Friday, July 17, 2015

A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon

A Constellation of Vital PhenomenaA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, first of all that title. It is the definition of "life" in a medical book. Isnt it the best? And this book, about war, death, life, friendship, family IS a constellation of all the the things that make life, life. Set in the Checheyan wars, it is a beautifully written book. So many great quotes. I will tell you it is a slow burn...but in the end it will consume you.

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Quotes:  "Like most of his plans, this one seemed so robust in his mind but fell like a flightless bird when released into the air"

"But no matter how many ways she dismembered and quantified the body lying beside her, she couldn't say how many years the girl would wait before she married, if at all, or how many children she would have, if any; and between the creation of this body and its end lay the mystery the girl would spend her life solving"

"As she refolded the note and dropped it into the trash can, he wanted to reach out, to snatch the tumbling rectangle before it landed and was lost among the last words of two dozen others who died far from their villages, who were pitched by strangers into furnaces, who were buried in cloud cover and wouldn't return home until the next snowfall."

"he trudged eleven kilometers through a broken obligation that only a child's life could justify"

"Sonja was more freakish, more wondrously confounding than the one-armed guard; rather than limbs she had, somehow, amputated expectations."

"Each cube was rounded by room temperature, dissolving in its in own remains, and belatedly she understood that this was how a loved one disappeared.  Despite the shock of walking into an empty flat, the absence isn't immediate, more a fad from the present tense you shared, a melting into the past, not an erasure but a conversion in form, from presence to memory, from solid to liquid, an the person you once touched now runs over your skin, now in sheets down your back, and you may bathe, may sink, may drown in memory, but your fingers cannot hold it.  She raised the glass to her lips.  The waster was clean."   to continue the metaphor...when the ice melts it is clean of impurities, like our memories filter out the bad stuff.

"If she had been dying every minute of every day, they might have been a happy family"  we love what we lose

"when he felt like a criminal, he reminded himself that a land without law is a land without crime"

"and as a phantom limb can ache and tickle, her lost Natasha was still laughing, still scornful, still loving begrudgingly, burgeoning with enough life to make Sonja wonder if she, herself, was the one disappeared."

"For months they'd run their fingers around the hem of their affection without once acknowledging the fabric."

""Faith is a crutch.'  'If you step on a land mine,' Akhmed said, 'the crutch becomes the leg.'"

"I ended up writing four first-to-last-word drafts.  Each time I finished with a new draft, I'd print it out, set it in front of my keyboard, and retype the entire novel.  Because retyping mimics the original act of creation, it taps into whatever creative well the sentences first rose from.  The novel changed from draft to draft, then, from within, organically, rather than from changes that were superimposed on it."

Helen of Sparta

Helen of SpartaHelen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Telling the story of Helen before she was Helen of Troy, this book does a good job of marrying real world answers to some of the mysticism of legend. You almost believe gods could talk and a hero could go to Hades to steal Penelope as a matter of course. I liked that it was the story of Helen and Theseus, which isn't a story told that often, but Carosella stays true to what is known of the story and skillfully fills in the gaps and gives us plausible motives and emotions. I really enjoyed her characterization, but the pacing was slow...several pages, maybe even chapters seemed to be devoted to Theseus sacrifices to the gods and Helen wandering around the castle. Despite that, it made me think that maybe kindle first does have a few gems hidden in their monthly free books after all.

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