21 June 2006

It's That Time Again!

My semi-annual Book Review is here!

I'm trying to decide whether to dispense with this tradition, maybe making reviews more often. I love book blogs, such as Kate's Book Blog and Of Books and Bicycles, two readers whose love of books and writing is infectious. This blog, however, is really supposed to be general, with some emphasis on tea, cats, travel, and books. So, at best, this will be a part-time book blog. Who wants to work full time anyway?

Anyway, here are some highlights:

The Beatles, by Bob Spitz:
Everyone anyone would ever need to know about the Beatles and everyone in their path to success and breakup. At over 800 pages, you will be a certified Beatlemaniac if you've read the entire book. Spitz is a research fiend! Liked the photos, too.

Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson:
I love travel journals, especially humorous ones. Mr. Bryson is an American who lived in England for a long period of time. Before he returns to the States he takes a walking tour of England and some Scotland, catching a train here and there. He comments on the similarities of too many towns in England, and tries to find excitement in the most obscure places. Even though many times he's disappointment in this endeavour, you can sense the fondness he possesses for his second home.

Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt
I've read his first two painful memoirs; this is his third. As the title indicates, this one focuses on his career as a teacher, and at times a student. His memory is almost too good: is all that dialogue for real or is he filling in the blanks with guesses? Perhaps I'll never know. Being a New York public school student myself, it was fun to see the story from the other side. Remember when the teachers moaned about their jobs? I wondered why...now I'm slightly more clued in. McCourt's struggle to make a difference and to live his version of the dream is poignant. There's a couple of laughs and coincidences thrown in as well.

The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai
I suppose I inherited loss of memory of the details of this book. I know it was engrossing, with manifold characters (though the only one I felt for was the cook's son and his struggle as an illegal immigrant in NY). The stickler in me was frustrated by different cultural references that did not belong to the setting of the book, the 1980's. I don't remember what it was, as I no longer have the book, but say you were writing about the 1980's and one of your characters was watching Desperate Housewives. It just takes something away from the believability. Not that I could do much better. That being said, the ending was sadly hilarious.

Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin
Could have used this book when I did a college research paper on my favorite author. There is much emphasis on Austen's upbringing, education, the whole unmarried-woman situation of Regency England, that sort of thing. Also, this one doubles almost as a biography of her cousin Eliza, one of her more fascinating relatives. I can understand why: for a girl like Jane Austen who had no tv (probably why she wrote so well) and travelled very little, an older female cousin who'd been all over the world and lost a husband to the French Revolution was a window to the world. Took me a while to finish this one, though.

The King's English, by Betsey Burton
The true story of an independent bookseller in Salt Lake City. The struggles of surviving in a superstore world, dealing with partners and employees, making a profit, and doing all this while raising a disabled child. Burton includes anecdotes from book signings, and many encounters with various types of writers. Chock full of book lists, which I love.

The Rebels of Ireland, by Edward Rutherfurd
Sequel to The Princes of Ireland, these are the most ambitious sagas ever written by Rutherfurd. He takes a few families and follows them down throughout crucial points of history for that particular land. This volume pics up from the end of the Elizabethan era to the beginning of the twentieth century. The fortunes of these families rise and fall, usually depending on what religion they belong to. The reader ends up sympathizing with certain families and want to see if they get what they deserve, even generations later. You can tell who Rutherfurd is rooting for, even down to the characters' physical descriptions. I tell you, I learned more about Ireland from reading this than I did in school, even if it is classified under "fiction".

Napoleon's Women, by Christopher Hibbert
An in-depth coverage of the females in the vertically challenged emperor's life, from mistresses to relatives to wives. Not too detailed as regards to the famous battles as it's not supposed to be. Really, though, a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte, making true the saying "behind every great man..."

Neverwhere, by Neal Gaiman
Woooooooooooo, another world existing beneath the city of London! Richard Mayhew helps out an injured girl named Door and loses his identity in London Above. It's been compared to Alice in Wonderland. Definitely fun to read, with even the bad guys having fun dialogue while carrying out their dastardly deeds. My favorite character: The Marquis de Carabas. The name itself is fabulous to pronounce.

Ireland, by Frank Delaney
In 1950's Ireland, a family is visited by a storyteller, and the life of the son, Ronan, is changed forever. His childhood and young adulthood are laid out before the reader as he tries to find the Storyteller. In the meantime, you get a lot of stories from Irish history and myth, which makes for pleasurable reading.

Against Gravity, by Farnoosh Moshiri
The story of three lives are told, intertwining in explosive ways. You get three points of view, and just when you start feeling for one you get the next perspective, teaching you that it's important to really know where someone comes from before you try to make a conclusion about them. Set in Houston in the 1990's and deals with issues such as AIDS, refugees, education, depression, obsession, and much more. I was hooked till the end.


There was more, but I think I'll stop here.

2 comments:

Stevie ~ mono no aware said...

Thanks gata. I always look forward for your book reviews. I will be looking into the last three which appeal to me. Love the linking to Amazon. Don't u love there used and new section... and their references to other books...its how I was introduced to 'Leave me alone I am reading", being directed there from Reading Lolita in Tehran. Keep the reviews coming.

.:.marie.:. said...

Great reviews and links! Will refer back to it once I'm finished with Fforde books. Somehow the 3rd one is hard for me to get through....and supossedly it's the best one? To each his own.