Thursday, January 22, 2015

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - Dai Sijie

I discovered this book when I was looking through all the banned books materials at the American Library Association's website and decided to randomly choose it as a book to meet this challenge. I'm really glad I did, as I discovered that this book was originally written in French (the author is from China originally, but now lives in France and writes in French) and it was made into a movie (which I will have to make a point of seeing), making it eligible for the French Bingo Challenge and the Diversity on the Shelf Challenges too.

As I've said before, one reason I like joining reading challenges is because I so often find cool books that I would otherwise not have heard of, like this book. It's a short book and it was a deceptively fast read, but the themes of censorship (yes, it's kind of ironic that a book with that as one of its themes is itself a victim of censorship), and the transformative power of good literature, are deep and well done. I know that I will be thinking about this book for a long time, asking myself exactly what the relationship between Balzac and the titular seamstress is - anything more I say will venture into potential spoiler territory. Sufficient to say this book is highly recommended and I would love to discuss it with anyone else who has read it!

If you're curious, the ALA banned/challenged books report for 2004 - 2005 has more info about the banning of this book.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sure of You - Armistead Maupin

This was evidently meant to be the last book in the Tales of the City series, and after reading it I can see that - this is the most "serious" volume of the entire series, the one that has the least amount of silliness and the most realistic relationships with the characters. For that reason I probably liked it the most so far; the farfetched hijinx of the first couple books have given way to serious issues of the mid/late 80s, including of course AIDS. This book too also shows the more serious relationships that have developed as the characters have grown, matured, or maybe in some cases they just got older. Had I read these books when they were initially published, I would be disappointed that the series was over, but luckily there are 3 more books I can't wait to get my hands on - hooray! So now I am looking forward to the continuing adventures of the current and former denizens of 28 Barbary Lane. Recommended.

Wynter #1 - Guy Hasson/Aron Elekes

This was a seriously striking sci-fi/dystopian comic. The storyline immediately drew me in, and it was complemented beautifully by the artwork. I don't read a lot of comics, because I love reading and they usually don't have enough words for me, but this one is a wonderful example of how to do a comic correctly: the comic format was perfect for this story, as the artwork enhances and helps tell the story, rather than just being an illustration. Much like Persepolis, I can't imagine this story being told in a traditional book format. And it's always nice to see a female protagonist with some spirit.

You can read this comic for free if you follow New Worlds Comics on Twitter, and I highly recommend that you do so! I am dying to see what happens next, so I'm going to check my book budget and grab the next couple installments. Recommended.

Making Up for Monday

I'm a day late for this one, but hey, better late than never, right?

This week's question is great: 

What character in a book would you like to sucker punch in the face?

My response:

I have several I can think of off the top of my head, so here they are in no particular order:

-Claude from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I'd love to send him flying across the barnyard.

-Kathy from House of Sand and Fog. Just ugh.

-DC Kerrigan's creepy neighbor in Jane Casey's series - he needs a couple punches, but I'd settle for one good one.

-Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter. I doubt I have to explain that choice too much.

Which characters would you like to sucker punch?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge 2015

2015 Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge

I'm so happy that The Dusky Literati is hosting this great challenge again this year. Last year I joined at the lowest level, but this year I am going to aim higher and sign up for the Garveyite level of 6 - 10 books. I want to read more books by Langston Hughes, among other authors that I looked into last year but ran out of time with too many other challenges. This challenge does involve books that aren't  currently on my TBR pile, but that's OK; I am feeling good about my reading so far this year and I am just going to make more time for this.

Please leave any book recommendations in the comments!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January Reread - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

This book is the first in a new feature on this blog, that of rereading a book that found its way on to my TBR pile, but remained unread because I felt guilty about rereading a book when there were so many other new-to-me books on the pile gathering dust. My TBR pile is finally under control in a way it hasn't been since my Borders Last Days sales book buying frenzy, thanks in no small part to both the TBR Pile Challenge and the Mount TBR Challenge, in addition to a lot of other challenges I've done in the past 4 years, so I felt now was a good time to clear these reread books away one per month.

I originally read this book around the time it was first published (2003), and I loved it. It seemed to really give the reader an experience - it encapsulated why I love a good book, which is that you can experience the inner life of another person. In this case, the person is someone who is a truly "unreliable narrator," in that their neurology makes it difficult to relate to other humans' emotions, so the reader is left to suss out much of the book using inference and reading between the lines. It makes the story much more funny, and sad, and touching. I'm glad I found this nice copy on the Library Sale shelves and brought it home, as I enjoyed it just as much the second time, and I will hang on to this copy for the time being. Highly recommended.

Edited to add: I was looking for something else and noticed that this book made the American Library Association's Books Challenged or Banned list for 2010 - 2011 and for 2005 - 2006 - so I am claiming this book for that challenge too.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Merit Birds - Kelley Powell

I liked this YA book set in Laos, a setting I don't encounter much in my reading. The use of multiple narrative threads was effective, and helped the reader understand some of the cultural differences between one of the main characters, who is from Canada, and the others, who are native Laotians. The story was not what I expected at all; it went in many different directions than I would have thought but that made it seem more realistic to me, since life is rarely lived in a simple narrative. The author did a nice job of integrating social issues into the story while not sidetracking the overall plot with preachy rhetoric or anything like that. Because I cared about the characters, I cared more about the social issues than I otherwise might have, if that makes sense. I will say that the ending was a bit abrupt, but that's not that big of a deal. Recommended. 

I'm using this book for the Color Coded Reading Challenge, since this year we can use book covers that display color as well as book titles. Obviously, this one will be for "red" - I think it's a striking cover and I like it a lot. I would definitely be drawn to this book at the bookstore or library.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sticky Branding - Jeremy Miller

Although I have never been too terribly interested in business and sales and economics and all that, I do find marketing interesting, so when I saw this book on NetGalley I was immediately intrigued. Unlike some business type books, where the writing gets bogged down in jargon and/or sales rhetoric, this book was well written, with clear, concise writing. I'm an examples person - I learn best when you tell me something and then give examples, and this book had a lot of good real world examples from real businesses to illustrate the author's points, as well as exercises to do if you are developing your own brand. All in all I found this to be an enjoyable book, and after reading it, I feel like I learned something. I'd definitely recommend this book to someone who was looking to develop a brand, and if someday I ever do own my own business, I'd definitely use this book as a reference. Recommended for readers who have an interest in business and marketing.

Double Take - J.K. Pendragon

This was an inventive and explicit short book that delved into nontraditional... well, nontraditional everything, including setting and characters. The story was done well and I liked the setting, as it added a nice visual backdrop to the plot. The main character is sympathetic but I would love to know more about xyr - maybe there will be more Teka stories to fill in the background. It seems like there is a lot of possibility for expansion in this fictional world. Recommended for adult fans of erotica.

LGBT Challenge 2015

It took me a while, but I finally found another LGBT reading challenge, and I know I will be reading books that will fall in this category, so I'm going to join just this one more challenge for 2015. This challenge is hosted by Niji Feels - here's a link to the signup post. I'm going to sign up for the Genre Hopper level, committing to reading 3-10 LGBT books from any genre this year, and since I've already read one and have more planned, I know I will be successful. As always, I will keep track of the books I read for this challenge in this post.

Please feel free to leave any recommendations for books to read for this challenge in the comments!

1. Significant Others - Armistead Maupin (LGBT author, characters, themes)
2. Double Take - J.K. Pendragon (LGBT author, characters, themes)
3. Sure of You - Armistead Maupin (LGBT author, characters, themes)