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message 1: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2362 comments Mod
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!


message 2: by James (last edited Jun 30, 2017 05:26PM) (new)

James F | 1472 comments William Gray, Coral Reefs & Islands: The Natural History of a Threatened Paradise [2015] 131 pages [Kindle]

A short description by a travel writer (but one who has obviously done some research) of coral reefs and islands. I was looking for a book about the Great Barrier Reef for a summer reading challenge at the library where I work; this was the best thing I could find on Amazon at a reasonable price (free, on Kindle Unlimited) and it was actually much better than I would have expected. It was originally published in 1993, and it's not clear whether there was any revision for the e-book edition, although it has a 2015 copyright. (The print edition undoubtedly had more spectacular illustrations, but since I read this on a black and white device I probably didn't miss them.) The book begins with explaining the formation of coral reefs and coral islands, distinguishing the various types and the ways they come about (this chapter has a subsection devoted to the Great Barrier Reef); it then describes the succession of plants and animals on each type, then describes in separate chapters the ecology of the reef itself, the beach rock, beach, and adjacent area of the island or mainland, and the islands; it ends with an explanation of the importance of coral reefs and islands to the world environment, and a description of how they are now being destroyed by human activities and what could be done about it. Of course there is no liklihood of anything at all being preserved given the present political situation. A very balanced and scientific presentation which doesn't shy away from evolutionary explanations; I learned much I didn't know.

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June 3- Currently Reading

TEXT – We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride We Are Called to Rise / Laura McBride
AUDIO in the car – The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry / Gabrielle Zavin
MP3 Player AUDIO - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller Catch-22 / Joseph Heller

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I got so far behind in posting reviews ... I'm just going to post them here even if I read them in May.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fates And Furies – Lauren Groff – 4****
The book is told by the two central characters: Lotto (Fates) and Mathilde (Furies). Groff is masterful building these characters, with qualities that draw the reader into their circle. One revelation breaks the bond. Forcing first Lotto, and then Mathilde to examine their relationship. By the end I’m left feeling battered and bruised and stunned. I want to start reading it again from the beginning so I can pick up any clues Groff may have buried.
LINK to my review

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Trophy Hunt (Joe Pickett, #4) by C.J. Box
Trophy Hunt – C J Box – 3***
I like this series, mostly because I really like Joe Picket. Box gives us plenty of action, but I was dissatisfied with the ending. All the talk of “aliens,” and a too-convenient demise made me feel as if Box had run out of ideas and turned to 1950s sci-fi films for inspiration. Still, it’s a good story and a fast read.
LINK to my review

message 5: by James (new)

James F | 1472 comments Richard G. Moulton, Shakespeare As A Dramatic Thinker: A Popular Illustration of Fiction As the Experimental Side of Philosophy [1921] 381 pages

Originally published in 1903 under the somewhat misleading title, Shakespeare's Moral System, this was retitled to emphasize its intention to be a companion to the same author's earlier Shakespeare As Dramatic Artist, which I read about a year ago. The older book, which dealt with Shakespeare's technique as a dramatist, is considered one of the first books in modern academic literary criticism. The present work, which deals with the plays from the viewpoint of content, is less important and less successful; although it attempts to use the same method of inductive analysis of the plays, it (like most books that deal with the content of literary works) does not always avoid writing the author's theories into the works it is commenting on. This is particularly noticeable in the analysis of the Roman plays, which Moulton interprets as essentially anthropological illustrations of Roman thought; a completely anachronistic idea which was certainly foreign to Shakespeare's intentions. There are, however, a number of good analyses of other plays, and the book was a worthwhile addition to my chronological reading project in Shakespeare criticism, which I tend to take up every June before I go to the Utah Shakespeare Festival on my vacation and then gets shelved for most the year behind other projects.

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22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
22 Britannia Road – Amanda Hodgkinson – 4****
Hodgkinson’s debut novel is a beautifully told story of how a family torn apart by war slowly comes back together. Hodgkinson divides her chapters by location/time and by character, telling parallel stories: Poland during the war, England after the war. I was engaged and interested in the story from beginning to end.
LINK to my review

message 7: by ilikeboox (last edited Jun 11, 2017 10:42AM) (new)

ilikeboox | 242 comments I'm reading Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1) by Louise Penny "Still Life" by Louise Penny.

Also Tong Wars The Untold Story of Vice, Money, and Murder in New York's Chinatown by Scott D. Seligman "Tong Wars" by Scott D. Seligman.

Finished them. "Still Life" was very good. Good character development and the story line moved along at a good pace. I would read another of her books. "Tong Wars" was interesting but a little tedious to get through. It got a bit repetitious, the same things happening over and over.

message 8: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (idealistmom) | 3 comments Just finished yesterday "Resonance" by Erica O'Rouke, and am currently reading "Frozen by Melissa De La Cruz.

message 9: by James (new)

James F | 1472 comments Alan Bradley, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery [2010] 364 pages

I should say at the outset that I am not a reader of mysteries. I did read the first Flavia de Luce mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, because it was the reading for my library's book discussion a couple of years back, and I enjoyed the character of Flavia de Luce -- it's refreshing to read a book where a young person is openly smart and not presented as a nerd -- so when I needed another murder mystery for another challenge, I decided to read the next book. This was not quite as good as the first one, in my opinion; although the character of Flavia is still great, there was too much that didn't make sense to me, even allowing for the conventions of the genre.

message 10: by James (new)

James F | 1472 comments Honoré de Balzac, Albert Savarus [1842] 177 pages

A Romantic story of a tragic love affair is the pretext for a study of the moeurs and politics of Besançon under Louis-Philippe ; the first novel in the Comédie humaine which is not set in Paris or involving Parisians. It is very hard to get into as the first quarter of the book is all set-up, jumping from character to character without anything actually happening, and then it goes into a story within the story, a novella written by the main character. As with most of the novellas, this is of more interest for the painting of customs than for the plot.

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The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg
The Whole Town’s Talking – Fannie Flagg – 3***
This is Flagg’s fourth book about the residents of Elmwood Springs. In this volume, she tells the history of Elmwood Springs, beginning with the 1889 founding of the settlement and up to about 2020. This isn’t great literature, but Flagg spins a darn good yarn. It’s entertaining and full of lively characters.
LINK to my review

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June 11 - Currently Reading

TEXT – Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos Love Walked In / Marisa de los Santos
AUDIO in the car – Something Rotten (Thursday Next, #4) by Jasper Fforde Something Rotten / Jasper Fforde
MP3 Player AUDIO - Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye Jane Steele / Lyndsay Faye

message 13: by ilikeboox (new)

ilikeboox | 242 comments Now I'm reading Berlin by Pierre Frei Berlin by Pierre Frei. Let's just say, I don't think he understands women...

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A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh
A Burglar’s Guide to the City – Geoff Manaugh – 3***
Manaugh looks at architecture and the central role it plays in the crime of burglary. The book begins and ends with the 19th-century New York superburglar George Leonidas Leslie, who used his training as an architect to figure out new and unexpected ways to gain entry to building. There were parts of this book that I found completely fascinating, however Manaugh has a tendency towards repetition.
LINK to my review

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Columbine by Dave Cullen
Columbine – Dave Cullen – 4****
Gripping, fascinating, and horrifying. Cullen has done extensive research and made every effort to remain an impartial journalist, ferreting out facts and revealing them without judgment. The result is perhaps even more disturbing than what I thought I knew about it.
LINK to my review

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Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
Please Look After Mom – Kyung-Sook Shin – 3***
This is the story of one family’s search for their mother, who has gone missing one afternoon in a crowded Seoul subway station. The author tells the story from the perspective of four characters, and also uses second person voice for much of the book. Perhaps she intended to draw the reader in with this technique, or perhaps it is a common grammatical choice in Korean, but I found it difficult to connect to the characters.
LINK to my review

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Death, Taxes, and Hot-Pink Leg Warmers (Tara Holloway, #5) by Diane Kelly
Death, Taxes, and Hot-Pink Leg Warmers – Diane Kelly – 2.5**
This is book five in the series featuring IRS Special Agent Tara Halloway. I like that Kelly has given us the premise of a strong female heroine, though she doesn’t always deliver. Still, it’s a fast read and mildly entertaining.
LINK to my review

message 18: by James (last edited Jun 15, 2017 12:46AM) (new)

James F | 1472 comments Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad [2016] 306 pages

Recently, books about slavery have become almost an industry; it seems that I am cataloging one or two every week at the library. Many have some sort of stupid gimmick, like the white slave girl in Kitchen House. At first sight, this seemed like the same thing: a slavery novel with a bizarre gimmick (the Underground Railroad as a literal underground railroad, I mean, really. . .). But as I read further, I realized that it was actually something else: not a historical novel at all, in the traditional sense, but an experimental novel about the treatment of Blacks in America.

My first take on it was that it was an alternative history, in a South where the Civil War had never happened, exploring the possible ways that slavery might have evolved if the South had been left to its own devices, with the various states showing different possible outcomes -- Georgia, where slavery continued more or less as it was (and by the way, the account of the plantation seems much more accurate than in most of the novels of this sort; Whitehead based it on the actual slave narratives rather than on white historians); South Carolina, where there is a pretense of being progressive with an underside of sophisticated racism; North Carolina, where the Blacks were essentially exterminated; Tennessee, on the border, where there is fighting between the slaveowners and raiders from the North; Indiana, where Blacks try to exist independently on their own and are opposed by the white racists and so forth. I would have set it about 1870 or so. I still think it could be read that way. But then I read an interview with the author, who said it was intended to be set before the Civil War, in about 1850.

As I thought more about it -- and this is a book which provokes thinking -- I saw that it in effect abolishes chronology altogether; the South Carolina episode in particular not only anachronistically introduces elements from the 1930s (the Tuskeegee experiment) but also satirizes the liberal, patronizing racism of much of the actual North in the twentieth century, and could also be read as a description of neo-liberal regimes in much of the neo-colonial world; the violence of North Carolina has its echoes in many places and times as well. Essentially all of America's racial history is brought into the novel in one form or another (including the Native Americans, especially in the Tennessee episode), and the railroad functions as well in a symbolic way.

The novel has been compared to "magical realism" and while the fantasy elements are not really magical, but more like science fiction, the technique functions in the same way. It's very well done; I can understand why the book has been so well received by the critics and won so many awards (including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.)

The ultimate impression is that Blacks are not and have never been safe in America, that racist violence is always just under the surface waiting to explode -- and this was, prophetically, written under a Black president, before the Trumpzi election victory.

message 19: by James (new)

James F | 1472 comments William Shakespeare, As You Like It [ca. 1600] 181 pages

Re-reading the plays that will be presented at the Utah Shakespeare Festival next month. This is one of the plays I'm less familiar with, only having read it once or twice and never having seen it performed. The edition I read was in the Cambridge University series The New Shakespeare; the editor suggests that the play was heavily rewritten, and that the masque-like ending is not Shakespeare's but a later adaptation for use at a wedding.

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Farewell, My Lovely (Philip Marlowe, #2) by Raymond Chandler
Farwell My Lovely – Raymond Chandler – 3***
I came late to Chandler’s series about P.I. Philip Marlowe, but I sure am enjoying them now! The action is non-stop, and the characters so vivid they virtually jump off the page. I’ll definitely keep reading the series.
LINK to my review

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zavin – 3***
One snowy December evening A.J. Fikry finds that someone has left a baby between the shelves in his bookstore. This is a fable about second chances and the redemptive power of love. It’s a somewhat quiet story, as novels go, but it is full of the drama of every day existence. I also loved all the literary references.
LINK to my review

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We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
We Are Called to Rise – Laura McBride – 4****
McBride’s debut novel tells the story of four different people whose lives intersect as the result of one split-second choice. The novel is told by each of these four characters in turn. I was immediately drawn into their personal stories. McBride does a great job of writing these characters, making them real to the reader. I thought the ending was a little too contrived, but that was really my only complaint. I look forward to reading her next book.
LINK to my review

message 23: by James (new)

James F | 1472 comments William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream: A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare edited by Horace Howard Furness [ca. 1595/this ed. 1895/Dover repr. 1963] 357 pages
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream Signet Classic ed., edited by Wolfgang Clemen [ca. 1595/this ed. 1963] 186 pages

The second play I will be seeing at the Utah Shakespeare Festival next month. This was one of the plays I read in high school, and I have read it four or five times since. I won't review the play itself, since I'm sure nearly everyone in the English speaking world has read it or seen it performed at some time or other.

The New Variorum editions are my favorite editions of Shakespeare; in this case, the text is an exact transcription of the First Folio (down to obvious typos), with the Quarto and later Folio readings, along with all important emendations, at the bottom of the text, and then under those notes (often a page or two long) explaining the different readings and discussing various difficulties that different editors and scholars have found in the play (some interesting, some worthy of Nick Bottom). There is an appendix of about 100 pages containing excerpts from all the major critics from Theobald down to the 1890s, organized into themes such as the sources, the date of composition, the characters, etc.

The Signet classic edition is one of the most popular texts; it is more of a student than a scholarly edition, following the text of the First Quarto in modernized spellings, with notes limited to defining unfamiliar words. There is a good if somewhat basic introduction by Clemen, and a selection of mostly later criticisms.

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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller – 3***
I definitely see why this is on its way to becoming a classic. Heller’s story of one unit fighting in Italy during WW2, could easily be updated to today and still ring true in many respects. It’s funny, irreverent, and disturbing. Still, satire is not my favorite genre. I appreciate it, but don’t necessarily like it.
LINK to my review

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks Of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky – 4****
This is a coming-of-age novel featuring 15-year-old Charlie, who tells the story via letters he writes to an unnamed friend. I like YA fiction like this. Charlie is very real. He is a great observer of teenage and family life. As he describes events and how he reacts to them, he gives the reader a pretty accurate view of high-school dynamics. This is Chbosky’s debut novel. I hope he writes another novel; I would definitely read it.
LINK to my review

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Knots and Crosses (Inspector Rebus, #1) by Ian Rankin
Knots And Crosses – Ian Rankin – 3***
This is the first in the Inspector John Rebus mystery series. Edinburgh is plagued by a series of kidnapping/killings of young girls. Rankin writes a fast-paced thriller with several twists and turns in the plot, and a complex lead character. I definitely read more of this series.
LINK to my review

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June 24 - Currently Reading

TEXT – The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri The Lowland / Jhumpa Lahiri
AUDIO in the car – The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende The Japanese Lover / Isabel Allende
MP3 Player AUDIO - Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) by Christopher Paolini Eragon / Christopher Paolini

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Cops and Robbers by Donald E. Westlake
Cops And Robbers – Daniel E Westlake – 3.5***
Tom and Joe are New York City policemen. They are also planning a grand heist that should net them two million dollars. This book doesn’t include the kind of zany antics that Westlake is known for in his comic crime capers, but there’s plenty of action, quite a few surprises and plot twists, and a great sense of time and place.
LINK to my review

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Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Jane Steele – Lindsay Faye – 3.5***
Lindsay Faye’s re-telling of Jane Eyre , is an imaginative romp. Readers of the classic will recognize many plot elements, but Faye has let her imagination run wild. The story is still set in the same era as Bronte’s classic novel, but this Jane is a serial killer. If that makes you gasp is horror … well give the book a chance. It’s great fun to read
LINK to my review

message 30: by James (new)

James F | 1472 comments William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliette [ca. 1595] about 100 pages [Kindle]

The third play which I will be seeing next month at the Utah Shakespeare Festival; another play I read in high school and many times since. This one was a Kindle edition, I don't know which version it was based on and there were no notes or critical material, just the play itself. The pages weren't numbered but I'm guessing at about 100 since most editions come to about that for just the play itself.

Honoré de Balzac, Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées [1841/42] 247 pages [in French, Kindle]

One of the longer novels of the Comédie humaine, written in the form of letters between two friends, Louise and Renée, who were educated in a convent but leave at the same time: Louise is a romantic who seeks passionate love, while René is more practical, marries an older man and devotes herself to having children. The plot is less important than the discussions on the nature of love and marriage, as they were understood by different types of character in the nineteenth century (the novel takes place in the 1820's and 1830's). The novel was first published in serial form (and expurgated) in 1841, then complete in book form in 1842.

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Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Love Walked In – Marisa de los Santos – 3.5***
Cornelia, the “under-achiever” in her family, is the manager of a café. One day a Cary-Grant-look-alike walks in and her life changes. This is a chick-lit, romance novel with great heart. The novel is told in alternating points of view: Cornelia, and Clare, an eleven-year-old with a chaotic home life. I loved them both, though I was somewhat incredulous at several plot points.
LINK to my review

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Something Rotten (Thursday Next, #4) by Jasper Fforde
Something Rotten – Jasper Fforde – 3***
Book four in the Thursday Next fantasy / sci-fi “literary detective” series. What I most enjoy about this series is Fforde’s vivid imagination and all the literary references. The plots are completely unrealistic, but that’s part of the fun.
LINK to my review

message 33: by James (new)

James F | 1472 comments Naguib Mahfouz, Cairo Modern [1945/tr. 2008] 242 pages

His first novel set in modern times (King Fuad University and Cairo generally during the 1930's), and written a decade before The Cairo Trilogy, this book also deals with the theme of Egyptian politics and culture; although he begins the story with three friends, one an Islamicist, one a liberal with socialist leanings, and one a nihilistic opportunist, the story ends up focused on the third character, his rise and fall. He explores the role of poverty and inequality in corrupting politics and society, and the question of ethical principles. The book is somewhat more openly "preachy" than his later works, but still a very good novel.

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The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
The Agony and the Ecstasy – Irving Stone – 4****
Stone’s epic historical novel tells the life story of Michelangelo. Additionally, the novel includes much of the politics of the times, from the Medicis in Florence to the various Popes in Rome, it’s a fascinating history of the era. This was a re-read for me, but my rating reflects my original reaction (circa 1965).
LINK to my review

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