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Search tags: MbDNonFiction
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review 2017-03-12 10:17
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth - Wendy E. Simmons

In much the same way Simmons felt about her holiday in North Korea, I found her memoir of it both horrifying and educational.  I'm not sure I'd have been able to find the hilarity the way she did, had I been the one on the holiday, but I certainly appreciated her humorous perspective and her writing.

 

As she goes to great pains to make clear, she was there as a tourist; she does not pretend at any point to understand the political underpinnings of the tragedy that is North Korea.  This is a memoir of her holiday there, and her personal experiences during those 10 days, both the horrifying and the heart-touching moments.  Oh, and a LOT of Twilight Zone moments.

 

I have to say, I've had this book for awhile, but hesitated to open it because the cover gave me the impression it would be totally different that it is.  That cover photos is a photo Simmons took while there, when she was invited to a wedding reception on the spur of the moment.  That woman is the bride to be.  Knowing that gave this book a whole different spin in my head, and highlighted the comedy of the absurd that ran throughout those 10 days.

 

If you enjoy travel memoirs, and you're curious about the culture of a totally closed society minus any political philosophy, and heaps of swearing and humor, definitely check this book out.  I did not want to put it down from the moment I opened the cover.

 

ETA:  I have the print edition and it's loaded with great full-color photographs that just added that extra level of interest to the book.

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review 2017-03-11 08:40
More Baths, Less Talking
More Baths, Less Talking - Nick Hornby

The final (so far) collection of Nick Hornby's columns from The Believer magazine and another excellent collection of commentary on books he's read.  I think this is the first of the four collections where he's read a book I have (Yay!), and there are only a few of the books he's read that I'll ultimately track down myself, but it doesn't matter; I love his writing style.  He's witty, irreverent, and often thought-provoking and insightful.

 

I'd highly recommend any of these collections to anyone who likes hearing about what somebody is reading, even if it's not something you'd read yourself.  If you do share reading interests, look out: these books will devastate your TBR piles.

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review 2017-02-27 02:40
NPR Laughter Therapy
NPR Laughter Therapy A Comedy Collection for the Chronically Serious - (U.S.) National Public Radio Inc.

A collection of NPR's funnier interviews, April Fool's day gags, news stories, etc.  Like in any collection, there were some I found funnier than others and 1 just fell sort of flat.

 

It's a short, easy listen and it was fun to hear a few voices that aren't with us any more (Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller).  I miss NPR, so seeing this in my local library was a nice boost to the spirit.  

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review 2017-02-25 09:07
Cats in Books
Cats in Books: A Celebration of Cat Illustration through the Ages - Rodney Dale

Another library sale find; one I'd never seen before, but really it's a book about cats.  In books.  How bad could it possibly be?

 

It's a gem!  The only reason I didn't rate it a bit higher is because it's a rather too concise overview of cats in literary history.  It's a slim volume; easy to read in one sitting.  Rather than looking at cats as subjects in literature, it sticks to an illustrative perspective: cats in illuminated manuscripts, fables, short stories and, of course, children's literature.  It's fully illustrated itself, of course, with examples for each entry.  A nice edition from the British Library.

 

As I said, a gem of a find; one of those karmic gifts that make library sales even better. 

 

 

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review 2017-02-25 08:52
Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations
Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations - Olivier Le Carrer

I saw this book in the bookshop and it was the perfect storm of "buy me":  Gorgeous cover, a title with Cursed in it, and content focused on the unusual. 

 

The cover is still gorgeous.  Cursed didn't mean exactly what I thought it meant, though it was still very interesting.  I flashed on the simplest definition: a hex conjured by really pissed off people.  The author used the word in the broader context: places that seem eternally destined for strife, challenges or difficulties; an area prone to high death rates, but because of geography as opposed to the wrath of an individual or group.  Still great stuff, just not quite as edgy.

 

The writing is good, but the editing was disappointing; in a book that was obviously so carefully put together, these word-order errors were jarring.  The author, La Carrer is unapologetically sarcastic at times, and not for humorous effect; I got my edginess, but not in the way I was expecting.  There are small touches of humor here and there, and the entry for Point Cook, Australia is hilarious; he makes it sound like the mecca for animals who are only here to kill you.

 

It's a quick, easy read and I learned a lot; I didn't feel like he chose run of the mill places on the map.  Amityville and Gaza aren't going to be new to anyone but for me at least, most of these were almost or completely new.  Kibera has almost completely squashed my desire to see the Maldives, but I'm now incredibly interested in seeing the Kasanka National Park (spoiler alert: it involves bats).

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