Jul. 1st, 2017

Book report

Jul. 1st, 2017 08:35 pm
 

My rating system:

10 – life-changing, an all-time favorite

5 - average for what I read

1 – terrible; why did I finish it?

 

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs – I listened to this book on audio, and it’s a work of non-fiction. Robert Peace was born in an African-American neighborhood in New Jersey that suffers from many of the problems urban America has: sub-par schools, jobs that don’t pay well, crumbling housing, Black men being locked up without fair trials, and more. Bolstered by a hard-working, self-sacrificing mother and by his own brains, Robert gets into better schools and seems on his way to a successful life when he lands a scholarship at a very prestigious university. And yet, the book’s title gives you something of a spoiler into what happens. Why was his life “short and tragic”? What would it have taken for him to rise above the odds? The book offers no easy answers but it is a fascinating character study, and a fascinating look at the reality of life in America for those who are born into poverty and with the wrong color skin.  The book may be sad, but I was completely taken in with it. One minor complaint: I would like to give a stern talking-to to whoever produced or directed the audio book. Each CD had just 2 or 3 tracks on it. Most tracks were really long (like 30 minutes), but some were just a minute or two. Makes no sense; good audio books have short and numerous tracks in case you need to pop out the CD and listen to something else. Well, I guess books on CD will go the way of music on 8-track cassettes so the point will be moot pretty soon. Grade: 8

 

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit – A collection of essays by the acclaimed writer. The book was originally published in 2004 but updated with a new forward in 2016. The book is only 140 pages but it demands to be read slowly and carefully. I complied. I retyped passages that moved me and shared them on social media; it was that good. Solnit lays out the dangers of despair and gives real examples of how those who hope and work for a better future can stay committed and have hope that a better world is possible.  The book is not about rah-rah pie-in-the-sky optimism; Solnit’s examples of activism being successful are concrete, grounded, and global. Grade: 8

 

Hi, Anxiety by Kat Kinsmark – A memoir about the author struggling with anxiety and depression. We see how it impacts her day to day life, and the challenges of everything from going to the doctor to trying to keep her conditions a secret. It was well-written and eye-opening. Grade: 7

 

Saga, Volumes 1  & 2 by Brian K Vaughn, art by Fiona Staples – Holy hell, this graphic novel is amazing! Thank you, Ann, for recommending it. The interstellar story of star-crossed lovers fighting the odds was lovely. The artwork was some of the best I’d ever seen. I’ve attempted to read graphic novels over the years where I can’t recognize the same character from panel to panel. This artwork was beautiful, each character drawn so well.  The storyline was fast-driving, and every single character felt fully realized. And all the different worlds and different species, and their interactions, were so imaginative. Can’t wait to see what happens next!! Best thing I’ve read in a while. Grade: 9

 

Daughter of Kura by Debra Austin – It’s been too long since I’ve read a good novel taking place during pre-history. This book’s setting is half a million years ago in Southeast Africa. The protagonist lives in a matrifocal society and, as granddaughter of the village’s leader, she is poised to someday be leader herself. But a strange man enters their village with some new ideas, and group cohesion starts to break down as a result. Since I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I glanced at a few reviews on Goodreads. Some criticized the book for its predictable plot (true) and lack of details. The author lays out, in an afterword, what we know about this time period and some things we can guess at – and perhaps she played it too safe, rarely taking educated guesses at details which would’ve rounded out the book and supplied more snapshots of the characters’ daily lives. (Some examples – we don’t know whether the characters wear clothes for warmth or decoration, whether they bathe for sanitation or vanity, whether or not they have attempted to domesticate animals or tried to create their own groves of edible plants). That is a legit criticism, and yet I have to say that I enjoyed the story she had to tell anyway. The book quenched my thirst for a good yarn taking place in pre-historic times, and let’s not forget that too many extraneous details can weigh a story down too. Bonus points for including characters who are attracted to members of the same sex. Grade: 7

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