Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros {audiobook}

Title: Have You Seen Marie?
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Length: 30 minutes
Published in: 2012
Genre: fiction (short story)
ISBN: 9781611209952
Source:
public library
Reason for Reading: 
found it on the new releases shelf at the library
Rating: 2/5

Summary (from book cover):

The internationally acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street gives us a deeply moving tale of loss, grief, and healing. The word ‘orphan’ might not seem to apply to a fifty-three-year-old woman. Yet this is exactly how Sandra feels as she finds herself motherless, alone like ‘a glove left behind at the bus station.’ What just might save her is her search for someone else gone missing: Marie, the black-and-white cat of her friend, Roz, who ran off the day they arrived from Tacoma. As Sandra and Roz scour the streets of San Antonio, posting flyers and asking everywhere, ‘Have you seen Marie?’ the pursuit of this one small creature takes on unexpected urgency and meaning.

My Thoughts: I have to admit that had I realized the book was so short when I found it on the shelf, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered with it. The time listed on the back was misleading–an hour long book didn’t seem too short. But I failed to realized that that time included the reading in English and in Spanish. I could hardly even consider this a book–it is a short story. I don’t think it’s really all that possible to rate or review the story, having been so short. I admit, though, that the telling of the story was beautiful and the language was very lyrical. I feel bad because I know the story was supposed to be very moving and semi-autobiographical for Cisneros, but I just didn’t really take anything away from it.

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The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch {audiobook}

Title: The Dark Monk
Author: Oliver Potzsch
Narrator: Grover Garland
Length: 15 hours
Published in: 2009 (book, in German); 2012 (English translation)
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9781455867233
Source: 
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading:
Last year, I listened to The Hangman’s Daughter on audio. When I saw this on the new release shelf at the library, I decided to see how it was.
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring that every farmer and servant is indoors the night a parish priest discovers he’s been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost.

Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl, his headstrong daughter Magdalena, and the town physician’s son team up with the priest’s aristocratic sister to investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar.

But they’re not the only ones after the legendary fortune. A team of dangerous and mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move, speaking Latin in the shadows, giving off a strange, intoxicating scent. And to throw the hangman off their trail, they have made sure he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside, attacking solitary travelers and spreading panic.

Delivering on the promise of the international bestseller The Hangman’s Daughter, Oliver Potzsch takes us on a whirlwind tour through the occult hiding places of Bavaria’s ancient monasteries. Once again based on prodigious historical research into Potzsch’s family tree, The Dark Monk brings to life an unforgettable, compassionate hangman and his tenacious daughter, painting a robust tableau of a seventeenth-century Bavaria and quickening our pulses with a gripping, mesmerizing mystery.

My Thoughts: I rather liked this book, just as I did it’s predecessor. (I’ve put in my request for The Beggar King from my library, so hopefully I’ll be able to read that soon!) It was easier for me to picture this book than the first one, but I can’t say there’s any reason for that. At one point, there were two or three different plot lines going on in this story, which confused me a little. With a few seconds pause in the narration, I’d be reading about Magdalena instead of the hangman or Simon & Benedicta. But he different characters’ stories all ended up together, as I assumed they would. There were some surprises in the book, at least to me. I don’t think too much when I’m reading a book, not usually looking for any sort of clues or trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. Unless the nature of the story is mystery, that is. This was more of an adventure than the first in the “series”, involving the Templars. (It seems so many novels have something about the Templars and/or the Masons if they involve religion or history…not that I mind.) I’m really looking forward to the next Hangman’s Daughter tale (The Beggar King).

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin {audiobook}

Title: Elsewhere
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Narrator: Cassandra Morris
Length: 7 hours
Published in: 2005
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9780307282408
Source: 
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading: 
browsed the audiobooks at the library and found this as the last at the end of the collection; it sounded interesting, so I got it
Rating: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is usually warm with a breeze, the sun and the stars shine brightly, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful here. And you can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.
Elsewhere.
It’s where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different from it. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth.
But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen (again). She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. She wants to fall in love. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well.
How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

 My Thoughts: I liked everything about this book, except for the ending. Before I began, I thought it might be a little like The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which I read years ago. But it was very different, from what I remember. I loved this take on what the afterlife is like. In fact, I think I’d almost prefer for this to be what I picture “heaven” to be like.
The jist of Zevin’s Elsewhere is this: It is like Earth, but you age backward from the age you arrived until you are an infant, at which time you are sent back to Earth and “reborn”, but you have no recollection of your previous life. In Elsewhere, you have an avocation (a job) that you like. You can’t really die or get hurt, because you age backwards, so you heal almost instantly. They have Observation Desks (“O.D.s”) where you can pay to look down on earth and see your loved ones. There are even ways you can contact the living, though it’s illegal.
I found that to be a nice way to picture the afterlife.
The ending was a little simple, I thought. I had sort of expected a miracle or something, in a way that Liz could remember her previous life even after she was sent back to Earth. But there was no such thing. It wasn’t a bad ending to the story, but it was a little simple for my taste. And not what I’d been expecting.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain {audiobook}

Title: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie
Length: 11.5 hours
Published in: 2011
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9780307877185
Source: 
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading: 
browsed the audiobooks at the library and picked it off the shelf at random
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will becomeThe Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

My Thoughts: I have to be honest, coming away from this book, I had a basic hatred of Ernest Hemingway. I realize that it is fiction, but it does have some historical and biographical accuracies. I just contracted an utter dislike of Hemingway as he became a disgusting man who couldn’t decide what he wanted and tried to lead a normal life with a wife and mistress all together in one house. I honestly think I wouldn’t have been so adverse towards him if he’d had a small affair, divorced, and lived with his former mistress. But the fact that he thought a love-triangle to be something to try because he was too much of a coward to just pick one woman made me sick.

Maybe McLain painted him as more of a rascal than he was, but I was very intrigued by the story. The setting of the 1920s-1930s in Europe is one I love. I don’t think I’ve read any stories of Europe between world wars–America, yes; Europe, no. I liked seeing the similarities and differences. Also, I hadn’t thought the idea of hearing from the perspective of a housewife with a nanny for the baby to be anything but boring. I guess the drama of Hadley and Ernest’s relationship was enough to keep me interested. (I honestly don’t understand what someone does if they have no job and a nanny for the kid(s)!)

In the end, I loved the book. I still find Hemingway to be a sort of pig, but I shouldn’t judge him too harshly. This is hardly a two-sided telling of his first marriage, let alone a fictionalized version at that.

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland {audiobook}

Title: Luncheon of the Boating Party
Author: Susan Vreeland
Narrator: Karen White
Length: 17 hours
Published in: 2007
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9781415939734
Source: 
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading: 
browsed the audiobooks at the library and picked it off the shelf at random
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Instantly recognizable, Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece depicts a gathering of his real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine near Paris. A wealthy painter, an art collector, an Italian journalist, a war hero, a celebrated actress, and Renoir’s future wife, among others, share this moment of la vie moderne, a time when social constraints were loosening and Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian War. Parisians were bursting with a desire for pleasure and a yearning to create something extraordinary out of life. Renoir shared these urges and took on this most challenging project at a time of personal crises in art and love, all the while facing issues of loyalty and the diverging styles that were tearing apart the Impressionist group. Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models and using settings in Paris and on the Seine, Vreeland illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era. With a gorgeous palette of vibrant, captivating characters, she paints their lives, loves, losses, and triumphs in a brilliant portrait of her own.

My Thoughts: Creating a story from a work of art is always something I have liked. In high school, I went to a nearby art museum for a class about once a month. Sometimes we would be assigned to pick a piece of art and write a story about how the picture came to be or a story about the present moment captured in the picture. That is what this story is. Susan Vreeland creates a history of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, giving voices to the people within the painting and a story of how Renoir came to create it.

I’m also very interested in Europe during the mid- to late-1800s, for no particular reason. I just find that era interesting, when technology was really coming to the front. Technology made life change and that is probably what interests me most. The story takes place around the same time the real painting was done, in 1880-81.

My Thoughts on the Narration: I have listened to a few books by Karen White before and I could immediately tell that I’d heard the voice before when I stuck this CD in on my way to work one morning. The Secret Life of Bees and The Peach Keeper are her audios I’ve listened to. I find her voice very soothing and comforting.

 

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar {audiobook}

Title: Pearl in the Sand
Author: Tessa Afshar
Narrator: Laural Merlington
Length: 11 hours
Published in: 2010
Genre: inspiration
ISBN: 9781598598766
Source: 
borrowed from a library
Reason for Reading: 
Inspiration Resolution 2012
Rating: 3/5 for both

Summary (from book):

Striking beauty… comes at a price. Rahab paid it when at the age of fifteen she was sold into prostitution by the one man she loved and trusted—her father. With her keen mind and careful planning she turned heartache into success, achieving independence while still young. And she vowed never again to trust a man. Any man. God had other plans. Into the emotional turmoil of her world walked Salmone, a prominent leader of Judah, held in high esteem by all Israel. A man of faith, honor, and pride. An enemy. What is a woman with a wrecked past to do when she wants to be loved, yet no longer believes it possible? The walls of Jericho are only the beginning. The real battle for Rahab will be one of the heart.

 My Thoughts: I thought this book was okay. There wasn’t much special about it and it wasn’t bad either. It reminded me a lot of Mary, Called Magdalene and In the Shadow of the Ark. Those weren’t inspirational books, but more like historical fiction with religion that plays a part. So I really want to know how some books are classified as one genre, but not the other.
Anyways, this book is the last book for my Inspiration Challenge. That’s my first resolution done of 2012 🙂