30 January 2004

Reads & Listens, January 2004


Sunshine by Robin McKinley
What a great book to start the new year with! If only the rest of the books I read turn out to be so good. Sunshine is very different from any other McKinley book I have read -- darker, harsher, richer. Because it was so different from what I expect from McKinley, I was a bit discombobulated for the first twenty or so pages. Once I let go of preconceptions and just went along with the book, I was completely smitten. Couldn't put it down. You should read it. Yes. Even you who don't read vampire stories, because the Rice books left a bad taste in your mouth.

I have to go buy a copy and I ain't loanin' it to anyone, you hear? Get your own copy.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus written & illus. by Mo Willems
Gah. I keep hearing good words about this book, but I don't see the fascination. On the other hand, I'm not three. Or a pigeon.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Maybe, I'm just Potter-ed out, but this book seemed neither as surprising nor as exciting as I had been given to believe. It was good, yes, but I don't think I'll be re-reading it.

I've just been utterly spoilt by Sunshine, you know.

Time to Pee! written & illus. by Mo Willems
Educational and fun book about, well, how to go pee "properly" with an easy to read page-by-page explanation of the whole process. The mice parading around with their celebratory signage are particularly amusing. (My copy belongs to the library so I didn't see the success chart or stickers that are supposed to be included, but I bet they're fun, too).

Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures -- A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl by Carmit Delman
Story of growing up in a rather complicated lifestyle as an Indian and a Jew in America. While the narrator's feelings of isolation are described quite well, the book suffers from under editing. On the other hand, the excepts from Nana-Bai's diary where quite interesting and, while it sounds terribly nosy, I should have liked to have read the whole thing.

Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction ed. by Sharyn November
Sixteen entirely new and never before published stories by some pretty renowned fantasy writers. The book's cover art was pretty nifty and what first encouraged me to pick it up. Seeing McKillip, Nix, Alexander, and Pierce (Meredith not Tamora) listed among the contributing authors made me bring it home. However, the collection turned out to be only good at best with many stories of middling appeal. 

Maybe, I expected too much?

Beyond Dolls & Guns: 101 Ways to Help Children Avoid Gender Bias by Susan Hoy Crawford
Nice little book full of simple steps to counter bias at home or school. Includes several informative appendixes ("Nonbiased, Inclusive Language," "Research Summaries," and "Famous Women in History") as well as a bibliography of nonsexist reference books.

Sextoys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide by Rachel Venning & Claire Cavanah
Everything a beginner would want to know about choosing and using a sex toy. Also covers basic anatomy and physiology, oral sex, bondage, lube, and condoms. Nicely designed and chock full of beautiful photographs (I want a Wondrous Vulva Puppet from a House O'Chicks if only because of its photograph).

The Pretender (Book One in the Liar's Club) by Celeste Bradley
An extremely amusing little romance. Lots of witty banter and plot with just a smidgen of pretty well written sex. Even though the book does include the ol' "oops, she's a virgin" sex scene and the incredibly annoying "she's increasing" epilogue, Pretender is one of the better romances I've read.

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances by Laura Schenone
Like many American women living at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I can hear an array of voices speak to me about food. Voices that tell me not to cook so I can have freedom. Voices that tell me I should cook so I can be a better mother. Voices that tell me to eat because it is sensual. Voices that tell me not to eat because I will get fat. Voices that tell me to measure vitamins and calories and to avoid pesticides. Voices that tell me to think about the lives of people who pick and package my food. Voices that tell me to cook because it will please my man. Voices that call out from my own distant ethnic heritage one hundred years after immigration. Voices that lure me to dreams of leisurely taken meals in beautiful restaurants. And a voice somewhere amidst all these telling me to create something beautiful on the table for the people I care about so I can help us enjoy life and one another just a little bit more during our brief time here on earth.

Where do these voices come from? And how did so many conflicts get to be wrapped up in a simple dinner?

She's Not All There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Don't know what to say about this book. From reviews I'd read, I expected a deeply touching and thought provoking book, but in the end it just seemed superficial and yet I still cried my way through it. Hrm. Maybe, I had expected a factual version of Bohjalian's Trans-Sister Radio?

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Quite a nice little book with an approachable "ordinary" storyline and some really gorgeous descriptions. A good distraction from the January blahs.

For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani
Stylistically uneven -- the flashback method was a little confusing (sometimes I wasn't sure "when" I was in the book) and while the ending felt rushed some middle bits seemed to take forever. Overall, the book is worth borrowing from the library if you're in the mood for chick lit with a foreign flavor.