Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Someone

SomeoneSomeone by Alice McDermott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know what it is that makes me LOVE books that are just really well-told stories of everyday life. Indeed, this book boils down to various ordinary routines that make up Marie's life. Sometimes those routines are changed up just a bit and become the thing that defines us. An innocent swear word at the routine family gathering becomes the basis of the family nickname of pagan. Collecting a friend from her house where she is baking for her pregnant mother becomes the impetus of Marie's reticence to learn how to bake. There is nothing earth-shattering here. Yet the beautiful way that McDermott describes these moments makes the ordinary feel sublime. They feel authentic because we can see pieces of our own lives drawn in them; there is no need for suspension of belief or complicated plot twists. Throughout these works there are often motifs the author uses to underscore their observations or points and I enjoy discovering them. Although there may be several, McDermott uses light and shadows to emphasize the mood and to hint at the everyday revelations that we only see in retrospect and that what we see is not always how things are.

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"Never good to forget to remember," she said, "Always better to remember you forgot."

"Well, I don't want to learn," I said. "Once you learn to do it, you'll be expected to do it."

I sat on the edge of the bed.  I wanted to take my glasses off, fling them across the room.  To tear the new hat from my heat and fling it, too.  Put my hands to my scalp and peel off the homely face.  Unbutton the dress, unbuckle the belt, remove the frail slip.  I wanted to reach behind my neck and unhook the flesh from the bone, open it along the zipper of my spine, step out of my skin and fling it at the floor.  Back shoulder stomach and breast.  Trample it.  Raise a fist to God for how He had shaped me in that first darkness: unlovely and unloved.

The air was a wall.  The heat was a reminder of what I had glimpsed when my father was dying, but had, without plan or even intention, managed to forget: That the ordinary days were a veil, a wswath of thin clothes that distorted the eye.  Brushed aside, in moments such as these, all that was brittle and terrible and unchanging was made clear.  My father would not return to earth, my eyes would not heal, I would never step out of my skin or marry Walter Hartnett  in the pretty church.

Because the devil uses dirty words, Mrs. Fagin added, instructing me, her tiny finger held in the air, to make us believe that we're only the sum and substance of ugly things.

The ordinary, rushing world going on, closing up over happiness as readily as it moved to heal sorrow. 

I shrugged, aware of, grateful for, the grace of this ordinary conversation.

...But it was also, I came to believe, the very lifelessness of the bodies that made them all somehow indistinguishable and anonymous.

...when there's a sudden death, everybody thinks about all the days before, the days that were a vigil, after all, a vigil everyone was living through but nobody knew it."

Of course, churches should have been the touchstone places of our lives, a pair of Catholics such as we were.  But in truth it was the tiled corridors of these old urban hospitals that marked the real occasions of our life together.

Girl Waits with Gun

Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knowing this was based on real events, I had much more patience with the fact that the "Girl Waits" part of the title is more descriptive than "with Gun". I so wanted Constance to throw down a couple of times. Still Constance is no shrieking violet. And neither are her sisters, who live alone on a farm when single ladies just didn't do that. I loved Constance, Norma, and Fleurette. They each had their quirks but nothing to make them caricatures. They were strong women that refused to give in to pressure, physical or societal. Can't wait to read more about them int the Kopp sisters series.

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Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go to SleepBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little psychological thriller puts on the slow burn. I guessed at the twist right away but Watson slowly, methodically disabused me of my suspicions only to turn it around and "get me" in the end. A shorter, tighter story might have made a more powerful impact, but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless.

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It's not life, it's just an existence, jumping from one moment to the next with no idea of the past, and no plan for the future.

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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1984

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,
bewildered
at the waste.
Bare branches
crack the sky.

1Q84

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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Consequence

Consequence: A MemoirConsequence: A Memoir by Eric Fair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. This is a memoir of an interrogator in Iraq.

Fair uses an unusual first person present tense to report on his life. Unlike in Hunger Games, where the same tense made the action feel more intense and dangerous, the narration Fair uses seems removed from the subject. Each action is reported without explanation, and without a lot of emotion. It can make the narrative a bit sterile and I thought it made it seem like Fair was like a pinball: the actions and circumstances of life pushing him around without any choice on his part; he was simply reacting to these circumstances. Without revealing his thought processes, his explanations and rationalizations, i wondered if he was trying to distance or excuse his actions. But as the narrative unfolds, and as he reports about his time as an interrogator, I realized that the choice of reporting in present tense without explanations was the best way to allow the reader to come with Fair into that world. If there had been explanations, this memoir would have turned into a confessional, a justification, or an absolution. By telling us what happened in as cold of terms as possible, it takes away some of the human reflex of the reader to judge. Instead, maybe we are left to judge ourselves. What would we have done in that situation?

Fair is painfully honest, and there are more than a few impossible situations. Do you have compassion on prisoners and allow them to be released only to take American lives days later? Do you torture them and find out valuable information but lose a part of your soul? Do you torture everyone for any information? What is torture? Where is the line? Sometimes he has compassion. Sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he follows rules and regulations. Sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he is kind and sometimes he is apathetic. Sometimes he stands by and doesn't say anything when he sees something that is wrong. Sometimes he does say something. The thing is the consequences don't often follow logic. For example, sometimes he gets screwed when he follows the rules. Awful consequences happen when he is kind.

And then there is the reconciliation he must make with himself and God after being put in impossible situations. What does forgiveness mean? How do we forgive ourselves? We may not all be put in such impossible situations but the questions still remain for us: We are not always kind, we don't always follow rules or speak up when we should; how do we reconcile our actions with ourselves and our God? Very powerful book for not only these philosophical questions but to inform us about the realities of the Iraq war. (Full disclosure: minimal swearing, some graphic violence)

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Imagine Me Gone

Imagine Me GoneImagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this to be a powerful voice of depression and anxiety and the effect it has on other family members. Beautifully written and characters deeply drawn, I found it incredibly moving and revealing. This is fiction at its finest. I often feel defensive reading fiction because others view it as an entertainment, but this is one of the works that you can point to as the reason fiction is important: there could be no other way to wear the skins of all these characters and understand their multiple motivations and effects on each other. I felt like I understood mental illness better and the struggle to live with it both as a patient and as someone close to the person who suffers. It is a tear-jerker, but I found the love of this family hopeful and uplifting as well. (Full disclosure: some swearing and sex)

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The grass is intensely green, the scrub-apple trees by the road past blooming, on into their pure summer verdancy, along with the rhododendron and the lilac, their flowers gone, their leaves fat with sun.  The air smells of the fecund soil--the flesh covering the skull of the planet, the muck from which the plants rise, busy in the mindless life of heat.

I've since read about Norwegian reindeer that simply stop moving in winter; they call it arctic resignation. 

Most all of who they are now was there then.  They trace themselves no further back than adolescence because that's when they begun getting their ideas.  But so much of them has nothing to do with all that.  They are their natures.

There it is, as pictured.  But without the perspective of distance it was suddenly unfamiliar.

I left them here to suffer and now he is gone.  The one sequence.  Like a groove on a record cut too deep for the needle to climb out of.  No matter what else is playing, this is always playing.  That is the point of volume--to play something louder than this groove.  The volume of speakers, or of obsession.  The power of the sufficient dose.

I had never understood before the invisibility of a human.  How what we take to be a person is in fact a spirit we can never see.  Not until I sat in that room with the dead vehicle that had carried my brother through his life, and for which I had always mistaken him.

Michael, who never stopped trying to want what we wanted for him.  How could he? We're not individuals.  We're haunted by the living as well as the dead.  I believed that before.  But now I know it's true.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Daughters

The DaughtersThe Daughters by Adrienne Celt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a story of four women. It starts with Greta, the legendary matriarch, who may have made a deal with the devil to deliver a daughter. Next came Ada, who immigrated to America from Poland, pregnant with her daughter Sara, and who raises Sara's daughter Lulu to be a great opera singer. Ada has molded Lulu since she was in the womb to be an opera diva, and that is exactly what she is. She is selfish and self-absorbed and not really likeable at all. She believes her daughter will fulfill the curse and take away her voice and is somehow responsible for Ada's death on the day she was born. All of the daughters perhaps are cursed, though not in the way Lulu thinks. They are all rather self-involved and rather poor mothers. Even hard-working Ada turns a blind eye to her own daughter's need for reassurance and guidance and , instead focuses all her energy on Lulu's singing career. What I did like and wished there was more of was the beautiful tales of Greta, told in lyrical mythology with magic and mystery. If there were more Greta stories and less Lulu, this would have been a five-star book.

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But I lay still, listening. And hoping: don’t let her really be awake. As though being unaware of a storm could save you from it.

 I just happen to know that sometimes the world gives a little twist and everything changes. A shout percussing across the mountain stones until one falls down and the rest tumble after. There is danger in small things.

 Wishes are dangerous things, you see. Start asking the sky to grant you requests and you better prepare for some fallout, red rain.

 Sitting in the Civic theater is like sitting in a mouth full of gold teeth, red velvet tongues periodically unfurling into aisles. Though the theater was not bright, an occasional patch of warm light glimmered off the embellishments on the walls and hung around me like hot breath. I felt the theater’s mouth yawning out from the stage and leaned into it. I wanted to throw myself down the room’s golden throat.

Tinseltown

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of HollywoodTinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When they say truth is stranger than fiction, they might want to add more entertaining. This is the true story of the murder of William Desmond Taylor, a director in Hollywood, during the silent film era. If that doesn't sound terribly thrilling, let me assure you that it is. There was more intrigue, double crossing, hidden secrets, assumed names, drugs, scandal, money and power grabs, big personalities, beauties, and bow-legged villains than you would think. Taylor's murder was never solved, but with a new clue several decades later, Mann was able to widen the perspective and theorize a probable scenario. If you like murder mysteries, or the roaring twenties, or want to learn more about how Hollywood came to be, this is an interesting, fun read.

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No matter who was in the White House, the church ladies still had the ability to organize boycotts, pressure lawmakers, and drive public opinion,

brass knocker shaped like the Mask of Thalia, the smiling muse of comedy.

Their Cupid was cupidity.

"There are times," Hays mused, "when if everyone is shouting loudly enough, a man may begin to doubt the rightness of his own decisions."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The UnAmericans

The UnAmericans: StoriesThe UnAmericans: Stories by Molly Antopol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't think the publicity blurb for this collection of short stories does them justice. These are incredibly engrossing stories of family, faith, love and death. Antopol admits that the inspiration to these stories are her own families tales and maybe that is what makes them feel alive and relevant even in settings as far back as WWII as a young woman escapes the Jewish extermination by navigating the sewers. Several are also set in the era of McCarthism and the Red Scare. Her characters are deeply drawn, often trying to balance their ambitions with their family obligations. Fame is often the temptress, with the character having to decide what and whether to sacrifice (honesty, family, political beliefs) for it. There is also a recurring theme of ;moving on after the loss of a spouse, whether by divorce or death. My favorite is "Minor Heroics" of a brother trying to find his place after his heroic older brother is injured. "The Quietest Man" is moving and surprisingly poignant. "My Grandmother Tells Me This Story" would keep any grandkid's attention.

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Eligible

Eligible (The Austen Project, #4)Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rewrites are tricky. Especially for a novel as beloved as Pride and Prejudice. Sittenfeld does a passable job updating the plot. Perhaps the things I found most dismaying about the updated version was how some things don't change (wealth=desirable) and what did change ("running away together" is no longer sensational of course, so the scandals had to be ramped up). This is not really a reflection of the choice of the author, but rather of the world we live in now. Though that is partly why I love Austen so much--the charm of a more genteel time. So I can't fault the author for society's morality these days, and I thought she did a fair job of translating the plot into a modern setting. But it is hard to be objective when one is reading the rewriting a beloved classic. I missed Austen's wit and elegant style. I missed the chemistry of Elizabeth and Darcy. It was fun escapism but can't really hold a candle to the original. I will say that I did appreciate the dignity Sittenfeld gives to Mary in the epilogue...

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great biography. Despite being 800 pages, Hamilton's life was so interesting, there was always something to keep the reader entertained. Chernow also sums up and explains Hamilton's contributions to the founding of America, such as defending the Constitution, establishing a national bank, creating a Coast Guard, etc. Since history is not my strong suit, I enjoyed putting all these elements in context and perspective. My only complaint is Chernow's point of view: he seems to have written Alexander Hamilton as a defense for Hamilton, as if we were already prejudiced against him and favored Jefferson and Madison. As a result, Jefferson and Madison come off as hypocritical cads and Hamilton as a brilliant, misunderstood prophet. Aaron Burr is painted as a true villain, complete with loose morals and sinister intents. This may all be true, but the adamancy with which Chernow writes, defending Hamilton's poor choices and focusing on his good qualities, while highlighting others' bad judgements and deceptions makes me question if I should read one of his nemesis' biographies to get their side of the story. Still, an incredible, gifted genus, Hamilton is definitely an inspiration.

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“Tis only to consult our own hearts to be convinced that nations like individuals revolt at the idea of being guided by external compulsion.”

  It seemed an inauspicious moment for the threatened colonies to declare independence, and yet that is exactly what they did. Faced with the military strength of the most colossal empire since ancient Rome, they decided to fight back.

  I give up my liberty to Miss Schuyler

bond formed between Hamilton and Washington during the Revolution was based less on personal intimacy than on shared experiences of danger and despair and common hopes for America’s future.

America could defeat the British in the bond market more readily than on the battlefield

A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing. It will be powerful cement of our union.”

  “As too much power leads to despotism, too little leads to anarchy, and both eventually to the ruin of the people.”

  He was not a politician seeking popularity but a statesman determined to change minds.

One who knew his habits of study said of him that when he had a serious object to accomplish, his practice was to reflect on it previously. And when he had gone through this labor, he retired to sleep, without regard to the hour of the night, and, having slept six or seven hours, he rose and having taken strong coffee, seated himself at his table, where he would remain six, seven, or eight hours. And the product of his rapid pen required little correction for the press

He wanted to be a statesman who led courageously, not a politician who made compromises.

the human word machine,

no character, however upright, is a match for constantly reiterated attacks, however false.”

Washington had had enough. “If the laws are to be trampled upon with impunity,” he said, “and a minority is to dictate to the majority, there is an end put at one stroke to republican government.”

  if he fornicates with every female in the cities of New York and Philadelphia, he will rise again, for purity of character after a period of political existence is not necessary for public patronage.”

  1800 elections revealed, for the first time, the powerful centrist pull of American politics—the electorate’s tendency to rein in anything perceived as extreme.

  Fisher Ames observed of Hamilton that the common people don’t want leaders “whom they see elevated by nature and education so far above their heads.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This continuation of the Holmes' legacy finds us at a boarding school in Connecticut where Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock has been banished after some unknown scandal and break with her family, and where Jamie Watson has improbably been granted a rugby scholarship. Holmes, besides being a natural observer, has been trained to heighten her perception, though she may not be as emotionally stunted as her predecessor, and in fact, may be emotionally scarred by her forced seclusion and withheld affection. Watson seems to have an inherited sense of protection and trust for the Holmes' clan, though Charlotte doesn't make it easy. After a tense first encounter, they bond quickly when they both become suspects in a murder. Cavallaro has fun with the original Sherlock stories, mining them for copy-cat murders and clues. Her teenage characters seem genuine, even if that means that Charlotte is a bit more of a mess than Sherlock ever was--she hasn't yet gotten a handle on her drug use or her emotions. It makes her less of a savant, less of a character to be shockingly dazzled with, but more of a relatable genius. Watson, who narrates the story, becomes more integral to the story as he works with Charlotte to save them from prison, and perhaps more importantly, save Charlotte from herself.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great MigrationThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this exposition on the Great Migration, an event I didn't even know about until a few years ago. Wilkerson does a masterful job of explaining what it was, why it happened, and the effects on the South and the cities in the North and West that African-Americans migrated to. The bulk of the history is told through the eyes of three different migrants, in different eras, with distinctly different experiences: Ida Mae Gladney who migrated from the cotton fields of Mississippi in 1937 to Chicago; George Starling who fled from the orange fields of Florida to New York in 1945; and Robert Foster who drove out to California in 1953. Grounding the narratives, Wilkerson fills us in with history, legislature, and public sentiment to give the reader an overall perspective. Not only is this history captivatingly recounted and scrupulously researched, but it also provides insights for our present race relations. Highly recommended to everyone.

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The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

The Woman Who Lost Her SoulThe Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was listed as a best book of the year by several lists, but I couldn't agree. The story was full of murder, voo-doo, spies, revenge, international intrigue--all elements I enjoy, but the story just didn't coalesce for me. Maybe it was the length; I did take longer than usual to wade through it and connections may have escaped me. The writing included sentences that were long and convoluted; they often took a second read to unravel. The conversations seemed ludicrous at times (especially among the "spies"). The pacing seemed off to me, too. Shacochis would spend several pages leading up to a climax, only to have the climax be a sentence or a paragraph. And, in my opinion, there were still some unanswered questions and motivations, like how Dorothy reconciled with her father. I will have to agree with other reviewers that the story would benefit from some editorial tightening up.

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It is no secret that souls sometimes die in a person and are replaced by others.

when Americans pray, they pray first that history will step aside and leave them alone, they pray for the deafness that comes with a comfortable life. They pray for the soothing blindness of happiness, and why not? But history walks on all of us, lashed by time, and sometimes we feel its boot on our backs, and sometimes we are oblivious to its passing, the swing of sorrow and triumph through humanity, sorrow, and then, finally, crippling grief fading to obscurity, which is perhaps why Americans want little to do with history, why perhaps they hate it, why prayer comes easier than remembrance, which is how history knots its endless endings and measures the rise and fall of its breath.

he had caught something from her, some decay transmitted from soul to soul, but then he recollected contemptuously that by her own admittance she lacked a soul.

When we say someone has lost his soul, what are we saying? That somehow that person has been emptied, that a light has been extinguished at the center of his being.
What happens to people who lose their souls? They seem to die and be reborn in order to breed horror and misery in the world. Whether they are full of hatred or not, they seem to be without love, loveless, emptied of all love, the enemies of love.
  you can buy a new one, but where, and with what currency? Penance?
How many years are required of us on this earth before you can plunge yourself into serious moral complications and actually have a soul worth losing, or do we arrive afflicted by the original sin of our births?

He had come to understand that we choose the lies in which we participate and, in choosing, define ourselves and our actions for a very long time, perhaps forever--

However you go about explaining it, she thought, love was what diminished you when it was not there.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Noxious

I was towering and magnificent,
Substantial and unyielding,
Lusty limbs outstretched as if to hug the sky.
He was just a spindly thing
When he asked if he could
Use me as support.

His tendrils tickled as he climbed,
Fresh leaflets patty-caked in rhyme.
I grew nostalgic for the days
When I was thin and lithe--
Bending with the whims of wind,
Reaching for the sun.

Then laughter stopped
As enchantment turned to irritant:
Stalks snaked around my gut,
Vines grew tight like a garrote,
Began to canker and cut,
Leaves metastasize and march
Relentlessly, recklessly upward,
Its inevitability thundering forward,
My view eclipsed by his.
I labor for breath under the weight
Of his underhanded prosperity.
I buckle and capitulate,
Swallowed whole,
Subsumed into a monster.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Unaccustomed Earth

Unaccustomed EarthUnaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These are all slice of life short stories, telling the simple, complicated stories of the people around us. Most of the stories feature recently immimigrated Bengalis, but rather than focus on the actual immigrant experience, most deal with the second generation experience, the children who grew up away from home and now must balance parental traditions and expectations with new cultures and freedoms. The other theme that seemed prevalent was the idea of being alone, how one can seek for solitude at one time, and then, when it is forced upon you, seek to escape it. Using these themes as the base, Lahiri shows how despite our different details (culture, language, education, etc.) we all struggle with the same complexities of life.

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 How freeing it was, these days, to travel alone, with only a single suitCase.

 Like his wife, Ruma was now alone in this new place, overwhelmed, without friends, caring for a young child, all of it reminding him, too much, of the early years of his marriage, the years for which his wife had never forgiven him.

 In the hotel they had vowed not to leave each other’s side, but she was miles away from him

 He felt the same resentment that often seized him after he cleaned up the kitchen and bathed Maya and Monika and put them to bed, and then watched television alone, knowing that he had seen his children through another day, that again Megan had not been a part of it. She lived in the apartment, she slept in his bed, her heart belonged to no one but him and the girls, and yet there were times Amit felt as alone as he had first been at Langford. And there were times he hated Megan, simply for this. 

Wasn’t it since Monika’s birth that so much of his and Megan’s energy was devoted not to doing things together but devising ways so that each could have some time alone, she taking the girls so that he could go running in the park on her days off, or vice versa, so that she could browse in a bookstore or get her nails done? Ad wasn't it terrible, that he looked forward to those moments, so much so that sometimes even a ride by himself on the subway was the best part of the day? Wasn’t it terrible that after all the work one put into finding a person to spend one’s life with, after making a family with that person, even in spite of missing that person, as Amit missed Megan night after night, that solitude was what one relished most, the only thing that, even in fleeting, diminished doses, kept one sane?

 empty her pockets of the pretty coins that would soon buy her nothing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

March

March: Book One (March, #1)March: Book One by John Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Again, being new to the format of graphic novels, I am just learning what makes a good one. This graphic memoir of John Lewis was insightful and educational. I found it interesting that he was inspired by a graphic novel of Martin Luther King, Jr. that explained the "basics of passive resistance and non-violent action as tools for desegregation". It shows how college students actually trained together to implement passive resistance and then picked department store lunch counters as their target for becoming desegregated. This format is perfect for showing what African Americans had to endure as they worked together to claim their rights. Lewis, too, is an inspirational figure. Definitely an accessible account of an important historical movement.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Spark Joy

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying UpSpark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll admit that while I was reading this book, I was mocking most of it. Cover the eyes of stuffed animals so that it is easier to get rid of them? Put your silverware in a drawer with natural (like bamboo or rattan) dividers so that they gently hug your cutlery, and your forks and knives will breathe easier. Smelling objects to place them in the right pile. Come on, it's hard not to roll your eyes a bit. Kondo takes tidying up VERY seriously, so she can be a bit much. You get the feeling that is written for rich people who can afford to throw away anything that doesn't spark joy and replace it with things that will. And the illustrations are more like doodles and involve a lot of bunny rabbits. However, I ended up reading the whole thing, and afterwards I couldn't help looking around my house, my fingers itching to start chucking things that don't bring me joy....

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Every Day

Every Day (Every Day, #1)Every Day by David Levithan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought the premise of someone switching bodies every day was incredibly original. It was interesting to have A's perspective on how we control our bodies and how we let our bodies control us. Most intriguing was the question of whether we could love someone regardless of what they looked like. We like to think we could, but it may be harder than it seems....


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There comes a time when the body takes over the life. There comes a time when the body’s urges, the body’s needs, dictate the life. You have no idea you are giving the body the key. But you hand it over. And then it’s in control. You mess with the wiring and the wiring takes charge.

 It is a mistake to think of the body as a vessel. It is as active as any mind, as any soul. And the more you give yourself to it, the harder your life will be. I have been in the bodies of starvers and purgers, gluttons and addicts. They all think their actions make their lives more desirable. But the body always defeats them in the end.

 The sound of words as they’re said is always different from the sound they make when they’re heard, because the speaker hears some of the sound from the inside.

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fast-paced character-driven story about the evacuation in Prussia as WWII is winding down. It is a story I had not heard before from unique points of view. Definitely recommend, especially to teen readers. My only criticism is that the view-points, which change with each chapter were so short-lived, only a paragraph or two sometimes, a couple of pages at most, that it was hard to really feel at home in any of the characters. (But a younger audience might enjoy it's fast pace.)


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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Little Luxuries

A weekend of little luxuries:
dinners of crustaceans,
denuded of their shells;
desserts flavored with honey and thyme;
strolling through gardens--
prude tulips hugging petals close,
hiding its secret black passion;
lewd bottle brush,
only a fuzzy bristle of stamens;
we two coiled in our chrysalis,
a husk of bankets, covering
our blossom of limbs
as snow drips soft and wet,
ignoring the glancing sun.

The Wangs vs. the World

The Wangs vs. the WorldThe Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The poor Wangs. Everything goes wrong for them. Charles Wang has just lost everything, (Everything) in a bankruptcy and that is just the beginning of troubles for him and his family. Unfortunately, failure can be as boring as success. As we watch the Wangs sink deeper and deeper, and then come to epiphanies, I could muster little sympathy or empathy.

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Artifice, thought Charles, was the real honesty.

 But one move to America and Charles Wang’s proud surname became a nasally joke of a word; one move and he went from king to cock.

Still on the ridge: Charles, saved by his sartoriphilia.

Just looking at a dollar bill did nothing to the emotions—you have to make money or lose money for it to make you feel anything. You can earn it, win it, lose it, save it, spend it, find it, but you can’t sell it because you never really own it.

She had never really seen the point of the desert. It was a useless landscape, more a failure of evolution than a valid ecosystem. Scorpions and cacti, leftovers from Mother Nature’s rebellious phase; shouldn’t She have gotten past all that by now?

Women were ruled by emotion; men by passion.

 Gastropatrimony

The people of the world could be divided into two groups: those who used all of their chances, and those who stood still through opportunity after opportunity, waiting for a moment that would never be perfect.

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This could be a little schmaltzy looking at story as a whole. Cranky man who is very sad finds reason to live when loud, needy neighbors intrude in his life. And there is a cat. (Which is why it probably initially got turned down.). But Backman infuses the book with humor and warmth and some unexpected story lines. It's a feel-good book that gives vent to our crankier side and shows us the value of connecting with others. And there is a cat. (Which could be my favorite character).


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He knew very well that some people thought he was nothing but a grumpy old sod without any faith in people. But, to put it bluntly, that was because people had never given him reason to.

 Does it really have to be so difficult to kill yourself without constantly being disturbed?

His Bloody Project

His Bloody ProjectHis Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover and the title was not immediately appealing to me, but the $1.99 price and 'Man Booker Award Nominee', was. (I'll admit I'm not even sure how you are nominated for a Man Booker Award or what it is exactly, but that most of the nominees I've read has been good writing and interesting stories). This book is about the murders of Lachlan Mackenzie and others by Roderick McCrae. That's not the mystery...the mystery is why. Burnet tells the story in documents, the main one being a journal that McCrae wrote in jail. It is interesting how opinions change as new evidence comes to light. In the end, you are part of the jury, trying to suss out what actually happened and why. It would make a great book discussion...,

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"She had a way of walking as if her body were singing a song."

A Wild Swan

A Wild Swan: And Other TalesA Wild Swan: And Other Tales by Michael Cunningham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this in hardcover so I could enjoy the beautiful illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, which were very beautiful. The bonus was the cover, which looks rather boring in the graphic online but in hand, the black fuzzy letters turn out to be Rapunzel's braids and there is an embossed swan that doesn't show up in the picture at all. It makes it all into a lovely book that could be a companion to any fairy tale collection. The stories themselves, I keep vacillating between 3 and 4 stars. They are small elaborations on well-known tales...some extending the story past 'happily ever after', some providing motivations and/or updates to the classic characters, some tweaking the story a bit to explore 'what if'? Obviously some are more successful than others. I enjoyed "Poisoned", the extension of Sleeping Beauty, about how perhaps the most appealing thing about our true love is the idea of them before they become a reality. "Beasts" has a great twist. "Steadfast; Tin" questions how much fate is our choice. And it end with "Ever/After" which is an uplifting tale to end the whole experiment. A fun, interesting read.

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Paper Girls Vol. 1

Paper Girls, Vol. 1Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I haven't read very many graphic novels, although I have enjoyed the ones I have read. But I am still learning what makes a good graphic tale. This is about a group of paper delivery girls delivering papers on November 1 st, and watching each other's backs from the crazies left over from Halloween night. Or maybe the creeps are aliens. Or time travellers... The plot is a little confusing, but maybe volume 2 will give some answers...the graphics themselves tell the story succinctly and it was nice to have the heroes be girls who help each other. Perhaps I should wait until volume 2 to critique the plot...it seems this one just sets up questions...

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space RaceHidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The inspirational and interesting characters and setting bump this biography up to 4 stars. That the women (and men mentioned) were able to transcend the persecution of the times (especially in their state of Virginia) and become instrumental in the NASA program speaks to their genius, their tenacity, and their sense of community. Shetterly expresses her intent that by shining the spotlight on the group, it would prevent outsiders from thinking any one of the group was an anomaly...that indeed there was a considerable number of black women mathematicians who went on to become engineeres, computer programmers, etc. But by following several women, the story could get a little choppy and jumbled at times. I found it useful to watch the movie, that focused on just 4 of the women, to help navigate the book. So while a bit disjointed, it is worth the read to find out about these women and be inspired by them.

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The City of Mirrors

The City of Mirrors (The Passage, #3)The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cronin wraps up The Passage trilogy brilliantly. We explore Zero's backstory and our intrepid heroes from the first books seek to make mankind free from the virals once and for all. Cronins themes of time, spirituality, and destiny are reiterated. Love, the seeking of it, finding of it, denial of it, and it's subsequent consequences are even more heavily reinforced. But along with that City of Mirrors becomes a book of reckoning...how are we seen, how do we perceive ourselves, and how does the love around us (or lack of it) change that reflection of ourselves? If this seems like unlikely fodder for a Vampire apocalyptic novel, Cronin makes it all work in his mythology. If I have any criticisms, it is that, like most epics, the endings last forever in an effort to give each character his proper send off. The epilogue starts with a "lecture" and while slightly clever, it slows down the pacing way down. Overall, one of the best trilogies I've read (even better read all together).

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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Golden Son

Golden Son (Red Rising, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy the Red Rising series because of Darrow's unique voice: he is poetic and observant and holds nothing back--his guilt, his fears, his motivations. I also enjoy that I can never see what is coming. Don't get too comfortable with any character, because there is no mercy in the war Darrow is fighting. Friends betray and die, enemies become allies. I like the mish- mash of classic Roman lore with futuristic technology. It seems to emphasize the point that humanity is always in a circle of trying to create something better, mostly through violent and deceptive ways, only to have that system become corrupted and the whole cycle begin again. The series can be gory, though that is intentional too...all of it points to the waste, terror, and horror of war. Is Darrow's ideals worth it? That is for the reader, and possibly book 3 to figure out. This is a series best read together since I have read Rising Sun too long ago and had to look up characters and events to refresh my memory.


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Where I am kinetic energy, he is potential.

It's there,even if you never see it til the end---that spark of individuality, of freedom,

The Wright Brothers

The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

McCullough does not write a comprehensive biography here. Rather he gives you the most interesting and pertinent parts of the Wright brothers' lives and how they worked out the problem of flight. McCullough does a good job of giving only facts, without embellishing it with either opinion or imagined detail, but still keeps the story inspired and engaging. By the time the book is done, you get a sense of who these men were and the qualities that drove them to be the first to fly.

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 But it isn’t true,” Orville responded emphatically, “to say we had no special advantages . . . the greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.”

 It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense; they put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into it and they had the faith. John T. Daniels

 They were always thinking of the next thing to do; they didn’t waste much time worrying about the past. Charlie Taylor

 Their patient perseverance, their calm faith in ultimate success, their mutual consideration of each other, might have been considered phenomenal in any but men who were well born and well reared. These flights, or spurts at flying, they always made in turn; and after every trial the two inventors, quite apart, held long and confidential consultation, with always some new gain; they were getting nearer and nearer the moment when sustained flight would be made, for a machine that could maintain itself aloft two minutes might just as well stay there an hour, if everything were as intended. Wertherner( a teacher that helped them)

Planted

Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of DoubtPlanted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt by Patrick Q. Mason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the most thought-provoking and paradigm-shifting church books I've read. Though it doesn't offer many answers to specific questions, Mason instead offers some new ways at looking at history, the church, and even its leadership. He emphasizes that faith doesn't need to look one particular way and that we can be faithful while still having doubt. It also helps those of us with stronger belief to understand and be compassionate towards those who are struggling with their faith. Highly recommended for those who are doubting and even more so for those who aren't.


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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Little is A Lot or a Little

Butterfly wings change the course of history.
Orbits of planets rotate unhindered for millennia.

One snowflake starts an avalanche.
Tides lap the earth with habitual doggedness.

The breakup of an atom leads to mass annhilation.
A lone wolf's brays wane in the wind.

A dream can raise a city.
A dream can dim with the rising sun.

SevenEves

Seven EvesSeven Eves by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two-thirds of this book was riviting. The moon has been been broken into seven pieces that will exponentially crash into each other and cause such a shower of meteorites that will burn the atmosphere and catch the world on fire. The only choice mankind has is to go into space. But this is a book rooted in our day...we don't have warp speed, cryogenics, or transporter beams. We have a space station that must be retrofitted to be an ark to save humanity until the earth cools down...in 5,000 years. It is The Martian on steroids, taking real science and coming up with plausible solutions. The characters in this part are well-drawn, the action exciting, the technology, politics, and psychology believeable. In the end notes he explains where he got real-life information for makeshift space habitats, asteroid mining, and orbits. Several people have mentioned a real-life alter ego for Doob, the astronomer/publicist. He also borrows from mythology and Bibical stories to create the story of the Epic ancestors. There is even a theory that all European/Caucasian ancestors can be traced back to seven lines (or Eves).
Part 3, however, could have (should have?) been another book in a duology. Stephenson gets a little carried away with describing alien technology in the first 50 pages of part 3 without the interjection of character development and little action so it becomes ponderous to wade through. The characters in this part are very underdeveloped and the themes of race and colonization feel different from the earlier part of the book ( though the theme of using media to placate/persuade the masses does shine throughout the whole book). He brings up some very good questions and situations that are the direct effect of parts 1 and 2, but they don't get fully see developed, and feels more like a 200 page epilogue than an actual continuation of the story. I would have loved to see the civilizations and characters in part 3 be more developed and their histories explored more deeply ( sequel?) because the first 2/3 was quite engrossing.

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Rule of Eight

They fairly vibrate with need,
Pinging across the universe,
Saturating themselves in light, color, scent;
Looking to connect, to share,
To lose a part of themselves,
Morphing and bonding;
Becoming something else completely.

I watch, unable to rise from my shell.
Matching their mania tires me,
Makes me unstable.
I cling to my core and watch as they dance.

Each day, following my same orbit--
Apogee equals perigee--
Never too far from the center.
A noble thing, perhaps,
But hardly alive,
Undectable, disregarded, dismissed.
An exhalation.
A sigh.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky

Ancient Oceans of Central KentuckyAncient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another very original work. Written more as a novel-poem, this is a novel that relys on atmosphere more than characterization or plot. It definitely required more focus and some passages had to be read multiple times to let the image Nahm was relating crystallize into something recognizable ( which isn't really a criticism, as the image that became clear was suffused with emotion and detail that is often missing in more traditional novels). I found myself wondering why did Nahm describe it like this, why are some passages more poetic than other more straight forward passages? The answers helps flesh out the story as a whole and so I felt almost part of the process, or I imagined I had discovered some hidden aspects of the story. It is defintely a haunting story, and one that makes you wonder.

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Well, no. I mean, yes, there are lots of objects, obviously, more than we know, but also, you know, the universe is mostly empty space. But that’s like all matter is mostly empty, you know, like we are made of molecules which are made of atoms which are made of electrons and protons and stuff which are made of subatomic particles like quarks and stuff and all that stuff, and atoms are mostly empty space around the electrons and protons and neutrons, but its all almost all empty space, you know. So when you think about it most stuff is empty and most of the universe is empty too just like that. So really there’s mostly nothing in the universe because even that stuff that there is, is mostly nothing anyway.”

All of the poetic pieces are her memories and they are more real than the day to day life that she lives.  Yet the memories are imbued with haunting and scary images because it haunts and scares her.  

The Atomic Weight of Love

The Atomic Weight of LoveThe Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Her is what I liked: I liked the facts about birds, I sympathized (a bit) with Meridian who follows her husband to New Mexico and sacrifices her dreams so he can fulfill his, and it helped me realize what a whiner I am when I complain about similar things. Here's the bits that I didn't like: characters didn't seem complex as much as inconsistent. Meridian seems optimistic and industrious yet gets mired down in poor-me thinking all the time. She relys on others too much to give her permission to follow her dreams. Her husband who can be preoccupied and takes her for granted reforms at times, but then suddenly turns into a snobby, controlling, over-bearing ogre just when Meridian needs justification for being unfaithful. I feel like Meridian was supposed to be some sort of heroine trapped by circumstances of the time. I found her to be infantile and selfish. But again, the bird facts were fascinating.


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A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an original, insightful, mysterious book! Most of it consists of a "diary" written by Nao, a Japanese teenager who grew up in America but through her families financial misfortunes has relocated back to Japan. Ruth finds the diary washed up on the shore of a remote Canadian island where she lives with her environmental-artist husband. Both Nao and Ruth struggle to find their place in the world, and grapple with questions of time, purpose, and courage. Both have found themselves in places and situations that they didn't actively choose, and trying to figure out what to do next, There are great thoughts about time, courage, acceptance, the environment, and alternate realities. A very original novel that rings true.

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Even the snap of a finger, he says, provides us with sixty-five opportunities to wake up and choose actions that will produce beneficial karma and turn our lives around.

Because you see, this feeling of alive is not so easy to experience.  Even although life is a thing that seems to have some kind of weigh and shape, this is only an illusion.  Our feeling of alive has no real edge or boundary.  So we Japanese people say that our life sometimes feels unreal, just like a dream.
Death is certain.  Life is always changing, like a puff of wind in the air, or a wave in the sea, or even a thought in the mind.  So making a suicide is finding the edge of life.  It stops life in time, so we can grasp what shape it is and feel it is real, at least for just a moment.  It is trying to make some real solid thing from the flow of life that is always changing.

There she hung, submerged and tumbling slowly, like a particle of flotsam just below the crest of a wave that was always just about to break.

Jiko says that everything has a spirit, even if it is old and useless, and we must console and honor the things that have served us well.

And in that same fraction of time, that minuscule movement of my hand through space will determine the fates of all the Japanese soldiers and citizens that these same Americans (enemies, whose lives I save)may live to kill.  And so on and so on, until you could even say that the very outcome of htis war will be decided by a moment and a millimeter, representing the outward manifestation of my will.  But how am I to know?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Rebecca

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! I loved the suspense, the characters, the symbolism, the writing, everything! Besides some of the obvious themes of marriage and the female role, I also enjoyed the emphasis on time and how moments can go too fast, or too slow. How in a moment our lives can change with a proposal or a gunshot, how in a moment you can lose everything or gain it all back. We share moments with the ones we love, where we are the only two people in a crowded room, and there are moments better spent by ourselves drinking in all our surroundings and noticing everything. How all those moments can add up to create sense out of a puzzle, and we can finally see the truth. Will definitely read more du Maurier!

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When the leaves rustle, they sound very much like the stealthy movement of a woman in evening dress, and when they shiver suddenly, and fall, and scatter away along the ground, they might be the patter, patter, of a woman’s hurrying footstep, and the mark in the gravel the imprint of a high-heeled satin shoe.

I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. Today, wrapped in the complacent armor of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one lightly and are soon forgotten, but then—how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal. A denial heralded the thrice crowing of a cock, and an insincerity was like the kiss of Judas. The adult mind can lie with untroubled conscience and a gay composure, but in those days even a small deception scoured the tongue, lashing one against the stake itself.

This has been ours, however brief the time. Though two nights only have been spent beneath a roof, yet we leave something of ourselves behind. Nothing material, not a hairpin on a dressing table, not an empty bottle of Aspirin tablets, not a handkerchief beneath a pillow, but something indefinable, a moment of our lives, a thought, a mood.

This has been ours, however brief the time. Though two nights only have been spent beneath a roof, yet we leave something of ourselves behind. Nothing material, not a hairpin on a dressing table, not an empty bottle of Aspirin tablets, not a handkerchief beneath a pillow, but something indefinable, a moment of our lives, a thought, a mood.

wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.

I wondered how it was I could be so happy when our little world about us was so black. It was a strange sort of happiness.

It was ours, inviolate, a fraction of time suspended between two seconds.

but tonight they seemed to take on a special significance, as though the memory of them would last forever and I would say, long after, in some other time, “I remember this moment.”

Never Mind

Never Mind (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #1)Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn


DNF
This series was on a list of great writing. It is really good writing. But the characters were all so despicable, that I didn't care to spend any a more time with them. Except the 5 year old who has a drunk, distant mother and a sadistic bored father. Hevean only knows how screwed up he's going to get. And despite the writing, I didn't care to find out.


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Covenant Hearts

Covenant HeartsCovenant Hearts by Bruce C. Hafen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mostly doctrinal discourse on the importance of marriage and family. Hafen digs deep into the doctrine here, with statistics and some anecdotes. it was good to be reminded about the fundamentals of a good marriage, although he doesn't really go into practicalities, other than to remind us that our spouse should be our first and main priority. The last part of the book talked about how marriage was a critical to the community,which I hadn't thought about in those terms before. It is slightly outdated, and the anecdotes tended to be on the dramatic side....wished some of them could have been a little more relateable.


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Authority in the priesthood is given through ordination, but power in the priesthood is received through righteous living.” 6

these plots all represent variations on Freud’s family romance—the process whereby a young person comes to terms with parental authority, ventures out into the wider world, faces assorted tests and eventually achieves independence. Along the way, confusion is dispelled; alienation gives way to a new sense of wholeness and well-being,”

Yet marriage can mysteriously empower personal growth and fulness, so much so that the adversary helped hide marriage from priests, monks, and nuns during the darkness of the early Christian apostasy.

As the opportunities for women expand, it becomes harder to settle at being home

When the law upholds the individual’s right to end a marriage, regardless of social consequences (as happened with no-fault divorce), that principle can also seem to uphold the individual’s right to start a marriage, regardless of social consequences (as with same-gender marriage). That is how today’s national debate on gay marriage is conceptually linked to no-fault divorce.

The changes in recent decades have portrayed marriage as an individual adult choice, rather than as a crucial knot in the very fabric that holds society together. We have increasingly lost sight of how much every marriage, and every divorce, affects other people—especially children.

Nobody really wants to be lonely, but the lifestyles associated with today’s frenzied search for “individual freedom” often lead, unsurprisingly, to loneliness.

optimism and pessimism are definitions of the world, [and often we create the kind of world we live in because] our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.”

As the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

life story of Adam and Eve is the story of receiving the Atonement.

agree with Sister Marjorie Hinckley. Someone asked her the secret of her happy marriage, and she said, “I lowered my expectations.”
Because of its “unlimited ethical motivation,” the “sacrifice” of the covenant partner is “regarded not as a ... personal loss ... , but as a privilege freely and gladly bestowed.”
It is possible that Hosea was able to comprehend Jehovah’s capacity to forgive, not just to judge, because Hosea learned to replace harsh judgment with forgiving compassion toward his own wife. The merciful are the only ones who can obtain mercy.
The woman’s innate spiritual instincts are like a moral magnet, pointing toward spiritual north, except when its magnetic particles are unnaturally traumatized. In addition to his own spiritual instincts, the man’s presiding gift is the holy priesthood, except when he is not living the principles of righteousness. And their “counseling” is reciprocal: If he is wise, he will listen to the promptings of her inner spiritual compass, just as she hearkens to his righteous counsel.
Alma describes justice as masculine and mercy as feminine: “Justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 42: 24; italics added). This does not mean that women are not just nor that men are not merciful. But in the masculine sense of justice and the feminine sense of mercy, we see interdependent principles that are reconciled by the higher unifying power of the Atonement. Here is perhaps a type of the way a husband and wife are unified by the combined male and female elements of a higher divine nature.

The Nest

The NestThe Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars The characters in The Nest have all built their lives around expectations. Expectations of finally getting that trust fund money, of becoming that predicted best-seller, of winning the love of a boyfriend, of fulfilling parents dreams, of living up to society's judgements. We can all tell that basing our financial decisions on future money is not wise, but Sweeney asks us to question what other ambiguous and ethereal "windfalls" we are basing our life on. Cutting the cords of expectations may seem wise, but as the characters learn to do this, some end up happier, others seem just more unmoored and alone (though, I think that is my opinion, and maybe not what the author had in mind). It is an interesting idea, and well written, but the novel didn't carry enough weight as a whole to make it 4 stars. ( it didn't meet my expectations?)

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 The things money could buy weren’t the reward; the reward was to feel lifted above everyone else, to get a look at the other side of the fence where the grass was rarely greener but always different and what he loved was the contrast—and the choice. The ability to take it in was what mattered; the ability to choose was what mattered.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry, #1)The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. I liked Harold and his journey to self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Some parts got a little long, and the media circus part felt a little inorganic, but all in all it was a lovely book about how relationships require action, memories can be warped, and love can both trap us and set us free.

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 as if he wasn’t so much walking to Queenie as away from himself.

 It was the first time anyone had referred to his walk as a shared responsibility.

 Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways. You could think you were starting something afresh, when actually what you were doing was carrying on as before

 The waves kept throwing themselves further and further up the shoreline. All that energy, all that power, crossing oceans, carrying ships and liners, and ending just a short distance from her feet, in a last flume of spray.

I'm Judging You

I'm Judging You: The Do-Better ManualI'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, if I'm going to get "the side-eyes" from someone, I'd pick Luuvie. With a sense of humor that is actually funny, and doesn't dip in to crassness often, Luuvie explains how we can "do better" as Americans. She warms us up with humor, than gets to the meatier issues of race and sex. She judges us, but with compassion and openness as well, so I could take her views and not feel defensive if we happened to disagree; it helped me empathize more with her point of view than if she had been acerbic and abrasive. She ends with some sort of irrelevant essays about fame and social media that most of us don't have to deal with, but overall a very good collection of essays.


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All I got was that wilted kale salad that tasted like the tears of my disappointed ancestors

 Coke Zero version of yourself.

 Knowing our privilege does not make us villains, but it should make us more conscious about the parts we play in systems that are greater than us.

 the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

The Clay Lion

The Clay LionThe Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a surprisingly enjoyable read. It explored grieving in a new and fascinating way with Brooke going back in time three times to try and save her brother. The writing was a little immature, but the plot was well-developed and interesting, despite living the same time period three times. An uplifting, thought-provoking book. I would definitely recommend it to YA....has more meat than the usual YA tropes.


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Friday, January 6, 2017

Dishes


A tower of metal and glass
Garnished with last night's feast;
Water and suds,
Scour and scrub,
But the pile is never decreased.

I work the pile left to right
Almost like an automaton,
No piles shrink,
Despite work in the sink--
The chore goes on and on.

Years flow by, rooted at the basin
Dreams, hopes, circle the drain.
Grease skims water,
Fingers pucker,
The unwashed tower remains.

Perchance a day arrives
Where all is washed and dried,
But sitting down,
I look around,
To see my eyes have lied.

Clanging drowns out thought,
Water leeches laughter.
I am not whole;
I have no soul,
And no one to see me shatter.