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    The Long Way Home
    By Louise Penny, Minotaur, 384 pages, $29.99
    A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel #10
    Published: August 26 2014
    Review: Margaret Cannon, Special to The Globe and Mail - Friday, September 05 2014
    When a series hits book 10, it often starts to falter. Happily, that’s not the case with Louise Penny’s new Inspector Gamache novel. It is, in fact, the best story so far, thanks to strong characters, a deep and sophisticated plot, and just a soupçon of Joseph Conrad. Fans know that Chief Inspector Gamache barely survived his last adventure, which ended with him wounded in body and mind and out of a career. The Long Way Home has him and his wife happily retired to Three Pines, Quebec’s own Eden. There, surrounded by lovely people, great food, and beautiful sights, he’ll heal. Enter the serpent. Peter Morrow, husband of artist Clara, who departed Three Pines a year ago, is missing. He was supposed to return to Clara to discuss their failing marriage but he hasn’t. Clara asks Gamache for help and so begins a journey, first to Scotland and then back to the St. Lawrence River and a place the early settlers described as “the land God gave to Cain.” Storms and trials accompany Gamache and his group as they travel, following the clues in Peter’s art. Absolutely not to be missed.
    Notes: Louise Penny
    Born: July 1, 1958, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    She is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After she turned to writing, she won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel of the year for four consecutive years (2007–2010) and the Anthony Award for two novels. Her novels have been published in 23 languages.

    The Chief Inspector Gamache Novels
    1 - Still Life
    2 - A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold (same book, different title)
    3 - The Cruelest Month
    4 - A Rule Against Murder/The Murder Stone (same book, different title)
    5 - The Brutal Telling
    6 - Bury Your Dead
    7 - A Trick of the Light
    8 - The Beautiful Mystery
    9 - How the Light Gets In
    10 - The Long Way Home.

    — 4 days ago with 1 note
    #Chief Inspector Gamache  #The Long Way Home  #tf books  #TF Book Reviews  #Margaret Cannon  #novel  #crime  #mystery  #tf canada 

    Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #12)
    by Laurie R. King
    Published September 04 2012 — ISBN 978-0-553-80799-8 —
    "NEW YORK TIMES "BESTSELLER
    Laurie R. King’s “New York Times” bestselling novels of suspense featuring Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, comprise one of today’s most acclaimed mystery series. Now, in their newest and most thrilling adventure, the couple is separated by a shocking circumstance in a perilous part of the world, each racing against time to prevent an explosive catastrophe that could clothe them both in shrouds.
    In a strange room in Morocco, Mary Russell is trying to solve a pressing mystery: “Who am I?” She has awakened with shadows in her mind, blood on her hands, and soldiers pounding on the door. Out in the hivelike streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks. She is clothed like a man, and armed only with her wits and a scrap of paper containing a mysterious Arabic phrase. Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north.
    Meanwhile, Holmes is pulled by two old friends and a distant relation into the growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt led by Emir Abd el-Krim—who may be a Robin Hood or a power mad tribesman. The shadows of war are drawing over the ancient city of Fez, and Holmes badly wants the wisdom and courage of his wife, whom he’s learned, to his horror, has gone missing. As Holmes searches for her, and Russell searches for her”self, ” each tries to crack deadly parallel puzzles before it’s too late for them, for Africa, and for the peace of Europe.
    With the dazzling mix of period detail and contemporary pace that is her hallmark, Laurie R. King continues the stunningly suspenseful series that Lee Child called “the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today.”
    Praise for “Garment of Shadows”
    "As always, the relationship between Holmes and Russell is utterly understated yet traced with heat and light."—"Booklist" (starred review)
    "[A] taut tale … original and intriguing … This tantalizing glimpse into the life and times of a rapidly evolving Arabic society has remarkable resonance for our own uncertain times."—"Publishers Weekly"
    "Those new to the series are in for a treat."—Bookreporter(less)

    Review: Garment of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense
    http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-553-80799-8

    Review – Garment of Shadows
    http://always1895.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/review-garment-of-shadows-laurie-r-king/

    Review: Garment of Shadows – Laurie R King — Review by Scot Kris.
    http://itsacrimeukbooks.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/garment-of-shadows-laurie-r-king/
    ——
    www.thursdayfile.com

    — 6 days ago with 2 notes
    #Garment of Shadows  #TF Books  #TF Book Reviews  #Laurie R. King  #Mary Russell  #Sherlock Holmes  #tf reading now 

    Any Questions
    Written and Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, Groundwood Books, 60 pages, $19.95
    Reviewed by Frida, Phoenix and Andrew Kaufman, Special to The Globe and Mail — Friday, September 05 2014
    Marie-Louise Gay has been knocking it out of the park since 1984, publishing more than 25 books and winning the Governor General’s Award for children’s illustration twice. Still, she’s probably best known because two of her characters, Stella and Sam, were turned into a cartoon kids show. Her latest, Any Questions, takes a big risk with its premise. Set after a reading, the author takes questions and the kids want to know how she makes her stories. From here it gets all meta as Gay writes and illustrates both the fictional story she’s telling and the process that allowed her to create it. What’s even better is that the story Gay uses as her example completely held my kid’s attention. Both levels of this book were so well done that the moment we closed Any Questions, Frida exclaimed, “It’s a story inside a story!” Take that professors of post-modern deconstructionist theory: she’s six and she got it.

    www.thursdayfile.com

    — 1 week ago with 3 notes
    #Any Questions tf books  #TF Book Reviews  #Marie-Louise Gay  #Groundwood Books 

    Breathe
    By Scott Magoon, Simon & Schuster, 40 pages, $19.99
    Reviewed by Frida, Phoenix and Andrew Kaufman, Special to The Globe and Mail — Friday, September 05 2014
    Frida picked this book and Phoenix didn’t want to read it because he thought that the calm simple pictures and the low number of words per page made it too young for him. So Frida and I started reading it while Phoenix sat on his bed across the hall, pretending not to listen. Less than a third of the way through Breathe, Phoenix had joined us. The book is more a meditation than a narrative, although there is a story here. It’s basically a day in the life of a whale, swimming, making friends, and repeatedly going to the surface to breathe. I’d say by the midway point of the book all three of us were unconsciously taking deep breaths every time the whale did. There’s also a really sweet piece of Zen-ish advice near the end. An absolutely perfect way to slow down and get ready for sleep.

    Scott Magoon, children’s book illustrator and art director at Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
    www.thursdayfile.com

    — 1 week ago with 2 notes
    #Breathe  #Scott Magoon  #Andrew Kaufman  #Simon & Schuster 

    thursdayfilebuzz:

    Photo I: Valérie Trierweiler with François Hollande // Photo II: Ségolène Royal - Julie Gaye- Valérie Trierweiler // Photo III: Cover of ‘Thank You for This Moment’ (Merci pour ce moment)
    Former First Lady of France Colors In Details of an Affair
    By MAÏA de la BAUME - September 3, 2014 - http://mobile.nytimes.com
    PARIS — Now she has her say.
    The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine.
    The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she “cracked” and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.
    While the book, “Thank You for This Moment,” in many ways merely confirms the outlines of an episode much speculated about in the French news media, it is the first time that a sitting French president has been the object of a “kiss and tell” book. Its lurid details, and sometimes belittling tone toward Mr. Hollande, have provoked both sensation and some criticism here after excerpts were published by the magazine Paris Match before the book’s official release on Thursday.
    Many commentators described it as an act of revenge from a humiliated woman that would further tarnish the image of Mr. Hollande, whose popularity is already at record lows. A spokesman for the Élysée Palace said he did not wish to comment.
    After learning of the affair, Ms. Trierweiler, a longtime journalist for Paris Match, had an “emotional collapse,” according to her spokesman at the time, and spent more than a week in a hospital.
    “The information about Julie Gayet is top of the morning news,” Ms. Trierweiler wrote in her first public account of her immediate reaction to the reports that Mr. Hollande, 59, had multiple liaisons with Ms. Gayet, escaping from the presidential palace disguised in a helmet on his scooter.
    “I’ve had enough. I can’t listen to this anymore,” she wrote. “I run into the bathroom. I grab the little plastic bag which contains sleeping pills. François followed me. He tries to snatch the bag out of my hand. I ran into the room. He gets hold of the bag, and it rips. Pills fall all over the bed and the floor. I get hold of some of them. I swallow what I can.”
    Olivier Royant, the chief editor of Paris Match, said the book had been published in great secrecy and acknowledged that he was “dumbfounded” when he found out that she had dared to write it. “In France, political life is sacred,” Mr. Royant said.
    The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch. Renaud Dély, the managing editor of the magazine Nouvel Observateur, said the book reflected “indecent behavior.”
    “She challenged the presidential function,” Mr. Dély said in a video. “The consequences of that can be terrible.”
    Mr. Hollande, who has never married, was involved for many years with Ségolène Royal, a former presidential candidate for his Socialist Party. The two have four children together. He eventually left her for Ms. Trierweiler, and they were together for nine years.
    Ms. Trierweiler, a twice-divorced mother of three who grew up modestly in a housing project in Angers, in western France, never gained popularity in France, and was often vilified for her seeming aloofness.
    During the legislative campaign in 2012, Ms. Trierweiler, angered at Mr. Hollande’s public support for Ms. Royal, sent a message effectively endorsing Ms. Royal’s opponent.
    She was described by a former chief editor of Le Monde, Laurent Greilsamer, in his book “La Favorite,” as “unconventional, imperial, amorous, explosive, unpredictable. And clearly dangerous.”

    — 1 week ago with 9 notes
    #tf books  #Valérie Trierweiler  #merci pour ce moment  #thank you for this moment  #les arenes  #François Hollande  #Ségolène Royal  #Julie Gaye  #TF France 

    Rolling Stone magazine - September 11 2014 - issue 1217
    Robin Williams 1951 - 2014 - Photo by Peggy Sirota

    www.thursdayfile.com

    — 1 week ago with 5 notes
    #Rolling Stone  #TF Magazines  #Robin Williams  #Peggy Sirota  #September 11  #2014 

    How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City
    Author: Joan DeJean
    Hardcover – March 4, 2014
    Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

    The Bankers of Paris
    July 29 2014 — Delanceyplace.com — Copyright 2014 by Joan DeJean — Pages: 173-175
    Today’s selection — from How Paris Became Paris by Joan DeJean. The first gigantic modern fortunes in Paris originated in the early 1600s not with the profits of commerce or industry but from high finance. These financiers arose through the profligacy of the king — both in his wars (the army grew from 40,000 soldiers to 400,000) and his lifestyle. The sheer magnitude of the king’s needs meant that the bankers of Paris displaced the famed bankers of Florence as the most important in Europe:
    "In the word financier’s inaugural appearance in English, in the 1652 The State of France, John Evelyn explained the workings of ‘the king’s revenue’ and described ‘the great Financiers who suck the very blood of the French people.’
    "For the first time, Europeans could use words invented with the objective of classifying individuals according to their financial status and of singling out persons of new wealth. Such individuals had existed before but evidently not in sufficient numbers for a society to bestow official linguistic recognition on the phenomenon. And whereas previously, in European cities such as Venice and Amsterdam, most recent wealth had been accumulated through trade and the overseas trade in particular, the parvenus of seventeenth-century Paris had amassed their fortunes by dealing not in goods but solely in money.
    "The emergence of the financier began in about 1600, when the French monarchy first encountered fiscal problems that have ever since plagued the modern state.
    "Prior to the seventeenth century and early in that century, the French state lived mostly within its means: Henri IV even built up a small surplus (Adam Smith claimed he was one of the last rulers ever to do so). Then, during the first quarter of the century, spending began to outstrip revenue. As a result, the bankers, especially Italians, who had ruled over the finances of all European nations in the sixteenth century gradually ceased to play a preeminent role in France. The individuals then known as bankers dealt in foreign currency exchange and transferred funds throughout Europe. When, for example, a monarch had to pay soldiers stationed on foreign soil, he would call on a banker. But once French monarchs began to spend on a previously unheard-of scale, the need for another type of financial agent became evident. Lyon, formerly the nucleus for French finance because of its association with Italian bankers, thus lost its centrality. And by the 1630s Paris — home to the financiers, the new financial agents on whom the crown increasingly depended — had become the country’s uncontested finance hub.
    "Whereas in the sixteenth century the French monarchy’s revenue had remained stable, in the range of eight to twenty million livres annually, during the first half of the seventeenth century this situation changed dramatically. Between 1590 and 1622, for example, revenue rose from about eighteen million livres to an estimated fifty million a year; by 1653, the total had grown to roughly 109 million, and it stayed well over a hundred million throughout Louis XIV’s reign. This meant that the French monarchy had access to resources that vastly outstripped those of its major European rivals. A noted eighteenth-century economist estimated that during Louis XIV’s reign France’s revenue was four times greater than England’s and nearly three times superior to that of the Dutch Republic.
    "Relatively little of that was spent on keeping up appearances: between 1600 and 1656, court expenses rose only from three million livres to six million. However, whereas in 1600 court expenses accounted for thirty-one percent of the budget, in 1656 they represented only seven percent. During that half-century, the cost of war changed the face of French finance.
    "France was at war with foreign enemies for sixty of the years between 1615 and 1715; it was torn by civil war for another five. In addition, Europeans had begun to wage war on a scale without precedent. The Thirty Years’ War (1618- 48), the War of the Grand Alliance or of the League of Augsburg (1688-97), and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) made armed conflict more costly than ever before. As a result, the French military machine never ceased growing. Whereas, for example, in the 1590s the French royal army was only forty thousand strong, less than a century later Louis XIV maintained a force of about four hundred thousand. Since France’s main rivals, England and Holland, were maritime powers and the French had no navy to speak of, the country spent on a colossal scale to acquire one: in 1661 its entire ‘fleet’ consisted of eighteen near wrecks, but soon one hundred and twenty vessels sailed under French colors.
    "Such transformations were possible because those in charge of the finances of France had begun to follow a logic later presented by Adam Smith as ‘the necessity of contracting debt in times of war’: ‘An immediate and great expense … will not wait for the gradual and slow returns of new taxes. In this exigency government can have no other resource but in borrowing.’
    "The French government’s bookkeeping divided expenses into ‘ordinary’ (court expenses) and ‘extraordinary.’ Due to the rising cost of war, between 1600 and 1656, extraordinary expenses ballooned-from just seven million livres to over a hundred million. When budget deficits began to surge, the state began to borrow as never before and thus had recourse to a type of financial agent who surfaced in the late sixteenth century: the financier.
    "The original financiers signed traités, tax or loan contracts, with the crown; they also bought, sometimes at auctions organized by the crown, charges or offices that made them part of a private fiscal administration with close ties to the government, an administration that vastly expanded in size in the course of the seventeenth century. In return, they acquired the right to collect a new tax or import or export duty from which they guaranteed the government a fixed income — and from which they were allowed to retain a sizeable share of the profits. Contract terms varied with supply and demand, but financiers always lent money at a cost far above the official rate of between five and eight percent. At moments when a war was going badly and the monarchy’s need was therefore most pressing and money most scarce, a rate of twenty-five percent became standard — hence the steady rise in ‘extraordinary’ expenses, a category that included the interest on loans.
    "Tax contracts were especially useful to the crown because the deal was closed and money changed hands very quickly. Contracts for five hundred thousand livres were soon common; many involved far larger amounts. Naturally, few financial agents were able to deal for such stakes: it’s likely that, at any moment in the century, fewer than a hundred individuals virtually controlled the financial fate of France. As the monarchy became ever more dependent on credit because its needs were growing, that number shrank. And thus it was that the first gigantic modern fortunes in Paris originated not with the profits of commerce or industry but from high finance."

    www.thursdayfile.com

    — 1 month ago with 2 notes
    #How Paris Became Paris  #Joan DeJean  #TF Books  #from the book  #tf france  #TF History  #Paris 

    The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases
    by Deborah Halber
    Hardcover – July 1 2014
    304 pages
    Simon & Schuster
    ISBN-10: 1451657587
    ISBN-13: 978-1451657586
    Note: Deborah Halber is a Boston-based journalist whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe; Technology Review; the interactive, illustrated digital magazine Symbolia; and many university publications. A native New Yorker, she received her BA from Brandeis University and an MA in journalism from New York University. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Mystery Writers of America, and the National Association of Science Writers, she has chronicled breakthroughs in neuroscience, molecular biology, energy, and technology at MIT and Tufts but is most enthralled with “quantum weirdness,” worm longevity, cell undertakers, and the properties of snail slime. Visit her at DeborahHalber.com.

    Book Review: ‘The Skeleton Crew’ by Deborah Halber
    About 4,000 unidentified corpses turn up in the U.S. every year, of which about half have been murdered. Can the Internet help?
    Reviewed by Edward Jay Epstein — July 16, 2014 — http://online.wsj.com
    The public seems fascinated, if not obsessed, with crime-solving, if the high ratings of TV shows such as “CSI” and “NCIS” are any indication. The interest in crimes often proceeds from the high-profile identity of the victim or perpetrator. Think of the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, the vanishing of Jimmy Hoffa or the trial of O.J. Simpson. At the other end of the spectrum are crime victims who have no identity at all.
    These are the John Doe and Jane Doe corpses that are found without any papers or other identification markers. Even in an age when we are tracked electronically by our phone companies at every single moment, about 4,000 unidentified corpses turn up in the U.S. every year, of which about half have been murdered. In 2007 no fewer than 13,500 sets of unidentified human remains were languishing in the evidence rooms of medical examiners, according to an analysis published in the National Institute of Justice Journal.
    In her brilliant book “The Skeleton Crew,” Deborah Halber explains why local law enforcement often fails to investigate such deaths:”Unidentified corpses are like obtuse, financially strapped houseguests: they turn up uninvited, take up space reserved for more obliging visitors, require care and attention, and then, when you are ready for them to move on, they don’t have anywhere to go.” The result is that many of these remains are consigned to oblivion.
    While the population of the anonymous dead receives only scant attention from the police or the media, it has given rise to a macabre subculture of Internet sleuthing. Ms. Halber chronicles with lucidity and wit how amateur investigators troll websites, such as the Doe Network, Official Cold Case Investigations and Websleuths Crime Sleuthing Community, and check online databases looking for matches between the reported missing and the unidentified dead. It is a grisly pursuit involving linking the images of dead bodies to the descriptions posted by people trying to find someone.
    Ms. Halber devotes most of “The Skeleton Crew” to describing a handful of cases that have given rise to this bizarre avocation. It started with an infamous Kentucky crime known as the Tent Girl Case: The victim was known only as Tent Girl because her body was found in 1968 inside a canvas tent bag. The hero of the story is Todd Matthews, a factory worker in Tennessee. Mr. Matthews became fascinated with the mystery in 1988, when he was still a teen, but was unable to find any clues to her identity until a decade later, when he stumbled on new information on the Internet. In 1998 he began searching forums and found one for lonely hearts and genealogy that had an intriguing post from a woman still looking for her long-lost sister, Barbara Hackmann-Taylor.
    Barbara had vanished in late 1967, on a date not far from the time when the Tent Girl was found. She had lived near the Tent Girl’s locale, and her sister’s description roughly matched that of Tent Girl. Mr. Mathews wrote the Kentucky police, who arranged for the remains of Tent Girl to be exhumed and her DNA to be tested. Eureka, it matched, and Tent Girl finally had a name. Mr. Matthews later founded the Doe Network, which became a nexus for curious citizens who wanted to follow in his footsteps.
    Ms. Halber superbly reports on this morbid new subculture. Aside from Tent Girl, she describes such odd cases as the Lady of the Dunes found in Cape Cod, Mass., in 1974; the Jane Doe in a red T-shirt who was found in Baltimore in 2000; and what Ms. Halber calls the “head in the bucket” case from Kearney, Mo., in 2001. Besides interviewing the Sherlock Holmes wannabes who have pursued these cases, Ms. Halber talks to police officers, forensic experts and medical examiners. She even attends grisly autopsies. As a result, we learn many unusual details: A human skeleton, it turns out, will fit in a 200-square-inch box.
    But the focus on anecdotes, as interesting as they are, diverts attention from a larger question. Just how many murders do these amateur sleuths help solve (if one considers cases like Tent Girl, where the murderer was never discovered, to be solved)? Ms. Halber estimates that, since the identification of Tent Girl in 1998, roughly 30,000 unidentified murder victims have been discovered. The posse of amateur sleuths, as far as I can see from her book, have helped police crack no more than a dozen cases. So 99.99% remain unsolved.
    The key to finding a solution to the stockpile of unidentified corpses, I would suggest, is not Internet sleuthing or crowdsourcing the identification of images of human remains, but increasing the efficiency of the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. At present, the NCIC stores more than 100 million fingerprints in its automated fingerprint-identification system and is in the process of developing a national DNA- matching system. Its computers and software need to be upgraded to better mesh with those of local police, sheriffs and medical examiners. Once that task is accomplished, it has the potential to greatly (and speedily) reduce the population of the unidentified dead.
    Amateur sleuths, no matter how great their dedication, simply lack the resources. Because of legitimate privacy concerns, they do not have access to this FBI database. To be sure, they now can use a government-run website called National Missing and Unidentified Person System to find a roster of fresh cases, and they can continue searching for macabre matches on the Internet. And amateur sleuthing provides great satisfaction to armchair detectives, the author makes clear, not only in America but in such far off places as Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Indonesia. Ms. Halber’s real service is to bring to light the workings of this fascinating new subculture and one can expect her entertaining book will only add to their numbers.
    Note: Mr. Epstein’s most recent book is “The Annals of Unsolved Crime.”
    ——
    www.thursdayfile.com

    — 1 month ago with 2 notes
    #The Skeleton Crew  #Deborah Halber  #Edward Jay Epstein  #TF Book Reviews  #TF Books  #Politics & Social Sciences  #Crime & Criminals  #Forensic Science 

    Middlemarch Showed Me How to Live
    My junior year at Brown, I was so unhappy that I dropped out. In Arizona, I met a man; and I read Middlemarch.
    by Adelle Waldman — July 13 2014 — http://www.newrepublic.com
    My junior year at Brown, I was so unhappy that I dropped out. The place had begun to strike me as too narrowly focused on career and a dreary brand of meritocratic accomplishment. I wanted to try a different kind of life. I moved to Arizona and worked as a waitress at a sports bar. I’d never been to Arizona before, but I thought it would be beautiful and unlike the East Coast. (It is both.)
    I craved insight into how to live, how to be happy, how to make sense of other people. I’d always turned to novels for answers, although not generally to the kinds of novels assigned in English class. Until I went to Arizona, I’d tended to assume that novels about women who lived before the 1960s and the sexual revolution could have no relevance for a modern young woman like me. The way we live now just seemed too fundamentally changed for fiction from earlier eras to resonate meaningfully, to be interesting on more than an academic level. I found books not by consulting course syllabi (I wasn’t even an English major) but by wandering through bookstores, picking up contemporary novels with appealing covers and quotes from The New York Times.
    And yet, by the time I was 19 or 20, I found I was often unsatisfied. I read books that were smart and funny and inventive about modern politics and pop-culture, but I found fewer books that resonated with me on the personal level. Many were nicely written, but I often suspected that the author didn’t know much more than I did about life, about psychology, about the things I really cared about. In too many books, it was obvious what the characters should do, who was good or bad and in what degrees; such books engendered in the reader a sort of puffed-up sense of his or her own superior smarts. But…my life was a mess. If personal life were as simple as it was in the books I read, I wouldn’t be as confused as I was.
    In Arizona, I made a close friend whose highbrow reading habits impressed me. He wasn’t reading for class—he wasn’t even in school—and he wasn’t stiff and pretentious, qualities I blithely associated with people who read Penguin Classic type novels “for fun.” He was lively and funny and very insightful about people—and he gave me some of the toughest and most useful advice I’d ever gotten about my romantic life. It was through his influence that I came, at 21, to read Middlemarch.
    I read other nineteenth-century novels as well (Stendhal and Austen resonated particularly), but Middlemarch was my favorite, in part because of the breadth of Eliot’s fictional lens, the way she characterized the tenor of characters’ intellectual lives as carefully and fairly—and as perceptively—as she characterized their thinking about romance and social life; this gave her characters a multi-dimensionality that seemed as unusual in fiction as it is common in real life, where people are many things at once, admirable in one light and pathetic in another. Eliot’s ability to describe people was, in its subtlety and depth and scrupulousness, so many levels above my pay-grade. My own attempts were feeble in comparison. “He plays bass and dislikes capitalism and has long hair and an intense look,” I’d say to a friend in explaining why I liked a certain guy, and the truth was that it was the best I could do. I didn’t have the intellectual tools to get beyond surface qualities and social signifiers, to think about, let alone talk about, people with anything approaching the complexity with which we actually experience one another in life.
    Once I learned how to read nineteenth-century (and some eighteenth-century) novels—that is, became accustomed to the language, stopped mistaking its seeming formality for graveness, and began to read in earnest, i.e., not like a pompous asshole (you know, the kind who reads the thing at arms’ length, only to search for evidence to bolster this or that pre-existing theory, and misses the heart)—the books began to teach me more than I ever expected, more than I ever thought there was to learn. Richardson to Austen and Gaskell and Eliot to Flaubert and Tolstoy, different as they are in many ways, share a rigorous, tough-minded but eminently fair approach to the analysis of inner lives. They are moral in the best, most liberal and broad-minded sense of that word.
    I feel extremely lucky. I’m not being melodramatic when I say that I don’t think I’d recognize the person I’d have become without Middlemarch and the rest, if I hadn’t gone to Arizona, met that particular friend. It wasn’t so much my writing that was primarily affected—it would take many years of reading and re-reading for any of this to find its way into my own attempts at fiction. It was that my thinking that changed, that became richer, less programmatic, less susceptible to the trendy idiom of the day.
    ——
    www.thursdayfile.com

    Q - Have you read Middlemarch?

    — 2 months ago with 2 notes
    #middlemarch  #Eliot  #tf books 

    The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent
    By Susan Elia MacNeal
    Reviewed by Margaret Cannon, Special to The Globe and Mail - Published Friday, July 04 2014
    Bantam, 320 pages, $18
    Are you a fan of The Bletchley Circle? Then you’re going to love the Maggie Hope series, set in Second World War Britain, with a clever spy/codebreaker as heroine and some perfectly puzzling plots. This fifth in the series has Maggie holidaying on the quiet Scottish coast when she’s plunged into an intriguing problem in Glasgow. Three ballerinas fall strangely ill and it will take MI5 to figure out what’s poisoning them and why. MacNeal knows her history and her plot mechanics and she makes great use of both.
    —-
    Susan is married and lives with her husband, Noel MacNeal, a television performer, writer and director, and young son in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
    Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Fodor’s, Time Out New York, Time Out London, Publishers Weekly, Dance Magazine, and various publications of New York City Ballet. She’s also the author of two non-fiction books and a professional editor.
    New York Times-bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of the Maggie Hope Mystery series from Bantam/Random House. She is the winner of the Barry Award, and her books have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Dilys, ITW Thriller, Sue Feder, and Bruce Alexander awards.
    The first novel in the series is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. It won the Barry Award and was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Mystery Readers International’s Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel. It was also nominated for the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s 2013 Dilys Award for “the mystery title of the year that booksellers have most enjoyed hand-selling,” Mr. Churchill’s Secretary was also declared one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debuts of 2012 and Deadly Pleasures’s Best Paperback Original of 2012, and chosen as one of Target’s “Emerging Authors” series.
    The sequel, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, was a New York Times bestseller and chosen by Oprah.com as “Mystery of the Week” and one of “Seven Compulsively Readable Mysteries (for the Crazy-Smart Reader),” as well as Target’s “Emerging Author” series. It was nominated for the Macavity Award’s Sue Feder Historical Memorial Award.
    His Majesty’s Hope made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and was chosen as one of Target’s “Emerging Authors” series. It was nominated for the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and a 2014 International Thriller Writers Thriller Award.
    Book #4, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, debuted at #10 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was also a USA Today bestseller. Susan is currently working on Book #5, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante.
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    Q - Have you read any of  Susan’s books, if so what did you read and did you like it?

    — 2 months ago with 2 notes
    #The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent  #Susan Elia MacNeal  #TF Book Reviews  #TF Books  #Margaret Cannon  #Maggie Hope Mystery series