Friday, January 27, 2017

"The Association of Small Bombs"

my take: Doesn't this cover look kind of fun? Strings and colorful dots! Lower case letters! Do not be taken in. The bombs referenced in the title are the real deal.

The characters in the novel are forever changed by a terrorist bomb in a marketplace in Delhi. We see the story from all points of view ... the parents of the victims, the survivor and his parents, the bomb makers, the activists. Each of their lives is intimately entangled with each other's though they can not see their connections.

Written in a style that mimicked the imprecision of bombings in the shrapnel that imbeds itself into both the body and the psyche.  A little chaotic, random, penetrating, hidden.

     "If you had horrible thoughts, if you carried rage against your parents and sexual fury against women in your head, as he had--how could you be healthy, happy? Your body imploded. You became the bomb." p170

This writing style reminded me of Let the Great World Spin in which all the words and stories felt like they were spinning out of control. In this case, it feels like the words flying off the page, scattering and leaving marks.

I found this book incredibly difficult to read because it hit too close to home: the actions taken by a few causing lasting damage to those within its perimeter. As the actual bombs explode in the novel, political bombs were detonating in real life. I felt battered by both.

my source: Book Chicks January 2017 pick

my verdict: Worth a read. Maybe in a sunnier month. Bombs, January, India ... what was I thinking?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Today Will be Different"

my take: I saw this title and thought: YES PLEASE. Isn't that what we hope for in mid-life? I'll get it together today! I'll drink 64 ounces of water TODAY! Or the epigraph:

  "Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I speak to,
    I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I'll play a board game
    with Timby. I'll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my
    appearance. I'll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into
    yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I
    won't swear. I won't talk about money. Today there will be an ease about
    me. My face will be relaxed, its resting pale a smile. Today I will radiate
                                             calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local.                                                     Today I will be my best self, the person I'm capable of being. Today will
                                             be different."

Oh, such good intentions from our beds. We meet Eleanor as she is waking and follow her well-intentioned day through Seattle with far-flung flash-backs to Aspen and New Orleans and meeting Eleanor's crazy cast of life characters.

Part of it reads like a voice-over ... and it includes a small graphic novel in the middle (part of the story line) ... which got me thinking ... who is this Maria Semple? She majored in English at Barnard College and worked on TV shows such as Mad About You, Arrested Development, 90210.

Funny, snarky, fast-paced, circuitous. Fun female fiction. Julia Roberts will be playing Eleanor in the TV movie version.

my source: LOVED Where'd You Go, Bernadette so when I saw this IN HARDCOVER at Costco...I splurged.

my verdict: A pleasant diversion. Not terribly memorable and NOT AS GREAT AS Bernadette.
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Sunday, January 8, 2017

"A Gentleman in Moscow"

my take: Wow. Wow. Wow. I had really high expectations for this book based on my love of the author's previous novel. And in an era where disappointment is running high for me ... it was lovely to be out-expected.

Count Alexander Rostov inhabits the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. Never mind he is under house arrest and will never leave. He inhabits it fully. Through him we meet the staff, the rising stars of the State, the international visitors; peek into suites, closets, attics and basements; and enjoy meals and wines in the restaurants and bars.

One evening as he orders his dinner and bottle of wine, it is revealed that the Bolsheviks have ordered all the labels removed from the wine collection. Here, the Count goes down to the cellar:

     "As we age, we are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade. We are familiar with the songs our grandparents favored, after all, even though we never danced to them ourselves. At festive holidays, the recipes we pull from the drawer are routinely decades old, and in some cases even written in the hand of a a relative long since dead. And the objects in our homes? The oriental coffee tables and well-worn desks that have been handed down from generation to generation? Despite being 'out of fashion,' not only do they add beauty to our daily lives, they lend material credibility to our presumption that the passing of an era will be glacial.
     But under certain circumstances, the Count finally acknowledged, this process can occur in the comparative blink of an eye. Popular upheaval, political turmoil, industrial progress--any combination of these can cause the evolution of a society to leapfrog generations, sweeping aside aspects of the past that might otherwise have lingered for decades. And this must be especially so, when those with newfound power are men who distrust any from of hesitation or nuance, and who prize self-assurance above all.
     For years now, with a bit of a smile, the Count" had remarked that this or that was behind him--like his days of poetry or travel or romance. But in so doing, he had never really believed it. In his heart of hearts, he had imagined that, even if unattended to, these aspects of his life were lingering somewhere on the periphery, waiting to be recalled. But looking at the bottle in his hand, the Count was struck by the realization that, in fact, is was all behind him. Because the Bolsheviks, who were so intent upon recasting the future from a mold of their own making, would not rest until every last vestige of his Russia had been uprooted, shattered, or erased." (page 144)

I could quote so many passages for their insight and beauty. With 462 pages, there are plenty of options. Playful, witty, grand, cautionary, celebratory ... loved. this. book.

my source: Gifted for Christmas ... on my wanted list ever since publication date. Amor Towles Rules of Civility was a top pick a couple years ago.

my verdict: Excellent. Top notch. Five stars. I laughed, I nearly cried, I came away a better person.

Friday, December 30, 2016

"The Truth According to Us"

my take: What is history, if not the truth according to us?

Set in the American depression, the tale of a city girl doing WPA work in small town and the family she boards with. Secrets abound in the small town, as well as lots of folk lore about their history.

I loved this behind-the-scenes kind of look at how history is recorded - reminding me that who tells and who records it are what mostly make "history."

my source: My sister Carey recommended; my momma birthday-ed

my verdict:  Great feel good read


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Truly, Madly, Guilty"

my take: First, the cover is fun and matched my beach ensemble. Second, this is a great beach read.

Like her other novels, this one is populated with average people who have shared an uncommon occurrence. The novel unfolds slowly, not revealing the event in question until mid-way through. Which gives the reader plenty of time to imagine all sorts of mayhem.

my source: Daughter Anne bought with her airline meal voucher when stuck in transit. Smart girl.

my verdict: Fun read

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Norwegian by Night"

my take: Having recently been in Oslo, I was excited to read this detective story set there. I was surprised by the issues it made me think about: mainly immigration.

A well-crafted mystery with very interesting characters... the slightly dementia-confused American war veteran and a young Slovac boy who witness a crime which leads to an epic journey to run from those who killed the boy's mother and to run to those who they think can help them.

my source: Hubby found this browsing the fabulous selection at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor

my verdict: Great read - a definite summer favorite I have been recommending to everyone


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend"

my take:  Sara arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa from Sweden ready to meet her pen-pal and take a little vacation from her dull life. Broken Wheel is probably one of the more dull places to visit, but Sara finds much to love.

I so wanted to love this. I was in need of a feel good read after a few heavy hitters. Halfway thru I was MEH. And. I finished it. Although I wanted to quit. I do like to see if a slow starter, not-so-great read can be redeemed. I'm all for redemption.

And. Sort of.

There's loads of book titles dropped and a bit of  book prescribing going on. The best part of the book was how Sara arranged/grouped the books and enticed readers with her category names.

my source: My mother had this on her coffee table ...

my verdict: So-so feel good read ... so so many other books to choose.