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review 2018-02-24 05:31
Huh. I feel like Chabon is backsliding.
Moonglow: A Novel - Michael Chabon

At least in regards to women. I felt like Yiddish Policemen's Union was a massive step up from Chevalier and Clay in that regard, but this was... a step sideways at best.

 

I don't know, maybe I just wasn't feeling this book. It's a pretty self-indulgent project in that it's a fictionalised family biography of his grandfather and himself wrapped together and told out of order, and it never quite gelled for me. I enjoyed a lot of the segments, especially the WWII stuff. I liked the relationship between Chabon and his mom. I liked the humour much of the time.

 

I just never quit developed a strong attachment to the characters, and the different timelines never really told a story in a way that justified the skipping chronology. We get bits of his grandfather in WWII, bits of his childhood, bits of a year in prison, bits of his courtship and tumultuous marriage, bits of a later courtship with another woman, bits of him dying. Almost all of it starring as him being gallant and heroic. The through line is possibly his relationship to rockets and a one-sided rivalry with Werner Von Braun, or it could be his relationship with his manic pixie dream wife. I couldn't really tell, and by the end I didn't care.

 

I'm probably being overly harsh with that description, but it seemed like the purpose of the women in this story was to be difficult, frustrating, slightly mad, and very sexy. We rarely if ever saw the story from their perspective, but we get a series of prostitutes, French girls with mysterious pasts, sexy widows in retirement homes. There's a lot about the grandmother's mental illness, especially in how it effects the men around her (and to some extent her daughter), and very little about what's actually going on in her head or what she wanted. A lot of the interactions involved implied sexual violence.

 

Towards the end, we get a narrative-shattering backstory revelation that more or less sinks without a ripple, and I always came back to the feeling that--rocket obsession aside--I'd much rather be reading the novel that Cabon decided not to write about his grandmother. Too bad he didn't go with that.

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review 2018-02-21 05:26
Interesting premise, odd execution.
Grand Canyon - Vita Sackville-West

So this is a book that Vita Sackville-West (member of the Bloomsberry Group, sometimes lover of Virginia Woolf) wrote half way through the second world war. I had thought going in it had a similar premise to Farthing by Jo Walton, but no, in this book the Nazis conquered the UK and Ireland, and the US having won the Pacific War made peace with the Third Reich. The story follows a group of characters in a hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon, about a year after these events. The two main characters are both English expats living in the hotel, and there are US air force officers, a bunch of college kids, and a handful of other European refugees, plus the hotel staff. Some of them will be turn out to be Nazi Fifth Column, some will be up to no good in other ways, and war draws closer by the day.

 

Sounds exciting, right? Yeah, no. It wasn't. This is a short book, and it took my ten days to read it (granted I was busy for much of it, but still!).  The two main point of view characters spend massive amounts of page time hanging out and chatting, mostly about their opinions of the other characters, especially one of the college girls. Who does not and never will have anything whatsoever to do with the plot. At all. They also talk about their experiences during the war and current events, but seriously massive page time on stuff that isn't interesting and won't matter to the story.

 

The style is very dialogue heavy. Everyone gets long monologues either aloud or internal about their feelings about each situation, and absolutely none of it is anything a human being would ever say, though maybe it works for thoughts some of the time. There is also a good deal of racism directed at the black musician characters, including the N-word a couple times, and an ambivalent relationship with the Hopi characters.

 

However, for all that? I still found it absolutely fascinating. There are some SF elements in the uses of technology (there are supersonic heavy bombers in 1942, and undisclosed WMD that was used to defeat England, and underutilised technology that can draw electricity from the air ala Tesla), and then the last third has a strong fantasy element that I won't spoil but which was used to great effect. I also really liked a lot of the responses to trauma that the female PoV character was working through, and a lot of her interactions. A lot of the writing especially the descriptions of place and emotion were gorgeous.

 

I think if you're interested in the evolution of alternate histories, especially of WWII, or of Sackville-West. If you're going to be more interested in everything that's happening off page, you might find it incredibly frustrating.

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review 2018-02-08 21:37
Great journey for Lucy!
The Way to London - Alix Rickloff

So what I was expecting from this book is a typical journey of a young woman and a boy she finds along the way. I was expecting a serious journey, perhaps with a few tear jerker scenes along and a bit of romance to lighten the mood. I was happy to be wrong about it when I finally finished the book.

 

Besides the obvious journey to London, it’s also more of Lucy’s road to developing her true self and coming to terms with it. She comes across characters that have had a hand in impacting her life and assisting Lucy in finding self finding journey.

 

The plot here was steady and flowing, there were some lulls here and there but it’s pretty much cut and clear. I did like reading Lucy’s character development throughout the novel. She went from spoiled entitled brat to someone who really did have a soft caring heart. It was great to see her develop into a more caring loving person of not others but also of herself. No matter how much she tries to go back to her selfish ways something always gets her back on track to show her true caring nature and that it is more rewarding helping and caring for others.

 

Lucy’s chemistry with Bill and Michael make the book more enjoyable to read. Bill because he brought out the caring aspect in Lucy, Michael because he challenged her and made her see things in a different light (plus, well he managed to wriggle under Lucy’s skin which was nice and fun to read as he had caught her speechless in some moments)

 

What I didn’t expect from the book was the funny light hearted moments. I found myself laughing here and there with Bill’s behavior and his uncanny ability to involve himself and Lucy into potentially hairy situations, or the times where Lucy fights with Michael, and it seems Michael is the only one that can render Lucy speechless and flabbergasted. Those were great moments in the book and it kept the reading at a light hearted mood despite what was happening around them.

 

I enjoyed this book a lot and I do recommend it if you’re in the mood for something light despite the dark setting of WWII London.

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review 2018-01-13 02:03
In the Blood of the Greeks (Intertwined Souls #1) - DNF @ 32%
In The Blood Of The Greeks (Intertwined Souls Series Book 1) - Mary D. Brooks

Just not feeling this one. The writing is technically good but not very engaging. The story idea is interesting and intriguing - a young resistance fighter and the daughter of an SS officer work together to help Jews to escape Greece - but the writing is so ... matter-of-fact and clinical that there's no real emotion to anything. I'm having a hard time wanting to finish this book, much less go onto to read the others in the series, so this is my stopping point.

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text 2017-12-27 18:46
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 7 - International Human Rights Day

Tasks for International Human Rights Day: Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights. (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.)

 

Anógia village, Crete: the Andartis (resistance fighter) monument near the museum to the village's destruction in WWII.


Crete was occupied by the German military in the 1940s, fierce resistance by the local population notwithstanding. During one particularly memorable episode (later the subject of a book and a movie both titled Ill Met by Moonlight), a joint group of Cretan resistance fighters and British intelligence operatives, led by Major (and writer-to-be) Patrick Leigh Fermor -- in the movie, portrayed by Dirk Bogarde -- and Captain W. Stanley Moss (author of the book Ill Met by Moonlight), abducted German Major General Heinrich Kreipe near his home in Heraklion and marched him all the way across the Psiloritis mountains to the south coast of Crete, from where he was eventually shipped off to Egypt. He spent the rest of WWII in a British POW camp.

Patrick Leigh Fermor's evocative account of their struggle across the slopes of Mount Ida has come to particular fame for its "Horace Moment" -- his trademark poetic description of the moment when he and the German general realized that they had both enjoyed the same sort of profoundly formative, classical humanistic education and, as a result, had come to share the same values. Here it is, as taken from a Report written for the Imperial War Museum in 1969 and as published in Words of Mercury (2010):

"Everything ahead was a looming wilderness of peaks and canyons, and in the rougher bits it would be impossible for a large party to keep formation, or even contact, except at a slow crawl wich could be heard and seen for miles. The whole massif was riddled with clefts and grottoes to hide in. We must all vanish into thin air and let the enemy draw a total blank. [...]

We woke up among the rocks, just as a brilliant dawn was breaking over the crest of Mount Ida which we had been struggling across for two days. We were all three [i.e., Stanley Moss, Leigh Fermor, and their captive] lying smoking in silence, when the General, half to himself, slowly said:

'Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte ...' **

I was in luck. It is the opening line of one of the few odes of Horace I know by heart (Ad Thaliarchum, LIX). I went on reciting where he had broken off:

'... Nec iam sustineant onus
Silvae laborentes, geluque,
Flumina constiterint acuto' **

and so on, through the remaining five stanzas to the end.

The General's blue eyes swivelled away from the mountain-top to mine -- and when I'd finished, after a long silence, he said: 'Ach so, Herr Major!'*** It was very strange. 'Ja, Herr General.' As though, for a long moment, the war had ceased to exist. We had both drunk at the same fountains long before, and things were different between us for the rest of our time together."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

** You see how high Soracte stands, bright with
snow, and no longer do the straining forests
support the burden, and the rivers have
frozen with sharp frost.
 
*** "Oh, I see, Major!"

 

 

Leigh Fermor unfortunately doesn't mention, however -- at least, in the published version of his account -- that inter alia by way of retribution for Kreipe's abduction, as well as in retribution for a number of other acts of resistance, the German military, later in 1944, annihilated the entire village of Anógia (from where the group had embarked on their climb across the mountains), killing every single one of its several 100 souls and reducing the whole village to ashes. It was only in 2009 (65 years later), after having lived there for a number of years and slowly gained the population's trust, that German artist Karina Raeck was able to take a major step towards reconciliation by opening a museum commemorating the village's destruction and by creating, together with the village population, a large artistic display in memory of its resistance fighters on the Nida Plain above the village; likewise entitled "Andartis."

 

Anógia after its 1944 destruction by the German military.

 


The "Andartis" monument on the Nida Plain, created by artist Karina Raeck and the villagers of Anógia in 2009.

 

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