Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" by Michael Chabon *****


  • US author 
  • Originally published in 2005
  • Review:  A marvelous coming of age tale as can only be told by Michael Chabon.  I think he is an incredible storyteller.  He creates iconic characters, uses language masterfully, and is very witty.  It was fun to read his first novel after having enjoyed all those which followed!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"A Piece of the World" by Christine Baker Kline ****


  • Audiobook
  • US author 
  • Originally published in 2017
  • Review:  A beautifully written story by the author of "Orphan Train".  The story is about the Christina of Andrew Wyeth's painting, "Christina's World".  The tale of a woman with a physical disability and the life that ensues is a poignant, difficult portrait in words.  What would it be like to live a life in which one is never seen?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Every Man Dies Alone" by Hans Fallada *****


  • German author 
  • Originally published in 1947
  • Written in 24 days
  • Review: It is difficult to believe that this novel was written in 24 days!  A story of resistance to the Nazis by German citizens, based on a true story, is immediately engaging.  The characters are memorable, engaging, and evocative.  Perhaps the most memorable was a detective who was the only convert based on the subversive notes written and distributed by Otto & Anna.  Ultimately, the reader must come to terms with the reality of resistance.  It may or may not have the desired coercive impact, yet what matters more is the principle behind the act, and the effort to remain "decent" in the face of evil. Great novel!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"The Underground Railroad" By Colson Whitehead *****


  • National Book Award winner
  • US author 
  • Originally published in 2016
  • Review: This is the second novel by Colson Whitehead which I have read, and my original opinion stands.  He is a gifted writer.  In this instance, he creates a character, Cora,  who is so engaging that the reader can survive the horrors of her life.  The blend of historically enlightening details about the Underground Railroad are masterfully combined with a gripping plot.  I learned more about the nature and timing of the railroad journey and I felt tremendous humility in the face of the courage and determination of the slaves and the "stationmasters".  Tragic though it is that such powerful drives were requirements for the railroad to work, it is a piece of American history to feel proud of.  I wish it did not feel as if we might need it again in some form given the current political climate.

"We So Seldom Look On Love" by Barbara Gowdy **


  • Audiobook
  • US author
  • Short Stories 
  • Originally published in 1998
  • Review:   As always, Barbara Gowdy's characters are a tad freakish and mostly likeable.  However, some of these stories were just too weird for me.  cannot recommend it.

"The Women In The Castle" by Jessica Shattuck ****


  • Audiobook 
  • US author
  • Originally published in 2017
  • Review:  Yes, yes, yes, yet another WWII story.  Well....wait a minute.  This one is from the perspective of German women who live together after the war, after the brutalites both witnessed and subjected to, and finding a way to live with the consequences of being German.  It is a story of shame, solidarity, survival and the toll it takes.  Very good!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"In The Wake" by Per Petterson *****


  • Norwegian author 
  • Originally published in 2002
  • Review:  Reading this novel about life in the wake of loss was a viscerally painful experience.  Having lost parents and two young siblings in a ferry disaster 6 years prior to the start of the story, two brothers are trying to survive the seemingly never-ending ripples of grief from destroying their lives. Patterson evokes the soul deep experience of grief so magnificently that the reader aches along with the brothers.  Watch out, folks.  This is an intense read!

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Thunder Dog:The True Story of A Blind Man, His Guide Dog & The Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero" by Michael Hingson ***


  • Non-Fiction
  • 9/11 story
  • US author 
  • Originally published in 2011
  • Review:  This is a good book with insight into the life of a blind man and the life of guide dogs.  The successful escape from Tower 1 on 9/11 was also interesting.  

"Compass" by Mathias √Čnard ****


  • French author
  • Originally published in 2015
  • Prix  Goncourt Winner
  • Review:   This was a difficult read, yet I was compelled to push through it.  The unique structure, 12 hours of insomnia driven musings, and the stream of consciousness narration, made for a dense read.  The primary theme, as noted by other readers, is the rich outcome when people are exposed to "other".  In this the focus was on the Oriental influence in the arts of Europe.  From Mozart to Balzac and more, the book enriches the understanding of how important it is to be open to and try to develop understanding of differences.  Quite timely!

Friday, August 11, 2017

"The Japanese Lover" by Isabel Allende ***


  • Audiobook 
  • Chilean author
  • Originally published in 2015
  • Review:   A good story.  Well written, if a bit choppy.  Set in a private nursing home, the reader is audience to the life stories of two women.  A love story, a story about relationships and their varied forms, and a story about end of life.

"When Nietzsche Wept" by Irving Yalom *****


  • Summer Read with Beth
  • US author
  • Originally published in 2005
  • Review:  A fantastic novel!  An imagined transactional relationship between Josef Breuer and Friedrich Nietzsche takes the reader on a journey of existential angst.  As a psychotherapist myself, I found this story utterly believable.  The author creates a story which is historically accurate in terms of the status of the field of psychology in 1882, and addresses the central existential kernel which is present for each of us.  At times I had to stop and reflect on my own life choices, and I deeply appreciated the ability of the author to evoke that desire to reflect.  Marvelous! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Rencontres sous X" Didier van Cauwelaert. ***


  • Reading in French
  • French author
  • Originally published in 2004
  • Review:   This is a somewhat daring story about two people who meet while filming an X-rated movie.  I think the primary theme is that it is extremely difficult to be genuine when the eyes of others are upon us.  Good book.

"A Gentleman In Moscow" by Amor Towles. *****


  • Audiobook
  • US author 
  • Originally published in 2016
  • Review:  I absolutely loved this novel. Historically informative and consisting of a marvelous plot, I enjoyed every minute of it!  A member of Russian aristocracy is sentenced to permanent house arrest in a magnificent hotel in Moscow.  The reader is then audience to escapades, deep relationships, and  unexpected twists and turns of events.  Count To stir is witty, intelligent, loving, creative, and above all is able to become "master of his circumstances before they become master of him."  Memorable read!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

"Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse" by Echo Heron ***


  • Autobiography
  • Non-Fiction
  • Originally published in 1987
  • Review:  I am interested in medical stories, so I found this to be quite interesting.  The author shares the trajectory of her career in nursing, from nursing school to being a dually placed Cardiac Care Nurse and ER Nurse.  The patient stories were very interesting and gave much insight into the author's emotional response to various situations.  Not bad.

"Nostromo" by Joseph Conrad **


  • Ukranian author
  • Originally published in 1904
  • Review:  I did not finish this book.  I have thoroughly enjoyed Conrad's other novels, but after 100+ pages and no sign of a plot, I gave up.