Loves books and cats

Best things in life: books, beaches, cats, chocolate, sunsets, sleep

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki

Cue the Halleluia chorus, I have finally finished this book.  I had to abandon the audiobook and read it on my ereader.  I just didn't like it though maybe I would have liked it better if it was about half the length.  There was just so much meandering philosophical stuff, especially at the end that ultimately bored me.  If a novel is short listed for the Man Booker, it is the kiss of death for me and my apparently plebian tastes. I would say more but I don't feel well enough today to sit and type much.  This novel has some pretty rave reviews so I'm sure it is worth checking out, I just wasn't my thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke

I never knew this novel was written more or less in tandem with the movie screenplay.  My edition has an forward by Arthur C. Clarke in which he describes how he and Stanley Kubrick took an idea from one of Clarke's stories and expanded it (quite a bit) and decided to write a screenplay.  But they decided they needed a novel first to "let their imaginations soar" from which they would later derive the script.  So Clarke wrote the novel, though at the end the novel and screenplay were being written simultaneously.  Then Clarke was trying to finish the book while the moving was being shot.  And he wouldn't publish the book until the movie was already out.  So you would think they would be basically identical, but they aren't. 


I haven't seen the movie in quite a long time, but I remember being very confused about the ape-man creatures at the beginning and not knowing what the hell is going on.  Then you switch to the future and the space travel to Jupiter is commencing.  Now having read the novel, I know what is going on the ape-men because it describes this in excruciating detail.  We're talking 6 chapters.  I need to watch the movie again, but all I'll say about the novel is that I didn't really enjoy it that much.  I remember Hal (the computer) being such an enormous part of the movie, and he is important in the book but not as important as I would have thought.  Of course the actions he takes when he feels threatened are similar, but I guess the computer's overall importance to the story is not what I thought it would be.  That doesn't make the book bad in any way.  I just wasn't as interested in the story line as I had hoped.  It does explain lots that is confusing in the movie, so that's one good reason to read the novel.  The ending of the movie is very weird and is explained in much more detail in the novel, but it is still weird and not necessarily satisfactory if you are looking for answers.  I won't spoil it, but let's just say that I was hoping for more answers and it still leaves lots of room for discussion.

"Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased.... The text was updated automatically every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the everchanging flow of information from the news satellites....
There was another thought which a scanning of those tiny electronic headlines often invoked. The more wonderful the means of communication, the more trivial, tawdry, or depressing its contents seemed to be. Accidents, crimes, natural and man-made disasters, threats of conflict, gloomy editorials - these still seemed to be the main concern of the millions of words being sprayed into the ether."

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Reading progress update: I've listend 609 out of 883 minutes.

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki

I went on vacation last week and thought I'd finish this book.  I didn't listen to it at all.  It's become the longest book ever for me.

What I Didn't Say - Keary Taylor

I understand why I got this as a freebie ebook on Amazon.  It was very, very mediocre.  Not bad but the editing wasn't great and it wasn't even self-published.  A very typical YA romance really.  Not bad at all but I am truly glad I didn't pay anything for it.  I kind of swore off YA books for a while, but now I've read 2 this month.  I had to read one to finish a trilogy and this one I read for something quick while I was on vacation.  I think I'll go on another YA fast.  I need to admit that I am not in the YA age group, and therefore, these novels don't truly do much for me.

On Kingdom Mountain: A Novel - Howard Frank Mosher

Slow moving but enjoyable until the end.  Both of the last two books I've read had rushed endings that seemed as if the authors just didn't really know how to wind up the story in a satisfactory way, so they just rushed to an ending that pretty much sucks.  I don't need happy endings, but it needs to work with the body of the book.  As slow as this novel moved, the end was the equivalent of the last lap of the Indy 500 at the end of someone's hour long commute to work.  For that I give this book only 3 stars.

Reading progress update: I've listend 415 out of 883 minutes.

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki

I'm enjoying this very much, but it kind of drags periodically.  Unlike other reviews I've read I think it drags during Nao's part of the story instead of Ruth's.  I desperately want to know what happened to Nao, her father, and her great grandmother, but this is an audiobook and I only have limited times of the day to listen.

A book vending machine in Orange, CA near the train station.  How cool is that!!!!

Allegiant  - Veronica Roth

Liked: lots of action that kept me interested and wanting to read to the end.


Hated: crappy story-line that does not make sense and way too many characters who behave completely out of character.


On the whole a 2 1/2 stars book: If I am honest, I liked it okay for about 2/3 of the book then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are too many parts of the story that  don’t make sense.  And the character issues and the rushed ending just killed it for me.  See below for a more thorough analysis with a few spoilers.



The ending….yes, the ending that so many readers have hated.  Count me in and not just because it was sad.  Well, to be truly honest it isn’t just the ending that I hated.  I would love to criticize several things, but I will restrict myself to two issues: Tobias and Tris.


I hated Tobias whom I had loved as a character in both previous books. Tobias became such a wimp and I never would have thought he could be described that way.  Tobias a wimp???  Never!  But that’s exactly what he became.  He is suddenly so emotionally weak that he can’t make good decisions.  So he helps with an ill-conceived plan that gets Uriah and others hurt.  He’s basically a hand-wringing mess over how he feels about his parents.  And Tobias at the end, well I don’t think Tris would be all that impressed with how he turns out.  He works as a government assistant.  Really, an office job, are you kidding?  We are supposed to believe that his Abnegation background has come to the forefront and he’s going to be the selfless public servant that he was raised to be and not the soldier of fortune that he chose as a Dauntless.  I know the factions are gone, but he chose Dauntless because it fit his personality.  It wasn’t just an in-your-face kind of thing to his father.  I think he and Tris would have both chosen more action-oriented ways to help people, not some office job.


Then there is the memory serum issue in relation to Tris.  The Bureau plans to use it to wipe out the memories of everyone in Chicago so that they won’t go to war and kill a bunch of divergent people.  But Tris has a huge moral issue with that since it will wipe out the memories that really give everyone’s lives meaning.  But she happily goes along with a plan to use the memory serum to wipe out the memories of everyone in the Bureau compound (except her few friends) to prevent that from happening.  No moral qualms here because the ends (her friends in Chicago keep their memories) justifies the means (the memories of those in the Bureau who gave Jeanine the serum which resulted in her parents deaths are wiped out).  This moral dilemma is ignored completely as Tris and the others don’t seem to see that they are no different than those in the Bureau.  Tris and her group only care about their loved ones and the leaders of the Bureau only care about their gene purity project.  Each group will do whatever it takes to protect their interests.


And then of course, Tris dies to save the day.  Only she doesn’t save the day.  Tobias gives his mother the ultimatum to negotiate a peace treaty with Marcus and the Allegiant or lose Tobias forever, and this ultimatum stops the deaths in Chicago.  It doesn’t occur to any of the smart GP people who lead the Bureau to send him in to try something similar before they deploy the memory serum.  If she had died in a truly meaningful way I would not be mad, but her death is not at all meaningful.  It seems like she died only to give the end of the book the required powerful dénouement and not because it was truly needed to solve plot problems.  Weak, weak ending.

(show spoiler)


A truly Smart car
A truly Smart car
"I don't read 'chick lit,' fantasy or science fiction but I'll give any book a chance if it's lying there and I've got half an hour to kill.

J. K. Rowling "
Reading with an ereader
Reading with an ereader
Things They Carried - Tim O'brien

I wish I could rave over the brilliance of this novel as many others have.  I can’t give it bad marks because it was well written and full of emotion about the Vietnam war that is very painful and heartfelt.  However it was just strange to keep reading references that O’Brien makes about stories that aren’t true that are really more true than the actual events.  What???  Are the stories he relates true or even mostly true?  Did he kill the slim young Vietnamese man or did he just witness it and it was so painful to him that it was like he killed him?  It is just confusing.  The stories are very good, it's just an issue for me that I want to know what was real and what is make believe.


I can't imagine the agony any young man had to go through when he received his draft notice.  To go war or go to Canada as a draft dodger wasn't much of a choice.  And one statement that O'Brien makes in this book really resonated with me in view of the past decade watching our young men and women die in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He said "It was my view then, and still is, that you don't make war without knowing why.  Knowledge, of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause.  You can't fix your mistakes.  Once people are dead, you can't make them undead."  Yes, exactly

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery - Steve Sheinkin

For the first half of this book, the reader is treated to a depiction of Arnold that seems like he was a very misunderstood but likeable man.  He seemed a true Patriot fighting against the British before the war even begins by joining in the Boston tea party and doing all he could to avoid the paying taxes he felt were unfair by smuggling goods into the country.  And he joined the military to fight the British and was made an officer even though he knew nothing about military strategy.  The second half of the book makes you see why he was not liked by many.  The people from his hometown in Connecticut loved him, but they viewed him as a hero.  Others saw the man who was rude and unethical.  I ultimately didn’t find anything to admire about Benedict Arnold except for his bravery in the face of battle.  Truthfully, he wasn’t so much brave as foolhardy.  It turns out that he was a rather astute military tactician, and he certainly was a favorite of his soldiers.  He never asked them to face dangers that he wasn’t willing to face himself, and even threw himself into the battle of Saratoga in which he was not supposed to be anywhere near the action. 


Arnold was a glory-seeker just like many of the other top generals of the time.  He wasn’t given as much credit by Congress as he deserved for the successes he had in battle.  Because he was always looking for accolades, jealousy by his commanding officers kept them from giving him as much or any credit at all when they reported on the battles they led.  Despite all of these commendable qualities as a brave man, he was not admirable in so many other ways.  And he was personally not a very nice man. 


Benedict Arnold was put in charge over Philadelphia by General George Washington in 1778 after the British abandoned their occupation of the city.  Washington could not have picked a much worse candidate.  Arnold had no political acumen, and Washington specifically stated that that is what would be required of the military leader in Philadelphia.  There were all kinds of civilian toes not to be trod on that Arnold made no attempt to avoid.  He disregarded civilian leaders as unimportant and made every attempt to better his personal situation with complete impunity.  He made himself richer than he was before by taking advantage of his position, buying goods from stores he closed to the public, using transport vehicles for personal trade that were supposed to be used only for military purposes. 


It is such an irony that he faced a court martial trial at the very time he was plotting to betray the American forces to the British.  He received a reprimand because he had practiced poor judgment while being in charge of Philadelphia,  but he was found innocent of any criminal charges.  But receiving even a reprimand enraged him because he felt he should be found innocent of all charges.  What gall this man had!  It was by sheer bad luck that his plan to betray the American forces was found out before the plan could be implemented.  And a British officer was hanged as a spy for participating in the plan while Arnold got away.  That just makes me mad because it was Arnold was doing the whole thing for money, not because of his principles.  Okay even if he had been doing it for his principles I would still be mad.


The book is very informative and interesting although it drags in places.  I would definitely recommend it to learn about the life of Benedict Arnold, and you too can hate him as a traitor as many British and all Americans did at the time.

"Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy - which many believe goes hand in hand with it - will be dead as well.
Margaret Atwood"