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Converses2016 - BIG FAT BOOK CHALLENGE

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rainpebble reads

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1rainpebble
Editat: des. 13, 2016, 4:15pm



Trying to do better this year. I am setting my goal at 6 BFBs.

1. The Lake House by Kate Morton; (2 1/2*); 606 pgs; purged
2. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson; (5*); 950 pgs; purged
3. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters; (4*); 608 pgs; purged
4. From the Terrace by John O'Hara, (one of my favorite authors way back in the day); (4*); 912 pgs; purged
5. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; (1/2*); 637 pgs; purged
6. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough; (4 1/2*); 704 pgs; purged
7. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb; (4 1/2*); 912 pgs; purged
8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson; (4*); 644 pgs
9. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson; (4 1/2*); 738 pgs
10. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson; (4*); 674 pgs;
11. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; (4 1/2*); 1054 pgs;
12. Wetzel by Richard Fleming; (4*); 946 pgs;

2rainpebble
Editat: abr. 23, 2016, 2:42pm



1. The Lake House by Kate Morton: 606 pages; (2 1/2*)

A little better than average family mystery; I felt like Morton rushed through the ending to pull all of the pieces together. And I think that this particular author has trouble introducing & growing her characters in a manner to which the reader has no trouble engaging with that character next time around. This makes it rather difficult to keep one's head in the book.
Still and all an enjoyable read.

3Tess_W
març 13, 2016, 6:46am

That is on my TBR pile. And good luck with the BFB's!

4rainpebble
març 13, 2016, 1:04pm

Thank you, Tess. Right back at you.

5MissWatson
març 14, 2016, 4:48am

Welcome back and good luck with your BFBs!

6bryanoz
març 14, 2016, 6:16am

Great to see you here Belva, good luck with your reading !

7rainpebble
març 15, 2016, 3:06pm

Thank you all and I wish all of you good reading with your BFBs in 2016.

8johnsimpson
abr. 10, 2016, 3:42pm

Hi Belva, The Lake House is on my TBR pile as well. I haven't got around to a BFB yet but hopefully will soon. Hope you are well my dear and I send love and hugs.

9rainpebble
Editat: abr. 11, 2016, 12:46pm

Thank you John.
We got through my mother in law's Celebration of Life a week ago Saturday and had my mother's memorial service this past Saturday. So three weeks of very stressful planning & organizing of services, our savings wiped out & yet another personal loan taken out. Thank God for Credit Unions & their understanding over 'protocol'. Yesterday was a full day of church & communing with our overnight family visitors. Today & Wednesday I have a full day of guardian ad litem duties but the other days I hope to enjoy some much needed R & R.
I hope to pick up a BFB after I finish my current book, The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and then get a Virago under my belt. Now....just which one to choose. I am thinking either Elizabeth Jane Howard's Casting Off (626 pages) or Helen Hooven Santmyer's And Ladies of the Club (1433 pages).

10rainpebble
juny 9, 2016, 5:12pm

Well, I chose neither Casting Off nor And Ladies of the Club for my 2nd BFB of the year. I came across one I could not resist but I will be taking my time with it and reading it between other books. It is The Time In Between by María Dueñas, a novel about a seamstress living through the Spanish Civil War. Quite interesting thus far.

11Tess_W
juny 10, 2016, 4:22pm

>10 rainpebble: Sound really great!

12rainpebble
jul. 6, 2016, 3:49pm

Along with dipping in & out of The Time In Between, I am also in the midst of a reread of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson, which I believe to be the quintessential book on The Civil War.
I am nearly a month into these two BFBs but am also reading other books on the side...............or perhaps I should say that my BFBs are being read on the side. Whichever..................................

13rainpebble
Editat: jul. 21, 2016, 1:14pm



2. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson; (5*); (950 pages)

I have found that this year in particular, the timing for a reread of this masterpiece was so appropriate for reasons I am certain you all are aware of.

This volume is one of the most comprehensive studies of the Civil War period that addresses every aspect of the war. McPherson does an excellent job of setting the context. He describes the changing demographics, economics, politics and policies of the United States in the 19th century. He covers the institution of slavery; how it developed and how southerners sought its expansion. He discusses the impact of westward growth and the war with Mexico; the series of compromises as new states became part of the union along with the increasing divisions as those compromises failed to appease both sides. And lastly the secession of the southern states after Lincoln was elected president is covered. I especially appreciated the details of the months when secession spread which includes the stated rationales of the seceding states and the maneuvers that led to the firing on Fort Sumter.
The discussion of the war covers virtually all of the major military campaigns and battles and is accompanied by maps showing Union and Confederate movements. We get to know all the important generals and follow them through their checkered or glorious careers. McPherson is stellar at using anecdotes and/or quotes to convey the character of each general. The strengths and weaknesses of the Union and Confederate armies at certain times or battles are clearly delineated. He also assesses the structures of leadership and the quality of leaders in the Federal Government and in the Confederate states. Lincoln had to contend with political rivals and war opponents, worry over whether foreign nations might recognize the Confederacy, defend his Emancipation Proclamation from critics, and agonize over whether he would ever find an effective general to break the southern army and restore the union. Jefferson Davis had the challenge of winning the cooperation of the wildly independent Confederate states to raise sufficient armies, produce enough food, clothes and armaments, and agree on strategy and tactics.

Battle Cry of Freedom is very readable for a nearly 900 page book on nonfiction. It took me nearly 10 days to read it and it is a fascinating read. It held my interest throughout. I found James McPherson to be a masterful author in this field.

I very highly recommend this work.

14rainpebble
Editat: set. 22, 2016, 12:01pm



3. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters; (4*); 608 pages; Another one that just barely made it but it counts. Rah!

When I started reading the book I did not realize that the story would be told first from Sue's point of view and then from Maude's. When I found myself starting again with Maude I was a bit taken aback. However I should have trusted Waters. Maude's tale was as fascinating as Sue's, though very different. Both stories came together well in the end.
My favorite part of this novel is the way that both girls take control of their own destinies and manage to grant themselves a satisfactory ending. While reading I was wondering how on earth Waters would resolve everything. Her solution was the best kind. It was unexpected and yet exactly what it should have been, given everything that came before.

15rainpebble
Editat: ag. 23, 2016, 3:57pm



4. From the Terrace by John O'Hara, (one of my favorite authors way back in the day); (4*); 912 pgs; purged

I loved From the Terrace. I could not put it down and it applies to today even though it really gets going in the twenties. It is not just about the power of money, but also about the power of love and how so many of us just do not really know what it is. His writing is magnificent. I have read so many of his great books: Appointment in Samarra, Ten North Frederick, Rage to Live. O’Hara is a masterful with a pen and I have always envied him his genius as I suppose a great many writers have as well.
However, I think that as good as O'Hara's novels are, he was even a better short story writer.

16rainpebble
Editat: ag. 23, 2016, 4:03pm



5. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; (1/2*); 637 pgs; purged

Maybe Atwood IS a genius, but if she is, then I am the one magically remaining Dodo Bird. I LOVED The Penelopiad and had been looking forward to this read for ever so long. Through the first 100 or so pages I kept telling myself: It will get better. The characters will flesh out and the story lines will clear up and become something interesting. Didn't happen. But I simply found The Blind Assassin to be 637 pages of the purest boredom.
Taking the precious time to read this book was a complete waste of time for me. I should have applied CurrerBell's Pearl Rule & shut her down at page 50! But I just kept telling myself: But this is Margaret Atwood. It has to be me and perhaps it is, because she is stellar in the world of writing & most everyone who has read this book has raved about it.
This reader found The Blind Assassin to be dull, tedious, boring, ummm....... that probably tells my story about it.
I guess I just did not get it.

Favorite quote:
"I swam, the sea was boundless, I saw no shore.
Tanit was merciless, my prayers were answered.
O you who drown in love, remember me."
~ Inscription on a Carthaginian Funerary Urn

17Tess_W
ag. 20, 2016, 10:14am

>16 rainpebble: Wow, I'm surprised you did not care for the Thorn Birds. It is on my all time top favorite 5 book list. I re-read it about every 4-5 years.

18rainpebble
ag. 22, 2016, 3:53pm

>17 Tess_W:
I do love it, Tess! I am not quite finished with it and so have not yet rated it. This is also a reread for me and for me, it has stood the test of time very well.

19rainpebble
Editat: ag. 26, 2016, 12:12am



6. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough; (4 1/2*); 704 pgs

The Thorn Birds is a sweeping love story set on a sheep station in the Australian outback. At its heart is the ill-fated romance of the beautiful young Meggie Cleary and the handsome Roman Catholic priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart. Forced to choose between the woman he loves and the Church he is sworn to, Father Ralph's ambitions win and he stays with the Church giving up his love. He eventually becoming a Cardinal in Rome.
De Bricassart never realizes that Meggie's bright young son is his child. Even when the boy comes to Rome to study for the priesthood, Father Ralph has no clue. After the boy's tragic death Meggie must choose between her own comfort and the independence of her beautiful but willful daughter who is a talented actress.
McCullough's Thorn Birds, at over 700 pages, details the private lives of three generations of the Cleary clan over a 55 year span. It paints a very real portrait of the trials and rewards of life in the Australian outback on a sheep ranch and of one woman's doomed love for a man who would always be beyond her reach.

20rainpebble
set. 21, 2016, 2:35pm



7. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb; (4 1/2*); 912 pgs; purged

Lamb can just flat write. He is an author who can draw his readers in and make us want to keep turning those pages until the book is finished. The accessibility of his prose reminds us that a deep, thoughtful & moving narrative need not be artistically obscure as so much 'great literature' seems to be.
The characters in the book are wonderfully drawn and the themes are well developed. The introduction of 'Papa's manuscript', in the last portion of the book, seemed curious to me at first. But by the end of the book its power and purpose became quite clear. It can said that a simple Sicilian born factory worker would not be likely to write an autobiographical work with the degree of shocking self disclosure that the manuscript contains. Nor that we would find his writing to be so gripping. But this bit of literary license taken by Lamb is to be forgiven in the context of the work as a whole.
The greatest flaw in the novel, I found to be in its ending, which again this reader can forgive considering the whole body of the work.
All in all I found Lamb's novel to be a great literary achievement and one I wholeheartedly recommend.

21rainpebble
Editat: oct. 3, 2016, 9:51pm

22rainpebble
Editat: oct. 3, 2016, 9:49pm

23rainpebble
Editat: oct. 3, 2016, 9:50pm

24Tess_W
oct. 2, 2016, 1:09am

Wow, impressive!

25rainpebble
oct. 3, 2016, 9:47pm

>24 Tess_W:
Thanks, Tess. I had an awful month in September with my depression. My beloved simply left me alone to read. He did all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishwashing, etc, so that I had no stressers and I just read. It did me well with my challenges however.

26rainpebble
oct. 19, 2016, 2:00pm



11. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; (4 1/2*); classics; MAR; ROOT; BFB, 1054 pages;

Tolstoy is a wonderful author and the translation I have by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, I could not have been happier with. It is a lovely translation.
The story begins with duplicity and ends with a man finding himself, the reason for his life and his life's work.
The tragedy of Anna Karinina was, for me, almost a backdrop for the rest of the book. I liked how the author built her character and toward the end showed how a person, through their search for the ultimate happiness of self, can literally become so filled with anxiety, angst, and depression that they lose their grip on reality and destroy themselves.
The writing is such that I came to know the characters in this novel and I thought that they and their behavior was understandable and within their characterizations. I must admit that the politics of it totally confused me but did not disturb the storyline for me. I liked how the author went back and forth with the different character's stories and I found it quite easy to follow.
Although the title of the book is Anna Karinina, for myself the main character of the book and the one I cared the most about was Levin. For me it was his story with all of these subplots written behind it. He is the one I related to, cared the most about, and wanted to know more about. He is the one I found to be the most mulitfaceted character and there were many layers to him. I also enjoyed Kitty's character. Anna, on the other hand, was very shallow and altogether a rather boring, though beautiful, character. Her demise was almost anticlimactic, but with it Vronsky finally became a man.
I loved the last part of the book where Levin really challenged himself and thought the ending quite beautiful.
This was my third or fourth reading of the book within 50 years and I am sure I won't wait so long for the next reading. It read very differently this time around. I highly recommend this classic. I find it to be a beautifully and calmly written novel. Tolstoy was indeed masterful with the pen.

27rainpebble
Editat: des. 13, 2016, 4:20pm



12. Wetzel by Richard Fleming; (4*); 946 pgs; ARC/ER; Net-Galley

Wetzel is written in a very simplistic manner which compliments this legend of a frontier man and which makes this long book accessible even to young readers who want to tackle a Big Fat Book.
Fleming has researched his material well and as a reader who has been fascinated with the frontier man, Lew Wetzel, for 57 years of my life, the only fault I could find with it was that his book is pretty complimentary to Wetzel. Lew Wetzel was truly a scamp of a man. He was blood thirsty, mean & snarly; not at all as he is portrayed in this book. But that aside, I enjoyed this book tremendously and it is written as a novel so we can expect all of that.
The Indian Wars and the redskins' raids on the forts & the settlers are well written. We get to know many of the characters, both white and Indian alike. The backstory of the trio of warriors who seek to hunt & kill Lew Wetzel is very interesting & the author is very upfront about this part of the story being total fiction whereas most of the story line is based on partial fact gleaned from Fleming's research.
If & when you read this novel, please don't omit the author's opening remarks nor his after notes. Fleming is quite open with his explanations & reasons for parts of the book noting where he got his information & how he either verified it or played on his imagination to complete story lines of the different characters.
I really liked this book & highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in this time period of the West, the 1850s to the early 1900s.