Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson

"Three Cups of Tea" (Nonfiction) by Greg Mortenson. I enjoyed this book of nonfiction and intricate details of how the author, Greg Mortenson, describes his transition from working the night shift in a burn unit hospital to wanting to make a career change, and a change in his overall perspective of life. 

This man's need to help people led him to sleep in his car to save on rent so he could later use that money for supplies in the construction of school across the world in Pakistan.  This American man would make trips to Pakistan in the course of his career.  But his initial visit brought him to terms with the fact that he was privileged in his life in America.  That unlike many of the people he came in contact with his new job, back home, he did have safety and security.   

 After he spent many months in Pakistan he realized that he had the most interest in the actual construction of buildings and he narrowed his outlet to the building of schools for girls.  The amount of school for girls is strikingly low considering that girls are not encouraged to pursue an education, and instead encouraged to work in the home.

 Mortenson learns first that the completion of the schools wasn't a piece of cake even with an exorbitant amount of money, because of the fact that there were just too few roads that led into the mountainous regions of Pakistan.  He also realized that he'd have to build a bridge, first and foremost to get supplies over.  Once the first bridge was up and the first school, Mortenson would have to convince many Americans to help fund the making of even more schools, and he is still working his dream till this day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly"by Doug Stewart

"The Boy Who Would be Shakespeare" by  Doug Stewart.When a young boy wishes to be twinkle in his father's eye, he'll do anything to get noticed.  When his job as law clerk in his father's business fails to get notice, he cuts straight to the source of his father's read pride and enjoyment: Shakespeare.  This  boy's new friend just happens too have a secret treasure chest full to the brim, with Shakespeare's original poetry, Or is it really Shakespeare's authentic work?

I enjoyed the character of William Henry (the son) and how he was so determined to recreate works of Shakespeare, even if was forging the individual poetry.  The prospects took weeks to months at a time, with calligraphy and writing that turned out quite beautiful.  The ignorance of the father and his nature towards his son was unbelievable.

As for the boy, you'd think someone who had so much talent for forgery could become change his career altogether, but age of Shakespeare led to many limited career possibilities.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"The Year of Pleasures" by Elizabeth Berg

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"The Pact" by Jodi Picoult

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Killing Lincoln" By Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

"The Poe Shadow" by Matthew Pearl

"The Poe Shadow" by Matthew Pearl.  I thought this novel would read much the same as Matthew Pearl's, "The Last Dickens".  Unfortunately, I think it lacked much of the action that too place in "The Last Dickens."  Although we do see the action the sought out aid of the real-life model for Poe's genius-sleuth, detective C. Auguste Dupin who comes to America in the search of the real killer of Poe.  I would have appreciated a little less of the discrete details of this detective, and appreciate more of a glimpse inside Edgar Allan Poe's career and details leading up to his death.

Pearl writes too much about Dupin, who cares if the detective was rude to his house servants and unfriendly.  Who cares that he disregarded a person when they talked. He was a detective after all, a man of observation not a man of social etiquette. I didn't expect to be reading Sherlocke Holmes, but with this novel I may as well have read the whole Sherlocke series with the depth of detective characteristics shown. 

The way that the french detective explains his perception of Americans once he arrives in America does not surprise me.  He says that Americans are rude, that they are too direct and spit their tobacco juice on the streets: unawares of any passer-by.

"Too Much Happiness" by Alice Munro

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa Lee


"Mao's Last Dancer" by Li Cunxin

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Lake of Dead Languages" by Carol Goodman

"Lake of Dead Languages" by Carol Goodman.  Jane is a teacher of Latin at a school she attended as a child.  This novel in fascinating as it describes the Heart Lake School for girls, and a mystery that lays beneath the lake waiting to be revealed.

I loved the novel's rich description of the lake's ice and snow and the and the childhood connections with the lake, from skating to peering out at its dangers. The book has a "Parent Trap", the movie feel to it when it describes crossing the lake in order to meet friends who are otherwise not allowed to cross the lake.

 I, too, have spent childhood summers at a lake, for summer camp, and the way character of Jane describes this experience is very soothing.  Jane's role as a teacher leaves her admired by many of her students.  When she tells her students to keep a journal of their feelings, she is able to find secrets about her students that remind her of cult like instincts and secret pacts that she, too, kept with her own friends as a child.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

"House Rules" by Jodi Piccoult

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"A Man of the People" by Chinua Achebe

While driving back from Texas, I was reading Chinua Achebe's novel, "A Man of the People." This spark of interest in Achebe's writing came from remembering "Things Fall Apart" for which I read earlier as a teenager.  The main character, Odili Samalu, a teacher began to believe that his former teacher Chief Nanga (corrupt member of the cabinet) no longer cared for him or his people  for which he was governing over. 

Odili decided to do something about it, and revenge is what he took over Chief Nanga. Odili enters politics and campaigns against Nanga. Odili believed that Nanga was a leader that took whatever he wanted and cherished the moment of being a leader, and not necessarily leadership itself, and Odili proves how much sacrifice and hard work it takes to be a real leader.
          At the gym, I am reminded time, and time again, of this idea of taking responsibility for one's own actions and it comes to me in the weirdest types of ways. It reminds me of the preserverance I had to take in pursuing the Lazy Man's Triathlon at the YMCA gym.  And it reminds me of how many times I didn't want to go to an event, but showed up anyway for the experience and for the Hope that by showing up, I am taking an opportunity that will give me leadership skills. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Jester

"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Jester Milo. A young boy is so bored with life he decides to have an adventure of a lifetime.  His daily routine was racing home as fast as he can just so that he can ignore the world and everything in it.  He finds himself in a wander land with two kings who rule that land: Dictionopolis, for his love of words, and Digitopolis, named for his love of numbers.  These kings quarreled and created a rift in their division of societies and their rule over them.  Milo the boy realizes he must save reality and rhyme, to bring normalcy to a world where things are extremely off balance.

I found that some of the book has a "Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" vibe to it.  The fact that Milo comes off as such a bore in the introduction of the novel ,and then having him wake up to a world of make belief was hopeful to me.  The book introduces so many bizarre characters, I only wish the writer had time to explore those characters more, and bring their purpose into Milo's existence more meaningful at the close of the book, instead of just introducing them to get Milo through the exploration of the two kingdoms.  

I like the fact that Tock, Dyne, the .58 boy, and Chrona-the-Great all gave Milo gifts that would help him explore the land,but these gifts seemed a bit of the Wizard of OZ type: not useful at all.  Overall, the book needs a sequel, to explore a second visit to the now changed attributes that Milo created.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by Helen Simonson

 Major Pettigrew's Last Stand",by Helen Simonson. This novel caught my attention with the secret love connection between a British citizen and Ms. Ali, a Pakistani, store owner. 

The character of the Major (Mr.  Pettigrew) came off to me as old and stiff.  His obsession with his father's heirloom's, two Churchill rifles causes a family conflict, over whether to sell the beloved guns or to keep them.  The rifles were split up, between Mr. Pettigrew and his now deceased brother: Berti, so if he does plan to keep them, he'll have to find a way to convince his brother's widow: Bertie that they are important enough to be joined together.

 Bertie's wife Majorie wants to sell them.  She finds the symbolism of passing down the heirlooms as insignificant, and is willing to take take the opportunity of selling them as fast as she can. Unfortunately the Churchill's can't sell well separately, so she'll need to convince the Major with the sale.  And that's where Ferguson, a potential American buyer of the Churchill's comes into the story.  His scheme to buy the Churchill's is clever enough, if not for an unfolding drama that unfolds with Ms. Ali's family and the Major himself.   Will the Major succumb to departing with the rifles in order to hang on to Ms. Ali?  Or will the Major strengthen his hold to the rifles even more, in order to hang on to his father's legacy?


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