Monday, August 15, 2011

Fifty Book Challenge #14-21

It's been a while since I've updated on my 50 book challenge for the year. I used to post my book reviews on my review site. There are hundreds of books there broken down by category. This year I reviewed books #1-9 here, and books #10-13 here. In years past I read 100 books and promptly burned out. Fifty is a much more doable goal but considering its mid-August I'm very behind. Still, its more about the journey than the destination- and it is possible to reach my goal- maybe? [Do board books count? I think they should?] 


A Fine Balance. Many of you recommended this book over the years but its purported heaviness both emotionally and physically [page-wise] deterred me for years. Luckily, a friend sent me this as a gift. [And as far as gifts go, books are ten notches above Godiva chocolate since they don't cause weight gain and last a lifetime if you don't have a son who sometimes fancies himself a goat]. This is now one of my favorite books. Painful. Haunting. But beautiful. While it covers the lives of four ordinary people whose lives are turned upside down due to the 'Emergency' in India during Indira Gandhi's rule, it speaks to so much more than that. It's fiction, but its also true. The caste system. The poverty. It's all real. I'm certain there are people who have lived lives like these and that is what haunts me most. There are a few books one reads that can deeply affect your worldview- and while how exactly this book did that deserves a post in and of itself, suffice to say, this is easily one of those books for me.

What is the What. This is a fictional account of the trials of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I suspect the fabulous Dave Eggers chose to fictionalize it so he didn't have to face the issues many people who write memoirs encounter [Mortenson, Frey] where you are called to task should you choose to smudge a detail for dramatic effect. This is a powerful, haunting tale of Valentino Achek and what happened to him in Sudan [as relayed to Dave Eggers, I suppose]. I don't like the flashback method of storytelling- it draws me out of the story and that was my biggest struggle with the method of writing. Still, this is an important story. Gut wrenching with little silver lining to conclude with. A good read. Just difficult.

Room. I'm not sure why I wanted to read a story told from the point of view of a five-year-old boy born and raised in captivity in a shack with his kidnapped mother. But this book was a fascinating read from a very different point of view. Surprisingly the book wasn't as despairing as I thought it would be since for the young boy, his life imprisoned in the shack is the only life he's ever known. His mother has done her best to protect him and while its a tough read, its heart-warming too as it speaks to the strength and resilience of a child's spirit. The writing is effortless, and it's not as depressing as one might think.

Suicide by Sugar. Excellent book about the cultural revolution post WWII and the role fashionista koala bears played in its unraveling. [No, not really. Just checking to see if anyone is reading this far down the list]. It's a book about sugar and how its about as bad as crack for us. This book is also a good example of why Kindle is about as bad as crack for me as I normally never would have bought this book but for my lack of impulse control when it comes to all things book. If you think sugar is fun then this book will enlighten you otherwise. I however having already been enlightened on the dangers of sugar didn't find anything new inside. I bought it hoping it would live up to its promise of giving advice on kicking the sugar habit. In this area, I found the book lacking.

Brain Rules. A book via Kindle I'm glad I bought about how a kid's brain works and how to best help them grow to their optimal ability. As with most parenting books I definitely spent a good portion of it feeling like the worst. mother. ever. like when I read that we should be speaking 2100 words/hour to our kids for optimal IQ. I tried this for a few days and let me tell you chatting maniacally with a toddler who can't speak, I am cutting a salad! Oh wow tomatoes! Now I'm changing your diaper! Here is the soap! is exhausting. [are any of you doing this? Please give me advice on how to chatter on for hours in one-sided conversations- I do my best but not sure if I succeed]. Still, communicating is important and this book helped me get lots of research based tips and advice. [I also have now purchased The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids Kid for a different perspective].


Rock, Paper, Tiger. Oh Kindle, you led me astray. Tantalized by a thriller set in China I clicked purchase. Sigh. If you like the writing style of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo [more specifically, book Two in the series] then you might love this book. I don't, so I didn't. The title is pretty cool though, so there's that.
 








Mrs. Kimble. I thought at Sam's Club- a store for bulk buying- I'd be safe from the siren call of book buying. I was wrong. I've been sad about the closing of Borders, but moments like Thursday when I saw this book, liked the title and the cover and the price and impulsively purchased it, makes me realize what an incredible loss it is to lose brick and mortar bookstores the gateway to chance upon a book. This is a book about a man and his three wives [though not all at the same time] and how he deceived them all. Loved the writing and the story kept me going, but while enjoyable there were so many plot holes it was disappointing. The book appeared designed to be a character driven novel and for that it simply fell short. Mr. Kimble is just not fleshed out and appears a robot, not a real person, a sociopath at best, but the author insists he is not, that he is an ordinary man. Which, if you read the book, is difficult to see. It was a good read, but it could have been so much more.


Corduroy Mansions. I adore Alexander McCall Smith's books. It's a cup of tea on a cold rainy day. A pleasure from start to finish. As with all McCall-Smith books, not much happens. We glimpse normal people doing normal things. Yes there are mysteries and drama and suspense but not 'jumping over cliffs' type. I don't know if McCall sees it this way, but for me his books are about the quiet dignity of everyday ordinary life. His characters are normal people living normal lives but he describes it all so beautifully and shows us that there is so much pleasure in the simple act of boiling a cup of water for tea, or shopping for dinner, cooking a meal. After reading his books I often find myself seeing the beauty in all the little things and the inherent dignity and integrity we are capable of possessing. After reading his book, even mixing pancake batter feels special- because it is. All the little things, a conversation with a friend, a drive to the library, a meal with a loved one- those are things most lives are made of and we're so lucky to get to live it. McCall Smith honors it beautifully.

Currently reading 32 Candles, and considering retackling the Harry Potter Series resting on my bookshelf. I never actually read them from first to last straight through. Ever done it? I'm thinking it might be fun to try.


Hope you found this helpful. Read anything good lately?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should reconsider The Girl Who Played With Fire. I couldn't put it down!!
Christi

cindy said...

I loved A Fine Balance...that's the only one on your list I've read. I'm going to try Corduroy Mansions, and thanks for the review of Suicide by Sugar. I would be frustrated to read it and not get at least some advice on how to cut it out for good. A few months ago I went pretty much cold turkey and it's working (so far). On the Kindle impulse purchases, I have trained myself to read the free sample first. I can usually tell if I'll like a book that way.

Aisha said...

Christi, at what page did it kick in? Like I said I made it to page 80 and it was draggggging!

Cindy, glad these reviews were helpful! Yeah, I do try to read the sample chapters, with this book and Rock Paper Tiger I unfrotunately didn't make it throgh the end of the sample- you live ou learn :)

katery said...

omg, you are amazin, i used to read all the time, but i cannot find the time anymore :(

katery said...

amazin-g, that is

bongi said...

soooo glad you got to read "a fine balance" at last!!! :)
I read room recently too....it gave me the heebie jeebies!!!!
currently was reading "last man in tower" but been so busy with a trip to pakistan and getting baby back into a routine that i haven't actually seen the book in three weeks, and i'm too tired to try and locate it!!! wow, 50 books, i so couldn't do that!

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