Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 Shortlisted: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

We Need New Names by NoViolet BulawayoRating 3
We Need New Names
A Novel by NoViolet Bulawayo
Narrated by Robin Miles

2013 /9 hours 4 minutes (Audio)

I listened to NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names on audio.  Overall I enjoyed this book.  I would call it a light-hearted pallet cleanser more than a major literary fiction award winner.  The narration was difficult at first but after listening to Robin Miles accent, I became accustomed to it and enjoyed her reading of the book. 

The bad thing about listening to an audio book is that one can not take notes and underline passages that stick out.  I finished it almost a month ago and I am just now getting around to writing the review.  My problem with writing the review is that I just can't really think of much to write about.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Welcome to the Updated Reader, Rider and Rooster Blog

I like big blogs I cannot lie!

Thanks for joining me on my updated reading blog. A Reader, a Rider and a Rooster is an all encompassing blog where one can find links to my literary adventures as well as my cycling ones.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 Shortlisted: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland
Rating 3.5
The Lowland
A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri

2013 /320 pages (ebook)
Synopsis from Goodreads

I really wanted to like The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.  I have had her novel The Namesake in my to read list for some time.  Interpreter of Maladies won the 2000 Pulitzer.  I was very much looking forward to reading this novel when it made the Man Booker long and short lists.

The book is about two brothers born 15 months apart in Calcutta India.  Physically they share many traits. Inwardly they are very different.  Subhash is the dutiful older brother who would never color outside of the lines.  Udayan is the defiant younger brother who knows no lines.  This is a sweeping story of their lives and the lives that they touch throughout their lives.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 Booker Longlisted: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries by Eleanor CattonRating 5
The Luminaries
A Novel by Eleanor Catton

2013 /756 pages (ebook)
Synopsis from Goodreads

Reading the synopses of each of the 2013 Booker Long Listed novels made it very difficult to choose which book to read first.  At first glance each book appeared to have a very good opportunity to not only make it to the short list but also win out right.  Slowly picking through the list using various means of choice including random number generator I finally picked up The Luminaries.  I am very glad I did.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2013 Booker Longlisted: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being
Rating 4.5
A Tale for the Time Being
A Novel by Ruth Ozeki
Narrated by Ruth Ozeki
2013 /Audio 14 hrs and 45 min

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is a very intricate and layered story.  I listened to the audio version read by the author.

At first glance this is a coming of age story as told through a diary of a 16 year old Japanese girl, Nao (pronounced Now).  The diary is being read by a middle aged female writer from Canada, Ruth, after she found the diary washed up on the shore presumably from the Tsunami several years earlier.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

2013 Booker Longlisted: Harvest by Jim Crace

Rating: 3
A Novel by Jim Crace
2013 / 224 pages

Jim Crace’s Harvest has the best odds of winning the 2013 Man Booker according to The Daily Beast, the online home of Newsweek Magazine.  Thus, I chose Harvest as my third long listed book to read.  The book is a first person narrative from the point of view of the widower and former man servant, Walter Thrask.  Walter is a villager who tells the story of all things that have gone wrong in his village the week after the year’s harvest.  The time and location of the book are unknown, but I figure it takes place in the English countryside sometime in the 1800s.  The writing itself is in a nice descriptive tone.  The plot is intriguing.  The way Crace brings it all together will bore you to tears!  Make sure you have a bottle of 5 hour energy handy for this snooze fest.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

2013 Long Listed: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Rating: 3
A Novel by Colum McCann
Audiobook Narrated by Geraldine Hughes
2013 / 10 hours 46 minutes
Goodreads Synopsis

If I had to describe Colum McCann's TransAtlantic in one word, I would call it melancholy.  If I was not involved in the Man Booker shadow project, BookerMarks, I would leave my review at melancholy, lament over the fact that the book just did not speak to me as his award winning Let the Great World Spin did and pick up another book to read.  Alas, I am participating in BookerMarks so a review I must do!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 Booker Long Listed: The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

The Testament of MaryRating: 2
The Testament of Mary
A Novel by Colm Toibin
2012 / 96 Pages (56 in PDF format)

In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgment of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes, in Toibin’s searing evocation, a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. This tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Man Booker Project 2013 Long List Projections

Once again, I will be participating in the BookerMarks Man Booker project.  For details check out the details on the BookerMarks blog page or Facebook page.

I would like to take a stab again to guess a few titles that might make the long list.  A compilation of 2013 eligible titles can be found on Goodreads.

Life After Life
 First on my list of hopefuls for the longlist would be Kate Atkinson's Life After Life.  Life After Life has already been short listed for the 2013 Women's Prize and lost to AM Homes' May We Be Forgiven. 
The main reason I would like to have it appear on the long list is that I have already finished 25% of it.  Shallow reason, I know, but my reasoning none the less.  So far it is an intriguing read in which 4 of my Goodreads friends have read and rated 4 stars or better.   It is also "leading" the voting on the  Goodreads Man Booker 2013 Eligible list.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

The Invisible BridgeRating 3.5
The Invisible Bridge
A Novel by Julie Orringer

Audiobook narrarated by
Edoardo Ballerini
2012/ 12 hours 53 min

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer was recommended to me by two friends back in 2011.  It has remained on my to-read shelf since then.  As I was going to be vacationing with them during Spring Break 2013, I decided to put it on the top of my to-listen shelf.

The book is about a Hungarian Jew and his family during the few years leading up to and through World War II.  The first half of the book is a coming of age romance that almost drove me crazy.  The head over heels, puppy love feeling of the first half of this book reminded me of the immature "romance" of the book Twilight. BLECH!  If I had not respected the opinions of my friends and others, I would have not stuck with the book.  (I will admit that I went back to the Goodreads site to check on something and noticed that several of my other friends had really loved this book).  So, despite the fact that the first half of the book is saturated with romance, I kept on listening.

Leaving out the romance, the first half of the book sets the stage for a very good; albeit, shocking story.  The author does a good job in the character building of the protagonist, Andras Levi, and his family and friends.  Even though the other characters are secondary to Andras' story, the reader is able to remember and recall each of the others and their own character traits.  The supporting cast was well drawn and as the story progressed it was amazing to see how the early character development blossomed into the story at a later time.

The second half of the book is almost all about the role the Hungarian Jews played in World War II through the life of Andras.  Gone from this portion of the book was the love-sick teenaged angst type romance so prevalent in the first half of the book.  The author wrote an amazing story showcasing the awful role of the Hungarians in World War II.  I found this portion of the book much more better written and I found that I did not mind continuing to listen to it.  At one point, I was even taking my i-pod to the gym and carrying it around with me while cleaning to listen to the ending.  The story was very well crafted and as I said before, the character building done in the first half of the book makes the second half much more enjoyable despite the dispicable and inhumane things going on during World War II.

Interestingly, I finished the novel HHhH by Laurent Binet recently.  It was about an SS officer in the Nazi party during World War II.  It was fascinating to hear the same facts about the war in both books.

The best part of the book was the ending.  So often it seems as if the author is tired of writing and just throws together something that will satisfy his publisher leaving the reader astonished as such a poor ending for such an otherwise good book.  Julie Orringer should be commended for a very well written ending.  It is obvious that she took her time and ensured that every piece was in its place before added the final period.  The ending was not nice and pretty tied up with a pink ribbon either, but well crafted and thought out.  I don't know how much of the story was based on actual people and history and how much of it was fiction, but the line between the two is so faint that I could not tell.

I enjoyed The Invisible Bridge and am glad I read it; however, I was never blown away nor connected with the characters in the way others have seemed to.  There were many times, especially in the first half of the book that I wanted to stop listening.  I wish it had been edited a bit better to remove some of the less important aspects so the book would not have bogged down in parts.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
Rating 5
Beautiful Ruins
A Novel by Jess Walter
2013 Tournament of Books

Audiobook narrarated by
Edoardo Ballerini
2012/ 12 hours 53 min
Goodreads Synopsis

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is a surprise. I love the beautiful cover and will not forget seeing it for the first time at Square Books in Oxford, MS during Booktopia. I figured I would eventually read the book and assumed it was a book about living on the coast of Italy. When it was announced that the book was chosen for the Tournament of Books, I knew I would definitely read it - no question about it. As I was trying to read all of the ToB books, I decided to listen to this one on audio.  Thus, I never read the synopsis on the jacket cover nor on Goodreads. I went into the book blind.  I had no idea how complex and wonderful this book would be. It is about living on the coast of Italy but it is so much more!

The book is so good and so brilliantly crafted, that I don't want to give anything away.  I don't want to say too much here, yet at the same time, I want to share the wonderful layers this book has to offer.  

The book takes place over several different time periods.  Primarily in 1962 and in the present, but it dips into the 1940s toward the end of WWII and it dabbles in the years between 1962 and the present.  The book has multiple narrators.  Each person telling his or her own story from their own point of view.  Making the book wonderfully complex, the nararators jump around in time and perspective, so one character recalling the past in our current day may foreshadow another characters significant event happening in the present of their time period.  These glimpses and questions as to what happened are part of the beauty of this book.  

Not only does Jess Walter tell the story through several different narrarators, he also tells the story through different mediums - a chapter of a book and a play.  The chapter of a book was the "chapter" that almost lost me.  I am so glad I stuck with that chapter as it eventually ties in with the rest of the book beautifully.

Some may think the ending is a little tidy, but I loved the ending.  I was impressed how well Walter was able to make me feel sentimental to even some of the bit characters with only a small part in the book.

I will want to sit down and talk with someone about the title soon.  The book could have had so many different titles.  Beautiful Ruins could mean so many different things and fit in this book so many different ways.

The Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is an absolutely marvelous book. I probably should only give it 4.75 stars as there were two chapters that almost bored me, but by the time the story wrapped up, I was so totally enthralled, the book had to get 5 stars. 

As far as the Tournament of Books is concerned.  I would not have a problem at all seeing this one win.  However, I still love Orphan Masters Son and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.  It will be interesting to see who this one will go up against in the first round.