Monday, February 19, 2018

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein. or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, read by Simon Vance*
Published: originally in 1818
Source: bought the audiobook at my local library book sale

Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering "the cause of generation and life" and "bestowing animation upon lifeless matter," Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

My Thoughts:
Frankenstein is one of those books that I've long felt like I "should" read but I really didn't have any interest in it. This was, of course, entirely based, almost entirely, on the movie adaptations I've seen of it. I envisioned a great lot of discussion of the piecing together of body parts, long passages of trial and error. But when I found the audiobook for only $2 at the library book sale, and it was only seven discs long, I decided to knock this one off the need-to-read list.

Certainly this is the perfect book for the R.I.P. challenge in the fall, but it is so much more than a horror story. Is it a science fiction story, then? Not entirely, even though science plays a big part in it early on and some sources say that it may well be the first real science fiction story written. For me, Frankenstein is more a psychological morality tale than anything else. It is certainly a book that remains relevant.

Recently scientists cloned monkeys; certainly there have to be those who think that humans can't be far behind. Mary Shelley seems to suggest we should rethink that. What of the consequences? Victor Frankenstein was certainly a man who allowed his obsession and intelligence to carry him into uncharted waters without thought of the ramifications.

Over the years, people have mistakenly called the creation "Frankenstein." More recently, the popular opinion has become that Victor is the real monster. I defy you to read this book and not come away from it still wondering about that.

Certainly Victor, immediately upon seeing what he had created, walked away, leaving his creation to fend in a world Victor knew would not accept him. On the other hand, the creation is a thinking being, who educates himself and then chooses violent revenge. And would it be right or wrong for Victor to create a mate for his Adam, as the creation demands?

There is so much to think about in this book and there are no easy answers.

*If you have never read this book, I highly recommend the audiobook. Simon Vance is, as ever, amazing. He truly makes the story come alive. Even though I often sat in my car a little longer than necessary to keep listening, I was never tempted to pick up a paper copy of the book so that I could keep reading because I wanted Vance to read me the book.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Life: It Goes On - February 18

The Olympics have started and that means nothing much is getting done around my house that can't be done while I'm sitting in my family room. I've got a problem, no doubt about it!

I did start 40 Bags In 40 Days on Wednesday. I've largely been going over areas that I've gone through in the past few months so the bags that have been going out of my house have been small. The Big Guy, who told me a couple of weeks ago that he was ready to start getting rid of some things, has now dug in his heels against being made to go through his things. Argh! So frustrating!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Frankenstein; I'm so glad I finally read this book but even more glad that I "read" it on audio. Simon Vance is so good! Friday I started The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff. I do have this one in print so may make it a read/listen combination at some point.

Watching: When I'm not watching the Olympics, I have watched a couple of episodes of The Crown.

Reading: I'll finish up Their Eyes Were Watching God today for book club this week then I'm back to The Revolution of Marina M.

Making: Chicken noodle soup - Miss H's new boyfriend tells me his mom has competition now. Always good when you can measure up to a boy's mom's cooking!

Planning: A dance-themed bridal shower for my nephew's fiancee for next month. We've found it's easy to find ballet-themed party ideas but I'd like the decor to include other forms of dance as well. Any ideas?

Thinking About: Starting taxes today. At least I can do that while I'm watching the Olympics!

Enjoying: BG and I went with some friends to a chamber music concert on Monday held at a local art gallery. It was a night of tango music and dancing, wine and chocolate. Thursday I met a former work friend for drinks. Yea for time with friends!

Feeling: Cranky. I hate when the idea of tomorrow being Monday makes me cranky on Sundays!

Looking forward to: Book club this week.

Question of the week: What was your favorite job you ever had?

Friday, February 16, 2018

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
Published January 2018 by Melville House
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
When Tom’s heavily pregnant girlfriend Karin is rushed to the hospital, doctors are able to save the baby. But they are helpless to save Karin from what turns out to be acute Leukemia. And in a cruel, fleeting moment Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate. In Every Moment We Are Alive is the story of the year that changes everything, as Tom must reconcile the fury and pain of loss with the overwhelming responsibility of raising his daughter, Livia, alone.

My Thoughts:
Tom Malmquist is a poet which becomes immediately apparent. There is not a word wasted nor does Malmquist waste any time in pulling readers into the pain that is to become Tom's life. From the moment the consultant stamps down the wheel lock of Karin's hospital bed in the opening sentence to the moment he leaves his daughter off a preschool alone for the first time, Malmquist makes readers feel every moment of the balancing act that Tom's life becomes in a moment.

Because the book is more memoir than work of fiction, the pain feels so much more palpable. It's hard to read the vivid details of Karin's rapid decline, the agony of her parents who are kept, inexplicably, away from her deathbed, the mad pinball existence Tom lives as he watches his wife die and his premature daughter grow, and the terror he feels knowing he will be left to raise her on his own. But all of that is not where his sorrow ends because, just months after Karin dies, Tom must deal with the death of his father, a man he has had a complicated relationship with all of his life.

Although the book is only 240 pages long, so much is packed into it, and it is so intense, that it feels like a much longer book. But it is not just all of that pain that makes it read that way, it is also the style of Malmquist's writing. The book moves back and forth in time, allowing readers to visit Karin and Tom as they meet and become a couple. But that can be extremely jarring at times as it usually happens without a break in the writing. Also, be forewarned, those of you who must have quotation marks in your books, there are none here. Not only that but whole conversations are often lumped into a single paragraph. I often found myself re-reading passages to make sure I understood who was talking.

When the book moved into Tom's relationship with his father and his father's death, the back and forth in time became even more complicated and hard to follow. For me, it also overwhelmed the story, although, it retrospect, it seems it was important to understand Tom's relationship with his father to understand his fears about being a father himself.

The longer I've blogged, the less often I find myself taking chances on books, which is a shame. Because without doing that, I would not have discovered this book. Despite it being a tough read, it's a book I'm very glad to have read.

Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions about this book, check out the full tour.

Tom Malmquist is a poet and sportswriter. He has written two highly acclaimed poetry collections. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is his first novel. He lives in Sweden.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Published February 2018 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

My Thoughts:
When you request book through Netgalley, they would like you to let them know if certain things caused you to request the book. I keep hearing about this book? Nope, hadn't heard a thing about this one when I asked it. Now, sure, Oprah's picked it for her book club but she hadn't when I requested this one. Cover? Sure, it's a lovely cover and perfect once you read the book but it's not attracted me to the book. Description? Didn't even read it and I'm really glad I hadn't before I started reading it. Author? Check. This is entirely the reason I requested this book. I've been hearing about Jones' Silver Sparrow since before it came out and knew she was an impressive writer. Why not start with her latest? Well, maybe because it's going to be hard for Silver Sparrow to measure up to this one when I finally get to it.

Is it enough of a review for me to simply tell you that you have to read this book? I need you to read this book so I can talk about it with you!

It's so good in so many ways, as an examination on marriage, as a commentary on our criminal justice system, and as a commentary on racial injustice. It sounds dark and heavy and it is. Jones doesn't pull any punches. But she also gives readers humor, sass, beautiful stories of family, and such lovely writing. Jones made me tear up, she made me smile, she made me hold my breath, and she made me so angry. In the end, she made me sad to leave these characters. I miss them.
"But home isn't where you land; home is where you launch. You can't inc your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land."
An American Marriage is not merely heartbreaking, it is devastating. But, in the end, Jones leaves readers with hope.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Life: It Goes On - February 11

credit Max Lyrata
Why, yes, I did just lose an entire week. I wish I could tell you I'd been off on an unexpected great adventure. Sadly, just your everyday common cold as only I can do it. Missed two plus days of work, went through a box and a half of Kleenex, and drank more orange juice in five days than I did in the past year.

On top of that, it snowed and snowed this week. Never a lot but just enough to make commutes a pain and to ruin Miss H's and my trip to my brother's house this weekend. Needless to say, I'm ready to move onto a new week!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Still Frankenstein. Still really enjoying it. Part of me would like to pull out my print copy of finish it but I'm so enjoying Simon Vance's reading that I want to let him keep reading it to me.

Watching: You know me - I'm glued to the Olympics! I'm relearning the words I only hear during the Olympics like "twizzles" (ice dancing), "fakie" (snowboarding), and "clicks" (biathlon).

Reading: Here is the one thing I actually did manage to accomplish this week...when I wasn't sleeping or blowing my nose. I read Tayari Jones' An American Marriage and Tom Malmquist's In Every Moment We Are Still Alive. Next I'm onto this month's book club choice.

Making: Not much but I did cook a pork tenderloin and I made broccoli cheese soup.

Planning: On playing catch up this week and starting on our taxes.

Thinking About: My spring to-do list.

Enjoying: The Oscar-nominated animated shorts - I actually got out of the house last night and went to the theater with friends. We actually saw more than the ones that were nominated and, I must say, I'm not sure all of the best ones were nominated.

Those are my legs under there
Feeling: Better, finally. The kitties are going to be sad, though. They've very much enjoyed spending so much time cuddling with me this week.

Looking forward to: An evening of music, tango, wine, and chocolate tomorrow night. We did a similar thing last year the week of Valentine's Day that was so much fun.

Question of the week: One of our theaters is showing An Affair To Remember for free on Valentine's Day which I'm considering but I think tomorrow night will be our big Valentine's celebration. Do you have special plans for Valentine's Day?