Saturday, December 31, 2011

Alphabetically Scrambling to Finish off 2011

Things have been quiet around here as I try to finish up my last challenges while still celebrate the holidays with my family.  Now I'm holed up alone in my room chasing down the last few pages.

The A-Z challenge had a few leaves that were hard to shake from the tree, but I've finally knocked them down.  Coincidentally they also helped me round out the Global Reading Challenge, which was looking a bit anemic. During the holidays I've read the following on my NOOK, completing the A-Z challenge:
  • Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey.  An Australian coming-of-age story where the narrator learns about the fronts put on by everyone around him, proving that he doesn't have to doubt himself if his own courage and self-confidence aren't always bone deep.  The twin mysteries of his parents' marriage and the murder of a school mate implicating the notorious Jasper Jones provide the lens focusing these revelations, as well as the minor bits of plot that accompany the journey of interior growth.  I also learned a lot about cricket.
  • Wife of the GodsKwei Quartey.  Darko is a police detective in Ghana, where modern investigative techniques run parallel to rougher, simpler modes of justice, with magic and witchcraft lurking in the corners.  Darko's sense of fair place and justice stem from his own mother's disappearance, and the chance to solve a murder in his mother's home village also gives him the chance to peer into his own family's secrets.  An interesting glimpse into Ghana culture as well as a detective story.
  • The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar.  Rich Parsis and poor Hindu workers may think that their friendship can transcend an employee-worker relationship, but the rich will betray the poor every time.  Poor and uneducated people always lose, and it's because their poverty leads them open to bad choices based on smaller understanding.
  • One Man's Bible, Gao Xingjian.  Another book translated from Chinese that felt like it was written behind glass -- somehow I've never been able to connect with any I've tried.  It didn't help that women in this book were considered alien creatures there to either inspire lust or to fail miserably in that purpose.  The tricks with pronouns didn't illuminate much to me; the whole book felt false so the changing identities didn't resonate deeply.  The parts set in the past at least gave a sense of setting and reality, as opposed to the much vaguer parts in France or other western cities.  As a "fictionalized account" of the cultural revolution it worked better than as a "meditation on exile" and "the essence of writing" (from the B&N description.)

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