Book 397: The Beans of Egypt, Maine – Carolyn Chute

Chute, Carolyn - The Beans of Egypt, MaineMy friend Carlie (Hi Carlie!), recommended this book way back when I started this blog not long after she recommended The Hunger Games and I picked up a copy back in December 2012. I don’t know why it took so long for me to get around to it, but it did. I should’ve known better based on how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, another of her discoveries.

This book really should be mentioned in the same breath of books like The Color Purple and Bastard Out of Carolina. Maybe it is and I’m not aware of it, but if it isn’t I’m not sure why. It was published in 1985 right in between the Color and Carolina and it’s just as harrowing, real and disturbing as either of those. (It’s also compared to Faulkner, but I can’t speak to that as I’ve never read him.)

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Book 390: The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Plath, Sylvia - The Bell JarThis is one of those books that has so much umph in the cultural milieu that it’s a wonder I’ve never read it before. I squeezed it in just in time this month to get a podcast recorded to be released at the end of the month. If you’re in the Boston area and you want to record one let me know! :-D But, more importantly than podcasting, this book counts as the 43 book of my Classics Club journey. (See, I told you I was still chipping away). I’m so far off target it’s not even funny, but I’m glad that I’m still occasionally reading from my list.

Let’s start with the big to-do about this novel. Maybe it’s not that much of a to-do, but it felt like one. I still don’t know how much of this novel to believe is fiction. It’s very clearly labeled as fiction and yet it is very clearly Plath’s own personal story. I mean her mom wrote a letter to the American publishers saying these are real people and real stories thinly veiled as characters! There is one point where I couldn’t help but laugh because Plath writes Esther, the main character, writing a novel about a character doing the same thing. HOW META CAN YOU GET?! This is the same story being told by three different people all of whom are telling/experiencing the same story.

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Book 376: Ishmael – Daniel Quinn

Quinn, Daniel - IshmaelAs a part of every episode of Come Read with Me, I ask my friends to recommend a book. I do this because I know it will take me out of my comfort zone, but I also do it because it helps me get to know them better. Mike from Episode 5 where we discussed the first half of the Hyperion Cantos recommended this and WOW.

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books that continues to grow on me the further I get away from it. I only rated it “4 out of 5” on Goodreads, but I’m already wondering if as the ideas presented in the book sink in if I will adjust that even higher. I looked into the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award (aka read the Wikipedia link) and found it interesting, but I’m not sure if it does what the award wanted. Ishmael is incredibly creative and I think does most of what the award wanted, but I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t on the committee.

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Book 356: The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho

Coelho, Paulo - The Witch of PortobelloIn a further attempt to get a few more posts up while I’m on vacation I went to my TBR shelf and found I had two more Paulo Coelho novels yet to go so I grabbed them to read. They’re always easily written, well translated and fascinatingly beautiful and The Witch of Portobello (Amazon Affiliates link), was no exception. I’m actually not sure when I picked up this book as I can’t find a photo of it, so I’m going to assume it was sometime in 2011 right after I read The Alchemist.

Every time I read a book by Coelho, I find myself wondering about and searching for my spirituality. Whether he is talking about the Mother or organized religion (usually not), Coelho has a way of writing incredibly complex ideas and intricate narratives that is so simple and beautiful that it’s almost breath-taking. I do wonder if it is even more beautiful in his native Portuguese, how can it be so incredibly beautiful translated into English and not be beyond beautiful originally. So that being said, some credit must, obviously, be given to Margaret Jull Costa who has translated other works by Coelho including Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes (my next read) and many works by José Saramago including Seeing.

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CRWM #05: Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion

CRWM05In the longest episode yet I talk with one of my roommates, Mike, about two VERY long books Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, the first two novels of the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons.

I’m sad I had to cut out as much as I did (including a great aside about Doctor Who), but I think you’ll enjoy this one. We talk about science fiction and religion, technology and the fear of Artificial intelligence and even delve briefly into religion and philosophy, and what all of these mean for the future of society. (We’re so smart!)

I did use this episode as a weird transition episode. You’ll start to see hints of what I’m working into the next episode from my “podcast class,” but  because this was recorded well before I did that class there are no actual transitions, I hadn’t recorded actual transitions yet, just the page turning sounds.

Download it here: CRWM #05 (Right click and “save as.”) Or, better yet, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher!

Other books we talked about:

I was able to do a lot more editing wise so hopefully the sound quality is a bit better than usual! I’m also mulling over a few more changes, like starting with the guest reading as the intro and then going into the discussion, but I’m not sure.

As usual, if you have any thoughts or ideas feel free to comment or email me at!

Book 313: The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury

Bradbury, Ray - The Martian ChroniclesI really need to stop saying that I love fantasy and am not a fan of science fiction. This was one of those novels that reminds me how much I enjoy thoroughly well written science fiction and often times the lines between science fiction and fantasy are blurred.

It was actually interesting as I read this novel that I wanted to know more about the technical and physical engineering/feats of the book. I wasn’t satisfied with the answer being “it was” or “just because.” I say this is funny, because that’s the part that has always put me off from science fiction. The too detailed focus on the technology, the terraforming, the space travel and the other more technical/physical aspects as opposed to the exploration of new planets, the contact with alien life and the mental and physical reactions to all of the above, really made me question why I say I’m not a big fan of science fiction.

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Book 306: Peaches for Father Francis (Chocolat #3) – Joanne Harris

Harris, Joanne - Peaches for Father FrancisNow THIS is how you end a trilogy. I assume this is the end, but I guess it could start-up again. Peaches for Father Francis picks up four years after the events of The Girl With No Shadow and eight years after the original Chocolat. I’m still so happy that I found out this was a series and that I took the time to read the second and third novels, even if it did put me behind on a few other books!

What I enjoyed most about this novel is that the magic once again took a back seat to a larger social conflict. In the middle novel, The Girl With No Shadow, magic took the front seat and that was great because middle novels are always sort of meh, but in having the magic return to less of a focal point the story, I felt, evolved much more naturally.

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