The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand  by Elizabeth Berg

thedreamloverThe Dream Lover encompasses some of the best qualities that historical fiction has to offer. It transports you to the 1800’s France. It introduces you to an extraordinary person: Aurore Dupin, pen name, George Sand. Then, the reader gets to sit back and enjoy the wild ride that was her life. Talk about escapism.

For a woman in the 1800’s, George Sand had it going on. She left her husband, had a series of lovers- both male and female- became a famous author, involved herself in the political upheavals of her time… it is truly an incredible life.

Not everyone in her life accepted her for who she was: “I feel I have made a mistake, George, and that I do not love you after all. … The only thing you are passionate about is locking yourself up at night and writing your precious fiction, ignoring all that is before you here, which, if you would pay attention to it, would make your stories infinitely richer!” … It was as if I had been shot in the chest.” pg 242. But she wrote and loved anyway. Well done, Aurore, well done.

She rejected the role that society set out for her. “Tell me, George. Do you wish you’d been born a man?” … “In my youth, I wished that. … But now I find I don’t wish to be either man or woman. I wish to be myself. Why should men serve as judge and jury, deciding for us what can and cannot be done, what is our due? Why should they decide in advance of our deciding for ourselves what is best for us; why should they decide what IS us?” “But then you do wish to be a man!” “Perhaps I wish to be a woman with a man’s privileges.” pg 151. Amen.

I loved the drama in this novel as well as the romance. One would think that the sheer quantity of lovers that she had would have nullified any quality in the feelings, but Berg does a good job proving that this was otherwise. The passion that she exhibits in one, Sand seems to have shown in them all.

My only complaint about The Dream Lover is that it felt rushed because of the almost unbelievable amount of important events that peppered Sand’s life. I would have savored a 1000+ page book like Margaret George’s treatment of Cleopatra in The Memoirs of Cleopatra, but The Dream Lover appeals to the more casual reader.

Still, it would have been awesome. A bookworm can dream, can’t she?

If you enjoy Margaret George, you may like this book too for its sumptuous descriptions and tempestuous relationships. Also, you may want to pick up In the Company of the Courtesan or Marrying Mozart. Both are excellent historical fiction novels with similar themes to The Dream Lover.

I received a free advance reader’s copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. FTC guidelines: check!

Thanks for reading!

Authority (Southern Reach #2) by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority (Southern Reach #2) by Jeff VanderMeer

authorityThe mystery of Area X continues with an FBI agent’s entry into the Southern Reach. What’s going on? Why can’t anybody remember anything? Why is everyone so antagonistic? And why does everything smell bad?

Rarely have I been so disappointed with a book as I was with Authority. The first entry in this series is a gripping, psychedelic adventure that reads like a nature-gone-wild acid trip. This book, on the other hand, is like going to work with a punishing hangover. You don’t know what’s going on and everybody is pushing piles of paper at you.

“A shadow had passed over the director’s desk then. He’d been here before, or somewhere close, making these kinds of decisions before, and it had almost broken him, or broken through him. But he had no choice.” pg 18. On and on it goes. No answers, only confusion and bewilderment. I honestly thought, up until the very end, that something mega-cool was going to happen to make up for all of the so-so stuff that had happened so far. Unfortunately…

I also got super excited anytime Area X was mentioned, sort of like passing an old fling on your way to a funeral. Take this passage: “But the truth did have a simple quality to it: About thirty-two years ago, along a remote southern stretch known by some as the “forgotten coast,” an Event had occurred that began to transform the landscape and simultaneously caused an invisible border or wall to appear.” pg 35. Yes! And then we were immediately back into the boring office work/politics stuff.

“You’ve heard of the Southern Reach?” He had, mostly through a couple of colleagues who had worked there at one time. Vague allusions, keeping to the cover story about environmental catastrophe. Rumors of a chain of command that was eccentric at best. Rumors of a significant variation, of there being more to the story. But, then, there always was. He didn’t know, on hearing his mother say those words, whether he was excited or not.” pg 71. And that, my friends, is pretty much the whole book. Let me save you another 250 or so pages.

I exaggerate. A bit. It’s just that I’m incredibly disappointed in the turn this story took. I suppose I’ll read the last one in this series because I’m a completionist, but that is the only reason.

Thanks for reading!

Galore by Michael Crummey

Galore by Michael Crummey

“An intricate family saga and love story spanning two centuries, Galore is a portrait of the improbable medieval world that was rural Newfoundland, a place almost too harrowing and extravagant to be real. Remote and isolated, exposed to savage extremes of climate and fate, the people of Paradise Deep persist in a realm where the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to distinguish.”

-Description from Goodreads

galoreGalore is all over the place. And I didn’t like it.

I like epic historical fiction. (The Far Pavilions) But, this one wasn’t epic. It was more a collection of pointless stories strung together than a rich tapestry with unifying threads.

I don’t necessarily mind plot lines about priests who act in un-priestly ways. (The Thorn Birds) But there was nothing redeeming about this priest.

In fact, I can’t think of a single character that I cared for much. That’s a shame because there were so many to choose from.

On to the next book. 🙂 I recommend giving this one a pass.

Thanks for reading!

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

thelaststarThe Last Star is the final entry in The 5th Wave, a trilogy about aliens, teenagers and the end of the world. It is also a morality play about what matters. Why do cars, jobs and stuff matter so much when, in the end, it is all about our relationships and love.

I’m sorry to say that I found the ending to be unsatisfying. Yancey wove such a puzzling yarn that I felt like he didn’t completely untangle all the knots. To be fair, there was a lot going on. But, I read the last pages and I felt a big, internal: “huh?”

This book also reminded me of The Road. “From piles of blackened bones to corpses wrapped head to toe in tattered sheets and old blankets, just lying there in the open like they’d dropped from the sky, alone or in groups of ten or more. So many bodies that they faded into the background, just another part of the mess, another piece of the urban vomit.”pg 70.

The Last Star also raised big questions about civilization and its durability. How thin is the veneer on civilization? What would it take for humanity to turn on itself? Most dystopian writers say, not much.

I don’t know. I’m of two minds on the issue. One part of me says, civilization is a flimsy set of agreements that could easily crumble with enough fear, famine and plague.

The other part of me, the eternal optimist side, says that there is something within each of us that even the worst calamity couldn’t touch.

Kill the body, yes. Kill hope, yes. But kill the soul and its purpose? No. I feel like that part would find a way. And part of that soul’s purpose, I think, is connection to others. That means, civilization. So, there’s something more permanent to it, something fated.

Anyway, The 5th Wave as a three-part story is intense, gritty and could lead to some excellent discussions because it leaves a lot of open-ended questions and ambiguous answers. Rather like life.

Thanks for reading!

The Eight Human Talents: The Yogic Way to Restore the Balance and Serenity Within You by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

The Eight Human Talents: The Yogic Way to Restore the Balance and Serenity Within You by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

eighthumantalentsThe Eight Human Talents is part-story and part-instruction manual for the practice of Kundalini yoga. I’ve only ever practiced hatha yoga and this is very different from what I’ve learned. I’ve tried a couple poses and this is definitely going to take some practice.

If I learned anything from this book, it is to breathe deeply. One of Gurmukh’s main points is that by connecting with the breath, we reconnect with ourselves.

Also, don’t be afraid to try, even if you fail. “If we can make one step towards happiness, towards healing, towards change, miracles begin to happen. The Kundalini Yoga and Meditation in this book are a way of making those small steps towards happiness. If you will try even one thing from this book-one breathing exercise, one stretch, one meditation- know that somewhere I am cheering right out loud for you, because I know that making that first step is the hardest thing to do…” introduction, xxii.

Some of Gurmukh’s stories were saccharine sweet, but I enjoyed most of them. “We are powerless over every other person on the planet, and we only have power over our own lives. No matter how problematic the people in your life are, you are always the solution.” pg 125.

I’ll have to get back to you on if these exercises deliver on the myriad of promises that Gurmukh makes. So far, I’ve discovered that my lower back needs to be strengthened and I should work on my neck flexibility.

She ties all of her suggested poses to different chakras and energies found within the body. If that concept is too far out for you, you may be better served with a different introduction to Kundalini yoga.

Recommended for beginners to moderately experienced practitioners.

Thanks for reading!

Sarah (The Canaan Trilogy #1) by Marek Halter

Sarah (The Canaan Trilogy #1) by Marek Halter

sarahA historical fiction about the early days of Abraham from Sarah’s (Sarai’s) point-of-view.

I think that this novel wasted an opportunity for a great story. Like a majority of women in the Bible, Sarai’s life was largely untold. So, Marek Halter had a blank slate to work with.

And what he wrote for Sarai was a life of waiting. Waiting for Abram to talk to his god. Waiting for Abram to come back from war. Waiting to become pregnant. Waiting and wandering, looking for a home.

If I had written this story, Sarai would have been so busy doing something spectacular that she would have hardly even noticed Abram’s absence or presence. Maybe she invented a new form of weaving. Maybe she started her own business selling those herbed loaves that she was so proud of. Or, to introduce a fantasy twist, maybe she was secretly a vampire hunter, like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

My point is: for a story about a woman, it was mostly about the men in her life. Which makes it not very different than the source material. And, in my mind, a disappointment.

Thanks for reading!