Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"A Visit From The Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan **

  • Pulitzer prize winner
  • Audiobook
  • US author
  • Originally published 2010
  •  Just could not connect to this story.....listened to a little over half of it then gave up

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Lila Says" by Chimo *****

  • French novel, possibly debut, but author used a pseudonym and had a lawyer give the novel to a publisher, handwritten in spiral notebooks.....
  • Originally published in 1996
  • Erotic coming of age
  • Life in a French housing project, filled with immigrants primarily 
  • Vocabulary:
    • nabes:   a neighborhood movie theater
  • Quotes I Like:
    • p.23..."..plus there's weeds so tall it's amazing, you wonder where that stuff finds space to grow, it's exactly like us, me and my pals, weeds on a junk heap......"
    • p.25..."Once I saw a clown on TV trying to catch a piece of soap squirting out of his hands like a frog, well same with me, my doors are always open my heart's checking out the breeze, I feel things that make me shiver like sunshine in winter, I don't know exactly what it is, all that seems as beautiful as the sky to me but when I write my feelings down right away I get dishwater..."  Chimo about the difficulty of writing
    • p.51..."she's an angel with a whore's mouth on her, you'd think the words that cross those lips would hurt her, that her teeth'd fall to the ground from pure shame but nope, it drifts out light as a breath of summer, nothing gets broken and it's even sort of soothing."  Chimo about Lila
    • p.54..."...she's still a wild unknown country, you pass by in your boat Chimo and you look at her from far away....".
    • p.73..."In school a teacher said concrete is a dead material,, plastic too.  There's no life in it.  We're born to it born in it naturally we've got concrete where our hearts should be."
    • p.76..."Our lives are already decided on each morning and each tomorrow's the same again.  It's no state of alert no war just a long wait for nothing, getting older every day and for what."
    • p.87..."...we always talk with the same words, because what we see is the same thing, and that too's a way of dumbing down your language and everything else goes with it, it's like shrinking underwear that finally you can't get into anymore....might as well shut up and stop thinking at all, it hurts to think sometimes....".
    • p.89..."The others've got cemeteries in their skulls, their brains are full of graves with ghosts sitting silent on the  tombstones, it's always night in there with a cold wet fog.  But I can't switch off the light..."....the light is Lila for Chimo
    • p.100..."...it's true you never see babies grow up if you look at them everyday."
    • p.108..."He'd say for example:  if I was a snake shoes'd grow on trees, or if I sold coffins nobody'd die..."  "...the blind man puts out his own child's eyes....the forest burns with its own wood..."...Chimo remembering his father
    • p.109..."Why I ask myself isn't it ever possible to live in peace on a planet like this, why do some have and others don't and the farmers in the summer junk tons of tomatoes when you're going hungry, why's the world always messed up and complicated, fuck it all."
    • p.117..."Imagine a bird in a concrete nest, there's no more twigs on earth, so what's she supposed to do about her eggs?"
    • p.117..."...when you're hard up you're poor everywhere, the earth is divided into invisible shelves, me here you there."
    • p.117..."People can't mix as well as concrete, the more they're supposed to become the same the more they don't, so they start swinging."
    • p.119..."...hope's not for sale can't be bought, not even a superstore has hope on display, you can't steal it from somebody neither, even the word gets forgotten and wiped out of your mind."
    • p.128.."Lila was the only thing, Lila and what she said, I don't know if that makes sense, there was nothing else."
  • Review:  This is a fascinating, lyrical, erotic, dark, profound novel about life in a French housing project about what brings light into life, and about what snuffs it out. It is about coming of age and trying to make sense of the senselessness of life.  I could not put it down, was disturbed by it, and will be thinking about it for a long time to come. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin" by Erik Larson ****

  • Audiobook
  • US author
  • Originally published 2011 
  • Review:   A few years ago I read the book "Hitler's Willing Executioners" which focused on how the German people succumbed to Hitler's mesmeric appeal.  This book, "In The Garden of Beasts", focuses on the despairing frustration faced by our US Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, as he tried to communicate his dire predictions of Hitler's intentions.  It was an interesting story, a true one, and I am not sure whether I would say it was discouraging or encouraging in terms of how the US government was thinking at the time of this set of events....1933 to 1938.  This is one of many stories which helps illuminate the ease with which people can be manipulated by a charismatic leader.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Pirate King" by Laurie R. King ****

  • Audiobook
  • Originally published 2009
  • #11 in Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series
  • US author
  • Review:   What do you get when you combine Shakespeare's play within a play within a play, Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" and Fernando Pessoa as translator/anarchist/poet/philosopher?  Why what could it possibly be but the 11th installment of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series.  Mary finds herself "awash in a sea of megalomaniacs" and having a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure.  I really enjoyed King's witty writing and chuckled out loud several times. You don't have to have read the earlier novels, but I think they are worth reading and just enhance the level of enjoyment, particularly in terms of the Russell-Holmes interactions.  Fun read!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"The Coffin Dancer" by Jeffrey Deaver ****

  • Audiobook
  • US author
  • Originally published 1998
  • Lincoln Rhyme series #2
  • Review:  Excellent......several good plot twists!

Monday, May 7, 2012

"The Thief" by Fuminori Nakamura ****

  • Audiobook
  • Originally published 2009
  • Japanese author
  • Review:  The language in this novel is strongly reminiscent of Haruki Murakami in its starkness and psychological nature.  The reader is taken inside the mind of a highly accomplished pickpocket in Japan which is a fertile field of moral ambiguity.  What makes a thief tick?  What does a thief give up to be good at what he does?  What does a thief run towards and run from?  These are a few of the issues addressed in this story.  Strongly recommend taking this revealing psychological journey.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift *****

  •  Audiobook
  •  Irish author
  • Narration by David Hyde Pierce
  • Originally published1726
  • Review:  No wonder this novel is considered a classic which has been enjoyed "in the nursery" and in the library!  Jonathan Swift wrote a story in the 1700s which is absolutely timeless.  On one level this is a delightful fantasy romp to imagined lands with amazing inhabitants.  However, do not be deceived.  This is a philosophical treatise written with tremendous wit and a profound message about the author's desire for truth, indeed his bottomless pit of want for truth.  The author levels his satiric wit at the following topics and fires away:  religion, travel tales, politics, sex, relationships, colonialism, capitalism, prejudice, social superficiality, prejudice, stereotypes and more.  Anyone who has traveled to a culture which is vastly different from their own and reveled in the experience will likely appreciate this book, and those who have not but harbor strong opinions about those folks from another culture......well, it should be required reading! Go ahead, read it and laugh out loud, smile, wince, cringe, and love it!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett ****

  • Audiobook
  • Originally published 2011
  • US author
  • Review:  What does it take to induce a state of wonder?  Would American researchers induce it in the indigenous people of the Brazilian Amazon?  Would the possibility of a miracle drug which induces lifelong fertility do it to American researchers?  Would the sight of an anaconda trying to squeeze the life out of a young boy do it to a boatload of friends?  Or would something as simple as a family reunion do so for a friend and colleague?  Read the wonderful tale of journeys to a state of wonder as experienced by scientists,, surgeons, and people who are just plain human to find the answers.  Ann Patchett continues to know how to  weave a multi-layered tale which pulls in the reader and keeps them engaged to the last word.  Themes of this story include:  friendship, cross-cultural respect, joy, sorrow, transformation and determination.  It is also a sad statement of the lies we tell to achieve our needs.  Very good book!