Posts Tagged: Books

Audiobook: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

May 15, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 1 ★★★★

Audiobook: The Buried Giant by Kazuo IshiguroThe Buried Giant
by kazuo ishiguro
Narrator: david horovitch
Length: 11 hours 48 minutes
Published by Random House Audio
on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 317
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
You've long set your heart against it, Axl, I know. But it's time now to think on it anew. There's a journey we must go on, and no more delay..."

The Buried Giant begins as a couple set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen in years.

Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel in nearly a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge, and war.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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You guys, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never read a book by Ishiguro, prior to The Buried Giant. It’s not that they haven’t appealed to me either; it’s that he intimidated me. To me, he’s up there with Atwood, Auster, Murakami, and Eugenides. And lots of others. So, yeah, I’ve steered clear of Ishiguro.

Until now.

The Buried Giant pushed all the Must-Read-Buttons.

  • The writing is impeccable. Even during the slow parts, the writing was gorgeous and atmospheric.
  • The many themes: memory, love, betrayal, forgiveness, religion, loyalty. The facing of reality. And they are all dealt with so richly and with compassion.
  • The characters and their story. Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple living just after the time of King Arthur, are struggling with memory and acceptance. In their village, they are outcast from the rest of the villagers and missing their son. One day, they decide to leave to go visit their son, whom they miss very much. They know something is wrong, something is very off, and the hope they can find out what it is along the way. There is a mist, covering the land, and it is affecting memory.
  • The supporting characters are just as interesting. A knight, a foreigner, an orphan. A dragon. Some devious monks. Pixies. And the mist. That dangerous mist.
  • It’s such a serene story. It puts you in mind of a fairy tale or a fable. That feeling of magic, lying over everything, is prevalent.
  • The feelings. I could feel Axl and Beatrice’s pain, love, confusion, everything. I came to love them and hated to leave them at the end of the book.
  • The ending. It was…not what I expected and I love it when a book can surprise me.
  • The reader. David Horovitch. His voice was the perfect match for the book and his accent lovely.

I knew reviewing this book properly was beyond my skills, but I hope I have conveyed just how much I loved this book. It was a surprise, a lovely surprise, and I hope I can find more from Ishiguro soon.

Som favorite quotes:

But then again I wonder if what we feel in our hearts today isn’t like these raindrops still falling on us from the soaked leaves above, even though the sky itself long stopped raining. I’m wondering if without our memories, there’s nothing for it but for our love to fade and die.

But God will know the slow tread of an old couple’s love for each other, and understand how black shadows make part of its whole.

When it was too late for rescue, it was still early enough for revenge.

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Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

May 6, 2015 Books 8 ★★★★★

Girl in the Dark by Anna LyndseyGirl in the Dark
by Anna Lyndsey
Narrator: Hannah Curtis
Length: 7 hrs and 9 mins
Published by Random House Audio
on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Autobiography, Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
five-stars
A gorgeous memoir of an unthinkable life: a young woman writes of the sensitivity to light that has forced her to live in darkness, and of the love that has saved her.

“Something is afoot within me that I do not understand, the breaking of a contract that I thought could not be broken, a slow perverting of my substance.”

Anna was living a normal life. She was ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was falling in love. But then she started to develop worrying symptoms: her face felt like it was burning whenever she was in front of the computer. Soon this progressed to an intolerance of fluorescent light, then of sunlight itself. The reaction soon spread to her entire body. Now, when her symptoms are at their worst, she must spend months on end in a blacked-out room, losing herself in audio books and elaborate word games in an attempt to ward off despair. During periods of relative remission she can venture cautiously out at dawn and dusk, into a world that, from the perspective of her normally cloistered existence, is filled with remarkable beauty.

And throughout there is her relationship with Pete. In many ways he is Anna’s savior, offering her shelter from the light in his home. But she cannot enjoy a normal life with him, cannot go out in the day, and even making love is uniquely awkward. Anna asks herself “By continuing to occupy this lovely man while giving him neither children nor a public companion nor a welcoming home—do I do wrong?” With gorgeous, lyrical prose, Anna brings us into the dark with her, a place from which we emerge to see love, and the world, anew.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Imagine a world that is dark. So dark that light doesn’t even shine through the cracks. No glimmer of light through the blinds. No shimmer beneath the door. Complete. Total. Black.

This is the life Anna Lyndsey lives every day.

Burns? Burns like the worst kind of sunburn. Burns like someone is holding a flame-thrower to my head.

Anna has an extremely rare and terrible form of photo-sensitivity. At her worst, she stays in complete darkness. At her best, she is able to go out after dusk or before daybreak to take a walk. Sunlight, indoor light, computer light; all of it burns her skin. This means no reading, no television, no work, no cooking, nothing. Nothing. Nothing. And the pain can be unbearable.

How she shares her journey through this debilitating illness is nothing short of beautiful. Her prose is clear and captivating. Reading (or in this case, listening) to her story and how she has made it through is nothing short of inspiring. Being invited to witness her private thoughts on her life and her feelings throughout (is she being selfish, living with the man who loves her, but can’t have her as a normal companion? Does she want to live out her life this way? How does she keep her sanity?) feels like a privilege.

You guys. This book. I mean, this book. You guys. Seriously. It feels kind of horrible to say I loved it, but I loved it. This is the first book I’ve listened to that was narrated by Hannah Curtis and I hope it isn’t the last. Her narration was perfect. As I’m discovering, I love memoirs in audio and this one is no exception.

Highly recommended.

Favorite quotes:

Friendship plants itself as a small unobtrusive seed; over time, it grows thick roots that wrap around your heart. When a love affair ends, the tree is torn out quickly, the operation painful but clean. Friendship withers quietly, there is always hope of revival. Only after time has passed do you recognise that it is dead, and you are left, for years afterwards, pulling dry brown fibres from your chest.

My ears become my conduit to the world. In the darkness I listen—to thrillers, to detective novels, to romances; to family sagas, potboilers and historical novels; to ghost stories and classic fiction and chick lit; to bonkbusters and history books. I listen to good books and bad books, great books and terrible books; I do not discriminate. Steadily, hour after hour, in the darkness I consume them all.

Most of the time, I do not want to die. But I would like to have the means of death within my grasp. I want to feel the luxury of choice, to know the answer to “How do I bear this?” need not always be “Endure.

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Mars and the First Person POV

April 2, 2015 Books 10 ★★★★

Mars and the First Person POVThe Martian
by Andy Weir
Narrator: R. C. Bray
Length: 10 hours 53 minutes
Published by Crown Publishing Group
on February 11th 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
four-stars
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

What the heck is up with that title, eh? I’m getting to it. I just have a few things to say about First Person Point of View (or FPPoV). It kind of took over my thoughts on The Martian. Sorry Andy Weir.

I’m sure you’ve heard of The Martian. It was one of the “IT” books last year. Everyone read it. Everyone and their mother read it. Everyone except me. And I really, really wanted to. And I tried. But it didn’t click. Damn that pesky first person narration. I still struggle with it. But, thank God for audiobooks. Me and FPPoV are complete BUDDIES when it comes to audiobooks.

This audiobook completely rocks.

See, the thing about me andFPPoV…I’m not sure what it is. I’ve always had trouble with it. I mean, it stands to reason that I would. It’s a more intimate form of storytelling. A character can become something of a best friend, within the story that is. You get an “inside look” at what the character is thinking and feeling I love unreliable narrators andFPPoV has always felt unreliable to me. It’s the character telling their story. How do I know they are being honest? I love the mystery of that. Lastly, it makes one feel like one is IN the story, more than any other POV, again, for me.

But.

FPPoV imprisons me. One is stuck with one character and that character’s thoughts and feelings. One can only get what THAT CHARACTER THINKS about another character. I do like knowing what another character thinks of the events of the story. It helps ME decide what I think about what’s going on. I feel like it also limits the scope of a story. I like to know everything that’s going on! Also,FPPoV, in my experience, is a TELL TRAP. I like to see what’s going on, not told about it. BIG, HUGE PET PEEVE.

When I first tried to read The Martian, I had so much trouble getting into Mark Watney’s mind and the story. The story starts with an accident, and, I imagine since I was only getting Watney’s side of it, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what happened. His character was off-putting. I immediately didn’t care for or about him. I think I made it about 20 pages.

Yet, I just knew this was a story for me. A lot of my favorite bloggers loved it. Andi, my reading twin/soulmate, loved it. I was determined to try again. I can be pretty persuasive, even with myself. Because, when I saw The Martian for $3.99 on Audible,I snapped it up. And then I devoured it.

Obviously, The Martian is in FPPoV. An astronaut is left behind, stranded, on Mars after a terrible accident separated him from his crew. What follows is the events after that accident, told from that astronaut’s point of view. There really is no other way to tell that story. He is all alone, on an uninhabited planet. So, somehow, for me, hearing someone read the story is much more successful than trying to read it for myself.

Why, I don’t know AND I don’t know why I can’t remember this. This isn’t the first time. It won’t be the last.

C’est ma vie. Le sigh.

Here is where I actually talk about my feelings on the book, if you skipped down. 

So, my advice is, if you couldn’t get into The Martian, give the audiobook a try. The reader suffuses Mark Watney with so much personality and I couldn’t help but root for him. The reader, R. C. Bray, made me care. He has an excellent range of voices and his voice really matches the character and tone the book. He made me laugh out loud a few times, just with the delivery of a line. Andy Weir’s writing was great. The technical aspects of a flight to Mars and the mission to get a stranded astronaut back to Earth were not completely over my head. It was just great fun. And a nail-biter for sure. I got my uncle to listen to it and he loved it too.

Highly recommended. In audio anyway.

 

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Everybody Needs One

March 11, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 10 ★★★★½

Everybody Needs OneStrong Female Protagonist
by brennan lee mulligan, molly ostertag
Series: Volume 1
Published by Top Shelf Productions
on November 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars
With superstrength and invulnerability, Alison Green used to be one of the most powerful superheroes around.

Fighting crime with other teenagers under the alter ego Mega Girl was fun — until an encounter with Menace, her mind-reading arch enemy, showed her evidence of a sinister conspiracy, and suddenly battling giant robots didn't seem so important.

Now Alison is going to college and trying to find ways to help the world while still getting to class on time. It's impossible to escape the past, however, and everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a hero....

After a phenomenal success on Kickstarter, Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag bring their popular webcomic into print, collecting the first four issues, as well as some all-new, full-color pages!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Everyone needs a Strong Female Protagonist, that is.

I hate to admit it, but I had never heard of this comic until I saw it on NetGalley. It’s a webcomic. It had a very successful Kickstarter campaign. It fell into my lap and y’all. I am so happy about that, because this protagonist is right up my alley.

Alison Green is one of those protagonists you can’t help but identify with. Sure, she has superhuman abilities, but underneath all that strength and super-ness, lies a very uncertain girl with real world problems like money, family, friendship, lack of confidence, and a past she just can’t escape. And then yes, on top of it all, Alison has superpowers. What does she do with that? Is she obligated to save the world? And who really cares anyway?

There is so much to love in this little comic. The writing is great. The art is too. The thing I love most though, is the message. That no matter how smart, how super, how strong you are, you are also human. With human fears, feelings, desires, and just messed up.

Highly recommended.

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First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

February 18, 2015 Books 7 ★★★★

First Frost by Sarah Addison AllenFirst Frost
by Sarah Addison Allen
Format: eARC
four-stars
It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

...

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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What is it about Sarah Addison Allen’s books? I would call them fluff, but they’re not. I could call them romances, but they are more than just that. I should call them magical realism, but that feels limiting. Her books are deeper than fluff, more than romance, with the lightest touch of magic…so, I guess to me, they defy categorization.

Mostly, they are like coming home.

And to come home to familiar, beloved characters, felt like an extra special blessing. I suppose it’s the fact I live in North Carolina and that I long for a little magic in my life. I love food and love the idea that food can magically affect your mood (which, I would say it does. Just eat some chocolate.). Allen makes the characters feel like family, or extra special friends. The characters from Garden Spells are particularly beloved as it was the first Allen book I read and I instantly fell in love with her writing. I’ve read it a couple of times, I love it so much.

Do you get the feeling I love this book and Sarah Addison Allen?

Hope so.

If you’ve read Garden Spells, I totally recommend you continue their story. They are older, but still magical…in more ways that one. The Waverly’s are a family worth revisiting. If you haven’t read Garden Spells, what are you waiting for? Pick it up, and this one, and experience the warmth that being a Waverly friend can bring and the simply beauty of Sarah Addison Allen’s writing.

Favorite bits:

“Sometimes its necessary to embrace the magic, to find out what’s real in life, and in one’s own heart.”

“Oh, please. Everyone in this town always says that, like you have to be born here to understand things. I understand plenty. You’re only as weird as you want to be.”

“She finally understood that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make someone love you. You can’t stop them from making the wrong decision. There’s no magic for that.”

“She couldn’t change who she was, and she no longer wanted to, even if she could. She knew that who you are is a stone set deep inside you. You can spend all your life trying to dig that stone out, or you can build around it. Your choice.”

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Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan Luna

February 5, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 10 ★★★★★

Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan LunaAlex + Ada
by Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Series: 1-5
Published by Image Comics
on July 16, 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 128
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5. From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.

Five reasons you need to read Alex + Ada. Like, right now:

1. The art is gorgeous. It’s plain jane, but well drawn, and for the story (at this point, anyway) I think it fits. Alex is sad. He’s depressed. And his world reflects that. And the story, while not original, it is a fresh take on it, if that makes sense. I mean, the execution is excellent. And you know, it’s not what you have, it’s all in how you use it. It is just so engaging.

2. Robots are boring. Super boring. Completely subservient, no will – absolute no will – of their own. No personality, no desire, no spark. Some people may think this is great! No more dishes, no more laundry! Others, those who see robots as more than that, have a Big Moral Dilemma to contend with. Fireworks!

3. The political and social tensions. People are terrified because the robots are becoming sentient and no one knows how it is happening. And just like in the real world, when people don’t understand something, they panic. And when they panic, bad things happen. And then the politicians get involved. OH SNAP.

4. Loneliness. This hit me so strongly. These characters have everything they could possibly have in subservient assistance. Alex, for instance, wakes up to a holographic tv screen that gives him the weather, the news report, and more. He has a robot (a very standard model) to make his breakfast, wash his clothes, put up his feet, etc. He has implants in his head that enable to him to tell all his appliances (and robot) to do this, do that, make the water this temperature, flush the toilet, call Grandma, etc. He doesn’t want for anything. Anything except basic human company. In this near future, everything seems solved, except loneliness. Depression. All our technological advances can’t solve this. Except maybe self-aware extremely lifelike robots?

5. Because I LOVES it! When have I ever steered you wrong? (Don’t answer that.)

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The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

January 29, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 2 ★★★★★

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick RothfussThe Slow Regard of Silent Things
by Patrick Rothfuss
Series: Tales from Temerant, The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5
Published by DAW
on October 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 159
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
five-stars
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.

Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows...

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.

Some days simply lay on you like stones.

How does one review a book in a series that almost didn’t happen? How do you convince readers they have to read a book in a series, a book that is chronologically 2.5 in the series?

First, I start with saying you have to read the other books in the series. It’s a given. To know the characters, to know the place, and the time period, the world of the books, you have to read the series.

Secondly, I have to tell you, you could probably read this out of order or as a standalone. The character in this book appears in the other books, but none of the other characters do. She mentions a character from the other books a few times, but never by name. In the other books, she is a very small secondary character who doesn’t take up a lot of time or plot. She is merely a character the author felt the need to expand on. For more on why Rothfuss wrote the book, if you are interested, here is a blog post he wrote on it here.

To be so lovely and so lost. To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.

Lastly, yes. Yes, I hear you. Why should you read this? Honestly, because it is…geez…how to describe it. It is just such a great character study. (To me, it felt like the chance to get inside the character as it exists in the author’s head.) It’s one character. It’s a week of her life. Wait, let’s back up. The character. Her name is Auri. She lives under the university. In the bowels, the basement, the place where all the pipes lead. Auri is a sad character in the grand scheme of things. She’s alone. She lives alone, under the university, scrounging for food on a daily basis. Yet, when you take a closer look, the picture is a little different. Yes, she’s alone, but she choses to be so. Auri knows she’s not…quite…right.

She felt the panic rising in her then. She knew. She knew how quickly things could break. You did the things you could. You tended to the world for the world’s sake. You hoped you would be safe. But still she knew. It could come crashing down and there was nothing you could do. And yes, she knew she wasn’t right. She knew her everything was canted wrong. She knew her head was all unkilter. She knew she wasn’t true inside. She knew.

God, y’all. This book is gorgeous. The writing is gorgeous. The character is gorgeous. If you’ve ever had a day when things didn’t feel quite right, that you felt maybe a little crazy, like you couldn’t live in the world; this book. I mean, you’ll understand it. You will get it.

But for half a minute she wished it was a different sort of day, even though she knew that nothing good could come from wanting at the world.

You won’t need to know the world this book lives in. You will connect with this character. This powerful, lost, sad young woman will get to you. I got it. I got her. I’ve been her. And, well…

She’d strayed from the true way of things. First you set yourself to rights. And then your house. And then your corner of the sky. And after that… Well, then she didn’t rightly know what happened next. But she hoped that after that the world would start to run itself a bit, like a gear-watch proper fit and kissed wit oil. That was what she hoped would happen.

As the author said:

“This story is for all the slightly broken people out there. I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.”

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An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay

January 23, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 12 ★★★★★

An Untamed State by Roxanne GayAn Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press
on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

T.S Eliot described Nightwood’s (by Djuna Barnes) prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.¹

This is how I feel about a book I just finished; An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. It demanded something of me. However, unlike that “ordinary novel-reader,” I was prepared to give it. I went into the book knowing I would have to give something. And, by God, did I give.

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.
They held me captive for thirteen days.
They wanted to break me.
It was not personal.
I was not broken.
This is what I tell myself.

 An Untamed State is the story of Mireille Duval Jameson. She is a Haitian woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an immigration lawyer, and all around strong, confident woman. One day, while on vacation with her husband and young son, she is kidnapped by armed Haitian men and held ransom for one million dollars. The things that happen to her while waiting for that ransom are horrific. For thirteen days, she endures torment no one, man or woman, should have to face. It was personal. She was broken. No matter what she tells herself.

Roxanne Gay. What a writer. Seriously. She knows how to craft a sentence. She knows how to pack a punch. Reading her writing is glorious, despite the subject matter.

Like I said, I knew this would be a hard book to read. I had read reviews. I knew what was coming. However, when the book was on sale this holiday season, and Andi said she’d read it with me, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would hurt, but I also knew I would come out better on the other side.

This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Why do I (or anyone else for that matter) want to read books with difficult subject matter? I remember when I was a kid…. I was always a voracious reader. I read all the time. Time out in my room never bothered me; that’s where the books where! And I had a role model for this behavior. My grandmother. She read all  the time. After she retired, she could sit and read two books a day. And you know why? She read easy books. She subscribed to Harlequin. It was nothing for me to go get the mail and find a box (or two, or three) of 6 books in there waiting. When I was in high school, and reading all the books, I asked her. “Did you ever read these kind of books? The classics and stuff?” And she said yes. “But now I’m too old to put thought into my reading,” she added. She didn’t want to think.

I want to think.

I want to be challenged. I want to expand my world view. I want my brain to be hardwired differently by what I read. (Seriously, read that article. It’s fascinating.) I want to empathize. I want to understand. I want to learn.

An Untamed State was a great teacher. I can’t wait to find my next one. As Gustave Flaubert said, “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” (sorry, couldn’t resist a favorite quote…) (I feel kind of pretentious.) (Oh well.)

Favorite bits:

The sun was still out but fading into pink along the horizon. It was beautiful how the color stretched across the sky in sweeping arcs. I stared into that pink, wanted to remember everything about it, until a hand grabbed my elbow.

My parents are not warm people. They love hard and deep but you have to work to understand the exact nature of that love, to see it, to feel it. That day was the first time I realized my parents loved each other more than they loved us though I couldn’t know then the price I would pay for that love.

Sons are different, my mother says. They always look for home somewhere else. Daughters, though, a mother can count on. Daughters always come home.

What is truly terrifying is the exact knowledge of what will come and being unable to save yourself from it.

This is what I know-the body is built to survive.

My mother has often told me there are some things you cannot tell a man who loves you, things he cannot handle knowing. She adheres to the philosophy that it is secrets rather than openness that strengthen a relation ship between a woman and a man. She believes this even though she is an honest person. Honesty, she says, is not always about the truth.

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So, a Little More on that Routine Thing…

October 10, 2014 Blogging, Book Reviews, Books 6

by Mason Currey
Published by Knopf
Genres: Nonfiction
Source: Purchased

dailyroutineSo, I’m still making my way through Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. I hate to admit it, but it’s a slog. I am about to give myself permission to give it up, even though I’m slightly over halfway through. Like Amanda, some of my problems stem from the lack of balance between man and woman, white and not (and I mean, that is a LOT of my problem, there is basically no balance. If you want to know how a privileged white male finds time to write, this is your book) but, honestly? I think he included too many authors! There are 161 authors, composers, philosophers, poets, playwrights, scientists, mathematicians. After about 50 or so routines, it starts to loose it’s impact.

Where was Currey’s editor?

How did they not see they could have gotten 3 books out of this one?

Don’t they realize that sometimes a brief message is more powerful that one that goes on and on and on and on and on.

I wonder how many more people in this book get up early or late? How many take a walk (or three, like Dickens)? How many have a bit of fun with themselves before they get down to it (seriously Thomas Wolfe? I am NOT looking at you, but you know, I’m looking at you) (and Ben Franklin, with your air baths! Get own down with your bad self!). How many eat meals? Take naps? Sharpen their pencils? Set up the fridge as their desk (Geez, Thomas Wolfe, you were an odd duck).

Another bit of a peeve is the lack of 21st century authors. Yes, there are a few, but the majority of this book is 19th and 20th century writers. Couldn’t you find anyone alive Currey? I have to admit, I am a little more interested in how the creative types of TODAY juggle their routines that those who lived lives of leisure 200 years ago. Times, uh, they have a-changed.

Despite these quibbles though, there is a lot of good information in this book. A couple more favorites:

 “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”  – Haruki Murakami

And I think I’m OCD:

The founder of behavioral psychology treated his daily writing sessions much like a laboratory experiment, conditioning himself to write every morning with a pair of self-reinforcing behaviors: he started and stopped by the buzz of a timer, and he carefully plotted the number of hours he wrote and the words he produced on a graph. – B. F. Skinner

Actually, I can totally see myself doing that. Heck, I DID do that when I tried to do NaNoWriMo.

I love this from Joan Miró i Ferrà, a Catalan painter:

Miró hated for this routine to be interrupted by social or cultural events. As he told an American journalist, “Merde! I absolutely detest all openings and parties! They’re commercial, political, and everybody talks too much. They get on my tits!

Love it. LOVE. IT. I am totally breaking that line out at parties.

But really, the best piece of advice from the whole book is this, from Chuck Close, another painter:

“Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

And really, that’s all we really need do, right?

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Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

September 19, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 8 ★★★★½

Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara VaronRobot Dreams
by Sara Varon
Published by First Second
on August 7, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
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four-half-stars
Richly endearing and full of surprises, Robot Dreams follows an ill-fated friendship between a dog and robot. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves Robot rusty and immobilized in the sand, Dog, unsure what to do, abandons him. As the seasons pass, Dog tries to replace his friend, making and losing a series of new ones, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. Meanwhile, Robot passes his time daydreaming, escaping to better places...Through interwoven journeys, the two characters long to recover from their day at the beach. 

Although its adorable characters and playful charm will win over young readers, Robot Dreams speaks universally to the fragile nature of friendship, loss, and redemption.

There is something magical about an effective story told with no words. Pixar, Shaun Tan, and now Sara Varon, have moved me beyond measure with their work that uses art instead of words. Looking at that cover…I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts are that this is a kids book. And yes, it is. My daughter enjoyed it. However, it is one of those books that is deceptive. It looks simple. It IS simple. But the story…it packs a punch.

The reason this story works for me is, even though it is fantastical (at least for me it is. Do you own a robot? A walking, human-like dog? If so, were do you get such things???), it is relatable. The dog. He is lonely. He wants a friend. So he buys a robot. He puts him together. He has a friend! So they go to the beach. And something bad happens. The pair are separated. Feelings are hurt. Actions are regretted. Through no fault of the dog, more like a lack of knowledge, the robot is hurt. Irreparably.

Kids can relate. I can relate. You can, probably, relate.

And it sounds sad. But no. No! It is beautiful!

Through this mistake, the dog and the robot learn. The dog learns from his mistakes. He comes to know himself better and changes based on the hurt he caused himself and his robot. In turn, the robot also learns. As he lays there, daydreaming is days away, he learns about himself and changes based on the hurt he received. They become better “people.” A lesson for everyone, not just children.

Again, I stand amazed at the power in this tiny book with no words. And Sara Varon has a diehard new fan. First Second is such a terrific publisher!

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