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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-04-01 15:11
A Good Installment in the Series
The Opal Deception - Eoin Colfer

 

Like the previous books in this series, this installment takes the reader on a wild ride. Of course, the name of the book is a dead giveaway when it comes to the plot.

 

But the rest is an action-packed blur where Artemis — a boy thief with a girl’s name — learns to accept that he has friends who might need his help — regardless of his previously mercenary leanings.

 

There is humor and there are lessons to be learned along the way.

 

The next book in the series is calling my name.

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review 2017-01-23 06:50
Piano Notes: The Hidden World of the Pianist by Charles Rosen
Piano Notes: The Hidden World of the Pianist - Charles Rosen

An interesting, semi-autobiographical collection of musings on piano playing and the world of the pianist from Charles Rosen.

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review 2016-06-24 02:27
what happens when a group discusses a book about women? mansplaining!
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women - Geraldine Brooks

I read this as part of a bookclub discussion. The book was selected by a lovely woman who fled Iran 24 years ago, and had lived through the revolution, war and economic sanctions against her country. She said she started reading it a year ago but it was just too emotional and so she thought with the support of the bookclub she could get through it. I was grateful for her choice as this was interesting, informative and a unique perspective on the topic. Instead of a classic 'book report' I have decided to share the bookclub discussion experience.

 

So, the group met yesterday evening, 9 women and 5 men. The group on the whole is well educated, well informed, well read and generally progressive. After everyone has takes a turn to give their impression of the book, open discussion follows. And guess what followed? MANSPLAINING! The book was about women in Islamic middle eastern cultures, told through very personal stories. Some were positive, but many very illustrative of how women are subjugated, abused and repressed. While political and economic policy are relevant to such a book, this wasn't a book about politics or policy. Nevertheless, a subset of the men in the room hijacked the discussion into that. When the woman from Iran (who lived through the revolution) explained that Iranian revolution in 1979 was not entirely rooted in the rise Islamic fundamentalism, she was corrected. When she described the economic disparity in Iran (no middle class) she was corrected. When I brought up my opinion that it's not the Islamic faith that leads to repression of women, but rather patriarchal cultural practices, I was corrected. The irony of the whole situation was not lost on me, nor was it lost on many of the other women in the room.

To be fair, these men aren't misogynists and they are probably sympathetic to feminist causes. But they have also been raised to be more assertive and are better skilled at inserting their opinions into the discussion. They may not consciously discount a woman' s opinion, but they probably are oblivious to their subconscious biases. Even in 'so called' enlightened western culture, in one of the most liberal cities in America, you can find micro aggressions against women in the context of a book discussion about the oppression of Islamic women. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

Now, turn a subconscious bias against women into one that is culturally sanctioned through religious interpretation and you have the plight of many many Islamic women in the Middle East. Even though this book is 20+ years old and not without flaws, it is informative a worth a read.

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review 2014-08-15 04:52
Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women - Geraldine Brooks

(Really 4.25 stars, which goes to show that however fine the distinctions a website allows, I will want more.)

 

This is a fascinating, if poorly titled, work of nonfiction. Brooks spent several years as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, where she spent time with hundreds of women – some of them newsworthy in their own right, others just average people.

 

The title gives a false impression of the book on two counts: first, while sex and marriage are discussed, these topics are not the primary focus; and second, the book doesn’t pretend to discuss the lives of Islamic women everywhere – Brooks traveled in the Middle East and a bit in North Africa, but this region is actually home to a minority of the world’s Muslim population. That said, the book draws clear distinctions among Middle Eastern societies, from Saudi Arabia to Iran to Egypt to Palestine, and provides an overview of a wide variety of subjects. Big universal topics like education, marriage and employment are covered, as well as practices associated with Islam, such as veiling, honor killings and female genital mutilation (a horrifying chapter – and as Brooks points out, while Islam may not promote this practice it isn’t doing much to end it either). There are also chapters on women in the military and guerrilla movements, in politics, in sports and the arts, and the success or failure of feminist groups. The book is now 20 years old, but still very relevant today; Brooks caught an earlier stage of trends that continue today, specifically the rise of fundamentalism.

 

All this is conveyed in a clear, precise journalistic style, mixing anecdotes from people Brooks met with personal stories she witnessed or experienced, along with her research; the chapter on the Prophet’s wives surprised me with the amount of information available about them. Brooks doesn’t try to hide her own worldview – she’s a progressive, secular feminist – but she relies on facts and observation rather than stereotypes, and clearly worked to understand the people that she met. And where the book makes judgments – well, there are moral issues where neutrality is not a virtue. Brooks is also careful to distinguish between what the Koran says, and what some societies choose to do.

 

If I have a complaint, it’s that the book is very short for the amount of material covered; as another reviewer stated, it piqued my interest rather than satisfying it. Also – there is more great novel material in the subjects covered in this book than the most prolific author could exhaust in a lifetime, but instead of writing those novels, Brooks went off and wrote about the Plague, and the American Civil War, and a past/present historian story. Dammit, why couldn’t she write the novels I want to read?

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review 2014-07-11 14:59
Tales of the Hidden World by Simon r Green
Tales of the Hidden World - Simon R. Green

This short story collection has an excellent, coherent, link between the best stories in the book (something that many collections miss) – they’re all extremely, incredibly eerie. There’s a sense of darkness, of creepiness that permeates every story here. Not otherness – speculative fiction lends itself to otherness and weirdness – but crawl down your spine creepiness. For most of them

 

Then there’s a few extra stories slotted in there which just feel more questionable

 

There is a theme of death that carries through many of these stories – the nature and fear of death in particular and even a question of whether death is worse than life. A Question of Solace takes an old man who has lived an exciting and productive life, finally slowing down and losing his touch but not realising it; his memories, his doubts, his guilt over his legacy all combine to be a beautiful, powerful and moving goodbye scene for him – a time when death is certainly not to be feared or grieved, but a life celebrated. Dorothy Dreams is a powerful story of Dorothy from Oz growing old, being forgotten, neglected in her old age, finally getting to return to Oz. It’s a beautiful interpretation of that old story – and so many other stories – and another story that celebrates death even as life is seen as something painful to endure.

 

Find Heaven and Hell In the Smallest Things takes it to the next level, with Paul, the protagonist, enduring a living hell after his life was “saved” after a terrible accident; saved but now doomed to work the rest of his days imprisoned in a mechanical suit, enduring horrendous conditions to serve the government with the incomplete memory of his dead wife in the suits computer for company – a wife who cannot remember the last 3 years of their marriage or that it had fallen apart before her death. The excellent writing really does bring home a fate worse than death and any release as a relief.

 

Down and Out in Deadtown also follows the theme of death but to a far more cutting degree – the dead rises in a zombie horde… that doesn’t hunger. They’re dead… but moving. Not moving much or doing anything – they’re just… there. And people are happy until they realise the returned dead aren’t who they want them to be so they’re shuffled away and forgotten, rendered invisible; and all of this is told through the eyes of a homeless man – shuffled away and forgotten, rendered invisible. The comparisons and insight is razor sharp and very very true.

 

Many of these stories make me want to read more in the universe – A Question of Solace certainly will have me looking up the rest of the Drood series – supernatural James Bond’s trying to deal with world wide supernatural and sci-fi problems, with a side order of moral quandaries as they have to do terrible things for the “greater good”? Sign me up for that – exciting, well written and full of surprising depth and characterisation, I’m sold. I’d already read Street Wizard in another anthology and what I said then still applies. It’s All About The Rendering is probably the only story in this book that isn’t a little dark in some way – it’s a surprising break among the deep, dark, grittiness, hard choices, and uplifting death: a fun, whacky story of a house on the border between normality and wonder. And I really want to read more. It does seem completely out of place in the book, however.

 

 

From Out of the Sun, Endlessly Singing is part of the theme of hard, morally questionable choices along with A Question of Solace – thought provoking as well as a fascinating story; we have the remnants of humanity facing one solution to save the human race – the ultimate End that can only be achieved by a truly terrible Means. There’s the moral quandary of just what can we do in the name of the greater good?

 

Food of the Gods; He Said, Laughing and Soldier, Soldier take the other side – killing and death as tragedy and as brutality. Not death when it becomes a relief and not doing terrible things for the greater good – but killing for sadistic enjoyment, for cruel fulfilment and through sheer serial killer need. While the complete opposite of the other stories of death, they fit the full spectrum of the theme and add the missing elements to the question of “Ends justifies the means” that has been raised – after all, we may say yes in the first two stories – but is this where such an answer leads us? More, how many times do we sit in peaceful ignorance while, as He Said, Laughing and Soldier, Soldier expose, we allow these terrible decisions to be made for us, away from our gaze so it doesn’t disrupt our peaceful lives.

 

The remaining stories all felt out of place to me and didn’t really add much. Death is a Lady tried to latch onto the death theme but was just a brief anecdote. Jesus and Satan Go Jogging in the Desertseems to have no connection with the rest of the stories but also feels kind of pointless in and of itself. I don’t see what it really adds or the twist it brings to the Bible story; nor do I see the advantage of retelling it from Satan’s point of view.

 

 

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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2014/05/tales-of-hidden-world-by-simon-r-green.html
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