January 15, 2018


"One of the things that’s interested me always is how we live in small worlds and big worlds at the same time: that we have a personal arena in which we have to try and find fulfilment and love, but that inevitably intersects with a larger world, where politics, or even dystopian universes, can prevail. So I think I’ve always been interested in that. We live in small worlds and big worlds at the same time and we can’t … forget one or the other."  ~Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - You know how some authors emotionally manipulate you, the reader, and steamroll you with their intended message/moral/purpose?  Kazuo Ishiguro is not that author.  He's asking super huge questions in this book:  What does it mean to be Human?  What is the purpose of Art and Education?  What gives Life Meaning?  But he's subtly asking all these questions thru the easy-breazy, emotively dead-pan, chatty reminiscences of his first-person narrator, Kathy.  And she doesn't tell you what to think.  She just tells you what she remembers happened.  Kazuo Ishiguro lets the shear horror of the inhumanity itself steamroll you.  Good book, thoughtful book.  Thoroughly Modern in writing style.  Dystopian, yes.  Interesting to read this after so recently viewing Remains of the Day (movie) and see KI style similarities (slow pace, emotionally repressive narration, big questions, memories, perceptions ..)

Purgatorio by Dante Aliguieri (bookclub) - ok, so poetry continues not to be my love language, Dante is still name-dropping in Purgatorio, and I'm still feeling over-my-head and lacking understanding.  But I can tell that if I were in the tutelage of someone who knew and understood the depths of Dante, I would probably quite appreciate his trilogy a great deal more.  As it is, I get small tastes of his brilliance ... like how Inferno and Purgatorio fit together and provide at times the "flip side of the coin" to each other ... in the Inferno sinners are punished by repeating endlessly the sin they gave themselves over to in life; in Purgatorio, sinners are punished with an equal-and-opposite act to their sin committed in life.  Anywhoo, on to Paradise...

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite contemporary writers.  I first read this novel when it was published nearly two decades ago.  I liked it then, and I like it now; which is saying a lot, because the subject matter is messy, sad, devastating:  a zealous missionary pastor moving to the Congo, dragging his family along, and doing every thing that he does with little (or none) love and a whole lot of misapplied scripture.  The story is told thru the first person narratives of the five women in his family.  Each voice is fabulously individual.  I couldn't stop turning pages, til I got nearly to the end, when the adult voices of the grown daughters became more philosophical and less story-driven.  The end fizzles for me.  But the rest?  Sooo good.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill - (library ebook)  I quite enjoyed this fairytale/magic story.  I neglected more pressing matters to page-turn to the end.

My Mother’s Shadow by Nikola Scott – (pre-publishing-date Kindle book) interesting story that kept my attention.  The writing/style/theme seemed to me reminiscent of Kate Morton’s storytelling, only better.

One Summer by David Baldacci – (library ebook) I was browsing OC’s e-library for available titles (pickings were slim) when I came across this Baldacci book.  I haven’t read one of his novels since Wish You Well (which I remember quite liking).  I skimmed my way quickly thru this ridiculous, trite-cliche,  story.  I don’t recommend you do the same.  Time is precious, yo.

The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill – (library ebook)  the elements that made The Girl Who Drank the Moon good are all present in this story, also.  That said, this story seemed just a little too similar to the other; I preferred the former.  And a nit-picky criticism: this book was nonstop peril from nearly the first page to the last (irritating to me).

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman - (library)  Equal parts heart-rendingly precious and totally annoying.  Strange 1st/3rd person [7yo girl] narrator effect.  All things considered, glad i read til the end.  It's kind of a Marvel comics mashup with "it takes a village" philosophy.  It's a book that begs you to *see* people.

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion - (library)  Same author as The Rosie Project, a book I loved so much that I talked 3 Keller dudes into reading it. They loved it (Rosie) too. This book had none of the Rosie books' charms.  I gave it 50pp, quit, and promptly returned it to the library.  Blech, phtooey.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan - (library ebook)  YA fiction. Fairly engaging; I finished it in a day.  Three loosely overlapping WWII narratives that each end abruptly and collide at end of book.  The last narrative had me running to the internets to research education segregation in Southern California in the 1930s & 40s.  Turns out the 3rd narrative is prettily heavily based on the Mendez family and their participation in a class action suit against the public schools.  Fascinating.

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman - (library)  I LOVE THIS BOOK TO THE MOON AND BACK. Amen. It reminds me in many ways of The Rosie Project.  The narration is genius. And soooo funny. And so heart-full.  I almost didn't read this, because Britt-Marie was a bit character in My Grandmother - an annoying "nag-bag" busybody who pushed everybody's buttons.  At the end of My Grandmother, she has a discussion with Elsa who asks about some poem about "an old man who says he can’t be loved, so he doesn’t mind, sort of, being disliked instead. As long as someone sees him.”  Britt-Marie replies that “We want to be loved. Failing that, admired; failing that, feared; failing that, hated and despised. At all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others. The soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs it longs for contact. [adding quietly]  I want someone to remember I existed. I want someone to know I was here.”  Britt-Marie is all about Britt-Marie finally *seeing* and being *seen* by others.  It's a book that shows that a little bit of kindness is HUGE. This book makes ME want to *see* others better.  Truly, I laughed and cried my way through this book. I was sad when it ended.  Hands down, my favorite book this year.

O Pioneers by Willa Cather (bookclub) - A re-read for me.  Still great.  I think I want to work my way through all of Willa Cather's books...

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - (library ebook) While The Language of Flowers is on my favorites list, this novel was just ok for me.