Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country is so beautiful. I have had it on my shelf for a long time. I like reading about Africa so I knew I should read it, but kept not picking it up.

Luckily, I finally did. Cry, the Beloved Country is set in South Africa during the 1940s. At this time, society in South Africa was very unequal. Blacks in South African society had so little in comparison to whites.

Cry, the Beloved Country is about a young black man who kills a white husband and father in racially charged South Africa. The story follows the men's fathers in the aftermath of the crime.

Some might find the the moral of the story a bit heavy handed, but I thought it was beautiful.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


the poli sci textbook i use

I've been super busy with school starting. I'm going to take some time this weekend and lose myself in a book (or two) to calm down and hopefully get some book reviews finished.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waiting for You

I've been on a real YA kick lately, so I've been trying to find more YA authors I enjoy. I recently read Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti. Waiting for You is the story of a teen girl's love life and family life.

Marisa, the main character, deals with renewing and maintaining old friendships, a first boyfriend, and her parents' break-up.

I listened to the audio version of Waiting for You and it seemed to drag. It is about 7 hours long and about 3.5 hours in, I looked at my phone (love audible's android app) and was shocked to see I was only that far. It really dragged. The last couple hours picked up, but I never got caught up in the story.

I'll try another book by Colasanti, but it'll be one I check out from the library, not one I buy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Provenance is the story of widespread art fraud in the 1980s and 90s. Two men, John Myatt and John Drewe, perpetrated what Scotland Yard called the biggest art fraud in the 20th century. Drewe recruited Myatt, a talented painter, to create paintings that appeared to be from famous artists. Drewe created provenances, documents proving authenticity of works of art, to go with each of the fraudulent painting. Drewe then sold the works earning millions of pounds in the fraud.

When I finished this book, all I could think was, "Who says crime doesn't pay?" Myatt and Drewe served short sentences. Myatt is now a famous painter in his own right who sells his works for thousands of pounds. The book talks about a fire that Drewe is suspected of setting in which a woman died, but they don't have enough evidence. I felt like the men didn't have to atone for their crimes. I certainly thought Drewe was the bad guy in the story, but am uncomfortable with how Myatt has been able to profit from his notoriety.

I learned a lot about the art market. It was remarkable to me how Drewe was able to worm his way into prestigious art collections and doctor their archives. His con artist skills were outstanding.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale

Stop what you are doing and go read this book.

I was serious. Go read this book, then you can come back and goof around on the internet.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a book that I've heard people rave about for years. I have this thing about dystopian books so it wasn't on the top of my list. I read it for the seasonal online challenge for the category of a Canadian author. It was a great example of how the book challenge gets you to read things you might not otherwise pick up.

The Handmaid's Tale is set in an alternate future where a conservative Christian group has taken over society and the environment has been severely degradated. The laws in society divide women up into different categories. The narrator is a handmaid whose job it is to produce children. Handmaids are not allowed to read and are only allowed out of the house once a day.

There were so many things to love about The Handmaid's Tale: the idea that such a society isn't that remote of an idea, the writing, and the ending. I won't say anything about the end, other than it was brilliant. Freaking brilliant.

This was one of the best, if not the best, books I've read this year. It's one of the best books I've ever read.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


This was a sale book on audible so I picked it up at Evan's urging. "You need to exercise more. Buy that one." And after reading Spark, I will definitely be exercising more.

Spark talks about how exercise improves your brain: helps learning, fights depression, even postpones dementia. Spark goes far beyond the idea of a runner's high and talks about what happens in the brain due to exercise. It was fascinating.

If you need motivation to exercise, Spark is going to give it to you. I listened to the audio book. I left it on my ipod for when I need a reminder about getting off my butt and getting moving. But, mainly, when I'm feeling stressed (which is happening more often since school is drawing close) I just need to get out and move. It's good for me in so many different ways.

Monday, August 8, 2011

One Nation Under Dog

My name is kenpen. I am a crazy dog person.

This book seemed very fitting. One Nation Under Dog is about the rise of the pet as a family member and the corresponding rise in the amount of money that is spent on pets.

My family (me, my husband, two bassets, and a cat) certainly fits within the average family in terms of pets in contemporary society. My dogs are my kids. They sleep in the bed with me. I tell them bless you when they sneeze. We buy them expensive quality dog food.

Nothing in One Nation Under Dog was too surprising to me, but still told astonishing tales of very crazy dog people. One of the sections talked about grief groups for pet owners, how their grief is viewed as odd or not as accepted as grief for a family member. I thought this was of special interest since I'd felt that way when Duncan, our old dog, died. The book also talked about high cost medical treatment for pets. I don't think twice about taking the animals to the vet, but definitely wait for myself.

If you are a dog lover like me, I think you'd like One Nation Under Dog. If you aren't a dog person, I think you'd read this and think what the heck?!

Don't they look spoiled?

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I loved Shine. Loved.

I think Lauren Myracle is a very cool person, so I was prepared to love it and was thankfully not disappointed.

Shine is the story of a teenager trying to solve the mystery of who severely beat her gay friend. The sheriff and town don't seem too concerned about the crime so Cat, the main character, sets out to find out who did it.

Shine is set in a rural southern town, a place that is struggling with drugs, a lack of jobs, and the belief from outsiders that they are just a bunch of "mountain niggers." The book is set in Transylvania County, NC, which is a real place. The specific town in the novel doesn't exist. My parents have a house in the mountains in Transylvania County, so I was really interested in reading this book.

Photo taken down the hill from my parents' place:
Complete with trailer, confederate flag, ex-con owner, and mean ass dog.

E and I visited my parents' place earlier this summer and I read Shine while I was there. My parents don't stay at the house full-time and right before we got there someone kicked in the front door and stole all the alcohol. The person they were pretty sure did it was an alcoholic with no job and a criminal history (not the guy who lives down the hill.) So the real side of this small town with lax law enforcement was very much what we were experiencing. I could picture the story in the exact setting.

I loved Shine. I am sure my biased view helped, but I thought it was a wonderful book. I thought it was a great mystery with lots of insight to many social issues.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The House on Mango Street

I enjoyed The House on Mango Street, but I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't read it right after reading The Frozen Thames.

Both are short stories and both are worth the read. The House on Mango Street is vignettes from a young girl's year living in a house on Mango Street, a poor area of Chicago.

Some of the passages are so beautiful.

"People who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth."

"She [her grandmother] looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best of what she got or was she sorry she couldn't be the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review-a-thon

Lovely Little Shelf is doing a catch up on your reviews Review-a-thon August 14-20. I have at least 10 reviews in progress, so I thought I'd join and hopefully get some of them done.