-evolution", a sinister experiment to re-engineer a select population into a scientifically superior master race...and to terminate the rest. Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel have always worked together to defeat the forces working against them--but can they save the world when they are torn apart, living in hiding and captivity, halfway across the globe from one another?

My Thoughts
There were so many plot twists in this book that I don't even know where to start. Max and the flock are back to save the world and travel it as well. Angel's mind altering ability comes in very handy this time around and Ari is back with a new attitude. The School has begun eliminating the "failed" experiments and Max and her flock are on the list. They just need to stop the Re-Evolution plan first. The action is non-stop and Max's sarcasm keeps a smile on your face. Old friends are revisited and new ones are made. The short chapters make this a quick enjoyable read. I really like the flow of the story line and looks forward to continuing the series.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
Abraham Lincoln by Ingri d'Aulaire
Abraham Lincoln – Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire – 4****
This Caldecott-winner is a biography for young children. It follows Lincoln from his birth to the end of the Civil War, though it does not mention his assassination. The d’Aulaires were immigrants to America, and when the book was written the world was anxiously watching the events in Germany that would lead to a world war. They may have erred on the side of hero-worship in their portrayal of Lincoln, but I like that they portrayed a man willing to stand up against injustice.
LINK to my review


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Days of Awe by Lauren Fox
Days Of Awe – Lauren Fox – 4****
This is the kind of character-driven novel I really enjoy. As Isabel reflects on past events and her relationships with best friend, daughter, mother, and ex-husband, the reader comes to know her. I felt her confusion, pain, loss, loneliness, but also her joy and hope for the future.
LINK to my review


message 23: by James (new)

James F | 1315 comments Claude McKay, A Long Way from Home: An Autobiography [1937] 354 pages

This is the autobiography of the Jamaican-born poet and novelist Claude McKay, whose Collected Poetry I read and very much enjoyed last month. If anything, this autobiography was even better. It begins a couple years after he arrived in the United States; there is nothing beyond a few isolated recollections about his earlier life in Jamaica. He has left college and is working as a waiter on a railway car, and has just received an invitation to visit the editor Frank Harris to discuss publication of his poetry. The second part discusses his visit to England, where he is introduced to radical labor and Marxist literature and works for a time at Sylvia Pankhurst's publication, The Worker's Dreadnought; the third part deals with his return to Harlem and his collaboration on Max Eastman's The Liberator.

The fourth and most interesting part deals with his visit in 1922-23 to the new Soviet Union. He attends the Fourth Congress of the Communist International -- he is there as a poet, not a delegate, and never joined the Communist Party. McKay clearly has no use for either the British or American CP delegates; it's very clear that the only American CP leader he has any respect for is James P. Cannon. After the Congress, he travels in the USSR speaking but mostly observing. The descriptions of the Soviet Union under Lenin are extremely interesting, from the viewpoint of a person who is sympathetic to the Revolution but also not uncritical; there is neither the uncritical enthusiasm of the Communist visitors nor the denunciations of the bourgeois visitors, but a very profound observation of what was actually happening. He meets three of what he calls the "Big Four", Trotsky, Radek and Zinoviev -- Lenin was already ill and unavailable to visitors. It is interesting that after the Congress and having been in Russia for several months, someone points Stalin out to him, and he admits he's never heard of him (so much for his "leading role" at the time). He contrasts Trotsky's intelligent estimation of the American Blacks with the ignorance, sometimes bordering on racism, of many of the other leaders; Trotsky sends him on a several month tour of the Red Army and Navy.

From the USSR, he goes to Berlin, then to France, Spain, and Morocco; altogether he spends twelve years writing and traveling abroad before returning to the United States. The autobiography ends just before his return. There is a brief last chapter in which he indicates his opinions on the way forward for the American Black movement, emphasizing a Black nationalist perspective (though rejecting as nonsense the idea of a Black state in the South) with Blacks organizing independently of white "friends", and distinguishes between forced segregation of society and all-Black organizations in the communities (this was an unheard of position in the 30s, although it later became an accepted view in the Black movement of the 60's).

Considering that he praises Trotsky and Cannon in a book written about 1934 and published in 1937, it is no surprise that he became anathema to the Stalinists, and the bitterness of his relations with them would later lead him to a more anticommunist position, although unlike many anticommunists of the time he never turned to supporting capitalism, or abandoned his support for the Black and workers movements -- even after converting to Catholicism at the end of his life, his association was with the Catholic Workers Movement of Dorothy Day. But this was all later than the time of the autobiography.


message 24: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Murder at Honeychurch Hall (Honeychurch Hall Mystery, #1) by Hannah Dennison
Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison
4 stars

This was a cute, quick read with a bazillion characters that were almost all related to one another. Kathryn Stanford is ready to make some big changes in her life and the last thing she has time for is finding out that her recently widowed mother has bought a piece of property with a major "fixer-upper" on an estate 2 hours away. Since her father asked her to look after her mother when he was gone, she goes to check out the situation and is almost immediately embroiled in a convoluted batch of secrets and surprises. The story is populated by an abundance of quirky characters and the confusion is complicated by all the intertwined relationships of the family and local town folks. But still it was a fun read. There were a few things that I figured out before they were actually revealed to the reader, but certainly not enough to ruin the story line (at least for me).


message 25: by Terris (new)

Terris | 513 comments Just finished I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou by Maya Angelou, 4****s
This is Maya Angelou's story of her childhood up until she turns 17 years old. An inspiring story about an amazing woman.


message 26: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Escape from Asylum (Asylum, #0.5) by Madeleine Roux
Escape from Asylum by Madeleine Roux
3 stars

This was a prequel to Asylum which I have already read and enjoyed. I did not enjoy this as much but I appreciate the fact that the author was inspired by situations in actual mental hospitals. My father suffered from manic-depression and was treated with shock therapy, which I find unbelievable but it happened. Basically, this is the story of a young man who became somewhat aggressive towards his stepfather and ends up committed to an asylum. Things are not as they should be in this facility and things go wildly wrong. His only hope is that he can figure out a way to escape.


message 27: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
4 stars

When I saw the previews for this movie and realized it was a book I decided that I'd better get busy reading it. The book actually turned out to be different than what I thought the main idea of the movie was going to be so now I'm really anxious to see it. Jan and Antonina Zabinski are the zoo keepers at the zoo in Warsaw, Poland. From all accounts, the zoo sounds like it was extraordinary sight to see and the Zainski's were an extraordinary couple--not only in their handling of the zoo and its many inhabitants but the actions they took after it was bombed in using the grounds to help as many Jews as possible escape persecution. Parts of the book were incredibly difficult to listen to as you hear not only how the city and it's population were treated but what happened to the beautiful, wild animals that were housed there. But over all, this is a side of the war that I've never read about and it was fascinating. Suzanne Toren was the reader for this production and I thought she did an excellent job.


message 28: by Terris (new)

Terris | 513 comments Beverly wrote: "The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
4 stars

When I saw the previews for this movie and realized it was a book I decided that I'd better get busy reading..."


Nice review! I'll add it to the list :)


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
 Exodus  by Leon Uris
Exodus – Leon Uris – 3.5***
This is an epic novel covering the history of the Jewish people’s efforts to return to Palestine and form an independent state. I felt that Uris couldn’t make up his mind whether he was writing an epic romance, a war novel or a history of the formation of Israel. It certainly made me think. And I’m glad I finally read this novel.
LINK to my review


message 30: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Terris wrote: "Beverly wrote: "The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
4 stars

When I saw the previews for this movie and realized it was a book I decided that I'd better ..."


Thanks Terri. I think you'll like it. :)


message 31: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1) by Laurie R. King
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
5 stars

Outstanding read. I've had this on my list to read forever but when my son's mother-in-law said that she'd really enjoyed the book, I decided it was time to read it. Now all I can think is, why the heck did I wait so long to give this series a shot. If remaining books in the series are as good, I certainly look forward to working my way through them. Mary Russell is a young woman who lives with her aunt. She is not old enough to come into her inheritance and so still needs a guardian, but this is a strained relationship and Mary can hardly wait to be on her own. On a stroll one day she meets up with an older gentleman who turns out to be the "retired" Sherlock Holmes. They soon strike up a friendship and then he becomes her mentor. She is an apt student and when they are presented with a case of kidnapping, she makes a bold move and cements her status in Holmes' eyes. Beyond this, Holmes--along with Mary and Watson--are threatened with their lives. The rest of the book revolves around attempting to discover who wants them dead and why. A page turner for sure.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
Feb 18 - Currently Reading

TEXT - Old Dogs by Donna Moore Old Dogs / Donna Moore
AUDIO in the car - The Quiet American by Graham Greene The Quiet American / Graham Greene
MP3 Player AUDIO - The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, #14) by Alexander McCall Smith The Minor Adjustment Beauty SalonAlexander McCall Smith


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
One Plus One – Jojo Moyes – 3***
Four different characters tell the story: Jess, Ed, Tanzie (Jess’s daughter) and Nicky (Marty’s son and Jess’s stepson). This resulted in a slow start, while all the characters were introduced and the central conflict developed. The book jacket promises “an irresistible love story.” I don’t know about “irresistible” but it’s an enjoyable contemporary novel.
LINK to my review


message 34: by James (new)

James F | 1315 comments Elnathan John, Born on a Tuesday [2015] 264 pages

To the best of my understanding (and I know it's quite a bit oversimplified), there are three major tribal/religious divisions in Nigeria; the mostly Moslem Hausa in the North, the mostly Christian Igbo in the East, and the partly Christian, partly traditional Yoruba in the West. I have been reading quite a bit of Nigerian literature in the past two years, but all of it has been Yoruba (Wole Soyinka) or Igbo (everyone else.) Elnathan John is the first Northern writer I have read, and this novel deals with the religious and political conflicts in that part of the country. It was quite interesting to see this perspective; while others (especially Soyinka) see the problems of Nigeria as stemming from the British decision to give power to the more conservative North at independence, the Northerners apparently see themselves as being oppressed by the southern groups. Also, the other writers emphasize the mutual massacres of Christians and Moslems, while this book focuses on conflicts between rival versions of Islam. Of course, this may be partially because this is a much more recent novel; I don't follow Nigerian politics, so perhaps the South is now running the government, and certainly Boko Haram has focused interest on the conflicts in the North.

The novel is the story of a boy who become a member and later a leader of a "moderate" Islamist political movement, which is attacked by a more extreme group similar to Boko Haram. The leader of the extreme group is supported by Saudi Arabia. This fits into the dynamic throughout the Islamic regions, where the Wahhabi rulers of Arabia, a formerly unimportant sect put in power by the British oil interests, use their oil money to promote extremist religious movements. The leadership of al-Qaeda for instance comes from Arabia, as did the 9/11 terrorists; yet the US government is very favorable to the Saudis, and did all that it could to suppress secular opposition groups throughout the Islamic world and promote religious extremists as part of their jihad against the USSR in Afghanistan and left-wing movements in general, creating the situation which these same politicians are exploiting today under the pretext of "the War against Terrorism". The novel shows how the extremists take the legitimate struggle against the Western powers and distort it -- the extremist leader, Malam Abdul-Nur (perhaps significantly a Yoruba convert from Christianity) begins a speech by attacking the World Bank and the IMF, but then identifies them with "the Jews", much as Hitler took legitimate distrust of the bankers in Germany and turned it into hatred for "Jewish bankers". (I can't help but remember Marx's description of antisemitism as "the socialism of fools.") The description of the corruption of the government and especially the police is of course similar to what is described by all the Nigerian authors I have read, no matter what group they belong to; Nigeria has alternated between corrupt military regimes and even more corrupt civilian "democracy" throughout the period since Independence. At one point the United Nations identified Nigeria as the most corrupt government in the world, with Pakistan second; which prompted one Pakistani journalist to complain, "Even in what we're best at we can't come in first."

The novel is worth reading for its viewpoint on Nigeria, but even more for the light it sheds on the divisions within the Islamic world and even within the Islamacist "movement", with characters who are Sunni, Shiite, and (presumably) Wahhabi. It's also an exciting read at times, though one can tell it's a first novel.


message 35: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Snow White A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
4 stars

This was one of the books for the Mock Caldecott Awards this January but since I had my knee surgery I didn't get my books reviewed in time. Now I'm getting these caught up. This retelling of the Snow White story takes place in New York City 1928. I really liked the pencil and ink drawings. They're stark with a black, white and brown color palette with just occasional tints of color. The story is wonderfully updated to fit the chosen setting but still follows the original intent of the tale. Just an imaginative retold fairy tale.


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments This Is Not a Picture Book! by Sergio Ruzzier
This is Not a Picture Book! by Sergio Ruzzier
5 stars

This was one of the books for the Mock Caldecott Awards this January but since I had my knee surgery I didn't get my books reviewed in time. Now I'm getting these caught up. I loved this picture book and the gorgeous colors on the full page illustrations. A wonky little duck and his buggy friend are, at first, unimpressed with a book that was all words with no pictures. But then they decide that they might recognize some of the words which evoked many feelings which prompted their imaginations. So overall, they learn that books can carry you away and bring you wonderful memories.


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments A Small Thing . . . but Big by Tony Johnston
A Small Thing...but Big by Tony Johnston
4 stars

This was one of the books for the Mock Caldecott Awards this January but since I had my knee surgery I didn't get my books reviewed in time. Now I'm getting these caught up. A lovely book and story with such sweet illustrations. This is all about a small child spending time at the park and being able to overcome her fear of dogs. It's sad that the state of our times made me keep wondering...where is her mother while this little girl is talking to a total stranger.


message 38: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley
3 stars

This was one of the books for the Mock Caldecott Awards this January but since I had my knee surgery I didn't get my books reviewed in time. Now I'm getting these caught up. I enjoyed the illustrations in this book, especially the early ones when the family is spending the day at the beach. The colors were very "sandy" looking and I loved that. The story line itself though didn't really hold me. Once the family goes home, everyone is so tired out from the beach trip that they all do a lot of yawning and fall asleep except for the youngest. She roams around the house and collects all of her stuffed animals--who also do their share of yawning--and tuck them up into bed with her.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals, #2) by Michelle Cooper
The FitzOsbornes in Exile – Michelle Cooper – 3***
This is book two in a series about the royal family of the fictitious island nation of Montmaray. It’s a fast read, an easy young adult novel about the beginning of World War II. The British social class of the late 1930s is described well, including the debutante season. I liked this one better than the first in the series. The characters are better developed, and I enjoy reading about strong, resourceful, intelligent young people.
LINK to my review


message 40: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas
5 stars

This was one of the books for the Mock Caldecott Awards this January but since I had my knee surgery I didn't get my books reviewed in time. Now I'm getting these caught up. The illustrations in this book are just absolutely lovely--woodblock prints in beautiful pastel colors. The language of the book was also amazing...the author writes a line that says, some messages were written by a quill dipped in sadness, for example. A lonely man who lives by the ocean has the job of "capturing" bottles with messages in them and then delivering them. He always hopes that one day he'll find a message addressed to himself.


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson
Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson
5 stars

This was one of the books for the Mock Caldecott Awards this January but since I had my knee surgery I didn't get my books reviewed in time. Now I'm getting these caught up. This wonderful picture book was inspired by the true story of Reverend John Berry Meachum (1789 to 1854) who was a minister, entrepreneur and educator for black children in St. Louis, Missouri. He originally opened the Tallow Candle School which was held in a basement (lit by tallow candles). In 1847, Missouri made it illegal to educate blacks or mulattos in the state. Not to be deterred for long, Reverend Meachum refurbished a river boat and because the river belonged to all and not just the state of Missouri, rowed his class out to the boat for classes. I loved this story about "thinking outside the box" long before it became popular!


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes
4 stars

This was one of the books for the Mock Caldecott Awards this January but since I had my knee surgery I didn't get my books reviewed in time. Now I'm getting these caught up. A cute little picture book that would be fun to read with a child teaching them the signs of spring. The pictures are rather primitive but the colors are vibrant.


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Forgetting (The Forgetting, #1) by Sharon Cameron
The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron
5 stars

I loved this YA book and was immediately drawn into the life and times of the walled city of Canaan and the life of Nadia. Every 12 years, the Forgetting sweeps over the city and it gives each resident a chance to start over. Everyone keeps a daily "diary" which they call their book so that after the Forgetting they can read about their family, what their daily life was like and who they were. So, although everyone is told to always write the truth, if anyone wants to alter a portion of their life, they can just record it in their book and after the Forgetting, that's the life they can reestablish. If a person's book is lost before the Forgetting, they become part of the Lost because they no longer have any idea of who they are or how they fit into society. Nadia's secret though is that she's never forgotten and she has a lot of questions--like what's outside the wall, why has her father abandoned her, and how can she access the archives to search for the answers. The book has plenty of adventure, mystery and just a tiny bit of young romance. I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series!


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Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerves, #1) by Marissa Meyer
Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
4 stars

I loved going back into the world of the Lunar Chronicles with this first graphic novel featuring Iko, the heroic android. I was a little disappointed in the visuals of the various characters but the story is a great mini review of the chronicles while starting the adventure of tracking down the remaining wolf-hybrid soldiers left on earth. The reader also gets a glimpse of the beginnings of attempting to switch the law of the land from having a ruler to having a "people's choice" administration. All in all, a good start for a graphic novel series, especially for those of us who miss new stories about this fun, fascinating world.


message 45: by James (new)

James F | 1315 comments Karl Kautsky, Communism in Central Europe in the Time of the Reformation [1897] 315 pages [Kindle]

This book is a translation of Part 3, chapters 6-9 of Vorlaufer des neuen Socializmus, (i.e. Forerunners of Modern Socialism), a multiple-author history of socialist ideas from Plato to the nineteenth century which was edited by Kautsky; the part translated here is written by him. The first chapter, from what I can tell, was a new introduction to the selection included here, summarizing some of the material from the earlier chapters. Kautsky describes the Christian communist sects of the Reformation period beginning with the Taborites in Bohemia and similar sects in Germany, going through the movement of Thomas Münzer, and ending with the Anabaptists and the insurrection in Münster. (I was raised Baptist and this account of the beginnings of the Baptist religion is very different from what I was taught!) I read this after it was recommended by a friend on Facebook; I was not previously at all familiar with this period of history, nor had I ever read anything by Kautsky. There are many differences, as well as a few similarities, between these movements and modern socialist movements; in addition to the obvious difference that these groups considered themselves as religious rather than economic movements, the sects described here advocated communism in consumption rather than production.

Even more interesting than the ideas of these particular groups is the overall economic interpretation of the Reformation. While it is obvious today that the modern fundamentalists, for example, are more political than religious, when we think about the Reformation we are sometimes inclined to think that it really was about religious questions; Kautsky shows the economic basis for the rise of Protestantism (much more convincingly than Weber, whom I had to read in college) and explains the various divisions within the Protestant movement, for example between Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Anabaptists as reflections of the differing class interests which opposed each other at the same time as all opposed the power of the Catholic Church and the Papacy. He explains as well why Protestantism arose and was successful in Central Europe rather than in say France.

Kautsky is a political writer and (even aside from the fact that it is 120 years old) this book paints with too broad a brush to be completely satisfying as a historical account; but his overall materialist explanations made the events and ideas of this period of history much clearer to me.

Unfortunately, the Kindle edition simply confirmed that "digitized by Google" is another way of saying "garbage"; scanned without any proofreading, with footnotes mingled with the text, it was an effort to decode what was actually written.


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James F | 1315 comments Feb. 22

Kei Miller, There Is an Anger That Moves [2007] 81 pages [Kindle]

A short and somewhat uneven collection of poems by Kei Miller, less focused on one idea than The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. Most of these poems I liked, some didn't say much to me.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
Nothing to Do But Stay by Carrie Young
Nothing To Do But Stay – Carrie Young – 4****
The subtitle is “My Pioneer Mother,” and much of this memoir features Young’s mother Carrine Gafkjen Berg. But this is really the story of a family’s experiences in the early 20th century in North Dakota. Rather than a strictly chronological order, the book is divided into chapters by subject. All are full of wonderful, loving descriptions of life on a settler’s farm, some funny, some touchingly poignant.
LINK to my review


message 48: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
4 stars

Although this was a difficult book to listen to...because there were so many convoluted stories between the various characters...I really enjoyed it. I have never read one of the original Hercule Poirot novels so I may be a poor judge but I thought this was very well done. The plot was twisted so adeptly over and over again that I would never have figured it out on my own. I also enjoyed the character of Poirot and hope that once I've read one of Christie's I don't feel differently about it. In this first mystery of the series written by Sophie Hannah, Poirot is alerted to the deaths of 3 individuals at a popular hotel. The bodies are each in a separate room but laid out in the same way, with the room locked and each individual has a monogrammed cuff link in their mouth. The investigation leads to an extremely intertwined story which keeps the reader turning pages. A good start for an interesting series. This audio was read by Julian Rhind-Tutt, who did a great presentation.


message 49: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 638 comments The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence
The Plumed Serpent by D. H. Lawrence
3 stars

Although I thought this was beautifully written with such extraordinary descriptions of the people, their attire and their surroundings, this was just not my cup of tea. The beginning of the story, which takes place during the Mexican Revolution, is a trip to the bullfights reminding me of the scenes in The Sun Also Rises which I did not care for at all. Kate Leslie, one of the tourists watching the bullfight, leaves after deciding that she doesn't appreciate this type of "entertainment". She then meets a general from the Mexican army and shortly thereafter a friend of his who is a wealthy landowner. The two men, who are attempting to revive an ancient religion where they are living gods, convince Kate to travel back to a small town on a lake. Kate, at first, succumbs to the idea of the men's "cult" which seemed to me to put women into a very submissive position. My own personal feeling is that the book just kind of went on and on with songs/chants being included in their entirety. As usual, glad I read it so I can mark it off my list but it's not one that I would recommend.


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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2215 comments Mod
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Quiet American – Graham Greene – 3***
This has been cited as the quintessential book about Vietnam, especially the conflict begun with the French war. I don’t know if I would agree, but it’s definitely a good book about what was happening in the country during the mid-1950s. The reader gets some inkling of the politics of the era, but is more consumed by the personal drama of these two men and the Vietnamese woman they both say they love.
LINK to my review


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