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Showing posts from August, 2012

Is Multiculturalism Really Worth Fighting For?

28. Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood by Barbara Demick I'm on an upbeat kick lately, oppression in a closed religious community and a city under siege for refusing to cooperate with aggressive nationalism. Lots of laughs, no? All kidding aside, I feel privileged to have read such poignant appeals to humanity and a little amazed that I happened upon them so close together. Barbara Demick is the author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea , which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and a groundbreaking look into lives shrouded in mystery, based solely on the testimony of refugees. Before that, Demick was a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer , and lived in Sarajevo from 1994-1995, chronicling the lives of neighbors on one street in besieged Sarajevo: Logavina Street, home to Serbs and Croats as well as Bosnian Muslims. Logavina Street was first published in 1996, but it's been re-issued in 2012 with a new preface, final c

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

This week's Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Bookish Confessions (Anything! You dog ear, you hated a book but said you loved it, you have $500 library fines...anything goes!)" 1. More than a hundred of my books are still in boxes from moving out after graduation-last year. 2. The brand new bookshelf that I got for Hannukkah (again, last year) is still in my parents' basement... 3. Even with the new bookshelf, I still wouldn't have shelf space for hundreds of books. 4. I own more books that I haven't read than I can count. 5. I still buy new books anyway... 6. I don't use the library nearly as much as I should and last time I went I paid $26 in fines. 7. I hate Faulkner. 8. I read barely any poetry-and barely any of that is contemporary. 9. I still haven't made a dent in my "list of seminal works to read," which was my reading goal for 2011. 10. I haven't completed (or started) any challenges

Bookseller's Last Stand

Yesterday was my last day as a bookseller-at least for a while. Shortly, I will be on my way to Chicago to get my MA and, if all goes well, on the path to my PhD and cozy tenured professorship (one can dream right?) I'd been gathering a stack of perspective buys in anticipation and an attempt to ameliorate the specific brand of torture that is the constant passing and shelving and handling of books that you would love to own, but shouldn't buy if you want to keep within your budget (not to mention bookshelf space, but I passed that bar a while ago and never looked back). Anyway, for my last chance to use my employee discount, and with the aid of birthday gift cards, I decided to splurge. A digital portrait of my loot: 1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 2. Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger 3. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Conner McNees 4. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares 5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth 6. The Girl Who C

Top Ten Favorite Books I've Read While Blogging

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic at the Broke and the Bookish : (I'm only counting books I read for the first time during the lifespan of my blog). 1. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman 2. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende 3. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss 4. Elizabeth I by Margaret George 5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 6. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke 7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz 8. The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay 9. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 10. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

Unorthodox Reading

27. Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman I have so much respect for Deborah Feldman. Born into the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism in Brooklyn, New York, she left the community with her young son at the age of 24. The amount of willpower and independence that a decision like that took, for someone in her position, is truly staggering. Although I've been paying attention to some of the buzz around the book, I had no idea until reading it how unusual a person Feldman is and how grossly oppressive her life was. As a Jew, I have considerable familiarity with the religion as a whole, somewhat less with Hasidic culture, and none whatsoever with Satmar in particular. However, Feldman skilfully orients the reader to the Satmar culture through the eyes of an eleven-year-old child. Her first person, present tense narration feels just right for the baffled reader, who may recognize familiar literary characters (Anne of Green Gables, Elizabeth from Pri

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

26. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl Recommended to me years ago, I've been meaning to get to this book. I've got the "advance uncorrected proofs" procured from Bookmooch, but I assume it's essentially the same as the published novel. While I knew from the start that this really doesn't having anything to do with physics-it REALLY doesn't. This novel is the unusual life story of Blue van Meer, culminating in her senior year of high school and the mysterious death of her teacher. What can I say? I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories, especially those that promise to be clever, witty, and wicked. The Table of Contents is billed as the Core Curriculum, structured into three parts, sub-divided into chapters, and concluded with a Final Exam. The references come thick and heavy, and are the core of the book's charm. A twelve-year-old who fancies herself in Wuthering Heights , and a seventeen-year-old who comfortably alludes to


25. Doppelganger by David Stahler Jr. Have you heard of the doppelganger? A whole new class of boogeymen, doppelgangers are creatures that feed off human society. No, not vampires. Doppelgangers, look-alikes, shape-shifters. Doppelgangers can take on the form of any human they wish-that is, any human they kill. It's just a way of being, as natural as spiders killing insects, or wolves killing sheep. So claims the mother of our nameless hero. But "he" is different. He can't even stand to kill a fly, much less the puppy his mom brings home for the purpose. Can this young doppelganger defy his nature? This book is sweet and cute while simultaneously haunting. It's a very simple story of a teen coming of age, but a teen with a dark and unique power that has unusual consequences. I read it in one day, and enjoyed it. Though a fast read, it has some deeper issues to contemplate. In what's becoming the traditional YA novel, it blends tough issues such as abu

Top Ten Tuesday-Two for One!

Since I missed last week's Top Ten Tuesday , here are both lists: Top Ten Romances I Think Would Last Outside the Book 1. Fanny and Edmund from Mansfield Park I've always thought Fanny and Edmund are the most similar in background and temperament of all of Austen's lovers. I can see them having a very agreeable long life together. 2. Calvin and Meg from A Wrinkle in Time This is kind of cheating, because L'Engle develops their relationship over the course of several books, and all but said Meg and Calvin were based on her and her husband. 3. Hermione and Ron from Harry Potter The tension between Ron and Hermione is on from book one. I'll never forget the line in the fourth book where Hermione tells Ron (I'm paraphrasing), "Next time you can ask me [to the ball] first and not as a last resort!" and Ron sputters, "Well, completely...missed the point," or something to that effect, while Harry thinks Hermione had quite gotten "

Night Obscured by Hum-Drum Day

24. The School of Night by Louis Bayard I've been talking for almost a year about how much I wanted to read this book. But the real truth is-I wanted to read half of this book. As soon as I heard Bayard mention the words, "school of night," "sixteenth century," and "Thomas Harriot," I was in. Even though, "mystery," "thriller," and "present-day Washington D.C.," were not at all what I wanted to read. Bayard writes two narratives here, in two very different stylistic voices. I won't pretend that I don't have a clear preference. One is the story of present day scholar Henry Cavendish, a screw-up ne'er-do-well, recently named executor of his best friend's estate. Best friend and fellow scholar Alonso threw himself into the Potomac. At the funeral, Henry is approached by a skullduggery type named Bernard, who wants the valuable sixteenth century manuscript that Alonso "borrowed" before his dea

The Super Villains' Reunion

23. The Coldest War by Ian Tregellis Why did Tor send me the sequel to a book I had never read? I pondered this as I sadly prepared to set the book aside in favor of something I was better qualified to review. But that book just sitting there next to my desk, with its dark doomsday cover, was haunting me. So I cracked it open. And the opening line, "Warlocks do not age gracefully," caught me. I read on. The next page had a paragraph stuffed full of the kind of sensory imagery I longed to share with my then-class of kids, who seemed to have a hard time explaining senses other than sight and using words other than "wonderful," "awesome," and, the term they were particularly self-satisfied with, "epic." Ian Tregellis is Elizabeth Bear writing a Steampunk version of X-Men. Except his best characters are not the good guys. Tregellis brings to life the Magnetos, the Mystiques, the Juggernauts. His hero could be any old Sherlock Holmes, but

Top 10 Characters I'd Switch Places With for 24 Hours

I missed Top Ten Tuesday this week, so: 1. Hermione Granger in Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire Before things got too out of hand, I'd love to explore Diagon Alley, amble around Hogsmeade, and, yes, browse the Hogwarts library. Plus, going to class and using the Time Turner would be cool too. 2. Anne Shirley in Anne of the Island She always seems to be having so much fun, plus I'd get to go to McGill, Nova Scotia, AND Prince Edward Island. 3. Katy Carr in What Katy Did Next I'll take one of the fun days meandering around Europe, please. 4. Lisbeth Salander in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo I wouldn't want to experience any of the horrible things that happen to her. But on an average day? I'd like to be Lisbeth Salander, genius computer hacker, with awesome tattoos and incredible lovers like Mikhail and Mimi. Plus, I'd love to check out Stockholm. 5. Daniel Sempere in The Shadow of the Wind I'd like to see Daniel's Barcelona (unfort