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Everything posted by Binker

  1. An Officer and a Spy

    I NEVER trust our leaders and am always shocked about how many people hero-worship a President or other politician. They almost never deserve that kind of adoration. I don't just mean Trump, whom all right-thinking people loathe, but also Barack Obama, whom my friends hero-worship, notwithstanding the fact that he did everything he could to expand executive power. Fortunately, the Supreme Court spanked his hand and wouldn't allow his executive orders to stand. That's how I knew that all those orders that Trump signed his first few days in office wouldn't stand up--because Obama had already tried to "rule" that way and been stopped. My guess is that he (or his advisers) knew it and just had him sign all that crap as a sop to his base.
  2. I just downloaded it and will check in when I'm done. I"m in the middle of one book and my pre-ordered Ian Ranking just appeared on my tablet (my favorite thing about pre-ordering), so It might be a little while.
  3. Review of 2018

    My stand out book was Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (non-fiction). I binge-watched "The Man in the High Castle" and am in the middle of binge-watching "The Americans." Both were great. There are other ones I started and haven't finished that are very good (including "A Very British Scandal," "My Brilliant Friend," and the show based on Patrick Melrose novels). I will report on them later. I didn't see many movies this year, but thought "Bad Times at the El Royale" was terrific. I went with my son and we had a long discussion afterwards about which character was the most evil and which was the most moral. Lots of competition in the first category. I generally only discover songs and my tastes in music aren't very sophisticated, so I won't put an entry for music.
  4. what is everyone doing?

    Tag, I am very sorry. It's incredibly difficult to lose a parent and even worse during the holidays.
  5. Book Lists 2019

    Here I am, right after Viccie, which I think is where I usually am.
  6. what is everyone doing?

    Meg and Luna, I am so sorry to read your news. Meg, I have to say that I thought the same thing--well, I guess we know she doesn't have osteoporosis! An unfortunate way to find out, but ultimately good news. Luna, there are a number of people in my office who have Type 2 diabetes (to the point where I say that "diabetes runs in our office"). They have all been able to control it through diet and, ultimately, exercise, so I have high hopes for you. I have had trouble finding a book to enjoy, which probably says more about me than it does about the books. Will report in when that problem has been resolved.
  7. Poetic Wanderings

    Meg, I'm not much of a poetry fan, but I love this poem. The imagery is so dire.
  8. My Brilliant Friend

    I have been watching this, too (I thought I posted, but maybe not). They've done a terrific job. And they've emphasized things that were not as obvious to me when I was reading (or that I've forgotten), including the fact that Lila's family was poor and old-fashioned enough that she was denied opportunities that her best friend received and how much resentment she felt because of it. I hope I realized that as I was reading because it's quite obvious.
  9. My son was home from college for Thanksgiving and so he and I went to see "Bad Times at the El Royale." I had one friend who had seen it and liked it, but otherwise knew nothing about it except that it was packed with impressive actors. I thought it was excellent. A rip-roaring story, but very thought-provoking about the nature of good and evil. On our way home, my son and I had a long discussion about who was the most evil character in the film and who was the most moral. Highly recommend.
  10. My Brilliant Friend

    Did anyone watch this? I did and I really enjoyed it. It is very consistent with what I remember of the book and the two main characters are much as I imagined them. It's all in Italian, with subtitles, which doesn't bother me at all, but it does mean that you have to just sit and watch, at which I do not excel. I'm looking forward to watching the entire series, even if it is the week before Thanksgiving and therefore an incredibly busy time.
  11. News of the World

    I'm not quite sure how I let this get by for so long. Last year, I attended a book exchange where someone brought this book and another woman really wanted it. None of the other books appealed to me and so I got my hands on it and it worked out that she wasn't able to take it from me. She tried to enlist another person to do it and we almost came to fisticuffs. Then I started it last year and couldn't get into it. My niece-in-law contacted me from Alaska to ask if I had read it because she just loved it. So I picked it up again. I don't know what was wrong with me last year, but I loved, loved, loved this book when I finally read it. I thought all of the characters were perfectly drawn and very believable. I also thought it was interesting how much the author emphasizes that San Antonio is a much older, much more Spanish city than the other cities in Texas. That's true and often gets glossed over when discussing the metropolitan areas of Texas. One of the things that pleased me personally is that the route they took from Dallas to San Antonio is the "back way" to San Antonio that I take every chance I get (the main way to go is on a soul-crushing interstate highway that is always always always under construction). The scenery on the back way is very pretty (for Texas) and I have my favorite stops as I go, each roughly 1/3 of the trip, including an incredible chocolate shop in Hico, Texas (a small blip in the road--have no idea how they stay in business, but they also have great hostess gifts) and the chicken-fried steak at the Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls. I time my trips so I am in Marble Falls for lunch or dinner. Highly recommend this book.
  12. what is everyone doing?

    I love thunder and lightning storms, especially if I am indoors (or even on a covered patio) and can watch the lightning and the skies. It is very cold (for us) right now, which I don't like. The leaves are just starting to turn, which we do get some of, but not like places with real Fall leaves. However, we are coming up on my very favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. I've already made my pie crusts and will make more food this weekend. Then Wednesday, November 21 will be tons of baking. I usually wear my Wonder Woman apron that day. On Thanksgiving, I wear my Star Wars apron because I want the Force to be with me.
  13. what is everyone doing?

    Sounds like a great day, Momac! I hope the bird feeder works for squirrels. That's always an awful problem for me. I had a neighbor whose wife came over to tell me that I should stay inside on a Saturday afternoon because her husband had HAD IT with the squirrels and was planning to shoot some of them in the backyard. He is an avid hunter, so I wasn't really worried about his aim, but I left home that afternoon anyhow. Discharging a firearm in the city limits is against the law, but I'm not sure if he had an repercussions.
  14. Scrublands

    Mine, too, which cannot come as a surprise! I had to pre-order it. Will appear, like magic, on my tablet in January. While I greatly prefer to have immediate gratification, it's fun also to have books that I ordered appear. I usually vaguely know what month, but the date is sometimes a surprise.
  15. I read it, too, and think it was just as good, which is saying a lot for the middle of a series, which often sags a bit. Have pre-ordered the third book. Love when those just appear on my tablet, like magic!
  16. A friend read a review of this book and suggested that I might like it. I certainly did. I loved, loved, loved this book. Hope Jahren was born in 1969, the 5th child and only daughter of a scientist in Minnesota and his wife, a woman frustrated by and resentful of her limited opportunities in life. Hope grew up hanging out at her father's lab and assumed she would grow up to be a scientist. She did, but what she wasn't prepared for, despite her mother's example, was how difficult her sex would make it for others to take her seriously. She ended up focusing on botany and simply by being brilliant ended up being successful, but it was a hard road, made harder by the barriers of her sex and her unconventional personality. By unconventional, I do mean, but not exclusively, that she didn't hew to the very limited permitted personality types considered acceptable for women. But she also had and has an extremely close working relationship with a male scientist, Bill, that confuses people. And she suffers rather badly from depression (really, bipolar disorder because she goes up and down so wildly). It's finally Bill that insists that she get help. She marries and has a son (has to go off her medications when she became pregnant, so that chapter is harrowing). And she builds 3 different labs, one in Atlanta, Georgia (Georgia Tech University), one in Baltimore, Maryland (Johns Hopkins University), and one in Manoa, Hawaii (University of Hawaii). She writes beautiful clear sentences and it's clear how much she loves her work. There were several passages that moved me to tears (no, really). I underlined the book in several places because of the beauty of the passages and what spoke to me. My father was a scientist and I spent time hanging out at his lab, although not as much as Hope did at her father's. I have encountered that same bewildering reaction of being thought lesser because I am a woman and wanting because I do not conform to the permitted personality types for women. And she visits 2 obscure places that I also have visited: "Monkey Jungle" south of Miami (awful) and Poverty Point, the remnant of an Indian settlement in Northeastern Louisiana (not awful, except for the mosquitoes). I am lucky that I have not had to grapple with her mental health issues, but she has accomplished much more extraordinary things than I have and she has mostly had a wonderful time doing it. I knew this review would not do the book justice, so I just have to hope that someone will read it and report back. It was published in 2016, so it should be readily available.
  17. French Exit

    I liked this more than you did, but for me it came together in the end since what happened there had the feeling of being the only logical conclusion. And there were some very funny lines. "Born to bore" and "I am comfortable not talking about it."
  18. I have been taking that approach as well. I don't watch the news and I don't discuss politics with anyone. The economy here is booming and if that's true when he is up for re-election, I'm afraid he will win.
  19. The Dead - Discussion Proper

    I've been puzzling about why I love this story so much. The detailed descriptions made it possible for me to see each scene and each person, which is probably why I didn't like the dramatization. Angelika Huston's skirt wasn't exactly right! But I also thought that it was important that this whole social group was on the cusp of a huge change--that these celebration they had been doing the same way for years and years and years would probably not happen again or would be significantly changed. At the risk of blathering on about something I don't really know anything about, it seems to me that Irish society and politics were in a period of rapid change, too. That's why Gabriel's speech about losing the old ways felt so powerful to him and his listeners and why the perky political lady (Molly Ivors) was so incensed by him writing book reviews for a "West Briton" publication (I had to look up what that meant, of course). But there was longing for what they had lost or were about to lose and that's exactly the overwhelming emotion that poor Gretta was feeling. Even her description of the time--she was leaving for a convent, her young man had consumption (I think), he sang a song so old that no one hears it anymore--makes it seem like it was from ancient times and yet it broke her heart. So this is a story about haunting loss, both already existing and soon to come.
  20. Once the GSK was arrested, I bought the book and it is currently lurking on my tablet, proof that I do stockpile some even with my tablet. I generally like true crime stories, so I am looking forward to this. Wish she had lived to see the arrest.
  21. The Dead - Discussion Proper

    THIS WHOLE THING IS A SPOILER I haven't read it this time around, although I plan to, but here is what I remember: these people have all known each other forever and it's very important to the two old ladies that they have this gathering even though they are barely up to it financially. So everyone makes a big deal of everything they do, especially since this is probably the last year they will all gather. It is touching the way Gabriel makes such an effort with them, knowing that one of them will probably not be there the next year (the one who sings so poorly and is praised to the skies). Everyone knows that the drunk son is always drunk and his mother impossible and they do the best they can to keep the damage to a minimum. I think the mother is old enough that she probably won't be there next year. The poor downstairs maid is pregnant, so my guess is that she won't be there next year either. The only cheerful part of this for Gabriel is that he's finally getting away for a night with his wife for whom he is feeling a great deal of unexpected lust. He's in a frenzy to get back to the hotel and then she collapses weeping. The song she's heard sung reminds her of her first boyfriend who died from his love of her, about which Gabriel knew nothing at all. It seems unbelievable (to me, and obviously to Gabriel) that a middle-aged matron could be so overcome with ancient heartbreak, but that's because "[t]he past is never dead. It's not even past" (quoting Faulkner for Luna's reading enjoyment). There is a dramatization with Angelica Huston that is very good (and you can hear the song sung beautifully), but it wasn't exactly what I pictured when I read the book, so I didn't love it. But my friend who forced me to read the story and then to watch the movie loved it.
  22. what is everyone doing?

    Congratulations, Hazel. I'm very happy for you. This has been a long time coming.
  23. Suggestions for threads

    I have participated in some informal group reads over the years, once Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner and the other time The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. None of us were on exactly the same time schedule, so we were always very careful with spoilers. There were some people who didn't want to know anything until they read the whole book and so they just stayed off the thread altogether. That's one reason that I thought "The Dead" would be a good read. It doesn't take all that long (plus it packs a powerful punch). I am going to a friend's book club this evening (where we are discussing Old Filth and, just based on the emails, I expect to be thanked repeatedly for telling the group about Jane Gardam). It was his copy of "The Dead" that I read and so I am re-borrowing it tonight in order to read it again. Can't wait.
  24. Other Hobbies

    I garden, which can be frustrating in Dallas, and bake. I also do a lot of yoga and periodically add in other kinds of exercise.
  25. Revived BGO Book Group

    At a friend's importuning, I finally read "The Dead" by James Joyce, which is a long short story at the most. I then re-read it twice in rapid succession. I will nominate it.