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Showing posts from August, 2008

Hold Your Head High, Ladies

33. Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger Weisberger, the queen of modern chick lit, is definitely an author worth knowing. I read The Devil Wears Prada about three years ago after it had been a bestseller for quite some time. I'm the first to admit I tend to be a book snob, but though I may kid, I feel strongly that you should never be ashamed of what you are reading. Unless it is The Da Vinci Code . No. Kidding, really. Anyway, I was blown away by the quality of the prose and the product lust it inspired even in my staunchly anti-materialistic self. I've been looking forward this summer to another such delicious "trashy" read and carefully selected this one. Everyone Worth Knowing is the kind of "good negative press" for public relations that The Devil Wears Prada was for fashion magazines. Bettina Robinson is a much more likable and stronger protagonist than Prada's Andy. Weisberger also made her secondary characters, Bette's best fr

Easier to Understand Than The Torah, New Testament, and Qur'an Put Together

32. Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz I read the English translation of this Egyptian novel published in 1959. I wanted more information on the author and a couple things in the book, and I found out that due to some sort of agreement between the author and a faction of the Egyptian government, this book is published abroad, but not in Egypt (it is published in Arabic in Lebanon however). Children of the Alley is an unabashed retelling of Biblical stories beginning with Adam, and continuing through Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and a mysterious later character, as set in an Egyptian neighborhood. The names are different and the stories deviate slightly, but the allegories are clear. The narrative is far more straightforward, realistic and in keeping with a pessimistic interpretation of human nature than the holy books themselves. The God figure is Gabalawi, the father of Adham, and once he kicks out this beloved youngest son, he remains locked in his mansion for centuries while his de

Kill Or Be Killed

31. Dogs by Nancy Kress Kress is an award-winning science fiction writer, and I was excited to read one of her books, though apprehensive about the topic. A virulent plague attacks dogs, inducing them to violently bite and kill humans, even beloved owners and especially children. The plague is spread through the bites, and guess what? a form of the virus can be transmitted to bitten humans. The disease affects a suburb of D.C. and Kress tells the story from the viewpoint of a variety of townspeople. This book is so formulaic, it almost made me sick. If you have read any mystery or detective novel, ever, you know all the characters, you know who did it, and you know how it ends. Praise on the back of the book states that the characters "wrestle with a moral and ethical dilemma." I saw no evidence of this conflict in any character. Each was decided, from the outset, how to behave, whether to kill dogs in a bloody rampage, or save them at all costs. The only conflicts were ext

There Is Shit In Your Meat

30. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser A friend of mine at sleepaway camp read Fast Food Nation back in 2003. We all listened bemused as she cited statistics such as the fact that Ronald McDonald was superseded only by Santa Claus in recognition among children. Schlosser investigates every imaginable aspect of the horizontally and vertically integrated fast food industry. He discusses issues like manipulation of immigrant (and other) workers both in slaughterhouses and restaurants, the dangers of foodborne illness in the likes of E. Coli 0157 : H57 and salmonella, and the effects of corporate power on the economy. Schlosser methodically takes the reader through every part of the slaughterhouse process. Even though I had never read a book on the subject before, most of what I learned was not new, though this time it was presented in a more personal manner. Workers are poor and often inept, or forced to work faster than they can while maintaining proper hygiene protocol. Meat is contami

The List To Date

27. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio I've wanted to read this for years, ever since I read about it in a Jane Austen book. It actually fit in very well with the Backgrounds course I took this past semester. Boccaccio was a contemporary of Dante's, and like him, a 13th century Florentine. The language seems rather modern, but I'm sure that's a result of the translation from the Italian. This book is an 80/20 mix of the Canterbury Tales and the Inferno respectively. Six young Florentine noblewomen choose three young Florentine noblemen to accompany them in their flight to the countryside to avoid the raging Plague. Each day, a different member of the company is the "queen" or "king," whose chief duty is to set a story topic for the day, and at the appointed time, everybody relates an appropriate tale. The book is almost entirely composed of these stories, all folk tales that would echo something in the minds of readers even today. Most of the stori

Further Reviews in Bulk

21. After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England by Leanda de Lisle An aunt of mine decided I needed to move past the Virgin Queen and this book was the official family attempt to wean me off the dangerous obsession ;) To be honest, I never knew much nor cared to know much about James, that Stuart scion who ended the glorious Tudor period. The one thing I'll say for this book is it proved to me James of Scotland is an interest well worth pursuing in his own right. Lisle presents him as a clever and calculating young man, uncouth among friends and reserved among strangers, he was fiercely Protestant but dearly loved his Catholic wife (even though their marriage was arranged), and openly took several male lovers. His wife Anna is fascinating too, she was a Danish princess who married James when she was 14 and he was in his late 20s, but even at that early stage managed to exert her civilizing influence on the court. The book chronicles cl

The List Continued

16. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir Once again, I remain convinced that Weir should stick to history and forgo fiction. This book just came out this year, soon after her only other novel about Lady Jane Grey, which I read last December. Her main character is far too precocious at an early age and, very surprisingly, this book took some large liberties within technically historically accurate parameters. The author's note at the end of the book actually defends all of the choices Weir made that I disagreed with, which shows that she realizes the problems even though she feels justified. Ironically, that made me feel more justified with my criticisms since Weir is such an accomplished historian! The way she writes just doesn't work for a story however. She includes details, but all of her dialogues and descriptions of characters' thoughts and feelings feel so stagnant and contrived. I don't get a feeling of Elizabeth's true character even, passionate or guarded, de

More Labels

I can't figure out how to edit the last post because I forgot to include some labels for the post before THAT, so here they are. *Note to self: Rethink labeling all the titles.

The List

I started this list in January on a private blog, and it gradually grew into a series of reviews. Some of the books I never got around to reviewing, in the midst of the school year, but I have included them anyway. I have no restrictions on genre and was not trying to aim for any type of cohesion among my choices. I have tried to read more nonfiction this year, since I tend to stick exclusively to fiction. I am counting both books that I have reread, because if I really like a book, it will be reread, and books I read for school, because if I didn't, I would never reach 50. Without further ado: 1. The Mighty and the Almighty by Madeleine Albright I've been reading this non-fiction book, largely concerned with diplomatic situations in Islamic-majority countries, off and on for a while and finally finished it. The writing style is very clear, the angle is openly biased toward a liberal viewpoint, but I was okay with it. Obviously, some of it is naively upbeat, but it's a