What You Can See From Here by Mariana Leky

Dear Fellow Reader,

This week’s book got me thinking about styles of writing. It seems to me that the books I have read written by authors from the Netherlands have a different style to them, but they are similar to each other. I’m thinking of books like A Man Called Ove, The 100-Year-Old Man, and Hotel Silence. I don’t know if all books from that area are similar or if it just so happens that the ones I have read have the same sort of humor and cadence.

And here is that sentence that I appear to be obligated to put into reviews for books I am given. I was given a copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased opinion. Are you as sick of reading that as I am?

What You Can See from Here was written by a German woman and is being released in the U.S. as a translation. The style of the book greatly reminds me of the books I mentioned in the previous paragraph The book will be released on June 22, 2021. Since the chance that I will forget the plot of the book by then is high, I am writing this review a bit early.

The book opens by telling the story of 10-year-old Luisa. Luisa’s Grandmother, Selma, has dreamed of an Okapi. That indicates to the villagers that someone is going to die. We meet the villagers by finding out their reactions to the bad omen. Luisa and her friend Martin roam the village and spend most of their time together. The village has a host of off beat characters that help move the story along. Everyone relaxes when no one dies in the 24 hours after Selma had her dream. But then tragedy strikes and the death affects all the characters. One of the principal characters is only known as “the Optician”. He loves Selma but had never told her. He is with her every day and has helped teaching Martin and Luisa things like tying their shoes and how to tell time. Luisa’s mother owns a florist shop and spends most of her time trying to decide if she should leave Luisa’s father. Luisa’s father is a doctor but he is unsettled. Selma and the Optician are the most stable forces in Luisa and Martin’s lives. The story follows Luisa from the age of 10 until the age of 35.

I enjoyed the book. There are times that you can tell it is a translation because the wording isn’t quite right, but that is occasional, and it doesn’t take away from the story. I was reading the book on the Kindle app. When reading an eBook, you don’t know how long the book is. It seemed to me that it moved a bit slowly at first but then I got in the rhythm of it and it took off.

Thanks for reading.

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The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe

Dear Fellow Reader,

Summer is coming and it is time to get ready with a beach read. I do not consider the term beach read a derogatory term. I love a good beach read.

And I do have a love for the Rutledge Family that make up the Beach House Series by Mary Alice Monroe. I was so glad to see that there is a new book. We are now learning about the third generation of the family that has been a South Carolina family for generations. Linnea Rutledge was a vital part of the last book and is the star of this book.

In The Summer of Lost and Found, we find Linnea arriving home from the job she loves totally dejected. COVID has hit and she has been laid off work. She and her friend Annabelle are both without work and money. Linnea calls her Aunt and Landlord Cara right way to tell her that she isn’t in a position to keep up with the rent. Cara gives Linnea a few ideas for work but also tells her that they will work it out. But then she drops what Linnea feels is a bomb. John Peterson is back next door to Linnea. The man that she thought she loved, the man she moved to California to be with, the man that broke her heart is next door? She hopes that he is leaving soon because her long-distance love, Gordon will be back from England soon. It feels strange to have the two of them so close.

And then David gets COVID, and Linnea has to really pitch in to help with Hope. They are all afraid for the little girl after her illness. Keeping her safe is a big concern.

The book takes us through their summer of COVID. To keep all of them safe, they form a pod in the neighborhood and do everything they can to stay safe. Linnea will learn to be able to do what is right for her and new love is found. It is everything you want from a beach read. The story moves along at a good pace and you learn more about familiar characters.

While you might wonder if it is a little soon to be reading about COVID, I don’t really think it is in this story. While it had an influence on the story, it wasn’t a main character. It was more of a vehicle for the story than a lead.

I enjoyed the book. I was happy with the character development and didn’t feel that anything was out of place. The characters continue to grow and expand. Linnea is growing up and learning what she wants and doesn’t want. I’m sure a little sand in between the pages won’t hurt the book at all.

Thanks for reading.

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Dear Fellow Reader,

This week we move to speculative fiction. I will admit that this is an accident. I did not mean to keep this journey though genres going. I just wanted to read this book.

If you are unfamiliar with it, speculative fiction is “a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements.”

I had not read any of Mr. Ishiguro’s work before. I know that it is supposed to be amazing and wonderful, but I had just not made reading one of his books a priority until now. (As a total aside, I have decided that keeping lists of book s that I want to read is useless. There are always so many books to read that I never look at my list. I picked up this month’s Book Page magazine at the library and was all set to make notes of books to read and stopped myself. I know I have a journal that has a list of books that I want to read. I’m not sure where it is and I don’t need to find it. As they say, “So many books, so little time.”

Klara and the Sun is a story narrated by Klara, who is referred to as an AF. While not defining the term, AF stands for Artificial Friend. In the book, AFs are purchased to be friends for teenagers. The AFs are a way to help them not feel lonely. As the book opens, Klara is in a store waiting to be chosen to by a teenager. Klara is a series B2 AF and the new B3 AFs are much more popular. Klara is intelligent and has a keen sense of observation. She watches everything that she can see from the front window of the store and learns from what she sees. She particularly wants to learn about loneliness so that she can help her teenager. She is solar powered, and she feels the sun has great power to heal. Klara is adopted (sold to?) a woman and her daughter. She goes to live with them out in the country.

Okay, there are things I just didn’t get in this book. Klara talks about seeing boxes. I think it must be because of the way her vision operates but it wasn’t clear to me. Also, she seems to refer to cell phones as “oblongs”. (Why wouldn’t she know the words “cell phone”?) While I was lost from time to time, I kept going. If you want a happy ending, this might not be your cup of tea. I wanted to read the book because Mr. Ishiguro is known as a phenomenal writer. And he writes beautifully. While I may not have understood everything in the book, I wanted to keep reading and I finished it in a few days.

If you like speculative fiction or are looking for something different to read, this is your book. Or, if you feel like I did that there was a new book out by an author that you haven’t read before and have heard wonderful things about, then by all means pick it up. I do wonder if I might have liked Remains of the Day better, but we’ll have to find that out another time.

Thanks for reading.

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The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Dear Fellow Reader,

In case you were wondering, I am going to stretch a little bit and say that this week’s review is another category of book. This week is a memoir but it is a YA memoir. Am I cheating a bit? No. YA is different from adult especially when the author has re-issued the book specifically for YA.

In 2008, acclaimed author, Ta-Nehisi Coates gave the world his story, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. A description of the book was “An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.” And in 2021, he adapted the memoir for a YA audience. I was given a copy of his adaptation for review. (The usual, and unbiased review.)

The Beautiful Struggle tells Ta-Nehisi Coates’ story centering on his junior high and high school years. His parents were a major influence particularly his father Paul. Paul Coates was a Viet Nam vet and former Maryland State Coordinator of the Blank Panther Party. His father founded and directed the Black Classic Press, which specializes in republishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent. His printing press was in their home and the books were all around the house. Ta-Nehisi Coates tells of his fears and fights on the streets of Baltimore through his school years there. He was not a good student and was just trying to find his way. But he did have a strong guiding hand at home.

I am not the intended audience for this book. There were times that I had no idea what the terms in the book meant BUT I could infer the meaning from the context. After all, I could not be further from a young man growing up in the battleground streets of Baltimore during the crack epidemic. I did start and stop reading this book several times. But I was always drawn back to it and I did finish it. There was a lot in the story that I didn’t understand. In doing research for this review, the story comes into better light. In an interview, Mr. Coates talked about how this was the book that he would have wanted to see when he was his younger self, that where you are at 16 is not a verdict on the rest of your life. He also said that for him to look at the book at this point in his life, he is much more understanding and would have been nicer to his younger self.

So, the question is, do I recommend the book? Overall, I do recommend the book. There is much to be gained from learning about people outside your personal world. There is much to be gained from learning about the opposite sex and their fears and mistakes. There is always much to be gained about broadening your world view. Before I wrote this, I watched an interview with Mr. Coates that was from 2015 after his bestselling, award winning book Between the World and Me came out. I found it very interesting to hear him talk about his views and how they are formed from his study of history. (https://www.c-span.org/video/?328842-1/ta-nehisi-coates-discusses-between-world-me)

Thanks for reading.

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Devotions by Mary Oliver

Dear Fellow Readers,

April is National Poetry Month. It seems fitting that to continue our journey through reading genres that we move to Poetry this week.

To be honest, I do not know much about poetry. While I have tried my hand at writing some poetry, I think it has mostly sounded like a copycat of “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue”. And like many, I have trouble interpreting it. I can read it and then I have no idea what I have just read. I always take that as a sign of my lacking rather than the poet’s clarity. So, like many of you, I have shied away from it.

I would like to change that for you.

Mary Oliver was an American poet whose poetry is nature inspired. She always liked to take solitary walks in nature and write about them. I think you will find them clearer. She even has a book of poetry devoted to her dog.

In Devotions, you will find selected poems by Mary Oliver. The book starts with poems from her book Felicity (2005) and it ranges back to her book No Voyage and Other Poems from 1963. There is a sampling of poems from each of her works. Near the beginning of the book there is the following poem:

The World I Live In

I have refused to live

locked in the orderly house of

reasons and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in

is wilder than that. And anyway,

             what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or

                                                               twice I have seen. I’ll just

                                                                              tell you this:

                  only if there are angels in your head will you

         ever, possibly, see one.

I found that reading this poetry book a little at a time each morning has brought a smile and a good start to my day. I think it might just make, perhaps not a poetry lover, but an occasional poetry reader out of you. The book is available in both hardback and paperback. I am sure it is at your local library also.

My copy with flags and postits

Do you go through and mark passages or in this case poems that mean something to you while you read? I do. (Yes, only if I own the book.) I find that I have marked many in this book and I think that when I re-read the book, there will probably be more markers. I think poetry is one of those mediums that a can hit you differently at different times. While this book was given to me as a gift, I think it is one of those books that I would have read and then gone out and bought a copy of the book so that I can mark passages that I love.

I urge you to take a shot at poetry this month. You can try a new poet or go back and read an old favorite from your childhood. How about Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse or look at an anthology like Good Poems by Garrison Keillor? Amanda Gorman’s new book of poetry was released this month, The Hill We Climb. If you are younger than I am, you might want to harken back to the silly, fun, childhood poems by Jack Prelutsky. (Something Big Has Been Here, Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face, are two of his 45 books of poetry for children)

There are just so many wonderful choices.

Since I wrote this piece, I have seen so many other interesting poetry articles. The New York Times Book section has “5 Poets to Help You Love Poetry” – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/04/14/books/poetry-appreciation.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210419&instance_id=29407&nl=the-morning&regi_id=105795576&segment_id=55855&te=1&user_id=9d392a43a6194c79e56a8b3ad3886e2e Also, I think suggested by the New York Times also is the book Poetry RX which was written by a doctor about poetry. He goes through and describes the poem and what the poet is trying to tell you. You can check it out at www.normanrosenthal.com

Thank you for reading!

P.S. I would feel terrible if I also didn’t suggest my friends, poetry books available from Amazon. Gone Missing: Someday We’ll Meet Again and Still Life of Loved and Lost are two books by Linda Hatton. And there is Safe Among the Roses by J. Lynn Sheridan. The books are short lovely books of poetry that I recommend.

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