Saturday, February 27, 2010

a post in three parts.

I can't do sparkledong font anymore because of Edward Cullen. Like everything in life, it's Twilight's fault.

Anyway since it's almost the end of the month and I just finished a book I figured it was time for my monthly book reviews. I read a lot, but this was aided by sitting home waiting for the electricians to repair my hizzouse.

(These are not in the order I read them in, they're in the order I pulled from the stack of books I read this time out).

04) The Unprofessionals, Julie Hecht.

This is the story of a middle aged woman who lives in Mass and her friendship with a drug addict teenager. It sounded interesting, but I didn't think so while reading it. The main characters are never named, which is a nice touch, but once I got to the part about the rich white kid becoming a heroin addict and his out-of-touch-on-purpose confidant who has to have the same Armani white linen skirt or something, I couldn't take it. I get that it was supposed to be esoteric and a commentary on life for the upper middle class, but it just screamed FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS and I didn't find it funny or interesting in the least.

05) Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, Jenni Ferrari-Adler, ed.

This? Was simply amazing. A collection of short stories about something I know all too well -- cooking dinner for yourself. Highlights included Jeremy Jackson's "Beans and Me", Phoebe Nobles' "Asparagus Superhero," Courtney Eldridge's "Thanks, but No Thanks." There's a lot more in here that are really good but if I kept going I'd list all but one or two. The two I didn't care for were both along the same lines -- that everything was much better when they were married and no longer single, and everything was amazing once they didn't have to cook by themselves anymore. But other than that all these essays were well written. A must have for anyone who has ever cooked for themselves or tried to. I still can't believe this was only a dollar. It's worth more than that. I can't recommend this enough.

06) Ottoman Empire & Islamic Tradition, Norman Itzkowitz.

This book I was assigned for a class -- Abby might remember because I think she was in that class with me, with Professor Church. I know we had to read only small sections, and I didn't remember any of it when I came across it a couple months ago. This book isn't really designed to be read just for funzies, you definitely need to take this in for discussions and read alongside other books on the subject. It's densely packed into those few pages. Definitely not for the Ottoman n00b.

I found that book I swore I left in Genevieve's car, but didn't. It got put in a bag of books and I found it when I was moving stuff around.

07) A Dangerous Friend, Ward Just.
Set during the Vietnam war, a young man leaves his family behind in search of a higher calling in Vietnam. Sydney, a political scientist, goes there to "help," but ends up finding out that the conflict has a lot more dimensions to it than it appears on American newscasts.

This was a bit slow to get into, but once I did, I wanted to know more about what happened. I think Just could have skipped the bit at the beginning with the non-involved narrator, and jumped right to Sydney's situation. Once the action gets moving, when he saves Dede in the marketplace, the book takes on a more poignant note. If you're interested in the Vietnam War at all this is a good book to read, but if you're not into a book that is mostly about male characters who sit around and smoke a lot, this really might not be your shindig.

08) Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story, Steve Hodel

For those of you unawares, the Black Dahlia was a young woman named Elizabeth Short who was brutally murdered in Los Angeles in 1947. Officially her case remains unsolved, but Hodel discovered her actual murderer's identity.

This is as much a biography of Hodel and his family as it is about Short and her demise. It's an entirely fascinating look at that time in history and how it represents women, as well as how a murderer with the right connections could get away with a whole spree of murders and hide it until after his death. Hodel, a former homicide detective, does the story justice. Since I'm a Forensic Files junkie, I found this book fascinating, but I think it's really good for its candid discussion of the double standards of 1940s-50s Los Angeles.

09) Birds Without Wings, Louis de Berniers.

The author of Corelli's Mandolin, de Berniers produces a prequel of sorts. Setting this one in Turkey/the Ottoman empire at the verge of World War I, he introduces us to a village of both Muslims and Christians who live together in a sort of harmony. Using a generation of children and the biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, he shows the effects that irridentism and war had on this small town, a microscopic version of the rest of the country.

This was, as usual, a masterpiece. de Berniers is a wonderful writer who has the gift of making a village come to life, with its odd inhabitants and everything. This book differs from Corelli's Mandolin by using a larger cast, but maintains the trick of having each chapter narrated by a different character, intercut by a famous historical figure. The only thing I found to be annoying was when de Berniers accidentally (I'd like to think so anyway) switched from contemporary to present time in the same sentence. The book didn't need the present day interjunction and all it did was take me out of the book for a minute. But that's one chapter, and if that's the only quibble I have with the book then I got lucky. HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

10) Between the Bridge and the River, Craig Ferguson.

Y'all know Craig as the host of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. And he's a very hilarious man on television. This holds true for his writing, because this book is disturbingly weird and hilarious. I love books where characters weave in and out of the book and all end up connected together (this is also incidentally why I love Lost). Two Scottish childhood buddies and two Southern brothers end up going through a crazy trip though life, Europe, and the United States. It's definitely a good read, but there's no way I can explain what happens in it.

11) The Bronze Horseman, Paullina Simons.

Whatever you do, I want you to read this book. I'm not even kidding. Before I even get into what it's about I just want to say how moving and wonderful this book is. I actually burst into tears at a few points, it was just so intense. And I found out it's part of a trilogy, which makes me apprehensive.

The story opens in pre-siege of Leningrad World War II. It follows a young 17 year old who is lost in dreams of Mother Russia and doing what is best for her family when one day her world is shaken by a soldier who helps her get groceries for her family. The story follows them and their trials as they get through the horrific siege of Leningrad. I seriously cannot endorse this book enough. No, go out and get it RIGHT NOW, you will not be disappointed, Phil and Ash. ;)
This is probably good enough to be my third favourite book of all time, which is an amazing endorsement because #1 & #2 have been sealed for years. (#1: Count of Monte Cristo #2 The House of the Spirits).

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has said such wonderful things in my last posts. You've all been wonderful and helpful and I appreciate each and everyone of you ♥.

No comments: