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review 2017-07-14 08:49
Treatise and character study
Anna Karenina - Larissa Volokhonsky,Richard Pevear,Leo Tolstoy

The foremost impression I'm left with, since I have the last part very present, is this literary symmetry: Anna takes about sixty pages to come in, by train, and leaves the book sixty pages from the end, also by train (yes, I know, some dark humor).

Next, also with the end very present, this sense that in the end, Levin and Ana essential difference is that when doubt harasses them, Levin goes back to what feels natural to him and trudges on, and Anna gives into despair.

For all that it's name comes from the woman, larger than life in the outside, and deeply uncertain on the inside, it was Levin the vehicle for most of the author treatise on... well, everything: agrarian reform, women's education, religion, politics, war, ideologies... At first I was interested. Passing the middle point, I just wanted the author to get on with it. I've gone over this many times: I have little patience for authors trying to educate or reform me through fiction.

While the Levin/Kitty side of the novel carries the most heart-warming bits, it's also choke-full of opinions, so whenever we got to it, instead of feeling like I was resting from Anna's turbulence, I started to feel dread at the amount of pages Tolstoy was about to bore me with his "insight". I totally get why the movies gloss so much over this side of the equation.

And it is some type of equation, or coin. I wonder if the author was trying to make Anna into a personification of reason, given the stab he takes at it in relation with faith in the end, with Levin as this second, him being unable to properly express himself, but finding peace with his own being at the end; Anna all poise, yet false, forever uncertain inside, speech coming out pleasant while thoughts looped and spun in place without answer. Also, passion vs. love. And romantic feeling against filial.

As for characters (beyond the two protagonist, because, you know, so mired into the theme), they were all so damned well fleshed out:

Vronsky with his honorable selfishness: I know it sounds like a contradiction, but the guy truly does not realize the damage he does, and in his own way, he follows a code of conduct strictly. It's horrifying.

Karenin... *sigh* Anna calls him a robot. At first, it looks like she's just over-reacting to her new feelings, ascribing the worst to her obstacle. It turns out she is over-reacting, but she's also somewhat right. The guy is a wonder of self-discipline, in his life and even where his feelings and though process is concerned. The way he twist and rearranges facts and ideas to suit himself is a thing to read. While writing this, I also wonder if his influence wasn't arresting much of Anna's internal disorder, if she didn't loose what little was keeping her peace when she left him, or if it was the other way around: a wild mare kept in tight reign, that suddenly tasted freedom and galloped non-stop into the abyss, with Vronsky spurring her.

Kitty with her innocence; Vronsky breaks her heart, but after some false steps, she comes on the other side just as sweet, and wiser.

Dolly and her big heart. Stiva forever on the rope by the miracle of his social nature. Sanctimonious Lidia. Betsy, so liberal but in the end unwilling to forsake societies constraints. Sergey and his empty rhetoric. Nikolay and his nihilism. Varenka.

I guess there was much more in all those many pages than proselytism. You can disregard this whole paragraph, I'm claiming that Levin ruined me, but really? Last night I went to sleep, and kept wondering: how much of these explorations impulse change? Much of what is disused in dialogues here feels like sides talking to hear themselves, not to seek understanding, and I was left thinking about social change, and whether writing heralds it, or just meanders over what society has already started to accept or war upon. I noticed many of the topics expounded on came and passed, discarded by history, yet things that are barely touched upon, like womens rights and education became an issue not long after that endures. What I'm trying to say, and I'm treading on deeply personal and weird territory here, is that I started to doubt how much social commentary in literature looks forward, and how much it's just a soap box for the author.

So, *wheoo!*, that's a looong commentary on a loooong book, and I'm still unsure what I'll rate it. No, I do know. It's really good, and as a character study is great, but I don't think it perfect because, for me, if you are going to fill a novel with ideology, it has to age well, and it has to engage even on those bits. So 4 stars.

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review 2017-07-05 23:04
Five for one
Las Armas Secretas - Julio Cortázar

I understand now why this one is classified as European lit all the time. I haven't researched it, but I'm pretty sure this one was written after Cortázar left Argentina, because the five stories in this volume are all set in Paris.

I was not that dazzled by this too much at first but then, my bar with Cortázar is "Bestiario", and that's a hard one to upstage in the wow (weird, awesome, uncomfortable, puzzling) factor.

Cartas de Mamá, leaving aside the historical parallelism that some scholar or other wants to saddle on it, was an excellent exercise on revealing the past through the present. Many authors could learn a thing or two about how to do back-story. Of course, back-story is the whole issue here: sins and regrets that turn into silences, and that end that is half fantasy, half delayed acknowledgement. And the great opening line:

 

"Muy bien hubiera podido llamarse libertad condicional."

 

Los Buenos Servicios was a very scathing look at how moneyed people use "the help", many times frivolously, and often callously, and how hollow the "throw money at it" approach is, which is more jarring  (and ridiculous) from the poised view of Francinet. She had more class than any of the cast.

Las Babas del Diablo is a POV nightmare. As it tends to happen when I read magical-realism, I enter a weird state where I'm paying close attention, but at the same time relax my mind and just go with it. Like suspension of disbelief, but I just suspend logic and sometimes even grammar. I find it pays off with many complex or weird plots, or speculative fiction too. Triggers galore in this one, and one VERY uncomfortable suspicion.

"El Perseguidor", now here is the jewel of the book, and the point where I started to love this collection. It was absolutely engrossing. I understand why it has been known to be edited as "El Perseguidor y otras historias". This one got to me, emotionally-wise, and I'm not even quite sure why. I guess it's that desperate search.

"Las Armas Secretas" you know how it's going to go almost from go. Or maybe it's that I've read enough Cortázar to understand the clues he leaves. Or, maybe more, this sense of having read one of his before, about a big house in San Isidro, that has similar elements, but I can't remember to which collection it belonged to contrast.

You know, the more I write, the higher I want to star this. I realize it made my brain jog, and my thoughts come back to it whenever I wasn't reading.

Not his best, but for "El Perseguidor" alone, so worth owning it. I predict re-reads.

 

And there it goes my 4th of July extra. I devoured it, lol

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review 2017-07-05 17:10
Reamde - Neal Stephenson 
Reamde - Neal Stephenson

Gold farming in MMPORG, and game building, veterans and draft-dodgers, a British writer of fantasy with exquisitely hand-crafted languages and cultures and also an American fantasist of the most prolific stripe, Seattle hipsters and Iowan wind farmers, private jets and slow boats from China: everything and everyone has a foil in this book, but since it's over nine hundred pages, an exhaustive catalog would be really long, and far less entertaining. Stephenson manages to take a Clancy-like scenario, give it a Dickensian and international cast, keep up a Dan Brown kind of momentum even as he takes time for National Treasure sort of thinking. Lots of thinking.

 

And also I happened to notice a particular device Stephenson used to good effect: the first time a name is introduced he spells it kind of phonetically, the way the character heard it, but when the character actually appears on stage, as it were, the name is spelled as it is using the Roman alphabet and English transliteration. It's important because there are quite a few people with nonEnglish names and nonRoman writing. In the same way he keeps the plot going without taking the time to explain everything: eventually all becomes clear for a character without a lot of telling. I don't usually notice technical aspects of a novel's construction, but at over 900 pages I had a fair number of opportunities to ponder whilst doing other things which were not reading.

 

So, the upshot: an incredibly entertaining book that one can feel smug about reading. Recommended for ereaders because of the heaviness and awkwardness of holding a bound copy.

 

Library copy 

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review 2017-06-27 18:59
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - Al Franken 
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - Al Franken

It is terribly important that the most trusted figures in American politics right now are comedians: Al Franken, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert. It is important that our newest president has only ever actually been professionally successful as a television character.

 

Don't get me wrong: I don't think actors, performers, and certainly not writers are somehow less valid as elected officials. While the primary business of senators and congress people is lawmaking, I recognize that they themselves don't (possibly ever anymore) write the laws; federal laws are written by interested parties, think tanks, and congressional staff. So it isn't necessary to be a lawyer in order to shape laws. What is necessary: I think a broad, general interest is good; literacy is useful; the ability to listen is huge; one has to judge sources, because I'm sure there's never less than two sides to any issue, and all of them purport to have data backing them up, of which some must be less valid or useful than others; a willingness to admit ignorance and to learn is key, because no one is an expert in everything, and hastily-formed judgements are unlikely to result in successful solutions to complex problems. And of course, one has to be able to work with many difficult people, but that's true of all work, isn't it? That list of qualities leaves previous work experience pretty open.

 

It's important that our emperor is naked, and that as many people as possible are pointing at the bare ass he's waggling at us, and laughing. It's not possible to bring him down by arguing with him or fact-checking him: he's a shameless liar, he just makes shit up, most of his shtick is just childish insults. You can't argue with him. He doesn't believe in the idea of a fair fight. But you can point and laugh: he has no defense against mockery.

 

Franken is a mensch. I would give that man an organ I can't spare, secure in the knowledge that he would use it only for good. He is everything one could hope for in an elected representative, just once I would like to vote for someone who was so progressive and also so pragmatic. Harvard has gone up in my esteem by being Franken's alma mater. If you've never read any of Franken's political books you're in for a treat.

 

Library copy

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review 2017-06-23 08:05
Blog Tour w/Review - Talk British To Me

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Talk British to Me, an all-new sexy STANDALONE romance from Robin Bielman is available now!!

 

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Talk British to Me

by Robin Bielman

Genre: Contemporary Romance

 

Synopsis:

 

As the Dating Guy on L.A.’s top morning show, I give the single guy’s perspective on dating, love, and sex—and I give great advice. Everyone’s hooking up…well, except for me. Sure, I can get any woman I want, but I’ve got a “no relationship” clause in my contract and the only woman I want has “relationship” written all over her. Probably stamped on her ass, too. And wouldn’t I like to confirm that.

 

Unfortunately, she wants nothing to do with me. At all. Something about the next Ice Age might have even come up in her rebuttal. Adorable. Because she’s determined to ignore what one simple kiss proved: she wants me as badly as I want her.

 

Everything in me is screaming to go after her, but I’ve got a secret that I’m fairly certain will end up with her roasting my nuts over an open fire. So, job on the line? Check. Nuts on the line? Check. Can’t get her out of my head? Nail…meet coffin. But what a way to go…

 

 

Excerpt:

 

I lean down to whisper in her ear. I can’t help it. I can tell from her body language that I make her nervous, and right now I’m a total cad, but I’m curious to see her reaction to my words. She did walk right into them. “Are you saying I make you wet, Teague?”

 

 

The trunk pops open, almost hitting her in the forehead when she balks at my question. She’s blushing, but her warm blue eyes hook me with sparks of anger. Several charged seconds pass before she speaks.

 

 

“Does it hurt? Being so full of yourself?” She turns to rummage through a small pile of clothes in her trunk. “News flash, stuck-up”—she glances at my attire, I’m guessing—“jock, you don’t make me feel anything. I’m sure there are plenty of girls in this town you can charm the panties off of with your attitude and voice, but I’m not one of them. So please do me a favor and keep your unsavory thoughts to yourself.”

 

 

Several things about what she just said hit me like a ton of goddamn bricks. That she called me a jock makes me grin. I’m wearing long athletic shorts with my collared shirt and running shoes.

 

She’s right about girls’ panties, but she’s the only girl to mention my voice. What would she think if I used my British accent on her? The station manager says she gets more calls about my accent than anything else.

 

 

And this bolder, more assertive, yet wholesome Teague is hot.

 

 

Don’t even get me started on her use of the word “unsavory.”

 

 

I am so fucked.

 

 

This isn’t a random chick anymore. She works for my mom. This sweet, beautiful, genuine, fascinating girl has a last name and knows my mother.

 

 

 

 

TBTM-AN

 

Read Today!

 

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2q3J6VJ

Amazon UK: https://goo.gl/SfgSY0

iBooks: https://goo.gl/bYqyps

Nook: https://goo.gl/3xqNwg

Kobo: https://goo.gl/4MUqri

BAM!: http://bit.ly/2tQFd5q

 

Add to GoodReads: https://goo.gl/3YBx7l

 

 

 

Talk British to Me (Wherever You Go)Talk British to Me by Robin Bielman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Teague is having quite the year. Moving to a new city, getting a new job, and being pursued by a hottie. Honest almost to a fault, people will walk over her if she's not careful. This includes her new boss.

Mateo is glad to be friends with Teague. He knows she is the forever kind. He cannot be in a committed relationship right now, or his career will be crushed. So he settles. Scared of his secrets coming to light, he makes the most of his friendship with the best friend he has had in some time.

Sexy and sweet, this book moves at a good pace and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. There is so many surprises inside, this book is worth the read. Glad to have the humor to break up the heart crushing pieces, this story kept me turning the page!


***This ARC copy was given by Netgalley and its publishers in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Robin:

 

 

When not attached to her laptop, USA Today Bestselling Author and RITA Finalist, Robin Bielman can almost always be found with her nose in a book. A California girl, the beach is her favorite place for fun and inspiration. Her fondness for swoon-worthy heroes who flirt and stumble upon the girl they can’t live without jumpstarts most of her story ideas. She loves to go on adventures, and has skydived, scuba dived, parasailed, gotten lost in the wilderness (and only suffered a gazillion bug bites for it) hiked to waterfalls, and swam with dolphins.

 

In her spare time she also likes to put her treadmill to good use while watching her favorite TV shows, take hikes with her hubby, indulge her sweet tooth, and play sock tug of war with her cute, but sometimes naughty dog, Harry. She dreams of traveling to faraway places and loves to connect with readers. Keep in touch at all of her social media spots! 

 

Connect With Robin:

 

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ BookBub ~ GoodReads ~ Website

 

Stay up to date with Robin by signing up for her newsletter:

https://goo.gl/HTtAzl

 

 

 

   

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