Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Spare: Blogging Through the Book

Before Reading 

For the record, I am not into celebrity gossip.  I don't care who those strangers I see on television sleep with.  I don't care what they wear. I don't care who their kids are.  I don't read People or US.  I care about people I know and deal with, not strangers who just happen to be on TV.  So, why am I reading the gossip book of the year, Spare, by Prince Harry?  I don't know--but I did get it from my Cloud Library account through my public library, I did not put out money for it beyond taxes.

Before I picked it up, I figured it would be a book about a guy who doesn't want to work in the family business but who still wants to get payments from it.  I don't have any problem with Harry saying that the family business of getting your picture taken and being the public face of Great Britain was not for him.  You couldn't pay me enough to take that job.  There has been plenty in the press about the way Prince Charles was raised and about the marriage of Charles and Diana and the death of Diana that I never figured Harry and William had the ideal childhood.  I figured it would be a lot of "poor me".  

34% Through

I can't say I've read anything that surprised me.  If Harry isn't in therapy, I recommend he get some.  Obviously the story is told from his P.O.V. and it would be interesting to see how others recall the same events.  As the title implies Harry sees everything through the eyes of the "spare"--his brother was the heir and he was there just in case.  While at times he and William were close, they were also rivals for their father's attention.  While they had opportunities that most of us only dream about, what Harry never felt  had after his mother died was supportive unconditional love.  

Ok, maybe one thing surprised me a little--and maybe that's because I don't know that much about child psychology.  Harry was twelve when his mother was killed but according to the book he maintained this belief that she had just disappeared to get away from the press and everyone who was making her miserable and that one day she would re-appear and call for the boys.  This was something he thought for quite some time.

A Little Further On

As a paralegal, I have worked on a case that was made into a book--the author called in non-fiction but really it was a novel.  After plowing through the huge tome my boss' conclusion was that the story needed a villain and didn't have one.  Spare has a villain---the press, or as Harry calls them, the "paps".  They hound him and his friends, disclose his presence in Afghanistan, and yes, for all practical purposes, killed his mother.  

About 2/3 Done    

Well, Harry has learned to fly a helicopter and has done another tour in Afghanistan.  William and Kate just had their first baby. Me, I'm starting to lose interest.   Harry is back from war and trying to find purpose and meaning in life.  The paps have cost him a girlfriend and we are told about how his external genitals got frostbite when he went to the North Pole.  I'm not suggesting a year by year memoir of my life would be all that exciting either--but I'm not writing one of those.  Guess I'll move to skimming.  

The Rest of the Book

How Harry meets Megan and its is love at first sight.  How the paps make life miserable.  The deaths of Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth.  Oh, yeah, the wedding of Harry and Meg and the births of Archie and Lillibet.  A trip to a medium to communicate with Dinah and conflict within the family.  Yawn.

As I said at the beginning, I am not a celebrity person.  This book is not my usual and while I read the whole thing to see if there was anything in there that really surprised me or changed my mind about it all, I can't say that it was all that great.  I've said before when reading memoirs, that it is hard to write one without coming across as self-absorbed and Spare is no exception.  

I understand that Harry's life and that of his family would probably be in danger if he moved into the house next to mine in a middle class suburb, got in his car and drove to his middle-class job while Meg dropped the kids at a middle-class daycare/school before heading off to her middle-class job.  Yet it is hard to feel sorry for someone who buys a multi-million dollar mansion.  Harry complains about his father cutting him off from the royal payroll but then also says he never had the opportunity to do much besides being royal.  He was trained for the family business but didn't like what came with it (other than the paycheck) so he quit but was hurt when the paycheck stopped.  His main issue with being Royal was the omni-present press yet he is now making his living as a celebrity.  Oh, well, he can cry (or laugh) all the way to the bank.  

Sunday, September 25, 2022

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?


Hi!  Some of you may recognize this blog, I haven't changed its look since the last time I participated in this link-up, quite some time ago.  I'm one of those long-time book bloggers and I go through phases where I'm just not interested in writing and/or reading.  

One thing I've gotten bored with is writing book reviews.  I'd read books, and then, when I finished, I'd write a review.  Sometimes I'd try to relate the review to something in my life or an issue in the world today, or otherwise try to go beyond just saying how good or bad the book was, but the focus of my posts was on saying how good or bad the book was.  

I've decided to try a new format that I call "Blogging Through the Book" where I sit down and write several times while reading.  What is the set-up for the story and did it hook me?  What was my initial impression of the main character?  Were there any quotes that grabbed me?  Further into the book, is it holding my interest or am I skimming, hoping to reach the good part?  I'm kind of going for what I'd tell you about the book if you found me reading it on several different days and asked about it---what would I tell you.  I have three reviews in this format.  

Blogging Through the Book:  Twice in a Lifetime

I am also trying to use books as a take-off for general discussion posts.  Maybe I'll pick up on something about the writing, or even about an issue raised in the story and I'm going to focus my post on that, rather than on a more traditional book review.  I did that with 

If you've been blogging for years, has your reviewing style changed?  Do you think that other people have changed the way the write reviews (not to mention platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or Tik Toc?) Has what you like to see in a review changed?  

Hope everyone has a great week and I'll be around to see what you are reading and reviewing. 

Blogging Through the Book: Twice in a Lifetime

I've gotten bored with my book review format so I'm trying something new.  Rather than reading a book and then commenting on it when done, I'm going to write a little at several points during my reading--questions in my mind, phrases that struck me, thoughts about the characters.  What do you think of my new format?

About the Book:

Isla has fled the city for small-town Missouri in the wake of a painful and exhausting year. With her chronic anxiety at a fever pitch, the last thing she expects is to meet a genuine romantic prospect. And she doesn’t. But she does get a text from a man who seems to think he’s her husband. Obviously, a wrong number—except when she points this out, the mystery texter sends back a picture. Of them—on their wedding day.
Isla cautiously starts up a texting relationship with her maybe-hoax, maybe-husband Ewan, who claims to be reaching out from a few years into the future. Ewan knows Isla incredibly well, and seems to love her exactly as she is, which she can hardly fathom. But he’s also grieving, because in the future, he and Isla are no longer together.
Ewan is texting back through time to save her from a fate he is unwilling to share—and all she can do to prevent that fate is to learn to be happy, now, in the body she has, with the mind she has. The only trouble is the steps she takes in that direction might be steps away from a future with Ewan.
Melissa Baron’s time-crossed romance features a quintessentially endearing and brave protagonist, and an engrossing plot that will keep you turning pages until its breathtaking finish.

My Comments:

In the Beginning...

In the first couple of chapters, readers learn that Isla, the main character, is an artist who suffers from anxiety.  She recently moved to a new city.  She is an introvert.  She gets a text message from a man who claims to be her husband and who knows enough details about her life that he can't just be dismissed as a crackpot.  Talk about a hook!

Who is this guy?  Isla recently lost her mom and it is mentioned that she suffered a nervous breakdown.  Is he a husband she has forgotten?  Is he a figment of her imagination?  Is someone playing games with her?  Is it a time travel novel?  Yup, I'm ready to read on.  

A Little Further In....

He gave Isla the answer to the "Who is this guy?" question I asked, but I'm not sure I believe him.  

Ila is an interesting character.  She clearly suffers from mental illness.  She was close to her now-dead mother but is not close to her Dad-she didn't even tell him she was moving to St. Louis but he heard about it through the grapevine.  People give her anxiety but she has best friend, Willow, who is always there for her, and at work she has made friends with two young single women.  However, for all her anxiety (or because of it?) she was eager to move away from all that was familiar and start over in life.  

I've never suffered from the debilitating anxiety that plagues Isla, but I chose to leave my hometown for the big city in part because I never felt like I belonged.  

Another Night's Reading

Now something has happened that makes me wonder even more if I was right not to trust what the husband, Ewan, said about how he fit in the story.  I'm also getting a real view of how strong Isla is, despite her mental illness.  And I LOVE her best friend. 

75% of the Way Through

The romance is progressing, and we've gotten a chance to meet Isla's dad (no mystery why she suffers from anxiety now).  I could just hug Ewan for how he handled Isla's dad, and on the other hand I can SO relate to her request to Ewan not to speak for her.  Loved a section on silence and conversation.  The last chapter of this reading session ends with what sounds like a throw-away detail--but if it isn't meaningful, why is it there?   I wonder if it relates to the set-up for the book/their relationship?  

Some Words That Struck Me

"They rarely spoke...preferring instead the silence of shared grief.  It weighed as much as wet summer air in New Orleans."  I live in New Orleans, how an I not love that sentence?  

"When there was too much noise, too much stimulation, her thoughts scattered to the four corners of the earth, and she found it hard to participate in conversations were too many people were talking.  It became harder to express her opinion because, if no one asked for it, they clearly didn't want it."  My in-laws (a boisterous loving Italian family) thought me stand-offish because I could never get a word in edgewise.  

What Worked...and What Didn't

What worked was the characters.  Isla had me in her corner from the start. She puts up a strong front and the collapses in private.  Life is hard, but she keeps on living.   Ewan is a sweetheart and his two gay friends were shown as people, not caricatures or simply walking sex lives.  Isla's dad manages to make quite an impression during his short time on stage.  

What didn't was the whole resolution to the time line thing.  It just felt forced and unsatisfying.   

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  B. 

Doctors and Friends: Blogging Through the Book

About the Book:

Hannah, Compton, and Kira have been close friends since medical school, reuniting once a year for a much-needed vacation. Just as they gather to travel in Spain, an outbreak of a fast-spreading virus throws the world into chaos.

When Compton Winfield returns to her job as an ER doctor in New York City, she finds a city changed beyond recognition - and a personal loss so gutting, it reshapes every aspect of her life.

Hannah Geier’s career as an ob-gyn in San Diego is fulfilling, but she’s always longed for a child of her own. After years of trying, Hannah discovers she's expecting a baby, just as the disease engulfs her city.

Kira Marchand, an infectious disease doctor at the CDC in Atlanta, finds herself at the center of the American response to the terrifying new illness. Her professional battle turns personal when she must decide whether her children will receive an experimental but potentially life-saving treatment.

Written prior to COVID-19 by a former emergency medicine physician, Doctors and Friends incorporates unexpected wit, razor-edged poignancy, and a deeply relatable cast of characters who provoke both laughter and tears. Martin provides a unique insider’s perspective into the world of medical professionals working to save lives during the most difficult situations of their careers.

 Opening Chapters

The book opens at a Christmas party held after the pandemic was under control.  No, not Covid, a pandemic of the author's imagination, at least according to the preface of the book. Doctors and Friends was copyrighted/published in 2021 but the preface says it was written before Covid and the world in the book is fictional.  Evidently Kira is that world's version of Dr. Fauchi--the person who would get on TV and talk about the pandemic in the name of the government.  At that party we learn that "everyone" is wearing pins that broadcast their disease status and that the virus has a hidden long-term effect on the brains of some people.  We also learn that the virus caused economic devastation.  Shaking hands is no longer popular.  I have to wonder what edits were done to the manuscript after Covid-19 hit.  

The timeline then shifts to just before the pandemic.  Kira and her medical school friends (all women) are gathering in Spain to see the sights and enjoy girl time, and Kira gets a call from work about this strange illness that starts with a cough and then kills people very quickly. 

I love the relationships I see between these women.  They truly know each other's faults and love each other anyway.  

The Story Develops

The problem with blogging as  I read, as opposed to reviewing after I read is trying to decide how much to say.  Its hard to give an "on the ground" view on the book without giving away plot points.  Since this book is neither new at this point nor famous, I guess its not that big a deal but in other stories it might be.  So, be forewarned, there may be spoilers.

I'd really like to know what, if anything, was added to the book after Covid.   I mean this is all bringing back memories--the hallway chatter about that stuff in China.  The jokes in February during Mardi Gras about how all that Chinese junk that was being thrown from floats was going to get us all sick, and then the party St. Patrick's Day weekend when we bumped elbows instead of kissing--just in case.  

In the book, the first signs are there, and the people are reacting pretty much the way we did.  Its like I can see the avalanche coming.  If the author truly wrote this pre-covid she did her homework is all I can say. 

And Further Into the Story...

At the end, the author does admit she edited the book after Covid started and added some things--like Zoom calls, which I had wondered about because I hadn't heard of Zoom pre-Covid but now we all know that tic-tac-toe screen. 

The virus in this story is much more lethal than Covid-19 and kills the young and the old so it sounds like people took it as much more of a threat than most considered Covid to be.  The US president in the story is a woman and as non-Trump as it is possible to make a character and this is no comment on policy, but on personality.  Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Trump's persona was "This is that I think and if you disagree you are an idiot", which is probably not the personality to be in charge of a situation that requires consensus from a variety of competing interests.  

In the End  

The beginning of the end of the story is back at the Christmas party and we learn how Kira and her friends made it through the pandemic and the losses they suffered.  

As the pandemic kicked off we were Kira and her medical school friends on their yearly get-together and I thought something that was said was interesting.  Basically these were women who were together for four very important years in their lives and who have since gone their separate ways, to different towns, different specialities and different relationships.  Though they keep up by all the modern forms of communication, they are only together as a group on this yearly trip, and it was noted that they tended to revert to their 24 year old personalities when they got together.  I wonder if my college friends and I do that without realizing it? 

So, Was It Any Good?

Yes, it was a good read that was close enough to the reality we have lived for the past two and half years to make me uncomfortable and far enough away so that comfortable detachment was possible.  Grade:  B+

Thanks to NetGalley for making a review copy available.  If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, this is part of the subscription.   

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