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wanderer15

wanderer15

Joined July 2016

Bibliophile, Scrabble lover
review
wanderer15
A Thousand Ships | Natalie Haynes
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Pickpick

This book begs to be compared to Circe and Song of Achilles, but its carefully interwoven narrative, diverse array of POV characters, and absolutely stunning writing helps it stand out from Miller‘s excellent offerings. Loved it.

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wanderer15
Black Cake | Charmaine Wilkerson
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Pickpick

Highly enjoyable deep dive into a unique family and surrounding characters. I felt it was maybe 100 pages too long and repeated certain themes slightly too much (estrangement, characters grappling with identity without much development) but the writing was excellent and the characters were vibrant and memorable.

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wanderer15
Antkind: A Novel | Charlie Kaufman
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Mehso-so

Completely bonkers. I am not one to shy away from monstrous, thematically complex doorstops of books; and parts of this book were amazing. I just feel like it suffered from one or two too many “big ideas” and total narrative mayhem - much too long feeling like I was inside the mind of a raving lunatic with no respite.

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wanderer15
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Pickpick

As an Ishiguro fanboy, I didn‘t find this to be quite up to the standard of Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go, or even the Buried Giant, which I really liked despite its more mixed reviews, but still plenty to enjoy and think about here, with a unique and believable AI narrator and some hints of a future dystopia.

LiteraryinLawrence I know that cat foot! 10mo
18 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

I finished a book! I actually started this at some point in 2020, and got derailed by a wild year (two moves, new job, etc.), but somehow was able to pick this right back up without missing a beat. Rating this a pick for sheer ambition and creativity, despite my frequently furrowed brow while reading.

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wanderer15
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Mehso-so

I loved The Eyre Affair and was really excited for this based on the blurb, but I kept waiting for a twist or curveball that would allow it to transcend basic, surface-level satire, and it never came. Some nice moments, and certainly creative, but not a home run for me.

BennettBookworm He came out with a new book this summer?! What?! That‘s a bummer that it wasn‘t so compelling, but also I was disappointed by his last one-off, Early Riser. Hmm. 2y
wanderer15 Stick to your strengths, Fforde! :) 2y
6 likes2 comments
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wanderer15
True History of the Kelly Gang | Peter Stafford Carey
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Pickpick

Impressive. A review on the back cover said it quite well - a perfect blend of Dickens and McCarthy. It‘s a little uncomfortable how effectively the book humanizes a notorious outlaw and murderer, in fact, but Carey deftly and often painfully shows how firmly Ned Kelly is trapped by his life‘s horrific circumstances. With no way out, we all might have a little outlaw in us.

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wanderer15
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Pickpick

Delightful, surprising, razor sharp dialogue and lush prose. Will definitely be checking out A Gentleman in Moscow.

Kempii Ooh I liked A Gentleman In Moscow. I‘ll check this out. Might be a good choice for book club. 2y
15 likes1 stack add1 comment
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wanderer15
The Fear Index | Robert Harris
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Pickpick

Harris gets a lifetime pass from me for his Cicero trilogy, though this book was far more contemporary. But I also like movies and books about financial systems gone awry, and this was a really fun thriller in that mold.

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wanderer15
The Master and Margarita | Mikhail Bulgakov
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Pickpick

A fever dream of a book - despite the grim premise (the devil comes to Moscow) it was more lighthearted (and funnier) than I expected. The footnotes gave important historical context that helped me understand the novel better, but it stands on its own just fine.

14 likes2 stack adds
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wanderer15
Death's End | Cixin Liu
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Pickpick

Unbelievably creative and engrossing sci-fi. Liu often gets bogged down in the technical details of some of his futuristic concepts, which might turn some off, but I actually really appreciated his obvious depth of physics and astronomical knowledge and found even those parts interesting. Also packed with keen sociological insight.

LiteraryinLawrence My first thought was wow, that looks so much like Emmie! 😋 Congrats on finishing this gigantic trilogy, sweetie! (edited) 2y
Kempii Our virtual book club has read a couple Nebula Award-winning books. Do you think this book would make for good club discussion? 2y
wanderer15 @Kempii absolutely. There‘s so much here beyond spaceships and planets... 2y
See All 6 Comments
Kempii Sweet! I‘ll add it to the book club Suggestions list. 2y
Kempii Wait it looks like this is the end of a trilogy? Hmm. Did you read the other two books? Maybe I‘ll suggest that the club read the first one. I don‘t want to spoil the end for us! 2y
wanderer15 @Kempii yes, I read them all, but neglected to review the middle one...I think I did review the first one at some point. 2y
10 likes1 stack add6 comments
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wanderer15
Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell | Neal Stephenson
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Pickpick

An 880-page monster (typical of Stephenson) that gets progressively crazier until a completely bonkers last 100+ pages; this would not be the book of his that I‘d recommend as an entry point but on the whole I greatly enjoyed it. As always, major respect for ambition and creativity - I do agree with other reviewers that the book definitely loses some steam in the latter portions, though.

LiteraryinLawrence Congrats on finishing this humongous book! Now you get to pick a new one! 3y
20 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
The Gunslinger | Stephen King
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Pickpick

A little bit maddening with how many characters and events are introduced and left completely unexplained, but the pace is quick and the characters are compelling. Anybody have any insights on whether the series picks up steam as it progresses? I‘m definitely going to give it at least another book to establish itself.

CareBear It definitely gets better. This one is like a setup book. 3y
BookwormM Definitely gets better ended up loving the series and there are so many King cross overs I feel compelled to lose myself in the King multiverse 3y
Zelma It gets much better. I always felt like the first book was such an odd beginning to the series. Try the second before deciding whether to abandon. 3y
wanderer15 Thanks everyone for the good feedback! Also I just realized I reviewed the wrong book - I was supposed to review The Gunslinger, not The Dark Tower (which apparently is the final book in the series). Glad Litsy lets me fix it. (edited) 3y
19 likes4 comments
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wanderer15
Written on the Body | Jeanette Winterson
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Pickpick

Portions of this book were incredible, but I can‘t help feeling that either something was missing in the execution somewhere, or that perhaps I simply don‘t fully relate to Winterson‘s depiction of the kaleidoscopic complexity of love. The section that enumerated different tissues and cells also felt out of place to me. Nevertheless, rating Pick for ambition and many exquisite and highly quotable passages.

12 likes1 stack add
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wanderer15
Last Friends | Jane Gardam
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Pickpick

Finally finished the Old Filth trilogy - perhaps being in England was the extra motivation I needed. The three books share such an odd, charming writing style.

DrexEdit I just bought the first of these books the other day. Looking forward to it! 😊 3y
MaGoose I started Old Filth a while ago but never finished it even though I was enjoying it. I'll have to begin it again soon. Hopefully the second time will be the charm and I'll get it done. 2y
17 likes1 stack add2 comments
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wanderer15
The Circle | Dave Eggers
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Pickpick

No better time to revive my dormant Litsy page than while honeymooning with @LiteraryinLititz at a 3-day ‘reading retreat‘ on the eastern coast of England! If you‘re skeptical of modern social media and behavioral tracking (as we both are), this book provides a kind of 1984-lite experience, though I was hoping for a slightly more persuasive argument in favor of privacy and digital autonomy to contrast with the blind zealotry of the Circle.

QuietlyLaura Congratulations! I hope you both will be very happy! ❤️🎉🎊❤️ 3y
17 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
2666: A Novel | Roberto Bolao, Natasha Wimmer
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Pickpick

Stunning. As other reviewers of this book have noted, 2666 tests readers‘ endurance to the outermost limits, both in terms of subject matter (part 4‘s relentless, harrowing violence in particular) and in length (900 pages of rich, complex prose). But I found the end result to be masterful, and well worth the effort.

BarbaraBB Yeah, a rewarding read, I thought so too. 3y
Mcoun It was a difficult read on many levels. 3y
20 likes2 comments
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wanderer15
The Heavenly Table: A Novel | Donald Ray Pollock
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Pickpick

Typical Pollock fare - expertly written and plotted, unflinchingly violent, darkly comedic. I think I prefer The Devil All the Time to this, but not by much.

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wanderer15
The Young Bride | Alessandro Baricco
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Mehso-so

Wow, what an odd, compelling book this was. I rate basically everything I read a pick, but I truly can‘t imagine recommending this to anyone (though it was rec‘d to me by an old college roommate). Features a bizarre third-person narrative that frequently and seamlessly shifts to first-person as many different characters including the author himself, a heaping dose of magical realism, and artful depiction of courtship, seduction, and love.

Beatlefan129 Your reading buddy is cute ❤️🐱 4y
13 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

Finished this on the plane en route to Portland - dazzlingly unique science fiction that takes about halfway to really kick into high science-fictiony gear, and crescendos to complete insanity by the end. Will definitely have to check out the sequels.

10 likes1 stack add
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

Back on Litsy after a long hiatus not because I‘ve forgotten about it, but simply because I haven‘t finished a book in a while (I redirected most of my free time to Scrabble stuff for the last few months). Ready to get back on my reading grind. I really enjoyed this book, which manages to be about war despite almost no scenes of combat - it‘s more about perception vs. reality with respect to the lives of modern soldiers.

8 likes1 stack add
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wanderer15
Song of Achilles | Madeline Miller
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Pickpick

Having recently read Circe I had high hopes for this book, and it exceeded them. Again, there's no need to be a classics buff to appreciate the timeless storyline and superb writing. I just hope Miller tackles more storylines from mythology/epic poetry soon.

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wanderer15
Skippy Dies: A Novel | Paul Murray
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Pickpick

Hard for a book to be simultaneously hysterically funny and deadly serious - this book was exactly that. The book is set in an Irish boarding school and follows a group of young boys, but the themes are very adult (including drug abuse and allusions to sexual abuse). I'll definitely be reading whatever else Murray puts out.

15 likes1 stack add
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

Unique structure, engrossing narrative, and riveting, disturbing conclusion. Really enjoyed this one. It's not an overly violent book despite the title, with the exception of the climactic scene. It's something closer to Rashomon set in the Scottish countryside.

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wanderer15
Circe | Madeline Miller
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Pickpick

A total blast...so well written and immersive. Recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in mythology or fantasy.

Kempii Sold! I placed it on hold at my library. 4y
Kempii This one didn‘t quite work for me. I finished it, but felt that it dragged a bit and wasn‘t engaging enough. I didn‘t find that I cared enough about what was happening to the characters. 4y
24 likes4 stack adds2 comments
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wanderer15
Lincoln in the Bardo | George Saunders
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Pickpick

This one will stay with me a while. My natural inclination is to be dubious of style-over-substance "tricks" like the book's unique narrative structure, but I felt it was well executed and appropriate here. I could easily understand if it was a bit too bizarre for many readers, but I was impressed. I wondered how this could ever be made into an audiobook, but after Googling and seeing the voice cast, I'll have to listen to it someday.

Macnjen I‘m listening to the audiobook and while I like the different narrators, it‘s a little confusing. Each author citation is audible as well which really cuts into the storyline. I‘m trying to stick to it as I like the story idea. 4y
21 likes1 stack add1 comment
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

@LiteraryinLititz really got into this one, so I decided to try it too. Intriguing premise, artfully written - several times Wilson defied my expectations for how a scene or plot point would turn out. Will have to try reading his other books.

Meglet I‘m glad @LiteraryinLititz tagged you in one of her recent posts...your reviews are fantastic. They tell me exactly what I‘d ask about in order to figure out if I‘d like a book or not. And I like knowing the things you share about a book, even if it means I decide I‘m not interested in reading it myself. 4y
wanderer15 How nice of you to say, thanks! 4y
15 likes2 comments
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wanderer15
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Mehso-so

For as big a baseball fan as I am, I hardly ever read any books about it. The book has three threads - I loved the in-depth history of each different type of pitch, didn't mind the inning by inning recap of Felix Hernandez' perfect game, and was bored by McDermott's account of his upbringing and hometown. I might recommend it to a Mariners fan or huge baseball nerd.

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wanderer15
The Name of the Rose | Umberto Eco, William Weaver, David Lodge
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Pickpick

It certainly took me long enough to finish this one, but I'm glad I did. The core mystery component was great, but the period-piece stuff about different monastic orders and philosophical meditations often felt like frustrating distractions from the main narrative. Have to follow up with something a little livelier.

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wanderer15
Loser | Thomas Bernhard
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Pickpick

I seem to rate everything "pick" even if it's a book I'd recommend to almost nobody, but I can't give this anything else. My first Bernhard - 170 pages, one gigantic stream-of-consciousness, Kafkaesque paragraph from an unreliable narrator with more than a little Salieri in him as he is both inspired and tortured by the genius of the pianist Glenn Gould. Not an easy read, but I was gripped.

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wanderer15
Lost For Words | Edward St Aubyn
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Pickpick

Such a treat to get all of St. Aubyn's biting wit from the Patrick Melrose novels without the accompanying heavy dose of gloom. The book is about a thinly veiled Booker Prize and the hilariously absurd process of picking a winner. I was uncomfortable for a while with the dichotomy between "good" literature from the white guy and "bad" literature from non-traditional authors, but to avoid spoilers I'll just say I'm no longer concerned.

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wanderer15
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Pickpick

This deep dive into lexicography and how dictionaries get made was littered with anecdotes sure to delight any word nerd - as a Scrabble player I have different relationship with dictionaries than most, but it was cool to see the Merriam-Webster dictionary from a different angle.

quanners Have you read Word Freak? I recommend it as a word lover and scrabble player. It‘s an easy and entertaining read. 4y
wanderer15 Not only have I read it, I am good friends with the author and went on his podcast! :) it's a great book that helped spur me to start playing myself. 4y
Kempii Have you read The Professor and the Madman? It‘s about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. 4y
See All 6 Comments
wanderer15 @Kempii Yes, I read it and greatly enjoyed it years ago! 4y
Kempii Was this book better than The Prof? 4y
wanderer15 It's a bit different. Word by Word doesn't have a central narrative the way Prof has with Murray and especially Minor, who is a fascinating character. Stamper talks a bit about herself and her co-workers but the book is primarily about lexicography...no overarching character-driven storyline. 4y
12 likes1 stack add6 comments
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wanderer15
One of the Boys | Daniel Magariel
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Pickpick

This book's compact size belies its impact - it's packed with devastating moments and raw emotion. It's similar to My Absolute Darling - a monstrous, charismatic father and his tortured relationship with his kids. As I often do with this sort of book, I'll call it a qualified Pick...only for those with high literary pain tolerance.

11 likes1 stack add
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wanderer15
Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (International) | Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland
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Pickpick

Really enjoyed this. Stephenson can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, but Galland's influence was a welcome addition - sometimes NS's casts of characters feel like variations on the same theme, but DODO has a vibrant, varied cast of narrators/characters. Magic and time travel combined with a typically intricate Stephensonian plot is a winning combo. My only gripe - so, so many acronyms. There's room for a sequel and I hope it happens.

16 likes1 stack add
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wanderer15
Less: A Novel | Andrew Sean Greer
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Pickpick

I really enjoyed this - really high caliber writing, and the eponymous Arthur Less is an amazingly vibrant character. I laughed out loud more than once, and the ending was very satisfying.

DebinHawaii 🐱❤️ 5y
16 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
Behind Her Eyes | Sarah Pinborough
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Pickpick

An engrossing psychological thriller with an ending that meets the apparently considerable hype. Now I understand @LiteraryinLititz gasping in shock at the final pages!

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wanderer15
Pompeii: A Novel | Robert Harris
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Pickpick

Harris has a gift for making stories set thousands of years ago feel like modern thrillers, and Pompeii was no exception. I'll have to try one of his books set in the present day sometime.

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wanderer15
Brookline | Greer Hardwicke, Roger Reed
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Huge haul from Brookline Booksmith for @LiteraryinLititz and me today! This place kicks ass. I found so much stuff I've been hunting for forever.

BennettBookworm You two are TOO CUTE! 5y
10 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

Brilliantly written, but unrelentingly brutal. Turtle is as vivid a protagonist as I can recall. I seem to be gravitating towards these types of books lately - need palate cleansers!

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wanderer15
4 3 2 1 | Paul Auster
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Pickpick

Wow. Extremely ambitious book about four parallel lives of one character. Occasionally felt gimmicky to me (still processing the ending...) but overall I'd say Auster pulled it off. Chock full of sprawling, crescendoing paragraph-long sentences. I thought it was gorgeously written but could understand if other readers felt differently.

BennettBookworm What a feat to have finished this! 5y
8 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

Finished this as a warmup for Auster's 4321 with the aid of my snazzy new book sleeve from @LiteraryinLititz - these are not your usual detective/mystery novels with tidy endings that bring everything together. These stories are equal parts mystery and deconstruction of mysteries - but although normally books that are overtly postmodern make me roll my eyes, this worked for me.

BennettBookworm So snazzy!! 5y
10 likes1 comment
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wanderer15
Magpie Murders | Anthony Horowitz
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Pickpick

What an innovative approach to a murder mystery - a book within a book! Poirot approves! Thanks to @LiteraryinLititz for recommending/not spoiling the surprises.

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wanderer15
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Pickpick

Yikes. Short, but dizzyingly complex (thematically - plot is straightforward and writing is elegantly simplistic), and packs quite a punch. I'll be thinking about this one a while. I'm not sure how to quickly say what it's about - it's about pain, identity (how we see ourselves and others), and how we cope with an absurd world, among other things. I'll give it a qualified pick - I enjoyed it but it's not for everyone.

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wanderer15
Possession | A. S. Byatt
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Pickpick

A slow burn but ultimately extremely satisfying. I found the characters' poetry, letters, and journals very authentic - impressive on Byatt's part. Excited to get back on my reading grind with Scrabble stuff quieting down!

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wanderer15
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Haven't been doing my usual reading for the last couple months, unless you count swaths of the Scrabble dictionary, but yesterday I realized a dream I've been working towards for many years and won the National Scrabble Championship, held in NOLA this year. @LiteraryinLititz and her family were watching along from vacation in Aruba, which made me happy. Passing up reading on the beach was tough, but fortunately I now have a good excuse :)

Lacythebookworm Congratulations! 🍾🎉🎈 5y
BekaReid Congrats! 5y
susanw Wow! That's so awesome, congrats 🎉 5y
BennettBookworm YOU ARE THE CHAMPION!!!!!!! 5y
Zelma Wow, that is completely badass! 👏👏👏👏👏 5y
12 likes5 comments
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wanderer15
The Devil All the Time | Donald Ray Pollock
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Pickpick

I'm rating this a Pick despite the fact that I wouldn't recommend it to most of my friends. I was riveted from start to finish and the prose is deceptively rich considering the book's plain-spoken style (think C. McCarthy). The problem - a plot that frequently involves extreme violence and downright nightmarish events. If you like McCarthy or southern Gothic (this is basically "midwestern Gothic"), it's a pick - otherwise, stay away.

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wanderer15
Reamde: A Novel | Neal Stephenson
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Pickpick

Prototypical Neal Stephenson thrill ride - huge (1040pp), action-packed, technologically-savvy, maybe a little over-descriptive in spots, but on the whole really entertaining. Some of the action takes place in a World of Warcraft-like online game, which was especially fun for me as a former player - but the plot moves from virtual world to real world seamlessly and I would think even non-gamers might enjoy it.

Riveted_Reader_Melissa This one is on my to-read list, I really enjoyed his 5y
wanderer15 @Riveted_Reader_Melissa you can also use it as a doorstop when you're done... 5y
Riveted_Reader_Melissa @wanderer15 I might have to splurge on the ebook there, or see if the library has it in ebook, hauling that brick might result in wrist injury. 😂 (edited) 5y
15 likes1 stack add3 comments
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wanderer15
The Son | Philipp Meyer
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Pickpick

Appropriate that my own feline "son" walked into my picture here...I was really impressed with this book, though once again anybody put off by unflinching depictions of violence should pass. I need a palate cleanser/something fun!

BennettBookworm Hey Fitz! 5y
8 likes1 stack add1 comment
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wanderer15
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Pickpick

This book packs one hell of a punch. Not for the faint of heart (some truly horrifying scenes from the WWII POW camp in which most of the book takes place), but well worth the experience for anyone willing to endure it. If I had any criticism, it would be that the relationship/peacetime portions weren't as masterful as the wartime ones, but the prose is consistently superb throughout. I won't quickly forget this one.

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wanderer15
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Pickpick

An impressive book about big ideas, both mathematical and philosophical. The protagonist struggles to harness his genius and alienates his family and friends but is still sympathetic despite his myriad flaws. I think the math parts would still be engaging even for those normally allergic to it - the book is about familial relationships, not theorems and proofs. Maybe a bit longer than necessary, but I never felt that the narrative dragged.

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