February reading

netla

So what is everyone reading in February?


I am reading Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. It's a bit difficult to categorise this book, but you could call it a philosophical exploration of intelligence, using the utterly different brains/central nervous systems of humans and octopuses as a starting point. I'm only a couple of chapters in, but already I am a lot more knowledgeable about evolution and am in awe of the author's ability to take complex matters and breaking them down to make them understandable.

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reader_in_transit

Reading Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon. A British archeologist is trying to find evidence that King Arthur existed. A chance encounter with a linguist he met briefly years before in college takes the search in a new direction.

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kathy_t

I'm currently reading The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. I've never read anything quite like it. It's wild, like a Coen brothers movie - very imaginative and darkly amusing.

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friedag

After reading Lost Paradise: From Mutiny on the Bounty to a Modern-Day Legacy of Sexual Mayhem, the Dark Secrets of Pitcairn Island Revealed by Kathy Marks, I know that I want to read Serpent in Paradise by Dea Birkett, a book published in the late 1990s, just as soon as it is delivered to me.

Kathy Marks was a British journalist, working out of Auckland, NZ, when she and five other journalists were given the opportunity to travel to Pitcairn Island to report on the 2004 trials of half a dozen Pitcairn men alleged to have raped and abused twenty or more Pitcairn girls, starting when some of the girls were ten years old.

It became apparent that the trials were going to be a major cultural clash. The Pitcairn Islanders felt the outside world would never understand that the 'deflowering' of young girls was a traditional part of their culture. Even the mothers of the girls accepted this, because they too 'had become women' by being used sexually at about the same ages as their daughters. Many of the older women had had their first babies when they were only twelve or thirteen years old.

The history of this cultural phenomenon went back to at least 1960 and probably extended back into the 19th century and maybe back to 1790 when nine of the Bounty mutineers, a few Tahitian males, and about twelve Tahitian 'wives' first made Pitcairn Island their home and refuge from British Law.

Marks mentioned Dea Birkett, another British journalist who had traveled to the island in the 1990s, ostensibly to write about Pitcairn's post office and the famous stamps it issued, to be franked there and then sent all over the world. Letters from Pitcairn were great collector items for several decades. Birkett was not completely honest. She wanted to gather observations to write a travelogue and cultural history instead. The resulting book was not flattering to the Islanders, making her the most loathed person ever among the Pitcairners who were never very fond of any outsiders -- not even Seventh-day Adventist missionaries and pastors who converted the Islanders.

Curiously many of the reviews of Serpent in Paradise said that yes, there was a serpent in Pitcairn, but it was Dea Birkett herself who deserved the epithet. She was just not culturally sensitive. After the sexual allegations came out, the critics' tones changed somewhat -- but not entirely.



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tackykat

We are Called to Rise by Laura McBride.

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vee_new

Friedag, I read the Birkett book when it first came out. At that time I/we had no idea about the 'inappropriate behaviour' of so many Pitcairn men. If I remember correctly some of Birkett's own behaviour left much to be desired and I couldn't think why she felt the need to mention her own sexual exploits.

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yoyobon_gw

Once Upon A River - Dianne Setterfield

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rouan

After a considerable dry spell, I have 5 (yes, five!) books going. When one palls, I pick up a different one and switch back and forth as my reading mood changes. So far, I have started North by Scott Jurek, the account of a marathoner running the Appalachian Trail; The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (I am not very far into it but it's reminding me of The Thirteenth Tale by Disne Settlefield); The third one is The Cherokee Trail by Louis L'Amour. I am not really in the mood for it so it might go back to the library unfinished. The next one started is Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones. Set in the Regency period in England it's part mystery, part fantasy, and, I suspect, part romance. And speaking of Diane Settlefield, the fifth book is her Once Upon a River. I'm not sure I will finish it but I will read a bit further and see if it catches my attention better before I decide whether to send it back or not.

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kathy_t

Tackykat - I'll be interested in your opinion of We are Called to Rise. I really loved that book.

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tackykat

Kathy, I have about 100 pages left. The stories have just now come together.....

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carolyn_ky

Got Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny from the library and started it this afternoon. I haven't got very far into it yet.

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kathy_t

I finished The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. This book is about a widowed man who has been shot 12 times in his life. Chapters describing the circumstance of each his wounds (titled "Bullet Number One," "Bullet Number Two," etc.) are intermingled with chapters describing his efforts to raise his daughter by himself and keep her out of harm's way.

There was a lot I enjoyed about this book and yet I will stop short of recommending it because of the huge role that guns and gun violence play in the story. If that's not likely to bother you, however, I'd say go for it.

I will definitely give this author, Hannah Tinti, another try in the future, if she can leave the subject of guns behind. Her writing has a fresh, imaginative quality about it. She's excellent at capturing the little details of a scene that ring very true, but which most authors would not bother to describe - like the look or smell of one's ordinary surroundings, and the feel of the air. Her writing reminded me of Stewart O'Nan's in that respect.

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msmeow

I'm halfway through The President is MIssing. It's billed as being by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, but I'd say it's about 99 percent Patterson. :) I would guess Clinton provided details about WH operations and Presidential protection. It's typical Patterson - lots of violence and action, but it's a good story.

I'm also reading The No-Fad Diet published by The American Heart Association. I downloaded it from the library, but I'm thinking about buying a copy so I can make notes in it. I'm holding off because it was published in 2005 and the most recent edition I can find is 2012. I'd like to get something reflecting the most current science on nutrition. For instance, the 2005 edition advocates drinking diet sodas instead of sugary ones, and lately I've been hearing how artificial sweeteners are as bad for you (or worse) than sugar.

Donna

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vee_new

Donna, interesting about your 'diet' book; I imagine thousands of them are published every year.

Over here the latest attempt at watching people's health has been by introducing a sugar tax on soda/pop as so many children seem to drink far too much of it. Of course there are probably more 'hidden sugars' in breakfast cereals, so-called low fat yogurts and endless 'processed' desserts, cakes and so on.

We are now told that an amount of 'good' fat should be part of our daily intake.

In the US do you get endless so-called guidance about eating 5-a-day veggie and fruit? And are your young adults taking up vegan/clean eating . . .?

The whole thing is a mine field.

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msmeow

Yes, Vee, you're right about the mine field! It all depends on who you choose to listen to. We do seem to have a lot of vegans here in the US, and there's a huge deal made about non-GMO foods (genetically modified) and organic foods. Though I don't think there's any official definition of either thing.

The basic premise of the 2005 edition of the book is that to lose weight you have to expend more calories than you take in, which is pretty basic physics. It's the recommendations of what's good and what's bad that change periodically. :)

Donna

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skibby (zone 4 Vermont)

I finished up The $64 Tomato by William Alexander. Another winner from DH's Christmas selection. A fun and fast read that was laugh-out-loud in many places and balanced with some thoughtful reflections and questions about the balance of nature and symbiotic relationships. Those with an interest in and appreciation for gardening would likely enjoy this. I paired this with my baconfest bookmark (wink to sheri) and had pleasant thoughts about BLT's - my favorite summer sandwich.

Up next is America's Neighborhood Bats by Merlin Tuttle. Love it so far.

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yoyobon_gw

Skibby.......lol, I think our neighborhood has a few !

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carolyn_ky

My-daughter-the-nurse just told me over the weekend that high fructose corn syrup is really super bad for you because, I believe she said, it doesn't have to be digested but just goes directly to the liver. It is in many, many of the foods we buy.

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annpanagain

I have just got the new Kerry Greenwood "The Spotted Dog" the latest in the Corinna Chapman series.

I am pleased she has started writing mysteries again. She was busy with the Phryne Fisher TV series and now there is a new TV series with Phryne's niece coming out. It is set in the 1960s.

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vee_new

Carolyn and Donna, I don't think corn syrup is used much/at all over here nor are GM crops allowed to be farmed . . . but there are still plenty of ways to take in a super abundance of calories. Fast Food is probably the biggest culprit, closely followed by 'snacking' and increased consumption of alcohol, which quickly turns to sugar.

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astrokath

For those interested in diets, I would recommend checking out Michael Mosley's Fast 800 (I'm assuming it's available worldwide). He recommends the idea of eating 800 calories on two days a week and following a Mediterranean diet for the rest of the time. There is good science in it.

I'm reading The Binding by Bridget Collins, and I'm about halfway through and still not sure about it. it's one of those books where there are lots of things you don't know - I'm not even really sure what time period it's set in, although I'd guess mid 19th century.

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woodnymph2_gw

Carolyn, I've read several articles that say the cause of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. was due to the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in so many American products. I believe it was around 1970. I have a cardiologist friend who swears sugar is the cause of so many cardiac issues in America, not cholesterol laden foods.

Also, Carolyn, I would like to know what you think of Penny's latest after you finish it.

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bigdogstwo

Currently reading Strange Tide by Christopher Fowler. It is a Bryant and May mystery. I enjoy these "brain potato chips" because Fowler seems to take the time to do some fairly interesting research. The last mystery of his that I read, The Water Room, included quite a bit about the underground rivers in London. Bryant and May are two older (past retirement) detectives that have been partners for decades and despite their completely different perspectives and outlooks on life, are a great team.

Also reading London by H.V. Morton. Written after WW2, Morton takes us on a journey around London. Each chapter discusses either a part of town or a landmark and goes into the history and a description of it at the time the book was written. Part history, part social history, I am taking my time because I want to enjoy every page.

I read The $64 Tomato years ago and agree that it is a laugh out loud book. I also remember thinking that while there is something to be said for growing your own food, there is also an argument to be had for saving the time and money, not gardening, and supporting a local farmer's market instead.

Since I am rather long-winded today, I will jump into the heart health conversation as well. I recently read a book called Your Whole Heart Solution by Dr. Joel Kahn (cardiologist). He supports a solution based on whole foods, preferably a plant-based diet. Adding exercise, of course. As a person who also ate a typical American diet, I began to NOT go vegan or even vegetarian, but to be more aware and focus more on adding more veggies and fruit to my diet and cut out sugar and salt. I lost 12 pounds in 10 weeks and losing weight was not my goal. I feel great, and my doc just took me off of one of my blood pressure meds. (One down, one to go.) I am interested in everyone else's heart healthy goals and experiences!

PAM



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carolyn_ky

Mary, I finished Kingdom of the Blind last night and liked it a lot. I was surprised by a part of the ending--well, more than "a" part--and I don't like cold weather, but I still would like to live in a small community with good neighbors, a wonderful bookstore, and a marvelous bistro and bakery.

For the past few weeks, I've been going to a chiropractor for sacroiliac pain (I always thought my dad made that word up), and he is a health food and expensive vitamin supplement nut. For instance, he recommends no dairy products to a country girl who grew up on a farm with our own cows. If he didn't make me feel so much better, I'd give him up in a heartbeat. Please don't anyone tell him how much chocolate I eat, and not that dark stuff that is supposed to be healthier either. How does he think I got to be this old? I do like fruit and vegetables, but I'm sure not cooking any big healthy meals just for myself.

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annpanagain

Carolyn, didn't you ever hear Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters sing "South America, Take It Away"? We nearly put out our sacroiliacs bopping to that! We didn't know what the word meant but it sounded funky.

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yoyobon_gw

Once Upon A River.....and what a strange tale it is !

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tackykat

I finished We Are Called to Rise. Definitely worth reading. The stories of intertwined lives went some places I thought they would go, and I was surprised by some other developments. I wish it would have been longer.

I am now reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I suggested it for my monthly book group at work. It is a small volume so it should not take long. It is a letter from a black father to his son about growing up in America.

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msmeow

PAM, congrats on getting off one of your meds! That's great. And the weight loss, too.

Carolyn, a few years ago I had sacroiliac issues, too, and a few sessions with a chiropractor took care of it. Of course, he wanted me to come in every week forever, but I got tired of paying the copay! After that I lost about 20 pounds and haven't had trouble since (even though, sadly, I've gained most of the weight back).

I finished The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton & James Patterson last night. It was a fast-paced story and I enjoyed it, though there was a lot of violence.

My next book is Feared by Lisa Scottoline.

Donna

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kathy_t

Tackykat - I'm glad you liked We Are Called to Rise. It's pretty high praise for a book when someone says, "I wish it would have been longer."

What I liked most, I think, was the notion that it's worth rising out of your comfort zone to do what you can, even something seemingly minor, to make a situation better for people in distress. No matter how huge the problem, even small gestures count.

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tackykat

Yes, that is what I got out of it too!

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donnamira

I just finished (in one day) The Readymade Thief, Augustus Rose. I no longer remember why it caught my interest - did someone here mention it? It's a thriller combining art history & physics; one reviewer described it as a cross between The Da Vinci Code and The Name of the Rose, which is surprisingly accurate, if you throw in a dash of Lisbeth Salander too. If you decide to read it, you'll want to read up on Marcel Duchamp first; I spent a lot of time putting down the book to check Wikipedia's entry on Duchamp & his associates, and look up images of his artwork.


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woodnymph2_gw

Carolyn, I did not think "Kingdom of the Blind" was as good as Penny's other mysteries, for whatever it's worth.

I am one of those people who could never totally give up meat. I seem to need more protein daily than most folks. I have been conscious of putting many more vegetables in my daily diet, however. Luckily, I do not have a "sweet tooth" so rarely eat desserts or even ice cream. I weigh about what I weighed at age 16.

I just checked out Susan Hill's newest Simon Seraillier mystery and I'm really looking forward to it.

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sheri_z6

I"m half way through Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend and so far I'm just not enjoying it. I'm sure it's a vivid depiction of a certain time and place, but I don't feel engaged with any of the characters, the stream of consciousness style is slow, and it's become a slog. The books had so much hype around them (Mystery author! Book group darlings! HBO miniseries!) and almost everyone I know who has read it has positively raved about how wonderful it was. Meh! Perhaps I'm missing something, or maybe it's just not my cup of tea. In any event, I'll be skimming the rest for my book group gathering tomorrow night.

FWIW regarding diets and food, I read a fascinating book called Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It by Gary Taubes that really got me thinking. His whole philosophy is that weight gain is not about calories-in vs. calories-out, but rather what the body does with the different foods you eat and how it stores or uses certain types of calories. He also blames almost everything on sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

Shortly after reading that book, I was introduced to the Whole 30 program (the Whole 30 books and cookbooks are by Melissa Hartwig Urban and Dallas Hartwig) which is more or less paleo/keto on steroids. It starts as a 30 day cleanse, and then it's up to you to follow it or not as you reintroduce foods to your daily diet. The whole thing can be boiled down to eating real food (nothing processed, no additives) mainly protein and veggies, and avoiding dairy, grains, soy, alcohol (I cheat here, I love wine), and any and all sugar. In any event, I lost 42 pounds and I've kept it off for two years, so I'm a believer.

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woodnymph2_gw

Sheri, that's interesting. Good for you. I do eat dairy and grains and I, too, like wine. However, I stay away from processed foods and cook everything from scratch. I also believe in portion control. Now that I'm older, most days I find that I only eat 2 meals a day, not three. My mid afternood "snack" is either a glass of milk or kefir.

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yoyobon_gw

Sheri......for what it's worth I hated My Brilliant Friend and refused to finish it. I'd like to think that it probably lost something in the translation but I doubt that was the problem.

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msmeow

Congratulations, Sheri! That's great weight loss. What is wrong with soy? I thought it was one of those protein-rich snacks that are good for you. :(

I don't cook (well, hardly ever). I hate it and I'm terrible at it and I don't care. Apparently DH isn't interested in cooking, either, except for grilling steaks. We can afford to eat out so we do, usually 3-4 nights a week (sometimes more). I try to eat half of what I order and bring the rest home, but I don't always do that LOL. I lost 30 pounds on WW several years ago, mostly through portion control. I went back to WW for a while when they introduced the current Freestyle plan, but I just couldn't connect with it.

Donna

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Rosefolly

I followed a Paleo diet for several years. Initially I lost weight (I can lose weight temporarily on any diet), but after a couple of years I found my cholesterol was getting higher each year. As I do not want to take medication I can avoid, I abandoned the diet. I still keep dairy, soy and grains to a minimum (chiefly my breakfast oatmeal). I have restored beans though, and have cut red meat to once a week. My DH and I have cut down wine once or twice a month. Tom had shoulder surgery last August and had to give alcohol for a couple of months, and we just never resumed our habit of having wine with our evening meal.

I have begun to read A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny for my book club. So far it has not engaged me, but I'm only a couple of chapters into it.



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annpanagain

I don't eat much red meat now and notice that my fair skin is even paler. I rarely see my doctor but mean to ask for a blood test for iron next time I go.

I am enjoying "The Spotted Dog" but it is not for anyone on a diet, so much about food as well as a good mystery.

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sheri_z6

Yoyobon, thank you! I'm glad to know it's not just me. I found out yesterday that one of my book group friends also disliked My Brilliant Friend, so that helped. I will be very curious to see what everyone else thought of it when we meet tonight. I still have 30 pages to go but now I'm determined to finish.

Msmeow, the cleanse portion of the Whole 30 removes all the foods and additives that could possibly irritate your system and then allows you to reintroduce them after the initial 30 days. Soy is just one of the items on the list that's a potential irritant. After going without for 30 days you can see if you feel better with or without it. It doesn't mean they consider it bad for you :)

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yoyobon_gw

Sheri, HBO has actually made that book into a series . The only thing worse than trying to read the book would be having to see it played out as a drama. UGH.

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siobhan_1

This past year has been equal parts wonderful and terrible. I was able to join my DH here in Australia after two years of waiting for a visa. That has been worth everything else, however I could have done without the badly fractured wrist and two subsequent surgeries that resulted from a dog attack near my new home in Brisbane. Also we moved twice more. So - in less than one year, a very painful and disabling traumatic injury, two operations, and three moves - one across the globe and two interstate. You might say it's been a lot of stress. I've struggled to enjoy reading as I simply cannot concentrate, but I'm feeling much better now, and getting used to moving and resettling. So - when I looked for an audiobook to enjoy while unpacking and reorganising, I fortunately stumbled across Michael Bond's Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines. Just the right blend of whimsy and erudite touches to make me laugh, keep me interested, and teach me some new vocabulary. I'm very glad I am listening to this book as the French words and conversation are much more entertaining in verbal form.

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kathy_t

Sorry for all your travails, Siobhan. Glad Monsieur Pamplemousse (one of my favorite French words!) is raising your spirits.

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msmeow

Siobhan, sending good wishes for a much better 2019!

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yoyobon_gw

Finished Once Upon A River......meh. I wouldn't suggest it to anyone as a good read. I suspect Ms. Setterfield has run her course with story ideas.

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vee_new

Just finished Les Standifords' The Man who Invented Christmas An enjoyable read about Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' with some background info on his early life and marriage, although the writer seems to think the CD and his wife just grew apart from each other and got divorced, when in fact he was a bastard towards Catherine, moved her out of the family house and wouldn't let her many many children communicate with her.

Divorce would have meant social suicide for Dickens, far more so than having a mistress.

Some interesting stuff about lack of copyright in Victorian times and the anger it caused many writers who's work was widely plagiarised by publishers in other countries.

Siobhan, things can only get better!

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vee_new

I just read this in today's Telegraph


Rosamunde Pilcher obituary

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kathy_t

I'm sorry to hear Rosamunde Pilcher's passing. I read several of her novels and enjoyed them - in much the same way I enjoyed Maeve Binchy's novels - they never made my top-ten list, but were very pleasant reading.

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tackykat

Sorry to hear as well. I enjoyed both womens' books

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annpanagain

Siobhan, goodness that was a long wait. You could have swum here quicker!

I see that you like it here in spite of all your troubles. I originally intended to stay for a couple of years travelling around but finished up getting married to an Aussie so that was that!

I am still getting through Wolf Hall with diversions into library books I have to finish. Also after the summer break, we are getting some new TV programs, a welcome change after reruns.

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carolyn_ky

Siobhan, I'm glad things are looking up for you. I've missed you on the forum.

I'm another Pilcher reader and read a couple by her son but didn't like them as well.

My present book is Solemn Graves by James Benn, newest in his Billy Boyle WWII series. Billy is a young relative of General Eisenhower, a former Boston policeman, and an investigator of military murders and intrigue.

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astrokath

Soibhan, I'm sorry to hear things haven't gone so well for you here in Australia, but glad you are back to reading.

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vee_new

I've been reading Joseph Lister by H A Rain. Rather more of a school text book than a bio but gives a good 'overview' of one of the 'Fathers of Modern Medicine' with his pioneering work on sepsis, the understanding of its causes and the importance of 'clean' conditions during operations. Although most of his early work in Edinburgh and Glasgow took place during the 1860's it was not 'recognised' by the very 'conservative' members of the medical profession for about ten years which led to so many unnecessary deaths during the American Civil War and the Franco Prussian War. Also something I had never given thought to was his work on surgical 'dressings' and their importance in recovery.

Lots of interesting old photos helped make the subject more interesting.

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woodnymph2_gw

Thanks for posting the obit of R. Pilcher. I read a great number of her novels but in retrospect, I stopped reading them because they seemed a bit too "saccharine" for my taste, as well as too idealized in the protagonists' life styles.

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reader_in_transit

Finished Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon, which I enjoyed reading. There is an archeological mystery at the heart of this novel: finding evidence of the historical existence of King Arthur. There are a couple of subplots, a big dollop of Welsh history, linguistics, dons in Oxford and driving the narrow backroads of Wales in search of Camlann, the place of Arthur's reputed last battle. The book has a scholarly mood, but it is not stuffy.

The only book I've tried to read by Rosamunde Pilcher was September, years ago. I found it too "saccharine", to borrow Woodnymph's description, and didn't finish it.

Siobhan,

Let's hope this year the wonderful parts outnumber by far the terrible parts.

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vee_new

I found a yellowing, damp paperback at the back of a shelf lent to me by my DB many years ago. Rather than throw it out I peeled the pages apart and despite myself, read it.

Stars and Bars by William Boyd reads like a book waiting to be turned into a popular '80's rom-com. Hugh Grant would play the just moved to NYC English art expert and any number of Hollywood 'stars' the several female characters.

'Hugh' is sent to Georgia to value the collection of a fallen-on-hard-times gentleman housed in a Southern mansion. A mini 'road-movie' section follows as he drives down to Atlanta. Once there the cast are a cross between the Addams family and the Beverley Hill Billies. Much cussing, drinking and smoking.

Manic scenes follow; all very contrived. Eventually 'Hugh Grant' escapes back to NYC unwillingly dragging along a couple of females and with several gangsters after him. After a possible hilarious scene showing him running around Manhattan clad in nothing but a cardboard box he thinks he has escaped . . . but No! Another mad gunman, a dash down a trash-strewn alley . . . when will it end?

Have just checked this out and find a movie was made of it staring Daniel Day-Lewis. I hope it was funnier than the book.


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kathy_t

Vee - LOL! I was enjoying your imagined light-hearted comedy film until Hugh Grant morphed into Daniel Day-Lewis. Suddenly I felt heavy high-drama descend upon the scene.

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friedag

My goodness! Vee, was that sort of thing -- Stars and Bars -- the kind of book (and movie) that popularly passed for entertainment in the 1970s and '80s? I've forgotten that -- thankfully!

Have you ever wondered why Misery, Mayhem, and Murder are so popular today? Judith Flanders in her The Invention of MURDER: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime makes the case that we can blame it on vicarious thrill-seeking Victorians who couldn't get enough of the reports of the real thing, so what did they do? They created fictionalized versions, of course!

Mysteries, voyeurism of physical horror, detective stories, and all the rest of the crime fiction genre that we know today have roots that grew most profusely in the Victorian era.

Here's the epigram Flanders chose to highlight her thesis:

'We [The British Isles] are a trading community -- a commercial people. Murder is, doubtless, a very shocking offence; nevertheless, as what is done is not to be undone, let us make our money out of it.' -- 'Blood', Punch, 1842

Flanders also chose as her opener to quote Thomas de Quincey from his essay published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1826 (or 1827), "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts". He was more than a decade ahead of the Victorian age, but his anticipation turned out to be uncannily exact.

'Pleasant it is, no doubt, to drink tea with your sweetheart, but most disagreeable to find her bubbling in the tea-urn.'

Flanders goes on to say:

But even more pleasant, he [de Quincey] thought, was to read about someone else's sweetheart bubbling in the tea urn, and that, too, is hard to argue with, for crime, especially murder, is very pleasant to think about in the abstract . . .

I've read similar theses by George Orwell and more recently by Karen Halttunen in her Murder Most Foul: The Killer and the American Gothic Imagination. It is rather sickening and perverse 'entertainment', but it's also fascinating -- be it graphic realism or rather sweetly cosy, with little old-lady amateur detectives.

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vee_new

For entertainment nothing could beat the excitement at the hanging of William Corder for the 'Murder in the Red Barn' of Maria Martin in the late 1820's.

What else is there to do in a quiet Suffolk town of an early morning . . . or so the 20000 folk must have thought as they crowded round the gallows?

I don't know when the facts/fiction of this grisly event was turned into print but books and plays have been written/performed ever since.

One can imagine the little old ladies of the area shaking their mob-capped heads and muttering over their knitting needles and tea cups as they discussed this gory event.

* * * *

I wonder was Miss Marple the first elderly amateur female sleuth in detective fiction? Perhaps Carolyn or Annpan know.


Maria Martin: The Murder in the Red Barn

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donnamira

Vee, I think Anna Katherine Green is usually credited with inventing the spinster sleuth, as well as the girl detective. Her Amelia Butterworth first showed up in 1897, according to Wikipedia. I don’t remember the date of the first Violet Strange, the original girl detective. I finally downloaded and read a Violet Strange story just a couple weeks ago, and liked it enough to download some others.

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rouan

Out of my started books I have finished 2; North by Scott Jurek, and Murder, Magic, and What we Wore by Kelly Jones. I liked North and decided that as much as I like reading about hiking (in this instance running) the Appalachian Trail, I will never actually do it myself. Although I might someday hike a small section of it. :). Besides that I finished Murder... as mentioned above. I liked it okay, once I got beyond the initial what was the heroine thinking when she set up as a modiste when she mentions that she had never actually sewn a gown and didn't know how to set a sleeve, I got caught up in the story and finished it with enjoyment.

I returned unfinished, Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. It just didn't do it forme. The writing wasn't bad, it was the mood (too dreary) and the story that didn't catch my attention. Also returned unfinished was The Cherokee Trail by Louis L'Lamour. I had mentioned I wasn't in the mood for it and so it proved.

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annpanagain

I don't know much about the early woman detectives but read a couple of the 1910 Lady Molly stories by Baroness Orczy. She was anxious to emphasise the femininity of this character by repeatedly mentioning her daintiness!

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friedag

Vee, Judith Flanders went into some detail about 'The Red Barn Murder' and the popular hunger/lust for the execution of William Corder. It's hard to comprehend why this excited the imagination of people in Suffolk, much less its subsequent infamy in literature and other forms of entertainment. It seems such an ordinary garden variety of crime, unless -- as you said -- people were just hungry for some sort of excitement since they didn't have enough in their own lives. People have become more jaded in the modern age, I suppose. I don't recall, for instance, any ballads being sung about O. J. Simpson, although there was much attention paid to his televised "slow ride in the Bronco" and the theatrics of his trial for murder. There have been TV dramas, too, I think, but I was never interested enough to watch any of them.

Donnamira, I didn't know Violet Strange was 'the original girl detective'. Somehow I got the impression she was about twenty-something years old. I didn't like the couple of stories I read, because Violet was a snob of the first order. Maybe she was younger and less snobbish in the earlier stories.

Oh-oh, Donnamira, I've been meaning to ask you: About ten years ago (maybe longer) I read a novel that started conventionally as a murder mystery set in Edinburgh, Scotland. There was a series of particularly gruesome murders -- and I seem to recall the 'Underground City' figured into the story. However, the whole story lapsed into surrealism when a creature -- a dragon, I think -- was spotted in locations where murder victims were subsequently found. Do you recall this book -- its title and author? I've combed Amazon for it and searched other sites with no luck. There are so many murder mysteries and horror tales set in Edinburgh! At any rate, I think you and I exchanged comments about this book here at RP.

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vee_new

Thanks for the Violet Strange info. I had never heard of this series and have just done a bit of hunting around to find out more on the author.

Just thinking aloud here as I seldom read whodunits and often wonder at the contrast between the 'cozy murders' so many people enjoy reading or watching on the endless TV 'crime' shows and the 'real-life' events which cause all of us so much distress.

Allowing for the times in which for eg Agatha Christie was writing, we never hear of Miss Marple suffering from PTSD and needing counselling nor did Perry Mason, Jessica Fletcher or Kojak have to spend time in rehab.

Perhaps there just wasn't the time as they must have realised another body was going to turn up in a quiet village in Devon or an New England fishing port or any number of mean streets . . . which I suppose is more probable, in the US.


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annpanagain

Did Jane Marple do war work? If she had been a nurse, she would have been hardened to bodies in various states far more gruesome than she seemed to be involved with in her latter years...just saying!

Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher, an ambulance driver in WW1, is an example of this outlook.

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msmeow

I'm reading The Golem and The Jinni based on recommendations made here at RP. When I started it I thought I had read it before, but now that I've gotten a bit farther it doesn't seem familiar. I must have read a different novel about a golem. :)

I think I've given up on Feared by Lisa Scottoline. I guess I'm not in the mood for a lawyer novel, and all her stories are starting to sound alike.

Donna

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donnamira

Frieda, I can't think of the book you might be remembering. The only ones I can think of don't fit the details, both by China Mieville: UnLunDun which is a rather creepy YA quest fantasy set in an alternate underground London (this is the one with the pet milk carton Curdle), and The City & The City, a conventional murder mystery in which 2 cities exist side by side in 2 realities. Neither one has a dragon, that I remember, and neither one is set in Edinburgh. The only other one may have been Sheri Holman's The Dress Lodger, but that has only a marginal connection to Edinburgh (one of the characters had had to leave Edinburgh after being associated with Burke & Hare), and while I do remember some rather fantastic elements creeping in before the end, I don't remember a dragon there either. Maybe it was Janalyn you exchanged comments with? Or maybe senioritis has just set in on my part. :)

The Kindle price for the latest in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' War At Home series finally came down, so I downloaded it last night, and read it through as a break from Thanhha Lai's Listen, Slowly, which is a YA where a 12 y/o California girl accompanies her grandmother to Vietnam to try to find out what happened to her grandfather, who disappeared in the Vietnam war. Lai's protagonist Mai/Mia was starting to get on my nerves; I guess I'm getting too old to appreciate a 12 y/o's problems. I just want to slap her upside the head a few times!


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friedag

Thank you, Donnamira, for searching your memory and responding. It was worth a shot to me to find out whether you knew!

I know it was neither of China Mieville's books, but you reminded me of The Dress Lodger that I had almost forgotten about. You're right that I may be remembering a bit of discussion I had with Janalyn -- I read several strange and unusual books (for me) at her suggestion. :-)

Anyway, the Edinburgh-Underground City-dragon-murder mystery is a darned elusive book. I suppose that I will just have to trip over it again someday.

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Rosefolly

I finished A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny, which I mentioned I was reading for my book club. Despite a slow start, I eventually got caught up in it. It was an enjoyable read. If I come across others by this author I may pick them up, but I don't feel stirred to seek them out.

I am also reading another mystery which my DH Tom passed along to me, The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs. I'm not loving it, but I don't hate it so I expect I'll finish it.

I have also (finally!) picked up Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson from the top of my TBR pile. At this point I am a couple of chapters into it. So far it is quite interesting and readable. I will report back when I have made more progress.

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carolyn_ky

I finished my last library book yesterday and got notices tonight that more are awaiting pick up, but today I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on my Kindle. It is, as all of you probably know, a children's book by C. S. Lewis; but I had never read it and quite enjoyed it. It has poured rain all day long, so a nice quiet book was good.

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annpanagain

Friedag, I was interested in your search for a book and wondered if you have checked the Stopyourkillingme website which is very informative. I notice there is a book "Shadow of the Serpent" by David Ashton which is set in Edinburgh. Could that be the one you were thinking of? It was published in 2006.

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woodnymph2_gw

I've just finished "The Comforts of Home", the 9th Serailleur mystery in a series by Susan Hill. I have to say Hill is my favorite mystery writer. I also love the setting of Lafferton, with its map in the frontispiece. Despite their dark, convoluted plots, there is something always comforting to me in the Serailleur series -- perhaps it is their family setting, with cosy cups of tea, meal descriptions, and the ever-present bottle of wine.

For whatever it's worth, regarding the underground "second" city in Edinburgh, in the '60's when I was traveling Scotland alone, by sheer chance I discovered that there actually is an "underground" Edinburgh. I would love to find out more about it and how it was created.

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friedag

Annpan, I looked at the Stopyourkillingme site. Most interesting! I also read a fuller synopsis and reviews of Shadow of the Serpent at Amazon. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that's not the book I read. I'll peruse 'Stop...killing me' further, so thanks for suggesting it as a good tool!

Woodnymph, indeed there is an underground Edinburgh, or at least remnants of it. I read a small book by Jan-Andrew Henderson, The Town Below the Ground: Edinburgh's Legendary Underground City. The first half tells the history of when, why, and how the underground part developed. There are some maps and interspersed illustrations, many of them going back to the 18th and 19th centuries because some places no longer exist. Still, there's enough left to boggle the mind. Just imagine how horrible it must have been to live in some of the underground storeys and cellars. Most of them turned into slums. Also, many of the stone bridges that spanned the various valleys where built with vaults that soon were taken over by slum-dwellers. The valleys themselves disappeared when generations of buildings filled in.

The latter chapters of Henderson's book are devoted to some of the legends that have grown up about the reputation of underground Edinburgh. Much of this mythologizing deals with the supernatural that I find less interesting than the actual hellish facts of the place and its history.

When I lived in Scotland (Aberdeen and Elgin) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Edinburgh was a big draw for tourists -- from both outside and inside Scotland. I hear that it is even more so now that the tourist industry continues to develop, including the opening up of some of the underground 'city'.

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Rosefolly

Another city with an interesting underground to explore is Seattle. There is a tour you can take, though I never did. One of my daughters lived there for a few years and we always planned to, but she moved away before that happened.

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carolyn_ky

My sister and I did the Mary King's Close tour in Edinburgh. It is probably the most well known of them.

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friedag

Carolyn, you didn't provide enough information! What did you think about your tour of Mary King's Close? What did you learn about it and Edinburgh in general? Do tell, please. :-)

By the way, did the mystery novel I described above to Donnamira ring any bells with you?

~~~~~~~~~~~

I am very much looking forward to reading Nature's Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age of the Long Seventeenth Century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present by Philipp Blom. The historian/author saw me coming -- and other readers like me. I am an easy target for anything about the Little Ice Age -- all of it, but I'm happy to see this book concentrates on the 17th century. I'm expecting delivery on February 19th, the release date. I'll probably inhale it immediately, so I will post what I think about it soon, I'm sure.

~~~~~~~~~~~

ETA: Vee, I forgot to mention that I read Dea Birkett's Serpent in Paradise (see our exchange upthread). Whew! I agree with you that Birkett injected herself much too personally. It's no wonder the Pitcairn Islanders were incensed by her book and the reviewers and critics had a point about her behavior, although the allegations against the Pitcairn men hadn't been made yet by the Pitcairn girls.

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annpanagain

Friedag, sorry I didn't discover the title you wanted. When I saw it, I thought it didn't tick all the boxes and was found too easily but was worth suggesting!

Good luck tracking it down.

I might have to use a different library as the bus that took me there has been cancelled and it is quite a walk to go there in the summer heat. Although further on a bus route, another library is easier to get to but hasn't so much stock. Only a few more weeks and it will be Autumn here so not a big deal!

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woodnymph2_gw

Frieda, thanks for telling me about the book on underground Edinburgh. I will look for it. When I traveled in that city in 1962, there was quite a lot of it visible that I trekked through. I, too, would like to hear more about Carolyn's tour of the underground.

Years ago, the city of Atlanta had an underground which was quite interesting to explore. Unfortunately the tourist business got hold of it and it became absolutely ruined and over-run with honky-tonk and tacky.

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carolyn_ky

Sorry about the lack of detail re MK's Close. It is about an hour-long walking tour and is located underneath the Royal Mile. The tour is conducted by young women in 17th c. costume (mob cap, as I remember) and dwells on hauntings. I'm not much for the paranormal and don't remember the patter. I do remember a pallet in a dark corner with the body of a plague victim on it. It was, of course, only lit by dim lanterns and depicted poverty and lack. I think there may have been a fake rat or two involved. I liked the Writers' Museum much better. It celebrates the books of Scott, Stevenson, and Burns.

If I seem less than impressed, put it down to my practicality. I didn't "get it" in the Dennis Severs house in London, either. There the rooms are supposed to look (and smell) as if the family members have just left each one, including the bedroom with unmade bed and chamber pot, and you are told that if you don't feel the feeling you just don't "get it."

And no, Frieda, I'm sorry but your book didn't ring any bells with me.

P.S. I like both Edinburgh and Scotland a lot! And London, my all-time favorite.

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carolyn_ky

I just finished The Safe House by Nicci French. Read it on Kindle and Googled it to see if I had totally missed something since my version ended with what must have been the first chapter of an entirely different book. Very strange as there was so segue at all. This was not nearly as good as her Frieda Klein books, but it was okay.

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annpanagain

Carolyn, I think you mentioned reading "City of Secrets" by Victoria Thompson?

I borrowed a library copy but couldn't get into it. I didn't recommend "City of Lies" to you, I recall. I don't think this type of early twentieth century mysteries genre appeals to me, although there are plenty of writers who cater to it, so therefore many readers!

I tried a reprint of a Thirties Golden Age black humour mystery and skipped a lot of that too.

I must be in a slump! Perhaps the grisly deaths in the now finished "Wolf Hall" have sated me of murders! Time for a change, perhaps?

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friedag

Carolyn, I caught your post in which you described some of the features you remembered in your tour of Mary King's Close: very dim lighting, a pallet in a corner with a plague victim lying on it, maybe some scurrying (mechanical?) rats . . . You also mentioned the Dennis Severs House in London and not "getting" the feeling from these 'mock ups' that is probably intended to put a tour-taker in the appropriate mood.

I enjoyed your comments and wanted to come back and say that I, too, must be somewhat immune to this sort of mood creation. But now I see that your post is no longer visible! Is it just not so for me, or is it really gone? I don't think I imagined it! I can see what you wrote about the Nicci French book, so I think it was a post just previous to that one. Strange.

Set my mind at ease, please, and verify that you did submit some of your Edinburgh observations. Maybe the post will reappear after a few hours (or a couple of days). I have had posts that went 'phantom', only to return later. Did anyone else see Carolyn's errant posting?

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Winter

I read it.

Not often and not here...but...I've removed whole posts on occasion when I've had a change of heart about my comments. Perhaps Carolyn did the same. I was more fortunate. No one [apparently] read mine and called me out because the post poofed into never never land.

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vee_new

I didn't see the post about Edinburgh or Dennis Sever's house in London. Perhaps Carolyn you could re-post it?

I haven't been to Edinburgh since 1980 when DH and I travelled up on the over-night 'sleeper'. A fascinating city.

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carolyn_ky

I can still see my Edinburgh post, but I did edit it a few minutes after posting so perhaps that caused it to disappear for some of you. At any rate, here is a repost:

Sorry about the lack of detail re MK's Close. It is about an hour-long walking tour and is located underneath the Royal Mile. The tour is conducted by young women in 17th c. costume (mob cap, as I remember) and dwells on hauntings. I'm not much for the paranormal and don't remember the patter. I do remember a pallet in a dark corner with the body of a plague victim on it. It was, of course, only lit by dim lanterns and depicted poverty and lack. I think there may have been a fake rat or two involved. I liked the Writers' Museum much better. It celebrates the books of Scott, Stevenson, and Burns.

If I seem less than impressed, put it down to my practicality. I didn't "get it" in the Dennis Severs house in London, either. There the rooms are supposed to look (and smell) as if the family members have just left each one, including the bedroom with unmade bed and chamber pot, and you are told that if you don't feel the feeling you just don't "get it."

And no, Frieda, I'm sorry but your book didn't ring any bells with me.

P.S. I like both Edinburgh and Scotland a lot! And London, my all-time favorite.

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friedag

Mahalo, Carolyn. :-)

London's your all-time favorite. What place comes in second for you? Third?

I don't think London can be beaten, literature-wise.

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netla

I took a break from Other Minds to listen to the audio version of the latest J.D. Robb: Connections in Death. It's one of the conventional procedural-style novels. It's just so-so and I found myself wondering why Robb doesn't just go the whole hog and start writing superhero novels about Dallas and Roarke, because they're just that perfect. This may have been my last book of the series, so if anyone can recommend me a good, long-running series with the same central characters that I can immerse myself in, I'd be grateful.

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carolyn_ky

Frieda, you have opened a can of worms. Hawaii, particularly Oahu, is my second favorite place. My daughter and I have traveled a good deal in Europe and once went to New Zealand. I've been to most of the U.S. states and to Mexico but not to South America or the Caribbean. All of it has been wonderful, and I feel so grateful that a little girl who grew up in rural Kentucky has been able to see so many sights. One sharp memory I have is that of standing in front of the Mona Lisa in Paris and remembering seeing a picture of it in my high school world history book.

Third is hard. I particularly liked Greece, with Delphi as a highlight, and Sicily, the Grand Plaza in Brussels at night when all the lights were turned off and then came back on group by group around the square. It was magical. Edinburgh Castle by moonlight; Paris for Bud's and my 25th wedding anniversary; Vienna, the Swiss Alps, Venice--who could choose?

I know you have traveled a lot. What do you especially like?

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astrokath

I finished The Binding by Bridget Collins. The idea is that binders can take memories you don't want and put them into books. Some of these get sold as trade, if the participant agrees, but others are available on the black market. The construction of the book is quite clever, but it left me wanting more description of time and place, and a more satisfactory outcome.

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msmeow

Netla, if you like police books, Faye Kellerman wrote a series with Pete Decker as the main character. In the first book he’s working a rape case in a Jewish community and meets a beautiful religious Jewish woman named Rina. The books are set in Los Angeles.

I’m about halfway through The Golem and the Jinni and I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

Donna

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yoyobon_gw

Donna.....I loved The Golem and the Jinni . There's a sequel due next year.

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annpanagain

Carolyn, your reference to lighting made me remember a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. I had jetlag so went to sleep as soon as I got into my hotel room. When I woke, I pulled back the blinds and saw the Petronas Towers lit up. This was such a magical vision that I pulled the blinds shut and reopened them for a second dazzling experience!

I just had to buy a tower souvenir and that lights up too!

Having returned all my library books, I decided not to borrow from that library until the weather cools! I am rereading "Wolf Hall" now I am getting the hang of the odd writing style. It is from my Retirement Village library so there is no end date for returns.

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friedag

Carolyn, I have a friend who got rather fed up with me for saying that such-and-such place was a favorite of mine. In exasperation she asked, "How can you have so many favorites?" Apparently she doesn't understand, either, the concept of having multiple favorites of books.

Your memories are grand! I so enjoy reading of your travel experiences, as well as those of other RPers.

Annpan, seeing the Petronas Towers lit up the way you did does indeed sound magical.

Perhaps oddly, I tend to remember things on a small scale -- things that are not particularly impressive to anyone but me. I have been to many far-flung places; but I would have to think deeply about which affected me most, and my choices would likely change from time to time -- even day to day. I can say that I love islands -- I am an island 'collector' and have tried to see as many as I've had the opportunity to visit, the more sparsely populated the better. I can probably say that Malta, Gozo, and Comino are my favorite Mediterranean islands. I also like Orkney Mainland and Hoy -- the key is probably the scenery, the history, and most of all any place with ancient archaeological sites.

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carolyn_ky

Frieda, I don't mean to take over this thread as a travelogue, but your mention of ancient sites reminded me of the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aegina. I was fortunate to see it when there were only a very few people around. It stands in isolation on the top of a lonely hill and gave me the deepest feeling of a people "gone with the wind" that I have ever experienced. The ruins in Sicily were the big attraction for me there, too. They claim to have more Greek ruins than Greece does.

Back on track, I am reading Burying Ariel by Gail Bowen, one of her Joanne Kilburn mysteries in a university setting in Canada.

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rouan

I picked up several library books and have finished two of them so far. The first one was The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. I will admit here that I am unashamedly a cat lover as well as a book lover and I found myself teary eyed a few times as I read this. The book is narrated by the cat as he accompanies his human on a road trip. It is not a long book and I finished it in a couple of hours.

The second one was Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson. It's told completely in the epistolary style with alternating viewpoints from the two main characters. It is also not a long book and I finished it in about the same amount of time. I liked both books and would willingly look for anything else either writes down the road.

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friedag

I don't mean to take over this thread as a travelogue . . .

Carolyn, you aren't taking over, in my opinion. Travel and reading are completely intertwined -- or all tangled up -- I've always thought. Don't you think so? :-)

I know the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina, but when I saw it there were too many people around for me to get the feeling you had. I only wish I had had the same sort of experience there.

~~~~~~~~~~~

I completed Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries by Molly Caldwell Crosby. I had heard about 'sleeping sickness' (encephalitis lethargica) but I was never quite sure what exactly it was, or if it could be distinguished from narcolepsy and other aberrations of sleep. Evidently it was a separate disease that raced around the world at about the same time as the great polio epidemic of 1916 and the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Sleeping sickness is generally dated from 1915 through 1927. It killed about one-third of its victims outright, permanently maimed another third (who were usually institutionalized for the remainder of their foreshortened lives), and the remaining third survived only to experience complications years and decades later -- some of the complications being bizarre and mistakenly diagnosed as psychiatric and personality disorders. The last known epidemic victim died in 2003, having lived seventy years with the residual effects of sleeping sickness. Although it was probably not a new disease when it cropped up in the early 20th century and there have been a few more recent cases, scientists still don't know what it was or whether it had a relationship to the much more deadly influenza.

And I thought in my ignorance that 'sleeping sickness' was something teenagers often are accused of having.

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annpanagain

I had sleeping sickness in the 1970s when an outbreak happened and I had to stop work for about six months. I would fall asleep suddenly and it was rather upsetting. In the early stage, I was minding two little grandchildren in my D's car while she popped out for a couple of minutes. When she returned, I was slumped over her seat, unconscious.

It wore off gradually but some people who got the same illness had long periods of it. No one knew what caused it or how to treat it. Some doctors even tried blood transfusions. Mine told me to stay home from work. At least I was less harmful if I did that!

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woodnymph2_gw

Carolyn, I, too, was impressed by the stark beauty of the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina, Greece. When I saw it it was almost deserted,thankfully. I later returned to do a watercolor of it, but nothing could do it justice. Like Frieda, I have many favorites amongst the 14 countries I traveled in Europe. Santa Maria della Salute in Venice was magical for me, as were the mosaics in Ravenna. As was being outdoors on a summer night in Bergen, Norway, where the sun never set and the streets were lively with folk celebrating the light they were deprived of in winter. And with every memory of the island of Ischia near Capri, which at that time had not been discovered by Americans or Brits, so we did not hear a word of English spoken for 2 weeks.

I am re-visiting David Starkey's "Elizabeth" since I am studying Elizabethan literature in my class. Starkey is a dynamic author, in my view, making what might otherwise be dull history exciting.

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carolyn_ky

I've known for years that "you all" are my favorite people. Wish we could have a big get-together.

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msmeow

I finished The Golem and the Jinni last night. What a great story! It was very interesting seeing the world through the eyes of supernatural beings trying to "pass" as humans while they are trying to find the way out of their bondage. Bon mentioned upthread that there is a sequel coming next year. I'm looking forward to it!

Donna

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yoyobon_gw

Donna, as one who has a love of NYC, I liked seeing it through their eyes back in that time period as well. Especially some of the author's references to known landmarks/statues. The angel in the park.....you can find photos on line of that exact fountain in Central Park !

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msmeow

Yes, I got a real sense of the time period. I've never really been to NYC; maybe some day. (I say "never really" b/c in 1999 or so we went from Penn Station to the cruise port via taxi then back from the cruise port to Penn Station via subway a week later, so I don't really count that as visiting NYC!)

Donna

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yoyobon_gw

If you've watched the movie Enchanted ( Amy Adams) you'll see much of it was filmed in NYC with gorgeous scenes done in Central Park.


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Rosefolly

I just finished reading An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. What a powerful book! I stayed up late reading last night and spent the morning in my pajamas finishing it, not ready to get on with my day until had seen the characters to their ultimate fates. I don't usually care for contemporary problem fiction, but this book defied genres. I do recommend it.

I see that in my enthusiasm I forgot to say what it was about. It deals with the marriage of a young, upwardly mobile black couple and what happens after the husband is convicted of a crime he did not commit.

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friedag

Annpan: My word! I am so glad you survived 'sleeping sickness'. It must have been scary for you and your folk and the other people who also became ill. Do you recall anything about what led up to the onset? Did you have a bad case of the flu a few weeks -- or even a few months -- before? Some patients got sleeping sickness first and then got the flu. The sequence is mysterious but rather suspicious when the symptoms of both diseases occur one after the other. The best guess, so far, indicates a viral infection as the culprit, but medical scientists haven't been able to isolate a particular virus as a definite cause for encephalitis lethargica.

Btw, your post only showed up today for me. Apparently it has been wandering around with Carolyn's post that I earlier claimed had disappeared.

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vee_new

I also missed Annpan's post; was it lost for two days?

Frieda, you have probably read Awakenings by Oliver Sacks, dealing with people in catatonic states after getting sleeping sickness. I have a copy but so far have been rather daunted by its sheer size.

In my ignorance I always associated sleeping sickness with being bitten by the tsetis fly.

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yoyobon_gw

Vee, is it a similar thing when my husband falls asleep in the middle of MY sentence?

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vee_new

yoyo, my husband, besides being able to fall asleep at will, suffers from selective deafness and misses many of my important utterances . . . but can hear the rustle of a choccy wrapper from twenty paces. Come to think of it our dog was the same!

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annpanagain

This business of missing posts is so strange. I always see my posts straight after I have sent them.

I can't remember now what set off the bout of sleeping sickness. It just seemed to hit some of the people around the same time. I usually have a good immune system too! Perhaps if I hadn't it would have been worse as some people couldn't even walk and had to use wheelchairs. There was a thought that a flu virus was to blame but no one really knew. It was given all kinds of names but I can't remember them now.

I get a strong desire these days to lie down during the day some times but that could be old age or the hot weather!

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yoyobon_gw

I just finished Eleanor Oliphant Is Just Fine and really enjoyed it .

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friedag

Yoyobon, I think it's good that you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant . . . Could you tell us a bit about why you liked the story -- or the character of Eleanor -- please. I read the Amazon descriptions and reviews, and I see it is very popular -- a book club pleaser, apparently.

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yoyobon_gw

Friedag, I enjoyed the skewed view that Eleanor has of her world and her intelligent unwitting humor. She is a very flawed, endearing character that the reader cares about right from the start. I would definitely recommend it.

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sheri_z6

For the past couple of weeks I had three books going at the same time, which is rare. I just finished The Shadowland by Elizabeth Kostova, Delicious! by Ruth Reichl, and Troublemaker by Leah Remini.

Shadowland started out as a bit of an adventure - an American in Bulgaria mixes up her luggage and finds herself in possession of the ashes of a dead man and tries to return them to his family -- but instead the book shifts to tell the story of the man and the suffering he endured in a Soviet-era "re-education" camp in the 1950s. It also became quite a travelogue of Bulgaria as the main character races around the country in her search for the man's family. Not what I signed up for, and IMO emotionally difficult subject matter to read, but overall a solid book.

Delicious! is Reichl's first foray into fiction, and I found it completely enjoyable. Her main character has a "perfect palate" akin to a musical perfect pitch, and the descriptions of the NYC food scene are wonderful. I figured out one twist to the story almost immediately, but other than that potentially weak point it was a really fun book.

Troublemaker is an autobiography that Remini wrote (with help) when she left Scientology. I am addicted to her TV show, and if you've seen it then the book doesn't offer much more than what she's already covered there. Recommended only if you're super-interested in the subject matter.

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socks

I'm enjoying a book from 2004: Shadow Divers by Robt. Kurson, which is about divers discovering a German U-boat off the East Coast of U.S. Very interesting.

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msmeow

LOL, Vee, my hubby has the same hearing problem. :) He does have some reduction in hearing in one ear from a childhood accident, and I always say that it's whichever ear is closer to me.

I started Serpent's Tooth by Faye Kellerman yesterday. It opens with a mass shooting in a fancy restaurant in LA.

Donna

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yoyobon_gw

Sheri.....I really liked Delicious ! also and decided to read her other books.

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msgt800

Just reading by " Sweet Tooth" by Ian McEwan an English author I like very much. He reminds me a bit of Graham Greene that I used to read in my teens. Both of them can conjure beautiful stories and plots with a vivid psychcology trait of the main characters. Even if this one is supposed to be an espionage novel, the main thread is the description of the main actors that get life to the story


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friedag

Merryworld, I read your post quickly and noted your mention of Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World -- And Why Things Are Better Than You Think. You provided a link to info about the author Hans Rosling's TED Talks.

You also mentioned two other books that unfortunately I did not follow up before your post disappeared, like Carolyn's and Annpan's above, down that mysterious rabbit hole. I can only hope that it will resurface in a day or so! It was all very interesting.

The only reason I can think of for why so many posts might be flitting around is editing. Did you happen to edit yours? At any rate, I'll check back for the next couple of days to see if your post does eventually show up again between one by Yoyobon and one by Sheri, dated on Wednesday.

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kathy_t

Today I finished The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright. When I started it, I though "chick lit" and doubted that I'd stick with it. But it grew on me and I ended up enjoying it. The protagonist is a middle-aged single woman who, following her mother's death, decides to fulfill her mother's request to take her ashes on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. She flies to London and joins a group of eight women who are walking to Canterbury led by a classics professor with the Broads Abroad program. The book describes their journey.

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annpanagain

I do sometimes edit a post so that could cause a delay.

Re the sleeping sickness, I asked around and was told it was referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This summed it up perfectly.

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carolyn_ky

I have just finished Into the Blue by Robert Goddard and really, really liked it. I have read a few of his books; this one was written in 1990. The main character is hiding from his past by house-sitting for a friend on Rhodes where he has befriended a young female house guest who disappears. It's a fat book with lots of detail about his search to find her, including his return to England and a few murders. I gave it four stars on Goodread.

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friedag

Annpan, I've heard of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I never made the connection between it and sleeping sickness. Fatigue seems to be a multipurpose symptom, and its cause could come from just about any disease humans suffer. I suppose that's why medicine is sometimes described as 'not entirely science'.

Some posters on other forums say that it is a common Houzz 'bug' that editing causes posts to vanish -- sometimes for a few hours or days and sometimes they are gone for ever. Many times the original posters can still see their posts with the edits they've made, but no one else does. It probably confuses them when no one responds and are possibly ignoring them. I wonder: how many times does that happen?

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merryworld

Freidag, I edited my post shortly after I posted because I forgot to bold the titles. Here it is again and I will delete the original:

I finished Factfulnsess: 10 Reasons We're Wrong About the World and Why Things are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling. This was a book club pick and I found it very interesting. The basic premise is that our view of the world is static and too heavily influenced by our penchant for the dramatic and our need to simplify and generalize, and that when you actually look at data, it presents a very different view of how the world really is. The book is thought provoking, informative and entertaining, written in a simple, straightforward style. Hans Rosling has given a number of good Ted Talks and you can get a taste of this book through those if you are interested. I was sad to learn the author has since passed away, though this is a recent book. I also think his message is important in trying to navigate our current drama and misinformation loaded world. I read this on the kindle which I don't recommend as there are graphs and charts which I could not see clearly on my old kindle. Hans Rosling Ted Talks


I've started reading another book for work, Early Coins of America written by Sylvester Crosby in 1875. The writing is certainly less simple and straightforward than the above book, but it is no less interesting and basically tells the history of the American colonies through coins. It's also one of those nice, big old books with heavy yellowed paper, so an altogether different reading experience from Factfulness.


On my nightstand is A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena di Blasi. It's a memoir of her time living in Tuscany with her Venetian husband, much like Under the Tuscan Sun or A Year in Provence without the house renovation (yet) and not as many entertaining characters, though there are recipes. It's a good winter bedtime book.

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friedag

Merryworld, thank you so much! It's good to read your entire post again. I've already ordered Factfulness by Rosling because of what you wrote:

I also think his message is important in trying to navigate our current drama and misinformation loaded world.

You make a point that has provoked my mind a lot these days.


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astrokath

Frieda, I also loved Eleanor. I listened to it, and the narrator was Scottish, which added to my enjoyment. At the end there was an interview with the author, who said she got the idea from the book after reading about the epidemic of loneliness, which is not restricted to older people at all. The main characters are all well drawn, there is a lot of humour, but it was also very thought-provoking. I particularly liked the ending, which wasn't contrived in any way.

I have just finished The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which didn't draw me in as much as I expected. I found the characters a bit flat and the story not as well constructed as I would have liked. I should say that I know very little about classics and didn't have any set ideas about it, not even knowing the basic story.

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yoyobon_gw

Merry.....I really enjoyed all of Marlena di Blasi's books about her life. I believe there are four? or maybe five in the series which needed to be read in order.


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merryworld

Freidag, you're welcome! I hope you find it useful and entertaining.

Yoyo, oh no! This is the first one I'm reading. She refers a lot to her time in Venice, I should probably have read that one first, but I got this at a book sale without knowing. Oh well, I love pretty much any book about Italy and food. I assume her two Thousand Days books are the first two, in what order should the others be read? I see there is one about a summer in Sicily and two on Umbria and then a novel and a few others.

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carolyn_ky

Merry, I use Google a lot to get books listed in the order in which they were written. Google knows everything, you know.

Today I'm reading The Flesh Tailor by Kate Ellis, one of her Wesley Patterson, detective and archaeology major, series. I do love British mysteries. This one is a bit gruesome involving digging up skeletons on a farm from the 15th century as well as one from the WWII era.

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Rosefolly

"Google knows everything, you know." -- Hahaha!

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yoyobon_gw

Rose....then we fill in the gaps !

Carolyn....your book title sounds like a bio of Hannibal Lector ( sp ?)

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msmeow

Kath, I didn't care for Song of Achilles, either. I didn't really like either of the main characters, so I didn't care what happened to them. :)

Donna

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vee_new

Last summer I visited a travelling exhibition on the work of the Great Bardfield school of artists who had lived and painted in the then remote Essex village during the 1930's to '50's.

On the strength of this I have just read Three Cheers for Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood, wife of the artist Eric Ravilious. She came from a conventional family and met her husband at the Royal School of Art where, despite realising he was 'not quite a gentleman' married and settled down in London and in Essex where they shared homes with a 'community' of water-colourists, decorators, engravers etc.

The books is written in a very easy almost school-girlish style, with much gossip about friends and family, so rather difficult at times to follow who is whom. In the manner of the leftwing 'arty types' of the period there was much bed-hopping, dallying with communism, trysts in cornfields etc!

Eric Ravilious was killed when serving as an official War Artist when his plane disappeared over Iceland in 1942 leaving Tirzah to bring up three small children on little more than fresh air. She died in 1951 after a long illness and her daughter has put together her writings and art work.



Great Bardfield Artists


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woodnymph2_gw

I had never heard of this artist, but it looks, from her paintings, that she had an enormous amount of talent. The set up you describe reminds me of the Clive Bell group, along with Vanessa, et al. There was a formidable film about that "commune" a few years back.

I finished a thorough re-reading of David Starkey's "Elizabeth." In terms of detail, he leaves no stone unturned, although he ends his biography at the pinnacle of the Queen's popularity and success. In some ways, her reign seems almost miraculous, given her background and visissitudes in coming to power.

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yoyobon_gw

The Canterbury Sisters ...enjoying it very much so far.

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carolyn_ky

The Poet by Michael Connelly. It isn't a Bosch book but for some reason was in my list as the next to read and is quite good. A reporter brother is looking for a serial killer who killed his twin policeman brother and others, leaving brief quotes from Edgar Allan Poe's poems as supposed suicide notes.

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skibby (zone 4 Vermont)

Rosefolly, I'm sorry that Birds in Fall affected you in that manner. I was the poster who praised it so much. My sympathies for all the unhappiness you're experiencing and I hope you find a more suitable read for you right now.

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annpanagain

Rosefolly, I am in the same place as you. The only survivor of both the families I grew up with and married into. I am as an old tortoise might feel sometimes when I recall people and times and realise they must have gone by now!

It could be depressing if I think about this too much. Thankfully I have i'net friends and my "young" family to chat to but no one who can recall the old days any more.

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Rosefolly

It is good to have friends of a variety of ages, and I am grateful that this is the case with me. I'm not going around in a state of perpetual mourning, but do find it important to focus more on the happy than the sad.

Skibby, please don't worry. Not every book works for every reader.

Ann, you have shared many of your stories of your younger days here, and I suspect others have enjoyed them as much as I have.

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annpanagain

Rosefolly, thank you for that.

I think I have had a varied time, partly because I married an interesting man!

I sometimes wonder what other paths I would have taken by making different choices, like not going to Australia or perhaps marrying a man I met on the ship.

He was a divorced man with two sons around 10 and 12 and at 22 I wasn't that keen on the idea of a ready-made family! Especially as I only met him once! He was so upfront about re-marrying for the boys sake that I was instantly scared off!

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vee_new

Woodnymph/ Mary Yes the artists at Great Bardfield had much in common with the Bloomsbury Group of writers Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, E M Forster etc with their idea of overthrowing Victorian 'moral values' and doing their own 'thing' although I think the BG's would have considered themselves far superior, higher class and better-off. It doesn't seem that any of them really had to earn their own living . . . and when not writing just sat about b*itching about each other and/or changing partners of whatever sex.

A Dorothy Parker quoted "They lived in squares and loved in triangles"

A picture below of their country house, Charleston, deep in the Sussex countryside.



Charleston country home of the Bloomsbury Group

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kathy_t

Yoyobon - As soon as I read that you are liking The Canterbury Sisters, I thought, "Why yes, it is the kind of book that would appeal to Yoyobon." The photo of you and your friends on bicycles with helmets and tattoo sleeves came to mind.

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yoyobon_gw

Kathy.....yes, and I am enjoying getting to know this group of diverse women in the story . A strange assortment for sure, yet it seems all women are a kind of sisterhood .

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msmeow

I finished Serpent's Tooth by Faye Kellerman last night. As usual, Pete Decker and his team solved the case. :)

Now I've started The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand. I've only read two chapters but like it so far. A "floater" is found in the ocean off Nantucket - she is the maid of honor at a wedding scheduled to take place at the house where she drowned.

Donna

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sheri_z6

I just finished Kate Atkinson's Transcription. It follows Juliet, a rather flat main character as she's recruited by M15 during the early days of WWII and falls into several unpleasant adventures thereafter. Quite frankly, I didn't enjoy it much. And though I found the historical bits somewhat interesting, the characters were flat and somewhat interchangable and I had no idea what drove any of them. To make matters worse, in the end I was not quite sure what exactly happened or why. The spies, double-agents (and potentially triple-agents, I guess) simply left me confused. I have liked her other books, so this was a disappointment.

Here's hoping the next book I pick up is better than the last three I've slogged through.

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yoyobon_gw

Sheri....have you read Eleanor Oliphant ...? It's a different kind of story which I found very engaging.

Also , I really liked Golden Hill. Did you say you'd read The Golem And The Jini ?

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vee_new

Sheri, I rather felt the same with Transcription and thought Juliet was a character in some sort of limbo. She just existed 'at work' and there was little background beyond this strange sub-spying world she inhabited and there was no follow-up to/with her strange boss . . . who, after the War pretended not to know her.

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sheri_z6

Yoyo, I loved Eleanor Oliphant and The Golem and the Jinni. Both were excellent. I have not read Golden Hill, but I will add it to the TBR list.

Vee, I'm delighted I'm not the only one who felt that way. I really couldn't figure out the whole spy game thing, and so many threads were left hanging.

I have two library books waiting and I'm hoping for good things: Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon (recommended by Reader In Transit) and The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped In an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas, a book one of my friends picked up when her library did a "blind date with a book" promotion. She hasn't told me if she liked it yet, but just based on the title I knew I would have to at least give it a try.

Fingers crossed!

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merryworld

Sheri_z6, so sorry to hear Transcription is not up to Kate Atkinson's usual standard, but thanks for reviewing it. I look forward to hearing about the very intriguing titles you're picking up at the library.

My book club picked Dreamland: the True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones for our next read. We seem to be on a non-fiction kick, but I don't expect this book to be hopeful like the last one. Still, it gets excellent reviews, and I'm interested to learn more about this issue.


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carolyn_ky

Vee, the Bloomsbury Group's house is lovely. Thanks for sharing.

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vee_new

You're welcome Carolyn. Having see photos of the 'inside' of the property when the place was lived in by those literary/arty types I think they must have had a host of servants to wait on them, cook and clear up the mess. They seemed to think nothing of daubing the walls with murals leaving trails of paint on the floor and generally behaving like spoilt, over-indulged children.

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Rosefolly

Merryworld, I just checked Factfulness out from the library. I probably won't give it a book club level read, but I am intrigued. Thanks for mentioning it.

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sheri_z6

I'm half-way through Finding Camlann and enjoying it. Thank you Reader In Transit!

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reader_in_transit

Sheri,

You read fast! Good to hear you are enjoying it. When you finish it, let me know what you think.

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carolyn_ky

I read Suspicious Minds yesterday, second of the Harry Devlin series, by Martin Edwards yesterday. I really enjoyed his Lake District books, written later than this set. Harry is a solicitor and has a difficult client being questioned about his missing wife.

Picked up Headlong, the latest Bill Slider, at the library this afternoon and am looking forward to starting it later tonight.

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vee_new

Running for the Hills by Horatio Clare is the story of his growing up with writer/journalist parents and a younger brother on a broken down hill farm high in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, bought by his Mother on a whim as none of them know anything about rearing sheep, Clare recounts the difficulties of no running water or electricity in a vermin-infested ramshackle building with a leaking roof and damp-sodden walls.

The parents 'play' at farming for a few years, travelling from London at w/ends and holidays and leaving the 'real' work to a farm labourer. But the strain of this breaks up the marriage and the boys are left in Wales with their Mother who does her best to cope.

Lots of descriptions of the blood and guts of lambing, infestations of maggots, crows pecking out the eyes of new born lambs etc. No wonder Horace seems a mass of twitching nerves who cannot rest if he doesn't know where his Mother is and tries when only seven years old to be the 'man of the house'.

His is good on 'nature' and has written many books on natural life but this book has rather too much of his parents political 'Guardianista' views without seemingly realising they are living the life so despised by trendy intellectuals . .. ie outbidding local farmers to acquire the farm then requiring the considerable help of the same 'locals' to keep them going, all the while slightly mocking their neighbours for their lack of education. Despite this attitude the boys are sent to the village school and provided with free meals. Their educational progress is found to be two years behind fashionable London schools, at which point they are packed off to expensive boarding school; so the so-called poverty seems rather questionable.

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yoyobon_gw

Finished The Canterbury Sisters and really enjoyed it ...however I did not care for the way she ended it . A bit cliche' .

After reading two books about "deep" thoughts of the characters I needed a comfy book and chose A Rule Against Murder ( 4th Three Pines novel). The moment I began I was immediately into the story and felt like I had come home again. I really love the way Louise Penny writes .

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kathy_t

Yoyobon - I agree with you about the ending of The Canterbury Sisters. And speaking of endings, A Rule Against Murder has a rather far-fetched one in my opinion - but the book is indeed a pleasant outing with the Gamaches.

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donnamira

Whoever mentioned David Reich's book on ancient DNA, Who We Are and How We Got Here, thank you! I just finished it, and found it quite interesting, and full of lovely maps and figures! I get so tired of wordy science books written by journalists who can't seem to conceive how useful figures are. I have to admit that I couldn't always follow Reich's statistics-based logic (statistics were never my strong point), but this is a fascinating blend of history, archaeology & anthropology. A good companion to some other books I've read in the last few months, one about the development of language and another on European mythology.

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msmeow

Bon, is A Rule Against Murder the one where the Gamaches are on holiday at the hotel in the country? That was my most recent Louise Penny read.

Donna

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yoyobon_gw

Yes, that's the one.

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sheri_z6

Reader In Transit, I finished Finding Camlann and really enjoyed it. I have always been fascinated by Arthur and Stonehenge and archaeology (although I have made only a superficial study of all three subjects) so the book had all the right ingredients to make it work for me. I enjoyed the way the author explained the history of the various legends, as well as the Welsh connection to Owain Glyn Dwr, a historical figure I had never heard of before. I was tripped up several times by Welsh names, but I at least had a nodding acquaintance with the geography and some of the history so I was able to immerse myself in the story. Thanks again for the recommendation.

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carolyn_ky

Well, I am at my wit's end. Life as we know it has ended, or at least it has met a major bump. My pettest pet peeve with our local paper's House of the Week presentation on Saturdays of consistently spelling mantel as mantle has turned up in the erudite and beloved Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' new Slider book, Headlong. What to do? What to do?

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annpanagain

Poor Carolyn! I feel that way when otherwise literate authors use words incorrectly, like prevaricate when they mean procrastinate.

I usually yell!


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skibby (zone 4 Vermont)

I have some to add before we turn the page of the calendar. Juliet in August by Dianne Warren. I liked this very much. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. This is a book club selection and I purposely didn't look at anything about it beforehand. I did accidentally see a pop-up somewhere that said "Blockbuster hit!" which made my heart sink just a little. :) This had me turning pages very quickly though and it was only when I was half-way through did I look at the book jacket to discover that the orphanage operation was based in fact. DH remembered reading about the scandal but it was news to me. I had to put it down by 2:30 a.m. since my concentration was failing but I finished up promptly with my morning coffee. Really liked this book and look forward to the discussion at March's meeting.

My visit to the library this week: Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. I'm looking forward to this since there were many here who spoke about it favorably. Also, Endurance: Shackelton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. I've started this one and so far, so great. I need to be in the mood to savor the details and look up places and terms that I don't know. The photos are excellent. There is one shot of the Captain's quarters that shows full bookcases. I'm so curious what's in there... Lastly, thinking I might need a break from all this catastrophe I picked up On the Same Page by N.D. Galland. I know nothing about this except that it takes place at Martha's Vineyard.

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reader_in_transit

Sheri,

I'm glad you enjoyed Finding Camlann. From the historic point of view, I found the book very interesting. Compared to that, IMO, the personal story of the characters was weaker, though I loved all the drives Donald takes on the backroads.

I wish the author had written an "Author's note", explaining a little about the history with which the novel deals. As you, I had never heard of Owain Glyn Dwr.

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