Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: The Pigeon

The Pigeon
The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was really good. It's a novella about how one thing suddenly sets off a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It starts with a pigeon and there's an entire day of flukey bad luck and waves of hate of everything that is finally ended by a rainstorm.

I've had those days.

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Review: The Pigeon

The Pigeon
The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That was just awesome. It's all a conspiracy! At the post office! And that was the oddest sex scene ever, followed by the odd idea of sex in a closet on occasion. That was such a fun romp - though I suppose I don't really have much idea through what exactly.

However back in 2009 I wrote a blog entry all about buying this book and here it is:

How I buy books always strikes me as quite bizarre. More so lately, as I seem to go in when a bit buzzed - post-hashing or post-Cinco de Mayo. Since, for whatever reason, I haven't been in the mood to blog about books I've read, instead I'm going to blog about books I've bought.

Post-hashing I went in and spontaneously bought four used Kathy Reichs books. Fair enough, I've read one of her Brennan books and very much liked it, but I decided to spend that $20 in about ten seconds. I grabbed a couple of chick lit books for when I want pure escapism and two Olivia Manning books ($2 each, very old Penguins) since I liked the first part of the Balkan Trilogy so much. I grabbed a used copy of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (I've heard about it, though I'm not sure where) - which turns out to be the next book club pick, so that's handy. Amalee by Dar Williams I bought simply because I like her music (and yes, I too wonder if that means that she can write). Then I grabbed three books that are by authors I know and have liked: Stars of the New Curfew by Ben Okri (as a bonus, it was only $3), American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, and The Sopranos by Alan Warner.

Post-Cinco de Mayo I ordered the rest of Kathy Reichs' books, having become quickly addicted, and picked up one book based on its cover and another on its spine. First the cover - personally, I think that judging a book by its cover is often fairly effective. After all, a fair amount of money is spent on choosing covers and sending particular messages. Though I suppose it wasn't the cover that caused me to buy it, so much as the fact that it's an old Penguin Modern Classics book. There's something about the 1950s Penguin look that I like - in fact, I've sort of pondered getting the penguin tattooed on me somewhere (I really want a tattoo, but I really want it to be the right tattoo, so it's taking me ages to decide.) Anyway, basically I now own a copy of Voss by Patrick White. I've never heard of this book, but according to the blurb on the back, it's about crossing the Australian continent for the first time - which dovetails nicely with all the explorers I'm learning about while teaching social studies. Then there was the book that I bought because of its spine. I recently read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and my copy is an Olive Edition with a very distinctive, striped red-and-white spine. I saw a blue version while I was browsing and I was curious. When it turned out to be a Michael Chabon novel with nothing on the back but a review from Playboy, I couldn't resist. After all, how odd is that? Hopefully The Mysteries of Pittsburgh will be worth the $14.

The one thing that both trips have resulted in is books that I read about in two other books I've read recently: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster and The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. Both of the books were great - Foster starts his off by stating that when lecturing his students "a moment occurs in this exchange between professor and student when each of us adopts a look. My look says, 'What, you don't get it?' Theirs says, 'We don't get it. And we think you are making it up.'" That is exactly what I though while sitting through endlessly boring English classes back in high school - though when left to my own devices, I could sometimes find symbolism or patterns. Possibly I was just being my normal resistant-to-authority self. In more recent years, I've often been struck by just how much novels resemble each other or play off of each other. Even random connections, like the fact that the same painting (The Raft of Medusa, Theodore Gericault) was mentioned in The Optimists by Andrew Miller and Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs, strike me as fairly fascinating. Hornby's book wasn't just a great book about reading; it was also hilarious. I think if I met him in the pub for a pint I'd very much like him. He reads a lot of stuff that I do, aside from all the football reading, granted. And I don't quite share his lack of love for literary novels. However, who else would write, "So tell your kids not to smoke, but it's only fair to warn them of the downside, too: that they will therefore never get the chance to offer the greatest living writer in America [Kurt Vonnegat] a light."

These two books have led to several more books. Nick Hornby read a biography of Richard Yates and that combined with my recent viewing of Revolutionary Road convinced me to buy The Easter Parade. Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant apparently was the book that inspired Hornby to write and I managed to find a $3 copy. Hornby described Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson as an "extraordinary, yearning mystical work about the dead and how they haunt the living" and combined with numerous recommendations, I could no longer resist. As a result of Foster's book, I've acquired a copy of Nabakov's Lolita, which I really ought to have read by now, and The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, which I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of before.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: The Betrayal of Africa

The Betrayal of Africa
The Betrayal of Africa by Gerald Caplan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That was a great little overview of what's going on in Africa and why, with a helpful list of sources at the back.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Lost in the Funhouse

Lost in the Funhouse
Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book that begins by suggesting we are all God's ejaculate and brings to mind thoughts of Odysseus and running is my kind of book. I liked the way Barth was talking about writing as he wrote and I loved all the Ancient Greek references. There were definitely bits I didn't really get, but overall, I'm really happy to have discovered Barth.

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Review: The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye
The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was good - since I'm watching the show, there weren't really many surprises and I generally spent my time comparing the characters to their TV counterparts. I find the blam blam scenes of them shooting the zombies boring though.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought a copy of Lolita when I lived in Seoul. Four or five people borrowed it and no one finished it. They all disliked it.

I liked Lolita quite a lot but it's taken forever to read it. I've contemplated that it could be because I read it on my kindle and I sort of wonder if I read slower on it. I've thought it might just be the book because after the first section when the wife dies a lot of the tension leaves the narrative and I had a bit of a sense that I was just waiting for the relationship to end. I enjoyed the travelling sections well enough until Lolita's departure. From there I got quite bored, though that death scene is something else.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: Cheerleaders: The New Evil (Fear Street Superchiller, #7)

Cheerleaders: The New Evil (Fear Street Superchiller, #7)
Cheerleaders: The New Evil (Fear Street Superchiller, #7) by R.L. Stine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Killer cheerleaders? A main character named Corky?

It might have been three stars if they hadn't lied to me about killer Santa there. I was hoping he'd be a big part of the story.

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Review: The New Year's Party

The New Year's Party
The New Year's Party by R.L. Stine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's 2 am and the house is so quiet I could be alone. I hate to admit it but that scared me a little. Yes, I'm a giant wimp.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: The Sentimentalists

The Sentimentalists
The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Petra sent me an unexpected american thanksgiving present! I've wanted to read this for awhile.

So, I had the weirdest reading experience - the first part of the narration I thought was by a dude - right up until the narrator finds her boyfriend sleeping with another woman. And my mind still tried to assume that it was a bisexual man cheating. Looking back, I don't see anything that made me assume a male narrator, except perhaps knowing that at some point the book was about the Vietnam War. It might have been that there are two kids, and one is the sister Helen, so perhaps I just assumed boy + girl makes sense (in my family we were totally gender balanced in my generation, even cousins.) Who knows.

I liked the book overall - but I wasn't surprised to read that Skibsrud also publishes poetry and I'm not sure I liked the poetic prose as much as I often do. I also went in expecting Vietnam War and you don't even get to that aspect of the book until halfway through. And the symbols - the boat that never sails, the submerged town - they seemed a bit too obvious to me.

And forevermore, I think I'm going to have a harder time picturing books set during the Vietnam war. They all seem to include an element about how oppressive the heat and rain are, and I LOVE the heat of Vietnam. LOVE. And while not fond of the rain, I've now done 7 years in that part of the world with a monsoon, and before that Vancouver and Scotland, so rain, meh.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things Better Not Remembered

Well, the worst souvenir is easy - clearly it was the gastro-intestinal thing I picked up in Ghana. The Imodium package may tell you that you shouldn't take it for three weeks straight, but it seemed an easier idea than attempting local doctors in Togo.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Things They Can't Sell

I left my home country right after university. For over a decade, I've slowly pruned down the things I thought I *had* to have from home to pretty much nothing. An ideal vending machine would have my mom's cooking, my dad's wisdom, my siblings' jokes, and my nieces laughter.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Worth the Wait

My friend told me about the spectacle of market day in the tiny village in the mountains where she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. I hopped on a plane in Asia, stopped over in Italy and flew to Ghana, then spent two solid days in bush taxis. Worth it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

25 Shades of Grey - Hogtown Analversery

here's the weekend story: Interment of ashes - odd thing to go to. Doesn't take long. Lunch was nice. Then went and read in the Indigo before heading to the hash. Nice trail around Yonge and Eglinton, lots of singing, drunk, got hit on by man and woman. Slept in, wandered down to hotel (where I crashed with someone, so yay! free hotel room!), got our jackets/pint glasses, started drinking beer. Changed into tacky dresses and were bused to the CN Tower. went up to Church on Church gay bar and hashers danced around with tranny. Hashed over to the Duke, interesting evening in seedy bar on Queen. Walked home, made McDonald's girl sell me a cheeseburger on foot in the drive-through, burnt my nipple while flashing someone my tits and smoking at the same time, very late bedtime. Woke up, not hungover but so dehydrated. Buses to trail were and hour late. Trail was near old landfill site. Two jello shot stops, one chocolate pudding shot stop, two beer checks. Keg broke a window in the bus. Crossed a river - discovered it was a false trail - crossed back. Final giant hill, then hotdogs and long, trafficy bus ride back. Changed to S&M gear, went to the legion. Dinner, more beer, smoked far too much weed. Strippers at party upstairs - and I got invited. Crashed out before hotel room crawl. Up early for hangover hash - nice walk around The Beaches, Caesars, sandwiches from Subway. Half asleep, but had to get myself to Yorkdale - an hour of public transit, right as everyone else in the city was trying to take their kids to the Santa Claus Parade. Drove home. Now trying to rehydrate and avoid all socializing.


I grew up spending my summers at a cottage on an island. Watching the sun rise over the water, the shadows of the trees on the water, eating toast and waiting for the day's first swim. The sun rising over water always reminds me of those childhood mornings.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mind Like A Sieve

I've forgotten plenty of things - batteries, a towel, flashlights, deodorant (in a country where it's not common), even the American money I had been instructed to bring to North Korea, but really, the only serious thing to forget is your sense of humour (and perhaps your passport/Visa card.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When I was in university, I applied for an exchange program that it seemed likely I wouldn't get into. I did, and that was what started it. I moved across an ocean and I never looked back. Once I graduated, I continued to move across the oceans: first to Edinburgh, Scotland and then a brief stop in Vancouver before heading over to Seoul, Korea. Being an expat has been such an amazing experience. I've met so many people who I might never have become friends with had I stayed at home, I've seen so much of the world on my vacations, and I've learned so much about other cultures, which has, in turn, deepened my understanding of my own. The biggest drawback to being an expat is how many other expat friends you make. Because expats, by their natures, don't stay still. They move, and when they do, they move to far flung destinations. They take a part of your heart with them because with family so far away, they become your family. I'd love to have the chance to fly to Europe right now. Three of my closest friends are now within short train rides of each other and a dozen other very good friends are there too. All I need is that ticket to Germany and I'd have the chance to see people who have been along for the wild ride that has been my life and reminisce - and make new amazing memories to boot. Because the thing is that the worst thing about being an expat is also one of the best things about being an expat. I have friends all over the world, in all kinds of incredible places.

Review: Wise Blood

Wise Blood
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars? 3.5 stars? 4 stars? I don't know, because I feel like I have no idea what the hell was going on in this book, but I liked it, I think. Maybe.

WTF was up with the gorilla costume? A policeman seriously pushes a car over a cliff? Did he really believe the whole time, or not? Why did he feel unclean? Why did the girl want to sleep with him and how old was she? Who the hell blinds themselves with lime? Or steals a mummified tiny person?


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Pimp My Ride?

Living in a small town, without a license; my only option is my legs. Thankfully, I love to run. Because I'm a Hash House harriette, I do it in style. Sports kilts, sparkly skirts - you name it, I'll wear it. (With a warm hat, because it is Canada.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Local Legends

Touring around Scotland, the tour guide enjoyed teasing us. He had us dunking our heads into ice-cold waterfalls to protect ourselves from faeries on the Isle of Skye and feeding pieces of bread to hairy coos in the Highlands from our mouths. And then there was the rare haggis sightings.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Eternal Kiss of Darkness

Eternal Kiss of Darkness
Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was better than the other Jeaniene Frost I read, largely because there were no British characters for her to mess the slang up with. But there were still a few places where a phrase was so weird it pulled me right out of the plot. And those are some BAD sex scenes.

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Local Legends

The best local legend I've heard is the Korean tales of fan death. Apparently if you turn on a fan inside a room with all the windows and doors closed, the fan can suck all the oxygen out of the room and kill you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Travel Advice

Always follow the noise. Whether it was an unexpected parade of giant puppets in Barcelona or a drum festival in Korea, this piece of advice from an old friend has never failed me. It's a big, noisy world out there.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: The Good Companions

The Good Companions
The Good Companions by J.B. Priestley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I FOUND IT! I read this book back in Scotland, or maybe even before during university and I could never recall what it was or who it was by, except the fact that it was about a theater group in England. And now because of a Flavorwire article about Roald Dahl's Matilda and the books she read, I know what it was. Mystery solved.

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Local Festivities

There is a festival every weekend in Korea; the best advice was always to follow the noise. But my favourite festival will always be HiSeoul. I did all kinds of things at HiSeoul over the years, but most notably this past year it was the host of my first half-marathon.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Kombe! Cheers! Salut! Prost! Sláinte!

I arrived in Bukit Lawang with an evening to kill before trekking to see orangutans. Another traveller suggested we check out the market, where we found a bottle of something for $2. We bought one and went to the hotel to experiment. It turns out it was best on ice.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It's All Going to the Birds

When I moved to Scotland, there were endless postcards of puffins. After two years, I finally got out to Shetland to see some - and I couldn't believe how small they were! A year later I saw more on Vancouver Island, near Tofino. They are such cute birds!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Local Ingenuity

The bush taxi concept is clever. A guy with a car waits until it fills with at least 6 passengers and heads out. A van that might normally seat 14 can hold at least double that - and children, chickens and goats don't count. It's slow, but you get there.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Farewell the Day

When I was in Vietnam over the summer, I went on a day trip to see the My Son ruins and met a fascinating Australian. We sat in a restaurant for hours, solving the problems of the world over beers and great food and a gorgeous view of the river.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Silly Packing

Last year for Christmas a group of friends banded together to buy me a Kindle. I read incessantly. Starting in April I was backpacking around SE Asia for three months - and yet, in addition to the Kindle I still took at least 10 books. Perhaps I can't be taught.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

"On the beach, you can live in bliss." Dennis Wilson

I grew up with a cottage on an island with a tiny beach, so I thought beaches bored me. Then I started working in Korea and on a week long vacation went to Boracay and discovered just how wonderful beaches could be. The beauty, the relaxation, the massages. Wonderful.

Review: Autobiography of a Face

Autobiography of a Face
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is incredible.

About a hundred pages into the book, for no particular reason, I read the afterword by Ann Patchett. She talked about the author's frustration with the book being read purely as a cancer autobiography, because she had crafted it to be a work of art that said something timeless and not cancer specific about truth and beauty. And she accomplished that, brilliantly. She also said some very important things about cancer.

Forget pink and moustaches and ribbons. If you want to raise cancer awareness, go read this book and tell everyone you know to read it too.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

An Ideal Meal

The best food I've ever put into my mouth before noon was a $1 bowl of assam laksa in Penang. I'd been wandering pre-breakfast and was starving as I walked up to a crowded stand down near the clan jetties. That sour tang to a spicy fish soup is heaven.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Lost In Translation

My friends warned me about British slang - I knew not to say I was wearing a fanny-pack or my pants had gotten wet in the rain. They hadn't warned me that several common drinking terms would come across as sexual - double fisting and breaking the seal. That's me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: First Drop of Crimson

First Drop of Crimson
First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Look, when I go slumming into my vampires/faerie/zombie porn, I still have standards. This book was rather poorly written and the attempts at British slang/dialogue were laughable.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Get A Life

Get A Life
Get A Life by Nadine Gordimer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the second Nadine Gordimer I've read, the first being [b:The House Gun|118827|The House Gun|Nadine Gordimer||503675]. With both, my early impression was that I hated her writing style. The House Gun eventually drew me into the story far enough that I didn't care that I found the style a bit off. Unfortunately with Get A LIfe that never did happen. There were the odd moments that I got into it, but they were not consistent enough.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: Lark and Termite

Lark and Termite
Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book because it had a connection to Korea - and that was the part I liked the best. Of the other two narrators, I enjoyed Lark's story but didn't really like Termite's. It felt like a lot of repeated information with only a few interesting slivers added. I really hated the line Lola is the cat at the end. I would prefer to work for that sort of insight on my own, then be baldly told it.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Embraced By The Light

Embraced By The Light
Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A friend went out of her way to give me this book. For all that I admit to be slightly annoyed that someone who knew I was an atheist would give me a book about Jesus, I felt compelled to read it since she ordered it for me (and lets be honest, it's short.)

It annoyed me from the start. The acknowledgements where she thanks her husband for eating tv dinners while she wrote, the forward written by a doctor stressing a need for a return to spirituality, that the author had gone through native American boarding schools designed to eliminate a certain sort of spirituality.

Ultimately it just came across to me as silly. It's all the best things that the author could imagine, put in a magical world. To start with, her imagination is pretty dull if that's her idea of utopia. It was like reading someone's account of heir alien abduction, or like reading some sort of sci-fi. Flatland and Gulliver's Travells both came to mind as I flew through it. A lot of it was very good-hearted, with all its talk of love and kindness, but it was mixed in with so much silly that I had a hard time taking even the ideas I agreed with seriously.

One good thing will come out of reading this. I'll message the friend who gave it to me. If nothing else, her love and kindness towards me is deeply touching and it's been far too long since we've spoken.

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Review: Ru: A Novel

Ru: A Novel
Ru: A Novel by Kim Thúy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning and savoured the quiet by reading this book in around two hours. It's lovely - the use of language, the way the tiny slivers of life wander back and forth between past and present and future. It recalled my trip to Vietnam and the experience of being back in Canada. Fantastic little book. I really hope it wins the Giller (and I now really hope to read the rest of the nominees, in the hopes that they are also this good.)

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Review: Djibouti: A Novel

Djibouti: A Novel
Djibouti: A Novel by Elmore Leonard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The tone of this book was hard for me to get into, particularly the dialogue. I rather liked the insight into the Somali pirates and African terror networks. The documentarian took me awhile to warm up to, but I did by the end. My first Leonard - perhaps not my last.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ode To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,---
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Jennifer Government

Jennifer Government
Jennifer Government by Max Barry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A comic dystopia? Yes, please. Considering the slowly incubating cold, this was the perfect read. Amusing, interesting, nice and light.

That may be 3 stars, but it's not a meh 3 stars, but a fun and fluffy and worth reading sort of 3 stars.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Review: The Constant Princess

The Constant Princess
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The best thing about this book was in gleaning the basics behind the formation of Spain, the presence of Moors in Europe and what happened before Henry VIII between him and the War of the Roses (which, let's be honest, I know vaguely about only because of a brief trip to York during university when I was actually more interested in the attraction with "AUTHENTIC VIKING SMELLS!"

I didn't really like the use of italics to switch narrative perspectives and I wasn't really fond of Katalina as a character either.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Swallowing Darkness

Swallowing Darkness
Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was a plot! And it was decent! Much less silly sex. I've finished them all now, so onto something a bit more meaty, but I'll read the next one whenever it comes out.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: A Lick of Frost

A Lick of Frost
A Lick of Frost by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Okay, much better. Things happened, she's finally preggers, more court politics. One more to go to meet up with where I started.

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Review: Mistral's Kiss

Mistral's Kiss
Mistral's Kiss by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There seem to be some very common criticisms of Hamilton's writing and this book really drove most of them home to me. The woman does not seem to be very interested in plot. 300 pages and all that happened was two gardens grew and there was one attack? Seriously? And yes, the sex is rather on the repetitive side, lasts too long, and each of the guards is described in far too much detail far too often. Again, if I wasn't reading them all back to back, I'm sure it would be less annoying, but read this way, well I could never hear about anybody's skin tone or suit again with great happiness.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: A Caress of Twilight

A Caress of Twilight
A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These are fun. And since I read the most recent book first, half he fun is in seeing how they'll get there.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Review: Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I see why this book won a Hugo Award. I found it way more fascinating than I ever would have expected to find a book about war and boot camp. I'm going to have to rewatch the movie.

The idea of voting being tied to military service was particularly interesting. Unfortunately, I don't feel that the argument can be made that in reality soldiers are more likely than others to be conscious of the good of the group before the individual. I think the recent shooting in the Sikh temple drives that home.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Review: A Kiss of Shadows

A Kiss of Shadows
A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like Merry Gentry. Particularly the politics of the Unseelie Court. These are going to be fun.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Divine Misdemeanors

Divine Misdemeanors
Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked this - it was randomly given to me (I think) and so I read the 8th in the series first. But it made me sufficiently curious that I'd like to go back and read the rest. The sex was sort of meh and the mystery not as mysterious as it could have been, but I enjoyed the political aspect of it all.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reread time!

I first read this book as part of an eleventh grade history project that involved putting a book into its historical context. I have a vague recollection that the radio was very symbolic in that essay. The assignment was a bit of a turning point for me - I loved to read but never quite got how we were supposed to analyze books and identify symbols in English class. This is probably where my first major in university came from. So, the book keeps its four stars simply because it was such a pivotal book in my life.

This read through it was a bit more of a three star read. I think as a teenager I was a bit more inclined to be sympathetic to Harry's disdain of popular culture and outsider status. Now I just find him to be a grumpy old man who grumbles about kids these days. I did think the book had momentary flashes of genius though.

Plus, this time round when he referenced Borobudur, I knew what it was because I've just been there. Dude was well travelled.

"these pictures - there are hundreds of them, with names and without - all came back. They rose fresh and new out of this night of love, and I knew again, what in. My wretchedness I had forgotten, that they were my life's possession and all its worth. Indestructible and abiding as the stars, these experiences, though forgotten, could never be erased their series wastage story of y life, their starry night the undying value of my being. My life had become weariness. It had wandered in a maze of unhappiness tha Ed to renunciation and nothingness; it was bitter with the salt of all human things; yet it had laid up riches, riches to be proud of."

"Nobody wants to avoid the next war, nobody wants to spare himself and his children the next holocaust if this isto be the cost. To reflect for one moment, to examine himself for a while and ask what share he has in the world's confusion and wickedness - look you, nobody wants to do that."

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Review: The Cursed

The Cursed
The Cursed by L.A. Banks

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is book 8 of a series that I've only read book 2 of, so it's possible I would have liked it better with all the context provided by the other books.

That said, it was too biblical, with too many scenes describing fighting, and the sex was all weird white light and chakras, rather than anything very hot.

Vamp porn fail.

However, the plot drew me in enough that I was curious as to how it ended and I enjoyed that the characters weren't just middle class white people, which seems the norm with vamp porn books.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the strengths of this series, I think, is the way the author doesn't sugarcoat war - people die and the characters we come to love aren't spared. But I hated the ending. It felt sort of like a cop out. Katniss doesn't seem to grow as a person or a leader and that rang false for me.

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Despite the geologists’ knowledge and craft,
mocking magnets, graphs, and maps—
in a split second the dream
piles before us mountains as stony
as real life.

And since mountains, then valleys, plains
with perfect infrastructures.
Without engineers, contractors, workers,
bulldozers, diggers, or supplies—
raging highways, instant bridges,
thickly populated pop-up cities.

Without directors, megaphones, and cameramen—
crowds knowing exactly when to frighten us
and when to vanish.

Without architects deft in their craft,
without carpenters, bricklayers, concrete pourers—
on the path a sudden house just like a toy,
and in it vast halls that echo with our steps
and walls constructed out of solid air.

Not just the scale, it’s also the precision—
a specific watch, an entire fly,
on the table a cloth with cross-stitched flowers,
a bitten apple with teeth marks.

And we—unlike circus acrobats,
conjurers, wizards, and hypnotists—
can fly unfledged,
we light dark tunnels with our eyes,
we wax eloquent in unknown tongues,
talking not with just anyone, but with the dead.

And as a bonus, despite our own freedom,
the choices of our heart, our tastes,
we’re swept away
by amorous yearnings for—
and the alarm clock rings.

So what can they tell us, the writers of dream books,
the scholars of oneiric signs and omens,
the doctors with couches for analyses—
if anything fits,
it’s accidental,
and for one reason only,
that in our dreamings,
in their shadowings and gleamings,
in their multiplings, inconceivablings,
in their haphazardings and widescatterings
at times even a clear-cut meaning
may slip through.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found a copy of this in the East Timor Backpackers and read it in a day. I loved the plot - incredibly gripping.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Catching Fire

Catching Fire
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clearly Ms. Collins is trying to kill me with that ending. I need to get ahold of the book now.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: This Charming Man

This Charming Man
This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good read for a day on a lazy East Timotese beach. The ending saddened me.

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Review: Letters from London 1990-1995

Letters from London 1990-1995
Letters from London 1990-1995 by Julian Barnes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this at a hostel in Sumatra, and exchanged Emergency Sex for it, which is interesting because they both served to remind and educate me about the 90's. It was also good to read this after The Rotter's Club, which cover the preceding years in England. Odd to come across three books in random hostels that go so well together.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Review: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Incredible story about a child's loss of innocence and of the kind of history we should never be allowed to forget.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Review: Visions of Cody

Visions of Cody
Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I may only have enjoyed 30 pages of this. Most of it is drugged out stupidity. Cody and Jack both struck me as complete assholes.

The only good things I take away from this book are the memories of where I was when I read it. The first half I read curled up in bed beside Sean. The second half I read on the boat trip around Komodo National park.

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Friday, June 01, 2012

P.K. Page


Go out of your mind.
Prepare to go mad.
Prepare to break
split along cracks
inhabit the darks of your eyes.
Inhabit the whites.
Prepare to be huge.

Be prepared to be small
the least molecule of
an unlimited form.
Be a limited form
and spin in your skin
one point in the whole

Be prepared to prepare
for what you have dreamed
to burn and be burned
to burst like a pod
to tear at your seams.

Be pre-pared.
And pre-pare.
But it's never like that.
It is where you are not
that the fissure occurs
and the light crashes in

Review: Animal Dreams

Animal Dreams
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I spent the entire book wondering if I'd read it before or if the familiarity comes from the way Kingsolver tends to focus her books on a relationship, a child, the environment. It was fantastic either way and makes me want to be a much better teacher.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: The Host

The Host
The Host by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meyer's writing, while still repetitive, has gotten a bit better. The plot pulled me in more than I expected. It was a one day read on the laziest day of my trip yet.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: The Rotters' Club

The Rotters' Club
The Rotters' Club by Jonathan Coe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Back when I lived in Scotland, I used to see this book in charity shops for a pound all the time, but the title totally turned me off. It's a really interesting look at England in the seventies and I learned a lot. I think my star rating would be higher if circumstances (in the form of Interhash) hadn't led to me reading it in two parts.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Emergency Sex

Emergency Sex
Emergency Sex by Kenneth Cain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at my hostel in the Cameron Highlands and I'd bet it came from Cambodia - it was a photocopied book. It was also incredible. Three people, out to change the world, meet during a UN mission in Cambodia to supervise an election. From there, they travel to the hot spots of 1990s peacekeeping missions, slowly growing more disillusioned with the peacekeeping process. I found it education and entertaining.

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Review: Disobedience

Disobedience by Jane Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book struck me as completely engrossing. A teenaged boy's narration of an affair his mother has during his last year of high school, but about so much more than that. I flew through it.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Devoured by Darkness

Devoured by Darkness
Devoured by Darkness by Alexandra Ivy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this yesterday before and after my nap, with a nice breeze coming in the room and the sound of the call to prayer from the mosque next door. It was entertaining. My love of vamp porn continues unabated.

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Review: The Rape of Martha Teoh & Other Chilling Stories

The Rape of Martha Teoh & Other Chilling Stories
The Rape of Martha Teoh & Other Chilling Stories by Tunku Halim

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up in Ipoh because it was in English and by a Malaysian author. It mostly reminded me of those books you read when you were a kid, full of short ghost stories. I did enjoy all the Malaysian references, but the stories themselves were a bit silly.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Review: Into the Beautiful North

Into the Beautiful North
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book gave me the weirdest sense of deja vu, but I really hadn't read it before. It's an awesome story about a girl on a quest, and one that examines Mexican/American relations. Well worth reading.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Review: Seize the Day

Seize the Day
Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an examination of failure and the regrets of middle age, this was really well done.

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Review: One Child

One Child
One Child by Torey Hayden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book left me wanting to be a better teacher. It saddened me and made me hopeful. And to a slight extent, I felt like my emotions were being played.

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantastic. Huck and Jim are fantastic characters, the plot zips along, and the section where they drive Aunt Sally crazy with the missing items made me laugh out loud. It was a great to read right after Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer, because it covered the same basic time and geography, and after The Day They Came To Arrest The Book, which was about censoring Huck Finn. Now that I've read it, I think it would be a great book for a classroom, if handled carefully.

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