Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I'm going to assume I'm the last person on the planet to read these books. I've always thought I would get around to them, but when I heard the movie this summer was going to be PG and I could take my boys, I decided it was the perfect time! (I haven't seen the movies yet either.)

So, I liked and would recommend this book. It is filled with action and adventure. I like the voice and style that J.K. Rowlings writes in, I was a little nervous about that. But I love that after spending years being under appreciated and mistreated, that Harry finds out he is a hero, and had loving, courageous parents.

Also, I love the type and spacing that is used. The very helpful last page told me it is 12 point Adobe Garamond, I hope they are all the same.

I was a little annoyed that some things weren't resolved, like how did Malfoy get out of the forest? Stuff like that bugs me.

I loved when Dumbledore tells Harry to "use the proper name." That they both felt the same way about it.

And finally, this fantastic explanation, "..to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." Beautiful.

I can't wait to continue the story!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Did anyone read Interpreter of Maladies? It's been a few years since I have, but I remember liking it. I also remember some of the stories were really sad. Although each dealt with a family or character that was either born in India, or born in America to first generation Indian immigrants, many of the themes were universal.

Unaccustomed Earth is the second collection of short stories that Jhumpa Lahiri has published. She also wrote a novel in between, that I haven't read yet.

I really liked these stories. Again there are some tragic parts. In fact, the last three stories are "part two" and all relate to two characters, and culminate with them being reunited after 30 or so years. I wish these had been the first three, because I didn't like the ending and thought it was a sad way to finish up a book.

So the things I did like. Lahiri has a great way of making her short stories feel like a novel. They don't feel like a chapter or a short snippet. Each has complex characters, most of whom I liked, and thought provoking ideas and themes. Some were more relatable than others, and again they are all about familes who have immigrated to the United States at some point from India. I have to say it did make me want to learn more about the culture, but the importance is not limited to a sort of culture study. Not at all. I loved that I could sit and read a complete story in one sitting, but I would be just as excited to start the next one.

These are well-written stories. I want to describe them as smart, but I'm not sure what a smart story should be.

One theme that I liked was how the third generation, the grand children, seemed to help bridge the gap. Not just grandchildren I guess, but children in general. Most of the stories have a sweet element even if they also have a lot of sadness.

There was one particular part that sadly sounded familiar:

He's talking about how he and his wife's energy is now "devoted not to doing things together but devising ways so that each could have some time alone, she taking the girls so that he could go running hin the park on her days off, or vice versa, so that she could browse in a bookstore" It goes on, but you get the point.
I highly recommend this book. I hope you'll like it too.

(Oh and there are a few moments of PG-13.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

This is a really good book. I had heard a lot about it, and finally took the time to read it. I couldn't put it down, and am completely fascinated by Greg Mortenson's work. While I admire what the co-author Relin was trying to do in adding background and poetic descriptions, they were a little distracting to me.

The story of Greg wandering into a tiny village in Northern Pakistan, making a promise to build a school, then going back to California and working hard and ultimately giving up his old life to make this happen is amazing. It is entertaining and captivating all by itself. I did appreciate the background into the different villages, religions, and nationalities, but I'm still confused.

However today as I read an article about refugees in Pakistan, I had a frame of reference. It wouldn't have caught my eye a week ago. But words like "Kalashnikov rifles," "Pushtan," and "Peshawar," now have meaning in my mind. That being said, the conflicts and poverty are very hard to comprehend.

More than any other book lately, I want to talk about this one. Luckily I know enough people who have read it. I'm having a hard time knowing what to post! So I'm going to resort to lists.

What I thought was AMAZING:

  • How Greg Mortensen completely gave up his life of climbing to become a school builder. He didn't look back.
  • The story of Greg meeting and marrying his wife is almost unbelievable, but very sweet.
  • The hospitality of the Pakistani people. The way that they fix food and serve tea, then ask the questions.
  • The timing of Greg's work is so incredible, that he was there before the "madrassas" were springing up all over the place.
  • I love how his wife believes in him and has personally sacrificed so much for her husband to keep his work going.
  • When Greg is able to go back and double the salaries of the men who have served so long and hard with him!
What was frustrating to me:
  • It is always hard for me to keep characters and vocabulary that are in a foreign language straight when I read. I don't take notes the way I did in college, so there were times I would get characters confused.
  • I'm still hung up on him not taking the government's money. He did it because he wanted to protect the people he worked with. Obviously, he can do more work without having to be accountable to or babysat by the US government. BUT, if the whole point is that increasing education opportunities is the best way to fight terrorism, the government is going to need inside help. The troops can't accomplish what Greg could, they wouldn't have the contacts, the experience, all that. SO this has caused me to think a lot about it. Reading a book like this, you start to think, it should be so simple. I know it's not, and I keep thinking of HOW things could be accomplished.

And again that's why this story is so amazing. Greg saw a need and then did everything he could to fix it. Over and over again. His dedication is totally inspiring.

I recommend this whole-heartedly. I've heard a few people saying it was too boring, and I think that's because some of the details and background might seem tedious. I was so fascinated by the character, and wanted to see what he would do next, that I read it pretty quickly.