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Topic: 2010 H/F Challenge #1 - Read a Winner

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Subject: 2010 H/F Challenge #1 - Read a Winner
Date Posted: 11/26/2009 6:07 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Discuss the book you read for the Winner category.

Read a book from ALA’s annual Reading List. You will find the 2009 reading list here. The 2008 list, which is the first year for this award, appears here. Any book on these lists qualifies. It does not have to be historical fiction.

Subject: The Religion (Tim Willocks)
Date Posted: 12/24/2009 4:15 PM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2008
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Guess I'll inaugurate this thread since I'm currently listening to this book on CD and will be done on Jan 1st or soon after. What with the multiple challenges, I'm taking advantage of loopholes. ;-)

So Genie mentioned on another thread that she loved The Religion by Tim Willocks and that it seems to be a "love it or hate it" kind of book. I guess I'm one of the haters, although I'm sure I'd just be ambivalent about if the writing wasn't so florid, the hero wasn't such an obnoxious Marty Stu, and feces and urine weren't mentioned nearly every third page (ok, MAYBE fourth - the obsession is one step away from 2 Girls 1 Cup, I swear!). The plot is simple: Mercenary is enlisted by noblewoman to find her monk-fathered bastard child 12 years after its birth. She tags along with him to Malta and brings her maid. Love triangle ensues. Simplistic & interesting plot, but it's wrapped in too much filler.

I'm not averse to violence - I love it, actually - but there's too much of it, and it's gotten to be a relentless barrage of blood, bile, gore, urine, excrement, and all the other voluntary and involuntary body functions of men at war. A room is rarely entered or an alley passed without comment on the smell of feces. It's....odd, to say the least.

The human side of the story has been pretty repetitive, too. I'm getting kinda tired of whenever there's a tub around with Tannhauser in it, he and Amparo are going to be humping like minks within a couple pages. That is, when he's not bending her over an anvil. This book could have been MUCH shorter without all the repetitious scenes of Amparo and Carla mooning over Tannhauser and thinking about their situation in the siege of Malta. POVs change, but their thoughts rarely stray from the same tune. They're the same boring people on page 450 as they were on page 100. Although Carla, the noblewoman, has had more characterization than the others. Her spiritual awakening in the hospital tending the wounded was good and welcome relief from the circle-trudging in the others.

This book is a bodiceripper (as opposed to actual historical romance) with all the hyperbole and grandiosity, steeped in intricate purple prose. Skies are blue, but here they're always turquoise or azure vaults. I guess my impression is that the book is "too much" - crossing the line into self-parody at times. There are some pretty darn absurd passages that are Bulwer-Lyttonish. It's the reason why I was never able to get through Woodiwiss' Shanna (though I've read a couple of her others). The prose was so florid and every little thing was described to death that I finally cried uncle. I've been tuning in and out on my ipod and can pick up the plot after a blackout of 15-20 minutes.  I only have a third of it left, so I doubt my opinion will change. I tired of it before I reached the first third for the same reasons that are bugging me 250 pages later.

Maybe I'm not a hater. It's just apathetic surrender! :-P (And a renewed vow to avoid "prize-winning" literature.)



Last Edited on: 12/24/09 4:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/11/2010 12:34 PM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
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I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society for this one, and I can't recommend it enough!  I have heard so many great reviews of this book, but I'll admit when I started to read it I was initially off-put by the writing style.  I thought there was no way I could get involved in a story that was written through a bunch of letters.  Well, I was wrong!  Through the letters, I ended up feeling like I knew the characters.  When they received bad news, I felt badly.  It was as if I knew these people!    It was such a touching look into the impact that WWII and The Occupation had on the daily lives of normal people, both citizens and the German soldiers who were also "real" people.

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 2:53 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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I'll just put "ditto Michelle's post above" here because I too read The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society for this challenge and absolutely loved it!  I have the exact same thoughts as Michelle, and I think her for posting them so I don't have to! 

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 2:59 PM ET
Member Since: 8/31/2007
Posts: 482
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That's what I'm reading for this challenge too.  Happy to see all the positive comments!  Haven't started it yet, but look forward to it now, maybe I'll read it next!

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 3:13 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Guernsey is what I am also reading for this challenge. Linda is such an enthusiastic supporter of this book - as are Shelley & Michelle & so many others - that she is just a little jealous that she is not also reading it for the first time along with the rest of us !! I think if Mom had her way, this would be on everyone's "Required Reading List."

Erika, how far out are you from starting it? We might as well read it within the same rough timeframe, yes?

Kelly

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 8/31/2007
Posts: 482
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Maybe in a week or so?  I'm about a quarter through Skeletons at the Feast, so depends on how fast I read that. Will let you know!

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 7:20 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Guernsey is truly a magnificent book.  I'm so glad I read it. I hope the rest of you about to embark on it enjoy it as much as I did!

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 9:20 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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I read The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss for this category. I don't read a lot of American historical fiction because I read so much of it during college and my post-college years. I thought I might be bored by the familiar history.

Ha! Not even close.

This is an excellent novel - for HF and espionage/thriller fans alike. There's enough economic history here to shed light on some of what's happening today re the recession. There's enough history about Alexander Hamilton to qualify this book for the biographical fiction category. In my experience, novels featuring Hamilton are either for or against, positive or negative. This one portrays both the federalist and anti-federalist sentiments, and does it well.

It's told as two parallel stories - one running slightly ahead of the other - for about two-thirds of the book. Then they come together. Of course, you'll suspect how they come together long before they do. The conspiracy involving the Bank of the U.S. is fiction. But many of the characters and much of the information about the whiskey tax is history.

I enjoyed it. 4.5/5 stars

Date Posted: 1/12/2010 9:51 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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Shelley -- Ditto on Guernsey -- one of my favorites.

Genie -- so glad you liked Whiskey Rebels -- I liked it as well and have a copy of his most recent book, Devil's Company, sitting on my nightstand. Trying to decide whether to start that or The Romanov Bride tonight -- they're both library copies, so I usually give those priority over my own books. (Of course, if I stopped checking out books from the library regularly, I might actually get through some of the books I own!!)

Date Posted: 1/13/2010 8:15 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Deb, I'll be reading more by Liss. That's the problem with reading - and liking - new authors! And, I totally sympathize with the library books issue. I'm constantly grateful that I don't work in public library. I'd never leave without a book.

Date Posted: 1/13/2010 12:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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I've looked at Whiskey Rebels several times in bookstores, interested, but I've never purchased it.   I'm especially intersted in a level-handed look at Hamilton. On to the WL it goes.

No, I changed my mind.  I see from an Amazon review that it's a first person narrative, alternating between two narrators.  I rarely do better than tolerate a single first-person narrator, and I don't care at all for two.  I'll pass.



Last Edited on: 1/13/10 12:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/13/2010 3:46 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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I'm especially intersted in a level-handed look at Hamilton.

It's not even-handed at all. It's two opposing and extreme viewpoints - one favorable and one not. Both narrations are first person. Both well-done.

It reads like Erik Larsen's Thunderstruck, if that helps anyone.

Date Posted: 1/19/2010 7:04 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,174
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Finished Whiskey Rebels,  I can not add anything to what Genie has said for I concur,  This was a excellent novel and since I have read very little American history resently,  I was very interested in the subject matter, and found I was engaged from the beginning to end.  I recommend it.

Date Posted: 1/19/2010 8:21 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Scratch my response in the U-Z thread. :) I read your review here second. I'm glad you liked Whiskey Rebels.

Date Posted: 1/20/2010 1:06 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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It's not even-handed at all. It's two opposing and extreme viewpoints - one favorable and one not. Both narrations are first person. Both well-done.

To me, that is the best way to be evenhanded.  When an author develops both of the opposing and extreme viewpoints, then the reader has the necessary information with which to understand the bases for both opinions and make an informed, balanced one of his own.  I much prefer that to the author simply handing me his own balanced view, because I don't know how he or she balances the various factors, compared to how I would balance them. 

After all this discussion and more positive remarks, I changed my mind and added it to my WL after all.  It's in the 70s, and I'm content to wait it out.



Last Edited on: 1/20/10 1:23 PM ET - Total times edited: 5
Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 1/25/2010 9:11 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 40,763
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For this catefory I am reading Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. I really like it so far. I like strong well educated women characters. Glad to hear there are two more books in this series.

Alice

Date Posted: 1/25/2010 9:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
Posts: 6,035
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she is just a little jealous that she is not also reading it for the first time along with the rest of us

I'm in the same boat....I read it last year and loved it.  Linda and I will just have to sit on the sidelines and cheer the rest of you on!

Date Posted: 1/25/2010 10:06 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,715
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I'm constantly grateful that I don't work in public library. I'd never leave without a book.

Oh Lord, welcome to my world!  I check out books all the time, in spite of my huge PBS TBR pile!  And now a Kindle...just another way to hoard books!  And...who am I kidding?  I love it. 

Working in a public library is MUCH better than working in a book store!!  I would have absolutely NO paycheck...

Subject: Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.
Date Posted: 1/28/2010 9:48 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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"Read a Winner" indeed! This book certainly deservedly made the ALA list ... The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. (First of all, you would not believe how long it took me to get that title right!) As most of us know, this book is set in 1946 & is about the affect the German occupation had on the residents of Guernsey Island during WW II. So, we are getting a "real time" look at the people who are still carrying very real scars from the occupation and are trying to rebuild their lives.

I was constantly amazed at how downright clever this book is. To develop characters and advance a storyline through nothing but letters, notes & telegrams written back and forth between our characters is amazing. To do it successfully is genius and the author, and her niece who helped her finish the book, deserve every accolade and positive review that have come their way. We learn about the characters, about the fear and despair of being occupied, but also about the touches of humor, humanity and kindness that continued to provide hope. And just as important - particularly to all of us passionate readers - we see how reading and getting together to talk about the books made such a profound difference in the lives of our characters.

This is a wonderful book! For those who have not read it yet, I recommend you have a supply of sticky notes or a notebook at hand because there are lots of sentences, quotes, etc. that you will want to recall later. My subject line is but one example. This comes from a letter from Isola, the island herbalist, who discovered the Bronte sisters through attendance at the Literary Society. Isola eventually becomes the Society's secretary and her first recorded minutes start thus ...

Night cold. Ocean noisy. Will Thisbee was host. House dusted, but curtains need washing.

Mrs. Winslow Daubbs read a chapter from her autobiography, The Life and Loves of Delilah Daubbs. Audience attentive-but silent afterwards. Except for WInslow, who wants a divorce.

Final point - I think this book is particularly compelling for us Americans. Our perspective, knowledge and understanding of WW II is different than that held by Europeans. We were not occupied by a foreign, enemy force; there was not an "Oklahoma City" or "Des Moines" Blitz. We know it happened, we have read about it, probably passed history tests about it, but it's not part of our personal perspective. This book very gently and very sweetly gives us a little of that perspective - told with the personal voices of people (albeit fictional) who lived it, lived through it and are living past it.

This is a keeper - to be reread some day, but in the meantime to share with a daughter-in-law, a cousin, a sister-in-law, a niece, a brother, a close friend ... you get the picture.

Kelly



Last Edited on: 1/28/10 9:52 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/28/2010 10:24 AM ET
Member Since: 8/31/2007
Posts: 482
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I'm about halfway through, Kelly, and it's still absolutely charming.

Date Posted: 1/28/2010 10:39 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Erika, I was blessed with a 3-day trip to Nashville the first part of this week and had some concentrated reading time, so finished Guernsey a little sooner than I would have under other circumstances. I was careful not to reveal any "spoilers," thinking about you, knowing you had not finished it, and also knowing there are some of us who have not yet read this book. Even though there aren't any real edge-of-your-seat twists, it's best, with a book like this, for the story to unfold at the reader's pace.

So glad you are enjoying it. Charming is the perfect word to describe this book!

Kelly

 

Date Posted: 1/28/2010 12:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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I don't think there's a person out there who didn't like TGL&PPPS!  It's that good!  Beyond charming really. I don't know what beyond charming is exactly, but I'm pretty sure this book is it.  This may be one that I re-read even though I rarely re-read books. There's just so much good stuff there.

Date Posted: 1/28/2010 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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Such people do exist, and some of them have written 1 & 2 star Ammy reviews.  And there are enough specific negatives that I fear I would relate to, that I ruled it out long ago.  The fact that so many here have read and universally loved it (as far as I recall) is beginning to change my mind.

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 1/28/2010 9:58 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 40,763
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For this category I just finished Mistress of the ARt of Death. I enjoyed it a lot. The middle bogged down a bit, but it snapped out of it with a strong finish. I enjoyed the writing style and the well defined characters. Will read her future books.

Alice

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