Bullet Reviews from the Internet Drought
Y’all are just the sweetest people ever!!! Thanks so much for the big welcome back; I’m honestly shocked at how many people already commented on my post, but that just renews my commitment to book blogging. :D Please excuse the excessive amount of exclamation points, even for me: I’m happy to be back. -Eva
You asked, and I answered! Rather than start with a completely blank slate, here are my condensed opinions about the books I was going to write off (there are a few I need to review in full anyway). Here’s a whirlwind tour of my reading since the internet went away! (And now I can start doing Sunday Salon again! yay!) I’ve linked the books through to Powell’s (since the Amazon Fiasco, I’ve decided not to link to them anymore, but of course then I forgot and linked my Books Read to them anyway, lol, so now I have to decide whether to go change that) so that you can read more about the books there. And each book should open in its own seperate window (usually, I just have one window open) by clicking on it, so you can check out multiple books! I’ve kept my thoughts to the bare minimum. The covers (which are all on the right because trying to make them appear on the left and not mess up the bullets was too much for my lowly html skills) are of the books on the list I gave five stars.
- Sugarcane Academy by Michael Tisserand: an interesting look at how upper middle class evacuated New Orleans residents coped after Hurricane Katrina. It’s much more of a memoir than a journalist’s analysis, and there isn’t much focus on the school or the teacher (despite the subtitle). That said, it kept my attention: I read it in a single sitting.
- Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger: I loved both the shorter “Franny” and longer “Zooey” novellas, and I think anyone who’s read Nine Stories will love it too (although they’re obviously slower to develop). And if you haven’t read Salinger’s Nine Stories, what are you waiting for?! Um, can someone more intelligent than me let me know if there are any other Glass books/stories to read? I love the family and want more of them!
- Born Into Brothels ed. Zana Briski: an interesting accompanying photography book to the documentary about children of Mumbai prostitutes, but it could have been put together so much better.
- Relentless Pursuit by Donna Foote: not as analytical as I would have liked, and quite pro-Teach for America-but an interesting peak into the experience of four young college grads teaching high school in LA. Still, at points it felt like advertising or propaganda, which was frustrating.
- The Child that Books Built by Francis Spufford: a fascinating, uber-intellectual look at Spufford’s childhood experiences and how they tied in with his reading. There’s an absolutely awesome chapter on fantasy and the Forest!!! Even though this is a small book, I took my time getting through it, because Spufford’s writing is layered and complex: it deserves to be savoured.
- Javatrekker by Dean Cycon: I bet the author is like that good-natured, intelligent uncle you have who does mildly embarrassing things and makes corny jokes at every family gathering, but always with a good heart. So imagine that uncle, who has a sharp business sense and a law background visiting ethnic minorities around the world and keeping a travel journal about it. Definitely fun and interesting!
- The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa: I love Llosa’s writing, but this book contained a disturbing amount of misogynistic tendencies. It got worse in the last quarter, to the point that I dropped it from four to two stars. But I’ll definitely be reading more Llosa in the future-fingers crossed his other books are more women-friendly.
- Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice by A.S. Byatt: obviously, I loved this short story collection by one of my very favourite authors! There are seriously some incredibly stories in here; my favourite involves an ice princess. If you’ve read quite a bit of Byatt, the stories here feel like a mix between The Matisse Stories and The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.
- Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende: I read this straight through in one sitting. The narrative voice, the story itself, and the unique characters all captured me and didn’t let me go until the last page. I just wish it was double the length! Seriously, I was shocked at just how good this book was: I couldn’t read it fast enough.
- Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman: a fascinating travelogue by a woman who created a second life for herself in middle age, as a nomad. What makes it so great, other than Gelman’s wonderful writing ability, is that she spends quite a bit of time in each place: her goal is to become part of the community. This leads to a much richer read than some travel books I’ve tried out. Gelman is so in touch with who she is, I think she’s a great role model for younger women.
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin: obviously a classic, but I have to be honest: the narrative was too distant for me to really fall in love with the book. I definitely want to try out more LeGuin though; any suggestions?
- The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow: I seriously enjoyed every bit of this book to pieces! A look at how many of our instinctive approaches to numbers and statistics are wrong; it’s so much fun to watch him deconstruct the problems. Much more a logic book than a math book, in my opinion, and remember that I haven’t taken a real math class since high school (I did take stats my final year of college, but the professor was so awful, it shouldn’t count). Oh, and it’s so readable I had to ration it out to myself so I wouldn’t fly through it.
- My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk: I liked this far more than The Black Book. It was a creative approach, with a mystery that kept me turning the pages. And historical Turkey really came alive for me. Still, I don’t think Pamuk will ever be one of my favourite authors. I’m not sure I can pinpoint why…it seems like his focus is a little more on playing games with the reader than telling a great story. Does that make sense?
- Human Cargo by Caroline Moorehead: for an intellectual, she’s written an incredibly one-sided look at refugees. Also, she seems to consider political refugees and economic migrants to be interchangeable. Overall, the stories of individual refugees were valuable, but her arguments and frequent looks at policy were muddled.