Julie W. Capell

Valparaiso, Chile
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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-09-18

Like hearing a movie in your mind

Daniel José Older has done a terrific job of capturing the essence of what makes Star Wars endure: great characters, evil bad guys, perilous adventures, and funny banter. This book was a hoot, particularly the audio version. The addition of John Williams' music, the sounds of blasters shooting and droids bleeping, made this feel like watching a movie in my mind. Add to all that the amazing voice performance of Marc Thompson, and I thought I was hearing Billy Dee Williams and Harrison Ford, backed up by a cast of dozens. One of the best narrations I have ever heard. [note: For some reason, Daniel José Older narrates some of the chapters. His narration is pretty amateur, but his excitement is evident and carries him through. January LaVoy also narrates a few chapters and does an outstanding job as L3]. Even if you don't usually pick up franchise novels, I would highly recommend this one if you are looking for some fun and adventure in your life.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

The lives of women with an international twist

Not normally the sort of book I read but I picked it up on World Literature Day because it was written by a Chilean and focused on the lives of women, two topics that are intensely interesting to me. There is a chapter for each woman in the title, all of them survivors in one way or another. Their stories, while very personal, also contain much that any woman will recognize. They struggle to decide what to wear in the morning, how to raise their children, how to escape from bad relationships and how to accept love. Anyone who knows Chile will immediately relate to the sections dealing with particularly Chilean situations (the "disappeared") and landscapes. Anyone unfamiliar with Chile will learn a little about this far-away country, its classism, its extreme deserts, the way its political past still haunts many. The women of this book, with their darkness and chaos, overwhelmed me and filled me with wonder, much as Chile has permeated my being ever since I first arrived in 1984. Or like the sea in this wonderful passage from the book, as translated by Beth Fowler:

"I came to Chile to see whether I could tolerate it. The house on the beach at Isla Negra that Natasha's psychiatrist friend rented was an important factor in my decision to stay. Isla Negra as it was back then, before it became a Neruda fetish with tourists and buses and prints, was a solitary place. It received a very specific kind of visitor, the kind of people who found it a pleasure to wind up in the snack bar where we ate fried fish. We used to spend the weekends there and since we arrived in winter, my encounter with the Chilean sea was powerful. That sea at Isla Negra, its darkness, its chaos, its inaccessibility, penetrated my heart with an unexpected force, as did the pine forests and the immense rocks."

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-24-18

Incredible tale of survival

Really drove home the difficulties of life in North Korea for the average person. The unmitigated pain, hunger and suffering of the author and his family were so terrible I thought over and over again, how could they have survived? I have read other similar books about North Korea but the sheer poverty is still shocking. This was one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but I am glad I read it, if only to remind myself--again--of the absolute folly of trying to negotiate with the current leadership there. It is sickening to think how the entire world has abandoned millions of people to live in the worst conditions imaginable for so many decades.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-20-18

Terrific narration of a fantastic tale

There's a reason this is a classic. The reader is immediately immersed in the scientific mind of the main character, who describes with wonderful detail his party's preparation for an Antarctic expedition. One senses the excitement of men traveling to the last unexplored place on Earth and cannot help but be caught up in their anticipation and slight unease. What will we find? Will we become famous? Will we survive the ice and wind? Of course, these natural enemies become secondary to the main event, something sinister lurking under the frozen wastes . . . cue the menacing music!

Having read other books by real explorers of the same time period, I was struck at the accuracy of Lovecraft's descriptions of the expedition, the scientists' zeal for discovery and their hypotheses regarding the anomalous things they found.

If you like books like "The Lost City of Z" and "Turn Right at Machu Picchu" you should definitely read this gem.

[I listened to this as an audiobook read by the late, great Edward Herrmann. Simply amazing, highly recommended.]

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-16-18

Great, short, upbeat

I really enjoyed this short, upbeat book on how to keep going on your author journey even when the going gets tough. Great audiobook, loved the reader.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-16-18

if Michio Kaku rewrote North by Northwest

I've always thought Cary Grant's everyman caught up in a case of mistaken identity, chased by bad guys and afraid he might never get his "normal" life back again, is one of the great stories of our time.

Here, the everyman is a physicist rather than a Madison Avenue adman and instead of being chased across the plains of the Middle West, our hero is being chased across the multiverse. Add in a very compelling love story and thrill-a-minute storytelling and you have a highly enjoyable book. I think it would make a great movie!

If you liked this book, you should definitely check out the similar but much funnier "Where the Hell is Tesla?" by Rob Dirks.

[I listened to this as an audiobook performed by Jon Lindstrom. Very good job, except that he made the Chicagoans in the story sound like they were from the Bronx.]

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2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-09-18

Consider reading something else

This book has been on my "to-read" list for a very long time, mostly because it appears on lots of lists of the best scifi. I was definitely underwhelmed. It had neither of the hallmarks of what I look for in a good scifi novel, namely Big Ideas and great worldbuilding. In 1987, when the book was published, I guess it was okay to focus on action alone but now readers demand a bit more, even from their space opera. Thank goodness for the dash of humor provided by the drone Unaha-Closp.

I listened to this as an audio book performed by Peter Kenny. The narration was well-done, with Kenny giving distinct voices and accents to help distinguish the many characters. But the many strange names were difficult to understand and I kind of wish I'd read the book rather than listened.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-15-18

As good as "Handmaid's Tale"

Haven't read a post-apocalyptic novel this good since "A Handmaid's Tale." The story does not dwell on all the minute details of how exactly one would manage to find enough food, fuel, etc to continue living once 99% of the human race died, but rather focuses on one woman's quest to remain true to her own ideals, to her sense of self, and remain free.

The protagonist travels a great swath of the American West without seeming to have a destination in mind, other than to find a place where she will not be forced to submit to abusive authority--masculine or feminine. She uses her unique talents as a midwife to heal and protect other women she encounters on her journey. She meets other people who have wildly different priorities and belief systems than hers; their points of view providing alternative visions of how the post-apocalyptic world might evolve socially and culturally.

Large chunks of the novel are told from the midwife's point-of-view, as excerpts from her journal.
But at times the author moves into god mode, telling the reader what is happening in the wider world. In one particularly affecting passage, the fates of Americans who were abroad when the plague hit is hinted at. From Peace Corps kids in Africa to military units posted in Afghanistan to tourists in the Caribbean, the vision of people who survived only to realize they would never be able to get home again is described in spare, haunting prose.

Not an easy read, but satisfying as only the best, most honest fiction can be, when it challenges the reader to think about what makes us human, what matters most in life, and what it means to never give up hope.

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3 of 6 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-04-18

Stross' dry humor nowhere to be seen

Got about 2/3 done but could not finish this. Boring worldbuilding, blah protagonist, predictable plot, cardboard characters, terrible dialog. On top of all that, the audiobook reader, Kate Reading, sounded about as exciting as a robot. Only reason I got as far as I did is that I have enjoyed other books by Charles Stross, but his usual dry sense of humor was nowhere to be found here. I finally realized I didn't care what happened to any of the characters, and downloaded my next read.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-01-18

A must-read for anyone interested in South America

If you could sum up The Lost City of Z in three words, what would they be?

Clash of cultures

What other book might you compare The Lost City of Z to and why?

If you liked this, you should also read "Turn Right at Machu Picchu" and "Road Fever." The former is very similar to "The Lost City of Z" in that it tells the tale of a present-day journalist trying to follow in the footsteps of a Western explorer (read: white male) of the early part of the 1900s, but in Peru instead of Brazil. The second book is a really funny and incredibly well-written first person account of some US adventurers (also white males) who, in the 1980s, drove from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay in just 23 days.

Which scene was your favorite?

So many memorable moments involving horrible maggot infestations, ticks, starvation, etc but can't really call those "favorites." I really loved the final chapter.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It was hard to put down, I managed to finish it in just a couple of days.

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2 of 4 people found this review helpful