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review 2018-10-02 04:52
Five Years Gone by Marie Force
Five Years Gone - Marie Force

 

 

When you lead with your head, it's hard to hear your heart. Five Years Gone is an emotion packed tale of love lost, hearts found and secrets revealed. Marie Force appeals to vulnerability. Ava's journey is one inspired by tragedy, yet empowered by strength. There will be plenty of ugly cry moments, so make sure to keep the tissues close at hand, but there are also glimpses of the power of the human spirit. That inner voice that guides us to break through the darkness and found our way back to the light. Force entices with heartbreak, but inspires with tales of courageous sacrifice and hope. If truth is more powerful than fiction, Ms. Force blurs the line between the two.

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review 2018-09-01 23:27
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights - Salman Rushdie

Salman rushdie-- dense, funny, lyrical. There were many places I laughed out loud. "This is just like Gozer the Gozarian..."

 

...so why wasn't this book better? It seems like Rushdie spent the first two-thirds of the book setting up this fun world, with these bizarre coincidences, wordplay, allusions to history, himself, pop culture, comic books, and everything...

 

...and then he lost interest in the last third and just kinda halfheartedly completed it.

 

It didn't help that the book is written in Rushdie's usual flashbacky past-tense, so that by the time the action happens, it's already been alluded to five or six times.

 

Anyway, not the best Rushdie, but Rushdie is one of the best authors.

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review 2018-08-26 03:11
One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Audio) - Gabriel García Márquez,John Lee

I finally finished this!  I took forever for multiple reasons.  First--I started and restarted probably four or five times, because I was quickly finding myself lost as to what was happening.  After a while, I just went with it--though also checked out the text version to go back and forth.  I also was finding myself going for longer periods between listening sessions and having shorter sessions--my running volume has gone way down, and most of my audio "reading" has tended to happen during runs.  (Plus walking to the office from the parking lot in the morning and walking during lunch.)  There was a period where I was having headphone problems, and there were times when I just wasn't in the mood for this book.

 

It's not the book's fault!  It's Garcia Marquez--it's captivating.  But I had to be in the right headspace for it, and I did get there.

 

The book chronicles seven generations of the family of Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran.  Jose Arcadio Buendia is the founder of the village of Macondo in Columbia.  Jose Arcadio and Ursula are first cousins, which causes her to fear that their children will be born with tails (of pigs).  They are not, but much later in their line (after some accidental and worse inbreeding), eventually one of their descendants does appear with a tail like that.

 

The family through its many generations keeps repeating the names Jose Arcadio and Aureliano for their male children.  Remedios and Amaranta are favored names for the girls.  The repetition of names reinforces the cyclical nature of time expressed in the narrative.  Political upheavals, wars, and economic cycles parallel historical events in Columbia.  The characters casually interact with ghosts and some of the characters can deliver prophecies.

 

One of my favorite quotes:  

 

"The years nowadays don't pass the way the old ones used to," [Ursula] would say, feeling that everyday reality was slipping through her hands,  In the past, she thought, children took a long time to grow up.

 

Boy, can I relate!

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review 2018-08-01 17:42
Credible mess
Seven Years - Dannika Dark

I've avoided Dannika Dark forever because that pen name hurts my feelings. I mean, maybe that's her real name -- and I don't have the energy to check the copyright -- but I would be hugely surprised if that were so. I was pleasantly surprised in the beginning. This is first person with a narrator who isn't mean about other women and kinda flailing in her life choices. Her family -- a mother and sister -- are still living with the grief of her brother's death 7 years previous. Brother's bff who totally bailed on them after brother's death returns to town and informs sister lady that her brother died because of shapeshifter politics. 

 

This part is fine. We are reading PNR after all. The opening is really grounded in the girl's life, and there's some nice detail about her co-workers and neighbors -- especially the neighbors. But then it imperceptibly just goes off the tracks, veering into some tragically stupid pack politics and mages and now her sister is some kind of mystical bullshit and oh my God corrupt police officers and absent dad is back and a psycho and on and on. It just completely loses focus. The pack gender dynamics are repellent, though admittedly main girl can see that they are messed up and pushes back. There are way too many near sexual assaults of our main character so shifter dude can swoop in. 

 

I dunno. This is fine, I guess, but I feel like maybe I should have heeded that pen name. Or, that's uncharitable. I did have a good time listening, and the narrative voice was pleasant enough. A credible mess. 

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review 2018-06-01 22:01
A very tender story about senior citizens
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old - Hendrik Groen,Hester Velmans

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ years old-Hendrik Groen, author.

This is a very tenderly written epistolary novel written with a subtle humor. Hendrik Groen lives in a nursing home in the wing for independent seniors. His friend Evert lives in his own apartment in the same facility. His dear friend Eefje lives in the same wing as Hendrik, and she has had a positive effect on his life and he on hers. They have a deep and comfortable friendship that keeps growing until the consequences of life intervene.

Hendrik has made a decision to keep a diary for the year 2013, to let people get to know the real Hendrik Groen through his private entries. His daily posts are heartwarming comments are genuine, alternating, at times, between melancholia and wit, depending on the events of his day. During the year of 2013, he turns 84 and expresses a hope to be around a bit longer, but realistically, he knows that his days are numbered and chance plays a big part in his continued presence in the world.

As his entries reveal what life is like for him and for the other residents, in this sterile institution, it also reveals how the residents look upon their own lives. Their moods and ideas run the gamut from hopefulness to hopelessness. They have dreams, although they have little to hope for, they have fears, although they have little control of what is coming their way. Some of the elderly make the most of every opportunity, facing everyday optimistically; some face the future with dread. Some don’t venture outside for fear of what the future will bring. Some have decided to behave in anyway they please since consequences have little effect on them so late in the game. They may even take risks.

When a small group of residents decide to form a group called The Old But Not Dead Club, planning bimonthly mystery outings, it gives them a purpose they had not had before. It gives them a reason to go on living. However, this tight knit intimate group of friends is causing angst in the world of other nursing home residents because they resent the fact that they were not included in the group, not asked to join in their fun. Each of the actual members of this group has his/her own distinct personality ranging from cantankerous to compassionate, but they all get along regardless of their different ways of approaching life, because they all like and respect each other, and they all enjoy being with each other. They accept each other’s little idiosyncrasies and forgive them their little lapses.

As the friendship between Hendrik and Eefje grows, his nature begins to soften; he is so comfortable with her, whether or not they speak or stay silent. They tolerate each others differences and enjoy each others similarities without judgment. For Evert, she becomes an important stabilizing part of his life, a part that brings him joy and contentment, a part that inspires him to continue to live and participate in life rather than sitting by a window and vacantly staring outside at the lives of others. He begins to take greater chances, buys himself a scooter and wishes he had done so sooner since it opened up the world for him. He accepts his need for a diaper to keep his hygiene up to snuff rather than fighting the inevitable. He begins to make plans to do things and to care more about each member in his growing group of friends. When some of the members begin their decline, he is kind and considerate, doing what he can to help them. He investigates ways to help Grietje deal with her Alzheimers and Evert to deal with the loss of a limb. He walks his dog for him. When Eefje is ill, he reads to her and gets her an ipod so she can listen to music. He visits her daily, sometimes more than once. However, he still continues to make a conscious decision to live out his own life and not give up, albeit with the help of Evert who puts iron in his back. Evert convinces him to stop wasting his time, convinces him to decide, move on or give up. He decides to continue to live each day to its fullest. Evert, on the other hand, is determined to make as much mischief as possible until the end of his. How bad can the consequences be?

The book deftly handles the inevitable issues that will arise in a home for the aged. Old people are in a state of decline that will never improve, but instead, will steadily get worse. Some will become physically ill; some will have strokes, falls or other mishaps, while others will sink into the world of mindlessness, dementia or Alzheimer’s. Not all will follow that road, though. Some will live out all their days, self aware and healthy until their last breath. The trick is for the resident to keep on hoping, keep on doing, to keep on creating encouraging ideas, to keep a stiff upper lip and an optimistic view. The trick is for the residence management to provide that atmosphere for them.

As the residents are subjected to the bureaucracy that controls what they can and cannot do. They are subjected to the slings and arrows of life. Some handle them more delicately than others. Some are dignified and some behave poorly. Some rail against the end of life and some appear to welcome it, preferring to choose the time of their death. None, however, wish to die in pain or in a vegetative state. Laws and the powers that be will often prevent their merciful release, however and will often take away their power to decide for themselves, and instead, treat them the way they once treated their own children, guiding them in the direction they thought was best. These are not children, however, and many want the right to decide things for themselves. Once they are able to taste that feeling of freedom that they once had, they are less afraid to face the future, and they are far happier.

I chose to read this book in small increments to enjoy the pleasure from it in small doses. I kept it on my nightstand and   simply picked it up at will, reading a few entries at a time to put a knowing smile on my lips. None of us, if we are lucky, will escape the aging process, but we all need to deal with it. Hendrik’s diary lays out our options for us, clearly. He seems to come round to the theory of a friend of mine, someone with troubles galore, who announces to all that she has a choice to be happy or sad, and she chooses to be happy. I think that the year 2013, was the year that Groen chose to be happy, to find hope and opportunity where it presented itself and to deal with life’s foibles, great and small, gracefully. It is a lifestyle he hopes to continue as long as he can. He will continue writing in a diary.

It was heartwarming to witness the way he cared for those in greater need than himself and to read about the way each of the friends and residents rallied around each other when the need arose, providing comfort and care as necessary, although there was the curmudgeon or two that defied that image.

In my research, I discovered that Hendrik Groen, the author’s name, is a pseudonym for Peter de Smet, a Dutch author who does not seek fame, ergo little is known about him. He is not a resident of a senior home, and this is not his diary. In his words, “Not a sentence is dishonest, but not every word is true.” Yet he has authentically captured the feelings of the elderly, their dreams and hopes, their stress and disappointment, their fear and their frustration.

The book presents Interesting topics for discussion in a book group. Groen illuminates the real degradation and debilitation that aging causes and also illustrates its effect on the elderly as their lives diminish in size and scope. Opportunities and possibilities no longer exist as they used to when youth prevailed. The formation of the group that conducted twice monthly trips was literally a “lifesaver” for these elderly residents because in spite of the dead end that they all faced, they all had hope to live, and more importantly, to enjoy another day.

The right to die would be an interesting topic for discussion as is the availability of services for the elderly who sometimes outlive their money because they lived a lot longer than they expected. The elimination of services for them because of cost cutting is traumatic for them, but inevitable when others deal with it. They think they will die anyway, so why waste money on them. The bureaucracy that interferes with their quality of life, the rules and regulations that control their ability to be independent because of a fear of accident and litigation is also an interesting topic for discussion. Everyone goes down this road; everyone needs to address the concerns raised in this book.

Although it is told with tremendous warmth and humor, it is also very heart wrenching as the residents succumb to the inevitabilities of life that aging brings to them, from diapers, to lack of mobility, to slower reflexes and forgetfulness, to mention a few. Losing friends forces them to deal with a constant overlay of sadness, forces them to face the path open to them from independence to dependence, to deal with the depression and a desire to try and control what is left to them, of life. Unfortunately, regulations interfere with their quality of life on all levels. Where they used to make their own decisions, others step in to make the decisions for them, often decisions they disagree with but are helpless to change. Aging brings helplessness to its victims and it is a constant effort to find ways to bring back strength and control to their lives, to bring back hope.

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