Monday, September 19, 2011

Dirty Diplomacy by Craig Murray

If you are one of those Americans who believe we are a perfect country and the moral leaders of the world, then this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you want to get a better picture of why it is that most of the world sees us as a bully nation and some of the major corruption in our government, then you will want to read this one.

Craig Murray was the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan during the time that the U.S. declared the "War on Terror" and attacked Iraq. The U.S. became allied with Uzbekistan which was being led by a dictator, Karimov. His regime was infamous for torture...especially of Muslims and political dissidents. As Ambassador, Murray tried to expose the corruption in the government, but ran into constant opposition from his government and the U.S. because they needed the military base the U.S. had established in Uzbekistan for staging attacks in Iraq.

At the heart of this book is whether it is ever appropriate or useful to use torture as a means of getting government and military intelligence. I feel extremely strong about this, now, after reading this insightful book. I highly recommend the book, but be prepared to become disillusioned if you are a starry-eyed American.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Four Agreements:A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz

An interesting book of philosophy on how to become truly happy in your life by living four principles: 1). Be impeccable with your word; 2). Don't take anything personally; 3). Don't make assumptions; and, 4). Always do your best. The author is a Toltec shaman.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Georges by Alexander Dumas

Georges is the first published novel by Alexander Dumas.I had never heard of this book until I was looking for a book for my Olympic Reading Challenge for the country of Mauritius. I was also unaware, until I started reading about this book that Dumas was actually a mulatto. The central concept in Georges is how mulattoes have been dealt with historically. Many interesting themes in the book...colonialism, prejudice, honor, etc. It has elements of swashbucklers and pirates, romance, heroism. It has been said that Dumas also began the development of some of his more famous characters (the Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Cristo) within this novel. Georges was a very enjoyable read and interesting on so many level. Dumas was clearly a brilliant writer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt

Keeper of the Night is the story of the emotional aftermath of suicide and how it affects the members of a family. Highlights the importance of getting psychiatric help to help deal with the emotional crisis that results for family members. Some powerful insights into the emotional struggles along with how different people deal with such a loss in their lives.

Set in Guam, the novel is also a lovely exposure to the people, culture, and traditions of this country.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

I seemed to enjoy this book a lot more than the average person on Goodreads! I thought the writing was almost poetic in its descriptions of things. I was fascinated by Mukerji's descriptions of Indian life and culture and more exposure to the Hindi faith. I learned a lot about birds and training of pigeons that was very interesting to me. I also had no idea of the role that pigeon's played as messengers during WWI. More than anything, I appreciated the wisdom the writer shares about how we should treat each other through his story of pigeons. It was a beautiful parable which I appreciated very much!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Santa Evita by Tomas Eloy Martinez

I wish I knew how much of this book is fact and how much it is fictionalized and speculation. Martinez specifically calls it a novel, but he is also so very careful about his sources. The book is the story of Eva Peron, focusing on the handling of her corpse after she passed away from cancer at the age of 33. Extremely interesting and engaging!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Magic Gourd by Baba Wague' Diakite'

This children's story from Mali is beautifully illustrated by the author. He gives insight into the culture of Mali as he uses symbols from mud cloth patterns to enhance the message of the story. The book becomes not just a tale from Diakite's native Mali, but an insightful and educational piece for children. Excellent!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This was a difficult book for me because it is a science fiction piece...and I have never been that much of a fan of fantasy and science fiction. Brave New World is Huxley's version of a dystopia. The novel condemns the idea of mass production (Henry Ford) and creating a world where people are bred to be happy without really experiencing true emotions. Huxley clearly brings into his novel many people intended to represent other famous people of his time he means to condemn for what he believes is their role in the decline of society (Ford, Freud, J.P. Morgan, Lenin, Trotsky, etc.). At the same time, through his main character, John Savage, he exalts the "noble savage." I can see this book as being a part of lists of the 100 best books of all time, but it was still a difficult read for me.

Grenada: An Eyewitness Account of the U.S. Invasion and the Caribbean History that Provoked it by Hugh O'Shaughnessy

The historical books on some countries are probably most dangerous for me to read because I end up seeing so much of our dirty underware. It is clear that the U.S. attack on Grenada in 1983 was illegal (we invaded a country we were not at war with), it was unnecessary as far as helping to establish the rule of law in Grenada, and caused a set back in the cause of political democracy and long-term economic development in the region. That is so discouraging to me. Time after time, the U.S. was more concerned about the possibility of a nation becoming communistic than that they had a self-governing nation. We have promoted far-right dictators in these nations because it was in our "best interest" not to have another nation become more socialistic. Too many times, the Land of the Free does not really believe in that concept as a value for other countries.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Bronze Bow by by Elizabeth George Speare

Lovely story set in Roman-controlled Galilee. It is amazing to me that a book dealing with Jesus Christ and his affect upon people of his time was chosen as a Newberry Winner. I am delighted that it happened.

The Witches' Ride and Other Tales from Costa Rica by Lupe de Osma

Fun telling of a dozen fairy tales from Costa Rica written for children. It is always so interesting to see in how many countries the same children's stories show up in different variations. There is a Cinferella tale as well as Hansel and Gretel.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner

Peter Orner creates such vibrant characters in this novel based in Namibia. He gives insight into the effects of war upon the people of the country. Sometimes difficult to follow...rather poetic in flow. Not much of a story with a plot. Beautifully written, nonetheless.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I thought that this was a wonderful story. Newberry Award winner the same year that I graduated from high school, I found myself wishing I had read this book back then. The author, Mildren D. Taylor, did an amazing job of capturing the language of his characters. The novel is set at the same time in history when my parents were growing up in the south. The descriptions of what life was like for blacks in the south post-Civil War and pre-Civil Rights movement is intriguing and gripping. Powerful story!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy by Camara Laye

This book is the enjoyable and interesting coming of age story of Camara Laye who grew up in French Guinea. Nicely told from the viewpoint of a child experiencing becoming a man in Guinea. Lovely plays on the tensions of the old way versus modernization. The insights into culture and tradition was especially interesting to me. Quick read.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Fathers' Daughter by Hannah Pool

My Fathers' Daughter is a very moving memoir. At the age of 6 months, Hannah Pool was adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea by a British father and American mother. Hannah tells the story of the search for her birth family. Fascinating story because of all of the cultural, political, social information about Eritrea and the countries struggles with border skirmishes, poverty, government problems, etc. The book is not necessarily well-written, but the story is touching. It really made me want to go spend a year in Eritrea simply to go to an orphanage and hold the many, many babies who have no one to care for them.
The story is also interesting because Hannah reveals a lot of what an adopted person experiences emotionally and socially. Especially when they are so far removed from their birth culture/race/nationality. Very insightful!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Sins of the Wolf by Anne Perry

This book was given to me by a friend (Sue) upon the recommendation of another friend (Alison). I have some stress over this book, now, because I enjoyed this murder mystery by Anne Perry so much, I will have to find time to read all of the other books in the William Monk Mystery Series. Set in Victorian Great Britain, Anne Perry does an excellent job of bringing us into another era and place and engaging us with intriguing characters. The plot twists and turns. At times a bit over-the-top in description, but such an enjoyable read. For any who have not already read William Monk novels, I would not recommend this one as a starting point. I wish I had read the first book, Death of a Stranger. There are many references in the story to past cases and the personal issues William Monk, Hester Latterly, and Oliver Rathbone that were developed in earlier novels. I think that my reading experience would have been even richer if I had read at least the first novel. Agatha Christie is still my favorite mystery writer, but Anne Perry has given me a second to enjoy.