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review 2022-08-10 03:48
THE LOST DAUGHTER by Elena Ferrante
The Lost Daughter - Elena Ferrante

Lena goes to the Ionian coast for vacation. She plans on getting her class work ready for the next semester. While there she meets Nina and Elena, a young mother and her daughter, and takes an interest in them and their extended family. She also reflects on her daughters and her mother and their lives.

 

This is a character study of Lena. She does not come across well. She is mean and selfish. She should not have had children (her ex-husband either.) I found her hard to like and I wanted to be sympathetic, but I couldn't. She was not nice. I could relate to some of her experiences with her mother. I could not relate to why she kept the doll (there are a couple of dolls in the story.) I did not like her and that is rare for me. I finished it because of book club. Not sure I would have otherwise.

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review 2021-08-11 04:48
BEACH READ by Emily Henry
Beach Read - Emily Henry

January has been left a house in Michigan by her late father. She goes up to live in it when she is broke and still is working on her current novel--or rather not working on it. Her next door neighbor is Gus Everett, her rival in college. After taking potshots at each other, they decide to have a contest where he writes a rom-com and she writes a literary novel and see which one can sell theirs first. In the course of their writing, truths come out.

 

I loved this book! I loved January. I could relate to her as she and Gus have their discussions at the end of their days of writing. I understood her thoughts. I also loved Gus. He is similar to January but his thoughts took on a darker tone. Once January can get him to open up, he reveals a lot to January--things she never expected. I did appreciate their openness when their thoughts and explanations came out. It is rare to have that much communication between characters. His explanation when they went to New Eden was wonderful and swoon-worthy.

 

I loved the other characters--Pete, Maggie, even Sonya. They are quirky (not Sonya). I was glad when Sonya made January listen to her. So much was said and pain was let go eventually. I wish January's mother had been more open with her earlier so her father's death would not have been a shock.

 

I liked the humor. There were times I was laughing out loud as I pictured these scenes. The dialog was snappy and snarky (reminds me of the dialog in The Maltese Falcon). This is one of the top books I have read this year. It is wonderful watching a curmudgeon fall in love.

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review 2021-08-05 04:38
THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig
The Midnight Library - Matt Haig

Nora has decided she wants to die so she chooses her time but instead of dying she goes to The Midnight Library which is a place between life and death. There are green books on all the shelves as well as the Book of Regrets which is a book of her regrets. Also there is Mrs. Elm, her library teacher from school who turns out to be her guide to the Midnight Library. Nora is given the chance to live other lives which her choices made impossible to live when she was still on earth. She has many choices but which ones will she want to relive? Which ones will she not relive? Are there more lives than we have been told about? Which life does she choose?

 

This was not what I expected but I enjoyed it throughly. While I liked Nora, she was a bit of a downer at times. As she is living her different lives I felt for her since she was dropped into the lives with no idea where she would end up and she ends up looking crazy each time. I also liked Mrs. Elm. She stayed with Nora at the Midnight Library helping her to choose and guiding her to a life. The secondary characters can be in more than one life but mostly they are in one of her lives and she tries to figure out how they fit in her life

 

The story is interesting. It relies solely on Nora's choices. She recites philosophers often though the people in her lives have no idea the "real" Nora was into philosophy and it is the "real" Nora we journey with. I liked that we get larger views of her life and mentions of other journeys she has taken without us being aware of those lives. She needs to pick a life or she will be dead.

 

I wasn't sure which life I wanted her to choose but as Mrs. Elm said "the only way to learn is to live." I was glad to be on the journey with her.

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review 2021-07-05 05:15
Third and Long - read every word or you'll miss something brilliant

 

Nick Remke is a good man with bad luck. Or maybe bad timing. Or both. He’s worked hard as a plant manager for textile manufacturers and done a good job, but luck, timing, or fate seem to have always been against him, denying him a permanent position and the opportunity to put down roots.

 

Now time’s running out for Nick. He’s no longer a young man and his spotty track record is a liability. To say he’s desperate when he arrives in Longview, Ohio, a sleepy town of twelve thousand, to apply for a position at the Made Right, the town’s major employer, would not be an exaggeration.

 

On the way into the interview, Marie, the foxy administrative assistant to the owners, notices Nick’s limp and suggests it would be to his advantage to say it’s an old football injury. The owners are huge football fans, especially concerning Notre Dame. Jeremy Ziglar Jr. quickly decides that Nick’s not the man for the job until he notices he went to Notre Dame and has a limp attributed to his favorite game. Did Nick play for Notre Dame? Yes. How come he’s never heard of him? Nick changed his name. “It used to be…” Nick provides the name of a Notre Dame football icon. Being a football legend, even if from bygone seasons, is enough to get Nick the job. His football prowess is further enhanced when he’s coerced into coaching the local high school squad.

 

As the months go by, Nick continues to win the hearts (especially Marie’s) and minds of the Longview with solid performances at work and on the gridiron. His reluctance to talk about his Notre Dame glory days is considered humility, a character trait that is in itself inspiring. He’s a local celebrity. However, being newsworthy turns out not to be an asset for Nick, being more of a ruinous liability.

 

Third and Long by Bob Katz is one of those books you want to read every word of for fear you’ll miss one of the many brilliant passages. Whether it’s characterization, descriptive setting, or narrative insights, they all shine with originality and effectiveness, for example:

 “Like angry callers to talk radio, ill-informed but hotly passionate, we had hunches.”

 

Katz’s use of a challenging and relatively rare point of view, the first-person omniscient, in which the narrator is a character in the story but also knows the thoughts and feelings of all the other characters, enables the reader to become immersed in the culture and character of this small town. You know these people, how they feel, how they think, what their dreams and disappointments are, because you’ve become one of them.

 

Third and Long is literary fiction at its best.

 

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review 2020-07-08 15:24
A challenging and beautifully diverse reading experience
Matt: More Than Words - Hans M. Hirschi

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel. I have read quite a few of Hirschi’s novels and have enjoyed them all, and some are among my favourites in recent years. He combines some of the characteristics that I most admire in authors: he writes strong and diverse characters, no matter what particular challenges they might be faced with; he carefully researches the topics he touches on (even when some of them might seem only incidental to the novel, he makes sure nothing is left to chance) and uses his research wisely (never banging readers on the head with it); and he does not shy away from the ugliest and harshest realities of life, while at the same time always dealing sensitively and constructively with those. His stories are not fairy tales, and they force us to look at aspects of society and of ourselves that perhaps we’re not proud of, but if we rise to the challenge we’ll be rewarded with an enlightening experience. And a great read. This novel is no exception. We follow the life of Matt, a young man diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to birth complications, for a few rather momentous months. The book, narrated in the third person, is told from three of the main characters’ perspectives. The novel is mostly Matt’s, or at least as good an approximation at what Matt’s experience might be as the author can achieve. It is a difficult task, and he expresses it better than I can in his acknowledgements at the end (‘How does one write about someone in whose situation you’ve never been? How do you give voice to someone who has none? And maybe, most importantly, how, without being insensitive, without objectifying, generalizing, stereotyping, in short without being a “dick”, do you tell a story that needs telling, about someone who could actually be out there, right now?’). He also explains that he shared his early drafts with experts (people with cerebral palsy and their carers), and, in my non-expert opinion, he manages to depict what the daily life of the protagonist would be like. The other two main characters, Timmy, a professional carer who is Matt’s personal assistant at the beginning of the story but gets removed from his team due to a misunderstanding, and Martha, Matt’s mother, are also given a saying and some of the chapters are told from their perspective. Timmy is a lovely young man, a carer in the true sense of the word, and he has a real calling for the type of job he is doing. Martha is a devoted mother who found herself in a tough situation when she was very young and who has poured her heart and soul into looking after her son. Neither one of them are perfect (nor is Matt for that matter), and they make mistakes, lose heart and faith at times, and can feel overwhelmed or despondent, but they never give up and always have Matt’s best interests in mind. Of course, I’ve already said that this is not a fairy tale. Far from it. We all know and have heard about some of the terrible things that happen: abuse, neglect, lack of resources, and although in this case there is no political and/or social oversight (Matt has access to a package of care and the family is reasonably well-supported, something that unfortunately is not the case everywhere), somehow things still go wrong, and we get to see what it must be like to be the victim of such abuse when you are totally unable not only of physically defending yourself but also of even talking about it. Terrifying. Not everybody is suited for this kind of work, and it is sad to think that those in the most vulnerable circumstances can be exposed to such abuse. And yes, because of the level of need and the limited resources, sometimes the vetting procedures are not as stringent as they should be. (The current health crisis has highlighted how much we expect of some workers and how little a compensation they receive for their efforts). Communication and how important it is to try to make sure everybody can communicate and become as independent as possible is one of the main themes of the book. The experience of living locked up inside your own body, with other people not even aware that you know what is going on around you and always making decisions for you comes through very strongly in the book. Matt knows and worries about how he is perceived by others, has internalised many of the attitudes he’s seen, and the comments he has overheard, and many aspects of life we take for granted are like an impossible dream to him. Speaking, going for a walk, even deciding what to watch on television, are tasks beyond his scope. The research into ways to facilitate communication and to increase independence is highlighted in the novel, and the role new technologies (including AI) can play is explored. With the appropriate investment, there’s little doubt that this could make a big difference in the lives of many people. Martha’s difficult situation (she wishes her son to fulfil his potential and be able to do what any other 23 years old normally does, but she’s also fiercely protective of him and does not want to get her hopes up for them to only be crushed again), the personal price she has to pay, the way she has to sacrifice any semblance of a normal life to keep looking after Matt, her worry about the future… are also convincingly depicted. And Timmy’s own feelings and his acknowledgment of his own limitations ring true as well. Family relationships feature strongly not only in the case of Matt, but also of Timmy, originally from Africa and adopted by Caucasian parents, a loving couple who accept him as he is, and Chen, Timmy’s friend and ex-boyfriend, whose parents are more understanding than he thought they’d be. The writing style is compelling and descriptive, although the descriptions are focused on the emotions and feelings rather than on the outward appearance of people and things. I found the story moving, and although it is not a page-turner in the common sense of the word, I was totally engulfed in it and couldn’t put it down, even when some of the events were horrifying at times and made me want to look away. The novel ends in a positive note, and I hope that in real life everybody in Matt’s situation will have access to a fulfilling life, if not now, in the very near future. As a society, we can do much to help, and we should. This novel reminded me of Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (yes, the famous screenwriter who ended up in the blacklist, one of Hollywood’s Ten), whose movie version I saw as a teenager (also directed by Trumbo), and I’ve never forgotten. The main character there is a WWI soldier who is so severely injured during the war that he ends up unable to move and to communicate, or so those around him think. Although the circumstances are very different (the main character there had led a normal life before and has many memories, although if that makes his life better is a matter of opinion), and I’m sure this novel will appeal to people looking for a book focusing on diverse characters and exploring the world beyond our everyday experiences. As I’ve explained, it is not a comfortable and easy read, but one that will challenge us and make us look at life with new eyes. If you are up for the challenge, the rewards are immense.

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