Wheels of Change by Sue Macy

TitleWheels of Change–How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)
Author: Sue Macy
Genre: nonfiction (women’s rights, bicycles, sports)
ISBN: 9781426307621
Length: 91 pages
Published: 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 3/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Non-Fiction Resolution 2011

Reason for Reading: I read an article in American History (a magazine), which was basically a shorter version of this book. And the article interested me, so I thought I’d look into this book, especially since it’s short.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Take a lively look at women’s history from aboard a bicycle, which granted females the freedom of mobility and helped empower women’s liberation. Through vintage photographs, advertisements, cartoons, and songs, Wheels of Change transports young readers to bygone eras to see how women used the bicycle to improve their lives. Witty in tone and scrapbook-like in presentation, the book deftly covers early (and comical) objections, influence on fashion, and impact on social change inspired by the bicycle, which, according to Susan B. Anthony, “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.

My Thoughts: As with a lot of nonfiction that I read (especially that nonfiction that I don’t have to read), I felt pretty neutral towards this book upon finishing it. Basically I could have lived without reading it, but I wasn’t really uninteresting either. There are two basic themes throughout the book–the impact of the bicycle on the larger society, and then again on the society of women. As far as larger society goes, the book discusses how the bike affected slang, songs, and advertising. Then, pertaining to women, about their independence, involvement in sports, and their clothing. All of these things I found at least slightly interesting. And, as the summary points out, it is presented with lots of images in it. I always liked seeing images in history-type books. While I like imagining with fiction, I find images help me with nonfiction.

I’ll be honest. There is probably nothing I will remember from this book. I already knew that bikes impacted women’s independence and clothing. And that’s probably what I would remember, if anything.

But I’m not saying it’s not worth reading. It’s still interesting.

Q & A–an interesting traverse through India

TitleQ & A
Author: Vikas Swarup
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9780743267472
Length: 
318 pages
Published
: 2005
Source: public library
Rating: 4/5
Challenges/ResolutionsTravel the Globe Resolution (and Further Exploration)

This is the fourth round (of six) for my Travel the Globe Resolution, which I’m doing with a blogger friend, Shannon at Giraffe Days. Here is her post from a book set in India, The Inheritance of Loss.

Q & A is a novel, set in present day India (2005 is when it was published). The story is essentially a compilation of memories from Ram Mohammad Thomas’ past–about a 13 year span, as he, like us, doesn’t remember much from before the age of 5–and these memories help him explain to a lawyer how he truthfully knew the answers to the Indian quiz game show Who Will Win a Billion? We thus hear of Thomas’ entire childhood. While the memories are presented out of order, it’s not all that confusing to read. I think the story flows well, almost as if it is a collection of related short stories.

Throughout the entire story, we travel between three major Indian metropolises: Mumbai, Dehli, and Agra. I loved the way Thomas described the people and lifestyles he grew up with:

“Those who live in their marble and granite four-bedroom flats, they enjoy. The slum people, those who live in squalid, tattered huts, they suffer. And we, who reside in the overcrowded chawls, we simply live.” (p56)

If these three classes are the only three which Thomas truly believes exists, it makes me feel happy that he belongs to the middle class. While his “middle class” and the American sense of the term are very different, it helped me identify more with him. The fact that he had people better and worse off than him made him seem like more than a character in a book. By no means am I saying that I can identify with Thomas–I was/am not an orphan, I didn’t have to work to survive (not until I was almost 19 anyways), and I had a very stable childhood.

It was difficult for me to gather much that was serious or informational about India from this book. With the past three books I’ve read for my Travel the Globe Resolution, I have purposefully chosen books that center around recent (within the last 50 years) major issues to the cultures in the book. (I have to admit that I checked this book out only a week ago because I had thought I needed a book for Ireland, which is due for October 😦 ) The class distinction was the most prevalent issue in this book.

“There are those who will say that I brought this upon myself. By dabbling in that quiz show. They will wag a finger at me and remind me of what the elders in Dharavi say about never crossing the dividing line that separates the rich from the poor. After all, what business did a penniless waiter have participating in a brain quiz? The brain is not an organ we are authorized to use. We are supposed to use only our hands and legs.” (p2)

I like the following illustration of this as well:

“Why did she have to arrange such a lavish wedding for her sister? You people who are poor should never try to overreach yourselves. Stay within your limits and you will not get into trouble.” (p278, Swapna Devi)

And abuse was something that appeared to make frequent appearances:

“You are a young orphan boy. You have not seen life. But I know the daily stories of wife beating and abuse and incest and rape, which take place in chawls all over Mumbai. Yet no one does anything. We Indians have this sublime ability to see the pain and misery around us and yet remain unaffected by it. So, like a proper Mumbaikar, close your eyes, close your ears, close your mouth and you will be happy like me.” (p68)

The following are quotes that I liked, but have no real relevance to anything above.

“But people always remember Marilyn Monroe and Madhubala as young because they died young. The lasting image people have of you is how you looked at the time of your death.” (p228, Neelima)

I have to say I disagree with this. There are plenty of deceased movie stars that I remember as young, but lived to an old age, such as Audrey Hepburn. There are even some that are simply old and alive now, but when I hear their names I think of them in their prime, such as Julie Andrews.

“…dying an honorable death is better than living a coward’s life.” (p29)

Yes, perhaps a little cheesy. But true, nevertheless.

My General Thoughts: In general I did enjoy this book. I can’t remember anything about Slumdog Millionaire (the movie version), so I’m sure that this is a very accurate feeling. While I don’t normally like short stories, or even those which make up a collective story, I think this read a lot like short stories, but I liked it.

One question I do have is, what’s with all the pervvy old men?! Men fondling boys, men taking advantage of other men, men taking advantage of boys, men wanting their daughters–I was beginning to wonder if there’d be a pervert in every chapter! But that stopped after the first four, for the most part. Of which I’m glad. It didn’t really make me uncomfortable. But enough is enough.

Heartless by Gail Carriger

TitleHeartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: fantasy
ISBN: 9780316127196
Length: 374 pages
Published: June 28, 2011
Source: personal collection
Rating: 4/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Published in 2011 Resolution

Reason for Reading: It’s #4 of a quintet, the final installment to come out in March. And, since I like the previous books, I obviously continued on!

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this one a lot more than I did the ending of Blameless. This one is very fast paced and the story pretty much takes place in a week. We learn a bit more about Professor Lyall, Beta in the Woolsey pack, and there’s a lot of involvement with Countess Nadasdy and her Westminster hive of vampires. Oh, and Felicity–Alexia’s annoying half-sister–gains a larger role. Although it sort of seems like Carriger wanted to get her into the story, then forgot about her, and then remembered and tried to add her back in.

It’s really hard to talk about the book without giving anything away from the previous three books. To put it simply, if you liked the first three books, this one will not disappoint! 🙂

Oh, I think I originally said I might have liked the modern English language in Victorian England. But I’m not so sure anymore. It wasn’t until Alexia asked someone if they were “making a funny” that I realized I might not really like it that much. Clearly that would not have been said in Victorian England.

Thoughts on the Cover: I like the first two covers of the series. But the third and fourth (that’s this one) I haven’t liked at all. It looks really cheap. It’s obvious the person is superimposed on another digitally moderated image of a castle. Not a fan 😦

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews

“…and I hated the singing lessons–absolutely hated them.”

TitleHome: A Memoir of My Early Years
Author: Julie Andrews
Genre: memoir (non fiction)
ISBN: 9780786865659
Length: 320 pages
Published: 2008
Source: public library
Rating: 5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Memoir/Biography Resolution 2011

Reason(s) for Reading: I always find i a little difficult to pick memoirs or biographies for reading. I have trouble answering the question “Who do I care enough about–or am intrigued by enough to read about their lives?” I have already read many Audrey Hepburn biographies, as I love her. So I asked myself who is another movie star (from the prime of Hollywood) that I care about. (I don’t think memoirs can be written until you reach a certain age, *cough*Justin Bieber*cough*–I’ll wait 50-60 years to read current movie star memoirs). Nevertheless, I came up with Julie Andrews–oddly enough, I think her and Audrey Hepburn both portraying Eliza Doolittle had an affect on my choice.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Since her first appearance on screen in Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews has played a series of memorable roles that have endeared her to generations. But she has never told the story of her life before fame. Until now.

In Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie takes her readers on a warm, moving, and often humorous journey from a difficult upbringing in war-torn Britain to the brink of international stardom in America. Her memoir begins in 1935, when Julie was born to an aspiring vaudevillian mother and a teacher father, and takes readers to 1962, when Walt Disney himself saw her on Broadway and cast her as the world’s most famous nanny.

Along the way, she weathered the London Blitz of World War II; her parents’ painful divorce; her mother’s turbulent second marriage to Canadian tenor Ted Andrews, and a childhood spent on radio, in music halls, and giving concert performances all over England. Julie’s professional career began at the age of twelve, and in 1948 she became the youngest solo performer ever to participate in a Royal Command Performance before the Queen. When only eighteen, she left home for the United States to make her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend, and thus began her meteoric rise to stardom.

Home is filled with numerous anecdotes, including stories of performing in My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison on Broadway and in the West End, and in Camelot with Richard Burton on Broadway; her first marriage to famed set and costume designer Tony Walton, culminating with the birth of their daughter, Emma; and the call from Hollywood and what lay beyond.

Julie Andrews’ career has flourished over seven decades. From her legendary Broadway performances, to her roles in such iconic films asThe Sound of MusicMary PoppinsThoroughly Modern MillieHawaii,10, and The Princess Diaries, to her award-winning television appearances, multiple album releases, concert tours, international humanitarian work, best-selling children’s books, and championship of literacy, Julie’s influence spans generations. Today, she lives with her husband of thirty-eight years, the acclaimed writer/director Blake Edwards; they have five children and seven grandchildren.

Featuring over fifty personal photos, many never before seen, this is the personal memoir Julie Andrews’ audiences have been waiting for.

My Thoughts: When Andrews titled this a memoir of her “early” years, I think she chose well. Fore this follows her life through her time on the stage, especially Broadway. Her journey to California to begin her film career with Mary Poppins and her new life as a mother was the ending of this collection of memories. (I hope this means she’ll write a “sequel”, about her later years.)

I really enjoyed reading about her upbringing. And how she gradually made a name for herself as a singer and stage performer. Her family was certainly interesting, with so many “odd” relationships. By which I mean she has lots of half siblings on each side. And her stepfather was interesting. Dod he want to molest her, but just lacked the motivation to actually do it? {In my original written entry about this book, I wrote that “He was a drunk, after all” but reading it made me realize that is quite an assumption for me to make. I’m sure alcoholic and molester are not always paired together. I’m usually good about realizing when I make such a bad assumption.}

Andrews spent most of the book focusing on her time spent on Broadway in My Fair Lady. It was fun to let her introduce me to what happens behind the scenes. I will TOTALLY appreciate actors in musicals from now on. (I have a very long quote–a passage really–about behind the scenes and experiencing the high of performing on stage.)

Quotes/Passages I Liked:

“It was at Clarendon Street that I began really to love reading. My father had taught me to read when I was very young, and it became my salvation. I would curl up in a chair and read for hours…” (p39)

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“‘I have an infallible diet, Moss replied. ‘I do it all the time. Just halve your portions. If you normally have two potatoes for dinner, cut it down to one…That way you don’t deny yourself a thing.'” (p208)

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“Once in a while I experience an emotion onstage that is so gut-wrenching, so heart stopping, that I could weep with gratitude and joy. The feeling catches and magnifies so rapidly that it threatens to engulf me.
It starts as a bass note, resonating deep in my system. Literally. It’s like the warmest, lowest sound from a contrabass. There is a sudden thrill of connection and an awareness of size-the theater itself, more the height of the great stage housing behind and above me, where history has been absorbed, where darkness contains mystery and light has meaning.
Light is a part of it…to be flooded with it to absorb it and allow it through the body.
The dust that has a smell so thick and evocative, one feels one could almost eat it; makeup and sweat, perfume and paint; the vast animal that is an audience warm and pulsing, felt but unseen.
Most of all, it is the music–when a great sweep of sound makes you attempt things that earlier in the day you might never have thought possible. When the orchestra swells to support your voice, when the melody is perfect and the words so right there you could not possibly be any others, when a modulation occurs and lifts you to an even higher plateau…it is bliss. And that is the moment you share it.
One senses the audience feeling it, too, and together you ride the ecstasy all the way home.
There’s that word again. Home.
Then I think there is no more magical feeling, no one luckier than I. It is to do with the joy of being a vessel, being used, using oneself fully and totally in the service of something that brings wonder. If only one could experience this every night.
It is as great as sex…that moment before climax. It is as overwhelming as the mighty ocean. As nurturing as mother’s milk to an infant. As addictive as opium.” (p254-5)

Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson

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TitleTiny Sunbirds, Far Away
Author: Christie Watson
Genre: fiction (Nigeria, oil companies, family dynamics)
ISBN: 9781590514665
Length: 
431 pages
Published
: 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 4/5
Challenges/Resolutions: an extra for my Published in 2011 Resolution

Reason for Reading: I saw Michelle’s excellent review of this book on her blog My Books. My Life. and I was interested immediately.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When their mother catches their father with another woman, twelve year-old Blessing and her fourteen-year-old brother, Ezikiel, are forced to leave their comfortable home in Lagos for a village in the Niger Delta, to live with their mother’s family. Without running water or electricity, Warri is at first a nightmare for Blessing. Her mother is gone all day and works suspiciously late into the night to pay the children’s school fees. Her brother, once a promising student, seems to be falling increasingly under the influence of the local group of violent teenage boys calling themselves Freedom Fighters. Her grandfather, a kind if misguided man, is trying on Islam as his new religion of choice, and is even considering the possibility of bringing in a second wife.

But Blessing’s grandmother, wise and practical, soon becomes a beloved mentor, teaching Blessing the ways of the midwife in rural Nigeria. Blessing is exposed to the horrors of genital mutilation and the devastation wrought on the environment by British and American oil companies. As Warri comes to feel like home, Blessing becomes increasingly aware of the threats to its safety, both from its unshakable but dangerous traditions and the relentless carelessness of the modern world.

My Thoughts: It is hard for me to put my thumb on what exactly it was about this book that made me like it. I’m not sure that I’m particularly glad I read it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I liked it. But I know that I have never been to Nigeria. I have been to Sierra Leone, however, in nonfiction, so there were some similarities.

Issues that are brought up in the book are: war, poverty, the span between big city and native village, and genital mutilation. The war is hard to describe. It’s not exactly war as defined by militarism decades ago. But it involved the government, private security forces of the oil companies, native groups, and then misled/misinformed young male teenagers.

Perhaps it is all of these different things that made me like the book so much. It’s very different from a lot of the books I tend to read. Yes, I like dystopian novels (not that that’s my favorite genre), but those are fake horrific worlds. A more realistic world that has real problems and real horrors is SOO different.

Aside from these things, there are a few other things I liked. Particularly, I thought it was interesting how Blessing’s father is portrayed throughout the novel. In the very beginning, he’s described as a wonderful family man. But after Mama, Blessing, and Ezekiel leave and go to Warri, the real man starts to be seen. I think it is as Blessing meets more different people, especially men, she remembers something she repressed, like Father beating Mama or cutting her with a broken bottle, etc. In the end, Father is presented as selfish–he’s not the family man he appeared at the get go.

I also really liked Ezekiel’s transformation, however tragic it ended up being. Coming from Lagos, he was a “sickly” young man, with allergies and asthma. Moving to Warri, a very rural and poverty-stricken place is hard for him. But he had his school and dreams of becoming a doctor. Then he got in the middle of a shooting and missed a lot of school, after missing it already for health reasons. So he gave up on his dreams of doctoring. And he became desperate to find something to believe in, which led to his involvement in a militant group. He became a man. But even so, he kept slipping back into a child when tough times came, and his childish revenge ended badly for himself.

Bliss by OZ Livaneli–a trek through Turkey

TitleBliss
Author: OZ Livaneli
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9780312360535
Length: 
276 pages
Published
: 2002 (2006 English translation)
Source: public library
Rating: 3.5/5
Challenges/ResolutionsTravel the Globe Resolution (and Further Exploration)

This is the third round (of six) for my Travel the Globe Resolution, which I’m doing with a blogger friend, Shannon at Giraffe Days.

OZ Livaneli’s Bliss is a novel in which three very different people unite and ultimately separate. These three people–Meryem, Cemal, and Irfan–represent three very different groups of people in contemporary Turkey.

Meryem is a fifteen-year-old girl living in a small rural village in Anatolia (that’d be eastern Turkey). From the Western viewpoint, she might seem very “oppressed”, but she doesn’t consider herself so because she knows no other life than the one where all women are sinners simply because of their gender and are subjugated to men. In this case, the “helpless fifteen-year-old girl who has no rights as a woman” has been raped by her uncle, a sheikh. This seems to me like the book would just intensify stereotypes like those some people might hold about women in Muslim/Middle Eastern countries (like my mom and grandma, actually). Not sure if this was intentional or not.

Cemal is an ex-commando who just finished his two year (mandatory) stint in the Turkish army. It was his father that raped Meryem (so they are cousins). His father doesn’t tell him what exactly Meryem did to “shame the family”, but he charges him with taking her away to Istanbul to “deal with the problem” (aka, kill her).

And Irfan is a professor of middle age. Married very well-off and living in the modern world where the customs of a village like Meryem’s are practically nonexistant except for political reasons. He is plagued by some crazy psychological ailment in which he basically fears doing the same thing day in and day out–a fear of knowing what is coming and the mundanity of it all. So, he makes a HUGE change in his life

The setting of the story, which takes place in the present, is in various places around Turkey. It starts in east Turkey, called Anatolia. Then, Meryem and Cemal trek west across the whole country to Istanbul. Finally, they work their way south to the Aegean coast.

As for more serious things, there are some issues brought up in the book. First and foremost, the whole helpless girl being raped and it being her fault as a religious issue is there. Then there are the political tensions brought up–the Turks and Kurds are fighting and there is an Islamist Revolution a la 1970s Iran present in bigger cities.

Cemal and Irfan, as characters, were a little annoying to me at times. They seemed to whine and complain and be depressed about anything and everything. Yeah, I know everyone complains from time to time. But it was fairly constant from them. Meryem, on the other hand, didn’t complain much at all. She was completely naive to the fact that the other girls from the village who went to Istanbul and never came back didn’t come back for a ghastly reason. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and felt that I shared basically no similarities with them at all. As I said before, Meryem might seem oppressed in the Western sense of the word. And I am not oppressed by any means. I liked the fact that until Meryem had left her village near Lake Van and seen more of the country–especially the more “developed” parts–she had no problem with her life. She saw nothing wrong or amiss, and I’m not saying there was. I hadn’t realized that it such a modern world and in a country like Turkey with some very developed parts of the country that there could be such “backward” places and communities. I don’t mean that I think they are backwards, but I can’t think of a better word. (I mean, primitive and undeveloped also sound just as bad, to me.) Oh, and as far as Irfan goes, I’m very different. I appreciate spontaneity sometime, but mostly I like to know what to expect, even if it is the same “mundane” routine for the most part.

Something that I mentioned earlier is one thing that I hadn’t realized. I mentioned that Turkey was/is going through an Islamist Revolution when this story is taking place. But I didn’t realize that this was happening so recently in Turkey. From my very limited and uncomprehending Western knowledge of Islamist Revolutions in the Middle East, it seems weird wanting more regulations and whatnot. A step backward, in my mind. But I have been brought up to think that democracy is the best sort of government, especially a la the USA in respect to all our freedoms. So repression of freedoms I already have and take for granted boggles my mind. But I don’t want to get into anything political, so I’m stopping there.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

TitleIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
Author: Erik Larson
Genre: nonfiction (foreign policy, Hitler’s government)
ISBN: 9780307408846
Length: 365 pages
Published: 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 3/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Non-Fiction Resolution

Reason for Reading: I read an excerpt from Devil in the White City for a college course about 3 years ago and loved how Larson wrote in a way so that the book read a lot like fiction. (I have owned DitWC since reading that excerpt, but I haven’t read it yet.) So I figured this one would be the same, and the subject matter sounded amazing.

Summary (from Goodreads):

…unfolds the often startling story of William E. Dodd, the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, and his family. History professor Dodd was an unlikely choice to represent the United States in Hitler’s Berlin; indeed, he was FDR’s fifth choice for the post. His on-the-job education in the barbarities of the “New Germany” sometimes contrasted with that of his romantic, impressionable, party-loving daughter Martha. Larson places these very personal stories within the context of the ever-worsening events.

My Thoughts: I was pretty neutral to this book. It’s pretty easy to sum up the entire book quickly. William Dodd became US Ambassador to Germany a mere six months after Hitler became Chancellor. He and his family lived in Berlin through the early years of Nazi spread and the growth of their power. Dodd didn’t intervene in German politics unless it involved Americans, which is technically just as he should have. A bit naively, Dodd believed–or at least didn’t counter–the Nazi officials, even Hitler himself, when they said they would stop doing such-and-such, or they would never do this-or-that.

I found the last 100-or-so pages the most interesting. Oddly enough, this is when Dodd had been removed from his post and the book just focused on what the Dodd family did upon returning to the US and the turn of events in Germany for the last few years preceding its invasion of Austria and Poland.

I didn’t dislike this book at all, but I’m not exactly glad I read it. It was a bit bland. I think this is due to much of the content coming from only two diaries/memoirs, Dodd’s and his daughter Martha’s. Yes, there were some other sources for information. But not too much.

And it was more biographical in nature than I thought it’d be. Not that that’s bad…

Victorian Lit Challenge & Personal Collection Resolution = COMPLETED!!

Victorian Literature Challenge

Hosted by words, words, words, the Victorian Literature Challenge is to read a certain number of books published during the reign of Queen Victoria, between the years 1837-1901. Here is a link to the original post for the challenge. There are four levels of commitment to this challenge:

  • Sense and Sensibility: 1-4 books.
  • Great Expectations: 5-9 books.
  • Hard Times: 10-14 books.
  • Desperate Remedies: 15+ books.

I have committed to the Sense & Sensibility level, requiring me to read 1-4 books of the Victorian age.

1) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (1848)
2) Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1873)
3) American Fairy Tales by L Frank Baum (1901)
4) Tevye the Diaryman by Sholem Aleichem (various dates between 1894 and 1916)

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Personal Collection Resolution

This resolution is particularly meant to overlap with all other resolutions I formulate or challenges I participate in. Essentially, I want to read at least TEN books from my own collection of books. I have many books in my personal collection that qualify for my Memoir/Biography Resolution and Non-Fiction Resolution, so this resolution really encourages I finally read books that I have had on my shelves for years!

1. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Pattillo Beals (had since May 26, 2010)
2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (had since January 12, 2011)
3. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (had since October 28, 2010)
4. SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld (had since late 2009)
5. Potiki by Patricia Grace (had since December 13, 2010)
6. The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig (had since January 20, 2011)
7. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (had since sometime in 2004)
8. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (had since May 26, 2010)
9. Maus I: My Father Bleeds History & Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman (had since early 2011)
10. The Odyssey by Homer (had hard copy since 2002, but read a free Kindle edition)
* 11. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

There’s No Place Like Home

I’m home! As you can see from my last post, I have been gone for pretty much the last week and a half, taking my belated honeymoon in Alaska 🙂 It was amazing. Alaska is so beautiful and we were lucky to have some really nice weather while we were there. Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

mountains from Auke Bay

humpback whale

Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau

An old brothel token, good for "one screw"

Sawyer Glacier in the background (the same as the picture in the previous post)

the Seattle Public Library, right across the street from our hotel 🙂

And, as my honeymoon was a cruise, there were a few days of only cruising (they were long days). So I did have a bit of time to read.

I finished The Odyssey by Homer on the cruise. I originally read it 9 years ago–when I was 14. It was required reading for my honors English class freshman year of high school. I didn’t really hate it at the time, I just thought it was long and the way it was written, as a poem, really threw me off. It’s probably one of the reasons I also don’t care for Shakespeare. With those odd breaks in the middle of sentences, my flow of reading gets disrupted. But this time around I was older, wiser, a stronger reader, and I had it on my Kindle, written in prose form. And I enjoyed it much better (4/5 stars from me). I also read it because I want to read The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, and I thought refreshing my mind of Homer’s tale would help when I get to it.

The biggest difference between my two readings of The Odyssey was probably how I viewed Odysseus (or Ulysses, as my edition called him 😦 ). Last time I found him to be a great warrior and hero, fighting so hard to get home to his family. This time around though, I sort of found him to be a jerk. I mean, how can someone try for 20 years to get home and always be thinking about his wife and child, but still allow himself to be seduced? True, I’ve never been scorned by a great Olympian god 🙂 But it doesn’t seem like he was all that truthful.

On the plane home, I also finished listening to Push by Sapphire (or Precious as it might more commonly be known, after the movie). I LOVED IT! (5/5 from me!) I am so glad that I listened to it on audiobook, especially with Bahni Turpin as the narrator. While I love reading books written in dialect, I think the fact that Precious had the dialect and a strong African American female voice made the story that much more real.

Now, if you don’t like bluntness and a direct approach to a story focusing a lot on incest and abuse, this might not be the book for you. But I loved it. It gave Precious such a strong voice as a character, even if some might find it weakened her as a person. She had to say/write much of her thoughts in order to make sense of them, which might be seen as a weakness. But I felt it made her character strong in the story.

This story made me feel very lucky to have had the advantages I did and to have the basic necessities I had, such as a loving family, growing up. I feel sad that there are people out there who have lives similar to that of Precious and I hope that someday there is a better way to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks like that.

me and my hubby (Nick) at the Mendenhall Glacier

Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman

TitleMaus II: And Here My Troubles Began
Author: Art Spiegelman
Genre: biographical/autobiographical graphic novel
ISBN: 9780679729778
Length: 126 pages
Published: 1986
Source: personal collection
Rating: 4.5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Personal Collection ResolutionMemoir/Biography Resolution
Awards: 1992 Pulitzer Prize

Reason for Reading: Well, I read Maus I yesterday, so it just made sense to continue 🙂

Summary:

This second volume…moves us from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills…it attains a complexity of theme and a precision of thought…Maus ties together two powerful stories: Vladek’s harrowing tale of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of daily life in the death camps, and the author’s account of his relationship with his aging father.

My Thoughts: I liked this one slightly less than Maus I. I’m pretty sure this is due to the fact that there is more in this one set in the present and those parts didn’t interest me as the war years and Vladek’s story.

However, there were a couple of “passages” that I really liked.

I know this is insane, but I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through!
I guess it’s some kind of guilt about having had an easier life than they did. (p16)

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No matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz. (p44)

Both of those passages, I think, convey why children of Holocaust survivors might feel guilt. I always sort of wondered why the children would feel particularly guilty. I knew that I would feel guilty because I had it easier, but I didn’t realize that it would be so magnified by just being a child of a survivor. Maybe I sort of thought the children would feel victimized because their parents were. I’m not exactly sure. And the second quote, of basically an inferiority complex, I don’t think I ever would have thought of myself.