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Topic: 2010 H/F Challenge #1 - Where Dat At?

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Subject: 2010 H/F Challenge #1 - Where Dat At?
Date Posted: 11/26/2009 6:02 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Discuss the book you read for the North of the Equator category.

Read a historical novel that takes place north of the equator, but not in the United States, Canada or Europe. Sample titles include The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley, Saga by Jeff Janoda and Odinn's Child by Tim Severin.

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 1/1/2010 4:20 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 43,189
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I started the challenge with this category, Conn Iggulden's Genghis Birth of a Nation. I know absolutely nothing about Mongolia or its history (although I can find it on a map). Should be interesting. There is two more in the series and a new one coming in September. I'll let you know how it goes.

Alice

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 1/2/2010 9:16 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 43,189
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Well I finished Genghis Birth of a Nation. Very good. I like Iggulden's writing style clear and crisp, he does not dwell on gory battle scenes but prefers to tell the story. I have SL the second book. I have first 3 in his Roman series just not got around to reading them. Highly recommend. I will save the book for Christa's game.

Alice

Date Posted: 1/4/2010 3:50 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
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I just finished Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton for this challenge. I liked it.  Plenty of adventure and twists and turns.  I wouldn't call it a great novel, but it's a fun, quick read, especially if you like pirates!  :D

Date Posted: 1/8/2010 8:57 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,136
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I finished my book for this category, I read the second book in Jane Jakeman's Lord Ambrose mystery series, The Egyptian Coffin.  Parts of the story were actually set in England, but over 50 percent took place in Egypt so it works.

I've gotten away from cozy mysteries lately, nothing wrong with them as a genre but since they've become so popular many of them have become so formulaic that they feel like  they are all the same--just change the subject details (business or craft) and you have the same book over and over again.  I read the first in this series towards the end of last year and considered it a cozy of sorts, but one a cut above the average--in the same vein as the Deanna Raybourn books.  I enjoyed this second book more than the first, the details about 1830 Egypt rang true, and even though I knew exactly how all the threads of the story would end, I enjoyed getting there.  Pure entertainment, but engrossing and satisfying.  I started it a couple of nights ago planning to stay up a half hour later than usual to get a little reading done, and ended up staying up a couple of hours to finish the book in one sitting.

Date Posted: 1/9/2010 9:31 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,438
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I'm about halfway through The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee. This book has held my attention better than any of the other books I've read over the past few months. The two main characters' stories are set in 1941 Hong Kong and 1952 Hong Kong. The two stories - one set during the war & one set post-war are fascinating. It absolutely keeps my interest watching the stories unfold one petal at a time. More later ...

Kelly

ETA final thoughts on this book:

This book is set in two times and alternates back and forth (which I loved) - early 1940's Hong Kong, firmly under English governance and then turned completely upside down with the invasion and occupation of Japan; and then, 1952-1953, post WW II. For the most part, we have the same characters in both settings, giving us a great study of what a person becomes when stripped to the bare elements of survival under horrendous and frightening times. But, in 1952, as the catalyst - as the drop of oil into the still pool of water - comes Claire, the English piano teacher, a newly wed woman married to a mid-level bureaucrat who has been posted to Hong Kong. Claire is shy, socially awkward, struggling to find her place, all the while knowing that there has to be more to life than what she is living.

Here's the thing. At a young and impressionable age I read James Clavell's Sho-gun series, and subsequently read it again. Through Tai-Pan and Noble House, I have developed a real fascination with Hong Kong. Reading books set in Hong Kong is, for me, like ordering something rare and exquisite at a restaurant . Not something I would do (or even want to do) on a regular basis, but so much fun to indulge in every once in a while.

So maybe that colored my impressions somewhat of The Piano Teacher. I think this book is very deftly written and glides along quietly and subtly. The reader is certainly not hit over the head with any facts or character development or storylines. In fact, I think the argument could fairly be made that the author leaves out some important and essential elements. We are left to develop some of our own conclusions - sometimes with very little to go on. So there is the vague question of "am I getting this right?" And, what should have been the culmination, the climactic scene was just a little off-key, thus leaving the ending vaguely unsatisfactory. I think the author had a little trouble bringing the secrets of the war years into the present and the plot got a little circular and confused. Stronger editing or one more re-write might have been just the thing this book needed.

The juxtaposition of pre-occupation, occupation and post-occupation Hong Kong is fascinating as is (always) the multi-cultural environment that defines Hong Kong. The author does an admirable job with these kinds of background elements - it's obvious she knows & loves Hong Kong and has an understanding of its history.

I'm glad I read the book, part of it will stay with me for awhile and I will continue to think about some of the characters and their motivations. I also enjoyed her writing style and would read this author again. I would recommend the book - but with some reservations and only to those people who I think in advance might enjoy it.

Kelly



Last Edited on: 1/12/10 1:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 1/9/2010 10:07 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Kelly,

The Piano Teacher sounds interesting. Please let us know what you think in the end.

It sounds like The Whiskey Rebels in that there are two nearly parallel stories that come together about 2/3rd's of the way through the book. Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen was also structured like this. I enjoyed it a lot.

Date Posted: 1/9/2010 6:51 PM ET
Member Since: 8/31/2007
Posts: 482
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The Piano Teacher has been on my WL for quite some time, so I'm glad to hear you're liking it.

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 9:15 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,438
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See my post above for my final thoughts on The Piana Teacher. Also, Linda will probably pass on this book, so it will be available. I'm happy to post it directly to someone's WL. Erika?

Kelly



Last Edited on: 1/12/10 9:15 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/12/2010 9:39 AM ET
Member Since: 8/31/2007
Posts: 482
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Sure! I believe I've got both the HC and PB on my WL, so post away! Much appreciated.

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 10:34 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Kelly, thanks for giving us such a great review! I have a copy of "The Piano Teacher" and now I'm a lot more excited to read it.

I still haven't read any of Clavell's work though! I feel like the only H/F'er in the world who hasn't read Shogun. With my Christmas gift cards, I bought the whole Asian Saga in the lovely, new trade paperbacks editions, so I'll remedy this lack in my H/F reading  very soon. I'm really looking forward to reading all of these books!

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 1:51 PM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 437
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Valli - don't feel bad, Asian HF is my favorite genre, and I haven't read Shogun either!  Let me know how you like the series....I may have to buy them myself.

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 2:00 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,834
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In my younger years, I read so much of Clavell, Michener and the Russion HF novels like War and Peace, that it seemed I wasn't comfortable unless I was carrying around a "tome". What GREAT books though!!!

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 3:32 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,438
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OMG !!! Is this some kind of historical fiction nightmare? Really, Valli & Michelle ... I'm thinking it's time for another wet noodle treatment! (And it pains me to share this with you - Linda has also not read all of Clavell's books.)

Tai-Pan and Noble House are beyond wonderful (as are all the other books in the Asian Saga)! It is the Uhtred series of its day; the Colleen McCollough Rome series for Hong Kong !!

Tai-Pan is everything an epic adventure book should be - intrigue, betrayal, love & lust, secrets, piracy - both on the high seas & in the boardrooms,  characters you love to love and characters you love to hate. And learning about Chinese customs and do's and don'ts and saving face and all the little intricacies, oh my! And the quiet, patient power of the native Chinese people holding fast against the larger than life might of the English, indeed!

 ... am I gushing? That's okay - I mean to ...

I just wish I was all caught up on my reading - I would start the Clavell books all over again. Hint: While Tai-Pan should definitely be read before Noble House, if you're putting off Tai-Pan until you can read Shogun, not to worry. Shogun is also beyond compare, but there are very few common threads from Shogun to Tai-Pan and you won't miss anything by reading Tai-pan first.

:P

Kelly

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 7:32 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
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Valli - You are not alone! I've never read a Clavell either.  Then again, I'm not an "old timer" when it comes to HF, so maybe you should feel bad.  ;) (You know I tease because I care. )  Anyway, Asian HF (unless it's Indian) isn't always my thing. It has to be just the right book.  Maybe that's why I haven't ventured into Clavell.  Then again, I've never read a Michener either.  Don't flog me though, Hawaii is on my bookshelf!

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 9:38 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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Kelly -- Stop it!!! Your reviews are too good.  Now I have to read The Piano Teacher AND have to re-read Clavell's Asian saga -- I have no memory of the first four books which I read 25-30 years ago and I never read the last two books. When do you think I'm going to be able to read these doorstops??? I'm still trying to figure out how to fit the Outlander series and McCullough's Rome series into my reading schedule and I still have Cornwell's Warlord, Grailquest, and Saxon series to get through (and am contemplating Dunnett's House of Niccolo series). Of course, the first step might be to get off the computer!!!!

Date Posted: 1/13/2010 8:26 AM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 437
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Deb.....my sentiments exactly!!!  Of course, after reading Kelly's posting I started adding some of Clavell's books to my WL.  And I also still have to SOMEHOW try to fit in Outlander series and McCullough's Rome series.  And can you believe I have never read 1 Phillipa Gregory book yet, even though I have them all!?  Where can I find the time!!??  I've already decided for the New Year to cut out a bunch of the TV shows I was watching.....I don't have time to watch the Biggest Loser and American Idol when there are so many good books to read!  (Not that there is really ever an excuse to watch these shows, but sometimes I like mindless TV.  haha)

Date Posted: 1/13/2010 4:14 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,438
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;).

Girls, girls, girls. Michelle, the Philippa Gregory's can hold up the corner of a sagging bookshelf - no hurry on reading them. The Rome series, however, is a must!

And that neither of you has had the chance to fall in love with Jamie Fraser is - in a word - unbelievable!

With a humble and red face, I offer sincerest apologies to Genie for hijacking this thread ... we'll be better, I promise ...

Kelly

Date Posted: 1/13/2010 4:27 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,834
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It's been a looong time since I read those Clavells. Maybe one of  the next challenges should center around reading some of the oldies but goodies, huh? Then people could read them and not be behind in the challenge! Lord knows I could use a refresher!!

Date Posted: 1/13/2010 4:56 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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Yeah -- sorry, Genie (said with a meek and shameful tone)...


ETA: (but it's all Kelly's fault!)



Last Edited on: 1/13/10 5:01 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/13/2010 5:50 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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I say "ditto" to Kelly.  Some of Gregory's are worth reading, but there is no hurry.  But McCullough, Clavell, and Gabaldon are MUST reads. 

Date Posted: 1/13/2010 6:13 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
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Just so everyone knows, I do plan on reading some "must reads" this year.  I have The First Man In Rome by McCullough and Hawaii by Michener on my bookshelf.  Will have to head to the library if I decided to venture into the world of Clavell.

Date Posted: 1/14/2010 10:50 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,438
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Way to pitch me under the bus, Deb. ;)

Date Posted: 1/14/2010 10:58 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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You can always count on me!!

Date Posted: 1/15/2010 7:34 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Stands with wet noodle in hand. Taps foot.

Ladies, do we need a James Clavell thread. Or how about a thread on must reads?

Oh, and after reading some of these messages over the weekend, I bought the Sho-gun audiobook at Audible. (: Settling in for a nice loooong listen - about 50 hours.

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