Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Particularly upsetting in Donald Trump's America, I feel he would love implementing parts of this story in our country. It's terrifying in it's implications, and feels eerily plausible. If you found Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale bothersome, this is the Young Adult version. O'Neill somehow manages a similar premise while making a wholly redesigned world. That is no small feat, as Atwood's book is iconic, and the temptation would be strong to cherrypick details here and there. That was most impressive. While I wouldn't want to visit any dystopia, this wins the worst....think I'd even take my chances in The Hunger Games....at least there's a small chance of viable life.
I was more sickened by this novel than Atwood's. The male chauvinism is a given, but the depths which the females undercut and manipulate each other, instead of banding together in any form of solidarity, was heartbreaking. While teenage gossip and bullying is common in our real world, the relentlessness in this story was draining, and acutely made me feel the broken spirit of these "designed" girls. All of O'Neill's cover designs for this book are perfect.
The gruesome tone was particularly set by the ominous countdown to the "Ceremony" where each Eve is assigned their lifetime role as one of three, all-terrible options. References to Organized Recreation, their sleeping arrangements, Expiration date, and drug use added richness to an already horrifying world. I was able to see where the ending was headed, and was proud of O'Neill for sticking to the tone of the story instead of adding a bubble gum ending.
Chocolate and coffee. My two ride or die, definite inclusions if I were stranded on a desert island. While this slim volume doesn't encapsulate all the information on this DELICIOUS delicacy, it provides a cliff notes version, which is sufficient for this gal. The Edible Series is a beautiful collection of the culture and history of one type of food or beverage. I would also read the ones on Breads, Ice Cream, and Wine, but pass on ones such as Lamb. Carbs are my weakness. I digress.
I was unsurprised to learn that cacao nuts were so valuable that they were often treated as a form of currency, and also buried with loved ones. The cultural meanings of chocolate to gender go back a long ways...especially as it was women who often prepared it. Of course, chocolate's history is steeped in slavery and unethical treatment. Hated those necessary parts, but found the evolution interesting. Enough with this review. I have to go make myself a hot chocolate.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
"We seem to know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue."
Hands down my favorite book of this year, and maybe last year. What an utterly wonderful story- with a wholly unique insight and structure (half novel, half textbook). The prose is poetic and tender, and still manages to provide tough love and some therapy- for whatever stage in your relationship. It's greatest gift is providing insight into behavior, thus promoting understanding of your spouse- and even more importantly, yourself. I found this through a suggestion on The Book Depository website when looking for another novel. This is unusual, as most of my recommends come from bookish YouTubers or podcasts. I will have to utilize this feature more, because this is a gem!
The most common question most couples receive is "How did you meet?" or "How did you get engaged?" This is also the general focus of many contemporary romantic novels. Even if the novel chronicles their life, it is more event-based. In this, we have a constant focus on the mechanics of longterm relationships. This story charts the beginnings of infatuation for Rabih and Kirsten, but mainly chronicles the long haul of life....ever after, children, philandering, a section titled "beyond romanticism", and mature love.
A section of particular significance to me was "The Romantic vision of marriage stresses the importance of finding the 'right' person, which is taken to mean someone in sympathy with our interests and values. There is no such person over the long term. We are too varied and peculiar. ....The partner best suited to us is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste, but the one who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and good grace." This really helped me, as I often wish I could be more interested in the bands or entertainment that my husband enjoys, even though he could care less. I know it shouldn't matter, and even though he has told me (repeatedly)....somehow reading these words was a revelation- no exaggeration.
Another italicized note from the author: "It may come fast, this certainty that another human being is a soulmate. We needn't have spoken with them; we may not even know their name. Objective knowledge doesn't come into it. What matters instead is intuition: a spontaneous feeling that seems all the more accurate and worthy of respect because it bypasses the normal processes of reason." They are things that you know to be true- but most of us would have a hard time articulating. I found myself saying "That's it!" to many of these.
The author has an uncanny ability to use dialogue, and also explain underlying intention in an evocative way. "When, on their last day together Mrs. McLelland remarks.....what a pity it is that Kirsten never sang another note after her father left home.....she is- as much as the rules allow- asking Rabih not to ruin Kirsten's life."
I'm really befuddled why I haven't heard of Alain de Botton before. The average ratings are high on Goodreads. I agree wholeheartedly with The Daily Mail and Evening Standard's blurbs on the back cover....that it should be compulsory reading for anyone entering or already in a marriage, and that it may even save some marriages. In any case, I am extremely happy to discover him and can't wait to read more. If you've read others by him, drop me a line and let me know what to pick up next. In any case, I would recommend this to all human beings. You'll be a better, more empathetic person because of it.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
This book overwhelmed me a little. I loved it, but it felt like work. There's hardly a topic that isn't addressed- whether it be global, financial, cultural, ecological, or political.While highly intelligent, my main issue was the characters. They felt like secondary props to Robinson's mission of warning against our current societal behavior. It was frustrating because I wanted them to bolster this message, not seem like flimsy examples of the the main point (Example: shallow hedge fund manager who might not be so awful...but really just annoyed the heck out of me through most of the book). The setting of New York City was perfect for this scenario, and the message was spot-on- the story to exemplify this simply felt problematic because it lacked emotional connection.
While this sounds negative, it doesn't detract from the fact that this is an extraordinary work of science fiction. It's so inventive that the detailed description of the boats, infrastructure, and new technology was hard for me to envision. 2140 put me in mind of my Seveneves experience (by Neal Stephenson). I'd love to hear about Robinson's writing process, and wonder how long this story simmered in his brain.
We follow many narratives, with one perspective simply titled "that Citizen". This allowed for additional facts about life after the Second Pulse....such as a bird's eye view of the new economy, and the perils of global warming. It's clear Robinson has expertise and passion in this area. I agreed with his arguments entirely, and his observations felt eerily plausible, with references to our rate of pollution and the 2008 Financial crash. And what if sea level rose an additional few feet due to a storm surge?
If you struggle with books that are preachy, be forewarned. He doesn't hide his intention to drill these points into your brain. A sample quote from "that Citizen":
"Because life is bigger than equations, stronger than money, stronger than guns and poison and bad zoning policy, stronger than capitalism, Because Mother Nature bats last, and Mother Ocean is strong...."
This is a sweeping saga about the ramifications of a changed world, and how we must keep carrying on and trying to do better, even in the face of hopelessness. History is everchanging, greed only takes people so far, and sparks can create revolutions. The section on the success of non-violent civil resistance, either in the form of protest marches, or even more influential, financial resistance (stop buying the things) made it feel especially pertinent in light of our recent Presidential election. This book is meant to hit close to home, spark thought, and hopefully help convince you to change a behavior or two.
I'll probably buy a copy of this book, as this is on library loan. Weighty words, and what do I know, but I have a feeling this could become a classic. And also terrified it might come true.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
I'm finally back in the world of Hobb! This is the third trilogy in her vast Realm of the Elderlings books. The first Farseer trilogy is best series I've ever read, so I'm thrilled to be back with some of my favorite characters. This installment follows up with beloved (and not so beloved) characters fifteen years after the conclusion of the Red Ship Wars. Peace has finally been attained, but is unsurprisingly tenuous.
I do not recommend reading the descriptions on the back of these books! Go to the Robin Hobb website and search for her books in order. For example, the "errand" in question isn't addressed until page 200 (in this edition), but is told in general terms on the back cover. The first half of the story is getting back into gear with Fitz's thoughts, emotions, and general relationship status over the past decade and a half. I enjoyed this due to my extreme love of the character-based study, but concede some might it tedious, too long, and dragging out the eventual mission.
Hobb is such a gifted storyteller, especially detailing inner turmoil and setting her characters to the proverbial fire. The rarity of having fleshed out characters, a masterful/intricate plot, AND award- winning writing continues to blow my mind.
Ironically, I've been slightly avoiding this set of books because I've heard from every single reader friend on Booktube that it is emotionally taxing- even from usual bookish non-cryers. Eek! I was wary how she would address certain animal situations....and she was sensitive and perfect, as always. I truly don't know how she consistently maintains this intricate world, but I'll read all her words! Obviously, two thumbs way up.