The History Book Club discussion


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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Aug 21, 2012 05:31PM) (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
Becky, here is your new thread for 2012.

Our Format:


1. My Early Life 1874-1904 by Winston Churchill Winston Churchill Winston S. Churchill
Finish date: March 2008
Genre: (whatever the genre of the book happens to be)
Rating: A
Review: You can add text from a review you have written but no links to any review elsewhere even goodreads. And that is about it. Just make sure to number consecutively and just add the months.

Note: I will delete required format post once you get started.

message 2: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:46PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments JANUARY

1. The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander Nathan Englander Nathan Englander
Finish Date: January 3
Genre - Historical fiction
rating A+

Review: This is the story of Kaddish Poznan, a stigmatized Jewish man and his wife whose only son goes among "the disappeared" in Argentina's Dirty War, 1976-83. It's an extraordinarily powerful and gorgeously written book -the history is vital and accurate but never takes over. The literary themes revolve around names and memory, what is real - and of course what it means to be "disappeared."

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 04, 2012 08:48AM) (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
Thank you Becky for your adds and review. Great suggestions. And congrats for finishing your first book in 2012.

Don't forget to put in the month of January in like the sample format shows. Before the first book completed in any month, please be sure to put in the name of the month it was completed in.

You only have to add it once per month.

message 4: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:33PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 2. Midnight Rising John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz Tony Horwitz Tony Horwitz
Finish Date: January 21
Genre - US History
Rating - A

Review: I thought I knew the story of John Brown and Bleeding Kansas going on to Harpers Ferry. I guess I knew the outline but there is sooooo much more which Horwitz managed to glean from countless museums and collectors as well as the usual library resources across the nation. He put together a wonder of a book, well-written and tightly organized which captured and held my attention from beginning to end.

Horwitz shows John Brown to be a complex and fascinating figure – obsessed with freeing the slaves, driven by a very personal and demanding God, imperial father, absent husband, fair fund-raiser, courageous leader and possibly quite mad.

HIghly recommended -

message 5: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:34PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 3. Byzantium The Surprising Life Of A Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin Judith Herrin Judith Herrin
Finish Date: January 22
Genre: Middle-East History
Rating A

Review: A totally readable and fascinating description of the life and times of the Byzantine Empire from being the Eastern Roman Empire to its dissolution under the Turks. It's not written as a chronology although it does follow a general outline of Early, Middle, Late. Rather Herrin has examined the subject from a thematic angle looking at such things as art and architecture, the Church schism, the issues of heredity, the military, along with social topics of literature, culture, society.

Highly recommended if you're interested.

message 6: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:34PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 4. Elizabeth the Queen The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith by Sally Bedell Smith Sally Bedell Smith
Finish Date: January 23
Genre - 20th century history
Rating A

Review: Fascinating insight into the world of the current British monarch, how she was trained, lived, loved, fought and worked (works) along with the many controversies which have sometimes plagued her and her family. Very enjoyable read.

message 7: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:34PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 5. The Hare With Amber Eyes A Family's Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal by Edmund de Waal Edmund de Waal
Finish Date: January 25
Genre: family biography
Rating: A

Review: The author was next in line to own a set of Japanese netsuke which had been in the extraordinarily wealthy, Jewish Ephrussi family since the mid 19th century. They had traveled from Japan to France where the art critic, collector and general bon vivant Charles Ephrussi first purchased them. They then passed to his niece in Vienna and ... well, I won't tell you what happened after that.

This is a remarkable story and beautifully told. It's essentially a family history and memoir (the author's search and thinking about his family's history). The author uses a lot of "creative non-fiction" in a deeper sense than style and structure. But imo, it works for de Waal - it's his family.

message 8: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:34PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 6. River of Smoke (Ibis trilogy, #2) by Amitav Ghosh by Amitav Ghosh Amitav Ghosh
Finish Date: January 23, 2012
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: A

Review: Fascinating insight into the era of opium trade in Canton, China. The story is the second in the Ibis trilogy, by the same author, right after Sea of Poppies , the third has not yet been published.

Ghosh does more than plop a story and some characters into an historical setting. He recreates the history for us, he emphsizes the language(s) and how they mix in a multi-lingual society - this is part of his overall theme. (I think he got carried away with the visit to Napoleon - ach, no matter - the basis for Ghosh's book is just as real as Napoleon.)

But the history is quite good, too. I often spend a lot of time annotating books like this - (and my #4 entry) discovering the background for the references the author makes. the Pamplemousses Garden in Mauritius for instance, and Fan-qui town in Canton. It's quite a delicious thing to do and the process adds a lot of texture and interest for me as I read the story.

This book is a bit slower than Sea of Poppies and some readers may be disappointed, but what slows it down is the historical infomation and the use of the language(s) and that's a big part of what interests me. I do so look forward to book number three (probably 2 or 3 years!)

Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) by Amitav Ghosh by Amitav Ghosh Amitav Ghosh

message 9: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:35PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 7. The Crime of Martin Sostre (no link to book) by Vincent Copeland
Finish Date: January 23
Rating: A for content, B for style

Review: Written in 1970(and no longer in publication), this is the story of Martin SOstre, a black radical bookseller in Buffalo New York and his fight with the justice system after he was framed and arrested for a very small (tiny) drug sale. His penalty was way, way, way in excess of anything those charges usually entailed and their enforcement included many years in solitary confinement. Why? Because the real crime was peddling information the power structure (from police to judges) didn't want available but that would not have been a convict-able offense because of freedom speech. There's a movie of this case by the name "Frame-Up." Vincent Copeland gives a defense for the real but never heard "charges" which led to the years in prison and the "cruel and unusual punishment."

Last year I read several books about Black history in the 20th century US and this book just follows in that genre. I don't know if there'll be more or not - it's a huge category.

message 10: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:35PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding by William Golding William Golding
Finish Date: January 27
Genre: classic fiction
Rating: A

Review: A classic that I somehow missed! This is the story of what happens to a group of well-bred English boys when they are stranded on an island without adults to supervise. What lies in the hearts of us all, under the veneers? In that way it reminds me of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. What is it that leads to the adult wars that play a small part in the book? This one should be read by all high school students and discussed thoroughly, even today.

Heart of Darkness/The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad by Joseph Conrad .

message 11: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:49PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 9. FEBRUARY:
Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch by Carol Birch (no photo)
Finish Date: February 18
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: A-

Review: Great little yarn set in 19th century London and then out at sea. The title is the name of an historical figure, Charles Jamrach, who owned a menagerie south of London. One day a boy was swallowed by one of his run-away tigers and Jamrach reached into the tiger's mouth to save it. In Birch's story young Jaffy Brown is not swallowed but rather pets the tiger's nose. He's hired by Jamrach and sent on an ocean voyage to collect strange animals - they're really looking for a Komodo dragon.

Part Charles Dicken, part Moby Dick, part In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, the book is all fun, although there does seem to me to be the small underlying and overlapping themes of superstition, where it comes from, why it exists, as well as man's being an animal, a wild beast.

Charles Dickens Charles Dickens
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville by Herman Melville Herman Melville,
In the Heart of the Sea The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick by Nathaniel Philbrick Nathaniel Philbrick,

message 12: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:35PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 10. The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst by Alan Hollinghurst Alan Hollinghurst
Finish Date: February 20
Genre: Historical ficiton
Rating A

Review: When Cecil Valance dies on the battlefield in WWi he leaves many friends, some closer than others, lovers of both sexes and a handful of poems. Years later those poems become quite famous and Cecil close to an icon. Years later again the friends and lovers meet for a memorial of their beloved Cecil and reporters show up asking questions and make connections to lovers of their own. Finally, in much later years, the memory is so dim but maybe some remember, there's a "widow" now and an old valet, the wife of his best friend and her children and grandchildren - what was true? Whose child was that? Inquiring biographers want to know.

That's the story - There are 5 parts and except for writing style part one bears very little resemblance to part 5 although some of the characters are the same. The style, Hollinghurst uses opposing adjectives to show get to an emotional core. Sometimes he can't get to the core so the only words for it are "as if." And that core is rarely stark or brutal but more often just softly embarrassing.

In 1916 being gay was really not something most folks were open about. So most gays took wives and went into the closet with their closest friends (their gay circle). The WWI poets were no different whether society then or now or through the years sees it that way or not. This is Hollinghurst's salute to his fellow travelers.

message 13: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:35PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 11. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens Charles Dickens
Finish Date: February 25
Genre: Classic and historical fiction
Rating A

Review: For the third or fourth time - but I truly appreciated it more this time going slowly, not glancing over the dark parts or the sometimes difficult prose.

There's not much specific about the French Revolution in the book. Dickens manages the guillotine and the Bastille but there's no Robespierre or Danton, no Tennis Court Oath. That's not what Dickens writes about. He writes about how it was caused by and how it affected people from aristocrats to peasants. And he writes about the feelings, the love and hate, the fear, joy.

message 14: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:36PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 12. The Swerve How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt by Stephen Greenblatt Stephen Greenblatt
Finish Date: February 25
Genre: Classic and Medieval history
Rating A++

Review: Excellent, excellent overview of the impact of Lucretius on the world from the Italian Renaissance to - well, to today, really.

This is the story of how Gian Poggio, a scholar of the 14th century, came to find an ancient manuscript, “On the Nature of Things” written by Lucretius, a Roman of whom almost nothing is known, probably around 60BC. The work, in the form of a brilliant poem, is a treatise on Lucretius’ own Epicurean philosophy.

Poggio found the work, had it copied, and made the startling ideas contained therein known, probably in order to break through the darkness of Medieval Europe with some kind of early humanist-Christian thought. But he likely had no idea the storm he was creating. Greenblatt knows how these ideas stirred all of learned Christendom, and in his very readable narrative presents the impact of those ideas as well as their history in the modern world to the reader.

message 15: by Darcy (new)

Darcy (drokka) I have this book scheduled for the summer, and all the clerk at the bookshoppe would tell me was 'It's kinda weird". So this high praise sets my mind at ease.

message 16: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 180 comments Very interesting set of books. I think your list is now my to-read list!

message 17: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Thank you - and I've got some goodies coming up on my tbr pile, too! Hope I can get to them soon. :-)

message 18: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:37PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 13. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka by Julie Otsuka Julie Otsuka
Finish Date: February 26
Genre: historical fiction
Rating - A++

Review: I don't cry over books but .. I can't say that anymore. This is the saddest book I have ever read. Part of that is because it's a really sad era in our country's history but it's also because I know the names of the towns - they're all around me. I know the names of the people, I live here. I could almost see the faces of neighbors.

In the early 1920s young Japanese women immigrated to the US with a promise of marriage and a picture of the groom they'd never seen. They were disappointed, naturally, but they stuck it out and did the field work or housework or other lowly tasks assigned to minorities in California. They worked very hard, and had babies, and loved and cried and assimilated as best they could. Then came 1942.

The power of the narrative lies in the plural first person so the story is about "we," and "our," and "us." There are many, many stories but there is one "us."

message 19: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:37PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments MARCH
14. The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds by Adam Foulds Adam Foulds
Finish Date: March 6
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: A

Review: Sometime in the early 19th century a Doctor Matthew Allen set up a sanatorium called High Beach in Epping Forest, London where he treated the well-to-do insane. In 1840 the peasant, nature poet John Clare stayed there. Alfred (Lord) Tennyson bought a home in the area because his brother was a patient. Alfred came to know Clare and got quite involved in Allen's schemes. There are several other characters in the book, some sane, some less so.

Foulds' story moves slowly along through the seasons of about 18 months as the characters develop, for better or worse, and then come to some kind of crisis. The natural setting, the Victorian manners, the progressive methods (unless untenable), all work together to produce a somewhat sad but lovely book.

message 20: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Becky wrote: "13. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka by Julie Otsuka Julie Otsuka
Finish Date: February 26
Genre: historical fiction
Rating - A++

I don't cry over ..."

I have very strong feelings about the treatment of the Japanese-Americans and Nisei during WWII and I know that this book would also make me cry...both from sorrow and frustration. I have put it on my TBR. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

message 21: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Thanks Jill - I just finished Otsuka's prior book, When the Emperor Was Divine, which internally follows The Buddha in the Attic. It's just as powerful but I didn't cry. Review coming up.

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka & The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka by Julie Otsuka Julie Otsuka

message 22: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:37PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 14. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka by Julie Otsuka
Finish Date: March 6
Genre: historical fiction
Rating A

Review: "When the Emperor Was Divine" starts with the day of the Japanese departure for the internment camps and ends several years later.   It's every bit as good as The Buddha in the Attic, and it's very powerful,  but it didn't overwhelm me in the same way.  I didn't expect it to,  but I just couldn't take another book about all that,  especially not one by Otsuka,  immediately after reading The Buddha in the Attic.

This is the story of 3 unnamed Japanese-American family members from Berkeley,  California who get sent to a Utah camp and it follows them through life in the camp and then again later back at home.   Father was taken away in December, directly after Pearl Harbor,  but mom and the kids were left at home for 8 months before their internment began.  

More specifically, this is the story of one family's  love and endurance in tough times but because the characters are known only by  "the woman,"  "the boy"  (age 8),  "the girl" (age 10),  and an absent "father," living at another camp, this family of 3 feels like a little group -  and it's their story,  representative of many more families just like theirs.  A very sad story but very, very satisfying.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka Julie Otsuka Julie Otsuka

message 23: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:37PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 15. Reconstruction America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 by Eric Foner by Eric Foner Eric Foner
Finish date: March 16
Genre - US history
Rating: A

Review: The era of Reconstruction has always been given short shrift in US history classes - one reason may be that it's very complex and multifaceted. Foner isn't quite able to fix that but he does wind his way through the whole thing, from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 to 1877 when the last of the Southern States reverted to the control of the predominantly white and angry Democrat party.

It's a sad story considering what might have been, what the misguided idealists of the North envisioned, what the Blacks hoped, what eventually transpired. But it's not without its bright spots as Foner takes time points out. Actually, I think Foner points out everything - from women's suffrage and education reform to Westward expansion, the railroad scandals, the industrial revolution and immigrant base of the North to the racism in all states, to ... oh my - it's 735 pages long and very highly detailed. The only down side is that it's almost as dry as an old textbook (not quite). This doesn't bother me (except for a couple of chapters) but it might turn some others off.

message 24: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I agree, Becky, this is a great book; it is on my shelf.

message 25: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:38PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 16. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien by Tim O'Brien Tim O'Brien
finish date: March 31
Genre - fiction
rating A

Review: Just like the War in Vietnam this book is disjointed, personal and very emotionally charged for some including myself. It's one of the few books I've read about the war because I was so involved in the anti-war movement and because my town lost so many men/boys there.

But I read it and found it to be healing in some way - just looking directly at the war in an emotionally realistic, although fictional, way was cathartic I suppose. It's fiction which reads like a heavily metaphorical memoir.

So many boy-men died and so many hearts and minds were broken but this book does not cover that up one bit. As a whole the book is a series of stories, not sequential, not thematic, not focusing on any one or two characters (although some reappear more often), but all interconnected by the narrator and the war. It's a very effective device in situations where there are lots and lots of characters.

Recommended if you want to know what that war was really like emotionally.

message 26: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:38PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments APRIL
17. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen by Elizabeth Bowen Elizabeth Bowen
Finish Date: April 15
Genre - classic novel (1938)
Rating A

Review: Bowen's work can be a bit dense and her sentences somewhat convoluted but she's well worth it. This is the "coming-of-age" story of Portia Quaynes, a young woman - a girl really - who is alone in the world after both parents die and she is sent off to live with her brother, Thomas, the son of her father but not her mother. Thomas is married to a very social woman but they have no children.

The characters, the settings, the plot, the themes work together here so beautifully to show how crazy "civilized" people can get. The themes weave around what it means to belong, vulnerability, jealousy, experience, and love.

message 27: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:50PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 18. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell Elizabeth Gaskell Elizabeth Gaskell
Finish Date - April 24
Genre - historical literature
Rating A-

Review: Gaskell wrote in the mid=19th century and in large part about the social and cultural elements of her society. In Wives and Daughters two young women become step-sisters - one is very honest, intelligent hard-working and loyal. The other is a bit of an air-head but usually means well enough - she's usually in some sort of trouble. The mother/stepmother of the girls is very status and money conscious and tries to marry them to men with titles. Becoming a wife is really the only option a girl has in those days, the alternative being (oh horrors) an old maid.

message 28: by Bea (new)

Bea | 1830 comments Becky wrote: "18. Wives and Daughters Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth GaskellElizabeth GaskellElizabeth Gaskell
Finish Date - April 24
Genre - historical literature
Rating A-

Gaskell wrote in the mid=19t..."

I really liked that one too. I don't know why Mrs. Gaskell isn't taught more. The Victorian era was kind of Dickens, the Brontes, and the poets when I studied literature. I wish I had found out about Gaskell and Trollope earlier. Of course, then I wouldn't have them to read for the first time now!

message 29: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Women's issues are not quite the same today as they were for Molly and Cynthia. The only thing their mother thought of was who they should marry - that's the same with much of Victorian lit - women were wives and daughters - or, unhappily, old maids.

message 30: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:38PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 19.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller by Madeline Miller Madeline Miller
Finish Date: April 28
Genre - historical fiction
Rating - B+

Review: This book is really hard to rate - I couldn't stand it for the first 25% or so - it felt like a book for 12 year-old boys - to introduce them to The Illiad and Achilles and the Trojan War or something. But then come the love scenes between Patrocles and Achilles - oh my - it's turned into an adult romance.

Ah, but Achilles wouldn't be Achilles without Hector and Priam and Theta and Agamemnon and Odysseus, so we have a couple of battle scenes and the ultimate sacrifice and death with or without honor.

The style is very simple but perhaps that's deceptive. The story is there but the focus is different. I did so much prefer David Malouf's The Ransom or Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad.

Ransom A Novel by David Malouf David Malouf David Malouf
The Penelopiad (Canongate Myths) by Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood

message 31: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (last edited Apr 30, 2012 10:41AM) (new)

Vicki Cline | 3804 comments Mod
Thanks, Becky. Now I have 3 books to add to my TBR list. Oops, looks like I already read, and really liked, Ransom. My mind is like a sieve. :-)

Ransom by David Malouf by David Malouf David Malouf

message 32: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:51PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments MAY
20. God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam by Jane Gardam Jane Gardam
Finish Date: May, 14
Rating: A-
genre: historical fiction

Review: Published in 1978 and making the Booker Short List for that year, God on the Rocks was a very good book back then. But in 2011? well, this isn't Gardham's best book to date. (see below)

When 8-year old Margaret Marsh gets a baby brother she also gets a live-in maid for her mother and apparently for her father, too, a very strict, Bible-spouting preacher. Lydia and Margaret take Wednesday walks to various places but one Wednesday they go off to the beach area of their seaside community in England. Lydia scopes out the boys while Margaret sees the clowns, talks to an odd painter and climbs a tree. This is the beach, the rocks, where Dad later organizes a small, unusual ministry.

One Wednesday Mom takes Margaret and they end up at the home of some lovely people, a brother and sister who apparently knew Mrs. Marsh from several years ago - before the Great War (the First). Other people wander through the house, but maybe that should be expected what with the mental hospital just up the hill.

This of course leaves Dad and Lydia alone at home but many other things transpire in the course of this charming peek at a strange corner of life in the 1920s.

If you've read Gardham's other books, Old Filth or The Man in the Wooden Hat, you might be disappointed. On the other hand, there is a very serious side to this one so who am I to say?

Old Filth by Jane Gardam & The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam by Jane Gardam Jane Gardam

message 33: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:51PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 21.

The House of Blue Mangoes A Novel by David Davidar by David Davidar (no photo)
Finish Date: May 22
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: B-

Review: This book was a big disappointment - at least until toward the end when it really picked up. The premise sounded great - three generations of the Dorai family starting in 1899 and leading up to India's independence. Set in the very southernmost part of India Davidar had so much material to work with, the book could have been a grand saga of changing times. But it didn't work for some reason, it mostly just fell flat. I think this is due to the style - everything is told to us, very little is shown. I never really connected to either the history or the characters.

For all that I kept reading because there were places of promise and looking back I can see how it all fit. There was a glimmer of hope with Daniel of the second generation, but perseverance was finally rewarded with Kannan of the third generation who really did come to life and have a bit of a crazy adventure with a tiger.

I really wouldn't recommend this unless you are seriously interested in contemporary Indian literature.

message 34: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:50PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 22.
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland by Susan Vreeland Susan Vreeland
Finish Date: 5/29
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating C-

Review: This book is so poorly written I had a very hard time finishing it. The characters are sadly flat and the historical aspect is clumsy. (For those of you who are determined to read it - it gets somewhat better after about 1/3.) The only redeeming feature was that it got me curious about the real Clara Driscoll so I ordered A New Light on Tiffany - the non-fiction based on recently found letters. This is the book Vreeland says was her major published source.

A New Light on Tiffany Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls by Martin EidelbergMartin Eidelberg (no photo)

message 35: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:57PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 23.
The Blue Mountain A Novel by Meir Shalev by Meir Shalev Meir Shalev
Finish Date: 5/29
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: A+

Review: This is a totally mesmerizing book - beautifully written and historically evocative, if not literally "true." The subject is a small group of very early 20th century Russian pioneers, completely fictional, although based on the Second Aliya ,in what is now Israel. It's about the lives and loves and losses of these people as well as their families, their feuds, their land and their stories.

The frame is contemporary (1988) with a first person narrator who was born and raised in the community, the grandson of one of the pioneers, and now is the keeper of a private cemetery there. He knows a lot of stories and that's what he tells us - in lush, meandering, interwoven way.

The tone is rather like magical realism and this book has been compared to 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - I definitely see the connection.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezGabriel Garcí­a Márquez

message 36: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:58PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 24.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer William L. Shirer William L. Shirer
Finish Date: May 30
Genre: history
Rating: A

Review: This very long book is certainly comprehensive if not definitive. Shirer did a totally excellent job of using the material which was newly released in the years just prior to 1960 (date of publication). And for all its length it never does get boring - Shirer consistently writes very well, clearly and authoritatively.

That said, a major theme in this book is the nature of the German people as evidenced by a love for dictators and militarism since Martin Luther. This is where Shirer places the ultimate blame for the horrors of the Nazis. If you can ignore that part, or read it as part of the times (as I did) it's a fine book. Hitler also saw the Third Reich as a testament to the nature of the German people - he just saw the greatness.

message 37: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) have just finished probably the definitive book on Nazi Germany. I actually have read it twice!!!! Shirer did an amazing job making something that could have gotten rather pedantic into something which held my attention on every page. I would also suggest the following book by the same author which he wrote when he was a correspondent in Berlin. It is equally as fascinating.

Berlin Diary The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-41 by William L. Shirer by William L. Shirer William L. Shirer

message 38: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments That's why I read it. That's why I gave it the rating I did. :-)

message 39: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:58PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 25.
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany by Alaa Al Aswany Alaa Al Aswany
Finish Date: 5/31
Genre: contemporary political fiction
Rating: A-

Review: First published in 2003 (post 9/11) and about Cairo in about 1995 (Gulf War I) Aswany created a little microcosm of the socio-political structure of Egypt. The Yacoubian Building is a fictionalization of a hotel which still stands in the crumbling downtown center of Cairo. In prior years it was the home of the elite but then the poor moved in - on the roof. Corruption (thuggery) pervades the culture of Cairo from the highest to the lowliest citizens and exhibits itself in virtually all areas of life. Fundamentalist Islam is one of many themes - sex and money are two others. Many of the political figures referred to are historical.

There is no one main plot but rather the stories of the five or six main characters (all of whom live in the Yacoubian building) are interwoven through the book - part of one story is told then another and another with only large paragraph breaks to separate. There are two chapters. The connecting theme, like a hallway in a hotel, is the corruption.

This is not a particularly well written book but I think I have to put that off to the translation. With a couple exceptions the main characters are sympathetic and have a natural feel. A very helpful list of characters is available in the front and a glossary at the end of the book.

message 40: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:59PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments JUNE
A New Light on Tiffany Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls by Martin Eidelberg by Martin Eidelberg (no photo)
Finish Date: 6/1
Genre: history
Rating: B

Review: I got curious about the voracity of a work of historical fiction I'd read (#22) so I got this one to clear up some possible misconceptions. It's the usual big coffee-table book, lots of glossy photos, much white space and enough text to give the book some substance. It's a quick read - interesting if you're curious about Clara Driscoll and the other women who worked for Luis Tiffany. The sources are primarily the voluminous letters Driscoll wrote to her family.

message 41: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:59PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 27.
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck by John Steinbeck John Steinbeck
Finish Date:6/5
Genre: Classic US fiction
Rating: A+

Review: What can one say about a work like this, a book of joy to me, the story of the simple lives, loves, joys, sorrows, criminality, religious spirit and generosity of a small band of winos in Monterey, California, circa 1920. Think Knights of the Round Table or Robin Hood - enjoy.

message 42: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:59PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 28.
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad by Joseph Conrad Joseph Conrad
Finish Date: 6/10
Genre: classic fiction
Rating: A+

Review: I wasn't too sure about this book for the first 50 or so pages and then I looked something up to see if it were historical and bingo - my interest spiked.

This is basically an indictment of anarchists and the government agencies who chase them written with great irony. Adolf Verlock is a fat, lazy spy and agent provocateur as well as an active anarchist. His job is to shock the British public and police into doing something about the spies.

Verlock also has a very cozy domestic scene except that his wife is running on about 25 watts and her young brother, to whom she is devoted, is mentally deficient.

The varied points of view, the beastly metaphors, the careful drawing out of tension all work together to make this a brilliant novel.

message 43: by Jill (last edited Jun 11, 2012 08:06PM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Alfred Hitchcock made a darn good film based on this book (with some modifications)......starring Sylvia Sidney as the wife and Oscar Homolka as Verlock. His scene in which he had the bus blown up with young Stevie on board caused public outcry.

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad by Joseph Conrad Joseph Conrad

message 44: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments That got me curious so I looked it up - It was called "Sabotage" and released in 1936. Hitchcock did change the story quite a lot but it sounds like a very good film. I used to really enjoy Hitchcock movies.

message 45: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:43PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 29.
Malcolm X A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable by Manning Marable Manning Marable
Finish Date: 6/12
Genre: HIstory
Rating: A

Review: Manning Marable's Pulitzer award winning (in History) biography of Malcolm X is a far cry from the autobiography as told to and written by Alex Haley. Autobiographies and memoirs usually try to establish as positive an image of the subject as possible. Historical biographies don't labor under that ego. But biographers do often "fall in love" with their subjects and see things in a similar way.

Not so the historian of African-American Studies, Marable, at least not in Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. If Malcolm X's life was comprised of a series of masks, as Marable tells us, then Marable also uses impeccable research to differentiate and penetrate those masks.

What does he find? Interestingly he finds a series of changes in Malcolm, from petty criminal to self-educated member and then leader of the Nation of Islam promoting hate and violence. But then Malcolm left the NIL and founded his own group, traveled to Mecca and world-wide expanding his views to include all races in a fight for human rights. And then while speaking at a gathering in New York he was shot. He was 40 years old.

It's a brilliant book - It brings the reader back to the 1960s while at the same time showing us the masks of Malcolm's self reinvention and maybe, maybe, the man beneath them. Well deserving of the Pulitzer.

The Autobiography Of Malcolm X by Alex Haley by Malcolm X

message 46: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:44PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 30.

The Murder of the Century The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins by Paul Collins Paul Collins
Finish Date: 6/17
Genre: Historical True Crime
Rating: B+

Review: In 1897 a headless corpse was found near a riverbank in New York City. The police were on a man-hunt - or rather - a head hunt.

It turned out that one Herman Guldensuppe of New York City had got himself caught up in a love triangle and was murdered by someone. And William Randolf Hearst of the New York Evening Journal wanted to know who did it – he wanted to get the scoop and the sales. But Joseph Pulitzer also wanted this story very, very badly. And so, in the Gilded Age with its "Yellow Journalism," the race was on - the publishing giants pushed the police to solve the mystery and bring the culprit(s) to justice.

The police did their best – hampered half the time by the reporters. The public ate it up, participated in contests and submitted “clues.” Augusta Nack, Guldensuppe’s lover, along with her second boyfriend, Martin Thorne, were the obvious suspects, and as the case wore on, they seemed to turn against each other... It's a page-turner.

message 47: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:44PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 31.
Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel by Lillian Schlissel (no photo)
Finish Date: 6/18
Genre: US history
Rating: A-

Review: Many years ago it was hypothesized that women may have had a different perspective of the westward journey across the great plains to Oregon and California than did the men. In Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey Schlissel examines this idea by examining the diaries of dozens of women who made that journey between 1841 and 1867.

What did she come up with? Yes, there were differences. Women were not so afraid of the Indians, they were more aware of the graves by the roadsides and of disease and deaths in their own groups. They reported the births. They were often not in favor of making this arduous trek but went because he was the husband and they were determined to keep their families together. They worked very, very hard, cooking, cleaning, walking, pushing, helping set up and taking down the camps. There were a few who went without a husband, either never married or he died en route, and their stories are varied. Black women, slave, ex-slave and free, went, some married, some not.

Full diary excerpts of about a half dozen women are included as an appendix. It's a well done survey.

message 48: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:44PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 31
Pasternak's "Dr. Zhivago" A Critical Companion by Edith W. Clowes by Edith W. Clowes (no photo)
Finish Date: 6/20
Genre: literary criticism
Rating: A

Review: An examination of several issues which come into play for the post-Soviet Western reader of Doctor Zhivago. Included are essays on literary reception within the novel, characterization (Lara and Tonya), the nature of physical love, temporal counterpoint and structure, and lyrical and narrative plot.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak Boris Pasternak Boris Pasternak

message 49: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 07:45PM) (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments 32.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Walter Isaacson Walter Isaacson
Finish Date: 6/23
Genre: biography
Rating A

Review: I picked this book up off my tbr shelf thinking I'd read a couple chapters and put it away for awhile - until I was ready to get serious. WRONG!

Isaacson sucked me right in there with his well-written, hugely informative, intimate portrait of a brilliant visionary and motivator who gave the world Apple computer and all it's integrated products up to and including the iCloud, plus a few other things - like Pixar Studios. Jobs gave technology an aesthetic component.

On the other hand, Jobs was somewhat lacking in social graces. (I've seen the word "volatile" used.) And he was a perfectionist who wanted control of every aspect of his life and business so, true to form, he chose his own biographer

It was the right choice.

message 50: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 180 comments So sad the way he treated Steve Wozniak. You might like
iWoz by Steve Wozniak Steve Wozniak. It kind of rounds out the story. Both are geniuses who grew up living right next door to each other!

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