This is one of those books in which I really don't want to prejudice other readers for or against. Had not To Kill A Mockingbird been such an iconic AThis is one of those books in which I really don't want to prejudice other readers for or against. Had not To Kill A Mockingbird been such an iconic American novel, and carried such sentimental weight for so many people, I would not hesitate. Neither can we escape the flood of current events that have spawned #BlackLivesMatter and our own emotions. So this is one of those situations where people's reactions will be entirely personal, driven by some unique circumstances that color our feelings. It occurred to me several times while I was reading that it was remarkable for this content to be written by a woman from the South and in the mid 1950's. It's difficult not to review it through the lens of all that has transpired historically since then.
The chapters where Jean Louise is transported back to her childhood are still the most inspired. No wonder the publisher encouraged the author to do her rewrite from that perspective. Aside from the fact much of this could be interpreted as somewhat biographical. Many people have commented about the turmoil surrounding the publication of Harper Lee's original manuscript, and the question has been asked numerous times whether it should have been published, partly because the reactions have been so polarized. One NYT reviewer wrote that perhaps this story is our own coming of age regarding our idolization of Atticus Finch. Jean Louise's dawning awareness and disillusionment in her father is exactly what the reader experiences. It most definitely puts To Kill A Mockingbird in a different light. ...more
When I get to working hard at non-fiction reads, I need a break. I have loved Tana French's writing because it is generally better than the usual mystWhen I get to working hard at non-fiction reads, I need a break. I have loved Tana French's writing because it is generally better than the usual mysteries - deeper characterizations, more intricate story lines. This one didn't quite ring my bells like the first three did. I had typed out my dislikes and then erased them all. The only thing I will say is I'm getting weary of the detective with the troubled past. Otherwise, I honestly don't care to write out my criticisms, because a.) I'm not a professional which makes these b.) fairly subjective and judgmental... which is in turn a slam on those friends who like the genre. I'm in one of those, "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all" moods. Done. ...more
A book I should have read a LONG time ago. I am not generally one for the gothic, romantic and/or classics. And this can be categorized in so many difA book I should have read a LONG time ago. I am not generally one for the gothic, romantic and/or classics. And this can be categorized in so many different shelves. I have seen several film versions of the story, most notably the 1943 Orson Welles. The 2006 BBC Masterpiece Theater and 2011 Michael Fassbender versions are among my favorites. As I compare interpretations of say the proposal scene from one screen adaptation to another, there are vast differences in the way actors have brought the characters to life. And it occurs to me, as we each 'read' this in our heads, our own characters voices can be 'heard' VERY differently. Is that maybe why we don't all 'feel' books and scenes in the same way? I'm sure even on reading these, we have vastly different senses of timing, different nuances of emotion, changes of emphasis in our own characterizations.
I have a terrible weakness for movies, any movies, LOVE films - but have avoided the book because I don't generally enjoy that period or genre of writing. I can't seem to get beyond the place of women in that era, even though I intellectually understand it was a different culture, time and place. However in this case I was wrong. The writing, particularly the descriptive writing, won me over. Jane, as she appears on the page, is much more of a modern, independent woman than I expected. I don't think she's an exception either. While I regret having passed this over for so long, I'm not sure I would leap at the opportunity for more. Perhaps I should explore other authors of that time period, but contemporary fiction and history are closer to my heart.
There are parts of this book that hit home. And I feel like I should amend this review in that my adoration for the book is partly because it struck a chord on a personal level. Without giving any of the story away, I will say that I dated a man in my early twenties who was finishing up seminary. I think he was serious about the relationship because I was a good musician. I, on the other hand, didn't want to be an enhancement to his employment potential because it would be a good "package deal" for some church. There was the sense this was an intellectual choice on his part, not one of love. There was no chemistry. Jane is an independent woman, not just for her criticism and struggles with the class system of the day, which were indeed a big part of the book, but for her not settling for a love that wasn't absolutely mutual, equal and unconditional. Those who have read the book with "get" the connection. ...more
Absolutely charmed by Don Tillman's character! Perhaps it is working with all the Asperger's students that I find his behavior so amusing. He is a genAbsolutely charmed by Don Tillman's character! Perhaps it is working with all the Asperger's students that I find his behavior so amusing. He is a genetics researcher who is blind to his own condition. He is totally "in the box" and life is black and white. How can anyone so analytical, non-emotional or empathetic ever begin to fall in love? While this is a romance novel of a sort, it was not the normal formula. I loved his routines and schedules - makes me realize how OCD I can be at times. Sheesh!! My poor hubby. ...more
A small but very interesting read. A History Of The World In 6 Glasses is a generalized overview of how beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and coca colaA small but very interesting read. A History Of The World In 6 Glasses is a generalized overview of how beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and coca cola have steered the course of western civilization. Influences were farther reaching than I would have imagined. These beverages determined social class, sparked a revolution, affected international trade and politics, perpetuated imperialism and had a hand in globalization among other things. In his epilogue Standage stresses the importance of clean water and poses the idea that sustainable water resources may be THE impetus for future conflicts. This is not intended as a deep analysis of history, nor are you going to get a comparison study of Guinness versus PBR, or the merits of French and Italian varietals, but it is entertaining nevertheless. (And to you 'whiners' - pun intended - who define your hipness in the fault you can find in everything you read - get over yourselves.) ...more
A Fine Balance - between hope and despair - the reference is buried somewhere in the middle of the book in a minor character. I had to digest this forA Fine Balance - between hope and despair - the reference is buried somewhere in the middle of the book in a minor character. I had to digest this for a few days before I could begin to write anything. At times a very depressing read but there is that glimmer of beauty here and there, enough to sustain the soul. I wish I had a better knowledge of the real India of this time period. The story takes place in an unidentified city you would assume to be Bombay - in a time frame following India's independence and into the State of Emergency. The 'Prime Minister' is never named but assumed to be Indira Gandhi. Mistry is obviously not kind in his portrayal of her leadership or the politics of that era. The book is an endless stream of the corruption on all levels, in politics and the judicial system, as well as the destructive nature of the caste system, various religious and sectarian violence. One becomes emotionally attached to the characters and their evolution through the course of the book. The writing is beautiful, simple and straightforward storytelling, not judgmental or didactic. Nothing predictable in this story and I definitely didn't see the ending coming. To me the fine balance was the way the four main characters overcame their prejudices and created a family among themselves, and how that relationship of barely a year defined their lives. What a gorgeous tale. ...more
On stories: "It didn't matter that the story had begun, because kathakali (a stylized Indian dance/drama or the actor in one) discovered long ago thatOn stories: "It didn't matter that the story had begun, because kathakali (a stylized Indian dance/drama or the actor in one) discovered long ago that the secrets of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones that you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't decieve you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic."
I know I had too much caffeine last night but I couldn't sleep after finishing this book. The story kept rolling around in my head. Roy’s writing in the last 9 pages was enough to put me over the top. If you had asked me at some points in the reading I would have told you it was too dark and depressing, that there were pieces of the style that were annoying. It is certainly not for everybody. But if you can make it all the way to the end, there is ample reward.
The plot of The God of Small Things centers around twins Rahel and Estha and the consequences of a family tragedy. Mirrored in the storyline are reflections of India and what the caste system, poverty, British colonialism and politics have done to the people – collectively and individually. As in many modern novels, it jumps time frames. This book was not necessarily easy to follow, but my feeling was that was intentional. The foreshadowing was meant to lack clarity. You had to get a few paragraphs into a chapter to be certain of whether you were in the past or present. It felt like walking through a maze of veils without solid walls. It gave you a hazy glimpse through time.
Roy wrote mostly third person narratives but really inhabited the voice of the twins, giving whole other dimensions to their thoughts by using Anglicized language slurred together, then breaking words in unconventional places with odd capitalization. Significant Words and runningtogetherwords as Salman Rushdie did in some of his writing. It was annoying at first, but took on a whole other interpretation as you got deeper.
I felt wrung out but totally enriched at the end. Brilliant insightful writing that apparently has some autobiographical influences. I am inspired enough to move on to A Fine Balance to immerse myself in another piece of India.
On death: The steel door of the incinerator went up and the muted hum of the eternal fire became a red roaring. The heat lunged out at them like a famished beast. Then Rahel’s Ammu was fed to it. Her hair, her skin, her smile. Her voice. The way she used Kipling to love her children before putting them to bed: We be of one blood, thou and I! Her goodnight kiss. The way she held their faces steady with one hand (squashed-cheeked, fish-mouthed) while she parted and combed their hair with the other. The way she held knickers out, for Rahel to climb into. Left leg, right leg. All this was fed to the beast, and it was satisfied. She was their Ammu and their Baba and she had loved them Double. The door of the furnace clanged shut. There were no tears. The crematorium “In-charge” had gone down the road for a cup of tea and didn’t come back for twenty minutes. That’s how long Chacko and Rahel had to wait for the pink receipt that would entitle them to collect Ammu’s remains. Her ashes. The grit from her bones. The teeth from her smile. The whole of her crammed into a little clay pot. Receipt No. Q498673. Chapter 7: Wisdom Exercise Notebooks ...more
This collection will most likely not have the import for someone who is not a musician. It seems like five trivial stories on the surface. But there iThis collection will most likely not have the import for someone who is not a musician. It seems like five trivial stories on the surface. But there is an emotional undercurrent not everyone would recognize. Ishiguro exposed so many issues fundamental to any artist. For a musician, there is an intimate relationship with their art - impossible to express fully without a deep connection to who you are as a person. You give yourself away, lay yourself bare in every performance. It is a shared relationship with the audience that changes each time. There is also a fine balance between emotion and command of technique. One cannot overrun the other without losing something in the process. Finding the right teacher carries far more weight than an outsider would realize. It is a relationship of trust that you lay yourself in the hands of someone who will twist and mold not just your skills but your heart (and confidence) in the journey. Just as every fine athlete isn't going to play for the NBA, nor will every decent musician or artist 'make it big.' The number of opportunities are few and competition is fierce. At least a musician can share their skills well into old age if desired. Unfortunately our own expectations often get in the way. If we can't achieve a certain level of success, do we quit? I would hardly think so as most artists are a driven impulsive lot. Life often revolves around the need to express yourself in your craft and my husband and kids will confirm they have taken a back seat at times. Personally a very meaningful little book. Thanks Mr. Ishiguro for sharing your writing gifts!!! ...more
What an intense read! There are so many layers of meaning and symbolism. I am glad to have read this now and not as a high school student. It would haWhat an intense read! There are so many layers of meaning and symbolism. I am glad to have read this now and not as a high school student. It would have been over my head in so many ways. The writing style of the period - what would now be considered long run-on sentences - plus the antiquated language, were a hurdle in the beginning. The first part - the Customs House - was unnecessary although it does set a tone. As I finally got used to the voice, I found a rhythm.
Themes of good vs evil, knowledge and original sin, love vs. hate are all contained in this story. Good and evil can be embodied in the same person. Hester may have been marked by the letter A, but how that defines her changes throughout the story. Her name Prynne even rhymes with sin. The scarlet letter physically and emotionally separates Hester from the entire Puritan community but also offers a door to an intellectual and spiritual freedom she wouldn't have otherwise enjoyed. She refuses to reveal the identity of Pearl's father, perhaps to protect him. Eventually her quiet strength in the face of persistent scorn bring her some redemption. How could they possibly overlook her care for the poor and downtrodden. Dimmesdale - weak or dim, without light - also struggles with his sinful nature versus the ministry he provides to the people.
A dichotomy of love and hate are found hand in hand in the plot and characters. Best expressed at the end of the book: "It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at the bottom. Each in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual fife upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his subject. Philosophically considered, therefore, the two passions seem essentially the same, except that one happens to be seen in a celestial radiance, and the other in a dusky and lurid glow."...more
One of the best books I've read in a while and certainly one I will contemplate for a long time to come. This is often billed as a dystopian politicalOne of the best books I've read in a while and certainly one I will contemplate for a long time to come. This is often billed as a dystopian political/feminist novel, but there was more for me than the obvious sexual overtones. On one level, its about the subjugation of women and power between genders. Its takes a good slam at some of the things in our culture that we continue to allow to diminish our self esteem and power. This is not just in terms of prostitution but the oft criticized but more subtle values put forth in fashion, entertainment and advertising, or even equity in our relationships. But on deeper level it makes the reader question much of our present struggles in individual autonomy versus government control. I would refrain from turning this into a long review, but the book is fodder for long discussions. One of Atwood's talents is her ability bring the reader to question and never didactically lead you to any specific answer or judgment. ...more
Im struggling between a 3 and a 4. I really did enjoy this book. The fate of the characters propelled me along. I found it rather implausible at timesIm struggling between a 3 and a 4. I really did enjoy this book. The fate of the characters propelled me along. I found it rather implausible at times, but I don't think it needed to be plausible. There was something more magical about it, a certain awe that the title implies. So many questions but no real answers. Fear and love are big pieces of this literary puzzle. They can be both destructive and empowering, the impact of which was felt by all lives in this novel. The subject matter leaves you with questions about the price we pay in pharmaceutical research for the balance between good science versus what corporate competition demands. It leaves you pondering the arrogance of colonialism, its extinguishing of cultures and our own definition of intelligence and success. A thoughtful read. ...more
Beneath A Marble Sky is about the building of the Taj Mahal. It is a time period I know little about. As a GR friend said - it was a "guilty pleasure"Beneath A Marble Sky is about the building of the Taj Mahal. It is a time period I know little about. As a GR friend said - it was a "guilty pleasure" to read, perhaps because I don't normally read what could be called a romance. It is more likely classified as historical fiction. I clicked around to find out how much was factual and am often frustrated with speculative story lines such as this. But not this one - the writing flowed quite effortlessly. There were indeed some lovely moments intermingled with some fascinating history that never read like insertions of info. I'd do another John Shors in a heartbeat. ...more
I really really liked this book and in that respect should probably give it a five star. However, this stems more from the way my own life was echoedI really really liked this book and in that respect should probably give it a five star. However, this stems more from the way my own life was echoed in the characters. The story centers around a somewhat geeky girl who goes to a summer camp for the arts. She comes into her own, blossoming among people who don't have any preconceived notions about who she is. The relationships forged shape her self image, if not her entire life, in both good ways and bad. Wolitzer writes about the disparity between who we imagine becoming versus who we really are. There is a point in life at which hopefully we all come to accept that while we should never stop dreaming, not all desires are rooted in reality, nor are they necessarily true to our deeper selves. Imbedded in the story is also a interconnectedness with people who cross our paths, ties that we can not escape. Lovely story. I found myself in several of the characters and situations. ...more
I enjoyed Pickard's The Virgin of Small Plains and thought I would give her another try. I guess I like contemporary mysteries more than I want to admI enjoyed Pickard's The Virgin of Small Plains and thought I would give her another try. I guess I like contemporary mysteries more than I want to admit and need to stop being a book snob! I don't care for the shallow characterizations and action packed mainstream thriller genre. But I have come to appreciate the work of writers like Kent Krueger, Nancy Pickard and in particular Tana French. When I want something that is entertaining enough to keep me turning pages in the wee hours, has a bit more substance, a deeper characterization and writing that doesn't spell it all out in black and white... they are my "go-to." Of course she sets the reader up for several possible perpetrators by laying little crumbs of suspicion along the way. And I was close, but missed the mark on my guess! While I liked the first one better, this was definitely engrossing by the end. 3.5 to 4... ...more
I couldn't write a review after finishing the first in the series The Sparrow. It never felt like the story was complete. My instincts were right on.I couldn't write a review after finishing the first in the series The Sparrow. It never felt like the story was complete. My instincts were right on. You are definitely missing something if you haven't gone on to the second book. Russell covers lots of territory in both of these. While science fiction is not generally my genre, that is a limiting classification. She touches on spirituality as well as cultural ethics. On the other hand, one of my all time favorites, A Canticle for Leibowitz is a science fiction book that explores religious themes. Nowhere did I feel 'preached' to. However my life philosophy tends to run the same gamut, so it's easier not to be offended.
I was sucked in not just by the religious aspects but by the idea that music and the inspiration for its creation was a prompt in the story line. In the first book, a group of astronomers, on a quest for life outside our solar system, hear a distant broadcast of what appears to be music. With mixed motivations the Jesuit community foots the bill to train and send a group in search of the mysterious planet. Without giving away too much, things don't end well. The reasons give the reader lots to think about on many levels. Exploration and colonialism. The sociological and ecological costs of intermingling cultures and scientific progress. The precarious nature of faith. Science and religion. Autism, among many other things. The second book returns Emilio Sandoz, the main character, to the planet Rhakat, to redeem both Sandoz and the Jesuits' failures in the first attempt.
Can't believe I succumbed to a romance, chick lit kind of book,... but I did. On a particularly down day in December, this popped up on a respected, GCan't believe I succumbed to a romance, chick lit kind of book,... but I did. On a particularly down day in December, this popped up on a respected, Goodreader's TBR list and she does about as wide a genre as I do. Plus that week it was a cheap price on the Kindle... and I caved. And you know what? It was truly ok. Decent writing. A quick, easy to read. Not so plausible, but I allowed myself to imagine. Lots of interesting historical, cultural and travelogue tidbits thrown in. Stock characters, but once in a while, even an old girl needs a little of the fantasy... Permission granted. ...more
At the recommendation of a relative, I've started reading William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor mystery series. These are all somewhere between a 3 andAt the recommendation of a relative, I've started reading William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor mystery series. These are all somewhere between a 3 and 4 for me. For this type of writing, he admittedly does a good job. He is a Minnesotan whose stories take place in Aurora, not too far from the North Shore and Lake Superior. He truly shapes the locale and people. Its beautiful country and Krueger not only describes it well, but weaves Native American spirituality into his characters and plots. Contrary to my stereotype of the mystery genre, the characters have slightly more subtlety than most. I've been advised to read them in order as the relationships progress. These are the perfect diversion when I get in these stressful spells at work, need entertaining reading and not something I have to work at. ...more
An absolutely fascinating read about the disjointed group of men assigned with the task of preserving and restoring art, most of which was either destAn absolutely fascinating read about the disjointed group of men assigned with the task of preserving and restoring art, most of which was either destroyed in bombings or confiscated by the Nazi's during WWII. Many of these items were either 'appropriated' illegally from Jewish families or cultural treasures taken in conquest. These were hidden, often stored inappropriately in ways that were damaging, but they were fastidiously cataloged. In Hitler's last days, many Nazi fanatics took it upon themselves to extend interpretation of his Nero decree to mean destruction of these treasures. This is the book upon which the upcoming movie is based. Given the trailers I have seen, I worry that Hollywood will dramatize a story that is phenomenal without any doctoring. There is more than enough drama and suspense to this story all by itself. Much of the excitement comes from the last ditch efforts to locate and avoid the Nazis blowing up all these riches.
Many of these men returned home to careers that were extremely influential in American culture, including James Rorimer, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its Cloister exhibit; Lincoln Kirstein, founder of what would become the New York City Ballet and renown sculptor Walker Hancock. None of their expertise was recognized in their respective ranks - Kirstein was only a private. These men and women were dedicated to protecting the artistic expressions and history of all people, enemies or allies, be it avoiding destruction during combat, repairing damage to historical architecture or art work or documents/literature and returning stolen items to their rightful owners. Most of their work and influence came in the last months of the war and in the years there after. A sad commentary in the epilogue was how little recognition they received for their efforts and how subsequent wars have had no such division guiding battlefield decisions or overseeing troops in responsible conquests and the taking of 'souvenirs.' ...more
This is a book based on the well known radio series by the same name. The concept arose out of a meeting between Ward Wheelock, a Philadelphia advertiThis is a book based on the well known radio series by the same name. The concept arose out of a meeting between Ward Wheelock, a Philadelphia advertising exec; William Paley, the founder and CEO of CBS; Donald Thornburgh, general manager of the local Philadelphia CBS affiliate and broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. They "bemoaned the spiritual state of the nation - that 'material values were gaining and spiritual values were losing.'" This was blamed on economic instability, the shadow of war, and the frustration of the younger generation in terms of the shape of their future. All things that are still current more than half a century later. They decided to produce a five minute radio broadcast that revolved around interviews with famous people influential in their fields. The immediate response was overwhelmingly positive. Although a simple letter from a housewife, asking why they didn't engage in conversation with average citizens, changed the course of the program. Thus it included people of prominence and people of obscurity. It aired for four years in the early 1950's, until Wheelock lost is agency's prime account with Campbell's Soup, and went missing a year later while sailing in the Bermuda Triangle.
Eventually the concept was revived, and became a product of NPR. The essays included in this first volume were varied in subject and immensely thought provoking, if not emotional reads. For me, they hold the same appeal and attachment as the StoryCorps broadcasts. A beautiful connection to people of all classes and walks of life that illuminates the common threads in all our journeys. ...more