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Thread: All booked up

  1. #16
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muza View Post
    What a great thread!!! Sybarite, the Gorky Park sounds great - I will be sure to read it, as soon as I get my hands on it...
    I'm glad that you like the thread, Muza. If you find it, I hope that you enjoy Gorky Park – I've just started Polar Star, the sequel, after a 'busy' few days relaxing with books.

    So my most recent reads have been:

    Live from Golgotha by Gore Vidal

    Well, having decided that I wanted to try some Gore Vidal, this was one of two that I selected from Amazon.

    The story of Timothy, early father of the Christian church, and 'Saint' (Paul), and some time travel and the TV battle to film the crucifixion and ...

    An extraordinary piece of imaginative fiction – iconoclastic and very, very funny. This works on so many levels, including as a look at the nature of religion, the nature (from a vaguely historical perspective) of what Christianity is and where it comes from, and the nature of memory.

    Huge fun.

    Scouse Mouse by George Melly

    The first volume of George Melly's memoirs, set between the wars in Liverpool, England, makes for fascinating and highly entertaining reading – not for any great escapades on the part of this legendary and late lamented jazz musician, but because he creates such a vivid picture of life at that time, in that place, in his slightly Bohemian and middle-class family, that there are moments when you can almost smell it all.

    Quite coincidentally, this book, like the Vidal before it, touches on the nature of memory, as Melly points out that he had 'memories', really strong and clear ones, that cannot possibly be memories because he knows that such conditions as he 'remembers' (his mother driving) could not occur (she never drove). How much of memory is what we're told/taught and what we wish or imagine had happened?

    Evocative indeed.

    The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

    Semi-autobiographical novel from the literary Mitford sister, this tells the story of an upper-class, landed family between the wars, concentrating on the romantic exploits of one daughter, Linda, who is partly based on the author herself.

    Beautifully written, wryly amusing and really quite sharp in its description of the foibles of the class from which she herself came, Mitford's 1945 novel is a fascinating picture of a way of life that is now gone.

    And since I seem, entirely coincidentally, to be finding links between books, this is set in pretty much the same period as Scouse Mouse and, like that, is partly about the foibles of a particular class.

  2. #17
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    Greetings to all you booklovers.
    I thought I'd pop in and tell you what I've read since I quite like reading all kinds of books and also I thought I might find some excellent suggestions for future readings.

    I mostly like to read Terry Pratchett's books, or more like devour them, about Discworld and everything wonderful, magical, funny etc. stuff happening to its large variety of main characters. I think I've read over 20 of them and theres is no end in sight because there's at least 20 I haven't read and Pratchett is very productive Almost every book can be read independently or part of a larger story and still you would know what discworld series is all about, laughter. Wintersmith is the latest one I've read from him and again I have to tip my hat to Terry for writing such a wonderful book. Telling a story about a young witch, Tiffany, along these little blue scottish looking 'n talking men called feegles who are dumb as a boot but can fight like a superbarbarian giant Tiffany chooses a wrong place and a time to dance and mixes things up real good which almost leads to never ending winter and the story can begin.
    I recommend Terry Pratchett's books to everyone who like a bit weird witty twisted humour and fantasy combined, you can't go wrong with any of them.

    Next book I want mention is The Star Rover by Jack London.
    I think I've read this old classic for 3 times now and my mind still keeps wanting to get back to it for fresh memories.
    It's a story about a man who gets sentenced for life in prison for murder. While in prison he gets harsh treatment and most of the time he lies in his cell in a old fashioned straitjacket. He learns from another inmate how "shut" his body and mind and go into a trance. In this state he can travel amongs stars and into his past lives. These travels take him from castaway to a begger in early times of china and to many other places and times. It's really interesting and well written book that makes you think about possible past lives that you might've had and the whole reincarnation subject.I know its possible to go into that kind of trance and be able to control and understand your dreams which I believe in and it gives a whole another perspective for this story.
    A book you'll never be tired of reading again.

    Whew, that looks like a lot of text
    I hope some find this helpful although I don't think I should be a book reviewer just yet I have many many other interesting books I would like to share with you but I think this is good length for one post
    I'll write some more reviews later when I feel like I'm not taking over this thread
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  3. #18
    Rear Admiral Appassionata Muza's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    I have also recently read two great books by Paolo Coehlo, which had quite an effect on me. Devil and Ms. Prym discusses the general nature of a man (human that is) - are we essentially good or will we give in to temptation and take the first chance to let our inner "evil" shine through? The topic as old as time....
    The second book is The Alchemyst, of which I am sure most, if not all, of you have heard before. The book deals with ability to "communicate" with the universe. The universe sends us signs all the time, and it is up to us to see them or ignore them. Although this story is much more mellow and less suspenseful than the first one, the topic is quite interesting.

    Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass? ~Michael Torke

  4. #19
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Mobi, Terry Pratchett is a superb writer – very much underestimated by some people who assume that, because his novels are set in a fantasy world and are funny (do not read them while traveling on public transport – people will look very peculiarly at you when you can't stop laughing out loud), but aren't 'literature'. They're not only literature, but they're also some of the best satires that the UK has produced in years – Pratchett is the best satirist (and a far more prolific and consistent one) since Tom Sharpe and probably since PG Wodehouse (and he's more versatile than Wodehouse too). Witches Abroad remains a favourite, together with Jingo and Thud (who else dare take on religious fundamentalism?), while Reaper Man shows another part of Pratchett's gifts – he can shift from making you laugh to making you cry very quickly indeed – a master of genuine pathos, because you really do care about his wonderful characters, from Granny Weatherwax to Sam Vimes to Death.

    Unfortunately, Terry recently announced that he has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's. However, he says that he's still got plenty of writing in him.

    I've been reading Pratchett's books since 1987 when, after reading The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, I went to a book signing in a tiny sci-fi/fantasy shop in Lancaster in the north of England to meet him and buy Equal Rights. He was so little known at the time that nobody else was there. Not only did I get three books signed (I still have them all), but we have a great and very funny chat.
    Last edited by Sybarite; Dec-29-2007 at 01:11. Reason: Correcting a couple of clumsy literals.

  5. #20
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    Do you ever take a songbook and read it like a novel. I do as well as
    a cookbook. Some songs tell a story. As for cooking, once in a while,
    I will come upon an idea on fixing something different.
    judy tooley

  6. #21
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith

    The return of Arkady Renko after Gorky Park left him in the snow and freeing mink in the US.

    Having avoided being shot for treason, his old enemy Colonel Pribluda has enabled Renko to 'escape' Moscow, but after a few years, he's on the "slime line" of a Soviet factory ship in the Bering Sea, and the chances are that he won't be allowed back on land when they return to Vladivostock.

    But that's before a female member of the crew turns up in a fishing net – and her death wasn't accidental. And an investigation can't wait, because the ship is working with US trawlers and so international relations could be involved.

    A tight and compelling thriller, which leaves you guessing until the denouement. Smith creates excellent characters, while his descriptive powers can have you feeling the blast of icy air as the boats head for the ice cap.

  7. #22
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Maigret and the Toy Village by Georges Simenon

    An elderly man is murdered in a new village just outside Paris. Only his strange – and very young – housekeeper seems to know anything about what happened, and she's not telling the police anything.

    But instead of spending his time in Paris, chasing down some obvious suspects, the inspector finds himself fascinated, frustrated and obsessed by the girl.

    Another deceptively simple Maigret story, which centres, perhaps even more than most, on Maigret himself, foibles and all.

    Delightful.

  8. #23
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    I prefer to read sometimes a western by Louis L'amour.
    judy tooley

  9. #24
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    The Life & Loves of a She Devil by Fay Weldon

    Ruth is fat, ungainly and not pretty. Mary Fisher is all the things she is not. Ruth is timid and tries to live according to a litany of 'feminine' traits, including being a dutiful wife who endeavours to make life as comfortable as possible for her husband. Mary writes successful trashy romances and enjoys a string of lovers.

    When Ruth's husband leaves her for the author, it forces her to realise what she is and, in enacting her revenge, she changes from passive female to she devil.

    Funny and vicious in parts, Weldon's biggest hit is usually characterised as a 'moral tale'. But what is the moral? Don't love because love is a con and to love is weak? Personality and talent matter nothing if you don't have beauty? Men are shallow? Women are as shallow as men? Women are their own worst enemy? Power is everything? Women need to learn to give themselves permission to stop being 'nice'?

    It's very much part of the fun trying to work out exactly what the 'moral' is in this deceptively simple story, and it could be any or all of these things – and probably a few more too.

    And you're left with a sense that even Weldon isn't sure. She seems to throw her arms up in frustration at the way people behave and simply reach the conclusion that, 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em'.

    Very easy to read, it charges along in Weldon's spare prose, as the she devil heads for her apotheosis.

    Fun.

  10. #25
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Adventures of Casanova by Giacomo Casanova

    The Folio Society edition that I read is a mere 301 pages – a small selection of the adventures laid down in Casanova's 12 volumes of memoir, so it's little more than a taster, but a fascinating taster it is.

    Casanova was a contemporary of the Marquis de Sade and, like the Frenchman, he has given his name to a form of sexual behaviour. In this case, as a womaniser and seducer.

    But as well as being a lover, he was also a traveller, a thinker and poet; he knew the likes of Goethe and Mozart and Voltaire, although unfortunately only an account of his meetings with the latter is considered worthy of inclusion in this selection (it also includes a detailed account of his escape from prison in Venice).

    What is clear from this selection of his memoirs is that, instead of being a misogynist, as he has been traditionally portrayed, he genuinely liked women. More than that, he liked intelligent and strong women with whom he could have a real conversation – could properly engage with. This was an observation that Dr Who writer Russell T Davies made in an interview when his three-part series about Casanova was screened a few years ago (and he'd apparently read all the memoirs).

    And perhaps this is why his name had to be sullied and used as a way of describing behaviour that society wanted to decry – indeed, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, his name only became used as a byword for immorality and bad treatment of women as late as the 20th century.

    So was his 'crime' that he liked women and treated them as equals intellectually and sexually?

    That brings me back to Sade again – he too espoused an approach to sex that was absolutely egalitarian; his women were allowed to be just as much libertines as his men, to get what they wanted sexually and to enjoy it.

    Women being intellectually equal? Women enjoying sex? Women not being virginal and women actually having sexual relationships outside of marriage? In the context of how western society has often treated such matters – and in some cases, still does – it's perhaps no surprise at all that this fascinating figure was so misunderstood or had to be portrayed in such a way. In English culture, for instance, the respectable Englishwoman is essentially asexual – think of 'the English Rose', of Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter etc – arguably a Protestant, semi-secular Madonna. And if you wish to maintain an idea of women as the madonna, you can't allow the ***** to intervene.

    A fascinating book selection indeed – enough to whet the appetite for further reading at a later date.

  11. #26
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    The Book of Evidence by John Banville

    'Extraordinary' is a grossly overused word, but it is not risking accusations of hyperbole to apply it to John Banville's The Book of Evidence.

    It's difficult to know exactly where to begin with this - the basics are that Freddie Montgomery steals a Dutch old master and murders a young woman in the process. The book is his account of what led up to his crimes, how he committed them and the aftermath.

    Or is it? Here is the first question. The narrator seems to make errors in the telling of his story, go back and reconsider things, remember other things suddenly - all the things that seem to give it the mark of being a genuine account. But there is enough of a twist, right at the end, to cast doubt in the reader's mind - not certainty, but doubt.

    And this fits perfectly with one of the themes of the book - the roles that we play. Freddie, it seems, cannot act the kind of role that society demands of him. The evny that he notes for theatre actors mirrors his own apparent inability to play the role of living a 'normal' life. But for Freddie, a 'normal' life is a lie and, all around him, are people living lies. Daphne, his wife, is a closet bisexual. So is his mother. His father was having an affair - so, possibly, was his mother. His friends are living lies too, playing the roles expected of them by society and keeping their real selves hidden behind closed doors - Wally the bar owner and his young shag; Charlie, with his dodgy business dealings and partners, and the question over his sexuality.

    So it could be said that Freddie does what he does honestly - or at least that is part of how he attempts to portray it.

    On the other hand, it could be said that, having committed the crime with (if we are to believe him) no real planning, Freddie creates a role for himself - that of the criminal, the prisoner. So the crime allows him to do what otherwise he cannot.

    So the murder is both his apotheosis and his downfall - and his account maintains a sense of ambivalence about whether what it transforms him into being is good or bad.

    What does occur as a result of the crimes is that Freddie finally takes responsibility for something - he admits his guilt. Yet even this comes against a background of his needing to spend time attempting to convince us - or himself? - that others are to blame for everything in his life; his parents, for starters.

    And he is obsessed with women - the painting that he steals fascinates him to the extent that he creates a backstory for the subject. In it, he imagines that the act of being painted teaches the subject "how to die". This woman that captivates him is long dead, but his backstory imagines death for her. Freddie's relationship with his mother is troubled - he refers to her more than once as a "bitch" and behaves as though she owes him a living. He finds it entirely easy to run away and leave his wife (and child) potentially in physical danger. His descriptions of both Anna and Foxy show his very mixed attitudes toward them both. Later, he fantasises about sex with all the women in his life, including his mother and a young child.

    Does all this suggest that at root, Freddie fears women - cannot control them, feels that he is controlled by them, blames them for everything? Does it suggest that - how Freudian is this - that he is scared of sex and blames them for that? Or is he insecure in his own sexuality? He envies Wally's flamboyant gay customers, his relationships with women are difficult etc. The crime solves his inability - unwillingness - to accept responsibility. His refusal to flee, knowing that he will eventually be caught - and looking forward to it - his comfort at being handcuffed ... all these things suggest a desire to be constrained, to be dominated. Perhaps we're back to sex again - Frankie needs to be dominated; he needs strong women (or men?) to control him.

    The writing is exemplary. Banville's prose is a gloriously sensual ride - Freddie's sensualism is superbly conveyed by the language: indeed, his desire for a dictionary in prison, his relishing the words he employs, are sensual acts. And this language, together with the sense that Freddie takes some sort of pleasure in what he has done, that he relates it (or this version of it) with such relish, is what is so reminiscent of Nabokov's Lolita.

    Much here is smoke and mirrors. We cannot know what Freddie really thinks or knows or has done - because he will not give us a guarantee that he is telling the truth. So we cannot know what Banville really thinks - or intends us to think. Perhaps it is enough that this slender tome seems to have more layers than millefeuille and leaves you feeling that you've been staring into a bottomless sea that you will never be able to fully fathom. That leaves the reader feeling both incredibly frustrated, desperate to comprehend more - and also incredibly satisfied.

    A magnificent read.

  12. #27
    Rear Admiral Appassionata Muza's Avatar
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    lols, Sybarite - you have got to slow down . All of those sounds so interesting, but I just cant keep up with you . (I just moved, so I dont have any books, so I do all my reading online - it takes a little longer)
    I just started reading Terry Pratchett - I havent got far, but it looks like its gonna be hillarious. Im determined to read all of his books that I find!!!
    Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass? ~Michael Torke

  13. #28
    Captain of Water Music C5Says's Avatar
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    Before I became a blogger, all my readings came from books. I buy books I don't know when I will be able to read. Most are espionage and DIY and puzzles and several dictionaries of, and how to learn another language. There came a time I had to give them all away save for the DIYs.

    I don't recall any story. Ok, maybe most. I mean from start to end. I know, as I read a book, I would know what's happening. By the end I can say if it's a good one. I'd be learning lessons but I can never tell the story again. It would be easier to lend the book.

    Among the novels I've read long ago (about 15 years or so) I enjoyed the hardbound collection of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (first edition) which I was able to buy from a BOOKSALE (that's the name of the store) branch for 60pesos (today it's 40pesos to a US$) and perhaps no one wanted it and the store owner didn't know the value of that book. I grabbed it and bought it with my last few pesos that day. The book taught me how to deduce. I had a taste for it but the book made me a better 'spy.'

    Robert Ludlum's Bourne series were also my favorites. The books were very much alive. The movies made the stories more alive.

    Papillon is better read from the book than seen in the movie. It's a true story and the movie lacked many items.

    Congo is the continuation of the story of Papillon after the great escape.

    I don't like love stories. I thought it's a waste of time.

    Another good book to read is "Where Do I Place The Decimal Point?" teaching math the imaginative way. Forgot the author. It's stacked under some pilings I won't move just right now.
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  14. #29
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    I hate to admit, but I've just finished reading an hysterically funny Jilly Cooper novel called "Appasionata". About a jewish american concert violinist who moves to England and takes up conducting with an orchestra (The Rutminster Symphony). They behave appallingly badly, first horn's nickname is "viking" (rape and pillage are a specialty). The sex scenes are shockingly detailed, the antics of the brass section of the orchestra when on tour in Spain trashing the hotel room and flooding the spa bath are just perfect, but one of the funniest books I've read. On many occasions I had tears running down my cheeks from laughter.

  15. #30
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong with enjoying a book, Contratrombone64.

    Anyway:

    Piaf: A Passionate Life by David Bret

    Edith Piaf was a fascinating character, whose 47 years were crammed full of incident, many of them considered scandalous, as she rose from the street to the status of a French icon. When she was buried, the scandal ensured that the church would not officiate. Yet her coffin was draped with the tricolour as a mark of remembrance for her role in helping at least 300 PoWs escape from a German camp in WWII.

    She is one of those rare artists who can transcend the boundaries of language - you don't even have to know what her songs mean in order to enjoy them and to appreciate just how much she bared herself emotionally for her audience.

    This biography is good at explaining what some of those songs meant - chansons were very much of the street, often about prostitutes and the brothel; now listen to a live recording of Paif singing Milord and the earthiness of her performance takes on a whole new meaning.

    But that's pretty much as good as it goes. David Bret skates over her early life, her war experiences etc, in favour of a closer look at her later career. His approach seems undisciplined: there are times when you're really not 100% certain when you're reading about, for instance.

    Perhaps, most irritatingly of all, the author tries to place himself within the Piaf story. Apparently the godson of someone (who I've never heard of and cannot recall the name of) who was connected with the story (or the French music scene of the time or something), everytime he writes about interviewing someone in connection with the book, it has to be a case of: 'so-and-so told me'.

    'It's not your damned story, Bret, so piss off out of it', was very much my feeling on a number of occasions.

    And he also writes in a very tabloid fashion, with loads of erratic judgments about people scattered through the book (and not always backed up by any evidence at all), whilst he clearly cannot be critical of his heroine herself. You cannot, for instance, condemn Piaf's mother for certain kinds of behaviour without condemning Piaf herself for similar behaviour. It's no good to say that you excuse Piaf because of her background - unless you can show that her mother's background was much better. And the glut of exclamation marks didn't help my mood either.

    Piaf was an extraordinary performer and an extraordinary human being who led an extraordinary life. She deserves an extraordinary biography. A good one would be a start. This isn't it.

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