Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally
"Pleydell-Smith said, ‘The guanay is the most valuable bird in the world. Each pair produces about two dollars’ worth of guano in a year without any expense to the owner. Each female lays an average of three eggs and raises two young. Two broods a year. Say they’re worth fifteen dollars a pair, and say there are one hundred thousand birds on Crab Key, which is a reasonable guess on the old figures we have. That makes his birds worth a million and a half dollars."
Ian Fleming - Dr No: James Bond 007
I kid you not, Fleming dedicated a whole chapter to the economics of bird poop.
‘That’s right, sir. But it wasn’t the Zoo. It was some people in America called the Audubon Society. They protect rare birds from extinction or something like that. Got on to our Ambassador in Washington, and the F.O. passed the buck to the Colonial Office. They shoved it on to us. Seems these bird people are pretty powerful in America. They even got an atom bombing range shifted on the West Coast because it interfered with some birds’ nests.’
M. snorted. ‘Damned thing called a Whooping Crane. Read about it in the papers.’
Ian Fleming - Dr No: James Bond 007
Olive Kitteridge is an extraordinary book. I had to read the first story quite a few times to get into the characters and get what Strout wanted to do here. The writing is gorgeous. It must have required considerable effort and discipline to compile the selection of related and yet unrelated stories - all of which involve either Olive Kitteridge or people in her community in a small town in Maine - and yet keep the tone of the stories so even, so understated.
There were two aspects of Olive Kitteridge that fascinated me most - and that are inevitably what makes or breaks this book for me:
For one, the book focuses on people in the later stages of life. Mostly. It was great to read about characters who were not going through any rites of passage or growth.
Hand in hand with this, however, came a sort of bleak realism that made it sometimes difficult to read the stories. It was the sort of realism that does not promise happy endings, and acts as a reminder that reality is often far removed from the hope and dignity which is lent to characters in stories.
I was not sure at first whether I liked or disliked this book, and to some extent I still am not sure about this, but I am glad I have read it.
Re-posting to keep track....
Ok, so for someone who claims not to read series, I'm getting caught up in quite a few of them: Lord Peter Wimsey, Marple, Poirot, and yes, also James Bond.
Ok, the last few chapters have turned decidedly towards a focus on human interest.
I thought this was going to be a 5* star read, but the part with the evangelism was the beginning of a downward slope.....
This is a tough book. I now get what all the readers recommending this mean by it being compelling but not "enjoyable".
Can't believe there were (are??) people trying to ban this........
It's time to reveal our new bingo card!
Over the next 13 days, Obsidian and I will be posting some of our favorite books to fit under some of the categories.
Rules of the Game
If you have questions or comments, post them below!
"She hears a thump overhead, followed by the clickety-clack of canine nails on hardwood and the thundery thud of Daisy barrelling down the carpeted stairs. The dog, having heaved herself from her queen-sized Tempur-Pedic slumber at the sound of domestic disturbance, is now reporting for duty. What’s up? Pizza guy? Want me to kill him?"
Ann-Marie MacDonald - Adult Onset
Yeah, so I was supposed to be on a flight to Denmark tonight but it was cancelled. Technical difficulties mean I was stuck on the plane - bookless! Well, nearly. It took me a while to remember I had downloaded this to my phone.
I love MacDonald's writing. Her first two books were just wonderful. This one made me giggle on the plane, while surrounded by a number of agitated passengers. It is quite a different tone and style from her other two novels.
If you haven't tried MacDonald, yet, I'd recommend you give her a shot.
The WTF factor is strong with this one.
The story of Bruno, a chimpanzee who learns how to speak and who slowly "evolves" into a man started out really strong. Bruno described the circumstances of his captivity and hints at the story that led up to his current condition. However, the story takes long, long, long time to tell, and Bruno is a somewhat less than reliable narrator. Well, either this, or Hale left out some relevant explanations of certain turns in the plot.
While there is something clever about describing mankind from the perspective of a chimp and relating that evolution is not as big a step up from the animal kingdom as man would believe it to be, the story itself just isn't gripping me.
DNF @ 37%.
So, this happened today at the Edinburgh Book Fest.....
Ali Smith read from her new - not-even-published-yet - book. She only finished "Autumn" recently and handed it to her publisher on Monday. Monday, people! This was the first EVER reading of it.
I mean, I would have loved anything she would have picked, but this was special. Not only was this the first time she shared her new work with an audience, but the parts we heard were excellent. She's trying something new with this novel - which will be the first of a cycle of four, all tied to a season. She said she wants them all to be standalone books (so it's not a series - thank goodness! - I'm not good with series) but they follow a common thread or theme.
But of course, this is Ali Smith. I would have been surprised if her new book was not experimental!
The other aspect that drew me and most of the audience in, was that she picked discussions of a decidedly current nature to feature in the new book: storytelling as the act of welcoming people, Brexit, self-doubt and self-creation or the creation of other selves, the recurring story of plight, refuge, and, well, welcoming. All bound by the discussion of time and people being present in time.
Of course, without having read the new book this is just what I got from today's reading, but I am super excited. Ali Smith is one of the smartest, kindest, most sensitive and most intelligible writers I have read. She's also one of the funniest. The fun side, of course came out at today's reading, too, as the reading and interview was guided by her bestie Jackie Kay. For those not familiar with Jackie Kay, she is the current Makar (Scottish National Poet), and is an awesome writer in her own right. Check her out!
I am also super excited still that there was a book signing after the reading. I must admit I had a bit of a lump in my throat when I got meet Ali, but the weirdest thing happened:
I had taken two books - my hardback first edition of Artful and a copy of Hotel World which I wanted to send to my friend. However, by coincidence - or fate? - my friend's name is the same as Ali's new novel, so when I asked if she could make this one out to someone called Autumn, she not only wrote a brilliant dedication but also gave me the cover page of the manuscript she read from earlier, so I can send it off together with my friend's copy of the book.
No need to add that I have been beside myself since.
I don't know.
There is something compelling about this book. It is really well written and the characters just come to life on every page, but oh my is this depressing....
"Feminism. I’m new to it. The word still sounds weird and wrong. Too white, too structured, too foreign: something I can’t claim. I wish there was another word for it. Maybe I need to make one up. My mom’s totally a feminist but she never uses that word. She molds my little brother’s breakfast eggs into Ninja Turtles and pays all the bills in the house. She’s this lady that never sleeps because she’s working on a Master’s Degree while raising my little brother and me and pretty much balancing the rhythm of an entire family on her shoulders. That’s a feminist, right? But my mom still irons my Dad’s socks. So what do you call that woman? You know, besides Mom."
When I first looked into picking up Juliet Takes a Breath, I came across a review that described this book as the female version of The Catcher in the Rye. My immediate reaction was "Oh, good grief, noooooo!" and I instantly wanted to cancel the sample that had just been delivered to my kindle.
However, I read the first few pages and was kinda hooked by the voice of Juliet, a 19-year-old Latina, living in the Bronx. The book starts with Juliet writing a letter to the author of her favourite book, a book that she originally started reading as a joke, but that turned out to have such an impact on her that she started to question her view of life.
"I fall asleep with that book in my arms because words protect hearts and I’ve got this ache in my chest that won’t go away."
I guess, this is where the similarities with Holden Caulfield start. But, really, this is also where they end. Where Holden dismisses the believes of others over his own somewhat narrow-minded ideas, which are based on his misinterpretation of the Burns poem (which he never really bothers to find out more about), Juliet wants to learn more about the ideas in the book that she regards as her "Bible" and manages to arrange an internship with its author.
And so Juliet's huge road trip begins. She moves to Portland (OR) for the summer to help her author gather material for a new book, and by doing so learn more about herself, her family, her relationships with others, her place in the world, and as with all good coming-of-age stories, she learns that stories change depending on whose narrative is given a voice.
"Who were these women? I didn’t recognize any of their faces. How could I be 19 and not know any of them? I’d always done all of my homework, read all of the books assigned in school and yet, here was a world full of possibly iconic ladies I knew nothing about."
Unlike The Catcher in the Rye, which was a painful read because I mostly remember wanting to smack Holden with his own book, I could hardly wait to pick up Juliet Takes a Breath in my spare time. A couple of nights sleep may have suffered also, but it was such good fun reading this, that I really didn't mind.
I'm looking forward to more of Gabby Rivera's writing.
"It made me wonder about all the ways that we are able to love each other and how movies and TV make it seem like you have to discard people once they break your heart or once the love disappears. Maybe that was a horrible lie, a complete disservice to real love."
There is a long list of reviews that I would like to write, but I really don't feel like it at the moment. Instead, I thought I'd share a picture of the lovely, lovely books I picked up at the library this week. :D
Really hating Tuesdays right now for a reason...but things are looking up: Tonight I am looking forward to an early night with a cup of tea and a book. Bliss.