Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Books Read

A Step From Heaven by An Na

I was attracted to this book because it is written by a Korean American about a Korean immigrant girl. We get the girl's view from the time just before she emigrates to the US at four years old until she prepares for college. I think these kids who must straddle two worlds are fascinating. They translate for their parents, and are often quite smart due to the brain power cultivated through bilingual dexterity. Her first person view is maintained throughout the book quite well, consequently what is not said is just as significant as what is said. Her four year old voice, quite poetic, and the author handled her growing awareness of her troubled home skillfully. The writing is spare and direct, and for some reason kept me a little removed from those emotional aspects. Perhaps that was an aspect of the character, a girl escaping inwardly from the drama of a raging alcoholic. A quick read, but not as compelling as I thought it might be.
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

(I also listened to the second book, basically the middle of a long book that makes up the trilogy. Lyra meets Will. Will meets the Subtle Knife. They travel between worlds. Lyra's mother sometimes seems good, sometimes seems bad.) You can't read or listen to just one of His Dark Materials without reading all three. I like this series for the exciting world, or rather, worlds, created that explain consciousness as "dark material," otherwise known as dust. Ideas of God and Angels are turned upside down. The myth of the fall, and Eve, gets played out again, with a much different flavor than the biblical myth.

There is love, there is adventure, and there is the meaning of life, all good stuff to find in fantasy fiction. To read this series was addictive, to listen to it was icing on the cake.

Celebrity Detox by Rosie O'Donnell

People love to hate Rosie O'Donnell, and people love to love her. I admire her more for her outspoken honesty than I do for her acting ability. She has a wife, four children, and a self-admitted loud mouth that gets attention in the media. The funny thing is, the media invariably gets it wrong.

While her website often reads like stream of consciousness poetry, the book was written with the help of her friend Lauren Slater. The thoughts and occasional gems of wisdom are all Rosie. She understands Celebrity, and the havoc it plays on a person's life.
She wrote, "Fame is the ultimate expression of hierarchy. And hierarchy is the ultimate structure on which anger, jealousy, and humiliation hang. How, therefore, could this have been easy? I know what it feels like to feel less than. No matter how great, how reich, how brilliant, how fat, there will always be someone else with more. This, perhaps, is the hurt we humans have never learned how to hold."

The book reads fast, and even though memoir, has a climactic ending. A good reason to buy it? Rosie takes no money. All her profit goes to kids.

Owen and Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff (Author), Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Paula Kahumbu (Author), Peter Greste (Illustrator)

A baby hippo orphaned by the December 2004 tsunami is adopted by an Aldabra tortoise. The true story of their friendship is told in this picture book by father and young daughter. You can get a taste here.

P.S. I hope my reviews will improve in light of my recent reviews of my reference training materials. Now that I've been subbing a while, the information on Readers' Advisory sunk in a little better. We may not know it, but I suspect better reviews will address the elements of appeal: pace; characters; setting (including atmosphere); and plot (story). Plot and character are often at odds...swift-moving story will sacrifice details of character. Another element is the style of writing.

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