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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Among Others by Jo Walton

Hugo-award winning, Among Others, will have you believing in magic and in the power of books, libraries, and friendship.

Mor, who loves science fiction, is sent to England where she will meet the father that abandoned her years before. He and his sisters have decided to send her to a posh boarding school, a situation Mor dreads. Morwenna is used to living in Wales with her Grampar, her twin sister, and the beings she calls fairies that inhabit desolate spaces like empty mines and  abandoned factories. 

While at school she is lonely she creates a karass, a term Walton borrows from Kurt Vonnegut. According to Mor, magic is a bit different from how its represented in stories but the karass seems to work. Using two apples she works a magic spell that helps her find a like-minded group to which she can belong.

At a library, Mor joins a science fiction club and meets Wim who changes her life. Meeting Wim makes her stronger. Though her leg is not healed, she is able to confront her mother and deal with the loss of her twin sister.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Learning by Luis Borges

Learning
After some time, you learn the subtle difference between
holding a hand
and imprisoning a soul;
You learn that love does not equal sex,
and that company does not equal security,
and you start to learn….
That kisses are not contracts and gifts are not promises,
 and you start to accept defeat with the head up high
and open eyes,
and you learn to build all roads on today,
because the terrain of tomorrow is too insecure for plans…
and the future has its own way of falling apart in half.
And you learn that if it’s too much
even the warmth of the sun can burn.
So you plant your own garden and embellish your own soul,
instead of waiting for someone to bring flowers to you.
And you learn that you can actually bear hardship,
that you are actually strong,
and you are actually worthy,
and you learn and learn…and so every day.
Over time you learn that being with someone
because they offer you a good future,
means that sooner or later you’ll want to return to your past.
Over time you comprehend that only who is capable
of loving you with your flaws, with no intention of changing you
can bring you all happiness.
Over time you learn that if you are with a person
only to accompany your own solitude,
irremediably you’ll end up wishing not to see them again.
Over time you learn that real friends are few
and who does not fight for them, sooner or later,
will find himself surrounded only with false friendships.
Over time you learn that words spoken in moments of anger
continue hurting throughout a lifetime.
Over time you learn that anyone can apologize,
but forgiveness is an attribute solely of great souls.
Over time you comprehend that if you have hurt a friend harshly
it is very likely that your friendship will never be the same.
Over time you realize that despite being happy with your friends,
you cry for those you let go.
Over time you realize that every experience lived,
with each person, is unrepeatable.
Over time you realize that whoever humiliates
or scorns another human being, sooner or later
will suffer the same humiliations or scorn in tenfold.
Over time you learn to build your roads on today,
because the path of tomorrow doesn’t exist.
Over time you comprehend that rushing things or forcing them to happen
causes the finale to be different form expected.
Over time you realize that in fact the best was not the future,
but the moment you were living just that instant.
Over time you will see that even when you are happy with those around you,
you’ll yearn for those who walked away.
Over time you will learn to forgive or ask for forgiveness,
say you love, say you miss, say you need,
say you want to be friends, since before
a grave, it will no longer make sense.
But unfortunately, only over time…”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wreckers

Wreckers is a strangely unsatisfying movie. A young married couple, who are in the midst of repairing a dilapidated house, 
begin experiencing problems after the arrival of the husband's brother.

The past encroaches upon their happy world, leaving Dawn to realize she doesn't know her husband at all.  But if David (Benedict Cumberbatch) is dishonest with his wife, so is Dawn. The wife(Claire Foy) is unfaithful to David with a man who, like everyone else, is not what he seems.

Wreckers is an intriguing but somewhat flawed film. The movie ends but conflicts are not resolved, just avoided. David refuses to asks about the paternity of the child his wife bears. He hints, though, that he suspects something.

The conflict between the two brothers isn't resolved either. Nick goes AWOL. David finally admits that there is something wrong psychologically with Nick but the he two brothers never reconcile.

We're given a semi-happy ending; David and Dawn are together sans Nick with a new baby, but it feels like a shortcut.

Performances by the actors are superb and the film is beautifully shot. The screenplay itself, however, is not fully realized.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Husband's Secret

Hamlet. Frankenstein. Moby Dick. These are all classic revenge stories that end in tragedy. Where do we look for a contemporary twist on the revenge tale? For starters, there's Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret. 

In her novel, revenge is like a snake hidden in a beautiful garden. Underneath the novel's frothy, humorous exterior are terrible secrets waiting to be unearthed.

We see the world through the eyes of three women--Tess, Cecilia, and Rachel. Tess an advertising account executive hides her 
secret--social anxiety--fairly well. She has even fooled herself. Her witty but fat cousin, Felicity, helps her with  any and all insecurities until --oops-- she wants what belongs exclusively to Tess.

Cecilia is a Tupperware queen who practically runs the Catholic school her children attend. She is the envied, perfectly-organized Mom until she finds a letter that unhinges her well-ordered life. The letter to be opened, it says, upon her husband's death, reveals a terrible secret that will shatter the lives of the three women.

The shattered rose on the cover is a fitting image.

Rachel who dislikes her daughter-in-law is probably the character who suffers most in the novel. In one terrible moment, Rachel seeks vengeance upon the man whom she believes has murdered her daughter. Tragedy ensues yet truth--the secret and its repercussions--is finally revealed.

Complicated, yet entertaining, funny and thrilling, The Husband's Secret will delight all kinds of readers. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

G.K. Chesterton


"Fairy tales are true, not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." 

G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Litany by Billy Collins


One of the best poems ever...by one of the best poets
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

If you haven't had a chance to read Yellow Birds yet, this is one to put on the top of your reading list. The story features two raw recruits--Murph and Bart who her deployed to Al Tafar, Iraq.


Both are from the "sticks," as they call it, and both are searching for meaning and adventure, wrongly thinking they can find that by enlisting.

They fall under the spell of Sargent Sterling, a hero of the first Gulf War. Sterling is a warrior so perfect that commanders want to put him on recruitment posters.  Bart soon discovers Sterling's darker side.

Bart's world start crashing the minute he promises Murph's mother he will look after Murph who is only 18. Sterling immediately tells him the bitter truth: "People are going to die...It's statistics."

Throughout the novel, individuals do not want to be responsible for anyone else. Even though Sterling says these are "his" men--he trains and prepares them for battle--he does not want to be responsible for their psychological state.

After Murph goes AWOL, Sterling and Bart take matters in their own hands. Both become entangled by a futile and morally dubious attempt to "fix" the situation.

The Yellow Birds will soon be a movie.