Category Archives: Challenge

All Quiet on the Western Front

Thoughts by Erich Maria Remarque, Random House Trade 2013 (orig 1928), 227 pages, translated from the German by A.W. Wheen

Challenge: for Classics Club 50 list #2, #WiaN2023 – Category QXZ in title

Genre/Theme: War – WW1

Type/Source: Trade Paperback / Library

“We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out…we creep in upon ourselves and with big eyes stare into the night…and thus we wait for morning.”

What It’s About: Paul is 20 years and realizing his time on the front will permanently impact any hopes of his having any “normal” life, assuming he survives the horror, the filth, the lice, and the inhumanity.

“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”

Thoughts: This was beautifully written and struck me hard.

Rating: Five slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

Copyright © 2007-2023. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

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2 A.M. in Little America

Thoughts by Ken Kalfus, Highbridge 2022, 256 pages/ 6 hours 25 minutes, narrated by BJ Harrison

Challenge: for TOB2023, #WiaN2023 – Category punctuation

Genre/Theme: Speculative Fiction

Type/Source: audiobook / Audible

What It’s About: Ron Patterson is American but America is no longer a safe place to live. He is a migrant worker, trying to survive, trying to find a country who will allow him to live within its borders. Americans are often not welcome.

Thoughts: When I said Babel was “ambitious, carefully crafted, clever work”, I could say the same of this; much slighter in size but equally thoughtful of its elements and construction. However, this one needs more discussion and clarification to explain to me what Kalfus was trying to do! or rather, why he chose what he did to tell this story.

Ron comes across as a good guy, trying to keep his head done, to go along to get along and be left alone. But he suffers from faceblindness — usually or only memorably when applied to women. Other reviews state this to be on purpose; to show his confusion and wish that he could go home to America/motherland aka MOTHER. Yet others call this blatant disregard and disrespect for women. I can’t figure out where I stand on trying to understand that dichotomy. It is suggested that the confusion of being a migrant and not having personal identity – to be always grouped into that “MIGRANT = unwanted” category was what Kalfus was attempting to show. Yea, I dunno.

What would happen if America descended into civil war and became a violent unruly unsafe scary place to live? How would the world treat Americans?

This book had violence and many unnamed elements – some places were described but never identified. But Target the retailer and McDonalds, and Skittles even, were named as super-American things of the past. (One review stated that Target is a supporter of the publisher and this was total name placement for marketing purposes! That makes me laugh but I don’t not doubt it!!)

Points in its favor was that I kept listening, I was interested and curious and gave enjoyable time to the THINKING-ABOUT – rather than being frustrated. Weird when that happens, right? Why do some unknowns frustrate and vagueness/confusion in other situations be of intrigue? #shrug

Rating: Three slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

Copyright © 2007-2023. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Babel

Thoughts by R.F.Kuang, Harper Audio 2022, 545 pages/ 21 hours 46 minutes, narrated by Narrated by Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Billie Fulford-Brown – fabulous!

Challenge: TOB2023, #ReadICT: FULL TITLE: Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution — one that would be an excellent fulfillment to the long title category, but also works for the Secret Society category…

Genre/Theme: Historical Fantasy

Type/Source: audiobook / Audible

What It’s About: A young Chinese orphan boy is taken from Canton and becomes the ward of a noted Oxford professor of languages at the revered Translation department aka Babel. Mayhem ensues. OK, not really — Well, it takes a few years; eventually, young Robin begins his studies in the heralded translation school and makes friends, finds truths, and learns the ways of the world. This book is dense, transportative [boo – I’m being warned that this isn’t actually a word but I say it IS], linguistically-entrancing, at times comic and at times a teensy-weensy melodramatic. But hey! it is Victorian England. I’m keeping transportative. AND melodramatic. It works.

“This is how colonialism works. It convinces us that the fallout from resistance is entirely our fault, that the immoral choice is resistance itself rather than the circumstances that demanded it.”

Thoughts: This is an ambitious, carefully crafted, clever work of Historical Fantasy – showing how colonial capitalism is oppressive, but also exploring the concepts of language itself from beginning to its ever-always updating-changing & morphing into a slippery power struggle for those who attempt to own it all.

Word nerds should love it. I am finding my appreciation for it growing as I attempt to write this and yet… it does has its flaws. It is long. I grew tiresome of the main character’s inner doubts and confusion that contrasts with his daring-do only a page or minute before. Still, I never skipped! (I may have zoned out or paid more attention to traffic in a necessary safety moment or two since I was audio-driving most of it.)

“How strange,’ said Ramy. ‘To love the stuff and the language, but to hate the country.’

‘Not as odd as you’d think,’ said Victoire. ‘There are people, after all, and then there are things.”

But I loved the ending. I loved that this ends with the struggle continuing! OF COURSE! Being set in the 1830s, addressing most of the world’s ills, and knowing history since,…. of course the struggle continues. Shall we suspect a setup for a sequel? One I just might read. If you notice that I don’t even mention the fantasy portion [silver bars magically powered by words], it was not a heavy feature but a significant metaphor perhaps. Am I right or wrong to consider it as such? Don’t know. I’ll just say it worked for me and it didn’t distract nor take up all the oxygen in the book.

Rating: Four and a half slices of pie.

“something something something…. caught with his thumb in a pie… something something”

HEY. I was driving! I can’t capture quotes when I’m driving! audible should make this easier… it shouldn’t be this hard to capture a note and have it become a goodreads update somehow…

I learned about the word STRIKE. I learned about the word NICE. I learned and geeked out on a lot of the language-y things. And the audio had footnotes in a different WONDERFUL voice offering the updates/history/pronunciation/etc. The main narrator was AMAZING, too. Well done. I would, if I had had the time to make this a project, done the eBook with audio to get the full of everything.

Copyright © 2007-2023. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Greenwich Park

Thoughts by Katherine Faulkner,  Gallery Books 2022, 378 pages

Challenge: for Book Club and #ReadICT: Color category (perhaps also Villain category?)

Genre/Theme: Mystery/Thriller

Type/Source: eBook / Libby

What It’s About: Synopsis from the top result of googling:

GREENWICH PARK centers around two women, Helen and Rachel, who find their lives entangled when they meet at a prenatal class. Helen, our protagonist, is an instantly-sympathetic and relatable character: when we meet her, we immediately feel a sense of protectiveness towards her.

Thoughts: No, we didn’t. We did not feel any sense of protectiveness and not immediately. Um… The very first page had me confused and annoyed at adjectives and word choice. Then I saw that Laila didn’t like the main character and then my mother (also in my book club) said it failed to capture her interest in the first few pages. I started to read other 1 and 2 star reviews on goodreads — the kiss of death of whether or not I will like a book!

Someone called the protag “gormless”, other reviews said it was dry. Some praised the writing but I wasn’t impressed.

Back to the ebook (after searching for the word “pie”…), I decided to skip around and jump pages, and then read the ending. Blech. I have no desire to catch up what I might have missed. I really am not a good reader of mystery/thrillers. If they are mostly literary, I might like it but usually, I just can’t get interested!

Rating: Two slices of pie. Apricot tart means pie!

“There are no lines, so I take my time choosing serrano ham, hard cheeses, a glistening apricot tart.”

5%

Copyright © 2007-2023. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Thoughts by Anna Quindlen, Random House Trade 2012, 205 pages

Challenge: What’s in a Name: Celebration category

Genre/Theme: Essays, Family and Motherhood, Aging, Feminism

Type/Source: Tradeback / Second Hand Bookstore Purchase

What It’s About: Anna shares her thoughts on aging. She is so insightful and hopeful.

“At age 60 I find myself poised between the inevitable and the possible, the things I know and understand and the things I hope to learn and perhaps unravel. But it’s still a bit of a mystery, the yet to come, with that greatest of all mysteries, mortality, at its very end.”

Thoughts: She talks a lot about family and her place in the progression of time. Also her timing into the American workforce balanced with the progression of the women’s movement. And, considerate of being thankful that she lived past the age her mother died, and in the realization of how much her mother missed by dying young, and also the perspective of how her mother’s death impacted her appreciation of life ongoing. I was especially thankful and admiring of her essay on religion.

Rating: I don’t think I was cognizant of her use of the the title in the text, nor do I think she ever mentioned pie. Five slices of pie because I love her. And the cover makes me happy.

Copyright © 2007-2023. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance

Thoughts by Alison Espach, Henry Holt & Company 2022, 340 pages

Challenge: for TOB and for #ReadICT: Grief category

Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction; grief, sister relationships

Type/Source: Hardcover / Library

What It’s About: A sister talks to her dead sister, the few years prior, the immediate aftermath, and the years following.

Thoughts: I loved it. Sally was such a devoted little sister, adoring her older sibling. How she grieves and attempts to understand and work through her parents grief, as well as be totally besotted with her sister’s boyfriend. Her outlook on life, attempting to throw humor at everything, only makes her feel odd and empty; it was just heartbreaking and felt very real to me.

Rating: Five slices of pie. Apple pie mentions.

“Then it was over and all the people came to our house and ate apple pie and swirled around our mother at the kitchen table, who was catatonic in her chair.”

Page 97

Copyright © 2007-2023. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Thoughts by Maggie O’Farrell, Blackstone Audio, 7 hours 18 minutes

Challenge: none

Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction; Sisters

Type/Source: Tradeback / Purchased at Half Price Books, I think

What It’s About: Told in flashbacks and from the perspective of three characters: Esme – the youngest sister, Kitty – the eldest, and the granddaughter Iris. Esme has been locked away since she was 16 and now 60+ years later, while Kitty is suffering from dementia in the nursing home. Then there is Iris, the only living relative who owns a vintage clothes shop and pines for her married step-brother. It gets even more complicated when Iris is contacted about Esme when her facility is being shut down. Iris has never heard of Esme and didn’t realize Kitty was not an only child.

Thoughts: Despite the showing of audiobooks this month, I’m still not at my former levels of audio-focus. That or this one just starts confusing, gets muddled and wilding messy in the middle, and might also suffer from cultural unknowns. (Like, what WAS that red cord?! What that MEAN? Do I really know how it ended? I have made assumptions that work for my interpretation of the story, but this would be a terrific one to discuss. With a Scottish person!)

But boy do I love the feisty old ladies. Both of them had feistiness and secrets and regrets and ambition. No excuses for Kitty, but Esme and Iris could have benefited from asking and expressing and having a true exchange of what was going on. Of course, the plot wouldn’t have thickened if they were able to truly share and connect.

She has no idea that her hands and eyes and the tilt of her head, and the fall of her hair, belong to Esme’s mother.

We are all just vessels thru which identities pass. We are lent features, gestures, habits and then we hand them on. Nothing is our own.

We begin in the world as anagrams of our antecedents.

Rating: Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned; a fabulous story idea and not quite convincingly executed. Though a fun ride anyway, I think this one is likely better in print. The stories just bounce between narrator and time with no introduction — it was hard to tell when those changes occurred.

I read this because… I think it was an Audible freebie by an author who has a new book out that looks phenomenal, The Marriage Portrait, which follows a successful Hamnet. Possibly a writer that will go on my “must-read-everything” list.