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Here's the last of my first 50 plus my new #5 (full list here).

5. Story-Wallah! edited by Shyam Selvadurai
45. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
46. Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee
47. Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
48. A Good Fall by Ha Jin
49. Song of the Boatwoman by Meiling Jin
50. The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
 
Read more... )
sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
Here is a batch of mini-reviews and notes on books I read from May to October. I started including descriptions from other websites but didn't do that for all the books. Also, please note there are potentially triggering scenes and events in some of the books (e.g., rape, childhood abuse, incidents with dubious consent, violence). Please let me know if you need more detail.

Reviews )
sumofparts: person holding a cloud in a field (Default)
Here is a batch of mini-reviews and notes on books I read from May to October. I started including descriptions from other websites but didn't do that for all the books. Also, please note there are potentially triggering scenes and events in some of the books (e.g., rape, childhood abuse, incidents with dubious consent, violence). Please let me know if you need more detail.

Reviews
33. Burndive by Karin Lowachee
From Booklist via Amazon
Ryan Azarcon, the son of a notorious starship captain and planetary aristocrat and grandson of an admiral and diplomat, is a good-looking, spoiled, young celebrity constantly hounded by the media. He is also, by virtue of his pedigree, in the middle of all the conflict generated by the ongoing war with the alien strits, whom Lowachee introduced in Warchild. As this story opens, Ryan is desperately trying to escape the memories of a bombing at his grandfather's embassy. Then, when his father takes unpopular action, Ryan is targeted by assassins. To protect him, Captain Azarcon orders him aboard his ship, the Macedon. Similarity to recent headlines and their generators lend plausibility to the tale, as does Ryan's reaction when he realizes that mediacrats can be deadly.

Thoughts
- I read this series of books mainly because of glowing posts about the first book, Warchild, by marina on Dreamwidth so I'm going to cheat a bit and point you to her post about Burndive which crystallizes issues I had with the book but couldn't express
link: http://marina.dreamwidth.org/880767.html
- after this post, I kind of want to read a version of the book in which the protagonist and his mother are really close and actually happy with each other and their lives without his father (excepting, of course, when they encounter actual tragedies in their lives, e.g., when Ryan is present at the terrorist attacks in Hong Kong)

34. Cagebird by Karin Lowachee
From Booklist via Amazon
Lowachee's third space opera depicts the conflict begun in Warchild (2002) and Burndive (2003) from another point of view, that of a young pirate. Although only 22, Yuri Kirov is a former pirate captain now in stir doing a life sentence. Then Earth Hub black-ops agents make him an offer he can't refuse: to return to the pirate organization as their agent. Lowachee interweaves the past and the present, showing the episodes in Yuri's past that formed his present attitudes and actions. She uses this technique skillfully, and produces a seamless whole featuring some memorable characters, including Ryan Azercon, the protagonist of Burndive, as Yuri sees him. This installment in the series stands on its own very well, so there's no need to know its predecessors before plunging into it for good action reading's sake

Thoughts
- it's been a while since I read this but I do remember I enjoyed it and  liked the alternative perspective from the antagonist of the previous book, who is now the protagonist of this one
- one thing that bugged me about all three books was the overlapping time periods in which we already know some of what will happen, removing some of the suspense

35. Ocean of Words by Ha Jin
A series of short stories about Chinese soldiers near the Chinese-Russian border in the 1970s. Interesting, varied and definitely providing some insight into the perspective at that time and place. I wish I'd noted which stories were the best examples but I did note that some of the political machinations were disturbing to me and my perspective.
 
36. Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
A collection of essays, reviews and articles the author has written for various publications. I especially enjoyed "Dead Man Laughing", the piece about her memories of her father, their senses of humour and then that extending to her relationship with her brother.

Her piece on rereading books was thought-provoking even though I don't completely share her view on the pleasure of rereading. There were also a couple of thoughtful pieces about her feelings and experience as a person of mixed race.

I didn't enjoy the pieces that were more literary analysis as much, partly because I haven't read the books in question and also because I wasn't familiar with some of the concepts she was using.

37. The Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
I was trying to give this series another go (I had read a later book not realizing there was a series) but I'm going to copy someone else's description because it sums up a large part of my thoughts on this book and the series.
"A book in the Inspector Chen murder mystery series. This one was the same as always, some murdered woman and the man who did her in, and Inspector Chen caught up in the politicking of early 1990s Shanghai." via stephiepenguin here: http://community.livejournal.com/50books_poc/62934.html

Also, I was increasingly annoyed by the poetry.

38. Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang
I heard about this book via this post and had a similar reaction.
http://community.livejournal.com/50books_poc/164759.html

39. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
I liked the combination of mystery, conspiracy theory, comment on colonialism, time shifts and just plain engaging writing.
 
40. Pulse by Lydia Kwa
I had previously read "The Walking Boy" by this author and didn't really enjoy it.  I gave this book a go anyway because I recognized the setting in the initial scenes of the story (Toronto's west Chinatown) but found again that I didn't really feel engaged with the characters though the book did try to touch on different ideas, themes and issues.

41. Choose Me by Evelyn Lau
I didn't look up the author till after I finished this collection of the short stories but having done so, the recurring theme of a younger woman becoming involved with an older man became much more understandable though I didn't enjoy the bleakness of the stories at all.

42. The Monkey King & Other Stories edited by Griffin Ondaatje
A collection of folk stories popular in Sri Lanka though not all are Sri Lankan in origin. Retold by both poc and white authors. Some were straight-forward retellings (as far as I can tell without knowing the originals) while others moved the settings, changed the characters, etc. I think I would definitely have benefited from knowing the originals. Does anyone have recommendations?

43. The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
This is a new style for the author who's previously written sci-fi. I found the writing overly and unnecessarily formal compared to the writing in her sci-fi books and that might be why I couldn't really care more about the characters, especially the female protagonist. Despite that the plot was interesting but paced strangely to me. Events would happen and suspense builds but ebbs away without any kind of satisfactory resolution. Still I'm intrigued enough to read her follow-up books, especially since the ending for this book was such an obvious cliff-hanger.

44. Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami
I really liked the way the immigrant characters learned to make a life for themselves and grew to love their adopted country. I also was drawn in by the characters and their relationships - their strong feelings (positive and negative) and complications, the tight character focus - and it hit me every time events in the wider world affected the characters' lives, for example, the Partition and the murder of Indira Gandhi.
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I think my reaction to this was similar to The Blythes Are Quoted by L. M. Montgomery in that I haven't read the source/originals in a long time and have more of a nostalgic affection for them than current appreciation. Also, again, change in sensibilities/tastes. This one didn't ping my dislike but I wasn't very enthusiastic about it. I guess because I enjoyed the books not for the characters but the 'insights' and jokes - for example, the concept of flying, the animals that want to be eaten, etc. The jokes are 'updated' so to speak, for this book (e.g. reality shows, credentials, etc) but nothing new. And maybe I'm not remembering right, but there seemed to be a lot more 'Guide Notes' in this version than in the other books and the jokes in them were hit-and-miss. Basically, when I said I should've bought this instead of The Blythes Are Quoted, I was wrong - I should not have bought either book.
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I think my reaction to this was similar to The Blythes Are Quoted by L. M. Montgomery in that I haven't read the source/originals in a long time and have more of a nostalgic affection for them than current appreciation. Also, again, change in sensibilities/tastes. This one didn't ping my dislike but I wasn't very enthusiastic about it. I guess because I enjoyed the books not for the characters but the 'insights' and jokes - for example, the concept of flying, the animals that want to be eaten, etc. The jokes are 'updated' so to speak, for this book (e.g. reality shows, credentials, etc) but nothing new. And maybe I'm not remembering right, but there seemed to be a lot more 'Guide Notes' in this version than in the other books and the jokes in them were hit-and-miss. Basically, when I said I should've bought this instead of The Blythes Are Quoted, I was wrong - I should not have bought either book.
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27. De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
Description (via publisher)

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide."

In Rawi Hage's astonishing and unforgettable novel, this famous quote by Camus becomes a touchstone for two young men caught in Lebanon's civil war. Bassam and George are childhood best friends who have grown to adulthood in wartorn Beirut. Now they must choose their futures: to stay in the city and consolidate power through crime; or to go into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have known. Bassam chooses one path: Obsessed with leaving Beirut, he embarks on a series of petty crimes to finance his departure. Meanwhile, George builds his power in the underworld of the city and embraces a life of military service, crime for profit, killing, and drugs.

Told in the voice of Bassam, De Niro's Game is a beautiful, explosive portrait of a contemporary young man shaped by a lifelong experience of war.

Rawi Hage brilliantly fuses vivid, jump-cut cinematic imagery with the measured strength and beauty of Arabic poetry. His style mimics a world gone mad: so smooth and apparently sane that its razor-sharp edges surprise and cut deeply. A powerful meditation on life and death in a war zone, and what comes after.

My Impressions
I finished Soucouyant not too long before this one so inevitably I compared the two though they're very different books. Despite the bleakness of some of the events, there was a warmth and connection in Soucouyant that was missing in De Niro's Game but I think that was sort of the point. It's a tight POV and now that I've finished Warchild too, I'm giving it the benefit of doubt for the writing style. I can see why the book's critically acclaimed and I liked it but the ending felt off.

28. Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
Description (via Amazon.com)

Octavia Butler tackles the creation of a new religion, the making of a god, and the ultimate fate of humanity in her Earthseed series, which began with Parable of the Sower, and now continues with Parable of the Talents. The saga began with the near-future dystopian tale of Sower, in which young Lauren Olamina began to realize her destiny as a leader of people dispossessed and destroyed by the crumbling of society. The basic principles of Lauren's faith, Earthseed, were contained in a collection of deceptively simple proverbs that Lauren used to recruit followers. She teaches that "God is change" and that humanity's ultimate destiny is among the stars.

In Parable of the Talents, the seeds of change that Lauren planted begin to bear fruit, but in unpredictable and brutal ways. Her small community is destroyed, her child is kidnapped, and she is imprisoned by sadistic zealots. She must find a way to escape and begin again, without family or friends. Her single-mindedness in teaching Earthseed may be her only chance to survive, but paradoxically, may cause the ultimate estrangement of her beloved daughter. Parable of the Talents is told from both mother's and daughter's perspectives, but it is the narrative of Lauren's grown daughter, who has seen her mother made into a deity of sorts, that is the most compelling. Butler's writing is simple and elegant, and her storytelling skills are superb, as usual. Fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in what promises to be a moving and adventurous saga.

My Impressions

I didn't realize this was a sequel till after I finished but I felt it really worked well as a stand-alone book. The author's very thoughtful and detailed in the world-building. The novel is a lot of first-person narration, first from Olamina's daughter and then her own POV. Reading the blurbs from the daughter's POV, I kept expecting Olamina to make some huge mistake or commit some 'ultimate betrayal' but in the end, I couldn't believe her daughter could feel the way she did, blaming her mother for everything that's happened. The edition I read also came with an author interview and here's the question and answer that really drives the point home:

Question:
In Parable of Talents, Olamina refuses to leave Acorn, the community she has created. She sees Acron as the beginning of EarthSeed, the first of many EarthSeed communities. But ultimately, her refusal to leave costs her her family. Her husband is killed, her child taken away, she is imprisoned and brutalized until she can get free. Where do you think the line should be drawn between commitment to self versus commitment to community?

Excerpt of her response:
Should her dedication have been only to her family?
When I was a girl and the civil rights movement was in full stride, Mrs. Viola Liuzzo, a homemaker, a white woman of Detroit, Michigan, went to Alabama to help in the peaceful struggle for human rights for African Americans. For her trouble, she was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Memory of this incident has stayed with me because later in a women's magazine, I read a number of letters to the editor in which the letter writers insisted that it was Mrs. Liuzzo's duty to stay at home and look after her family. She had no right, the letter writers said, to involve herself in a struggle not her own. She had no right to deprive her husband of a wife, her children of a mother. And, of course, she had no intention of doing any of that. She was murdered, after all. Interesting that not one of the letter writers condemned her murderers. They condemned her.
Duty can be cast as a selfish and shortsighted monster.


29. The Mao Case by Qiu Xiaolong
Description (via Amazon.com)

Inspector Chen of the Shanghai police returns in his sixth book (following Red Mandarin Dress, 2007). Continuing to gain prestige among the party cadre, Chen is assigned a case so delicate he must keep it secret from the Special Case team and even from his dedicated assistant Yu. A young woman with black [as in black-listed not 'black' skin] ancestors, Jiao has suddenly risen from poverty and appears at parties dedicated to reliving the glory days of the 1930s. Internal Security is worried about Jiao’s growing power and especially about her connection to Mao (her grandmother was one of Mao’s lovers), a link that could protect her from any kind of official censure. Using Mao’s poetry and a censored biography, Chen investigates in his leisurely and unconventional style, posing as a rich businessman and aspiring writer. With the assistance of Yu’s father, Old Hunter, Chen delves deep into the murk of the Cultural Revolution, uncovering Jiao’s family history and her real connections to Mao. Full, as always, of crisp detail and vivid atmospherics evoking contemporary Shanghai, this latest installment further establishes the series’ stature on the international crime beat.

My Impressions

Like with Parable of Talents, I didn't find out this is part of a series (in this case, the Inspector Chen mysteries) till after I finished it. I think that hindered my enjoyment because I wasn't familiar with the characters yet. From what I understand, the events in the series mostly takes place in China in the 1990s but are heavily influenced by events during Mao's reign. I liked the details of Chinese society but not the characters so much. Also this one had a really weird (as in I couldn't really understand the characters' behaviour), almost disturbing ending and too much poetry for my liking. Obviously, your mileage may vary. The poetry was mostly translations of Chinese poems, both traditional/classical ones and also of Mao's. The translation causes some of the problem for me because I know some Chinese and the meaning sometimes just doesn't translate well. I've borrowed the first book in the series to see if I'll like it any better.

30. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Description/My Impressions

This is a graphic novel with no words about the immigrant experience. I think I was more moved by the concept than the actual execution but the illustrations were gorgeous and a little strange in a good way.

31. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Synopsis (via Man Booker Prize website)

Born in a village in heartland India, the son of a rickshaw puller, Balram is taken out of school by his family and put to work in a teashop. As he crushes coals and wipes tables, he nurses a dream of escape - of breaking away from the banks of Mother Ganga, into whose depths have seeped the remains of a hundred generations.

The White Tiger is a tale of two Indias. Balram’s journey from darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable.

My Impressions
Depressing and hilarious and compelling. I was very disturbed by what it meant for Balram to escape and in my head, I was trying to think of an alternate scenario that would let his family live.

Another thing that struck me after I finished this book is how 'male' it feels. It didn't strike me with some of the others till after I read this book. (I'm thinking of De Niro's Game, mostly.) Not that that's a bad thing, just it doesn't feel as universal, if that makes sense. Maybe it's more about the force of personality than 'male-ness'. Anyway, I enjoyed this book but it felt very bleak too.

32. Warchild by Karin Lowachee
Description (via Amazon)

Eight-year-old Jos Musey's childhood ends when his parents' merchant ship falls prey to pirates and slavers. Destined to be the personal slave of his captor, Jos escapes only to find himself a prisoner of the strits, an alien race at war with humanity. Trained as a spy by his captors, Jos is released to become a human weapon but the war he fights is a war to achieve his own destiny.

My Impressions
I saw this recced very favourably by someone on my reading list and decided to pick it up. It's very intense, and such a ride and I fell very hard for the main character, as in, I really care about what happens to him even through the unsettling parts. I've seen some reviews say they believe the character acts his age (he's a child) but I feel he reads both too old and too young. The relationship between him and his rescuer gives me low-level discomforting vibes but I also really feel their strong attachment and affection for one another. I was also initially confused about what actually happened to the main character with his captor but the reveal makes it all clear why that was the case.
sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
Description (via inside cover)
 A soucouyant is an evil spirit in Caribbean folklore, and a symbol here of the distant and dimly remembered legacies that continue to haunt the Americas. This extraordinary first novel set in Ontario, in a house near the Scarborough Bluffs, focuses on a Canadian-born son who despairingly abandons his Caribbean-born mother suffering from dementia.

The son returns after two years to confront his mother but also a young woman who now mysteriously occupies the house. In his desire to atone for his past and live anew, he is compelled to imagine his mother's life before it all slips into darkness―her arrival in Canada during the early sixties, her childhood in Trinidad during World War II, and her lurking secret that each have tried to forget.

Luminously poetic, Soucouyant marks the arrival of a major new literary talent in Canada.

My Impressions
This review in my local paper introduced me to the book and made me put it on my to-read list. Here's an excerpt of the review.

"Chariandy isolates the disturbing elements of racism Canadian style, which most writers find so difficult to express. He exposes the malicious laughter – nasty snorts, muffled giggles, mean smirks – as among the most dehumanizing of racist behaviours.

This is a wonderful novel, one that feels special to me because I know exactly where it takes place, just about four miles west along the lakeshore from my childhood home. It is the first novel I have read about a black child, like me, growing up in my area, and it strikes me as utterly true."


I was immediately interested because I know where this takes place too but not when. I was maybe 2 or 3 during the time when the majority of this story is set but that's also when my immigrant parents were making a life for themselves in the same city, my hometown, for better or worse. The subject matter is difficult to read at times - the author doesn't shy away from the details of racism, poverty, taking care of a loved one with dementia and there are potentially triggering events too - but this was really a wonderfully written book and highly recommended.
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3 Idiots
Synopsis (via tribute.com)
Two friends (R Madhavan and Sharman Joshi) embark on a quest for a lost buddy. On this journey, they encounter a long-forgotten bet, a wedding they must crash, and a funeral that goes impossibly out of control. As they make their way through the perilous landscape, another journey begins: their inner journey through memory lane and the story of their friend—the irrepressible free-thinker Rancho (Aamir Khan), who in his unique way, touched and changed their lives. It's a story of their hostel days that swings between Rancho's romance with the spirited Pia (Kareena Kapoor), and his clash with an oppressive mentor, Viru Sahastrabudhhe (Boman Irani). And then one day, suddenly, Rancho vanishes...

Who was he? Where did he come from? Why did he leave?

The friend who influenced and inspired them to think creatively and independently, even as the conformist world called them three idiots. Where is the original idiot now?

Finally, in misty mountains of unparalleled beauty, the friends find the key to the secret.

3 Idiots is a comedy of ideas that is as provocative as it is funny, as wildly entertaining as it is insightful. A laugh-riot that talks about the most important of human pursuits: self-actualization.

Thoughts
Not very profound thoughts but overall, I found the movie entertaining, a little ridiculous, surprisingly emotional and poignant and thought-provoking.
possible spoilers )

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3 Idiots
Synopsis (via tribute.com)
Two friends (R Madhavan and Sharman Joshi) embark on a quest for a lost buddy. On this journey, they encounter a long-forgotten bet, a wedding they must crash, and a funeral that goes impossibly out of control. As they make their way through the perilous landscape, another journey begins: their inner journey through memory lane and the story of their friend—the irrepressible free-thinker Rancho (Aamir Khan), who in his unique way, touched and changed their lives. It's a story of their hostel days that swings between Rancho's romance with the spirited Pia (Kareena Kapoor), and his clash with an oppressive mentor, Viru Sahastrabudhhe (Boman Irani). And then one day, suddenly, Rancho vanishes...

Who was he? Where did he come from? Why did he leave?

The friend who influenced and inspired them to think creatively and independently, even as the conformist world called them three idiots. Where is the original idiot now?

Finally, in misty mountains of unparalleled beauty, the friends find the key to the secret.

3 Idiots is a comedy of ideas that is as provocative as it is funny, as wildly entertaining as it is insightful. A laugh-riot that talks about the most important of human pursuits: self-actualization.

Thoughts
Not very profound thoughts but overall, I found the movie entertaining, a little ridiculous, surprisingly emotional and poignant and thought-provoking.
- I was not expecting as much suicide as was shown in the movie; one of the friends who recommended the movie explained that it's a big problem in India
- also wow, sort of a cry fest for me and my sister
- dance sequences - check! This was fun and there were at least 3 scene changes during the couple's sequence. My sister and I don't watch Bollywood movies very often so we were pleasantly surprised and relieved since we'd been crying a bit. The tone shifts were sometimes disconcerting though.
- I've taken engineering and the arguments about learning for its own sake versus for a job, etc. resonated with me
- another part of me couldn't help judging Rancho for believing it'd be so easy for his friends to let go of their obligations when he was relatively free because he was an orphan
- near the beginning, when the characters were starting their search/road trip, there was an absolutely beautiful shot of the mountains/highway
- Aamir Khan was very charming as the main 'idiot'
- I really liked the very close relationship between the three friends and how they're not uncomfortable being physically affectionate
- the scene when Mona (Pia's sister) is giving birth - !!!!!!!
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notes on two books I read in the last couple of months

Fabrizio's Return
- the taglines and endorsements were many and the description certainly hyped it but not as cool as i expected
- there was a mix of timelines and fact and fantasy, almost meta in the description of the characters within the play
- i didn't quite buy the love but probably projecting onto the characters
- it was too bad about the duke's daughter and the devil's advocate though the whole subplot about their love/infatuation felt incomplete and not fully explained

The Velocity of Honey
- liked that it was short chapters on a variety of scientific topics
- obviously Jay Ingram can write about whatever he finds interesting so there was an emphasis on physics and stuff about the way the mind/brain works; not a fault, just an observation
- interesting angles about these topics
- liked how he introduced the reader to the specific people who had done the research not just "there was a study that showed this..."
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notes on two books I read in the last couple of months

Fabrizio's Return
- the taglines and endorsements were many and the description certainly hyped it but not as cool as i expected
- there was a mix of timelines and fact and fantasy, almost meta in the description of the characters within the play
- i didn't quite buy the love but probably projecting onto the characters
- it was too bad about the duke's daughter and the devil's advocate though the whole subplot about their love/infatuation felt incomplete and not fully explained

The Velocity of Honey
- liked that it was short chapters on a variety of scientific topics
- obviously Jay Ingram can write about whatever he finds interesting so there was an emphasis on physics and stuff about the way the mind/brain works; not a fault, just an observation
- interesting angles about these topics
- liked how he introduced the reader to the specific people who had done the research not just "there was a study that showed this..."
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The Rouge of the North by Eileen Chang
Description (via University of California Press)

The Rouge of the North is the story of Yindi, a beautiful young bride who marries the blind, bedridden son of a rich and noble family. Captive to household ritual, to the strategies and contempt of her sisters-in-law, and to the exacting dictates of her husband's mother, Yindi is pressed beneath the weight of an existence that offers no hope of change. Dramatic events in the outside world fail to make their way into this insular society. Chang's brilliant portrayal of the slow suffocation of passion, moral strength, and physical vitality—together with her masterful evocation of the sights, smells, and sounds of daily existence—make The Rouge of the North a remarkable chronicle of a vanished way of life.

My Impressions
I kept reading because of the details about daily life, about the coded messages in everything and the change in societal attitudes over the lifetime of the main character, Yindi, but wow, I couldn't help feeling relief that this is not my life.

I left the foreword (by David Der-wai Wang) till last. It added context for the story in terms of giving more detail about the author's life but it felt very formal and distant; I wasn't sure if the writer even liked the story.

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Description/Impressions

Vampires but not in the way stories are usually written about them. ('Fun' fact: Apparently it was also published in the same year as 'Twilight' - 2005.) At first, it seemed like Butler was going with a mystery vibe because the main character Shori was trying to figure out who had hurt her but once that was figured out (relatively easily) the rest of the book was basically about her people (the Ina) coming to a decision about the perpetrators. Also, there was a lot of world-building, which I really enjoyed reading about - the details about how the Ina have lived over the years, their culture, their relationship with their human symbionts (including the details about needing more than one, the relationships between the symbionts for one Ina, the fact that they need to eat and the details about their food preparation). The issues of race and of the consent/willingness of the symbiont relationship were interesting to read about if also somewhat uncomfortable (e.g. the sex/feeding scenes) and, of course, not fully resolved but I didn't mind for this book.
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The Rouge of the North by Eileen Chang
Description (via University of California Press)

The Rouge of the North is the story of Yindi, a beautiful young bride who marries the blind, bedridden son of a rich and noble family. Captive to household ritual, to the strategies and contempt of her sisters-in-law, and to the exacting dictates of her husband's mother, Yindi is pressed beneath the weight of an existence that offers no hope of change. Dramatic events in the outside world fail to make their way into this insular society. Chang's brilliant portrayal of the slow suffocation of passion, moral strength, and physical vitality—together with her masterful evocation of the sights, smells, and sounds of daily existence—make The Rouge of the North a remarkable chronicle of a vanished way of life.

My Impressions
I kept reading because of the details about daily life, about the coded messages in everything and the change in societal attitudes over the lifetime of the main character, Yindi, but wow, I couldn't help feeling relief that this is not my life.

I left the foreword (by David Der-wai Wang) till last. It added context for the story in terms of giving more detail about the author's life but it felt very formal and distant; I wasn't sure if the writer even liked the story.

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Description/Impressions

Vampires but not in the way stories are usually written about them. ('Fun' fact: Apparently it was also published in the same year as 'Twilight' - 2005.) At first, it seemed like Butler was going with a mystery vibe because the main character Shori was trying to figure out who had hurt her but once that was figured out (relatively easily) the rest of the book was basically about her people (the Ina) coming to a decision about the perpetrators. Also, there was a lot of world-building, which I really enjoyed reading about - the details about how the Ina have lived over the years, their culture, their relationship with their human symbionts (including the details about needing more than one, the relationships between the symbionts for one Ina, the fact that they need to eat and the details about their food preparation). The issues of race and of the consent/willingness of the symbiont relationship were interesting to read about if also somewhat uncomfortable (e.g. the sex/feeding scenes) and, of course, not fully resolved but I didn't mind for this book.
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I was going to revise this post and write in complete thoughts and sentences but decided against it. Here's the post in its rough unfinished glory.

- not kidding when the description goes on about adultery, misogyny, etc but even the 'romantic' ones (some reprinted) were off; felt too false; wow, change in sensibilities reduced my enjoyment in the book; also, unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to read the poetry, just the notes/dialogue after
- those damn Blythes quoted everywhere was grating; oh so perfect and pretty
- also um, claustrophobic much?
- the story about the woman who's an expert in child psychology who needed a man to rein her adopted boys in was grating and annoying
- binary gender roles
- women are so screwed in this; no one strong or admirable; even Anne is reduced to being Mrs. Dr. Blythe
- and everyone's gorgeous and falls in love instantly and I guess they're products of their time but what the hell with all the unfulfilled dreams, unrequited feelings, grudges, seriously, I'm projecting my values on this and yet, how can these people not grow up already?!?! I really lost my sympathy and understanding for the characters
- misogyny not fun at all; all the men hate the 'old maids' bitterly and it makes me so sick plus the young people are so callous and not written about in a great way either and just this book has so little happiness or hope in it in the stories (again, I didn't read any of the poetry, so the hope could very well be in them)
- I did notice that it felt like LMM was experimenting with different writing styles but having not read her work since high school which I started almost 10 years ago, I really can't say with any accuracy but there were shifting POV's/narrators, tones, etc. and it felt different and experimental and interesting in that way.
- all in all, disappointing if you haven't read and enjoyed her work recently but of course, tastes vary!
- probably should've bought the Hitchhiker's Guide book even though it was written by Eoin Colfer not Douglas Adams
sumofparts: person holding a cloud in a field (Default)
I was going to revise this post and write in complete thoughts and sentences but decided against it. Here's the post in its rough unfinished glory.

- not kidding when the description goes on about adultery, misogyny, etc but even the 'romantic' ones (some reprinted) were off; felt too false; wow, change in sensibilities reduced my enjoyment in the book; also, unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to read the poetry, just the notes/dialogue after
- those damn Blythes quoted everywhere was grating; oh so perfect and pretty
- also um, claustrophobic much?
- the story about the woman who's an expert in child psychology who needed a man to rein her adopted boys in was grating and annoying
- binary gender roles
- women are so screwed in this; no one strong or admirable; even Anne is reduced to being Mrs. Dr. Blythe
- and everyone's gorgeous and falls in love instantly and I guess they're products of their time but what the hell with all the unfulfilled dreams, unrequited feelings, grudges, seriously, I'm projecting my values on this and yet, how can these people not grow up already?!?! I really lost my sympathy and understanding for the characters
- misogyny not fun at all; all the men hate the 'old maids' bitterly and it makes me so sick plus the young people are so callous and not written about in a great way either and just this book has so little happiness or hope in it in the stories (again, I didn't read any of the poetry, so the hope could very well be in them)
- I did notice that it felt like LMM was experimenting with different writing styles but having not read her work since high school which I started almost 10 years ago, I really can't say with any accuracy but there were shifting POV's/narrators, tones, etc. and it felt different and experimental and interesting in that way.
- all in all, disappointing if you haven't read and enjoyed her work recently but of course, tastes vary!
- probably should've bought the Hitchhiker's Guide book even though it was written by Eoin Colfer not Douglas Adams
sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
20. West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story by Tamim Ansary

Cut for length )

sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
17. Delicious by Sherry Thomas
I saw this posted on the comm a couple of times but never really looked into the book because I don't usually read romances.Cut for possible spoilers ) All in all, an enjoyable read.

18. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The book is a look at an African culture (Ibo or Igbo) before and after contact with white people and Christianity. It was divided into three parts with the first part essentially setting the stage of these people's lives - their customs, their personal histories, their culture, their world. The second shows the gradual entry of white people into the consciousness and into the area and the reaction to their arrival. The final part shows the change in reaction and also how the white people's behaviour changes. The story is primarily told in relation to one man, Okonkwo, and his family.

This book elicited mixed emotions from me. On one hand, it's a fascinating look at a group of people and a culture that I'm not at all familiar with. One previous reviewer said it well, describing it as "making neither demons or angels of them" (here). On the other hand, I'm seeing certain actions and values within the culture that I find troubling, specifically the violence against women and children.

19. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Other people have covered this book so I won't get into it too much. Basically, I really liked the main character, Junior, but what happens to him and to people around him was incredibly eye-opening and depressing. I really admire Junior (and by extension, Alexie for writing it so well) for his strength of character in not letting the tragedy in his life overwhelm him and also in being just a great character.

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