Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Two books by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson came out in 2013 and I immediately started seeing great reviews for it, but it didn't sound especially interesting to me.  then in 2015, a second, companion type book came out and it did sound interesting, so I decided to read Life After Life first, then read A God In Ruins (the companion book).  Both books can stand alone, but reading both gave me a lot more information and understanding.

Life After Life can be summed up by the line on the back cover of the book:

"What if you could live
again and again, until you got it right?" 
Ursala Todd was born in 1910, but she died immediately.  In other chapters, Ursala Todd was born in 1910 and goes on to live interesting lives...she died in some of the lives and lived on in others.

The book was initially quite confusing for me until I caught onto what was happening.  The writing and the story (stories) are genius.  The Todd family itself was fascinating and the events of the two world wars and how they impacted England (where the Todd family lived) were well-researched and well-written.

A God In Ruins is the story of Ursala's younger brother, Teddy.

"He had been reconciled to death during the war and then suddenly the war was over and there was a next day and a next day. Part of him never adjusted to having a future."

Teddy had been a pilot in World War II and he had never expected to survive that war.  He did and
went on to marry his childhood sweetheart, Nancy, and to have a child, Viola, and a granddaughter, Bertie.  In the book, Teddy enjoyed and suffered all that a long life brings.  He and Viola struggled with their relationship, but Teddy found his love and comfort in his granddaughter, Bertie.

Both books are long and rich in details that add enormously to the stories. Life After Life is an ingenious story of what could have been.  A God In Ruins is an ingenious story in a very different way.  The ending of that book is incredulous and left me in awe.

In My Opinion-Don't Bother!

I guess it is a bit unfair of me to say "don't bother" to read these books.  Maybe someone else would like them!  They were recommended by others, so they must have liked them.  But I just didn't get it with any of them.  Two novels and two non-fictions books that I don't recommend:

1) Unless by Carol Shields-I looked forward to reading this novel as I have enjoyed some of her other books.  This one I just never connected with.  It is about a mother struggling to deal with the fact that her daughter Nora left college and went to live on the street (in Toronto) with a sign that read "Goodness".  At night Nora slept in a local shelter.  Her family (parents and 2 sisters) went at least once a week to see her.  And by that, I mean literally to see her.  She would not acknowledge them at all.  So the premise is interesting, but I never really cared about any of the characters.

2) The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick-my husband had told me that he had seen something about a movie with this name that he was interested in seeing.  When I came across the book at Barnes and Noble I thought it sounded interesting. I read over half of the book and finally gave up.  My husband suggested that I just read the last chapter to see how it ends, so I did.  The last chapter was the most interesting part of the book that I read.  Again, an interesting premise...Germany and Japan won World War II and had taken over the United States.  The US was divided into different parts, run by Germany, Japan, etc.  I just didn't care.

3) savor by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung-subtitled Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.  If you have never read anything at all about either mindful eating or mindful living, this book might be interesting for you.  I found nothing really new in the whole book.

4) Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft-this book was one of the books recommended by Matthew Kelly for spiritual reading.  I found it redundant in parts, and somewhat disagreeable in parts.  The only two things that I really found helpful in the book were the following:

"What is the opposite of boredom? Not pleasure, not even happiness, but joy."
"She knows that 'in the end life contains only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.' (Leon Bloy's ending of The Women Who Was Poor)"

Friday, April 1, 2016

Three Very Different Books

Three books that I read in March are about as different from each other as you could find!

1) The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark was written in 1940 and I have heard of it over
the years, but never really thought about reading it until it was presented at one of my book groups.  It has been described as a "psychological western" and I could see why it would be labeled as that.  I wish that the book had been chosen by my group to read, but it wasn't.  It's one of those books that you really want to discuss with others in order to pull out all that you may have missed or not thought about. So I may have missed the point of the book.  It was very slow in the first half or so, mainly building up characterization.  It ended up being the story of three innocent men being hanged in 1885. And so the book ends with (vaguely) how the hanging affected the men who were involved in hanging the men.  I think.

2) Big Girl-How I gave up dieting and got a life by Kelsey Miller is an
interesting, kind of fun, quick book to read.  As the title states, after years of dieting, Ms. Miller gave up dieting and focused on eating intuitively.  Ms. Miller's story is easy to read and identifiable.  She
did a good job writing about how her life has gone and the struggles that she has encountered over the years.

3) the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo is a quite small book that I have seen on
the shelves everywhere for ages.  One of my daughters read it and described it to me and I thought it sounded interesting.  It is a very small book, with very big ideas!  It is about decluttering your life and using the mantra "Does it Spark Joy?" to determine what stays. The author takes the reader through her life-long history of tidying up and then takes the reader on the journey.  It is a well-thought out process that she advocates and, although it may seem rather overwhelming, it is actually quite easy. As the author recommends, I followed the process in my bedroom with my clothes and am very pleased with the results!  The next step in the process is tackling daughter predicted that this would be a hard one for me! I'm still working up to that one....