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BoyScoutKevin
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« Reply #1290 on: May 25, 2013, 02:52:38 PM »

Ye-es!

That . . .
Peter Robinson's
Before the Poison
21 more books of fiction, including one series

Who killed the village doctor? His wife. The servant. His wife's young lover. The couple staying at the house that night. Or was it just a case of accidental death mistaken for murder?

They are hanging the heroine today. An almost minute by minute account of a hanging. Before. During. And after. And one of the most horrifying things I have ever read.

Also horrifying, if not so much, is the perils of a civilian caught in the horrors of war, when outside her own country.

That . .  .
Julia Fox's
Sister Queens :
the Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile
2nd non-fiction book

I thought the more interesing story was on Juana, who they called the Mad. Mad as insane. Not angry. Maybe because I knew less about her than her better known sister Katherine.

Juana, the almost perfect example of a the emotionally battered woman. 1st by her father. Then her husband. And then by her son.

Unfortunately, the authoress never makes clear whether Juana was . . .
(a.) totally mad.
(b.) mad sometimes/sometimes sane.
(c.) pretended to be mad for her own reasons.
(d.) declared mad for political reasons.
(e.) or none of the above.

Still, she outlived her sister Katherine. Actually, she outlived all her brothers and sisters.

If Juana was the almost perfect example of the emotionally battered woman, then Katherine was the almost perfect example of the woman who tries to hold on to everything. Only to lose it all.

(a.) She tried to hold on to her marriage. Lost it.
(b.) Her dauther's right to succession to the throne. Lost it.
(c.) England for Catholicism. Lost it.

If she had given up her marriage and gone into a convent, which almost everyone, besides her, wanted her to do. With some provision for her daughter's right to the throne. There is the possibility that England still might be Catholic today.

That . . .
Laurie R. King's
Pirate King :
a Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
11th in the Mary Russell series. Plus 10 more fiction books, including 5 in another series.

When Ms. Russell aka Mrs. Holmes secretly joins an English film company, which is shooting a silent film version of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance." 1st in Spain then in Morocco, to try to track down the person dealing in illegal drugs and guns, she discovers almost everybody involved in the film, both before and behind the camera, have their own secrets to protect.

I remember the 1st book in this series. Tried, but could not get into it; therefore, the authoress seems to have become a better writer, as this one is readable.

Next time: a 4th lashing of this and that.
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Newt
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« Reply #1291 on: May 28, 2013, 07:23:24 AM »

Just finished DOES THE NOISE IN MY HEAD BOTHER YOU? A Rock 'N' Roll Memoir (2011) by Steven Tyler with David Dalton.  This is your brain on drugs.  Even with help, the first third to half of the book is nigh-on incoherent stream-of-consciousness stuff.  At that point, either I finally caught on to how to read it, or the text became more comprehensible.  Peeking (leering?) out between the lines from time to time is an intelligent, creative human being who abused himself (and his health) horrendously.  Overall, the book gives the strong impression that it gives valid insight into the Rock Star lifestyle and Steven Tyler himself.  For that, as a biography it has to be counted as a success.

Picked up an autographed copy of If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor (2001) by Bruce Campbell at the thrift shop.(C'mon: how could I not?)  I'm only 45 pages in but Campbell's voice comes through in every line.  Which may or may not be a good thing...

Also taking perfunctory stabs at reading An Affair to Remember: the Remarkable Love Story of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (1997) by Christopher Andersen.  Only 34 pages in, but it promises to be insightful as well.  I can remember my parents being scadalised by the affair: it will be nice to 'see' the human beings in the full story.  I may send it to my Mom after.   TeddyR
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ChaosTheory
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« Reply #1292 on: May 28, 2013, 12:00:17 PM »



Picked up an autographed copy of If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor (2001) by Bruce Campbell at the thrift shop.(C'mon: how could I not?)  I'm only 45 pages in but Campbell's voice comes through in every line.  Which may or may not be a good thing...


 Thumbup Thumbup
That book is definitely one of the best celebrity memoirs I've come across.  Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way is also quite entertaining.
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indianasmith
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« Reply #1293 on: May 28, 2013, 12:38:49 PM »

Jean Edward Smith's GRANT is not only the best Grant biography out there, it is quite possibly the best biography, or at least one of the best, that I have ever read.
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« Reply #1294 on: May 28, 2013, 10:55:29 PM »




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« Reply #1295 on: May 31, 2013, 02:55:56 AM »

Just finished rereading To Kill a Mockingbird, which I hadn't read since high school. I remember this being as one of the few American classics that my teachers foisted upon that I really enjoyed and latched onto. I thought it was a great book.

Reading it again, my estimation is only higher. Having read much more, and probably now being too critical, it's amazing how much this book stands up. From a constructionist point of view, it seems all wrong. Mostly what's remembered these days, and a lot of this has to do with the movie, is Atticus Finch's principled stand-up for civil rights in a time when that was a dangerous attitude. Justifiably, it's a benchmark for lawyers and a hope for integrity.

At the same time, while it is central to the book, it's not the whole book. The majority of it is the exploration of Scout, Jem, and Dill and their experience in a very specific time and place. For example, the inherent racism in the community is usually what is remembered, but just as strong a theme in the book is the relations of women in the book, of who Scout is always an outsider. The whole of society is considered, with a strong emphasis on the experience of the outsiders.

Probably not explaining this right, but the subtlety in which Harper Lee has all of her characters either make a stand or bow out in the complexity of what seems to be very simple society is no mean trick. It really stands up.

What really makes it stand out is the writing. Some books, especially those they make you read in high school, are a chore to read. I would have been more than happy to spend all my time reading this book. It was joy to read, and of the few "classics" I would consider a page turner.

I think the only other time I had this experience in high school (when they forced me to read A Scarlet Letter which I think is garbage), was when I had about fifteen minutes of free reading. I found the opening chapter of Ellison's Invisible Man, which was included in my reader. That was one of the most intense fifteen minutes of my life, but we didn't read it in high school.
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« Reply #1296 on: May 31, 2013, 07:29:41 AM »

Just finished rereading To Kill a Mockingbird, which I hadn't read since high school. I remember this being as one of the few American classics that my teachers foisted upon that I really enjoyed and latched onto. I thought it was a great book.

Reading it again, my estimation is only higher. Having read much more, and probably now being too critical, it's amazing how much this book stands up. From a constructionist point of view, it seems all wrong. Mostly what's remembered these days, and a lot of this has to do with the movie, is Atticus Finch's principled stand-up for civil rights in a time when that was a dangerous attitude. Justifiably, it's a benchmark for lawyers and a hope for integrity.

At the same time, while it is central to the book, it's not the whole book. The majority of it is the exploration of Scout, Jem, and Dill and their experience in a very specific time and place. For example, the inherent racism in the community is usually what is remembered, but just as strong a theme in the book is the relations of women in the book, of who Scout is always an outsider. The whole of society is considered, with a strong emphasis on the experience of the outsiders.

Probably not explaining this right, but the subtlety in which Harper Lee has all of her characters either make a stand or bow out in the complexity of what seems to be very simple society is no mean trick. It really stands up.

What really makes it stand out is the writing. Some books, especially those they make you read in high school, are a chore to read. I would have been more than happy to spend all my time reading this book. It was joy to read, and of the few "classics" I would consider a page turner.


I will agree with this assessment. We did the play version in high school, and I got to play Jem (I threw that in just in case anyone might want my autograph  TeddyR ). Another one we read in high school that I enjoyed then and then again later was T. H. White's The Once and Future King.

As for what I am reading right now, that would be Christopher Moore's Sacre Bleu. I love most of Moore's novels, but this one is work. It hasn't captured my mind or heart yet, and I am about a third of the way into it. I felt the same about Fluke, but it was all right by time I finished it. I consider it by far his weakest novel. We'll see if Sacre Bleu can pull itself out of the hole it's digging and not take Fluke's place.
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« Reply #1297 on: May 31, 2013, 08:08:35 AM »

The Year's Best Science Fiction:  Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection



These can have some real gems in them.  I'm about halfway though this volume and haven't found one I really love yet, but there are some good ones.  There are two in older volumes that I absolutely love.  One is "The Days of Solomon Gursky" and another is "Mongoose."  The latter is a neat story borrowing names from Lewis Carroll.
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BoyScoutKevin
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« Reply #1298 on: June 02, 2013, 01:58:10 PM »

Ye-es!

That . . .
Rhys Bowen's
Bless the Bride
The 10th in the Molly Murphy series
10 more works of fiction, including one more series

Who killed the Chinese businessman, while he was sleeping on the roof of his house? Was it his son, his mail-order bride, a rival Tong member, a neighbor, a business client, or was it an accident just waiting to happen?

Throw in cops (both corrupt and incorruptible) + racists + feminists + a wedding = and you have a mystery set in NYC sometime just after the turn of the last century.

This . . .
Warren Littlefield's
Top of the Rock :
Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV
1st book, as far as I can tell.

Or, "Must Not See TV." (IMHO) The only show that he talks about that I ever watched was "The Cosby Show." Still . . . I always find it nice to have an inside look at somehing.
And a couple of reminders.

(1st) Once you could put something that was fairly intelligent on network TV, and people would watch it. A nd . . .
(2nd) TV is like a wheel. Once NBC was on the top (then) and now NBC is on the bottom (now) but just as the wheel turns, NBC will once more be on top.

That . . .
Barbara Hambly's
Ran Away :
a Benjamin January novel
11trh in the Benjamin January series

Benjamin January. surgeon, musician, free man of color living in the decade before the Civil War in New Orleans.

Who killed the Turkish charge d' affaire's concubines? His wife, his son, a neighbor, the mysterious visitor, who seems to have disappeared, or someone else. And what happened to all the gold that was stolen that same night? Are the two crimes related?

I read the first two books in the series, then fell out, so this is my return to the series.

Next time: just names, titles, and recommendations.
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« Reply #1299 on: June 03, 2013, 12:30:01 AM »

I finally finished Vanity Fair. In all the film versions I have seen Becky Sharp is toned down to be an amoral social climber/her own worst enemy, but as Thackeray presents her, the woman is absolutely sociopathic. I admired her early on in the book as she confronted seemingly insurmountable challenges in order to rise above the limitations of her disadvantaged beginnings, but I was appalled by novel's end, and I can usually like the great heroines and anti-heroines of nineteenth century literature, from Emma Bovary and Dorothea Brooke, to Bathsheba Everdene, but Becky Sharp...Jesus, Mary and Joseph the woman had no soul. Still, Vanity Fair is a fine novel, and Becky Sharp is a brilliant character who would surely shove aside the Kardashians to grab global fame and fortune were she around today. I read Vanity Fair in on-again and off-again installments over a long course, and I'm glad I stayed with it.
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« Reply #1300 on: June 08, 2013, 02:52:29 AM »

Just finished Autumn: The City be David Moody after recently reading the first book, simply title Autumn.

Basic premise, almost everybody in the world dies all at once due to some as yet unexplained factor. A tiny fraction of the populace is unaffected, something like 1:1,000,000. Over the course of the next few weeks, as the survivors find each other, about a third of the dead people get back up. At first they do nothing, just wander around. But eventually their actions become more directed and eventually outright hostile.

So, zombie novel.

The books are okay. David Moody originally published these online for free, so points to him for managing to build up a readership and now make a living through the self-publishing route. (He now has a publishing deal, and at least one movie has been made from his work: Autumn.)

My main problem with the books is, at least in the first two, most of the characters' reaction to the near annihilation of the human race is to be traumatized to the point of near catatonia. Even when the survivors find each other, they don't communicate due to the pain of having to deal with everybody they loved dying. They also tend to remain at whatever convenient shelter they find because of their fear of going out in the world. Since both of the first two books begin at the same point, the first half of each book is spent with characters who not only don't communicate with each other, they also don't really do anything. While this may be a valid psychological assessment, it doesn't make for very entertaining reading.

Still, entertaining enough. I'm going to read the rest of the series, since there is enough potential there to keep me interested.
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BoyScoutKevin
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« Reply #1301 on: June 10, 2013, 01:35:55 PM »

Ye-es!

I don't remember whether this is fiction or non-fiction, but as I did find it readable, when I find most books unreadable, I do recommend it.

Peter Bart's
Infamous players :
a tale of movies, the mob (and sex)

As for the others . . .

Susan Hill's
The betrayal of trust :
a chief superintendent simon serrailler mystery
6th in the series
Also 15 more works of fiction, 3 juvenile novels, 2 non-fiction books, and a collection of short stories. One of those authoresses who seemingly will turn their hands to anything.

Marjorie Eccles'
Broken music :
a mystery
Her 4th fiction book.

Helene Thurston's
Night rounds
4th in the inspector irene huss series

Sally Spencer's
Backlash :
4th in the dci monika paniatowski series
She has written 21 more works of fiction, including two more series

Next time: 2 books as an example of what makes books worth reading: politics, religion, sex. (Not necessarily in that order.)
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ChaosTheory
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« Reply #1302 on: June 12, 2013, 12:18:43 PM »



A guy stumbles across a dead neighbor's scribblings analyzing a (apparently not real) documentary about a photojournalist's house which may or may not be a gateway to Hell, or an astral projection, or something else.  Confused yet?

This book was inventive and the author definitely put a lot of work into it, but it's also wayyyyy too high on its own cleverness, and I never really cared about the major characters.

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BoyScoutKevin
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« Reply #1303 on: June 23, 2013, 01:44:48 PM »

Ye-es!

Nick Drake's
Egypt :
the Book of Chaos

When the queen of ancient Egypt feels threatened by the commander of her army, she decides the only way to save her life and her throne is to marry her country's greatest enemy. At the same time, who is flooding Egypt with a new source of low cost, high grade opium? Are the two events related?

The author is good enough he gets one to change one's sympthaties from one character to another. A book where the women, minorities, and homosexuals come off better than the men, non-minorities, and heterosexuals. And yes, the author is gay. But one need not find a gay author to find non-heterosexual characters.

On another thread, another board a poster was asking for recommendations for books to read, except he didn't want to read any books with homosexuals in them, except he didn't use the word homosexual. I hope the poster doesn't like mysteries. It is harder to find a mystery with all heterosexual characters than one without. And that applies to LBGT and straight authors. Americans, Brits, and Scandinavians. Mysteries set in the past or present.

Jim Garrison's
The Great Reader :
 a Faux Mystery

One of those authors who'll turn their hand to anything. He also has 16 more fiction out, 11 books of poetry, 2 books of essays, a book of memoirs, and a children's book out.

The hero of the book chases the villain from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and half way back again, before he catches up with him, and the villain gets his just desserts. Though, that is more by happenstance than actual planning.

In the upper U.P., where the author is from, there are only two types of politics: left wing and right wing with little in between. One guess as to which way the author swings.
While that does not apply to all authors, most of them, whether Americans, Brits, Scandinavians, and the lone Israeli lean left.

It also helps that the book's hero shares the same religion as myself. Why something specific instead of something more generic, but it is good to see . . .

001 radio program
003 plays, including one by Shakespeare
004 short stories
012 television movies and specials
012 motion pictures
014 television programs
and 122 novels

features it, either explicity or implicity. Mostly in a very positive way.


Next time: the perfect example of the more you know. The less you know.
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« Reply #1304 on: June 27, 2013, 01:12:34 PM »

Courage and Consequence by Karl Rove. I spent most of my life thinking this man was a demon in human form*, and I still do not much care for him, but there are some interesting behind the scenes details in this book that fill in the gaps about the inner workings of the G.W. Bush administration, and by extension geopolitics as they unfolded in the first decade of the century. Mr. Rove is obviously a bright man but in many ways he embodies what is wrong with the neo-conservative wing of his party, and he seems too ready to make enemies when tact would better suit a situation. Still, setting personal feelings aside, this is a book that is worth the time if you're studying recent American political history and can get past the deliberate injections of controversy that needlessly weight it down.

* A few years ago one of my friends in Austin moved to the neighborhood where Rove has a house, and I joked, "When you see him out at night, do his eyes shine in car headlights?"
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