Categories
Adult Fiction Books

The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

illicithappiness

The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph is written in the style of  Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a Czech novel of existentialism and bohemia before the Soviet invasion.  Like Kundera’s work, Joseph’s piece is important.  Unlike Kundera’s novel, Joseph’s tale reads lightly, even though much of the drama within is sad.  Here’s a bit from the publishers:

A smart, wry work that includes mystery, philosophy, and an unlikely love story, this book addresses many encompassing characteristics of domestic life in southern India, from male-female dynamics to the value of reputation to the overwhelming pressures of the education system.

It has been three years since seventeen-year-old, gifted cartoonist Unni Chacko mysteriously fell from the balcony in his home to his death. His family—father Ousep, a failed novelist, banished journalist, who smokes two cigarettes at once “because three is too much”; mother Mariamma, who stretches the family’s money, raises their two boys, and, in her spare time, gleefully fantasizes about her husband dying; and twelve-year-old, love-struck brother Thoma, who wears his dead brother’s hand-me-downs—have coped by not coping. When the post office delivers a comic drawn by Unni that had been lost in the mail since his death, Ousep ventures on a quest to understand his son and rewrite his family’s story.

Manu Joseph won the 2011 PEN/Open Book Award for his debut novel, Serious Men. A journalist for the International Herald Tribune, Joseph lives in New Delhi…

There’s a sort of tragic humor in the novel that I like.  It’s the kind of storytelling that reminds me of Haroun and the Sea of Stories and even Life of Pi.  There is a fantastical element to Indian storytelling that appeals to me.  I think it shows that fantasy doesn’t have to mean witches, dinosaurs, and flying saucers.  I look forward to discovering more Indian writers.

 

 

Categories
Adult Fiction Books

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Oh my oh my I can’t believe how much I loved When She Woke by Hillary Jordan!

whenshewoke2 Collage

When She Woke is a modern day retelling of The Scarlet Letter, only BETTER! Think of what life could be like maybe 10 or 20 years in the future.  Some of the references to electronics and politics make you stop and think “hey wait, IS this a real office?”.

Yeah, it’s THAT good.

Plus, there’s controversy and controversy makes you feel passionate about something.  One way or another you’re going to have an opinion about our protagonist and her plight.

Here’s the lowdown: Hannah has an affair with the married very charismatic pastor of a very large and influential church in Texas.  She gets pregnant and has an abortion, all to protect Pastor Famous. Are you hooked yet?

While in jail, Hannah’s skin color is turned red, for murder.  Other criminals can be melachromed different colors: yellow, blue, green but red is the most heinous color of all.

Interwoven within the story are religious zealots, right wing pro choice zealots, racial and socio economic disparity issues and political views. Jordan blues the line so well I never quite knew whether I was watching CNN or reading a book or remembering my life in Texas.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

I’m giving it 4 paws because she includes all facets of diversity within the story.

Unconventional Librarian 4paws

Categories
Adult Fiction Diversity Reading Challenge

I Did NOT Want to Finish Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I’m such a goober when it comes to this book. Ok, not just this book but lots of books. I’ve been wanting to read Another Brooklyn for a while and put off scooping it because of this dilemma: once you read a book for the first time you can never read it again for the first time.

Weird, right? So that first time is magical. It’s like opening up a present you’ve been waiting for and you can never get that euphoria back. I purchased Another Brooklyn from Busboys & Poets in DC a few months ago and I promptly put it on my desk promising myself I wouldn’t read it.

I wanted to read it, mind you. It’s just that once you read it, you can never read it again for the first time (see above). l put it off and put it off until I couldn’t wait any longer and I finally cracked the spine. Now I warn you this book is not a YA book but older teens could certainly handle it. There are mature issues inside but I’ve read rape scenes in YA books that are more chilling than the facts within this  beautifully written novel. And to be sure, there are no rape scenes in Another Brooklyn. It’s the tale of one young woman who grows up learning to lean on a circle of girlfriends as they all mature into womanhood.

As the girls grow, there are perhaps your typical scenarios that you might encounter in an inner city neighborhood: drug use, dating, sex, unnecessary advances from older men, school, hunger, homelessness, etc. Written in prose, though, the story unfolds so beautifully  that I literally DID NOT WANT TO FINISH THE BOOK.

I dragged the story out as long as I could, which is difficult because the book is short, a mere 177 pages.  I loved reading the book, getting lost in the prose as if Woodson were writing a poem just for me. As my own son now lives in Brooklyn I like to imagine what the town looked like in Woodson’s 1970s Brooklyn, before cell phones, and iPhones, and Uber.

I will definitely revisit Another Brooklyn, because books can be enjoyed more than once. Another Brooklyn also qualifies for the Diversity Reading Challenge.

Categories
Adult Fiction Books Children Reviews Young Adult

Brooklyn Love by Yael Levy

 can occasionally be found reading a juicy chick lit novel, especially during the summer when I want to relax.

Never in my wildest imaginations would I envision myself reading an Orthodox Jewish love story.  I just never thought these things existed.  To be sure, I read alot of books about Jews and their plight in history(Anne Frank, The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Giver, Sarah’s Key, I am Forbidden) but Brooklyn Love, by Yael Levy, is a tale of 3 young Jewish women on a quest to get married; a book that I didn’t think existed.

 

Brooklyn Love is set in modern day Brooklyn, New York, an enclave for the Jewish community, orthodox especially.  The tale weaves around the lives of Hindy, Leah, and Rachel who are approximately 19-20 years old and searching for good Jewish husbands as their religion and their culture demands.  Don’t let the premise fool you.  The story is endearing, funny, and heartbreaking.  These brave young women must struggle with what they want to do and what they must do.  Imagine a slumber party in which young women gorge themselves over pizza and soda.  These women look at photos of hamburgers on the internet and drool over them because they are forbidden.  The scene is funny because you realize they are just like you in some ways.

photo courtesy Wikipedia

If you’re like me, you’re intrigued by other cultures (aka food) and want to know more about them.  Yael Levy brings my two favorite topics together splendidly: food and books. The characters in the story are always eating or preparing or cleaning up after a meal. You can practically smell the mouth-watering cholent (Jewish stew) simmering in the crockpot on Friday evenings. What family doesn’t enjoy eating a yummy family dinner together?

Another large part of Brooklyn Love is the fashion.  Orthodox Jewish men and women have strict rules about fashion and are supposed to be covered up.  You’ve probably seen men dressed like this before:

photo courtesy Jewish Daily Report

And you’ve probably seen the women dressed like this:

photos courtesy Shmeeze

An interesting note about the characters in this story is that many of them where wealthy and dressed very fashionably, as the young lady on the left.  While her outfit is not as demure or conservative as the ladies on the right, in some segments it might be seen as appropriate.  I imagine Rachel to look like the woman on the left and our beautiful Hindy to look like the woman in the black sweater on the right.

And speaking of Hindy.  Oh how you’ll love her.  She is the most beautiful character I’ve read in a long time. You will adore her: she’s balding and overweight but has the most beautiful, loving personality.

You’ll cheer, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll scratch your head while reading Brooklyn Love.  Go out and get the book.  Today.  This is a book the whole family can enjoy!

I give Brooklyn Love four paws for its insightful and in depth look at Orthodox Jewish life!

 

 

Categories
Adult Fiction Books poems

Kent Evans – A Crash Course on the Anatomy of Robots

An Unconventional Librarian likes to have a little bit of every day and I’ve managed to bring you a good time yet again.  You’re welcome.  A few years ago I managed to talk author Kent Evans into taking the Ford 99 Test for his book,  “A Crash Course on the Anatomy of Robots.”  Kent is half British, so as you read his report, do it in your best British accent. Be advised: there is LANGUAGE in this post, so if you’re squeamish, do your thing.  Otherwise, ENJOY!

A Crash Course on the Anatomy of Robots Ford 99 Test Thoughts

Hmm… so being woefully unaware of Ford Maddox Ford and his contributions to English literature, I was curious to see how I’d fair on his test. Considering my new book Crash Course flows freely between forms as diverse as 3rd person narrative, blogs, journal entries, and diatribes speaking directly to the reader – I guess it was inevitable that page 99 would land on the hardest thing for me to summarize: poetry.

Page 99 sits towards the beginning of a chapter called Anatomy of a Poet (part 1); within the larger section Portrait of an Artist as a Not So Young Man (A Crash Course on Survival).  They are exactly what they sound like, and this section is 3 pages into a narrative performance poem given as an example of the genre the protagonist is known for. Curiously enough, it is one of the few spots in the novel where race is tackled head on, as well as the main characters feelings about using it as a subject for art. He has been lamenting how his appearance (Asian, young, male), most especially as a performance poet, leads to the assumptions that one can:

tell you my state

like my scars and my eyes

which tell you my past

and who am I to say

“motherfucker you don’t know me!

Take your shit somewhere else!”

cause I accepted my cage

when I acknowledged you and your ignorant hypocrisy

 

Damien, the protagonist has grown frustrated that, as a Chinese American writer, everyone expects him to constantly write about and answer to his heritage. The character, in his mid-Twenties and living in mid-90’s New York, has written a piece which, whilst railing against this perceived perception, is the very sort of work he has been complaining about. Realizing this midway through the poem he switches gears and asks:

So what if I threw off these chains

And told you I was

Black

and Jewish

 and a little Swiss Dutch girl?

what if I told you I was

an elephant

or a child

or a comet chewing quasars?

 

The question he asks himself and the fictional audience, as well as the reader, is:

 

Would you say I was buggin’?

or nuts?

or deranged?

Would you call me a poser?  

or wannabe?

 

The inquiry is both Damien’s internal monologue and a sincere questioning of how he views himself, and other slam poets of this era. It also exposes some of his insecurities, like his feeling of robot like isolation that contrasts his desperate desire to connect, which ride below the surface of the novel as a whole.

Note: Amusingly enough, this section is one of the 8 in the novel which I wrote and recorded musical accompaniment for. It comes free with some electronic versions; otherwise it’s available on iTunes, Amazon, and whatever you can think of.  Check 2:50-4:15 on track 5, and see how an audio test of good old Ford holds up.

 

I’d say a little deranged, Kent, but what’s wrong with that?

And you thought poetry was dry and boring.  Yay for broetry!

How’d you do with your British accent? Mine needs a little work; I sound like Eliza Doolittle, but whatevs, right?

Four paws for ethnic diversity!

Categories
Adult Fiction Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

Love Animals? Why not read Endangered by Eliot Shrefer?

 

Love Animals? Why not read Endangered
by Eliot Shrefer?

 

Oh how I LOVE this book!

Endangered by Eliot Shrefer

 

What’s that little teeny weeny face down there poking out?

A bonobo!

photo courtesy of Bonobo Conservation Initiative

cuuute or what?

Here’s what they’re saying about Endangered:

The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos–and herself–from a violent coup.

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sanctuary for bonobos, she’s not thrilled to be there. It’s her mother’s passion, and she’d rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.

So. You have bonobos. You have biracial teenage surviving in the jungle alone, caring for these bonobos who trust her.  You have great writing.  You have Endangered!

Great book for the Diversity Reading Challenge. Get it? Good.

 

Categories
Adult Fiction

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs is on my list to pack for vacation

I’m going on a late summer vacation shortly and choosing and packing books is always a chore. I want to TAKE ALL THE BOOKS!! But alas, one must pack more than one outfit for sanitary reasons and books take up so much room. Given these burdens of space I take my book packing duties very seriously.  Here’s one I’m thinking about taking:

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs

I’m super excited about this book mainly because, I hear the musical is so dang fantastic. What’s the next best thing to seeing a musical? Yeppers, reading a book. Now if I could only get Lin Manuel Miranda to narrate it for me. But, Mr. Pam might not give up his seat on the plane, so I guess I’ll just hafta suffer and read it myself. No matter, I’m a fan of historical fiction and I insist on taking a romance to the beach. That’s what beaches are for, right?

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Revolution, and featuring a cast of iconic characters such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette, The Hamilton Affair tells the sweeping, tumultuous, true love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from tremulous beginning to bittersweet ending—his at a dueling ground on the shores of the Hudson River, hers more than half a century later after a brave, successful life.

I’m kinda digging the idea of his beloved Elizabeth Schuyler beginning an orphanage too. I think I’ll carry this book on so that I can pack more in my suitcase. Wait a minute, my husband is bringing a suitcase too!

What do you like to read on vacation?

 

 

 

 

 

40% off new school styles at Gymboree

Categories
Adult Fiction

What’s In My Ear: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I know you can’t believe I would read something not related to children or diversity, right?

5364

Yes, I’ll admit I’m one of the scores of women smitten by young Jamie Frazer from Outlander. I’m listening to book two in preparation for the series return in April, I believe.

Have you read the series? What do you think? Who knew I’d be a sucker for a kilt?

And why haven’t you invited me over to your Jamie book club?

Categories
Adult Fiction

I Just Finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I Just Finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and I feel kinda gross. I feel betrayed, dirty, unsure, and confused. Like a line from the late David Bowie’s song: Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed pretty much sums up how I feel about Girl on the Train.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I confess to listening to this on audio during my commute. The main reader was lovely. The minor readers were ok. Still, there were times when I FORCED myself to drive more so that I could continue listening to the story. So I guess going in I knew that our narrator was unreliable. But not in the way that I suspected, so I kept second guessing myself and wondering when she would betray me. Ha! Little did I know! Many comparisons have been made to Gone Girl, which I guess is partly accurate: you don’t know who to trust, you’re flattened by the behavior of certain characters, and you’re edgy not knowing who to trust and whose story is believable. I think Amy’s story is more sickening because you learn early on that she’s messed up. We don’t learn about Megan’s mindset until later and it feels a bit contrived. Like an afterthought.

This is a great title for book clubs if you have time for a thorough decomposition of each of the characters’ flaws. Otherwise, a room full of “Oh he’s a jerk” and “I didn’t see THAT coming” will become redundant quickly.

 

Categories
2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Adult Fiction

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I heard that this book was going to be required reading for all 16 year olds in Sweden I decided to give it a go. The book is short, should take you about 3o minutes to read it so there’s really no excuse to not read it. You’re probably a feminist and don’t realize it.

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is not the bra burning, marching in the streets feminism of your mom’s. I mean, ew, who wants to think about your mom and her bra???

But what you should think about is the fact that women still aren’t being treated equally and that while things are better here in the US, they are by no means the way they should be. Also? In other countries they are worse. So really, if you have a mom, a grandmom, a sister, or an Auntie, do yourself a solid and become a feminist. One day you will probably have a daughter or a sister or an Auntie or a grandma or a mom and you will be ticked off if they aren’t treated fairly.

Or maybe you’re just a selfish person who doesn’t care about anyone other than themself?

Naw, you’re better than that. Women are awesome people and need to be treated better all over the world cuz when one group suffers, we all suffer.

If you’re not sure how women are treated less than men, ask one. They’ll tell you.

And then, you can BOTH be feminists.

And then we can all have cake.

Feminist Cake.

Cuz equality tastes good.

Hey, guess what? This title can count toward the Diversity Reading Challenge!

Totally clean for kids too!

P.S. I want to hang with Chimamanda: Call your bestie PammyPam!