This is a book I so badly wanted to like. From the gorgeous cover art to my love for Elizabeth Gilbert to a story centered around a woman working in a theatre, this screams me from all angels. As it turns out, my expectations were too high and my patience was too low. Vivian starts off as immature and naive (as all 19 year olds are!) and she never quite grew up. Two hundred and fifty pages of sexual exploits and booksplaining later, I gave up. And I only hung in there that long because of Elizabeth Gilbert.
The gentleman and I were recently debating the merits of a good book. Is it the character development, or the overall story telling that keeps your attention? David Benioff's City of Thieves provides both the captivating story and the character depth that makes for an almost 5 star book.
The novel begins with 30-something David, chatting with his grandmother in an attempt to learn more about the night his grandfather "killed two German's before he was eighteen." We are then sent back to 1942 Leningrad, meet 17 year old Lyova (Lev), and follow his quest to secure a dozen eggs in order to save himself from execution. As the story evolved, I felt loyal to Lev, annoyed with Lev's mischievous companion Kolya, curious about whether or not the eggs will be found, and worried for the women in the cabin. It is the stories and the characters that kept me reading. When I got to the scene where soldiers poll the crowd on who can read, I gasped. When I got to the scene with the yellow dress, I smiled. When Lev stayed behind to read Jack London, I understood.
Read this when you're looking for characters you'll love and imagery so well articulated you will think you can touch and feel what the words are describing. (And, when you want to win a debate with your significant other about what makes a great book!) Best paired with an omelet and tea to start and a huge slice of cake and a cold shot of vodka to wrap up!
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang “Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough." If you're like me, you consider things like coincidence and luck, and wonder if they are real. You pay attention to the universe and you are thoughtful about your place in this vast space we call home. You might have a feeling of deja vu and then later wonder what it means. If you are like me, the 9 short stories that make up the book Exhalation will be thought provoking, gripping and thoroughly satisfying. If you aren't into serious reads or philosophical ideas, but you want to try a book outside your typical genre, find the book at the library and read "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" to see how you feel. If you are curious but not yet sucked in, read "What's Expected of Us", which is the shortest story in the series (and a compelling essay on the concept of free will), and then decide if you want to commit. I don't want to spoil too much about each short story since the mystery is a part of the appeal, but you'll experience time travel, AI, robotic nannies, and questions on the meaning of life all within a 350 page book. Chiang's writing is a gorgeous combination of Colson Whitehead's words and Blake Crouch's imagination, and I devoured this book twice: first to absorb the ideas and then again to mark up the pages with my favorite quotes. Best paired with chicken stuffed with pistachio nuts, fritters soaked in honey, and a tall glass of frosty beer.