A Gentleman in Moscow

Thoughts by Amor Towles,  Penguin Books 2016, 462 pages

Challenge: Theta Book Club
Genre: Contemporary Lit, Historical Fiction?
Type/Source: Tradeback; purchased?  I don’t recall how I got this.
 Why I read this now:  Selected Book for October’s Discussion

MOTIVATION for READING: Book Club!

“To what end, he wondered, had the Divine created the stars in heaven to fill a man with feelings of inspiration one day and insignificance the next?”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Count Rostov, a member of Russian aristocracy, is designated a Non-Person, placed under house-arrest in 1928 and mostly forgotten by the Bolshevik powers that be. He adapts quite well to the decades and makes a new family of everyone he connects with.

“There’s a difference between being resigned to a situation and reconciled to it.”

THOUGHTS: One of my favorite things to do is to read reviews that vary from my personal reaction. Most reviews LOVE this story. However, a few readers found it ‘twee’. This word dismays me. I don’t quite have a definition set solid for what TWEE means. (Kind of like ska* music. I have NO IDEA.) If this was twee, it was smarter and more sharp-humor than I think of when something is called that descriptor. That could be my snobbery; Twee things aren’t smart, right?

I liked this story. I was caught up in how the Count was “making the best of it”. I was quite touched that he was all-in immediately to the surprise request of taking care of an 8  year old girl, “Sure, why not?” No protests, only a tiny touch of self-doubt or misunderstanding of what he (and the entire hotel staff, of course) was about to hide and handle.

And of course, she became a lovely accomplished young woman.

But what actually happens at the end? I’m not sure…

“The surest sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.? – Montaigne

I learned a lot or was given new things to think about on the history of Russia that was playing out on the streets outside of the hotel. It felt surreal, as do times now, actually. Is what is really going on in the US really happening?! How can the two sides’ perspective, the violence the anger the ‘fake news’ the accusations, be REAL?!  Ugh, it is frightening and I wonder if we will survive to see the historical perspective on it in 20 years time.

RATING:  I gave this 5 slices of pie. Because it was well written, I enjoyed it, I needed just this right now.

“I love your funny alphabet and those little pastries stuffed with meat.”

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* Ska is unique because it really emphasizes the offbeats of the guitar; combines Jamaican drum sounds and jazz beats…

Copyright © 2007-2020. 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 Haunting of Hill House

Thoughts by Shirley Jackson, Blackstone Audio 2010 (orig 1959), 7 hour 36 minutes

Bernadette Dunne (Narrator)

“It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.”

Challenge: Readers in Peril XV
Genre: Doesn’t Shirley Jackson have her own genre?
Type/Source: Audio
 Why I read this now:  Only a coincidence that my reading this happened to be during RIP, to be honest. I needed an audiobook, this one was available. I’ve always wanted to read it. Because Shirley.F.Jackson.

MOTIVATION for READING: See sentence above.

“Don’t do it, Eleanor told the little girl; insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again; don’t do it; and the little girl glanced at her, and smiled a little subtle, dimpling, wholly comprehending smile, and shook her head stubbornly at the glass. Brave girl, Eleanor thought; wise, brave girl.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A professor attempting to find a big breakthrough for his research and to make his place in Academia, invites many possible apprentices to join him in a stay at a house of ill (horror) repute. Only a few take him up on it.

But they are ALL IN, Baby!

THOUGHTS: So, I’ve maybe seen the movie? maybe PIECEs of the movie? I seem to know enough about that movie with (Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson) but not quite the same. Same enough! Minor creative differences, is all.

The house is actually COOL, in its off kilter slightly not-square way. And the buildup is great. The guy who built the place was obviously way off his rocker and nothing is explained.

Only survived…

“I like apple pie with sour cream.”

I enjoyed the telling, I enjoyed the descriptions and the sense of place – extremely well done. I did see Lili as Eleanor and I could see CZJ as Theo, too. Liam Neeson will never be the professor. Yes, Jackson is a master – so good. Not really that scary in print, methinks. I may never watch the movie again nor the miniseries recently. I’m just NOT a scary movie person.

RATING:  Four slices of pie.

 

 

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Tender is the Night

Thoughts by F.Scott Fitzgerald, 1934, 356 pages

Challenge:  Classics Club Spin
Genre: Classic
Type/Source: ebook, library
 Why I read this now:  SPIN!   

MOTIVATION for READING: I had read somewhere that this was his best work. I may have read that wrong. Could be it is still a topic of debate.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  LOTS going on in this book and to be honest, I didn’t give it my full attention (which might mean that I actually failed to finish. Shame on me! I am still counting it as read…)

Dick Diver is married. He and his wife make a lovely much-admired couple and live in an amazingly glamorous spot on the French Riviera leading a glamorous life. But really, he is a psychoanalyst married to a former patient (named Nicole, who seems perfectly lovely in the first half) and is now attracted (the Dick dude) to a cute young glamorous up&coming actress who throws herself at him. But really, I didn’t get much farther than that. I love that history shocks me – that WHAT?!          WHY young ladies don’t throw themselves at happily married men they meet on the beach AND admire the wives and yet still throw themselves at the husband anyway AND TELL THEIR OWN MOTHER?!  in the late 1920s?!  did they? Do they?

I would have never. (Told my mother.)

I put the book down and ten days later when I had the time and mindspace to jump back in, I found out that it was a 14 day library ebook loan and I FAILED. Oooops. It expired.

So I spent a few hours watching YouTube BookTube videos and caught myself up on the plot of what I missed.

Dick and Nicole’s marriage implodes. He does end up sleeping with the young actress apparently but the book takes a turn and shares how Dick and Nicole met in the first place; then Nicole sleeps with a friend, — apparently, they talk it out “LIKE ADULTS” (whatever that might mean) and it ends ambiguously with Dick being an alcoholic and Nicole hopefully have her HEA. I heard it had an ambiguous ending.

OK, maybe I kept zoning out on the less than 10 minute BookTube reviews. Sue me.

THOUGHTS: This book does seem to have CARE PIE written ALL OVER IT! But no, nope. I just didn’t quite get into that must-finish-keep-reading-it’s-past-my-bedtime-don’t-care state which I was wanting.

Should I have audiobooked it?!

oH yEA.  I will watch the movie. Hopefully sooner than later. Casting looks suspect in my distant future viewpoint yet the pretties and the settings look like it just might deliver.  Jason Robards, Jennifer Jones, Joan Fontaine?! and Jill St John. Adapted to the 1960s and made in 1962. Sign. me. up.

RATING:  Three slices of pie.

 

 

 

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Wolf Hall

Thoughts by Hilary Mantel, Macmillan Audio 2009, 24 hours 14 minutes

Narrated by Simon Slater

Genre: Historical Lit
Type/Source: Audiobook, Audible
 Why I read this now:  Reading this for both TOB and to satisfy my own curiosity. I want to be ready for the 3rd in the series which is due in March.

MOTIVATION for READING: Super Rooster Chase <– see post. This edition of the TOB is to be held sometime in 2020. The March 202o edition will be just another regular TOB, I think.  The Long List for that is due next week! (I’ll update a link when I have it.) #SuperRoosterTOB

I really enjoyed listening to Wolf Hall and was wowed by the dialogue, the drama, the layers and depths to Cromwell’s persona.

Mantel was able to make him a sympathetic character! I like history, I do. I just don’t know as much as I think I should. Prior to this, I really didn’t have much knowledge other than the popular image of King Henry VIII and all his wives. I would say I thought Cromwell to be a shrewd, cruel man involved in some way with that period of English history. But this story does NOT portray him as particularly evil or mean, but rather quietly ambitious, loyal, fatherly, community-minded and very very thoughtful. I wasn’t sure what to do with this gentle, considerate and — oh sure, scheming  — person.

Was he scheming or just very very good at being flexible and adept at taking advantage of the opportunities presented?

So, I liked Cromwell. I did. Sigh. After finishing this book, I googled what might happen next and…. huh.  Well.

I’m not going to give a review of what happens in this book. It’s about Tom C and his rise to power, basically. And all THAT  is very dependent on the relationship with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Anne is fascinating; very very fascinating…  OH, the whole thing is just DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA. I love how Hilary imagined it might have gone down. And I was amazed at how subtle and slippery it was. In fact, truly, I missed the milestones in the day to day to day – wait. WHAT happened? What did I miss?!

OFF WITH THEIR HEAD!

I googled SO MANY names! so many histories so many s/he begat so-and-so.

I googled Rafe Sadler. I googled his son Gregory. I googled “Is Oliver Cromwell related to Thomas Cromwell?” Such history! I can see why some people get obsessed with all things Royal.  It’s just fascinating for some reason. (I’ve googled descendants of our Founding Fathers, too, to see if any have popped up famous…) Family histories fascinate me, what can I say. You might wonder if I’m agog with the Kennedys but actually, I’m only mildly interested in them… The Vanderbilts tho? OH YEA.

I can’t wait to do the next in the series; will probably do the audiobook.

From a #SuperRooster perspective, this is not my favorite to win but I’m glad to finally read it and I’m psyched to be ready for the Champion TOB when it happens.

Your turn. Thoughts? Do share!

 

 

Ch 19 42:28         “Like he was a lid to a pie,”

Four slices of pie.

 

 

 

Up next: the Accidental by Ali Smith. Discussion 12/15/2019

My copy just arrived… This will be my first Ali Smith!

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Copyright © 2007-2019. 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 2019 Mini-Reviews

Thoughts

March was a delight! Celebrating the Tournament of Books is the best thing about March. If you haven’t heard, My Sister the Serial Killer WON! Very happy that this would prevail (after suffering the disappointment of Milkman being knocked out. Y’all can read most of this already in prior posts.)

I read a few books in March:

I DNF’d The Italian Teacher and wasn’t as impressed with the second half of Washington Black as I was with the first half. I can’t say The Lost Girls of Paris did anything for me and I loved listening to Michelle Obama tell me about her life from the beginning to now in her memoir, Becoming.

There, There was also somewhat of a disappointment but that might be all on me. I had built it up too much, knew too much about it, etc. AND, I read half of it fast and furious while trapped on a plane. Then put it down for a few days before rushing to finish before its last entry round in the TOB. I had lost all recognition of the various story lines and it couldn’t hold together in my head. And the ending – knew it was coming, of course, but the ending!  was abrupt. Felt almost like a cliff hanger but no cliff. More like a brick wall?

April is going better. I’ve already finished these two books:

Both 4 stars and plenty of pie.

And with that short update, here’s a few pie pics from this month:

From Pi/e Night on 3/14:

and from vacation to Baltimore MD:

 

 

 

April 22 is Blueberry Pie Day – just sayin’ 

 

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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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The Vegetarian

Thoughts tvbyhk by Han Kang, 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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Everything She Forgot

Thoughts esfbylb by Lisa Ballantyne, Wm Morrow Imprint of HarperCollinsPubs 2015, 415 of pages

Genre: Thriller
Type/Source: eBook /  Amazon for Kindle
 Why I read this now:  One of the few books on my Kindle.

MOTIVATION for READING: I don’t recall anymore where I heard about this but I think this was a recommendation by a friend in my Mass Book Club.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A teacher is involved in a fiery crash due to winter weather on an interstate. Though relatively free from physical injury, our MC suffers some PTSD and memories from her childhood start bubbling up — she is confused and stressed by her not remembering things. The man who pulled her from the car just in time is in a coma and she is a bit obsessed with visiting him.

Alternately, the story switches to the past when a young girl is kidnapped. Going back and forth in this past time frame is ‘adventure’ of the kidnapper and the girl against the journalist who figures out who has her and where they are going and attempts a ‘rescue’.

WHAT’s GOOD: The pacing is fine, I guess. The setting would be appealing to those who have visited Scotland and England, I suppose.

SPOILERs AHEAD?!?!?!?!??!?!

What’s NOT so good: The plot reveal is not rushed but neither is it particularly suspenseful. It’s not too hard to figure out that our MC has suppressed her memories of being kidnapped as a child (doh – it’s the title!) nor is it a big leap to find out that the man who rescues her in the now time is/was the kidnapper (who happens to be her ‘real’ father or — as a friend of mine would say — her ‘bio-dad’.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: I found the book predictable but worse, I found it violent. I did NOT like the journalist and we aren’t supposed to but he was a person I found revolting on every level. And yet, he wasn’t the evil character we were supposed to dislike (like in a King novel). I just didn’t like the story, it wasn’t for me. I know good friends who liked this book very much so I really don’t want to turn anyone away from it as a bad book – it could be a perfectly fine thriller set in the UK. I just didn’t like it.

You know, like how some people LOVE coconut and other don’t like coconut? It’s not that coconut is BAD…

I did finish it and maybe that is another reason I didn’t enjoy – I felt I had to know and kept reading but I really didn’t WANT to keep reading knowing that I didn’t like it. But I had to know if I guessed right. I did.

PIE:  Strawberry tarts, steak and kidney pie, and the ol’ rhyme about Georgie:

Georgie Porgie puddin’ and pie, kiss the girls and made them cry,

When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.”

 

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Unaccustomed Earth

Thoughts uebyjl by Jhump Lahiri, Random House Vintage Contemporaries 2009 (orig 2008), 333 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:  I have had this copy in my house far too long. I was needing, craving a short story experience. Only fitting it be a collection by such a skilled writer.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Again, I am “Bad, bad Care” because I do not have my copy in my hands for reference. This is particularly tricky when reviewing a collection. I gave this book to my friend in Rhode Island. I am in North Carolina. I could wait but I just want to get this list of review posts DONE already! Nobody reads these anyway, amirite? No, I know that is silly, you are reading this right now, aren’t you? Thank you. Smile and shake your head in disbelief. Lahiri deserves better treatment, I realize.

WHAT’s GOOD: Lahiri amazes me. Some of these stories don’t really even have a plot. Or maybe just not a lot of action. She gets people. She gets in their head and gets right to their core. She is insightful; she finds pain and gently extracts it,unfolds it, examines it. She knows the universal feelings felt by all and yet captures the cultural differences within every day lives against the sameness of emotions. She shines in exploring humanity’s weaknesses against the concept of best selves. OK, I’ll shut up now.

Most impactful story/ies: The young girl who reflects on the older boy and how their families knew each other. The older boy, now in college, reflecting on his relationship with his father. Then, much later, the girl and boy meet up in the most unlikely of places and circumstances.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I never really looked at the cover but it all comes together in the last story. And it just leaves an aching hole in your soul.

Only two (or is it three?) of the stories are linked, but I could be wrong. All the stories do not connect around same characters but they all have a thread of melancholy.

RATING: fourpie of apple pie.

“Today, Paola had mentioned, an American novelist was coming, someone homesick for Thanksgiving and bringing an apple pie.”

 

 

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