Feb 22, 2006

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

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Book Life of Pi.

I think I am the last person on earth to read this book, but if you are the last person, then I think you should read it. I had shied away for so long thinking it was going to be really philosophical and over my head - I suppose you could interpret it on that level, but on the surface it is about a kid in India for half the book, and then a kid surviving in a boat with a tiger. It was incredible - very good. I really liked both sections of the book equally - at first when the India section was done I was bummed - but the boat surviving section is great - and I also thought it was going to take me a year and a day to read. It is very thick. But despite its size, its a fairly quick read.

Feb 21, 2006

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today

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Book Moccasin thunder : American Indian stories for today.

Two short story collection in a row! Huzzah!

I picked up this book because it has a story by one of my favorite authors ever, Sherman Alexie. I'd actually already read the story of his included here in the book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which is an incredible book. But I loved a lot of the other stories, and got an introduction to some other authors that I'll now look out for.

These stories, as a whole, do a really good job of describing the psychological and spiritual point of view of American Indians today - we all know stereotypes - this book goes deeper and explains without explaining their point of view. In other words, this collection is a great example of the power of short stories as a form - they convey vast amounts of meaning in a small amount of time and space.

Feb 20, 2006

Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, And Some Other Things . . .

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Book Noisy outlaws, unfriendly blobs, and some other things that aren't as scary : maybe, depending on how you feel about lost lands, stray cellphones, creatures from the sky, parents who disappear in Peru, a man named Lars Farf, and one other story we couldn't quite finish, so maybe you could help us out.

I *heart* short stories. I also *heart* Mcsweeny's, from whence this book comes. There are short stories here from some of my favorite authors - Jonathan Safran Foer, Nick Honsby, Neil Gaiman - and on and on.

The book is also just plain beautifully designed. Really nice quality, color graphics. I guess I'm not going to say too much about specific stories, because a) I read it a long time ago and don't really remember specifics and b) that would go on and on and on. But it's really good. So people who like short stories should read it and then we can talk about it.

Splintering, by Eireann Corrigan

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I really liked this book - quick read. Told in free verse from several different point of views - different people in the family talking. It's about what happens - mentally and psychologically - to people after they've been through a trauma - in this case, a guy high on drugs breaks into their house and physically assaults one of them. They're a lot of blame, a lot of fear, but also other emotions and reactions you don't expect too much.

Come Back to Afghanistan, Said Hyder Akbar

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This is the true story of this teenager who basically grows up in California, but after the Taliban is overthrown his father - who had been a significant person in Afghani's govern't back in the day - returns and is the press person for the new president and then the govenor of Kunar provence. Said spends long summers in Afghanistan, hanging out and helping his dad and generally participating. He's able to help be a translator a lot - which is very cool.

I really enjoyed this book because it gave a good detailed look at recent events, everyday life, and examines the whole US involvement in Afghanistan debacle. Akbar makes the point that the US was never seen as an invading/occupying force as it was/is in Iraq. So if we had really invested forces and money there, the Afghani people would have supported us. But we didn't - we were there for a while, but most of our money and troops went to Iraq, where we aren't welcome.

On the downside, this book is hugely long - 335 pages! And it isn't really a quick read. It def could have been chopped down a bit - but so much is just daily reflections and descriptions of what Akbar was doing and that all adds up to an overall good understanding of what is going on there. So its hard to think about what really could have been chopped without losing some of that.

Feb 15, 2006

Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, Adam Rapp

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I'm really glad I picked this book up and read it, because to be honest the title and the cover don't do it for me - another example of not judging a book by its cover (but really, there are so many books out there to read, so you have to make a quick decision some way or another, right?).

So this kid Steve is in a rehab facility, but we don't know exactly why to start - the book is basically his rehab journal, alternating between the events that took place to lead him there and the present events - what's going on at the clinic.

Overall, well written and interesting. The story could have been stereotypical druggie kid and stuff, but its not - a lot happens with his family - a really long, painful death quickly followed by a suicide - and how he reacts to this and how his family deals with it are all very non-stereotypical. I think people who liked Speak and The Lovely Bones will like this book.

Feb 3, 2006

Funny Little Monkey, Andrew Auseon

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This is also a really excellent book (it's funny how sometimes I get a string of only ok ones, and then sometimes I get a run of really good ones). Arty is umm. . stunted I guess is the word. (He has to take growth hormone shots and is really small.) He is also a twin, but his twin is huge! His twin is kinda mean to him and locks him in a closet . . . ok, I am doing a really bad job of talking about this book. There are a lot of intertwining plot lines - like a school secret society to help people who are on the wrong end of the stick - and a new girl in school who is wicked rich and gorgeous and used to controlling things and decides Arty can be her boyfriend.

But basically, the reason I like this book is that it is interesting in its complication, and the characters have some good depth. There's a couple of smaller plot lines and fore-shadowing that flake out, but overall very good.

Tending to Grace, Kimberly Newton Fusco

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I really liked this book. While its quick and short, its really pretty deep and interesting (vs. shallow and with little development of characters). Cornelia doesn't talk. She's really smart, but because she doesn't talk (she has a stutter and just got tired of how people reacted so she stopped talking) she gets put into classes that are pretty bogus. On top of this, her mom is kind of messed up. She gets into these moods, and Cornelia thinks she's the only one who can deal with this. But her mom has a boyfriend who doesn't want to drag a kid with them when they decide one day to move to Vegas.

So she gets dumped off at her crazy great-aunt's house. Her aunt lives in this rickety old house that's totally broken down and eats weird hippy food. But the most significant thing is that she won't talk for Cornelia - so Cornelia has to speak up. She's also missing her mom in a big way, and getting into fights with her great aunt. Ultimately, of course, Cornelia learns some key things about herself - but the way this is done in the book is really authentic and doesn't reek of stinky cheese like some of these books do.

Def one of the best books I've read recently.