As a young girl Natalia adored her grandfather who told her mythic stories as they wandered the zoo in an unnamed Balkan city. She was especially fascinated by stories of a young woman known as the “tiger’s wife.” Grandfather was a respected doctor and professor and always carried the book Jungle Book. Natalia imagined that the tales of the tiger’s wife arose from Kipling’s stories of India. When Natalia is a teenager, war returns to the Balkans. The zoo closes, and a curfew is imposed. Natalia and her friends immerse themselves in “the mild lawlessness” that surrounds them. Among other things, this means spurning her grandfather and dating a young tough who sells black-market contraband. Later she becomes a doctor, following in her grandfather’s footsteps.
The book is filled with a multitude of stories from a superstitious land. I was disappointed that the ending was not more pulled together. But Obreht is a wonderful writer and the book is a great read.
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WARIS DIRIE and Cathleen Miller
What an amazing story. Waris grew up in a wandering tribe in Somalia. Her job in the family was to take the family animals out to graze for the day and bring them back before night fall. She told the time by watching her shadow. One day her favourite goat that she called her pet did not return but was eaten by predators. She was circumcised at age five. Despite having seen a bit of her sister’s circumcision she wanted to be cut because she wanted to be a woman in her culture; she never realized it would be so painful and debilitating. No one talked about the procedure and its effects. When her father told her he was marrying her to an old man she ran away to look for her mother’s family in Mogadishu. She thought she would rather die than be married to an old man. She had never been in a city before; but she was strong and self-determined. Eventually an uncle took her to London to be a maid in his house. When the uncle and the family returned to Somalia she stayed in London, nearly penniless. Eventually she became an international model.
Although the book is poorly written, the story is so engaging it is still well worth the read.
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P D JAMES
When Venetia Aldridge, QC, defended Garry Ashe of murdering his prostitute aunt, she never thought that her daughter would later fall in love Ashe once she got him acquitted. Four weeks later Aldridge is found dead in her office; she was wearing a court wig and her head was covered in blood. Ashe is immediately considered to be a suspect as is anyone who had keys to the law offices. As often happens in murder mysteries one murder leads to several others. And of course Adam Dalgliesh and his team are called in to solve them.
I liked the ending to this book. Not everything is wrapped up neat and clean as in most mysteries. A good read.
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Quite an amazing graphic novel, The Listener intertwines the story of a Canadian artist, Louise, haunted by the death of a man called to action and protest by her sculpture and the story of Hitler’s rise to power which led to the second world war. Louise does a tour of Europe trying to comprehend what has happened in her life and to her art. Among the most important people that Louise meets is an elderly couple named Marie and Rudolph. They tell her a little-known tale of an election in the small German state of Lippe (only about 100,000 inhabitants) in January of 1933. At the time, while the Nazis were the largest political party in Germany, being the largest party in a plurality does not necessarily mean much if you can’t do anything with your power. While they remained the largest party, the Nazis had begun to lose seats and their momentum was beginning to wane (and as you all know, a large part of Hitler’s power was harnessing forward momentum). So when Lippe held a parliamentary election in 1933, the Nazis through everything they had into winning the election to keep up their momentum. Marie and Rudolph tell the story of the underhanded spin-doctoring that was used to secure that election for Hitler and therefore solidifying their power in Germany.
Great and quick read.
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DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH
“My daughters are dead! They killed my daughters. We need help.” These words haunt me to this day. I heard them through Abuelaish’s tears, pain, and wailing. AnIsraeli rocket tore into his daughters’ bedroom and exploded killing three daughters and a niece and wounding and mutilating others. Abuelaish called his journalist friend for help and support because he knew the journalist could get him access to Israeli hospitals and medical care. The journalist took his call live on TV news so all of Israel heard his pain, suffering and loss. All that he has been through and he can say “I shall not hate.” The book tells Abuelasish’s story of growing up in Gaza, not having enough to eat, of the pain and humiliation of Israeli boarder check points, of living with constant fear.
This is a book everyone should read.
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In some ways 1983 seems late for peace and anti-nuclear activism; we tend to think of protests being in the late 60′s and early 70′s, Vietnam War era. Falling is about a group of young people in 1984 who were peace activists protesting nuclear proliferation. Its several years before the end of the cold war. The narrator Jane meets this group of activists when she takes a room in their shared accommodation house in Kitsilano, Vancouver. Despite the fact that they are aiming for peace they fight amongst themselves and treat each other quite callously. This story rang true for me for at this time my sister was living with an anti-nuke peace activist. He was an artist and would paint pictures of famous places such as Disneyland and the Egyptian pyramids with nuclear bombs exploding. He was an asshole just like one of the characters in the novel.
A good read.
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Baggage is a novel of a mennonite teen, Sam, moving into the city, Saskatoon, from his parents rather strict farm: no TV, but radio and lots of chores and church. After a few weeks of cooking school he gets a job at Vi’s, good home cooked food, nothing fancy. He works under Slash the middle age, gruff, pot bellied cook who slips out for a smoke when ever he has a chance. A couple of sisters do the majority of the waiting. Soon Slash is picking up Sam on his way to work as they become good friends and eventually more.
Baggage is a light read; highly unrealistic. But it is a feel good book of people taking care of each other, trying to build relationships and community. Good for when you want a trashy read.
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DAVID AXE and MATT BORS
Axe is almost a war junkie. ” The first 72 hour [home] after a big trip are pure animal bliss. Them I crash. Hard. I should have been happy After all I’d seen and done, I should have treasured every friendship, relished every beer and revelled in every moment I wasn’t getting shot at, blown up or mortared. ” ”I didn’t feel much any more. What pleasure I used to take in everyday things was replaced with a constant low-grade anger. Anger at the assholes who started it all. But mostly anger at myself for thinking that going off to war would make me smarter sexier and happier.”
An excellent read about the consistency of the horrors of war and one man’s struggle to stay sane while trying to document the conflicts around the world.
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Personnel freedom is explore trough the Berglund famly. At the beginning Patty is a “sunny carrier of sociological pollen, an affable bee” buzzing at the back door “with a plate of cookies or a card or some lilies of the valleys in a little thrift-store vase that she told you not to bother returning”; her husband, Walter, is a lawyer of such adamant decency that his employer, 3M, has parked him in “outreach and philanthropy, a corporate cul-de-sac where niceness was an asset” and where, commuting by bicycle each day, he nurtures his commitment to the environmentalist causes he will eventually pursue with mis placed fervour. Their son Joey rebels by leaving home early to live next door to live with the boorish, tree cutting family so that he can have sex with their beautiful daughter. Like any rebellious child of left wing parents he swing to the far right. Franzen is a great story teller but tends to repeat himself. The book would have been better at 355 pages rather than 555 pages.
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Sara lives in the Blood of the Lamb polygamous sect in rural Utah. Though she’s only fifteen, she’s past the age where most girls in the community have been married. The only thing that’s keeping her unmarried is the fact that her older sister, Rachel, is also unmarried. Rachel is exceptionally beautiful, and as a result, many men have received testimony from God in order to marry her especially older powerful men. The younger men are sent away to leave the young girls for the old lechers. Opps moral judgment showing. When the Prophet reveals who Sara will marry, it horrifies her. She begins to question her upbringing and the community she was raised in, hoping that one day she’ll be able to escape. When she sees her former best friend who was married to her cousin deliver a deformed child who was left to die because the cult was afraid of the authority her faith was questioned on a deeper level.
The novel is actually a bit of a page turner. A must read.
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When Ben Tomlin’s mother comes home with an eight day old chimpanzee his father tells him it is his baby half brother. At first Ben is resistant; he doesn’t want a brother, especially not a chimp! But quite quickly he falls in love with this little baby. Mom and Dad are both academics. Dad a respected PhD is doing a research project on teaching a chimpanzee language using American Sign Language because chimps don’t have the vocal folds for speech. The novel is set in 1974 when research on communication with apes was in its infancy. Mom plans to use the experiment to write her thesis for her doctorate. The university has provided the family a home with an attached home for the chimp. Research assistances are hire to play with and care take Zan. Ben got to name him. Meanwhile Ben choose to go to private school because of a crush on one of the girls. As the experiment goes on unforeseen problems arise.
Brother is well worth the read even though it is not Oppel’s best work. For his best read his AIRBORN Series.
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DAVID ADAMS RICHARDS
The choices, actions and decision people make reverberate far further than we could imagine then return to haunt us. Michael Skid skid comes from a well to do family in a New Brunswick town. His father is a judge. A misunderstanding separates him from his childhood friend Tommie Donnerel, so Skid chooses to spend the summer slumming being a hippy, doing drugs, drinking shine and seducing a naive young girl. He and his friends fall prey to the charismatic criminal Everette Hutch. They have some fun but of course things go wrong and people have to pay and not alway the right people. The entire community is effected. Richards writes well; it is a great read.
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Peter Webster, probie EMT pulls a young woman from her wrecked vehicle and immediately falls in love despite the fact that the single vehicle a occurred as a result of her blood alcohol level. Sheila Arsenault is a woman of many contradictions, a born hustler, hard yet soft, gorgeous and street wise, tough talking but at times gentle, passionate and fierce. Soon she is pregnant and the couple move into a tiny apartment. But Sheila can’t keep off of the bottle after the baby is born. After a horrific accident where she kills someone and almost kills the baby Peter sends her away to keep her out of prison.
I found the book a bit of a page turner. But the ending is weak. Still worth reading. I enjoyed reading about the EMT rescue responses.
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It’s the story of Claire, who is raising her boy and grieving the death of her aunt, an author of field guides for mushrooms (well, actually Claire wrote them for her – the first deception in the book) and Liv, the carpenter she hires to re-do her aunt’s house. Liv has a tendency to haunt the bars looking for young and willing girls to bang, but it’s more out of diversion than actual desire. She is tired of the one-night-stands but doesn’t want the vulnerability of commitment. Of course, they end up together. But there are complications –one of whom is Bailey, Liv’s best friend who is also in love with her.
Far from being a book about simple relationships – because there are no such things – A Field Guide to Deception has an incredible sense of dread. You really root for these women to make a go of it, yet everything they say and do dooms them from the start. As Liv says at one point, “We suck at this.” And they do. But so do many other couples, and they manage to stay together. Do Claire and Liv stand a chance? It’d be mean of me to tell.
Malone underwrites and underplays the drama beautifully, sketching her characters with languid surety until they’re fully formed. This book is less about plot than it is about human nature, so genre readers may find this slow going, but I found the people here so genuine that the paucity of plot points didn’t bother me in the least. But the last twenty or thirty pages, which contain a startling event the ending turns on, move the story firmly and clearly to conclusion.
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EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
In the fall of 1963, US ally and Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem indicated he might negotiate with the communist insurgents in his country. President John F. Kennedy gathered senior foreign policy advisors for a final meeting to consider overthrowing Diem. Anxious about growing chaos in Vietnam, the advisors expressed doubts, and Kennedy never announced a clear decision. Three days later, Diem was murdered.
With “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq,” Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, analyzes the consequences of the US overthrowing regimes in 14 nations since 1893. The events typically warrant a page or less in average American history textbooks, but by exploring motives and settings, Kinzer turns each into an engaging short story. All but one of these tales have tragic endings.
Kinzer doesn’t come out and say it, but when policymakers disagree, leaders tend toward action. Leadership, as perceived in the US, depends less on patience than action. Presidents want to be seen as doing something, anything, to look good for the next election. Interventions and coups are often launched not because of decisive leadership, but, according to Kinzer, because the US is “so vulnerable to herd mentality.”
Juxtaposing vivid details, Kinzer reveals patterns behind the overthrow of governments in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Honduras, South Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama and Afghanistan: The US targets are small nations, some with democratic governments. The quests for power are impulsive, even frantic. Corporate interests spur interventions, and the supporters squash any doubters as weak and lacking in patriotism. Too often, the US provides training and arms to dictators or insurgents who eventually become fierce US enemies a generation or so later. Ultimately, the US loses interest in the target countries, allowing corruption or terrorism to flourish.
These patterns have converged with the current war in Iraq, and from the first page, Kinzer points out that the Iraq invasion is hardly an isolated episode in US history.
In “Overthrow” Kinzer allows the instigators to speak for themselves, blunt comments that reveal ambition, greed or ignorance. Often, US officials simply don’t comprehend why developing nations want to control their own natural resources. A Chilean foreign minister once accused Henry Kissinger of knowing nothing about the Southern Hemisphere, and the US statesman responded: “Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South.”
With each overthrow, the US government repeatedly pursued short-term gains, never contemplating the tragic consequences that might develop decades later. Kinzer astutely highlights the interlocking events that followed regime changes in the Middle East: In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh for the British, installing a dictator who had no qualms about welcoming foreign oil firms. That operation galvanized radical fundamentalists, who, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, orchestrated the 1978 revolt, and “their example inspired Muslim fanatics around the world.” Today’s Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon are the spiritual heirs of the Ayatollah and protégés of the radical Iranian clerics.
Kinzer details how five US presidents nurtured the Taliban in Afghanistan, initially trying to thwart the Soviets and later to secure an oil-pipeline route. On paper, each overthrow plan is brazen or shaky, but Kinzer demonstrates how organizers of such operations, once intent on their final goal, lose any long-term sense of financial accountability or national security. Throughout the 1980s, as the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, the US funneled money to insurgents through Pakistan and “never played or even sought to play a role in deciding who received its gifts.” As a result, the Pakistanis used the money to build up the Taliban and destroy leftist, nationalist or secular movements. One Afghan warned, “For God’s sake, you’re financing your own assassins.”
By invading Iraq in 2003, the US came full circle in the Middle East, once more boosting the influence of Islamic fundamentalists in Iran and throughout the region.
The goal of covering a century of policy and intrigue constrains Kinzer, but surprisingly, the book’s tone is more relaxed than terse. Informed readers will appreciate Kinzer’s fast pace and many ironies. He begins most of his overthrow tales with local details, followed by policy analysis and misjudgments of the administration in power. However, that format, a close-up followed by the wide-angle view of several events, can at times become repetitive.
Unfortunately, he only minimally tackles the US public’s disinterest in foreign affairs. Americans support policies that bring suffering to foreign lands, he argues, for two reasons: “American control of faraway places came to be seen as vital to the material prosperity of the United States” and the “deep-seated belief of most Americans that their country is a force for good in the world.” US citizens sometimes recognize the intervention as bullying tactics, yet continue to rationalize that people of foreign lands will eventually benefit from American-style democracy and capitalism, repeatedly puzzled about the repression and anti-Americanism that emerges.
Only briefly does Kinzer touch upon the US citizens who questioned government tactics in foreign lands. Like the politicians who ignored their critics, Kinzer largely neglects the stories of US opposition. Of course, such critics failed to end the meddling ways of the US, but it might be helpful to know more about those failures and Kinzer’s claim about a short US attention span shaping its approach to the world.
So in the end, Kinzer’s thesis – “A century of American ‘regime change’ operations have shown that the United States is singularly unsuited to ruling foreign lands” – is a useful reminder and yet unsatisfying as a future guide to action.
He expects his readers to detest these policies. So his historical analysis that covers the rising power of corporations and a century of miscalculations by presidents cries out for a final chapter that offers recommendations for government leaders or citizens who feel likewise. As Kinzer suggests at one point, “The rise of nationalism in the developing world was a complex phenomenon…for Americans to devise a sophisticated, long-term strategy for dealing with it would have been challenging and difficult.”
Unfortunately, leaders – describing their motivation as benevolence and a desire to liberate the oppressed – have learned how to win popular support for even the most outrageous regime change, and US citizens repeatedly fall for the bait.
With the ambiguity of post-modernist fiction, Kinzer declines to offer clues on ending the US patterns of overthrow – and that is the most troubling part of this otherwise compelling book.
Review borrowed from: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/overthrow.jsp
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Wetlands is quite the bizarre book. It is a celebration of women’s bodies, sex and bodily functions. Having just seen The Vagina Monologues, this book seems to fit right in. The opening sentence concerns hemorrhoids: it is relatively tame. By page two, the heroine is reminiscing about anal sex. The book takes place in a hospital. Helen has cut her anus while shaving and she now needs an operation. Slowly glimpses of her dysfunctional childhood are revealed. For a book that is all about sex and bodies it is not at all sexy. Weak ending.
Worth reading if you are not easily shocked.
Check out this link:
I found this after seeing Vaginal Monologues.
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Set in 2001, In Search of Mercy seamlessly moves between events in the past and the present, and blends scenes from all time periods into surreal dreams for Dexter that seem more fact than fiction, more real than not. Ayoob writes well. Dexter is working two dead-end jobs when he’s approached by Lou, a bum who inexplicably throws around $100 bills when the mood suits him, to find his long lost love, an actress named Agnes Zagbroski, who took the stage name of Mercy Carnahan when she was “discovered” by Hollywood in the 1940s. Dexter thinks Lou is crazy — and he probably is — but he’s intrigued nonetheless. Kidnapped and tortured by four men eight years ago, Dexter is still trying to straighten out his life.
Mercy is not so much a mystery but a character study. A good read.
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A burnt-out political aide quits just before an election — but is forced to run a hopeless campaign on the way out. The seat is that of the very popular fiance minister who is a shoe in. The point is to field a candidate even if he is sure to loose. He makes a deal with a crusty old Scot, Angus McLintock — an engineering professor who will do anything, anything, to avoid teaching English to engineers — to let his name stand in the election. No need to campaign, certain to lose.
A great political satire of Canadian politics.
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“My whole experience was clouded over there, we were in a dream. It was so vivid, I thought it wasn’t real. But it was. Truer than anything here.”
The life and loves of a photojournalist during the Vietnam War. Helen learns her craft from Pulitzer prize winning Sam Darrow. He gives her his assistant, Linh, to protect her and take care of her. Soli explores the issues of the war through her characters’ experiences. “The war doesn’t ever have to end for us.”
A good read especially if you are interest in that period of history.
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This is the funniest, laugh out loud funny, book I have ever read. Halpern’s dad is so opinionated and outrages. And what a mouth! The book is mostly short quotes of his father. The book started a Twitter feed and then was turned into a bestselling book.
“He’s a politician. It’s like being a hooker. You can’t be one unless you can pretend to like people while you’re fucking them.”
“Put the rake down. I don’t wanna sit around watching you ‘give it your best.’ Either stop sucking or get the fuck out of the way.”
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