UT | Member Since 2009
*Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise*...stretch that commonsensical proverb out for an hour and 4 minutes, add a little update regarding exercising and not wasting time on the internet and you've got the whole guide.
Vanderkam really doesn't have anything to add to what Aristotle was saying way back when, no clever updates, no creative time management secrets, nada. Perhaps for young people just starting a career or family (that have never read any self-improvement books) this could be considered an organized reminder that the early bird catches the worm. But also remember that *a fool and his money are soon parted*...maybe not a complete waste of money at $2.44, but definitely a huge waste of a full credit.
Suggestion... on a post-it note write: *Get up early, Exercise, Prioritize* and bank the cost of a book credit.
Silver Star was a comfy read with a similar feel to Walls' Glass Castle, with a little less luster. Again there is the ditzy egocentric mother and the self-reliant young children, and Walls own southern-sweet voice giving life to young Bean and her sister Liz. Walls' brand of story telling is engaging and colorful, which makes for a pleasant read, and you can't help but find these girls and their quirky uncle endearing. But this is some tough territory in spite of its cuteness and "aww" moments. You are reading about child neglect and abuse wrapped up in a cute pretty package, so be prepared for a possible subconscious squirm ( I'm pretty sure Nancy G would back me up on this one--so back off Floyd). There are a lot of borrowed elements from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird: Bean and Scout, an ominous man in town, a sexual assault, a courtroom scene, even birds--emus not mockingbirds, but that is where the similarities end. (Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interrestings, also noted these similarities in her NPR review.)
There were times Wall's chipper voice seemed incongruent with the events, for example: the girls, alone on a cross country bus, after fleeing the child welfare agents, finally escape a pervert that has been stalking them the entire trip. The passengers, who have silently observed this drama, sit back, applaud, then laugh at the site of the pervert stamping his feet and wringing his hands in the dust of the departing bus...I could hear the smile in Wall's voice, but couldn't connect to any humor, and if I had the courage (I'm going to get slaughtered here), I'd probably give this a 2 1/2 * rating overall. Even though Silver Star isn't as moving as Glass Castle, or as forgiving in its portrayal of a narcissistic, absentee mother, fans of Walls will probably appreciate the story and find it an entertaining, worthwhile listen. This was just an ok read for me, and likely due to my own frame of reference.
If books were free and there was no budget juggling necessary to pay for my addiction, I wouldn't care that a book was arbitrarily heralded and rolled out on a red carpet; I'd chalk a stinker up to an unlucky gamble--pick another from the book tree, and read on. Or, if *professional* critics reviewed books with no thought to marketing, I'd gladly accept my bad taste in literature and go on confidently to the beat of my own drum. Ah, if dishes were wishes... I wouldn't feel so hoodwinked (and light in the pockets); I wouldn't aim my discontent at those well-marketed wastes of trees. But gosh darn it I have spent a lot of $$ lately on books that are more wiener than winner. Therefore, I saw this author's own words, in the first chapter of this book, as encouragement: *once something has been said, it's impossible to ignore or forget what you heard* -- and I heard this book was supposed to be *genius*.
The Execution of blahblahblahblahton would be an outstanding paper for a literature class, or a passable rough framework for a novel, but served up as an amazing debut novel from a promising new author, one of June's top picks...it's a few trumpets short of a fanfare. I don't want to detract from the author's talent, or suggest its arrival should have been heralded by kazoos; she writes with intelligence, uses a considerable vocabulary well, and the book has a forceful pace that never drags. Some of the dialogue is very clever and provocative; she definitely has style, and deserves to be tagged as promising. I believe Elizabeth Silver will be an author to watch for, once she develops a little patina. The story itself is a flat plane, without dimension or plausibility; it suffers from an ambiguous theme and lack of direction or character development. Silver may have had a good premise, she just didn't flesh it out or give the reader the infrastructure for independent interpretation. It seemed inflexible and formulaic. Using the mother's letters to her dead daughter was expository dialogue that made the story feel even more contrived, and rigid. Instead of steering the reader to form those profound moral questions, she forces the reader instep and stuffs a pre-set opinion down the throat.
No reader agrees 100% all the time with all the critics; but lately I've been wondering if I'm speaking the same language as some of those paid to give their opinion. You may find this book very good--I'd agree with that assessment, but genius, mesmerizing, gripping, outstanding, consuming, unforgettable? That's why I ignored the 24 hr. rule and wrote this review immediately...ask me tomorrow and I won't remember this one, but I will remember Elizabeth Silver.
After a 33 year career working as a covert operative with the C.I.A., Matthews no doubt could have written an intriguing best seller about his days of espionage. But evidenced by this debut novel, Matthews not only knows his tradecraft, he has the writing chops to produce better than a one time tell-all. In the tradition of other great former spy-turned-novelists, Fleming, McCarry, le Carré -- Red Sparrow is a smart, tightly constructed novel that lays out such an information-packed, step by step foundation, that the listener feels complicit in the Cold War cat and mouse. Worthy of comparisons to the aforementioned authors...and with just enough playfulness to apparently keep it out of the Federal shredders.
This is the caliber of novel you expect from a veteran author -- or should I say "seasoned" author? Included at the end of each chapter is the recipe for some exotic dish that one of the characters has been noshing on -- an addition that has some critic's calling the bonus recipe a distraction and an unnecessary and gimmick. (I say if James Bond can have Pussy Galore, a razor brimmed bowler hat, and exploding toothpaste - Matthews can give his readers recipes.) Ignore these effete literary snobs; Matthew intentionally provided them with a bull's eye, saying in an interview he did, "The real world of intelligence work is a lot of waiting, analysis, research, so I had to insert some excitement in the fictional plot." Until reading the interview, I had wondered if a clue was provided in each recipe; every element of this story is so well constructed it would make sense--but not so...sometimes a red herring is just a red herring.
Also raising a critical eyebrow is the synesthete seductress (she sees colors around people), Russian intelligence officer Dominika. Her aura-enhanced vision however, is blessedly not an X-man-ish superpower, but an actual phenomenon that some people claim to experience (including author Vladim Nabokov). The condition is used as an ineffectual trait that adds interest to her character without really affecting her performance or the story. This was a bigger issue than the recipe, and I'm still chewing on that element being thrown into classic spy fiction...wondering if Matthews has future plans with this fascinating female spy.
The detail here is absorbing; the treachery and deceit will have you wide-eyed and tense, paranoid about dotting an "i" (the dot could be the message!). Maybe the recipes were at least a hint about how to enjoy this novel...This kind of from the ground up detailing takes time; the tension builds slowly, like the warm kettle of water that slowly comes to a boil and catches/cooks that proverbial frog...when it starts to bubble it is fast and furious. And unblinkingly vicious.
A difficult novel to narrate, with the Russian characters, dialogue, and terms, and Jeremy Bobb adds an understated panache to the story with his reading. Great read/highly recommend to fans of spy fiction. Best case scenario: Matthews continues with this character and his unique style and *packaging* (I, for one, would love the cookbook).
Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer...the barrage of "Best Summer/Beach Books* lists have hit; two of my favorite words in the English language" "Beach" & "Books" -- and giddy with the prospect of glorious summer, I decided to accept a challenge and tackle every one of them. It seemed doable time-wise, and it's always good to adventure outside of your zone, so I downloaded those that were available now, and headed off for a weekend at the lake. After about an hour with the one about the Camperdowns, and thinking I'd rather stick needles in my eyes than go on, I realized my biggest challenge would be subject matter...which brings me to A Hundred Summers.
Rather than throw in the beach towel, so to speak, I decided to have a 50page/1hr. audio rule for my summer challenge (unless there is some big sign of promise). I'm not generally a fan of chick-lit, but the cover of A Hundred Summers reminded me of Tigers in Red Weather, a book I enjoyed very much during the summer of 2012. So I began book #2 with my fingers crossed, and Belief, Reality, and Logic suspended deep in my beach bag. Happy to report that after an hour I was still listening -- not a needle in sight -- thoroughly enjoying myself as I listened and baked.
Another languid summer at the beach house in Seaview, RI, where the setting is swell, the sun is scorching, the ocean deep breezy blue, the drinks are icy and loaded with gin. Everyone is rich, the girls are sassy, the guys are dreamy, the romance is swoony, the sex is risqué, and the family secrets jooooooosie. But not everything is as fabulous as it seems under those glittery sheaths and searsucker suits. It is 1938 and the gossip in town carries the rumors of war, both in the world and in Seaview. Lily's old friend, the beautiful and scandalous Budgie, has returned to her family beach house after years away, bringing along her new husband, Lily's former boyfriend Nick Greenwald. As the summer heats up so does the social atmosphere; it is the eve of WWII (did I mention Nick was Jewish?) and there is a *hundred-year hurricane* in the forecast, threatening to blow the roof off more than just the seaside cottages.
I was content to spend the entire day (and a few evening hours) finishing this book, and think it really might be the perfect beach read for the ladies. It is predictable, mindless, the characters are figments of every woman's imagination, the ending was a little schmarmy, but I liked it--sue me! As books go - 3 *'s; but as beach reads go - 5 bottles of sunscreen. McInerney does a nice job with the narration, and makes the back and forth transition of years, and different characters, effortlessly. I've heard it compared to some of author Daphne du Maurier's books and agree (she wrote during the same time period in which this novel is placed). With all the elements of those great beach reads from my past: romance, intrigue, drama -- the only thing missing here was the warning from the Surgeon General...(seriously)...the suitable subtitle would be "smoke 'em if you've got 'em" and not because of the hot sex (although that too was smoking). Great fun, loved it, I'm 1 for 2, and on to my next beach read. Hope you enjoy this, and your summer.
Reviewers of WWZ: The Complete Edition: An Oral Hx of the Zombie War made it clear that the new release was still the abridged edition of WWZ with just a few new stories AND some glitches on the original WWZ abridged stories. Thanks to their honest reviews, I passed. Then out came The Lost Files edition, marketed as just the compilation of the previously unheard, unabridged, stories that were added onto the original WWZ to make WWZ: TCE. I thought just like marketers predicted I would think (D'oh!) and I bought The Lost Files, thinking I was so S-M-R-T; I could get the new stuff, not have to hear what I'd already read -- now butchered. (If I could kick my own arse I would; it was still same price.) In other words:
If: A - WWZ (abridged)
B - WWZ:TCE:OHZW
C - WWZ TLF
D - original unabridged WWZ
A + C = B
A > B
B < C
C < A
Which = ZZ-z--z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-zz-z-zz-zz-z-z-z...
Therefore: the original D is greater than ABC. Pass on this also; buy the unabridged book; quit getting yanked around (which would be represented by the *F*).
[These stories, without the build-up given when you read from the beginning, were just dangling accounts without impact; blah.]
This is the number 3 song on the A-side of one of your favorites bands newest LP. It's not the title track or the one getting the most play, but you like it. As we all know, King can tell a story and create atmosphere like no other, and for 7 1/2 hours it was fun hanging out at the local amusement park...watching the goofy dance numbers performed by the employees, eating corn dogs, riding the hammer, and getting creeped out in the Terr-O-Ride. If you are a fan of horror--you are going to be as disappointed as Clark Griswold was to find out Wally World was closed for the season, but fans of King's style should enjoy the fun light ghost story.
Thud! Hear that? It's the sound of a book hitting the floor from the top shelf because one of those previous 100 Best Books is hitting the ground to make room for The Son. This is The One that you wait for, hope for, and love every minute you spend reading or listening.
Meyer's new novel has already earned comparisons to the works of Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian), Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove), James Michener (Texas), and Edna Ferber (Giant)--and justly so, as one of the most entertaining novels of the American West ever written, and probably the book to bet on as the biggest blockbuster since The Help. Spanning four generations of Texans--from the first man born into the Republic of Texas in 1836, the grand patriarch Col. Eli McCullough, to the death of his great granddaughter/oil baron, Jeannie McCullough in 2012.
Meyer is an exciting, fresh-voiced author with an historian's flair. He layers this family saga with the colorful mythopoeic history of our unique American West, painting a rugged land, fought for, and inhabited by the white man, the Indian tribes, and the Mexican people. The land itself seems a part of these people, running through their veins like the blood they shed to claim a piece of the frontier. Three family members narrate the story of the Texas McCulloughs:
Eli narrates the frontier years, beginning as a young boy kidnapped during a violent Comanche raid where he witnesses the brutal murder of his mother, sister, and brother. Eli is taken and raised as a Comanche. Instinctually, he fights to survive among what history calls the most savage tribe of Indians. When finally returned to the white society, he has embraced the Comanche so completely that he rejects the life of his childhood, and is seen as an outcast, a *white Comanche*, "either hero or sociopath." In his voice the book is alive and vivid--his young observations of a foreign harsh world so achingly raw and interesting that this time alone would have been a captivating book.
Peter McCullough, the son and resentful heir to the cattle and land fortune amassed by his father Eli, is the conscience of the book--the tender hearted, tragic love-struck narrator, traumatized by a brutal raid against a neighboring Mexican ranching family, initiated by his father and his Vaqueros under the guise of recapturing stolen livestock. Peter is disgusted by his father's legacy, trapped by his role, and stuck in a loveless marriage.
Jeanne Anne is the gutsy great granddaughter of Eli, born in 1926--a tough oil baroness with the hide of an armadillo, that must fight to be accepted in a *man's business*. Meyer gives her a strong and authentic presence, and captures her inner-battles of carrying on the family legacy and raising her own family. The three narrations wind in and out of each other with an unhindered clear progression that moves the saga along effortlessly, until the mighty family trickles to just a stream.
The evolution is bloody and brutal. Meyer relates the unsparing events detached from emotion, offsetting the horrific deeds with the instinct for survival - and the need for prosperity...the path of all histories. The violence is also set against the backdrop of the natural beauty of the American West - the rugged and unforgiving landscape, the choreography in the hunting of buffalo, raising cattle, excavating for oil, It is the process of birth in nature and life and seems organic. With these filters, the violence is authentic to the history and never grabbed me as gratuitous or manipulative. You listen with a strange sense of acceptance. (I wasn't aware that some of our *current slang* ain't so current.)
You hear a rattle and a native drumbeat, joined by a strumming guitar and the chords of a melancholy harmonica--and finally the smoky twang of Will Patton's voice hits your ears. It's all like the thrill of hearing the swelling surround-sound envelop you at a theatre...there's an excitement already to this one, promising an adventure that is delivered with perfection. A powerful, raw story, from an author destined to be known and a book that won't be forgotten. The Son kept me spellbound and left me looking back, yearning for more of this journey across Texas through the years.
*This is already so long, but I thought the interview with Meyer featured on Amazon was worth mentioning. His research process and commitment were very interesting.
My sister, a librarian and crazy mad Vonnegut fan (when he passed away she actually wrote the eulogy for her town's local newspaper), said to me when she suggested this book, that Mother Night is probably Vonnegut's most underappreciated novel, while Vonnegut himself considered it one of his best. His other personal favorites?: Slaughterhouse 5, and Cat's Cradle. She is a librarian with a PhD, so I don't argue literature with her. Having finally read this, I have to agree with my little sis, and say this is my second favorite Vonnegut book.
He backs into this read, starting the story with the moral: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Howard Campbell proceeds to narrate his story from inside an Israeli jail cell, where he is about to be tried for war crimes, "I am an American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination." The book examines moral ambiguity, and in true Vonnegut style, provokes the reader to a powerful, and emotional indictment against the crimes of complacency, apathy, and omission. Even from the antagonist himself we get a sense of ambiguity as we question his reliability; so apathetic about his own integrity, does anything he says have validity. Towards the ending of his story, and possibly his life, I had the sense that Howard finally looked into himself, called out for answers, and realized he heard only empty echoes--the loneliness is painful and devastating.
Vonnegut's hallmark nonchalance appears, but as the sinister version of nonchalance, and his usual gallows humor seems to question whether it is too dark to allow any brevity. So what is there to enjoy in a story that I have described as so bleak? The answer is the magic of Vonnegut's writing -- to feel yourself respond to the quiet evil you experience in this story -- it is hearing your own conscience speaking back to you, affirming your integrity as Vonnegut intends. This may be his most contemplative book--it will definitely exercise your own morality, even leave you with a little after-burn. "All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing"... *so it goes,* ...always. Top rate production, as is always my experience with the Audible Vanguard series. You may not love this like S5 or CC, but it is a must for fans of Vonnegut.
This title appeared in Howard Polskin's (CEO & Editor in Chief of Thin Reads) 2013 Best Summer Reads. The criteria for selections were: the stories had to be published within the last year, short--between 100-200 pages, something light, engaging--quote: "easy to finish, sort of like a cold Amstel beer on Main Beach in the Hamptons." If I could spend the summer on any beach in the Hamptons (or for that matter any beach anywhere)...the warm slobber-infused water left in my bulldog's bowl would be easy to finish, but what has that got to do with books...
I would toss into that equation: well-written, thought provoking, enjoyable. $1.95/George Saunders/ 37 minutes, you can't go wrong. I found this funny, charming, then alarming and sad (as is always the case when animals go head to head with *Yumans*), but always crisp and entertaining, and for any audience. Use your cash, save your credit, and if for some reason you don't like it...close your eyes and pretend you're on Main Beach--you'll still have $$ left for a cold brewski. *Highly recommend.
With fork in hand, wine critic Steinberger sets out on a culinary fact finding tour de France. From the vineyards that once boasted the wines most prized by oenophiles, through the local fruitières, and into the legendary bistros and brasseries smiled upon by Bibendum, he examines why the golden age of French gourmandism might now be more realistically represented by the golden arches. With each mouthful of truffle-basted lobe of duck liver and praline mille feuille, he gives us the gloomy evidence of the effects of globalization, economic hard times, bureaucracy, and the creativity of new world chefs on the toque-headed gastronomes that once ruled the world.
Amusing and informative book for anyone that thinks cook books are literature -- and a must for Francophiles. You may like hearing that America is finally vindicated...to know that McDonald's didn't slip into the country like a trojan horse and destroy the culture and history of French dining; or knowing, it wasn't a case of an *unrefined palate* -- the cheeses really aren't the same. The history of the French dining culture is illuminative, as is the information about the Machiavellian power the Michelin guide wields. With the best wines now coming from America, the best dining experiences in London, the best chefs in Spain, and the best French food coming out of Japan...Steinberger still holds out some optimism and hope that France can once again find their mojo.
Whether you side with those appalled that the golden arches now serve burgers in the food court at the Louvre, or the weightier side, those that can now afford to visit France and eat...the fact that you have one of those opinions hints you'll enjoy this book.
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