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Old 11-30-2011, 03:19 PM
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Whatcha Readin' December 2011 Edition


First, the important stuff: Tomorrow I turn 50.

Send cards!

I am in the middle of The Dead Path. Well, actually, really near the beginning. I have not had time to form an opinion yet.

Life has gotten busy and I have not been reading much lately. But maybe over the Holidays it will slow down again.

Last month's thread.
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Old 11-30-2011, 05:22 PM
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First, the important stuff: Tomorrow I turn 50.
Glad to have you in the secret club of over-50's!
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Old 11-30-2011, 07:11 PM
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Welcome to the 50s! You'll find they're not so bad. Except for all those pesky body parts falling off. But you won't be needing those anymore anyway.

Just started The Firm, by John Grisham. He's really very good. I'm rapidly becoming a fan.
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Old 11-30-2011, 08:45 PM
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Earth Abides by George R. Stewart.
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Old 11-30-2011, 09:00 PM
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I'll try this again. Earth Abides by George Stewart. Not very far in but I love apocalyptic fiction and even though this is an oldie (1949) it's holding my interest nicely. I couldn't get into The Dead Path at all, and so gave up and took it back to the library. Just finished The Walking Dead graphic book - pretty different from the series. Also reading The Nine by Jeff Toobin and although I like it I keep putting it down to read other things. Also just finished Into the Wild, which I picked up to read again after having listened to the audiobook last year on vacation and thought must have been abridged, but it was just SHORT. I like Jon Krakauer and can recommend anything he writes without hesitation. (Also read Into Thin Air about the fateful Everest expedition and Under the Banner of Heaven about the FLDS. Both were good)
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Old 11-30-2011, 09:05 PM
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I just found a collection of all ten of the Amber novels by Roger Zelazny.

Nice thick book. Should keep me going for a while.
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Old 11-30-2011, 09:09 PM
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Heh, I read the Great Book of Amber back in October. My public library had all but the last one so I went several years never knowing how it all ended.

I just finished rereading Pinker's The Language Instinct. I cannot get enough of that sort of book. But right now I'm working my way through The Great Gatsby. Next on the list is Flowers for Algernon and then we'll see. (I don't really have any demands on my time once I get home from work now that I'm no longer a college student and I've decided I'm going to read some of those classics that I avoided in school.)

Last edited by Inner Stickler; 11-30-2011 at 09:10 PM.
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Old 12-01-2011, 03:30 AM
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Racing through Tim Dorsey's 'Florida Roadkill' next up is either Will Self's 'The Book of Dave' or Irvine Welsh's 'Crime'. 11.22.63 is on my library reserve list too so it may raise it's head during December too.
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Old 12-01-2011, 03:48 AM
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Just finished 1Q84 - Book 1 and 2 and am now reading 1Q84 Book 3 by Haruki Murakami and I have to say that I'm enjoying them tremendously. Next up will be Reamde by Neal Stephenson
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:24 AM
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I just finished reading Jules Verne's The Danube Pilot and am now flying through Q.R. Markham's plagiarized spy thriller Assassin of Secrets, after which my wife and daughter insist I read The Hunger Games.

On audio, I've been listening to the unabridged The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain, The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, a report on the first World war by H.G. Wells, and The Hand of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer, with Verne's Michael Strogoff next in the queue. I picked up a stack of unabridged "classics" in library bindings recently. The 20K Leagues is, unfortunately, the Mercier Lewis translation, which is butchered and abridged, but is in the public domain. I can hear every mistake in it. But I'm glad to have Verne on audio. I haven't read the Burroughs book since I started college, and this reminds me why. Burroughs had a fabulous imagination for situations and concepts, but his strories are repetitive and rote, and his characters would generally need more depth to be even two-dimensional. The Rohmer book is a fascinating piece of romantic racist adventure. I'd never veven heard of the Wells book before. The Mysterious Stranger is the Paine version, of course, which is public domain. Again, I'm happy to have audio versions of these classics, but the reading they give of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog (the book is an anthology of Twain) manages to use all of Twain's colloquial words and phrases, yet sucks all the life out of them.
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:31 AM
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Happy birthday, Khadaji!

This is the time of year I tend to go through a lot of new kidlit and YA titles, as I like to have read as many of them as possible before the Newbery and other awards are announced in January.

I liked A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, it wasn't as intense as the Chaos Walking series, but nice to have a recent work by an author I love.

Between Shades of Gray is a YA title about an exiled Lithuanian family during the Soviet occupation during WWII. It reminded me a lot of The Endless Steppe. It was okay, and interesting because not a lot of fiction (relatively speaking) covers this aspect of WWII.

Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb was fine, but I don't think an award-contender.

I am now taking a little break from books for kids with a collection of Connie Willis short stories, Impossible Things. So far, I am realizing I either love or hate Connie Willis stories.
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:33 AM
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The Rohmer book is a fascinating piece of romantic racist adventure.
Gosh, they are SO awful and I ADORE them. I found (most of) the series in a box of dusty old paperbacks at my grandmother's house when I was a kid, and read them over and over. Let's hope they didn't have too much of an impact on my moral compass.
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:43 AM
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Reading Murder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing by Kate Colquhoun, recommended in the November thread.
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:45 AM
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I am now taking a little break from books for kids with a collection of Connie Willis short stories, Impossible Things. So far, I am realizing I either love or hate Connie Willis stories.
Yeah, mostly I love her, but some of her short stories are seriously WTF? I just bought an electronic copy of the December Asimov's magazine, because Willis has a new Christmas story in it.

My copy of Diana Gabaldon's new book is on its way to me: The Scottish Prisoner. The Lord John books aren't as good as the Outlander series, but this one is Lord John Grey/Jamie Fraser. The slash may be appropriate.
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Old 12-01-2011, 11:05 AM
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Finished The Procedure by Harry Mulisch (compulsively readable but the narrator was unlikable and the ending was odd) and barely started Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje.

Most everything I've read in the last few months has been from the library sale -- older stuff that nobody's talking about anymore (if they ever talked about it at all). With newer books, you can usually find a discussion somewhere, even if it's just Amazon.
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Old 12-01-2011, 03:08 PM
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Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet gets a lot of praise around here, doesn't it? I'm 100 pages in and I'm not really feeling it. I don't hate it. The humor is similar to that of Christopher Moore's Lamb (the only book of his I've read), which I did not like. Good Omens at least has a somewhat amusing plot, so I'll finish it unless things really start going downhill.
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Old 12-05-2011, 11:27 AM
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Yeah, mostly I love her, but some of her short stories are seriously WTF? I just bought an electronic copy of the December Asimov's magazine, because Willis has a new Christmas story in it.
After finishing that book of short stories, I've decided I will pass on her when she is trying to be funny - her sense of humor doesn't resonate with me at all. (To Say Nothing of the Dog must be an exception, because I do like that). I loved the story about Shakespeare, that was a high point.

Another quick kidlit read - Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, a book told in poems from the POV of a 10 year old Vietnamese girl who fled to the US after the fall of Saigon. I was not expecting to like this as much as I did, because it seems like a book that is supposed to teach kids something, but it ended up being very sweet and compelling.

I'm about 1/3 the way though Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose, non-fiction that focuses on the diary as a deliberate literary effort.
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Old 12-05-2011, 01:17 PM
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Finished The Hideout by Kathleen George; now on The Burning Soul by John Connolly.
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Old 12-07-2011, 09:09 AM
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I’m almost halfway through Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake. It’s a YA novel about a boy who hunts and “kills” ghosts. Five-star title, three-star tale so far.
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Old 12-07-2011, 10:00 AM
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I re-read The Big Short by Michael Lewis over the weekend. It's a look at the sub-prime backed mortgage bond mess through the eyes of about 12 bankers at 3-4 hedge funds that saw the collapse coming years in advance.

Fools Gold, which looks at the same topic from the other side (or so I understand) is up next, but right now I'm on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
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Old 12-07-2011, 10:35 AM
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Finished both 1Q84 and Reamde over the Thanksgiving Holiday, and now I'm burning through A short History of Nearly everything, with The Swerve up next.

Also the third in the Strain Trilogy and The Prague Cemetery on deck.
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Old 12-07-2011, 11:18 AM
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Didn't start Anil's Ghost as planned -- the negative reviews at Amazon put me off, at least for awhile.

Recently finished The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I like the concept and I like Thursday Next so I'll read more of these. I picked up five of them at the library sale.

Started The Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell -- my first Cornwell.
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Old 12-07-2011, 11:20 AM
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I think I shall be reading Reamde for the next three of these threads.
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Old 12-07-2011, 12:38 PM
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I think I shall be reading Reamde for the next three of these threads.
Yeah, it's pretty chunky.

It does have a much better ending that most of his previous novels, though, so you've got that going for you. Which is nice.
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Old 12-07-2011, 12:57 PM
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Finished...1Q84...
And?! I have read a bunch of reviews but no "first-hand" impressions. Wha'dja think?
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Old 12-07-2011, 01:21 PM
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First off, thanks to Delphica and Snickers for their recommendation of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - and may I add, this novel is AMAZING as an audiobook; I can't imagine it having the same impact just reading it on the printed page. (Tho I am curious how the "noise" was depicted in book form & on reading other reviews - I didn't have to decipher the written dialect).
Nick Podehl was the narrator and his performance was superb! I couldn't help but see Manchee as Dug from the Disney/Pixar film Up and his portrayal of Aaron was truly frightening.
It's certainly not a happy book; and the neverending peril was a bit wearing; still, I have The Ask and the Answer audiobook on hold & am eagerly awaiting it.
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Old 12-07-2011, 01:34 PM
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Read Reamde, then went on to Ready Player One.

Both were very good, I especially liked Ready Player one.

Reading Stephen King's 11/22/63 now.

Oh yea, forgot one. On the drive to Thanksgiving the family listened to The Emerald Atlas audiobook. Also very good.

Last edited by Keweenaw; 12-07-2011 at 01:38 PM. Reason: added a book
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Old 12-07-2011, 01:37 PM
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[ Wanted to make sure I hadn't already posted about this one]


Another case where the audiobook experience may be better than the hardcopy (writer's quirk: no quotation marks for dialog) : The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston. It's not normally the type of book I'd read - a crime novel with an unlikable protagonist & LOTS of profanity! But Paul Michael Garcia, the narrator, really brought the characters to life - Po Sin was my personal favorite. I had an inkling of what caused Web's issues (tho he was probably a dick before that) pretty early on; but the reveal was still pretty powerful. There's violence & gore & things just keep getting worse for Web - but Huston has some interesting things to say about human relationships along the way.
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Old 12-07-2011, 02:20 PM
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I'm reading After Dark by Haruki Murakami. First book I've read by him and it's really good! I'm already on the waiting list at the library for several more of his books.

I just finished The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and I'm glad to be done with it. It was basically nothing but weird symbolism that I didn't get the point of.

Before that was Super Sad True Love Story, a dystopian book that I liked a lot.

And before that was Gone by Michael Grant, which is a young adult dystopian/sci-fi deal where everyone over the age of 14 disappears in this town. It was good and it's a series so I'll be reading the rest of it soon, plus I recommended it to my 11-year-old. I think anyone who likes the Hunger Games would like it.

Finally there was The Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley. Lots of symbolism there too (I don't like books that you have to sit around all day analyzing them to get the point, I'm just not that deep I guess) but the story itself was also very interesting, so I was impressed.
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Old 12-07-2011, 02:20 PM
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Another case where the audiobook experience may be better than the hardcopy (writer's quirk: no quotation marks for dialog) : The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston. It's not normally the type of book I'd read - a crime novel with an unlikable protagonist & LOTS of profanity! But Paul Michael Garcia, the narrator, really brought the characters to life - Po Sin was my personal favorite. I had an inkling of what caused Web's issues (tho he was probably a dick before that) pretty early on; but the reveal was still pretty powerful. There's violence & gore & things just keep getting worse for Web - but Huston has some interesting things to say about human relationships along the way.
I really like Huston. His stuff is way more violent than I usually prefer, but the dialogue is so wonderful - even without standard formatting. In his newest novel, Sleepless, he actually uses normal dialogue formatting for the first time.

Mystic Arts is the most lighthearted and least violent of his books that I've read. HBO shot a pilot for a show based on the book, but they chose not to proceed with it.

Last edited by Eleanor of Aquitaine; 12-07-2011 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:16 PM
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And?! I have read a bunch of reviews but no "first-hand" impressions. Wha'dja think?
It wasn't my favorite.(That will always be "Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World") That being said, it was a great story that could have used just a little bit of judicial editing. What's weird is that it could also have used some additional exposition in a few areas.

I don't want to spoil anything, but the exquisite detail that marks much of Murakami's work was, well, misplaced, is the only way I can describe it.

I think the combination of three volumes into one book was the overriding problem. if an editor had looked at this as one volume, much of the repetitiveness would have been left out.

Again, Murakami not on his "A" game is better than 90% of the books out there.

Last edited by yanceylebeef; 12-07-2011 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:18 PM
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It wasn't my favorite.(That will always be "Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World") That being said, it was a great story that could have used just a little bit of judicial editing. What's weird is that it could also have used some additional exposition in a few areas.

I don't want to spoil anything, but the exquisite detail that marks much of Murakami's work was, well, misplaced, is the only way I can describe it.

I think the combination of three volumes into one book was the overriding problem. if an editor had looked at this as one volume, much of the repetitiveness would have been left out.

Again, Murakami not on his "A" game is better than 90% of the books out there.
Thanks - since my fave is Hard-Boiled Wonderland, too, it helps put things in perspective. I hope to start it in a week or two...
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:27 PM
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Before that was Super Sad True Love Story, a dystopian book that I liked a lot.
I just finished this too. As the epilogue says, Eunice's parts were better than Lenny's endless navel gazing. It wouldn't work without both, though. In the beginning, it seemed in danger of getting annoying, but I think the alternating narrators saved it.
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:32 PM
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First off, thanks to Delphica and Snickers for their recommendation of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - and may I add, this novel is AMAZING as an audiobook; I can't imagine it having the same impact just reading it on the printed page. (Tho I am curious how the "noise" was depicted in book form & on reading other reviews - I didn't have to decipher the written dialect).
I'm glad you enjoyed it! The series has become one of my favorites.

In the book, the noise was depicted in a way that reminded me of graphic novels, different fonts, sizes, and weird spacing that made it feel separate (and intrusive) from the story. It worked well enough, I definitely got a good sense of it.
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Old 12-07-2011, 05:43 PM
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Still puttering my way through Nero Wolfe--currently in The Golden Spiders. My more serious reading seems to have fallen off a cliff, as I haven't opened Decline and Fall or Tristram in weeks. Oops.

On deck, we've got a pulp novel that I discovered thanks to perhaps the worst marketing strategy ever: an iPhone application that tries to sell you out-of-copyright books. In effect, it just gave me a list to take over to Amazon, where I can download such books to my kindle for free. Oops! The book in question is King of the Khyber Rifles, by Talbot Mundy. Here's hoping for good fun. Also on deck is a bit of an impulse buy from the comic book store, Blacksad. Hardboiled furries, what fun!
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Old 12-07-2011, 06:52 PM
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I just finished this too. As the epilogue says, Eunice's parts were better than Lenny's endless navel gazing. It wouldn't work without both, though. In the beginning, it seemed in danger of getting annoying, but I think the alternating narrators saved it.
Yeah, I liked Eunice's parts better too. Of course, her parts being way shorter than his gave them a lot less opportunity to drone on and on. I liked it, and I would recommend it, but I wasn't sad when it ended.

And Joshie was such an ass!
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Old 12-07-2011, 08:01 PM
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Writing down lots of recommendations here, thanks!

Almost finished re-reading Dorothy Sayers' Wimsey/Vane series, which I always enjoy. A little English detective/romance never lets me down in cold, stormy weather. Next cold, stormy weekend, I'll dip into Snuff finally. I've been saving it.

Weekend before last, I wrapped up a re-read of Connie Willis' Blackout and All Clear. I had forgotten a lot of detail, so it sucked me right back in. There are some of her short stories I don't like, either, but To Say Nothing of the Dog and Bellwether are some of my go-to feel good books. I downloaded Miracle and Other Christmas Stories as a holiday treat, though I've read some of them in other collections.

I continue to listen to the Harry Potter audio books while working out, as it keeps me distracted. I'm getting toward the end of book 7, so I'll have to think of something else until I can restart the loop! I simply adore the narrator (Jim Dale), and I don't even read the books anymore.

Looking forward to PD James' (can you believe she's 91?) new Austen "sequel", Death Comes to Pemberley.

On the Christmas list are Reamde and The Mind's Eye (Oliver Sacks). I haven't read one of his for a while, but I remember enjoying them. Also asked for the Catherine the Great bio by Massie. I usually read and re-read favorite novels, so I'm trying to expand my horizons a bit.
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Old 12-07-2011, 08:16 PM
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Finished John Grisham's The Firm. Quite good. A couple of plot holes, but the story is so enjoyable that it's easy to gloss over them.

Next up: Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth.
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Old 12-08-2011, 12:31 PM
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I bought a bunch of Murakami books a few years ago, based on recommendations. I eventually read Wild Sheep Chase, which was just awful. Now I'll probably never read the others I own.
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Old 12-08-2011, 01:38 PM
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Just finished Dune (made a topic about it too!). I'm trying to decide whether or not to move on to the next Dune book or pick up a few books I've wanted to read for a while.
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Old 12-08-2011, 02:59 PM
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Just finished Dune (made a topic about it too!). I'm trying to decide whether or not to move on to the next Dune book or pick up a few books I've wanted to read for a while.
I thought Dune was great - I found the rest unreadable.
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Old 12-08-2011, 05:28 PM
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Just finished Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, which I found very enjoyable.

And now, for something completey different, I'm reading Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which I am enjoying, although I've only got as far as Solomon building the temple.

After that, I plan on reading The Secret Scripture, after hearing Sebastian Barry reading excerpts on the radio today ( BBC Radio 4's Book Club, which I caught while driving to a house call).
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Old 12-08-2011, 07:03 PM
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Just finished Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, which I found very enjoyable.
Bradbury's the greatest. I grew up reading his books, and I credit him for stoking my sense of wonder at just the right time in my development as a reader and as a human being.
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Old 12-08-2011, 07:55 PM
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I'm also reading "IQ84". Almost done. Murakami is amazing as always but...yeah, the repetitiveness. As mentioned above, I believe its a result of putting all three volumes into one book. As much as I'm enjoying this, as I enjoy all his books, my favorite is still "Kafka on the Shore". I haven't read "Hard Boiled Wonderland and the end of the World". I only have about four or five I haven't read yet, so I'm holding back a bit.
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Old 12-09-2011, 12:52 AM
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I think I should give Hard Boiled a try. So many people have liked it.
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Old 12-09-2011, 03:03 AM
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Re: Murakami, do all his books end with no real resolution? I just finished After Dark, and it was good, but I like a clear, stated resolution to stories! Especially when all kinds of strange stuff is going on.
  #47  
Old 12-09-2011, 06:44 AM
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Kathryn Stockett's The Help. I'm at the part where Aibileen realises Miss Hilly knows Skeeter is writing something critical about segregation and she fears for her life. I like this book. At times funny, mostly heartbreaking. I don't think it's going to end well for the maids, right? Don't tell me, don't tell me!

If anything it has made me want to read more on the American civil rights movement which was never covered in school (I'm Malaysian). The President himself had to order the Ole Miss college to allow a black student in? Damn!
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Old 12-09-2011, 10:26 AM
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I'm dumping (for now anyway) The Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell. It's kinda clunky, and Cornwell did something that bugged me. I'm well into the story. Cornwell has fully described Sandman, the main character, what he looks like, his history, personality, etc. Then Sandman encounters someone who pisses him off, and Cornwell adds that Sandman has a short fuse, just before he beats up the guy. It was like "Oh, I forgot to tell you he has a temper. Let's get that out of the way or you'll wonder why he clocks this guy."

So I picked up the next Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book, and also The Trial: From Socrates to O.J.. Found it after googling the history of animals being considered criminals (which happened in The Pilgrim, where a guy was hanged for buggering a sheep and the sheep was hanged too). It's fascinating, so far.
  #49  
Old 12-09-2011, 11:04 AM
Eleanor of Aquitaine is offline
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Originally Posted by AuntiePam View Post
So I picked up the next Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book, and also The Trial: From Socrates to O.J.. Found it after googling the history of animals being considered criminals (which happened in The Pilgrim, where a guy was hanged for buggering a sheep and the sheep was hanged too). It's fascinating, so far.
There's a pretty good medieval movie called The Advocate, starring Colin Firth and Ian Holm, that depicts a similar thing where a man is hanged alongside the donkey he buggered. There's also a pig being tried for murder.
  #50  
Old 12-09-2011, 11:22 AM
AuntiePam is offline
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Originally Posted by Eleanor of Aquitaine View Post
There's a pretty good medieval movie called The Advocate, starring Colin Firth and Ian Holm, that depicts a similar thing where a man is hanged alongside the donkey he buggered. There's also a pig being tried for murder.
Isn't it bizarre, and amazing? Inanimate objects were also put on trial, as well as bodies dug up from their graves. Peoples be weird.
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