Moonglow

Thoughts mgbymc by Michael Chabon, HarperAudio 2016, 14 hours 46 minutes

Narrated by George Newbern.

Challenge: TOB shortlist
Genre: fiction-memoir, speculative-memoir?
Type/Source: Audio/Audible Credit
 Why I read this now: Finished The Bone Clocks; this was up next.

MOTIVATION for READING: One thing that recommends this besides it being TOB is that it is written by Chabon. I have only read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and want to read more.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: I’m deferring to a few bits of the goodreads blurb because it is excellent. To read the whole blurb, click on the cover above because even though it is the button for the audio and I probably should link to Audible.com, I believe you would prefer access to the goodreads reviews rather than Audible. Am I wrong? Feel free to comment.

 …  the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon.

Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact—and the creative power—of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history. (edited/cut) Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigor and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.

WHAT’s GOOD:  The unraveling, layering, building. The metaphors, the descriptors, the confident prose. I am almost certain that if you had me read a few pages of a book without identifying the author, I could pick out Chabon’s style and phrasing.

What’s NOT so good:  See above. Unfortunately, I feel like I can dip into and skip around and know that even as am surely ‘missing something’, I won’t miss it.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  If I wasn’t in such a gosh darn hurry to get these books crossed off the list, I would listen to every word and marvel. I would be entertained, enthralled, captivated, etc. I think I’ll just put another or all of Chabon’s books on my tbr and hope to read them someday.

SPECIFIC to TOB:  Due to the narrative structure and question of memoir vs fiction, I really wish this book was slated to compete against Black Wave. What a discussion that could be!  What a syllabus for a college class: these two books, add in A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein and everything by Mary Karr. But what do I know? I haven’t read any of those…

RATING: Four slices of pie. And I did hear a mention (as in, a list of desserts brought to a party) but I failed to capture the specifics.

fourpie

Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.

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Copyright © 2007-2017. 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.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman

Thoughts wlycfbykg by Kaitlyn Greenidge, Algonquin Books Kindle Ed. 2016, 337 pages

Challenge: Rooster TOB Shortlist
Genre: Adult Fiction or Young Adult Fiction…
Type/Source: eBook / Kindle
 Why I read this now: It was offered as a daily deal for $1.99

MOTIVATION for READING: Reading all the TOB Shortlist

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  I refer you to the goodreads blurb:

The Freeman family–Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie–have been invited to the Toneybee Institute in rural Massachusetts to participate in a research experiment. They will live in an apartment on campus with Charlie, a young chimp abandoned by his mother. The Freemans were selected for the experiment because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family.

Isolated in their new, nearly all-white community not just by their race but by their strange living situation, the Freemans come undone. And when Charlotte discovers the truth about the Institute’s history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past begin to invade the present.

The power of this novel resides in Kaitlyn Greenidge’s undeniable storytelling talents. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race.

WHAT’s GOOD:  Surprising, enterprising*, engaging. I am glad to have read it and I don’t know if going totally blind into this was the best idea. But I think it was.

What’s NOT so good: Messy, unwieldy, faltering. (I have a few questions…)

FINAL THOUGHTS: I actually liked this more than I can express and it is the opposite of my feelings for Sweet Lamb of Heaven. In this book I liked it more but found a few faults. With Sweet Lamb, I didn’t like it all that much but couldn’t figure out why. Go figure.

RATING: Three slices of pie. MUD pie!

In his first few days at Courtland County he’d asked, “Y’all do what around here? Fish in ponds? Make mud pies?” and one of them gulped, “We go to the laser show at the CCC’s astronomy lab.” And he’d laughed.

 

∗ enterprise – a project that involves many people and that is often complicated or difficult.

 

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Copyright © 2007-2017. 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 World According to Garp

Thoughts twatgbyji by John Irving, Random House Audio 2006 (orig 1978), with epilogue read by author dated 1998

Narration by Michael Prichard, 20 hours 26 minutes

Challenge:  Classics Club
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
 Why I read this now: Finally, its time had come.

MOTIVATION for READING: I have wanted to read this for a long time. Funny, I can’t really remember why I didn’t read it right away when my occasionally demanding father forbade me to read this book. This book in particular. No other books were included nor was a reason given that I recall. And by ‘occasionally demanding’, I mean that he didn’t often tell me what to “do/not do” but when he did, it always seemed random and interesting in comparison to other similar things he didn’t tell me I couldn’t do.

The funny thing to me, is that I don’t think this book was ever on my radar as a teen or young adult (Odd? I would have been 13 when this book was published and 17 when the movie came out — which I also have yet to see). In fact, for a long time, I thought this book was written by John Updike. So, you see, I really didn’t think it was a book for me anyway and rather than rushing to read it to find out why I wasn’t supposed to like any other normal teenager, I filed it away in my head. Wrongly, but still it sat there waiting for me. In fact, it was Dewey, I think, who corrected or suggested that I was probably not referring to John Updike as an author likely to be the degenerate influence I had presumed. I have never read Updike either. Should I?

I was a kid who seriously believed that lightening bolts would strike if I was deliberately disobedient. I believed in that far longer than I ever believed in Santa Claus, if I ever did.

All this to say that it took me a long time out of respect for my father’s wishes, I suppose, for me to ever decide I should read John Irving. I have read A Prayer for Owen Meany thanks to a readalong – loved it. And thanks to Owen Meany, I eventually came around to knowing I would someday read and love Garp. And boy did I! I did. (Now I want to reread Owen. Sigh…)

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  OK, back to Garp… This book is about an interesting woman wanting to live life on her terms. It’s about her son, Garp. It’s about Garp growing up wanting to be a writer. He gets married, has children. He tries to protect his family from the all that could happen in a scary life in the scary world. (Maybe that is what my father was trying to do.) It’s about family, life and death, and dealing with death.

WHAT’s GOOD: The imagination. The deadpan humor. The absurdity. It feels to me like Irving is a master at making the absurd totally believable. When I see that quote of Neil Gaiman: “Things need not have happened to be true.“ — I tend to think of Irving. And WOW people! this is a timely book. A reminder that feminism is just getting started and still has a long way to go. A reminder that in some things, we were ahead of the times AND that we have slipped in our understandings. Feminism, transsexuals, rape culture, politics, open-mindedness, what is “family”? Garp was an authentic passionate talented guy who loved fiercely.

Books like this remind me that there were no “good ol’ days”; that humans can be vile, have always been vile, will continue to be vile; and yet still, humans can be kind.

What’s NOT so good:  That even though I never saw the movie (yet – maybe even tonight, most likely this weekend), I still kept seeing John Lithgow as Roberta Muldoon. Not all the time, but often enough to hear his voice and see his face, with lipstick and rouge. That really isn’t a criticism and I probably shouldn’t mention it…

No pie was mentioned that was noticed.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Beware the undertoad.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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.

March

Thoughts marchbygb by Geraldine Brooks, Penguin Books 2006 (orig 2004), 288 pages

Challenge: What’s in a Name Challenge, Month category wian2016
Genre: Fanfiction
Type/Source: Tradeback/Used Bookstore
 Why I read this now:  To finish up the challenge.

MOTIVATION for READING: I have been interested in this because it explores a missing element or side story to Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women. This won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. I have enjoyed two books by this author: A Year of Wonders 2001 and People of the Book 2008.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: This explores what happens to the father who goes off to the Civil War leaving his wife and four daughters back home in Concord Mass. I found him to be a very interesting and sympathetic character.

When he first enlisted, March was an idealistic man. He knew, above all else, that fighting this war for the Union cause was right and just. But he had not expected he would begin a journey through hell on earth, where the lines between right and wrong, good and evil, were too often blurred.   – from the Intro

WHAT’s GOOD: I thought it felt extremely authentic and inventive. The language used, descriptions of war and the issues surrounding slavery, the morality questioned made this an excellent experience. The two part structure – first we are given Mr. March’s side of events and in the second, we find out what Mrs. March REALLY thinks and how different her views were from her husband’s impressions was fascinating and lent an interesting light to the subtle difficulties of communication between husband and wife.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am so more motivated to reread Little Women. I would love to have face-to-face discussions  about what some have mentioned that this ‘ruins Little Women‘ or violates the saintly image of Father. I thought he came across as vibrantly human and admirable in his attempts to be true.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

“Kindly Mr. Brooke had bought me a pie, which he had kept warmed by the fire, and I ate it gratefully,…”  p.249

Coinky-dink Book Link to Big Magic: “We do not have ideas. The idea has us . . . and drives us into the arena to fight for it like gladiators, who combat whether they will or no.”

Also, having read The Good Lord Bird, I enjoyed having another literary view of John Brown, Abolitionist. Just click on the title I just mentioned to read my review of that National Book Winner.

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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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Echoes of Family

Thoughts eofbybcw by Barbara Claypole White, ARC Lake Union Publishing 2016 (expected Sept 27), 440 pages

Challenge: Reading books pub’d in current year. Actually, OFFICIAL PUBLISH date is one month away.
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback / the author offered me a copy
 Why I read this now: I wanted to.

MOTIVATION for READING:  It seems that I am attempting to read all of BCW’s books as fast a possible.

Sometimes the only way through darkness is to return to where it began.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  We have a strong woman named Marianne who is “bi-polar”and manages to not only run a successful recording studio business but has also created a program to assist young female runaways. She has a big heart. We meet her husband Darius who is fiercely in love with her and her ‘daughter’ Jade who was a ‘rescued’ teen and is now the right-hand more-than-competent “capital A” Assistant in support of all things Marianne. Of course, we meet others of consequence, too: her childhood BFF Gabriel.

However strong Marianne is, she does have lapses and this latest one takes her to England and into her past. In her manic moments, she is “whirlwind action” of turmoil and love — some of it works, some does not. She has to learn to deal with her memories of family gone, her place in the world, and her family now.

WHAT’s GOOD:  Claypole White can write an engaging character. Her descriptions of Marianne’s extremes on that bi-polar spectrum are high-spirited and then turn to low-energy —  just like the mental illness she is capturing. I was amazed how my heart raced through the mania!

Knowing what I do know of this North Carolinian author, I delighted in the places mentioned that I know and many smatterings of native birds and flowers. She is excellent at referencing her known world. I am not as familiar with the English setting but Claypole White has a eye for authentic detail and sharing it with her words.

What’s NOT so good: I thought it took a bit to get into but I was confident I would be in for a well-rounded interesting and lively tale if I stuck with it and I was not disappointed at the end.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I am excited to continue working through all of BCW’s books; I have in-house The Unfinished Garden on the docket soon. What I might have to consider is that she is only just starting her fifth novel and I might get impatient!

Since God hadn’t listened when she’d asked Him, sweet as pie, to lobotomize the part of her brain that insisted she was in love, Jade had developed a new ploy…

RATING:  Three and one-half slices of pie, rounding up to four.

bcwpie

Oh yes, she may have forgotten about all her pie references, but the reading did not disappoint! We had mini-tarts of bourbon pecan, we had (of course, duh – set in England) steak and kidney pie, and most unexpected but extremely delightful: orange-and-rhubarb pie! I will have to make this. And treacle tart. I am on the search for a bottle of treacle so that I can perfect this treat before the Scuppernong Books’ event promoting Barbara Claypole White’s Echoes of Family.

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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 Vegetarian

Thoughts tvbyhk by Han King, Hogarth 2015 (orig 2007), 188 pages

Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2015

Challenge:  Prize Winners?  Translated Works?
Genre: Asian Lit
Type/Source: Hardback / Gift from Ruthiella – THANKS!
 Why I read this now: A book in hand will get read.

MOTIVATION for READING: Ruthiella was kind enough to send it to me. I ran out of books on the boat (well, I have two, I think, on my Kindle yet?)

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A young woman, Yeong-hye, is assaulted by horrific dreams (and is also married to a cad.) She decides to forego eating meat because of these dreams and this upsets pretty much EVERYONE. Told from three perspectives — the cad of a husband, her sister’s husband and her sister — and not Yeong-hye, though we do see bits of her dreams.

In the words of The Guardian:

“Dark dreams, simmering tensions, chilling violence . . .  This South Korean novel is a feast . . . It is sensual, provocative, and violent, ripe with potent images, startling colors, and disturbing questions. . . Sentence by sentence, The Vegetarian is an extraordinary experience. . . [It] will be hard to beat.”

WHAT’s GOOD: Oh, it is deliciously disturbing. The writing IS lyrical, the images are startling, the mood is darkly apprehensive.

As LINDA says in the blurbs at the beginning of my copy of the book:

“[A] bloodcurdlingly beautiful, sinister book.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: A perfect book for RIP if you don’t get to it before this fall.

RATING: Four slices of pie. No pastries mentioned but I think every fruit available in Korea might make an appearance. Lots of food descriptions.

fourpie

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Thoughts gtiotmbyjb by James Baldwin, Blackstone Audio 2013 (orig 1953), 8 hours 45 minutes

Narrated by Adam Lazarre-White.

BackToTheClassics2016

Challenge: Back to the Classics
Genre: American classic, coming of age
Type/Source: Audio/Audible
 Why I read this now: This was the only audiobook I had on my phone at the moment I was ready to listen to a new one.

MOTIVATION for READING: I am curious. Baldwin is mentioned as an important writer and I had yet to read any of his work.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Not at all what I expected. I thought it was a going to be an essay on race relations in America. It’s fiction! I did not know it was fiction. I did not know it was semi-autobiographical. I was not prepared at all for this.

It is a story of a family and an individual family member grappling with his destiny against family history and expectations and cultural storms. It captures a certain place and time but the theme is universal.

WHAT’s GOOD: The writing blew me away. Here’s the blurb from goodreads; bold red font emphasis is mine:

Go Tell It on the Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Powerful.

RATING: Four slices of pie. The narration is excellent.

“after dinner, they brought up the pie and coffee and cream…”

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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 Bean Trees

Thoughts tbtbybk by Barbara Kingsolver, HarperPaperbacks 1998 (orig 1988), 312 pages

Challenge: What’s in a Name 9 wian2016
Genre: Young Adult
Type/Source: Mass Market Paperback / unknown
 Why I read this now: I wanted a small book to take on my travels.

MOTIVATION for READING: This book was on the 2014 list of recommended summer reading for the high school I subbed for in Massachusetts.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A young girl who yearns to escape her confining small town in Kentucky takes off for grand adventures. The least of which is NOT that she is handed a baby somewhere in Oklahoma on her way to who-knows-where; so she just mosies on down the road with little thought about it whatsoever… Seriously, the more I reflect on her nonchalance about being just handed a baby and her taking off with zero thought or consideration of consequence exasperates me.

For a much more detailed synopsis and thoughtful review, read this by BooksPlease blog.

WHAT’s GOOD: Kingsolver is not without writing talent. She can probably write anything and make it believable. I really did enjoy the main character and many of the good-hearted people she has the fortune to meet on her journey.

What’s NOT so good: Keeping in mind that this is set in the 80’s – and likely the early 80s, it is just odd/difficult to think that the not-so-distant past really IS that far away and yet so relatable. Pay phones, cars that won’t start unless you pop the clutch, walking into a job at a hospital and handling blood on day one. Really?! It was discombobulating. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: Kingsolver is also not shy about cleverly ranting about immigration policies and she skillfully grounds the story in the history of the time. The theme was all about creating your own family and being kind.

If I had known that the bean trees were really a reference to Wisteria, I probably would have read it sooner.

C8113B8C-7CE2-478F-9DAC-B61A4917DE70

RATING: Three slices of pie.

“The night before, she’d listened to the forecast and picked a mop bucket full of hard little marbles off the tomato vines, and this morning she had green-tomato pies baking upstairs. I know this sounds like something you’d no more want to eat than a mud-and-Junebug pie some kid would whip up, but it honestly smelled delicious.”

IMG_4777(This is a fried green tomato pimento cheese pie with a chocolate cream pie chaser.)

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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 Turner House

Thoughts tthbyaf by Angela Flournoy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015, 352 pages

Challenge: Tournament of Books
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
 Why I read this now: trying to cram as many of the shortlist in before Monday.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A family drama, a black family of 13 children, bookended by the eldest son’s obsession with a ghost (a haint) from his childhood and the youngest’s attempt to survive without a job, a place to live and with a gambling addiction. Lots of family dynamics all set within the framework of a decaying family house within a story of the city of Detroit.

WHAT’s GOOD: I thought it honest about fear of living/surviving, fear of aging, racism realities, addiction.

What’s NOT so good: I have only a minor quibble about geography. An editor might have caught this inconsistency question and suggested a reroute so someone like me from Kansas doesn’t get panties in a twist about how a guy could take the train from Pine Bluff Arkansas to Detroit and somehow see the scenery of Kansas. Or how a truck driver on a route of Detroit to Nashville ends up wooing a pharmacist tech in Kansas City. Hmmmph.

FINAL THOUGHTS: An easy reading, interesting family drama that will keep Angela Flournoy on my list of authors-to-follow.

RATING: I gave it four slices but it might only be a 3+. Overall, I liked it, but it is already fading as I now get immersed in the audio of Fates and Furies and print of The Sellout.

Pie Mentions:  Page 151 “Tamale pie”

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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.

A Spool of Blue Thread

Thoughts asobtbyat by Anne Tyler, Alfred A. Knopf 2015, 357 pages

Challenge: Tournament of Books 2016 Short List
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
 Why I read this now: Both for one of my book clubs and attempt to read all the Rooster TOB Short List

FIRST Sentence:  Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

What’s it ABOUT: This is not very plot heavy so let’s see I how do here. This book is about a family with a father and a mother and their four kids; eventually there’s grandkids. One son, Denny, is the black sheep, but it’s not about him, really. I could possibly say it is about Abby. It’s an odd novel that I surely failed to appreciate for its strengths. Another character is the house the family lived it. Red had lived there most of his life; his father built it. We get some of that generation’s story, too. I can’t even pick out a favorite character. But Red’s mom is something else.

I wish I could find something exciting to add. Perhaps I have you curious? Perhaps you adore Anne Tyler and don’t really care what I think about it? That’s my hope. You can tell she is a very comfortable author with her craft.

WHAT’s GOOD: There is nothing wrong, per se. I found it rather boring. It did have a few good chuckles — observations about family, relationships and expectations.

What’s NOT so good: Me, I suppose. I cannot pinpoint what failed to capture my attention, why I didn’t fall for this more. I usually like character-driven family drama style books, don’t I?

If you’ve read this book and think you might have a sense of what kind of book I like, do you find it funny that I didn’t enjoy this more? I do. I actually think this would be the kind of book I would write if I ever find a story burning in my brain begging to be told.

FINAL Thoughts: I’m glad to have read it and I am most curious about what the judges will say in the TOB. I have this inkling that I will be able to agree with those that loved it but also identify with any faults found by those who didn’t like it.

I hope we have a wonderful discussion at book club! I usually do come away from our meetings with new appreciations. This is my most dedicated and focused club – we have a little bell to ring when the conversation strays away from the book which means that everyone usually has something to share beyond, “Yep, I liked it.”

PIE Mentions:

“What’s for dessert?” Tommy asked his mother.
Stem said, “SSh. Grandma’s on the phone.”
“Blueberry pie,” Nora said.
“Goody!”

RATING: Three slices of blueberry pie.

 

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Copyright © 2007-2016. 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.