Thursday, April 21, 2016

Taking a Vacation

As most of my readers have by now figured out, Tutu is on a long vacation from blogging.  Numerous health issues, family responsibilities, and just plain brain fatigue have put the damper on my ability or motivation to provide comments about my reading life.

Life in Maine is still delightful, and we are now embarking on an extended year of travel to many parts of the nation and the world.  I am keeping track of what I read in my library,   and the sidebar widgets should continue to display those works I'm currently enjoying.

The bottom line is that at my stage in life, reading is supposed to be fun, and writing reviews just wasn't fun anymore.

Best wishes, and happy reading to all of you who have faithfully followed and commented on my Two Cents for years.  I'll drop by periodically to post some thoughts on traveling.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shout Out : Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

I can't begin to say it better than all the other reviewers and blurbs....

...a spellbinding work of fiction that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. A lush, richly layered novel in which our world has been plunged into an age of unreason.....
In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse  Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.

This one has it all:  shades of "Ghostbusters", queens, genies, fairy tales, graphic novels, bewitched characters who float above the earth, unable to touch earthly objects - making it impossible to fly on regular planes (try explaining that to the TSA!!), and also creating real problems in the lavatory (think about it!).   Deep thoughts, astonishing fun.  Convoluted thinking giving us an inventiveness at once breath-taking, thought-proking, and plain raucous fun.  An example:
On the day that Adam and Eve invented God.....they at once lost control of him.  That is the beginning of the secret history of the world.  Man and Woman invented God, who at once eluded their grasp and became more powerful than his creators,  and also more malevolent. Like the supercomputer in the film TERMINATOR: "Skynet", sky-god, same thing.  Adam and Eve were filled with fear because it was plain that for the rest of time, god would come after them to punish them for the crime of having created him. They came into being simultaneously in a garden...and they had no idea how they got there until a snake led them to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and when they ate its fruit they both simultaneously came up with the idea of a creator-god, a good-and-evil decider, a gardener-god who made the garden, otherwise where did the garden come from, and then planted them in it like rootless plants.

And lo, there, immediately, was god, and he was furious, "How did you come up with the idea of me," he demanded, "who asked you to do that?" and he threw them out of the garden into, of all places, Iraq. "No good deed goes unpunished," said Eve to Adam, and that ought to be the motto of the whole human race.

This is one I read and listened to in audio, and promptly went and bought my own copy.  Like the Thousand and One Nights,  the reader will want to reach for this one for bedtime stories over and over.  It's delightful, it's very deep, and it will continue to provide wonderful amusement, intense contemplation, and enjoyment for many readings.   Try it, you'll love it.

Title: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Random House (2015) 304 pages
Genre: Whimsical fiction; fantasy
Subject: Mythical retelling of humanity and creation
Setting: Everywhere
Source: Public library, Audible
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for the Maine Readers Choice Award

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

 The Secret Chord

I've been reading this for several months now, taking it slowly, and in small pieces. I'm not finished yet.

Like much of Geraldine Brooks' work, it is meticulous in its luscious detail. Well developed characters are another hallmark of anything she writes, and several times  I found myself hunting for my Bible to see how this dovetails with my previous experience of the central figures - King David and the prophet Nathan.   Unfortunately, that got in the way, and I had to put it down for awhile.

This book deserves to be read on its own, without the previous prejudices many of us will bring to the narrative from previous and unconnected Biblical studies.  It is well written, deeply researched, and brings a humanity to historic people we have not had before. I'm about half-way through and look forward to finishing it when I have a nice quiet piece of reading time available.  I want to be able to take everything onboard and savor it.

Title: The Secret Chord
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Publisher: Viking (2015), Edition: ARC, 320 pages 
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: King David
Setting: ancient Israel
Source: e-galley from publisher via Edelweiss
Why did I read this book now?  The subject interests me, I'm a fan of the author's and it's being considered for the Maine Reader's Choice Award

Monday, February 1, 2016

Shout Out: Prudence: A Novel by David Treuer

The publisher tells us:
On a sweltering day in August 1942, Frankie Washburn returns to his family’s rustic Minnesota resort for one last visit before he joins the war as a bombardier, headed for the darkened skies over Europe. Awaiting him at the Pines are those he’s about to leave behind: his hovering mother; the distant father to whom he’s been a disappointment; the Indian caretaker who’s been more of a father to him than his own; and Billy, the childhood friend who over the years has become something much more intimate. But before the homecoming can be celebrated, the search for a German soldier, escaped from the POW camp across the river, explodes in a shocking act of violence, with consequences that will reverberate years into the future for all of them and that will shape how each of them makes sense of their lives.

My impressions:
 Set in Minnesota, "Prudence" is a story beginning and ending with  a young Native American orphan girl. This framework surrounds the stories of several men of various races, sexual orientations, and educational and vocational backgrounds.  The author manages to pack incredible character studies into a short 200 pages.  The writing style is a bit disorienting, but his use of both first and third person narrators seems to fit the story being told.  The setting is World War II, the story is about inter-racial relationships, betrayal, and poverty, but bottom line it's about love, despair, and growing up without guidance. It's not a happily ever after story, but neither is it so dark and dreary that the reader loses hope.  I found it a quick and engrossing read leaving more positive than negative reactions than I expected from the publisher's blurb and other reviewers.

Title: Prudence
Author: David Treuer
Publisher: Riverhead Books (2015)
Genre: Literary Fiction
Subject: Native Americans, inter-racial relations
Setting: Minnesota
Source: Public Library download
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for the Maine Readers Choice Award.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Scratching my Head

 A Cure for Suicide
Long listed for the National Book Award, I thought this would be better than it was. It was intriguing enough that I had to keep reading. I kept waiting for that AHA moment when everything would click and I would understand what the Heck was going on. Very sci=fi, very very weird. One of the reviews I saw (after I finished the book) said it "would repay a second reading" and I suspect that is true.

The main character-- "The Claimant" -- has apparently suffered some type of brain washing (i.e., his memory has been dumped, scrubbed, or otherwise erased). We never really figure out whether he attempted suicide (perhaps the title might have lead us to that question?????), was in a terrible accident, had an illness, or WHAT.

He is in the "care" of The Examiner, who guides him through levels of consciousness in the "Process of Villages." I really can't say anything else because I'm not sure I understood enough of what was happening to be able to report on it.

I suspect that there is a segment of the reading public that will LOVE this book. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't get it.  I'd love to hear from readers who did.
Title: A Cure for Suicide
Author: Jesse Ball
Publisher: Pantheon (2015)  256 pages
Genre: Literary fiction, speculative fiction
Subject: I wish I knew.
Source: public library
Why did I read this book now?  I was reviewing for the Maine Reader's Choice Awards

Monday, January 4, 2016

Off the TBR shelf: Saving the Queen by William F. Buckley Jr.

Several years ago we inherited several books in this series, and have had them on the teetering TBR Pile ever since. I finally determined I'd at least read the 1st one and see if it was worth keeping the rest.  I finished it in time to count it for 2015.  A great way to end the year.
The Publisher notes:
  America's top financial secret agent Blackford Oakes performed his first heroic effort in SAVING THE QUEEN in which William F. Buckley Jr. coaxes readers back to the earliest days of the Cold War. The year is 1951. Harry Truman is president, and the beautiful, young Queen Caroline has just settled onto the throne of England. The CIA is baffled at the shocking things going on in London. Vital Western military secrets are falling into Soviet hands and, worst of all, the leak has been traced directly to the queen's chambers. A recent Yale graduate and ex-combat pilot, the debonair Oakes is selected to penetrate the royal circle, win the queen's confidence, and plug the leak. It all leads to an explosive showdown in the skies over London, one that could determine the future of the West.
 My impressions
 I'm hooked.   Blackford Oakes is a spoiled, wealthy, handsome, very bright Yale graduate with a chip on his shoulder. Recruited by the CIA at the height of the Cold war, his adventures saving the fictional British Queen Caroline from making a fool of herself is rather James Bondish, but high class nonetheless. Tightly plotted, it introduces a cast of characters I'm sure we're going to meet in the books ahead, and each of them is someone I look forward to seeing again.
Although they are dated, reading them as historical fiction is still enjoyable.

Title: Saving the Queen
Author: William F. Buckley, Jr.
Publisher: Cumberland House Publishing (2005), Paperback, 275 pages
Genre: Thriller
Subject: CIA and Cold war
Setting: London
Series: Blackford Oakes Novels #1
Source: inherited from relative
Why did I read this book now?  It's been sitting on the shelf too long.