Casvelyn's 2011 Challenge, Part II
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Books Read: 121 / 121
COMPLETE 1. "Ideally, we should like to define a good book as one which 'permits, invites, or compels' good reading." (C. S. Lewis) - Guardian 1000/1001 Books to Read Before You Die
COMPLETE 2. "Rereading, we find a new book." (Mason Cooley)
COMPLETE 3. "Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed." (Charles de Lint)
COMPLETE 4. "What I like about non-fiction is that it covers such a huge territory." (Tracy Kidder)
COMPLETE 5. "The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most." (John Ruskin)
COMPLETE 6. "Proper names are poetry in the raw." (W. H. Auden)
COMPLETE 7. "Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title." (Thomas Paine)
COMPLETE 8. "Every person who has mastered his profession is a skeptic concerning it." (George Bernard Shaw)
COMPLETE 9. "Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living." (Dr. Seuss) - also includes science fiction
COMPLETE 10. "What is really best in any book is translatable." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
COMPLETE 11. "Good authors too who once knew better words/Now only use four letter words/Writing prose. Anything goes." (Cole Porter)
1. Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers (3.9)
2. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Winifred Watson (4.6)
3. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith (5.0)
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J. K. Rowling (4.6)
5. The Crab with the Golden Claws - Hergé (4.0)
6. Tintin in Tibet - Hergé (4.0)
7. The Castafiore Emerald - Hergé (3.7)
8. Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.2)
9. Excellent Women - Barbara Pym (3.5)
10. The Castle of Crossed Destinies - Italo Calvino (2.9)
11. And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie (4.3)
1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (3.8)
2. A Letter of Mary - Laurie R. King (5.0)
3. Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.2)
4. Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne (4.3)
5. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (5.0)
6. Unnatural Death - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.8)
7. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.6)
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling (4.2)
9. The Last Battle - C. S. Lewis (4.0)
10. Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - Agatha Christie (4.9)
11. The Swiss Family Robinson - Johann David Wyss (3.8)
1. Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.9)
2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley (4.0)
3. After the Funeral - Agatha Christie (4.0)
4. A Century of Detection - John Cullen Gruesser, ed. (no touchstone) (4.3)
5. Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.9)
6. Hamlet, Revenge! - Michael Innes (4.4)
7. Gaudy Night - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.7)
8. The September Society - Charles Finch (4.0)
9. The Fleet Street Murders - Charles Finch (4.2)
10. A Stranger in Mayfair - Charles Finch (4.0)
11. Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer (4.1)
1. Thriving in the Knowledge Age: New Business Models for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions - John H. Falk and Beverly K. Sheppard (2.9)
2. The Four Loves - C. S. Lewis (5.0)
3. A Letter Concerning Toleration - John Locke (3.6)
4. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader - Anne Fadiman (5.0)
5. The Borgias and Their Enemies - Christopher Hibbert (4.5)
6. A Homemade Life - Molly Wizenberg (4.0)
7. The Midwestern Pastoral: Place and Landscape in Literature of the American Heartland - William Barillas (3.0)
8. The Life of Samuel Johnson - James Boswell (3.6)
9. The Way of Improvement Leads Home - John Fea (4.7)
10. Anne Orthwood's Bastard: Sex and Law in Early Virginia - John Ruston Pagan
11. A Brief Subject Guide
1. Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron - Jasper Fforde (4.7)
2. The Man in the Brown Suit - Agatha Christie (4.8)
3. A Red Herring without Mustard - Alan Bradley (4.0)
4. The Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.0)
5. The Blue Lotus - Hergé (3.9)
6. The Black Island - Hergé (3.9)
7. Red Rackham's Treasure - Hergé (3.9)
8. Land of Black Gold - Hergé (3.7)
9. The Red Sea Sharks - Hergé (3.5)
10. The Mystery of the Blue Train - Agatha Christie (4.1)
11. A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch (3.9)
1. Daisy Miller - Henry James (3.3)
2. Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë (4.5)
3. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe (3.7)
4. Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear (4.2)
5. Michael O'Halloran - Gene Stratton-Porter (3.6)
6. John Adams - David McCullough (5.0)
7. Edward Hopper (5.0)
8. Zuleika Dobson - Max Beerbohm (3.2)
9. Julius Caesar - William Shakespeare (3.7)
10. Ansel Adams - Andrea G. Stillman, ed. (4.8)
11. Titus Andronicus - William Shakespeare (3.4)
1. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson (3.2)
2. Lord Edgeware Dies - Agatha Christie (3.6)
3. Cigars of the Pharaoh - Hergé (3.7)
4. King Ottokar's Sceptre - Hergé (4.1)
5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling (4.7)
6. The Princess and Curdie - George MacDonald (3.9)
7. The Princess and the Goblin - George MacDonald (4.3)
8. Lord Peter - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.1)
9. King Lear - William Shakespeare (3.8)
10. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain (2.9)
11. Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Hodgson Burnett (4.5)
1. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag - Alan Bradley (3.9)
2. The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare (4.2)
3. A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin (2.4)
4. Pirate King - Laurie R. King (3.4)
5. The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers (3.5)
6. Busman's Honeymoon - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.8)
7. The Apothecary's Daughter - Julie Klassen (3.5)
8. Hangman's Holiday - Dorothy L. Sayers (4.0)
9. The Italian Secretary - Caleb Carr (3.8)
10. The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim
11. A Student's Guide to Political Philosophy - Harvey C. Mansfield (4.1)
1. Death in Winter - Michael Jan Friedman (3.8)
2. The Compass Rose - Ursula K. Le Guin (3.3)
3. Blackout - Connie Willis (4.8)
4. One of Our Thursdays is Missing - Jasper Fforde (4.4)
5. All Clear - Connie Willis (5.0)
6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J. K. Rowling (4.6)
7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling (4.8)
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J. K. Rowling (4.4)
9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J. K. Rowling (4.3)
10. Magic by the Lake - Edward Eager (4.0)
11. The Time Garden - Edward Eager (4.0)
1. Tintin in America - Hergé (3.4)
2. The Broken Ear - Hergé (3.2)
3. The Shooting Star - Hergé (4.4)
4. The Secret of the Unicorn - Hergé (4.4)
5. The Seven Crystal Balls - Hergé (3.9)
6. Prisoners of the Sun - Hergé (4.1)
7. Destination Moon - Hergé (4.1)
8. Explorers on the Moon - Hergé (4.1)
9. The Calculus Affair - Hergé (3.7)
10. Flight 714 - Hergé (4.1)
11. Tintin and the Picaros - Hergé (4.1)
1. Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare (3.5)
2. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield (3.4)
3. The Inimitable Jeeves - P. G. Wodehouse (4.3)
4. Very Good, Jeeves! - P. G. Wodehouse (4.3)
5. Right Ho, Jeeves - P. G. Wodehouse (4.2)
6. The Comedy of Errors - William Shakespeare (3.2)
7. The Doll - Daphne du Maurier (4.8)
8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
9. A Comedy of Terrors - Michael Innes (3.2)
10. A Night of Errors - Michael Innes (4.5)
11. A Burial at Sea - Charles Finch (3.7)
I'm now 63% finished!
Best Book: Hamlet, Revenge!, Harry Potter series
Worst Book: None were particularly bad. The Tintin books and The Comedy of Errors were disappointing.
1001 Books/Guardian 1000
The Crab with the Golden Claws - Hergé
Tintin in Tibet - Hergé
The Castafiore Emerald - Hergé
Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy L. Sayers
Rereads (formerly Shakespeare)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling
The Last Battle - C. S. Lewis
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - Agatha Christie
Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers
Hamlet, Revenge! - Michael Innes
The Blue Lotus - Hergé
The Black Island - Hergé
Red Rackham's Treasure - Hergé
Land of Black Gold - Hergé
The Red Sea Sharks - Hergé
The Mystery of the Blue Train - Agatha Christie
Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë
Cigars of the Pharaoh - Hergé
King Ottokar's Sceptre - Hergé
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J. K. Rowling
The Princess and the Goblin - George MacDonald
Translated (formerly Essays)
Tintin in America - Hergé
The Broken Ear - Hergé
The Shooting Star - Hergé
The Seven Crystal Balls - Hergé
Prisoners of the Sun - Hergé
Destination Moon - Hergé
Explorers on the Moon - Hergé
The Calculus Affair - Hergé
Flight 714 - Hergé
Tintin and the Picaros - Hergé
The Comedy of Errors - William Shakespeare
I just counted, and I read 32 books this month. I said I wanted to beat last year's June record of 20 books in one month. I don't expect to read nearly as many books in July, as my summer class has started and I am busy. (Whoever had the idea of cramming 16 weeks of work into 6 weeks of summer...) I'm also attempting to plan a vacation for some time in July. It's the academic's version of living dangerously: taking a vacation during a summer class.
Category: Titles with Titles
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It's not quite as original as The Princess and the Goblin, but overall I liked it better. It's not a terribly complex book, but it falls into one of my favorite genres/trope: "average Joe who saves the world."
Good luck with your class (and your vacation!) :)
When I was a child, one of my favorite genres was "Lost on a Desert Island" (which I have recently discovered is actually called Robinsonade, after the intrepid Mr. Crusoe). Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, The Mysterious Island, My Side of the Mountain (not actually a desert island, but what the hey; it's a great book) - these were some of my favorites. Were they remotely realistic? No, but they sure were fun.
So today I reread Robinson Crusoe, instead of reading my homework assignments, and I enjoyed the book greatly. I think I must have read an abridged version as a child, because the archaic language (and the lack of an "e" in most of the verbs ending in "-ed") really annoyed me. Normally I don't mind archaic language, but this made the book flow less well. Other than that, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
(And for some reason my in-browser spell check thinks that by "dystopian" I mean "dyspepsia.")
In keeping with my Robinsonade theme, I decided to reread The Swiss Family Robinson. This was yet another childhood favorite. However, I'm discovering that rereading childhood favorites is not such a good idea. When I was younger, I didn't value character development - I just wanted a good plot. (This is probably why I liked the Hardy Boys mysteries so much, although it didn't take me too long to realize that they all had the same plot. Nancy Drew was slightly better in this respect.) Anyhow, The Swiss Family Robinson does have an excellent plot, but rather thin characters and an utterly unrealistic setting. But it's still a fun read.
This was a hard book to rate. I liked it and enjoyed it greatly, but the mystery was overly simplistic and I saw the solution coming a mile away. But it wasn't really the mystery that made me love the book, it was the characters and their stories. I like this book more for the historical fiction than the mystery, but that's okay; I probably read too many mysteries anyway.
Note: I won this book through the Early Reviewer's program.
I love the Mary Russell series, but this book is not nearly as good as the others. First of all, most of the book had little to do with the not-terribly-complex-or-interesting mystery. The first two-thirds is Russell as an overworked administrative assistant. Granted, she's undercover, but she's so overworked she doesn't actually have any time for investigating. Also, this book has a large cast of characters. Consequently, few of them are very well developed and some of the more interesting minor characters' actions are never explained (for example, why does Edith's mother treat her the way she does?). Finally, Russell and Holmes never really seemed to be in any sort of danger. Of course, eleven books into the series, we know that they can get out of any situation, but I'd like to feel, at least for a chapter or two, that there is some real threat against them, particularly after the non-stop danger of The Language of Bees and The God of the Hive. Overall, the book is entertaining and made me laugh, but does not have the qualities that make the earlier books in the series so addictive.
Unlike any of the other Sayers novels I've read thus far, this book wins the prize for inspiring sheer terror. Unfortunately, inspiration of terror results in books getting a rather low "like" score from me.* If you've ever seen the movie Vertigo, I feel about noise the way Jimmy Stewart's character feels about heights. I can't handle loud noise. I can't handle dissonant noise. I just sort of shut down. So this book really didn't work for me. (In other news, I now have a new "worst way to die." Seriously, just thinking about it makes my spine tingle, my skin crawl, and my brain throw out highly irrational thoughts at a very high speed.) Coupled with the fact that reading murder mysteries after dark consistently scares me (considering this started when I was six and reading The Boxcar Children, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now), this was really not my book. Pity, because it was otherwise brilliantly executed.
And now I'm going to go read about kittens and ponies and sunshine. 'Cause I can't sleep anyway.
*I rate my books on "like" - how much I liked it - plot, character development, and writing - this book did quite well in the other categories, except for a 1 point character development deduction for lack of Harriet Vane.
Harriet Vane returns to Oxford for a class reunion of sorts and ends up investigating a series of poison-pen letters and college vandalisms. Peter is on the continent for much of the novel, leaving Harriet to try to solve the mystery by herself and also leaving her to grapple with the future of her relationship with Peter.
This book is rather longer than many of the others in the series, but for the most part the added length doesn't detract from the book (there are a few short duller moments where one must wait around for the action to resume, but not too many). Overall, one of the better (possibly the best) Wimsey novel, but unfortunately for me, the second-to-last. Part of the brilliance of the novel, at least for me, is that it doesn't just deal with a murder mystery, but also with the culture of a women's college at Oxford in the 1930s. As a lover of academic traditions and academia in general, I loved the depictions of university life, although Sayers did tend to romanticize writing papers just a bit - in reality term papers are far more stressful than romantic. Still, all the talk of academic garb did rather make me wish it was already next May and I had my own master's hood in hand. (After which time I will leave the university, find a job, and likely never use the thing again. Sad really.)
Whatever the case may be, you'll always have your memories... :-)
Well, I've finished the series now, except for the collection of Lord Peter short stories (which I've read once before). Busman's Honeymoon is funnier than some of the other books, which is nice. Sayers really does write comedy well.
Peter and Harriet get married and spend their honeymoon in an ancient farmhouse in the country. Of course, there's a murder. I don't really know why they act so surprised - where have they ever gone and not found a murder? I enjoyed the plot, as for most of the book it seems as if the murder could have been committed by either any of several people or by no one at all.
Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott (to replace my cheap and falling apart paperback)
Little Men - Louisa May Alcott (because books in series must match)
The Inheritance - Louisa May Alcott
The Battle of the Labyrinth - Rick Riordan
Gaudy Night - Dorothy L. Sayers
The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis - David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds.
I also got some CDs of music by Ravel, Holst, and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Then I decided that All-Clad copper core pans were just too expensive ($250 for a 12-inch skillet at Williams Sonoma), ate lunch at a fabulous local cafe, and went food shopping. (I got burrata, pates de fruits, Vosges bacon chocolate bar, ginger beer, Riesling, Asti, praline pecans, and some tea.) Now I just have to keep myself from eating all of it tonight. I have no self control when it comes to food.
I hear you!
What Holst CD did you get? I adore his military suites.
Category: Titles with Titles
This is a collection of all the Lord Peter Wimsey short stories Dorothy Sayers wrote. Like any short story collection, some are better than others. I'm not usually a fan of short stories because, in my opinion, there's not enough room for character or plot development. Character development is less of an issue in this collection, because we know so much about Peter from the novels. Overall, these stories are really quite good, and some are very creative. Others merely reuse plots that have been used by practically every mystery writer since the invention of the genre.
I'm now 70% finished!
Best Book: Gaudy Night, no contest
Worst Book: None. All good books this month. I just didn't really like The Nine Tailors.
1001 Books/Guardian 1000
Rereads (FINISHED THIS MONTH)
The Swiss Family Robinson - Johann David Wyss
Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear
The Princess and Curdie - George MacDonald
Lord Peter - Dorothy L. Sayers
Pirate King - Laurie R. King
The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers
Busman's Honeymoon - Dorothy L. Sayers
Fantasy/Science Fiction (COMPLETE)
Only nine books read this month, but my summer class has been keeping me busy. I could have counted my textbook for the non-fiction category, but I'm somewhat infamous for not actually doing my reading assignments. I've got to read 7.2 books per month for the rest of the year if I'm going to finish on time. I think I can do it, but I'm going to see if I can get some shorter books.
Category: Anything Goes
The stories in this collection are brilliant. (And that's saying something, since I usually don't like short stories.) With the exception of the title story, which is just weird, I loved these stories. These are not stories to make the reader feel happy or stories that are particularly enjoyable to read, as they are mostly stories about people falling out of love or people who are somewhat insane, or people whose obnoxious qualities are obvious to everyone but themselves. These stories are quite realistically written, which is partly what makes them so great. My most common complaint about short stories is the lack of developed plot. I love detailed plots, which are not at all present in this book, but the characters and situations are so well-written that the relative lack of plot barely registers.
Category: 1001 Books/Guardian 1000
SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Is it possible to like a book without particularly liking the characters or the plot?
The rating of the book eludes me. According to my rubric, it should get a 3.5, but I enjoyed the book more than "slightly above average." Except for the ending, of course. I didn't like the ending - Mildred should have fallen in love with Everard while working on his book's index. Maybe she does, since Pym ends the book before Mildred begins work on the index, but I'd like to know. (Only I, as a lover of indexing projects, should find the idea of falling in love over an index to be romantic.)
I was also annoyed by how most, if not all, of the female characters couldn't seem to define themselves apart from men. I'm not criticizing Pym for writing them that way, because that's how a lot of women of the period thought. I'm frustrated on behalf of these fictional women who talk about how unfulfilling they find their lives but can't think outside their mindset in order to be able to see that life can be fulfilling apart from a husband or men in the community to take care of. I wanted to tell them to go read a book or hear a lecture or go to a concert or do something that doesn't involve fussing over someone else. I'm by no means a feminist, and I'd really like nothing more than to be a housewife and stay-at-home mom (after I finish grad school), but it frustrates me when women tie their identity to having a significant other rather than realizing that they are a whole and worthwhile person by themselves.
But now I'm just projecting the 21st century onto the 1940s and 1950s.
My general method for picking books this year has been thus:
1. Does it fit a category?
2. Does it sound interesting?
But this system is no more. The new method is as follows:
1. Does it fit a category?
2. Is it short?
Because I will finish on time, if I have to go without sleep for the entire month of December!
This book was way too "sweet" for my tastes. Essentially, it's the story of orphan Michael (Mickey) O'Halloran and the orphan girl, Peaches, whom he "adopts." Mickey is a good kid and he works hard selling newspapers to make enough money to support Peaches and himself, but Stratton-Porter expects us to believe that Mickey's goodness can rub off on everyone around him, healing broken marriages, reconciling parents and children, and just generally working miracles. Actually, one of the marriages is fixed by the wife listening to birds singing in a swamp and deciding that she's been a horribly selfish person because the bird songs are so beautiful.
Something that confused me was the very traditional gender roles espoused by the characters. The book was published in 1915, so such traditionalism is not out of place, but Gene Stratton-Porter was not exactly an example of traditional early 20th century femininity. So I'm not really sure why so many of her characters have such traditional views, saying things like boys raised by women will never become manly men and similar ideas.
I hate reviewing non-fiction. Essentially, this book is excellent and amazing (and I don't usually like biography). Read it!
Category: 1001 Books/Guardian 1000
The premise of this book is quite interesting - travelers stopping at a castle in the midst of a wood find themselves struck mute and are forced to communicate through a deck of tarot cards. Unfortunately, the limited number of tarot cards means that the narrator has to provide some interpretation of what others are trying to say. So there are several instances of "Well, he just laid down ____ card, which could mean this, but it could also mean that. Or it could mean this third thing entirely." Also, the entire story is told by the narrator with no dialogue, since no one can talk. The stories would be a lot better if they were told in a more conventional fashion.
Overall, each story seems more like the outline of a story rather than a story in and of itself. It's not a bad book, it's just drastically different from anything I've read before.
I'm now 74% finished!
Best Book: John Adams
Worst Book: Nothing truly bad. Excellent Women, Michael O'Halloran, and The Castle of Crossed Destinies were all various shades of okay.
1001 Books/Guardian 1000
Excellent Women - Barbara Pym
The Castle of Crossed Destinies - Italo Calvino
Michael O'Halloran - Gene Stratton-Porter
John Adams - David McCullough
Fantasy/Science Fiction (COMPLETE)
The Doll - Daphne Du Maurier
Just 31 books left to go! (7.75 books per month)
>72 clfisha: I got bored with it as well, but it's short and I'm determined to finish all 121 books this year.
>78 Smiler69: You should. I do like him, despite my critiques. I think If on a winter's night a traveler is a good place to start with his work, because it's so very different from typical novels, it's well done, and it's a good example of his work.
Blackout - Connie Willis
A Homemade Life - Molly Wizenberg
Lavinia - Ursula K. Le Guin
Collected Poems, 1909-1962 - T. S. Eliot
Shades of Grey - Jasper Fforde
Chez Panisse Vegetables - Alice Waters
Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes - Jennifer McLagan
P. Allen Smith's Seasonal Recipes from the Garden - P. Allen Smith
This book, by the author of the blog Orangette, is part memoir and part cookbook, which makes it reminiscent of M. F. K. Fisher's numerous books. The writing quality also compares favorably with Fisher, although to me Fisher will always be the best food writer ever. I love the essays, and I love the recipes, although I just got the book and haven't tried any of them yet.
Category: 1000 Books/Guardian 1000
I'm not going to say much about this book because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet. All in all, it's a pretty brilliant mystery story, although I'm not quite as enamored of it as some people seem to be. I don't think it's Christie's absolute best (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd wins that prize in my book), but And Then There Were None is suspenseful and completely different from the cozier Miss Marples or more detective-driven Hercule Poirots.
This book was such a disappointment. Based on reviews and summaries, it should have been a great help to my research on Midwestern pastoral writing, but the book doesn't do "what it says on the tin." The opening chapter, to Barillas' credit, is wonderful. It really provides an interdisciplinary look at the history of pastoral writing, how such writing shaped the Midwest, and how the Midwest shaped pastoral writing.
Then Barillas spends each of five chapters analyzing a different author that he claims is influential in Midwestern pastoral writing. This is where the book gets into trouble. First, Barillas never defines "Midwest" or "Midwestern author." These seem like simple terms, but what is the Midwest, really? Does it include the Great Plains states? What about the Dakotas? Minnesota and Wisconsin? If one organizes the US such that there is a Great Lakes region and a Great Plains region, is the Midwest really just three states? Is Ohio really a part of the East? I grew up thinking Iowa was part of the Great Plains, but a classmate from Iowa was taught that it's part of the Midwest. Are we defining Midwest by topography, ecology, crops produced, culture, or linguistics? Can we split states in half? Are Midwestern authors from the Midwest, or do they just write about it? Can they move to New York City and still be a Midwestern author? What about a poet who writes about the Midwest until he moves to Oregon and starts writing about his new environment? Am I drastically overthinking this? : )
Barillas also does not analyze place nearly as much as he says he will. The chapter on Willa Cather spends 90% of its length on gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and immigration in Cather's work. It's an interesting and likely correct analysis, but not useful at all for someone doing pastoral or place research. The three chapters on poets spends more time analyzing the influence of their depression on their poetry than their land on their poetry. To be fair, though, the Aldo Leopold chapter is nicely done.
I thought this book would jump start my research, and it didn't. Disappointing.
And incidentally, out of the nine reviews published in academic journals, only one reviewer agreed with me. The other eight thought it was brilliant.
Just your typical fluffy historical fiction/romance novel. Entertaining, but nothing special.
Book: Hangman's Holiday by Dorothy L. Sayers
A collections of Sayers mystery stories, some about Lord Peter Wimsey, some not. While the stories in this collection are good, I'd read the Lord Peter ones before and Montague Egg really got on my nerves.
I'm now 79% finished!
Best Book: Nothing I particularly liked this month, but...
Worst Book: Nothing was particularly bad, either. The Midwestern Pastoral was just frustrating.
1001 Books/Guardian 1000 (COMPLETED THIS MONTH)
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
A Homemade Life - Molly Wizenberg
The Midwestern Pastoral - William Barillas
The Apothecary's Daughter - Julie Klassen
Hangman's Holiday - Dorothy L. Sayers
Just 26 books left to go! (8.6 books per month)
Book: A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the characters, the plot, the setting, and I didn't figure out the mystery before the protagonist (I don't try to - I like to be surprised, as long as I can keep myself from reading the ending first. Bad habit, that.)
This really should have been more than a barely-four points rating for me, but the writing got in the way of my enjoying the book. The writing is all telling and no showing. There is also a lot of passive voice. (I just spent two days proofreading a 750-word paper 82 times in order to remove all weak writing after my professor demolished my first paper. I'm kind of judgmental about writing at the moment. This is actually a good book. You should read it.)
When a student at Oxford disappears, Charles Lenox is recruited to find him. In the process, Lenox comes across the mysterious September Society and attempts to tie together two murders that took place years and miles apart.
This book was much better written than the previous one, which made it much more enjoyable. Plot wise, this is just as good as the first in the series.
In the third book in the Charles Lenox series, Lenox is attempting to get elected to Parliament in northern England and trying to ignore the murder of two journalists back in London. But he keeps getting drawn into the murder investigation, despite needing to focus on winning the election.
I've been reading the Charles Lennox books in close succession, and this is by far the best one I've read yet. I found Finch's writing unpolished and grating in the first book, but the writing has improved in each book. The plots are more complex in this book than in the previous ones, which makes the investigation more interesting.
Also, I think the book covers for this series are brilliantly designed.
I'm behind by two reviews - I'll post those later today.
Book: A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch
I liked this. I also read it long enough ago that I can't really remember it. Now I'm ready for my ER win of the next book to show up.
Book: The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell (edited by Christopher Hibbert)
This was just okay. I read the abridged version (~350 pages), which was nice. No way I'd finish the 1000+ page version, even if it was assigned for class. I enjoyed reading about life in Johnson's London, but honestly, Boswell was such a suck-up and name dropper and Johnson-stalker. It was a little weird.
Book: The Way of Improvement Leads Home by John Fea
This is an excellent biography of Philip Vickers Fithian, a Presbyterian minister in Revolutionary War-era New Jersey. Fea also does a good job of explaining the rural Enlightenment popular at the time among educated country gentlemen. This was another read for school, but I really enjoyed it. I did find that having a Calvinist-leaning Evangelical background helped in understanding Fea's analysis of eighteenth century evangelical Presbyterianism.
I hope to read more books soon. I'm working on a massive project at the moment that involves hours of reading every day (I need to annotate 30+ relevant books between now and early December), but no books completed, because I'm reading only parts of books. But I am reading about a lot of interesting subjects, including:
- the history of American property laws between Revolution and today
- the social history of American farmwives
- the influence of federal farm policy on small-scale farming
- the rise of the sustainable farming movement
- north wall: built-in desk, closet
- east wall: windows (the whole wall)
- south wall: wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the door (important feature, that)
- west wall: "blank" wall (aka the only place to put a dresser, because my closet is tiny)
So not only are there no more walls for shelving, but I'm quickly overcoming my 144 sq. ft. of floor space. Should I take out my bed? (I downsized from a full to a twin three years ago so I could double the shelf space of the built-ins.)
Anyhow, yesterday I bought:
- A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King (I'm slowly replacing my mass market paperbacks with trade paperbacks)
- The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson (on sale 85% off!!)
- Feast by Nigella Lawson
- Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson
- Enya's A Day without Rain
I almost bought three Agatha Christie first editions, but they were in a somewhat fragile state, and I don't have room for books I can't read.
Ah, I've drooled over The Oxforc Companion to Food but it's never made it home with me. You'll have to let me know. & the Nigella Lawson books should be good too. I have one of her cookbooks and don't use it as much as I should. The chocolate hazelnut "pudding" in it is almost too decadent for my friends.
I'm now 85% finished!
Best Book: I really enjoyed The Way of Improvement Leads Home
Worst Book: The Life of Samuel Johnson, while sometimes interesting, felt like I was hanging out with someone else's friends.
1001 Books/Guardian 1000 (COMPLETE)
The September Society - Charles Finch
The Fleet Street Murders - Charles Finch
A Stranger in Mayfair - Charles Finch
The Life of Samuel Johnson - James Boswell
The Way of Improvement Leads Home - John Fea
Anne Orthwood's Bastard - John Ruston Pagan
Color (COMPLETED THIS MONTH)
A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
Just 18 books left to go! (9 books per month)
ETA: I finished The Murder of Roger Ackroyd at 11:47 pm, so it's still October. :)
Plus, Boswell is such a name-dropper and suck-up.
To finish my historical mysteries category, I will instead read the new Abigail Adams mystery, Sup with the Devil by Barbara Hamilton.
WARNING: Very mild spoilers
When Gregory Matthews is found dead, his family assumes it is an accident. But when his sister insists on an autopsy, Gregory was found to have been poisoned. As the insufferable and noxious Matthews family dissolves into accusations and passive-aggressive infighting, it is up to Inspector Hannasyde to solve the murder without igniting a civil war.
I greatly enjoyed this mystery, although the conclusion is just a bit too neatly handled. All of the characters are obnoxious to one degree or another, and I really wanted to beat half of them over the head with a stick before I was halfway through the book. Actually, I really liked the plot, but despised the characters. They are all a strange mix of ignorance, stupidity, and self-righteousness.
Category: Anything Goes
This is only the second Innes mystery I've read, and I didn't like it nearly as well as the other one. Essentially, this is a variation on the country-house murder, where everyone gets accused and anyone could be the killer. Except the victim isn't killed, merely injured. I won't attempt a summary, because I couldn't keep any of the characters straight.
Also, the book has a first person narrator who is constantly making asides to the reader, which I very much dislike. The plot is too overwrought and the conclusion is too neat and doesn't really fit with the previous 240 pages of plot development. Innes does get bonus points for making me think that this would end similarly to a famous Agatha Christie novel; if he had used that particular plot, it would have made the book much better.
CookWise - Shirley O. Corriher
Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes - Jeanne Kelley
An Edible History of Humanity - Tom Standage
Cleopatra: A Life - Stacy Schiff
Magic by the Lake - Edward Eager
The Time Garden - Edward Eager
The Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau - Anthony Hope
The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld
The Prydain Chronicles (complete series in one volume) - Lloyd Alexander
Partners in Crime - Agatha Christie
Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell
Rainbow Valley - L. M. Montgomery
Curtain - Agatha Christie
Hallowe'en Party - Agatha Christie
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams
The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde
I haven't read any of these except for Rainbow Valley, and that was years ago, so I'm looking forward to reading all of them... in 2012, since none of them really fit the remaining gaps for this year.
Category: Anything Goes
An intriguing mystery of long-lost relatives, dark family secrets, blackmail, and inter-continental intrigue, this novel borders on Gothic with its suspenseful plot and sinister twists. The plot is also remarkable as the entire story takes place in less than twenty-four hours. However, the plot never feels rushed; rather Innes moves the story along at just the right speed to maximize the suspense and horror.
It's always risky to try to write a new book using someone else's characters, particularly when the main character is as famous and popular as Sherlock Holmes. Carr does a fairly good job of reproducing Conan Doyle's Victorian England, and he does an acceptable job of reproducing Holmes, although the "real" Holmes was never as verbose as Carr's. Where Carr really fails is in reproducing Watson. Carr's Watson is much more Holmes' intellectual equal than Conan Doyle's Watson ever was. Watson wasn't stupid, or else Holmes wouldn't have kept him around, but Watson never the talent or knowledge to put together random bits the way Holmes could.
Also, the mystery isn't really all that mysterious. Carr never allows suspense to build up as new plot complications are revealed; he solves the problems practically as soon as they arise. The conclusion is a bit of a let-down, particularly the bad guys' "evil machine." (Although, I will admit, I have more than a passing familiarity with medieval siege equipment. Despite having absolutely no interest in military history, I find the history of weaponry and defenses to be fascinating.)
This is an amazing book. Quite possibly one of the best I've read this year.
The Calligrapher's Daughter is the story of Najin, a Korean girl born in 1910, the same year that Korea became a protectorate of Imperial Japan, against the will of many Koreans. It follows Najin's life from 1910 to 1945, during which time Korea experienced massive cultural changes, some a result of WWII and others a result of Japanese occupation. Najin is among the first generation of Korean women to receive formal education and to have some right to determine her own future. The love story in the book is perfectly written and not completely the focus of the book (I'm not a big fan of straight up romance novels, but I don't mind books in which characters fall in love).
I particularly enjoyed the depictions of traditional Korean life, since my knowledge of Korea involves a post-1953 divided nation, the site of an American attempt to stop the spread of Communism, and M*A*S*H reruns.
I'm now 89% finished!
Best Book: The Calligrapher's Daughter, definitely
Worst Book: A Comedy of Terrors - it's a good example of the negatives of Golden Age crime novels
1001 Books/Guardian 1000 (COMPLETE)
Mysteries (COMPLETED THIS MONTH)
Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer
The Italian Secretary - Caleb Carr
The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim
A Comedy of Terrors - Michael Innes
A Night of Errors - Michael Innes
Just 13 books left to finish the challenge!!!
Wednesday: Organize sources (identify theses, classify by type of history, order by publication date)
Thursday: Work on other stuff for other classes
Friday: Write 5 pages
Saturday: Write 5 pages
Sunday: Write 5 pages, plus introduction/conclusion
Monday: Rewrite; proofread
Tuesday: Proofread; deliver to professor's office by 3pm
I didn't read anything for the first two weeks of December because I was too busy with end of the semester projects, but once the semester ended and I got my traditional end-of-semester cold, I started reading again like crazy. Here's a brief rundown of what I read while I was sick:
Book: A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch
Category: Anything Goes
This was my ER win from September, and I'd been waiting not-so-patiently for it since I read the other four books in the Charles Lenox series (I still think that an author named Charles should not also name his main character Charles; it's confusing). This was an entertaining read, although not as good as some of the others in the series. Most of the action takes place on board a ship, which severely limits the scope of the book. Also, the espionage part of the book is rather weak. I also missed the depictions of Victorian London.
Book: Edward Hopper: Forty Masterworks
This is a collection of forty of Hopper's oil paintings. I love Edward Hopper for his use of vibrant color and because he's one of the few artists I can adequately reproduce with my minimal art skills.
Book: A Student's Guide to Political Philosophy by Harvey C. Mansfield
This was a somewhat dull introduction to the history of political philosophy.
Book: Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
I don't even know where to begin with this book. I can't really summarize the plot, because it's a very one-note plot and I don't want to spoil it for anyone. The whole book doesn't make any sense, but Beerbohm has an excellent vocabulary that sent me to the dictionary repeatedly. It's still just an okay read.
I am currently reading A Burial at Sea - at page 190 - and agree with your review. I am felling a little bit let down by this fifth installment in the Charles Lennox series and the shift Finch has taken with the story.
(For the record, I bought: The Bloody Wood, Sleeping Murder, and The Big Over Easy.)
I may have read a pamphlet on popular Dewey call numbers for my last non-fiction book, but I finished the challenge earlier this evening.
See y'all in 2012... aka 3 1/2 hours. My 12 in 12 thread can be found here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/122554