Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Gangster We Are All Looking ForThe Gangster We Are All Looking For by Lê Thi Diem Thúy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was beautifully and poignantly written. The language was simple, yet compelling and visual. The book is clearly somewhat autobiographical, and while there are undercurrents of sadness, there is also enough joy and happiness to make the corners of one’s heart turn up, because we have all been there, too, we just didn’t say it as well.

For example, the chapter titled palm is about both palm trees and the palm of the narrator’s hand. The opening paragraph says, “The trees in the neighborhood were palms and eucalyptus. Along the sides of many of the houses were bushes of white jasmine that bloomed in the evening. Young girls picked the flowers and, with a thread and needle, strung the blooms into garlands. They made themselves crowns and necklaces and bracelets. If allowed to, they would wear the flowers to bed. By morning, the garlands lay crushed and spent, the white having aged to yellow, but the fragrance remained across every throat and wrist and crown that had worn them.”

The story is of an immigrant family from Vietnam, who are dealing with the dual challenges of moving to the United States and of making peace with the Vietnam War.

Somehow, in my history classes, we never quite discussed the Vietnam War. We never made it that far along. I’m not sure if it was intentional, as we were the children of the generation who fought that war, and it is possible that our parents would have strong and mixed reactions about what we should learn, or if my teachers weren’t quite as good as time management as they should have been and simply didn’t get that far in the textbooks. Either way, this book provided a glimpse of the repercussions of that war from a new point of view.

All in all the book is masterfully written, and a joy to read.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Web FilesThe Web Files by Margie Palatini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a children's book that was recommended to me by my mother ages ago. I really enjoy reading children's books because I think they're more challenging to write than most people think. First, you have to tell a complete story in less than 40 pages. The story has to be entertaining enough for adults to want to (or be willing to) read it a gazillion times, but it has to be age appropriate.

What I like about Palatini is that she uses a lot of puns, and she incorporates other children's stories into her works. For example, in "The Web Files," Ducktective Web is working the barnyard shift, and he has to interview some suspects for a robbery. One of the suspects is little boy blue. Upon determining that he is innocent, Ducktective says, "we put the kid out to pasture."
These silly quips, combined with colorful illustrations, makes this a book kids will enjoy, and parents will find amusing.

Captain America had a rough day at work the day I brought this book home from the library.  Of course I read it to him as a bedtime story (what's the point of children's books if not for bedtime stories?).  He was not nearly as amused by this book as I was, but then again he is rarely as amused by children's books as I am.  However, this one starred ducks, and he's a duck, and I had my duck slippers on, so all in all, he didn't mind too much.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Last Camel Died at Noon (An Amelia Peabody Mystery, #6)The Last Camel Died at Noon by Elizabeth Peters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Elizabeth Peters really hit her stride in "The Last Camel Died at Noon." The story was the most engaging in the series so far, Emerson finally became a bit comical, quipping such remarks as, "I seem to have ruined another shirt...not my fault this time, Peabody," and we finally meet a character who keeps Ramses quiet.

One thing I really like about the series is how Peters illustrates Peabody and Emerson's relationship. Peabody states that they are frequently of one mind, but it is illustrated by Emerson saying such things as "Peabody, do you think you could manage..." to which she replies, "Quite," and then, rather than tell us what Emerson is plotting, the book breaks into the action of Emerson and Peabody following through with their plans.

I am actually really excited to read the rest of the series!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PossessionPossession by A.S. Byatt

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book was a struggle to get through, even after I saw the movie. Basically, there are two love stories going on in this book...the modern-day romance of two literary researchers who discover a hitherto unknown love affair between two poets.

I will say this, the author worked very hard on this book...she used different voices for the different characters, and even for the different writings of the poets. She put a lot of effort into this book.

But the book was so long, the modern day love story was frustrating, because you were sort of like, get it together already! And I suppose there was supposed to be an air of mystery, because the researchers are working to prove that the two poets knew each other, but, and maybe it's because I'm not an academic, I was sort of like, who cares? I mean, I just have a hard time understanding why someone would spend so much time researching stuff that was already written (then again, I've never liked research...if YOU want to know something, YOU look it up; don't bother me with it).

Thinking maybe I was missing something crucial, since this book came so highly recommended from a trustworthy source, I did some of my own research (see, when I want to know something, I will go ahead and look it up myself!). Basically, what I found is that people either LOVED or HATED this book. People either found the story line beautiful, the poetry moving, and the imagery fabulous, or they were like me and just wanted to get on with it. I didn't find anyone who felt the book was "pretty good."

So, my advice is, if you like research, or poetry or reading journals from the 1860s, you might enjoy this book, but if you don't, or if you are frustrated by would-be lovers who can't figure it out, then you'll probably not enjoy this book.

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