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Bullet Reviews from the Internet Drought

May 15, 2009

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.franny

  • 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 forfemalenomad 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 elementalsdefinitely 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, otportraitinsepiaher 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 idrunkardt’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.
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38 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2009 10:14 am

    I have Tales of a Female Nomad on my wishlist since a long time, glad to know it’s good.

    Oh and yes, My Name is Red too.

  2. May 15, 2009 10:48 am

    Re: J.D. Salinger: I believe that RAISE HIGH THE ROOFBEAM, CARPENTERS; AND SEYMOUR, AN INTRODUCTION contains the only other Glass Family stories to see print. It’s a real shame, too, because them’s some good stories.

    Re: Earthsea: I felt much the same as you. I love Le Guin’s writing, but I can never seem to connect with her characters. I did enjoy the second Earthsea book rather more than the first, though. It’s called THE TOMBS OF ATUAN.

  3. May 15, 2009 10:58 am

    That’s a great list.

  4. May 15, 2009 11:02 am

    I definitely want to check out Portrait in Sepia. The cover looks intriguing.

    You read much more intellectual books than I do. Right now, I’m reading ‘I Heart You, You Haunt Me.’

  5. May 15, 2009 11:05 am

    I loved Franny and Zooey – sounds like I need to look for Nine Stories.

  6. May 15, 2009 12:34 pm

    Thanks for your short reviews, I’ve added three books to my TBR list already! :) (Portrait in Sepia, The Drunkard’s Walk, and The Child that Books Built).

    I really liked the Earthsea trilogy when I was younger, but like Memory, I liked the second book better (maybe because it has a labyrinth in it :-p ). A few years ago I read two of her more science-fictiony books, Four Ways to Forgiveness and The Eye of the Heron. They are quite different from the Earthsea books so you might want to try them. I surprisingly liked them quite a bit even though I read little science fiction.

  7. May 15, 2009 1:21 pm

    I’m reading “The Bad Girl” now, and I’ve been really struggling. I’ve felt bad because like you, I really do like Llosa’s writing and I like the historical aspect of it, but… I’ve found that I don’t really like any of the characters. And I’m finding the main character’s love for “the bad girl” kind of unbelievable. Llosa also hasn’t explained exactly why “the bad girl” is so heartless and mean. Maybe that comes later in the book, but I’m not sure if I have the patience to find out. Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    And I’m happy you’re back!

  8. May 15, 2009 1:39 pm

    So glad to see you back, Eva. I was really worried. The Byatt and the Allende sound good. I really like them both, but haven’t read those titles yet. I’m glad you decided to post about your reads during the hiatus. :D

  9. May 15, 2009 1:56 pm

    Wow – without the internet, you got a lot of reading done!! There are some great books there. I’ve been wanting to try Pamuk.

  10. May 15, 2009 3:30 pm

    Eva, you just came back and added a bunch of new ones to my TBR list. Yay! It sounds like you read some really interesting books while you are gone and I can’t wait to hear about what you are reading now.

  11. May 15, 2009 3:48 pm

    I recently read LeGuin’s The Dispossesed and The Lathe of Heaven and enjoyed them both. They are novels of ideas but both good stories as well. They may be a little 1970’s but they still have a few things to say.

  12. May 15, 2009 4:11 pm

    What Amazon fiasco? Did I miss something or maybe it’s just my bad memory! Anyway, I like linking to Powells or B&N but sometimes it’s just whichever loads up faster!

    Anyway, yay, you liked Tales of a Female Nomad. I thought it was such a good book. Oddly enough I wasn’t as wowed by Portrait in Sepia. I’m not sure why. I think I felt that at times she would go on much more about Chile and in this book I didn’t think that should have been as central to the story. I’m probably not making sense now but I read it earlier in the year and already details are getting fuzzy.

  13. May 15, 2009 7:33 pm

    Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. You should hit those.

  14. May 15, 2009 8:45 pm

    Thanks for catching us up on what you read! I have to admit, I’m a Salinger virgin – haven’t read anything by him yet. Where should I start?

  15. adevotedreader permalink
    May 15, 2009 10:26 pm

    Good to see you back Eva!

    I’m glad you enjoyed Elementals, the ice princess story was my favourite as well.

    I’ve still got Nine stories to look forward to, thanks for the reminder.

  16. May 16, 2009 6:26 am

    That’s a lot of reading! I’m going to have to add A Drunkard’s Path to my library pile.

  17. May 16, 2009 7:54 am

    Tales of a Female Nomad sounds like something I would like. The Drunkard’s Walk looks familiar – I think my husband read that recently so it must be in the house somewhere! I’ll have to take a look at it. It’s nice to see you back!

  18. May 16, 2009 8:23 am

    I’m so glad that you decided to do mini reviews of everything you read during your internet-free time! It looks like you read some really great stuff, and I’m now adding tons to my TBR pile (yet again). I really want to read some Allende, and I’ve only read one book by Byatt. I have Nine Stories sitting on my shelf, which I’ll have to get to one of these days (I wasn’t super keen on Franny & Zooey, however).

  19. May 16, 2009 8:56 am

    You are back for one day and there are five (counting 2 Byatts) new-to-me books on the list. Grrr ;) I’ve had trouble with My Name is Red also. Yes, the mystery is fascinating and the detail wonderful, but…your point about his being more interested in playing with the reader’s head is well taken. With that in mind (sorry!), I ‘ll try again. Thanks!

  20. May 16, 2009 1:00 pm

    Glad you are back! Despite your absence, looks like you were able to read some good books. Actually, I’m pretty impressed you fit all of that in.

  21. Shannon permalink
    May 16, 2009 1:11 pm

    In addition to Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, there is one last story Salinger published about the Glass family and called “Hapworth 16, 1924.” It’s a letter from camp from a young Seymour. It’s not collected anywhere but online. I just searched and found it at http://www.freeweb.hu/tchl/salinger/ along with a bunch of other Salinger non-Glass stories.

  22. May 17, 2009 7:51 am

    Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed Portrait in Sepia. I loved that book.

  23. May 18, 2009 8:18 am

    Violet, Female Nomad is definitely a great read!

    Memory, thanks for filling me in on the Glass family. :D My mom has the whole Earthsea series, so I’ll have to try out The Tombs of Atuan.

    Linda, thanks!

    TY, it’s a great cover, huh? I love the title for I Heart You, You Haunt Me! I haven’t been reading as much YA lit this year, and I miss it. :)

    BermudaOnion, definitely!

    Sarah, no problem. ;) Thanks for the additional LeGuin recommendations: I love the title The Eye of the Heron. I don’t read much sci fi either, so it’ll be good to broaden my genre horizons.

    J.S., yeah, I thought the obsession was a little weird. But it gets worse later…it’s almost like Llosa had to humiliate and abase the ‘bad girl’ before the narrator could have her. It bothered me.

    Claire, thanks!

    JoAnn, yep: no internet definitely increases my spare time! lol

    Samantha, thanks!

    CB, thanks for the recs!

    Iliana, Amazon managed to remove a lot of GLBT lit that wasn’t erotica from its top sellers list in case it was ‘offensive.’ And so far they haven’t apologised. Which is too bad, because the whole reason I prefered linking to Amazon was the ‘look inside’ feature. Oh well! I think I read Portrait so fast that I didn’t have time to feel bogged down by the history. Plus, I have a friend who wants to work in Chile next year, so I’m probably more interested in it because of that! ;)

    Raych, thanks for letting me know!

    Carrie, I started with Nine Stories, and I think that’s a great place to begin. :D

    A Devoted Reader, wasn’t the ice princess sotry just beautiful? :)

    Lisa, The Drunkard’s Walk was so interesting. :)

    Tara, thanks! I definitely think you’d like Female Nomad; she spends time in Thailand just to learn about cooking.

    Steph, the stories in Nine Stories move faster than Franny & Zooey if that helps. I’m glad I read them in the order I did; I think since I already knew a bit about the Glass family, I was primed to enoy Franny & Zooey more.

    DS, lol! Awesome!

    Kim, I’ve probably been spending too much time reading. ;)

    Shannon, thanks so much for that link!! Do you have a book blog?

    Amanda, I’m glad you loved it too!

  24. May 18, 2009 10:10 am

    Oh Eva darling, what ever am I going to do with you?!! I hopped away in the middle of this post three(!!!) times…I ordered Nine Stories from PaperbackSwap, added Born Into Brothels to our Netflix Queue, and put a hold on Javatrekker from our library!!! And I almost bought Drunkard’s Path when we at the bookstore last time, but ended up putting it back. Next time, thanks to you, it will be coming home with me for sure!

  25. May 18, 2009 1:50 pm

    What a great list – you definitely got a lot of reading done!

  26. May 19, 2009 5:23 am

    This is great! Thank you. :)

  27. May 19, 2009 8:37 am

    What an interesting selection of books! Sometimes I wish that I didn’t have an internet connection so that it would free up more time for reading..

  28. May 19, 2009 12:48 pm

    Debi, awesome!! :D Born Into Brothels will make you cry, though. :/

    Belle, thanks!

    Care, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m tempted to always do my reviews like this, lol.

    Michelle, it’s so hard to find a good balance, isn’t it?

  29. May 19, 2009 4:17 pm

    You’ve got a batch of treasure here, Eva! I read Franny and Zooey but didn’t get much out of the story. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to their dialogues? I should re-read the book more closely. I actually enjoy The Catch in the Rye, even though it sounds so banal now.

    Both The Child that Books Built and Human Cargo sound intriguing! I’ll put them on my list as well. :)

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