Monday, September 30, 2013

September - This Month in Reading

Yikes, another month has zoomed out of my reach exactly like the sand through the hourglass cliche. I read 5 books this month, but unfortunately none of the books was for any challenges - oh well! Not sure what was going there.

So for October, I think I will simply try to read one book for the TBR Pile Challenge. Any other reading that happens can be a happy addition to getting rid of the TBR pile.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

American Fuji - Sara Backer

This book was enjoyable enough, but at times I didn't understand the motivations for some of the main character's actions. At times it seemed like she could have simply explained things in plain language to clear up an issue and chose not to instead... which is exactly the roundabout way of communicating that Japanese people are accused of having in this book. Not sure what the author was going for there - ?

One thing this book had going for it was the inclusion of a decent amount of Japanese and other language explanations, and even a scene featuring a language class, which as a language junkie I loved. I actually took a year of college-level Japanese MANY years ago, so unfortunately I have forgotten most of it, but I did recognize words here and there and that made me happy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon

This book's beautiful cover art has been tempting me for a few years now, but I managed to avoid it until it popped up on the Library Sale shelves for 50 cents and I took the plunge. I have mixed feelings about the author, as I feel he's talented but I've read a couple of his books now and I feel like they don't quite live up to the hype. This was no exception. I really liked the main characters and the noir mood/setting, and the story drew me in, but the resolution just ... wasn't as satisfying as I might have liked. That said, the writing was excellent.

One thing I feel compelled to mention is my shock at reading that some reviewers dogged the book as being full of Yiddish and therefore incomprehensible. Which book were these people reading? I'm a shiksa* with just a passing knowledge of random Yiddish words beyond several variations of oy vey**, but this book is not so full of Yiddish that those with no knowledge of it would have trouble understanding the book as written. In addition, the book includes a glossary so.... not sure what this ridiculous, baseless criticism is really about. As a language person (so therefore I am admittedly biased to enjoy the inclusion of other languages in books) I found this annoying. For the record, I loved the Yiddish, including the slang the author invented.

*a not-Jewish female
** in case you're curious, my favorite is oy vey iz mir

Monday, September 16, 2013

Trixie Belden and the Mysterious Code - Kathryn Kenny

This book requires me to have a review that contains spoilers. I doubt this will be a problem, but just in case you've time-travelled to this blog and are a 12 year old girl from the early 60s eagerly awaiting this next book in the series, 1) sorry in advance if I give away all its secrets and 2) can I please borrow your time machine? 

OK, this book threw me a little. First, the titular code barely appears in the book at all, so the title doesn't match the contents well - but I had a hard time coming up with an alternative - "Trixie Belden and the Possible Antique Thieves" just doesn't sing out from the bookshelf, you know? Reading this book it was hard to shake the idea that it was a parody of books from this era written in modern times, as so many weird or silly things happen:

  • Trixie and Bobby are going home in a snowstorm and masked men rob them of a small wooden lapdesk 
  • Trixie, her brother, and their friend Jim are lost in a blizzard and end up spending the night in a deserted cabin; during this ordeal Jim almost gets lost in the blizzard trying to find wood to start a fire, and a strange old man returns the stolen lap desk to this deserted cabin during the height of the blizzard - but doesn't knock on the door to announce his presence, help them get home, help them collect wood, etc. 
  • The school board threatens to disband the kids' "secret club" that is so secret the entire town knows everything about it, including its name, all the members, etc. 
  • The book mainly centers on the ups and downs of putting on a charity antique show and sale to raise money for UNICEF - so the not-so-secret-club won't get disbanded by the school board - which shouldn't have any jurisdiction over a non-school-related club in the first place... ??? 
  • Mysteries, such as the code and a mysterious jewel box that's found in Honey's attic, are brought forth and then solved only a few pages later, lest we take time away from the antique show preparation 

I'm a fan of antiques and I have no problem supporting UNICEF, but this book was just out of place somehow compared to the other two books of this series I happen to own and have on hand. At the same time, its weirdness made it oddly endearing to me. It makes me wonder if the "Black Jacket Mystery" will end up being about how Trixie and her friends raise some chicks in the back yard after a cursory 2-page mystery about a newcomer to town who wears a black jacket and turns out to be selling chickens; or if the "Mystery of the Emeralds" is really just a half-page mixup about why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle after which Trixie and company spend the rest of the book riding horses through the woods after school. I joke because I love, really :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trixie Belden and the Mysterious Visitor - Julie Campbell

When I read these books I do have to ask myself - did people really ever live like this? Did kids really make "secret clubs" complete with matching embroidered jackets and etc.? In a way I kind of hope they did, even if in our modern times it seems hopelessly silly. If someone ever invents a time machine, I'll stop in a town like this and report back to you all here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion - Julie Campbell

Well, so much for reading for my challenges. Maybe because Fall has started, I wanted a sort of "comfort food" level of reading and so I revisited my old childhood "friend" Trixie Belden. The story isn't terribly complicated, the characters are rather simple, and the setting is a kind of small-town, just before World War II American life that probably never really existed. These books are a fast read that sometimes just hits the spot.