My posts will resume when my internet is restored.
I have 5 reviews coming soon…
My posts will resume when my internet is restored.
I have 5 reviews coming soon…
“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”
― Patti Smith,
As I look through my extensive library of books I noticed that I’ve got a vast collection of memoirs and many of which I haven’t read. My goal for August will be to read as many of the memoirs I have in my collection as I can. I tend to read memoirs quite quickly which is making me consider that instead of doing a review for each one – I’ll simply do a weekly round-up instead.
I dislike giving ratings to non-fiction books, especially memoirs so my round-ups will be more in the form of a discussion (along the lines of how Harpers reviews books). Fiction books will continue to receive their own reviews and will be separate from these round-ups.
Also; I’m going to try and incorporate more into this blog than just reviews and a weekly quote. I tried to do Top 5 Wednesday just to discover that I really dislike listing things. I have a few ideas that I’ve considered, however they aren’t exactly book related so they might not be suitable for this blog.
At any rate, I figured a brief explanation for why there is going to be a slight change in the format of my posts over the course of August was important. I mean, I have a memoir written in four volumes that took me almost a year to get that I have yet to read. This up coming month will (hopefully) be when that gets read.
In 1980’s Boston there lives a man, David Sibelius and his 12 year old daughter Ada Sibelius. THE UNSEEN WORLD opens with a typical scene with this family; David is hosting a dinner for the students who work at his computer lab. Ada is preparing the drinks – she’s done this plenty of times before.
At this dinner we are introduced to the characters that make up this brilliant story and we are also provided with the first glimpse into the ailment that sets the entire story into motion.
It begins with the telling of a riddle.
David’s declining health brings his entire past into question. Ada must learn who her father really is, and perhaps along the way find out who she is. Davids illness begins with slight slip ups with his memory which causes his past to uncoil in phenomenal ways within the pages of Moore’s novel.
I heard about this book almost a year ago shortly after it was released. I was both intimidated and intrigued by it. People raved about this book but refused to say anything about it outside of providing general summaries of the plot. (I should say *most* people were considerate like this). When I first picked this book up a week ago, I wasn’t entirely engaged – the writing felt slightly distant. Every section of this book however pulls you in with a mystery or revelation that makes you want to continue reading.
Ada’s life, David’s life and the lives of those around them soon become quite familiar. These people, you feel, at some level you know. THE UNSEEN WORLD tackles some of the fundamental questions of existence – what does it mean to be human? Are we nothing more than a series of electrical impulses (which, in David’s case begin to fail). Is there more to this world that remains unseen due to the limits of our senses?
What constitutes being alive?
It is difficult being intentionally vague in regards to this novel, however I do not feel like being held responsible for ruining anyone else’s experience with this brilliant book. Please take this book into consideration when picking out your next read.
★★★★★ THE UNSEEN WORLD by Liz Moore
* If this review seems choppy, it is because I had to edit large chunks out. This book is best read when little about the plot is known. I was mildly spoiled for this book before I began reading it and that is what I’m trying to refrain from doing here. THE UNSEEN WORLD is set up like a thriller/mystery where you piece things together along with the characters – so be careful when looking at reviews of the book – many people are having no problem gushing about where this books goes without consideration of warning about spoilers.
Yann Martel’s latest novel, The High Mountains of Portugal is a unique reading experience. Divided in three parts, “Homeless”, “Homeward” and “Home” Martel tells a story that transcends time but held together by, essentially relics of the past. The book is almost set up to mimic a religious text – or, at least mimic the types of stories that make up religious mythology.
Although the three sections of the book all form an over-arching story of it’s own, since the book is broken up in three parts, I will discuss a little about each part.
The introductory story titled Homeless begins with a man named Tomas in the year 1904 who is presented with a the Biblical Job-like predicament. His wife, child and father all die within a few days of each other and in protest to this divine injustice Tomas begins to walk backwards. In Tomas’ possession however he has an old diary that speaks of a religious artifact that, according to the diary will upturn religion as it is known. Tomas sets out on a quest, using the latest marvel of his age, and automobile to find this holy relic that is spoken of in the diary. The relic is a crucifix with a chimpanzee.
The second story, Homeward is set on New Years of 1939. I personally enjoyed this section the most. This section is the story of a mortician who is visited by the ghost of his wife who comes to discuss Jesus Christ and Agatha Christie and the interesting parallels that exist between the Gospels and Christie’s novels. This part of the book essentially reveals what Martel is attempting to do. Shortly after the discussion with the ghost of his dead wife, the Mortician is visited by a woman hauling with her a suitcase. Inside the suitcase is the corpse of her late husband. The woman requests that the mortician perform an autopsy on the course so she can learn about the mans life. When the mortician does the autopsy he starts pulling out things that made up the mans life. In the chest cavity the mortician pulls out a chimpanzee holding a bear cub. The wife then climbs into the now empty body and requests that the mortician sew her up with the chimpanzee and bear cub, essentially becoming one of the desires that the man lived for.
The final story, Home takes place in 1981 and is about a Canadian senator who after losing his wife through a sequence of events essentially adopts a chimpanzee and gives up his entire life to live with it in Portugal, incidentally in the same small village that the two previous stories take place. Once again we have a Biblical parallel here where the chimp is a stand in for Jesus. It is a subtle reference to when Jesus tells a rich man to give up everything he owns and follow him. The Senator lives side by side with this chimpanzee until witnessing a rare miracle. In his adventures with the ape, he discovers the early relic and learns of the peculiar autopsy involving the chimp in the chest cavity of the man.
I’ll be honest, I will be thinking about this story for awhile. All three stories are tied together with a premise that humans are not fallen angels but rising apes and Martel uses an ape as a place holder for Jesus, first as a relic, then dwelling in the ‘heart’ of a man then finally as prophet who is followed to a Heaven that is represented as The High Mountains Of Portugal. All in all the story was enjoyable, I’ll be revisiting the middle story in time.
★★★★ THE HIGH MOUNTAINS OF PORTUGAL by Yann Martel
Today is one of the toughest days I’ve had in quite a long time.
Tomorrow my roommate, my friend, is moving out.
It’s been a tough year – a lot of it documented here, on my blog – and we’ve been through a lot…
…and life is taking us our separate ways, to unknown destinies.
It is so hard to keep from crying right now. I knew this day was coming, I’ve been dreading it. From here on out, all my roommates will be essentially strangers.
My one true friend is moving out.
I feel so lost.
Mitch Albom is not an author whose books I would generally buy, let alone read, but after hearing an intriguing interview with him about his latest work; The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto on NPR, my curiosity was piqued. It was recalling this interview that, upon seeing copies of the hardcover of Frankie Presto on sale at a book store, that I bought a copy for myself and for my dad for Father’s Day.
Yes, I bought a copy of a book I haven’t read, based solely on an interview NPR had with the author as a gift for my dad for Fathers Day. This is something I never do, but I had the feeling it was right.
This past weekend I was able to finally read this book and I was happy that I did. I do believe that when my dad is finally able to finish it, he’ll enjoy this magical story as much as I did.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is the story of a talented musician narrated from the perspective of Presto’s talent itself; Music at Presto’s funeral. Music, being with Frankie Presto from birth is able to recount all the twists and turns that Presto’s life takes, and ultimately how Presto dies. The story is quite captivating and interspersed through out the book are interviews from musicians who recount the influence that Frankie Presto has had on them.
On the surface this book is about music, but it encompasses so much more, from fate, family, love and legacy – I couldn’t put it down. The narrator, Music brings up a point numerous times throughout the novel – that as we move through life, we join various different ‘bands’ which is to say that we develop these different relationships with people that create for us families that are not tied together by blood, but by something deeper -perhaps love, talent or a mutual interest. The novel also spoke about how our actions, whether good or bad, have an affect on other people and we do not necessarily know what that affect is so it is best to be good to others.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is easily one of the best books that I’ve read this year, and I am so happy that I’ll be able to share this story with my dad. I am unwilling to provide a deeper analysis of this book because I do recommend checking it out and enjoying the beauty of this novel on your own.
★★★★★ The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
I’ve been listening to NPR and The Diane Rehm Show for many years now. Many of the books I’ve read are books I learned about on Rehm’s show when she’d interview authors about their latest publications. I’ve also enjoyed the insights into various topics on her show as well. Despite being an avid listener of her show, I somehow was unaware that she had a few books of her own published. To my delight, I came across her most recent memoir in my local library, On My Own.
Due to the book’s short length, I was initially going to include it in my “holiday week reading wrap up” but when I began reading it, I realized that this book deserved a post to itself. The subject matter is too important to be thrown in with the other three books I read over the course of the week.
On My Own is Diane Rehm’s reflections on her life immediately following the death of her husband of 54 years, John Rehm. John had Parkinson’s disease and as the disease took over his body, he began to lose his ability to function. In early June of 2014, John made the decision that he’d refuse food, water and medication which ultimately lead to his death on June 24, 2014.
John’s death immediately changed Diane’s life. She had never lived on her own before and as she approached the age of 80, she was faced with living a life without the person who had been next to her for over half a century. Rehm discusses how loneliness, grief and sadness affected her personal and professional life. The circumstances of John’s death turned Diane into an advocate for the right to die movement. Her advocacy for this caused a stir in the NPR headquarters as she began speaking, and ultimately representing this controversial stance.
The book is set up in a series of what appears to be both journal entries and essays. The journal entries are far more personal as Rehm reflects on the life she once had with John, including traditions the two of them had around the holidays and different memories the two made with each other. The essays are generally more topical and talk about grief, death and the politics that relate to them. Both of these formats work well together in this book offering a comprehensive look into the mind of someone who is trying to maneuver through life in the wake of all of these traumatic changes that have taken place.
Some of the more difficult parts of this short memoir are when Diane takes into consideration her own death – you can see she has a trepidation as she considers the last days of her life. She is adamant that she is given her own right to die as she refuses to die without any dignity. Diane mentions the death of her parents in here quite often – insisting that her dad died 11 months after her mother of a ‘broken heart’ – and as I read through her memoir, I could only think that Diane believed she’d have the same fate – a death due caused by a broken heart at the loss of her beloved, John.
On My Own is only 162 pages, and can easily be read in one sitting – I do recommend this book. I believe that I will be buying a copy for myself
“Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”
― Richard Bach
If there were one word to describe the 765 page behemoth fantasy novel, The Elven, that word would be “epic” indeed. The Elven is a story that spans both place, time and worlds as two elves and one human try to hunt down a demon that has emerged without explanation in the human world.
The story begins with Jarl Mandred and his hunting party hunting for game near their small village when they come upon the corpse of an animal that has been viciously attacked. The nature of the animal’s wounds alarm the hunting party – it is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. As the men prepare to set up camp, they are attacked by a creature that is described as being half man and half boar.
The only survivor of the attack is Mandred who fled to a sacred, yet forbidden structure that takes him to the world of the elves. Once healed from his wounds, Mandred is taken to Emerelle the elf queen and requests to form a hunting party to kill the creature that murdered his companions. Mandred is convinced the creature that attacked him has its origins in the elf world.
The queen allows for the assembly of a hunting party on one condition – she gets Mandred’s first born. Due to the urgency of the situation, Mandred complies.
It is during the assembly of the hunting party that Mandred meets the two companions that will be by his side throughout the rest of the novel; Farodin and Nuramon. Farodin is considered the fiercest fighter of the elf world and Nuramon a healer. In one of the strangest story arch I’ve encountered in a book, Nuramon and Farodin are part of a strange love triangle with a strong sorceress, Noroelle who, through a series of events has been banished to yet another world by the queen Emerelle.
When the hunting party reaches the human world they learn that the creature that Mandred was attacked by was a demon – a creature that should have been killed many years ago. There is no explanation why it suddenly reemerged, but what the demon does sets a series of events into motion that will impact the fates of all the characters involved.
The novel is epic in scope and has a sharp focus on the role of fate and destiny, and how you sometimes have to endure a lot of trials to finally achieve what fate has in store for you. Although enjoyable, the book did have several parts that would have benefited with some form of explanation, for instance, the peculiar relationship the elves had with the trolls. At one moment they are fighting each other, the next they are fighting side by side – what caused this sudden trust? Then there is also the lives of the dwarves, what happened to them during and after the final battle?
But most importantly, the most irritating aspect of the novel was Noroelle, in many aspects she was a very unconvincing plot device. Apparently it was the love that Farodin and Nuramon had for her that drove them on this long epic quest to try and free her from her banishment. It’s not that I disliked her, but she certainly owed one of the characters an explanation in regards to the origins of a certain child. She put one of the characters through quite a bit of hell and seemed to only want to write it off as a mere ‘oopsie’.
The decisions she made certainly deserved more explanation on her part considering the multitude of lives she put at stake – including those of her lovers.
Mandred’s personality went through a lovely evolution throughout the book. I enjoyed his interesting point of view as he observed the changes taking place around him. It was also quite clear to me that Nuramon was a healer; his abilities were highlighted several times throughout the book. The book however offered little proof supporting that Farodin was indeed the ‘fiercest fighter’. Yes, there was that scene where he alone attacked the troll fortress, but nothing stood out that said, ‘look! this is the distinguished elven fighter, Farodin’. To me there seemed to be nothing very extraordinary about him.
If you are looking for an epic fantasy to sink your teeth into, I would suggest The Elven by Bernhard Hennen – it certainly had its weaknesses, but enjoyable none-the-less.
☆☆☆☆½ – The Elven by Bernhard Hennen