10/2011

 122  We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
1965 – 224 pages – rating 9
 
  There are only three people still living in Blackwood House,   18 year-old Merricat, her older sister Constance and their aging Uncle Julian.  This is because the others,  the parents of the girls,  their parents and Julian’s wife were killed by arsenic which was put in the sugar bowl at dinner one evening.Merricat is the totally unreliable first person narrator but she never talks about the murders.  Uncle Julian talks about the murders, the loss of his wife, the trial of Constance.  Merricat goes to the market and deals with outsiders but it is these folks in the “castle” who are the outsiders.   One day their distant cousin Charles shows up and changes start.  They have always avoided any changes.Like so much of Jackson’s fiction this is an incredible book,  so much attention is given to detail,  the characters so finely drawn, the suspense so carefully built.   This was one of my Halloween books.  (lol)
 
 
121.   10/28  
The Savage City:  Race, Murder and a City on the Edge
by T.J. English
2011/ 496 pages /rating 8
This book was sometimes too dark and gritty  for my tastes.  Other times it suited me just fine.  I stayed up way after hours to finish it last night.   The narrative switches between two or three narratives –  first there is the story of George Whitmore,  a poor, black, well-meaning but ignorant and innocent kid from New Jersey who is picked up for murder and framed for it.  The second story is the one of Bill Phillips, a cop/hustler, corruption personified, taking bribes and payoffs and protection money from the people in his district.  The third story is that of the Black power movement which picked up on the struggles and shot them to national headlines with rioting while their own organization went down in the flames.   It was the framing that got gritty,  of George Whitmore and by Bill Phillips.Although I live in California,  I remembered much of it as I read along.  Not the names but the big events,  the murders of the Career Girls, the protests, the city in flames,  the “mau-mau” talk as well as the corruption scandals.  It was a hard time.  Did anything really get changed –  maybe a bit – but I wonder.
 
 
120.  10/26  
 A Canticle for Liebowitz
by Walter Miller
1960 – 368 pages
rating – 8.5
 
Said to be of the best sci-fi stories of all time.  Set in the far future, after apocalyptic times for mankind,  the world is back to real basics but the church is alive and well.  It keeps records and relics and all sorts of stuff from the first age.  A young novice finds the works of on Liebowitz,  the patron saint of his order,  through the help of an apparently supernatural hermit, hobo, wanderer.   
The merits of his findings are debated, the findings hidden and then the world goes into another stage – always ending in the bloody fighting to annihilate the “others.”   
I really,  really enjoyed the first half of this book but when it got to the second and third worlds the number of characters was confusing.   
 
 
 
 
119.  10/24
 
After the Funeral
by Agatha Christie
1953 / audio – read by Hugh Fraser
rating – 6
 

Typical Agatha Christie/Hercule Poirot book.  I used to read a lot of these when I was in my early 20s.  Now I don’t seem t like them as much – Christie reveals some info only with the revelations of guilt.  I did guess this one pretty early on, anyway.

 
 
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118.  10/23
Buddenbrooks
by Thomas Mann
1901 / 735 pages
 

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117 .   10/22   Chiefs

  Chiefs 
by Stuart Woods
Detective / 1981
Audio – Mark Hammer 
Rating 7.5 
 

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116.  10/30

Generosity

  Generosity
by Richard Powers
  2011 /  rating  8
 

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115.  10/18/11

In the Garden of the Beasts

 
In the Garden of the Beasts
by Eric Larson,2011,
366 pages,  rating 8
 
 
 
 
 
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114. –  10/17/11

Life by Keith Richards

narrated by 
rating 8
 

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113.   10/14/11 –  

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

  pub. 2010 –  384 pages – Audio  read by:  Orlagh Cassidy, Bahni Turpin                           finished 10/14/11 –   rating  6

Historical fiction –  1790-1815 or so,  Williamsburg Virginia area, a tobacco plantation – for the most part.

This started out so well and then about half way,  when Lavinia,  the orphaned Irish  girl sent to the plantation to work with the slaves for her indenture, grows up, it just falls flat.  Lavinia is a great kid,  a bit naive but that should have straightened itself out by the time she was 12 or earlier.

There are so many characters, so many huge emotional issues turning traumatic – by the end of the book it felt like a soap opera romance.  The narration was fine.

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112.   10/11/11 –  

The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies –

(book 1 of The Cornish Trilogy) –   1981 – 311 pages –  finished 10/11/11  rating 9 –  paperback 

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111.   10/10/11  – The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind – 2009 – 500 pages – audio  – 2

stupid – aliens fight about earth –  Not even going to bother with a picture.

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110.   10/8/11 –  Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

finished 10/8 –  pub. 2011 – Audible read by Jennifer Ehle –  rating   7

I loved Brooks’ first novel,  Year of Wonders and I really enjoyed her second, March, but since them I’ve felt that the quality has just slid off.   People of the Book had such a promising premise but I think Brooks just doesn’t have the talent to pull that off.   Nine Parts of Desire, a 1994 work of non-fiction is okay – not something I’d recommend.

Caleb’s Crossing is wonderfully well written but the PCness of it grates at times.  The protagonist is just a wee tad too 21st century for my historical preferences.  I suspect that Brooks did her research and the background is accurate.

Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caleb_Cheeshahteaumuck

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wampanoag_people

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_College

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109.   10/5/11 –  C. by Tom McCarthy 

 pub. 2010/ 380 pgs / rating 8

I made a lot of notes for the first half of this book and then I got bored.  The book picked up again later but for about 75 pages in the middle it was nothing but war and tunnels and drugs. Okay fine.  But I was never able to get back “into” the book.

There’s a lot of Pynchon in this book,  from “as above, so below,”  little ditties,  “everything is connected” and Kenosha.   Lots more.

What I loved was the beautifully crafted and wonderfully dense prose. The first part reminded me of The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. Then the setting changed to a mountain health resort – The Magic Mountain or The Road To Wellville, I’m sure.   But then came Gravity’s Rainbow with the

The name is from Carbon,  I suppose,  but there are lots of “C” words in the book – Carrafax (the protagonist) for one.

Carrafax is in tune with something most of us are not.  How he got that way is a question,  could have been his birth,  his sister, his near death experiences.  He sees and hears things most of us don’t.  There’s a rhythm to the universe, a sound.

The setting varies as he travels from his home in Kent, England, to a health resort in Bavaria, to the WWI war front in northern France and finally, to Egypt.

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