Thoughts 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.
[Updated, near the end of the book, about an hour left… TARTE TATIN! French Apple Pie.]
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.
Thoughts by Álvaro Enrigue, Riverhead 2016, 264 pages
Translated from Spanish to English by Natasha Wimmer.
Audiobook published by Tantor Audio, narration by Robert Fass, 6 hours 57 minutes.
Challenge: TOB Short List
Genre: Historical Fiction / Tennis Lit
Type/Source: Hardback AND Audio / Library
Why I read this now: Selected due to shortness of the audiobook, in hopes that I could finish in January to be my 12th book of the month.
MOTIVATION for READING: TOB…
WHAT’s it ABOUT: I’m going to copy and paste one of the goodreads blurbs.
A funny and mind-bending novel about the clash of empires and ideas in the sixteenth century, told over the course of one dazzling tennis match
A brutal tennis match in Rome.
Two formidable opponents: the wild Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and the loutish Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo.
Galileo, Saint Matthew and Mary Magdalene heckle from the sidelines.
In England, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII execute Anne Boleyn, and her executioner transforms her legendary locks into the most sought-after tennis balls of the time.
Across the ocean in Mexico, the last Aztec emperors play their own games, as Hernán Cortés and his Mayan translator and lover scheme and conquer, fight and fuck, not knowing that their domestic comedy will change the course of history.
Over the course of one dazzling tennis match – through assassinations and executions, carnal liaisons and papal dramas, artistic and religious revolutions, love and war – Sudden Death tells the grand adventure of the clash of empires and the dawn of the modern era.
WHAT’s GOOD: It really is fascinating. And has its funny moments.
What’s NOT so good: It’s also too difficult to keep track of in my current end-of-month scramble to finish a book (impatience) and the wrestling with reading books I feel “I have to” and not what “I want to” — which I realize is messed-up thinking so let’s throw in the current state of the world affairs, my own crazy messy life stuff, and realizing I have a book club book to read by next week.
Allow me to share a few thoughts from my reader friends:
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m skimming the rest of this and do not think I will be missing anything (actually, as I miss EVERYTHING!) – in other words, I will be able to follow the upcoming TOB commentary and likely agree with everyone. If you are reading this, let me know if it has any pie.
RATING: Three slices of pie! I liked it, I’m just needing to move on. It does deserve more time and fuller attention than I care to give it at this time. I have my regrets and may I only mutter, someday…
Highly recommended for fans of lively history and TENNIS.
Thoughts by Francine Prose, Harper 2016, 285 pages
Challenge: TOB Short List
Genre: Adult Lit, connect short stories
Type/Source: Hard cover / Library
Why I read this now: up next…
WHAT’s it ABOUT: These are connected short stories that revolve around a children’s musical play being produced off off off off off Broadway. We first meet an actress who feels frustrated with where she is in her career and we meet the 12 yo child actor genius who plays the chimp role. We meet a little boy who spoke too loudly during a performance and we meet his grandfather. We are introduced to the little boy’s new kindergarten teacher who happens to be on a blind date while the author of the book the play is based on is seated at the next table over. We meet the waiter who receives tickets to the play from the author as part of his tip. The play isn’t going well; the motivations and perspectives of the cast and audience shine a prism of realities onto the experience.
WHAT’s GOOD: The stories are poignant and funny, sad and insightful to the human condition. We feel the regrets, embarrassment, love and hope.
What’s NOT so good: I really enjoyed these and I was impressed by the deft handling and skill of the writing.
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.
Thoughts by Ann Patchett, Harper 2016, 322 pages Hardback
Challenge: Inaugural Read of my new book club! BA’s selection.
Genre: Contemporary Lit, Family Drama
Type/Source: Hardback given to me by Katie. Thank you
Why I read this now: Book club meets 2nd Tuesday of December. I wanted to read it sooner so that someone could borrow if they needed to.
MOTIVATION for READING: I have a book crush on Ann Patchett.
“Your mom doesn’t know about the movie, does she?” “My mom doesn’t know about the book,” he said, “It turns out a novel isn’t the worst place to hide things.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: The repercussions of adults paying little respect for their marriage vows – two divorces, six little children become step-siblings, they grow up and scatter to the four corners. All the family members get a view and a side to the story. There’s an ‘event’ and of course, the adults and even the kids are not quite sure what was true and what was right. Utterly engrossing!
“Now here he was, as thin and as quiet as a knife.”
WHAT’s GOOD: The opening / the setup / the first chapter is captivating. Enthralling. Exquisitely played. I loved the situational “funny” lines that made me laugh out loud but most people probably would NOT call this a comedy. (Actually, now that I’m reading Irving’s The World According to Garp, I have to say that some of these funny moments are eerily Irving-like.*)
What’s NOT so good: Having to read all the bad reviews on goodreads because I disagree. HA! No offense to anyone who didn’t like this book – I actually enjoyed every review I read — even the ones who thought it had too many characters or jumped around in time too much or that AP went ‘on and on’ and she is too descriptive. That the chapters were too long. I respectfully disagree. For me, it was none of those things. (I never notice chapter length unless I don’t like the book but even rarely then.)
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD…
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thought it perfect. Oh well, perfect is a pretty strong word, isn’t it… Let’s see. [Me thinking: ] Nope, I found it well-done. Perfectly paced. Fascinating and insightful about how little things might ‘ruin’ your life or just take it in a different direction. I loved Frannie and her father Fix. I thought Bert to be jerk. I loved how AP’s characters were real and did interesting things – like one of the daughters was a biomedical engineer. WOMEN IN STEM for the WIN! And how Frannie ran into a guy from law school and they end up getting married. And Holly ends up in Switzerland? That Bert’s ex-wife never gave him a thought after so many years though she spent just as many hating his guts. Loved the book. I can’t figure out how she put all that she did into this in just over 300 pages.
RATING: Five slices of apple pie. “They went back to the kitchen and sliced apples for a pie.” [page 292]
Thoughts by Deb Caletti, Simon Pulse 2005 (orig 2004), 308 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Type/Source: Tradeback / unknown
Why I read this now: Wanted something lighter
MOTIVATION for READING: I cannot recall where I got this book but it might have been – no couldn’t have been – BEA? oh well. Somebody gave it to me. I thought by title it would be a lighter beach-read kind of read but the National Award Finalist sticker on the cover made me wonder.
(Interesting, this is tagged as from the Book Blogger Convention so I did get it in 2010 in NYC! Whadday know)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: I don’t remember. Really! How SAD is that!?! It read it only 10 days ago.
WHAT’s GOOD: I am sitting here trying to rush through this review post so I can feel like I’m accomplishing things today – I have much to do and can’t decide what to start first. Bad bad Care…
Oh. OK, it’s coming back to me. (Call me lazy, too, because I could go downstairs and fetch the book! But NOoooOOOooooo, I just want to get this done. Sigh.)
We have a young girl who is a “good girl” and knows the best way to survive high school is to keep your head down and do not ever call attention to yourself. But then she meets a “bad boy” and she falls. Hard. She has no control over herself to listen to the warnings in her head that this dude is trouble.
What’s NOT so good: And so that is what annoyed me so. Though, I do get it! I do know we (I) often hear those warnings in our (my) head NOT to do something but this was big stuff not “don’t eat that cookie” – this was “aiding and abetting a criminal is risky!!!!” Luckily, she has a good support system to pull her through.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It didn’t bowl me over. The book is readable. The main character likable. I have no complaints other than it really didn’t move me.
RATING: Three slices of apple tart.
Pie! The only pie reference was a tee shirt that said “QT PIE” and the apple tart. Close enough.
Thoughts by Ann Patchett, Harper Audio 2011, 12 hours 25 minutes
Challenge: Readalong! #StateOfWonder
Genre: Contemporary Lit, Med Lit even maybe
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible.com May’s Credit
Why I read this now: I can’t remember exactly how it all came together…
MOTIVATION for READING: Because I loved This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and it made me want to read all of Patchett’s books.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Here’s the blurb from goodreads.com:
Set in the Amazonian jungle, State of Wonder is a major and explosively ambitious new audiobook from the New York Times-bestselling author of Bel Canto and Run–both a gripping adventure story and a profound investigation of difficult human choices.
I love short blurbs. This is perfect.
****** YOU WILL BE SPOILED WITH THIS POST IF YOU READ ON. TOTAL SHARING COMMENCING ***** To be honest, I hate doing this because then you are setup that there are SHOCKS and AWE and I wasn’t aware of them until I got it spoiled. Just sayin’.
WHAT’s GOOD: Hope Davis is now one of my favorite audiobook performers.
What’s NOT so good: Ok, I really did love most of all of it. I admit that I had read many not-so-positive reviews looooong time ago that made me not tbr this (though when I look NOW at what my goodreads friends thought of it, all seemed to praise it well enough.)
I’m trying to anticipate her issues with the ending with my own wonderings of my reactions – including spoilers here, be only slightly forewarned. oh, I already warned you? Are you ready?
I first must say that I want to blame Aths for spoilering me anyway even as I attempted to avoid being spoiled. But she had a comment in her review – WHAT?! WHY THE HECK DID I READ IT BEFORE I WAS DONE WITH THE BOOK!??!!? – about how the wife of Anders suspected he wasn’t dead (“He can’t be dead; I’d know” and the romantic in me wants to believe that.) and that is why Marina agreed to go get answers. Yes, this nagged at the back of my mind without me really examining it.
“…and the wife is convinced that Anders isn’t dead. And so begins Marina’s incredible journey to Brazil,…”
The quote above is lifted directly from Reading on a Rainy Day’s review of this book. Her stating this AND after reading the choice quote she included to kickoff the post nagged at me…
GUESS WHAT! Anders ends up alive.
How did he not get killed by the scary deadly cannibals?
She (Marina) was able to find him in a quick trip down the river after many MANY mentions how hard everyone thought it was to find the RIGHT tributary?
Of course, (pls read that ‘of course’ with dripping sarcasm), we had to sacrifice the FAVORITE character in the entire book!!!
OK – I also thought that Marina was going to end up staying to carry on Doc-What’s-Her-Crazy’s work… I did. I really thought she was going to stay.
I was sad the baby died. I was.
I agreed with Dr. Crazy – women shouldn’t have babies late. I think the idea is nuts. I liked the juxtaposition (simplified as it was) that we could develop a drug for all-aged-women fertility vs malaria vax? Whoa.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It was fun. The anaconda scene was worth everything. Some of the ‘thoughts’ seem very simple as I think back on it – cartoonish even. Rapp mushrooms? Lavender moths? Only place in the world? Whatever.
I enjoyed(?) the dilemma discussions of ‘saving’ primitive peoples. Even as Doc rallied against a lot of it, she was still attempting a huge savior move with a malaria vaccine.
Someone on Twitter asked me… AS A SCIENTIST, does it seem REAL to you and the question threw me. Off-tilted me. Science is so many things. Patchett writes very well and she can put the reader in that time, that place, very realistically. So can Stephen King. Do we ever ‘question’ the reality of his books?! no, we enjoy the ride of crazy because it is buoyed by true imagination, creativity and emotion. EMOTIONS is the button we love.
Does anyone want to discuss the title?
RATING: I rounded up to 5 slices of pie. Fun read. All sorts of existential questions, real or not; the questions ARE real.
Thoughts by Chris Adrian Eli Horowitz & Russell Quinn, Atavist Books 2014 (or 2015?), unknown # of pages
Challenge: To read all of the TOB Shortlist? AND because it sounded weird enough for #Weirdathon.
Genre: . . . Sci Fi?
Type/Source: eBook, App Store
Why I read this now: I blame Ti. (Her review here.)
MOTIVATION for READING: In chatting about TOB books, this one was mentioned and somehow Ti and I decided to read it, not quite together, but an almost-readalong.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Jane and Jim are married. Jim dies and his pre-arranged ‘funeral’ arrangements involve signing up with what Jane accuses as being a cult. She wants no part of this company’s ‘arrangements’ and fights them. She wants her husband’s head back, please. While all of Jane’s stuff in the ‘after-Jim’ timeline is being told, we meet Jim as he enters the ‘future’ via various stages of imagination and, I guess you could call it purgatory? It’s rather confusing. It goes back and forth between Jane and Jim but mostly it becomes memories and reflection on their marriage. Jim was required to forget everything about his life so that he could effectively choose his best-self future. I think. Truly, the more I attempt to write this, I am getting more and more confused about what happens/happened!
WHAT’s GOOD: The style seems very matter of fact and offers a humorous look at the after-death business. The idea that Jim was a non-Christian chaplain tending to the lonely and dying of the hospital struck me funny, too, though that is me confronting my bias’s and things that make me uncomfortable tend to make me laugh inappropriately. I rather liked Jim much more than I liked Jane.
What’s NOT so good: The confusion, obviously, but then it really didn’t bother me either.
And who was Millicent!??! I’m reading along and can’t recall one of the characters. I surely failed to appreciate this story…
FINAL THOUGHTS: The takeaway for me was that Jane couldn’t commit nor communicate and some actions on both parties had consequences that made both good and bad things happen. It was a bit of a mind-boggle. Now I don’t remember what it was exactly and certainly can’t describe it. This assumes I blame Jane more than Jim and I don’t think I should. See? brain fog.
An interesting counter-point book comparison within the TOB would be with Fates and Furies… (The having kids or not issue.)
AND now, the technology/gimmick: I purchased the eBook app for my iPhone via the AppStore. I had to scroll down in each of Jane and Jim’s viewpoints and then swipe left for the other’s page. Though it had an ongoing bar of progress, there were no page numbers, no ability to look up a word or even copy an interesting sentence or phrase. Eventually, I hit a screen with the Polaris (that was the company arranging for Jim’s afterlife) logo and the swipes reversed. I hit the Polaris logo again – though it was added to, so it was a different logo – and reversed swipes once more but the narrative time line got confusing where I wasn’t sure if I was in the past or the future. And then it just fades away as it repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats andrepeats and repeats and repeatsand repeats and repeatsand repeats and repeatsand repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and
As far as experimental novels go, it didn’t suck, I guess.
RATING: Three slices of pie. No pie was mentioned that I noticed.
Challenge: Tournament of Books 2015
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
Why I read this now: For the Rooster
MOTIVATION for READING: This is a book that many love to hate, others are swooning over, and some thought it ‘fell flat’. Gotta find out where I am in all that!
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Goodreads blurb: When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
WHAT’s GOOD: It is sweeping, it ifeels epic, it is fascinating, it is friendship as love and people at their best. People at their worst. It’s heavy. At times, I was impressed. Reading through the discussion at the Tournament of Books Goodreads Group Page helped me keep a tentative and open view to what YH was attempting, maybe. I was damned curious and went along for the ride. Since it was audio, I offer no quotes… Okay, maybe one, from goodreads:
“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.”
What’s NOT so good: It’s long. The trauma Jude experienced and can’t run away from ever is unending and brutal. “Do the characters grow?” someone asked me on Twitter and I don’t think they did. It just got beyond believable. If it was an issue or a quality or a characteristic, it got in this book somehow somewhere: drugs, poverty, wealth, sexual preference, cutting, art, acting, Swedish film, fancy food, racial profiling, distant parents, flying to Paris, everything and the kitchen sink. It seemed an experiment of cultural affectation.
Since it was audio, I do have to mention: I listen while driving and when pulling into my driveway, ready to find that ‘good spot’ to turn off the book… It kept going and going and I would think – “OK ALREADY! Put a period on that sentence! take a breath. Sheeeesh.” So perhaps, a few run-on runnin’ on-and-on sentences.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I found the descriptions of life and friendship and culture riveting at times. I do think this had elements of powerful prose. I did find myself connecting but it didn’t let up. There was a glossy overlay that made it all too pretty even as it wallowed in despair. Whoa! Fancy talk for me, huh?
OK, I’m reading through the paragraphs I just wrote (and you just read to get here) and I’m laughing, shaking my head at myself. I’m glad to have read it. Would I recommend it? Nope – you’ll have to decide that all for yourself.
Based on this Twitter convo, I originally planned a ‘few words’ post:
SO on that note…
RATING: No pie was mentioned that I noted, anyway…