Friday, December 31, 2010

An Old China Travel Book

Since we're going on our China trip, I kept my eyes open at the recent library book sale for any books about China. I picked this book up without flipping through it. When I got home and read it, I knew it was a very interesting find.

Seems like this Chairman Mao is a pretty awesome guy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shattered Dreams

I have such mixed feelings about this book. I was so frustrated for--and with--the author. I know some of my feelings are blaming the victim, but she stays in the marriage so long yet tells her husband over and over and over she is going to leave, is mad, etc yet never does anything. The constant awful story/whining/author frustration was annoying to read knowing she wasn't going to do anything about it. She constantly would tell her husband she wouldn't do something (go to the wedding with the 3rd wife, for example) then she'd change her mind and do what he wanted.

In some ways, I think the culture of polygamists is so foreign to me that it's hard for me to put myself in the author's shoes to even understand her life or the way of thinking that got her there.

The author was born into polygamy, so she was indoctrinated into the belief that she would be going against God not to be in plural marriage. Yet, she allows herself to be treated terribly (guilt trip over getting her tubes tied so she doesn't die in childbirth?! after 13 kids?!) and live in horrible poverty in the name of God. I can't imagine that God wants one to live such a horrid life.

Verlan, her husband, was such a moron. He believed in plural marriage but practiced it at the expense of his family's health: mental, physical, economic, educational. His view was definitely quantity over quality. He never seemed to have any empathy for his wives, and 5 of them had left him by the time of his death.

I felt sorry for the author, but it was a frustrating read. If you are interested in learning about Mormon polygamists, this is a good book to read, but keep in mind the author's experiences ended in 1981. Jessop's story is more current. But, I couldn't put Spencer's book down.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top 10 of 2009

I'll post my top 10 of 2010 soon, but here's my 2009 top 10.

In no particular order (it's hard enough to narrow down to ten!):

Baghdad without a Map by Tony Horwitz (travel)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (historical fiction)

The Help is set in early 60s Jackson, Mississippi. It's fascinating to see how different society is today compared to less than fifty years ago.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (historical fiction)

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (non-fiction)

I'd read Pollan's The Omivore's Dilemma in 2008 and enjoyed it. This book, however, was more than enjoyable and has stuck in my brain for months. It's mantra is simple: Eat food. not too much. Mostly plants.

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King (mystery)

Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear (mystery, historical fiction)

Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen (young adult)

I have a weird relationship with young adult books. I mostly enjoy them, but sometimes think they are a bit of a cheat since usually they are very quick reads. This was a quick read that I finished in less than two hours. However, it was a great story. I love coming-of-age stories and this was one I really enjoyed.

Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty (young adult/general fiction)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (mystery)

The Last Season by Eric Blehm (non-fiction)
I love mysteries--real and fiction. This book is the true story of a park ranger who goes missing and the mystery of what happened.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Many of my book friends love YA and raved about Dash & Lily's Book of Dares. I enjoyed Nick and Norah's Infinite Play List (also by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan), so I figured I should pick it up.

However, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares was a bit of a disappointment for me. I'm not really sure why. I think that part of the reason was that Dash and Lily spent only a small part of the book together. (Together as in talking to each other, in the same scene, not together as in dating.) I also found Dash a little too emo for my tastes. I did like the fun scavenger hunt type activities (though I did think they took up too much of the book.) Also, while I agree the Strand is an awesome bookstore, it, Franny and Zooey, and the Oxford American Dictionary all seemed a bit pretentious to me. (I can't believe I'm saying that since I love books so much, but it just was too much.)

I wish I could say great things about this book, but I can't. I didn't really like either one of the main characters, they didn't seem like true teenagers, the plot was far fetched, and it wasn't a book that made me want to finish it.

No Dash and Lily loving from me. I hate that--when everyone is raving about a book and you really don't get it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Finding George Orwell in Burma

I love Orwell and I love travelogues.


Emma Larkin is the pen name for a journalist who has spent time in Burma (Myanmar.) In Burma, there's a saying that Orwell's books are all about Burma: Burmese Days about Burma's colonial days, 1984 about a totalitarian government, and Animal Farm.

Burma is a fascinating place. The military rule is straight out of one of Orwell's books as are the last vestiges of colonial days.

If you are a fan of Orwell, I think you'd really enjoy this book. Even if you aren't, while modern Burma isn't a place you hear about very often, it's worth learning about. It's also a love story about books. It reminded me a bit of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Books in Burma aren't readily available, so copies are treasured.

I added a new tag for books: glad I live here and now. Finding George Orwell in Burma definitely reminded me how lucky we are to live where we do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss

Several of my friends have raved about Anna and the French Kiss, so when it was a free pre-order on Amazon for my Kindle for about 5 minutes, I snapped it up.

I enjoyed it a lot. It is such a cute story.

However, it is not a true depiction of boarding school--just so you know. I speak from personal experience.

Don't hold that against Anna and the French Kiss though. It was a fun story. I love YA romances. It's definitely worth picking up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Could the movie be better than the book?

I started reading Emma by Jane Austen a few days ago and really feel the need to watch Clueless. Paul Rudd + Jane Austen is almost as good as Colin Firth + Jane Austen.

I'm interested to read the book to see how it compares to the awesomeness that is Clueless.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nothing to Envy

Wow. Just wow.

I knew things were bad in North Korea, but I always pictured it as more of a bad joke with a crazy guy as the leader. I know they have nuclear weapons, but it still seemed not that awful.

Sadly, I was dead wrong.

Nothing to Envy is the story of six North Koreans. The people profiled had all escaped to South Korea. They each had a different life in North Korea and different reasons for leaving, though they had faced the same hardships.

This photo perfectly shows the problems in North Korea. It shows a night satellite view of the Korean peninsula. The bottom half is South Korea. The top is North Korea. The one dot of light in North Korea is Pyongyang, the capital.

North Korea has very little electricity. The people profiled talked about how they lived their lives with so little. They also shared stories of the famine of the mid-90s. People were dying in the streets and scavenging for food such as weeds. One of the people was a doctor. She crossed the border into China and found dogs eating rice--a "luxury" she hadn't had in years. Another woman was a kindergarten teacher whose students died of starvation.

Life in North Korea was so terrible. This is truly an eye-opening book, even for someone who thought she knew about the country. I think it would still be enjoyable for a person who usually doesn't pick up non-fiction. The stories are so compelling and the topic is very relevant. The title is very appropriate.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Whose Body?

I found Whose Body? for free for my kindle. I read Sayers's Murder Must Advertise a couple years ago and wasn't that thrilled. Murder Must Advertise is on the 1001 Books You Must Read list so when I didn't like it I didn't think I'd pick up any other books by Sayers.

But as I mentioned I found this for free, so I figured I'd give it a chance.

I really enjoyed it! Lord Peter Wimsey is the second son in a British aristocratic family. This book was written in 1923. Lord Peter is a veteran of WWI and solves mysteries as a hobby. My favorite part was Bunter, Lord Peter's butler. He made me laugh out loud several times.

In this book, a wealth financier is missing while a body resembling the man turns up naked in soemone's bath tub. Lord Peter hears about the case from his mother, who at times lends him a hand. He sets out to solve the mystery at the annoyance of Police Inspector Sugg. I found the mystery to be somewhat predictable, but the characters more than made up for that.

If you like Agatha Christie, I think you'd like the Lord Peter books. I already ordered the second book in the series, Clouds of Witness, for my Kindle. At 99 cents, why not?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls is another book on my list of China books.

I wasn't a fan of Lisa See's Peony in Love or Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, so I'm not really sure why I gave Shanghai Girls a chance. But, I am glad I did.

Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters who leave Shanghai as the Japanese were invading. They emigrate to the United States and live the immigrant experience in Los Angeles. When I read books about immigration, it makes me so sad. The immigrants were treated so terribly.

If you like historical fiction, pick it up. It's a great story of struggle, family, and hope.

The sisters went through Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the west) before being allowed to go to LA. When we were in San Francisco I would have loved to visit Angel Island, but we didn't have enough time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sam Spade's Building

Have you read The Maltese Falcon?

This is Sam Spade's office building.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can You Keep a Secret?

Such a cute chick-lit book.

I read Shopaholic and hated it. A nestie suggested this book as a good Sophie Kinsella book. I've read a lot of heavier non-fiction lately so this seemed like a good break.

It was a fun story, and I finished in two days.

If you disliked Shopaholic, don't totally write off Kinsella. I will definitely pick up another of her books, just not a Shopaholic one.