Thursday, July 19, 2018

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Title: Every Note Played
Author: Lisa Genova
Read by:  Dennis Boutsikaris and Dogmara Dominczk with an afterward read by the author
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 8 hours and 3 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

I am a fan of Lisa Genova’s works.  She writes intricate tales of people suffering from neurological diseases.  She writes on how they affect the sufferer as well as the family.  After reading and enjoying Still Alice for a spring selection of the Kewaunee Library Book Club, Every Note Played was picked for the August selection of the book club.

Richard Evans is a world class pianist.  What starts out as a tingling in his fingers is soon discovered to be ALS.  As Richard quickly succumbs to ALS and starts to lose his ability to move various parts of his body, he realizes that in becoming a world class pianist, he has also become alone with no one to help him.  His divorce from his Polish pianist wife Karina was acrimonious and his daughter Grace sided with his wife.  Grace doesn’t know the full story of their divorce and Richard doesn’t want to be the one to tell her.  Will Richard be able to come to terms with Karina?

Karina loved Richard and was on the path to be a star in the jazz pianist field until becoming a mother detoured her from this track.  As time passes by and Richard’s star rises and his affairs come to light, Karina finds herself very bitter.  Now that Richard is ill, can Karina forgive him and herself?

I really enjoyed how this audiobook had two different narrators, one for Karina’s voice and one for Richard’s.  The story was told between their alternating viewpoints with it switching each chapter.  They both were superb narrators.

I didn’t know much about ALS before reading this book besides the fact that Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawking had it.  Every Note Played gave a lot of detail on what exactly having this disease was like from a personal point of view of someone suffering it as well as the caregiver.  It was a learning experience for me, and I’ll admit I had tears in my eyes at the end of the book.  This should be an interesting book to discuss at book club next month!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I have wanted to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time since it first came out, but it hasn’t made it to the top of my pile until now with its inclusion on the PBS Great American Read list.  What I found was a book that made me both laugh and cry, one that was touching and unique.  It was quite a book!

Christopher is a fifteen-year-old boy with autism who has decided to write a book.  He knows that people like mysteries, so he frames the story around the murder of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, and the events that surround it.  Christopher ruminates over the death of his mother two years before and his love of math and science.  He really wants to take the A level math tests and have a career in science.  Will Christopher solve the mystery, and will he be able to navigate the world?

The book became so much more than a mystery as it really went into Christopher’s home life.   It was really sad, but also seemed realistic, to read about the struggles his parents had in raising them.  I was horrified by one part where his Dad grew enraged and got physical with him.  But I really felt for his Dad later in the book.  I liked that the characters were flawed, but realistic. 

Christopher with all his quirks, was a likeable character.  Even though I am not autistic, I could identify with him. I enjoyed his love of math and science, and of animals. He reminded me a lot of Don in The Rosie Project which I read earlier this year.  I really like how Christopher just says whatever is on his mind and is very truthful on his thoughts.  This was a great coming of age story and journey and I loved it.

I also enjoyed the graphics and pictures throughout the book which seemed believable that Christopher would include.  I have heard this has been made into a play and I think it would be a very interesting play to watch.

My favorite quotes:

“I like dogs.  You always know what a dog is thinking.  It has four moods.  Happy, sad, cross and concentrating.  Also, dogs are faithful, and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.”

“I think people believe in heaven because they don’t like the idea of dying, because they want to carry on living, and they don’t like the idea that other people will move into their house and put their things into the rubbish.”

“But I don’t take any notice because I don’t listen to what other people say and only sticks and stones can break my bones and I have my Swiss Army knife if they hit me and if I kill them it will be self-defense and I won’t go to prison.”

“But sometimes we get sad about things and we don’t like to tell other people that we are sad about them.  We like to keep it a secret.  Or sometimes we are sad, but we don’t really know we are sad.  So, we say we aren’t sad.  But really we are.”

I LOVED the last line of the novel, but it’s a major spoiler so I won’t write it here.

Overall, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an excellent novel that will make you both laugh and cry as you enjoying Christopher’s coming of age story.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Title: The Wizard of Oz (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
Author: L. Frank Baum
Read by: Anna Fields
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Length: Approximately 4 hours and 35 minutes
Source: From the Kewaunee Public Library through the Overdrive System

The kids really enjoyed listening to this audiobook version of The Wizard of Oz on a recent trip to Milwaukee.  My 12-year old son Kile feigned indifference, but ten-year old Daniel kept saying we needed to make our breaks in the trip short to get back into the car to finish up the book.  We picked this book as part of a family reading challenge for the Kewaunee Public Library this summer.  I wasn’t sure how to get the kids 12, 10, and 7 years old in one spot reading at the same time and this worked!

I’ve only ever seen the movie and have never read the book.  The book seemed like a new Grimm’s fairy tale.  It had fantastic elements of fantasy and was very interesting, but it also had very blood thirsty elements as well.  In particular, the tin woodman has a very interesting back story that left us scratching our heads on how he could still be “alive” and he seemed to be handy chopping animals heads off with his ax.  This is one book that I think the movie really improved on the book.  The boys thought these elements were hilarious, but we are all still disturbed about the tin woodman chopping a cat in half for chasing a mouse. I’m not sure what moral lesson we are supposed to learn from that!

Anna Fields is a good narrator who gave different voices to the characters.  We started off with a different version of this audiobook which was much drier.  We made the switch and were happy with it.  The only odd thing was event though we were listening to a digital version, it kept saying “end of disk 1” and whatnot like it was a CD.  I’ve never had a digital version do that before.

I also thought it was interesting that the book is named The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but the title was changed for the movie to The Wizard of Oz. Now when they print the book, they call it The Wizard of Oz or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz depending on the edition.  This is slightly confusing.  There are also numerous sequels.  L. Frank Bauem wrote 13 sequels and then many more were written by others after his death.  It makes me wonder what else happens to the story as it goes further.  Anyone a Wizard of Oz series fan out there with some recommendations?

Favorite Quotes:
“There is no place like home.”

“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others”

“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't you think?”

Overall, our family enjoyed The Wizard of Oz.  It was a Grimm fairy tale type fantasy story that was interesting, but also written rather unevenly.