Challenge: 50 Books discussion

Finish Line 2012! > Naomi's 2012 50 (plus?) books

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message 1: by Naomi V (last edited Jan 01, 2012 12:30PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments goals for 2012
i’m pretty happy with what I read in 2011. my goals last year were to read more non-fiction and more classics. i’m going to continue that this year.

because of a discussion thread on the history group, I’ve decided to add, in the non-fiction category, Chicago history. I’ve lived here my whole life and don’t really know the history – it’s about time I caught up!

message 2: by Naomi V (last edited Jan 03, 2012 02:33PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 1. The New New Rules: a Funny Look at How Everybody But Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass by Bill Maher

The New New Rules A Funny Look At How Everybody But Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass by Bill Maher

3 stars

no, i didn't actually *read* this book. i can't imagine reading a bunch of lists, no matter how funny. i got this on Audible and i listened to Bill Maher read his lists with all his irony, sarcasm, invective, and humor. *much* better than "reading."

this is my first foray into Audible, and i rather liked it. i'm not sure how well it will work when i try to read --oops, i mean listen to an actual book. the Maher book, as i said, was really a bunch of lists and it didn't really matter if i didn't know right away where i was in the 'book' when i started listening again. but it may be problematic when i start listening to actual books.

message 3: by Naomi V (last edited Jan 12, 2012 10:16AM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

4-1/2 stars

i've read this book at least twice before, but long ago. probably the first time was in high school; the second time not long after. for years i suffered from depression to varying degrees and now that i'm not depressed (yay big pharma), i expected to have a different reaction to the book. i still find it quite moving and well written. i've underlined many sentences and whole paragraphs because they are so true, so real, so vivid in their depiction of her state of mind. and i recognize many of them from my own experience.

obviously, my emotions about this book are coloured by the fact that i know her ultimate destiny. i also know that when she wrote this, there was little that could be done to treat her. she underwent shock therapy and was injected with insulin (!) but they had none of the modern-day drugs. (note: at the back of the book is a note that says that her descriptions show that she was schizophrenic, not depressed; nevertheless...) and while reading the book (then and now) i just want her to be successful in her quest to die. she wants so badly to die that i just want it to be over for her. is this a horrible thing for me to admit? she writes of feeling so hopeless that maybe her hopelessness washes over me and makes me feel hopeless for her.

(re-reading this a few days later i realized that i kept writing "she" without referring to the character or the writer. interesting. i think i meant both.)

message 4: by Naomi V (last edited Mar 14, 2012 10:06AM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 3. Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

3 stars

i read The Year of Magical Thinking a few years ago (when i was dating a widower, in fact--trying to figure out some things about him) (it didn't help much) and found it heartbreaking. this book is also heartbreaking. i read a review that said Joan Didion writes at a remove from the subject matter, and i just don't understand that. every word she writes in this book is a love letter, a eulogy.

Didion also contemplates of her own frail health and the knowledge that eventually she, too, will pass away. it's quite moving.

message 5: by Naomi V (last edited Jan 12, 2012 10:15AM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 4. Chicago: A Brief History
2 stars

brief, rudimentary, and uneven. a book this short shouldn't actually mention the name of the poor Cubs fan who tried to catch a foul ball in 2003? the only university it talks about (other than an offhand mention of Northwestern in the section about the El) was the University of Chicago. there are any number of universities here in the city that merit a mention, at least. huge chunks of history were just omitted (which is why i object to the sports being handled in such detail.) at least the Prez got a shout-out. the only really pertinent thing i learned is that Chicago was the first big city that wasn't founded by Europeans.

something about this kindle edition: it's supposed to be "enhanced" with video. that didn't work on my kindle or my kindle fire or my computer. i have no idea who those enhancements were meant for.
not recommended, even as a primer.

message 6: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 5. Lying by Sam Harris

Lying by Sam Harris

3-1/2 stars

this was a very clear treatise on (obviously, as the title says) lying. Sam Harris makes a clear argument that even what we call "white lies" can erode a relationship, establishing doubt and/or suspicion between people. he also addresses what he calls "big lies" like "they have weapons of mass destruction" and "iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks" and the (now obvious) consequences.

message 7: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 6. Blinded by the Light by Morgan Hunt

Blinded by the Light (Tess Camillo, #3) by Morgan Hunt

3 stars
a fun, quick read. nice change from the heavy stuff i've been reading

message 8: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 7. Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages by Michael Popek

Forgotten Bookmarks A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages by Michael Popek

this book fascinated me for a number of reasons, not least of which is that i frequently put things into books and forget about them. it's also an interesting look at other people's lives. what were they doing when they read that book? now you know.

and because the author deals in antique books, there are many really old items here. photos from the first world war, old-fashioned cards, handmade pictures... for some of the items, he was able to offer some additional biographical information. a fun, quick read.

message 9: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1761 comments Mod
Naomi wrote: "7. Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages by Michael Popek."

Ooh, that's usually one of the first things I do when I get a book from the library or a used bookstore: go through the pages, see what's been left behind! It's so much fun, and I love trying to figure out what kind of person left such-and-such in the book. I have to read this book and check out the website!

message 10: by Donna (last edited Jan 26, 2012 08:23AM) (new)

Donna | 1350 comments Naomi wrote: "7. Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages by Michael Popek

Funny story, I was in HPBs deciding if I wanted to invest in a copy of the Tolkien Ring trilogy. Thumbing through a nice looking compilation I found... well, I took it to the service desk to inquire if the bookmarker was extra. "Bookmarker?" she said, and I flipped the book open to reveal the perfectly preserved leaf of marijuana pressed 2/3 of the way through Two Towers. She showed it to the manager who glanced at it and said, "Well the street value on that edition just went up."

message 11: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 8. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

3-1/2 stars

i really enjoyed listening to this book, especially as read by the author, with his great English accent. in fact, i think that listening to this was actually a better choice than reading it. i had the opportunity to imagine the visuals that went along with the story, which is not something i usually do when i'm reading. and the story of this book is very visual (as proven by the movie.)

listening to a book and reading a book are such different activities, i now understand why there has been so much discussion about it in this group. the first audiobook i listened to this year was the New New Rules by Bill Maher. then i tried to listen to The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. i confess one of the reasons i wanted to listen to it was because he was one of the readers. this did not work out well. it's not a story so if your mind wanders a bit and you want to rewind it's difficult to remember where you left off. you can't make notes or underline pertinent passages. this type of book will not work for me as an audiobook.

Coraline, however, was a completely different experience. i'll pick my audiobooks more carefully in future -- more along the lines of this one.

message 12: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments Donna wrote: "Funny story, I was in HPBs deciding if I wanted to invest in a copy of the Tolkien Ring trilogy. Thumbing through a nice looking copilation I found... well, I took it to the service desk to inquire if the bookmarker was extra. "Bookmarker?" she said, and I flipped the book open to reveal the perfectly preserved leaf of marijuana pressed 2/3 of the way through Two Towers. She showed it to the manager who glanced at it and said, "Well the street value on that edition just went up."..."

funny!! thanks for sharing

message 13: by Naomi V (last edited Jan 22, 2012 04:03PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 9. Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right by Thomas Frank

Pity the Billionaire The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right by Thomas Frank

3 stars

a bit of a diatribe and i didn't really learn that much. i agree with everything he said, but somebody like Michael Moore or Jon Stewart could make the same information more palatable. Frank's tone just didn't set with me.

message 14: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

no stars and this certainly doesn't count as a book read this year.

i believe i tried to read this when i was a kid, too, and didn't have any luck then either. maybe not for the same reasons, but i don't recall.

first of all, the story is boring. not much happens. worse than that, i was offended that there are these four girls calling themselves "evil" for the silliest human foibles. they are certainly not evil; but nobody contradicts them, including their own mother, who gives them a nice lecture about god and how to be "good."


message 15: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 10. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

another classic that i read years ago (7th grade?) i'm sure that at the time i didn't understand all the background. reading a play is quite different from reading a book, and i didn't really enjoy it very much for that reason.

message 16: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 11. Stay Awake by Dan Chaon

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon

3-1/2 stars

all the characters in this collection of short stories is disconnected in some way - traumatized by their past, unsure of their future, in a dream-like state. some stories are disturbing in some way or another, but in a good way. in a way that keeps you reading.

message 17: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 12. Karma: A Penguin eSpecial from Riverhead HC by Walter Mosley

3 stars

short book by Walter Mosely, the writer of the Easy Rawlins books. very interesting introduction to the character of Leonid McGill, a PI in present-day New York. his family situation is difficult, married to a woman who gave birth to three children that may not be his, there's some friction between what his job requires, what his past includes, and what his conscience tells him to do.

message 18: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 13. The Complaints by Ian Rankin

The Complaints by Ian Rankin

3-1/2 stars

another audible 'read,' which i got for one reason: the reader (performer? what do you call them?) was Scottish. i've read Ian Rankin before, but haven't actually finished all the Rebus books (i will, just haven't yet.) i read a review of The Complaints that was *not good*, so i hadn't planned to read it. then while searching audible i listened to a sample of this book and HAD to listen to the entire book because of the Scottish accent. love the Scots!

the story of The Complaints is actually pretty good. the review i read was all wrong. this is not a redux of the John Rebus character. i think the character of Malcolm Fox is quite different from Rebus, and i actually like him a bit better than Rebus. the plot, like the plots in the Rebus books, relies on the confluence of two seemingly unrelated cases. this is the one thing about Ian Rankin's writing that is predictable. however, i think that it was handled better in this book than it has been in the Rebus books, where it was sometimes a bit too coincidental.

all in all, a good read and i'm looking forward to more of Malcolm Fox and the 'complaints.'

message 19: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 14. Vulture Peak by John Burdett

Vulture Peak by John Burdett

3-1/2 stars

John Burdett has created a great character with Sonchai Jitpleecheep. i love his mix of practical detecting with buddhist principles. but he's a human being with failings and weaknesses like anybody else.

Vulture Peak is about the trafficing of human organs in Asia and is quite complex. i like a story that i can't see coming from a mile off and this book had that. i'm looking forward to more of Sonchai

message 20: by Naomi V (last edited Feb 28, 2012 07:04PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments another book i did not finish:
An Italian Journey by James Ernest Shaw

i might have been able to finish this book if there weren't repeated references to god. really? god helped you change your bike tire? i'm sure s/he has better things to do.

luckily, this was a free loan from amazon, so it didn't cost me anything except a few minutes times.

message 21: by Naomi V (last edited Mar 03, 2012 03:45PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 16. Wild Thing by Josh Bazell

Wild Thing (Peter Brown #2) by Josh Bazell

4-1/2 stars

i LOVE Josh Bazell. i know this is only the second book i've read (and perhaps only the second book he's published) but damn! he knows how to keep you engaged. i want to go back and read Beat the Reaper again.

it's hard to summarize the plot, but the narrator is a former hit-man, on the run from the mob (no longer in witness protection) and a doctor. (one small quibble -- he uses the term "mafia" which i understand ['cause, you know, i'm VERY knowledgeable about the mob] that they don't refer to themselves as the mafia anymore.)

in this book he somehow finds himself involved in a hunt for a lake monster in minnesota. it sounds incredibly improbable, but Bazell makes it work. it's fast-paced, full of (dark) humor (my favorite kind) and intelligence. sprinkled with political commentary, as well, which i really enjoyed.

one issue with the publication itself: i read the Kindle version and going to the footnotes made reading cumbersome. if i went to a different device, it would sync to the 'furthest page read,' sending me to the most recent footnote. i'd have to find my own way to the actual text. slowed me down when i really, really, really was anxious to keep reading.

message 22: by Naomi V (last edited Mar 03, 2012 03:45PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

5 stars

i thought i read The Great Gastsby in high school, but obviously i didn't. otherwise, i would have read it over and over again since then. i now understand why this is a perennial favorite; the story is incredibly compelling and really well told. the language is quite amazing in some places (i've underlines whole paragraphs in places.)

message 23: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 17. The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

3-1/2 stars
an audiobook of an Ian Rankin "Complaints" novel, read by Peter Forbes. this is the second audio book of a Rankin novel that i've listened to and i really enjoy it. Forbes does a pretty good job of differentiating the voices of the characters. this story of Malcolm Fox, a 'complaints' (what we would call internal affairs) investigator, segues into an investigation of a death 25 years earlier, and two more recent deaths that are seemingly related. it's really well done and i enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot.

message 24: by Naomi V (last edited Mar 13, 2012 11:29AM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

i can't really count this, but i had to list it here. i got the audible version, read by Sam Jackson. funny as all hell!! i will probably listen to this whenever i need a laugh.

message 25: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 18. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

3 stars

it's been a really long time since i originally read Catcher in the Rye and i honestly can't remember my original reaction to it. but now, at my advanced age, i find Holden to be a sad and pathetic character. he's obviously confused, perhaps a little manic, defensive...he's a mess. i can't see him as a 'hero' as some people do. in any case, i enjoyed the book as a study of a young man going a bit mad.

message 26: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 19. London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd

London Under The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd

2 stars

i believe that there's much about what's under London that's interesting. unfortunately, you wouldn't know that from this book. there are some fascinating facts, but some of them are just presented almost as lists. 'this artifact was found here; that artifact was found there...there were seashells found in this area! it used to be underwater!" great. too bad there isn't a cohesive narrative to make the reading more compelling. as you can already tell, i don't recommend this book.(less)

message 27: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments Another short read that I won't count:

Shaken, Not Stirred by Tim Gunn

Shaken, Not Stirred by Tim Gunn

i adore Tim Gunn. he has this classic elegance, panache, and grace that you rarely see any more. in this very short "book" from Kindle, he tells of his father: former FBI agent during Hoover's reign, who apparently suffered from OCD and perhaps other problems. you can feel Tim Gunn's frustration growing up with such a rigid, difficult father, but he still tells the story in a patient, caring way. made me want to know more about his life...

message 28: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 20. Mile 81 by Stephen King

Mile 81 by Stephen King

3-1/2 stars

i haven't read Stephen King in a looooooonnng time. i forgot how good he could be -- particularly when he writes shorter fiction. i plan to check out some of his other recent work now.

message 29: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 21. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

four stars

a suspenseful novel, neatly written by DeMaurier. the narrator and main character (whose name we never learn), while employed as a "companion," in Monte Carlo, meets a man who sweeps her off her feet and marries her quickly. they return to his home, Manderley, in the English countryside, and she encounters the creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who works on her youth and insecurity; which is compounded by the very, very poor communication of her husband. it's a real page-turner and i enjoyed every minute.

message 30: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 22. Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin

Resurrection Men (Inspector Rebus, #13) by Ian Rankin

3-1/2 stars

i read this over the long weekend, when i knew i wouldn't be able to concentrate on the more demanding books that i'm reading now. i don't think Ian Rankin has ever disappointed me. this was one of his better efforts, putting Rebus into a different situation (a course with other detectives to "improve their teamwork") and giving Siobhan an interesting story line as well. i have only a few more Rebus books before i reach the end of the line. i'm looking forward to them.

message 31: by Naomi V (last edited Apr 17, 2012 07:46AM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 23. The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris

The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris

4-1/2 stars

what a page turner! set in post-WWII Scotland, former cop, former soldier Douglas Brodie is called upon to help an old frenemy who is on death row. (i don't think i've ever used the word 'frenemy' before) they were great pals until Hugh stole his first love. now Hugh wants his help and Brodie reluctantly heads back to his home town from his new life as a reporter in London. he starts looking into the horrible crime that his old friend was convicted of, working with the defense attorney, and he quickly finds that there are too many discrepancies in the case to ignore.

this leads to some detective work, a few beatings, a meeting with the woman who caused him so much pain, and fast-paced action. while the story moves quickly and is completely engrossing, the writing is also top-notch. the author brings bits of Brodie's past in at appropriate times, which deepens your understanding of the character.

i read about Gordon Ferris someplace (probably the New York Times Book review) and this is the first book of his that i've read. i am sure it will not be my last. right now i'm resisting the urge to buy another of his books and forcing myself to go back to Free Will by Sam Harris so that i can finish it.

message 32: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 24. Free Will by Sam Harris

Free Will by Sam Harris

2 stars

Sam Harris says that free will is a conceit that some of us buy into. does he prove his point in this book? i'm not sure. in one of his passages, he says "Imagine a perfect neuroimaging device that would allow us to detect and interpret the subtlest changes in brain function. You might spend an hour thinking and acting freely in the lab, only to discover that the scientists scanning your brain had been able to produce a complete record of what you would think and do some moments in advance of each event."

okay; i can imagine that. does that mean such a device exists? he doesn't say. (there are no footnotes to this passage)

frankly, i think that the science in this book is beyond my capabilities to understand, so i'm not able to say whether i believe his hypothesis or not. or else i'm just being stubborn and want to believe that we have free will.

message 33: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 25. Riding the Bullet by Stephen King

Riding the Bullet by Stephen King

another of King's shorter works. i like him best when he is concise, and this book fit right into that category. it's creepy and has enough of a twist on a familiar type of story.

message 34: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments Naomi wrote: "21. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

four stars

i decided to change my rating to 5 stars

message 35: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 26. Bye Bye Baby by Allan Guthrie

Bye Bye Baby by Allan Guthrie

2 stars

listened to this on Audible and enjoyed the performance by the reader. the story was predictable, however, and i knew well in advance what the 'twist' would be.

message 36: by Naomi V (last edited May 03, 2012 02:32PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 27. Letters from an Atheist Nation: Godless Voices of America in 1903 by Thomas Lawson

Letters from an Atheist Nation Godless Voices of America in 1903 by Thomas Lawson

3 stars

i enjoyed this collection of atheist/agnostic/freethinker letters. the best part of the book, to me, was the beginning, with its bio of Charles Chilton Moore, a Kentuckian who was the publisher of the Blue Grass Blade, which published the letters. he was an outspoken man with firm convictions that frequently got him into trouble. “godly” folks tried many times to jail him for his beliefs (succeeding at least once.) one he was charged with mailing indecent material through the postal service for printing an advertisement for a pamphlet called “The Law of Population: Its Consequences and Its Bearing Upon Human Conduct and Morals.” this pamphlet was a call for women’s rights and discussed birth control such as condom use. in fact, he was tried for blasphemy in 1904 for saying that jesus was just a man and had a human mother and father.

there’s a bit of a connection between this book and Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America which i was reading concurrently. Moore wrote to Robert G. Ingersoll to represent him at one point, but Ingersoll had recently represented anarchists involved in the Chicago Haymarket “riots” and declined to represent him. (Ingersoll wanted to avoid ‘muddying’ the waters between freethought and anarchism.)

Moore solicited letters from readers explaining why they were atheists (promising a prize to the best letter) and the rest of this book is a collection of those letters. it’s surprising how many responses he got, considering that admitting to atheism then was a much bigger deal than it is now (and it’s not such a small deal now for some people.)

the letters are all interesting: some very short and to the point; others quite lengthy. some straight from the heart; some from personal experience with corrupt believers; some with very scientific reasons for not believing the myths. a very stimulating read.

message 37: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 28. A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin

A Question of Blood (Inspector Rebus, #14) by Ian Rankin

3-1/2 stars

another twist from the "usual" Rebus mystery. there's no perpetrator to catch, because he's dead at the scene; Rebus and co. are only interested in figuring out the 'why.' of course, it turns out to be much more than that as the book goes along. very enjoyable read with a long-time-coming surprise near the end. can't wait to see what happens next.

message 38: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 29. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene read by Colin Firth

4 stars

i read this book years ago, probably right after high school and, frankly, didn't get much out of it. i don't know if i was distracted by other things, or if it was just where i was in life, but i didn't understand how brilliantly it was written. i read it again later after reading that one of my favorite authors said Graham Greene was one of *his* favorite authors (don't remember who, actually, but i frequently take my favorite authors' recommendations.) i enjoyed it a whole lot more the second time. now i'm listening to it read by Colin Firth. Aaaahhhh. it's right up there with watching the movie with Ralph Fiennes.

NOW i remember why i wasn't really enamored with this book the first time i read it. so much god stuff! it's still incredibly well written and not at all what you expect when you hear the title or start reading the book. and hearing Colin Firth read the book just added another dimension of deliciousness.

message 39: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 30. Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin

3-1/2 stars

message 40: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 31. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

3-1/2 stars

picked this up at the bookstore; sat down with a cup of coffee and started to peruse it. before i knew it i was half way through. it's about the author's complicated relationship with her mother (one of the reasons that it appealed to me) and her intense therapy and interest in therapy as she tries to unravel that relationship.

...while i understand that the whole purpose of this book was for the author to examine her relationship with her mother, it's rather tedious in that it's pretty much *only* about her relationship with her mother. and her therapy. and reading about therapy. there's a lot of freud shit, as well. (and i use the word shit advisedly) it gave me a lot to think about, which is always a good thing about a book (or a movie.)

message 41: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 32. Lovers by Daniel Arsand
Lovers by Daniel Arsand

this book is written from the perspective of several characters, with lovely language (although this is one of those books that makes me wish i read french, as i'd like to know if it's as lovely in its original language.) the story is about a prince who becomes infatuated with a shepherd-boy in 1749 france. they fall in love, which is obviously frowned upon, especially by the crown (although a prince, the lover, Balthazar, is not the king/queen's son.) while the story is somewhat predictable, given the circumstances, the way it is told makes it worth reading.

message 42: by Naomi V (last edited Jun 06, 2012 09:01AM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 33. The Naming Of The Dead by Ian Rankin
The Naming Of The Dead (Inspector Rebus, #16) by Ian Rankin

lately there's been a certain confluence in my reading. i'm still working on Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America and The Rich And The Rest Of Us: A Poverty Manifesto and as i start this Rebus book, i realize that the backdrop is the 2005 G8 meeting in Scotland. the same theme of the haves and have-nots; the same protests met with violence by the police/military/government. of course, i'm not surprised by the parallels in the two non-fiction books, but had no idea as i started this penultimate Rebus story that it, too, would have this refrain.

but this story is, of course, about Rebus and the mystery de jour, and has a satisfying conclusion. one of the things that i like about Ian Rankin's writing is that everything isn't always wrapped up in a neat little package. there are messy bits, just like real life.

message 43: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 34. The Rich And The Rest Of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley and Cornell West
The Rich And The Rest Of Us A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley
i’ve longed admired Cornell West (in spite of his religiosity – he at least seems to embody what most christians claim to be, which is empathetic, kind, forgiving, etc. anybody that can refer to “brother rush” [Limbaugh] without making a gagging sound is a truly open and loving person.)

the book is full of history and statistics, graphs and charts; but it has a very personal aspect to it as well as the authors quote real people who have lost their jobs, their homes, and their hope since 2008. these are the newly poor; people who were not raised in poverty, but people who expected to improve on their parents’ economic status. they have educations, they had jobs, but since the great recession, they have lost it all.

part of the history in this book contrasts the newly poor with the way that poor people have been portrayed in our society for generations now. the poor, we have been told, and many still believe, are people who do not want to work – they are people looking for a handout, people who are on drugs or are alcoholic, people who are just plain lazy. and we have also been led to believe that the poor are mostly minorities. this long-believed fallacy is dissected and refuted by West and Smiley: “We would like to present an alternative theory … poverty is a shortage of money. And the biggest reason for that shortage of money is that most working people are not paid enough for their work and then we don’t have work.” white people overwhelmingly comprise the ‘new poor’ in the US, and have found that they are treated with the same contempt that has been shown to the minority poor for generations.

Smiley and West show how government programs have plenty of money for prisons, for police, for the “war on drugs,” for weapons and invasions, but somehow lacks sufficient funds for proper education, housing, and job creation that will decrease poverty in this country. “There is something warped about a society that has invested $300 billion for the expansion of the prison industrial complex’s jails, prisons, and juvenile justice institutions while claiming it has no money for schools, housing the homeless, feeding the poor, or creating jobs with a living wage.” there is a failure of government policy and we see this every day on the news.

there’s much more to this book; including ideas of how to improve the situation. i think we all know that there’s poverty; regardless of the fact that the news doesn’t cover it and poor people are pushed into a corner where we don’t care to look. this book was a real eye-opener and in spite of the tragic stories, there is a sense of hope and a call for change.

message 44: by Naomi V (last edited Jun 11, 2012 12:58PM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 35. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1) by Margaret Atwood

5 stars

frankly, i'm a bit stunned. i finished Oryx and Crake yesterday and i'm still mulling it over. stunned because it was so well done (not surprised, just amazed.)

it's hard to write a synopsis without giving away too much. one of the things i like about Atwood's writing is that she teases out the story -- there's plenty of flashbacks to help you understand what's going on in the present, and why. so, here's a very vague symopsis: Snowman appears to be the last living human; at least within the area he can travel on foot. however, he does have some company: beings he calls "Crakers" and various newly-created animals. how he came to be the last human and the origin of the Crakers and wolvogs and pigools...that's the story that unspools. it's totally engrossing -- i had the hardest time putting this book down.

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Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 36. The Blackhouse by Peter May

4 stars

listened to this on Audible. i actually chose the book because of the reader, Peter Forbes. i'd listened to another Scottish author's book read by Forbes and really enjoyed his reading. it was not a mistake to choose this book; i really enjoyed the story as much as the narration.

Fin McCloud is originally from the Isle of Lewis, which he left to go to college on the mainland. Now he's a detective in Edinburgh, who recently suffered a personal loss. He's been off work for a while but is called back and ordered to go to Lewis to look into a murder that may be related to the one he was working on before his leave.

going back to Lewis opens up his past; his old friends, the woman who was probably the love of his life; old enemies. as he investigates the murder, he also 'investigates' his past and finds out quite a bit about his old home that he didn't know before.

the story is really well written, with the exception of a too-neat-for-me ending. (but i wasn't disappointed.)

none of Peter May's books are available on Kindle, so i'll probably end up listening to a few more of them. not a bad prospect.

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Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 37. Exit Music by Ian Rankin
Exit Music (Inspector Rebus, #17) by Ian Rankin

3-1/2 stars

Exit Music is the last of the Rebus novels. at least that's what i (and everybody else) thought, until last week when i got an e-mail from Ian Rankin (yes, he keeps in touch)(J/K) letting his readers know that Rebus will be back later this year in a novel with Matthew Fox, his new 'Complaints' character. (Complaints being the Scottish equivalent of internal affairs.) i have to say that i'm really surprised that Rebus and the complaints never crossed paths before now; what with Rebus being suspended every-other-book and all. so i'm looking forward to that!

Exit Music is a great title for a character who loves music and whose musical choices are mentioned frequently; and who is retiring from CID. it's a bittersweet book for that reason; and Rankin does a good job at the end, as Rebus leaves it all behind, of summing up Rebus's career and his triumphs and failures.

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Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 38. i'm going to count these three shorter works as one for purposes of this list:

UR by Stephen King
quirky little short story about the pink Kindle from hell. i always find King at his best with short stories/novellas.

Don't Eat Cat by Jess Walter
Great little zombie story by one of my favorite authors

I'm Starved for You by Margaret Atwood

message 48: by Naomi V (last edited Jun 27, 2012 09:08AM) (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 39. Zoo Station by David Downing
Zoo Station (John Russell, #1) by David Downing

4 stars

this book was recommended by a colleague, and i'm glad that he did!

John Russell, a British journalist (whose mother was American) has lived in Berlin for about 14 years at the start of this novel in 1938. he was married to a German and has a son; he later divorced and now dates a German actress. Zoo Station shows in very human ways what it was like to live under Hitler in the run-up to the Second World War.

Russell finds himself involved in carrying secrets for the Soviets and the British while trying to avoid trouble with the Germans. it's a fine line and is done in a way that creates a considerable amount of tension, considering that he's not a spy by any means.

Zoo Station is very readable, with some lovely passages. i'm looking forward to reading Downing's next one,Silesian Station.

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Naomi V (naomi_v) | 546 comments 40. Silesian Station by David Downing

Silesian Station (John Russell, #2) by David Downing

John Russell continues to walk the tightrope in pre-WWII Berlin. his girlfriend is arrested and held until the Nazis can ensure his 'loyalty' and he carries false 'secrets' to the Soviets.

Silesian Station was very readable and i'm off to the next book already.

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