Archive | March 2012

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I decided to switch gears and read a book that I had planned for my Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge

I read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I’m STILL not sure what to make of it. I did enjoy some, but had a hard time trying to read through other parts of the book. I think a 3 star or maybe 3.5 rating out of 5 may be a good estimate.

I have to give the author some credit, I don’t think I was supposed to enjoy reading through some of the parts. The narration is scattered, almost stream of conscious style. That style fits except that it was from the narration of an autistic boy. I’m not sure you’d call that stream of conscious or if that’s just regular. Either way it was hard to follow often.

I didn’t enjoy seeing little sketches thrown around either. It seemed to cheapen the story for me. At the same time, it made the book feel more like the child’s book. I can envision him with a book notebook writing his “novel” with the help of his teacher or classroom aide.

I felt bad for the child’s father, and it really hardened me into thinking of how I would raise an autistic child if that is what life threw me. The deep things within the book are excellent. The father & mother, they’re relationship, how things turn out all make for a compelling and real-to-life read. The challenges of keeping the family together must be tough. With that said, I can’t see why so many comments on this book talk about it being a comedy. I don’t see this as the case at all. Some things are amusing, but I don’t think it was made to be a comedy. I’ve also seen some of Good Reads harping on it because they were told it was a mystery, and though the boy is trying to be a detective for a little while, that is not what this book is about either. The book is about the family through and through. The experiences the boy had traveling to London felt real to me as well. I definitely want to continue reading about autism and reading books like this one are great. Seeing the world from Christopher’s perspective, and thinking about your life in this context really makes you think.

I’m not sure I would recommend this book for everyone. If you’re interested in autism it’s an interesting read— reading the book in this light, you think about what Christopher has issues with, how he goes about solving issues or thinking about things, and following his logic is really fascinating. The book is a quick and easy read though: so if interested, it doesn’t take much investment.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Alright, so I’m reviewing this book a good deal of time after reading it. This is Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie.

Not everything is fresh in my mind, but the book still stands out. I loved it. I picked the book up because after the Uwem Akpan short story/novella on Nigeria, I wanted to read more. This book was everything I could have hoped for. Not only does it do a great job of bringing in a great deal of the history, but it intertwined it within the story so vividly that this book made me feel like I was living this experience. After reading this book and sitting on edge loving every minute of it, I’m starting to realize I really love gritty novels. While it’s hard to read for some, these horrors are just so engaging in the literary form. It’s all so shocking, and disturbing… but makes for a page-turner you just can’t put down.

The book is set, as I mentioned, in Nigeria. It takes place before and during the Biafran war. I really like that the author integrated some events for the outside perspective of placing it within history (the 16th street church bombing for example). Overall the book is haunting. I like that it follows the one family, but it split between perspectives of the others in their life. My heart broke for Ugwu multiple times. What a great novel. I’ve really lucked out in my selections. This is a must read for those interested in this setting. I recommend the book for just anyone though too. I’ve seen some comments on Good Reads of those disliking it because it had too much politics & history behind it— but I felt everything belonged. The integration seemed seamless; a wonderful historical fiction. I will definitely read more from this author when I get the chance after reading challenges are completed.

 

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So behind!

Wow! I can’t believe how behind I am on my reviews now. I only wrote 1 review but since then I’ve read 2 other books for reading challenges and just picked up my 3rd. But also re-read all 3 if the Hunger Games trilogy. So im behind 5 books on my reviews! Besides being tremendously busy with school, I don’t have an excuse except procrastination. I can’t remember if I mentioned I was participating in the mental illness advocacy reading challenge as well, but I am. So I decided to read a couple books for that before returning to my Africa Reading Challenge. So that’s where I am now. I will post separate entries for the reviews and I swear I’ll do them in the next day.

African Reading Challenge: Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan

Wow, just wow. That’s about how I can sum up my reaction after finishing the book last night. I’m a bit behind the times. I know this book (rather collection, because it’s made up of 5 short stories) was really big back in 2008 & 2009 when Oprah had it part of her book club collection, but I never made time for personal reading back then. My excuse was that I was in college and didn’t have time for personal reading– as a history major I read enough for school. But my 1 year break between my undergrad & my grad school changed that. I’m still slow because I only have time to read a little at a time— but the point is I make the time now.

ANYWAYS, back to this book. Like I said, there’s 5 short stories: An Ex-Mas Feast, Fattening for Gabon, What Language Is That?, Luxurious Hearses, and My Parent’s Bedroom.

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There wasn’t a story that I didn’t like and that didn’t move me. I love that it moved around across the continent— tales from Nigeria (the author’s home country), Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and the last I’m actually not too sure Fattening for Gabon the kids were to GO to Gabon, and in the story broken French was spoken so my guess is Cameroon bordering Gabon, but I could be wrong. These stories are all narrated from the mindset of children which makes the tales more vivid from the eyes of the innocent.

I would love to say more about the stories but I don’t want to ruin these for anyone who hasn’t read them. None of the stories result in a happy ending— and that made these feel the most real. I felt I was witnessing many of the atrocities, and that can make these stories not for everyone but well worth the read for others. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite one because they’re all wonderful. The two longest stories Fattening for Gabon & Luxurious Hearses I felt the story was complete in a sense. The others felt almost too short, like the ending of the stories were abruptly cut out. I liked and didn’t like that.

I can say that Luxurious Hearses probably hit my the hardest. As I think I mentioned, I studied African History quite extensively in my undergrad years. I love Africa. Nigeria is a weakness on my end. Though I remember my classes studying their history & the Biafran war, I’ve always been slightly confused on details. So as much as I know this story didn’t shock me but made me long to learn more about Nigeria. I didn’t expect a happy outcome but I still longed for one. After finishing it I sat there for a good 30 minutes just stunned though. Uwem Akpan writes these stories so effortlessly, it’s wonderful. From what I’ve seen in reviews online the Rwandan story seems to hit everyone the hardest, this wasn’t the case for me. It was a wonderful story, and I really wanted to read more. I wonder if it’s just lack of knowledge by most Americans. I’ve studied the atrocities (and the history leading up to it) it great detail, so nothing was shocking to me— heartbreaking, yes, but not shocking. The scene with the toddler and his mother was horrible in a really tragic sense. I can absolutely picture that scene in real life. What I loved most what that, without saying so, Akpan brought out the issues with the “racial” categories in Rwanda. Most Americans I know only know of Rwanda through Hotel Rwanda— even there, the issue is slightly brought up but it is not picked up on. I remember being extremely upset because I thought maybe people would understand, but that didn’t seem to be the case. People still talk about it as “tribal warfare” and things of that extent. So I love that the little girl Monique talked about her mother’s description, and then that uncle looked like her and vice versa for her father and other family.

As I said a bit earlier, I want to read more on Nigeria right now. So for the next book I just picked up Half of a Yellow Sun. I guess I’m making my way through these bestsellers & award winners I never got to in the past. I’m using NovelList to help me find African Authors and that’s been very helpful.

The only negative thing I can say was I had some language difficulties. African languages are scattered throughout and some transliteration which can be difficult in some instances. Some words feel like they had no meaning, possibly just emphasis words. It made it a little disjointed, but didn’t take away from the feel. I think others could critique French usage in here too, but as I speak French (enough) I had no issues there. Overall the choices of language make it feel more authentic, but that doesn’t make it easy!

Until next time—

Danielle