Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Everyone told me how great this book was so I may have come into it with too high expectations. I feel like it was actually two books, one about the world's fair and one about the murders, and they were only sightly connected by time and place. Quite frankly, I hoped for a little more detail on both accounts and felt like the two tales competed with each other. However, both stories were interesting.

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19841984 by George Orwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one is a classic. And also timeless. i finished this up on Halloween and couldn't think of a better horror novel. Yes, it can be slow and laborious in some places, but when you try to extrapolate their government to society today, it is still eye-opening and relevant. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Night Sky With Exit Wounds

Night Sky with Exit WoundsNight Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Put your big boy pants on for these poems; this is Poetry. Vuong uses imagery and words to create moods and feelings like an impressionist artist uses color and texture to create the idea of a picture. It isn't always clear what he is talking about, and more times than not, I wished for my old poetry group I was in in high school to help untangle the Gordian knot of words and understand the poems better. Because I felt certain there was stuff I just wasn't smart enough to untangle on my own. But even so, I could appreciate his images, both through the use of words and often through the placement of the words on the page. "Aubade with Burning City" was hauntingly beautiful about the evacuation in Soth Vietnam in 1979. In "Daily Bread" and "Logophobia" he explores the idea of creating truth with what you write. There are love poems, and poems of self-exploration. There are poems about his heritage and his family and poems about his hopes for the future. These are poems that demand to be read several times, and poems that morph with each reading. Although I wish I could understand the narrative of some of the poems more, I do understand that this is good poetry.

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How sweet. That rain. How something that lives only to fall can be nothing but sweet. Water whittled down to intention. Intention into nourishment.

...For hunger is to give/ the body what it knows/ it cannot keep...

Say autumn despite the green/ in your eyes.

My thrashing beneath you/ like a sparrow stunned/ with falling.

Say amen.  Say amend.

...That a boy sleeping/ beside a boy/ must make a field/ full of ticking.  That to say your name/ is to her the sound of clocks/ being turned back another hour/n & morning/ finds our clothes/ on your mother's front porch, shed/ like week-old lilies.

...It's not/ about the light--but how dark/ it makes you depending/ on where you stand.

....Maybe we pray on our knees because god/ only listens when we're this close/ to the devil...

...How we live like water: wetting/ a new tongue with no telling/ what we've been through...

...They say the sky is blue/ but I know it's black seen through too much distance.

Spilled orange juice all over the table this morning.  Sudden sunlight/ I couldn't wipe away.

....Like how the spine/ won't remember its wings/ no matter how many times our knees/ kiss the pavement...

loneliness is still time spent/ with the world...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Garden

As newlyweds you strolled
among lush, verdant hostas,
ferns, and sedges; along a
travertine path.
Hydrangeas and honeysuckle
beckon hummingbirds and
butterflies: a magical Eden
alive with faires and elves
under the watch of guardian oaks.
Heat radiates from the green,
sighs fragrant with flowers,
heavy and earthy, raw with desire.
An orchestra of cicadas sang
to the twilight.  Fireflies
echoed constellations.
You captured a star for your bride:
A firefly under glass:
Celestial turned beetle.

Monsoon months arrive
with showers that impel
leaves to dance a tarantella.
The garden grows close as
the sky grows heavy.
Travertine path as slick
as your lies.
With mincing steps
and mincing words
you walk the fine line
between truth and what
you want her to know.
Wading in mud leaves
a mess too big
to clean up.

When the water retreats,
the army advances
in two single-file lines.
Like her barrage of carping
vitriol, the river of
six-legged creatures,
relentless and resolute,
pour forth from camoflauge
to infiltrate your citadel,
dissecting and carrying
away your lives
one crumb
at a time.

Under summer sun
mosquitoes, buzzing
like your bickering,
find their mark in
soft spots,
unthinkingly laid bare,
as surely as your
provoking pronouncements,
sucking blood,
replacing it
with venom,
so that alone
in bed at night,
you lie awake,
scratching at sores
until they bleed anew.

Fruit and flowers
lay lost and putrid
among the litter
of spent leaves and
brittle stems. Chill winds
carry decay and rot
around a lone
stationary figure,
the taste of dark
in the back of
your throat,
at the waste.
Bare branches
crack the sky.


IQ84IQ84 by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have no idea why I give this book 4 stars. it was long. It was weird (really weird, although somehow it being Japanese made it easier to swallow). There is a yogi assassin, a girl that talks without expression, little people that come out of dead things. two moons, whole passages from Checkov's only non-fiction work, a story about cats... But at the end of the book I realized I really, really enjoyed it. With it being 1100+ pages I think it could use some editing...there were some scenes that went on forever. I loved the characters and I loved the ending even though there are still some strings dangling. The back of the book makes mention of it being a variation of Orwell's 1984, but I found it to be less like an album cover, and more like being a jazz piece that used some notes to create its own unique melody.

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A Week in Winter

A Week in WinterA Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think I would have enjoyed this more if it was marketed for what is was: inter-connected short stories rather than a novel. Each chapter focused on one character, their life, and how they ended up in Stoneybridge. Unfortunately, other than appearing on the outskirts of other characters' stories, we never hear from these characters again. The first half focuses on characters who run the Stone House in Stoneybridge and the second half focuses on characters who visit for their opening weekend. Most of the story arcs end with a pat answer, sweet as saccharine, except for the token one to point out that some lives have no pat answers. I found the whole novel to be too trite, cliché, and ambivalent to make any lasting impression, nor even to make reading that enjoyable. But it was harmless and readers who enjoy sentimental breezy reads would like it (like my mother).

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Friday, October 13, 2017

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Sorry, for whatever reason, I did not enjoy the tale of Nathaniel "Nate". Maybe it is that I am sick of reading about Harvard grads that move to NY and somehow feel they are struggling while actually getting published enough to pay rent. And his novel just was accepted for publication. Maybe it is because Nate was a selfish pig who toyed with girls emotions and constantly rationalized it to himself. Maybe it is all the "wit" about the upper class which only upper-class wits find funny. Some books are too good to put down; I raced through this one hoping to find some redeeming value (there wasn't) or barring that at least I could move on to a better book.

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