Thursday, December 06, 2007

Books Read

I'm just about caught up with reviewing the books I've read for the past couple of months. Coming soon, the two from my book group that I want to spend more time on. One included an author visit. I took notes.

I plan to keep adding more to my goodreads, at times even adding some I read way back, as well as some I've already kept track of here.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I'm inspired to read Sherman Alexie's other books. This is his first book for teens. It's gotta be tough straddling two worlds. Rather than blaming all on racism, you get a glimpse of the difference in rules that teens live by that the 'part-time Indian' must navigate.
This is fiction, but fairly autobiographical. I couldn't say it better than Sherman Alexie himself, see this video.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
I love a good fairy tale, and this was one was based on one I do not remember encountering before, Maid Maleen. A princess is locked up in a tower for seven years because she won't marry the king that her father chose for her. She says she loves another. At least she has her maid. The author encountered the tale while seeking inspiration for another book, and found herself asking questions about the maid. "What did she do to deserve such punishment? How did she feel about being locked away?" Ms. Hale was frustrated, so she wrote the story herself, about the maid. We also get to find out why the princess was so adamant about refusing to marry that other king. As the title reveals, they don't spend seven years in the tower in this tale. An interesting side note, while the author made this all about the maid, there are other similar fairy tales that really do have the maid taking center stage.

Poltergeist (Greywalker Book 2) by Kat Richardson
I liked the world created in the first book, the Grey intersection between the regular world and the world of magic and spirits and beastly creatures, but I thought the style could get better. I decided to check out the second to see if the author improves. Not really. She relies on our previous introduction to the Grey to give us a fairly standard poltergeist mystery. I think I'll catch up on Anita Blake instead.

Tale of Despereaux (audio) by Kate DiCamillo
I save my audio books for walking. We've had some windy rainy weather here in the Pacific Northwest, and while it wasn't quite so bad here in Portland, in other parts of the state tens of thousands of people were without power for for several days, and floods made rivers out of streets and basements. I liked this book, but it wasn't quite compelling enough for me to brave the rainy sidewalks or finally join the old-school gym a block away. I imagine it might be more compelling for the readers of intended age.

The reader is talented, takes on different voices for the different characters. As narrator, he addresses the reader, or in this case, listener, directly. This mouse, Despereaux, prefers to read books in the library rather than eat them, like other mice. He also gets unusual ideas for a mouse from a book he loves that begins, "Once upon a time..." Since he lives in a king's castle, he doesn't have to go far to find a princess, and a quest just like a knight.

The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos
The western world and the United States especially is insanely preoccupied with dieting. Normal weights of normal people are considered overweight. People believe being "overweight" will cause them to die young. Some doctors still believe this. People undergo life-threatening surgeries that induce starvation diets so that they will lose weight. The multi-billion dollar dieting industry continues to sell its message even while more people catch on that diets don't work. Like Eric Oliver with Fat Politics, Paul Campos began his research believing the obesity myth and he just wanted to get to the bottom of it. What he found instead were fictions and obsessions. I'm sure I will write more about this. Meanwhile, some of the myths can be explored here. I'm considering buying this book for people I know who still waste time and self-esteem worrying about their weight.

Searoad by Ursula LeGuin
My favorite author only gets better with age. Her usual sci-fi genre is only hinted at in this more literary work, with one character escaping into the fantasy of an other-worldly hero that needs her help. Each chapter could be read separately as a short story, in fact I read the one about the librarian's affair with the bookseller in a collection of stories about libraries. Each story focusing on a character weaves the history of a town on the coast, a story of women embodied in metaphor. The foam women "lie at the longest reach of the waves, rounded and curded, shaking and trembling, shivering hips and quivering buttocks, torn by the stiff, piercing wind, dispersed to nothing, gone." The rain women "are tall presences of water and light walking the long sands against the darkness of the forest." A person can rest a while, watch the tides, observe the town through the lives of these women. Save time for musing, Ursula is worth it.

I Sold My Soul On Ebay by Hemant Mehta
At first he resisted the moniker, but as the media that picked up his story wouldn't let it go, Hemant finally embraced being known as the guy who sold his soul on ebay. While in college, he helped the University of Illinois in Chicago establish its first secular student group, Students WithOut Religious Dogma. As part of his effort to establish respectful dialog with religious people, he sold his time to attend worship service to the highest bidder on ebay. For every $10, he would spend an hour in a church. His time sold for $504. The winner sent him to several churches in several states, and what came out of a was a critique for Christians on how approachable their churches are. I personally would not like the churches he liked for the reasons that he did (entertainment?), but I thought his friendliness quite admirable. This guy is worth watching as a spokesperson for us non-god types.

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