Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books by Azar Nafisi

5 stars
nonfiction/memoir/literary commentary
book club (my pick)
copy received for review

I love this book.

I finished it and just wanted to bask in it before starting anything else.

I want to read (or reread) all of the books she discusses and then read this again.

With a highlighter.

I picked it for book club and texted my high school English teacher to tell her to read it.

Now, it wasn't perfect... the rant against Common Core in the middle got to be a bit much.  Not necessarily because I disagreed with her point, but because her point got lost a bit in just ranting.

(Let's not talk about Common Core, though, okay? I think it's good and bad but that both sides' fanatics are making things worse. Balance, people.  We need it.)


I loved how her memoir stories were woven in with analysis.  I love discussing books and reading about her discussing books with her friends and students spoke to me.

It kind of makes me want to take a lit class.  (Until I think how terrifying homework would be with my five-kid-circus....)

I took pictures of pages with my phone to send quotes to my friend.

Read it.  Just go read it. :)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times by Anne Heller

4 stars
copy received for review

From GoodReads:

Hannah Arendt, one of the most gifted and provocative voices of her era, was a polarizing cultural theorist—extolled by her peers as a visionary and denounced by others as a fraud. Born in Prussia to assimilated Jewish parents, she escaped from Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and became best known for her critique of the world’s response to the evils of World War II.

A woman of many contradictions, Arendt learned to write in English only at the age of thirty-six, and yet her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, single-handedly altered the way generations of Americans and Europeans viewed fascism and genocide. Her most famous—and most divisive—work,Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, brought fierce controversy that continues to this day, exacerbated by the posthumous discovery that she had been the lover of the great romantic philosopher and Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger.

In this fast-paced, comprehensive biography, Anne Heller tracks the source of Arendt’s apparent contradictions and her greatest achievements, from a tumultuous childhood to her arrival as what she called a “conscious pariah”—one of those few people in every time and place who don’t “lose confidence in ourselves if society does not approve us” and will not “pay any price” to win acceptance.

I didn't actually know much (if anything) about Hannah Arendt before reading this.  I found the book fascinating and packed with information with seeming dense.

It was clear and easy-to-read without feeling simplified.

My only complaint would be there was some repetition... as though the author were concerned that people might only read some sections or not read them in order... or not remember anything from the previous sections.  This was possibly more apparent/annoying to me since I read the whole thing in a day.

All in all a good biography.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Picture Book Round-Up

(All received for review, brief reviews are my thoughts... haven't cornered the kids for their thoughts yet)

Officer Panda: Fingerprint Detective
by Ashley Crowley

Oh by goodness, this one is cute.  I'm seriously entertained.
Includes a little "Did you know" section with facts about fingerprints.

Little Critter: Just a Special Thanksgiving
by Mercer Mayer

We love Little Critter.  This one even has stickers! :)

Thanksgiving at the Tappletons'
by Eileen Spinelli

Meh.  Just not really a fan of this one.  Seemed like too much text for reading aloud to little ones... though they may be amused by all of the misadventures.

Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues
by Kimberly and James Dean

You know... I think I'm just kind of over Pete the Cat in general.  This latest installment is cute enough, I guess, but just doesn't do anything for me.

Imaginary Fred
by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers

I'm a fan of this one.  The whole idea of an imaginary friend who is worried about being forgotten and fading away and becomes friends with another imaginary friend... I love it.

Bonus-- middle grade that I haven't read yet
(I know, not super helpful)
Mr. Puffball Stunt Cat to the Stars
by Constance Lombardo

Yeah, I haven't read it, but it looks hilarious, so I'm just throwing it out there as a "hey, have you heard about this one?" kind of thing.  My kids love the Stick Dog books, and this seems similar.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Wild West of Louis L'Amour by Tim Champlin

An Illustrated Companion to the Frontier Fiction of an American Icon

3.5 stars
copy received for review

Confession: I've never read a Louis L'Amour book.  Actually... I'm not sure I've ever read a Western period.

I know, I know.  Travesty.

But, my grandpa LOVES Louis L'Amour and this looked really interesting, so I went for it.

And it was really interesting.  In fact, I wanted to give it 5 stars.  It's a gorgeous book, packed with amazing photos and tons of information.

So why didn't it get 5 stars?

Two things: awkward/screwy layout issues and ridiculously bad photo captions.

Layout: The division into chapters and what was in those chapters was just really odd in some cases.  Some parts were interesting and yet felt totally out of place.... like no one wanted to cut them but no one knew what to do with them either, so they were just stuck in somewhere.  (This was actually the less annoying... it probably only lost 1/2 a star here.)

Captions: Oh my gosh, the captions.  I don't know what people were thinking there.  Most of the captions are lifted right out of the text, first of all, which is really annoying because then you end up reading it twice.  Maybe it's just me and my OCD need to read all of the captions as well as the text, but oh this bugged me.  (Actually, it's not just me, because my very non-OCD husband also thought it was extremely annoying.)

The other problem with the captions-- half the time they didn't even tell you ANYTHING ABOUT THE PICTURE.  For example, one picture, I assume it was actually of Louis L'Amour, just said something about him.  Didn't refer to the picture at all.  Didn't say "seen here at age...." or anything.  Just a random fact about him.  Another picture had a few sentences about the Pony Express, which is really interesting except that it had nothing to do with the text OR THE PICTURE.  The caption ends by explaining that the picture is of a place nowhere near where the Pony Express would have ridden.  It's like they said "well, gee, this bit about the Pony Express doesn't actually belong anywhere, but it's too interesting to take out, so we'll just stick it with a random photo."


I know, I know, I'm probably being too nitpicky, but it drove me NUTS. 

NUTS, I tell you.

Anyway, it is honestly a really cool book, especially if you aren't bothered by weird captioning.  :) I'm going to give it to my grandpa. :)

And I'm going to read a Louis L'Amour.  I checked out Comstock Lode from the library. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Still Night in L.A. by Aram Saroyan

3 stars
r- 2?
copy received for review

So the subtitle is "A Detective Novel" but really it's more of a novella.  Very quick read.

It was interesting, and I liked the concept of the the cell phone photos throughout, though I wished they had seemed like they had anything to do with what was going on.

Also, there was a lot of random stray threads.  Normally I would say this is a "first novel" poor editing kind of problem, but in this case they actually seemed intentional in a "poetic chaos" kind of a way.

(Yeah, I know, poetic chaos probably isn't a thing.  I made it up.  It was the best descriptor I could come up with.)

All in all, not a bad mystery but not quite my thing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Buzz Kill by William Goodspeed

3 stars
r- 2.5
copy received for review

What a goofy ride, lol.

I found this one amusing but ultimately just kind of not my thing.

Probably funnier for those who have worked in large corporate settings.  Or any setting where they had a "pointy-haired boss" really. :)

It does have some "first novel" ish issues-- like heavy-headed descriptions of every character when they are introduced-- but overall it's a fun story with fun characters.