Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Private Lives of Trees

By Alejandro Zambra

A short, interesting novel about a guy who tells the daughter of his wife a story about the private lives of trees, while his wife is not coming home from work.  [98 pp.]

Link to book

Friday, November 21, 2014


By James Joyce

The famous collection of stories about random people's lives in Dublin. Not all of them were easy for me to read and/or understand. Sometimes it seems difficult to relate to one character, because a story is told from multiple perspectives. [304 pp.]

Link to book

Thursday, October 16, 2014


By Thomas Bernhard

A 181-page paragraph describing the thoughts of the narrator as he sits in his chair at an "artistic party" in Vienna of the 1980s. It is actually more interesting than it might sound, because there is a lot of tension between the narrator and the rest of the party, especially the host and some of the guests. They were all friends back in the '50s, and perhaps more than friends, and now they were partying and awaiting the guest of honor, a famous theater actor, after they buried another friend. Though I liked the story, and it seemed like it would be interesting to read more of this author's stories, I felt like I didn't want to handle another single-paragraph narratives right now, which seem to be the typical style of this author.

Book link

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Gap Year

By Sarah Bird

A story told from the points of view of mother and daughter, chronicling their lives about one year apart, during the most difficult period in their relationship. The mother is excited for her daughter to go to college, but the daughter doesn't really want to go, she'd rather stay in the suburb her mother so despises. Both think the other will not understand, and spend the year with a huge gap in communication. [320 pp.].


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Echo Detained

By Joshua Daniel Cochran

At first, the story seemed a bit intense for me, but I am very faint of heart, so it doesn't mean it is actually intense.  But indeed, horrible things happen to this guy Caleb (aka Echo), and none of it makes sense.  It was interesting, though, and fairly well written.  Sometimes it was even entertaining (especially the Delasco parts), though I have a feeling it was supposed to be more so than it seemed to me. [216 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Widow's War

By Sally Gunning

A beatifully-written story about a woman in 18th century Cape Code who loses her husband, and with it, almost, all of her rights. But she fights back to keep her independence as much as she can, while committing punishable sins left and right, without actually harming anybody. Did she win? [320 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Wedding Bees

By Sarah-Kate Lynch

A light chick lit that's pretty funny and quite good. Definitely a good read after something heavier. Makes you want to have some honey and grow bees. [368 pp.]

Book link

The Pickup

By Nadine Gordimer

It took me a while to get used to the writing - it was hard at first to tell where someone is saying something versus general narration, but with time I managed to be quite engaged in it.  It was interesting to see the characters develop, and the ending was not disappointing, which it could have been in so many different ways, considering the topic (the love between an illegal immigrant and a rebelious daughter of the upper middle class). I guess I quite enjoyed it all in all. Still, when I saw another book of the same author on the library shelf, I did not pick it up. Maybe I needed some rest... [288 pp.]

Book link

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Off the Menu

By Stacey Ballis

This is a complete antithesis of the book I read just before. It was a light, easy read, entertaining - kind of a feel-good book. Actually, it often felt too good to be true. The girl has a perfect job, the most perfect friends, the most adorable, caring family, the best dog in the world. So yes, there's the somewhat pesky boss/friend but even he has more good sides than bad ones. And then she meets the most perfect guy! The most romantic, considerate person in the whole wide world. Yes, it took her a while to find him. But seriously? It sounded a little bit too perfect.
Despite all that, I enjoyed reading the book. Perhaps it's because I thought that somehow things will turn out badly at some point. It'll turn out the guy was just a con man. Or something. But no. Well, the dog does get into an accident.
Finishing the book felt like the end of a good romantic comedy, where everything turns out the best possible way. It's definitely a good feeling. And I wish Scobie from the previous book would have had a friend like Maria, who'd tell him "Don't think about the "orrrrrrr", figure out the "and". Overall, it was way better than I expected based on the description on the back. [401 pp.]

Check out the book here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Heart of the Matter

By Graham Greene

This book took way too long for me to finish. I have read Graham Greene before, and enjoyed his books, but this one was different, for some reason. It was hard for me to get into, but eventually I did, and even then I can't say that I liked what I read. It seemed too unreal, the way things happened to the main character, like he has no control over anything, while the book makes it seem like he does. Maybe it's the scortching sun for six months out of the year that makes a man so miserable?  Maybe it's the rains that fall without a stop for the other six months? I don't know. Throughout the reading I kept thinking "poor Scobie", but the last few chapters of the book made me really feel bad. [256 pp.]

Link to the book here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Map of Home

By Randa Jarrar

A book about a half & half girl (half Palestinian, half Egyptian) growing up in different cultures, forced to move multiple times throughout her childhood, and how these moves affected her.

The book is somewhat interesting, but I didn't care to some parts of it. Sometimes it felt like the narrator was trying to be funny, but it didn't really work. Other times the style changed too frequently and erratically. It was hard to stay focused. [292 pp.]

Link to book

Last Child in the Woods:

Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder

By Richard Louv

A fairly extensive review of literature and anecdotes that link lack of outdoor experience in childhood with various modern-day problems throughout life. Makes me feel glad I got to spend so much time outside, even if "nature" meant agricultural fields and some wasteland. [390 pp.]

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

By Eric Schlosser

Well, it's about time I read this book! I have heard about it a lot, but never bothered to read it. Actually, that is not true, I flipped through the Amazon "Look Inside" version of it. And it made me really want to rid it. However, it took a while till I finally got my hands on it. So I finally did it! I finished it. It was very interesting, and loaded with information. Many times I thought that this information is outdated. But not in a good way, as Schlosser wished. Instead, all the bad things that he described just got worse. Obesity rate is ridiculously higher than it was 10 years ago. The minimum wage did not increase, but decreased in value. Meatpacking workers are still suffering avoidable injuries, and everything is going one way, which is the wrong way. People really need to wake up and stand up for their right to work, eat, and sleep in a healthy way. This might bring less money to the people who are already at the top, but that's okay. [276 pp., not including notes and index]

Book Link

Sunday, February 9, 2014


By Percival Everett

I figured this is a book by the author of I am Not Sidney Poitier, which I really liked, even though this book was not on the list of books at the beginning of this one. Well, that's because this book was published 4 years before the Not Sidney came out. This is something that is hard to tell by the cover. Anyway, this book was different. Less comical. It actually reminded me of The Tortilla Curtain in some ways, though it wasn't as bad (in terms of horrible things happening to characters). It was a good read. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the subtle jokes amidst the seriousness of bigotry and hate crimes. [207 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Pig Did It

By John Caldwell

This book is written splendidly. I enjoyed the way the author uses the language to create the right atmosphere and to give the situation described in the book (the finding of a skeleton of murdered person) so light and even funny. This is done in a  way that seems completely natural and uncontrived. This is apparently the first of a trilogy. I feel like this book could definitely stand on its own, and I would not seek the other ones "to see what happens" (even though the book includes the first chapter of book number two). However, if I happen to find that next book, I will be happy to dedicate a few hours to reading it. [214 pp.]

Book link

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

By David K. Randall

This is a very easy to read book about the science of sleeps, which is not well developed. Whatever is known is simplified for the lay reader and written in an engaging way. It has interesting stories about sleepwalking (and other parasomnias), about where the baby should sleep, about the importance of sleep in war and work, and how we are not really good at evaluating the quality of our sleep. Also, toward the end, there is a list of things one can do to improve their sleep. [290 pp., including notes.]

Book link

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Venus Envy

By Shannon McKelden

It must be the library's fault, but this book was categorized as SciFi. Not that I read much SciFi, but judging by the back cover, it looked like it would be interesting and not heavy on the SciFi. Kind of like Gods Behaving Badly. It started out kind of like that, but soon became annoyingly more like some romance novel. As if that wasn't enough, it also had parts that made me squirm because things happened that absolutely did not need to happen - they made no sense. It seemed like they only happened to create "funny" or "amusing" situations. Sort of like a sitcom. Which I didn't like at all. I read through it though, and all in all it was okay, but I was disappointed. The cover is nice, and this is one case where I was wrong to judge a book by the cover [336 pp.]

Book link

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Tortilla Curtain

By T. C. Boyle

Well... This book is something. I am quite ambivalent about it. On the one hand, it is very well written, thought provoking, and intense. On the other hand, it is intense. Keep-you-up-all-night-with-an-adrenaline-rush type of intense. I don't like watching movies that are this intense, and for the same reason, I didn't like reading this book. It just kept me up all night: I ended up getting a different book for bedtime, because this one just wouldn't let me sleep. It also made me read it when I was supposed to do other work. Also, the poor characters... they had no reprieve. Always horrible things happening to them. And I mean horrible! Gosh, I was so happy to be done with the book yesterday, now free to imagine the good things that happen to the characters. Not that it could be a happy ending, horrible things kept happening at the end, but at least, maybe, a slight change of luck?
As a side note, this book was published in 1995, but it felt VERY relevant and current. Has nothing changed in the past 20 years??? [355 pp.]

Book link

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Beasts of the Earth

Animals, Humans, and Disease

By E. Fuller Torrey, MD, and Robert H. Yolken, MD.

Well, this book is exactly about what the subtitle says: how we got our diseases through our various interactions with animals, and how those interactions changed over the years and as our technology advanced. Sometimes amusing, most of the time frightening, the descriptions here are pretty factuals, which is not to say it is a difficult read. Some interesting points about food safety and the cost of exotic pets (did you know you could get a buffalo for just $2,000? A giraffe is a bit more pricy: $60K). [191 pp., including a bunch of references, comments, and an index.]