The Sympathizer

Thoughts tsbyvtn by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Audible Audio 2015, 13 hours 53 minutes

Narrated by François Chau – excellent!

Challenge: for my personal challenge to read as many of the Rooster short list as possible.
Genre: Pulitzer Prize Winner!  (though this is a recent distinction – very exciting!)
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible Credit
 Why I read this now: Stars aligned, I guess. I do believe that the Rooster commentary mentions this as a good audio so when it was time for me to use a credit, this is what got selected.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  The fictionalized first-person account of a North Vietnamese communist spy who works for the South Vietnamese military, trained by the CIA, educated in America, son of a French priest and his South Vietnamese housekeeper? or paramour? (I forget; both?) at the time of the Fall of Saigon and after. It is set in Vietnam, America/California and has a brief interlude in the Philippines.

WHAT’s GOOD:  It is historical fiction with all the cool things that push my buttons – lush descriptions, witty repertoire, cutting insights into human nature, philosophy, action and thrilling suspense, conflict of conscience, love of sorts and falling in love or not, HISTORY, etc. I really wouldn’t call myself a spy-novel reader but I thought this quite fascinating.

What’s NOT so good: At times, I wonder if it had all the stereotypical elements a spy novel should have but I haven’t read very many and maybe a spy-novel is supposed to. Truly, I didn’t know what to expect but this delivers well on things I like in a story. ON THE OTHER HAND, I thought at times that it was too long and needed to get on with but I’m sure that was my mood and what was going on in ‘real life’ conflicting with time and interest to keep invested. But I pushed through and ended up liking the book overall.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is often stated to be satire and of course, I can only recognize this from being told and not really of my own recognition. But I find that I am a big fan of satire even when I don’t quite get it. 

I am thrilled that this won the Pulitzer for Fiction 2016 only because 1) I just read it (validation?), 2) I somehow have unknowingly embarked on a Personal Pulitzer Challenge, and 3) the surprise and timing made it fun.

RATING: Four slices of pie. Pie actually was mentioned a lot – there is an entire sequence about eating humble pie that because in audio, I will either have to go hunt or skip…

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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 Painted Veil

Thoughts tpvbywsm The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham, Vintage 2011 (orig 1925), 280 pages

Genre: Classic, Fiction
Occasion: Spontaneous Buddy Read with Andi of Estella’s Revenge

AndiandCare

Source: eBook purchased from Amazon for my Kindle
 Challenge: What’s in a Name 2016 – Article of Clothing category

MOTIVATION for READING: wian2016 and the Classics Club

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Kitty is an upper class twit who must get married because her little sister is engaged. So she chooses Walter who happens to be the only guy still interested in her; (though we never quite figure that out. Or at least, I didn’t and I don’t think Walter did either.) Walter is a bacteriologist and is assigned to Hong Kong, so Kitty and Walter get quicky-married, honeymoon in Italy then off to the other side of the world from England. Kitty doesn’t love Walter, obviously, and has little to no moral compass so she is easily seduced by the hot powerful and charming Charley. But Walter finds out and offers a few options which result in a most interesting scenario:  Walter volunteers to be the doctor for a village with a cholera outbreak and Kitty has NO choice but to go along.  Is it a spoiler to say that Charley is the only one who escapes with no consequence? I do end up liking Kitty and I always ‘got’ Walter’s sense of humor. Is this a tragedy? It ain’t no comedy.

But SO GOOD! I also called it a philosophical travelogue…

WHAT’s GOOD: Most everything is good about this. The writing is great, the characters are fascinating, it has wit and lots of emotional pokes, beautiful scenery, and a story arc that is paced well and offers surprises. Maugham has keen insight into human behavior – good and bad.

I love books that set off more exploring on my part. Other story references (“The dog it was that died.” – YOWZA!) and lots of French (ugh). My vocabulary was increased by this:

Tiffin – a light meal, especially lunch.

What’s NOT so good: This is a solid 4 and 1/2 slice of pie kind of book. I have been waffling about giving this a 5 slice but will not due to my wanting to be extra stingy on that this year. I want glowing heaps-of-heart-bursts for my 5 stars and while this is a contender for such, I am not bouncing around the room with passionate hugs and kisses for it and the only thing I can say why that is, might be because it was short. Which could be a whole ‘nother topic on why the chunksters end up getting the passion and I think it is because we get to spend so much more time immersed in chunksters. Whatever.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you enjoy books that offer romance and anti-romance, this is an excellent choice. If you like climate and cultural variety in your readings and settings in a time a bygone era away, this is an excellent choice.

DO read this enjoyable insightful and not-boring! academic review I found.

I had been feeling poorly this week with a sort throat and achy-ness and yet for some silly reason, I couldn’t commit to watching the movie while huddled and cuddled on the couch under blankets with nap-master puppies at my feet. I watched The Reader with Kate Winslet instead…

RATING: fourpie

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Radio Shangri-La

Thoughts rslbyln1 by Lisa Napoli, Crown Publishers 2010, 279 pages

SUBTITLE: What I learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

For the What’s in a Name Challenge – Country category

I am having a tough time thinking up what to write. Especially when I agree wholeheartedly with Nancy’s review from 2011.  If you don’t want to click over, she says this:

” Lacking in adventure but fascinating for its analysis of the people and the time, at times uneven but overall a decent memoir.”

Yes. I agree.

I read the very same book that Nancy read! Because she is the generous booklover who gave it to me. And I am willing to send YOU this book if you want to read it, too. Just be the first to request and I will email you for your mailing address and will eventually send it off. Eventually.

It looks like this:  rslbyln2

Also, it’s an ARC. It does have a few misspellings or typos and it got very VERY confusing with what I must assume were name swappings. She would be yapping about Sebastian and then refer to him as Benjamin. And Ngawang would be Pema and then back to Ngawang…  Just sayin’.

One more fun thing…  The author mentions a term familiar to all who loved Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein. Here’s the quote, do you know the word?

“The only not-so-smooth part of the plan came from my father, who couldn’t quite grok the adventure I was about to have.”

All righty, then. Carry on.

RATING:  Three slices of pie. (No pie mentions in this one.)

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First Book 2016

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First Book is hosted by the lovely and talented Sheila at BookJourney. I will be reading Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli. Click on the book cover to go to goodreads.com.

rslbyln2 rslbyln1
Memoir
Travel
Happiness

Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a crisis, dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist. When a chance encounter with a handsome stranger presented her with an opportunity to move halfway around the world, Lisa left behind cosmopolitan Los Angeles for a new adventure in the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan—said to be one of the happiest places on earth.

A big THANK YOU to Nancy the BookFool who loaned me or gave me this book way back in May of 2011. I can now soon return it to her. This book will satisfy the country category for What’s in a Name 2016, is a book “in the house” and a loaner. Three happy checks right there.

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Thoughts ftmufbyekAtheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster) 2013 orig.1967, 172 pages

For the latest Classics Club Spin. I’m also counting this for the Kids Classic category of the Classics Challenge.

Loved it!

Claudia is a 6th grader who wants to run away so her family will miss her and thus appreciate her. She gets caught up in the planning – she is a very good planner. Smart, too. She ends up taking her little brother Jamie with her, and not just because he has plenty of cash to fund the adventure (though the money does prove helpful) but because he is just a good kid.

The adventure takes a turn when Claudia falls in love with the statue Angel which may or may not be a work of Michelangelo. She cannot return home until she KNOWS!

Fun book. Very quick to read. Four slices of pie. fourpie

“Jamie bought a cheese sandwich and coffee. After eating these he still felt hungry and told Claudia she could have twenty-five cents more for pie if she wished. Claudia, who had eaten cereal and drunk pineapple juice, scolded him about the need to eat properly. Breakfast food for breakfast, and lunch food for lunch.” [Phooey on that – I’m with Jamie. Pie for breakfast is CERTAINLY acceptable and appropriate.]

Another favorite quote from page 151:

“Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”

Winner of the Newbery Medal.

TELL ME IF YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE!

Possible Spoiler; I have a question… I totally failed to find the link between the attorney and the kids – he was the kids’ grandfather!? I was a bit gobsmacked at the end with this minor plot point revelation. But I didn’t let it diminish my enjoyment.

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Copyright © 2007-2015. 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.

H is for Hawk

Thoughts hifhbyhm H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, Random House Audio 2014, 11 hours 6 minutes

I’m already declaring this a TOP READ/LISTEN for 2015!

Anonymous Interviewer aka AI: Care, how did you come to read this?

Care: I saw a tweet announcing it as an Audible special for $2.99. Since, I knew I had only a few hours left of my current audiobook and lots of days left in the month to await my next credit, I jumped.

AI: Did you know anything about it? Had you read any good reviews?

Care: Excellent question because no, I didn’t really know much about it but yes, I do think I had read positive things? I DID know that the title fits the What’s in a Name Challenge for the animal category, so it has that going for it.

AI: I thought you were going to read Elegance of the Hedgehog for WiaN8.

Care: So did I, but it just kept getting passed over by my mood to read something else. I do hope to read Hedgehog someday but maybe not anytime soon, I guess.

AI: So what’s the Hawk book about?

Care: H is for Hawk is a fascinating overlapping memoir — and more! It is part nature book, falconry how-to book, grief exploration book and part biography of TH White, the author of The Once and Future King.

AI: So this is memoir?

Care: Yes, nonfiction. (I admit, I didn’t know this until after I started listening to the book.)

AI: Tell us about the author.

Care: Sure, and I first must say if I haven’t already, that the author does an EXCELLENT job narrating her own book.

AI: Is this unusual?

Care: What, that authors narrate their own books or that they actually do this successfully?

AI: Yea, that.

Care: I think Neil Gaiman is one author that does a great job and I have found that entertainers such as comedians always seem to do a very good job narrating their own books, but I can’t say that Donna Tartt pulled off a successful narration. (I did manage to listen all the way to the end of the 16 hour plus audio of The Secret History! YAY ME.)

Care: May I interrupt to give a NEVERWHERE READALONG SHOUT OUT? Nancy is doing a readalong if anyone has ever wanted to read this – I highly recommend the audiobook. My review is here.

AI: Do you have a button to share or maybe a hashtag for Twitter?

Care: As a matter of fact, I do know the hashtag #NeverwhereRAL, but I don’t know about a button. And if you click on the words a few sentences ago about the readalong shout out, you’ll open a window at Nancy’s blog…

AI: OK, tell us more about Helen Macdonald.

Care: Ms. Macdonald, a British naturalist writer, is a college professor who has also been interested in falconry since a very young age. There is also a terrific photo of Mabel on her blog (which may or may not be active; it looks like the events might be for 2014, a year done passed.)

AI: Um, Mabel? Who is Mabel?

Care: Mabel is her goshawk! Macdonald says in her book that if you give a goshawk a mild meek-sounding name, they usually turn out to be terrific hunters! (and vice versa.) Here’s a photo of another goshawk that I found on the internet:

goshawk <– Sindbad the Goshawk, photo credit to The International Falconry Forum

AI: To be totally honest, this book sounds not only boring but slightly depressing, even with a lovely named bird like Mabel.

Care: And you would be wrong. This book is delightful. It has ALL the feelings. Sure, it is about how she went through the stages of grief after losing her father but it also has many funny almost comic moments – also, angry and frightening. Her writing is beautiful, provocative. She is known as a naturalist writer for good reason. She is just an excellent writer! She is smart, she is tender, she is strong, she is brave and she shares every bit of it with eloquence.

And you learn about so much stuff that you didn’t even know you wanted to know about. THAT is a great book.Helen Macdonald

AI: Care to share a quote or two?

Care:

“And I found there were myriad definitions of this thing called tragedy that had wormed its way through the history of literature; and the simplest of all was this: that it is the story of a figure who, through some moral flaw or personal failing, falls through force of circumstance to his doom.”

AI: I have nothing else to ask, maybe your readers will have more questions. This concludes this audiobook review presentation interrogation. Thank you.

Care: Thank YOU.

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Station Ten and One Half

Thoughts and Ramblings

I don’t have time to write a review of Station Eleven. OK, I have been avoiding writing a review of Station Eleven.

Bear with me as I share all sorts of other stuff instead.

I had consciously decided that I wanted to read Station Eleven when it came to battle against Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State in the Tournament of Books*. I really was impressed by the phrase ‘higher thread count’ to describe excellent writing. (See the winner and moderator comments here.)

However.

I seem to have that ‘distant admiration’ for the author. I recognize how very smart she is and how well she constructs a novel, links complicated plot points believably, builds a world, and develops characters. And yet. I still feel that I am a bit detached. Something bothers me that I can’t explain and even pinpoint. It moves in my brain when I try to focus on it.

I don’t want to see the wizard behind the curtain; but I sense there is one.

I read Mandel’s debut novel The Last Night in Montreal and praised it highly! SO GOOD!!! And yet. Something about that book bugged me even as I recommended it. I now only remember that the ending was POW! and that I considered the author one to watch.

I give Station Eleven 5 stars. And yet … now want to rethink it and pick it apart and possibly downgrade because a few things don’t make sense now that I’m outside of that world and away from the characters.

I do like Roof Beam Reader’s review.

I also like Book Journey’s review (with links to a spoiler page).

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To change the subject…

I’m reading/listening to Atlas Shrugged and it is a mind-boggling icky-feeling thought-provoking ordeal. It’s part of Ti’s readalong through August.

I started Lost Lake and just love Sarah Addison Allen! It is always a pleasure to fall into her books.

June ended with me being ahead of my goal of 65 books /year and I’m doing excellent at challenge-accomplishing. I need one more for What’s in a Name – usually in December I’m trying to cram two or three reads in to finish! I only need the animal book.

and CLASSICS!  Oh – just pat me on the back and tell me how awesome I’m doing reading classics! Cuz I am. Awesome.

Was going to make a nectarine lavender pie but I’m running out of time. My first niece is getting married tomorrow and I have things to do to be ready! Like, that idea to give her my personal favorites pie recipe book…   I think she’ll have to get that for Christmas now. SHHHHhhhhhhh, don’t tell her.

Have a great weekend, chat soon and tweet ya on Twitter!

 

 

 

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Heart of Darkness

Thoughts and Meandering More Thoughts HoDbyJC Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Dover Thrift 2012 (orig 1899), 102 pages Kindle eBook


“I wasn’t arguing with a lunatic. … But his soul was mad.”

This is one story that I will admit I have been intimidated by. Perhaps because some of the synopsis reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver and her heavy novel that I can never remember but allow me to run to goodreads and check . . . (running off to truly go check goodreads…) oh yea! The Poisonwood Bible. I do wonder what Ms. Kingsolver thought of Heart of Darkness – surely she has read it, yes?

Have you read Heart of Darkness?

I chose this for May for a variety of reasons and vying close for the first and second spot are 1) It is SHORT at 200 pages, and 2) Trisha at Eclectic-Eccentric is featuring all sorts of lovely analysis posts. Goodness I do love me some juicy literature analysis!

and 3) What was that third reason? Oh yes, because I happen to already have it loaded on my Kindle.

Finally, 4) It is one of my Classics Club Fifty in Five.

I was pleasantly surprised. (That I liked it (‘it’ being the book, the reading experience.))

I would not call it compelling exactly. Not quite a fast page turner adventure book because it does tend to have dense language but not overly so. It is FULL of emotion.

“It was my imagination that wanted soothing.”

Here’s Crazy-Care’s FIRST attempt to answer your question of “what it is about?”:

The story is set up as a retelling of a sailor’s adventure. This sailing adventure was when Marlowe needed a job so he decides to go to Africa because he hears they are needing river transport captains and he is certain to find work. He does and notes that his assignment and the company that hires him is actually a bit creepy. His assignment is to get a riverboat into the “deepest darkest part of Africa” to either retrieve or supply Mr. Kurtz (I was confused here, too), a guy who is the BEST number one agent of the company and is considered awesome. Our sailor narrator is torn between just completing the job and yet also very intrigued to meet this awesome incredible Mr. Kurtz and find out why he is so awesome — no one knows how he is accomplishing all he is doing! (what he is doing, mind you, is collecting lots and lots of ivory and he is doing it by befriending (I think? Maybe not? Something tells me I really missed something.) the natives.) Others are jealous and others are mesmerized by Mr. Kurtz. He is ill when they finally get up the river and find him. The natives are hostile (but not hostile to Mr. Kurtz?) and our sailor buddy survives the ordeal and lives to tell of it. Thus the telling.

It’s really quite odd. I might have the synopsis skewed. I might have missed something big.

I swear narrator-captain guy was at first ambivalent and then curious and at one point critical of Mr. Kurtz and then somehow instantly was his best friend. THIS is why I need Trisha to explain things to me.

Or go watch Apocalypse Now?

It really did  have beautiful descriptions and I wonder how it would play in audiobook format. I bet it would be awesome.

So. The elephant in the room.

The elephant is…  (the elephant I thought before I read it anyway)… Is Heart of Darkness a BAD racist book? Does it demean and consider African natives as inferior? Is this a “symptom of the times”, a by-product of colonialism? OR does this book actually highlight the EVILS of colonialism and racism and confront the ideas of exploitation?

AND, excuse me while I freak out a bit here. Is this a true story?

I know and fear that I am inadequate to discuss these issues but I do want to support and advocate for a kind world, a civilization of respect for all. I read this book with the lens of it being written in 1899 and yet did not find it to endorse or promote a message that primitive cultures are inferior – I thought it an exploration of one case or specific example of the “empire” mentality of greed to exploit and take. The world is winners and losers, suckers. For me, the story didn’t deliver a succinct message; no obvious moral outrage and no epiphany. Well, other than “THE HORROR!” which I think was masked by considerable vagueness.

Evil exists. Fear exists. We fear what we do not understand. Let us seek to understand. It ain’t easy.

This book is not easy.

Then go read the excellent eclectic eccentric and marvel. You’ll understand then why Crazy-Care didn’t make a second attempt to explain this book. Heart of Darkness: Pro- or Anti-Imperialist – 5/21/15Psychoanalyzing Heart of Darkness – 6-4-15, Deconstructing Heart of Darkness – 6/11/15Queering Heart of Darkness – 6/18/15

 

“And he was devoted to his books, which were in apple-pie order.”

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This book would have been fascinating and scary to discuss for a grade! Thank you so much Professor Eclectic for the thought-provoking experience. I give myself an A for ambition, a B for effort and a C for discourse.

Here’s a flower:  FullSizeRender Flowers make me smile.

 

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Unplugged Serenity

or madness, take your pick.

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I will be taking a break but you have my review of Flowers for Algernon to look forward to and also the kickoff post for MISERY in JUNE.

I will be reading Heart of Darkness (on the advice and guidance of Trisha), Station Eleven because it won the Tournament of Books, Mindset – the New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential by Carol Dweck (because it is THE book mentioned in ed reform and PD lately), and The Aviator’s Wife which was just selected for my book club.

I’m listening to the Selected Readings from the Portable Dorothy Parker.

I need to apply for jobs.

I just might be instagramming with the hashtags #Griffology and #Imonaboat.

Do have a memorable and solemn remembrancing kind of weekend. IMG_2691 IMG_2693 IMG_2687 Be safe.

See you in June.

 

 

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Copyright © 2007-2015. 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.

Even If the Sky Falls Down

Thoughts eitsfdbysb Even If the Sky Falls Down by Susan Jackson Bybee, 2105, 198 pages

What’s it ABOUT:  Lily is an American teaching English in South Korea but she breaks her ankle and gets fired. Apparently, the mothers of kindergarteners don’t trust a teacher who can fall and break her ankle – she is a bad influence? As compared to a YA coming of age story, this is more of a Hi-I’m-Here-in-a-Foreign-Country-to-Teach-English-and-Figure-Out-My-Life kind of way.

Because Lily is wearing a cast, she can’t find another job and ends up working with seniors rather than little kids. At first she is apprehensive but she learns to love these older wonderfully-diverse opinionated varied-background souls.

What’s GOOD:  We get amazing varied personal stories of love and sacrifice, horrors of war and overcoming from all of the seniors because Lily is interviewing them for a project. I learned a lot about South Korea. The author provides a helpful vocab guide, too.

What’s NOT so good:  Lily’s boss is . . . odd?

FINAL THOUGHTS: So many touching scenes…  The pacing is terrific; the even tension propels the story. I look forward to Bybee’s next book.

Please read this review of Bybee’s book and know that I’m not alone in thinking this is an emerging talent on our reading horizon:  Nancy at BookFoolery will convince you this is a MUST READ.

Read this if you are sympathetic to seniors having stories, too. AND are interested in teaching English in a foreign country and you love dogs. I love dogs. The dog piece is great. And read this is you LOVE Bybee’s take on books cuz her book blog is one of my very very favorites. She’s funny and wise and smart and adorable. Her book is also funny and wise and smart.

RATING:  Four slices of pie. fourpie

 

 

Copyright © 2007-2015. 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.