Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Art of Cartography: Stories by J.S. Marcus

First sentence:

"I read, in several newspapers, about a man from Los Angeles who wanted to go to Oakland."


"The young men and women who inhabit these mordantly alive stories move around -- as do the stories themselves -- from city to city, country to country.The characters are in and out of graduate schools, apartments, love affairs, marriages. They go from New York to London to Los Angeles, compulsively studying the facts of their own lives and the facts they can guess at in the lives of those around them, as a way, perhaps, out of their solitude, as if they could map themselves into the world. They long for perspective, permanence -- truth -- although what they find is often something quite different.

A young American working in a London bank is propelled by a random happening -- he gets off his train one day because an unexploded bomb from World War II has been discovered on the tracks -- into a series of chance meetings and invitations that illumine the nature of his loneliness.

A New Yorker, the author of 'unpublished travel books and eight-millimeter documentaries,' while visiting a South Pacific island famous for its archaeological dig, accidentally brings together, and then less accidentally puts at odds, the people at his hotel.

A woman named Sheila, who appears -- at various periods of her life, and in and out of a relationship with a music critic -- in several of the stories, is last seen in southern California, holed up in a mansion, smoking  grass with the maid, and expecting to end up where she began: back with the critic, as if the best she can do is 'shift weight.'

In all twelve stories, we see people in motion, in flux -- again and again deflected by the succession of chance encounters that has become their way of life.

A remarkable collection of stories, a memorable debut." -- from the inside flap.

My thoughts:

This is an interesting collection of short stories. I liked the narrator meeting different people and reflecting on who they are.

Date read: 10/20/2014
Book #: 38
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre; Fiction

ISBN-10: 0394559460
ISBN-13: 9780394559469
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Year: 1991
# of pages: 129
Binding: Hardcover
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Circle by Dave Eggers

First sentence:

"My God, Mae thought. It's heaven."


"When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge." -- from Amazon.com

My thoughts:

I loved this book about an apparent utopia with an eventual decline. Mae's journey was fascinating and eerie to watch.

Date read: 10/18/2014
Book #: 37
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre; Thriller

ISBN-10: 0345807294
ISBN-13: 9780345807298
Publisher: Vintage Books
Year: 2014
# of pages: 497
Binding: Trade Paperback
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Saturday, October 4, 2014

George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade

First sentence:

"He was twenty-one years old and knew that in a matter of moments he would die."


"When General George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring.

Washington realized that he couldn’t beat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. So carefully guarded were the members’ identities that one spy’s name was not uncovered until the twentieth century, and one remains unknown today. But by now, historians have discovered enough information about the ring’s activities to piece together evidence that these six individuals turned the tide of the war.

Drawing on extensive research, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger have painted compelling portraits of George Washington’s secret six:

  • Robert Townsend, the reserved Quaker merchant and reporter who headed the Culper Ring, keeping his identity secret even from Washington;
  • Austin Roe, the tavern keeper who risked his employment and his life in order to protect the mission;
  • Caleb Brewster, the brash young longshoreman who loved baiting the British and agreed to ferry messages between Connecticut and New York;
  • Abraham Woodhull, the curmudgeonly (and surprisingly nervous) Long Island bachelor with business and family excuses for traveling to Manhattan;
  • James Rivington, the owner of a posh coffeehouse and print shop where high-ranking British officers gossiped about secret operations;
  • Agent 355, a woman whose identity remains unknown but who seems to have used her wit and charm to coax officers to share vital secrets.
In George Washington’s Secret Six, Townsend and his fellow spies finally receive their due, taking their place among the pantheon of heroes of the
American Revolution." - from Amazon.com

My thoughts:

This is a fascinating book about another side to the American Revolution. Recently I've started watching the AMC drama Turn: Washington's Spies about the same topic and I highly recommend it.

Date read: 10/3/2014
Book #: 36
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre; Thriller

ISBN-10: 1595231102
ISBN-13: 9781595231109
Publisher: Sentinel
Year: 2014
# of pages: 272
Binding: Trade Paperback
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Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

First sentence:

"I was born a colored man and don't you forget it."


In 1856, Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory, a battleground between anti-and pro-slavery forces. When legendary abolitionist John Brown arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry's mater quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave with Brown, who believes he's a girl. Over the ensuing months, Henry--whom the eccentric Brown nicknames "onion" -- conceals hist rue identity to stay alive, eventually finding himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This is an engaging, powerful story about John Brown, slavery in the west, and the abolitionist movement. I liked the voice of Henry who could both see the reality Brown wasn't seeing but who could also be self-interested.

Date read: 10/1/2014
Book #: 35
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN-10: 1410464857
ISBN-13: 9781410464859
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Date:  2013
Edition: Large Print
# of pages: 635
Binding: Hardcover
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Julie and Julia

First sentence:

"Thursday, October 6, 1949.
Paris. At seven o'clock on a dreary evening in the Left Bank, Julia began roasting pigeons for the second time in her life."


"Nearing 30 and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, Julie Powell reclaims her life by cooking every single recipe in Julia Child's legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the span of one year. It's a hysterical, inconceivable redemptive journey - life rediscovered through aspics, calves' brains and crème brûlée." -- from Amazon.com

My thoughts:

I liked this book about challenges both culinary and personal. I especially liked the stories about buying and cooking lobsters and how Julie learned that things didn't need to be perfect.

Date read: 9/13/2014
Book #: 34
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Memoir

ISBN-10: 031604251X
ISBN-13: 9780316042512
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Year: 2009
# of pages: 400
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance and Sunny

First sentence:

"The wind was chill and the cold froze the end of her toes."


"On the make. On the scent. On the edge.

On the Prowl. . .

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs

The werewolf Anna finds a new sense of self when the son of the werewolf king comes to town to quell unrest in the Chicago pack -- and inspires a power in Anna that she's never felt before.

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks

Kai has a secret gift of sensing thoughts and desires. What she senses in her neighbor Nathan could be dangerous. Because he has a secret gift, too, and it's about to be let loose.

Buying Trouble by Karen Chance

In a New York auction house, a Lord of the Fey crosses paths with a fiery redheaded mage named Claire. But in this strange underground society, the rarity up for sale is Claire herself.

Mona Lisa Betwining by Sunny

Among the children of the moon, Mona Lisa is of Mixed Blood--part Monere, part human, and destined to be alone. Then she meets a man who could be her salvation -- or her downfall." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed these stories of paranormal romance. Each one introduced me to new characters and I look forward to learning more about Claire, Anna, Kai and Mona Lisa.

Date read: 9/8/2014
Book #:33
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre; Paranormal Romance

ISBN-10: 0425216594
ISBN-13: 9780425216590
Publisher: Berkley
Year: 2007
# of pages: 541
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

First sentence:

"Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet."


"When Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996, he hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours and was reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion. As he turned to begin the perilous descent from 29, 028 feet (roughly the cruising altitude of an Airbus jetliner), twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly to the top, unaware that the sky had begun to roil with clouds. . .

In this definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Everest, Jon Krakauer takes the reader step-by-step from Katmandu to the mountain's deadly pinnacle, unfolding a breathtaking story that will by turn thrill and terrify." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This is a bittersweet true adventure tale of the 1996 tragedy on Mount Everest that claimed the lives of twelve climbers. Krakauer recounts with brutal honesty what went wrong amidst the heroism of climbers both on his expedition and from others.

Date read: 9/1/2014
Book #: 32
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Nonfiction/Travel/Memoir

ISBN-10: 0385492081
ISBN-13: 9780385492089
Publisher: Anchor Books
Year: 1997
# of pages: 378
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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