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martin_z

Readers Paradise Book Reviews - 3

martin_z
19 years ago

Just to start the new thread, and to remind people it's here. The first two are carefully tucked away in the archive!

Just to remind you - here is Frieda's original introduction to the original thread.

mj, in the "Forgetting Books" thread, made an astute observation that book reviews tend to get lost here at RP. A thread devoted to only one book quickly runs out of gas, moves down the pages, and eventually drops into the black hole after page ten. mj says she hesitates to post a single review. What a shame! Maybe we can remedy this problem.

Okay, here's the proposal for this thread:

  • Write a review of any book you've read -- it can be positive or negative, or even lukewarm.

  • No responses are necessary.

  • But, and it's a big BUT, posters need to keep a lookout and if this thread moves onto page two, someone will need to post another review to bounce it back to page one.


This way, we can keep tabs on all reviews posted here at RP. Cece explained in the other thread (and I'm lifting your words, cece): [A]ll a reader who wanted to search a specific title would have to do is open the thread, then use the "Find on this Page" feature found on the pull down menu under "Edit" to see if the title they wanted had been reviewed.

Well, let's give this a go! As you can see, I'm so charmed by the idea that I'm jumping the gun by starting a thread when I don't have a book review to post. Who wants to be first?

And one final point - put the name of the book and the author as the title of your follow-up.

Here is a link that might be useful: RP Archive

Comments (100)

  • lemonhead101
    19 years ago

    "Fast Food Nation" has been out for a while so I was semi-familiar with what it was going to be all about (or so I thought). I was reading it because I was interested about it and then I also wanted to read it because my job involves obesity education/prevention and fast food is a primary component of that problem for many folk.

    The book took a while to get going, but once it got going, I found it to be riveting in many ways. It's much more than I thought it was to be. It's not only about fast food restaurants, but also about all that is associated with them: the meat-packing industry, the chicken plants, the corporate farms and ranches, the media outreach to children etc. It was a lot more inclusive than I had originally expected so this was really interesting to me. (The only bit I dreaded was the bit that details how the animals are killed at the slaughterhouse. Mercifully (for me only), it was short.)

    Schlosser did a fine job of detailing the history and all the related industries associated with fast food. I thought it was pretty balanced in many ways, giving fairly equal time to both sides and includes how the US gov't has also been instrumental in all this through providing subsidies etc.

    I enjoyed this book. It's been compared by some reviewers to "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair in the early 1900's which was an indictment into the poor labor practices for the meat-packing plants in Chicago. I found this book to be very persuasive and will definitely make me think twice before I go to another big chain fast food restaurant.

    Well researched with copious footnotes. Enjoyed it and will probably read other stuff this guy produces.

  • lemonhead101
    19 years ago

    Written in 1938, this book was billed on this particular edition as a "romantic suspense" which nearly, in itself, put the whole kabosh on it. However, based on RP reviews, I picked it up and found, much to my surprise, that I LOVED it. Couldn't put it down and it kept me up very late for a few nights because I kept wanting to find out what happened next. I was expecting some bodice-ripping yarn, but was very relieved (and impressed) at how well it was written.

    Du Maurier did a great job of introducing the characters and helping me get to know and care about them. It was very suspenseful and I haven't read a good story like this in ages. Plus, the plot was unpredictable which I completely appreciated. (I get irritated when I can tell what's going to happen. That's why I don't see a lot of Hollywood movies.)

    Although there was poor editing in this edition (typos and the like), the story far outshone that. There is another book by du Maurier called "Mrs De Winter". Does anyone know if this is a continuation of "Rebecca"? Is it as good? I am hesitant to read another of hers though, because, tbh, how could she top this one? Loved it.

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  • Vawoodnymph
    19 years ago

    lemonhead, "Mrs. DeWinter" is by Susan Hill, who also wrote the wonderful "Woman in Black." I liked "Mrs. DeWinter" which is a continuation of the deceptions of the evil Mrs. Danvers. I don't think it quite topped DuMaurier's unique style, however.

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  • netla
    19 years ago

    The hero, conman Moist von Lipwig, is given a choice by the Patrician: he will become the new Postmaster of Ankh-Morpork, or die. Sounds like an easy choice, but Lord Vetinari is known for having a peculiar sense of humour...
    Moist has to deal with all sorts of difficulties in his new job, like having a golem for a probation officer, and nearly getting killed in a mailslide once he begins to explore the interior of the main post office. But the biggest problem, bigger even than a building full of undelivered mail that talks, is the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company, which is run by the biggest crook Moist has ever met. When Moist challenges the Grand Trunk to a mail-delivery competition, the gloves come off...

    The story is funny, and not nearly as dark as the previous few books have been. Gentle fun is made of obsessed collectors, secret societies and newspaper headlines; there are delicious in-jokes which Discworld connoisseurs will have fun discovering, and also jokes everyone can understand.

    The story is told as one continuous narrative with shifting viewpoints rather than the usual seemingly unrelated story threads that some readers have complained about, and there are CHAPTERS, something hitherto unknown in the Discworld series. A book I would definitely recommend to all Discworld fans and which I think would make an excellent first Discworld book for a reader who is just discovering Pratchett.

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  • martin_z
    Original Author
    19 years ago

    Actually, I thought Mrs De Winter was not very good. But there is another book, called Rebecca's Tale, by Sally Beauman which I thought was much more interesting, and I would recommend that strongly. Mind, Rebecca doesn't need a sequel, of course.

  • Vawoodnymph
    19 years ago

    "The Story of Lucy Gault" by William Trevor

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  • reader_in_transit
    19 years ago

    Billed as a literary thriller on the cover, the story and the writing were good enough to keep me reading without wanting to rush to solve the mystery (actually, I did figure it out way before getting to the end).

    Iris Greenfeder writes a story about her mother Katherine and a favorite fairy tale of her childhood, the one she begged for night after night. Nestled inside the piece is the story of her mother's untimely death in a fire many years ago. The piece gets the attention of her mother's former literary agent, who is convinced Katherine wrote one final manuscript before dying. So Iris goes back to the Hotel Equinox in the Catskills, the place where she grew up, to write her mother's biography and search for the missing manuscript. And of course, she finds much more than she is looking for...

    There is more to the book though: art, the world of classy hotels, Holocaust survivors, losing a parent early in life, an ex-con back in society, and a love story. The writer connects all these subjects cleverly--although with too many coincidences--to tell a story that is not upstaged by the mystery at its core. The writing is quite good, even lyrical at times.

    The only little snag was, as I said, that I solved the mystery halfway through the book. Well, it doesn't have to happen to everybody who reads it.

  • dorieann
    19 years ago

    The setting is a New England prep school in the 1960Âs, where literature and authors are held in the highest esteem. I thought this part of the plot alone would make the book worth reading. On a scale from 1-10, I would rate this book a 7.0 in my opinion. Others have rated it much higher though, so maybe I just didnÂt "get" the point of the book. It would be a good candidate for a future re-read.

    The unnamed narrator is a young student at the prep school. The school manages to garner famous writers to come for visits and talk to the boys. First Robert Frost, then Ayn Rand, and finally the master - Hemmingway. Before the authors arrive, the school holds a writing contest, judged by the visiting author; the student whose story (or poem) is picked wins a personal visit with the author, and the envy of every other student.

    The storyline follows this young boy through each of his attempts at winning a face-to-face with each author. Along the way he realizes that truly good writing required revealing more of himself to the people around him. I wonÂt spoil the ending, but to me the path he choose after this realization is both ironic and confusing. And the fact that the last few pages of the book donÂt really deal with this student, but a short life story of one of his teachers, made me feel let down. The ending just didnÂt make sense to me.

    The most interesting part of the book was the visit from Ayn Rand, and made me want to learn more about her. I want to find out if she was as obnoxious and conceited in real life as she was portrayed in this novel.

  • GreasySpoon
    19 years ago

    Having a biology background, I started out being very excited about this book. How could one resist a story formed around evolutionary theory, with some interesting ecology thrown into the soup? And that's precisely why I can't figure out how I devoured the first 200+ pages, but dragged through the remainder until I almost wanted to string myself up by my clan's spare hyena hide and scratch my eyes out with the nearest cave lion claw.

    Granted, when most of your main characters are Neanderthals, it is certainly hard to come up with witty and engaging dialogue to entertain your reader(s). But, man, how can you lose a reader that is literally CHEERING you on from the beginning, one that is EXCITED about the concept and HOPING to see you succeed?

    I suppose I'll never figure it out. One thing is for certain: the only way I would continue on with the series is if someone force-fed me hallucinogenic datura tea and held the book in front of me until the words LEAPED off the page and into my very UNWILLING head.

    So much for Ursus,
    ~Tamara

    (Apprx Book Length: 500 pages)

  • twobigdogs
    19 years ago

    This book has just been re-released under the title The Sheep Queen.

    It is the story of Amy McKinney and Thomas Burton set in the early 20th century. Amy lives in Seattle and had a comfortable upbringing with beach houses and Packards. Thomas lives in Maine which is as far as he can get from the sheep ranch in Montana where he grew up.

    Amy is adopted at birth and is convinced, in middle age, that Thomas Burton is her brother. It is the story of Amy, the story of the strong-willed matriarch, the Sheep Queen, the story of the Sheep Queen's beautiful daughter Elizabeth (who could be mother to both Amy and Thomas) and on and on and on and on and on...ad nauseum.

    If you are suffering from insomnia and need a cure, try this book. Nah, it wasn't THAT bad. Savage does have some rather lovely sentences in the book, unfortunately, those lovely sentences are separated by far too much crap. I got bored. He could have wrapped this book up without the boatloads of characters that flitted in and out of the pages as so many mosquitoes on a hot steamy night in the Florida suburbs.

    I cannot recommend the book or the author, unless, of course, you suffer from the afore-mentioned insomnia.

    (approx. 400 mind-numbing pages)

    PAM

  • dorieann
    19 years ago

    IÂll admit I read this book in two days, and if annoying things like sleep and making a living hadnÂt intruded, I would have probably read it in one sitting. It was a great story.

    The book tells the story of the Ide family: Mom, Pop, their son Smithy, and older sister Bethany, a sweet girl whose mental problems (unspecified but seemed schizophrenic to me) were a constant source of stress and sadness for her family. The story is told (in first person) by Smithy when he is 43 years old, and Bethany has been missing for 20 years. Smithy was a skinny boy whoÂd run everywhere when he was a kid (youÂre a runner, Smithy). Unfortunately, as an adult heÂd become an obese, chain-smoking, friendless alcoholic with a boring, dead-end job. In other words, a pathetic loser. He isnÂt even particularly kind, or intelligent. But even so, you feel yourself feeling sorry for him, and pulling for him.

    As the story starts, Mom and Pop have been in a severe car accident and have been taken to separate hospitals. Smithy shuttles back and forth between the two remaining members of his family only to lose them both after a few days vigil. He returns home and makes funeral arrangements, and Norma shows up at the funeral. Norma was a childhood friend who became a paraplegic as a child when a car hit her. Norma had a life-long crush on Smithy, who mostly saw her as an annoying girl, and he avoided seeing her after the accident that bound her to a wheelchair. (I told you he wasnÂt particularly kind.) But Norma shares the devastation that Smithy feels, because she loved his family as her own.

    After the funeral Smithy discovers a letter among PopÂs unopened mail that informs him that a deceased indigent in Los Angeles has been identified as his sister Bethany. Unstrung and deeply in grief, he finds himself in the garage, where heÂs confronted with his childhood bicycle. He gets on the bike, still wearing the blue suit from the funeral, and pedals away.

    IÂll not say more, except to say that Smithy goes on a quest, finds himself in different situations, meets many people, and calls Norma regularly, until she becomes almost a touchstone in his life. Interspersed with scenes from his quest are scenes from the Ide familyÂs past, and lead up to BethanyÂs final permanent separation from the family that loved her.

    I hate overstating a book and although it wasnÂt perfect, I really loved the story and characters that were created here. And I really hated that it had to end.

  • mummsie
    18 years ago

    This was such an interesting thread. Can anyone explain how to access the RP archives to read Reviews Thread 1 and 2?

  • twobigdogs
    18 years ago

    Mummsie,

    Martin was so kind to create an archive of favorite threads for us. The link is listed below. This is entirely his project and we cannot thank him enough.

    PAM

    Here is a link that might be useful: Martin's RP archive

  • martin_z
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    And it happens a bit in fits and starts.....! hence a long gap since the last monthly discussion was saved...

    I'm off on holiday to Paris tomorrow.

    (I just thought I'd casually drop that into the conversation...)

    I'll try to get some of the other threads saved on my return....!

  • mummsie
    18 years ago

    I've spewed tea on my computer screen....clicked on the archive link and just read Twas the Night After Christmas add-on-poem, that is simply priceless !!!
    Martin, thanks for saving that gem, I'll be working my way through your archive as you stroll along the Seine, sigh

  • Kath
    18 years ago

    This book tells the story of an eighteen year old Indian waiter who wins 'Who Will Win a Billion'. Because he is so young and with no formal education, he is arrested for cheating.
    His life story is told as he talks to his lawyer about how he answered each question on the show.
    There is humour, sadness, an insight into the lives of various social levels in India, and a sense of someone rising above the difficulties in his life. The book is constructed in an interesting way which works really well, even though it is not told chronologically. The dialogue rings true for both the Indians and the token Australians (it isn't often that I have found a non-Aussie author who can do this well) and there are lots of memorable characters.
    This is a wonderful debut novel and one I can heartily recommend.

  • dorieann
    18 years ago

    I admit to having a weakness for stories that break my heart. This one succeeds on many levels.

    The book focuses on two different stories that are related through a book called "The History of Love".

    Leo Gursky is a Jewish refugee of WWII. An old man, he lives alone now after a life of losing just about everything that was important to him, including a book he wrote as a young man called "The History of Love". The book contained his life story, the bulk of which was his love for a girl named Alma. Leo now spends his days trying to be seen by people, by going to the movies and spilling his popcorn, or to the grocery store to buy something and drop coins, or being hired to pose in the nude for an art class.

    The other story is about two children, Alma and Emanuel Singer, who are grieving their dead father. Alma is trying to pull their mother from her grief by trying to fix her up with another man, but eventually gets sidetracked on a mission of her own. She also worries about her brother, nicknamed ÂBirdÂ. Bird has no friends and is becoming overly religious, to the point where he thinks he may be the Messiah. Alma was named after a character in a book that her father once gave her mother, called ÂThe History of LoveÂ.

    The parts narrated by Leo are the best, and make you see the intense loneliness of the life he is leading. The two parts finally come together in an emotional climax that had me grabbing my box of Kleenex. If you love stories that squeeze your heart dry, try this book.

  • murraymint11
    18 years ago

    Bump!

  • Kath
    18 years ago

    I can't believe we let this slip for so long!

    The above book follows on from Dissolution. The books feature a hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, who practises mainly property law during the reign of Henry VIII.
    In this book, he has taken on the defense of a young woman accused of murdering her cousin as a favour to a friend. While he is working on this case, he is summoned by Cromwell. Cromwell has been given a demonstration of 'Dark Fire' or Greek fire, an ancient weapon which seems to have been lost to civilisation. He in turn has promised to show this wonder to Henry, hoping to get back in the king's good books (Henry isn't thrilled with Anne of Cleves, who was Cromwell's choice). But the men with the recipe have disappeared and Shardlake, accompanied by an offsider provided by Cromwell, has to find them.

    The author evokes time and place really well, without getting into the 'see what I know and you're going to hear ALL about it' mode that some historical writers fall into. The characters are believable and the two mysteries, which Shardlake works at in tandem, are both very interesting and well concluded.
    I can recommend the first book too.

  • murraymint11
    18 years ago

    Not a review as such, but some thoughts:

    Here is a quote from ÂThe Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble which sums up my feelings about this book:

    ÂI kept waiting for the big mystery. That never cameÂ. It all fell a bit flat at the end, I thought.Â
    ÂMe too. Brilliant idea, absolutely cracking. A box full of secret things, each with its own story, a flag on the landscape of her motherÂs past, left by a dead mother, presented to a 21-year-old daughter, with the time and inclination to find out what they all meant. Trouble was, they were kind of odd, and when she did discover the reasons for the things being in there  which, incidentally, she did in a series of implausible coincidences  you didnÂt feel satisfied, did you?Â

    I loved the first few chapters, but then it really tailed downwards towards the middle and end - quite disappointing really. I had become very irritated by both Catherine and Rory by the end, who seemed to have drifted aimlessly though life, with plenty of money, but no direction.

    Jane
    UK

  • picassocat
    18 years ago

    Tim Winton's latest book The Turning is a collection of short stories, narratives that are to some extent connected, in that the same places feature in the book and the same characters come in and out of the stories.

    Most of the characters in the stories have been in some sort of trouble of one kind or another and have been damaged. They are all at some turning point in their lives, where they are facing up to what has happened to them in the past and trying to work out who they are, before they set off into the future.

    "There are turnings of all kinds - changes of heart, nasty surprises, slow awakenings, sudden detours - where people struggle against the terrible weight of the past and challenge the lives they've made for themselves."

    Winton's depiction of the world of small-town Western Australian life is expressed with precise realism. He uses sensory detail to convey the atmosphere of the setting. Winton's use of the senses lets the reader share the intimacy of living in a small-town. However, Winton also illustrates the drawbacks of small-town life.

    Winton's prose is simple and yet powerful. The characters are all interesting and he makes the reader think. You will read this book and want to read Winton's other books as well. Highly recommended.

  • lemonhead101
    18 years ago

    A novel based on reality, this is a love story set against the build up and actual genocide in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis, a set up originally caused by a book written by a Belgian guy.

    Written in the present tense, it took some getting used as it is in the same sort of vein as a postmodern book. Still,once you get used to it, it becomes a fast read but riveting. I just didn't want to put it down until it was over and even now, I am still thinking about it.

    The love story has some twists and turns and the ending was completely unpredictable in how the love story turns out. Not at all what I had expected (which I loved) but not nicely tidied up either (also a good thing).

    Originally written in French (the author is French-Canadian), the translation was elegant and thoughtfully done. There were also a few footnotes to help those of us not fully versed in the whole tragedy - who was who and how they all linked together.

    It's a book I won't easily forget. The horror of the genocide - people were killed because the other side called them "cockroaches" which made it easier to kill them as they weren't human any more - but then the gentleness of the love story. Interesting dichotomy.

    Good book that makes you think.

  • reader_in_transit
    18 years ago

    This short fictionalized novel is narrated by the soft voice--you can almost hear it--of Lydia, the older sister of the American Impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt. The book is divided in 5 chapters and each centers on a painting that Mary did with Lydia as her model. The paintings are included in the book, and it is enlightening to see how many meanings and nuances there are in paintings, that are lost to the casual observer. Not to Lydia though, who has an alert mind that has not been weakened by a serious illness (this is not a spoiler, it is mentioned on the cover of the book). She lives with grace and courage, even when she considers her not-so-distant death. The author has said: "This is a story about the possibility of love and the power of art's creation, in the face of illness and loss." The book has its sad moments, but is never depressing.

    Besides being inspiring, the book provides a glimpse of the art world in nineteenth-century Paris. It is short enough that can probably be read in a day or two.

  • martin_z
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    Booker Prize winner 1978.

    This is, as the bookflap says, a novel of obsession. It is written in the first person by Charles Arrowby, a renowned theatre director, who has recently retired to live by the sea. He discovers that by a coincidence, his first teenage love is living in the same village, and becomes obsessed by the idea that she is unhappily married and only waiting for him to carry her away; which, of course, with the aid of his friends, he attempts to do - with disastrous results.

    Put like that, it sounds a little strange. But it is absolutely rivetting. It is an amazing psychological thriller. The sheer tension of the writing is amazing - there was one evening when I was reading, enthralled, and a new section started with "The next morning something did happen, which was that Rosina turned up." Having already met Rosina, I said out loud "Oh my god" and closed the book. I literally couldn't face reading what would happen until the next day.

    Charles is such an amazingly selfish controlling individual, who seems utterly incapable of considering the effect of his actions upon anyone else but himself. You feel like shaking him sometimes. And yet, he's also such an amazingly charming person that one can't help liking him - his friends all seem to stick by him no matter how dreadfully he treats them. The characters are all somewhat larger-than-life, and yet believable.

    A wonderful book. Strongly recommended.

  • picassocat
    18 years ago

    What a delight this book turned out to be. There is much wisdom in the letters of Rainer Maria Rilke. Wisdom that can be taken on board and used in one's own life. For example:

    "...being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient..."

    Rilke offers advice to the young poet Kappus on writing, love, and life. The ideas in this fine book are sometimes difficult to understand, but if you are patient and re-read the letters, then I can't help but think you will grow intellectually and emotionally.

    Insights like the following will give you food for thought:

    "Consider yourself and your feelings right every time with regard to every such argumentation, discussion or introduction; if you are wrong after all, the natural growth of your inner life will lead you slowly and with time to other insight."

    While this would benefit a budding writer, I think everyone interested in humanity in general, will enjoy Rilke's letters. Rilke's wisdom is profound as it is interesting. Get this book and read it again and again.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    18 years ago

    Adam, if you are interested in Rilke, you might consider reading "Letters to Benvenuta". And even after all these years, some of his poems are to me breathtakingly beautiful....

  • grelobe
    18 years ago

    I just finished to read "Moon Palace" by Paul Auster
    The novel tells the life of an orphan and his quest of his own identity, without, paradoxically, being aware of it
    The quest of identity is an issue often handle by P.Auster.
    In this book in particular the author shows, at least in my opinion,
    as all of us don't manage to follow a right path in our lives , if we don't know where we come from, as though our past is a guide for us. I mean our past in a wide term, meaning not only our ontogeny but also our phylogeny
    I could make myself clearer, telling a bit of the plot, but I fear to spoil the book

    grelobe

  • picassocat
    18 years ago

    woodnymph2, thanks for the recommendation. I am keen on getting a copy of Letters to Benvenuta. Recently I bought a book of his letters, but I have no idea where I put it!

    Adam

  • murraymint11
    18 years ago

    From the back of the book:

    "Renowned naturalist Joseph Banks is about to set sail with Captain Cook on a voyage of discovery to the other side of the world. He will encounter many wonders, but none as captivating as the elusive woman with green eyes who haunts the woods near his home.
    Two centuries later, John ÂFitz Fitzgerald stumbles on a portrait of a woman with curiously striking eyes. Who is she?
    Fitz has lost too much, the convictions of his youth, the belief that he would die a famous man  and Gabby, the love of his life. But out of the blue, a call from Gabby has brought it all rushing back, and plunged him into a mystery that at once repels and irresistibly intrigues him. Now, Fitz is in a dangerous race to solve the puzzle of the ConjurorÂs Bird. And the woman in the portrait holds the key."

    I really love this book. I am enjoying it in the same way as I did Elizabeth KostovaÂs The Historian  its pace, the investigation of a mystery involving research in libraries and museums, often a feeling of warmth and cosiness, and the developing relationships between both sets of major characters.
    I prefer the present day chapters to those set in the 18th century, but both aspects of the story are engaging, and one story balances the other well.
    I know I really like a book when I purposefully slow down my reading; I really donÂt want this story to come to an end.

    Finally, this quote from Posie Graeme-Evans says it all for me (very eloquently!):

    "This book haunts me: I was moved, intrigued and entertained and, with each page turned, I wanted very much to know what was going to happen. Economically and beautifully drawn, the enigmatic delicacy of the characters and the way the stories of the past and the present intersect so teasingly, so elegantly, makes The ConjurorÂs Bird a deeply satisfying novel. And, best of all, the layers of the story take one deeper and deeper into the worlds of the past and the present until, in the end, there seems nothing more to discover in the lives of these characters; yet I wanted more. I heartily recommend this book!"

    Jane
    UK

    PS. it would make a great film too!

  • picassocat
    18 years ago

    The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926, is a novel that makes us think about the sense of despair and disenchantment which followed the First World War, but also reflects on the meaning of life. Hemingway depicts these people in the novel as expatriates living in Paris and are members of what Gertrude Stein called the "lost generation." The material for the novel resulted from a journey Hemingway made with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and several friends to Pamplona, Spain, in 1925.

    What is most powerful in this story, is Hemingway's use of language. Hemingway's prose, particularly his unadorned sentences, understated dialogue and lean description was revolutionary when The Sun Also Rises was first published. And his idiosyncratic spare prose is still fresh today. Indeed Hemingway was one of the most copied styles of the twentieth century too. In fact, Hemingway went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1954 for his narrative and influential prose style.

    To read The Sun Also Rises, will let you experience what it was like in Paris and Spain for the generation after the First World War. Moreover, this novel will give you a sense of their disillusionment and hope that were lived by the expatriate community. Recommended.

    Adam

  • martin_z
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    Claire Morrall's first novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour was short-listed for the Booker. I enjoyed it a lot, so I picked this up with anticipation.

    Well, I liked it. It's the story of two misfits; a woman called Doody and a man called Straker, and how they learn to relate to each other and the rest of the world. We find that Straker has retreated from the world, as he believes that he is responsible for the death of 78 people in a train crash; Doody is the person who, despite her own skeletons in the cupboard, succeeds in bringing him out of himself.

    It's a bit unlikely; the people are a bit unconvincing, and the main episode at the end seems to be tacked on somehow. But it's an enjoyable read. Booker short-list again? I doubt it. Perhaps an outsider for the longlist.

  • murraymint11
    18 years ago

    Martin,

    When does this thread qualify for Archive status? It is pretty big now! Do you think it's time for Book Reviews 4?

    Jane
    UK

  • martin_z
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    Well, for the moment, it might as well stay...when we can't fit any more in, I'll archive it.

  • Kath
    17 years ago

    This book tells the story of a Puritan girl driven out of New England, who arrives in London on the same day as the plague in 1665. It gives a great impression of life in Restoration London, as well as having a fast moving plot (and details about having the plague I probably didn't want to know *g*). The heroine, Penitence Hurd, reinvents herself as an actress at the time that women first went on the stage, and one of her friends is Aphra Behn, who really was the first woman to earn her living by writing plays and poetry.

    It also has some strong things to say (as did Aphra) about the life forced on women when they had little say in their own future.

    I highly recommend this book, and another by the same author, A Catch of Consequence, to those who like good historical fiction with a touch of fun. Those of you reading the Morland series would probably enjoy these.

  • martin_z
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Apparently the new Da Vinci Code. A huge best-seller.

    Well, frankly, this is badly-written tosh. And I mean badly-written. Three times in the book a person "felt every one of his fifty-two years". The "short hairs stood up on the back of his neck" multiple times. A person got tortured and left for dead - literally - in the epilogue where they tied up all the loose ends, they forgot about this poor person - as far as I'm aware, she's still lying there, bleeding. Stupid coincidences. Oh, I could go on, but I won't - suffice it to say that it's just garbage.

    It's quite a nice premise, actually - it's a parallel story about a woman called Alice in modern times and a woman called Alais (geddit?) in the twelfth century. There are these mysterious books which are the clue to the holy grail, being hunted in both stories. And there's what appears to be quite well-documented history about the Crusaders of Northern France going into the South of France to "rescue" the heretics of a slightly different Christianity from themselves.

    But it's too long, it's badly written, it's dreadfully edited (was it even edited at all?), it's got plot holes you could drive a car through....

    Apparently Kate Mosse is quite big in the publishing world, and was one of the instigators of the Orange Prize. One can't help feeling that's why this book got published. If it had been written by Joanna Bloggs of Newtown, ---shire, it would have been rejected out of hand.

    Amazing what a bit of marketing can do. I am seriously disappointed that several of the broadsheets reviewed this favourably.

    If you liked the Da Vinci code, this will annoy you. If you thought the Da Vinci code was shallow and badly written, then stay well away from this!!

  • grelobe
    17 years ago

    the spam post Unique New Book is Reviewer's Choice March 2006, made come up in my mind a novel I read five or six years ago, titled "Happiness" By Fergusson Will.

    Edwin de Valu works in a publishing house, and his job is to take care of self-help books.
    Mainly, his job consists of writing kindly declination letters to the authors.
    But once happens, that a monstous book of more one thousand pages, that promises to make everybody happy, to cure any disease and make your sex life wonderful, really works. This fact bring about the collapse of fitness centre, tobacco, alcohol and drugs market, so.....
    I can't go ahead without doing some spoiler. Anyway it is an ironic and funny book.

    grelobe

    Here is a link that might be useful: Happiness

  • magda
    17 years ago

    Both of my reviews fall into the category of 3 out of 5 stars.

    1. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

    Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this book revolves around a sudden and unexplained event- the 1996 fire of VeneziaÂs opera house, La Fenice. In his quest to find out what had happened, and what people know and think about it, Berendt who lands in Venice a day after the fire, first stays a few days longer, then a few months and finally revisits it for years, and meets and interviews more and more people. In the end the book is about, as John Berendt says himself, the people of Venice and not Venice itself. There is inevitably information about Venice there too, but it is not the main focus. And, the people of Venice are more or less eccentric Venetians, but not only the native-born Venetians it turns out. Ezra Pound and Peggy Guggenheim are the examples of the latter group.

    Ok. It may suffice to say that I have been to Venice twice, and this book hasnÂt prompted me to look for my pictures. I canÂt say it wasnÂt interesting, but it was only moderately interesting, with some fragments more interesting than others. Ezra PoundÂs life history belonged to those more compelling. This book needed, as a friend puts it, a good friend with a red pen. It definitely didnÂt need to be 400 pages long.

    It also made me realize that when I was in Venice for the second time in 2000, and got lost and wandered into the residential section of the city far from the hustle and bustle and the unbearable crowds of the center of the city, I might have met one of the characters of his book. I asked a passing man to show me where I was on the map, and he replied to my request in perfect unaccented American English. The man clearly lived there; he had a typical plastic shopping bag with a few groceries in his hand, and didnÂt seem in a hurry. It had never before made me think, but I might have met somebody mentioned by name in the book. After all, there must be a limited number of foreigners living in a place like Venice.

    2. I also listened to Frank McCourt's reading his Teacher Man, but have almost nothing to say about it. It was almost the same as Tis- seemingly new stories, but basically the same thing. Pleasant, but not a revelation.
    Magda

  • dorieann
    16 years ago

    IÂve always loved these review threads so IÂm bumping this again to add a new review of my own. Please add more!

    IÂve just spent most of today reading Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger, which is copyrighted 1998 but was apparently reprinted recently in trade paperback. What I canÂt figure out is how in the world I could have missed this book. ItÂs truly one of the most touching and funniest books IÂve ever read. The story is told (as others have described) in an epistolary/scrapbook style (it's all in the form of letters, newspaper clippings, notes, and the occasional scorecard, telegram, or psychologist-session transcript). The main character is Joseph Margolis, a 12-year-old Jewish boy living in a predominantly Italian neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1940. Precocious doesnÂt begin to describe him.

    Joey tries to ward of beatings of the neighborhood boys by claiming a friendship with Charlie Banks, the NY Giants newest baseball star. He even writes letters to Charlie claiming to be dying of hideous disease, and requesting a home run be dedicated to him. CharlieÂs response? "Last week it was the plague. Now itÂs malaria. What do I look  stupid to you?" Nevertheless, the two strike up a hilarious friendship via correspondence. Joey also regularly writes to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the White House Press Secretary. And at school, only Joey would submit a book report detailing his disappointment on the newest Skippy Dare Mystery Story by comparing the book to HitlerÂs Mein Kampf. (ItÂs no coincidence that his teacher ended up taking a prolonged "vacation" shortly after this.)

    Highly recommended.

  • Kath
    15 years ago

    We really need to keep this up!
    I have just skimmed through this and the two that Martin has archived, and it was so interesting.
    Come on, RPers, let's get started (I'd do it but I am in the middle of a book now - promise a review when I have finished).

  • cindydavid4
    15 years ago

    I'm not that good of a writer to do a longer review - but I am certainly interested in what others write. So yes, bring on the reviews!

  • sheriz6
    15 years ago

    I'm not often moved to write a book review beyond a couple of lines on Bibliophil, but I was so disappointed in The Heroines by Eileen Favorite I posted this on Amazon (spoilers ahead):

    I was so disappointed in this I hardly know where to begin.

    This mess of a book, though well-written, tried to do too many things at once. It begins with a charming concept: Heroines from famous books suddenly appear at the bed & breakfast run by 13 year-old Penny Entwhistle's mother, Anne-Marie. While Anne-Marie coddles and comforts the Heroines, being careful not to divulge their ultimate fates or plot lines to them, Penny rages and rebels over her mother's neglect. When a Hero arrives to reclaim his Heroine (a very unusual event), things start to get interesting.

    This was a grand start to what I imagined would be a wonderful romp of a story, but then the book suddenly veered into (as another reviewer here so aptly described it) 'Girl, Interrupted' territory, sending Penny into a horrifying psych ward for no apparent reason. The story just gets more and more jumbled from there.

    Is this a fantasy about literary Heroines appearing in real life? Is it a gritty girl-trapped-in-a-mental-institution drama? Is it some sort of Freudian tale meant to have Serious Deeper Meaning (images of fatherless girls, forests, and puberty abound)? Why are there every-other-chapter references to Nixon and Watergate that do nothing to move the story along? Are the brief appearances of the Heroines real or imagined? The final straw for me was the tale of Penny's real father, which just tipped the whole thing over the edge into a complete muddle.

    Worst of all, however, is the incredibly misleading story synopsis on the back of the book, which paints a charming picture of literary ladies arriving in the present day, a story I'm sure I would have enjoyed. I just felt cheated.

    This would have been a much better story if the author had just stuck to her original idea: the mayhem -- charming, chaotic or otherwise -- that results when figures from famous books come to call.

  • reader_in_transit
    15 years ago

    Pico is a librarian in a city by the sea, where nobody reads. Part of the city population is winged, and he falls in love with a winged girl that he rescues from the sea (she can fly, but apparently cannot swim). She seems to love him, but because he is wingless, she leaves him.
    One fateful morning, he finds in his deserted library a document that mentions "the morning town", where people can get their wings when they read the Book of Flying. So he sets off to find this mythic town, going through a forest that everybody in the city thinks is impassable. On the way he has adventures and meets different people, all with their own stories, some tender, some sad, one gruesome. The language is lyrical (most reviews mention this). As far as I know, this seems to be this author's first and only book (published in 2004).

  • martin_z
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Shortlisted for the Booker in 1983. (Blimey, that's a few years ago now!)

    A man from the British Council goes on a tour of a ficticious Eastern European country, to lecture on English. It's the story of the tour, the people that he meets and what happens. It was all right, I guess. It's called Rates of Exchange and there was a lot of reference to exchanges of all types - from money to services, from exchange trips to exchange of information...

    I dunno. It was vaguely amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny. It all seems strangely dated, too - it's obviously behind the Iron Curtain, and younger people who read it might find it all a bit odd. I wouldn't discourage people from reading it - they might well enjoy it more than I - but I don't exactly recommend it either.

  • jojoco
    15 years ago

    The Pickup - Nadine Gordimer
    A bit of a stretch of a premise--wealthy, young South African woman who is pretensiously "slumming it" with like minded friends, picks up an illegal immigrant car mechanic. She does it for the shock value, he for the possibility of a way to stay in the country. She has very little to do with her family, he rarely speaks of his. Government buracracy finally catches up with him, despite her attempt to use her family's influence. Her decision to go back with him to his homeland is impetuous and fits her superficial lifestyle. What happens in his homeland changes her.
    The language of the book is sparse and unstructured at times. The laws of punctuation do not always apply, it seems. But that reflects both characters well. He is a quiet man and she comes across early on as a character of entitlement, allowed to bend the rules if she wants to.
    I loved this book and highly recommend it.
    Jo

  • reader_in_transit
    15 years ago

    I finished this book a couple of weeks ago, and intended to do a review then, but couldn't find the thread. I found it eventually on page 5.

    Cornelia Brown is manager of a café in Philadelphia, and on an ordinary day, Cary Grant walks in. Ok, not Cary Grant, but Martin Grace, who resembles Cary not only physically but in his debonair demeanor. They have a witty fast-talking conversation à la Cary Grant-Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, and each think they have met their soulmate. In another part of town,eleven year old Clare's world starts shifting innocently enough the day her mother buys towels in every color, because she is fascinated by the colors, and weeps over the towels. As Clare's mother's mental health deteriorates, Clare tries to keep it a secret from everybody, but when her mother disappears she crosses paths with Cornelia. They form a tight bond and everything turns out differently from what initially it seemed it would.

    It is an okay book, not great, but good enough.

  • phoebecaulfield
    15 years ago

    This novel--said to be partly autobiographical--is the story of the downfall of one Wade Whitehouse, the narrator's brother, who works as a well-driller and the chief of police in a very small New Hampshire town.

    Ironically, as Wade goes downhill in an alcoholic plunge into memory blackouts, paranoia, and typical impulsive displays of temper and volatility, one of his suspicions that is actually right on target is ignored by the community as they recoil from evidence of his deterioration: he has rightly surmised that a man's death during a hunting trip was no hunting accident but murder. So far as we know, the murder never comes to light.

    In addition to being an absorbing (but grisly) story, this novel is a cri de coeur against the kind of bullying machismo that prevails in so many American male social relationships. The author focuses on hunting traditions, and his picture of hunting season in New Hampshire is appalling.

  • ccrdmrbks
    15 years ago

    by Claire Messud
    received rave reviews from the NY Times...this book was longlisted for Booker in 2006...Messud married to James Wood, British critic

    Don't trust reviewers. They should all be yelling...."This book has no meaning! It is naked!"
    Yes, Messud's wordcraft is exceptional. For the pleasure of some of her descriptions, I am glad I soldiered through to the end. But the vapidity of the characters and predictability of the plot annoyed repeatedly. I find it hard to believe that "the current 30-something generation" are all so self-absorbed, self-deceiving nincompoops. Do people such as these exist? Of course. But to hail this as the first portrait of the concerns of a generation damns that generation unfairly.

  • Kath
    15 years ago

    Some of you may remember me raving about a book called Q & A a few years ago, the debut book from an Indian diplomat.
    This is his second effort, and is a great follow up. The plotting is quite clever - a nasty celebrity has been shot at a party and six people have been detained by the police because they were at the party with a gun. The story then follows each suspect and tells how they got to that point and why they had reason to kill the celebrity.
    Again, Swarup gives an interesting and illuminating look at life in India at all levels of society. The writing is good, the book is well plotted, there is a great twist at the end, and I can recommend it both as crime and general fiction.

  • elliottb
    15 years ago

    Another Sort of Learning (James V. Schall) 1988
    In this book with the unorthodox subtitle, "Selected Contrary Essays on the Completion of Our Knowing or How to Finally Acquire an Education While Still in College, or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found", Father Schall has written a delightful collection of essays for people like me who made it all the way through college without managing to get a truly liberal education. The book talks about gathering books on diverse subjects for a personal library.

    There are essays on reading, education, teaching, philosophy, sports, politics, history, and prayer. After each essay there is a short list of the books such as, "SchallÂs Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By", "Books You Will Never Be Assigned", "Eight Collections of Essays and Letters Not To Be Missed", "Ten Books on Grace and Thought", and "Five Books Addressed to the Heart of Things". True bibliophiles will love the lists.

    Schall states in the book:
    "Education, philosophy, science, politics, history, revelation - these are the themes that I have considered here in various ways. I have often talked of Plato and Aristotle, of Augustine and Aquinas, of Chesterton, Pieper, and C.S. Lewis. I have done this to underscore their importance. And I have repeated favorite book titles worth emphasizing in different contexts. I wanted to suggest that anyone with some diligence and some good fortune can find his way to the highest things even if such higher level concerns are not formally or systematically treated in the schools, even if they are in fact denied there or by our own friends or culture. Indeed, I would suspect that there is a certain basic loneliness in our relationships to the highest things. I am not a skeptic here, but we should not expect too much from our formal educational institutions in this regard.

    "Throughout these pages, I have talked of 'another sort of learning.' I have talked about why we should read, what we should read, books we should keep. In a sense, we can tell a lot about anyone by looking at what books, if any, he reads, at what books are on his shelvesÂ."

  • reader_in_transit
    15 years ago

    In his first appearance, amateur detective Charles Lenox, a Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, investigates the murder of a maid, at the request of his close friend Lady Jane Grey (the maid used to serve Lady Jane). Initially brushed off as suicide by the opulent owner of the house where the maid dies, Lenox immediately suspects foul play: murder by a rare poison.

    Since his investigation is a covert one, he needs help from friends. He gets it from his faithful butler, Graham, his friend Dr Thomas McConnell, and even his brother, baronet Edmund Lenox, a member of Parliament. Charming in an old-fashioned way, depending on the power of deduction in that pre-forensics time, it is a entertaining and well-written book. It offers a slice of life in London in the 1860's: gentlemen's clubs, politics, poor neighborhoods, and a magnificent ball in the house that the murder occurs.