Friday, March 4, 2016

Michalea's February Reads

How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way

My take: Confession. I am a die-hard dystopian, so it's no surprise I bought this book. Perhaps more of a surprise, it's been buried in the bowels of my Kindle for over a year. However, on a sleepless night, I organized my Kindle and found it again. So, as part of my new "read the backlog" before I buy any more books. . . yeah, let's see how long that lasts...I gave it a whirl.

Anyway, back to How I Live Now, our heroine Daisy may be anorexic, and she is definitely having underage, incestuous sex with one of her telepathic cousins. Combine this with TEOTWAKI, and this book should have kept me on the edge of my reading seat. However, I sadly think the reviewer who characterized the book by saying: I slept and then I woke up and then there was war and then I ate and then I slept some more was on to something.

 It's not that I don't appreciate sarcastic, neurotic teen narrators, after all I cut my reading teeth on Holden Caulfield.  But Daisy is about as compelling as listening to a teenager on her cellphone in Starbucks. The characters are flat, the incestuous sex is dull, and everyone shuffled through the apocalypse. Anyway, that's the way it felt when I gave up on the book about half-way through. I heard that the movie was better, and surprisingly it was. It had all the tension and character development the first half of the book lacked. So sad when that happens.

Brotherhood in Death - J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts

Synopsis: Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy. . . .

Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.

My take: Let me be perfectly clear, I am an Eve Dallas/In Death fan girl. Yeah, I know, I throw away the right to complain about anything after saying that. My sister tells me, you read one of these books, and you've read them all. It's kind of true. The books follow a pretty predictable pattern and plot. A murder; Eve stands for the dead. Eve makes wisecracks and has sex with Roarke. Roarke buys Eve's team a lot of food and takes over the known universe. Eve has sex with Roarke. Peabody complains about the size of her ass, but comes through for the team. Eve has sex with Roarke. Did I mention they have REALLY good sex. Eve and Roarke take down the bad guy and have some more sex. Anyway, I think  you catch my drift.

Yet beyond all reasonable expectations, I troll Amazon wondering and waiting for the next In Death book. Damn that Nora Roberts. How does she do it?

17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History

Synopsis:  Andrew Morton tells the story of the feckless Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor, his American wife, Wallis Simpson, the bizarre wartime Nazi plot to make him a puppet king after the invasion of Britain, and the attempted cover-up by Churchill, General Eisenhower, and King George VI of the duke's relations with Hitler. From the alleged affair between Simpson and the German foreign minister to the discovery of top secret correspondence about the man dubbed "the traitor king" and the Nazi high command, this is a saga of intrigue, betrayal, and deception suffused with a heady aroma of sex and suspicion

My take: This was one of the great love stories of my childhood. The man who gave up the crown for the woman he loved. What could possibly be more romantic, right? Later, I heard the other sides of the story, and there were many. She didn't particularly love him, but what do you do when someone makes such a gesture. You can't just say, no thanks. She might have been a prostitute; he might have been impotent. There were other men, maybe for both of them. (The 17 carnations were sent to Wallis by von Ribbentrop, maybe one for each of the times they slept together.) There was the extravagances, the jewelry, the lives that were pretty ordinary at the end of the day, except for that whole crown business, and maybe some Nazi collaboration on the side. Near the end of the book, the author says this about the one-time royal heart throb, the golden prince of his day, the one about whom everyone knew these lyrics were written: I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales.
Gardening, gossip, golf, and pleasing his wife were the mainstays of his life. . . . If something was to be done about the world, it was not going to be by him, especially if it endangered his tax status. Money was his mantra and his motivation, his meanness legendary.
Yep, it all came down to this sad little picture:

I like my Schadenfreude in big healthy dollops, and this book didn't exactly give it to me.
The bulk of it covers what to do about the legendary Windsor files that the Nazis kept about the Duke and Duchess. What was covered up? Who covered it up? Why? Interesting at first when connections between what was in the files matched up to what was going on in the life of the Duke and Duchess. Somewhere mid-book, it became all about the political machinations around the files. George VI did this; the Nazis did that; Churchill did thus; Roosevelt and Eisenhower did something else; and, oh my god, a mind-numbing number of bit players did a whole lot more. There was a cover up in high places, and maybe it was because everybody loved and respected the Queen Mum.  At some point, I ceased to care.

Trust me, there are better books on the Windsors flirtation with Nazi party politics. For those looking for the Wallis and Edward version of Diana: Her True Story, this ain't it.

The Vegetarian: A Novel -  Han Kang

Synopsis:  A beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul

Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It’s a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home.

My take: As I was reading, I kept thinking this novel might be called Obsession: The Body. Obsession with what we put in our bodies. What we put on them. What we do with them. What others do to them. How we see them.  How we make art and life with them. It's verbally tactile.

Yes, it is darkly allegorical. Yes, it's how we try to break free and how we submit. Someone said it's not much of a story, and if you're looking for a series of event, this isn't it. It's a book to make you think about the choices you make.