Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Monsoon Summer

Mitali Perkin's Monsoon Summer tells the story of likeable Jasmine Gardner's summer in India. Her mother was adopted as a tot from an orphanage where she gets a grant to start a clinic. Leery at first, India's monsoon madness eventually infects even guarded Jazz as she opens her heart to her mother's homeland and uses her business acumen to help Danita, an orphan and friend whose considering marrying a rich geezer for financial security. Throughout the summer Jazz worries about her friend/object of unrequited love, Steve who's back in Berkeley running their business and fending off cool girls.

I enjoyed the characters especially Jazz who overcomes her own doubts and preconceptions about herself as the summer progressives. The teen novel shows a realistic encounter with a different culture and addresses issues bi-cultural people feel as they come to terms with their identity and how others relate to them. This won't be the last of Perkin's books for me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


For January, my book club read the sparse, powerful Antigone. My copy included some insightful essays to provide a context for this play. The culture this comes from, was so different from our own. I was struck by Antigone's single minded idealism as she took on Creon, who wanted to execute her for disobeying his edict by burying her brother, who opposed the government.

It's a powerful play with flawed characters, which can teach any playwright or screenwriter a lot about doing more with less.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Great Book Club's Reading Timeline

Just a start

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anne of Green Gables

Last month's book club choice was Anne of Green Gables, which I'd never read before. I expected it would be too corny for me, but I actually liked it. Anne is a cheerful, innocent girl, whose appeal as a character is saved by her mischief and her status as an orphan who's had to put up with a lot of ill treatment. So I was rooting for her.

Marilla and Matthew take her in, though they wanted a boy and by accident get a girl. They have the a rural stoicism that often conflicts with Anne's dreaminess, but comedy is the result.

Anne really did grow on me and I'd read more. It was a good choice after reading about poor Tess in September and October.

My Book Quiz Results

You're Love in the Time of Cholera!

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Like Odysseus in a work of Homer, you demonstrate undying loyalty by sleeping with as many people as you possibly can. But in your heart you never give consent! This creates a strange quandary of what love really means to you. On the one hand, you've loved the same person your whole life, but on the other, your actions
barely speak to this fact. Whatever you do, stick to bottled water. The other stuff could get you killed.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Hardly, accurate

Monday, November 15, 2010


Jean Fritz' Homesick describes her childhood in China during the 20's around the time of the first revolution. It's funny, perceptive and touching. She's a spirited girl of 9 or 10 years old who likes some aspects of life in China, but not all. I loved how honest and real her writing was. This book is geared to young readers, but appeals to all because she doesn't sugarcoat things or spare her readers from the hardship life can throw at us. She weaves the history in so that it doesn't come across as pendantic, rather it's just natural.

I wanted to read more. That's the sign of a good book.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Begin Here

Jacques Barzun's Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning is terrific. He examines education from grade school to grad school pointing out the ridiculous and offering better solutions and perspectives. Although it was first written in the 70s and updated in the 90s, its still current (sadly). It's a fun, intelligent read and highly recommended for anyone with a serious interest in education.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tess D'Urbervilles

I was blown away by Tess of the D'Urbervillesby Thomas Hardy. It was our book club's choice for September and October, but really isn't that long, yet I'm glad I didn't have to race through it in a month.

It's the story of a young woman from a poor family who has hardship after hardship. No one cuts her a break. Yet she keeps on going. She doesn't have any lofty aspirations, unlike her pathetic father who's already a drinker, but becomes more useless once he hears that he's descended, in more ways than one, from an aristocratic family.

I'd seen the movie in the 80's and vaguely remembered some scenes and the tone of the story. I also remember Monty Python spearing Hardy quite often. Yet this is a well written book about a compelling character. I'm so glad I read it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language

I feel rather privileged to get an advanced copy of Deborah Fallows' Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Languagevia my friend Sally's relative who works at NPR. (Talk about a dream job.) Fallows describes her various efforts to learn Mandarin interspersed with her experiences in China over the years. She includes both linguistic loves and characteristic Chinese moments. It's a fun and quick read for a Sinophile. There weren't any lessons in Love as in romantic love. That's a tease in the subtitle.

Yet others might not enjoy it that much. They might not care about some of the facets of Mandarin and wish there were more stories about life in China. A reader who has studied Mandarin could find this too basic.