I love Lauren Groff, she is such a phenomenal author and I think Arcadia might be her best one yet. The premise surrounds a hippie commune in upstate...moreI love Lauren Groff, she is such a phenomenal author and I think Arcadia might be her best one yet. The premise surrounds a hippie commune in upstate New York, Arcadia, and their attempt at Utopia and its first natural born Arcadian, a small boy named Bit. The book follows Bit growing up in Arcadia and his quest for peace, love, and happiness. Of course the commune breaks apart as Utopias only seem to work in theory, but then this kid who has only ever known the commune has to adjust to adulthood and the real world simultaneously.
I think this book is really about childhood and happiness. It doesn't matter where you come from and what you came from, it is about taking those memories and making the best of them, sort of Utopia only exists in hindsight and in memory. We can choose to take our past and make the most of it or we can wallow in it.
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is probably one of the most lovely well-written books I have read in quite a long time. The book revolves around the histo...moreA Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is probably one of the most lovely well-written books I have read in quite a long time. The book revolves around the history of an Iranian young woman named Saba. When we join Saba as a child she just lost her mother and sister in a mysterious situation and while everyone tells her they are dead, she believes they escaped the post-revolution Iran and they are happy living in America without her.
The book follows this young woman on her journey as someone raised as the twin who was not as strong, not as smart, not as special. Raised by a feminist mother and Christian parents in a conservative Muslim world, Saba has trouble adjusting and fitting into a world that wants to cage and stifle her. What makes it worse, she longs for her dreams of a free and independent America where she believes her sister to reside.
That is a simplistic summary of an intricate book. Dina Nayeri's novel succeeds because of its complete relatability. Even as we learn about the pasadars, moral police, and female brutality that Saba and her best friend Ponneh witness and experience first hand, she also tells us about the family and community. Just as women as subjugated, they also come across as the strength of the community. The neighborhood women come to support and raise Saba after her mother's disappearance and though she has a father, they are the ones who navigate her through the post-revolutionary Iran. Just as we learn about the poverty we learn about the richness of the rich food and beautiful landscapes that make up Iran. Nayeri forces the reader to realize that life is complex. As much as we all would like to escape and run away from home, it is still home.
Saba's dreams and creation of another world and stories for her twin sister, is also telling. As a twin, Saba sees her sister Mahtab as her mirror image. Though she believes Mahtab to be in America, she creates images and stories that depict her sister to be living the exact life she is living in Iran, the same troubles play out in slightly different formats and in vastly different landscapes. While Mahtab has difficulties feeling like an immigrant in in America and not knowing how to live without her twin, Saba has the same issue. Raised as a rich, intelligent, liberal Christian, she always feel partly left out of the Iran she grew up in, especially without her sister. As Mahtab struggles to find independence in America, Saba struggles to make it through two messed up marriages, one which is completely void of love. Through these rules and marriages she still finds a way to revolt and find an independent voice.
The dichotomy is amazing and though this book takes place in a completely different landscape with different cultural norms, it is easy to relate to this book about belonging and leading an imaginary life and a real life. It is a fantastic novel and so well-written. Everyone should read this.
Since college I have always learned to appreciate an interesting narrative perspective and Zusak certainly delivered this to me...morePlease read this book.
Since college I have always learned to appreciate an interesting narrative perspective and Zusak certainly delivered this to me. What a wonderful book about a German family living on the outskirts of Munich during WWII, oh and the book is told from Death's perspective. Why Death? Well, Death finds the autobiography of a fourteen-year-old German girl and comes to admire her almost but he/she also puts in their own perspective and adroitly discusses the damage of WWII and Hitler.
With Death's commentary the book looks at the life of Leisel Meiminger, a book thief, after she is dropped off at the home of her foster parents, the Hubermanns, after her Communist mother is probably killed by Hitler's Nazi s and her brother died of sickness on the way. Over time she begins to love her foster parents and the friends she makes there, more importantly a blonde-boy named Rudy Steiner.
Also, her foster father pays an old debt by taking in and hiding a Jewish boy. The friendship that formed was an example of humanity in a war-torn and animalistic Germany. The fact that her papa took him was a rare example of humanity, which this book is full of and I think maybe that is why it is so good. We all have read WWII novels from every angle, but I never stopped to think about it from a non-Jewish German girl who was part of the Hitler Youth Group or more importantly, what Death would think about it.
It is bizarre and beautiful and I hope everyone reads it.(less)
Ok, so it's not fiction but it definitely gets your head thinking. I would say this book is part psychology part cultural studies. And it is GENIUS!!...moreOk, so it's not fiction but it definitely gets your head thinking. I would say this book is part psychology part cultural studies. And it is GENIUS!! Gladwell looks at what he calls splicing where we make decisions and opinions in milliseconds without realizing we are doing it or understanding our thinking. The forward looks at how a museum almost purchased what seemed like a legitimate great find of an ancient piece of artwork. Scientists came in and did studies and it seemed legit. Then some art experts came in and within seconds they thought it was a fraud. They didn't have any explanations just a gut feeling. They ended up being right!
For anyone who has ever seen NCIS, it's the Gibbs' gut feeling syndrome. Something feels hinky and off, well, according to Gladwell, it probably is. We have to learn to trust that gut feeling. Gladwell really takes this cultural study into an interesting dynamic. He examines when our gut feeling is off, he examines how it applies to Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism) where individuals cannot read people. He looks at how researchers can look at a clip of a relationship and determine with 93% accuracy if the relationship will last.
This is some cool shit. He explains why the Amadou Diallo occurs (the case in Brooklyn where officers chased a man and when he went to grab his wallet they shot him dead with 41 shots). This is why the book is important. He examines how when we become so keyed up and anxious (the police officer who first fired on Diallo was relatively green) we cannot get a clear picture, tunnel vision occurs and how it could have been ignored.
I just thin this is a great cultural study and we all could learn a great deal. Plus Gladwell makes sure to keep his examples (one major one for each chapter) are current and relevant. More importantly, he is just an interesting writer. Some of the chapter positions are admittedly jumbled but that is just being nit-picky!(less)
What a beautiful and captivating story. I found myself amazed, disgusted, angered, and laughing at everything in this memoir. So well-written and so m...moreWhat a beautiful and captivating story. I found myself amazed, disgusted, angered, and laughing at everything in this memoir. So well-written and so matter-of-fact for such a disturbing and outrageous story.
Jeannette Walls' memoir begins with a story from when she was around three and cooking hotdogs for herself, a common occurrence, when her dress caught on fire and she was badly burned and taken to the hospital where her parents thought she didn't belong there, though the girl had skin grafts. The stories of Jeannette Walls life and those of her brother and sisters have similar moments of neglect and how the children survived and sometimes thrived despite their parents and sometimes because of them. It is amazing how parents who love their kids so much can abuse them and set them up for failure.
This story is amazing and you should read it to learn survival, self-sufficiency, intelligence, and pluck can conquer all, even too much love and not enough parenting. It makes all the issues and grievances I ever had against my parents seem petty.(less)
One of my favorites! This book is unsettling in its nuances and how it displays a great cause/fight like feminism can become twisted and used for perv...moreOne of my favorites! This book is unsettling in its nuances and how it displays a great cause/fight like feminism can become twisted and used for perverse purposes. There are just enough hints from reality and history to make me anxious and nervous about how life could have been or could still be.(less)
I enjoyed this book if nothing else than because I am not sure who couldn't use more happiness in their lives. It's interesting and she points out som...moreI enjoyed this book if nothing else than because I am not sure who couldn't use more happiness in their lives. It's interesting and she points out some seemingly commonsensical suggestions, but ones that I think most people would overlook.(less)
I have a deep love of Victorian novels and I found that same style in a 21st century novel with a 21st century setting. The story c...moreA beautiful book...
I have a deep love of Victorian novels and I found that same style in a 21st century novel with a 21st century setting. The story centers around Victoria, a broken down child whose parents abandoned her at just a few weeks home where she was kicked around from foster home to group home. The novel goes back and forth between the past and present day where she is 18 and finally aged out of California's foster system worse for wear. She was beaten, neglected, denied food, she started fires, and abused other girls. At 18 she keeps reminiscing about the only mother she knew at the age of 9, Elizabeth, the woman who wanted to adopt her. Something obviously happened because know Victoria is 18 and still damaged.
She finds a job at a florist, which she thrives at. The only skill Victoria has and the only language she knows how to communicate. Every flower has a meaning and she uses it to create a thriving business. When she falls in love with Elizabeth's nephew, whom she never really knew and who doesn't speak to Elizabeth, even flowers fail her as she begins to deal with the fact that she thinks herself unloveable and incapable of happiness. No flowers exists to communicate such rich and complex emotions.
The book is beautiful and emotional. I found myself hoping and desperately wishing that Victoria would just give up and accept the fact she deserves happiness. Also, the fact that the novel alternates between the past and present made it climactic as you are constantly wondering what happened to take Elizabeth out of her life and why she thinks her boyfriend Grant will hate her when he finds out her secret. It makes you read this even quicker. Something about the love story and the flowers are so old-fashioned Victorian era. Plus, I will be careful about flowers I send from now on!(less)
How to describe something so amazing? I will start by saying that I started this book at 11pm and finished by 5pm the next day, that is how good it is...moreHow to describe something so amazing? I will start by saying that I started this book at 11pm and finished by 5pm the next day, that is how good it is!
In this futuristic post-American world, in order to overcome war and famine and such the world divided off into five factions. The Amity faction believed that peace and love saved the world and functioned as the artists and doctors of the world (the Mr. Rogers Faction), Candor faction believed that complete and utter honesty would save the world and functioned as the black and white legal team, Erudite believed that knowledge and education saved the world and were the scientists and researchers (the smarty-pants), the Dauntless faction believed that fearlessness and bravery would save the world and so protected the city, and the Abnegation faction believed in selflessness and so were the decision-makers of the world since they only thought of others and were deemed incorruptible.
When the members of society turned 16 they have the opportunity to pick their faction, although an aptitude test does reveal which they would fit best into. Though they grow up in the factions of their faction, free will is allowed and they can give up their families. As you can imagine, this becomes to many families a betrayal as "faction over blood" was a mantra. Likewise, as time went on the factions became more dogmatic in their stances.
Enter Beatrice, or Tris, as she leaves her family's faction and chooses another one. It is during that journey that she realizes she is more than one characteristic, she is many, she is a divergent. While she doesn't know what that means, she knows it has to be hidden. The novel takes the journey to discover who Beatrice is just as the world continues to break down and the political structures finally crack and war starts.
This is such an amazing novel. It is humorous, intriguing, violent, action-packed, and emotional. I think this is the kind of literature that teenagers need to be reading. It teaches the idea of independence, free thinking, free will, and how their decisions impact the world and others. It teaches moderation and is an interesting plea against fanaticism. It is the first in a series and I highly recommend jumping on board this bandwagon.(less)