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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