Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #15 - Graphic Novel


The Storm in the Barn, by Matt Phelan.

This graphic novel won the 2010 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction written for children or young adults.  It was also a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee in 2011-2012.

Review to come.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #14 - Published in Birth Year


Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith.

This book was published in 1957, and won the Newbery Medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" the following year.

Review to come.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

503 (2015 #60). The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho, performed by Jeremy Irons

I chose this book because it met one of the categories for the Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge (translated from another language, in this case Portuguese), it was short (164 pages), and it was available in audiobook (four discs).  Also, I liked the title - alchemy fascinates me.

Thank goodness the book was short.  What a waste of my time.  But then, I'm not a fan of the "inspirational" genre (so this book could have also fit the "out of your comfort zone" category in the reading challenge).

The alchemist in this fable/parable/allegory is actually not the main character.  That would be an Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago (mostly called "the boy" in the book, annoyingly).  In pursuit of his "Personal Legend" to find a treasure he's dreamed about, he travels from Tarifa in Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, (in present-day Morocco), across the desert to the Al-Fayoum Oasis, and then on to the pyramids in Egypt.  It takes a long time and he meets a lot of people along the way, including a gypsy woman and a disguised king in Spain, a crystal merchant and an Englishman who wants to be an alchemist in Tangier, and a beautiful woman he immediately falls in love with as well as *the* alchemist at the oasis.

There's lots more (capitalized) drivel in the (print) book, as the boy learns about the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of Life, the Master Work, and the (universal) Language of the World.  He learns to "listen to his heart" and to read omens, and nothing really bad ever happens to him.

I was bothered by the message (page 22) that "to realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation....And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it."  Of course, this only applies to men, because (page 126) "a woman ... knows that she must await her man."

The only good part about this book was listening to actor Jeremy Irons' wonderful voice reading it.  Even so, I can't recommend this overrated fantasy.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

502 (2015 #59). The Tiger's Wife

by Téa Obreht

This book looked interesting when I saw it was available as an e-book from the Hood County Library, when I first got a Kindle in April 2013. I've been meaning to read it for some time, so the Summer Reading Challenge was a great excuse.

Téa Obreht will be 30 years old on September 30, 2015. Her debut novel, a National Book Award finalist and British Orange Prize for Fiction winner was first published in 2010.

It's a braided narrative, with all the stories set in an unnamed Balkan country (Obreht was born in the former Yugoslavia).  One story is set (more or less) in the present, just after the various Yugoslav Wars.  Natalia is a doctor on her way to a coastal orphanage with her friend Zora to vaccinate the children there.  While traveling, she learns that her beloved grandfather has died under mysterious circumstances.

The other two threads in the narrative braid are folkloric tales of magical realism that her grandfather, also a doctor, used to tell Natalia.  One involves his encounters over the years with a "deathless man," who cannot die himself, but comes when others are about to die.  The other dates back to his childhood in a remote village and the interesting characters there, including Darisa the Bear, a taxidermist and hunter; an unnamed apothecary; Luka the butcher; and Luka's deaf-mute wife - called "the tiger's wife" because she befriends a tiger lurking near the village that escaped from a city zoo.  All of these people have their own back stories, which Obreht relates in the novel as well.

This book has some interesting things to say about death (pages 154 and 300-301 in particular) and war.  Here is a good quote concerning the latter, from page 283:

But now, in the country's last hour, it was clear...that the cease-fire had provided the delusion of normalcy, but never peace.  When your fight has purpose--to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent--it has a hope of finality.  When the fight is about unraveling--when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event--there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them.  Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.

There are also some insights about fear (page 168):

My mother always says that fear and pain are immediate, and that, when they're gone, we're left with the concept, but not the true memory--why else, she reasons, would anyone give birth more than once?

and about superstition and deceit (page 312):

...the apothecary learned to read white lies, to distinguish furtive glances between secret lovers that would precipitate future weddings, to harness old family hatreds dredged up in fireside conversations that allowed him to foresee conflicts, fights, sometime even murders.  He learned, too, that when confounded by the extremes of life--whether good or bad--people would turn first to superstition to find meaning, to stitch together unconnected events in order to understand what was happening.  He learned that, no matter how grave the secret, how imperative absolute silence, someone would always feel the urge to confess, and an unleashed secret was a terrible force.

Obreht writes well.  I hope she isn't a one-hit wonder.


© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #13 - Translated from Another Language


The Alchemist, by Paol Coelho

This book was originally written in Portuguese.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #12 - Re-Read


The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, read by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye.

I read this book (or rather, listened to it, as I did again this time) the first time in February 2014.  I re-read it because my book club is discussing it tomorrow, and I am the discussion leader.

My review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #11 - Author Under 30


The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht.

Tea Obreht will be 30 years old on September 30, 2015.  This National Book Award finalist was published in 2011.

This book looked interesting when I saw it was available as an e-book from the Hood County Library, when I first got a Kindle in April 2013.  I've been meaning to read it for some time, so the Summer Reading Challenge was a great excuse.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015