A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Published by Viking on March 12th 2013
Pages: 422
ISBN: 0670026638
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three-half-stars

I’ll be honest…I was bored with this book in the beginning. I kept putting it aside to read other books. I was in a mystery reading phase and I think I just could not find my rhythm with this book. Ever read a book that everyone seems to love and you are scratching your head, wondering if you are actually reading the same book because you just don’t get it? That is what I experienced when I first picked up this book. It took a little over 100 pages into the book, before I really began to enjoy it.

What I liked was that both Ruth and Nao both felt discord with their surroundings. Nao was born and raised for 12 years in California. Then her family moves back to Japan when her father loses his job. Nao identifies herself as being American and has a very hard time adjusting to living in Japan.
Ruth, who once lived in the city, is now living in the pacific northwest in a community where people like to drop in whenever they feel like it. Both females feel out of their element. However, it is really Nao who is in culture shock. Nao feels like an outsider. She is tormented and bullied at school while her father sinks deeper into depression and disappears for hours at end. Nao contemplates suicide as an end for her troubles (as does her father).

Ruth is a novelist living on a small island who finds a hello kitty lunchbox one day. Inside the lunchbox is a journal written by Nao. Feeling isolated on the small island, Ruth feels a connection to Nao. She attempts to learn as much as she can about Nao in order to find her in order to determine if Nao is alive and well.

I felt as if this book could use some editing. It felt very long to me. One thing I did appreciate was the footnotes as several japanese words were used and I did not know the meaning. I also enjoyed the section of letters where Nao finds her family’s connection to WWII (having letter from a great uncle who was a kamikaze pilot).

This book goes back and forth in time telling both women’s tale. WE also learn about Nao’s 104 year Buddhist Nun grandmother. For me, I wished the book would have been more about Nao. When two stories are told, I usually enjoy one more than the other and I enjoyed Nao’s story much more. Having said that, her story is sad because of the horrible bullying she endured not to mention the video taken in the rest room and posted online. I found Ruth’s story to bog down the meatiness of Nao’s story.

three-half-stars

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow Published by Viking on September 6th 2016
Pages: 462
ISBN: 0670026190
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five-stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel   With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

A Masterpiece!

This book was so good. Words such as wonderful, spectacular and beautiful come to mind. The writing was simply wonderful. The story was beautiful. This book almost dripped with elegance. This book is not to be rushed. Do not read this book fast. Like a good glass of wine, this book should be savored and enjoyed slowly.

Count Alexander Rostov is deemed to be a unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal in 1922. He is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel, a hotel across the street from the Kremlin. The count, who has never worked a day in his life, had been living in luxury at the hotel when he was sentenced to house arrest. Now, he must live in attic quarters and leave most of his belonging behind. The items he does take with him have significant meaning to him. He never seems to pout or complain about this change in circumstances. He continues to maintain his schedule and even entertains quests in his attic room.

This book spans decades and shows how one man can build a life for himself no matter where he lives. The Count was able to build close and meaningful relationships with the staff and others living at the Hotel. He grows to think of himself as lucky. Stripped of his title, he is still a gentleman in every sense of the word. He holds his head high and lives a meaningful life. The saying you can’t buy class comes to mind. Even though the Count was stripped of most things, he still had class, dignity and grace.

He builds a relationship with Nina, a 9 year old with a sense of adventures who takes the count on adventures throughout the Hotel. This opens his eyes and he learns that there is much more to this Hotel and the people who work there. From then on, he continued to have adventures inside the hotel.

The story has a lot of Russian history sprinkled throughout. It is vital for understanding the politics at that time and what was occurring outside of the walls of the hotel.

This book really took me by surprise. I really didn’t see this book coming. Of course I heard the bzz about this book, but I wasn’t sure with the description that I would enjoy it as much as I did. This book simply tipped toed up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and begged to be read.

five-stars

The Invention of Wings

The Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Published by Viking on January 7th 2014
Pages: 384
ISBN: 0670024783
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five-stars

Such an amazing book. I loved every page of it! This book was amazing. I love books that make one think and feel and this book did both. Parts were inspiring, parts were devastating, disturbing, etc. This is the story of mainly 2 women but also more women of note are also in this book as minor characters. The novel really begins when an 11 year old daughter of a plantation owner is given a slave for her 11th birthday. Well, actually the novel begins when Sarah experiences speaking difficulties after seeing a slave whipped at the age of 4. She doesn’t know quite what to do or how to act when given a slave for her 11th birthday. A slave that although she tries, she cannot free. Sarah also does not feel free herself, she years to do things with her life – careers only allowed for men. She feels trapped being a woman -wanting to do something “big” and important in her life, but being constantly told she cannot because she is female.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, is the slave whom Sarah is given for her 11th birthday. She is also a child and they basically grown up together. One a slave and one a slave owner but they share a special bond. Through Hetty and her mother Charlotte, we learn about the atrocities (one legged punishment for example) and horrors of slave life and treatment. What it is like to be owned by another person. What it is like to yearn for freedom, to speak your mind, and to live your own life but not being able to do so, because you belong to another. Their (Charlotte and Hetty) story is heartbreaking and tragic but also tells of strength, courage and dignity. I love how both Charlotte and Hetty/Handful constantly push the boundaries in an attempt to live their own lives and to strive for something better.

The books alternates between Sarah and Hetty’s two voices. We learn about both of their lives, their hopes and their dreams, their fears, their anxieties, and their thoughts on one another. We learn about both of their intertwined lives over a 35 year span. I love the part in the book (and I am paraphrasing) where Hetty tells Sarah that her (Hetty’s) body may not be free but her mind is her own and that Sarah’s body is free but her mind (Sarah’s) is not her own. I know some people did not are for the alternating voices but I loved it. I thought it was brilliant and really gave us a glimpse of both women. Each of their stories was important and needed to be told.

As the book comes to a close, Handful will endure loss, grief, abuse, disfigurement, and sorrow, but will also learn she is stronger than she thinks. Sarah will experience seeing her hopes crushed, the inability to obtain her work/spiritual goals, unrequited love, and ostracism from her peers. But she also finds strength in herself, her spiritual beliefs and in the special bond she shares with the younger sister, Nina whom she helped to raise. With her sister’s help, they become some of the first women to speak out against slavery and women’s rights.

I even loved the footnotes where the Author tells us how the real life story of the Grimke sisters inspired her book. Not all of her characters were real, some were based on real people but some were invented. She does a great job in telling us why she wrote what she did and what liberties she took with their story.

five-stars

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American RevolutionValiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick
Published by Viking on May 10th 2016
Pages: 427
ISBN: 0525426787
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four-half-stars

Received from the Publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Valiant Ambition was a very ambitious undertaking by Philbrick and he did not disappoint. I first read Philbrick’s work when my book club selected Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War. I was instantly hooked by that book and have recommended it many times. Needless to say, I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to read Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, adn the Fate of the American Revolution.

This book took me some time to get through. That does not mean it was a difficult read or a boring read but for me it was a meaty read. There is so much information in this book. A “must read” for History buffs, war buffs, battle buffs, Colonial Times bluff, etc.

So much research was put into this book. I did not know a quarter of what was in this book. Of course, I had heard of Benedict Arnold, but only so much as what was taught in my school history classes. Needless to say, I knew he was guilty of treason but I did not know the what, where, why or how of it. This book really breaks it down in a very clear detailed manner.

This book of course it about two men: Washington and Arnold. Battles and their importance are described. Again, I learned so much about the battles; or shall I say the importance of the battles, the defeats, the experience of being in battle, the egos, the greed, and the mood of the American People.

I don’t quite know how to describe this book without re-telling history. History that I learned about thanks to Philbrick’s research. I love books that cause me to think and feel. This book succeeded on both levels. I learned a GREAT deal. For me this book was an undertaking, due to the amount of information and the amount that I learned while reading this book.

I highly recommend this book.

four-half-stars