June 13, 2010
Another gorgeous Sunday in Northern California. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the porch is beckoning to me. So here I sit outside, sipping a hot cup of coffee, ready to talk about books!
Last week I posted my review and book tour of Everything Is Broken by Emma Larkin. I have been thinking about the events in Burma ever since I laid the book down. The conditions for the people there are truly appalling. We have so much to be grateful for here in the United States. Are things perfect? Definitely not. But things are good here. We can read what we want to read. We can stand peacefully and picket for causes or protest what we don’t like…and no one tortures us or imprisons us for it. When disasters happen, help is usually on its way within a reasonable amount of time (and if it isn’t, the public stands up and cries out in protest, and gets the help there somehow). We can apply for financial assistance. Insurance companies cover our losses. In Burma, none of these things happen. It makes my heart hurt. Have you read any books about Burma whether they be fiction or nonfiction? If so, I hope you’ll share them with me.
I also read another really powerful, heartbreaking work of nonfiction last week. There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene is about the AIDS crisis still playing out in Africa – specifically Ethiopia (read my review). I read this book for last month’s Social Justice Challenge. It was not a fun book to read, but it was a book which I think more people NEED to read. I don’t know about you, but I thought the AIDS crisis was pretty much under control these days. Perhaps for western nations and developed countries it is…because we have access to medications which control the disease and keep people alive. But, in third world countries like Africa, the AIDS crisis is far from under control. Drugs which can keep people from dying and children from being orphaned are out of reach for many people because they are cost-prohibitive…because of the greed of pharmaceutical companies. How aware were you of all of this? Have you read books about what is happening in Africa and why? I’d love some recommendations for more reading in this area.
After I finished reading these two books, I really wanted to read something light. But, I was behind in my reading for a Yahoo books group, and so instead I picked up Mudbound by Hilary Jordan. I so wanted to love this book set in the 1940’s in Mississippi. But it was dreary, and the characters were stereotypes, and I just knew how it would end. So for me, the book was a huge disappointment. I know I am mostly alone with my assessment of the book (read my review), but I stand by it. I could not resist comparing Mudbound to another book that deals with racism in the south. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (which I read last year) was a much better book, in my opinion. The characters were fleshed out and real, the plot unfolded with less predictability. How about you? Have you read both of these books? Which did you like better?
My current read is The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood which is her take on the The Odyssey by Homer. Specifically she is exploring the character of Penelope (the wife of Odysseus) and the twelve maids which were murdered after Odysseus’ return (they had been sleeping with the men who had courted Penelope during Odysseus’ absence). I love Atwood, so I am hoping this will be a book which will resonate with me, but so far I am just finding it okay (although I must admit, Atwood’s sardonic sense of humor makes me laugh).
I also started reading Cool Water by Dianne Warren (because I found I needed to take breaks from The Penelopiad from time to time). Warren is a Canadian who has won several prestigious awards for her work in short fiction. Her skill with that genre shows itself in this novel which is set in a small town in Saskatchwan. Warren explores the characters of the town in what feels like interconnected short stories (think of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge). Her writing is fluid and descriptive. I am really enjoying it!
I hope to have reviews of both of these books up this week.
In other book related business – I am working on a series called Post-BEA Book Buzz where I am introducing some of the new books coming out this year which I learned about at the BEA. This week watch for October Highlights and Hot for the Holidays (books being released in November and December). If you want to read the previous postings, follow the links below:
Finally, it is once again time to start thinking about Book Blogger Appreciation Week. The rules have changed this year, so be sure to drop by the blog and learn about all the buzz. Bloggers need to register this year in order to be considered for awards OR to vote. Registration must happen by July 7th. Hope to see you there!
What are YOU doing today? Whatever it is, I hope it involves a great book!