The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

Flame trees of ThikaThis book is a real literary treasure. I read

it first as a teenager. It astonished me then, with its unique portrayal of Africa. Who could fail to love the African wilderness and its diverse

people after reading The Flame Trees of Thika?! Africa seen through Huxley’s youthful eyes is given a magical quality I have never again encountered (though BBC came close to portraying it in their rendition of this book). And it continues to astonish me even now. The spectacular visual imagery from that book are a treasured keepsake, and the book itself is nothing less than a 20th Century masterpiece. It is a priceless gem and well worth the cost.

A literary autobiography set in Kenya during an uncertain

and enterprising colonial era before the First World War, this book is an ideal companion to those interested in the British Empire and African anthropology. For naturalists it

provides breathtaking accounts of white hunters and their quarry as a retrospective commentary on man’s abuse of Africa’s wild heritage. Huxley writes quietly, sensitively and impartially providing philosophic insights in a heuristic and magical narrative. Always compelling, this is an important primary text.

The Hunger Games

I got this book

two days after it’s release and was don

e in less than one. This is definitely one of those books that you can read over and over and still not get bored. It’s like a whole new adventure every time.

I cant decide if I should label it a “girl book” or a “boy book” since the story seems to swing back and forth. There is a lot of weapons and fighting and at the same time plenty on romance and fashion.

This tale takes place sometime in the future. The world has gone through many changes, one of them being the fact that people are forced to kill each other for

entertainment. Two people from all the twelve districts are chosen to take part in a reality game show where only one person can survive.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Katniss Evergreen. She lives in district twelve, which happens to be the poorest and most looked down on district there is. Life is not so rosy here, jobs are hard to come by and so food is scarce. When Kantiss finds out that her small sister has been chosen to represent her district in this game, she quickly switches place with her and goes on instead of her.

The major slip for me in this book was that some scenes seem to have been pulled out of other books like Battle Royale and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Suzanne’s style of writing however, pushes you to over see these faults. From the prose to the dialog, it all pulls you

in and makes you feel like you are actually there.

All in all, this is a very engaging book.

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Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks at Them!

Goldman, Goldman! I don’t think I have a seen a book that has got as many

negative reviews

as this one.

The author does not only manage to offend a really large group of people by his supposedly sexist comments and get himself accused of plagiarism since most of the images in the book are copied from somewhere else, but he also makes the list of the top 100 people who are screwing up America.

And yes, this is actually a real list including people like Jerry Springer and Richard Timmons. And Paris Hilton’s parents,

ha ha

just kidding about the parents.

So anyway, if you do drugstore get offended by sexist comments then this book is definitely a no no. However, if you don’t and you also have a great sense of humor, you might actually enjoy and laugh all through this book. It brings back the child in everyone with the fun illustrations and simplicity.

Just remember, no matter what, do not throw rocks at boys!

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One Day

I decided to check out this book after hearing and seeing quite a number of people ra

ving about it. Unfortunately I can’t really say I enjoyed it. If you like David Nicholls books then yes, you will most likely enjoy this one too. I felt it to be too depressing.

It is written almost as if it is a screen play. The dialogue is crisp and the scenes are described so vividly you can almost see them. Throughout the book, the author takes us back to this “one day”, July the 15th, through a period of twenty years, to look into the lives of the two characters, Emma and Dex. Starting in 1998 just after the two graduate from college, the story progresses, showing the different paths that they take in life and the changes in their relationship.

What I disliked most about this book is how the story just skips a whole year. It made me feel like I’ve just been uprooted and sent to a different place all together. I suppose it is meant to give you the feel


a year having passed and much having changed, but the feeling that I had to catch up and assume what I had missed in the course of that year was distracting for me. I feel that Nicholls should have included a summary or something

at the beginning of each new year. It’s certainly a clever premise to revisit the same day year after year, but I didn’t enjoy the way it was executed.

Also, I half expected there to be some romance. It’s what we all expect when we see a girl boy story. However, this would better be described as a look at the frustration of relationships. The harsh realities of life were quite accurate but almost too much of a downer. Certainly over four hundred pages with few glimmers of happiness gets difficult to continue to “enjoy” reading. I do give the author a lot of credit for his honest portrayal and perception but I can’t say I was moved by it, rather depressed.

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The Help

Ordinarily I would pass on a book about America in the south in the 50’s

and 60’s since I’ve already read

so much about this period I feel like there is nothing I’ve not seen. But a friend of mine recommended this book and I have to admit it did surprise me.

The story is about a young white woman in the early 1960s in Mississippi who becomes interested in the plight of the African / African America maids. She writes about their stories of mistreatment, abuse and heartbreaks while working in white family homes, all just before the civil rights revolution.

The main characters are very well developed. You will fall in love with all of them

over and over again. I laughed and cried with them as they told their stories.

This book takes you in so

much that you can almost see right through the pages into the lives of these people, or even smell the melted tar on the roads of Mississippi and feel the chilly morning right from your cozy chair.

All in all this is amazing story telling and it leaves you wanting to know more. More about the characters and their lives.

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The Girl Who Played with Fire

The girl who played with fireI found this viagra from canada book to be a solid sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in fact, I may have liked it ever better than the first.

In this book we learn more about Salander. Skillfully exposed throughout the course

of the novel, bits and pieces of her background appear until by the end a full picture has emerged. Some satisfying, some not so satisfying. A couple points easily guessed early on.

She’s a fascinating character, and the parts about her were my favorite in the book, (even the parts that were seemingly plot irrelevant and never resolved). She’s a smart, strong, flawed underdog, and you can’t help rooting for her.

This book tackles a lot of topics. Sex trade, the media, police corruption, authority abuse, on and on. I like it because it keeps it interesting, but sometimes it was all over the board. Especially interesting to me is learning more about Swedish culture throughout the course of the book.

What’s best about the book is the pace. It kept me captivated throughout the 569 pages (in my copy), and I couldn’t go to bed until I finished. It’s a well-done thriller.

Incidentally, I didn’t find that you needed to have

read The Girl With

the Dragon Tattoo first, but certainly that would be preferable.

Looking forward to the 3rd, and sad that it will be the last. This is a really interesting series.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With A Dragon TatooThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a masterwork of fine craftsmanship. When

I reached the final page I was disappointed that there was no more to read. I did not want the story to end. The characters are too intriguing for this to be the end. Apparently this was the first novel in a trilogy by the brilliant writer, Stieg Larsson, who

unfortunately died in 2004: the book contains a tribute to him and his career. I cannot wait to read the sequels scheduled for release in the USA in 2009.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an international best seller and is set in Sweden. It takes a little effort to get accustomed to all the Swedish names and places but then the story moves with lightening speed. There are two key plots happening simultaneously. In one, a Swedish financial investigative journalist publishes a libelous attack about a powerful industrialist and is sentenced to jail, fined a ruinous sum, and has his career torn to shreds. Another industrialist, Vanger, hires the journalist to investigate the 36 year old disappearance of his then 14

year old grand niece. There has been no trace of her in all these years and she is assumed dead. Yet, every year on his birthday, he receives a mysterious gift of a pressed flower, mimicking a gift his missing grandniece used to give him when she lived there. Vanger, an old man, is tormented by the flower gifts, and wants one more chance to find out what happened to her and who killed her. What the journalist uncovers about the Vanger family’s hitherto unknown secrets and connections to the Nazis, will have you hanging on the edge of your seat.

The book is titled after yet another character, Lisabeth Salander, a societal outcast and social ward of the State, uncivilized without any desire to obey societal norms, and replete with piercings, tattoos, and a goth/biker appearance. In short, at first glance a totally undesirable and unsympathetic person. She is a researcher with a corporate security firm and ends up working with the journalist. In truth, she is a survivor of abuse in all forms with low self esteem, and an inability to trust. She is a genius with Asberger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, who sees patterns in things ordinary mortals miss and uses incredible computer hacking skills to accomplish her goals. She is fascinating: ruthless and tough to a fault, yet internally vulnerable, struggling to comprehend her own feelings. She has an appeal that draws you to her, rooting for her, and wanting to understand her. Lisabeth is unforgettable, unlike most characters that populate mystery thrillers. There is such depth here.

The book is a thriller on many levels: The story about the Vanger family itself, the journalist’s crusade to redeem his reputation, Lisabeth’s vendettas and development, and of course, the truth about what actually happened to the missing Vanger heiress. This is a superb novel and impossible to put down. Utterly stunning. Probably the best book in 2009.

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Winston's War: Churchill, 1940-1945

Winston's War: Churchill 1940 - 1945So many books have been written about Churchill, in particular about the wartime years, that another biography might be needless. However, Max Hastings presents a wonderfully balanced portrait of the man, the politician and the statesman. While in no way a revisionist history, Hastings has used distance and time to place Churchill’s immense contribution in historical perspective. It is fascinating to compare the Churchill revealed in the “War Diaries of Field Marshall Lord Alanbrooke” (from which Mr. Hastings quotes) with Hastings’ own work. Two brilliant accounts, one immediate with short term judgments and Mr.

Hastings’s more measured and from a distance.

Churchill’s rhetoric and prose shaped the common view of the conduct of WWII. Brave little Britain fighting alone. “The Few, we will fight them on the beaches and never surrender.” How Churchill’s phrases captured and continue to color the imagination. Much less widely recognized are Britain’s problems during wartime. In a sense disguised by Churchill’s masterful language the strikes, the attitudes and the actions of the many Communist sympathizers and the often poor performance of Britain’s own Army (especially in the war’s early years) have tended to fade from popular viewpoint. Mr. Hastings deals with the good, the bad and the downright ugly without flinching and without using criticism to deflect from what was an overall immense achievement.

Whatever Churchill’s failings(and he was human), Max Hastings points out without Winston Churchill at the head of government, Britain would have probably capitulated in 1940-41. Churchill did not simply capture the British spirit, he to some extend, created it as this book makes clear. Had Churchill not done so, the outcome could have been entirely different or, at least, more protracted and bloody

without Britain as a base to launch the killer blow upon Nazi Germany.

Initially, having read many Churchill biographies I was afraid this might be a revisionist history that so

many authors are prone to write simply to sell their work. Max Hastings’ book about this great man who occupied this pivotal moment is well balanced and researched.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this period of history. I have read many books by Max Hastings and this is one of his best. I also recommend the “War Diaries of Field Marshall Lord Alanbrooke” to gain even further perspective on the effect an individual can have on history.

Enjoy the read!

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The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing

Tarquin Hall’s new “cozy”, is a great read for those interested in India, its people, and its customs. “Died Laughing” is Hall’s second mystery, and again features Vish Puri, a 50-something detective in Delhi who bills himself

as India’s “Most Private Investigator”. He’s often called on by public officials to look into crimes, as well as investigating for private clients. Puri also has a large family; wife, children, mother, and siblings as well as

a large cast of “operatives”, who often figure into Puri’s cases. In both books, so far, Puri’s mother, “Mummy” and his wife, “Rumpi” team up to solve a more home-grown crime among their friends. Vish, who wishes his wife and mother would just stop trying to do what he does, thankfully never learns about their crime-busting.

“Died Laughing” is a somewhat complicated story that involves magic, murder,

and fake Swamis. Operatives “Face Cream”, “Handbrake”, and “Tubelight” join Vish as he follows it all to a curious end.

Hall writes in detail about Indian society. Reading his books is almost a learning experience. His plots are almost incidental to character development. I’m looking forward to number three in his Vish Puri series.

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So Cold the River

So cold the riverThis book begins with The protagoni

st Eric Shaw at a funeral watching with the family the DVD video that he created of the deceased’s life.

He was trained as a film maker but has had issues with the people he worked with. When he has to take inderal and Xanax to get though the funeral you can figure that anxiety is one of his issues. After the funeral the sister of the deceased asks him to go to her father in law’s home town, French Lick, Indiana and find out something about his past. Her father-in-law has become very rich and is 95 years old but she knows nothing about his past and wants the video as a gift for her husband. She books him in at The West Baden Springs Hotel (This is a real place, a fantastic historical hotel), Google it! She gives him an unopened bottle of mineral water that her father in law, Campbell Bradford has had since

1929. The only thing he has from his past.
When he gets to the hotel, he can’t stop himself from drinking some of the water called Pluto water. He starts to have visions and headaches that is only relieved by drinking more of the water.

We are now in Stephen King territory, a nice place to be. He finds that there is only one Bradford left there and he is a terrible person.The book is very long but makes a very enjoyable read. It made me want to go and check out the area. I think they still have Pluto water there and the whole area is beautiful.

I really liked the book, the characters are interesting and the story is a mystery with lots and lots of strange things going on. I am going to be reading more of Michael Koryta’s books but think they can’t be as good as this one.I highly recommend it for anyone who likes something a little different.

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