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$10.20 $8.18 list($15.00)
1. The Other Boleyn Girl
$17.79 list($26.95)
2. Ireland : A Novel
$19.99 $13.09
3. William Shakespeare: The Complete
$360.00 $359.99 list($600.00)
4. The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare:
$12.59 $8.85 list($13.99)
5. The Pilgrim's Progress in Modern
$10.17 $9.20 list($14.95)
6. Children Playing Before a Statue
$15.36 $10.70 list($21.95)
7. The Birth of Venus
$16.99 $8.45 list($14.99)
8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes
$8.96 list($9.95)
9. Portuguese Irregular Verbs
$19.99 $12.98
10. Jane Austen: The Complete Novels,
$17.79 $17.52 list($26.95)
11. Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs
$16.50 $15.56 list($25.00)
12. The Hungry Tide : A Novel
$11.16 $8.72 list($13.95)
13. The Hamilton Case : A Novel
$16.76 $13.99 list($23.95)
14. Case Histories : A Novel
$15.57 $15.22 list($25.95)
15. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
$13.99 $9.37
16. Macbeth - Arden Shakespeare :
$4.95 $1.65
17. Pride and Prejudice
$24.00 $9.95
18. Blue at the Mizzen (Aubrey/Maturin
19. A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and
$9.95 $5.35
20. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs

1. The Other Boleyn Girl
by Philippa Gregory
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743227441
Catlog: Book (2002-06-04)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 241
Average Customer Review: 4.52 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family?s ambitious plots as the king?s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.

A rich and compelling tale of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her own heart. ... Read more

Reviews (235)

4-0 out of 5 stars Don't let the size of the book intimidate you! GO BUY IT!
This story was an above all thrill! It captivates your imagination and takes you back to the days at the Englishg courts where King Henry the VIII rules and the Boleyn girls play a game of ambition,love, and desire for the throne.
The narrator of the novel is the young Boleyn girl, named Mary, whom immediately catches the wandering eyes of a king, desperate for an heir, as soon as she arrives to court.
With its twists and sudden turns the plot thickens ever so deep as soon as Mary is bumped out of the Kings vision and is replaced with Mary's older sister, Anne.
Now that each sister clearly is envious of the other and that the desperate Boleyn family desires at least one of their daughters to assume the throne as soon as Queen Katherine, Henry's wife, croaks, the powerful Uncle of Mary and Anne blatantly decides Mary and Anne's fate for them.
Mary, becoming quite lonely, for her family's attention is set upon Anne's happiness, falls in love with a man, named William, who is a mere servant for her Uncle, but she follows her heart for the first time in her life and marries whom she really loves despite the consequences and the wrath of her sister, Anne.
It is quite clearly the story about Anne's rise and her sad and unexpected fall through the eyes of her sister Mary. And it shows the importance of family, for even though they grow terse and cruel towards each other, they are always there for one another when in need.
With all this stories strong points the only reason I didn't give it five stars is because it gets a bit frustrating while reading it. Not because it's a hard read, far from it, but because poor Mary never stands up for herself and lets herself get beat up, verbally, by her Uncle, Mother, Father, Sister, Bother, and King. You just want to reach into the book and slap some sense into her! I EXTREMELY suggest that you go out and get yourself a copy, it is truely a wonderful tale.

5-0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction at its best
While indisposed for a few days, I have never considered myself luckier than to come upon a book so engrossing, intellectual and enjoyable. This book is an incredible telling of the rivalry (and often hatred) between the two Boleyn girls, Anne and Mary. This book contained such vivid detail and fabulous imagery I couldn't put it down! It is a fairy tale in setting and a horrorific battle, involving one of the most powerful families in Tudor England. The character profiles were flawless: I was entirely able to imagine Mary, Henry, William and Anne sitting by my side. As an avid fan of Elizabethan, Tudor and other English historical fiction, Philippa Gregory enchanted my mind. I continue to turn to the book and re-read passages. The wonderful literary style that Gregory drew into this book is unmatched and unequaled. Very few books I have read can rival this wonderful account of love, passion, anger, betrayl and feeling. Kudos to Gregory!

5-0 out of 5 stars Great work of historical fiction
The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of Mary Boleyn, sister to the infamous Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. Mary becomes caught up in a series of political intrigues, as her family plots to become more powerful, especially against the Seymour family. Mary gives birth to Henry's child; in the meantime, Anne swoops in to take her place as Henry's mistress.

Serving as backdrop is Henry VIII's court in the 16th century, where Henry and Katherine of Aragon's marriage is coming to an end. Tired of Katherine for not being able to produce a male heir, Henry breaks away from the Catholic Church in England and starts his own, so that he may divorce his wife. Philippa Gregory describes all of this in startling detail, as we watch Anne and Mary Boleyn vie for the King's affection. Power and status is what drives everybody involved. Its a fascinating look into life at court under the reign of Henry VIII.

We get to see what Anne Boleyn was really like. Of course, we've heard stories, but I was amazed to see just what kinds of things she could do. Mary was the best kind of narrator for this novel, as we got to see firsthand the court and its going-ons. We often see Katherine of Aragon depicted in the history books as the frumpy, housfrou; here she becomes a real, genuine, loyal woman, who wouldn't give up her religion, no matter how much she loved her husband. That spoke of real character and courage on her part.

The book takes us up to Anne's beheading. Again dissatisfied with the fact that he does not have a male heir, Henry trumps up charges of adultery against Anne. The ending is frightening, an account of what such a gruesome moment might have been like. It is said that, when the executioner lifted up Anne's head afterwards, the mouth moved. Gregory uses exquisite details to describe this event, and many others throughout the book.

I've read many other works on historical fiction, and none other compares to The Other Boleyn Girl. It is very definitely a book worth reading.

3-0 out of 5 stars Good Fiction-Poor Fact
This is an interesting book when considered as a work of fiction alone. If one is looking for a book giving accurate historical details, this is not it. Anne, described as plain and flat-chested by her closest friends, is beautful while Mary, who had an affair with the French king before even arriving in the court of Henry VIII, is innocent. If you plan on researching the truth, enjoy this as a farce. If you don't know your history, aviod this fable.

3-0 out of 5 stars It's okay
Let me just say that I found this book to be a good "fluffy" read. I didn't love it, nor did I hate it--and I think that's because I kept wanting to slap the main charactor for being so weak willed. By the time I reached the end, I threw down the book and exclaimed, "Well, it's about time!" This book is a cross between Tudor England and Cosmo magazine: juicy with gossip but lacking any real depth. But, if you've got nothing better to do, and you happen to be a junkie for the Tudors...have at it! ... Read more

2. Ireland : A Novel
by Frank Delaney
list price: $26.95
our price: $17.79
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060563486
Catlog: Book (2005-02-01)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Sales Rank: 24956
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Book Description

From a land famous for storytelling comes
an "absolute masterpiece"* -- an epic novel
of Ireland that captures the intimate, passionate
texture of the Irish spirit.

One wintry evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller -- a Seanchai, the very last practitioner of a fabled tradition extending back hundreds of years -- arrives unannounced at a house in the Irish countryside. In exchange for a bed and a warm meal, he invites his hosts and some of their neighbors to join him by the fireside, and begins to tell formative stories of Ireland's history. One of his listeners, a nine-year-old boy, grows so entranced by the story-telling that, when the old man leaves abruptly under mysterious circumstances, the boy devotes himself to finding him again.

Ronan's search for the Storyteller becomes both a journey of self-discovery and an immersion into the sometimes-conflicting histories of his native land. As the long-unspoken secrets of his own family begin to reveal themselves, he becomes increasingly single-minded in pursuit of the old man, who he fears may already be dead. But Ronan's personal path also leads him deeper and deeper into the history and mythology of Ireland itself, in all its drama, intrigue, and heroism.

Ireland travels through the centuries, interweaving Ronan's quest for the Storyteller with a richly evocative unfolding of the great moments in Irish history, ranging from the savage grip of the Ice Age to the green andtroubled land of tourist brochures and political unrest. Along the way, we meet foolish kings and innocent monks, fabled saints and great works of art, shrewd Normanraiders, strong tribal leaders, poets, politicians, and lovers. Each illuminates the magic of Ireland and the eternal connection of its people to the land.

A sweeping novel of huge ambition, Ireland is the beautifully told story of a remarkable nation. From the epic sweep of its telling to the precision of its characters -- great and small, tragic and comic -- it rings with the truth of a writer passionate about his country and in full command of his craft.

* Jack Higgins

... Read more

3. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, Deluxe Edition
list price: $19.99
our price: $19.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0517053616
Catlog: Book (1990-09-08)
Publisher: Gramercy
Average Customer Review: 3.74 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This complete and unabridged edition contains every word that Shakespeare wrote — all 37 tragedies, comedies, and histories, plus the sonnets.You’ll find such classics as The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew.This Library of Literary Classics edition is bound in padded leather with luxurious gold-stamping on the front and spine, satin ribbon marker and gilded edges. Other titles in this series include: Charlotte & Emily Bronte: The Complete Novels; Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works; Mark Twain: Selected Works; Charles Dickens: Four Complete Novels;Lewis Carroll: The Complete, Fully Illustrated Works; and Jane Austen: The Complete Novels. ... Read more

Reviews (50)

5-0 out of 5 stars An important Review
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4-0 out of 5 stars It's NOT Old English
While Shakespeare was producing much of his work hundreds of years ago, he belongs to the Early Modern era of the English Language. This particular period started approximately 60 years before he was born.

Many of the comments seem to think that the stilted grammar and flow (that only occur to current speakers of the language)determine whether a work is written in Old English. Some have mentioned Beowulf, which very few have likely read untranslated. If you can't understand a translated work, blame the person who authored IT and not the original work.

Old English approximates a German sound. If one were to hear something read in OE, they may guess the language was an older form of German. Middle English, the sort you'll come across reading UNTRANSLATED Chaucer, is much closer to what many would recognize as an English sounding language. It was highly ornate and approximated and Irish sound.

Early Modern English is basically what we are provided with when encountering Shakespeare. The language isn't as difficult to navigate as the references, especially in Shakespeare, which are historical as well as contemporary.

When considering the importance of Shakespeare or works that came before him, it is useful to consider the endeavor as trying to find one's cultural heritage. Many of today's popular literature is founded, deeply, in what has come before us. Irreverance and often the backdrops surrounding our most beloved characters have references much older than many can imagine. Even Harry Potter closely resembles elements of Beowulf, Chaucer, and Shakespeare to name the 3 of the more recognizeable.

Literature that has come before our time does tend to get treated with a little too much reverance, but the reasons people consider these classics to be important can't be denied.

This volume, lacking footnotes and perverting line structure, is still nifty in it's economical purpose, and is worth owning if you can make use of it.


3-0 out of 5 stars Book for Shelf - Not Terribly Accessible Shakespeare
I originally bought this book used and later discovered that this was the ideal situation. It is handy to have all of Shakespeare's works (plays and sonnets) under one cover, but there are several drawbacks. Each page is split into two columns, causing the plays to be read like a newspaper. Since linebreaks are important in Shakespeare (remember the iambic pentameter), some lines are too long for the margins, causing the remaining words to hover like ghosts away from the sentence.

Also, this book contains no footnotes. This is mainly how buying the individual play is superior to the collected works. Olde English isn't always intuitive, and this particular book leaves you to find out a word's meaning for yourself.

But this book certainly looks pretty on your shelf. :)

5-0 out of 5 stars A bargain at twice the price!
Quite simply the greatest writer of all time, Shakespeare belongs on every bookshelf. I have this, and it is a treasure. For those of you who sweated through Shakespeare in high school, give it a try. You might be surprised by some of the stories you never knew. I would gladly have paid fifty bucks for one of these, and was thrilled to get it for twenty in hardcover. If you have kids, this is a must-have. If you don't, get it anyway. Although there are no footnotes, or any attempt to 'translate' King's English into American, I think these things are basically unnecessary. The sonnets also deserve a perusal, but I like the tragedies the best, particularly Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus.

5-0 out of 5 stars In Defense of Shakespeare
I must say, after reading the "review" about shakespeare,
the one discussing the "cult of shakespeare"...

What is the point of this posting? It's not a review of the
particular volume, instead it is a rather caustic opinion of
Shakespeare, which focuses on current society's teaching
and appreciation of Shakespeare's works, and not
the actual works themselves. Why is this relevant, and
why has it been posted? Is it entertaining? Are we really
interested in his personal criteria for judging literature?

In defense of Shakespeare and this volume, whether it be
printed nicely or not, to have his works present is better
than to not, even if some might say it's only taking up
shelve space. I've come to his plays later in life, and
of my own volition. I need no glossary or interpreter.

Quite simply, there is a reason that Shakespeare is still
performed, and written about today, and it has nothing
whatsoever to do with this faceless cult conspiracy theory
that this guy is referring to. It doesn't exist.

What does exist is a great body of work which will provide
much pleasure and entertainment. I suggest that the
comments made by the cult conspiracy guy be taken with a grain
of salt. Some people just can't accept greatness in others,
even if they are dead, and must convince themselves that
the greatness is imagined.

Long Live Shakespeare (cult member since 2003) ... Read more

4. The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare: 38 Fully-Dramatized Plays
by William Shakespeare, Eileen Atkins, Joseph Fiennes, John Gielgud, Imogen Stubbs, Claran Hinds, Simon Russell Beale
list price: $600.00
our price: $360.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1932219005
Catlog: Book (2003-03)
Publisher: Audio Partners
Sales Rank: 49628
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

For the first time in audio publishing history, all of Shakespeare's plays are available in one extraordinary, definitive collection. Based on The Complete Pelican Shakespeare, here are all of the master's 38 plays, complete and unabridged, fully dramatized on CDs with an original score and sound design for each play. A monumental project that spanned five years and cost $3 million, The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare represents the collective vision of four people: Shakespeare scholar Tom Treadwell, film producer Bill Shepherd, BBC director Clive Brill, and composer Dominique Le Gendre. Together they have assembled the 400 great actors of the British theater and produced a landmark digital recording with a sophisticated layering of sound that immerses the listener in Shakespeare's world. ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars A monumental project with flaws but immense overall value
To Buy or Not to Buy!

Educators, lovers of theatre and great literature--take note! Late in the 1990s, Harper Row began to release on cassettes the Arkangel Complete Shakespeare, all of which I reviewed in one paper or another. Using some of the best of the young theatrical talent in Great Britain and some of the older established stars of stage and screen, the producers gave us readings of every single word of every single play by Shakespeare, including the seldom-performed "Two Noble Kinsmen" which is partially by Shakespeare.

Well, hold on! Audio Partners has been contracted to release the entire set on CDs. The trick is that you cannot purchase the individual sets but are required to purchase the entire package of 38 plays for $600. That is 98 CDs in all with a playing time of just over 101 hours! Libraries and school departments take note.

Hearing them as they were released on tape in batches of four or five, I was impressed mostly with the enormity of the project but found some things to quibble about. Casting Oberon and Titania with a pair whose voices were South African or Jamaican (no Henry Higgins, I) made some sense in that it emphasized their other-worldly-ness. So did assigning Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" to an actor with a distinct Scottish accent, but giving Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet" to the same actor was absurd. Then too there is that sudden sound effect of a train pulling out of a station in the middle of "All's Well That Ends Well"! Granted there was a production current then that did place the play in more modern times, but when one is hearing a recording with no clue as to setting, the result was jarring and should have been omitted.

In the grander roles such as Hamlet, Othello and the like, the younger actors give modern readings which might strike some as slighting demands of the high poetry. And those who long for the grander readings can turn to the re-releases of the old Shakespeare Recording Society sets.

One great disadvantage to the cassettes is that you could locate a specific scene only with much fast forwarding. With CDs, of course, you can jump to any scene by pressing the Skip button on your player. When a scene continues onto another disc, the tracking list tells you at which line the scene picks up.

The price might be prohibitive to all but an institution--but I feel that every library should find its way to purchasing the complete set in much the same way that many purchased the complete set of BBC Shakespeare videos.

5-0 out of 5 stars Get it. Period.
If you have to empty your penny jar, if you have to cash in your IRA, do so. Get this. These are absolutely superb recordings of some of the best English ever written and some of the most memorable characters ever created. So you don't recognize every word. Doesn't matter. The excellent actors carry you along and draw you intimately into the drama.

You can follow the play in text if you choose to -- they follow the readily available Complete Pelikan Shakespeare. But you don't need to -- if you aren't familiar with a play the brief four or five line summaries of each scene in the small fold-out accompanying each play are quite sufficient to know which characters are involved. It's possible to listen to these while driving, but you can't concentrate fully unless you're totally stuck in traffic. My number one recommendation is to take a Walkman and a pair of headphones to a hammock under a tree and indulge yourself. Second best is a comfy easy chair.

However you listen to these, do get them and listen to them. Or persuade your local library to get the set.

The price -- ...-- seems high until you figure that this is 38 complete plays -- less than the cost of the same play in paperback -- and there are a total of 83 disks, so you're paying just $5 per disk. Cheap! And these aren't some pop music you'll listen to once; these are a lifetime investment for yourself and your family.

Get it. Period.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thrilling Drama
These performances will keep you spellbound. There is something profound and amazing about listening to this Shakespeare, probably owing to the combination of perfect sound; nuanced, captivating, stellar acting; and fully comprehending the magic of The Bard's words. The quality of the recording is impeccable - there are no glitches, and the volume-level is consistent. Listening on my CD player at home, and following along with the text (not included with the CDs), I feel like I'm "getting" Shakespeare, and being moved by his words, like never before. I even find this listening more satisfying than seeing a Shakespeare play because I can better grasp and appreciate every line. The acting is first-rate (most actors are well-recognized RSC alumns, many of whom have become respected British film stars - ahem - Joseph Fiennes, Ciaran Hinds, Simon Russell Beale, Amanda Root, to name a few), and the clarity of the production picks up the most delicate subtleties of each performance. The background music complements and enhances each play, but isn't obtrusive. I wholeheartedly recommend this set - it will take you to a new level with Shakespeare. ... Read more

5. The Pilgrim's Progress in Modern English (Pure Gold Classics)
by John Bunyan, L. Edward Hazelbaker
list price: $13.99
our price: $12.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0882707574
Catlog: Book (1998-07-01)
Publisher: Bridge-Logos Publishers
Sales Rank: 7126
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Truly one of the best books of all time
Many years ago I read the "original" version and thoroughly enjoyed it. This Modern English version is even better because it's easier to read and comprehend, although I have to admit I missed the "Slough of Despond" (now the Swamp of Despondency).

Bunyan has depicted the major pitfalls in the life of the "born again" Christian in an understandable and believable way. Especially helpful are the footnotes which allow the reader to refer to the Scripture passages Bunyan has used to support his allegory.

If you are already traveling in "The Way," read this book for encouragement on your journey. If you are not already a Pilgrim, read this book to find out what you are missing and how to enter at the narrow gate.

5-0 out of 5 stars Inspring Way to learn the Truth.
I first read this book back in the seventies. Since I have also used as a Bible study tool and great source of allegorical illustration of the Christina life. It is a wonderful story for Christians of all ages to study and enjoy. Surly God blessed John Bunyan with a special insight into Discipleship. I recommend strongly sticking with the Modern English version of the book because of the vast differences in past speech patterns. The book is well worth your time and effort. Any serious student of Scripture will certainly find it's contents valuable and very insightful.

5-0 out of 5 stars I've Got An Idea!
What a treat! It's hard to beat the classics and Pilgrim's Progress is one of the greatest Christian classics ever written. I am glad it is now in modern English. I read a few pages every night with my family. It makes a great devotional book and sure beats all gathering around the television. My children are age 17 and 12. One might think they are too old for such a thing, but not so. If you have young children at home, skip the little devotional books for a few weeks, shell out a few dollars, buy the book, and start a new tradition of introducing your family to the classics. Go from this to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and you may break the TV habit for good!. . . Perhaps . . .

5-0 out of 5 stars A pretty good book
I'm a Chinese girl. I got a traslation job to help with the publishing in China.I found it really interesting and helpful with my belief as I read it. I love this book.Hope we'll have more books like this in China, and in Chinese.

5-0 out of 5 stars Better Than the Best
I have owned the Pilgrim's Progress for years but have never read it. I started and then thought the book was boring and hard to read so I promptly quit. The original language is somewhat hard to understand so purchasing a book with notes and added definitions is helpful.
However, since beginning to really read it, I have found I was completely wrong. This is one of the most influential and captivating books I have ever read. The powerful allusions to the Bible are abundant and threaded in carefully. It paints a vivid picture of the Christian life and the struggles, temptations, and tests that come with that path.
Although it was mostly written for Christians, I am sure that this book can be enjoyable to almost anyone. To Christians, however, it is an encouragement. It helps you remember that there is a reason to press on and that you're not in it alone.
This book is an amazing illustration of a classic allegory. It is uplifting and inspiring. I am truly happy I read it. ... Read more

6. Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules : An Anthology of Outstanding Short Stories
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 074327394X
Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 202
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

From the #1 bestselling author of Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim comes a collection of the short stories David Sedaris loves most. Containing the work of both contemporary and classic writers, CHILDREN PLAYING BEFORE A STATUE OF HERCULES, edited and introduced by Sedaris, gives his legions of fans a glimpse at the writing he finds inspiring - and helps them discover the truth abut loneliness, hope, love, betrayal, and certain, but not all, monkeys.

David Sedaris fell in love with short stories while living in Odell, Oregon. Sedaris writes, "When apple-picking season ended, I got a job in a packing plant and gravitated toward short stories, which I could read during my break and reflect upon for the remainder of my shift. A good one would take me out of myself and stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit." Featuring such notable writers as Alice Munro, Tobias Wolff, Lorrie Moore, and Joyce Carol Oates, readers will reconnect with classics, as well discover fantastic but lesser-known writers.


  • Introduction by David Sedaris
  • "Oh, Joseph, I'm So Tired" by Richard Yates
  • "Gryphon" by Charles Baxter
  • "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • "The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield
  • "Half A Grapefruit" by Alice Munro
  • "Applause, Applause" by Jean Thompson
  • "I Know What I'm Doing About All the Attention I've Been Getting" by Frank Gannon
  • "Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat Is Out" by Patricia Highsmith
  • "The Best of Betty" by Jincy Willett
  • "Song of the Shirt, 1941" by Dorothy Parker
  • "The Girl with the Blackened Eye" by Joyce Carol Oates
  • "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk" by Lorrie Moore
  • "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor
  • "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried" by Amy Hempel
  • "Cosmopolitan" by Akhil Sharma
  • "Irish Girl" by Tim Johnston
  • "Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff
  • Epilogue by Sarah Vowell

Borrowing the book's name from an Adriaen van der Werff painting, CHILDREN PLAYING BEFORE A STATUE OF HERCULES is David Sedaris's attempt to share his passion for short stories with a wider audience-and his enthusiasm is contagious. "The authors in this book are huge to me, and I am a comparative midget, scratching around in their collective shadow. 'Pint sized Fanatic Bowing Before Statues of Hercules' might have been more concise, but people don't paint things like that, and besides, it doesn't sound as good."

David Sedaris is publishing this book to support 826NYC, a nonprofit tutoring center in Brooklyn, New York. All of his proceeds, after permission expenses, from CHILDREN PLAYING BEFORE A STATUE OF HERCULES will benefit this organization designed to help students ages six to eighteen develop their writing skills through free writing workshops, publishing projects, and one-on-one help with homework and English-language learning. In the book's epilogue, Sarah Vowell describes the fine work done by 826NYC. ... Read more

Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars An absolutely beautiful book
Its so rare to find a compilation of short stories where every one is a delight! The stories are a satisfying mix of old and new, funny, joyful and sad. All of which I found very satisfying. I admit I did cry during a couple, and I don't think it was all hormones. I wish I'd had this caliber of story to read in my English classes. This was also a nice way to be cordially introduced to some new authors to explore.And I admit, as a major David Sedaris fan, there's that little fake intimate thrill of 'Ooooo HE picked these out!'
And anyway, it makes a really good gift because even if the person dosen't like it, they won't return it because the purchase value benefits a great cause.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of this year's best
Having been a fan of short story writers for years (Wolfe, Munro, McCrae), I immediately felt a longing to read this collection.And the fact that Sedaris put it together only made me want to delve into these eclectic waters all the more.Now, this said, of course I wasn't in love with each and every story, but I do have to say that of all the collections I've come across, this is one of the best.The only two other short story collections that have knocked me out as much as CHILDREN PLAYING were Munro's RUNAWAY and another titled THE CHILDREN'S CORNER by Jackson McCrae.While all are stellar, the Sedaris bunch is the most varied and well-paced. Of all the stories, "Half a Grapefruit" and "Bullet in the Brain" made the most impact on me.If you like Sedaris (and who doesn't?) trust his judgment on this one and give it a shot.You won't be disappointed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Eclectic Short Stories From a Sedaris Perspective
The next best thing to a new David Sedaris book is a collection of his favorite short stories since they reflect aspects of his character that may not be readily apparent in his often darkly humorous remembrances. He has chosen seventeen diverse stories by both modern and legendary writers, and the net effect is a microcosm of emotions unexpected, sometimes funny (as you would expect) and often poignant. I like how Sedaris in the foreword reverses the perspective you would expect him to have and settles into being a reader like the rest of us. What he does contribute is a strong sense of himself in the presence of these stories by simply liking them enough to include them.

Being such a fan of his work and being able to relate to a lot of the quandaries he faces in his life, I immediately felt a kinship with many of the authors some of whom I am already familiar. For example, Alice Munro who captured a particularly universal perspective in her recent short story collection about women in transition, "Runaway", has a surprisingly amusing contribution with "Half a Grapefruit" about an insecure girl named Rose who is rebelling against the concept of you are what you eat. Or Jhumpa Lahiri, who won a well-earned Pulitzer Prize for her own anthology "Interpreter of Maladies", of which Sedaris has wisely chosen the title story about the delicate relationship between an insightful Indian interpreter and a bickering Indian-American couple visiting India. Both focus on identity crises in vastly different settings. I certainly am familiar with Dorothy Parker but not with her wonderfully brief and evocative story, "Song of the Shirt, 1941" about a WWII-era seamstress under duress. There's an intense little story called "Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff which raises issues of randomness and control at the moment of death in a biting, economic fashion.

Other stellar stories are by the likes of Flannery O' Connor, Katherine Mansfield, Joyce Carol Oates and Patricia Highsmith. The quirkiest may be Jincey Willett's "The Best of Betty," in which we are witness to the sarcastic decline of a domestic advice columnist. But my favorite may be Amy Hempel's "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried", which deals with the complex reactions to the dying of loved ones. There is even a brief and amusing epilogue by Sarah Vowell acknowledging the charity to which Sedaris is donating the proceeds, a kindred spirit whose ironic death obsession pervades her latest tome, "Assassination Vacation" (she was also the voice of goth-like daughter Violet in "The Incredibles"). There is not a clinker in the bunch. While reading this breezy anthology will not make you want a new Sedaris book any less, it will make you appreciate what great taste he has as a reader.

4-0 out of 5 stars Short Story Awakening
In all my years of reading serious fiction, I've neglected short stories. But when I saw Sedaris's name, I was willing to read his introduction to see if I wanted to delve further in this collection of stories by other writers, and I'm thrilled that I did.

Of all the stories in the collection, I had only read one before-Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation"-so this collection opened up a number of new writers to me that I'll pursue further: Jincy Willett, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Richard Yates, for example.

Sedaris does a good job of balancing heavily emotional rides, like Joyce Carol Oates's "The Girl with the Blackened Eye," with the humor of Jincy Willett's "The Best of Betty." He's also done a terrific job of blending classic stories with contemporary ones.

After reading this collection, I'm actually looking forward to reading more short fiction.

3-0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Effort, Labor Of Love....without all the work
David Sedaris is one of my favortie writers and I was looking forward to this piece for some time without knowing what it was about. Truly, I expected a new Sedaris memoir, but what I found was a book full of short stories from people he'd either admired or stories he liked quite a bit. So, he got these abstract pieces together and got them grouped into one book, edited said book and wrote a forward. Under no circumstances should you think that this was a Sedaris work. It just shows how much he loves short stories and aside from the skill in writing the stories within this book, there is nothing else of merit to speak of.

"Gryphon" is my favorite, which is about a teacher trying to get her students to think outside themselves in her own seemingly clandestine way. It was made into a movie by Max Mabru Films for PBS Wonderworks and is easy to find on video via the writer's website. My only problem with the story is that you never really find out why it has the title it has.

No matter if the writers are alive or dead, Sedaris picks some solid small literature for his labor of love, complete with the often reveered "Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff. Some readers would say that Sedaris was a little off or wrong in including some writers and excluding others, as he admits that some of his favorites did not make it in the book. But, keep in mind who's personal movement this was...Sedaris'. Not yours and not mine, so take it for what it is and enjoy what he has done. But, basically, as a book, all this does is keep you from having to buy the pieces individually, if you have not read them yet.

But they might even garner new fans, making them have to go out and buy their individual preferences anyway. ... Read more

7. The Birth of Venus
by Sarah Dunant
list price: $21.95
our price: $15.36
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Asin: 1400060737
Catlog: Book (2004-02-17)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 436
Average Customer Review: 4.02 out of 5 stars
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Sarah Dunant's gorgeous and mesmerizing novel, Birth of Venus, draws readers into a turbulent 15th-century Florence, a time when the lavish city, steeped in years of Medici family luxury, is suddenly besieged by plague, threat of invasion, and the righteous wrath of a fundamentalist monk. Dunant masterfully blends fact and fiction, seamlessly interweaving Florentine history with the coming-of-age story of a spirited 14-year-old girl. As Florence struggles in Savonarola's grip, a serial killer stalks the streets, the French invaders creep closer, and young Alessandra Cecchi must surrender her "childish" dreams and navigate her way into womanhood. Readers are quickly seduced by the simplicity of her unconventional passions that are more artistic than domestic:

Dancing is one of the many things I should be good at that I am not. Unlike my sister. Plautilla can move across the floor like water and sing a stave of music like a song bird, while I, who can translate both Latin and Greek faster than she or my brothers can read it, have club feet on the dance floor and a voice like a crow. Though I swear if I were to paint the scale I could do it in a flash: shining gold leaf for the top notes falling through ochres and reds into hot purple and deepest blue.

Alessandra's story, though central, is only one part of this multi-faceted and complex historical novel. Dunant paints a fascinating array of women onto her dark canvas, each representing the various fates of early Renaissance women: Alessandra's lovely (if simple) sister Plautilla is interested only in marrying rich and presiding over a household; the brave Erila, Alessandra's North African servant (and willing accomplice) has such a frank understanding of the limitations of her sex that she often escapes them; and Signora Cecchi, Alessandra's beautiful but weary mother tries to encourage yet temper the passions of her wayward daughter.

A luminous and lush novel, The Birth of Venus, at its heart, is a mysterious and sensual story with razor-sharp teeth. Like Alessandra, Dunant has a painter's eye--her writing is rich and evocative, luxuriating in colors and textures of the city, the people, and the art of 15th-century Florence. Reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, but with sensual splashes of color and the occasional thrill of fear, Dunant's novel is both exciting and enchanting. --Daphne Durham ... Read more

Reviews (86)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Read
Dunant really breathes new life into 15th century Florence, giving the reader a wonderfully detailed image of the city. The reader follows Alessandra's life there from the tender age of 13, ...through the fall of the Medici's, her marriage, the invasion of the French, her affair with her beloved painter, the bonfire of the vanities... all the way until the end of her life. Dunant gives vivid descriptions of Alessandra's world, the delicate beauty of its art and paintings, the religious views and philosophical beliefs of the day, the political uproar, the people and characters. This novel was truly an engrossing, read ( I finished it in 3 days! ) It's beautifully written, and draws you into the life of it's characters. The story is romantic and sensual, without being overly erotic, but it remains only the underlying plot through the turbulent times of Alessandra's young life. An enjoyable read, that I highly recommend.

4-0 out of 5 stars Anyone else offended by use of contemporary speech?
I enjoyed this book. Descriptions of 15th Century life, art and artists, politics and religion in Florence are beautiful and no doubt accurate. The story is gripping.
I'm no prude, but fewer minutely graphic details appealing to prurient interests would have improved the book for me.
Most of all, however, I deplore the inclusion of contemporary terms in the speech. Each example shocked me back, at least to the 20th Century. How could her editors have let these pass?
How can this be considered "great" writing, in spite of the many positive features of this book?

5-0 out of 5 stars wonderful!!!
I don't usually expect much from a book on the best seller list and only picked this one up becuase I am a sucker for pre-17th century historical fiction - so I was thoroughly pleased to discover The Birth of Venus an enthralling and fascinating historical read. This story is truly a fresh take on the time period with wonderful characters weaving in and out of the political and social Floretine landscape.

5-0 out of 5 stars Historical and Feminist fiction at its best
I finished this book in 2 days--I could hardly put it down to go to work! What an amazing story, with gorgeous prose. The details of Florence were well done, and the political upheaval described is not irrelevent to our times. I think this is one of the best books about women that I've read in a long time. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lovely and amazing
The opening chapter intrigued me so...... While not a mystery novel per se, it was fun to put it all together at the end. I love historical fiction, and this book was rich in characters and descriptions of a time of sweeping change in Florence. Savonarola and his deeds are made mention of in another book I read recently, "The Rule of Four" but this book brings him to life (and death) A great, leisurely summer read, with characters you will come to care for and knowledge you can't help but absorb. ... Read more

8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes
list price: $14.99
our price: $16.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0517220784
Catlog: Book (2002-09-03)
Publisher: Gramercy
Sales Rank: 3085
Average Customer Review: 4.75 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Over one hundred years have passed since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle intoduced his inimitable sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, to the world--and his popularity has never waned. This oversized commemorative volume contains the entire canon of Holmes adventures, both before and after his creator's attempt to dispatch him in print. Just as the character, Holmes, prevails and defies even death, these detective stories featuring him and Dr. Watson have withstood more than the test of time: they defined and changed the way modern crime writers approached detective fiction. ... Read more

Reviews (97)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!
Thrilled recently to discover the excellent Jeremy Brett filmed episodes of Sherlock Holmes, I then took to reading the original stories and enjoyed virtually every one of them. There are a few plots which nearly duplicate other ones, but the 56 short stories and 4 novels comprise a stunning collection of fiction which evokes the atmosphere of late Victorian era England in a straightforward prose that grabs you instantly and makes you turn page after page and then read story after story. As you get further and further into the world Doyle created, you'll begin to hear the sounds of horse carriages, smell candles and gas lamps, and also, in the manner of Holmes, to begin to truly NOTICE the small details of life which may end up meaning far more than they seem to at first. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most intriguing characters in all of literature. You'll end up wishing you could've met him or, even better, followed him into the bowels of London or into the English countryside as he probes a mystery, running only on adrenalin. I also recommend Doyle's fine book of "Round The Fire" stories.

5-0 out of 5 stars All the tales of the greatest detective in literary history
The complete adventures of Sherlock Holmes is an excellent gift for young and old alike. I first read these stories in Junior High School and loved them then. After reading the complete collection a second time, my appreciation of the excellence of these stories has only increased. Like Dickens's great novels such as David Copperfield, a second and even third visit to The Complete Adventures is both warranted and rewarded. Those people who loved the late Jeremy Brett's characterization of Holmes on PBS's "Mystery," are almost certain to find the stories on which this series is based equally entertaining.

From our first encounter with Holmes in Conan Doyle's introductory novel, A Study in Scarlet, and his meeting with Dr. Watson, with whom he shared rooms at the now famous 221B Baker Street, we are fascinated by the uniqueness of Holmes's eccentric character, his incredible intelligence in all things concerning the science of deduction, his total dedication to his craft, and the enormous resources of energy and determination he calls on to solve problems no one else can master.

Holmes is a consulting detective; that is, he is the court of last appeal when the police, government officials, and private citizens can find help no where else. What makes Holmes special is not only his vast knowledge related to crime and the master criminal, like the infamous Professor Moriarty, but his incredible powers of observation and deduction, which he uses in almost every story to amaze Dr. Watson and the various detectives of Scotland Yard who come seeking his help.

Conan Doyle is a fine writer and he wanted to turn his attention to other projects and so decided to kill off Holmes at a last meeting with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls in the Alps in the highly recommended story, The Adventure of the Final Problem. As we might expect, Holmes is not so easily disposed of. The demand for more adventures prompted Conan Doyle to publish a final volume of stories of the greatest detective in literary history.

1-0 out of 5 stars The print IS too small!
The book is oversized but I agree with the previous reviewer that the print is too small--luckily, I found "The Annotated Sherlock Holmes" edited by William S. Baring-Gould at a used bookstore and is the BEST complete Sherlock Holmes collection I have EVER seen and the supplemental material is extensive and staggeringly wonderful--try to find that one (it will probably be in 2 volumes)in the used book section of this site...

5-0 out of 5 stars The game is afoot!
The greatest detective in all of literature is between the covers of this excellent edition of the complete stories of Sherlock Holmes. Of all the editions out currently out there, the Doubleday hardcover version is by far the best. With 1122 pages, it's a hefty tome, but packed between the covers, in an edition that won't give you eye-strain to read, are all four full-length novels and fifty-six short stories, plus an excellent introduction by Christopher Morley. This is the version to get.

There has never been anything quite like Sherlock Holmes; he's in a class by himself. We meet him first in his late twenties, just starting a career as the world's only consulting detective, when he's introduced to his invaluable chronicler Dr. Watson. What is Holmes without Watson? He's not nearly as interesting alone; Watson is an absolute necessity. Holmes needs Watson's obtuseness as a foil for his own razor-sharp brilliance. In some of the later volumes, Holmes narrates a couple of his own cases. They fall flatter than a pancake. Let Holmes stick to what he knows; we must have Watson to show him to best effect.

There are so many great stories included in this volume that probably no two people's list of personal favorites will match; my own are "The Red-Headed League" and "The Copper Beeches" from "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"; "The Yellow Face", "The Naval Treaty" and "The Final Problem" from "Memoirs", "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" and "The Second Stain" from "The Return", and "His Last Bow" from the volume of the same title. The incomparable "Hound of the Baskervilles" rates as my favorite long novel. Conan Doyle not only gave us some wonderful tales, but some unforgettable secondary characters as well: the pea-brained detectives Gregson and Lestrade; brother Mycroft, even more brilliant as Sherlock and even more eccentric; and the scruffy gang of street kids known as the Baker Street Irregulars.

Holmes himself is one of the most fascinating and enigmatic characters in all fiction. Why doesn't he have (or seem to want)a life outside of solving crimes? We know he has an off-and-on cocaine problem, not to mention some peculiar habits, such as shooting holes in his parlor walls to spell out VR (Victoria Regina) in bullet pocks (why his landlady didn't throw him out is never explained), and except for the inscrutable Irene Adler, he seems to have a marked aversion towards women. Well, maybe it's just as well that his whole life was detecting and solving crimes, else how could he have been involved in so many delightful adventures?

As Morley says in his introduction to this volume, we should be grateful to those ophthalmic patients who kept missing their appointments with Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, leaving him with enough spare time on his hands to write these stories. In the lanky figure of his consulting detective, Conan Doyle created one of the most popular characters of all modern fiction. There is no more compelling crime-buster, and never has been, and probably never will be, than Sherlock Holmes.

4-0 out of 5 stars Doyle's Legacy
Of all the memorable characters in literature, Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is justly one of the most famous (rivaled by only a small handful of others). In the Complete Sherlock Holmes, you find this peculiar, proper, analytical, brilliant consulting detective. You also meet his equally famous boswell, Dr. Watson, and unforgettable criminals, plots and deductions. There are four novels and fifty-six short stories. Many of them are masterpieces. A few, especially some of the later works, are dated and disappointing (thus only four stars). But do not be too concerned. After you read this series, you will see why the pipe smoking genius of Baker Street has fans throughout the world. Highly recommended. ... Read more

9. Portuguese Irregular Verbs
list price: $9.95
our price: $8.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400077087
Catlog: Book (2004-12-28)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 6974
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10. Jane Austen: The Complete Novels, Deluxe Edition (Library of Literary Classics)
list price: $19.99
our price: $19.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0517147688
Catlog: Book (1995-09-03)
Publisher: Gramercy
Sales Rank: 11913
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Book Description

One of the great and ever popular masters of the English novel is represented here by every one of her novels. Includes Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and the lesser-known Lady Susan.This Library of Literary Classics edition is bound in padded leather with luxurious gold-stamping on the front and spine, satin ribbon marker and gilded edges. Other titles in this series include: Charlotte & Emily Bronte: The Complete Novels; Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works; Mark Twain: Selected Works; Charles Dickens: Four Complete Novels;Lewis Carroll: The Complete, Fully Illustrated Works; and William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. ... Read more

11. Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare
by Clare Asquith
list price: $26.95
our price: $17.79
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1586483161
Catlog: Book (2005-05-10)
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Sales Rank: 35088
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A revelatory new look at how Shakespeare secretly addressed the most profound political issues of his day, and how his plays embody a hidden history of England

In 16th century England many loyal subjects to the crown were asked to make a terrible choice: to follow their monarch or their God. The era was one of unprecedented authoritarianism: England, it seemed, had become a police state, fearful of threats from abroad and plotters at home. This age of terror was also the era of the greatest creative genius the world has ever known: William Shakespeare. How, then, could such a remarkable man born into such violently volatile times apparently make no comment about the state of England in his work?He did. But it was hidden. Revealing Shakespeare's sophisticated version of a forgotten code developed by 16th-century dissidents, Clare Asquith shows how he was both a genius for all time and utterly a creature of his own era: a writer who was supported by dissident Catholic aristocrats, who agonized about the fate of England's spiritual and political life and who used the stage to attack and expose a regime which he believed had seized illegal control of the country he loved.Shakespeare's plays offer an acute insight into the politics and personalities of his era. And Clare Asquith's decoding of them offers answers to several mysteries surrounding Shakespeare's own life, including most notably why he stopped writing while still at the height of his powers. An utterly compelling combination of literary detection and political revelation, Shadowplay is the definitive expose of how Shakespeare lived through and understood the agonies of his time, and what he had to say about them. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Even If It Has Lots of Speculative Ideas
This is an entertaining book if nothing else.... and I am not trying to be negative in any way. For someone new to Shakespeare, this book is a bit complicated and that particular reader will fail to grasp some the arguments. I found it slightly hard to challenge all of her ideas and conclusion since she draws on a wealth of knowledge. I have attempted to learn something about Shakespeare and started by reading three popular biographies by three well known authors: Burgess, Kermode, and Greenblatt. Plus I have scanned or read a number of other books - see my Listmania list on Shakspeare. Eventually I bought Asimov's guide to Shakespeare, which is just a joy to read, and The Norton Shakespeare, the 3500 page monster that is the best single book - as a general reference on the works and times. Today one can enjoy most of Shakespeare's works on DVD and there are thousands of books, magazines, and journal articles available on the subject.

Writing a biography or an analysis about Shakespeare - putting it mildly - is a challenge, especially if the aim is to present and discuss new information as we have here. The idea that one might find new ideas about a 450 year old Shakespeare is virtually impossible. Thus, all the Shakespeare biographers and writers including Asquith are dependent on Shakespeare's works themselves, plus those books that immediately followed Shakespeare's life such as John Aubrey's book Brief Lives (1626 to 1697), and the various civic records from London and Stratford, along with court records, land transfer documents, and wills, etc. He left no notes nor did he write a biography.

All these books - including the present book - are not about new information. They are about presenting a coherent picture of Shakespeare and his environment: political, socio-economic, historic, sources of myths, religious ideas, other writers, etc. In reviewing the books the differences one sees in the books are in the styles, depth of knowledge, amount of speculation, facts, writing skill, holding the reader, etc.

The present book attempts to bring us an analysis based on the "hidden meanings" or code words and phrases, or simply a deeper understanding of his works, so we can find clues in his writings. This concept is not new since Shakespeare left no diaries and all we have are his writings and those writings of his contemporaries. There have been thousands of books and articles on Shakespeare, but as I wrote above, none by him, and most are centuries after he died.

In trying to judge her arguments - and I am not an expert - I looked fairly carefully at Chapter 15 or "Silenced" where she puts forward the theory that the Tempest was a sort of final personal tour de force for Shakespeare and that he was forced to retire - since he had a Catholic bias in childhood or some Catholic tendencies - and he had to leave London. We will never really know the real story unless we suddenly discover Shakespeare's secret diary after 400 years, but to me this seems like mostly speculation. Around this time he bought property at the Blackfriars in London so clearly he was not completely cutting his ties with London and the theatre. For myself, I suspect that he was simply getting tired after 20 years of writing and had accumulated enough money to retire, and in fact he lived only a few more years. That is the generally accepted view. It is generally thought that his father was a secret Catholic who had suppressed his public views in the mid 15th century as a town bailiff and alderman under the rule of Elizabeth. William Shakespeare the son seemed more neutral and had always lived with the continuous anti-Catholic intimidation factor of heads stuck on spikes, including many Catholic martyrs, as he walked back and forth across the bridge to London from the south bank, so I see nothing really dramatic here to cause a sudden change forcing him out of the theatre. Also, that chapter has just a few references beyond Ben Johnson.

In summary, this is a quick and entertaining read about Shakespeare with some speculation, and it merits at least 4 stars. I enjoyed the book but was not totally convinced. She needs more specific references to back up her points - in my opinion. Still it is a good 4 star read.
... Read more

12. The Hungry Tide : A Novel
by Amitav Ghosh
list price: $25.00
our price: $16.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0618329978
Catlog: Book (2005-05-03)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 9055
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Hungry Tide is a very contemporary story of adventure and unlikely love, identity and history, set in one of the most fascinating regions on the earth. Off the easternmost coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans. For settlers here, life is extremely precarious. Attacks by deadly tigers are common. Unrest and eviction are constant threats. Without warning, at any time, tidal floods rise and surge over the land, leaving devastation in their wake.
In this place of vengeful beauty, the lives of three people from different worlds collide. Piya Roy is a young marine biologist, of Indian descent but stubbornly American, in search of a rare, endangered river dolphin. Her journey begins with a disaster, when she is thrown from a boat into crocodile-infested waters.Rescue comes in the form of a young, illiterate fisherman, Fokir. Although they have no language between them, Piya and Fokir are powerfully drawn to each other, sharing an uncanny instinct for the ways of the sea. Piya engages Fokir to help with her research and finds a translator in Kanai Dutt, a businessman from Delhi whose idealistic aunt and uncle are longtime settlers in the Sundarbans. As the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, they are drawn unawares into the hidden undercurrents of this isolated world, where political turmoil exacts a personal toll that is every bit as powerful as the ravaging tide.
Already an international success, The Hungry Tide is a prophetic novel of remarkable insight, beauty, and humanity.
... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Sundarbens Revealed-Hungry for More
I had never heard of the Sundarbens prior to reading this book. I will never forget them after reading it. I could not put this book down, and it is on my list of best books for the past year. The characters come from different places, yet come together through fate and circumstances. Ghosh gives us love stories interwoven throughout, and actually until the end we are not sure how these will play out. He writes great adventure and nature scenes, and introduces natural elements that most will not be familiar with. He will make you think about the environment and its inhabitants in several different ways (spoiler-tigers and residents, dolphins and residents-compare and contrast). It will make you think of your own hospitality. It has spirituality and myth interwoven throughout as well as their expression in poetry. Yet somehow all these different elements come together in the geographic setting of the story. The storm scenes will remain etched on my mind for years to come (compare it to the storm in The Perfect Storm). This book will make you look at what is most important posession wise in times of crisis and during regular times. His characters are well developed and defined, and I could picture each and everyone in my mind's eye. They are unforgettable. I cannot recommend this book enough, but at the same time I don't want to provide any spoilers.Brilliant writing.Confirms my own belief that India will be my next big trip. Take a chance on a book that is very different and just read it, you will be hungry for more!

5-0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
I picked up "The Hungry Tide" on a visit to a friend's place in Bombay, and finished it one sitting while I waited up for him to return from work. Since I'm an incorrigibly impatient reader, that says something about this novel. This is not just lucid, gorgeous writing: this is a testimony to the sheer depth of details the author plunges into to flesh out his characters, of his keen sense observation, of evoking the essence of a land and its people. Ah, also of its poetry. Like tides, this should engulf you.

5-0 out of 5 stars Absorbing Read, Rare Book on River Dolphins of South Asia
Amitav Ghosh's new book, "The Hungry Tide," is an interesting book set in the swampy regions of Sunderbans,near the India-Bangaldesh border. The book makes for an interesting reading, and in the process you also learn about the rich marine life in this part of the world, where once river dolphins thrived in large numbers. But, over the years these marine mammals have rapidy dwindled, and become a rare species.

Ghosh has a keen eye for details, and when this iscombined with his love for history and research, the final product can make for an absorbing read.

Ghosh weaves a fascinating story invloving the three primary characters in the book: Piyali Roy, Kanai Dutt and Fokir.

Piyali is a cetalogist, who is on a quest to study the habits of the rare river dolphins in the Sunderbans region. Of Indian hertiage, Piyali grew up in the US, and as part of her graduate studies has made an ardous trip to this remote region of India.

Fokir is the illiterate fisherman who knows this part of the river like the back of his hands, and assits Piyali in her quest to discover and study the animals. He knows exactly where you can find these rare river dolphins.

Kanai Dutt, is a Delhi-based entrepreneur, who happens to meetPiyali on her train journey to the Sunderbans. They cross paths when they meet once again at Kanai's aunt's place. Kanai is visiting his aunt to retrieve a package that his uncle had left for him in his will.

During the course of the story you discover how each of one these primary character's story is intertwined.

Although Ghosh has written 5 books, I must confess that I did not enjoy reading all of his books, and have had to abandon a couple of them half-way through. I enjoyed reading"In an antique land," and now this new book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A warning for those living in a translated world
Amitav Ghosh is a master of the genre "Fictionalized Thesis". Before this one he excelled in ' In An Antique Land' in mixing fiction with facts gathered through painstaking research and the synergy turns out to be extraordinarily capable of conveying the message creating the desired effect. Though he extensively deals with science, Ghosh has appeared to nurture mystic elements within his basic views of the world, history. He seems to believe in destiny and recognizes omen as would be evident through his 'Calcutta Chromosome' also. His perception of history has its full quota of heroes. As he lamented in 'Dancing in Cambodia At Large in Burma' that the postmodern world has taken away from the middle class its heroes, here (in Hungry Tides) he is very firm in acknowledging them in his definition of things. And, as always, with a quotation of Rilke here and a passionate interpretation of his own there, he enthralls the poetically oriented one to one's heart's content.
Sundarbans, a vast forest that insulates the inland of lower Bengal in India from the ocean, is slowly being denuded of its bio-diversity; the ecological balance is seriously being threatened. And all these are because the life of the ordinary, extremely poor people living there do not count for anything to the political establishments. As the scientist Mr. Piddington warned, if the forest is itself endangered that is certainly to diminish the possibility of Calcutta being protected any more against the devastating oceanic storms of Bay of Bengal. Interestingly that threat of a sad destiny where the guilty will not be spared destruction is hinted at very clearly through a metaphorical local tale of Bon-bibi and Dakshin Rai among the dwellers of Sundarbans. The educated city people, the enlightened, unfortunately live in a translated world of their own and they failed to interpret the meaning of science, progress, civilization to the under-privileged, neither have the plight of these hapless people been earnestly conveyed to the outer world which could extend an effective helping hand. Ghosh attempts to bring back the memories ofS'Daniel Hamilton to stress upon the importance of true enlightenment and indomitable human spirit keeping aside unnecessary categorizations of revolutionary, bourgeois, secular, pagan and so on. The author exhibits a rare sincerity in describing the life of the underprivileged but struggling people of Sundarbans with true respect. A hint of a development of romance between an illiterate boatman Fakir and the US born cetologistPiyali Roy who studies marine mammals, has beena remarkable technique to steer the narrative with cohesion.
And about the dolphins - appreciation of the book and its subsequent popularity will create innumerable experts and well-wishers all over the world -no doubt about that! ... Read more

13. The Hamilton Case : A Novel
by Michelle de Kretser
list price: $13.95
our price: $11.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316010812
Catlog: Book (2005-04-11)
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Sales Rank: 14537
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A flamboyant beauty who once partied with the Prince of Wales and who now, in her seventh decade, has "gone native" in a Ceylonese jungle. A proud and ambitious lawyer who unwittingly seals his own fate when he dares to solve the sensational Hamilton murder case that has rocked the upper echelons of local society. A young woman who retreats from her family and the world after her infant son is found suffocated in his crib. These are among the linked lives compellingly revealed in a novel everywhere praised for its dazzling grace and savage wit -- a spellbinding tale of family and duty, of legacy and identity, a novel that brilliantly probes the ultimate mystery of what makes us who we are. ... Read more

Reviews (12)

2-0 out of 5 stars A premonitory spurt of advice to the reader
is to stay away. From "premonitory spurts" and other stylistic exertions. Let us forget about the book contents for a moment - the
author has no feeling for the media she is working with, that is,
the English language. Complex words and expressions are overused; the simple ones are misused. The rhythm of the sentences is jarring, and occasional smugness is unwarranted. Whenever the narrative picks up tempo (in the beginning and at the end of the book) it matters a little bit less, but when it bogs down in the middle, the stylistic incongruities become the only thing visible.

There is a funny bit of self-deconstruction at the end, when one of the book characters (who picks up a pen after residing from the bench) confesses that his books were not very good, but are quite popular with the Western readers because they provide a steady dose of Oriental exoticism. Whether intentional or not, this applies to the book itself. As for the Hamilton Case, it is mildly amusing in the first rendition (by Sam), and over-loaded with cheap symbolism in the final chapter (which may only matter
for the readers who got to it. The ones who did not may have chosen wisely).

5-0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing, Brutal, Exotic and Richly Imagined
The Hamilton Case is a mesmerizing, but brutal look at the decay at the heart of colonial Ceylon. It takes place from the turn of the century, through the independence of Ceylon in 1948 and is told through the story of Sam Obeysekere,an "upper class" native who can out British the British (he refers to his parents as Mater and Pater).Sam, the son of two parents who spend their time squandering the family's inherited wealth as they live a frivolous life of partying and shopping, oblivious to the needs of Sam and his sister Claudia, who are primarily raised by servants.Sam is educated in a British style public schoolon the island, and then sent to Oxford returning to the island as a barrister. There he quickly raises in stature in the legal professions. The rage engendered in him since childhood by his promiscuous and vacuous mother is lived out through the woman he marries for her money and then ignores, as well as his ultimate entombment of his now poverty stricken elderly mother in a decaying family home in the jungle. Infanticide, self-mutiliation, suicide, pedophilia and murder abounds as the author brilliantly brings to life the death and rot teeming in the depths of the jungle As the jungle is replete with rot so is the Ceylonese society where the racism of the British for the native population is mirrored in the racism of one native group for the other groups that make up the Ceylon's population. Bracketing the novel at the beginning and the end is the murder mystery of the Hamilton Case in which Sam plays Sherlock Holmes, ultimately resulting in his inability to rise to the highest ranks in the judiciary. Kretser's writing is brilliant, at times lyrical at times raw as it brings the island of Ceylon pulstatingly to life. The images she creates will live in the mind of the reader for a long time as will the complex characters she has created. It is pleasure to read such a brilliant piece of literary fiction. I look forward to her next novel.

4-0 out of 5 stars Sticky narrative of life in Ceylon--not a "mystery"
I'll add mine to the voices that say this book is not a "mystery".Although, it is certainly mysterious.After finishing reading it, I'm still not certain what really happened.And I think that's what distinguishes it somewhat from the mystery genre.This is not a tightly tied up investigation of a crime.It is the story of a man's life as told from multiple viewpoints.There is a murder mystery inset into the story, which is The Hamilton Case.But there are other mysteries as well: how did Sam & Claudia's baby brother die? how did Claudia's baby die? why did Jaya marry Claudia? how much can we trust Sam's version of events? how much can we trust Shivanathan's version? At points I thought I knew the answers, but now I'm not at all sure.

Overall, the book is an interesting immersion into life in colonial Ceylon, mostly through the eyes of one man.

5-0 out of 5 stars Author shows phenomenal talent
Some of the positive reviewers have already done a terrific job, I'll just emphasize a few points. First, this book is not a mystery, thriller or legal novel, although some people may get that impression from the title. There is not a lot of fast-paced action. That would be unsuited to the book, set in a hot, wet jungle climate mostly during the British colonial period. You can't read through it fast, because it is necessary to savor the author's use of language. This is a gourmet feast. If you have never been in a jungle at night, you'll learn exactly what it looks, sounds and feels like. Her description is strikingly original: the main character's brother-in-law has a hairy body. What the author says is "one longed to ask him if he'd had an accident with a bottle of hair restorer." The idea of Sam trying so hard to be an Englishman, while the British would always see him as Sinhalese (when he gets off the train at Paddington, a woman immediately assumes he's a porter, although he's been a barrister for many years) reminds me of the predicament of Hari Kumar in The Jewel in the Crown. The story is very intricate, and it is necessary to read to the end to see what may (or may not) have really happened. There are plenty of ghosts (real and figurative)that haunt this family. I think it may be necessary to read this book more than once to fully appreciate it.

4-0 out of 5 stars for the thinking reader, not a travelogue
For the previous reviewers who said they "got tired of it", "didn't make sense"...yikes.Go back to the Hardy Boys.
This book is not a straightforward "whodunit", if that's what you want.This story is to be read on many levels.For the engaged reader who likes keeping track of a multilayered story and who enjoys pulling all the threads together, an active rather than a passive reader, this book was rewarding, even moving, by its end. ... Read more

14. Case Histories : A Novel
by Kate Atkinson
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.76
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316740403
Catlog: Book (2004-11-09)
Publisher: Little, Brown
Sales Rank: 279
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Book Description

A triumphant new novel from award-winner Kate Atkinson: a breathtaking story of families divided, love lost and found, and the mysteries of fate.

Case One: Olivia Land, youngest and most beloved of the Land girls, goes missing in the night and is never seen again. Thirty years later, two of her surviving sisters unearth a shocking clue to Olivias disappearance among the clutter of their childhood home. . .

Case Two: Theo delights in his daughter Lauras wit, effortless beauty, and selfless love. But her first day as an associate in his law firm is also the day when Theos world turns upside down. . .

Case Three: Michelle looks around one day and finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making. A very needy baby and a very demanding husband make her every waking moment a reminder that somewhere, somehow, shed made a grave mistake and would spend the rest of her life paying for it--until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.

As Private Detective Jackson Brodie investigates all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge. Inextricably caught up in his clients grief, joy, and desire, Jackson finds their unshakable need for resolution very much like his own.

Kate Atkinsons celebrated talent makes for a novel that positively sparkles with surprise, comedy, tragedy, and constant, page-turning delight. ... Read more

15. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up Adaptation
by Lewis Carroll
list price: $25.95
our price: $15.57
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0689847432
Catlog: Book (2003-10-01)
Publisher: Little Simon
Sales Rank: 227
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is Robert Sabuda's most amazing creation ever, featuring stunning pop-ups illustrated in John Tenniel's classic style. The text is faithful to Lewis Carroll's original story, and special effects like a Victorian peep show, multifaceted foil, and tactile elements make this a pop-up to read and admire again and again. ... Read more

Reviews (20)

5-0 out of 5 stars fabulous addition to your Sabuda collection
Once you have one of his pop-up books, you will be drawn willy-nilly to buy all of the rest. This is not his most sublime effort on two fronts. The art work is in the exact style of the original, so while it is stunning and beautiful, I think it is not as lovely as his absolutely original imaginings. A few of the pop-up effects such as the little baby changing to a pig face(found in one of the mini books within a book) don't work very well, since only the pig is visible unless you go thro contortions to peek inside before ever opening that page. The same with the scene of painting the roses red.

While a great deal of the original text has been abridged, only a couple of the nonsense rhymes that made the original unabridged alice one of my childhoods read aloud favorites has been included.

Overall, the pop up engineering is still stunning, to see Alice's face inside the White Rabbits home with her arms sticking out windows, and her feet out the chimney and front door, the mad hatters tea party, and of course, the very first telescopic view of her fall down the rabbit hole are not to be missed! My 3 1/2 year old sits thro 90% of the story just as long as he can enjoy the pop-ups again and again!

5-0 out of 5 stars Another Sabuda masterpiece.
As a huge fan of Sabuda's WIZARD OF OZ, I grabbed ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND as soon as I saw it in the store, and it didn't disappoint at all.

The book is similar in design to WIZARD OF OZ, has several eye-popping pages that literally jump out at you and contains a faithful abridgement of Lewis Carroll's classic text.

The first page, featuring the forest where Alice first encounters the White Rabbit, is glorious, and Sabuda has imagined a remarkable way to give readers a look "down the rabbit hole."

This one's as good as THE WIZARD OF OZ, and it's going to be a great gift for all my cousins this holiday season.

5-0 out of 5 stars This is the MOTHER of all pop-up books EVER!
I've never written a review of any book before, but am compelled to do so now. (I'm not a very good writer!)

I've been collecting pop-ups for a long time, and this is the Pop-Up to End All Pop-Ups!

This book exceeds all my expectations of any Pop-Up. Innovative, top quality, surprise after surprise, includes full story, just superb!

I cannot give this book enough stars. If 5 is the highest, I give this book a 15! You will not be dissappointed!

5-0 out of 5 stars AMAZING!!!
There is a REASON that reviewers of Robert Sabuda's "Alice in Wonderland" are AMAZED. This is NOT just another "pop-up book." THIS is a WORK OF ART!!

Robert Sabuda's work is MAGICAL as you literally peer down the rabbit hole. Another page shows Alice in the house; Alice at the tea party; the Cheshire Cat; the deck of cards....

This book can be great to show young babies as it will spark their curiosity, but you have to just have them look at it and keep it out of reach as young toddlers would probably rip the art work. If you know a young boy or girl (ages 4 and up) or a young teenager or anyone who appreciates illustrative art - this is the book to buy.

My mother bought this book for me plus one for her good friend and we both loved it!

Robert Sabuda's "Wizard of OZ" was great....this might be even better!

5-0 out of 5 stars Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up book
Absolutely the best pop-up book I have ever seen. A collectible for sure. Not only do you have large pop-ups on each page, but you have smaller multiple ones on the pages, too!! Beautiful color and excitment for everyone, adults included!! ... Read more

16. Macbeth - Arden Shakespeare : Second Series - Paperback (Arden Shakespeare Second (Paperback))
by Kenneth Muir
list price: $13.99
our price: $13.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1903436486
Catlog: Book (1997-01-31)
Publisher: Arden
Sales Rank: 184309
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17. Pride and Prejudice
list price: $4.95
our price: $4.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0553213105
Catlog: Book (1983-12-01)
Publisher: Bantam
Sales Rank: 1956
Average Customer Review: 4.57 out of 5 stars
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Elizabeth Bennet is the perfect Austen heroine: intelligent, generous, sensible, incapable of jealousy or any other major sin. That makes her sound like an insufferable goody-goody, but the truth is she's a completely hip character, who if provoked is not above skewering her antagonist with a piece of her exceptionally sharp -- but always polite -- 18th century wit. The point is, you spend the whole book absolutely fixated on the critical question: will Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy hook up? ... Read more

Reviews (583)

5-0 out of 5 stars My All-Time Favorite
"~Though only sixteen, I consider myself to be moderately well-read. I love reading, and, when I am between books, my life feels desolate and empty. One day, while in the most barren pit of ennui, I picked up Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice at my mother's recommendation. I do not ordinarily like my mother's taste in reading; her favorite books tend to be very dull, but so deep was my boredom that I succumbed to her suggestion."~ table, class and late into the night, I read my beloved Pride and Prejudice. I love everything about it. I love the characters; especially Elizabeth Bennet! I love the Victorian vernacular which works so well for this particular novel. I love the scintillating plot and the suspense created by knowing that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy should be together but their pride and prejudice (hence the title) are (temporarily) keeping them apart."~ contemporary literature, but once one gets accustomed to it, it makes the novel even more pleasurable. I cannot imagine Elizabeth or Darcy or Bingley or Jane speaking any less eloquently; it would completly ruin the novel! The flowery language completes the whole effect of reading a Jane Austen novel."~ to read. I can offer no suggestions to the male reader, however, because generally this book, in every essence, is a female novel. I am not saying that men would definetly not enjoy it; I'm simply saying that I have yet to meet any male who has not addressed this book in a very vehement manner. and I know it won't be too long before I pick it up again. Jane Austen surely knew what she was doing when she wrote this one! Her Pride and Prejudice will always have an honored spot on my bookshelf.

5-0 out of 5 stars It is a truth (not) universally acknowledged- P&P is great!
I note with interest that every one-star review posted here comes either from a male or an unidentified "reader" . . . I'm not especially surprised, and to the males, don't blame yourselves if you can't penetrate Jane Austen (it is undoubtedly more appealing to the female mind), although I must vouch for P&P and pity those who pass over this excellent novel. The whole charm of the story lies in the high vocabulary which Elizabeth, Jane, Darcy and the rest employ, and the wonderful language creates a rapid succession of wit, romance, and observation on human absurdity, in style. ~~~~ It's hard to understand how people can find this book dull, for the very first chapter rolls out a lively discussion between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. In my opinion, Pride and Prejudice only gets better as you go on; I admit to once finishing the novel and promptly rereading it one day later. Also to smiling for one week straight, for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. ~~~~ Please don't come to Jane Austen only to criticize her subject matter-- every author has a style and a realm of experience which make their books unique. If you think the young ladies' endless pursuits of wealthy marriages to be old-fashioned and petty, they are! But Jane Austen crafts the novel with a skill and wit that lets the novel at once both expose how ludicrous that English society was and yet create lively and very human characters you have to love; and therein lies its charm. Pride and Prejudice is a lovely combination of sly humor, exasperation, and romance that make it one of my favorites. I hope it will be one of yours too-- don't give up on Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy before you even know them! And understand Jane Austen for the talented authoress she is, whether you think her settings and period portrayals deplorably dull, pathetically petty, or (I hope!) cleverly charming. ~~~~ I think that most people, when they read P&P, either love it or hate it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply a marvelous book...
As I read Pride and Prejudice, one thing struck me--that I reacted to the twists in the plot rather strongly. I laughed aloud at the wit; I smiled at the *ahem* 'cute' romance; I shouted at the characters when they missed obvious signals and acted like idiots...but such as it is, lets just say that I was truly affected by this book. Touching, witty, and with happy weddings in the short, a true Austen novel. I found this book immensely enjoyable to read, and it is among my top ten favorite books of all time (although, I must admit, my 'top ten favorite books of all time' list is often prone to change, as I am not very old and shall devour other books yet)...Nontheless, I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever liked any other Austen or Austen-like book, as this is perhaps my favorite written by this particular author.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Book of All Time
Oh! Can I even say enough about this delightfully wonderful book? I won't give any of the plot away. But, I will say that the tension and the passion between the characters is so strong that it comes through the pages, transcends time and you can relate to it precisely today as readers could a hundred or so years ago. The humor and wit is British, of course, and most of the sentencing isn't used any more; therefore it might be a difficult read for some. I admit I had some hard times getting through it. But it was well worth the effort! And now I read it once a year just so I can relive the pleasure. A good read for anyone. And much advised by me.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Rainy Day Read
Jane Austen did a wonderful job of keeping the reader interested (I read it in 5 days)and never lets the reader down at the end. The anticipation of seeing if Lizzy will end her 'prejudice' against Darcy will keep you glued to your Lazy Boy. Between the self absorbed Mrs. Bennett to the stupidity of Mary, and Lydia, Austen creates a fun chemistry A story where you can see your family in and want to give advice on every page. Enjoy! ... Read more

18. Blue at the Mizzen (Aubrey/Maturin Series (Cloth))
by Patrick O'Brian
list price: $24.00
our price: $24.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393048446
Catlog: Book (1999-11-01)
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 31181
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars
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Almost three decades after commencing his maritime epic with Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian is still at it. The 20th episode, Blue at the Mizzen, is another swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, complete with romantic escapades from smoggy London to Sierra Leone, diplomacy, espionage, the intricacies of warfare, and imperial brinksmanship. As always, these events are bound up in the ongoing friendship between two officers of the Royal Navy. Jack Aubrey is the naval captain, bold yet compassionate, innovative yet cautious, as fearless in war as he is bumbling in affairs of the heart and household. His boon companion Stephen Maturin is the ship's surgeon--and additionally a spy for the British government, a wealthy Catalonian aristocrat, a doting Irish father, and an avid naturalist.

That may sound like a lot to keep track of. However, it's not necessary to carry around a scorecard or ship's roster while reading Blue at the Mizzen. The ostensible issue is whether Jack will finally be promoted to Admiral of the Blue. But long before he hears any word from the Napoleonic era's equivalent of Personnel, he loses half his crew to desertion, his ship undergoes a disastrous collision, and the entire company comes close to perishing in the ice-choked seas off Cape Horn. Meanwhile, the widowed Maturin issues a surprising proposal of marriage to a beautiful, mud-bespattered fellow naturalist while trekking through an African mangrove swamp. (The two lovebirds happen to be searching for a rare variant of Caprimulgus longipennis, the long-tailed nightjar, which they hope to surprise in full mating plumage.)

Still, this is hardly a plot-driven novel. O'Brian takes time to get anywhere, and invariably enjoys the journey more than the arrival. So even as we get constant hints of the climax to come--Jack's spectacular naval action on behalf of the infant Republic of Chile--we don't mind hearing about the nuances of shipboard existence or the secret life of the white-faced tree duck. We're treated, for example, to this snippet about managed care, circa 1816:

Poll, Maggie and a horse-leech from the starboard watch have been administering enemas to the many, many cases of gross surfeit that have now replaced the frostbites, torsions, and debility of the recent past, the very recent past. Strong, fresh, seal-meat has not its equal for upsetting the seaman's metabolism: he is much better kept on biscuits, Essex cheese, and a very little well-seethed salt pork--kept on short commons.
And we're grateful! We can only hope that the elderly author will favor us with at least one more novel, so that his avid followers can avoid their own form of short commons. Life without Aubrey and Maturin would be a deprivation indeed. --Andrew Himes ... Read more

Reviews (51)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Farewell Novel From O'Brian
About five years ago I was introduced to the Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian. I first read The Wine Dark Sea, and then I returned to the beginning of the series and promptly read all of the books in the series.

In recent years, I have eagerly awaited the release of new books in the series. And, Blue at the Mizzen was worth the wait.

The Aubrey and Maturin characters have evolved as individuals, as they have aged and had other experiences in life. Unlike most of the earlier books in the series, Blue at the Mizzen features Dr. Maturin to a greater degree than the brooding Capt. Aubrey whose concern over his future makes him more remote to both Maturin and to the reader. After O'Brian killed off Dr. Maturin's wife in The Hundred Days, Dr. Maturin surprisingly develops a romantic interest in a fellow naturalist, Christine Wood. Their romantic episode is odd, but given Maturin's character, that is not really surprising.

As usual, a lot happens in this book, but as in the other books, O'Brian often unleashes the action in a understated or offhanded way. Events happen with little or no warning or with minimal discussion. The intelligence activities involving the Republic of Chile are not as clearly described, for example, as Maturin's South American intelligence activities in The Wine Dark Sea. As with other books in the series, the action sometimes is secondary to the activities on the ship, the relationships of the main and minor characters, and Maturin's focus on the birds and beasts that they encounter. Even so, Blue on the Mizzen was an enjoyable book that held my interest.

How does it compare with the other books in the series? Good question. Personally, I liked it better than The Yellow Admiral, which spent too much time on shore. Unlike other reader reviewers, however, I equally enjoyed both The Hundred Days and Blue at the Mizzen. The early books are wonderful, but even these later books are very good.

For someone who has read any of the Aubrey/Maturin novels, I would not suggest that you start with Blue at the Mizzen. Instead, the O'Brian novice should start with the earliest books in the series. For someone who has read the other Aubrey/Maturin novels, Blue at the Mizzen should be a "must read" book. It is the last one in the series due to O'Brian's recent death. If O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin formula is aging by book #20 in the series, it is still a fine formula that still works in #20. Blue at the Mizzen is a worthy end to the series.

3-0 out of 5 stars A disappointing end? to a superb series
Even though I believe that the Aubrey-Maturin series is one of the great works of prose fiction of the 20th century, the latest (and 20th) book in the series, Blue at the Mizzen, is a disappointment. Indeed the last few books in the series (starting with the Wine-Dark Sea, have gotten progressively weaker, but even they have always had many compelling pages. The great humor, the exciting naval action, the lovely historical feel, but above all the wonderful language and psychological acuity are missing here. The female characters are, no surprise, mere plot devices. (Both Sophie and Clarissa barely figure, and the smart and beautiful Mrs. Wood, who Maturin falls for, makes little sense as a character.) But the subordinate characters in general lack interest, even the prominently featured midshipman Hansen, the bastard son of the Duke of Clarence. The local color in early 19th century Chile seems washed out, insubstantial. Worst of all, the two principals are presented pro forma, as if O'Brian is just tired of them. While there is a satisfying (finally) move up to Admiral for Aubrey, the story (with no more Napoleonic foes, and no more money worries) has run out of gas. Is this the last of the novels? Aubrey-Maturin fans will be disappointed that we have lost track of Pullings, Babbington, Mowett, and Martin completely-what happened to them? Where oh where is to Aubrey's illegitimate son, Sam Panda, last seen in nesrby Peru-and why do Jack's thoughts never run to him? This is, of course, a must-read for Aubrey-Maturin fans, but compared to the invigorating, full-blooded novels in the series, this one reads like the weak, lukewarm tea that Jack and Stephen so detest.

4-0 out of 5 stars The last finished book in the series , but not "the end".
Three years ago I picked up a hardcover copy of this book in a bargain bin at a local booksellers , not realizing that this was book #20 in a 20 book series. Although I enjoyed it , I wasn't really able to get into the story line very well , since the author had the habit of making clever asides referring to actions in previous novels. Now 3 years later I find that I have read 16 in the series. They must be addictive!

In this novel , which is set shortly after the triumph of the allies over Napoleon at Waterloo , Jack Aubrey and his particular friend , Stephen Maturin find themselves on the way to Chile under secret orders to assist the Republican rebels in their efforts to break away from Spanish rule , locally enforced by the Viceroy of Peru. The dear old "Surprise" has been converted to a hydrographical survey vessel to provide thinly veiled cover to the mission.

As a cast of characters , we are sadly missing Barrett Bonden , but have a new young face in the person of Horatio Hanson , the bastard son of the Duke of Clarence (heir to the British throne). We are given a brief glimpse of Bernardo O'Higgins , commonly accepted as the liberator of Chile.

Upon arrival in Chile , Jack Aubrey sets about building and training the nucleus of a new and independent Chilean navy , a daunting task. The action line is centered about the intervention of the Spanish Viceroy of Peru , and the Peruvian navy's 50 gun ship. Aubrey boldly devises a plan to neutralize the Peruvians , and basically succeeds in his mission.

In the line of personal involvements , Aubrey seems very morose and rather out of his usual sorts throughout the tale. Later , this is identified as "flag sickness" , or worry about being "yellowed". On the other hand , Maturin seeks the hand of the lovely Africa based naturalist Christine Wood. And in this vein , the novel leaves the reader hanging as to the outcome.

The unfinished 21st novel is due for publication later this year ; I am hopeful that we are able to at least see where the outcome of this fine series was intended. As a final sidebar--I suggest that the reader also consider reading "Sharpe's Devil" by Bernard Cornwell as a parallel to this book.

Even tho' this was not my favorite book in the series (Desolation Island or Treason's Harbor are the best) , I liked it well enough to rate it 4 stars. I suggest what several other reviewers have also stated : that one should really read the series from the start.In that manner , they flow together more seamlessly.Recommend.

3-0 out of 5 stars What happened?
I listened to the tape version. This was mistake number one, as another reviewer noted on this site. Mistake number two, also mentioned several times by other reviewers, was making this my virginal experience with this author. Frankly, I was totally lost. Maybe that freeway driving had something to do with it also (I listen in my car).

I can tell from the other reviews that this is a series for special interest people only, and that the whole series should be digested, from the beginning, not from the end.

Steven's love affair, such as it was, I couldn't understand. I did gather that he had a daughter and was a widower. And whatever happened to that young fellow, the lord's adopted son, who came on as the helmsman? Well, as I say, it was all just a little abstruse.

But unlike one other reviewer, I thought the book was well read on the audio version. The reader didn't have a great diversity of voices, as some other readers do, but he did have passable accents for his Spanish and English characters.

Also, I did learn something about the war between Peru and Chile. I was able, occasionally, to imagine being aboard the Surprise.

5-0 out of 5 stars Joint Review of All Aubrey-Maturin Books
Some critics have referred to the Aubrey/Maturin books as one long novel united not only by their historical setting but also by the central plot element of the Aubrey/Maturin friendship. Having read these fine books over a period of several years, I decided to evaluate their cumulative integrity by reading them consecutively in order of publication over a period of a few weeks. This turned out to be a rewarding enterprise. For readers unfamiliar with these books, they describe the experiences of a Royal Navy officer and his close friend and traveling companion, a naval surgeon. The experiences cover a broad swath of the Napoleonic Wars and virtually the whole globe.
Rereading all the books confirmed that O'Brian is a superb writer and that his ability to evoke the past is outstanding. O'Brian has numerous gifts as a writer. He is the master of the long, careful description, and the short, telling episode. His ability to construct ingenious but creditable plots is first-rate, probably because he based much of the action of his books on actual events. For example, some of the episodes of Jack Aubrey's career are based on the life of the famous frigate captain, Lord Cochrane. O'Brian excels also in his depiction of characters. His ability to develop psychologically creditable characters through a combination of dialogue, comments by other characters, and description is tremendous. O'Brien's interest in psychology went well beyond normal character development, some books contain excellent case studies of anxiety, depression, and mania.
Reading O'Brien gives vivid view of the early 19th century. The historian Bernard Bailyn, writing of colonial America, stated once that the 18th century world was not only pre-industrial but also pre-humanitarian (paraphrase). This is true as well for the early 19th century depicted by O'Brien. The casual and invariable presence of violence, brutality, and death is a theme running through all the books. The constant threats to life are the product not only of natural forces beyond human control, particularly the weather and disease, but also of relative human indifference to suffering. There is nothing particularly romantic about the world O'Brien describes but it also a certain grim grandeur. O'Brien also shows the somewhat transitional nature of the early 19th century. The British Navy and its vessals were the apogee of what could be achieved by pre-industrial technology. This is true both of the technology itself and the social organization needed to produce and use the massive sailing vessals. Aubrey's navy is an organization reflecting its society; an order based on deference, rigid hierarchy, primitive notions of honor, favoritism, and very, very corrupt. At the same time, it was one of the largest and most effective bureaucracies in human history to that time. The nature of service exacted great penalities for failure in a particularly environment, and great success was rewarded greatly. In some ways, it was a ruthless meritocracy whose structure and success anticipates the great expansion of government power and capacity seen in the rest of the 19th century.
O'Brian is also the great writer about male friendship. There are important female characters in these books but since most of the action takes place at sea, male characters predominate. The friendship between Aubrey and Maturin is the central armature of the books and is a brilliant creation. The position of women in these books is ambiguous. There are sympathetic characters, notably Aubrey's long suffering wife. Other women figures, notably Maturin's wife, leave a less positive impression. On board ship, women tend to have a disruptive, even malign influence.
How did O'Brian manage to sustain his achievement over 20 books? Beyond his technical abilities as a writer and the instrinsic interest of the subject, O'Brien made a series of very intelligent choices. He has not one but two major protagonists. The contrasting but equally interesting figures of Aubrey and Maturin allowed O'Brien to a particularly rich opportunity to expose different facets of character development and to vary plots carefully. This is quite difficult and I'm not aware of any other writer who has been able to accomplish such sustained development of two major protagonists for such a prolonged period. O'Brian's use of his historical setting is very creative. The scenes and events in the books literally span the whole globe as Aubrey and Maturin encounter numerous cultures and societies. The naval setting allowed him also to introduce numerous new and interesting characters. O'Brian was able to make his stories attractive to many audiences. Several of these stories can be enjoyed as psychological novels, as adventure stories, as suspense novels, and even one as a legal thriller. O'Brian was also a very funny writer, successful at both broad, low humor, and sophisticated wit. Finally, O'Brian made efforts to link some of the books together. While a number are complete in themselves, others form components of extended, multi-book narratives. Desolation Island, Fortune of War, and The Surgeon's Mate are one such grouping. Treason's Harbor, The Far Side of the World, and The Reverse of the Medal are another. The Letter of Marque and the ensuing 4 books, centered around a circumnavigation, are another.
Though the average quality of the books is remarkably high, some are better than others. I suspect that different readers will have different favorites. I personally prefer some of the books with greater psychological elements. The first book, Master and Commander, is one of my favorites. The last 2 or 3, while good, are not as strong as earlier books. I suspect O'Brian's stream of invention was beginning to diminish. All can be read profitably as stand alone works though there is definitely something to be gained by reading in consecutive order. ... Read more

19. A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley
by Charles Dickens, Israel Horovitz
list price: $5.95
our price: $5.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0822202115
Catlog: Book (1998-01-01)
Publisher: Dramatist's Play Service
Sales Rank: 373611
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20. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs (Portuguese Irregular Verbs)
by Alexander McCall Smith
list price: $9.95
our price: $9.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400095085
Catlog: Book (2004-12-28)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 3506
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars A fine farce!
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs picks up where Portuguese Irregular Verbs leaves off.The books are not so much self-contained stories as they are collections of stories.Hilarious stories about our protagonist, the Romance philologist Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, his colleagues, and their adventures in the arcane world of Romance philology.

Dr von Igelfeld finagles a visit to the US as a guest lecturer, as always, in search of the recognition he so ardently desires.Unfortunately, the exchange program he worked with got him mixed up with a Dr Igelfold, who is in quite a different field of study.Von Igelfeld bluffs his way through his lecture, but is then forced to operate on a sausage dog, with pretty gruesome results.The dog becomes a main player in another story, this one of shadow and intrigue in the Coptic Church under the watchful "ten thousand eyes" of Rome.

And so it goes as we follow Dr von Igelfeld around the globe on misadventure after misadventure, as he tries to handle each sticky situation with Teutonic aplomb.

I laughed out loud, and I wasn't even feeling like laughing when I picked the book up.Like the other books in this series (At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances is the third), "Sausage Dogs" is very short and light to read.Make sure you read all three!

5-0 out of 5 stars Hilarious
The misadventures of Professor Maria-Moritz von Iglefeld, many in relation to his faculty nemesis Dr. Interholzer, will leave you bursting with laughter. While these two professors subtly compete and creatively insult each other on every level, Dr. Iglefeld finds himself in foible after foible as he travels the European continent and America in his quest for self-advancement. These include shushing a man in the Vatican library who turns out to be the pope, and finding himself the only single man on a lecture series cruise with 300 marriage minded divorced and widowed middle aged women, who become intensely interested in his lecture topic of Portuguese Irregular Verbs when they find out he is available. After barricading himself in his cabin, he finally takes a shuttle into port, which is almost swamped by the number of women who follow him onto the smaller boat. He then decides to abandon ship which leads to a declaration of his death as a missing "man-over-board," which leads to more hilarity and complex situations. Any book by Alexander McCall Smith will brighten your day .His Professor characters and their ego-ridden angst will leave you rolling in the aisles.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Book All McCall Smith Fans Will Enjoy
This is a brilliant book - and for more than just academics! Have you ever tried to bluff your way through something and been caught out? This is THE book to read... While a fleeting knowledge of the weird behaviour of German academics will help, anyone who appreciates humour and the wry side of life will LOVE this book. Christopher Catherwood, author of CHURCHILL'S FOLLY: HOW WINSTON CHURCHILL CREATED IRAQ (Carroll and Graf, 2004)

4-0 out of 5 stars Academia Meets Life!
In his most recent book, Alexander McCall Smith reveals some of the intrinsic characteristics of collegiate academic life.He highlights the pomposity, arrogance and constant quest for self-recognition that characterizes the avocation.With tremendous aplomb, McCall Smith relates the misadventures of Herr Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, a professor of "Romance Philology."His great work of academic achievement in his lifetime is a respected book called "Portuguese Irregular Verbs."

While his specialty and achievement are surely somewhat esoteric and of interest mostly to academicians, rather than regular people, the book presents multiple situations in which Dr. von Igelfeld presents his specialty to regular people.As per the title of the book; the good `Doktor' presents a lecture on "Sausage Dogs" or as we know them better, "Dachshunds," in an attempt to get American recognition.Interestingly, he thought he was to speak on "Portuguese Irregular Verbs" but with a little last minute adjustment, the Professor does in fact give a lecture on "Sausage Dogs."

In the book, it is the interrelation of this "Ivory Tower" mindset and the more mundane mindset of people outside this environment that McCall Smith concentrates on illustrating.He keenly shows the reader the almost `back-biting' environment internal to academic life, and then, more specifically and graphically, shows us the way in which one of these academics relates, or fails to relate, to normal people in a world outside of academia.As can be expected, this combination results in some extremely amusing outcomes.

Smith is in good form in this book, although it is not one of his best.Nonetheless, devotees of the Alexander McCall Smith multiple scenarios and other works, will find this book quite in line with the McCall Smith they have grown to know and love.
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