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Diane

Louisville, KY, United States
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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-18-18

Horse Magic

There is something about horses that continues to draw us in even though they are now unnecessary to our day-to-day lives. For anyone involved with them, whether as owner, rider/jockey, trainer, breeder or farm owner, they are expensive, hard work and can break your heart. Yet we still do it. And then there is the special horse who has both the mind and athletic ability to shine in his/her given discipline--one that takes our breath away and leaves us with a sense of awe.

Abano has been touched by this sense of awe and does his best to communicate it, but overall the book is pretty dry and goes off on several tangents that are likely of little interest to most readers. It doesn't help that the narration is less than inspired. Still, if want to know more about a remarkable horse and his journey to the Triple Crown, it is worth a read.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-18-18

The Feminine Condition

There are so many portents in this book that ring even more true today than they did when the book was first published--the destabilizing impact on society of environmental degradation, the potential for religion to be distorted into an instrument of oppression, the unsettling effect on many men when women have equal freedom and authority-- but the main focus, of course, is on the fragility of the status of women in times of social stress. Whether it is their monopoly on child-bearing, their seemingly irresistible sexual attraction to heterosexual men, the niggling suspicion that men are only minimally necessary to the perpetuation of the species, or a combination of all of these, control of women and a curtailing of their freedom and independence has been, and continues to be, a hallmark of societies under stress.

I will not go into details about the plight of women--and many men--in the society described in The Handmaid'sTale except to say that where the ability to bear children becomes a scarce resource, efforts to control that resource, i.e., women, can be expected to go off the charts with a consequent dehumanization of all women, and often of men as well. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the book is the afterward, an academic conference set a few centuries after the events of the book, where the speakers analyze Offred's journal with a smug detachment, confident that such an episode could never happen again. Yet, if history teaches us anything it is that the treatment of women as equal and independent human beings is the most rare of phenomena in human history. To assume otherwise is a very dangerous idea indeed.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-25-18

The Vortex

This is a complicated book and my feelings about it are complicated as well. Images such as a black hole or deadly whirlpool come to mind, both of which would be equally apt in describing the main male character, Estaban Truebas, and the tragic political turmoil of the book.

Estaban is arrogant and ruthless, perhaps hardened by the loss of his first love, and leaves a swath of destruction among the women and men around him throughout the book. Yet he is not totally evil and we can sometimes glimpse his underlying humanity. While Estaban is the dark center of the novel, the story is really of that of the women in his life and how they manage to survive, and occasionally even thrive, while living in the shadow of this darkly powerful man and the male dominated culture which gave rise to him.

The first 2/3 of the book has the tone of a somewhat tempestuous family saga and, as such, leaves one somewhat unprepared for the punch in the gut of the last 1/3--even though the foundations for those horrific events have been laid throughout the book. It is a cautionary tale for those who, in an attempting to preserve their own privilege and power, end up unleashing the darkest of forces, far beyond their control and wreaking havoc on those very things they thought they were protecting.

I found the narration passable but the translation grated at times, for example referring to those with Downs syndrome as mongoloids.This book is NOT whimsical as some have described it, although it does have its lighter moments.Rather, it is a tribute to those who would carry a candle through the darkness of a storm with the conviction that the sun will once again rise on a new day.

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2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-23-18

Heart of Darkness

I think Lauren Groff needs to move back to upstate New York. Like her, I grew up in upstate NY and, while I haven't re-located to Florida, over the past years I have spent quite a bit of time in rural north central Florida, so I greatly looked forward to this book in hopes it would re-create some of the magic of her earlier work about NY, but this time about the Florida that I have grown to love, a Florida unknown to tourists. I so enjoyed her "Monsters of Templeton," situated in central upstate NY, which definitely had its dark episodes but was replete with a lyrical love for the area and its history, and I had anticipated an equally masterful treatment of hidden Florida.

This book, however, is unrelentingly and oppressively dark with little sense of of place. In fact, the title "Florida" is a misnomer; much of the book is placed outside of Florida with only the most tenuous connection to the state and whatever connection exists is not a happy one. I confess that I did not realize that this was a collection of short stories until about a third of the way through the book. I had thought it was another novel, so naturally I was pretty confused by the absence of continuity which did not set me off on the right foot. I am not especially a fan of short stories but the best collections offer a variety of mood and tone- definitely not a characteristic of this work.

Ms Groff is a beautiful writer but her talents are poorly employed here and like so many authors she would have been better leaving narration in the hands of the professionals.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-13-18

Hitchcock Updated

This is an entertaining psychological thriller with many references to classic film noir--both overtly and embedded within the story line. For fans of the genre it is sure to be a winner with many twists and head games to keep the reader guessing. Some of the twists seemed a bit over the top and I confess to having been frustrated at times with the obtuseness of the protagonist, but I still enjoyed the listen-held my interest until the end. A good beach book.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-25-18

Multifarious Multidimensional Monsters

Having grown up not too far away from the Templeton of this novel (aka Cooperstown), I loved the setting and how Groff interweaves real history and legends with the fictions of her novel. It helps if you have read James Fenimore Cooper-or at least watched the movies-as his characters become real-life historical figures in this novel.

The monster of Glimmerglass Lake is a real legend but perhaps not nearly so monstrous as might be imagined. And there are other monsters as well-those of the human variety- but they are each complex in their own way. I agree with those who characterize this book as American magical realism.

The PDF which accompanies the book is really quite good but don't look at it until you have finished since it will give away the ending. In the meantime, don't get too caught up with the various lineages and just enjoy this quirky, sometimes mystical tale of a young woman trying to figure out who she is and what her connection is to the land that brought her forth.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-24-18

Family Friction

Very well-executed psychological thriller revolving around the growing tension between the 2 main female characters. If you're paying attention you'll have your suspicions but the ending still comes as a bit of a shock. Not a good model for healthy mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relations LOL

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-24-18

Children for Sale

The true story of Georgia Tann is a ghastly, if complex, one that continues to shape the world of adoptions, for better or worse, to this very day.This book does well in making that story more widely known. I just wish that this novel did a better job of reflecting the complexity of its subject. The characters are all pretty two-dimensional and the plot is more than a bit predictable with only one slim twist that would is easy to figure out if you thought about it for a minute. If you like books where the story line is straightforward and where you won't have any trouble telling the good guys from the bad, this is a good one for you.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-12-17

Echo Chamber

Having grown up in upstate New York, I can personally attest to the weirdness that permeates much of its history and still lingers there to this day--something that I realize afresh every time I visit. I don't know the author's personal background, but I suspect it is similar to mine since the premise of this book links a very dark episode in the history of an isolated small upstate town to the oddness of its current inhabitants. (Having also lived in NYC for a number of years, I did have to chuckle at his implication that NYC is the place in NY where the "normal" people live.)

It is a good effort even though a bit contrived--at times seeming to be an awkward combination of the styles of Michael Connelly and Joyce Carol Oates. Hope he will continue to explore topics along the same lines and further develop the psychological and historical aspects. Personally, I would also like it if he did not shy away from specifics in locating his fictional town--there is much real history in upstate NY that would only add to the atmosphere of his story.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-12-17

Mixed Feelings

I wish I had known before listening that this novel was inspired by true events--something the author makes clear in her afterward. It would have made listening to long stretches where not too much happens more intriguing--as Atwood tries to imagine what might have gone into the making of the horrific double murder with which Grace is charged and of which she claimed to have no recollection.

Grace appears to be a very prim woman, seemingly incapable of participating in such an atrocity--so much so that a variety of evangelists and spiritualists lobby tirelessly for her pardon. The novel revolves around the efforts of a young doctor seeking to make a name for himself in the newly developing field of psychology to get to the bottom of her story.

As I mentioned, the book is slow at times but does have its moments of high tension--I confess that it is one of those that I like better in retrospect than when I was actually listening to it.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful