Saturday, November 18, 2017

Catching Up - 3 mini book reviews and Movies too

With Thanksgiving festivities coming up this week and my book reviews being placed on the back burner, I thought I'd try and play catch up!

Television and going to the movies has kept us busy. We've been binge watching The Good Doctor on ABC (love this new series - all caught up) and Curb Your Enthusiasm -(on season 5) Larry David is a genius!  (It feels so good to laugh hysterically again) I can't believe we are just watching this now.

First we saw (2) new movies this week - Wonder (OMG - it's wonderful - 9/10 stars) and Murder on the Orient Express (have never read the book so the ending was a huge surprise - 6.5/10 stars).














As far as reading, it's still happening, just at a slower pace.  2017 will be my lowest # of books read in about 10 years, but I'm still hoping to come close to 90 books by the end of the year. I'm actually much happier that this year wasn't all about books and blogging - life is good.

Here's what I finished recently:


 Ties; Domenico Starnone
Europa Editions (2017)


Ties,  was a powerful story of what was "once" a happy marriage. It's a story that's compelling yet familiar.  Aldo leaves his wife and two children for a much younger woman.  At home, Vanda, the wife he left, begins to fall apart but, eventually manages to pick up the pieces and move on.

The story is more of a novella, approximately, 150 pages but, it packs a punch.  The writing is excellent: the story of a fractured family told in parts, and, how a destructive relationship affected each of them. First we hear Vanda's POV after Aldo leaves her, then Aldo's POV, many years later and the the POV of the two children (now adults).

The story reminded my of Elena Ferrante's Days of Abandonment, and, I later read that this author is Ferrante's (AKA Anita Raja) husband. Powerful themes, love, betrayal and guilt and, a wonderful intro and translation from the Italian by author Jhumpa Lahari.

5/5 stars - try it!














Unraveling Oliver; Liz Nugent
Gallery/Scout Press - 2017

From the shocking first paragraph of this book --

"I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.  She just lay on the floor, holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent.  She didn't even seem surprised."

While some readers might have closed this book, never to return, after reading that opening paragraph, I was immediately pulled into this story, curious to learn what made this sociopath/wife beater tick.  As it turns out this was not the first time that Oliver hit his wife but, it was the first time to cause brain damage. What happened in Oliver's past to make him act the way he did?

The story is mostly about Oliver, told through various voices and POVs - relative, former friends and acquaintances throughout his life, leading up to the brutal attack.  I found the story engaging but, was left a bit disappointed by the fact that Alice's story, before the assault, is never really told.  I was still happy that I gave this debut novel a try.

4/5 stars














Midwinter Break; Bernard MacLaverty
W.W. Norton - 2017

I don't think there are enough books written these days about older married couples, perhaps because it doesn't always make for as exciting of a story when we read about affairs and relationships that are falling apart.  This story, while not exciting had many tender moments and even occasional humor that made me happy I gave it a try.

Stella is a retired English teacher who likes to people and doing crosswords to keep her mind sharp..  Gerry, her husband, likes architecture, music and looks forward to a nightcap, sometimes drinking a bit more than he should.  Having to guess their ages, I'd have to say late 60s to early 70s.

The couple is on a 4-day holiday to Amsterdam and during their time there the reader not only gets to enjoy some armchair travel but, they also get a bird's eye view of the fissures within their long term relationship, and an examination if the marriage is worth saving. Not terribly exciting reading but, a tender story that many couples might be able to relate to.

4/5 stars

I also had (2) DNF in the past few months: 

You Don't Have To Say You Love Me; Sherman Alexie - a memoir that started out rather depressing and had an incident of animal abuse that made me stop reading.


 Forest Dark; Nicole Krause - Start out strong but quickly lost my interest - confusing story and just felt frustrated after the 15% point on my Kindle.


Hope everyone is having a good weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate!

26 comments:

  1. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the holidays.

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    1. Thanks Mystica - hope your holidays are special as well.

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  2. Thanks for an informative post, Diane! Bernard MacLaverty's book sounds interesting, reminds me of the movie Le Week-End (2013). I'll be watching Wonder and MOTOE (knowing the ending but just want to see how Branagh directs it). I've recently read a book and saw its film adaptation: Mudbound. Don't miss it. I gave them both 4 Ripples. :) -- Arti

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    1. Hi Arti, I need to check out Le Week-End - thanks for mentioning.

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  3. I'm in the middle of Unraveling Oliver now! It's different than I expected...more a character study than the thriller I was expecting. But I like it.

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    1. It is different but, I enjoyed the way the story unfolded.

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  4. You've convinced me to give Ties a try. Happy Thanksgiving, Diane!

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  5. Some of those sound pretty darn good. Have a most wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

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  6. Can't wait to see Wonder. I tear up every time I see a preview. Was pretty disappointed in Orient Express. Never heard of Ties. Sounds good. Have seen a lot of blogger activity for Nugent book.

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  7. That's funny that the holidays mean your reading slows down. For me, it is the opposite. I have time off work so I read more. And today we will have no power so I am sure I'll do more reading as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. I'm busier during holidays - even though I'm retired, I'm busier now.

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  8. Nice to have a post and update from you. 90 books is still pretty good. I watched an excellent pre-WWII movie, The Exception. I read Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing just before she won the NBA and felt so with it!

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    1. Judy, I heard Sing, Unburied Sing was very good - I must try it. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  9. I've never seen The Good Doctor, but after perusing the website I think it looks interesting. Can't wait to see Wonder! Such a good book! I read Murder on the Orient Express a year or so ago and enjoyed it. I plan to watch the new and old movie. Should be fun. Ties sounds like a winner of a book, but I'm not sure about Unraveling Oliver. That one sounds pretty disturbing! Midwinter Break is my kind of book and I'll look for it at the library. I'm drawn to books about seniors, either married or living alone. Have you read Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan? I thought it was wonderful. We've just finished watching The Crown, which was excellent. I can't wait for Season 2 to begin next month.

    Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

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    1. Good Doctor is so good - he's such a great young actor. TIES and Midwinter Break are ones I hope you will try - so good. Happy Thanksgiving Les

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  10. I want to see both of those movies, I'm listening to the Christie book now. I didn't finish Unraveling Oliver, just couldn't get interested in it. After reading your thoughts on Ties, I added it to my list to read at my library.

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    1. Sorry Unraveling Oliver did not work for you, I like the way the story unfolded. Please try TIES - so good and short too.

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  11. I wasn't that interested in Wonder but have heard so many good things about it that now I definitely want to see it. And, Midwinter Break does sound like a good story! Well, even if you don't read as many books as you normally do, 90 or so is still fantastic! Hope you are gearing up for a wonderful Thanksgiving week.

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    1. Iliana, hope your Thanksgiving is special and that you get a chance to see Wonder as well.

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  12. I am behind on The Good Doctor! Maybe I'll catch up this weekend, when I am not reading! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

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  13. Trying to decide whether to read Forest Dark myself--thanks for the info on your perspective. I've read mixed reviews of Murder on the Orient Express--sometimes those all-star cast productions just don't pan out.

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  14. I have to add "Midwinter break" to my reading list :)

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  15. I'm hoping to see both of those movies this month, but we have so much travel who knows if it will happen. We just watched the movie Room last week and I was surprised to find out that he's the same kid in Wonder! I should add Ties to by list. I already have Oliver there but I might have to be in the right mood for that one. Good for you for not finishing books. I find it so hard to do but always feel better when I do.

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