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Monthly "READS" > May 2012 reads

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
please post a bit here about what you read in May


JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
posting this for Schmerguls

4918. Malcolm X A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable (read 1 May 2012) (Pulitzer History prize in 2012) This is the 51st winner of the Pulitzer History prize I have read. Since the first such prize was given in 1917, there are a lot of such winners I have not read. This book shows a lot of research, and purports to correct some fictive elements it says are in Malcolm X's Autobiography, which I read July 4, 2004. But only one really "into" black history would think this subject worth as much attention as the author (who died April 1, 2012) gives it. He was a great admirer of Malcolm X, albeit he says he was wrong at times. But he Is much more tolerant of some of the outrageous things Malcolm X said than I can be. Malcolm X was ordinarily very dismissive of Martin Luther King and of non-violence, even though towards the end of his life (he was murdered Feb 21, 1965) he stepped away somewhat from his more repellent positions. I just cannot believe it is necessary to know as much about Malcolm X as one is told in this book, and I would have preferred the book not be given the Pulitzer prize. I did not think it was worth all the time it took to read it.

4919. William Pitt the Younger, by William Hague (read 6 May 2012) Awhile back I saw a list of great biographies and this was the only book on the list I had not read. I posted a note saying that, and Todd Stair of Waukesha, WI saw it and sent me the book our of the goodness of his heart! It is an amazing book and tells very competently of William Pitt the Younger, who was born 28 May 1759, when his father was at the height of his success in the Seven Years War. William Pitt the Younger died 23 Jan 1806, after the amazing year of 1805, when Trafalgar drove Britain giddy with joy and Austerlitz overwhelmed Pitt in gloom. The author of this book was Conservative Party leader in 2001-2003. The biography is pleasantly chronological, tells well of the momentous way Pitt came to power and remained Britain's leading minister longer than any other person save Walpole. And what momentous issues Pitt dealt with: George III's recurrent madness, the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, etc. I did not find an uninteresting page in this great book. Hague does greatly admire Pitt, but Pitt was astoundingly successful usually,and was an upright and admirable figure nearly always. This is one of the best biographies I've read, dealing with fantastically important times and issues. I was pleased I still remembered things from Father Bill Green's classes at Loras over 60 years ago. A really great book.

4920. 1948 Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year That Transformed America's Role in the World, by David Pietrusza (read 9 May 2012) Because I so utterly enjoyed Pietrusza's book on the 1960 election which I read 25 Nov 2008, when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. The subject matter is the great thing about the book--it is such fun to read of that fantastic year, all the while knowing it was going to come out right. Thus it was much more fun reading the book than living the political year since during most of 1948 I assumed election day would be a day of great gloom. The book spends a lot of time on Wallace's doings in 1948--more than that candidacy deserves--but otherwise the book is superlative reading, even though it is pretty balanced politically. As with most books about politics in that time, since I followed such so intensely then, there are a few obvious errors: (1) on page 90 he says Harold Stassen was the youngest governor ever, but Michigan had a younger governor, Stevens T. Mason, who was elected when 24 and re-elected, in 1837, when 26, and J. Neely Johnson was elected California governor in 1855 when age 30. Stassen was 31 when elected in 1938. Bill Clinton is the 4th youngest governor in history (32 when elected in 1978); (2) on page 220 the book says the Happy Chandler-Alben Barkley primary contest was in 1936 --but I knew it was in 1938, cause I was not following politics in 1936; (3) on page 247 the book refers to Senator Chad Gurney--it means Senator Chan Gurney; (4) on page 250 the book says repeal of Taft-Hartley was eventually adopted by the major parties--but it never was and did not happen. But this has been a great and easy book to read, one I thoroughly enjoyed.

4921. Binocular Vision New & Selected Stories, by Edith Pearlman (read 14 May 2012) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 2011) This is a book of 33 short stories; I found them uneven, some kind of good, none superlative. The only reason I read the book was that in 2012 it won the award noted. It is the 24th such winner I've read. The award was instituted in 1976 so there are about a dozen winners I have not read. I do not enjoy short story collections,since one has to start anew every few pages. Most of the stories in this book did not entrance. I suppose "Elder Jinks" was the best of the 33, mainly because it told a real story and had an ending I approved of--the couple decided not to get divorced.

4922. Old City Hall, by Robert Rotenberg (read 18 May 2012) This is a police procedural novel, featuring detectives and lawyers in Toronto, where Kevin Brace says to his newspaper delivery man that he killed the woman living with him, then says nothing more, even to his lawyer. The police and lawyer investigations are set out in great detail. The title refers to the Toronto building used for the courts. If a person lived in Toronto the book might be more interesting. The complexities of the events leading up to the preliminary hearing I did not think overly engrossing and the ending, while interesting, was not totally clear. I did not think the story credible and the legal procedure in Canada is different. The judge is portrayed as a bit of a tyrant, and goofy in some of his idiosyncrasies. I am not inclined to read the author's second book, this being his first.

4923. On the Street Where You Live, by Mary Higgins Clark (read 20 May 2012) I was given this book and since I had never read anything by the author I decided to read it. It was published in 2002 and is the 20th of the 42 novels the author has had published, and all of her books are still in print. The book tells of a lawyer, Emily Graham, who buys a two million dollar house in New Jersey. She is the recipient of threatening things, and there are two--and more--murders in the town she has moved to. There are a multitude of characters, and since there are so many they are a little hard to keep track of. But the story keeps one's interest, the chapters are short and things keep happening. It is not great writing and the story is full of unlikely happenings. But there are no four-letter words nor pornographic scenes, so in that respect the book is to be commended, though that I'll ever read another of her books is doubtful

4924. Private Screening, by Richard North Patterson (read 23 May 2012) This is the fourth book I've read by this author, the others being The Lasko Tangent (read 30 Oct 1999), Degree of Guilt (read 29 June 2007) and In the Name of Honor (read 10 May 2010). Private Screening has a shooting of a presidential candidate (a la Bobby Kennedy) and the shooter is defended by Tony Lord, the central character of the book and a skilled lawyer, the defense being insanity. The part telling of the trial occupies about 2/3rds of the book, is hugely exciting, and as I read I figured this was a five-star book. But then the scenario becomes so bizarre--a hostage taker demanding money on a CNN-like TV network, with wild demands, etc.--that the book became less good. Tony Lund went to take the money to the terrorist, called Phoenix, and of course does not die. Lord's morals are such I did not admire him, also detracting from my regard for the book. But there is some exciting time in the reading.

4925. A Nervous Splendor Vienna 1888/1889, by Frederic Morton (read 26 May 2012) This covers events in Vienna from the summer of 1888 till April 20, 1889, in episodic fashion, flitting from Franz Joseph and his son Rudolph, to Freud, Brahms, Johann Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler, Theodor Herzl (then a playwright, not yet a Zionist), et al. The most exciting part was of course Rudolf and his suicide with his mistress at Mayerling on an 30 Jan 1889, The funeral is described in good detail--his mistress's body was spirited away and never mentioned in the Austrian papers. This book is essentially an effort to tell the mood and ethos that was Vienna during the time, and it succeeds well. Not history so much as a vignette of the city. Note the last day covered by the book--the day Hitler was born.

4926. Their Fathers' God, by O. E. Rolvaag translated by Trygve M. Ager (read 28 May 2012) This is the third book of the author's trilogy which opened with Giants in the Earth, which I first read with great interest on 14 Jan 1946 (when I was in high school} and re-read on 19 Aug.1969 and then, on 23 Aug 1969, read the second volume, Peder Victorious--which I did not like enough to then read the third volume--but now I have. This continues the story of Per Hansa's wife and son. Peder has married an Irish Catholic girl and the conflict between their religious views is the dominant topic of this volume. I thought highly of the book as I read and found it powerful and moving, including the account of Peder's mother's death. But then the story went downhill as tension between Peder and his wife escalated. The book ends with fierce antagonism and so it is bleak--I had hoped for a good ending and the tragic conflict between the couple disappointed and soured me on the book

4927. The Chief A Memoir of Fathers and Sons, by Lance Morrow (read 31 May 2012) This is a 1984 memoir written by a guy who at the time was with TIME and has written over 150 cover stories for that magazine. The book is kind of disjointed and could have been better if more chronological. But what he tells of is often of high interest. His father was an aide to Nelson Rockefeller for 22 years and there are insightful comments on Rockefeller. The author when 16 was a page in the U.S. Senate and his comments on that are highly interesting and frank. He tells of his troubled parents, his time at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C. his time with the Washington Star, and of his heart attack at age 36. It is just very well written and I found it worth reading though the book is over 25 years old.


JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Schmerguls, how nice of that man to send you the Pitt biography!!!


JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Schmerguls wrote: "It is not great writing and the story is full of unlikely happenings. But there are no four-letter words nor pornographic scenes, so in that respect the book is to be commended..."

I have a friend whose 10 year old grandson is an avid reader, reading far above his age level, but it is hard to find books that are appropriate with no sex or foul language. I recommended Clive Cussler's books to her (at least his earlier ones) and he is loving them.


message 5: by Connie (new)

Connie (constants) | 49 comments Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West - Blaine Harden. The true story of Shin Dong-Hyuk who was born in a North Korean prison camp, lived his entire life there, and is the only person known to have escaped from one of the camps. His story is horrifying and riveting and to me, the idea that there are human beings on this very planet, living such tragic desperate lives, is almost beyond belief. A-

The Red Book - Deborah Copaken Kogan. Four women who graduated from Harvard in 1992 attend their 20th class reunion in 2012 with lots of cordiality, conflicts and complications. The real lives they've been living aren't exactly like the lives they've presented in Harvard's Red Book, a compilation of updates from alumni. For the most part I enjoyed reading this one but one thing that bugged me was that every character in the book who had a sense of humor, had the exact same sense of humor which, I assume, is the same as Deborah Copaken Kogan's sense of humor. She tells the story in the different characters voices, but those voices all seem a lot the same. B-

The Chaperone - Laura Moriarity. In 1922, when real-life silent screen star Louise Brooks was a 15-year old living in Wichita, KS, fictional friend of the family Cora Carlisle took the job of chaperoning her on a visit to New York to audition for a dance company. Cora had different reasons for going to New York, so when Louise was in class, the chaperone kept busy investigating some mysteries from her own past. I enjoyed both of their stories and if this book had been about 40 pages shorter, I would have given it a better review. But Cora's story continues after she returns to Kansas and I felt like it just dragged on a little too long. I read an advance copy of this book and I think it's being released in June. B

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn. Wow! Considering I've had such a hard time sticking with a book lately, I flew through this one and could hardly put it down....it's a real thriller. Amy and Nick have been married for 5 years when Amy disappears on the morning of their wedding anniversary. The story is told in alternating voices - Nick in current time and Amy, through a diary she'd been keeping for years. Nick is the suspect in her disappearance and there's a Nancy Grace type character who'd love to see him hang without a dead body or a trial. There are twists and surprises here and some excellent writing and a very well-constructed story. This was also an advance copy but it's coming out soon, so get your name on the library waiting list or you'll have a long wait to read it. A


Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

The Red Book

The Chaperone

Gone Girl


message 6: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments Connie wrote: "Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn. Wow!"


I am really looking forward to Gone Girl. I thought her two previous books (Sharp Objects and Dark Places) were excellent.


message 7: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments Only a so so reading month. I have been preoccupied by the NBA playoffs and I watched the complete 1st year of Game of Thrones which I really liked and made me want to get back into reading the series.

Top Read

The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason The Draining Lake
Arnaldur Indridason
Another absorbing, if deliberately paced, police procedural set in Iceland. I am a big fan of crimes from the past type plots and was fascinated by the sections set in post World War 2 East Germany.

Good Reads

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4) by Jim Butcher Summer Knight
Jim Butcher
An enjoyable audio. I do like Harry for the most part (though could do without all the self-recrimination he tends to wallow in) and was entertained, as always, by the narration of James Marsters.

House Secrets (Joe DeMarco, #4) by Mike Lawson House Secrets
Mike Lawson
Another highly entertaining political thriller featuring my favorite regular guy character Joe DeMarco. While the plot did go a bit over the top the writing and the characters were top notch and the narration by Joe Barrett was much improved from the previous book.

Sharpe's Havoc (Sharpe, #7) by Bernard Cornwell Sharpe's Havoc
Bernard Cornwell
Typically entertaining tale featuring the best British rifleman ever, Richard Sharpe. This book is set in 1809 and covers the French foray into Portugal. Listened to the audio read by the always impeccable Patrick Tull.

Did not meet Expectations

Cooking with Fernet Branca (Gerald Samper, #1) by James Hamilton-Paterson Cooking with Fernet Branca
James Hamilton-Paterson
Mildly amusing skewering of the Englishmen in Italy foodie stories that did have some funny lines but in the end did not really amount to a whole lot.

Boiling A Frog by Christopher Brookmyre Boiling A Frog
Christopher Brookmyre
A bit of a drag. Usually I love this author's work but this book was just too focused on issues (Organized religion, New Labour, the new Scottish parliament, and the PR industry) that did not really interest me and, since this was published back in 2000, it was a bit dated too.


JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Sandi, have you read all of Lawson's books?

He has a new one, House Blood, coming out next month. I could not wait so bought an ARC. It was very good!


message 9: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: "Sandi, have you read all of Lawson's books?

He has a new one, House Blood, coming out next month. I could not wait so bought an ARC. It was very good!"


No, I've listened to the first four books. So far there has not been a stinker in the bunch and am glad to see that you think his latest is good too.


message 10: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
After you "read" the next 2, I would be glad to send you #7.....and then you could pass it on to Carolyn! Let me know.


message 11: by Reeves (new)

Reeves Honey | 142 comments I too just read an ARC of The Chaperone. I did like the book because of some of the different than usual story lines. I agree that it did drag on a wee bit too much!


message 12: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: "After you "read" the next 2, I would be glad to send you #7.....and then you could pass it on to Carolyn! Let me know."

Thanks for the kind offer. I am a Read in Order type so it will be a while before I am ready for # 7 so if Carolyn is ready now she could pass it on to me.

I will be able to see Mike Lawson at Bouchercon in Cleveland later this year. He is always very good on the panels with a nice low key sense of humor. If you want, I can get your ARC signed by him.


Carolyn (in SC) C234D | 123 comments Sandi wrote: "JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: "After you "read" the next 2, I would be glad to send you #7.....and then you could pass it on to Carolyn! Let me know."

Thanks for the kind offer. I am a Read in Order typ..."


Thanks, but I am also reading them in order, and I won't be ready for #7 for a while yet. Appreciate the thought, though. :-)


message 14: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Sandi, thanks for the offer to get my ARC signed by Lawson, but I always feel kind of guilty that I buy an ARC and the author gets none of the purchase price.

Enjoy and please report back on the panel he is on.....


message 15: by RNOCEAN (new)

RNOCEAN | 93 comments "Heading Out To Wonderful" by Robert Goolrick

*****Rate 5/5 and I would rate higher if I could. Beautifully written prose that holds your attention until the last chapter. Sad but beautiful characters and story line. I have now added this author to my favorite list. I thought that nothing could top "A Reliable Wife", but this book did. I have to now patiently wait for Mr. Goolrick to write his next novel...


message 16: by RNOCEAN (new)

RNOCEAN | 93 comments Having finished "Heading Out to Wonderful" I decided to read the memoir of Mr. Goolrich The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life and here is my review:
RATE 5/5 There is a passage in this book that was "if you don't receive love from the ones who meant to love you, you will never stop looking for it, like an amputee who never stops missing his leg, like the ex-smoker who wants a cigarette after lunch fifteen years later. It sounds trite. It's true."
This is a story about being raised in an extremely dysfunctional home with the author permanently scarred emotionally by his parent's pretense. It is so sad and written with the author opening his painful wounds in hopes of helping any other young man living in a similar situation. I am so happy that Robert was able to exorcise his demons and write beautiful literature. I read his book "A Reliable Wife" and could not put it down and anxiously awaited his latest book and loved that even more. I then began to wonder how he could write such darkness and passion in such a lyrical way. Then I discovered this book and realized it was his first written before "A Reliable Wife". The life he led was indeed tragic and painful and the wounds are forever. I am only glad that chooses to write to deal with the fallout and anxiously await his next novel...


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