Dark Rooms

Thoughts

3328CC7B-EF2C-4939-82A2-351E6525B4AF by Lili Anolik, Wm Morrow 2015, 323 pages

Review in six words:  sisters, murder, siblings, whodunit, bad parenting

Free flow ramblings:  Grace is the older sister to a cooler more wild, more world-wise Nica who shows up dead by gunshot. Setting is a boarding school so of course, we get class issues, drug use, promiscuity, all of it. Nica is sleeping with everyone, it seems, so we wonder who ISN’t a suspect? But the school and the police conveniently find a suicide with confession note. Gracie isn’t buying it. A few of the situations she gets herself into are almost ridiculous but we buy it because kids are confusing and confused and doubts are huge; motivation-exploration and self-awareness are numbed by drugs and avoidance even as she keeps placing herself into conversations and confrontations to solve her sister’s murder. All is solved in the end and those plot turns and twists are just a part of the ride.

I don’t “get” the title… oh wait! I do!! Ha, ok, took me way waaaay too long, but Mom is a photographer. I guess that’s the connection. Mom is a real peach if you like fiction with icky mother-daughter storylines.

Rating: three slices of pie.

 

 

 

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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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Wide Sargasso Sea #ccspin

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Norton 2016 (org 1966), 174 Pages

Introduction by Edwidge Danticat (read last, though, of course. I adhere to a strict policy of never reading Intros until I read the text. Ahem)

Challenge: For this month’s Classic Club Spin.

Genre: Fan-Fiction? Carribean Historical Fiction, an Anti-Romance, perhaps.

Type/Source: Tradeback / I finally had the opportunity and forethought to plan for a shopping trip to an Indie Bookstore who to my excitement and delight had a copy for me to purchase!

Will ship to anyone interested – just let me know your opinion of Jane Eyre.

_ ____ ________________

For those book-readers-and-pie-lovers who don’t already know, this work of fiction is the back story to one of the characters in Jane Eyre. Jane is the plucky poor governess who woos Rochester to marriage but then finds out that he is already married. And this first wife is living in his house, chained up in the attic! Sorry if I spoilt that for you, but I am truly shocked when I encounter people who don’t know what Jane Eyre is about. Book readers, even. How, I ask, do some college educated people I am friends with actually not know about Jane Eyre! A diverse world we live in; I keep finding out.

Anyway, Jean Rhys had read Jane Eyre and wanted to know more about this first Mrs. Rochester and so she put her ideas into this short novella.

I probably should reread it. It is atmospheric and confusing. It is stream of consciousness and vivid. It provides narrative on the lady’s childhood (tragic) and then switches to a time right after she is married to an Englishman and is this part is from this unnamed guy’s perspective. We know this is Rochester.

And he comes off as an asshole. The first part is rather straightforward and we sympathize greatly with Miss Antoinette and her sad mother and her scary circumstances – poor and friendless in hostile territory, a failed plantation on a Caribbean island. It is sketchy exactly how her fortunes turn but mother somehow remarries money… more tragedy happens and then Part 2.

Rochester marries Antoinette for her money, but doesn’t really remember everything cuz he gets the fever for a few weeks while all this is happening. Antoinette seems happy and crazy in love but Rochester is bewildered and befuddled and then finds out Antoinette’s true father was a drunk and much worse, her mother is ‘mad’, crazy, a whore. Rochester is filled with rage. He’s been tricked!

Antoinette also becomes enraged to find out this guy is a total jerk. Partly because he starts calling her Bertha – or was that before he got pissed off, I forget; but it was odd to me why he did that (and it is just so hard to think of the name Bertha as a “pretty” pet name – so confusing.) And THEN! He sleeps with a servant, UGH! and basically treats everyone like the asshole he is.

Part 3 is in England, to scenes familiar to those of us who know the setting and storyline of Jane Eyre.

 

Yikes… so rather than reread just yet, I post this and invite any of you to share/correct me on these thoughts.

 

I would love to take a class on Jane combined with discussion of this story, the history it depicts, the themes throughout both, and the motivations of both authors. Fun stuff!

The Introduction is excellent, too!

Four slices of pie. Alas, no pie nor pastry mentioned in Wide Sargasso Sea.

Cross another classic off my 50. Thank you Spin for the prompt to get this read.

I am on to my next: Vanity Fair – a classic I know little about (and what I might think I know seems to be wrong.) I know that Becky Sharpe is a famous conniving female character of literature and so far, Thackeray is entertaining in a Dickens kind of way…

[insert copyright note here and book cover image at top when I get back to a PC – I can’t figure out how to do that with this device…]

Talking as Fast as I Can

Thoughts  by Lauren Graham, Random House Audio 2016, 4 hours 38 minutes

Narrated by the author. And of course, she is awesome.

Challenge: none
Genre: Celebrity Memoir
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
 Why I read this now: I had credits to burn and wanted something lively.

MOTIVATION for READING: I have something interesting to admit. I have never watched Gilmore Girls. I’ve never watched Parenthood. Oh, I *know* of Gilmore Girls and I’ve seen bits and pieces and of course, have read many-a-book-blogger post the GG book lists and gush all over about how wonderful the series is, but I don’t watch much TV and I don’t have Netflix. I can’t see myself downloading an entire series of anything to watch. I have placed myself outside of popular culture, it seems.

But I love Lauren Graham. I have seen Bad Santa. 

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Lauren talking about her life, her upbringing, her career…

WHAT’s GOOD: Her charm and sparkle.

What’s NOT so good: I probably should watch Gilmore Girls just so I know all the people she is talking about…

FINAL THOUGHTS: I listen to celebrity memoir audiobooks when I need to get over a reading slump, or to change it up, or to laugh, or to be inspired. This one was perfect for where I was at the end of March – post TOB slumparooza…

RATING: Five slices of pie? Maybe only 4 considering I didn’t relate to about 25% (she goes through and chats about what happened in the original series run – I didn’t know anything/anyone!) but who cares… No pie mentioned, that I recall. Pity. That would have ensured its 5 slice rating.

OK, her best advice? When someone offers you an opportunity and you think you can’t do it, do it anyway!  This bit was meaningful to me right now – when I am both overwhelmed by my new job and what I have to do and my doubts about whether or not I can pull it off. Am I a sham? Or is this imposter-syndrome? What if imposter-syndrome is TRUE? egads. Give me courage, give me strength. Give me a Lauren Graham pep talk.

 

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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.

The Power of a Positive No

Thoughts  How to Say No and Still Get to Yes by William Ury, Random House Audio 2007, 7 hours 15 minutes

Challenge: Company Book Club
Genre: Business/Professional Development
 Why I read this now:  To participate in the company book club.

MOTIVATION for READING: I have always respected those who can say NO without fanfare or excuses. They are being true to themselves. This is a terrific skill to develop.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Ury is a negotiation consultant. He is a co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation and directs the Global Negotiation Initiative. He has a series of books on this topic; basic common sense but very challenging advice on how to be effective in solving conflict.

Find your deeper YES (what you do want!) – state your NO – suggest a yes to negotiate a win-win (yes?)

WHAT’s GOOD: SO so good. Though, at times, the book tends to feel repetitive, that only stresses how hard this stuff is!  To respect and not react, to be centered and grounded and know what we really want for ourselves before we have to work towards agreements with others. Great examples, wonderful stories, terrific suggestions on how to do all of this.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The challenge lies in getting beyond the recognition of how valuable this approach is to actually USING it the precise moment it is needed.

I give this quote:

The great problem today is that we have divorced our Yeses from our Nos. Yes without No is appeasement, whereas No without Yes is war. Yes without No destroys one’s own satisfaction, whereas No without Yes destroys one’s relationship with others. We need both Yes and No together. Yes is the key word of community. No, the key word of individuality. Yes is the key word of connection, No the key word of protection. Yes is the key word of peace, No the key word of justice.

RATING: Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

 

 

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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.

Exit West

Thoughts by Mohsin Hamid, Penguin Audio 2017, 4 hours 42 minutes

Challenge: Tournament of Books 
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible 
 Why I read this now: Next best to read from the TOB list.

MOTIVATION for READING: I listened to this one even though, like Eddy, it violates my audiobook length rule. I like looooong audiobooks and I hate feeling like I wasted a credit on such a short one! Oh well.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A couple in a war torn country escape via doors to other countries that don’t really want immigrants and migrants.

WHAT’s GOOD: It casts an important light on humanity and how we don’t treat well those from ‘other’.

What’s NOT so good: I didn’t get it. I don’t know, it just wasn’t for me. I do get that it has been highly praised and casts an important light on serious subjects but I didn’t like the matter of fact tone. I didn’t have enough emotion stirred up to care about Nadia and Saeed. Actually, not quite true – I liked Saeed’s father and mother. I didn’t get the other little side stories that would pop up and then never be tied up. I suppose that was the point but it was rather unjarring.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I don’t think this book on audio was the best way for me to experience. I am not saying that the author didn’t give an inspired reading but that my hearing this tale while driving in traffic didn’t work.

RATING: Two slices of pie for how I truly want to rate this but three on goodreads because I hate being contrarian and the book obviously is getting good attention — this book works for lots and lots of people (while others hated it as gimmicky) — I have no need to want to bring the rating down. I mean, it did come across as polished and important without being pretentious. I just didn’t like it that much. No pie mentioned.

 

 

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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.

Stoner

Thoughts  by John Williams, New York Review Book 2003 (orig 1965), 305 pages

Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.

H

Challenge: Classics Club 50!
Type/Source: eBook/Kindle

MOTIVATION for READING: I had heard very good things about this book; I had expectations that it would be just the kind of book I love. And it was!

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Stoner is a Professor of Literature at the University of Missouri. This book explores his entire life, start to finish.

WHAT’s GOOD: The writing.

What’s NOT so good: I love contemplative character studies. If you don’t, just skip it. It’s OK.              I LOVED this.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m so glad to finally conquer this one! Yay me.

RATING: Five slices of pie. No pie mentioned. Although, ‘magpie’ is.

“Outside, in the old elm that crowded the back-yard fence, a large black-and-white bird—a magpie—had started to chatter. He listened to the sound of its calling and watched with remote fascination the open beak as it strained out its lonely cry.”

 

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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.

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Updated to add links to the TOB:

 

 

 

Thoughts  by Jesmyn Ward, Simon Schuster Audio 2017, 8 hours 22 minutes

Narrated by Kelvin Harrison Jr, Chris Chalk, Rutina Wesley – RECOMMENDED

Challenge: Tournament of Book 2018
Genre: Southern Lit, Magic Realism
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
 Why I read this now: Hot book in the TOB that I had heard of more than some of the others. 

MOTIVATION for READING:  I hadn’t read a Jesmyn Ward book. Am eager still to read everything she produced/s, past and future.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  I will provide the official blurb from the ‘official’ reader’s guide on the publisher’s website:

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, she brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied Sing is a majestic work that belongs in the canon of American literature.

WHAT’s GOOD: A lot. The writing, the imagery, the connections. Masterful.

What’s NOT so good: Perhaps it was the audio, but it took me a long time to figure out a few things – that is ME, not the fault of the book. (Driving and listening in winter travel conditions might not be the best medium for enjoying a shocking story.) But upon reading other thoughts and reactions, I have come to appreciate what was happening. This is a book that gets better in your mind the more you think about it.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  This would be a great book for wise discussion and I am certain that it could only increase in appreciation. It is a powerful, masterful piece of literature and possibly could be, will be the kind of book taught in high schools for years to come; a classic already.

RATING: Four FIVE slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

 

 

 

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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.

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

Thoughts  by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni, Berrett-Koehler Pubs 2012, 144 pages

Challenge:  Personal Professional Development
Genre: Business Improvement, Professional Development, HR
Type/Source: Tradeback, my manager’s bookshelf
 Why I read this now: very timely

MOTIVATION for READING: I have been conducting training sessions this week and last on how to give (and receive) feedback, set goals, and how to have a development mindset when it comes to performance reviews.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: The subtitle for this book is “Career Conversations Employees Want” and that is where this book is strong. Providing not just the WHY this is important but also phrases and language to employ that ease into conversations, asking the right questions, and getting to a give and take flow of discussion so agreement and excitement and proactive feedback is delivered.

WHAT’s GOOD: It is short but hard-hitting. This stuff – giving employee feedback for growth — is the stuff easily ignored or brushed off but when sincere and forthright, it is powerful.  This book is colorful and superbly organized; it is easy to use for reference as well as engaging enough to sit down and devour the whole thing. A practical guidebook for anyone who is responsible for team work.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for any manager who has to give performance reviews. It will provide not only the impactful reasons for doing such but gives the hope and tools to engage team members in discussing futures and growth opportunities.

RATING: Five slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

 

 

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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.

Reset

Reset:  My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao, Spiegel & Grau / New York 2017, 274 pages

pieratingsmlOne stranger wrote to me during the hardest part of the trial, telling me how, too often, “positive comments we receive we deflect like Teflon, while negative comments we hang on to like Velcro.”

Challenge: First Book
Genre: Nonfiction, Gender Discrimination, Tech Industry
Type/Source: Hardback / Purchased

Motivation for Reading: One aspect of my job is the opportunity to facilitate workshops on Respect in the Workplace, which, as you may assume, includes how our company addresses Sexual Harassment. I have been drawn to the stories in the news reporting and responding to the #metoo campaign to keep apprised and ready for how to answer questions and ask the questions so participants understand the pervasive and subtle aspects of this issue.

Which is why I wanted to read this book. Ellen Pao is a dynamo, her credentials are astounding: Electrical Engineering from Princeton, MBA Harvard, Law degree Harvard; I am grateful to her that she didn’t ‘settle’ her case and that she kept her independence in order to share her story.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: If you don’t know who she is, and I am not one of those who followed this story in detail as it was happening,  Pao worked as a Venture Capitalist in the Technology industry and sued her employer for discrimination. Why were males who were at a junior level to her responsibilities and had worked there less time promoted when she was not? She described the old boys club to a tee.

WHAT’s GOOD: It’s not tell-all with respect and dignity and humility. Maybe with that tag, it didn’t really feel TELL ALL. But do we really need to hear more crap with a mean gossipy tone? no. And she doesn’t. She comes across sincere and respectful.

While reading this, I was so saddened; that there is nothing new, there is no new layer of nuance to explore. It is a story of a company culture of entitled white men behaving badly. And then having the financial resources to win lawsuits. It’s disgusting. It’s just another story that money can buy a version of justice that is not truth; that our court systems are not perfect. 

What is encouraging is that Pao is actively working on how to create inclusive workplaces and supporting women and POC to achieve. Thus her title, let’s keep working towards a better future.

Ellen Pao has courage. I will follow and cheer her accomplishments going forward. I want to help hit Reset in my work, within my sphere of influence.

Rating: four slices of pie.

No pie mentioned.

The next book on this theme I hope to read soon:   Speaking Truth to Power by Anita Hill.

 

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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.