The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

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Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star hotel on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for Neptune-Avradimis, reads the words and orders a drink to calm down. Alkaitis, the owner of the hotel and a wealthy investment manager, arrives too late to read the threat, never knowing it was intended for him. He leaves Vincent a hundred dollar tip along with his business card, and a year later they are living together as husband and wife.

High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. He holds the life savings of an artist named Olivia Collins, the fortunes of a Saudi prince and his extended family, and countless retirement funds, including Leon Prevant’s. The collapse of the financial empire is as swift as it is devastating, obliterating fortunes and lives, while Vincent walks away into the night. Until, years later, she steps aboard a Neptune-Avramidis vessel, the Neptune Cumberland, and disappears from the ship between ports of call.

In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.

 

I got this ARC at a give away during NYCC ’19.

I’m really glad I listened to the audiobook of Station Eleven right before reading this ARC because there are some Easter eggs. (Though it’s not a requirement to read Station Eleven before.) It’s almost a parallel universe in a way. I loved that the story played with alternate realities. I imaging an AU of my life all the time. I also liked the elements of ghosts or being haunted by the past (depending on the reader’s views).

I really like Mandel’s style of writing. The Glass Hotel goes back and forth in time and between different POVs. It does it really well. The pacing and the way details unfold is seamless. It made it a real page turner.

I loved the multi-POVs from everyone: the criminals in the Ponzi scheme and the victims of the scheme, and seeing how they all are connected to each other. The characters are interesting and well develop without boggling the book with too much detail.

I also have many favorite quotes that I related to, but I feel that is opening a whole other discussion and I’m going to keep this review just a review.

So here is one quote that made me chuckle:
Page 94 – “You cannot be both an unwashed bohemian and Cary Grant.”

This is so me and all the imaginary discussions I have:
Page 285 – “It turned out that never having that conversation with Vincent meant that he was somehow condemned to alwayshave that conversation with Vincent.”

Yes, I know I am supposed to check the ARC with he final print before quoting, but these are just too good not to share.

4.5  out of 5  Investments. 

The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander

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In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, on which she discovers an enriching passion for music. Yet after she marries, her husband insists the family emigrate to America–and loses her piano in the process.

In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy is burdened by the last gift her father gave her before he and her mother died in a terrible house fire: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Now a talented and independent auto mechanic, Clara’s career is put on hold when she breaks her hand trying to move the piano, and in sudden frustration she decides to sell it. Only in discovering the identity of the buyer–and the secret history of her piano–will Clara be set free to live the life of her choosing.

I got this title at Book Con 2019. Penguin Random House/Knopf had a “blind date with a book” giveaway. They had the books wrapped in different color paper depending on these genres: fiction, non-fiction, mystery, true crime, or historical fiction.

I chose historical fiction and got an old ARC for The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander. It was published in January 2019. Even though it was given away as historical fiction I wouldn’t place it in that category. Life in the USSR was not the main focus. Most of the story takes place in California in the 1980s, 90s and present day.

That’s just my opinion. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it. The story was sad but ends with hope. I really like the way it began and ended, like bookends.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, narrated by Kirsten Potter

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One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the cross-hairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

I got an ARC of Emily’s new book The Glass Hotel from NYCC ’19 and before I read that I wanted to listen to Station Eleven.

I could not stop listening to it. It’s not so much that it’s suspenseful but I needed to find out what happened to the characters.

There are a few main characters to follow and it moves back and forth through time, and that has the potential to get confusing and messy. Station Eleven is written seamlessly with the way the little details unfold and connect. That’s also what made it un-put-downable.

Post-apocalyptic stories always scare me just a little bit. Listening to the way civilization unraveled had me a bit freaked out. (I don’t think I’d make it far. I can’t hunt or fish or garden. Unless I found someone to teach me those skills I would die within the first year.)

Favorite Quote in Chapter 23: “Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”

5 out of 5 Symphonies 

I only have one small wish for the ending:

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Dracula by Bram Stoker, narrated by B.J. Harrison

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Dracula is a Transylvanian monarch planning on purchasing a ruined castle in England. Before he knows it, Jonathan is trapped inside Dracula’s castle as a prisoner. Taken from a collection of journal entries, letters, telegrams, and newspaper clippings, Dracula is the grand sire of all vampire tales. Discover the nefarious means Dracula uses to enter England and wreak his hellish havoc. Who can stop the lord of the undead? Only the Dutch scientist Van Helsing can persuade the disbelieving to believe the reality that there are creatures of the night beyond our ken – things that suck the blood of the living, transform into mist, and flee to the safety of their coffins before the rising of the sun.

 

I first tried to read this back in 2013 when I got a free copy of the book at NYCC.
They gave them out after the panel for the NBC drama Dracula staring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Back then I got about 64 pages in before I gave up (right after Lucy’s letter about her three proposals.) I was bored and annoyed that the story was told through letters and diary entries. I wanted the point of view from Dracula himself. (What are his true origins? Is he the first ever vampire? How old is he?)

Then I got into audiobooks and I really enjoy B.J. Harrison’s narrations. (I listened to his narration of The Count of Monte Cristo.) When I saw he narrated Dracula I thought I would try again.

I enjoyed it so much more this time and followed along with the copy I kept from NYCC 2013. (Some sentences were missing from the audiobook! Different editions, perhaps?)

Ok, so some spoilers below. Are they still spoilers when the book has been out for over 100 years?
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More News Tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve

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On the morning of her seventieth birthday, Georgianna Grove receives an unexpected letter that calls her back to Missing Lake, Wisconsin, where her mother was murdered sixty-six years earlier. Georgie’s father had confessed to the murder the next morning and was carted off to a state penitentiary. Haunted by the night that took both her parents away and determined to unearth the truth, Georgie takes her reluctant family on what will become a dangerous canoe trip up the swollen Bone River to return to Missing Lake.

Acclaimed novelist Susan Richards Shreve, celebrated for her “refined explorations of parent-child relationships” (Washington Post), captures the tenor of the times with clarity and elegance as she follows both Georgie and her parents on parallel trips up the Bone River, weaving together the hope of June 2008 with the injustices of June 1941. Georgie must untangle a web of bigotry, loss, and half-forgotten memories to finally understand her parents’ fate.

More News Tomorrow is a stirring and irresistible portrait of a family drawn together in search of truth.

I picked this ARC up at Book Con 2019.

More News Tomorrow is a fast, entertaining read. I enjoyed reading the multiple point of views from the present and the past. Most were written in the third person and one was in the first person.

It is a page turner because I just had to know if Georgie’s father really killed her mother. Some twists and doubts are presented.

 

Warning! Major Spoilers Below:

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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton.

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Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Will Patton. At first I really didn’t like his voice at all and missed Campbell Scott’s voice. But as I started getting into it I got used to his gruffness and thought it actually worked really well with some of the members of the True Knot and with Billy Freeman.

I thought Dan’s character as an adult was spot on for what would become of his life in the aftermath of the traumatic events of the Overlook Hotel. Also, the way he wrote his recovery from alcoholism was so well written and so believable that (besides King saying it himself in the Author’s Note) I looked it up and King knows from experience! I did not know that Stephen King was a recovering alcoholic.

WARNING: NOW THE REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS BELOW.

THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!

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The Shining by Stephen King, Narrated by Campbell Scott

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Listening Length: 15 hours and 56 minutes

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

The Shining certainly lived up to the hype. I became afraid of the dark, and I even jumped in my seat on the bus when the passenger next to me adjusted his position in his seat.

This is the first King novel I have ever read/listen to. I have read/listened to a couple of novels by his son Joe Hill, and I can see their similarities with their prose. I liked the way King describes the settings and actions. I bookmarked a few favorite parts.

The pacing and character development was just right and so engaging. It is very hard to put it down. I jumped, gasped and groaned in reaction.

Campbell Scott’s narration was excellent. Without overly changing his voice too much he made it easy to distinguish the characters and when Jack is possessed at the end, the insanity in his voice is chilling.

Some Favorite Quotes:
Chapter 8: The mountains did not forgive many mistakes.

Chapter 33: (about the woman in 217) Like some malevolent clockwork toy she had been wound up and set in motion by Danny’s own mind… and his own.

Chapter 43: All the hotel’s era were together tonight now, all but the current one, the Torrance era.

5 out of 5 Roque Mallets.

I think most people have seen the movie by Kubrick, but that does not do the story justice. It missed the point and changed the essence of the characters. Danny is an intelligent boy and the movie dumbs him down, especially with his imaginary friend, Tony.

Jack Torrance being played by Jack Nicholson makes him seem like he was always a sinister, crazy man when he is more of a tragic character that gets manipulated by the Hotel.

The movie is great on it’s own and I will still watch it when I see it on TV. However, it is not a great adaptation of the book.