'The Lover's Dictionary' consists of short, seemingly unconnected passages narrating the story of a two-years-old relationship between a man and a wom'The Lover's Dictionary' consists of short, seemingly unconnected passages narrating the story of a two-years-old relationship between a man and a woman living in New York.
Hidden behind alphabetically sorted terms, that call out for sophisticated definitions, it covers the ordinary, yet inexplicable stuff that the relationship entails: Its beginning, the (almost ?) end, highs, lows, changes, effects, fears, irritations, dependencies, surprises, misunderstandings, lies, laughter, resentments, passions, habits, secrets, toothpaste caps, everything. The undertone wavers between wonder and hurt.
Most of the 'dictionary's entries' felt so profoundly true and a lot of them had a familiar flavor. Some of the familiarity wormed an astonished smile out of me, some wrapped me up in sadness.
But inspite of the narrator's palatable love for his nameless partner I simply couldn't bring myself to like the girl. Maybe her shininess already got cracks in my view, when she confesses to be pregnant right in the second entry. I didn't know her or her motivations then, but her laughter immediately inspired my dislike. Later I discovered her to be one of those persons who let alcohol turn them into the sparkling center of a party regardless of the discomfort that transformation might cause others around them to feel. I just cannot stand people like that.
Still, I felt the hero's emotions. And I rooted for him and for his perfectly ordinary love in all its uniquess....more
A friend lent the family saga, which begins during World War I in Thessaloniki and supposedly ends there in the present, to me in order to express herA friend lent the family saga, which begins during World War I in Thessaloniki and supposedly ends there in the present, to me in order to express her gratitute for the many discarded books I had shoved at her before. I couldn't possibly say 'no' although I knew right from the first glance at the book flap that the book and I would be facing unsatisfactory times together. Since the hardback has been already gathering dust for a month and in fact belongs to my friend's elderly mother, who wants it back, I sighed dramatically, but picked it up today - determined to get the book behind me fast. But ... where has my former discipline gone? Not a trace of it is left. Unfinishing books has become as normal to me as finishing one is. And thus, the urge to slam the covers shut grew and grew until I finally succumbed: On page 64. Heavens, what shall I tell my friend?...more
Re-read from July 1 to July 2 2013. Loved it as much as a month earlier. A pretty perfect book in my eyes. Honest, real, raw, tender, funny, sad, wellRe-read from July 1 to July 2 2013. Loved it as much as a month earlier. A pretty perfect book in my eyes. Honest, real, raw, tender, funny, sad, well-articulated and open-ended on a hopeful note. I want to quote it to pieces and I want a physical copy to keep. Affordable, international edition, where art thou?...more
Kind of interesting with astute observations about how life can change your goals, your personality, your dreams, your values, your love - everythingKind of interesting with astute observations about how life can change your goals, your personality, your dreams, your values, your love - everything - without anybody really noticing the process. The twist at the end was surprising, but also pretty realistic. The whole book lacked something in my opinion. Sadly, I cannot pinpoint it.
Street Corner Bookers’ Pile Reduction Challenge 2011, #22 (challenger: Nomes)...more
The elegantly worded The Language of Flowers made me invest quite a lot during the first chapters, but gambled all my affection away later on. I willThe elegantly worded The Language of Flowers made me invest quite a lot during the first chapters, but gambled all my affection away later on. I will try to explain how this unceremonious drop around the middle of the story came to pass after introducing Victoria to you.
There is nothing victorious about Victoria apart from the fact that she survived to see her eighteen's birthday. Even social worker Meredith sees her only as a failure she personally doesn't deserve. A dark blotch on her white sheet of professional accomplishments: For Victoria has been a foundling baby, abandoned at an age that usually makes finding families willing to adopt an easy task. But somehow Victoria left and was made to leave foster family after foster family, fought in between for affection, food and physical integrity among cruel or indifferent caretakers and fellow foster kids as emotionally messed up and adapted to the loveless situations of their short lives as herself, botched up her last and only chance at a permanent solution at the age of eleven, drove Meredith crazy for the remaining seven years by countless court trials and group home fights and now, on her eighteen's birthday, the day the State of California finally rids itself from the responsibily of its parentless ward's well-being, she does not react as frightened and subdued as Meredith wished her to. On the contrary: She does not use her final three months time in the transition home to hunt for a job and find a room. She spends her days stealing flowers from communal flower beds and people's gardens to plant them in milk cartons, unconcerned about flooding and molding the carpet. On the day of her eviction into unassisted adulthood Victoria takes her flowers and moves into the concealed shrubbery of the town's recreactional area. Hunger and cold do not drive her into wanting to change her homeless lifestyle, but fear of physical abuse does, when drunk men invade her fragile sanctuary at night. Though paperless she persuades an overworked Russian florist Renata to take her on as a weekend assistant by demonstrationg her astonishing knowledge about flowers and her extraordinary skill at creating bouquets. So far so good.
Now you would think you will see the friendship between Victoria and her new boss grow and grow and grow, some relapses to occur, love to enter her life in small, hesitant steps … Yes, I agree, that would maybe mean walking the edge of tear-jerker-like soppy, drenched in the sickly smell of forget-me-nots and red roses. But I did not expect the story to rely so heavily on flashbacks to Victoria's time on Elizabeth's vine-yard - which triggered her all-consuming obsession about the meaning each decorative plant used to have in European culture – that climax in revealing the outrageous reason for the planned adoption to go amiss (view spoiler)[Her actions made me really irrevocably hate Elizabeth. That was inexcusable to do to someone who felt loved and wanted for the very first time (hide spoiler)] and for Victoria to go finally - and understandably - feral.
My initially strong connection to Victoria slowly began to unravel, when she starts to get to know / date Grant, a young flower-farm owner she fleetingly knows from her childhood. I understood her reserve, her mistrust, her outstretched feelers. But I resented her self-centered, cat-and-mouse-style behavior (view spoiler)[ and it really failed me how she first sleeps under Grant's kitchen table to protect herself from him and has him sleep outside the house while she locks all doors, but suddenly decides to let him use her body without really wanting him and without spending even half a thought on contraception. There must have been dozens of pregnant or infected girls in the foster homes to observe. (hide spoiler)]. A friend of mine said Diffenbaugh's style reminded him a lot of the novels by Sarah Addison Allen. I do understand, because the works of both contain dark pasts and the woven-in magic of fruits or flowers or gardens. My association goes into a different direction, though: The heroine Victoria and her actions reminded me the most of is Carly from Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar. If you liked the romance in that novel, you might enjoy Victoria's and Grant's love-story as well.
The last thread between Victoria and me was torn when she declines everyone's help (view spoiler)[ during her pregnancy and especially after the birth of her daughter (hide spoiler)], but selfishly makes the persons around her maintain, support, sacrifice, worry, plan and work for her even more than if she had accepted being advised and assisted right in the beginning. Why does she stop working? (view spoiler)[Why does she move back into the forest during her pregnancy, depriving her unborn kid of warmth, vitamins and proper nourishment needed to thrive inside her womb? (hide spoiler)] She could have managed. And why does she start her own and illegal wedding flowers business – a bitter competition to her boss' business when she could have just asked Renata to integrate her unique service into her shop's palette for a more generous salary? Since she was still using Renata's wholesale card to buy the flowers she needed, Renata could have easily done her in by simply reporting her to the authorities. (view spoiler)[Plus, I hated the exclusiveness, that garantees her only successful mouth-to-mouth propaganda: She decides only to carter to couples who look like they will stay together, which later could be attributed to Victoria's choice of flowery accessories. The bouquets themselves are prepared by homeless girls, because only the flowers' happiness-inducing magic will be important for the wedding. How the bridal centerpiece looked and smelled and lasted, is of no concern whatsoever. A highly unlikely concept in my opinion. I, personally, would never, ever use Victoria's "Message" service. If I wanted, I could look up any flower's meaning by myself and I would not pay attrocious prices to have clumsily gathered mosses and leaves on my dinner table. (hide spoiler)]
I need to stress that I actually have thought maybe it's me, maybe I have just not enough stomach lining and empathy for the broken mind of someone with a devastating childhood. The author information at the end of the book mentions that Vanessa Diffenbaugh has personal first-hand experience with raising foster kids. Apparently she gave home to one or more. After reading the book I do not question that at all. But when I compare my reading experience of The Language of Flowers to that of other stories featuring difficult or hard-to-like main characters, I am sure that a truely skillful author can make me feel and ache and root for any protagonist, no matter how strange or evil. I have just finished reading Froi of the Exiles (yes, it is Fantasy, I know). Fact is, when I was reading the volume preceeding it, I would have never guessed Melina Marchetta would get me to like him. Now I love him fiercely. Maybe his personal growth is fantastical, unrealistic, but maybe it is simply magic. The kind of magic only the best authors can evoke in a reader's mind.
Because of that believe I do not feel any reservations to rate the second half of this book only with two stars in contrast to my four star expectation in the beginning.
Completely off-track, but on my mind: If you like flower-shop-based plots, you might perhaps enjoy the Japanese movie Oto-na-ri. It is about a lonely thirty-something florist and a celebrity photographer, who dreams of shooting Canadian landscapes, living wall-to-wall in an apartment building without meeting each other. It is sad and funny and bittersweet. I loved it.
A lot of thanks go to Netgalley and to the publisher, Random House, for giving me access to an electronic review copy in exchange for this honest review. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The film was so beautiful and keeps haunting me. Maybe I should reenter the book at the point I had abandoned it in 2011 and read the second half....The film was so beautiful and keeps haunting me. Maybe I should reenter the book at the point I had abandoned it in 2011 and read the second half.... But I have already given my copy away for good....more
After reading 59 pages and waiting five months for summoning up enough motivation to go on reading (all my Goodreads friends seem to love the book witAfter reading 59 pages and waiting five months for summoning up enough motivation to go on reading (all my Goodreads friends seem to love the book with abandon - so what's wrong with me?), I have decided to finally put a lid on the case and throw the book out of its designated and by this time slightly dusty spot on my nightstand. I had this subconscious fear that maybe I have detoriated and am not able to concentrate on "real" grown-up books anymore. All I seem to enjoy these days are young adult novels drenched in romance, coming-of-age-problems and/or magic or adults-targeted Urban Fantasy series' in the vein of "Kate Daniels'" or "Rachel Morgan's" neverending adventures. Thus the task of finishing "The Gargoyle" became a necessary proof of my still "intact" diverse reading habits (among my all-time favorites you will find works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Haruki Murakami and Astrid Lindren). Today I realized that waiting until I am 40 will not do. Maybe I'll have switched to thrillers and detective stories by 2013. But who cares? All the stories I've consumed stay with me in bits and pieces and fleeting images. And what I choose to add to that conglomated blob of reading history at which time of my life does not define my maturity as a reader. Reading is just my favorite pasttime, not my job. So, dear friends, please forgive me for not trying harder to get this book with its hidden gem of a love-story. I sincerely hope the hero's perfect face and much-needed penis will be presentable again at the end of the book. But finding out for myself takes too much effort. Maybe you will be my Scheherazade and treat me to a very condensed version? I am looking forward to meeting you in the chaiselogue corner.
Street Corner Bookers’ Pile Reduction Challenge, #12 (challenger: Kristy)...more
In short (maybe I find the time to elaborate later, maybe not): Right now I feel like I've got a wyvern in my guts - shredding tissue like mad. Not beIn short (maybe I find the time to elaborate later, maybe not): Right now I feel like I've got a wyvern in my guts - shredding tissue like mad. Not because of particularly graphic horrbile scenes, not at all, but because of the narrator's complete complacency and serenety while relating the - to us - nightmarish story of her life. All the while making it perfectly clear that to her no alternative life plan would have been thinkable.
Street Corner Bookers’ Pile Reduction Challenge 2011, #21 (challenger: Morgan)...more
Oh, boy. Large parts of the book were so funny and gut-warming, I could quote every second page. But in the end my eyes burned from held-back tears. SOh, boy. Large parts of the book were so funny and gut-warming, I could quote every second page. But in the end my eyes burned from held-back tears. So, so sad. It is a war-time story, I KNOW, but, Mr. Kluger, couldn't you just let him survive to humor me?
Oct. 18th: I've just re-read the last 40 pages and got wet eyes again. How can a book be so hilarious and so tragic at the same time? I just love Steve Kluger's style....more
This is one of those books I would not have read without the "help" of Goodreads. A lot of my friends here had been reading it last year and discussedThis is one of those books I would not have read without the "help" of Goodreads. A lot of my friends here had been reading it last year and discussed it again and again. It made me curious and I picked up a battered and cheap copy at some point thinking "Well, at this price it won't hurt to give it a go". After the purchase my poor copy slumbered for a few months on my to-read shelf - wedged between constantly changing neighbors whose attention-clamoring-skills were somehow better attuned to my appetite. The book was brave, though. It hung patiently on to its backseat-position and awaited its turn with unwavering faith in its own secret superiority. Which it has proven: I was challenged to read this book by my Goodreads friend Tina last week. With a firm finger she pointed at "Water for Elephants" leaving no doubt that it would be just the thing I needed to savor. She was absolutely right. What a delightful novel! What an unexpected and wonderful ending. It was the kind of ending readers like me always secretly hope for but know that most authors are too chicken to produce because the literary world might label them sentimental, fairytale-addicted or unrealistic.
Thank you, Tina, for picking this out for me and thank you, Morgan, for scolding me months ago when we were sharing photos of our TBR piles at the Corner.
TBR Pile Reduction Challenge 2011 Book #4 (challenger: Tina)
***Read first from April 16 to 17, 2011*** This is it, the moment I had feared: I am sitting in front of my computer and frown. I am scrutinizing the s***Read first from April 16 to 17, 2011*** This is it, the moment I had feared: I am sitting in front of my computer and frown. I am scrutinizing the small list of all-time-favorites displayed on my Goodreads profile. And I know one of them has to go. It is a sad step, but inevitable. For Where She Went is simply that overwhelmingly good. I really, really loved If I Stay and I anticipated the sequel from Adam's point of view like a druggie longs for his next shot, but I still wasn't prepared for the bone-shattering impact. For the turmoil of Adam's emotions after Mia dumped him without even the hint of an explanation, his fame with his band "Shooting Star" and his utter loneliness, angst and despair, his trying to go on, to cope, to cheat himself, for my strong urge to wring Mia's pretty, slender neck when the two of them meet again by fate or chance and she cheerily treats him like someone nice but essentially irrelevant from her former, pre-Julliard life.
About 30 minutes have passed since I closed the book with a soft snap and looked snotty-nosed and leaky-eyed up to my hesitant husband, who tip-toed around me not sure if mentioning breakfast to me would be in the range of acceptable things at that particular state of after-reading-shock. He has fed me rolls and mango marmelade and I have returned near enough to earth to write this review and to make the choice mentioned above.
So, seriously, if you haven't considered buying this book but are positive that a good book in your book does not indispensably have to include a paranormal creature, a murder or the end of our civilization, Do Consider Now. Reading the precessor from Mia's point of view is certainly beneficial, but not necessary.
An afterthought: Reading a six-star-plus book like this makes me wonder again why publishers choose to buy manuscripts that will inevitably balance out to be raved about by a few, hated by a lot and treated like cheap, disposable tights by most: They last a night of fun and are used to polish boots or given to the perpetually broke flatmate or sister afterwards. Dear agents and editors: Please hold out patiently. Read books like this one, repeat after me: "The real thing is out there." and keep your eyes wide open. Otherwise I'll hold you responsible for my misplaced time.
TBR Pile Reduction Challenge 2011, Book #15 (challenger = Nomes)...more
Utterly lovely. Cried several times and did not resent it - which I usually do. Review follows, book will be sent to Teccc. (Want to borrow anything eUtterly lovely. Cried several times and did not resent it - which I usually do. Review follows, book will be sent to Teccc. (Want to borrow anything else?). My mom comes to visit at noon. Have to get some sleep and do some more speed-cleaning. Once again: Thank you, dear Nic!...more
If not for the ending which left too many questions unanswered I might have even rated "The History of Love" even five stars. After a little difficultIf not for the ending which left too many questions unanswered I might have even rated "The History of Love" even five stars. After a little difficulty to immerse myself in the story during the first few chapters, the first switch to a second point of view caught me and tangled my attention firmly into the intricate net of interwoven story-lines. I have to say that I am rather surprised about how much the quirky, prickly and partly hard-to-like main- and side-characters meant to me as their history, their hurt and their everyday problems revealed themselves. To illustrate: When I switched off my reading-light yesterday evening there were about 40 pages left. At three o' clock in the morning I got up with a desperate sigh and read them, for I spent my night half awake, unaware of running the mental hamster's wheel: I had used the past four precious hours trying to puzzle out the last mysteries. When I went back to bed at a quarter to four, my get-the-damned-thing-behind-you stunt did not have the planned effect: Until the harsh alarm-clock sound bounced against the bed-room walls at 5:20 I wore myself out persuading my brain not to think about the things still not cleared up. Was there something my overworked brain muddled up or my squinting eyes overlooked? If you are cleverer than me (I am glancing into your direction, Amy), please help me to remove the fog from my mind so I can sleep soundly the coming night:
What about Leo? (view spoiler)[Does he really die on the park bench holding Alma Singer's hand or is he just overwhelmed and cannot answer. I fear it's the former. (hide spoiler)] What about Bruno? (view spoiler)[Is it true that Bruno died in 1942 and his late friendship with Leo, their living together in one apartment building is just an elaborate outcrop of Leo's imagination? Or does Leo only say this to upset Alma who he for a second takes for an apparition of 'his' Alma, who had been in love with Bruno, too? I cannot believe that all these meetings at the kitchen table, in the music hall, the surprise under the cushion and their sprint to the station was not real. And ... how could it be that Alma was together with Bruno after Leo? She split up from Leo being pregnant. (hide spoiler)] What about Bird? (view spoiler)[Was it his doing, the translation of "The History of Love" being delivered to Leo Gursky? There must be something wrong with the time line then. He goes out with the manuscript on the last Saturday, but Leo receives the envelope much, much earlier. If not Bird, who? (hide spoiler)] Who finally was that secret benefactor who spent 100.000 Dollars on the translation from Spanish to English? I really didn't get it. And what about his name appearing in Isaac's novel? What about Bernhard? What about Zvi? (view spoiler)[Why did he think Leo did not survive the Holocaust? Because Leo's family stayed when everybody else left? (hide spoiler)] What about Alma? (view spoiler)[Why did Leo waste five years to look her up in Brooklyn? Because she really left him and he tried to forget that tiny fact? Is this to show how much of his own soul Leo already killed and how much he relied on make-believe? (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I am sure this would have scored a three-star-rating had I finished reading it. It had a good beginning. But I have had no ambition to re-pick it up sI am sure this would have scored a three-star-rating had I finished reading it. It had a good beginning. But I have had no ambition to re-pick it up since June and I am stuck in this get-rid-of-everything-unnecessary-period presently. Thus I won't find out. ...more