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marsap's Book Lists
100+ Book Challenge 2014 (105 titles)

100+ book challenge 2013 (53 titles)

Book challenge 2011-2012 (62 titles)


marsap's Comments    
Cover ArtElmer Gantry
by Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951.
The novel (amazingly, it was published in 1927) tells the journey of Elmer Gantry, a narcissistic, insincere, bigoted, unethical, womanizing, hypocritical student who abandons his ambition to become a lawyer to become a “preacher of the faith.” His journey leads Elmer from ordained Baptist minister, a "New Thought" evangelist, traveling salesman and eventually Methodist minister of a large prestigious church. Along the way Elmer contributes to the downfall, physical injury, mental harm and even death of key people around him, including a genuine minister, Frank Shallard. If you are expecting redemption here—you will not find it! This is a satire, funny, biting, infuriating and downright frightening (Elmer comes up with a plan to control/legislate the morals/values of the US—now where have I seen that before??). Not only do we see the hypocrisy and falseness of Elmer—but it is evident in those around him (even "Scotty" the golf pro is not an actual Scot, but a fraud who learned his false accent from a Irishman!) I was so surprised how relevant this novel was—despite the fact that it was written in the 20s. The characters are vivid, the issues presented complex and still true today (I wondered at the end if this book had been read by the Christian Coalition--to get ideas for their campaign!). A 5 out of 5 stars—a must read!   posted Aug 12, 2014 at 2:20PM

Cover ArtThe fire
by Neville, Katherine, 1945-
The Fire is the sequel to the Eight, a novel that featured two intertwined stories set in the 1790s and the 1970s, both revolving around the Monteglane Service. The Fire takes place about 30 years later. The focus continues to be this bejeweled chess set, a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, which holds great power and some additional secrets and powers that were not revealed In the first novel. The Fire finds Alexandra Solarin, a former child chess prodigy who gave up the game after her father’s murder, summoned to her mother’s (Cat Valis the protagonist from the Eight) home in Colorado. Her mother is missing, but carefully encoded clues, and the arrival of several other people place her smack dab in the middle of the Game’s newest round, forcing her to decipher both the rules and the roles of others as she goes. The action moves to Washington, DC, Jackson Hole, Kamchatka, and back in time to France, the Sahara, and the Greek islands where we find Lord Byron and Tallyrand, among others, involved in the intrigue. Similar to the Eight, the novel intertwines this plot with one involving a young girl in 1822 named Haidee, faced with a parallel challenge involving the great English poet Lord Byron and the Black Queen chess piece from the Monteglane Services. One problem that I had with reading this sequel was that it had been a year since I had read the Eight and I had a hard time remembering all the history/plot from that novel that impacted this sequel. As with the Eight I found this book to be difficult to read and had a hard time keeping track of all the players (even more so than last time)—again, it would have been helpful to have some additional appendixes to keep track of characters, historical time frame and some scientific history. Also I found it difficult to believe some of the plot twists, and the final “reveal” was really disappointing. All in all it was an interesting but difficult read. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 3, 2014 at 3:19PM

Cover ArtDeath angel
by Fairstein, Linda A.
In the newest Alex Cooper mystery, the body of a young woman is discovered in Central Park. Is the body found in the lake, by the Bethesda angel, the first victim of a deranged psychopath, or is the case connected to other missing girls and women in years past whose remains have never been found? Just as Alex, Mike and Mercer get their first lead, the investigation is almost derailed when Mike and Alex become embroiled in a scandal (following Mike’s indiscretion with a mentally unstable judge). Working to identify the woman and to determine whether a serial killer is on the loose, the trio must search Central Park’s vast reaches, with its many hidden lakes, waterfalls, and caves. The mystery takes some interesting turns, including carrying several different story lines: the homeless, a missing child, murder, stalkers, a bit of romance, the history and geography of Central Park and the iconic Dakota apartment building. I have read many of the Alex Cooper mystery and as always, my favorite part is history lesson that Fairstein gives about the main locations/sites of the book, in this case Central Park and the Dakota. I have been to Central Park a number of times and it was fun to know exactly where in the Park the action was taking. I am unsure where the series is going now that Fairstein has introduced a romance between the main characters of Alex and Mike—it felt a little forced. All in all a good read. 3 out of 5 stars.   posted Jul 3, 2014 at 2:34PM

Cover ArtQuiet : the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking
by Cain, Susan
In non-fiction novel Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we undervalue introvert personality type and how much we lose by doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert type (the culture of personality) throughout the 20th century and explores how deeply it has come to be the “ideal” our culture. The Extrovert Ideal, Cain believes, is so pervasive that influences our work performance, educational policies, political choices, and even the country's financial health. But the main focus of "Quiet" is to expose the myths and misunderstandings that were born when we as a culture embraced the Extrovert Ideal and turned introversion into a malady needs to be avoided. Ms. Cain traces both the biological and cultural basis for introversion and extroversion and their role as evolutionary survival strategies in animals and humans. The insights gleaned from these studies can help introverts take advantage of their special traits and thrive on their own terms in an extroverted world. Amid the research and the advice, Ms. Cain calls attention to those introverts who have made a difference in the world like Rosa Parks and Ghandi. They showed that empathy, thoughtfulness, persistence, compassion, focus and conscientiousness, all characteristics ascribed to introversion, are leadership attributes too. As a life-long introvert (I spent most social functions as a child in a chair reading a book) I really enjoyed this book—easy to read but at the same time well researched and thorough. The book is not an “introverts are superior” rant but rather an explanation of how we can leverage personality types most effectively. There is no right or best personality type but like life in general, we need to understand each other for more harmonious relationships. 4 out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 19, 2014 at 11:19AM

Cover ArtThe technologists : a novel
by Pearl, Matthew.
Matthew Pearl's The Technologists is the fictional story of several students of the inaugural class of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as they race to stop a mad man from destroying Boston. The novel opens with the events of a mysterious harbor disaster as boat crew mates and sailors find their compasses going haywire. Shortly after, another unexplainable catastrophe occurs; all the glass within the financial district of Boston inexplicably melts, disfiguring many and killing a young actress. The police are at a loss of just what is happening. Enter the “Technologists”--Marcus Mansfield, Robert (Bob) Richards, Edwin Hoyt, members of the inaugural class of MIT who take it upon themselves to discover what is causing these acts of terror—hopefully saving their city and their beloved MIT. Pearl introduces the reader to the public’s feeling about science and the Industrial Age, the education of women, the aftermath of the Civil War and rivalry between Harvard and MIT. I have enjoyed Pearl’s previous novels that have included historical figures into the narrative (Longfellow, Poe, Dickens) and looked forward to reading his newest. However, I came away disappointed. Despite being classified as a thriller, I found this novel to be slow and plodding, and almost had to force myself to finish. 1 out of 5 stars.   posted Jun 16, 2014 at 11:26AM

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