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Everything posted by Binker

  1. what is everyone doing?

    So sorry about your sad news, Meg! So difficult. I am back from Istanbul and it was just as wonderful as I had hoped. We had a great guide and ate like kings (queens, I guess) because my daughter is a foodie and had organized every dinner for us. Our guide took us to more "home cooking" restaurants, so we had every level of food, all of which was delicious. I have wanted to see the Hagia Sophia for decades and I can't believe I finally did it. I will say that the Blue Mosque is being heavily renovated and so there wasn't all that much to see. This is the story of my life when I travel, so I was philosophical about it. Maybe next time...
  2. A friend of mine read this and enjoyed it, so I decided to read it. I liked the same things she liked and was put off by the same things that put her off. The book tells the story of the rebuilding of Hamburg after WWII. An officer in the British Army, Lewis Morgan, in charge of rebuilding Hamburg is billeted in a tremendous mansion on the River Elbe. He is permitted to kick out the owner and his daughter, who are living there (his wife has been killed in a British bombing raid on Hamburg), but decides not to do it. It's an enormous house and they can live in the servants quarters while he and his wife and surviving child (one son was killed by a German bombing raid) can live in the main part of the house. Their servants can stay, too. Lewis's efforts are extremely nice--the family would have had to live homelessly or in refugee camps and the servants might have lost their jobs, too. No one thinks Lewis should do this for the family. The father of the German family, Stefan Lubert, recognizes that he is being treated as kindly as circumstances permit, but his 15-year-old daughter doesn't quite see it that way, holding on to her hatred of the British. You can imagine that this sets up all sorts of tensions in the household and where they lead and don't lead. This was interesting and somewhat engaging, given my very limited tolerance for love stories. For the most part, it's well-handled, but there's a bit too much coincidence to keep me happy. What was fascinating was the glimpse into what it was really like. The city was just destroyed in parts. I always marvel at how cities that are bombed recover as quickly as they do. Stefan is an architect and his description of what he sees in the future for his city is very engaging. I imagine that something like what he wanted to do is what actually happened and someone had to do that. Very interesting. But the lives before all this rebuilding are so very grim. People starve to death. The coldest winter on record adds to the misery. So many people are displaced that there are groups of people wearing signs with pictures hoping to reconnect with lost loved ones and a whole wall where these signs are posted. I remember that something like that happened on a much smaller scale after the September 11 attacks. There are roving bands of children who are orphaned and do everything they can to eat and find shelter. That reminded me of The Painted Bird, a book I would rather not be reminded of reading. And finally, individual Germans had to be determined to be "white, grey, or black" depending on their involvement with the Nazi party. I hadn't realized that had happened, but of course it did. The uniformed comments of the British about the people they meet in Hamburg, judging them for the accommodations they had to make to a totalitarian system, were probably what everyone thought, Lewis excepted. He and his son, and eventually his wife, have to struggle to rid themselves of their preconceived notions so that they can interact with the Germans they encounter on a daily basis as fellow human beings. I particularly liked the efforts of Lewis's son, Ed and how he tries to make sense of what he encounters.
  3. Very Long Books - Are they worth it?

    I don't remember being bothered by either of those things, so I must not be quite as attentive a reader as I think I am. Or maybe I skimmed...
  4. Very Long Books - Are they worth it?

    A Suitable Boy was a wonderful wonderful read. Everyone I recommended it to who read it just loved it. I also loved every moment of War and Peace. I remember being mystified about why the masonic rituals were so emphasized and so asked my mother if the Masons were or had ever been controversial. She said they were considered shocking at the time of this novel because they emphasized equality of men (not women, of course) and so to have Prince join the Masons was a very revolutionary act. I also loved the battle scenes, but I think I'm generally a sucker for those because I liked them in the "Aubrey/Maturin" novels, too.
  5. Rest in Peace

    Princess Lee Radziwell and Bruno Ganz, both on February 16, 2019. I was not familiar with Ganz until I saw him in "Unknown." Quite a part.
  6. what is everyone doing?

    It's perfect for that trip! Someone on BGO went to Croatia at the same time I did in 2015, too, but I don't think it was you. Your trip won't be as brutal as ours. I have managed to not retain the knowledge of how long we will be in the air. It's going to be great. Momac, we don't get winter like you do, but it can be cold and a bit wet. We rarely get snow. Last night, I walked out of the grocery store to misting rain, which is not typical here, and a man and I stopped on the sidewalk in stunned surprise. Today is sunny, but colder than I would like.
  7. what is everyone doing?

    I "joined" a book club in real life. The reason "joined" is in quotes is that I kept resisting on the grounds that I don't like being told what to read, but my friend just told me I was in and then sent an email to the group that I was happy to join and assigned me March! I picked Any Human Heart because William Boyd hasn't quite made it over the pond. Last year, my friend picked Old Filth and the group loved it and was startled that they weren't familiar with Jane Gardam. I think I will get a similar reaction to William Boyd. I hope so. But before that, I am going to Istanbul for a week with my daughter! SO excited. This has been a long-time goal of mine and so we are just going ahead and doing it. I'm very excited. Will re-read The Architect's Apprentice before I go because Sinan designed just about everything we are going to see.
  8. Scrublands

    Maybe that makes it more believable in this one instance, but this is such a common trope with male authors of a certain age (I knew what the author would look like before I even peeked at the back cover) that it makes me roll my eyes and distracts from the otherwise stellar qualities of the book.
  9. Scrublands

    I finished and very much enjoyed it. It's a great story with a great sense of place. As someone who has always lived where it is very hot (humid hot in Miami and dry hot in Dallas), I could just smell the heat in this book. There's a temptation with books like these to veer off into some vast conspiracy that includes a number of governmental officials from many different countries, all of whom are able to keep elaborate secrets. This book managed to avoid that and it was a more enjoyable puzzle because of that. What I didn't like, as usual, was the love story aspect. I hate love stories because the women always act in unbelievable and usually very stupid ways. This particular love story includes a young (mid-20s) woman who falls rapidly into bed with and a little less rapidly in love with the older (over 40), somewhat worn male journalist who is writing the story. Even then, it would have been sort of believable in a woman who didn't have much going for her or a man who had a lot of money or power, but none of those factors is present here. The narrator goes on and on and on about how she is breathtakingly beautiful, obviously the only thing of value a woman brings to a relationship. I had thought that maybe it was an important plot point since it was emphasized so much. But it's not. It's just a not-very-believable aspect to a story that worked so hard to have everything else make sense. But for that complaint, which I have about a lot of books that I really like, this was an excellent and compelling read.
  10. The Aftermath

    I think there's now a movie made from this book. It probably emphasizes the love story aspect, which means I won't want to see it.
  11. Scrublands

    It appeared on my tablet, right on schedule, and I am reading it now. Very engrossing. Will report back when I am finished.
  12. David

    I agree, Meg. Very sad loss.
  13. Kurt Eichenwald is a journalist who has written several well-received books about business and business fraud. One was made into a movie with Matt Damon (the "Infomer") and the other was the best book about the Enron debacle, "A Conspiracy of Fools." I know his wife and I've met him a few times, but we are just casual acquaintances. This book is very different. It tells the story of his lifelong struggle with poorly-controlled epilepsy. He suffered through bad diagnoses, poor medical care, and terrible treatment from the college he attended. He grew up in Dallas, with a very normal, relatively-affluent childhood. He had had staring spells as a child, which everyone dismissed as unimportant, but then when he was 17, he had a full-fledged seizure that was obviously significant. His father was a doctor who mostly did medical research and so he thought that's the kind of doctor Kurt should go to. Turned out to be a bad plan, but then Kurt went off to college at Swarthmore college, outside of Philadelphia (meaning not close to home). His seizures were poorly controlled and his roommates ended up giving him a lot more care than they should have had to. He went to a different neurologist, who overdosed him on anti-seizure medications, not discovered until he went to Chicago for the summer and saw a third doctor, who did a better job, but really couldn't continue as his neurologist. His mother, who had always deferred to his father, found and insisted he be treated by a neurologist here in Dallas (who actually saw patients) and his treatment got back on track after that. But his seizures have never been fully controlled. In the meantime, the college doctor and college psychologist determined that he was a threat to the school and arranged for him to be kicked out. That was against the law, but they did it anyway. I have to say that it was so painful to read that part of the book that I had to put it down. Through the intervention of his neurologist and lawyers who advocated for the disabled, he returned to school and graduated with his class. He spoke about the book on Saturday night and said that the result of these experiences has made him simmer along in barely-controlled rage his whole life, which was perfect for the kind of journalism he wanted to pursue, but probably wasn't all that healthy. He also said that he has learned how to forgive. He found out that one of the few professors who had been good to him at college had been made President of Swarthmore and that man arranged for a completely perfect reconciliation. I highly recommend this book, even if you don't know someone with epilepsy.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. what is everyone doing?

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

    Here I am, right after Viccie, which I think is where I usually am. 1. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (01/19)*** 2. Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith (01/19)*** 3. A House of Lies by Ian Rankin (01/__/19)**** 4. A Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald (01/20/19)***** 5. Are You my Mother by Alison Bechdel (01__/19)****My second graphic novel by her 6. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann (02/06/19)***** 7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (02/10/19)**** 8. Any Human Heart by William Boyd (02/16/19)*****(re-read of a favorite book)
  19. 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.
  20. Poetic Wanderings

    Meg, I'm not much of a poetry fan, but I love this poem. The imagery is so dire.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.