August 18, 2014

Recent Reads

108. Euphoria
There is so much I loved about the premise of this story of three anthropologists working in Papua, New Guinea: Nell Stone, her husband Fen, and Andrew Bankson. The title comes from something Nell says: "It’s that moment about two months in, when you think you’ve finally got a handle on the place. Everything clicks and it all feels within your grasp …at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria.”

The character of Nell Stone is based on Margaret Mead, and explores the tension between her and her not as famous husband as they embed themselves in with native tribes. The couple runs into Bankson, and he both helps ease and compound the tension between them. I quite enjoyed the setting, the description of cultures, and the exploration of the line between anthropology and zoology. However, while the prose is quite lovely in parts, I did not find myself lost in the story and the drama of the characters and their lives. I did like the writing enough to explore the author's backlist, and will certainly be reading some books on Margaret Mead in the not too distant future. Rating: 3 stars.

109. In the Shadow of No Towers
I loved Spiegelman's Maus graphic novels, so thought I'd give this one a try.

Book blurb: In the Shadow of No Towers is a highly personalized, political, and confessional diary of his experience of September 11 and its aftermath. In 10 large-scale pages of original, hard hitting material (composed from September 11, 2001 to August 31, 2003), two essays, and 10 old comic strip reproductions from the early 20th century, Spiegelman expresses his feelings of dislocation, grief, anxiety, and outrage over the horror of the attacks---and the subsequent "hijacking" of the event by the Bush administration to serve what he believes is a misguided and immoral political agenda. 

This book is huge in size though slim in terms of number of pages, some of the art is wonderful, but overall it felt disjointed and lack a cohesive narrative. Rating: 2 stars.

110. Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey
This is a fun, if somewhat choppy, non-fiction graphic novel and if you are interested in Shackleton or Antarctic exploration it is worth a read. I loved the black and white illustrations, but it was hard to tell some of the characters apart. Reading this while sipping an ice cold drink in the summertime is a perfect way to appreciate the fortitude of these explorers. By the way, was I the only one disappointed that Mrs. Chippy the cat gets no air time? Rating: 3 stars.

111. Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles #1)
This book was highly recommended by my 9 year old nephew Jonah, who has read and loved the series. 

Book blurb: When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. 

Written by the author of the Hunger Games, this earlier work targeted for the middle grade reader is a fun and fast paced story of adventure, friendship, loyalty, bravery and teamwork. Rating: 3 stars.

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