29 June 2009

my revolutions - hari kunzru

hari kunzru || my revolutions || 4.0/5.0

my revolutions is the story of an ex-1960's revolutionary. the novel is told in the first person and set in present day, but features a long series of flashbacks which chronicle the speaker's time as a revolutionary and subsequent assumption of a new identity.

the main character is british, and was involved in a fictional extreme revolutionary organization during the vietnam war. his relationship with revolution grows from a curious student involved with the communist party to a group leader executing terrorist acts. at the height of his involvement, he abandons his group, fleeing the country and eventually reinventing himself as a run-of-the-mill family man.

i really liked this one - lots of drama (drugs, protest, love affairs, mystery) and a really heartfelt tale of self-searching and confused identity. lucky for us, kunzru is a young and rather new author.

the roots - the seed

24 June 2009

this side of paradise - f. scott fitzgerald

f. scott fitzgerald || this side of paradise || 3.5/5.0

this is fitzgerald's first novel. i was inspired to read it after watching the first 50 minutes of the great gatsby five times as an english class substitute teacher.

for the most part, i enjoyed reading this novel as much as i did gatsby in high school. there were several parts that were a bit hard to follow on audio, however - some free verse and lengthy poetry sections. i also have to confess to struggling with the philosophical elements of class theory and human nature. perhaps i was distracted by beltway traffic?

i did love the narrative portions, however, and i particularly loved the names of characters - very 1920's style: amory blaine, beatrice, isabelle, and rosalind.

not a favorite, but enjoyable nonetheless.

little women - louisa may alcott

louisa may alcott || little women || 3.0/5.0

despite my mother's constant urging, i never read little women as a kid. my overall impression? its hefty and dense, but definitely written to a young audience.

its a great story, and i'm looking forward to finally watching the movie version. somehow i've managed to avoid it all these years (i'm definitely a book-before-movie kind of girl), but i'm eager to check out the combined efforts of winona ryder, claire danes, christian bale, and kirsten dunst.

i have to confess i wasn't too crazy about the book. i think there are some novels that you have to have loved as a child to love as an adult. i do like to imagine that life was so hokey back then, even if my better judgement usually prevails.

16 June 2009

the white man's burden - william easterly

william easterly || the white man's burden || 3.5/5.0

easterly's view on development is opposite that of well-known voices such as jeffrey sachs, the un, the world bank and IMF, and of course, bono. as those theorists largely represent my understanding of development, i was eager to explore the other side.

overall i really enjoyed the book, and was intrigued by many of his arguments. the overall message presented is that our overarching 'schemes' of development have repeatedly failed and need to be replaced with piecemeal, targeted, locally-driven projects. there were a lot of interesting points, and i'll mention a couple here.

more eye-opening to me was his evaluation of the supply and demand balance of aid. easterly argues that because its the wealthy constituents of the west that are demanding aid, the results are catered to satisfying westerners (meetings and frameworks), rather than to the actual poor of the developing world. in his proposed piecemeal version of aid, the poor become the demanders, and the results become more catered to achieving development success on their behalf.

on nation-building and economic reform, easterly argues that outside forces will never be able to impose new systems on developing countries. rather, he says, the west should focus its aid efforts on alleviating the current sufferings of the poor (hunger, disease, lack of education, lack of infrastructure), and allow government and economic reform to flow naturally from an empowered populace.

some of his statistical arguments felt a bit shaky, but the overwhelming drawback of the book for me was the writing. his syntax is rough and confusing, and really kept me from loving the book.

overall view: if you're not interested in development theory, this would be a rather dull book for you. if you are, definitely pick it up for its different ideas, but beware the writing.

14 June 2009

a finished prodcut, six years in the making

many years ago, i started making sampler squares for this blanket. three years ago, i finished the last one and stitched them together. last night, i finally got around to weaving in all my loose threads. i'm hoping that this will remain in my book as 'longest project' forever.

13 June 2009


it's summer! summer is good for a few things - one of which is picking raspberries in my backyard. this morning's picking was made even better by the bees' decision to stay away until i was done.

Posted by Picasa

10 June 2009

papillon - henri charrière

henri charrière || papillon || 4.0/5.0

papillon is the story of henri charrière's sixteen years on a french penal colony in the early twentieth century. condemned to life in prison and ten years of hard labor in french guiana, charrière made a series of daring escapes before finally achieving lasting freedom in venezuela.

throughout the book, charrière maintains his innocence of his initial crime. the truth of his memoir has been questioned since publication, but regardless makes for a very good story. sometimes haunting, sometimes thrilling, and at times funny, the book is a very engaging read. i liked it far more than i thought i would!

unrelatedly, if you've noticed i've been rather low on book posts lately... let's just say it has to do with a certain movie that premiers july 15. some books are just too good to be reviewed!

08 June 2009

jump little children - mexico

not an actual video; instead, the first of many attempts to convince you to come visit next year.