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pontalba's place

Discussion in 'Member Book Reviews/Journals/Blogs' started by pontalba, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Book reviews, lists, musings and meanderings. Mostly regarding books, but not necessarily.

    I'll be back. That's a promise, not a threat. :D
     
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  2. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    I thought I'd start with a list of books read, so far, this year and then keep it up to date.
    Will list reviews later, down thread.


    BOOKS READ 2014


    JANUARY
    The Accounting by William Lashner 4/5
    Wayward Pines: Before the Fall by Stephen Romano 3/5 (Kindle Words)
    Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner 5/5
    Run by Blake Crouch 3/5
    Stoner by John Williams 5/5
    The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling 3.5/5
    Veritas by William Lashner 4/5
    Out of Time by various 3/5
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt 4/5
    Barkeep by William Lashner 4/5

    FEBRUARY
    Octopussy & The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming 5/5
    The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan 3/5
    From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming 4/5
    Dr. No by Ian Fleming 3.5/5
    The Black Echo by Michael Connelly 4/5
    The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty 4/5
    Japantown by Barry Lancet 4/5
    The Black Ice by Michael Connelly 4/5
    The Martian by Andy Weir 5/5
    Dropped Names by Frank Langella 4/5
    The Intercept by Dick Wolf 4.5/5
    The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley 5/5
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt 3/5

    MARCH
    Rivers by Michael Farris Smith 3/5
    The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black 4.5/5
    The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 4/5
    Nomad: A Wayward Pines Novella by Robert Swartwood 3/5
    An American Nightmare: A Wayward Pines novella/short story by Bryan Higby 2/5
    On the Beach by Nevil Shute 5/5
    The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner 5/5
    The Unvanquished by William Faulkner 5/5
    The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 4/5
    Blood Work by Michael Connelly 4/5

    APRIL
    I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith 3.5/5
    A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry 5/5
    Beverly: A Wayward Pines Novella by Ryan Cole 4/5
    The Redundant Man: A Wayward Pines Novella by Marsha Morman 3.5/5
    First Contact: A Wayward Pines Novella by Steven Konkaly 3/5
    Big Fish by Thomas Perry 3.5/5
    The Postman by David Brin 3/5
    11/22/63 by Stephen King 4.5/5
    Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda 4/5
    Naoko by Keigo Higashino 4/5

    MAY

    A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot 3/5
    A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr 4/5
    The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West 4/5
    How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny 4/5
    Drive by James Sallis 4/5
    Driven by James Sallis 4/5
    The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters 3/5
    Recoil by Jim Thompson 3/5
    Storm Front 3/5
    Fool Moon 3/5
    Grave Peril all by Jim Butcher 4/5
    A Dish Taken Cold A Novella by Anne Perry 4/5
    Countdown City by Ben H. Winters 3.5/5
    Summer Knight 3.5/5 and
    Death Masks 3/5 by Jim Butcher
    Vanishing Act (A Jane Whitefield Novel) by Thomas Perry) 4/5
    Slip & Fall by Nick Santora 4/5
    Dance for the Dead ( A Jane Whitefield Novel) by Thomas Perry 4/5

    JUNE

    Supreme Justice by Max Allen Collins 4/5
    Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh 4/5
    Flags in The Dust by William Faulkner 5/5++
    Dixie City Jam by James Lee Burke 5/5
    The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough 5/5
    The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough 5/5
    Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon 3/5
    Blood Rites: A Harry Dresden Book by Jim Butcher 3/5
    The Son by Jo Nesbo 5/5
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014
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  3. Reads to Sleep

    Reads to Sleep Moderator Staff Member

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    I also loved Andy Weir's The Martian, Chandler's The Big Sleep and Stegner's Crossing to Safety. Really happy to meet another Faulkner reader.
     
  4. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Aside from those listed above, I've only read Absalom, Absalom!. It was like coming home. :)
     
  5. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    The Accounting by William Lashner

    This is the first book by William Lashner that I've read, and I can tell you, I'll be reading many more of this prolific author. Lashner's quick witted and fast paced style coupled with his mordant sense of humor kept me reading, at the last, till 3 in the morning.

    Halfway through the book, I thought.....well...this is it. Where can it go from here? Hah, it went, and proceeded with some interesting twists along the way.

    Three teenagers steal approximately One Million Dollars, drug money, and ostensibly get away with it. Well, sorta, kinda. The name of the book, after all, is The Accounting. But more interesting is the account of what a secret like that does to one's friendships, and ultimately one's life. Can a person live a normal life with such a terrifying secret? What will he sacrifice for that secret?

    Recommended. 4/5

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Wayward Pines: Before the Fall by Stephen Romano 3/5 (Kindle Words)
    This novel is back story to the Wayward Pines series I've read two of, and the third is due out in July. Apparently there is a lot of "fan-fiction" out there, and this is part of it.
    The writing is a little forced, and repetitive, but the idea, and the fill-in back story of the what and why of the main series was very interesting, and explained a lot of the unknowables from the series.
    I would only seriously recommend this if the reader is following the Wayward Pines series. Although it is ok as a stand alone, much is lost without the rest. IMO.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner 5/5

    The wonderful, evocative prose tells the story of two couples, beginning around 1933, through their long, married lives. It's about Life, Death, Love, and Loss.......but most of all it is about the give and take in their Friendship that sees them through the highs and very low, lows.

    The unfolding of their stories, told partially through vividly orchestrated flashbacks, is artful, but never contrived.

    Highly recommended.
     
  6. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Stoner by John Williams 5/5

    How rare is an honorable man? A man that does not follow the crowd, that is honest in his dealings with others, even to his own detriment. I found William Stoner to be such a man. Ordinary in origins, perhaps, but extraordinary in what counted. A man that put one foot in front of the other, throughout his life, doing what his conscience dictated.

    Inarticulate until he found his footing in teaching what he loved, he came from the unlikeliest of backgrounds to University. Arriving for the first time, he knew he was Home.

    An interesting man, a capable man. A man that dealt with the hard blows and unfairness that Life handed him with grace and dignity. A true man.
    Recommended

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling 3.5/5

    I like detective stories, and have read a lot of them. Having only read one of Rowling's Potter series, I didn't know what to expect.

    The first half or so was a bit disappointing, with what I considered a naïve, overly descriptive brand of writing. I'm sure it was only Rowling sort of finding her way, trying to get into the groove of "noir", and not succeeding very well. But there was something there, the bones of a good story, I thought. Her detective, Cormoran Strike, is an interesting character. He is slowly developed, his past brought out bits at the time. But Rowling's introductions of the characters were, to my eye, awkward, almost sophomoric in tone at times. I would have appreciated a bit more in the way of twists in the plot. But it did keep me reading.

    But, about halfway, or a bit more through, things started to gel and the pace picked up and developed into a really interesting story. There is always a problem with first of a series (am I wrong in thinking it a series?). The introduction of characters, their quirks and foibles. Integrating them with the plot, making connections by showing, without telling.

    I think this can be an excellent series, there is a great deal of potential there. It can't have been easy making the genre transition, but I definitely think she's got something good going. I'll certainly look for a sequel. [​IMG]

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Veritas by William Lashner 4/5

    Ancient theft of business, murder, secret graves in the garden, recovered sections of a diary all fuel this multi-generational, dueling family feud. Oh, and lets not forget the Mob connected attorney that falls into this pit of vipers. Victor Carl is in over his head, and he knows it. He is trying to find out who is murdering off a family, and in conjunction attempting to extricate himself from his Mob connections. Carl is not exactly the picture of morality himself, but he tries to mostly do the right thing. And, if that right thing involves lining his own pockets, well, all the better.

    Lashner certainly has a sense of humor, albeit a twisted one. Veritas is the last thing that is on the minds of any of the inhabitants of the vast Reddman/Shaw estate. Lying and generational obfuscation seem to be the order of the day, here.

    Philadelphia to Belize, Carl slowly finds his way to the real truth of the matter, but will the truth win out? Depends on your version of the truth.

    Recommended
     
  7. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    The Secret History by Donna Tartt 4/5

    A twisted tale of murder, murder in the first degree. Planned, target stalked, plan executed by some of the most despicable and selfish characters I've run into. Made all the more so by their superficial innocence, extreme intelligence and youth.

    Taught in a hothouse environment, secluded away from the rest of the University these students flourish at their Classical Greek studies. They slip into the dead language easily, both on paper and vocally. These are talented and brilliant young people and should have had a brilliant career ahead of them. Unfortunately they slip into more than just the language, they wish to become.....what? One with the Muses? The gods? Did they even know?

    Hubris takes over and a terrible crime takes place, whether by accident or I wonder, design. In the end, I'm not sure, nor are they, I believe. But the cover up of that crime is even more heinous. And the aftermath exacts retribution from each of the participants.

    Tartt is a wonderfully talented writer. She tells a Gothic tale that should take place in hot and steamy Southern forests, but is just as real and terrifying in New England. Her descriptions of grief struck parents is heartbreaking in every telling detail.

    Recommended.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Octopussy, The Living Daylights, The Property of a Lady and 007 in New York by Ian Fleming 5/5

    Four Bond adventures, three of which are probably about novella length and one, the last, a short story are pared to the bone. No fluff, straight up stories that give the reader an insightful view into what James Bond's life was actually like. Some show his doubts about his job, but all show the business end of the job.

    The stories have Bond dealing with a washed up Major in Jamaica who plays dangerous games with an octopus, another tells of a double agent and her probable downfall. The Living Daylights actually bears some very slight resemblance to the film of that name. Remember, I did say it was slight. [​IMG] In the last short story, 007 in New York we learn a few of Bond's true fantasies, and what it takes to satisfy them.

    Unlike the films, there are no sexual antics, probably his worst habit is smoking. Oh, well, and killing for a living. But it's all government sanctioned, so, it's fine.

    I loved all four of the stories, they showed Bond getting the job done. They were straight to the point.
    Well done!

    Recommended.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan 3/5

    An fascinating Chronicle kept by several women, over the course of 400-odd years. From Moorish Spain to the West Coast of South America a story of hardship, sacrifice but most of all, love. Love for their Order, love for their husbands, and children and above all faith in God. It isn't until the end that we are told what we have already surmised, the origin of this particular Order of Catholic nuns. The nuns survival of the Spanish Inquisition, and hardship of sea travel in the 16th Century are told with flair and realism.

    It culminates in the person of one child in the latter 20th Century. Partially accidental.....although is it a contrived accident? This was one of the weaknesses for me, but I am not a particular fan of Magic Realism. The book also smacked of a little too much Romance for my taste, but I'm not a fan of that genre either. In spite of all of that, I truly enjoyed the book, and it's softer approach to Historical Fiction.

    The Sisterhood is trying to encourage the empowerment of women, and it does to some extent. However, for my money, it still ends up relying on the big, strong man to rescue them. And, while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it kind of kills the idea of the Female Empowerment theme of the book.
     
  8. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming 4/5

    What a blast from the past! Although Fleming's writing holds up well, in my opinion, it is a little dated. The world political situation has changed since the 1950's, at least superficially. Some of the players have changed hats at least. But that is another book.

    Bond is sent on a mission to collect a cipher machine that is being supposedly offered by a young woman that has a "crush" on him. Of course it is all a SMERSH plot to discredit The Service through Bond. How Bond handles the assignment is the basis of the story.

    We learn a great deal also about the operations of the old Soviet system. Fleming had a background that would be familiar with the technical details. In fact, in his Author's Note there is an interesting bit noting that the descriptions in the book are, in fact, accurate. Depicting actual meeting places and participants in the real SMERSH (a contraction of Smiert Spionam - Death to Spies).

    I was happy to see that this book was rather faithfully followed, at least the basics, by the film of the same name. Quite a few of the later books were not given that happy fate.
    I'll also add here that I've reread Dr. No by Ian Fleming...a 3.5/5 rating here.
    In this particular novel, the reader has to remember the time and place the book was written. There are some stereotypical, and racist ideas that are used. But all in all, it is an interesting story, and what I mostly appreciate in all the recent Bond books I've reread is the interior monologue that Fleming gives Bond. When you watch the films, all we see is the suave spy, and while some of the actors that have portrayed Bond have been able to project those emotions, some haven't.
    Everyone has their favorite James Bond....mine always was, and really still is, Sean Connery. But there have been a couple of others, mainly Timothy Dalton. Who according to IMDb is known as the Bond closest to Fleming's idea of Bond. I also very much like the newest Bond, Daniel Craig. He may actually be the best, in the end.
     
  9. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty 4/5

    Men with secrets that change the course of their own and others lives, their marriages and their children. How and when the secrets come out, and to what extent the wives learning of them act upon same.

    A story of recriminations, retribution, revenge. But also of love and what it can and will endure for the sake of family.

    The first chapter had me laughing out loud with it's realism and analysis of women's friendship, and Moriarty's realistic and clear prose kept me reading. Make no mistake though, this is no comedy. It realistically depicts the inner monologue of the women, their vacillating and turmoil come through loud and clear.

    To call this book "chick lit" is to do the story a disservice, in my opinion. That title engenders basically a light and fluffy, happy-ever-after ending, to me at least. If you enjoy stories about people's lives and motivations, you'll enjoy this book.

    Oh, and there is a murder.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Black Echo by Michael Connelly 4/5

    Many times the first of a series (in fact usually) is just plain stuffed with too much introductory information that drags the main story down and slows the action. Not this one, it comes out swinging. A complex and interesting back story is told along with the main thread of the story. We learn the details slowly, told almost lovingly by Connelly.

    Harry Bosch is an interesting character. Cynical and bone weary of his life, somehow he still projects a sense of hope. He was an orphan, a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War, and now is part of LAPD homicide division. He has seen pretty much everything miserable there is to see.

    Weaving the present day (circa early 1990's) with memories of the Vietnam War, Connelly introduces his characters with their fears and motivations. Thieves, murderers, and old connections surface and come together masterfully. Some quite unexpectedly, I might add. Of course it's all about money, the big kill, the theft to end all thefts.
    Cross and double cross, laying down false scents, just who are the bad guys.

    Recommended.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Japantown by Barry Lancet 4/5

    Tightly wound thriller about a San Francisco based art/antique dealer whose estranged father has left him half a share of a Tokyo based detective agency. Jim Brodie has skills that qualify him for both worlds and they are put to the test in this surprisingly twisty tale of murder and mayhem.

    It has some of the problems of first novel in a series, but after the first third of the book they are pretty much ironed out and the last half zips by with action packed sequences. The criminals he has to deal with make Murder, Inc. look like a bunch of kindergarteners.

    Lancet's attention to detail and the apparent accuracy of said details regarding the ins and outs of Japanese politics and crime make this all the more interesting. The action is split between San Francisco and Japan, but the final battle takes place in New York.

    Recommended.
     
  10. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    The Martian by Andy Weir 5/5

    Worst case scenario. Man injured, thought to be dead, left on Mars by his fellow Astronauts. And although he should have been dead, Mark Watney is not. Although, if he doesn't hurry up and figure out how to eat, drink, and oh, by the way.....breathe, he will be soon enough.

    If you enjoy edge of your seat action, constant hurdles for your hero to contend with, this is definitely your cuppa. Watney is the perfect contender to survive an unplanned Martian stay, but for how long? How can one human, dependent on a little thing like oxygen manage to live on the Martian surface? No matter how clever, and how original, he is the odds are certainly against him.

    From Watney's POV, the story is told in Journal Style which alternates with NASA's nail biting and anxiety ridden view. There is a great deal of rather technical information given, but Weir managed to not totally discombobulate this reader. It was actually quite fascinating. The sense of humor Watney shows is fabulous, and was a great antidote to the alternating moments of pure terror.

    Humankind at it's best. Who can resist that? [​IMG]

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them by Frank Langella 4/5

    Not only is Frank Langella a marvelous and talented actor, it turns out he is a gifted writer as well. His turn of phrase is a delight to read. His candid stories of the wide array of famous people he has known, both casually and intimately, are fabulous. This is definitely not a kiss and tell book. Langella remains a gentleman at all times. The few intimate encounters he does mention are told with sensitivity and discretion.

    The humor with which the Cast of Characters are handled is wonderful. We hear stories of Marilyn Monroe and Noel Coward to Tip O'Neill, from Richard Burton to Bette Davis. Actors, politicians, agents are all there. Langella does not spare himself. He is not always cast as the "hero". He admits when he behaved badly, and when he did, or didn't attempt to make up for said behavior.

    There are funny stories, there are deathbed stories, the reader laughs out loud and sometimes sheds a tear. And throughout, Langella's own story is told, albeit not completely. I hope he writes that story someday. I'd certainly buy that one. Langella comes off as a sensual and kind gentleman that has made good in an industry that will eat one alive.

    Recommended.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Intercept by Dick Wolf (yes, that Dick Wolf) 4.5/5

    A fast paced, tense and thoroughly up to date thriller that brings the reader into the murky world of terrorism. Wolf's prose is clipped, lending itself to the swift pacing, never letting up for a moment. The story switches the perspective back and forth between New York Police Department detective, Jeremy Fisk and terrorists on the move. Fisk is attached to a counter-terrorism unit within the NYPD that is partnered with the FBI to intercept terrorists before they can strike.

    The layered plot leads the reader through many twists and turns. Not everything is as it seems, and it isn't always easy to know when one has reached the truth, or who to trust.

    I'm certainly looking forward to the next in this exciting series.
     
  11. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley 5/5

    The latest Flavia de Luce installment does not disappoint. Harriet de Luce, Flavia's long missing Mother has at last been found and is coming home. Bradley outdoes himself in this installment. He brings some very interesting and seemingly diverse elements scattered throughout the previous books together very nicely. While some mysteries are cleared up, more are produced. It's a coming together that opens up huge new vistas for our Flavia.

    To say much more would spoil the surprises, but suffice it to say this just might be the best de Luce novel yet. Bradley always leaves me wishing the next book was out already!

    Highly recommended

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt 3/5

    I wanted to love this book, and would have if it had concentrated on the story of Jim Williams and the sensational murder trial(s) that rocked Savannah, Georgia in the 1980's. Evidently I had the incorrect pre-impression of the contents.

    The murder and trials are a continuing thread in stories of Savannah's various and sundry, rather eccentric residents. Some have a bearing on William's story, some do not relate in the least. Berendt does however, paint an interesting travelogue of the City. We hear of the standoffishness of the residents, and the close-mindedness of same. The extremes are, well.....extreme. Con men, hustlers, Grand Dames, all mingle in the book. The author explains how the actual geography of the City contributes and forms that insular place.

    I really feel the book could have been cut by at least one-third and still covered all the bases the author required. There was a great deal of repetition regarding some of the more "titillating" residents. I found it quite unnecessary.

    It certainly helped me cross Savannah right off of my To Be Visited Cities of the South. What a shame.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel by Benjamin Black 4.5/5

    It's been decades since I've read any Philip Marlowe, but the similarities are more than striking. Black/Banville brings the detective to life, beautifully. A disillusioned detective, a beautiful damsel in distress, slippery gangsters populate, and move about in this Marlowe recreation in more or less the expected fashion. The prose is toned-down Banville, and as usual, gorgeous and descriptive in an unobtrusive manner.

    I don't think I can put it anywhere near as accurately as the New York Times review by Janet Maslin, so I'll insert that link here. http://www.nytimes.c...14/03/07/boo...

    Recommended.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Rivers by Michael Farris Smith 3/5

    The Gulf Coast of the U.S. is being inundated with constant hurricanes, ever increasing in ferocity. Finally, in desperation, the government declares anything 90 miles North of the coastline to be a wasteland, lost, uninhabitable. Mandatory evacuation is called, and a time limit is set for residents to leave. They must leave their homes, and probably most of their belongings. Scary stuff. Even scarier is that some decided to stay. A plethora of reasons, some honest, some crooked as the day is long. There is no law. Only "might makes right".

    This is the story of one man that stays, and the few innocents, and the very bad guys he encounters.

    I'd have given a higher rating, but I felt the story dragged a bit too much in the middle, but it did pick up beautifully and had a bit of a twisty ending. All in all I can easily recommend this to someone that enjoys post apocalyptic stories.
     
  12. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 4/5

    I was utterly charmed by this book. The story of two very unlikely people meeting in a most peculiar manner, and falling in love. Both stoutly denying it the entire time. Don Tillman is brilliant, but socially inept, organized to the Nth degree, and Rosie.....well, Rosie is almost the exact opposite......flamboyant and colorful.

    I am not ordinarily a fan of "romantic comedies", but this is certainly the exception to the rule. The matter-of-fact prose that Simsion writes cuts right through the chatter and hits the target. This is truly laugh out loud funny. I had to stop and read portions out loud to my husband, with both of us giggling, hardly able to continue.

    This is a story of possibilities, of regeneration, and most of all being able to start over.

    Highly recommended.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I've just finished two of the Wayward Pines novellas, one really a longish short story. I really wish that Blake Crouch, the author of the original Wayward Pines series would keep a closer rein on the off shoots. I'm beginning to think I won't even bother to purchase anymore of those.
    Nomad: A Wayward Pines Novella by Robert Swartwood 3/5
    A fair addition to the Wayward Pines series, but not half as good as the original series that is still in progress. This covers another aspect of the world outside the Wayward Pines compound extending the storyline somewhat, but not conflicting. It's almost like fanfic, but a little more.
    and
    An American Nightmare: A Wayward Pines Novella/short story 2/5
    A rather unsatisfying addition to the lore of Wayward Pines, but it also adds somewhat to the fates of one of the main characters. A bit amateurish, and not very good really. Not even sure why I gave it as high a rating as I have. Going soft in my old age I suppose. heh

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    On the Beach by Nevil Shute 5/5

    Everyone on the planet probably knows the story. Nuclear war, lasting only 37 days. This is the aftermath of that short lived mania. Radiation is spreading across the globe with the wind patterns, and the Southern Hemisphere is the last to be affected. There are only two American submarines left, and this novel covers the life of the one (now) based in Australia. The novel beautifully entwines the story of the submariners with the local citizens, all waiting for the Radiation Sickness to reach them. The manner in which they all handle it is shown with Shute's understated elegant prose, and economical style.

    For some deluded reason, I'd put off reading this gem of a book. A few years ago I re-read Shute's A Town Like Alice, and was a little disappointed, so transferred that disappointment to a preconception of disappointment in this novel. How wrong can one person be? [​IMG]

    Shute mostly portrays the better side of human nature, not ignoring the baser side, but not dwelling upon it. His characters are for the most part, honorable men and women trying to live the balance of their lives with a modicum of dignity. Sometimes the reader wants to say, Oh, come on!, but the characters remain true to themselves. They all manage in the best way they can, sometimes unrealistically, but on the other hand, with stark realism that is shattering.

    On the Beach was written in 1957, and set in the early 1960's. Of course the technology is somewhat dated, but that doesn't affect the telling of a great human story.

    Highly Recommended.
     
  13. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner 5+/5

    The good more than outweighs the difficult in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. This was my second attempt, the first being shattered by the Benjy section. Just couldn't slog my way through it. Finally, this time, I decided that even if it annoyed me, irritated me, or just plain floored me.....by gum, I'd get through it! Then I fell into the rhythm of the section, and just accepted, and let it flow over me.

    Quentin's sections were much more easily gotten through with the huge patches of Faulkner's gorgeous prose. Painterly does not begin to give his style justice. We see the sights, smell the smells, and feel all of it in our very bones.

    p.76: "When the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtains it was between seven and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather's and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it's rather excruciating-ly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father's. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools."

    Faulkner catches exactly the relationship between classes and races of people, beautifully. This is the way the South was. Faulkner lived it, and committed it to paper with style and much grace. He manages the patois of the servants without a hint of ridicule, truly and softly. There is much love here, and much truth.

    Finally, when all the sections are read, all the points of view are given, we understand why Benjy's section was first. It had to be for the truth to be told. The reader may heartily dislike many of the characters, but we are given the tools to understand them, perhaps even sympathize with them.....and certainly to know them.

    Highly recommended.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Unvanquished by William Faulkner 5/5

    This novel ties in with the rest of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County stories. This one follows the Sartoris family through the American Civil War, and part of Reconstruction. The action is seen through the youngest son, Bayard, who is about 15 years old in the beginning and through a good segment of the action.

    Faulkner created both larger than life characters and the everyday, mundane details that make a story great. His lyrical and musical style flows with dignity and grace throughout. He captures, beautifully, the feelings of entitlement, innocence and deep friendship between Bayard and Ringo, who is actually a family slave. They were born at the same time, and nursed by the same breast. They are brothers in the best sense of the word. Their bond goes beyond friendship, it is a blood bond that cannot, and is not broken.

    Faulkner followed the basic advice that is given to writers, write what you know! He was of an age that heard the stories, from the original participants in some cases, and if not, the participant's children regarding the Civil War and it's terrible aftermath. He doesn't either glorify or condemn those participants. He simply tells their story. The story of the unvanquished.

    Highly Recommended.
     
  14. SuperReaderGirl

    SuperReaderGirl Forum Owner Staff Member

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    Wow, Pontalba!!! That is a lot of reading!!! :buttrock A few years ago I had a stage where I read around 8 books a month (sometimes more/sometimes less), but you've definitely got me beat. :)

    I'm enjoying reading your thoughts and adding to my (ever-growing) list of books to read!
     
  15. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, SRG! :)

    Glad to be of help. :cool: :devillook
     
  16. Gita V.Reddy

    Gita V.Reddy Active Member

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    Wow! Both for the reading and the sharing. My reading is on hold because I have committed (to myself) to complete the book I am working on but your list is a very strong temptation....
     
  17. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    :) I can well imagine that writing is a huge commitment, and time consuming to say the least. You have my admiration for making that commitment, and really, that's what a tbr list is all about. :D
     
  18. Maine Colonial

    Maine Colonial Moderator Staff Member

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    I loved reading your book list and thoughts. I was especially happy to see what you wrote about The Husband's Secret. My book club just chose it for next month and I wasn't looking forward to it, thinking it would be standard domestic drama. But you make it sound like so much more than that––and then to say "Oh, and there is a murder"–––well, now I'm downright excited.

    I think The Cuckoo's Calling was J. K. Rowling's stab at contemporary private detective crime fiction and a pretty good attempt. She can be overly descriptive, I definitely agree with you. She could easily have lost 25% of the text and it would have been an improvement. I imagine editors hesitate to suggest that to her. Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott are promising characters and I'm looking to the next in the series, The Silkworm, which comes out in June.

    I'm completely with you on The Rosie Project. I was reading bits out loud to my husband, too.
     
  19. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, MC. :)

    I liked The Cuckoo's Nest well enough to preorder The Silkworm. I'm hoping that the second will improve as it does with many series.
     
  20. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Blood Work by Michael Connelly 4/5

    Dick Francis wrote a detective in Whip Hand with a missing hand, and now Michael Connelly has created a detective with a new twist on vulnerability. Terry McCaleb is a heart transplant patient. He is a retired, ex-FBI profiler that was very good at his work. Two months post-op he must find the murderer of his donor.

    The twists and turns that this novel takes are both expected, and very unexpected. Red Herrings abound, and creepy things come out of the woodwork. The reader is kept on the edge of their seat by the many harrowing aspects of both the case, and McCaleb's health issues. Not to mention his fledging and hopeful love life.

    Recommended for detective aficionados.
     
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