Thoughts on A Tale for The Time Being

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I picked up A Tale for The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki based on recommendations of a few bookish friends with whom I generally share reading tastes, but honestly I wasn’t sure about how I’d like it.  I’m don’t know why I had that feeling, but I am glad I disregarded my intuition, because I enjoyed this book a lot.

The novel is told in alternating narratives, sort of.  Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of the British Columbian island where she lives with her husband.  In the lunchbox are a collection of letters and a diary of a young Japanese girl, Naoko (Nao), and as Ruth begins reading the diary we read along with her.

Nao begins the diary out of a desire to tell the story of her 104 year-old great-grandmother Jiko, a Zen Buddhist nun, but it becomes a heartbreaking account of her struggles with being bullied at school and with her suicidal father.  As Ruth reads further along in the diary, and as she uncovers the meaning of the other items found in the lunchbox, she is taken over by Nao’s unknown fate.  As the lunchbox washed ashore about a year after the horrible tsunami hit Japan, she needs to know if she is still alive and if she can be rescued.

Frankly, I didn’t see much in Ruth’s story but I loved reading Nao’s diary.  I had obviously wrong preconceived notions about Japanese schoolgirls being nice and obedient, and reading about what Nao had to endure at the hands of her classmates was awful.  I had some other preconceived notions of Japanese culture as well that were negated after reading this book, but they are minor spoilers so I will not go into those.

The ending gets into some quantum physics which went way over my head but it didn’t hinder my overall enjoyment of the novel.  I’m glad I read it.

Posted in 2014, fiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Thoughts on Wonder

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a book about middle-school kids, probably written for middle-school kids, but is one that everyone should read.

Wonder is about August (Auggie) Pullman, who is 10 years old and is about to start school for the first time in his life.  Auggie was born with severe facial deformities, and he and his family are justifiably anxious about how he will be received at school.  The novel is told from alternating perspectives – Auggie especially; but also Jack, one of the kids asked to show him around the school before the first day; Summer, the only one who came to sit with Auggie at lunch his first day; Via, Auggie’s protective older sister who is struggling with her own entry into high school; and Justin, Via’s boyfriend.

It is a simply told story of Auggie’s first year at school, but it so well done.  Auggie’s attempt to be strong in the face of how he is treated at school is so admirable and yet so heartbreaking when he can’t be brave all of the time.  I kept thinking back to my own school days and though I don’t remember any kids with the physical challenges Auggie has I do remember that there were kids who for whatever petty reason were singled out to be avoided or picked on and I feel guilty for participating in any of that.

I have a 10 year-old nephew who is very much a rough and tumble boy but is also amazingly sweet and sensitive (yes, I do have some auntie bias) and I think I will give him this book because I know he will appreciate what it says.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is about Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a young German soldier, in the besieged town of Saint-Malo in 1944 as the Allies are liberating it.  In alternating narratives, we learn how these two arrive in the town and how their lives connect.

A novel set in France during World War II will always spark my interest, but add an original story and absolutely beautiful writing and you have a winner in my eyes.  We all know the big picture bad guys and good guys of the war, but this novel creates a greyer level of players on both sides.  Morality is not always clear in life and death situations — some act for the greater good of everyone, others do only what is best for them; and who is to say what is right or wrong without being there?

This is not a short book (530 pages in hardcover) but it is one that is worth the time invested.

 

 

Posted in fiction, Francophilia, World War II | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Sitting Around on a Sunday – Summer Reading Bingo Update

After one month, here is what my bingo card looks like:

photo (7)Books read:

Currently on the best seller list:  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  This was a re-read as my book club was discussing it in June (sadly I couldn’t attend) and I wanted to read it again before I see the movie (still on the to-do list).  I didn’t sob as much as I did the first time I read it, but it was still emotionally powerful.  The scenes with Hazel and Gus at the Anne Frank Museum were especially strong this time, as I was there myself in December and remember having to struggle up the very steep steps – I can’t imagine how Hazel with her “crap lungs” could have done it.  If you haven’t already read this book I highly highly recommend it.

Set in another country:  In The King’s Arms by Sonia Taitz (set in England).  This is a novel set in the 1970s who flees her Holocaust survivor parents to study at Oxford.  There she meets a boy from the upper crust of society and love ensues, along with some anti-Semitism.  I was a little disappointed with the overall story, but the writing style was nice.

Young adult novel:  We Were Liars by E.Lockhart.  I have seen so much hype around this book and its shocking ending but to me it was quite a disappointment.  The overall story was rather boring and the “twist” was nothing I hadn’t seen in other books/movies before.  It is about a well-to-do family and their summer homes on an island off the East Coast of the U.S. and the events that happened one fateful summer.  If you are interested in something like this, I suggest waiting a while for all of the hype to die down.

Published in 2014:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I absolutely loved this book.  Not only is it set in France during World War II — two of my favorite book subjects — but the writing is absolutely beautiful.  I hope to write more about this book shortly.

Nonfiction:  Nine Lives:  In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple.  This has been on my shelf forever and I used this bingo to finally read it.  The author focuses on nine religious followers in India, not of the mainstream but of sects of that country’s major religions.  I’ve mentioned before that I would love to visit India but I’m afraid to, and this book didn’t necessarily cure me of that, but I was interested in how different religious practices can be even under the same “umbrella”.

So, not bad progress.  I see that I’m close to getting a complete line right down the middle – I have a couple of graphic novels on the shelf, but as most of my family aren’t avid readers I might have trouble getting any recommendations from them.

There’s still time to play if you haven’t already started your bingo card.  Head to this post at Books on the Nightstand to generate your own bingo.  And if you have been playing along, how does your card look?

 

 

 

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Readers’ Workouts

The Readers’ Workouts meme is hosted at Joy’s Book Blog.   This is a place to share exercise successes and challenges.

Last Wednesday I had a reality check.  I had my workout with the Marine and I struggled. We did some new exercises and I was having trouble with both the form and with the weight.  The Marine adapted the routine when he saw I was struggling but I still felt like a failure.  Once we were done I went into the bathroom and had a good cry.

BUT once I finished with my pity party I went back to the gym floor and did 25 minutes of cardio.  And went back to the gym the next day to try some of the exercises on my own (with lighter weight).  For me, that is huge.  In the past I would have just gone home and avoided the gym for a while, making it harder to go back with each passing day.

I admit I was a bit anxious before yesterday’s workout with the Marine, but I made it through.  It was a challenging workout, again with heavier weight, and I kept up.  Felt kind of proud of myself afterwards.

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Literary Giveaway Blog Hop – Winner

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Congratulations to Courtney!  She was the randomly selected winner of my giveaway of The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka.

Thank you everyone for visiting and commenting.  I have added a few more books to my to-read list after seeing what you all have been reading this year.

 

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Readers’ Workouts

The Readers’ Workouts meme is hosted at Joy’s Book Blog.   This is a place to share exercise successes and challenges.

Well, the Marine told me last night that I was his most consistent client, that I never missed a session.  Because I’m a teacher’s pet, I’m glad he noticed my efforts; but then I think:  if you are paying for personal training sessions why aren’t you making your appointments? Sessions aren’t cheap, you pay for them up front as a package, and it is also rude to make the appointment and leave the trainer hanging when you cancel and don’t show up (You pay the gym for the sessions, and the gym pays the trainer when they submit the training session voucher, so a no show means the trainer doesn’t get paid for that time).

That said, I am planning to invest in some more training sessions.  I need that extra push twice a week that the Marine provides.  I work out on my own of course, but I tend to take it easier — plus there is no way I could do barbell squats on my own, I’d probably fall forward and the bar would crush my neck or something (I am a klutz)

Last week on my own I did 2 5k cardio sessions — one a walk/run on the treadmill and another on the elliptical.  I won’t say they were easy, but they definitely weren’t as hard as they would have been a few months ago!  And further to the klutz comment above, I came home on Thursday feeling great after one of these 5k workouts and proceeded to stumble down the stairs in our foyer (thankfully only a bruised elbow, knee and ego).

Fit Reading:  This week’s New Yorker has a great essay by David Sedaris about his fitbit obsession.  If you have a fitbit you will definitely enjoy reading this.

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