"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Short reviews of my vacation reads (with quotes)

We got home from our two week vacation last night. It feels weird not to have to pile into the car to drive over 450 miles in one day. Ha! Since we had such a long road trip, audiobooks were more prominent on my reading list than print books. When we arrived at our destinations we kept ourselves fairly busy and didn't spend as much time lazing poolside due to the extreme heat. In addition to those completed books listed below I did get a good start on Grapes of Wrath, my Classic Clubs spin book for August (20% complete), and cracked open Beach Reads, which I thought would be a good vacation read but I didn't have time to finish (7% complete.) In addition, we started a new audiobook on the last leg of the journey, The Immortalists, and got exactly to the midpoint in it as drove into our driveway. Over 2500 miles and we were home! Here are reviews and quotes from the five books I did finish:

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Audiobook read by the author
HarperAudio, 2021

I am a huge Louise Erdrich fan due to her ability to write stories about Indigenous people in such a way as to educate, enlighten, and entertain me at the same time. My husband wasn't sure if he had ever read anything of hers, so was eager to listen to this book first as we started our long journey together. Erdrich reads her own audiobooks and the cadence of her voice adds a unique quality to the experience. Another reason for our choice was one of relevance. It was written and published after the COVID pandemic had begun and the disease plays a role in the story line. It also spans the time frame of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement but viewed through the lens of Indigenous people who have also suffered greatly at the the hands of white oppressors.
All good books involve us in complicated issues through the stories. In The Sentence "a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted for a year by the store's most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls' Day, but she simply won't leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading with murderous attention, must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and furious reckoning" (Publisher). With a touch of humor Erdrich, who writes herself into the plot as a bit player, gives us a new and important perspective on lives on the margins during very tumultuous times. It is a very impactful book.

"While in prison, the first book I received was a dictionary. It was sent to me with a note. This is the book I'd take to a deserted island. Other books were to arrive from my teacher. But as she had known, this one proved of endless use. The first word I looked up was 'sentence.'" (1)
“So who was doing the beating? The uniforms or those inside them? How was it that protests against police violence showed how violent police really were?”

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Highly recommend.

Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
Morrow Gift Books, 2020

Part two of the comic series where aliens explore Earth culture. I enjoy the sideways look at our idiosyncrasies through these aliens. Perfect for lighthearted enjoyment.

I did get a little star damage when I was out in the pool for too long mid-week during our vacation.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Random House Audio, 2022
Read by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, and Kirsten Potter

The second audiobook we listened to on our journey south was Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I have wanted to read the book since I learned of its publication for two reasons. One, it is also published since the COVID pandemic which has altered our lives so much and though it is not about our pandemic it does touch on a future one. Secondly, I am a huge fan of Mandel's Station Eleven, a book I have thought about nearly every day since I first read it back in 2015. I had unsuccessfully suggested Sea of Tranquility for an upcoming book club meeting but was still keen to see if it lived up to its predecessor. 

It is a novel "about art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space." It involves four people and their moment of collision in a time fluke explored by a time traveler, Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City on the moon, who is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness. He uncovers a series of lives upended and in the process finds himself disrupting the timeline of the universe.
Both my husband and I found the book quite confusing. First there are the four people/time periods whose stories weave in and out. Then there is the investigator and in his attempts to uncover the time fluke, he ends up upending the timeline himself. Think of it as a tapestry whose picture isn't revealed until the final thread is in place. We wondered if this tale would be easier to understand if we'd been looking at a print book, which we could flip back to look at missed clues and details. 
I have two comments to make about my comparably low rating. First, sometimes books suffer due to their juxtaposition to other books. We enjoyed The Sentence so much, this one seemed pale by comparison. Secondly, two of the characters moved over from a previous book, one I haven't read, The Glass Hotel. Though it is not a sequel it irritated me that I was expected to know something I didn't. That said there are some great quotes in it.
“Pandemics don’t approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. The arrive in retrospect, essentially. It’s disorienting. The pandemic is far away and then it’s all around you with seemingly no intermediate step.”  
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars. 

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
Hatchett Books, 2012
Last year I found The Time Keeper at a used book sale and purchased it as a little gift for my sister. When I gave it to her I asked her to share it back with me so I could read it, too. She did. She returned it with a comment that it wasn't her favorite of Albom's books. I agree with her. The story, a fable really, is about a man, Dor, who figures out how to measure time then is forced to serve as Father Time listening to all mankind's complaints about how they don't have enough time. In the end he is freed from this role as long as he can help two people to accept where they are in time. I felt the way the story was put together, jumping from story to story, was clunky. It was a good concept but poorly executed.
I agree with a reviewer on Goodreads, Laurel, who says this about The Time Keeper: "It's not that it's a bad book. It's a nice little fable and has good intentions. Many will no doubt find it comforting and life-affirming. I just found it all a bit too obvious for my taste. Perhaps I'm just not one who feels I need a fable to remind me how precious our time on earth is, or how important it is to try to live in the moment."
“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. an alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” 
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn 
HarperAudio, 2021
Read by: Saskia Maarleveld 
Based on actual historical events, The Rose Code is that rare and satisfying read which adds knowledge to what was previously known about a subject. In this case the subject was the WWII project at Bletchley park where brilliant people were set to the task to break the Nazi's unbreakable code, the Enigma. Three women join the ranks of those working at BP: Olsa, a beautiful debutante who is also dating the man who will eventually marry Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, she works as a German translator; Mab, who is a hard worker from her poor upbringing, works with the machines that help decode messages sent by Nazis; and Beth, who is one of the few females assigned to the arduous task of breaking the daily codes, she is a wiz with puzzles. As the stories of the three women, now friends, are teased out readers also meet a cast of characters, some who actually lived in real life and others who were composites of several people, all working in some way to support the war effort. Around the mid-way point of the book we are introduced to the possibility that there is a traitor in their midst but not until after the war is over do several of the people who worked together at BP get together to untangle their final puzzle to finally identify the traitor in their ranks by cracking the Rose Code.
My husband and I listened to the audiobook of The Rose Code, read by Saskia Maarleveld.  We were both transfixed for the 16 hours it took to listen to it while we drove up California's Central Valley and into Oregon on our way home. Don, who rarely expresses his delight in books unless I press him, was the first to say how much he was enjoying the book. 
“But something else went on at the same time war did, and that was life. It kept right on going up until the moment it stopped...”
Weighing in at over 620 pages, this book qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge hosted by Sue at Book by Book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Not to be missed! 
I didn't follow the rules for the Friday56 and Book Beginnings memes this week by just adding random quotes. I hope you appreciated them anyway.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.  



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