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Old 08-13-2013, 05:04 AM   #271
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Yeah the second half of that book is much better than the first. Took me a while to get into it as well. And there aren't that many chapters with the characters from the last book so I wouldn't look forward to it too much. Just lots and lots of Dany, Jon and Tyrion which is fine by me.
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Old 08-13-2013, 05:39 AM   #272
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I almost wish it was more of just those three. I grow tired of all these wedding plots.

FWIW, I have always read the paperback copies of these books, and I'm suddenly no longer confused as to why it has taken so long for the paperback copy of this book to come out. It's going to be huge. I've never read something so slowly in all my life. 4 hours of reading last night and I'm not sure I cracked 100 pages.

Ok, I read one book more slowly and that was book four of The Dark Tower *shudder*
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Old 08-13-2013, 07:00 PM   #273
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Thais, by Anatole France

This was the last of the opera reading for this season. It's and "ironic" and "sardonic" tale of a self-righteous ascetic in fourth or fifth century Egypt who has the hots for a courtesan in Alexandria. He gets the idea to walk up to Alexandria and get her to become a Christian and enter a convent, which France "ironically" calls a nunnery. We get some of Thais' backstory about her childhood. Then, in the middle of the book, comes about 47,000 pages of a philosophical dialogue with all the different ideologies of the time represented. Then, in the end, the ascetic realizes that the whole time, he just wanted to slip her the bone. He goes nuts. The end. The opera better have some good tunes.

To get this bad taste out of my mouth, I reread Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym. I enjoy her very much. This is a classic Barbara Pym novel about an Anglo-Catholic spinster on the fringes of anthropologists and their dramas, kind of like her actual life, but I suspect the novels are funnier and more charming than her actual life was.
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Old 08-13-2013, 08:06 PM   #274
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Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

I bought this not because it is a murder mystery, but because it offered a peak into life in Saudi Arabia. The author once lived there with her Saudi husband, so she is in a good position to write about the country from a less biased POV.

I did enjoy learning about life in Saudi Arabia and the two main characters, Nayir and Katya, are not objects but well-rounded characters used to tell about a religious unmarried man and a highly educated career woman engaged to be married to the man's best friend. I guess many of us tend to think Saudi men and women are like robots obeying religious orders in an ultra-conservative country, but this novel makes you realize that they struggle in such a world.

The one I didn't like too much was who the killer was and why the murder was done. It wasn't a big surprise and the murder reason had little merit compared to why the other suspects could've done it. The part fell flat to me.

Other than that, pretty good.
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Old 08-14-2013, 02:11 AM   #275
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Finished another Tolstoy The Devil. It was a weaker story but had good descriptions of infidelity/guilt/addictiveness. There were two endings and none of them really satisfied. The endings both had similar parts describing the mother in law's opinion of the main character which was pretty funny.
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Old 08-16-2013, 11:08 AM   #276
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The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon, 2007): I’m a big Chabon fan, so it was hard for me not to like this one, but I don’t think I would rank it as high as his other books (which speaks more to the quality of his oeuvre than the flaws of this particular novel). It’s a good homage to detective stories, enriched by Chabon’s always baroque prose. The plot is quite fun: what if Israel had lost the 1948 war and (mostly European) Jews had to relocate to Alaska? It allows Chabon to explore a number of his familiar themes about Jewishness, a migrant’s identity, but also the father-son relationships that are always part of his books. My main problem with the novel was that the characters were not particularly interesting, and were often quite one-dimensional. I do get that it was at least partly deliberate, given the detective stories homage, but it still took away from my enjoyment. I would still rate it a solid 3/5.
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:47 PM   #277
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The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon, 2007): I’m a big Chabon fan, so it was hard for me not to like this one, but I don’t think I would rank it as high as his other books (which speaks more to the quality of his oeuvre than the flaws of this particular novel). It’s a good homage to detective stories, enriched by Chabon’s always baroque prose. The plot is quite fun: what if Israel had lost the 1948 war and (mostly European) Jews had to relocate to Alaska? It allows Chabon to explore a number of his familiar themes about Jewishness, a migrant’s identity, but also the father-son relationships that are always part of his books. My main problem with the novel was that the characters were not particularly interesting, and were often quite one-dimensional. I do get that it was at least partly deliberate, given the detective stories homage, but it still took away from my enjoyment. I would still rate it a solid 3/5.
I loved the book, but maybe that's because I'm a tribe member and some of the nuances and language meant more to me. It's no Kavalier & Clay but I still loved it.
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:56 PM   #278
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I also enjoyed that one a lot.

Where's that Lord Of Light review, pal?
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Old 08-16-2013, 02:20 PM   #279
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Yeah, I had a Yiddish dictionary tab open while reading it. I liked it a lot, but I prefer Kavalier & Clay and Telegraph Avenue to it. Probably rank it the same as Wonder Boys. Haven't read Mysteries of Pittsburgh yet.
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Old 08-16-2013, 02:27 PM   #280
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Mysteries is a great debut.

I just picked up a copy of Wonder Boys recently; never got around to it because I've seen the movie a few times and wanted to wait til it wasn't so fresh.
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Old 08-16-2013, 04:16 PM   #281
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Yeah, I had a Yiddish dictionary tab open while reading it. I liked it a lot, but I prefer Kavalier & Clay and Telegraph Avenue to it. Probably rank it the same as Wonder Boys. Haven't read Mysteries of Pittsburgh yet.
I found Telegraph Avenue to be a huge letdown. Just did not enjoy it, much to my surprise and disappointment. Mysteries is good.
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Old 08-16-2013, 04:21 PM   #282
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It feels like Telegraph Avenue is quite divisive. I heard many people complain about the somewhat stereotypical approach to the black characters and their voice. I didn't particularly feel that way, but it could be due to my lack of perception to some of the language subtleties. I thought it was a welcome change of environment for Chabon, from the sprawling world of Amazing Adventures (and Yiddish Policemen's Union) to a more confined story in time and space.
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Old 08-16-2013, 04:28 PM   #283
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I agree that the change of environment was welcome, for sure. Just did not like the execution. I know some people that loved it, though, and they are more learned than I am.
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Old 08-18-2013, 01:51 PM   #284
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Finished some more Tolstoy short stories:

Master and Man:
 
This was another good description of death coming unexpectedly. He makes all our plans seem small when death arrives. Whether someone is the master or the slave we are equal in the end.


Father Sergius: Great story about pride and the solution.

After the ball: Curious weird story about unexpected life circumstances changing your way of thinking. Nothing special otherwise.

Alyosha the Pot: Short and forgettable.
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Old 08-19-2013, 08:17 PM   #285
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Moneyball (Michael Lewis, 2004): I've been following baseball analytics for a while, so the book wasn't particularly surprising. It was still an entertaining read, particularly the little side stories he tells about relatively unknown players and events. My favorite section was probably the chapter on the draft - the description of the discussions in the A's "war room" was very entertaining. In a way, the boom is somewhat dated in Lewis' defensiveness: the old school has definitely lost their battle within the profession (but not in the broader world, like sportscasters, sadly). A good companion piece to Moneyball is Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise, which shows that the war for better analysis remains to be won, particularly in politics.

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara (Ben Fountain, 2007): Fountain's debut is a brilliant collection of short stories about (mostly) normal people living amidst large-scale political upheaval: from Colombia and Burma to Haiti (which is the background to three of the stories) and turn-of-the-century Vienna. Fountain has a talent for extracting comedy out of deeply depressing or absurd situations, in a way that almost reminds me of Latin American magic realism. I was very impressed, and have now bought his first novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which some friends have been raving about.
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