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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 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!


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SouthWestZippy Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search for Adventure
2 stars
A brief summary of Seven female archaeologists who were determined to make their own way in life by searching and finding adventure. You can see some of the research done but the overall felt blah. It lacked depth and that the fact it was a brief look at each woman, it did not give enough attention to each one of them. Also the fact that we needed to be aware of what was expected of a woman in their time as well what they wore and about other protocols over and over became annoying.
I had never heard of several of these women before I read the book so that helps keep it a solid two stars.

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Marti (coloreader) | 103 comments I finished Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson. I believe it is a true story, but I’m not really sure. It is about a terribly unlucky song writer who ends up peddling wrapping paper and bows in front of a department store-thus the book’s title. Willie becomes rather obsessed with this man Vernon, and spends the book trying to right wrongs for him, befriend him, and help him off the streets.

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Melissa (melissasd) | 792 comments The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
5 ★

A group called the Wolfpack now controls the earth and has imprisoned many in work camps. Eden works in a silk factory, but she has a plan. She plans on escaping and finding Sanctuary Island, the only neutral ground left. She just has to figure out when. That moment finally arrives and Eden finds herself running through a mine filled beach and then aboard a boat with 3 other girls: Alexa, Finnley and Hope. When they find Sanctuary Island and begin to explore, Eden finds out that it's not the place she thought is was. One of them disappears in the middle of the night and things get more interesting when other boat joins them on the beach. A boat with 3 boys and a surprise guest. I really enjoyed this book. The story line was interesting and well developed. It does have the normal teen love story in it, but it doesn't take away from the story. It was a quick read that really pulled me in. Questions would be answered and create new questions. I did find the ending to be a bit sudden, but I'm hoping the author did this for a reason. I can see the possibility of more stories coming from Eden and her friends. They still aren't sure who they can trust…

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Still trying to catch up ... I read these in mid-December ..

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo – 3***
This is Coehlo’s international best-selling classic tale of an Andalusian shepherd boy’s quest to find his own Personal Legend. It’s an allegorical fable about find your true self, wrapped in an adventure tale, with a little romantic interest added. I found it entertaining but not particularly inspiring.
LINK to my review

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
The Birchbark House – Louise Erdrich – 4****
What Laura Ingalls Wilder did for the pioneer families in 19th century plains states, Erdrich has done for the Native Americans in this same time period. Omakayas is a seven-year-old Ojibwa girl living on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island. The novel covers the four seasons of 1847. I was fascinated by this story of the life of the Native Americans during this time period.
LINK to my review

message 6: by the wistful word (last edited Jan 09, 2018 10:18AM) (new)

the wistful word (thewistfulwordsmith) | 3 comments What Does This Button Do?: An AutobiographyVery excited to begin my first read of 2018! What does this button do? Bruce Dickinson - An Autobiography!

message 7: by James (new)

James F | 1398 comments Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven [1987] 211 pages

Cliff's first novel, this is much better than the later prequel, Abeng, which I reviewed last week. It's a much more adult, more sophisticated and better written novel. The main character is again Clare Savage. The book begins and ends with her as part of a small armed group -- the politics is not particularly good, or even clear, and seems to be mostly a product of despair on the part of people who feel oppressed but have no understanding of political theory or effective action. I was reminded at the end of Doris Lessing's The Good Terrorist, although Cliff is more sympathetic and the characters are not the spoiled children of that novel. The majority of the book however, told in flashbacks which are not strictly chronological, is about Clare's psychological development, the experiences she goes through in Jamaica, New York, and London with racism and the guilt she feels as a lighter-skinned Black who, while not actually trying to "pass", is generally considered "white", and her ambivalent feelings toward her lighter father and darker mother. These themes arise much more naturally out of the situations than in the prequel, and have a less artificial feel of illustrating a point. There are also some feminist themes and a major "trans" character. One episode concerns a disturbed Black Vietnam veteran named Bobby whom she falls in love with and who just disappears one afternoon. Meee and Bobbeee McGeeeeeeeeee sorry. After reading this, I understand the decisions Cliff made in writing the prequel even less -- the strange ending of that book with Miss Beatrice and her sister is never alluded to, and the childhood friend who plays such a key role in the later book is not mentioned even in the listing of people she remembers from her time at Miss Mattie's. While Cliff is not my favorite of the Jamaican writers I have been reading for the Goodreads group, the novel is worth reading and does give another perspective on the situation there.

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Written in Stone (A Books by the Bay Mystery, #4) by Ellery Adams
Written in Stone – Ellery Adams – 3***
This is book number four in the Books By the Bay Mysteries series. I like Olivia and her friends – the Bayside Book Writers. Of course the writers’ group includes the town Police Chief, handsome Sawyer Rawlings, which is convenient for the amateur sleuths.
LINK to my review

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The Shape of Water (Inspector Montalbano, #1) by Andrea Camilleri
The Shape of Water – Andrea Camilleri – 3.5***
Book number one in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series, set in Sicily is an absolute delight! Montalbano is a wonderful character. He deals with the worst of human situations and yet still finds humor in his life. Camilleri’s writing is very atmospheric. I almost felt as if I were visiting Sicily. I look forward to reading more of this series.
LINK to my review

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SouthWestZippy The Autistic Brain Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin
3 stars
A highly initiative look into the Autistic Brain. I found the book to be insightful and thought-provoking but it is a dry read. The Visual-Processing Problems part of the book was fascinating due to the fact that I am Dyslectic. I found similarities to helping the Dyslectic to find a way to help themselves focus through colored lenses. I also like the fact that she leaves you with the understanding that each person should find their own way of dealing and helping themselves.
One of my favorite quotes and taken from the back of the book. "In dealing with autism, I'm certainly not saying we should lose sight of the need to work on deficits, But the focus on deficits is so intense and so automatic that people lose sight of the strengths."

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale
Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abagnale – 4****
Subtitle depends on the edition: The Amazing True Story of the Most Extraordinary Liar in the History of Fun and Profit! -or- The True Story Of a Real Fake. Frank Abagnale began his career as a forger, check-kiter and con-man when he was just sixteen years old. It’s a fascinating memoir of his years of crime, full of daring escapades, humorous situations, and outlandish lies.
LINK to my review

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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Turn of the Screw – Henry James – 3.5***
A ghost story and psychological thriller. A young woman is hired to be governess to two young children, Miles and Flora. The governess is certain that some malevolent entity is intent on capturing the children in her care, and she is determined to prevent it from doing so. All the uncertainty and secrecy serve to increase the emotional tension in the story. It is dark, and puzzling, and disturbing.
LINK to my review

message 11: by Terris (new)

Terris | 536 comments Thanks, Obama My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt
Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt, 5*****s
This book was so good! David Litt is funny and insightful as he tells of his speech writing years working for President Obama. It made me feel happy and...really sad. Still, I enjoyed this a lot!

message 13: by James (new)

James F | 1398 comments Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion [1927] 63 pages

It's hard to know what to make of this little book of Freud on religion. While his books on psychology can be difficult due to the specialized nature of the discussion and the technical terms of psychoanalysis, his more general books on civilization and religion, such as Totem and Taboo, which I read last month, this book, and Civilization and Its Discontents, which I finished between reading this one and writing the review, have a different sort of difficulty: they tend to wander from subject to subject, rely on analogies that are not really supported by any evidence within the books themselves (obviously they presuppose a familiarity with his more technical writings on psychology), seem to argue contradictory theses from time to time, and sometimes just seem too strange to take seriously (e.g. the killing of the primal father).

The Future of an Illusion begins with an introduction that seems to owe much to the conditions in Germany and Austria at the time it was written -- civilization (identified specifically as a minority of "leaders" who are necessary to force the lazy "masses" to overcome their disinclination to work -- i.e. with the capitalist system) is in crisis; most people (i.e. the working class) are "enemies of civilization" who are organizing to destroy it. (Remember that the mid-to-late twenties in the German-speaking countries were a time of strikes, demonstrations, and even (failed) insurrections.) He admits that most people have no interest in preserving a civilization in which a few people have most of the pleasures and the majority have most of the renunciation, but sees no hope that this could ever be changed. Renunciation of pleasure, that is of the natural instincts, is the essence of civilization -- this is the main thesis of both books. It has often been pointed out that Freud's view of humanity has much in common with the Christian idea of "original sin"; here especially he argues that our natural instincts are to kill and rape. He then asks what are the means by which civilization accomplishes this work of repressing the natural instincts, and identifies them as "illusions" by which he means a distorted view of reality in accordance with our wishes, and moves to a discussion of religion as the most effective of these illusions. Very little here is original; he suggests an analogy between religion and neurosis, and presents the idea that religion is mainly a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. He proceeds by a series of "dialogues" with a devil's advocate who disagrees with him and accuses him of contradictions and insists that while religion is an illusion Freud should not be pointing that out because it is necessary for people to believe it is true to preserve civilization and for people to be comforted in the necessary unhappiness of real life. Freud argues that his book is harmless because no one will believe it anyway, and then argues that religious belief is declining already and that while the illusions of religion were once the most effective support of civilization, by continuing to tie civilization and morality to religion there is a danger that when people realize that the religion is not true they will reject the morality which no longer has any basis; so it is necessary to find rational arguments to replace religion as supports of morality and the status quo which are less likely to be rejected. He also argues that the rigidity of religious dogma is patially responsible for the problem by making it impossible to make the reforms necessary to head off more radical change. So that in about fifty pages he moves from sounding like a proto-fascist to sounding like a liberal or even a reformist social democrat.

He then uses his analogy of the development of civilization to the development of the individual to argue that, just as adolescents (according to psychoanalytic theory) go through a "neurotic" stage in moving from their infantile condition of the pleasure principal to the adult condition of the reality principle, so religion represents the neurotic stage in civilization which will be superceded in the future by the mature conscious acceptance of the needs of subordinating the pleasure principle to the reality principle.

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents [1929] 109 pages

I read this book when I started college (1970) for the required freshman "Contemporary Civilization" course; this is the first time I have reread it since. It is even more disjointed than The Future of an Illusion. It begins as a response to objections to that book, and it appears that it also will be a book about religion; it turns, as the former book does, to discussing the various ways in which people deal with their unhappiness ("discontent") within civilization, which is essentially just an amplification of what he said there, and he admits himself that there is little original; but then it moves to discussing the idea of guilt and the formation of the superego, which occupies most of the book. Religion is alluded to frequently but doesn't seem to occupy the foreground. He ends up with a summary of his ideas and the additional idea that religion represents a kind of collective or cultural superego analogous to the individual superego. In the last couple chapters he introduces the idea of a "death instinct" equal to and opposed to the erotic "libido"; this idea which doesn't really make sense to me (how would an organism evolve an instinct which would be directly opposed to its own survival and reproduction?), but it is his explanation of the aggressive tendencies which he saw around him (recall this was written in the period leading up to Hitler.) It actually doesn't occupy as much of the book as I thought -- it was basically the only thing I remembered from my first reading half a century ago.

While Freud's psychological writings (although I can't agree with the system as a whole) are full of important ideas and insights, these general books seem to me to be very much over-rated; but it is hard to deny that they were very influential.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky – Heidi W Durrow – 4****
Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop. I found the book in turns horrifying, moving, disturbing, riveting, and confusing. The story moves back and forth in time, and with multiple narrators. I was moved by Rachel’s predicament. And empathized with her struggles to come to terms with what had happened to her, and to those she loved. All told, this is a great debut, and I look forward to reading future works by Durrow.
LINK to my review

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
James wrote: "Sigmund Freud,
The Future of an Illusion
[1927] 63 pages

It's hard to know what to make of this little book of Freud on religion. While his books on psychology can be difficult due to the spec..."

James ... your reviews are always so insightful and thorough. I greatly enjoy reading them.

message 16: by Terris (new)

Terris | 536 comments The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History by Donna Tartt, 2**s
Didn't like it at all.
It was pretty well-written and held my attention. It was kind of suspenseful and made me want to read on to see what was going to happen. But nothing really happened...after 523 pages....
Yes, these five college students attending a Vermont university, do kill their good friend -- the narrator lets the reader know this on the first page -- then you have to read 522 more pages of description!!
I was just so disappointed. I'd heard so much about it and seen it on almost every list. I probably won't read Donna Tartt again. Ugh!

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Our House in the Last World by Oscar Hijuelos
Our House in the Last World – Oscar Hijuelos – 3.5***
Hijuelos’ debut novel spans five decades, telling the story of the Santinio family from 1929 in Cuba to 1975 in New York. Alejo is a man who has never met a stranger. He is exuberant and generous. Mercedes is a woman who lives in the past. She cannot let go of past glories of life in Cuba as a girl. She loves Alejo, but the man he has become is a stranger to her. Hijuelos’s writing is vivid and passionate, with scenes that are ethereal and full of mysticism contrasted with scenes of brutal reality. People yell in anger, whoop in celebration, and cry in despair.
LINK to my review

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Terris | 536 comments Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, 4****s
I really liked it and am glad I can say that I read "Doctor Zhivago." It did help me to watch the movie to keep the characters and scenes straight. It was a good book to read in the middle of winter!

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Melissa (melissasd) | 792 comments From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse, #8) by Charlaine Harris
From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
Sookie Stackhouse #8
4 ★

There was so much going on in this installment in Sookie's life. Were wars, Vamp wars, family issues, etc. Sookie continues to accept her life and what she has become involved in and is getting stronger handling certain situations. She makes new friends and, on the plus side, not many enemies this time. She does risk her life a few times, but it wouldn't be a Sookie story without that. There is a huge change in the Vampire hierarchy that shocked me and I'm curious to see where it leads. Eric and Sookie get closer and Quinn is missing. We learn more about Quinn and his family as well. I loved how that book ended and look forward to seeing that play out. The most curious thing: a new man in Sookie's life. Not going to spoil that one. It is quite good though. Hope to him more in future books.

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Starry Night by Debbie Macomber
Starry Night – Debbie Macomber – 2.5**
It’s a typical Macomber holiday schmaltz novel. The characters are straight out of central casting and the plot is predictable. Still, it’s a fast and entertaining holiday read.
LINK to my review

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Terris | 536 comments Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum, #22) by Janet Evanovich
Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich, 4****s
Always cute! Stephanie and Lulu are just such funny characters, along with the whole cast of friends and family. I know I've read the same story 22 times (this is Book #22 in the series!), but I always know what to expect, and I always get what I want out of it. If I need a quick, easy, light read with a laugh, this is what I go to. And Morelli and Ranger don't hurt anything! ;)

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James F | 1398 comments Patricia Powell, The Pagoda [1998] 245 pages

The Pagoda is another novel about the complex racial composition of Jamaica; the main story begins in 1893, and deals with the condition of the Chinese immigrants who were imported to replace the former slaves after Emancipation. The protagonist, Mr. Lowe, has been a shopkeeper for some thirty years when his shop is burned down one night, apparently out of anti-Chinese hatred. The novel alternates between his life in the following months and his memories of earlier events, his life in China, the voyage, and his early exeriences in Jamaica. The historical background is interesting; so is the story of Mr. Lowe, although it is somewhat implausible. The novel deals with the themes of identity (racial, gender and indvidual) and disguise; everyone in the novel has secrets. One has to feel sorry for the protagonist, who is trying to free himself from other people's fantasies and become an individual, although it is impossible to really like Mr. Lowe, who has been clueless about everyone around him for decades and, even as he discovers that the people he lives with have stories and feelings of their own, continues to think only of himself, until almost the end of the novel. The book is fairly well-structured, although it spends too much time trying to gradually reveal details which are obvious from the beginning. The last few chapters are the best, but the book ends with many of the plot elements unresolved.

Unfortunately, the actual writing is awful. The book would be an English teacher's nighmare. There are whole pages -- almost whole chapters -- without a single grammatical sentence: there are sentence fragments (too long to be a stylistic device), long run-on sentences, sentences which change construction in the middle, lack of agreement between subject and verb, lack of parallelism between clauses, pronouns with no antecedents, words which do not actually mean what they should mean in context, clichéd phrases. . . I'm not talking about the occasional deliberate use of a sort of pidgin in the dialogue, but the actual narrative. The most annoying thing of all was that many sentences began with "Plus" (and this is supposed to be the speech and thought of a nineteenth century character). I had to check the back cover to verify that the book was indeed published by Harcourt and not CreateSpace, because it gave the impression of a self-published work with no copy-editing; apparently copy-editing, like careful proofreading, is now a dispensible luxury for commercial publishing houses. At many points I nearly gave up on this, usually when I came up on a "plus", but the storyline kept me reading. Three stars for the content, one star for the writing.

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Melissa (melissasd) | 792 comments The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians #1
5 ★

Quentin is a depressed young man living in Brooklyn who gets an unexpected invitation to take a college exam. The exam is for entry into Brakebills, a university for magical study and it's a dream come true for Quentin who has always loved magic. Q makes many new friends and learns a lot at Brakebills. He also learns that Fillory, a land from his favorite childhood (and adulthood) may be real. For those who have watched the TV series, the 2 do mesh some, but the TV series has a second story line not found in the book. I loved the characters. They are fun and so real. You get to know the characters so well that you feel like part of the group. I was shocked by some of the events at the end of the book, but I know there will be a reason for them. I enjoyed this book so much that I moved right onto book 2.

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Terris | 536 comments Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith
Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith, 4****s
I really enjoyed this story set in 1898 of a group of scientists who go to Yellowstone to collect flora and fauna specimens and information to be cataloged for science. However, A.E. Bartram, who is accepted as a participant in this expedition, turns out to be - a woman! Um, uh, well, no one said.... uh, well, what should we do.... um well....
Anyway, after they get over Alexandria being a woman, she turns out to be a very diligent and conscientious member of the team. And then the author goes on with the story of different obstacles they must all overcome, events that happen, and the conclusion which has a dramatic climax and a pretty nice ending.
However, the whole story is told only through correspondence, from the members of the team, to their employers and family members. This makes the read a little more interesting.
I liked that it was kind of light and fun, but it did tell quite a bit about Yellowstone, the scenery, and the items that they collected. It felt beautiful, but still held my attention very well.

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Terris | 536 comments Blink The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, 5*****s
I very much enjoyed learning from this book about studies that have been done on how we think and make decisions. It might sound boring but Malcolm Gladwell does a good job of adding in interesting examples and stories, like the Pepsi challenge and different products that we as consumers have embraced or rejected, how we read facial expressions, and how instantaneous decisions are made. It really made me think!

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Killers of the Flower Moon The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann – 4****
Wow. I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing of this shameful episode of American history. Grann did a marvelous job researching and reporting his findings. He did more than simply report what the FBI managed to uncover, and that only emphasizes how institutionalized the racist attitudes were.
LINK to my review

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James F | 1398 comments Jorge Luis Borges, Historia universal de la infamia [1935, augmented ed. 1954] 137 pages [in Spanish]

This volume of the Obras completas contains some earlier writings of Borges: the Historia universal de la infamia, eight short stories about notorious criminals; a novela, Hombre de la Esquina Rosada, a cowboy story which is written in the first person in dialect and very hard to understand; and some very short miscellaneous pieces added later in Borges' better known style of fantastic narrative.

Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World [1986] 239 pages [Kindle]

Like the other two novels I have read of Ishiguro, A Pale View of Hills and The Buried Giant, this is first and foremost a novel about recognizing and taking responsibility for past (mainly political) acts, and the contrary tendency to try and forget or "prettify" the past. The protagonist is an artist who played a role in the Japanese government before and during the Second World War; he is now retired, a grandfather who is trying to negotiate the marriage of his younger daughter. At first, he tries to forget that past, concentrating on a more distant time, and when it arises, tries to defend his actions; but the needs of his daughter's negotiations force him to remember and take responsibility. Ironically, after he does, his daughters try to rebury the past and pretend that his confession was an unnecessary and overscrupulous act which they didn't understand. The book procedes largely in flashback memories to different times in his life and career. The description of Japan after the war, the recriminations of the young against the older generation which led them to defeat, was very interesting; the same sort of thing happened in Germany with the "collective guilt" and later in the USSR with regard to Stalinism as described in Alexievich's book I read last year. The US of course as the victor in World War II never has had to come to any accounting of its own atrocities of that time (the killing of 80-100,000 civilians, mostly elderly, women, and children in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example), and while there was something similar to this among younger people during the Vietnam War the country very quickly returned to its self-satisfied feeling of moral superiority; we see the jingoism today, the President bragging about US nuclear power, making threats and calling poorer countries "shitholes". Of course the new generations in Japan and Germany are also prey to a new nationalist movement which has forgotten the lessons of the War. Ishiguro's novels are thus still very relevant to the present day.

In addition to this main theme, there is also a theme about art and authority, the relations between teachers and disciples, and about art as the pure representation of beauty and committed art, which is approached from a different angle than the usual arguments about "art for art's sake" vs. being "engagée" in that the "committed" art is in the service of Japanese militarism rather than being from a left-wing perspective.

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett – 4****
The novel follows the four parents and six children of the Cousins and Keating families over five decades. As children, the six kids are frequently left to their own devices, the adults in their lives too busy with their own drama to focus on the children. How the adult siblings each interpret and remember what has happened, and how they manage the guilt or shame is the main focus. Patchett really shines when exploring human relationships. She slowly reveals secrets, hopes, and fears until the reader feels she truly knows these people. Little by little events are revealed, and characters are fully realized. Like her other works, this would be a great choice for a book club discussion.
LINK to my review

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SouthWestZippy The Martian by Andy Weir
5 stars
A dust storm hits Mars and the crew is forced to evacuate, Mark Watney is left for dead because they are unable to locate him plus his suit shows no life signs, only he is not dead. Now he is stranded and has no way to signal Earth. You are reading his Log entries showing his very human responses to being alone and dealing with his routines to keep himself alive. I enjoyed his dry humor and his willingness to try anything to keep himself alive and busy. This book is intense at times and draws into to Mark's fight for life and shows you that every life matters and the levels they will go to to get you back home safe.

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SouthWestZippy Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
1 star
Set in a dystopian world in which human clones are created so that they can donate their organs.
I could not get into nor could I relate to the overall picture of what I just read. I found it to be an overwhelming Storyline and the reading was dull at the same time. I made myself finish the book, wish I would have just stopped and moved on. Not my cup of tea type of book.

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SouthWestZippy Why I Jumped My True Story of Postpartum Depression, Dramatic Rescue & Return to Hope by Tina Zahn
5 stars
Taken from the books slipcover synopsis. " On July 19, 2004, an amazing story, accompanied by incredible video footage, broke across network and cable news programs." Tina Zahn is the focus of the incredible video footage as well as the officers who saved her when she jumped off the bridge that day. The book is her story of what happened to get her to the point of jumping.
This book is heartbreaking on so many levels. Tina's clueless Mother who has never been and never will be a Mother is not the only problem but one of many. I do like how Tina finally opens her mind and eyes to see and feel she needs to let go of the toxic people in her life on her terms.
I highly recommend this book.

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SouthWestZippy The Green Mile by Stephen King
5 stars
I am going to skip writing a synopsis about this book since there are tons already out there and I just can't write anything better.
I had an idea what that book was about because I have seen the movie when it came out. It still did not prepare me for what I read. WOW, Stephen King can draw you in and paint a picture both ugly and beautiful. My emotions were all over the place but the ending of the book had me shed a few tears.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Cotton by Christopher Wilson
Cotton – Christopher Wilson – 1.5*
I was intrigued by this idea of a “white-skinned black boy” in the segregated South of the mid-20th century. But the novel took a decided turn for the weird. …. Let’s just say that Lee Cotton changes skin color and/or gender like some women change hair color. Wilson gives Lee a unique voice – with an odd mixture of local dialect and educated English. But in the end, I found this just too fantastically absurd to be believed. I never warmed up to Lee or any of the other characters, and I found it a chore to finish.
LINK to my review

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Terris | 536 comments Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, 3***s
Mark Twain is always enjoyable! This story of two switched babies is intriguing, and Pudd'nhead Wilson saves the day. much as I liked this one, it wasn't my favorite. It didn't have the magic of Huckleberry Finn for me. I'm glad I read it, but it doesn't come with a high recommendation from me...just medium :)

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Terris | 536 comments A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, 4****s
This was in interesting story set in the 1920's where two British women visit India and one of them accuses an Indian man of sexual assault (kind of apropos of today!). Then it goes into how the situation affects all involved. I liked it and would recommend it.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Letters for Emily by Camron Wright
Letters For Emily – Camron Wright – 1.5*
Harry is dying of Alzheimer’s and he struggles to complete a book of wisdom for his favorite granddaughter. I thought the plot was predictable and emotionally manipulative, and that the characters were straight out of central casting. If it hadn’t been a book-club selection I would not have finished it. I will say that some of the advice Harry leaves is poignant and resonated with me, but the book’s construct really irritated me.
LINK to my review

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Terris wrote: "A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, 4****s
This was in interesting story set in the 1920's where two British women visit India and one of them accu..."

I read this last year for my F2F book club. We had a very interesting discussion.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – 4****
One of the best opening lines of literature: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” It's no wonder this is a classic. Austen is simply the master of dialogue. The way in which the characters interact brings them to life.
LINK to my review

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Terris | 536 comments Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville, 3***s
I am glad I read this book and to know the story. But, even though I've read some of Melville before, the writing seemed really hard to follow. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood to put the effort into this style of writing, but I really had to concentrate and have quiet to understand what was going on. I found myself thinking "I speak English! Why can't I understand this?!" At least it was short!
Anyway, it's a sad story. I really felt sorry for Billy Budd and for the captain of the ship.
I give this one a medium recommendation.

message 40: by James (new)

James F | 1398 comments Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones [1956] 185 pages [in Spanish]

Borges' second collection of stories, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan was published in 1941; in 1944, he added a number of other stories under the title "Artificios" and published them together as Ficciones; in the present 1956 edition he added another three stories to the second part. This is the work which established his reputation, and these are arguably his best stories (although I haven't read his later books yet); they are definitely interesting and have had a great influence on other writers, in Latin America and elsewhere. I read this in translation long ago in college, but this was my first time reading it in Spanish.

The stories are mostly what could be called fantasy -- but the old kind of fantasy, when fantasy, and science fiction, were really "speculative fiction" and not just endless variations on The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. I used to read a lot of fantasy and especially science fiction but I rarely do anymore, because they are mostly so formulaic and genre today. C.S. Lewis wrote in 1961 that "unliterary" readers never read fantasy; certainly no one could argue that today, but fantasy was different then. There are still exceptions, such as Ishiguro's The Buried Giant, which actually make real points, but most are just entertainment for "Young Adults" -- I also dislike age-segregated literature, which is another thing that puts me off from recent fantasy books.

The stories in this collection are really illustrations of philosophical ideas -- in fact they frequently reference Plato, Bradley, Meinong, Russell and other philosophers. They also make important points about language and semiotics, which is why I am reading them now -- one or two of the stories are on the reading list of a friend of mine who is taking a course in literary theory and letting me vicariously take it with her, reading the readings and discussing with her. The first story, "Tlön, Uqbqar, Orbis Tertius" imagines a world which corresponds in a way to the idealist conception of Berkeley, and imagines the kind of language which would be congruent with that sort of world -- a language without substantives, where all nouns are either replaced by verb forms (instead of saying "the moon" one would say "it is mooning") or collections of adjectives ("the round shining bright"). The next story, "Pierre Menard, autor de Quijote" examines the idea that works of fiction mean different things in different historical context by imagining a modern French author who writes Don Quijote exactly in the words Cervantes did, but it has a totally different sense. The collection also contains the title story of the first part, which imagines a world similar to certain versions of quantum theory, and the famous story of "La biblioteca de Babel" where all knowledge is contained somewhere in a book -- because every possible combination of letters is in some book -- but there is no way to separate the books which are true from the false and the meaningless. He also has a story in the second part, Funes el Memorioso, where someone has a perfect memory and can't think well because thinking requires forgetting details to abstract. (A similar idea is in the last story of Historia universal de la infamia, his first book, where a complete perfect map is useless because it just duplicates what it is a map of.) This is just a sample, but all the stories are interesting in some way, and some of them are related to a frame story which reminded me of Umberto Eco -- although I would not call Borges a "postmodernist" nearly all of postmodernist fiction is influenced by his writings.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Hidden Figures The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly – 3.5***
The subtitle is all the synopsis anyone needs: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. I had seen the movie, but it covers just a few years, and compresses the story of many women into three characters. Shetterly’s book covers the time from the early years of WW2 to the Moon Landing in August 1969. I’m glad I read it, and that these women’s stories are finally brought to the forefront of America’s consciousness.
LINK to my review

message 42: by James (new)

James F | 1398 comments Staceyann Chin, The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir [2009] 292 pages [Kindle]

Another book for the Goodreads group which is reading Jamaican literature, this is the memoir of a Jamaican woman from the age of about four to her emigration to New York in her early twenties. Actually, I think that it is somewhat fictionalized, or at least "filled in", because I don't believe anyone could remember such details and conversations from when they were four years old. I can believe that the overall narrative is true, though. Staceyann Chin was abandonned by her mother shortly after she was born; the man she was told was her father denies his responsibility. She lived first with her grandmother, and then with a succession of increasingly abusive relatives, until she is thrown out and gets her own apartment at fifteen (which was probably the best thing that happened to her.) Despite her domestic problems, she does well in school, passes the exam to get into high school, and attends college with support from the man who denies being her father and from his brother who nevertheless considers her his niece. After coming out as a lesbian in college, she is ostracized and almost raped, and decides to emigrate. The book ends with her leaving the country, although there is a brief epilogue about her subsequent visits and what happened to her relatives. She is apparently now a successful poet and performance artist in New York.

Chin is half Chinese and lighter-skinned than most of her relatives and the students in her schools; this seems to be a common factor in many of the novels and other books for this group, and assuming that we are reading a fairly representative sample (and these are the books that I see on most of the Internet lists of Jamaican literature) it must be a tendency in Jamaican literature, perhaps because lighter-skinned Jamaicans have more opportunity for education and writing books. Unlike many of the novels, however, race, while always present in the background, plays a lesser role than poverty (at the beginning) and gender and orientation issues (toward the end.) Both positive and negative characters in the book are extremely religious and use religion as a way of controlling her; the chapter titles are nearly all quotations from the Bible.

Chin is a good writer and her life story is interesting and even inspiring. I may have to apologize for over-reacting (in a previous review) to Patricia Powell's use of "plus", because Chin uses it in several places (although not as often, and it's less jarring in a twentieth century teenager than in a nineteenth century adult character) so it may be a "Jamaicanism."

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
Inside the O’Briens – Lisa Genova – 5*****
A diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease affects not only Boston cop Joe O’Brien, but his entire family. Genova writes so well about neurological disorders, making the story both entertaining and informative. I really felt as if I knew these characters – their fears, joys, dreams, and anxieties.
LINK to my review

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Terris | 536 comments Book Concierge wrote: "Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O’Briens
– Lisa Genova – 5*****
A diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease affects not only Boston cop Joe O’Brien, but his entire family. Genova w..."

I also loved this one! I have read all of hers -- Left Neglected is my personal favorite. I think she has a new one coming out soon: Every Note Played which I am looking forward to :)

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Terris | 536 comments Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, 5*****s
This amazing story told by J.D. Vance about his own life and upbringing in a hillbilly family in Kentucky and Ohio is truly eye-opening. It is so educational to all of us to learn of others' thinking, beliefs, and where they come from. Many of these things are not right or wrong, they are just different: backgrounds, neighborhoods, family life, expectations, and we all come from different places. I think it would make us all more empathetic to learn more about each other, then maybe we could help & understand each other better.
As a Yale educated lawyer, J.D. Vance, being raised in the hillbilly lifestyle, explains what he feels are the good and bad issues of this lifestyle and thinking that are affecting America today.
As I said before: eye-opening! Everyone should read this one!

message 46: by Melissa (last edited Jan 29, 2018 10:15AM) (new)

Melissa (melissasd) | 792 comments The Magician King (The Magicians, #2) by Lev Grossman
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
The Magician's #2
5 ★

Quentin and Julia are now King and Queen of Fillory and they are bored. To fix this they restore an old ship and sail out to find Outer Island to collect taxes. They are hoping to find adventure and do find it, but not how they wanted to. They end up back on Earth and Julia must show Quentin through the hedge witch world to get back. The chapters alternate between the now with Julia and Quentin and Julia's past. The reader learns a lot about Julia in this book. Starting with Brakebill's and ending with the arrival of Reynard, the trickster God. This book moves along very smoothly and the adventures are interesting. Some new characters are introduced and add a nice element to the story. There is also the fact that magic is fading. A bigger request is required and I wasn't very happy with the ending. I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion to this trilogy and the adventure that awaits Quentin and his friends.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
The Midnight Watch A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer
The Midnight Watch – David Dyer – 2.5**
Subtitle: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian. Like many people, I am fascinated by the Titanic’s story, and I was eager to read Dyer’s debut novel. But his changing points of view somehow failed to capture my attention. The last sixty pages of the novel, however, were gripping.
LINK to my review

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2292 comments Mod
Terris wrote: "Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, 5*****s

As I said before: eye-opening!..."

Definitely, eye-opening. Looking forward to my F2F book club discussion in May.

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Terris | 536 comments Book Concierge wrote: "Terris wrote: "Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, 5*****s


Let me know what everyone thought of it!

message 50: by Terris (last edited Feb 05, 2018 06:28PM) (new)

Terris | 536 comments Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, 4****s
I really liked it! I'm not going into the details of the story (there are lots of reviews for this one). It is a very intricate, entangled story of one main family, and a couple of others intertwined with them. The author does a very good job of telling the main story, but then also letting the reader know the background of each person, and how they got to where they are, so that you understand where everyone is coming from and why they are acting the way they are (I know -- run-on sentence...oh well).
I liked it enough that I am looking forward to reading another one by this author. I also think this would make a very good movie :)

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