July Reviews Written in 15 Minutes… Go!

Thoughts on Recent Books

Thoughts on Recent Books and Typed Up Fast

or…  All the Books I Read or Attempted in July of 2018.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Despite all the authors who don’t want readers to give books poor ratings and how much I really do want to participate in that when I can appreciate that some books just don’t meet the needs of all readers, I do also want to say that SOMETIMES a low-rating or a ‘dislike’ can actually help a book because sometimes, a review reader will say to themselves, “Hey – those things you didn’t like are things I often DO like so I’m going to give it a try.”  or, they might appreciate that some books have detractors which is good because a book that is universally liked by seemingly everyone must be suspect. It’s good to find that some people didn’t find it awesome like everyone else. It makes people curious. Right?

I did not like The Immortalists. It was not for me. I just didn’t buy some of the characters’ behavior and thought it tried to cram everything and the kitchen sink into the plot line. If it had been just the first 25%, I might have really liked it. But the 3rd and 4th parts didn’t work. Too much. Too unbelievable. Wearying. But hey; LOTS of people loved it so give it a try if it sounds good to you. Maybe you’ll love it. In fact, I hope you do. Caveat – I didn’t like the narration so maybe try the print.

By Our Beginnings by Jean Stubbs

A gem! a true and lovely literary wonder!  It checked all the boxes for me. Set in England, romance between mature and smart individuals, family saga, historical, clash of classes and culture, story swept me away…  

AND, to be totally honest, I expected it to be boring boorish dull. So a pleasant surprise! I was captivated within the first two pages. 

My mother-in-law got me this for my birthday. xoxoxox

Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand 

I doubt I ever read another book by Hilderbrand. But I do like and enjoy and admire this author based on her Twitter presence. 

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben Fountain DNF – I’m going to have to try this again sometime. I didn’t capture me.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by  Marlon James – FASCINATING!  Too long, though, and very violent. I just couldn’t bring myself to continue the audiobook and wanted to cry. 

A Gate at the Stairs / Lorrie Moore 

I’ve heard SO MANY interesting things about Lorrie Moore and every interesting thing makes me think I would love her books. I discovered this book was in my immediate possession so I read it and I enjoyed it very much if enjoyment is the right word. She tackles tough stuff. I wish I could articulate my thoughts but I’m a coward when it comes to crazy good stuff and my inadequacies of explaining what exactly I found impressive or thought-provoking. 

My 15 minutes are up.

Have you read any of these? Do share!

 

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.
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Circe

Thoughts  by Madeline Miller, Hachette Audio 2018, 12 hours 8 minutes

Challenge: Personal
Genre: Mythology
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
 Why I read this now: had credits to burn, hot book at the moment

MOTIVATION for READING: I really enjoyed The Song of Achilles (even though I’ve forgotten much of the ‘story’ – oops)

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Circe is a daughter of Helios, banished to an island due to her use of witchcraft. We hear of her life from her perspective.

WHAT’s GOOD: Everything. Such fun! She lived a long long life and met many of the major players of Greek mythology.

What’s NOT so good: I don’t know… I thought it terrific.

FINAL THOUGHTS: She is presented as such a sympathetic character! She is strong, but she has her doubts. She has her failings; she ponders and regrets. She does the best she can. And when it works out for her, it is because she is true to herself.  I really enjoyed this.

RATING: Five slices of pie. No mention of pie noted.  Audiobook was well done.

Finally, more of me and my fascination/wannabe-bookcasterness:

Really. It is SO ODD to review myself. I like that I am expressive and that I didn’t talk too fast. But is that how I look? How we see ourselves is so different than the image inside our own heads…  How is 9:30 pm “late at night”? ha. I have to be asleep by 10 pm most days anymore…

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

 

Extra Credit

Doing my OWN Nonfiction Pop Up for May. After reading and enjoying Educated, Hunger and PriestDaddy,

I kept going.

I read Sarah Hepola’s Blackout, then Alan Cumming’s Not My Father’s Son; right into I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and now Lit by Mary Karr.

I have to stop! And since I have put-off/avoided/procrastinated on a proper review of Blackout, I have decided to do a few quick mini-reviews just to post something (anything?)

 Writer Sarah started drinking young and enjoyed, nay craved the excitement and confidence that alcohol gave her. But when she woke up to one too many scary incidents, she knew she had to figure out a way to stay in control. But alcoholism is a sneaky beast; the control is slippery and always moving, seemingly out of reach or out of cognitive appreciation. I enjoyed her stories and admire her dedication to a hard-won, now-finally-appreciated sobriety. Via audiobook.

Alan Cumming is an actor. He is such a good actor that I can’t even think what I’ve seen him in. (He is on the show The Good Wife which I have never watched.) I did not know he was Scottish. 

I read this right after Eleanor Oliphant – also set in Scotland. Linky-linky coinky-dinky. His story is quite amazing, really, and he tells it well.  His childhood was bleak, his father was abusive. He describes this past while also sharing about a British show he was invited on that  explores hidden family secrets. Amazing insights, incredible parallels, fascinating and heartfelt. He is very talented. The audiobook is highly recommended.

If you are a True Crime fan, you know about Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I can’t really call myself such a fan, but I do find it all fascinating. This one is tragic and heartbreaking in so many ways; I first heard about it because I follow her husband on Twitter – that is how I found out about this author’s sudden death and then found out about her work. It’s exciting and thrilling that the perp, the Golden State Killer, has been arrested. This case will be fascinating for years as it continues to unfold. McNamara was a skilled writer and it’s sad that she will no longer be here to explore and explain it all in her own words. I enjoyed the audiobook very much.   Click on this book cover to open goodreads to learn more.

I’m not yet done with Lit by Mary Karr but I’ve had her books on my tbr forever it seems. She blurbed on Priestdaddy and is well known for her skill in writing memoir. With my credit-buying glee, I secured this title. Perhaps following on the theme set by Hepola. Shrug. It’s good and she IS a great writer, but it’s so tough to hear about poor parenting choices…  This is a tough one. I probably won’t write more about it. But I will read more of her work. 

 

I’ll be back to fiction soon.

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Trifecta: My three new friends Jane + Sarah + Eleanor

Thoughts…

Hello Books and Pie Readers, I appreciate you! Have you missed me? I’ve missed you. I’ve missed writing here and sharing these last few weeks.

We’ve let Coconut Cream Pie Day rush by without a thought (ok, I sent a text and a tweet but not much more) — it was May 8, Tuesday past. 

Thank you for all of you who have stopped by prompted by an email or just a thought or click-back on a comment I may have left on your blog, or tweet, or comment elsewhere/somewhere. How ever you may have found me, please know you are welcome.

Let’s talk about the three books I just read. (or listened to, actually)

If you read my last post, you already know that I loved my experience of listening to Thandie Newton narrating as Jane Eyre. LOVED! Highly most highly recommended.

And then there is the latest book I read:  Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

 

 

 

Miss Oliphant tells us that she found comfort in her many readings of Jane Eyre – LINK! and of course, she would! Unwanted as a child, smart as a tack, making her own way in the world and proud to do so. This could be a modern retelling of Jane. Not quite; but similarities and parallels exist. 🔥

I love that Honeyman talks about wanting more of Pilot in Jane Eyre’s story.

“You can’t have too much dog in a book.”
And finally, there’s a real person to talk about and how her story relates to Eleanor: Sarah Hepola and memoir Blackout.
As Discussion Chair of the Tournament of Books Nonfiction Pop-Up for May, Sarah has been keenly insightful and enthusiastic. I have nodded in agreement to most of her thoughts so far. Check it out. I am so glad I read her book to ‘frame’ my appreciation of this month’s conversation on Memoir. I am a fan of this genre and if is seems that I’m rating them all high, let me explain: if I am fascinated, awed, and informed by emotional sharing, I give 5. If the language and eloquence is amazing, I go high. If I’m moved; tears well in my eyes or I shake my head in disbelief – and yet don’t disbelieve that their story is honestly theirs, I rate high.
On the other hand, if I just don’t like the person, don’t like their behaviors, don’t find them to be changed or come across as arrogant, boo hiss. (I suppose I can give some examples of bad memoirs I’ve chucked against the wall. If you want? Nah, let’s only celebrate the good ones today.)
Memoirs this May have been incredible! All have been intriguing and moving. And I always found something to relate to or be amazed by.
Enough of that – how did Blackout relate to Eleanor? Well, Eleanor was a drinker. She poured copious amounts of vodka down her throat to drown her black dreams. Sure, Sarah’s story didn’t quite parallel, but the work to move beyond the consumption of alcohol as a crutch or escape or blind need was extraordinary. Difficult. Life-saving.
Oh, and all three were first person narrative.

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Jane Eyre

Thoughts  by Charlotte Bronte, 2016 (orig 1847), 19 hours 10 minutes

Narrated by Thandie Newton.

Challenge: Personal
Genre: Classics, Feminism, Gothic Romance?
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
 Why I read this now: #shrug

MOTIVATION for READING: Oh Jane. Jane, I feel like I know you. I have ‘known’ your story for what feels like forever. But, my memory fails me! I’m not really positive that I have met you face-to-face and heard your story from you directly. Perhaps I have only heard talk from other acquaintances, about your Mr. Rochester and his mad wife in the attic. I can’t remember if I was lying when I say I have read your book. Did I? or does it just seem that way because I know of the tale? (I have the same issue/question re: Wuthering Heights.)

I had to be sure. I decided that experiencing Jane Eyre via audiobook was the way to go (a first-read or reread – who cares? I suspected I would enjoy it – I love long classics on audio.) Lucky for me, I was able to select THIS edition.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Hmmmm, dare I spoil it? Have I already?!  EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT JANE EYRE IS ABOUT, right?

Actually, no. One of my best friends asked me yesterday, what is about? Crazy, huh? She’s such a good egg but is she plugged into the world of literature-mania like me? She is NOT.

And I had hard time telling her. How much to tell? I shrugged and told her she wouldn’t like it and would probably DNF it. I know her well enough.

WHAT’s GOOD: Thandie Newton is a dream. She is PERFECTION. She made every line beautiful and dreamy; she delivered the exact amount of emotion to every sentence. Fraught or loving, scary or forcefully independent.

Listen to Thandie’s voice and her thoughts on doing the narration:

What’s NOT so good:  Bronte can go on and on with descriptions but I enjoyed it. (I suspect my friend would roll her eyes in weariness. I also suspect she wouldn’t like the old language.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you want to audiobook a classic, choose this one.

RATING: Five slices of gooseberry pie.

“I have kept myself; and, I trust, shall keep myself again. What are you going to do with these gooseberries?” I inquired, as she brought out a basket of the fruit.

“Mak’ ’em into pies.”

“Give them to me and I’ll pick them.”

“Nay; I dunnut want ye to do nought.”

“But I must do something. Let me have them.”

She consented; and she even brought me a clean towel to spread over my dress, “lest,” as she said, “I should mucky it.”

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Hunger

Updated to add the link to the TOB Nonfiction Pop up.

Undestroying Myself. Revel in my freedom. Terribly Human. Truth to Creation.

Thoughts  by Roxane Gay, HarperAudio 2017, 5 hours 57 minutes

Narrated by the author and admirably so.

Challenge: TOB nonfiction MAY
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir.
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
 Why I read this now: TOB

MOTIVATION for READING: I have had this book on my tbr since I first heard of it. I enjoyed the raw honesty of Bad Feminist. I still have yet and want to read her fiction.

I went with the audiobook because it seemed right to her own voice to her words. Others agreed and announced it a good way to experience.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Ms. Gay tells all about her struggle with her self-image, her self reality, and what is to blame. It’s raw, it’s intense.

WHAT’s GOOD: I like how she simply and powerfully states her truth.

What’s NOT so good: There’s so much ache. How can you dare judge? It’s her story. You might not do or react the same. You might make different choices but what  is the point of considering? It’s so complex, so difficult; hard.

I like these memoirs because of the honesty and raw truth. Don’t like it or do admire it but it’s a contrast to consider how one might react – the same or different and why it might be important. It’s not important; there is not better best yes. It just is.

I’ve always thought Roxane Gay to be brave – she is outspoken and opinionated and dares express it on Twitter which we all know tends to gather the worst of humanity in response.

This book testifies that she is courageous and brave and forceful and doing her as best as her can be a-doin’ it.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I thought it interesting that I had in the past considered an idea that I would be a terrific technical writer and here is RG, a writer who fell into a tech-writing job. Just one of those odd pauses in my life when I wondered, what if? What if I had pursued it rather than wished it? And how can some people just find themselves doing things that I was to scared to ask if I could do?  Again, “Huh.”

As for “fat” books as a genre? Eek, that sounds… wrong but also great. Anyway, if you like this book, I recommend Shrill – which I just heard has been optioned for some kind of film!  OH YEA. Shrill was quite powerful on the Fat and Feminist genre niches.

RATING: Five slices of pie. Cherry pie and brownie pie.

Come on, Ina! Invite RG to be a guest on your show!!  (Has she already invited her?! did I miss it?)

I am excited to see what TOB does with these three books. I just downloaded the audiobook of Blackout by Sarah Hepola to round out this Nonfiction-full discussion event in May.

SCHEDULE:

Tuesday, May 1: Introduction
Friday, May 4: Hunger, first half
Tuesday, May 8: Hunger, second half
Friday, May 11: Educated, first half
Tuesday, May 15: Educated, second half
Friday, May 18: Priestdaddy, first half
Tuesday, May 22: Priestdaddy, second half
Friday, May 25: Wrap-up

 

Audible hopes you’ve enjoyed this program.

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Priestdaddy

Thoughts  by Patricia Lockwood, Audible Studios 2017, 10 hours 12 minutes

Narrated by the author.

Challenge: TOB Nonfiction May
Genre: Memoir
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible

MOTIVATION for READING: I had heard this one was quite funny. I like funny.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Can I just say that this book is so much more than any synopsis can attempt to share? let’s see what the goodreads blurb has to say:

The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed “The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas” by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI – despite already having a wife and children.

When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.

Ok, maybe it does. Or maybe you have to READ THIS BOOK and then realize how much you really were forewarned but didn’t quite expect until after. Does that make any sense to anyone?

First, I admit that I was instantly struck with a “Yes-I-Want-To-Read-This-Please” thought when I saw she was from Kansas. I have a big soft spot in my heart for the state of Kansas.

Two, even though I’m not Catholic (I’m Lutheran by upbringing), most if not all of my friends growing up WERE Catholic. SO I *know* enough about that religion to have an understanding – especially in comparison to Lutheranism. Yea, whatever.

Third, I had to find out a few things that struck me odd about this blurb. Um, a priest who is ‘frequently semi-naked’? And… they let her (or disallowed – which could it be?) to put that in a book!? I’m still rather shocked. Did any of his parishioners READ this book!?  yikes.

WHAT’s GOOD: Remember when I said, “this book is so much more”? I fell into the author’s words like a feather into a down pillow. I agree very much with the bit in the blurb that describes this as “a lyrical and affecting story”.

This would be an interesting story to contrast with Educated, for father analysis.

What’s NOT so good:  My midwestern mild-mannered sensibilities were quite offended. No, not offended… What IS the word? I just can’t believe she put this stuff into words and published it! I am so much more private, I suppose. Yikes!!  It’s been enough time away that I can’t even remember the particulars but I remember the shock and awe.

Reminded me of the question in The Animators about using other people in our art.

And… I have to admit that I didn’t think this book was for me at the beginning. The author narrates and this can always be risky. It took me one or two hours to adjust to the tone and what I interpreted as snark in her voice.  But I’m glad I stuck with it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I love that the LOVE in this family is evident. They may not get along but they love fiercely anyway. That is my impression. What a contrast to Idaho, hmmm?

My favorite story – laugh out loud funny – was the one about Patricia and her mother checking into a Hilton Hotel and there was cum on the sheets. I kid you not. OMG.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

It is always tough to catch pie references while listening to an audiobook but I do have these notes to share:

Lots of pie. In the Intro, even. In Ch 2, she mentions working in a diner and the owner looks like he wants to smash pies into faces. Also, a mention that Mrs. Ford got eye surgery and can now read her pie recipes.

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Zero

Thoughts  by Jess Walter, Harper Audio 2006, 10 hours 40 minutes

Narrated by Christopher Graybill

Challenge: What’s in a Name:  Title that starts with the letter Z
Genre: Thriller, 9-11 Aftermath
Type/Source: Audiobook/Audible
 Why I read this now:  Typically, I select an audiobook based on how many hours it will take. Ten seemed a good number. Remember when I used to choose the loooooonnngest ones? yea, those days are gone. I no longer have lengthy chores (no lawn to mow!) nor long drives very often. Bummer.

MOTIVATION for READING: I have been wanting to read more by this author. I really enjoyed Beautiful Ruins – which I also had the pleasure of listening to (the narrator’s voice is gorgeous; Edoardo Ballerini)

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Brian Remy is a retired cop and he is having memory gaps. He keeps ‘waking up’ in a new scene of his life and can’t recall how or what happened prior to that moment. For the reader, it is like turning the page and thinking a page has been skipped. Both protag and reader are in the dark as to what the heck is going on. We both attempt to fill in the gaps and create a story, a timeline to what Remy is experiencing. It is quite unsettling.

“Maybe every couple lived in the gaps between conversations, unable to say the important things for fear they had already been said, or couldn’t be said; maybe every relationship started over every time two people came together.”

And darkly funny. But a sad funny because what he is messed up with isn’t going well and lives are at stake.

“Guterak looked over. “Hey, you got your hair cut.” “Yeah.” Remy put the cap back on. “What made you do that?” “I shot myself in the head last night.” “Well.” Paul drove quietly for a moment, staring straight ahead. “It looks good.”

WHAT’s GOOD: We (OK, “me” – the reader) get the idea that Remy might be having split personality syndrome but we root for the guy. The Remy we are privy to is the ‘good’ Remy, and we ache and yearn for him to figure it out so all can end well. But hey – we doubt that will happen. I mean, it is the aftermath of 9-11, so we have all the patriotism, all the say-I-love-you-to-your-loved-ones, the courtesy and slowing down, but also the conspiracy theories, the chase to find the terrorist cells responsible, the aching sadness experienced and shared collectively by those who lost someone, the always-shared stories of where-we-were and somebody-I-know-was-supposed-to-be-there.

All that came back to me as I listened to this story. And, it felt… OK. Okay good.                 I never felt that this story was manipulative or disrespectful. It was vague and confused, like everything was at that time.

There was a lot of imagery and absurdity. Walter is a very good author; he has a deft hand at dark humor without ever being over the top. I look forward to reading more. I had to look if this book was a part of the TOB from the year 2006 but, no. I would have loved to read the commentary and judgments of having this in the Tourney.

What’s NOT so good:  I have nothing to fault, other than I am both glad it was audio and not; knowing that because it was audio, I wonder if I might have missed something. But, I do think it was pretty good at the gap shifts when listened to. Would I recommend this? Yes, to those curious readers who like feeling disoriented while reading. I don’t think I know many of those kinds of readers.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I will read more books written by Jess Walter.

RATING:  Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned that I noticed.

On a different note, here are the audiobooks I just purchased and hope to get to soon:

May brings us the nonfiction mini-TOB by The Morning News. The three books I voted for are the ones they selected so I guess I have to participate. Priestdaddy is one; Hunger by Roxane Gay and Educated by Tara Westover the other two. I thought a quick funny Graham memoir would fill in for when I need snippets of listen…

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

My Book Club Chose Sing, Unburied, Sing

Thoughts

If you read my post from February 6th on my being asked to request a slate for my ‘classic’ (never say OLD) book club from my glory-Massachusetts Days, you’ll be wondering what book they selected…

I would not have put money on this! I was thinking they would go with The Hate U Give (and hopefully all will read that one on their own…)

SO now I have to take another afternoon off so I can attend the next meeting. My manager will understand, right?

 

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Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.