Review: Obedience

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Books, I was able to read this in advance of its January 31 publication date.

Obedience is (taken from Goodreads) set in contemporary and World War II France, this is the story of Sister Bernard: her forbidden love, her uncertain faith, and her guilt- ridden past.

A once -bustling convent in the South of France is closing, leaving behind three elderly nuns. Forced, for the first time, to confront the community that she betrayed decades ago, Sister Bernard relives her life during the war.

At thirty, Sister Bernard can hear the voice of God-strident, furious, and personal. When a young Nazi soldier, a member of the German occupying forces, asks her to meet him in the church in secret one evening, she agrees. And so begins the horrifying and passionate love affair that will deafen the heavens and define her life, tempting her into duplicity. Obedience is a powerful exploration of one woman’s struggle to reconcile her aching need to be loved with her fear of God’s wrath

Unfortunately, and in my opinion (because that’s what these reviews are right? Our own opinion…) this is not a powerful tale at all. It leaves the reader quite confused, and with far too many unanswered questions. There is no historical background or build up to Sister Bernard, her past or why she became a nun, the community that she betrayed. There is no passionate love affair, he made a bet with his fellow soldiers and simply continued to use Sister Bernard. That she felt adoring love for him, does not constitute a passionate love affair to me.

It is an oddly written story that fell short of my expectations. I feel like I have to apologize for that…because I didn’t like it, I’m sorry? It did not hold my interest at all, and it had such great potential based on the description!

The book opens immediately with the story of Sister Bernard at the convent occupied by German soliders. And when I say it opens immediately, I mean it. There is no real date provided, no history or explanation as to why the German soliders are there, no description of Sister Bernard at all. Actually, there is no description given to anything at all in this story.  It seems to start right in the middle it. I kept checking to make sure I was on the right page, that this story did indeed only have 288 pages and yes, I was on Chapter 1. It felt as though I interrupted something in the middle of a private conversation.

Chapter 2 starts in much the same way. (The alternating chapters are supposed to be WWII France and Contemporary France) And Oh! All of a sudden Sister Bernard and the 2 other remaining nuns are now in serious old age and are off to a diocese nursing home. It does not give us any real time frame, no information as to why they are closing the convent, why they are leaving…it just seemed all so not be given any descriptive background info on anyone.

Characters just appear on the page, and some appear and are never mentioned again. Who is Marie? How about Claude? What about Therese? And who is Veronique all of a sudden?? People just popped in out of nowhere and the reader is given no descriptive details at all.

I’m so disappointed and I’m giving it 2 stars. How unfortunate as I was really intrigued by this story. 😦

Review: 1Q84

Well, I’m happy it’s over. But please, don’t get me wrong, I honestly did enjoy reading this, but it will be one of the last 1,000 pagers I read for some time.  Boiled down, it is a nice “love story” with out there fantasy and magical elements to it. But…also plenty of ridiculousness as well. And, I admit to growing quite fatigued, with hints of boredom beginning to creep in. It felt more like a full time job having to devote this much time to one story.

What I Did Enjoy:

  1. Aomame: She had hints of Lisbeth Salander.
  2. The Dowager: I liked this woman: she’s in her 70s taking care of business, giving respite to battered women and being the Queen Organizer for ridding the world of worthless abusive men.
  3. the interconnectivity of many things mentioned throughout the book, for instance Tengo would be reading a novel, and then you would find the Tamaru discussing the same book and author in his conversation with Aomame. Or Tengo reading a book about a place to Fuka Eri and later you find that this is where Tamaru was raised. They are entirely separate, yet connected in so many ways.
  4. It was “easy” to read, and was a good story.

What I did Not enjoy:

  1. Way.Too.Long. Fatigue and frustration were abundant towards the end. It was a considerable investment of time to make, making me anxious to end rather than enjoy.
  2. WAY too much mention of sex and sex organs. All in silly and inappropriate parts. There was no escape from it, most notably in Book 1. The excrutiatingly bad descriptions of sex, sex organs, pubic hair, size, shape, colour, etc. It came in to conversation far too often and in far too many inappropriate parts. Most cases, it had NO business being said. Seriously. I understand it was nominated or a serious contender for winning Worst Sex Scene, but in my opinion, that needs to be pluralized. Inserting talk about stroking scrotums in the last sentence of a paragraph where stroking a scrotum was so completely unnecessary was a major turn off.
  3. Some of his comparisons were ridiculous, “it was out of place like a centipede in yogurt.” What? There is another in there about feeling tension in your female organs and stirring hot cocoa but I can’t remember that precisely enough to quote it here. You may get the idea though…
  4. Repetitive. Many times I had to look at what page I was on to make sure I didn’t hit the back button by accident. Entire sections felt as though they were repeated in following chapters. Liberal skipping of pages taking place by this point. Most especially in Book 3.
  5. Far too much time spent on frivolous details about Ushikawa and his quest in Book 3. I was so fatigued (and becoming bored) by this point that I did even more liberal scanning/skipping of pages. Because by this point I could care less about Ushikawa and his life, all chapters devoted to him could easily have been edited right out and not make a fig of difference to the story because I was only anxious to:
  7. The end was shaping up nicely, and then Murakami puts this in there, and just about causes me to throw the e-reader out the window. It is the part where Aomame is remembering her two lost friends in the world:

Aomame thought again of Tamaki. She remembered her smooth, beautifully shaped breasts. So different from my own underdeveloped chest, she thought. But those beautiful breasts are now gone forever. She thought of Ayumi Nakano…She had beautiful breasts as well. Aomame mourned the deaths of these two friends deeply. It saddened her to think that these women were forever gone from the world. And she mourned their lovely breasts – breasts that had vanished without a trace.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That just about did me in! When mourning a lost best friend, the very last thing I mourn about is their breasts! I don’t even give them thought!!!!!!!!!!

Overall, I did enjoy it, but was it something that rocked my world or changed my life? Not really. Because if I have to repeat myself, I’m just glad it’s done. I feel like perhaps I should get a prize. And it bothers me to say that, because it was a very enjoyable story! It was just way too long and with moments of ridiculousness (as above!) and added many unnecessary elements in the end. 3.5 stars.

Upon reflection this morning, I realized this book strongly reminds me of Big Machine, by Lavalle: . It held many of the same elements: religion, Leader(s), fantasy, “little”, or “different people”, etc.

I also realized that these two books something I was “challenged” to read. Oprah suggested Big Machine (from a survey I took) and when reading the description it was nothing that I would normally pick up. As well, with 1Q84, it was the Opinionless Online Book Club that put the challenge out to read Murakami’s 1Q84. Again, nothing I would ever have considered. And although I can say I enjoyed reading them, I think my original hesitation in reading this style, or genre, remains. It will take a great deal of convincing me to pick another book from this genre again in the near future.

In the end, you may wish to read Big Machine (it’s way shorter too!):

Our Reading Challenges and Goals for 2012

Well, it’s now 2012 and we’ve signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge again. And new this year, just signed on for the Harper Collins Canada 50bookPledge . Released today, it looks like fun and may challenge us to read more from the Canadian bookshelves (although 2011 was already a stellar year for Canadian authors).

Although too many times we felt a huge amount of pressure and anxiety to meet the challenge, many of us did start later in the year so realistically couldn’t finish it in regards to reading that much in a 12-month time-period.

It was fun though, and at the end of this year, it was interesting to look back and see what was read. A little pressure wouldn’t hurt anyway! You can watch our progress throughout the year, on your right….

Penny has challenged herself to 65. That’s an increase of 5 from the 2011 challenge. I met the 60 book challenge but I know I could not have done it really without those audio books. 2011 was the year I discovered the audiobook and I cannot see myself stopping that fun! Reading 1,000 page tomes however will indeed make it harder to meet the challenge (thank you 1Q84) but I also don’t want to see myself choosing a book just because it’s short! 🙂 AND if I don’t read Mists of Avalon this year, a certain friendship may be in jeopardy!

My goal this year is also to “read from home”! I have many, many, many great ones sitting on the shelves begging to be read – I mean, it’s the reason for buying them in the first place. I’d like to challenge myself to spend more time reading from my TBR at home and on the Kobo this year, preferably before buying any more. THAT will be freaking difficult, but I’m gonna try! There is also the challenge to read all the amazing titles that Windsor Public Library is bringing in. That could be it’s own challenge! I could honestly read 100% from the lists I’ve made sitting at WPL alone.

Jackie has also challenged herself to 65 books. Even tho i fell short in 2011 (51 of my 60 book goal) I don’t think that this will be a problem. Looking back at my reading dates I seem to be much more likely to read inside, under a blanket with a cat on my lap in the wintry months than when it is nice outside so i will need to keep up my pace in the spring/summer months. Agree with Penny– audiobooks are a must because there are just too many damn good books out there that i want to get to!!

I also plan to read from the TBR piles (in the nooks and on the shelves) or from the WPL as 2012 has also been declared the BUDGET YEAR in our house!!! I literally have 100s of books waiting– some that have been hanging around for WAY too long! i will offer myself one treat/new book a month to buy so i will have to make every purchase count (YIKES that is only 12 new books for the year!!!) Raiding other Hoarders book shelves should also help in keeping the budget in check! *wink wink*

Elizabeth has signed up for 65 as well, which will indeed be a challenge, since I have a few 1,000+ page books on my to-read list in 2012!  (1Q84, Mists of Avalon and Under the Dome.)  I need to take on audio books like my fellow hoarders, or I’ll fall short.  I started my 2011 Challenge in June last year, which was much too late.  Not making that mistake again!  There are several books that I’m anxious for this year, including the release of Rosamund Lupton’s Afterwards (April ’12), and John Irving’s In One Person (May ’12).  However, with the enormous piles of wonderful books waiting for me on my shelves at home, and on my Nook, I should be able to hit the goal without having to purchase any more.  HAHAhahahahaha!!  Whew.  That was a good one.

2012 will also see us blogging for the full year. We just started this adventure in 2011 and it’s been a thrilling ride so far. We appreciate all those that read the reviews and musings and comment.  We hope you keep them coming! Thanks for your support and interest.

Happy Reading!