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Currently reading

The Ballad of Black Tom
Victor LaValle
Progress: 8/151 pages
The Best of Modern Humour
Mordecai Richler
Progress: 303/543 pages
The Big Book of Jack the Ripper (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original)
Otto Penzler
Progress: 633/848 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 8 out of 151 pages.

The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle

today could turn out to be quite a productive reading day for me - I read Snake from start to finish this morning, and The Ballad of Black Tom is also rather short, and there’s a good chance I can read it in its entirety when I get into it a bit later. it is another pick off the Crowdsourced list, which has been working out ver well for me so far!

Reading progress update: I've read 303 out of 543 pages.

The Best of Modern Humour - Mordecai Richler

the Art Buchwald entry was two pages...and funnier than many other pieces in this book.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 217 pages.

Snake: A Kramer and Zondi Investigation Set in South Africa - James McClure

I was very impressed with both The Artful Egg and The Gooseberry Fool, so back to this series for a third time (with two more stashed for the future). back to Africa already.

Reading progress update: I've read 331 out of 453 pages.

The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna

oh dear, it’s getting so sad.

Essential History List Nominations, Part 2

it seems I’m allowed to suggest a few more books, so:


Turkish Reflections, by Mary Lee Settle (9780671779979); Turkey, History of, multi-era.


The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf (9780805208986); Crusades, Middle East, Muslim Religion, Christianity.


A Cry in the Dark (aka Evil Angels), by John M. Bryson (9780140121636); Australia, True-Crime, Legal System, Trials.


Brainwash, by Dominic Streatfeild (9780312427924); Medical/Psychology; Military/Experiments, Drugs, Espionage, CIA.


The American West, by Dee Brown (9780684804415); American History, Native American History, Politics, Military History.


Shanghai Grand, by Taras Grescoe (9781443425537); Shanghai, 1930s, Politics.


Samurai William, by Giles Milton (9780340794685); Japanese History, British History/Biography, Samurai.


The Riviera Set, by Mary S. Lovell (9780349139890); France, 20th Century, Biography, Royals/Celebrity.


Black Fortunes, by Shomari Wills (9780062437600); USA History, 19th-20th Century, Biography/Business and Financial, African-American History.


The Berlin Wall: A World Divided 1961-1989, by Frederick Taylor (9780060786144); Germany, Cold War, 20th Century.


Reading progress update: I've read 301 out of 453 pages.

The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna

whether I finish this tonight or not I may divert to Wodehouse next, just before Snake - not decided yet.


the threads are being interwoven, as Elias’ memories take things to 1972, in the throwback narrative. things are very different for Saffia now, but she is not happy anymore. she has settled for things being a certain way, a certain form of security, but she has no vibrancy, and Elias is at a loss.


in the present-tense, Adrian has found a form of happiness, but I don’t think it could last.


this is a wonderful read. I’m a thread woven in, too.

"On a side table there is a photograph. He leans to look at it, Mamakay and two other girls. He recognizes one of them as Mary, a slimmer, more youthful Mary.

‘Our invasion uniform,’ says Mamakay. ‘That picture was taken right in the middle of things.’

‘What’s with the jeans?’ he says.

‘We wore jeans under our dresses. There was a time we dressed like that every day, because nobody knew when they were coming. One day the radio would say the rebels had been pushed back to the border, another day people arrived in the city saying they were at Port Loko. We stopped believing the government. We wore blue jeans.’ She pauses and then she gives a short, strange laugh, as if remembering something absurd or possibly painful.

Still he doesn’t understand."

The Memory Of Love, by Aminatta Forna (copyright 2010; quote is from page 279 of the Grove Press/Grove Atlantic trade paperback edition).

Reading progress update: I've read 173 out of 453 pages.

The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna

in 1969, Elias loses his cool during moon landing celebrations. in the present, things had been going well for Adrian; a nice visit to Ileana’s place that could not be ruined even by crass tourists, progress with Agnes in terms of a diagnosis based on shards of her past. but suddenly, Adrian gets very sick!


enjoying this immensely - expect to get a lot more read tomorrow.

Reading progress update: I've read 136 out of 453 pages.

The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna

Sierra Leone...hmmm...I’m trying to think if I’ve read a novel set in Sierra Leone. I’m sure some Spy novel must have stopped there, briefly...but nothing specific is coming to mind.


freaky coincidence dept.: wow, the storyline set in 1969 is making a lot mention of the moon landing, right when we’re hitting the 50th anniversary and it’s being covered in the media. so weird! and no, I was not aware that that was part of this novel.


the other weird thing: okay, so, I expect the differences in the two novels will be manifold...but the dynamic between Elias, Saffia, and Julius is reminding me of the ‘bizarre love triangle’ I just left, in Only When I Larf, with Bob, Liz, and Silas. in fact, are Silas and Julius related?! just kidding, but yeah, it’s I feel like I just left this trio, where one fellow is mooning after a woman who is already with another guy.


anyway, this book is crazy-good so far, including in the ‘present-tense’ narrative, where we have Adrian concerned with the aged, damaged Elias, while also trying to tend to poor Agnes. I’m not sure how all this ties together, or where it’s going, but I love the way it’s written, and the plants, the birds, the dust, and the victims of violence in Sierra Leone have made quite an impression.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 453 pages.

The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna

time to get serious.

Reading progress update: I've read 135 out of 252 pages.

Only When I Larf - Len Deighton

only one chapter this morning, but it was a dramatic one. at least when everything falls apart, it seems to bring Liz and Silas closer together. but personally, I think she should break away from him, from all of it.


should finish this tonight.

Reading progress update: I've read 117 out of 252 pages.

Only When I Larf - Len Deighton

much as I’m enjoying the cons, and watching for if or when things will go wrong (especially with this latest one, which seems rather dangerous if the mark tumbles to it), the real draw here is the dynamic between Silas, Liz, and Bob. this is turning out to be much more absorbing than I expected, and a rather amusing read before I go, next, to The Memory of Love.

Reading progress update: I've read 82 out of 252 pages.

Only When I Larf - Len Deighton

I didn’t know how much I wanted a con-artist novel in my life right now...until this. very happy! this could turn out to be my favorite Deighton so far.

Essential History Nominations

Rising Tide, by John M. Barry (9780641763625) US History, first half of 20th Century; flood; race relations; politics.


A Brief History of the Caribbean, by Jan Rogozinski (9780452011342) Caribbean History, multi-era.


The Hidden Hand, by Richard Aldrich (9781585674596) US History, 20th Century; Espionage; CIA.


Bertie, by Jane Ridley (B00DEKCNB2) British History, Royalty; 19th-20th Century; politics.


The Rasputin File, by Edvard Radzinsky (9780385489102) Russian History; 19th-20th Century; Russian Royal Family; politics; assassination.

Reading progress update: I've read 10 out of 252 pages.

Only When I Larf - Len Deighton

so, only time for Chapter 1 this morning - which means I've had Bob narrating, but narration will be shared among Bob, Liz, and Silas. Bob's opening comments have given me some idea of the first big con job the story has dropped me into, and then Bob did give me a bit of a personality profile of Silas, who right away seems kind of scary...or at least could be scary.


this looks like it will be some 1960s fun, and apparently it has been filmed.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 252 pages.

Only When I Larf - Len Deighton

I’m thrilled to be getting back to Deighton...but I think these will be con artists, not spies. of course, who knows where con artists may end up, as things go along!