Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"The Passenger" by Lisa Lutz *

  • Audiobook
  • Mystery/Suspense
  • US author
  • Originally published in 2016
  • Review:  Didn't finish it.  Ugh. Dull.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"In The Shadow of The Banyan" by Vaddey Ratner ****

  • Audiobook
  • Cambodian author
  • Semi-autobiographical
  • Originally Published in 2013
  • Review:  A somber, spiritual, partially auto-biographical story.  The daughter of a king in Cambodia survives 4 years in work camps, loses family, loses hope, is tortured and starved. Somehow she survives, and this book is written to memorialize the horrors wrought by the Kmer Rouge.  A tough, yet touching read.  It is hard to face the cruelties which are wrought, and continue to be wrought in our world, upon fellow humans!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante ****

  • Audiobook 
  • Originally published in 2012
  • Italian author
  • Volume One in a four volume set
  • Review:  I wasn't sure at first if this was going to turn into a sappy, girly friendship, happy ending story.  Nope!  I kept feeling drawn onward and ended up being impressed.  It is a relationship story between two girls starting in childhood, yet it is much more.  It is the story of two smart girls caught in their local culture which strives valiantly to keep them from leaving socially and intellectually.   Such an emotional, subtle battle! It is the story of the superficial versus the profound, of emerging whole versus being subsumed,  and of the painfully confusing process of sorting it all out. How does one allow the life of the mind to fly freely while simultaneously finding a way to remain among one's cultural home and stay sane.  I wholeheartedly look forward to the second of this four volume set.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Thousand Cranes" by Yasunari Kawabata ****

  • Japanese author 
  • Originally published in 1958
  • Nobel Prize winning author
  • Review:  There is a unique rhythm to the prose in a Japanese novel which I enjoy tremendously.  This novella is a tale of the inextricable ties that bind the dead and the living.  A young man's father dies and yet the tangled web of his life continues to entangle the son.  The story revolves around the ancient rite of the tea ceremony with a focus on the vessels created by early masters.  Kawabata seems to reveal the ties from ancient times carried forward, in both tea ware and relationships.

"The Murder of Mary Russell" by Laurie R. King. ****

  • Early Review edition for
  • #14 in the Mary Russell series
  • US author
  • Mystery/Suspense
  • Originally published in 2016
  • Review:  This was the best installment of the Mary Russell series in a while.   The reader is treated to a return to the basic characters with the added treat of some hitherto unknown personal histories.   Full of secrets, gasps, tension and daredevil adventure, this read is delightful!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Abahn Sabana David" by Marguerite Duras *****

  • French author
  • Originally published in 1970, translation in 2016
  • Open Letter Series
  • Review:  Reading this novella was an experience akin to reading "Waiting For Godot".  I was left feeling confused and disturbed, with only two certainties.  The world is full of chaos and uncertainty, and communication is everything.  The plot, as nearly as I could make out, was about assassins sent by the Communist party to execute a Jew who had discussed the concept of freedom with one of their members.  Duras is a master of language and intentional prose.  I do not think she misplaces a single word.  Powerful, difficult to decipher and to take emotionally, and remarkable in its impact!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Ill Will" by Dan Chaon. ***

  • Early Review edition for
  • US author
  • Originally published in 2017
  • Review:  This would have been a 4 or 5 star psychological thriller based on the plot.  However, I am tired of the now ubiquitous jumping around in time.  If it adds to the story, great.  I think it detracted in this case.  The plot was psychological, taut, and immediately engaging.  The characters were psychologically fascinating.  Couldn't put it down!

"Pnin" by Vladimir Nabokov *****

  • Originally published in 1957
  • Russian author
  • Review:  What can I say about a writer who can take the time to include the following sentence after his two characters fall asleep for the night: "Presently all were asleep again.  It was a pity nobody saw the display in the empty street, where the auroral breeze wrinkled a large luminous puddle, making of the telephone wires reflected in it illegible lines of black zigzags."  He is eloquent, lyrical, evocative and more.  That doesn't even touch on the story itself, which is an apparently timeless tale of an immigrant, a nostalgic and brilliant one, who is eternally underestimated and made a caricature by his intellectual peers & colleagues.  Pnin is a sort of Charlie Chaplinesque figure. (in fact, Nabokov writes of Pnin's own scorn for Chaplin)    Only the narrator seems to communicate a sense of the tragi-comic nature of Pnin's life.  A bittersweet read, with a message to us all!

"Work Song" by Ivan Doig ****

  • Audiobook 
  • US author 
  • Originally published in 2010
  • Set in Butte, Montana
  • Review:  Good golly!  Ivan Doig sure knows how to tell a story!  Set in Butte, Montana, this is the story of a character I would describe as an all grown up Yom Sawyer.  Morry has a big heart, a daring spirit and is a quick thinker which tends to get him into and out of tricky situations.  The story pits a copper mining company against the union in a bit of a "high noon" atmosphere.  It all comes down to a song...yep, a song.  It has a love story,  lots of tense situations, an urban legend librarian and more.  Wonderful read!