sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
[personal profile] sumofparts
I finished my second set of 50, yay and started a new set. Below are some thoughts on the books.

Remainder of second set:
39. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
40. A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee
41. Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice
42. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
43. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
44. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
45. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai
46. Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta
47. The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee
48. Beijing Confidential by Jan Wong
49. Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
50. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
New set:
1. Decoded by Jay-Z

Cut for length )
sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
[personal profile] sumofparts
Sort of a mid-year update. It's been a while since I read some of these so I've just written short impressions but feel free to ask about any of the books.

33. Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
34. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
35. The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
36. Valmiki's Daughter by Shani Mootoo
37. Skim written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
38. Henry Chow and other stories edited by R. David Stephens (white)

Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
This was a well-written book but ultimately disappointing because it just didn't feel like it was going anywhere. Judging from the Goodreads reviews, this was a departure from Brick Lane, which I'll still try eventually.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Like other posters on the comm, I enjoyed this book but it was not without its flaws, which I think everyone else has covered pretty well.

The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
I liked the book but I don't feel everything gelled very well for me. I did like how the main character wasn't always the most sympathetic.

Valmiki's Daughter by Shani Mootoo
Gorgeous writing and evocative descriptions but similar to The New Moon's Arms, something didn't quite click for me. Still, I'd definitely try this author's other books.

Skim written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
Very detailed and beautiful drawings that really capture the story. Equal credit should be given to author and illustrator.

Henry Chow and Other Stories by various authors, edited by R. David Stephens
Enjoyable but uneven collection of short stories for teenagers. I liked the different story settings and character perspectives. From the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop.

a: ali monica, a: hopkinson nalo, a: mootoo shani, a: mariko tamaki, i: tamaki jillian, w-e: stephens r david, short stories, fantasy, lit fic, young adult, coming of age, graphic novel, bangladeshi-british, latin@, dominican-american, caribbean-canadian, jamaican, trinidadian, asian-canadian, chinese-canadian, japanese-canadian, glbt, women writers
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (Default)
[identity profile]
Haven't posted in a while. Here's a series of mini-reviews with some spoilers. Also, some of the books contain potentially triggering content.

6. Un-Nappily in Love by Trisha R. Thomas
7. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
8. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
10. Umbrella by Taro Yashima
11. Little Joy by Ruowen Wang
12. Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
13. Erika-san by Allen Say
14. Dahanu Road by Anosh Irani
15. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
16. The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
17. In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez
18. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
19. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
20. Monster by A. Lee  Martinez
21. Certainty by Madeleine Thien
22. So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
23. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
24. Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez
25. A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez
26. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
27. Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Mention (not counted)
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (white); illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (person of colour)

Read more... )
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I've been meaning to read this book since I first heard of it back in 2006, when it won the Giller beating out odds-on favourite De Niro's Game (which would go on to win the Booker). The reason it took so long for me to eventually get around to reading it was because it had two things against it: Bloodletting is a collection of short stories and everyone knows short story collections are a chore to plow through* and the stories were written by a doctor, who had set his stories in the medical community. The book sounded dreary and so I kept passing up chances to read it until finally, prompted by a desire to finish this challenge, and a second personal challenge to try and read all the Giller winners, I picked up the book.

Bloodletting is a bit unusual in that it is a short story cycle: the short stories are all loosely linked by four doctors, introduced in the first two stories: Fitz, Ming, Sri and Cheng. 

There is something here for everyone though the opening story How to Get into Medical School Part I was easily my favourite. How to opens with two University of Ottawa students struggling through finals. Ming and Fitz have been study partners, but they both feel their relationship deepening into something more. Ming is quick to put a stop to this, sighting a dedication to getting into medical school as a cause, though she is also put off by the fact that Fitz is white, something her Chinese family would never approve of.  Lam does a brilliant job of unfolding the delicate dance between Ming, who is all sensibility, and Fitz who is all sense as they try to deny their attraction at the same time as they give in to it. The story works completely on its own, but there is a great follow up How to Get into Medical School Part II, which is equally worth reading. 

However Lam has greater ambitions than to simply follow the personal dramas of his collection of doctors. As the book branches out the doctors become secondary characters and the patients begin to take over although this is brilliantly reversed as the book draws to a close as in later stories the doctors contract diseases themselves, slipping into the position of patient as they weaken and eventually die.

A gritty, interesting work, and a peak at the vulnerability of doctors who snap at patients, who go through the motions, who sometimes barely understand it is that they are doing.

*Sarcasm for all the times I have been told this. Once I started actually reading short story collections I realized I loved them, and the people who denounce them are usually people who have never read one in their life.
[identity profile]
My [ profile] 50books_poc year ends on January 31, and although I have still been reading, I've gotten slack with posting reviews. So here's an 8-book catchup post.

#40 - Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jill Tamaki Read more... )

#41 - Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan Read more... )

#42 - Papunya School Book of History and Country by the Papunya School community Read more... )

#43 - Kampung Boy, by Lat Read more... )

#44 - Not Meeting Mr Right, by Anita Heiss Read more... )

#45 - The Wheel of Surya, by Jamila Gavin Read more... )

#46 - Swallow the Air, by Tara June Winch Read more... )

#47 - Love poems and other revolutionary actions, by Roberta (Bobbi) Sykes Read more... )
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19. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami

cut for spoilers )

20. Red Spider, White Web by Misha

Read more... )

21.    The Kappa Child by Hiromi Goto

Read more... )
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23. Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Skim

This is a graphic novel about Skim, a Japanese-Canadian teenage girl dealing with her parents' divorce, her rough relationship with her best friend, the suicide of another student, learning about Wicca, and oh, yeah, falling in love with her female teacher.

A lot of other people have reviewed this book, and I don't really have much to add. The art was gorgeous, plain black and white lines that went from sparse to lush. The story-telling is excellent, particularly in its use of silence, or understatement, to capture emotion. And personally, I really identified with Skim's interest in Wicca; I was totally that teenage girl.

Overall, a really lovely, quiet book, though one that didn't involve me too emotionally.

24. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

I read this back in January and forgot to review it, so I will try to remember what I can. This is a nonfiction pop book about first impressions- why we get them, how they form, how they affect our thinking, if they're right, etc. It's an interesting topic. Gladwell's careful to look at both sides of the argument: when subconscious reactions are good, because there's not enough time to think a question through; and when they can be very, very bad- he examines the case of Amadou Diallo, a black unarmed man who was fatally shot by police officers.

Overall, this was a fun, informative book. I gulped it down in one sitting over an afternoon, so it's not a deep thought book, but one I enjoyed reading.
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Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (Scott Pilgrim #5), Bryan Lee O'Malley
2009, Oni Press

Oh, man, you've got to love Scott Pilgrim!  This is totally another of those books I was going to have read anyway, but what the hey, they count too.  (They do, right?  They've got to.)

Since this is the fifth installment of a planned-6-volume series, it's hard to know how to give it a review in a way that will make sense to people who don't follow it.  Allow me to point out, though, that everyone probably should try reading it, and if you don't like it that's fine.  I mean, I don't usually like hip stuff either.  I'm too old and cranky for that.  But the series is so funny and odd, and the graphisme (sorry) simultaneously so minimalist and so creative, that it's really hard not to enjoy it.  Even though I know I probably wouldn't like any of these people in real life.  (Except Wallace Wells, maybe, and that's a weird thought all by itself.)

The series' protagonist is the eponymous Scott Pilgrim, who is 23 at the story's outset -- he turns 24 in the latest volume (NO PEOPLE THAT IS NOT A SPOILER) -- and is friendly, cute, charming, charismatic, super white, and also immature and really pretty dumb.  But he has supportive parents and some interesting friends, and in the first book he falls for a much more mature and interesting (and American!) girl named Ramona Flowers, who is a subspace delivery person for, and also Scott plays in a band, but Ramona has seven evil exes who Scott will have to battle if he wants to be able to date her, but fortunately that shouldn't be too much of a problem because... well, I guess you have to read Book 1 to the end to find out why.  Also, Scott is dating a high schooler named Knives Chau, and lives with his gay best friend and sugar daddy Wallace Wells (but they don't sleep together (even though they sleep together)).  But all things change.

Oh!  And it's all in Toronto!

Book Five has lots more of our favorite characters, an ever-more-developed and assured graphisme, more Asian people, and robots.  And I won't give anything beyond that away.  Four out of five stars.  I continue to groove on this series.

(One more question for the fans out there: Was I wrong in believing Wallace Wells is Asian?  Or half-Asian, anyway?  Because I read they've cast Kieran Culkin as him in the movie, and now I'm just baffled.)
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (books)
[identity profile]
I read The Withdrawal Method a while back but forgot to post about it. I remembered when I finished When She Was Queen because they're both collections of short stories and also happen to have Indian-Canadian authors although the content and style of both are very different.

Cut for length and possible spoilers )

[identity profile]
Books #16-19

16. The Trouble with Islam, by Irshad Manji
Manji is a Canadian of Indian ancestry whose early life was in Uganda before Idi Amin expelled the Asian population. The book (which I read in an original edition - it was later renamed as The Trouble with Islam Today, although I don't know if that involved any changes to the text) was first published in 2003. I liked it, and found a lot in it to make me think, and that I admired. However, I also know that this book is *not* highly thought of in many quarters. (It was, therefore, refreshing to find Randa Abdel-Fattah saying pretty much the same main argument in The Age newspaper on the weekend.) More here.

17. Stradbroke Dreamtime, by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Bronwyn Bancroft
A beautiful book - part memoir of Oodgeroo's childhood, and part collection of stories from the Dreaming. Bronwyn Bancroft's artwork is an absolute highlight and, for me, really makes this book something special. More here.

18. Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Recipes from the Heart, by Pauline Nguyen
Far more than a cookbook. A memoir of Nguyen's family, a beautifully produced book, mouthwatering food photography... I can't recommend this highly enough. More here.

19. Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, by Kazu Kibuishi
My first ever comic book/manga! Set in a world that's pretty much Firefly crossed with Star Wars, Daisy is a retired gunslinger lured out of retirement for a Train Job. There's clearly a lot of backstory, but I'm fairly sure that this is the first (currently only, unfortunately) Daisy Kutter comic. As I think both Daisy and her unfortunate sidekick Tom are fabulous characters (very white, though, for those who would find that a problem), I rather hope there are more to come. More here.
ext_62811: (gen // nom nom nom)
[identity profile]
In Coming Through Slaughter, Michael Ondaatje reimagines the life of New Orleans jazz originator Buddy Bolden — who was never recorded — and spins scant details and one lone photo into a poetic fever dream of a novel.  In glimpses, short scenes, hymns, and epistolary-style documents, the novel uses the unstructured, improvisational style of jazz to tell the story of Bolden's life and his unexpected descent.  He was a cornet player like no other, loud, a parade favorite; he once disappeared for two years without a trace, and he spent the last years of his life in an asylum in northern Louisiana, where he never played a note.

This book is small, only about 150 pages, and it prefigures the book that made me love Ondaatje first, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.  I wouldn't recommend to readers who need a structured narrative or who dislike experimental forms.  But I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in Dixieland jazz, New Orleans, strange tales about fairly tragic characters, prose poetry, or epistolary fiction.  Fans of Ondaatje's more traditional books should also find something of interest here. 


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