The Beginning of Spring

beginningThe Beginning of Spring
by Penelope Fitzgerald
1998/ 272 pages
Rating: 9 / historical fiction

I love the works of Penelope Fitzgerald and have read a good many them.  This one came as a surprise to me though, when it was selected as a Booker nominee – I don’t know why I hadn’t read it before.

I suspect this historical fiction set in March, 1913 Moscow and environs was painstakingly researched, but Fitzgerald always keeps it natural focusing on the plot and character development first snd foremost. That said, the setting, both time and place, is an integral part of the story, affecting the characters profoundly. I think it could happen nowhere else.

Moscow at this time was a place of serious unrest, student protests and labor strikes abounded, but things had quieted down some from the rebellion of 1905 and World War I had not yet started. It was hoped that a revolution could be avoided.  >>>>MORE>>>> 

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On the Move: A Life

onthemoveOn the Move: A Life
by Oliver Sacks
2015/ 416 pages
Rating 8.5 – memoir

Fun book, for the most part, quirky and slightly irreverent but mostly . Oliver Sacks is now 80 years old and had had a truly amazing life, making the most of amazing times as a neurosurgeon, amateur chemist and author. He is best known for his books detailing the case studies of his patients in books like “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and “Awakenings.”

Born into a well-to-do family of doctors, mother, father, brothers, Oliver tried to avoid the field, but that’s where his talents and interests lie anyway. Still, literature and writing beckoned and it shows. This is an example of excellent creative-style, or literary (used loosely) memoir. The facts and information are likely as accurate as any memoir, but the structure and style are less formal with maintaining interest being a primary goal.  >>>>MORE>>>>

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The Feast of the Goat

feastThe Feast of the Goat
by Mario Vargas Llosa
2000/405 pages
rating: 9- contemp fiction

I read this back in 2004 or so, I think, and enjoyed it, certainly remembered it, but one reading left me rather confused as to the structure and characters. Anther reading group chose it for June of this year and I decided to revisit. ai’m quite pleased I did. Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2010 and although he has quite an oeuvre, The Feast of the Goat is probably the work he’s best known for.
Because this was first published in 2000 about events which occurred less than forty years prior, it’s not quite historical fiction, but rather very well researched and carefully considered fiction about a time the author lived through, followed, took note of, and surely considered carefully at the time.  >>>>MORE>>>>

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The Kreutzer Sonata

sonataThe Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy 1889/  184 pages (novella) rating:  9 –  classic Russian This one is a reread – I recently rejoined the 19th Century reading  group to keep reading classics – Most of their choices are books I’ve not read. The Kreutzer Sonata is a darned good story with historical value (which is mostly why I enjoy classic literature).   Also,  it’s interesting biographically because of Tolstoy’s post-Anna Karenina trauma and spiritual transformation.   Although Anna was not a “good” girl,  during the course of writing her story Tolstoy had fallen a wee bit in love her.  This raised some serious questions in his mind because Tolstoy was, at heart,  a Christian!  How could he write so beautifully about a “fallen woman?”    He struggled with both depression and his core beliefs the result being that he denounced Anna Karenina – his “perfect” novel  – as vanity along with his prior works.   >>>>MORE>>>> 

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The Crime Writer

crimeThe Crime Writer
by Greg Hurwitz
read by Scott Brick  10h 58m
2007/ 324 pages
rating: C+  / crime

Just for a kick – getting back to my good old suspense novels. I enjoyed You’re Next by Hurwitz well enough,  and this sounded good.  Based on self-select (not a strong suit) I went for it.   Another positive thing is that Scott Brick narrates and this is suspense – perfect for him.

Drew Danner,  a writer of mystery novels,  wakes up in the hospital with no memory of how he got there.  He finds out he’s been arrested for the murder of his ex- fiancé, but remembers nothing about it.   After being found guilty by reason of insanity – it was a blood clot found in his brain which rendered him with no memory – Danner wants to find out what happened.  >>>MORE>>>> 

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

fikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
2014 / 273 pages
read by Scott Brick 7h 2m
rating: 6 / contemp fiction
(read and listened)

A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner, a widower and a budding alcoholic.  One night one of his very most valuable books goes missing – is stolen.  That’s very disturbing on top of everything else,  but when he finds a 2-year old left on the floor of his shop well …

Except for a bit of bogging down about half or two-thirds,  the story travels along nicely with a few twists and the characters are intersting, but this is a book with a “message” rather than an exploration of ideas. Not only that, the literary references are over the top. The end result is a cute story with a rather pretentious  gloss.  Scott Brick is an excellent narrator,  but in my opinion,  this is not a good book for him.

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The Hummingbird’s Daughter

hbirdThe Hummingbird’s Daughter
by Luis Alberto Urea
2005 /  528 pages
read by Luis Alberto Urea (the author) 18h 25m
(read and listened)
rating:  9.5 – historical fiction (mystical realism)

I belong to a lot of reading groups where we nominate books and vote on which ones to read and discuss.  I have never nominated a book I’ve read prior but I can’t say that any more.   What happened?

I read Urea’s book 8 or 10 years ago on a friend’s recommendation and loved it.  This past nomination period in the great Bookgroup List I was stumped as to what to nominate – (It’s very difficult to nominate books you’ve never read – like recommending something you’ve never read – gads).  But I realized I really wanted to reread this lovely book and so I caved – nominated something I had read prior. >>>>>MORE>>>>> 

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