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message 1: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2363 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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Terris | 561 comments Theft by Finding Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris
Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris, 5*****s
I always enjoy David Sedaris' books and this one is no exception! I listened to the audio book, which he read -- I love his voice and this added to my enjoyment. The whole book is a collection of diary entries over a 25 year period, which historically is interesting. Also, his observations are always unusual and fun. If you are a David Sedaris fan, you will enjoy this one :)

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Missoula Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Missoula – Jon Krakauer – 4****
Subtitle: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Krakauer explores the issue of acquaintance rape, and particularly, the ways in which universities dismiss victim complaints in favor of all-star athletes. Disturbing and distressing, but important enough to read. Most rapists are NOT strangers in ski masks hiding in dark alleys; rather, they are the boys next door or men in the office.
LINK to my review

message 4: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (melissasd) | 815 comments Fang (Maximum Ride, #6) by James Patterson
Fang (Maximum Ride #6) by James Patterson
4 ★

Max and her flock will never be left alone. They have a new place to live, but an encounter with another mad scientist and a new bird kid jeopardizes that. Jeb return as do Erasers. Angel decides that she should lead the flock and that doesn't go well. Max and Fang get closer, but Angel predicts that Fang will be the first to die. The flock also heads to Vegas. Although these books are basically all the same concept, Max must save the flock from danger, I can't stop reading. There are always new, interesting characters and I'm waiting for the apocalypse they keep talking about. As the title suggests, this book is centered around Fang and his feelings toward Max. I'm glad so see them growing up. The ending is a bit worrisome, but I know all will end well...I hope. The best new character is Dylan. I test tube bird kid who has been alive for about 8 months. Supposedly he's been made to be Max's mate. Perfect in every way he's blended in with the flock nicely. I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out with Fang.

message 5: by Book Concierge (last edited Apr 05, 2018 08:16PM) (new)

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With Hemingway A Year in Key West and Cuba by Arnold Samuelson
With Hemingway – Arnold Samuelson – 4****
Subtitle: A Year in Key West and Cuba. This is Samuelson’s memoir of a year spent with Ernest Hemingway, learning from the master about writing and living. I can definitely see the influence of Hemingway’s style, and yet Samuelson’s writing is all his own.
LINK to my review

message 6: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Ken Liu, ed., Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF in Translation [2016] 383 pages

Invisible Planets, as the subtitle indicates, is an anthology, translated by Ken Liu, of recent Chinese science/speculative fiction (from the People's Republic, not Taiwan or the Chinese diaspora). This anthology consists of thirteen stories by seven authors, and three very short essays at the end on Chinese science fiction.

I used to read (mainly American) science fiction in my teens and twenties, but I haven't read more than a handful of speculative fiction books since then, so I'm no longer much of an expert on the genre as it is today, and can't really say what is different about Chinese and American speculative fiction except in a sort of impressionistic way. One point of convergence seems to be that there is a blending of science fiction with fantasy in several of the stories, but only one or two that I would classify more as fantasy than science fiction. The essays at the end say that Chinese science fiction in the Maoist era was mainly for encouraging an interest in science in teenagers -- which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing; I remember reading some Soviet science fiction novels which had real equations (not just for show, but necessary to understand for the story), and they were good well-written stories which actually challenged the reader. The current trend, if this book is at all representative, and the essays are accurate, is more like the Western "new wave" tradition of literary science fiction with a skepticism of technology. The stories are almost all somewhat dystopian, although unlike American YA dystopias they are high-tech societies run by bureaucracies rather than low-tech post-Apocalyptic societies run by vampires and zombies, which are thankfully absent from all of these examples. (Although the two stories which are closest to fantasy are somewhat exceptions.) Perhaps the high-tech bureaucratic societies are a reflection of what China is becoming, just as the vampires and zombies are a reflection of modern America.

Nearly all of the stories are good, as you would expect in a very selective anthology which is made up mostly of award-winning stories; as in any anthology, I had my favorites. The two best, in my opinion, were Ma Boyong's "The City of Silence", a story explicitly based on Orwell's 1984 (which figures in the text), and Hao Jingfang's "Folding Beijing", both of which feature bureaucratic control through technology. The title story "Invisible Planets" is also by Hao Jingfang but is more like the parables in some of Stanislaw Lem's short stories; although not mentioned in any of the essays I think he may be an influence on some of the stories, but perhaps that's because he's one of the few authors I've read in the recent past.

(I read the book for a group on Goodreads; I'm about a month early because I requested it to be purchased by the library and I needed to check it out when it arrived. There is a second anthology by the same translator coming out this month, which the group will be reading in August, and I will request that after July 1 when we begin buying again in the new fiscal year.)

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Kissing in America by Margo Rabb
Kissing in America – Margo Rabb – 2.5**
This is a young-adult “romance” with very little romance. Instead, it is more of a coming-of-age story. Eva learns some important life lessons – about grief, friendship, and forgiveness. Final verdict: it’s a decent YA novel. But not really my cup of tea.
LINK to my review

message 8: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Will Clower, Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight: New Science Proves You Should Eat Chocolate Every Day [2013] 274 pages

If you look at my statistics on Goodreads, you will notice that out of over 3000 books, there have up to now been no diet or fitness books and only two "self-help" type books altogether, both required reading for work. Of course, this is also for work. I should start with a few facts. Despite my having a college degree and specialized training as a cataloger, my pay (after a major raise last year) is less than half of the average for males my age, and slightly below the average for Hispanic males -- and we know what kind of jobs they get stuck with. You can probably guess I work in a public library. (Employment opportunity: if you're a teacher feeling guilty about being "overpaid", there is one white collar profession that pays less than teaching.) However, for the 20% of us at the library who are full time, there has been a compensation -- fully employer-paid medical, dental and vision insurance. Thinking about this, the city came up with an idea: we will still not pay premiums -- if we get twelve points a year in an arcane "wellness" system that no one really understands. If we don't get the twelve points, we pay premiums, but hey, it's our own fault and not a benefits reduction, right? So I'm at eleven points with a couple months to go, and I realize I can get that last point by reading a "wellness" book. As a bonus, I can also use it in place of a "management" book for one of my "career" goals -- another thing management insists on (which of course have nothing to do with my actual job, and there's no "career path" here anyway.) My first idea was to read a book on exercise -- I'll read all the exercise books they want, as long as I can read them sitting still in a comfortable chair. Then I noticed this diet book which tells me exactly what I want to believe: I can lose "up to" twenty pounds in eight weeks by eating more chocolate! And to make it even better, it will prevent or cure diabetes, improve dental health, lower my blood pressure, enhance my energy levels by "up to" 50%, moisturize my skin, and protect me from sunburn (if I ever decide to go outdoors)! This is all from the bullet list on the back cover.

So what happens when I open the book? He adds a few more claims for chocolate, like raising good cholesterol, lowering bad cholesterol, improving blood circulation, increasing cognitive ability, preventing cancer, and other good things. On the other hand, somehow the "up to" twenty pounds in eight weeks becomes an average of about seven pounds. Of course, he's talking about high cocoa (70% or above), high flavanol dark chocolate, without any sugar or caramel fillings, and he has a whole chapter on training yourself to like it, but that's fine because I prefer dark chocolate anyway. He says to drink coffee without sweeteners; I've been drinking plain black coffee since I was in high school. I've never been big on sweets, and that, combined with living in the driest state in the Union (not just in climate), makes it seem rather unfair that I should have gained any weight to begin with.

There's a story I read once about instant breakfast: it seems there was a company that marketed an instant breakfast product, and on the label there were great amounts of vitamins and nutrients for the instant breakfast powder in a glass of milk. Then someone noticed that those were the same figures as for a glass of milk. None of them came from the instant breakfast, which was mainly sugar. Now, the government requires two columns for the nutrient information, one for just the product itself, and the other with the glass of milk. This is the same problem I have with this book. In addition to eating a little more dark chocolate on a regular basis (four small pieces a day), he also talks about getting rid of most sugar and processed foods, and eating smaller proportions of everything else. The daily diet "suggestions" at the end have salads and veggie sandwiches for nearly every lunch. For "snacks" -- a cup of black coffee. He says that consistently eating chocolate will relieve stress --if you also meditate. He even mentions the e-word (which cost the book two stars.) In other words, the standard prescription plus eating chocolate. Well of course, if I switch to healthier foods, eat less, and start exercising regularly, I will lose weight. Is the chocolate just a placebo like the "healthy" instant breakfast powder? The book does contain a lot of medical jargon, and there are several pages of citations of nutritional and medical journals about research that shows benefits of chocolate (and I don't doubt that it has some). He also argues that eating chocolate will make people want to eat less, especially less sugar, and excercise more.

The book ends with a selection of recipes for chocolate meals - including chicken mole; I had forgotten chicken mole since I left San Antonio decades ago. Most of them won't work for me, because they have too many ingredients -- cooking for myself alone, I don't want to bother with ingredients -- or require equipment I don't have and don't have room for in my tiny kitchen (maybe I'll buy a blender some day.)

OK, I'll give it a shot. Whether it works or not I'll get my wellness point.

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The Radium Girls The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
The Radium Girls – Kate Moore – 5*****
Moore brings to life the stories of the brave women who painted luminous watch dials in the early 20th century, using radium-infused paint, which ultimately became their death sentence. The reader is in turns incensed and outraged, surprised by the ignorance and cavalier attitudes, and heartbroken by the pain and suffering these women endured.
LINK to my review

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One Of Us Is Wrong (Sam Holt, #1) by Donald E. Westlake
One of Us Is Wrong – Donald Westlake (writing as Samuel Holt – 3***
Westlake/Holt’s crime capers are not great literature, but they are loads of fun to read. Fast-paced, likeable characters, some funny dialogue, a great sidekick (I need a “Robinson” in my life!), leggy ladies, handsome leading man, car chases, guns, and crazy coincidences.
LINK to my review

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The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
The Nest – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – 3.5***
This is a wonderful debut novel, a character-driven tale that explores sibling relations, family dynamics, and a host of other issues that require open communication … something the Plumb siblings have never learned to do. I got drawn into their dynamic fairly quickly, but I think Sweeney was a bit too ambitious, covering many more issues and including many different points of view. I’ll be interested to see what Sweeney’s next novel is about.
LINK to my review

message 12: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea [1922] 526 pages

An account largely of the "Kula Ring", a complex and apparently non-utilitarian system of exchanges of shell armlets and necklaces among the islands of Melanesia, this book is a classic of ethnological literature. Using the kula as a focal point, the book discusses canoe-making and navigation, more purely economic trade, magic, mythology, and social organization in the region, particularly in the Trobriand Islands. Throughout the book there are discussions of ethnographic methods, as anthropology was entering into a period of empirical fieldwork to learn as much as possible about non-literate cultures before they were totally destroyed by colonial policies.

The book is extremely interesting although somewhat daunting, with dense passages of geographical names, native terms in several languages, and great detail about parts of canoes and so forth. There are many illustrations but unfortunately very grainy halftones in the edition I read (Dutton paperback).

message 13: by Terris (new)

Terris | 561 comments One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 4****s
This is an interesting and harrowing description of the life of Russian prisoners in a Siberian concentration camp as told by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who spent eight years in one of these camps.
Just amazing!

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Terris | 561 comments Tell Tale Short Stories by Jeffrey Archer
Tell Tale: Short Stories by Jeffrey Archer, 4****s
Loved these short stories by Jeffrey Archer (I'm a big fan and have been since I read Kane and Abel in 1985!) that are each so clever, thought-provoking, and generally end with a twist. The end of this book is the first four chapters of his new book "Heads You Win" that comes out in November, 2018. And, of course, it ends with a cliff-hanger! I can't wait to continue reading to see what happens next!

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Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill by N.M. Kelby
Murder At the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill – N.M.Kelby – 3***
Reminds me of Carl Hiassen, but not quite so well written. Still it’s a fun, ridiculous romp of a tale that kept me entertained and engaged despite its total outlandishness. Frankly, none of these characters made sense to me, and the plot was completely unbelievable. But I did laugh out loud a few times and it was a fast read.
LINK to my review

message 16: by James (last edited Apr 17, 2018 06:26AM) (new)

James F | 1474 comments Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion and other essays [1948] 274 pages

This is the second book in my reading of Malinowski. In Argonauts of the Western Pacific he was entirely descriptive, deliberately eschewing any speculation on origins; in the essays here he is more theoretical.

The title essay, "Magic, Science and Religion" (1925) attempts first to demarcate the domain of magic from science (by which he means loosely the knowledge and skills derived from observation and experience) and from religion. It has nothing about the origins of science, perhaps because he considers that straightforward and obvious; with regard to the origins of religion, his account is more interesting for his negative observations on previous theories than for his positive ideas. The focus of the article, however, is on magic. His description of magical practices is largely an abridged version of what he says in the two chapters devoted to that subject, and the other observations throughout the book, in Argonauts of the Western Pacific, with some comparisons to other cultures from the ethnographic literature. His theory of the origins of magic is that it begins with spontaneous emotional responses to stressful situations, the person who makes gestures of stabbing and strangling when thinking of someone he is angry about, for example, which then become standardized and are passed down as traditional magic. He also argues that magic is applied mainly where there is an element of chance or danger, where "science" does not suffice to guarantee success; for instance in the Trobriand Islands, there is a complex magic for canoe building and sailing, but none for the equally complicated but more routine and non-dangerous process of building houses, magic for growing yams but none for coconut palms, for shark fishing but not for ordinary fishing, and so forth. He discusses the role of mythology in validating magic, and sees magic on the other hand as the connection or "bridge" between the age in which the mythology is set and the present. The "bibliographic" essay at the end would make a good reading list for the history of anthropology from Tylor to the 1920s.

The second essay, "Myth in Primitive Psychology" [1926] argues that mythology is concerned not with "explaining" phenomena, whether natural of social, but with justifying or validating them. He points out that many myths tend to be justifications of social relationships, especially those which involve inequalities of wealth, privilege, or power; but in particular, he sees myths as justifying magical practices.

The third essay, "Baloma: The Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands" [1916], written a decade earlier than the other two, is a description of beliefs about the spirits of the dead (baloma) and the afterlife in the Trobriand Islands, where he did most of his fieldwork. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Trobrianders divide the spirit of the dead person into more than one kind of being. They assign a particular island, Tuma (a real island with three villages) as the abode of the spirits of the dead. The spirits of the dead visit the living, particularly at various festivals, as frequently in many cultures. Here again, much of the interest is negative, in refuting earlier generalizations. The article also contains much discussion of magic in general.

As mentioned, all of Malinowski's fieldwork was in Melanesia, especially the Trobriand Islands, and this is both his strength and his weakness; his strength, in the iconoclastic passages, because the culture of the Trobrianders does not fit with many of the previous beliefs and generalizations of earlier writers, the weakness, in the positive passages, because his own generalizations are based on one particular set of data which does not necessarily correlate with other cultures.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2363 comments Mod
Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith
Trains and Lovers – Alexander McCall Smith – 3***
In this novel – not part of any series – four strangers meet on a train bound for London from Edinburgh. As they get acquainted their stories come out. I love Alexander McCall Smith. I love the way he puts together an ensemble of characters and slowly reveals their everyday lives and the little (and big) dramas hidden in plain sight.
LINK to my review

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Melissa (melissasd) | 815 comments Undone (Will Trent #3) by Karin Slaughter
Undone (Will Trent #3) by Karin Slaughter
4 ★

Women are being abducted and one is able to escape the torture. The torture she endured is very disturbing and nothing Will Trent has seen before. Dr. Sara Linton, from the Grant County series, is now working at Grady Hospital and works her way into helping with the case. I was so glad to see her back. Some of what happened in the last Grant County book is covered and I hope to see more of her and find out more about that. Will's partner, Faith Mitchell, has a couple of secrets now and I really didn't like her very much in this book. She was always angry and snipping at Will. She just had a bad attitude throughout the whole book. Her secret is revealed to Will toward the end of the book and I hope she's better in the next one. I also hope that Will makes a final decision about Angie. She really pulls him down.

message 19: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Stanislaw Lem, His Master's Voice [1968] 199 pages

I just noticed by accident that several of Stanislaw Lem's novels I hadn't read before are now available to borrow free from Kindle Unlimited, so I decided to download them for break-time reading. His Master's Voice is a very interesting novel. The premise is that a repeating signal is received from space, which is assumed to be of intelligent origin, and a secret project is set up to decipher it. Like many of Lem's books this one is a novel of ideas rather than of exciting action; the book comments on the sociology of modern science, the relationship of science to government in the period of the Cold War (and although the setting is in the United States, remember that Lem is writing from the other side of the divide), and many other topics in addition to the philosophical questions involved in trying to understand a completely alien culture's message. Lem is ahead of his time in bringing up the problems of information overload and junk information long before the invention of the internet. The narrator is a brilliant but paranoid mathematician, perhaps somewhat of a crank outside his field, and we are never quite sure how reliable his views of people and events are. Another good example of why Lem is one of my favorite writers of speculative fiction.

message 20: by Terris (last edited Apr 18, 2018 05:58PM) (new)

Terris | 561 comments The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, 2**s
I really didn't care for this, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. It has so much description and background, and really -- beautiful writing. But the suicides kind of take a backseat to how the neighborhood and the girls' classmates are affected by the actions of the Lisbon girls. So it turns out not to be so much about the girls as it is about everyone else around them.
Again, I was really glad when this book was over. But I'm glad I read it because I have heard so much about it for so long. So I'd say -- try it and see what you think!

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Terris | 561 comments The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 3***s
I didn't love this, I'm just not a huge Fitzgerald fan. However, I've read five of his now so I kind of have the hang of his writing.
This one is similar to his others in that they seem to be autobiographical. Many scenes feel like they could be straight out of his and Zelda's married life. There is a lot of partying and scrounging for money. But in the end you find that money isn't always the answer, isn't the path to happiness.

message 22: by Melissa (last edited Apr 20, 2018 06:59AM) (new)

Melissa (melissasd) | 815 comments The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-0.5) by Sarah J. Maas
The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass 0.1-0.5) by Sarah J. Maas
4 ★

The book includes the 5 novellas written to introduce you to the Throne of Glass series. I highly recommend reading this first. It introduces you to many characters including the main ones: Celaena Sardothien and Arobynn Hamel. You also get to meet Celaena's rival/friend Sam Cortland. The world building isn't great, but many different places are mentioned that I'm sure we'll see in the series. There are so many characters as well, which you would expect from novellas. I'm pretty sure we'll meet up with them again as well. The action is good and there is some suspense. There were parts that are easy to see coming. The reader gets to see Celaena grow a bit as well. She's young and reckless, but learning. There are also many secrets and questions unanswered. I'm looking forward to continuing this series and seeing what happens next in Celaena's life.

message 23: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy [rev. ed. 2012] 228 pages

I have now finished all the work-related "management" or "leadership" books I need to read for this year. Unlike the earlier books, this one might actually have been somewhat useful if I had any probability of becoming a manager. Although the situation was not one I could really sympathize with -- captaining a guided missle destroyer, the U.S.S. Benfold, in the Persian Gulf during the "operations" against Iraq -- it did lend itself to making very clear what his management techniques really consisted of in practice, which was the main lack in the other books where everything was vague and just seemed like platitudes. Here, those same platitudes -- respect your employees, empower them to make their own decisions, etc. are so at odds with military practice that they stood out, and the author gave detailed descriptions of exactly what he changed.

message 24: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress [1971] 160 pages

The Futurological Congress is the first book I have read about Lem's character Ijon Tichy. I am now going back to read the original 1957 story collection; I was mislead by the fact that it was expanded in 1971 into thinking that it was contemporary with this novel rather than much earlier. The novel has Tichy attending the Eighth World Futurological Congress in Costa Rica when the hotel is attacked by rebels against the government. The government uses "benignimizers" and other psychotropic substances as weapons, and Tichy with some others from the conference takes refuge in a sewer outside the hotel. He then begins a series of hallucinations in which he is repeatedly rescued only to find that he is back in the sewer. Eventually he wakes up in a hospital, apparently in the real world but still thinking that he is hallucinating (or is it really still a hallucination?), and is put into suspended animation for a long time. When he is revived, he finds himself in 2039, in a world in which everyday life is totally dependent on psychotropic drugs of various types. He becomes more and more uncomfortable with the new society, and makes various discoveries about it. I won't go any further than that to avoid spoilers, as there are a number of surprise turns.

The style of the book is exaggerated and satirical, but many of the themes resemble his more realistic novel Return from the Stars and foreshadow some aspects of the later subgenre of "cyberpunk". The humor here is occasionally outdated, especially at the beginning -- the future resembles the 1960s, with protesters and hippies confronting helmeted policemen and exhibitionistic (but entirely straight) sex. While the descriptions of "designer drugs" can be taken literally, and are even somewhat prophetic, the book can also be seen as a sort of allegory of the false reality constructed by ideology, mass media and advertising. This is not my favorite of Lem's many styles, but it is definitely a good novel.

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Terris | 561 comments The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, 4****s
Really interesting sci-fi story of plants that try to take over, comets that cause blindness to the majority of the people on earth, and the rest that are just trying to survive! How exciting!

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2363 comments Mod
I'm on the road with sporadic internet access ... so I'm going to try to catch up ...

THURSDAY – 05 April 18
Old Heart by Peter Ferry
Old Heart – Peter Ferry – 3.5***
85-year-old Tom decides to “run away” after his adult children make plans to forcibly move him to a retirement community. If it hadn’t been for an F2F book club I probably would never have come across this little gem of a novel. I loved these characters (or loved to hate … in a couple of cases). In a short work the author addresses issues of aging, marriage (good and bad), lost opportunities, holding on to one’s dreams, taking chances, being responsible, and the meaning of love.
LINK to my review

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SUNDAY – 08 April 18
Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2) by Jacqueline Winspear
Birds Of a Feather – Jacqueline Winspear – 3***
The second book in the Maisie Dobbs series. She is a resourceful, intelligent, assertive young woman, who listens carefully and shows compassion when helping others confront their demons. Billy Beale is a wonderful sidekick and I like the relationship between Maisie and Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard.
LINK to my review

message 28: by Terris (new)

Terris | 561 comments Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Tangerine by Christine Mangan, 3***s
I like this quite a bit. It kept me guessing. It is a psychological thriller that involves two young women who have an entangled story. The reader learns the story from "Alice" and "Lucy" telling every other chapter. However, there is also a husband and a grifter that is on the sidelines. And the current story takes place in Tangier in 1956 -- the back story takes place while the girls are in college a few years before.
But -- who is the troublemaker here? Alice or Lucy or the husband or the grifter? Are there two girls, or maybe only one, with everything taking place in Alice's troubled mind?
This story kept my mind whirling the whole time trying to figure out what was going on, who did it, and how was it going to end?! It was not perfect but held my attention very well.

message 29: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day [1988] 245 pages

The fourth novel I have read by Ishiguro, this one is difficult to write a review of because it isn't really an explicit "thesis" sort of novel, although it does treat the same "theme" as the other three, namely memory of past (some private but mainly political) mistakes and our personal responsibilities. It consists in the first person reflections of a rather repressed English butler, Mr. Stevens, dedicated to a particular conception of his "profession", who finally takes a holiday and begins to consider his past life and the nature of the employer, Lord Darlington, to whose service he devoted most of his life. While much of his reflection is personal, concerned with his relationship with a former housekeeper, Miss Kenton, the story is intertwined with the activities of Lord Darlington, an aristocrat of pro-German leanings who tried to influence opinion in favor of conciliation with the Hitler regime, and with Stevens' attempts to defend his character as various inconsistent memories keep surfacing. I think that Stevens' conception of his professional responsibility as a butler, of his duty of absolute loyalty to his employer, also serves as a sort of allegory to comment on the citizen's responsibilities of loyalty versus the duties of criticism, on democracy versus class hierarchy, and other aspects of political and personal ethics. The changed conditions under which the butler is now working in postwar Britain, with, significantly, an American employer, besides the historical reality it represents about the economic and political relationship of the United States and England, also serves to represent changing attitudes towards the balance of occupational and private life. The novel ends with the protagonist meditating on the best way to live out "the remains of the day", the evening of his lifetime; which had a certain resonance with me as I have been spending time this week with retirement counselors trying to plan for the "remains" of my own day. To sum up, a very complex novel which covers a lot of different aspects.

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2363 comments Mod
So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger
So Brave, Young and Handsome – Leif Enger – 3***
I was caught up in the road trip. The story takes place in 1915, when automobiles were scarce, and more people lived in the rural area of America. As Monte and Glendon head West and South, the landscape virtually becomes a character in the novel.
LINK to my review

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Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Lucky Jim – Kingsley Amis – 1*
Maybe I’m too far past my college years. Perhaps it’s the dry British humor. Or the 1950s setting and writing style (first published in 1954). But I just don’t see the humor in this. I struggled to finish and did so only because I had committed to a buddy read.
LINK to my review

message 31: by Terris (new)

Terris | 561 comments Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova, 5*****s
What a sad story, but I couldn't put it down!
I have read all of Lisa Genova's books and am always impressed at her special way of telling medical stories in such a personal and down-to-earth way.
This is the story of Richard, a world-renowned concert pianist, who is diagnosed with ALS. Since he and his wife are divorced, he has no one to take care of him -- until she steps in to do it. And it's kind of a sticky situation. Along the way the reader learns the background of their heartbreaking story, and how ALS affects each of them and, of course, their daughter.
But, in Lisa Genova's calm way, she describes how the body reacts to ALS and the minute care that the patient requires. This book may not be for everyone, but it is certainly educational and makes readers think about what they might do if they were the victim, a family caretaker, a family member, etc.
It certainly had an effect on my point of view of this terrible disease. I knew it was bad, but Wow!
Be brave and read this one.

message 32: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Terris wrote:
What a sad story, but I couldn't put it down!
I have read all of Lisa Genova's books and am always i..."

I haven't read this one, although I was impressed by her novel on Alzheimer's (I took care of my mother who suffered from that), but your description reminded me of the books I have read about the life of the late physicist Stephen Hawking and the effects of his ALS on his two marriages.

message 33: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Bronislaw Malinowski, Crime and Custom in Savage Society [1926] 132 pages

In this book, Malinowski uses the results of his studies of the Trobriand Islands to discuss the nature of "law" among preliterate peoples. His use of the term "law" might seem somewhat strange to anything we would actually consider law; he's actually asking what are the social drives and sanctions that ensure compliance with traditional norms of behavior. In fact, the book is largely a polemic against previous theories that interpreted preliterate cultures as having total domination of the individual by the group or clan, by some sort of instinctual unquestioning adherance to traditions and customs or fear of the supernatural. He is concerned to show that there is resistance to cultural norms, that recognition of duties and obligations results from notions of reciprocity and publicity, from the ambitions and vanity of the individual rather than from the individual not being able to imagine acting otherwise than they are supposed to.

He then turns to examples where there are conflicts between different interests or different domains of "law", such as the matrilineal law of descent and the natural sentiment of fathers to prefer their sons over their nephews and official heirs, and shows the compromises which occur in practice between the official "legal" structure and the personal interests and sentiments of individuals. He makes the point that while older travel writers and missionaries looked only at what people did, ignoring what their ideals were, and came up with the idea of the "lawless" savage, the early "hearsay" anthropologists questioning informants through interpreters tended to look only at what people said they did, and hence came up with the idea of the savage completely controlled by custom and taboo. He emphasizes that the ethnologist must live with the people he is studying and compare what they say -- the official norms of the culture -- with what they do in practice. He points out the reverse situation, when the Trobrianders, having been proselytized by the missions about Christian love and brotherhood, and forbidden to wage war, and taking all that the whites said at face value, found out about World War I, and realized that the whites were "great liars". The point being that "primitive" cultures no less than "advanced" ones have both ideal norms and practical hypocrisy, and the ethnologist needs to study both to have a real comprehension of their behavior. This book more than either of the others I have read shows the difference between early and modern anthropology in its methods and theories.

message 34: by Terris (new)

Terris | 561 comments James wrote: "Terris wrote:
What a sad story, but I couldn't put it down!
I have read all of Lisa Genova's books and am always i..."

I haven't read this one, although I was impressed by her novel on Alzheimer'..."

Yes, Hawking is mentioned more than once in this book. You might try this one, I certainly was impressed by it.

message 35: by James (new)

James F | 1474 comments Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Volume VIII: Bentham to Russell [1966] 577 pages

The eighth of the nine volumes of Father Copleston's history, this covers nineteenth and early twentieth century British philosophy, with an "epilogue" on Wittgenstein and the ordinary language philosophers to bring it up to the present of the book. (It actually ends with an "appendix" on John Henry Newman, which lets you know where the author is coming from.) The volume begins with Bentham and the Utilitarians, followed by a few empiricists such as Herbert Spencer, and ends with Peirce, James, Dewey, Moore and Russell, in each case with related philosophers of the same "movement". In between, however, about half the book covers very minor figures, the British idealists (e.g. T.H. Greene, F.H. Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet, etc.), who have already been totally forgotten and whom even a philosophy major would probably have to google. Copleston himself, despite his affinity as a Catholic for idealist philosophy that takes religion seriously, admits their relative unimportance, and the treatment is somewhat perfunctory and repetitious; he says almost the same thing about many of them in more or less the same words, makes the same arguments for and against, and in general if this hadn't been written before the computer era I would say he used "copy" and "paste" a good deal. The result is probably the least interesting of all the volumes. Of course, this may also be because I knew more about the later philosophers, having taken a course in Peirce, James and Dewey and read a good deal of Russell, for example, and Copleston's treatment is not as insightful as when he is talking about mediaeval or early modern philosophy. This volume especially toward the end is also full of statements that begin, "the present writer does not intent to assert. . ." and distances himself from whatever he is arguing for or against in the philosophers he is writing about; perhaps his duties as a Jesuit priest weigh more heavily when he is talking about still current ideas. In short, not as good as his earlier volumes and certainly there are better treatments of the major figures, but I am glad I read the sections on the minor ones because these are not anyone I will ever actually read, even if my lifetime should be extended by a another century or so.

message 36: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2363 comments Mod
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin – 4****
Benjamin turns her attention to New York City’s social elite in the 1950s and 1960s. I was completely entranced and immersed in this deliciously gossipy tale. Benjamin really puts the reader into this glittering celebrity world. I could almost taste the caviar and champagne.
LINK to my review

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Dispatches from the Edge A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper
Dispatches From the Edge – Anderson Cooper – 3***
This is Cooper’s memoir of how he came to be a senior anchor for CNN. The chapters are divided according to various memorable assignments covering war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, famine in Niger, a tsunami in Sri Lanka, and culminating with his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
LINK to my review

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