ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (Default)
[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
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... )
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
21. Linda Yamane (Ohlone), The Snake That Lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Other Ohlone Stories.

Sometimes I run across written collections of traditional stories and they seem out-of-context and subsequently flat, as this one does -- I presume that if I were Ohlone, or were reading it in an Ohlone context, it would have more power for me. Consequently, I'm gonna file this one under "not written for me".

Two things yet of note:
  • one of the stories is told twice, in English and Spanish;
  • The book begins with profiles of the original storytellers, including photos and short biographies of each. I too often see genero-attributions for traditional stories, as if "Native informant" is a generic category of non-person, and it was lovely to see this level of attention given to the elders who had put in the work toward making sure that these stories would be preserved.
Stories retold from Isabelle Meadows, Manuel Onesimo, and Ascencion Solorsano Cevantes.

22. Lee Ann Smith-Trafzer (Maidu) and Clifford E. Trafzer (Maidu), Creation of a California Tribe.

A contemporary Maidu elder, his two grandchildren, and the traditional stories he tells to his grandchildren, that they then tell their classrooms, and that, finally, he tells their classrooms.

The framing story about the grandfather, his grandchildren, and their classrooms is a touch stiff and idealized. There's a bit where Travis, the grandson, is answering the ill-informed questions of his fourth-grade classmates with a grace, composure, and fluency that I could only hope for. (In truth, I cringed all through that early scene with the teacher reading Travis's essay aloud to the class and then inviting the other students to ask questions of Travis about his being Maidu. My own experiences in classroom settings were not good, and I kept expecting that scene to go south fast. Surprisingly, it never did -- what is this mysterious fantasy world Travis lives in? However, even though I think Travis did extraordinarily well, I still would have liked it if he had sidestepped the trap of speaking of Maidu people in past tense.)

The traditional stories told within the frame, however -- a story about Coyote and the creation, a story about Bat and Lizard and fire, a story about Salt Man and what he does for the taste of roasted salmon, and a story about Thunder Boy -- were all lovely. I loved in particular how strongly rooted in place they were: grass fires and earthquakes and salmon and particular northern Californian towns and cities.

I'll wait another year or two before sending this to my nephew, I think -- he's a bit young for it yet -- but I do hope he gets some pleasure from it.

Stories retold from Dalbert Castro and Tom Young.

23. Chiori Santiago, illus Judith Lowry (Maidu), Home to Medicine Mountain.

Story of the time the artist's father and uncle decided that they weren't going to stay at the residential school in Riverside for the summer (the schools would pay railroad fare to school, but not home again to the children's families), and hopped a freight train back to Susanville.

I thought this one would be a hard read -- Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi's Canoe both tore me up -- but the homesickness here was much easier for me to take, somehow. Most of the story is Benny Len's first year at school, and his thoughts about how strange, cold, and alienating it is, plus the various things he misses about being back home, most especially spending time with his grandmother. Finally the school year ends and Benny Len discovers he doesn't get to go home -- their family can afford the train ticket only every other year. His big brother Stanley, however, promises Benny Len that he'll fix it, somehow.

And the very next night, Stanley wakes up his little brother, the two of them make themselves blanket rolls, and with the older brother's instruction, they hop a boxcar back home. The two days that they spend riding the top of the boxcar are marvelous: beautiful scenery, a loving brother, and the sure knowledge that one is going home and will soon see one's family... (Aw, drat, I did tear up after all!)

(Additional tags: traditional stories, residential schools, Ohlone author, Maidu author, Maidu illustrator, Japanese-American / Native American author [no tribe given])
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
13. The Young Inferno by John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura is a verse retelling of Dante's Inferno embedded in a picture book. I liked Kitamura's stark, black and white, art style but in the art-as-storytelling stakes it seemed to me to lack variety. It also clashed with one of the text's spelled out messages: "My teacher said, 'You've got a point. Quite right. / It just shows that neither beast nor man / can be divided into black and white.' " Except this is a black and white book in several senses. Agard's verse text didn't work for me as either narrative or poetry. (Note to self: don't read retellings of Christian morality stories unless they're specifically subversive in some way.) However, I'm probably about as far from the target audience of hoodie-clad schoolboys as it's possible to be so who cares about my opinion anyway? I just hope this isn't picked up from the teen, graphic novel, section of the library by a reluctant reader who is consequently discouraged further. Agard writes good poetry but this isn't it. Kitamura's first and second illustrations are both interesting as art, especially the way Our Hero is represented as a negative (in the photographic sense) of himself, but the only illustration which wholly won me over is the fossil landscape in illo 4.

14. Too Black, Too Strong by Benjamin Zephaniah is an extremely powerful collection of individually skillful and soulful poems. Ben is one of the most humane people I've met and it shows through in every word of his work. Most people know him as a Rastafarian lyricist who wrote that "funny" poem about turkeys and Christmas, and maybe as that political poet who refused to accept the Order of the British Empire he was awarded, or that black British man who was bereaved of a family member by police violence (although that describes too many people), but his work is so much more: witty, political, memorial, deeply spiritual, widely literary, and linguistically sophisticated. There are several example poems at my dw journal.

15. Fiere* by Jackie Kay is her latest, 2011, poetry collection. I've loved Kay's writing since the first time I encountered it, years ago. Amongst other forms, she's an extremely accomplished poet in both Scots** and English. Kay's poems aren't generally confessional (in the strictest literary sense of that word) but they do contain enough autobiography that I feel some minimum background aids understanding, and that's provided in the brief blurb on the back. Kay is multiracial, her mother was a Scottish Highlander and her father was a Nigerian Igbo. She was born in Edinburgh and raised by white Scottish adoptive parents. There are two example poems, the ecstasy and the agony of human relationships, at my dw journal.

* "fiere", Scots, meaning "companion/friend/equal"
** Scots, which is primarily related to English, not Scottish Gaelic which is a different language.

Tags: women writers, african-caribbean, black british, britain, british, british-african-caribbean, caribbean, black scottish, scottish, guyanese, poetry, japanese, biracial, multiracial, children's books, sf/fantasy, fiction, guyanese-british, igbo, young adult
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
2.11 Pat Lowe and Jimmy Pike, Yinti, Desert Child (1992)

2.12 Pat Lowe and Jimmy Pike, Desert Dog (1997)

2.13 Pat Lowe and Jimmy Pike, Desert Cowboy (2000)

These children's books are told by Pat Lowe and based on the experiences of Jimmy Pike in his childhood as a hunter gatherer in the central desert. He came in from the desert to a station in the 1950s, one of the last groups to do so.

*Yinti, Desert Child* describes his childhood and his first trip in to see relatives on a station in his adolescence. *Desert Dog* is a story about his mother's wonderful hunting dingo, Spinifex, who comes in with him to the station and then runs away back to his mother in the desert. *Desert Cowboy* is is the third part of the biography. It charts Jimmy’s permanent move in to working on stations in the Kimberley. I was particularly interested in how he adjusted from a hunter gatherer life to the whitefeller idea of ‘work’ and ‘pay’ in order to stay on the country.

The books are written by Pat Lowe, who is white, but I have included them here as the illustrations are so integral to the stories. Pat Lowe's introduction says she has sometimes altered Jimmy Pike's stories for ease of understanding. This is always the tricky part of having someone else write for you - but perhaps in this case it was a particularly tight collaboration as they are a married couple.

My two and three quarter year old daughter really liked Jimmy Pike’s illustrations. The bright colours (I think textas?) and straightforward pictures of horses and men and cattle are just right for her. The stories are, of course, far beyond her, being aimed at perhaps seven to ten year olds.
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
Narelle McRobbie, Bip the Snapping Bungaroo (1990)

Bip the snapping bungaroo loses his snap. It’s obviously a children’s story, but probably one aimed at kids at little older than mine.

She really liked the illustrations of the turtle, especially when his head went in and out. The pictures are by Aboriginal illustrator Grace Fielding.
[identity profile] puritybrown.livejournal.com
44: Swami and Friends by R. K. Narayan

Although it was his first novel, I'm not sure I would have chosen to begin my exploration of R. K. Narayan's work with Swami and Friends -- I was rather hoping to read his retelling of the Ramayana one of these days -- but I just happened to stumble on it in a charity shop, for the princely sum of €2. So I snapped it up, and I greatly enjoyed it. It is one of those books that one hesitates to call "a children's book" because although the protagonist is a child, there are lots of glimpses of the adult world and adult sensibilities peeking through the narrative, and it could be enjoyed as much by adults who can see the wider significance (or lack thereof) of Swami's little dramas as by children appreciating a story about their peers.

It put me in mind of the William books, which were staples of my childhood. Swami and Friends was first published in 1935, and Just William was published in 1922, so it's possible that Richmal Crompton was an influence on Narayan, though I wouldn't want to put money on it; quite likely anyone writing about young boys at that period would produce a story with a similar sort of atmosphere. Like the William books, Swami and Friends is very funny, but there's a more serious side that the William books lack; Swami is growing up in an India struggling for independence, and at one point he gets caught up in a patriotic demonstration that turns into a riot. Yet, Swami being only ten years old, this riot is no more important in his eyes than the fact that he has to miss cricket practice because of Scout drills after school. It's that shift in perspective to a child's-eye-view that makes Swami and Friends so charming and effective.

45: Emiko Superstar written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Steve Rolston
I loved Skim, which was written by Mariko Tamaki with her cousin Jillian Tamaki, so I had high hopes for Emiko Superstar. And it's good; not as good as Skim, but still clever and entertaining. Like Skim, the main character is a slightly geeky Japanese-Canadian teenage girl who longs for something more than her boring, mundane life. The "something more" comes in the form of the Freakshow, a local performance art night positively custom-designed to appeal to teenagers. Emiko is at first intrigued, then scared, then drawn in by the Freakshow; the wildness of it is seductive, even if it has its unsavoury side. Meanwhile, she's got herself a job babysitting for an outwardly-perfect suburban couple, but there's more going on with John and Susan than meets the eye.

Emiko Superstar is part of DC's ill-fated Minx line of short graphic novels aimed at teenage girls. I have mixed feelings about the Minx line; some of the titles were good, and they were all obviously well-intentioned, but they often came across as slightly thin and underdeveloped, as if they needed either twenty more pages or six extra months of rewrites and redraws to get up to snuff. None of the ones I've read were bad, exactly, they were just... flat. Uninspiring. Emiko Superstar is one of the better ones; it doesn't feel flat, and it doesn't feel uninspiring, but by comparison to Skim it's a bit wordier, a lot less subtle, and a great deal more predictable. Where Skim was the kind of work where every word and every line seems to bring with it a meaning behind the obvious meaning, Emiko Superstar pretty much all happens on the same level. It's a well-constructed, well-told story that doesn't have much in the way of depth or layers. Still, I did enjoy it.

(tags: a: tamaki mariko, w-i: rolston steve, a: narayan rk, india, graphic novel, young adult, children's books, japanese-canadian)
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
2.3 - Animals: An Indigenous First Discovery Book, artwork by Debbie Austin (2008)

The series was created to help raise awareness of the imortance of using Australian Indigenous symbols to teach stories to the young of our culture. This one, obviously, focuses on animals. Each page shows one symbol and there is a legend at the end so you can translate them.

My toddler was not terribly impressed - possibly she viewed it as too childish as there was no text.

2.4 - Aussie Twos Like To, Magabala Books (no date)

This follows on from Magabala Books’ *Aussie Toddlers Can*. It’s a collection of pictures of kids playing - what I like most about it is the range of skin tones the kids have.

It was less successful with my daughter than the toddler book, perhaps because she now feels too old for a book without text.
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[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Title: How Tia Lola Came to Visit Stay
Author: Julia Alvarez
Number of Pages: 147 pages
My Rating: 3/5

Jacket Summary: When Miguel's Tia Lola comes from the Dominican Republic to Vermont to help out his Mami, Miguel is worried that his unusual aunt will make it even more difficult to make new friends. It's been hard enough moving from New York City and Leaving Papi behind. Sometimes he wishes Tia Lola would go back to the island. But then he wouldn't have the treats she's putting in his lunch box, which he's sure helped him make the baseball team. And she really needs his help to learn English so she doesn't use all the words she knows at once: "One-way -caution-you're-welcome-thanks-for-asking." So Miguel changes his wish to a new one, and he finally even figures out a clever way to make it come true.

Review: This is a kids' book and while it's cute and I liked it well enough, it's not really one of those kids' books that's terribly enjoyable for an adult. At least not to me.

Title: Ties That Bind, Ties That Break
Author: Lensey Namioka
Number of Pages: 154 pages
My Rating: 4/5

Jacket Summary: Third Sister in the Tao family, Ailin has watched her two older sisters having their feet bound. In China in 1911, all girls of good families follow this ancient practice, which is also an extremely painful one. Ailin loves to run away from her governess and play games with her male cousins. Knowing she will never run again once her feet are bound, she refuses to follow this torturous tradition. As a result, the family of her intended husband breaks their marriage agreement. As she enters adolescence, Ailin finds that her family, shamed by her decision, will no longer support her. Chinese society leaves few options for a single woman of good family, but with bold conviction and an indomitable spirit, Ailin is determined to forge her own destiny.

Review: I enjoyed this. It reminded me a lot of many turn-of-the-century girls' stories I read as a kid, like Anne of Green Gables and stuff.
[identity profile] mizchalmers.livejournal.com
Hi! It's been an unforgivable eleven months since I last posted, so you've probably all forgotten me or had a generational change and transcended to become godlike beings, in which case, good for you! Try to be benevolent. Anyway! I didn't come close to reading 50 books last year or this, but my involvement in this community definitely changed my reading habits for the better, permanently, so, you know, thanks for that.

34. Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

In my defense I read this long before I realized there was going to be a film (which I will probably end up seeing anyway, because Keira Knightley's cheekbones, guh.) Strange, haunting setup as what seems to be no more than a slightly weird British boarding school novel turns into something science-fictional and appalling. I think it works brilliantly as a critique of late-capitalist society, in which we are all fungible body parts intentionally distracted by trivialities while being fed into the rotating knives. But then I always say that.

35. Nora K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Finished it. Didn't fly for me, not sure why, since everyone I know and respect adored it. Will try it again.

36. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Pitch-perfect on the revolting excess and absurdity of the Iraq war. An excellent companion piece to Rory Stewart's The Prince of the Marshes.

37. Gene Yang, Prime Baby

Having loved American Born Chinese with a fond love, I picked this up for Kid #1, who is a prime number enthusiast with a baby sibling. The book - which features an older brother figuring out that his baby sibling is an alien through her strategic deployment of primes - was an instant hit with its target demographic, and has since been taken up by Kid #2 in turn.

38. Kamila Shamsie, Burnt Shadows

Contrived Coincidence.

39. Mei Ling Hopgood, Lucky Girl

40. Jane Jeong Trenka, The Language of Blood

Nothing galvanizes your curiosity about transracial adoption like your best friend adopting transracially (unless, I guess, it is you that is adopting transracially. But I always get the two of us mixed up.) These two adult adoption memoirs are often recommended as point and counterpoint, which is a little unfair to Hopgood, an adult adoptee who was born in Taiwan. Her Lucky Girl is competent and her story extremely interesting, if sometimes too digressive (I am here for the reunion, I am not very interested in the geography of Taiwan right now) and too reliant on journalistic tricks (please do not telegraph your plot twists in advance, thanks, the management.) Hopgood ends up deciding she was better off adopted, which makes her book the darling of adoptive parents who don't really want to hear the bad news.

Trenka: not so much! Her circumstances are very different, for one thing. For another - and this is what makes the comparison unfair - while Hopgood is a perfectly serviceable reporter, Trenka is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and her story is harrowing on any number of levels. I finished The Language of Blood sitting in my favourite cafe with tears and snot running down my face, and it is still with me. Trenka engaged me far beyond my original need to know about international adoption and its injustices and outcome. I'll read everything she writes.

Bonus round! Whether you consider the following writers white or not probably depends on where you grew up. The Australia in which I grew up was so overwhelmingly white that people of Greek ancestry tended not to identify, or to be identified, as "Anglo." That hair-splitting racial tension is ever-present in The Slap and nowhere in Logicomix, not surprisingly, because the latter book is not Australian! But I couldn't figure out a consistent way to include or exclude these two until I decided to list them both as extras, and so here we are!

Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, Logicomix

If you love mathematics and history and especially the history of mathematics, call me! Or at least walk over broken glass to get your hands on this beautiful, brilliantly-researched graphic novel, which follows the life of a personal hero of mine, Cambridge mathematician Bertrand Russell.

Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap

This book was big news when it was published in Australia last year, and then again in the UK when it was longlisted for the Man Booker. In the English reviews especially there was a lot of handwringing about how awful some of the characters are, especially the deliverer of the eponymous slap. This was very amusing to me, because those characters tended to be note-perfect depictions of the kinds of men I grew up with. Anyway, to conflate the author's opinion with that of a character he is clearly satirizing is to fail lit crit 101. Get on that, London reviewers! More substantial criticisms addressed the sometimes-flabby prose and the invariably-squicky sex scenes. But. But!

Tsiolkas means a lot to me. He has been publishing novels since I was a fresh-out-of-uni candy raver in Sydney. He started in the gay ghetto and this is his first real crossover novel, and I am probably overidentifying more than a little, but I found it quite exhilarating that a writer of more or less my exact generation could take on such an ambitious project and nearly, almost pull it off. It's flawed, sure, but it's picaresque and panopticonic and high realist and it's groping for a Dickensian or Trollopian critique of all of Australian society. I love the book for being at once unapologetically provincial and unashamedly serious. And yet it's also very funny. I'm rambling! But I liked it a lot! Maybe you would too!
pauraque: bird flying (Default)
[personal profile] pauraque
Hello! Happy to be here.

My 7-year-old loves the Bad Kitty series of books, but I didn't realize until recently that Nick Bruel, the author and illustrator, is Chinese-American. We just read the latest in the series together, so it gets to be my first post here.

The Bad Kitty series, which is about -- get this -- the travails of a disobedient cat named Kitty, hovers somewhere between picture books and chapter books. They're sort of graphic novels for younger kids. This one has 150 pages, many of which are almost all pictures, but some of which are almost all text, and lots that are a mix. (Some of the text pages got long for said 7-year-old to read; he wanted to get back to the pictures.)

Bruel really has a handle on how cats think; anyone who knows cats will greet Kitty's behavior and (internal) thought processes with a mixture of laughter and grim recognition. :P In this one there are also some non-fiction asides discussing why cats behave the way they do -- why they fear strangers and loud noises and so on -- which are lightly-handled and not too long.

The art makes these books. Bruel's style is loose and expressive, effortlessly nailing the facial expressions of animals and people on every page. He is fluent in the language of comics, and can make you giggle with just the turn of a line. My kid just about dies laughing when he sees some of these pictures.

I'm not sure what age group the books are aimed at, but 7 seems just about right, though a slightly older reader would be able to get through more of the text without help. Recommended if you have kids around that age.

(Not sure how to tag the subject beyond it being a children's book. It's about a cat who has to cope with being babysat by a stranger. What does that fall under? :P)

(eta tags: a: bruel nick, children's books, chinese-american)
[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
A completely adorable children's science-fantasy set on an Africa-derived planet in which Earth is a legend and most of the technology is biological. I am a complete sucker for biotech, not to mention science-fantasy, and the extravagant invention and playfulness of the world gives the novel enormous charm.

All the best books about plants are written by northeasterners, be they about pruning your office building or growing and maintaining the perfect personal computer from CPU seed to adult PC.

Zahrah Tsami is born with dadalocks - dreadlocks with vines growing in them. This marks her as potential trouble in her conformist culture, so she grows up quiet and shy, keeping her head down and trying to ignore the teasing from other kids. She gains the ability to levitate with menarche, but since she's afraid of heights she's reluctant to explore it.

But her best friend, the young radical Dari, persuades her to venture with him into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle, where he can explore and she can, maybe, learn to fly. He promptly gets bitten by a deadly snake, and the only antidote is the egg of the scariest creature in the very scary scary jungle... into which Zahrah ventures, armed only with a grumpy compass, a malfunctioning digi-book, and a talent she's afraid to use.

Though the prose is overly simplistic and sometimes clunky, the setting is so great, and the tone is so sweet and playful, that I read this with a huge smile on my face. It's also one of the few American children's fantasy novels with an African (ish) heroine, written by an African-American author, AND with a black girl on the cover, so it could probably use some support.

Zahrah the Windseeker
[identity profile] alankria.livejournal.com
I'm actually going to start logging and reviewing these, albeit sporadically - I'm travelling now and will be unemployed on my return, so I doubt I'll get to 50 in the next 12 months. On the other hand, I'm travelling through Asia so the books I buy are reasonably often by POC and some will be less known. I'll go back and review some recently read ones, too, as I want to pimp them.

I heard of Shirley Lim's Princess Shawl, a children's book set in Singapore and historical Malaysia, from Nurul Huda's article, "The Heroic Journey in Shirley Lim’s Princess Shawl" published recently in Cabinet des Fees, and soon afterwards I visited Malaysia so looked out for it in KL's bookstores.

The book cover description:
Mei Li inherits a shawl from a grand-aunt she doesn't know, which whisks her to historical times and places. Before she turns ten in two weeks, she must rescue the Chinese princess, Li Po, from the barren island where the wicked bomoh has exiled her. Mei Li meets women in Singapore, Cameron Highlands and Malacca who teach her about courage, running, trust and skills such as cooking, nursing, and climbing mountains. With the help of a magic hairpin, of special rouge and of water that can bring you home, she succeeds in uniting the Princess with the brace Sultan Mansur.

It's hard for me to review this because I don't read books aimed at such young children. The plot moved quickly, without the kind of depth and consideration I prefer, but that's intentional. I had a lot of fun reading it, though. Mei Li is a brave, determined heroine - while adult gifts and lessons are essential to her success, her own achievements are equally essential and impressive. The historical periods she passes through are not especially fleshed out, but the focus is more on Mei Li's interactions with her ancestors. These are quite interesting. Nenek talks to her about the arts of Nyonya (Straits-born Chinese) women. The Buddhist abbess Poh Li has turned her temple into a hospital and treats Malay, Chinese, Arab, Dutch and Portuguese battle-injured indiscriminately, and requires Mei Li to help. My major disappointment was the encounter with the bomoh, which lacked the degree of confrontation I'd have liked. I also found the depiction of true love quite silly.

I suspect I'd have really enjoyed this book as a girl, back when my age was also a single number, and definitely recommend it for anyone with kids at that kind of age (or those who, unlike me, don't mostly stick to adult-targeted lit). It's got adventure, time travel to interesting places, and a brave girl-heroine. Annoyingly, I think it's going to be hard to acquire outside Malaysia and Singapore (or SE Asian countries with a Kinokuniya). It's published by Maya Press, ISBN 978-983-2737-43-8.
[identity profile] cyphomandra.livejournal.com
Laurence Yep, The traitor. This is the fourth book, chronologically, in Yep's Golden Mountain series - I read Dragonwings (set next, chronologically, but written earlier) years ago, when I was obsessed with fantasy (it was next to Jane Yolen's dragon books, and I picked it up assuming it was similar), and liked it but was grumpy about encountering only metaphorical dragons. Currently I am grumpy about endless fantasy trilogies instead, so possibly I should have gone back to these earlier - I hadn't realised until I picked this up that the series was now up to nine books.

Laurence Yep, The traitor. )

Caryl Phillips, The nature of blood. )

And it's beautifully written but unremittingly bleak. I've read a lot of good but depressing books recently, and although I've enjoyed them I wouldn't mind something lighter for contrast. Maybe I should avoid literary fiction in general (it hasn't been ending well for me for a while!) but I thought I might just take this opportunity to ask the community if they had any recommendations for this challenge that were a bit more upbeat, and weren't children's or YA - other genre is fine.
[identity profile] cyphomandra.livejournal.com
Isabel Waiti-Mulholland, Inna Furey. The bit at the back of the book lists four more books in this series, but I’ve never seen any of them (this book came out in 2007) and Google suggests that it’s not just me. Which is a shame, because this book is largely set-up, and I’d like to know where the author was going with it.

A new, strange, girl – Inna Furey – starts at Leanne’s school. When Leanne meets Inna late one night in the reserve outside her house, she discovers Inna’s secret – she can transform into a giant bird (Haast’s eagle, the largest known raptor – now extinct). But, when she changes, she isn’t herself anymore, and whatever she transforms into is taking over more and more often…

Isabel Waiti-Mulholland, Inna Furey. )

Natsuo Kirino, Grotesque. Two women working as prostitutes in Tokyo are murdered. Years earlier, they attended the same exclusive high school, along with the first, unnamed narrator, the older sister of one of those murdered (Yuriko). Yuriko was abnormally beautiful – a beauty described as grotesque – and the subsequent distortions this created for her and her sister reverberate through their lives.

Natsuo Kirino, Grotesque. )
ext_22487: Fangirl and proud (books!)
[identity profile] glinda-penguin.livejournal.com
I've been holding off on posting for a while as I had four books by Chinese authors out of the library and I wanted to review them all together. However, Beijing Coma is really interesting but really long so it'll be a while before I finish that and I have other books to write up.

In the Pond - Ha Jin

Read more... )

Wild Ginger - Anchee Min

Read more... )

The Garlic Ballads - Mo Yan

Read more... )

Haroun and the Sea of Stories - Salmon Rushdie

Read more... )

Low Fat Meals in Minutes - Ainsley Harriott

Read more... )
[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
A gorgeously illustrated and lively picture book retelling of the beginning of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. (One version of the latter here: The Monkey and the Monk: An Abridgment of The Journey to the West).

Given that it’s a picture book, it concludes once the companions are all assembled, with a note that the real story has only just begun. But it stands well on its own as a playful adventure with tons of action.

I shamefully confess that I haven’t yet read the original, though I have obtained the version I linked above, so I don’t know how accurate this version is. But it tells a good story and might be an easy introduction to the premise and the main characters.

Illustrated by L. K. Tay-Audouard.

Monkey: The Classic Chinese Adventure Tale
[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
This picture book briefly and simply tells the stories behind some Chinese idioms and references, like “Yu Gong Moves the Mountains” and “A Man From Zheng Buys Shoes.” The illustrations, in very different styles as they’re by different artists, are great. My favorites are the elegant and intricate work on “Yu Gong Moves the Mountains” and the bright, playful watercolors of “The Fox Borrows the Tiger’s Power and Prestige.”

The stories are interesting (some were familiar to me and some were not), about a fox who tricks a tiger, an old man who enlists his family to move mountains, two archers who learn lessons in concentration and skill, and a fool story. The language is flat, but maybe that’s the translation.

The stories had endings which felt a bit abrupt to me, as if they needed one or two more sentences. It’s not that they didn’t conclude, but that they ended the instant the story did, without further reflection or any call-back to the idiom itself. Perhaps this is my unfamiliarity with how the stories work in the culture, though, and other readers would feel that we are supposed to draw our own conclusions or would already be intimately familiar with the meaning, and so anything more would be being insultingly spoon-fed. If you get this for a child who isn’t already familiar with the sayings, it might require some explanation and discussion afterward.

Illustrated by He Youzhi, Ding Xiofang, Wang Xiaoming, and Dai Dunbang.

Stories behind Chinese Idioms (II)
[identity profile] osprey-archer.livejournal.com
Sandra Belton's Ernestine and Amanda has neither a plot nor particularly interesting characters nor, really, much of anything else to recommend it, except perhaps the salutary message that it's bad to mock fat people because fat people have feelings just like everyone else.

It's hard to imagine a child (for Ernestine and Amanda is a children's book) caring enough about the book to absorb that message, though. The story is told in alternating first person, which might have been interesting I hadn't kept getting confused who was speaking. The characters speak with much the same voice, except that Amanda harps about how fat Ernestine is, while Ernestine complains about how stuck up Amanda is.

One might imagine that by the end of the book Amanda would have seen the error in her ways, and Ernestine would forgive her for her former foolishness, which would have been cliched but would at least have given the book a direction - but no. Right up to the end each girl pounds the exact same note again and again, so the book is a repetitive journey to nowhere.

Also? It's apparently historical fiction. I didn't realize that until I looked the book up on the internet, though, so I can't say I think the time or place are well-described.
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
# 47 Sylvia Emmerton, My Mob Going to the Beach (Black Ink Press, 2004)

This book was recommended on the list of *30 Books to Read Before You are Three* provided by my local library. I could tell before I saw it that it would be written by an Aboriginal author, as almost every time I see the word 'mob' it is being used by an Aboriginal Australian.

The book has simple, clear pictures by Jaquanna Elliott (who is descended from the Dunghutti people and lives in Townsville) and a nice, repetitive story about going to the beach by Sylvia Emmerton (who is a woman of Kalkadoon descent who was raised in Townsville).

Two thumbs up as a kiddies' book.
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
# 46 Oliver Chin, The Year of the Ox: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac (2008)

I like the whole idea of a series of children's books telling stories about the Chinese zodiac. I'm going to look for some others in my library.

This one is about the patient, hard working, big hearted Ox and her adventures with her little friend.

The illustrations are done by Miah Alcorn and the whole feel is of a 1960s Hanna Barbara cartoon, with bug eyed characters and a very stylised, plain background.


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