Why I removed thousands of books from my library
Reading Life / February 28, 2017

Straight to book hell. On a bus. I am doomed by my actions. Yet, I am unrepentant. We’ve all broken a few of the rules of the bibliophiles, committed a few venial sins such as claimed we read a classic when we didn’t, secretly hated the book everyone loved, spoiled a mystery for someone (or ourselves — but I don’t get that particular kink). Some of us even belong to a more heretical branch of book devotees: e-book lovers, audiobook ‘readers’ or comic book readers, but ultimately, we are still part of the faithful, the devotees of bibliolatry. Given that as a community we can be judgmental (we rate books, covers, genre’s, we review, we rank, we recommend) it doesn’t shock me that all it took to for people to stare in horror, call me a blasphemer, and question my status as a bibliophile was to commit the mortal, grievous sin of ridding myself of the bulk of my library. (I hear the hisses, the sharp intakes of breath as you read that…) Let me confess. Working class roots meant a stable but modest home life. Dad worked shifts in a mill, mom in a bank. Mom read to us…

The Meursault Investigation
Best Reads , Fiction , Literary Fiction , Reviews / January 30, 2021

Title: The Meursault Investigation Author: Kamal Daoud Genre: Literary Fiction Publisher: Other Press LLC Release Date: November 9, 2017 Format: Audio / Kindle Pages: 161 Narrator: Fajer Al-Kaisi Date Read: Dec 5, 2015 He was the brother of “the Arab” killed by the infamous Meursault, the antihero of Camus’s classic novel. Seventy years after that event, Harun, who has lived since childhood in the shadow of his sibling’s memory, refuses to let him remain anonymous: he gives his brother a story and a name–Musa–and describes the events that led to Musa’s casual murder on a dazzlingly sunny beach. In a bar in Oran, night after night, he ruminates on his solitude, on his broken heart, on his anger with men desperate for a god, and on his disarray when faced with a country that has so disappointed him. A stranger among his own people, he wants to be granted, finally, the right to die. The Stranger is of course central to Daoud’s story, in which he both endorses and criticizes one of the most famous novels in the world. A worthy complement to its great predecessor, The Meursault Investigation is not only a profound meditation on Arab identity and the…

The White Tiger
Fiction , Literary Fiction , Reviews / January 30, 2021

Title: The White Tiger Author: Aravind Adiga Genre: Fiction Publisher: Simon and Schuster Release Date: October 14, 2008 Pages: 288 Narrator: John Lee Date Read: Jan 15, 2018 When he relocates to New Delhi to take a new job, Balram Halwai is disillusioned by the city’s materialism and technology-spawned violence, a circumstance that forces him to question his loyalties, ambitions, and past. 4.5Adiga’s debut novel gives us on narrator who is, by turns, charming, repugnant, profound, egotistical, insightful, and much more, but always, always fascinating. Balram, when he introduces himself, is a self-made entrepreneur and a murderer. His story is told through a letter he writes to the Chinese Premier who will be visiting his country. His voice is unique and can stand with some of the best know ‘narrators’ of classic literature. That his is such a different voice from a underrepresented culture from much of the canon literature is perhaps what makes it more real – in that his tale is authentic to who he is, and the world in which he exists, but that world is likely so unfamiliar to the audience that it confounds expectation and forces us to look at our own stance and belief…

Book vs Screen: The White Tiger
Movie Adaptations / January 29, 2021

Overall, a decent translation to the small screen by Netflix. The movie sticks close to Aravind Adiga’s book, down to the story-frame of Balram’s telling the story to the Chinese Trade Minister. The film does an excellent job of showing the ‘two Indias’ Balram frequently comments on throughout the novel. Where the film falls short is the humor and bite of Balram’s character. The humor of his experiencing the new world he infiltrates and his own growing discontent with the dichotomy of his world are inconsistent throughout the movie. While there a moment — like the first time he sees Ashok, or the hotel in New Delhi, or more darkly, when he first talks of why servants behave the way they do — but those moments are all too rare, robbing the story of much of the richness of Adiga’s narrative. I’ll let the screen-writer (Ramin Bahrami) and the actor (Adarsh Gourav) share the blame there. The other change I disliked was how Ashok and Pinky Madam were written to be more sympathetic, which in the dichotomy Adiga set up, makes Balram less so. The movie is worth seeing for the social criticism on the class structure of India, the…

Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Best Reads , Fiction , Reviews / February 24, 2018

Title: The Wonder Author: Emma Donoghue Genre: Fiction Publisher: Little, Brown Release Date: September 20, 2016 Format: Hardcover, Audio Pages: 304 Source: Powell's Narrator: Kate Lock Date Read: 09 February 2018 In Emma Donoghue’s latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life. Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl. Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels–a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil. In Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, set in the mid-1800’s, Nightingale trained, British nurse Lib finds herself in the midlands of Ireland, hired by a local council to watch 11 year old Anna O’Donnell (The Wonder of the title) who, according to the family, has survived…

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus Author: Erin Morgenstern Genre: Fiction Publisher: Doubleday Books Release Date: 2011 Format: Kindle / Audiobook Pages: 387 The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway – a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead….

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Best Reads , Fiction , Reviews / February 4, 2018

Title: The Hate U Give Author: Angie Thomas Genre: Young Adult Fiction Publisher: Balzer + Bray Release Date: February 28, 2017 Format: Kindle / Audiobook Pages: 464 Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It…

Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld et al.
Fiction , Reviews / July 16, 2017

Title: Zeroes Author: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti, Genre: Young Adult Publisher: Simon and Schuster Release Date: September 27, 2016 Format: Kindle / Audio Pages: 576 Told from separate viewpoints, teens Scam, Crash, Flicker, Anonymous, Bellwether, and Kelsie, all born in the year 2000 and living in Cambria, California, have superhuman abilities that give them interesting but not heroic lives until they must work as a community to respond to a high stakes crisis. Mix strange, difficult to control powers in with adolescent angst about fitting in, and an action packed plot and you have the basic recipe for a good novel.  Add in adult bad guys, less than great parents, and a whole lot of bad decisions and you’ve got Zeroes. Westerfeld, Biancotti and Canagan have created an ensemble cast of teenagers that have powers that seem more a burden than a gift.  There is Crash who can destroy modern technology but sees no positive purpose to it.  Anonymous is literally forgettable and faces an extreme form of adolescent loneliness because his power is that no one remembers anything about him.  Physically blind, Flicker can jump into others to see, but her parent is concerned because she refuses to…

Review: The Paper Magician Series by Charlie Holmberg

Title: The Paper Magician Author: Charlie N. Holmberg Genre: Fiction Publisher: 47North Release Date: July 8, 2014 Format: Kindle Source: Amazon Under the tutelage of magician Emery Thane, Ceony Twill discovers the wonders of paper magic, but when her teacher’s life is threatened, she must face the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic to save him. The Paper Magician Series — Charlie N. Holmberg In The Paper Magician, set in an alternate turn of the 20th Century, Holmberg has created a unique magical world for the series.  Trained and licensed magicians work with only one particular medium among those available — all involving man-made materials. We first meet Ceony at the close of her education when she is to begin her apprenticeship.  Ceony wants to work in metal — to be a smelter. However, after completing magic school (all theory because students can’t perform magic until they bond with their material) she is instead assigned to apprentice with a folder — a paper magician because there are only eleven left in England. Ceony is not happy about it, but finds that she wants to please her teacher, Magician Thane. The set up is well done, and Holmberg has created a wonderful…