ralphcoviello Post 1 on 75 Books Challenge for 2015

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ralphcoviello Post 1 on 75 Books Challenge for 2015

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1ralphcoviello
des. 29, 2014, 8:38pm

Hi - This is my first time participating in the 75 Books Challenge. I am open to suggestions on the best way to post and participate here.

Currently reading:
Don Quixote by Cervantes translated by John Rutherford

Black Jack, vol. 7 (manga series) by Osamu Tezuka

I have nearly finished Part 1 of Don Quixote and plan to take a break before starting Part 2, so my first book for the 2015 Challenge will be The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

Thanks.

Ralph

2drneutron
des. 29, 2014, 10:10pm

Welcome! Looks like great choices to start the year!

My suggestion for integrating? Jump into a group read. We've got some great plans. Here's a link to the group wiki where we keep ourselves organized:
http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Groups:75Booksin2015

Also, jump into folks' threads. We're all willing to chat!

3SuziQoregon
des. 31, 2014, 11:43pm

Welcome! The first year here can be a bit overwhelming. My recommendation is to browse threads to find folks who share your interests. Don't be afraid to post and join in the conversations.

Glad to have you here. 2014 was my first year and it was a great experience. Hope you have a great time.

4ralphcoviello
gen. 1, 2015, 12:31pm

Hi drneutron,
I really appreciate the reply to my post especially the link to the group wiki! Thanks for the helpful suggestions!

Happy New Year and happy reading in 2015!

Ralph

5ralphcoviello
gen. 1, 2015, 12:34pm

Hi SuziQoregon,

I really appreciate the encouragement and suggestions.
Thanks so much for the reply!

Happy New Year and happy reading in 2015!

Ralph

6scaifea
gen. 1, 2015, 3:37pm

Hi, Ralph, and welcome to the group!

7ralphcoviello
gen. 1, 2015, 7:36pm

Hi scaifea,

Thanks so much for welcoming me!
I am off and reading with The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler!

Cheers to good reading in 2015!

Ralph

8scaifea
gen. 1, 2015, 7:59pm

Oh, I keep meaning to get round to reading some Chandler...

9The_Hibernator
gen. 1, 2015, 8:13pm

Welcome! I'd say visiting other people's threads and letting them know you're there is the best way to integrate. I star the people who comment on my thread so that I can remember who to visit if I don't have time to randomly thread hop. Group reads and challenges are also a great idea.

10ralphcoviello
gen. 2, 2015, 6:02pm

Hi The_Hibernator,

I appreciate the welcome and the advice!

Good reading in 2015!

Thanks!

Ralph

11ralphcoviello
Editat: gen. 21, 2015, 2:19pm

Book 1 is done! The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler


An excellent read which is considered Chandler's last great work. There is a very good write-up on it at DETNOVEL.com

Although it differs greatly from the novel the Robert Altman film with Elliott Gould as Marlowe offers a unique take on the detective genre in general and Phillip Marlowe in particular.

12ralphcoviello
gen. 22, 2015, 1:02pm

I have started reading books 2 & 3 Train Dreams by Denis Johnson and Black Jack Vol. 8 by Osamu Tezuka. My choice of Train Dreams was driven by a desire to broaden my reading choices as well as to find some short works to help with the goal of 75 Books in 2015. The inspiration for that particular choice was provided by an article by Sarah Gerard author of Binary Star on "The 10 Best Books Shorter Than 150 Pages" at Publishers Weekly.



13ralphcoviello
gen. 24, 2015, 9:29am

Book 2 completed. The cover featured the striking imagery of "The Race (Homeward Bound)" by Thomas Hart Benson.


Train Dreams by Denis Johnson is an austere and poetic novella that traces the life of its central character Robert Grainier in imagistic scenes that fold in on each other. Jumping back and forth in time across the first half of the 20th century Johnson evokes the transformation of the American west and the vanishing of a way of life balanced on the edge of myth and modernity.

14ralphcoviello
gen. 25, 2015, 9:49am

Book 3 read, Black Jack Vol. 8 which brings me nearly halfway through the 17 volume set by the 'God of Manga' Osamu Tezuka.


Tezuka Started writing and drawing manga professionally while still a student, eventually completing his medical studies to become a doctor. However, he came to a crossroads as to what to do with his life and asked his mother who responded "You should work doing the things you enjoy most of all." With that fortunate advice he pursued manga full time. His most famous creation in the USA is undoubtedly Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy while Black Jack finds Tezuka bringing all of his medical knowledge to bear in creating the adventures of a rogue surgeon.

15ralphcoviello
gen. 28, 2015, 10:36am

Book 4 is on ice! The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain


The publisher Hard Case Crime calls it 'The Lost Final Novel' by James M. Cain and it is a very entertaining book returning to many of the sexual, social and economic themes from his classics such as Mildred Pierce. There is a very nice afterword by the editor Charles Adrai where he details the nearly decade long effort to locate the book which in reality was a work-in-progress that Cain focused on in the last years of his life and never had a completed draft. However, Adrai has done a masterful job in editing this into a coherent book that's jumpy quality fits remarkably well with the tawdry tale told by the unreliable narrator at its center.

There is a nice mini-bio about James M. Cain that details the 'Tiger Woman' murder trial he covered as a reporter in the 20's that was clearly a template for some of his greatest works The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity at DETNOVEL.com

16ralphcoviello
Editat: gen. 31, 2015, 12:22pm

I have reached the end of January and Book 5 as well! The Abyss of Human Illusion by Gilbert Sorrentino


This turned out to be a perfect as well as emblematic book to wrap-up the first month of 'The 75 Books Challenge for 2015'. Why? You ask? Because this book was unexpected; a title I never would have picked out and cracked open without the motivations, constraints and opportunities of the 'Challenge'. This came together as I returned Book 4 The Cocktail Waitress to the library and roamed the stacks in search of a new reading opportunity. Now many authors and readers claim to never pick a book for its cover, however being a visually focused person I have frequently grabbed a book for its cover, or in this case a thin and distinctive spine which turned out to have a very sharp cover indeed (check out that hat!) and an intriguing title The Abyss of Human Illusion. On the back cover I found that the author Gilbert Sorrentino is considered a postmodern American master with ringing endorsements from novelists I have at least heard of Don DeLillo and Jeffrey Eugenides (even if I haven't actually read them). As with my previous book this was the author's final novel (although I found it more novel in the descriptive sense than the usual literary definition) and in this case he had completed it and left hand-written editing notes a process described in the Preface by his son who is also the editor Christopher Sorrentino where he details his father's unique structured approach to writing. The book is made up of 50 sections which start with about 130 words and progressively grow longer until the last is 10x in length. Additionally, the book is not a novel in the sense of telling a single story, rather it is a collection of scenes, sequences and tales covering a range of human foibles. The language is sharp and clear, it comes as no surprise to find the author is also a noted poet. In some ways the writing reminded me of jazz and I can imagine Sorrentino being considered a writers' writer for his inventive use of language from the formal to the vernacular past and present. The book does have depressing world view with repeated sequences involving sexual betrayal, yet many of these are leavened with humor. The book finishes with a separate part called Commentaries which have little observations and references by the author for each section. This is exactly the sort of discovery or encounter I hoped for in creating my 'own structure' for the 'Reading Challenge' as I try to 'stretch' both my reading totals and mind in 2015!

There is a very good overview of the author at PoetryFoundation.

Also, you can find a review of The Abyss of Human Illusion at NY Times.

17ralphcoviello
feb. 3, 2015, 10:54pm

Book 6 starts February on a sordid satirical note with a jaundiced view of America in Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West


Wow! 80 years later and the opening pages of "Miss Lonelyhearts" can still deliver a jolt to the reader! West instantly puts you in the troubled mind of the male writer, never named, always referred to by the feminine "Miss Lonelyhearts" sobriquet that heads his newspaper advice column. The "Miss Lonelyhearts" column may have started as a circulation builder and a 'joke' for the newspaper columnist and his editor, but the deluge of sincere despairing letters seeking advice and solace; make him literally sick and increasingly despondent. West does a remarkable job alternating between the readers letters to "Miss Lonelyhearts" and the protagonist's escapades and eventual embrace of a Christ-like mania and fate.

18scaifea
feb. 4, 2015, 7:20am

>17 ralphcoviello: I read that one in college and loved it. Glad to see that you did, too!

19ralphcoviello
feb. 4, 2015, 1:34pm

Thanks! I appreciate the comment! One of the things I am trying with the 2015 Challenge is to read some of those books I missed reading in school! Also, to reread some books I was not ready to appreciate back in the day.

20ralphcoviello
feb. 4, 2015, 1:45pm

Book 7 is Black Jack Vol. 9 and one of the fun things is the way Osamu Tezuka works in self-referential gags including caricature's of himself

21scaifea
feb. 5, 2015, 7:23am

>19 ralphcoviello: I have an on-going quest to read books that I somehow missed through all those years of education, and in many cases I agree that they're books that can't be appreciated in the same way when we're young.

22ralphcoviello
feb. 7, 2015, 5:44pm

Book 8 The Stranger by Albert Camus from the 1988 translation by Matthew Ward


This book had left me in a contemplative mood as I consider all that the remarkable author & philosopher has to say. I will need to read more by and about Albert Camus.

23ralphcoviello
feb. 16, 2015, 9:48pm

Book 9 is a collection of essays about The Stranger by Albert Camus from the Greenhaven Press


This gave me even more food for thought. Camus could not have anticipated the variety of interpretations or how social, cultural and historical changes have impacted how the book is thought about. This Young Adult focused book provides a great sampling in a readable format that make this scholarship on "The Stranger" accessible to everyone.

Here is an interesting article on the challenge of translating even the first sentence of the book The New Yorker.

24ralphcoviello
feb. 17, 2015, 8:54am

Book 10 is a return to the mind of Nathanael West with another collection of desperate damaged characters in The Day of the Locust a tour through the ragged edge of Depression era Hollywood.


I need to remind myself of how ahead of its time this book was when published 75 years ago! For me it was a bit familiar having just read a landmark on alienation The Stranger and recently taken another jaundiced tour through Los Angeles with The Long Goodbye. Published in 1939 it is understandable how this book was both ignored when published and now hailed as a great American novel. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Tod pursues Faye across the studio back-lot through the layers of history from current and former movie productions culminating in a calamitous re-staging of the battle of Waterloo! A nightmarish look at the underbelly of the dream-factory called Hollywood.

25ralphcoviello
feb. 26, 2015, 3:40pm

Books 11 & 12 of the 75 Books Challenge for 2015 were Black Jack Vol. 10 and Black Jack Vol. 11 which gets me to an interesting point in the 17 volume set by Osamu Tezuka issued by Vertical.


At the end of volume 11 Vertical includes a note of explanation about the previous story and the composition of the overall series both by Tezuka as well as the Vertical edition. The story shows Black Jack riding a train with an old steam engine where he is continually surprised to find friends and foes both living and dead. In the end he wakes to find he was dreaming while sleeping in his seat on a commercial jet. Apparently this was intended to be a coda for the end of the series, yet much like Sherlock Holmes resurrected from the Reichenbach Falls by Doyle due to the demands of fans, so Tezuka brought back Black Jack. Also, the volumes are not in chronological order because it was originally meant to be a much shorter best of set that grew and grew to include more and more stories. Additionally, some stories were apparently withheld due to content, however it is unclear if this is true for the original Japanese editions or just this English language edition by Vertical. Now I came to this Black Jack having previously read Tezuka's life of Buddha published by Vertical in an 8 volume set that starts with Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu which is an epic continuous story. What I found instead was an episodic series that plays with different genre including horror, medical, romance, noir, adventure and science fiction among others, all with great fun and affection.

26ralphcoviello
Editat: març 2, 2015, 2:00pm

Wool by Hugh Howey is book 13 of the 'Challenge'!


The story of this book's publication is as interesting as the book itself! The author Hugh Howey originally published a short story online and with positive feedback from readers continued to develop the stories, characters and dystopian world of his science fiction novel "Wool"! After becoming a self-published sensation Howey sold the print edition rights to Simon & Schuster for $500,000 while retaining the digital rights for himself. In "Wool" Howey crafts the unique world of the silo and the people who live there. The book is a very entertaining read, although I was slightly disappointed (possibly due to the hype I had read about it) and also because I did not buy some of the leaps the author takes and in other ways I wish he pushed the envelope even further. I look forward to reading the additional volumes in this series as well as other works by the author.

27ralphcoviello
Editat: març 4, 2015, 1:57pm

I knew I needed a shorter work after reading a 500 pager like Wool by Hugh Howey, so I took a chance on a slim volume that was new to the library Moon in a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier for book 14 of the quest for '75'!


This book is a surreal reading experience on a number of levels. This is due to, I believe, the author's intentions in creating an absurdest social satire, as well as, it being an act of double translation for an American reader. The book was originally published in French as Lune capitve dans un oeil mort and has been translated into English by Emily Boyce and the eccentric layout I presume is carried over from the French original. The edition I read was misleadingly labeled 'noir' although I understand the choice from a marketing POV and there was gun and eventually a dead body, still it creates expectations which it turns out the book is not about at all. Having long time personal and professional connections to England I understand the meaning of the phrase that we are 'separated by a common language'. This English translation is full of British-isms which I was able to navigate although there was the occasional one that left me stumped. The author has gathered his small cast of eccentric characters at Les Conviviales a new retirement community in the south of France that seems to be breaking down before it is even fully occupied. I think the author Garnier is more interested in lampooning French society than in creating a particularly gripping story.

28jolerie
Editat: març 4, 2015, 10:38pm

I heard some good things about Wool and look forward to reading it. I have all 3 books sitting on my TBR mountain so it's just about finding the time to read it!

ETA: Welcome to the challenge and welcome to the group!

29PaulCranswick
març 5, 2015, 2:25am

Enjoyed catching up with your thread Ralph after seeing you over at the B.A.C. thread. Welcome to the group and I have to say your debut is a very interesting and entertaining one. Welcome to the group.

30ralphcoviello
març 5, 2015, 4:48pm

Thanks for the welcome jolerie!
Howey is a good writer and "Wool" is a real page turner! Enjoy!

31ralphcoviello
març 5, 2015, 4:53pm

Thanks for the welcome and the generous comments Paul! I have enjoyed the challenge and putting the observations together for each book read into the thread. I will make sure to post at the B.A.C. thread.

32ralphcoviello
Editat: març 20, 2015, 9:23am

Mission accomplished with book 15 read Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica by Matthew Parker.


With his excellent book the author Parker, Matthew Parker tells the story of Goldeneye, a Jamaican retreat Ian Fleming built for himself after World War II, where he invented Bond, James Bond and wrote all of the 007 adventures.



This entertaining and informative read serves as a mini-biography of the unique Ian Fleming as well telling the story of Jamaica and how richly they both inform the James Bond books. While Fleming was raised among wealth and privilege, he actually had to overcome a great deal. Fleming's father was heir to a title and fortune, however when he died during WWI the title and fortune was entirely passed to a second son with nothing for Ian and his brothers. While Ian struggled in school his brother Peter Fleming got top marks, then joined an expedition to South America and wrote a best selling travel classic Brazilian Adventure. Ian Fleming remained at loose ends until WWII when he thrived as an inventive member of wartime British Intelligence earning the rank of Commander (the same as he assigned to Bond in the books). One WWII assignment took him to Jamaica with schoolboy chum Ivar Bryce and despite terrible weather the trip inspired his desire to return. Once the war was over Fleming took a newspaper job with the condition he receive paid leave two months every winter. Meanwhile his friend Bryce found the desired location and purchased it based on Fleming's instructions. Goldeneye was then designed and named by Fleming himself. Fleming wrote the first Bond book Casino Royale at Goldeneye in 1952 and he would maintain that routine with all his books until his death in 1964. Across the years Jamaica also transformed as artists, the new jet-set and eventually thousands of tourists helped the economy boom. Across the world the British Empire was gradually unwinding and eventually Jamaica achieved independence as well. The sense of decline of British power runs through the Bond books which also react against it with James Bond saving England and even the whole world. Parker shows how Fleming weaves Jamaican locales and references into many of the Bond books. However, it was particularly appropriate that Dr. No became the first film as it is set almost entirely in Jamaica where much of it was filmed. In fact, Fleming helped Chris Blackwell (founder of Island Records) get a job on the film and today he is the owner of Goldeneye which is now a luxury boutique hotel The Fleming Villa.



This is a great book for anyone interested in James Bond, his creator Ian Fleming and Jamaica, the place that brought them together at Goldeneye.

33ralphcoviello
Editat: març 31, 2015, 5:34pm

A mind-bending investigation for book 16 The City & The City the first work I have read by the genre-twisting China Miéville.


Miéville drops his readers into the world of Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad as he investigates a woman's murder in the city of Besźel. However, this particular city exists in a unique reality in conjunction with its sister city of Ul Qoma. The author descriptively develops these crosshatched intertwined, yet decidedly separate cities, suggestive of an Escher-like urban landscape.



As we follow the Inspector and his colleagues across the cities for the investigation Miéville reveals more of the parameters of this unique reality, however, once established he keeps these elements grounded while focusing on the connective elements of the crime. Miéville is able to deliver both the elements of a Chandleresque detective novel and the speculative Dickian aspects on the nature of reality and the parameters that govern our everyday existence. The BLDG BLOG has an excellent author interview and discussion about "The City & The City", UNSOLVING THE CITY: AN INTERVIEW WITH CHINA MIÉVILLE, however it should only be looked up after reading the book.

I look forward to reading more of China Miéville and really appreciate that the British Author Challenge for March gave me my first taste.

34ralphcoviello
Editat: abr. 22, 2015, 9:02am

Book 17 Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier came to me as the second I read for the March British Author Challenge following China Miéville.


This was a remarkable read as it felt fresh, even though du Maurier wrote it over 60 years ago, as the language is lively and spare. Its concerns felt current especially the financial struggles, even though it is set 210 years ago, as it details Mary Anne's climb from the lowest of circumstances to mixing with Royalty. Incredibly, while the story may sound like a regency romance it is based on the life Daphne du Maurier's Great-Great Grandmother Mary Anne Clarke!



As an author du Maurier does her ancestor a great service by bringing her vividly to life. We root for her success even as we recognize the choices that will inevitably spell trouble for Mary Anne. This is a very entertaining read that surprised me with the frankness of its sexual, political and financial escapades in illustrating the life of a woman who made the most out of both her faults and virtues. For more about Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke here is a link about the actual scandal: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/periods/hanoverians/duke-york-scandal-1...

Reading Daphne du Maurier in March for the British Author Challenge was very enjoyable and I look forward to reading another book from this eclectic author someday soon.

35drneutron
abr. 20, 2015, 8:20pm

Thanks for the link to the Mieville interview! I'm going to repost it to our Interesting Articles thread.

36ralphcoviello
abr. 22, 2015, 3:18pm

A sensual series of reclaimed and retold fairy and folk tales from Angela Carter in The Bloody Chamber for book 18.


"My intention was not to do "versions" or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, "adult" fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories." Angela Carter

Extract she does, as like a master surgeon Carter cuts away the fat and dead tissue which has embalmed so many of these tales in order to make them 'safe for children', to reveal a raw, sensual, and female centered core for each of them. The language is ripe and pungent and like a hot house flower might easily perish in the hands of a lesser talent. Instead Carter reinvigorates these stories by simultaneously going back to their root origins and modernizing them with female agency.



I confess my ignorance to Angela Carter's feminist literary reputation being familiar with her name mostly due to the film The Company of Wolves which she co-scripted with director Neil Jordan and which was based on some of the stories in the The Bloody Chamber. I look forward to revisiting the film soon as I recall it capturing the ripe atmosphere which oozes from pages of each story in this slim volume. A site called The Modern Word has an excellent overview on her career, Angela Carter by By Jeff VanderMeer, it includes an analysis of "The Bloody Chamber" which puts it and her work in context, however I would recommend looking at it after reading the book.

Again I really appreciate the British Author Challenge for the nudge to pick-up and read this volume from Angela Carter.

37ralphcoviello
abr. 25, 2015, 3:50pm

"I am an animator. I feel like I'm the manager of an animation cinema factory. I am not an executive. I'm rather like a foreman, like the boss of a team of craftsmen. That is the spirit of how I work." Hayao Miyazaki

The above quote opens A Critical Study, 2004-2013 The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki by Dani Cavallaro.


The quote is an appropriate choice by the author to top the preface of her survey of the last decade of output by this creative genius, who announced his retirement following his most recent feature The Wind Rises, as it gets to both his humble nature and the collaborative process that all film-making involves. Following the preface and a chapter summarizing Hayao Miyazaki's career-to-date Cavallaro, who previously wrote about the director and his films in The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki, examines six films in chronological order with a chapter devoted to each. All of the films were produced by Studio Ghibili, which is the creative home of Hayao Miyazaki as well as director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, with Miyazaki directing three of the films Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo and The Wind Rises and contributing creatively to the the other three as a writer and producer on Tales from Earthsea, The Secret World of Arrietty and From Up On Poppy Hill. Cavallaro does a good job in highlighting the common themes across all the films, regardless of whether Miyazaki directed them or not, highlighting the contemplative aspects of this creative elder statesman in the last decade of his career, which she analogizes to Shakespeare and his later works such as The Tempest.



Cavallaro gives the reader much to think about with the deep-dive she takes on each film highlighting the complexity in theme and characterization that Miyazaki brings to all of them. All characters are given shades of gray, so none are purely good or evil, and Miyazaki works in his themes about creativity, individuality, and the environment in ways that provoke thought and contemplation in the viewer.

Some concerns that I have and that I have found reflected by others online are part and parcel with Cavallaro's approach. At times the language is so academic and dense that it obfuscates or even obliterates the point the author is trying to make. While the bibliography is extensive the author's approach to citation appears to be her own and not particularly helpful. A complaint that was leveled about "The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki" was over the total lack of illustrative images which is again the case here. The lack of images is less of an issue with the feature films than with detailed asides the author has on shorts that Miyazaki created that are only available for viewing at the Studio Ghibli museum. Since these are not available for viewing it would have been a great help to have images from these shorts and also some indication how the author was able to view them.

Other than those mentioned caveats I would recommend this book to anyone who had a serious appreciation for Hayao Miyazaki and wanted to explore some of the themes at play in his work.

This was book 19 in the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 and the first I have received as a Library Thing Early Reviewer.

38drneutron
abr. 25, 2015, 8:30pm

Congrats on your first ER! I'm glad it was a good one.

39ralphcoviello
Editat: des. 31, 2015, 12:07pm

A thought provoking book 20 in Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny.


I have had this book on my radar for a very long time and I am very glad to have caught up with it at last. It is hard to believe this was published nearly 50 years ago as it is so fresh, inventive and imaginative! Per Zelazny “Lord of Light was intentionally written so that it could be taken as a science fiction or a fantasy novel." This approach leads him to write with a purposeful vagueness while creating a strong sense of atmosphere. The novel tells the story of Sam, the simplest of his many names, who is leading a revolt to restore knowledge to all people. Eventually it becomes clear that a group of colonists conquered this planet setting themselves up as 'Gods' modeled after the Hindu pantheon taking on names and characteristics of deities such as Vishnu, Kali and Ganesh. In order to maintain their elevated position the 'Gods' purposely keep people living in a medieval state by suppressing knowledge and technology while using it to extend their power and lives indefinitely. As part of his rebellion Sam introduces Buddhism as an alternative to the worship of the Gods. The novel is broken into seven sections which could be read as individual short stories with the first story taking place chronologically after several of the stories in a manner today we would call Tarantinoesque. This approach is effective, although it can cause some confusion in the reader, it supports Zelazny's intent in not wanting to lock in expectations for a science fiction or a fantasy narrative while allowing him to deliver a fantastic tale that is equal parts philosophy and adventure!



I have recently learned that Roger Zelazny was a close friend and mentor to George R. R. Martin as they were both long time residents of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In his magnum opus A Song of Ice and Fire the basis for HBO's Game of Thrones Martin has named a deity 'The Lord of Light' and a major character 'Sam' whose focus is the pursuit of knowledge. Martin has organized a 20 year anniversary memorial event to celebrate Zelazny who died in 1995. REMEMBERING ROGER ZELAZNY: AUTHOR OF THE AMBER CHRONICLES AND THE LORD OF LIGHT.



Plus incredibly the fake sci-fi movie in Ben Affleck's movie Argo was a real failed film production version of 'Lord of Light' with images created by the great Jack Kirby.

40ralphcoviello
juny 13, 2015, 2:36pm

Book 21 is The Meursault Investigation a remarkable work by Kamel Daoud which goes beyond its meta-fictional origins as a sequel to and meditation on The Stranger by Albert Camus to become a powerful story in its own right as well as an examination of identity and the absurd.
The story is told by Haroun who identifies the previously nameless Arab shot and killed by Meursault in "The Stranger" as being his brother Musa. Haroun sits in a bar talking to a stranger about his life, telling how his brother's murder and the book which left his brother nameless haunted his entire existence. In the end the narrator Haroun turns out to have issues with his Mama, the consequences of an absurd murder and trial and to be something of a stranger and outsider himself.

After previously reading "The Literary Companion series of essays on The Stranger" I noted that Camus could not have anticipated the variety of interpretations or how social, cultural and historical changes have impacted how the book is thought about. He certainly did not conceive, 75 years after publishing "The Stranger", a celebrated prize winning book written in French by Algerian author Kamel Daoud would give a name to his unnamed Arab victim, however he likely would have smiled at the absurdity of it all.

"The Meursault Investigation" is beautifully translated from the original French into English by John Cullen and you can read an excerpt in the April 6, 2015 issue of the The New Yorker.

Translating "The Stranger" has generated controversy, here is an interesting article on the challenge of translating even the first sentence of the book The New Yorker.

41ralphcoviello
Editat: juny 27, 2015, 5:58am

Book 22 in the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 and the second I have received as a Library Thing Early Reviewer is The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962 by David Meuel.


"He looks mighty average to be such a big man"

The above quote is from the film "The Gunfighter" and it opens the section of the book discussing the film of the same name, however it could easily open this entire lucid and thoughtful examination these films and their directors since these men and their movies where often underestimated in their day.

I think it is significant that the film released in 1950 "The Gunfighter" often credited as the first adult western appears in the middle of David Meuel's book as he makes a strong case as indicated in his subtitle "Darkness on the Range, 1943-1962" to trace "The Noir Western" and simultaneously the adult western back to a film released in 1943 "The Ox-Bow Incident". The author follows a dual track both examining these noir inflected westerns in approximately chronological order of their production and offering quick sketches of the men who directed these films. In following this approach it allows Meuel to examine the noir themes and techniques of a particular director across 1 to 3 films. In addition to Wellman the book examines films by Raoul Walsh, Andre de Toth, Robert Wise, Sam Fuller, Henry King, Anthony Mann, Allan Dwan, Delmer Daves, Budd Boetticher and John Ford.



Image from "Yellow Sky" features Richard Widmark and Harry Morgan

As the director of "The Ox-Bow Incident" William Wellman becomes the first focal point looking at his additional noir westerns "Yellow Sky" and "Track of the Cat". It is great way to structure the book and these three films help Meuel illustrate how all the western noir films both confound, embrace and contradict the 'perceived' western movie norms of their day. Prior to 'Ox-Bow" a 'movie western' meant black hats versus white hats with the good guys riding to the rescue, such that the visual and thematic darkness of 'Ox-Bow' was shocking and confounding to viewers and critics. "Yellow Sky" has all the elements of classic noir crime film like "The Asphalt Jungle" although it does swerve to a seemingly tacked on happy ending while "Track of the Cat" finds Wellman shooting a color film in the mid-50s where he and his cinematographer create a stark visual palette ironically drained of color.

As with Wellman on "Track of the Cat" it is important to understand that the directors often chose to design and shoot their films to reflect noir themes. For example by the time Delmer Daves directed the original '3:10 to Yuma' in the late 50s shooting in color and featuring wide-open spaces was the western norm, yet he shot this film in black & white with many scenes set in enclosed claustrophobic spaces. Even more startling in its day was John Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" filmed in the early 60s in black & white on some very basic studio sets instead of the wide-open vistas of Monument Valley. Meuel successfully makes the point again and again that these directors made visual and thematic choices that strongly align these particular westerns with the dark stories and characters of film noir.

While the writing and the structure of the book flow beautifully for a very enjoyable reading experience I did encounter some issues which gave me pause. There were typos and other errors that where distracting and disappointing. For example in the section discussing Henry King's film "The Bravados" starring Gregory Peck, Henry Silva's character 'Lujan' is repeatedly misidentified as 'Luhan' and in the book's conclusion the director of "There Will Be Blood" is incorrectly identified as Paul Michael Thomas instead of the correct Paul Thomas Anderson.

Excepting the concerns I noted above I endorse this examination of noir images and themes in western films especially the way the author highlights films and filmmakers who remain outside the spotlight. The book has detailed end Notes and a thorough Index. I also appreciate that in addition to the films featured in the text that David Meuel provides his readers with a list of 'Fifty Additional Noir-ish Postwar Westerns Worth Seeing'.

42ralphcoviello
jul. 12, 2015, 2:03pm

Book 23 in the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 and the third I have received as a Library Thing Early Reviewer is We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy by Caseen Gaines.


"The only thing more uncertain than the future is the past."
-Soviet Proverb

The above Soviet Proverb sits on a page by itself between one with a dedication to the author's family and one with the Table of Contents and it is a tip-off that there is more thought and effort behind this 30th anniversary look back at the making of these movies than one might have initially expected. Choosing to write and publish this book in 2015 is another indication of author Caseen Gaines appreciation for these films because it is not just the 30th anniversary for the original "Back to the Future" it is the future year visited by Marty McFly and Doc Brown in "Part II"!

This book has many strengths not least the personal connection the author establishes in the opening pages, to the science fiction genre and these movies in particular, with a recollection of his first encounter with the movies watching them on video tape as a child. Most importantly Gaines has conducted new interviews with many of the principals involved including 'The Bobs' ( Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale), Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd and many other people involved in the production of all three movies in capacities large and small. Reflecting the time element of the movies Gaines subtitles each chapter with a relevant date and the opening chapter 'Think, McFly, Think' starts at a critical moment in the history of these movies 'Sunday, December 30, 1984' the day nearly a month into production that director Robert Zemeckis realizes his leading man Eric Stoltz is not working out. Gaines then jumps back in time to show how the 'The Bobs' first met in film school and eventually found a crucial mentor in Steven Spielberg. That relationship was essential to the development of 'The Bobs' careers as Spielberg Executive Produced their first film "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" co-written by 'The Bobs' with Zemeckis directing and Gale producing. Spielberg had helped "Back to the Future" get into production at Universal and now as Executive Producer helped 'The Bobs' make their case to do the unheard of replace their leading man in the midst of production and with a TV star to boot! Gaines does an excellent job of showing how unusual the change in leads from Eric Stoltz to Michael J. Fox was for this or any film and how it came about and ultimately made the film and its sequels a successful blend of comedy and science fiction.



Poster images for all three movies by artist Drew Struzan featuring Michael J. Fox, Christoper Lloyd and Mary Steenburgen

After taking us through the production as well as the stunning critical and box office success of "Back to the Future" Gaines leads us to the development and production of the sequels "Part II" and "Part III". He illustrates how at the time this was no certain thing as Robert Zemeckis has a strong aversion to sequels which he has backed up across the rest of his career. Gaines shows us how the initial plan for a single film eventually morphed into an enormous production of two "Back to the Future" sequels shot back-to-back. While this strategy of shooting 2 or 3 films simultaneously has become more common since the success of "The Lord of the Rings" it had virtually no successful precedent at the time outside of the 70s production of "The Three Musketeers" & "The Four Musketeers". One of the benefits of the author conducting fresh interviews is the willingness of the participants to reflect back with the perspective and distance of time to acknowledge some of the issues and their disappointments. Especially with "Part II" which Zemeckis feels did not get the full attention he could have given it in the editorial process which was compressed by the demands of both its impending release date and focus required for the then in production "Part III". A number of issues are illuminated including casting changes and a stunt gone horribly awry. The change with Elisabeth Shue in the role of Marty's girlfriend Jennifer due to Claudia Wells wanting to be with her mother who was dying of cancer. The departure of Crispin Glover whose role as George McFly was covered by footage from the first film as well as the use of a heavily made-up stand-in Jeffrey Weissman which ultimately lead to an expensive lawsuit. Another lawsuit occurred in the aftermath of a failed hoverboard stunt which critically injured a stunt woman and is explored here in great depth.

Beyond the trilogy Gaines takes us into the continuing popularity of "Back to the Future" including looks at fan clubs, websites, theme-park rides, conventions, merchandising and more. There are some weaker aspects which while understandable do detract, such as no current interviews with Michael J. Fox, Crispin Glover, Steven Spielberg, Elizabeth Shue and especially Tom Wilson. Also, I would have liked to see more of the personal side and connection the author Caseen Gaines exposed in his introduction as it seems relevant to understanding the ongoing success and popularity of this franchise.

Those quibbles aside I found this book extremely informative about films I have long enjoyed and now have an even stronger appreciation for. I also appreciate that in the back of the book the author lists 'Sources' including complete links to online articles, websites and even clips on YouTube. I cannot wait to go Back to the Future again, and again, and again!

43ralphcoviello
Editat: set. 25, 2015, 9:29pm

A long time coming, as reading and posting have been disrupted in recent months by a beautiful summer for being outdoors plus admittedly a lot of movie and TV viewing on a shiny new HD set when indoors, is Book 24 in the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 Retold: Six Fairytales Reimagined edited by The Book Smugglers Ana Grilo and Thea James.


"The notion of a universality of human experience is a confidence trick and the notion of a universality of female experience is a clever confidence trick."
-Angela Carter

If she was with us Angela Carter would have celebrated her 75th birthday in 2015, so to mark the occasion Penguin Classics has published The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories: 75th-Anniversary Edition her landmark re-imagining of the fairy-tale. Another great way to mark the anniversary year of her birth would be to plunge into these marvelous stories Retold: Six Fairytales Reimagined a clever and confident collection written and edited by women worthy of being called Angela Carter's literary daughters and heirs. The stories and authors in the collection include Hunting Monsters by S.L. Huang, In Her Head, In Her Eyes by Yukimi Ogawa, Mrs. Yaga by Michal Wojcik, The Mussel Eater by Octavia Cade, The Astronomer Who Met The North Wind by Kate Hall and The 99th Bride by Catherine F. King. Like Carter's classic set of tales this collection re-imagines stories that echo 'The Brothers Grimm', 'Hans Christian Andersen', 'The Thousand and One Nights' and even has a dash of Sci-Fi.

The editors have generously included a look at what inspired each story as well as separate chats with each author. You can learn more about the authors and editors at The Book Smugglers.

44ralphcoviello
set. 28, 2015, 1:57pm

As noted above I have been watching movies more than reading lately, so what could be better for Book 25 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 than 1001 Movies: You Must See Before You Die edited by Steven Jay Schneider.

As stated in the title the book contains 1001 movie recommendations which have been provided by a panel of contributing editors. The entries have a nice variety with some acting as simple reviews while others make the case for film's inclusion in the book or even its place in film history. The entries are accompanied by a small image of a movie poster for the film being discussed as well as some top-line credits and production information plus there is usually a quote or factoid in relation to the film or filmmakers. Also, sometimes there will be small illustrative images from the film being examined and even an accompanying full page image all of which are beautifully reproduced. The book is organized in chronological order starting with the earliest feature films such as 'The Great Train Robbery' and finishing with a final entry on the film selected for the cover image Ang Lee's award winning 3D adaptation of Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The book is broken into sections for each decade with helpful color coding which assists in locating a film without having to always consult the detailed index.

Some caveats, the book was first published in 2003, it is an ongoing and revised publication with films being added and dropped with each edition in order to keep it to the titular 1001 movies. As the book was originally published in the UK it does evince a bias toward British films and occasionally the descriptions or references are so Anglo-centric as to be confusing for an American reader. Also, I found the edition I read had an irritating number of typos. Still, an enjoyable book to read straight through or to dip into after seeing a film on the list or to generate ideas for new films to discover.

You can get the current list of 1001 Movies plus the additions and deletions across the years at 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Wiki.

45ralphcoviello
set. 29, 2015, 11:43am

Ever had 'reader's block' as opposed to 'writer's block'? This book got caught up in my digressions over the summer as I read the introduction and the first couple of chapters and then could not seem to pick it up for months, yet when I finally did I raced through it in a few days making The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maughman Book 26 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015.

Despite the extended disruption it was rather easy for me to jump back into the story as I was generally familiar with it having seen both movie versions, (1946) starring Tyrone Power and (1984) starring Bill Murray. The book has an unusual structure as W. Somerset Maugham injects himself into the narrative as a character relating the story of Larry Darrell as well as several other characters during the years between the world wars. Maugham has a lot of fun with his approach and characters as he states "I have invented nothing" and otherwise implies the story is true in his 'novel' while also declaring that the book will not end with a wedding or a funeral when in fact it does! Another aspect that has made the book controversial as well as lasting is the focus on Larry's quest for enlightenment. At the start of the book Larry has returned to his home outside Chicago after serving as a pilot during the Great War in France and the experience has affected him. Larry's quest initially takes him to Paris where much of the story takes place and ultimately leads to India where he finds what he is looking for by studying Vendanta at an Ashram. This type of story has become a cliche, yet Maugham was the first to popularize it and his best seller introduced many Americans to non-western philosophy and religion for the first time. Maugham balances out Larry's saintly demeanor and arc with the trajectories of the other characters in particular Elliott Templeton and Isabel Bradley. Elliott is a wealthy American snob consumed with his position and participation in French society who continually expresses exasperation with Larry's choices. Isabel is Elliott's niece and initially Larry's fiance who rejects him when he will not return to America and work to support her in the style and comfort she expects.

Maugham's book, despite a less than positive critical reception, was an immediate hit and his biggest seller in America. Coming out at the end of World War II it found Americans receptive to Larry's non-traditional approach to personal and spiritual fulfillment. The book's central themes examining money, social climbing and enlightenment remain resonant to the present day and in some ways have only grown in the public consciousness.

The site 'The Wanderling' has an interesting page speculating on some of the real people and events that may have informed Maugham's writing of The Razor's Edge.

46ralphcoviello
Editat: oct. 22, 2015, 1:37pm

Well I decided to get a jump on Halloween scares by reading The Thing On The Doorstep and Other Weird Stories by H.P Lovecraft which I am counting as Book 27, Book 28 and Book 29 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 as it includes several long novellas that are usually published separately among them being The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dunwich Horror and At The Mountains of Madness.
This collection is part of a series of six volumes of Penguin Horror selected by film director Guillermo Del Toro who as Series Editor provides an introduction which covers the entire series while Lovecraft biographer S. T. Joshi acts as Editor providing an introduction as well as commentary on each story along with extensive endnotes. Lovecraft has a unique style which definitely creates an enveloping atmosphere and sense of dread. His stories of the fantastic frequently feature doomed characters, always male, confronting cosmic horrors that even when they survive with their lives are left broken in mind and spirit. If the telling and the tales get a bit repetitive I was still glad to have finally experienced the chills of Lovecraft's doomladen oeuvre. I look forward to returning to his Arkham along the Miskatonic River and answering the call of Cthuhlu.

47ralphcoviello
nov. 2, 2015, 2:50pm

I have had an interest in reading and re-reading Edgar Allan Poe and was compelled to add him to the October Halloween festivities by reading his only novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket after I found it was a point of inspiration for the recently read At the Mountains of Madness by H.P Lovecraft which makes this Book 30 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015.
According to the article "On Edgar Allan Poe" by Marilynne Robinson published in February 2015 in The New York Review of Books "Pym" was significant not only as Poe's sole novel length work, but because with it and the stories that followed he chose to "horrify us with truth'. It is a fascinating idea and even without having a broad reading of Poe's works, much less a scholarly appreciation, it rings true for me. Sometimes it is hard to grasp, when Poe is so alive in the popular imagination today, how challenged he was for popular and professional success during his lifetime excepting his poem "The Raven". Reading "Pym" today I can see how it might have upended and thus frustrated the expectations of his reading audience in 1838. It starts out seeming an adventure of the sea as Arthur joins his friend Augustus who helps him stowaway aboard the ship Grampus. It quickly turns to a tale of deprivation as Arthur finds himself trapped below deck going hungry and mad from lack of food, light and breathable air. Arthur is saved at last by Augustus only to discover that the ship has suffered a mutiny and their only friend is these dire straights is a half-Indian seaman named Dirk Peters. The narrative of "Pym" continues with shocks and surprises as Poe does not provide an easy out for his characters or the reader even through to the very end. The last part of the book has been proclaimed by some to be a formative science fiction story, so that the very features that lead to Poe's lack of commercial success during his lifetime fuel his ever lasting appreciation from readers and inspiration for authors.

This book has inspired sequels, one by Jules Verne and even a recent modern take, simply called Pym by Mat Johnson that doubles as a satirical examination of race while there is a scholarly examination of the novel available at The Edgar Allan Poe Society.

48ralphcoviello
des. 6, 2015, 12:06pm

Somehow this book came up in a conversation at work and when I randomly spotted it in the stacks during a library visit I had to check out and read Wacky Packages by The Topps Company for Book 31 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015.
The acclaimed Art Spiegleman, author and illustrator of Maus, contributes a fond recollection of how he came to join Topps and contribute to the development and creation of Wacky Packages. One of my reasons for wanting to see this book is my own fond recollection of my younger brother John's mania for these stickers and their being plastered on our washing machine and all over his bedroom walls.


As you can see from this open page image of the book these stickers have been beautifully reproduced in all their icky glory! Really they have never looked better than on the glossy over-sized pages of this book! Many of the images and amusing word play still provoke chuckles, although one has to admit it is hard to imagine children being allowed to collect them in today's PC world.

The original Wacky Packages sticker series inspired an number of follow ups and the book cover several of the series issued. If the book sparks a collecting interest in the stickers, or a desire for additional info, you can learn more about them at The Wacky Packages Web Page.

49ralphcoviello
des. 6, 2015, 12:47pm

As Halloween approached I was inspired to view and learn more about horror movies with The Rough Guide to Horror Movies by Alan Jones read as Book 32 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015.
Alan Jones is an able guide taking the reader on a tour of the horror genre. Following a Foreword and Introduction the book is segmented into The Origins: horror literature, The History: over a hundred years of horror, The Canon: 50 horror classics, The Icons: the faces of horror, The Global Picture: horror movies around the world and finally The Information: where to turn next. This makes the book a great starter point for anyone who wants an introductory overview of horror and horror movies. The book is bound in the distinctive square shape that marks The Rough Guide reference series with nice clear graphics, many black & white photos and capsule asides on many pages covering a personality or factoid related to the movie under discussion.


The book covers a variety of horror films and filmmakers such as Mario Bava director of Black Sunday and while one might disagree with occasional title included or omitted that debate is part of the fun. One note to keep in mind is that the author and publishers are British and this can occasionally lead to a reference or even the highlighting of a film that is obscure to an American reader. Still it is great to have a book like this that comes with a distinctive cultural and authorial voice and not feel cookie cutter! I am looking forward to seeing some of the films discussed as well as checking out some of the other Rough Guide books on movie genres such as gangsters and sci-fi!

The Rough Guides started as travel guides in 1981 and branched out into reference starting with guides to music in 1994 and have grown to cover many topics, you can learn more about them at The Rough Guides.

50ralphcoviello
des. 7, 2015, 11:58am

One of the things I have really enjoyed this year is participating as a LibraryThing early reviewer which most recently brought me Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne read as Book 33 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015.
The book literally starts in no man's land as the central character Robert crosses the border check-point from Thailand into Cambodia. Robert is adrift in both body and soul as he finds himself going further and further to escape his life as a teacher in England which he finds vaguely dissatisfying. Still, he is not your typical seeker of spiritual enlightenment by any means. When Robert wins big at a casino it opens up opportunities to continue his travels while additionally marking him as a target for opportunists.


Osborne creates a palpable sense of atmosphere which generates tension as Robert encounters other characters among the people and places of Cambodia. The author clearly has a strong feeling for the Khmer people and the wounds left on the country by the genocide inflicted by the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s. As well as an even deeper sense of melancholy created by the ancient ruins of places like Angkor Wat which finds the Khmer people living among ghosts and reminders of their former greatness. If Robert ultimately takes a circular karmic journey, which ends up a little pat, then it still remains an atmospheric and sensual trip worth taking.

If interested you can learn more about author Lawrence Osborne.

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52ralphcoviello
des. 14, 2015, 9:57am

I recently read an interview in Film Comment with director Hou Hsiao-Hsien where he said "I always want to set some kind of external limit for myself before working. They become a very important part of my process and the structuring principle of each film. Flowers of Shanghai, for example, was made with only 30 shots. I believe that imposing such limits forces an artist to be more creative." In much the same way by attempting to maximize the number of books I read for the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 I have to be more creative in my selections and have chosen to read some smaller works of fiction by a range of authors I might not have otherwise sampled such as a delightful Book 34 The Prank: The Best of Young Chekhov by Anton Chekhov.
The slender volume collects many of Chekhov's earliest published pieces, think The New Yorker, witty sketches lampooning social, cultural, and artistic pretensions. In her introduction the translator Maria Bloshteyn explains how Chekhov's planned first book ended up as his last being published 100 years after his death and in English too! The book was originally collected and edited by Chekhov himself from pieces he had previously written and published in magazines with the intent of publishing the book to further his reputation and career as an author. This being Tsarist Russia the book had to be submitted to the censor. It was not approved for publication and lay in archives for decades until it was found during scholarly research.


A brilliant man who was a medical doctor as well as an author and playwright Chekhov did get a couple of things wrong. He thought that his work was so of its time and place that he would not be read a year after he died and that there could not be any possible interest in work being appreciated in English translation. Time and Maria Bloshteyn's translation have proven him wrong as his humorous portraits of people in all their foibles and foolishness are universal, recognizable and entertaining to this day.


The book is illustrated with lovely line drawings by Chekhov's brother Nikolay Chekhov and has informative footnotes and endnotes provided by translator Maria Bloshteyn.

53ralphcoviello
des. 16, 2015, 7:49pm

As a LibraryThing early reviewer I recently read and reviewed Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne as Book 33, so I was delighted to find a copy of one of his previous books at my local library The Ballad of a Small Player to read as Book 35 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015.
This book features another British man trying to lose himself in the Far East, this time the specific location being Macau & Hong Kong of the neon lit present day. Although considerably older than Robert the protagonist in Hunters, Doyle is even more of a lost soul as he gambles away a small fortune. Frequently called Lord Doyle, an honorific he resists and embraces, as its meaning wavers from sarcastic to enthusiastic depending on the rising and falling of Doyle's fortunes. Early on he encounters Dao-Ming, a prostitute, who Doyle finds he is affected by in unexpected ways both immediately and as the story advances.


As with Hunters, Osborne creates a palpable sense of atmosphere, very effectively evoking both the best and worst aspects of time spent inside casino hotels as well as the disorienting changes wrought on a rapidly growing Macau and China. Osborne is very effective in illuminating the cultural differences between East and West without demeaning either. This is especially true with the differing views on luck and the existence and the impact of the spirit world on the living. If I found myself getting a little ahead of the story, it was still a pleasure to follow Osborne to where he led me and his characters in the end.

If interested you can learn more about author Lawrence Osborne

54ralphcoviello
Editat: des. 29, 2015, 9:23am

Earlier in 2015 I came across Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang, having already recently read a number of manga and graphic novels I decided to hold off. However, as the year wound down, and I adjusted my reading goals, I realized this was a great opportunity to read two books in tandem as Book 36 & Book 37 of the 75 Book Challenge for 2015.
These books are beautifully written and imaginatively illustrated by Yang in the clear line style to tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion through the perspectives of two young people, Little Bao in Boxers and Four Girl in Saints. The setting is China as the 19th Century turns into the 20th Century with the ideas, religion, people and powers of foreign governments a growing presence and force in the country. Little Bao gets caught up in the turmoil and comes to define himself as a boxer while Four Girl in rebelling against her family gradually finds herself becoming a christian. These books really need to be read together as they tell parts of the same story from different perspectives. You can read them back to back or in tandem as I did, however it is important not to read the Epilogue to Saints until after you read Boxers as it is really a concluding chapter to both books. Yang tells this complicated history in an engaging, heartfelt and clear manner that illuminates this important chapter in Chinese and World History with very human stories.

55ralphcoviello
des. 31, 2015, 12:35pm

I started the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 with The Long Goodbye and determined early on to finish the year with Farewell, My Lovely also by Raymond Chandler as a bookend which it is as Book 38.


This is a classic hard-boiled detective novel as well as a snapshot of Los Angeles entering full bloom in the mid-twentieth century. There is money and development flowing as the city grows wider and larger, yet the rot is starting to set in, especially in the older neighborhoods. In the end the cynical hero Phillip Marlowe finds that he has unraveled the mysteries of theft and murder, yet it is not any grand conspiracy, just business as usual and people being people.

The novel has been adapted to films several times and although the name was changed to Murder, My Sweet the 1944 film with Dick Powell as Marlowe is otherwise quite faithful.


A great place to read about the book and learn more about Chandler is it at DETNOVEL.com

56ralphcoviello
des. 31, 2015, 2:50pm

I book-ended my 75 Book Challenge for 2015 with two novels by Raymond Chandler as I started on The Long Goodbye and finished the year with Farewell, My Lovely.


With their Los Angeles settings these books proved particularly apt as I read a number of books during 2015 connected to Hollywood and the movies as well as literature of high and low repute. Two of the great benefits of focusing my 2015 reading around the 75 Book Challenge was that it caused me to stretch in both the volume and variety of books I picked up to read especially with short fiction. Another driver for me this year was books I received as a reviewer through LibraryThing Early Reviewers as well as print and digital ARCs (advance reader copies) I received through other channels. The British Author Challenge was an especially fun sub-group which I tapped into for some of my reading choices during 2015.

I have certainly found that to be true during my life in general and especially during the 75 Book Challenge for 2015! I may have only reached the halfway mark with 38 books read, still it was the most fulfilling and challenging reading I have experienced in quite some time! Thanks LibraryThing and everyone connected to the challenge! Happy New Year and good reading in 2016 to all!

75 Book Challenge for 2015 - My list which ended up totaling 38 books.

Farewell, My Lovely; Raymond Chandler; Book 38.
Saints; Gene Luen Yang; Book 37.
Boxers; Gene Luen Yang; Book 36.
The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel; Lawrence Osborne; Book 35.
The Prank: The Best of Young Chekhov; Anton Chekhov; Book 34.
Hunters in the Dark: A Novel; Lawrence Osborne; Book 33.
The Rough Guide to Horror Movies; Alan Jones; Book 32.
Wacky Packages; The Topps Company; Book 31.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket; Edgar Allan Poe; Book 30.
The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories; H. P. Lovecraft; Book 29.
At the Mountains of Madness: And Other Tales of Terror; H. P. Lovecraft; Book 28.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward; H. P. Lovecraft; Book 27.
The Razor's Edge; W. Somerset Maugham 2003; Book 26.
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die; Steven Jay Schneider; Book 25.
Retold: Six Fairytales Reimagined; Ana Grilo; Book 24.
We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy; Caseen Gaines; Book 23.
The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962; David Meuel; Book 22.
The Meursault Investigation; Kamel Daoud ; Book 21.
Lord of Light; Roger Zelazny; Book 20.
The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki: A Critical Study 2004-2013 Dani Cavallaro; Book 19.
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (King Penguin); Angela Carter; Book 18.
Mary Anne; Daphne du Maurier; Book 17.
The City & The City; China Mieville; Book 16.
Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming in Jamaica; Matthew Parker; Book 15.
Moon in a Dead Eye; Pascal Garnier; Book 14.
Wool; Hugh Howey; Book 13.
Black Jack, Vol. 11; Osamu Tezuka; Book 12.
Black Jack, Vol. 10; Osamu Tezuka; Book 11.
The Day of the Locust; Nathanael West; Book 10.
Literary Companion Series - The Stranger (paperback edition); Derek C. Maus; Book 9.
The Stranger; Albert Camus; Book 8.
Black Jack, Vol. 9; Osamu Tezuka; Book 7.
Miss Lonelyhearts; Nathanael West; Book 6.
The Abyss of Human Illusion; Gilbert Sorrentino; Book 5.
The Cocktail Waitress; James M. Cain; Book 4.
Black Jack, Vol. 8; Osamu Tezuka; Book 3.
Train Dreams: A Novella; Denis Johnson; Book 2.
The Long Goodbye; Raymond Chandler; Book 1.