Posts Tagged ‘books’

Recent Reads

Posted: June 28, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Another book I’ve been meaning to read, heard of, sounded good …. and then the movie coming out doesn’t sound terrible, but Must read the book First.  I’m afraid to see the movie, afraid of the trivialization.  She has written other books, which I may someday get around to reading, as I do enjoy her style.  But that is not what kept me reading this book.  The book allows you to follow Ms. Gilbert on a transformative journey, from broken by divorce to peace and health, and yes, finally love.  I think this is the type of book you need to read at a certain time in your life.  If you’re 20 and life is fine, it won’t be as meaningful as it is to someone trying to find their own way through midlife and back to what passes for sanity.  If taken to heart, the book could also be a catalyst in one’s own life.  If the student is ready …  I was ready for this book – I just wish that I could keep it, and reread passages over and over again until they stick.

So Many Books, by Gabriel Zaid.  Translated from the Spanish, but there is certainly no feeling of ‘otherness’ in this book, it feels as if you were a book-geek and sat down to discuss with another book-geek.    A pithy little book, and one I’d like to add to my collection, as there were a number of places I wanted to underline, and emphasize, which is certainly not possible in a book not one’s own (and questionable even then!).  I greatly enjoyed this book, which spoke about the volume of volumes published, good bad or indifferent, and the economics of current publishing.

The Clone Codes, Patricia & Frederick McKissack.  A short book which preaches against slavery without being preachy, teaches tolerance while admitting that we are creatures of our environment and habits, and leaves you feeling that we can change and we can do better.  And yes, I did pick the book up because of its’ cover (shiny! code!).  A good book, for the middle school crowd; too much violence for younger kids and not enough for the older ones.

Children of the Sea, by Daisuke Igarashi.  Manga, but with color, and the characters seem more real, more individual, with modern clothing.  The coloring, primarily on separator pages leans heavily to the blues and greens, graphically situating you for this series about, well, children of the sea.  It centers (at least in books 1& 2, further books not yet in English translation) some children in Japan, with odd vignettes that seem to be actual reports of sightings, except for the disclaimer that the book is entirely a work of fiction.  We are fascinated by the sea, and there have been legends of children raised by seals, sea lions, dolphins … many larger marine life forms, depending on the area.  Gentle, and almost comforting.

Sookie Stackhouse novels… Charlaine Harris, author.

Living Dead in Dallas. Shifters and maenads and Weres, Oh, My!

Club Dead. Anti-social networking.

Dead to the World. As the fur flies…

Dead as a Doornail.  Hot times in Bon Temps

Definitely Dead. Courtly manners and unruly wolves.

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(started…) Night Train to Lisbon, by  Pascal Mercier, translated from the German.  Slow starter, but richly detailed.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.  I wanted to say this was Nicholas Sparks.  It was emotional, cloying at times, irritating at others because of the constant switching back and forth in voice and time.  That was part of the idea, I am sure; give us a sense of how  … unnerving it would be to unanchored in time, and unable to control it.  I enjoyed the quotes far more than the rather heavy handed philosophizing about whether or not is was possible or appropriate to change the future, or if it could be done.  The author seems to argue that what’s happened can’t be changed, no matter what we do – and then goes ahead and has the characters warn each other about things to come.  The books started out well, but it seemed to get about half way and peter out, running out of energy and reasons to hold true to not telling each other anything. I had wanted to read the book before I saw the movie – now I’m not sure that I’ll bother with the movie.

The Girl Who Played with Fire, Steig Larsson (again!).  I’m sure everyone has read at least one book by an author and was blown away, only to read book 2, and find it … less.  This is not such a book.  If anything, it was faster paced, playing out over a few weeks, rather than months.  We find again Mikael Blomkvist, intrepid investigative journalist, and the elusive Elsbeth Salander, of the title, with a host of supporting cast.  The story  is loosely drawn at the start, but becomes a noose rapidly tightening, like the tension.  My only complaint was the abrupt ending – and that I didn’t have book 3 in my hands.

Here, There Be Dragons, by James A. Owen.  This was a fun book with plenty of action, confusion and mythical creatures.  It pulls from CS Lewis and Arthurian myth and references many authors and historical figures.  Written for teens, but not sure that they will catch all the literary references – I didn’t, and I think that was half of the author’s point.  First of a trilogy, fantasy certainly, but … not really sure that it holds enough interest for further books, especially since they’re Large books.

Magic Knight Rayearth, by Clamp.  My continuing mission to try to ‘get’ manga.  Three girls get whisked from Tokyo to another world/dimension where they are magic knights who have been summoned to help save the world.  They have to embark on a quest to become the saviors the world needs. Entertaining, typical ‘manga’ with the large eyes, long hair,  schoolgirl uniforms, blob-like mystical creatures and ‘mini’s when they are angry. Interesting, but maybe I should have gotten the whole series to read instead of just one book.

Wild Magic, by Tamora Pierce. A girl, on the run, trying to hide who she is finds acceptance. Magic, epic battles, and a coming of age story all wrapped up in one.  A fun read, but also part of a series, which I should have had and read all at the same time – I really wanted to read the second (and presumably third).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  Wow.  I’ve seen the books, and they looked interesting, and seem to recall having seen some good press.  It was understated.  An action/thriller/mystery that moves very quickly after the first few pages. The verbal precision and tight construction of Tom Clancy, but with more twist, turns and complexity.  Each section has a statistic on violence towards women, which ties in neatly with the book.  I watch far too much crime tv and can generally spot what’s coming, but that was not a problem in this book; everything made sense,  you were led to where he was going. It was refreshing to not be able to predict what was going to happen.  The whole book was like that – very new and not quite like anything else that I have read. Stupendous.

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris.  OK, cheap trashy, but still fun.  It was interesting to me; Gossip Girl was made into a series, but each book was a separate episode.  This one book became a whole season.  Again, I have to learn that when there is a series, I should request the whole thing and read it at once, because now I want to read the rest of them.

Angel Sanctuary, by Kaori Yuki.  This one was a little disturbing, with the gender-bending, the main character in love with his sister.  The story arc concerns angels before and after the fall, and the attempts by the fallen to recover their place and by the cherubim to make sure that all stays well.

Nana, by Ai Yazawa. A story of two girls with the same name (Nana).  I like this one; the drawing is less stereotypical and the story is more real. It’s a little odd, because I like stories of gods and fairies and the mystical/supernatural.

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini.  After all the hype about the movie, which was very pretty, loved the scenery, but … meh, I read the book. Much better; I understand why book fans were miffed at the movie treatment.  The movie left out a great deal of the story, changed things that were important to the story line… in short, a typical Hollywood treatment, unfortunately.

First Contact, or It’s Later Than You Think, by Evan L. Manderly. Wow. What a wonderful, fun book. The aliens have landed, but it’s OK.  Perhaps we have seen the aliens and they are us?  Irreverent, poking fun at politics, politicians, the judicial and legislative branches of government, among other things.  Self-referential, with the narrator stepping out of the story to address us directly, à la Woody Allen.  Strongly recommended.

The Tarot Café, Sang-Sun Park. So, I’m a librarian, interested in things YA.  I know manga is big with teens, so I wanted to read some.  It was definitely different, interesting … maybe I need to read the whole series?  I think Kindles and reading on the computer are just fine, but will never switch from actual, hold them in my hands books … with words.  I like pictures, but I really, really like words.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.  I need to brush up on my French.  This gem is a translation from the original French.  The prose is elegant, the characters are deep and intricate. I loved the sense of everyday France which it shows you, but more the glimpse into the interior lives of people trying to be invisible, people thinking and discovering themselves.  This is no American novel, with ‘happily-ever-after,’ no huge action, nothing bigger than life, rather the exact opposite; it treats you to simple wonder, to the exquisite in simple details … like a camellia against moss.

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen and Daniel Relin.  A book that makes me want to change the world, go do good works, or donate a fortune (if I had one). Mortenson was raised in the shadow of Kilimanjaro (Africa), a missionary’s child and became a climber. After a failed attempt at K2 (northern Pakistan), he got lost and found himself in Korphe.  As he recovered, his hosts show him around their town and he sees students determined to learn, thought they lack materials, a consistent teacher or a building. Mortensen promises to return and build them a school.  Set before and after 9/11, it shows us a forgotten and misunderstood corner of the world, where schools set up by his agency, the Central Asia Institute (CAI) are the best advocates that the US could hope to have.  I’d been meaning to read this for some time; a man who was a mountain climber, who was trying to improve the world one school at a time, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the US military was bombing everyone, he was building; a a school, a dream, a future – and for girls, who typically get less education in less developed countries.  Buildings, rather than bombs. Bridges rather than ultimatums.  It made me wish I was 20 and free to go to Pakistan and help build schools, teach, change the world – one girl at a time.

Cardcaptor Sakura, by Clamp. Still working on the whole manga thing – this one has the original back to front format, and has the typical Japanime features on the characters.  It takes me a while (antique that I am!) to remember in which order the panels should be read, which makes the reading … interesting.

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I am a Reader.  I read books, magazines, newspapers, and the backs of cereal boxes when all else fails.  I am a consumer of words, spoken, written, good, bad, absurd and everything in between.  This is my small attempt to put ideas (words) inspired by things I have read, seen, imagined or been curious about in some form and share some of my enthusiasm with you (presumably) another Reader.

So what, as a Reader, am I currently reading?  Hmmmn…

I am wading through The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt.  The title, and yes, I confess, the dragonfly design on the cover caught my attention, and the flyleaf promised a rich tale.  A dainty tome, at 675 pages, it is indeed rich in period details, as well as rich in characters.  We are introduced first to three boys, but are soon plunged into the lives of their families, which then expand to the families social and political acquaintances.  It is not a swift read, either in pages or in events.  The characters are complex, and so are the intertwined storylines.  It would go better if I hadn’t started reading it on break at work, but … there it is.  I haven’t finished, only half-way so far, so no final verdict.

I picked up Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France; Historical geography from the Revolution to the First World War as I was sorting books at the library.  I am a confirmed Francophile. I love this book, it talks about the people of what is now France and how separate they were, even from village to village.  I am fascinated with the linguistic variety and how recently French was not the major language.  Time to move the Breton and Basque language learning back on the to-do list.  I want to go back!

I picked up Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality Taste & Style by Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney.  I picked it up for my daughter, who loves Tim Gunn, but wound up skimming it myself.  Who, it asks, are you (clothing/presentation-wise)?  My closet would give anyone a headache.  Now all I need to do is decide what style I want to project – I have everything from crisp, tailored professional to fringe, tie-dye and Ren wear, not to mention lots of t-shirts, jeans and sweatshirts.  Lots of good food for thought, and he/they isn’t advocating breaking the bank or starting from scratch.  Go, Tim!

Today’s picks (I can’t walk into the library without walking out with a book):

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark; a mysterious book, a rescued orphan being taught the secrets of the table by a chef.  It sounds like great fun.

I had a wait, and I found Rosemary Rowe’s Requiem for a Slave.  It’s part of a series, a Libertus Mystery of Roman Britain.  History is another interest of mine, and Roman-era Britain intrigues me.

Lastly, I recently read a sweet picture book to my (19-year old) daughter.  Adèle and Simon, by Barbara McClintock is a lovely picture book, with repetitive text.  Adèle has to fetch her little brother, Simon from school, but he looses pieces all the way home.  We are treated to views of iconic places in Paris, where Pierre manages to loose items.  Waldo-like, you can find his assorted pieces hidden in the pictures.  And for every child who has stressed about loosing things, they all appear at the door at the end of the book.

A bientôt!