2016 Book Challenge: A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read

(Disclaimer- I was getting ready to do some blog updates and was super confused why my 2016 Book Challenge count didn’t add up to the number of months so far this year. After some head scratching and bafflement, I realized that I had somehow never posted the August review, even though it was sitting in my finished folder! So, as you all eagerly await not only September’s challenge book, but also the upcoming blog changes, here is August’s challenge entry. Apologizes for the ridiculously late post.)

2016 Book Challenge: A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read

51gorlj97gl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

August was a hectic month, part of it spent in Idaho and the rest taken up with a move to our nation’s lovely capital. With all of the upheaval, I was still able to enjoy reading my way through eleven books, mostly new release fiction, but I did manage to get a couple of narrative non-fiction titles in there, including my favorite recommendation right now, Patient H.M.  by Luke Dittrich. The one that breaks from the new release tangent I was on is this month’s 2016 Book Challenge Book, falling under the category of “a book I’ve been wanting to read.” Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok has been on my “to read” list for several years now (it was published in 2010), but kept getting pushed off until late one evening I was lying in bed, having finished my previous book (Miss Jane by Brad Watson- fantastic!) and had nothing in my queue. (The horror!) With a few clicks I was on the Boise Library website, searching for something intriguing that was currently available. Not too far through my scrolling, I came across Girl in Translation  and remembered that I had wanted to read it before, so a few more quick clicks and it was on my ereader.

With a soft spot for Chinese-themed literature, I was instantly drawn into the narrative of Kimberly Chang, a young girl whose mother immigrates to the United States from Hong Kong, searching for a better life for herself and her daughter. Not just a story of a hard working mom and a high-achieving daughter, this book digs into how easy it is for jealous to erupt and how difficult it can be for families to feel as if they are being left behind when success comes to some but not all.

Immigration stories are such powerful narratives, bringing together the hopes and dreams of generations, but when well-written, also explore the difficulties in not only achieving those dreams in a mere generation, but also the conflict that occurs when the next generation doesn’t understand the history that has lead them to their current life. Coming to America may seem like an easy decision, but it can be powerfully painful and great literature shines a light on the complexities of what it means to “be American.” (I highly recommend the recently released Behold the Dreamers  by Imbolo Mbue, about a Cameroonian family facing difficult decisions about how much citizenship is really worth.)

Girl in Translation  was a quick read, but I must admit to being frustrated with the ending. Without needing a spoiler alert, I will say that I think Kwok’s ending was a bit unrealistic and left me with many questions, not only in terms of logistics of the way the story wraps up, but with inconsistencies in the character portrayal as well. Nevertheless, a disappointing ending does not turn me off to the book as a whole and I’m glad I finally took the chance to pick it up, albeit six years later.

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk’s 2016 Reading Challenge

– A book published this year (A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin)

A book you can finish in a day  (When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)

_____A book you’ve been meaning to read  (Girl In Translation  by Jean Kwok)

_____ A book recommended to you by a librarian

 A book you should have read in school (The Hounds of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle)

A book recommended for you by your spouse/partner, friend, child, or sibling (Jasper Fforde books)

A book published before you were born (And Then There Were Noneby Agatha Christie)

  A book that was banned at some point (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)

_____ A book you abandoned previously

_____ A book you own but have never read

_____ A book that intimidates you

A book you’ve read at least once (I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali)

 

Caldwell Perspective Review: A Hundred Thousand Worlds

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl

a-hundred-thousands-worlds

 

Decisions have consequences, but sometimes those consequences take a bit of time to catch up, which is just the case for Valerie Torrey. Six years ago, Torrey kidnapped her son (although the famous actor/ absentee father didn’t exactly protest), but now he wants back into Alex’s life, which means Torrey agrees to hand him over to his dad for two years, just enough to make up for missed visitations, rather than face court involvement. In a final family trip, Torrey, a famous sci-fi actor herself, decides to travel from her home base in New York to Los Angeles, crossing the country with the comic con tour schedule, taking Alex along on one last adventure. Both Alex and Val befriend a variety of comic con regulars: comic writers, artists, cosplayers, and the people who keep the industry ticking, both the executives and the fans.

The timing could not be more perfect for this book, as the Boise Public Library just hosted their outstanding annual comic con on Saturday, August 27. As we round out the summer, pick up a copy of A Hundred Thousand Worlds and drop by the Library! for information about next’s year’s comic con plans.

“Part of the job of adults was to set limits. But the last rule, the unspoken rule of any story or journey, is that all limits are suspect. All warnings show only the point where the last story stopped, the boundary past which the map is unmapped. The Kingdom of Here There Be Dragons is the province of explorers, magicians, and kids.”
― Bob Proehl, A Hundred Thousand Worlds

2016 Book Challenge- A Book You Should Have Read in School

2016 Book Challenge- A Book You Should Have Read in School

cover_hound_of_baskervilles_1902

I’m a little behind on my 2016 Book Challenge write ups, but not behind on the reading itself. The reading has definitely been happening, but the around-the-world-move has put a damper on the time I should be spending getting these posts ready to go. (Kuala Lumpur to Boise to Washington DC- bonus room living and then a hotel room with *terrible* internet. None of these are good posting conditions! We officially move into our Chinatown place this Saturday, so here’s hoping life falls back into some semblance of order.)

My July Book Challenge topic was “a book you should have read in school.” I’m going with The Hounds of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. I mainly went with this pick because my niece *was* reading it for school and I was helping her with a paper she had to write before the new year started and it has been decades since my last reading, which was probably in college. I definitely did not read this one in high school.

First of all, I have to question why I didn’t read this in high school. I’m really not sure. I took a lot of English classes at that time, but wasn’t as intrigued by the literary world as I am today. If memory serves, I did the reading required of me, but am not sure I did much beyond that. Thinking back to those three years at Caldwell High (at that time, freshman were still in the junior high), I can’t remember ever checking out a book from the school library. I remember going in to do a bit of research (mostly encyclopedia, as this was before the days of the wonderful Worldwide Web) or going for a class activity, but it is not somewhere I spent much time. (Highly strange, I know! When I was teaching, we were in the school library at least every week and we walked to the local public library a minimum of one time each quarter. Libraries are where it is at!) This lack of my own reading in high school makes me thrilled when I see my niece’s reading lists. While I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more diversity and modern additions to them, at least they exist. Looking back, I’m not sure what I had going on in this area during high school. I really don’t.

Other than being excited that it was on a reading list, I’ve been in a bit of a Sherlock-phase lately, as the genre (it is nearly is its own designation at this point!) has become popular with the TV producers of the world. I started with the BBC one last winter and ran through all the episodes available (so few per season, why BBC??) and then went to Elementary, which must have been on cable TV, but popped upon Malaysian Netflix. Sadly, I only made it through a couple of seasons before moving back and it isn’t on US Netflix. (Can I use my VPN to go the opposite direction?)

I loved jumping into the original Doyle book after my recent modern-day binge. Not only did it give me a renewed love of the literature itself, but I also found myself impressed by the ways Sherlock’s character has been brought to life in a contemporary setting. Fessing up to sheer nerdiness, I must admit to having loved getting to sit down over empanadas and coffee (two different meetings, those things do not go together well!) to talk about books with my niece as she prepared for her paper. From our discussions, one thing that stood out to me in relation to the difference between the literature and the shows is what it takes to draw in an audience. When Doyle was writing, a huge dog covered in glowing powder was enough to set readers on edge. Imagining being alone on the moors at night, the howling of mysterious canines and the possibility of a horrible, yet unexplained death was just the stuff to keep a reader turning pages. The literary imagery was enough. With today’s amazing technology and production abilities, it seems that the level of detail and perfection needed to induce that same anxiety exists at a much higher bar. I’m not sure today’s reader has the same petrified reaction to The Hounds of Baskervilles as they did a hundred years ago, and yet, the writing itself holds up. The characters still ring true. This is why certain books are classics. And The Hounds of Baskervilles has earned its place on that roster.

Getting the chance to reread The Hounds of Baskervilles alongside my niece was a treat! While it may not seem like a typical summer “beach read,” it was the prefect July pick.

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk’s 2016 Reading Challenge

A book published this year (A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin)

A book you can finish in a day  (When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)

_____A book you’ve been meaning to read

_____ A book recommended to you by a librarian

 A book you should have read in school (The Hounds of Baskervilles  by Arthur Conan Doyle)

A book recommended for you by your spouse/partner, friend, child, or sibling (Jasper Fforde books)

A book published before you were born (And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie)

  A book that was banned at some point (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)

_____ A book you abandoned previously

_____ A book you own but have never read

_____ A book that intimidates you

A book you’ve read at least once (I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced  by Nujood Ali)

 

 

2016 Book Challenge- A Book Recommended by a Friend

2016 Book Challenge- A Book Recommended by a Friend

jf

When I think about this last June, I can’t decide if it flew by or dragged along. Looking back at all that happened over the last thirty days, those early ones seem like they were eons ago, but at the same time, with it being my last full month in Kuala Lumpur, time went way too fast for my liking. Even with Thad’s embassy Fourth of July bash, our adventure caving trip to Mulu and getting ready to put everything we own into boxes (again!) I did manage to read twelve books this month, a number I found surprisingly high when I went back to my GoodReads account to check.

For this month’s reading challenge, I decided to expand a bit and rather than just read a book recommended by a friend, I went with an entirely new author. (New to me. The internet seems to be well-versed and he’s been publishing for over a decade. I guess I was way out of the loop on this one.) A friend/colleague was telling me about Jasper Fforde, who I was initially drawn to because of his awesome last name. I want a name that starts with two of the same consonants. Maybe I will start going by Mmichelle or Sshell. (The second sounds a bit to snake-like for my liking though.)

Through the month, I got to three of Fford’s books, one stand-alone and two that are part of a literary detective series. After expressing an interesting in Fforde, Nathan brought me a pile of books, mostly part of the Thursday Next detective series, so in I dove. I knew I only had June to make any headway on the books, since I’d have to give the stack back at the end of the month, done or not. I started with The Big Over Easy, a “murder mystery” where the deceased is none other than Humpty Dumpty. This book had me laughing out loud in places. The wittiness of the writing caught me off guard, but had me wishing the copy was my own so I could highlight especially clever phrases.

After thoroughly enjoying the nursery rhyme crimes of The Big Over Easy, I picked up the first in Fforde’s highly popular Thursday Next detective series, The Jane Eyre Affair. Again, the one-liners throughout the book kept me intrigued and I loved the way the author ties reality and fiction into a seamless world where their coexistence isn’t questioned, but I must admit that my favorite part of the Thursday Next books is the side bit where dodos are coveted pets and they “plock, plock” their way around the narrative. Now, I really want a pet dodo!

Overall, I would say that the Fforde books, especially the Thursday Next series, are great for planes and beaches. I’m not a huge detective novel fan, but the literary references keep me guessing, which I love. They are paced quick enough to make a long plane ride a little less painful, but without the inane babbling of what I would normally term a “beach read.” I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next in the series right away, but I will be keeping an eye of Fford and his future publications. He is a great new addition to my reading list. Thanks for the suggestion, Nathan!

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk’s 2016 Reading Challenge

_____ A book published this year– (A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin)

_____A book you can finish in a day-  (When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)

_____A book you’ve been meaning to read

_____ A book recommended to you by a librarian

_____ A book you should have read in school

_____ A book chosen for you by your spouse/partner, friend, child or sibling (Jasper Fforde books)

_____ A book published before you were born (And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie)

_____ A book that was banned at some point  (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)

_____ A book you abandoned previously

_____ A book you own but have never read

_____ A book that intimidates you

____ A book you’ve read at least once   (I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced  by Nujood Ali)

 

2016 Book Challenge- A Book You’ve Read at Least Once

2016 Book Challenge- A Book You’ve Read at Least Once

nujood

I just realized, about two hours ago, that today is the last day of April. How did that happen? It seems like March was just wrapping up. Part of my “where did April go?” issue stems from the fact that I was on work travel to Vietnam for three weeks of the month, so they were a weird “limbo” time that made the month just disappear.  Being a solo-traveler for a good part of the month gave me some great reading time, plus the abundance of coffee shops around Ho Chi Minh City provided the perfect ambiance to settle in with a good book time and time again, so in April I finished fourteen books, many that deserve discussion, but in sticking with the end of the month wrap up for the reading challenge, this month’s topic will be “a book you’ve read at least once.”

Although not the intended topic for the month, this ended up being a perfect fit because of the work we are doing in the consular section at the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Since Embassy Sana’a (Yemen) closed a bit over a year ago, our embassy has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Yemeni cases we are dealing with, both in terms of immigrant visas, as well as American Citizen Services for Yemeni-Americans. We have three staff members who used to work in Sana’a, who have joined us here in Kuala Lumpur, and are a blessing to our section in many ways. Chatting with one of these fantastic ladies earlier in the month, she recommended I read I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui, with Linda Coverdale (translator). I first read this book several years ago and honestly didn’t remember a lot of the details of Nujood’s story, but I had given it only two stars on GoodReads and I remember being frustrated with sparse narration of the story. I am not sure if that is the only reason I gave it just two stars, but at the time I may have found much of the story difficult to comprehend on a human/emotional level.

When my colleague recommended the book, I thought not only was this a perfect tie-in with the work I was doing at the embassy, but I instantly knew it would be my book challenge book of the month! I am not a huge re-reader of books, not because I don’t love the stories, but because I can’t help but pick up the newest publications, so my old favorites get pushed back as my to-read list fills up each month with all the great things coming out right now. This was a great way to go back and read a book again, and in this case, changed my entire opinion of the story.

My new connection to Yemen and my regular interactions with Yemeni people let me see Nujood’s tale through a whole new light. Yes, the narration was still sparse and the ending was not satisfying on a literary level (of course, what happened in the end is what happened and I don’t want a false-ending, but I think more follow-up and more of an ending would have benefited the final publication), I found the story itself to be much more powerful this time around. The bravery exhibited by Nujood, a ten year old child, is astounding. Not only did she have to fight against tribal customs and family rituals, but she confronted government itself- never an easy task regardless of age/nationality. The risks she took to save herself were immense and the fact that she was able to find the right people at the right time amazing. (The first time I read the book, I think I found this too coincidental to be entirely accurate, but with a new perspective on the country, I was less bothered by this detail on my re-read.)

What I find most fascinating about this month’s challenge read is just how differently I see this book the second time through. It backs up the idea that one never really reads the same book again, as each time we are in a different place in our lives, bringing a different perspective to the narrative at hand.  The first time I read this book, I was not at all thrilled. I didn’t hate it, but was probably not recommending it to others. The tables have turned. I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced is a short book, fewer than two hundred pages, so can be read in a day or two. It is a fascinating look at a country and culture that are not well-known by most Americans (how many could point to Yemen on a map?) which can speak to a variety of readers. I highly recommend this one to just about anyone.

 

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk’s 2016 Reading Challenge

_____ A book published this year– (A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin)

_____A book you can finish in a day-  (When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)

_____A book you’ve been meaning to read

_____ A book recommended to you by a librarian

_____ A book you should have read in school

_____ A book chosen for you by your spouse/partner, best friend, child or sibling

_____ A book published before you were born

_____ A book that was banned at some point  (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)

_____ A book you abandoned previously

_____ A book you own but have never read

_____ A book that intimidates you

_____ A book you’ve read at least once   (I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced  by Nujood Ali)

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Ho Chi Minh City

As my three weeks of TDY (temporary duty, meaning I am still working for State, but at a different post/different country) come to a close in Ho Chi Minh City, I’ve discovered something about myself as a solo-traveler. Yes, I want to see all of the main sights and yes, I will pay to go to the top of a tall building to look out over the city. Yes, I will wander around the museum and try to make sense of awkwardly worded plaques and yes, I will get a little lost in my wanderings as long as I have a card for the hotel to hop in a cab in case I get really lost. I enjoy all of these things and have spent several afternoons and weekends doing all of it in and around HCMC, but one of my favorite pastimes here, on my own, has been finding a great spot to pull out my book and waste away an hour or two reading/people watching. (Is it really wasting? ? Probably not.)

When Thad and I travel together, we are on the move constantly, exploring new places and enjoying the trip together. With your favorite travel-buddy along, there is always something to chat about- whether it is what you saw earlier in the day or what is in the plans for tomorrow’s seeing. Solo though, those conversations all stay in my head (well, mostly- I have been known to talk to myself occasionally, but it is usually while I am on the move, sorting out directions or plans). Instead, I used my downtime from touring to relax in the shade with a book and a cool drink, sometimes on a park bench and others at a café.  (On the same theme, I also sent out spades of postcards as I enjoyed my strawberry smoothies, and sunshine, so for those in the loop, be on the lookout in about a month! I’m guessing that with the local post, that timeline isn’t too much of stretch.)

It was not a bad way to spend a few weeks.

Of course, I still prefer to travel as a couple. We’ve got almost eighteen years of co-traveling under our belts, so we’re pretty good at the divide and conquer aspects of adventure, but when that isn’t in the cards, I apparently do quite well just me, a book and a view.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.