The Dog Stars

 

By Peter Heller

I found this book to be extremely moving.  While the story is both grim and bleak, it is also wondrously hopeful and beautifully written. The story is about love, courage, and finding one’s home.  It is written from the main character, Hig’s, perspective in short segments.  While the first part of the book moves at a moderate pace, the last half moves quite quickly.  Continue reading

Bless Me, Ultima

By Rudolfo Anaya

It’s been three weeks since I’ve returned from a visit to NYC on a not fun plane trip and a really long time since I’ve posted here.

And I read most of this book on this excruciating journey.  The woman who was sitting next to me joked about me finishing the book before we even took off.  (We were on the tarmac for just under three hours before we given clearance to take off).  I did not finish it before leaving NY, but I did finish before I arrived back home in Tucson.

I was a great book to have on hand on the airplane and airport.  It was moderately paced, which was perfect for my needs.  If it had been fast paced, I probably would have finished it before taking off and then I would have been stuck with the in-flight magazine.  If it had been slower, I probably would have lost interest and been stuck with the in-flight magazine.  Continue reading

Into the Beautiful North

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Back Bay Books, 2009

Genre: General fiction

ISBN: 9780316025263

Audience: Adult, young adult

Number of pages: 338

Setting: Tres Camarones & Tijuana, Mexico, San Diego, CA, & Kankakee, IL

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: When narcos come to the sleepy town of Tres Camarones, nineteen year old Nayeli, comes up with a brilliant plan for getting rid of them.  Inspired by the movie, The Magificient Seven, she and three of her friends embark on a mission to find seven warriors (cops or soldiers) to drive off the bandits and help repopulate the town.  Nayeli hopes to travel as far as Kankakee, IL to find her father, who (along with most of the other town’s men) left many years earlier in search of work. Continue reading

Yes Is Better Than No

By Byrd Baylor

Place: Publisher & Year: Tucson, AZ: Silvercloud Books, c 1972, 2011

Genre: General fiction

ISBN: 9780984674404

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 187

Setting: Tucson, AZ

Time period: Early 1970’s

Plot summary: Maria Vasquez is trying to eke out a life for herself and her children in Tucson.  It is difficult because the ways of Anglos are vastly different from those of Papagos.  Friends and neighbors can often be relied upon and one can always ask St. Jude for help – but this should only be done as a last resort. Continue reading

Habibi

By Craig Thompson

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Pantheon Books, 2011

Genres: General fiction, mythic fiction

Format: Graphic novel

ISBN: 9780375424144

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 665 (672 includes notes and author description)

Setting: A Middle-eastern desert, an unnamed village, and Wanatolia

Time period: No set time period –seems like the past, present, and future all at once

Plot summary: Dodola adopts Zam when he is three years old and she is thirteen.  Although she is young, she has already been married, witnessed the slaying of her husband, and been kidnapped to be sold into slavery.  She manages to escape from the slavers with Zam and takes him into the desert to raise him.  When Zam turns thirteen, their world is shattered when they become lost to one another.  After years of separation, their love for one another eventually brings them back together. Continue reading

Kafka on the Shore

By Haruki Murakami; translated by Philip Gabriel

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Vintage International, c2005, 2006

Genres: General fiction, magical realism, fantasy

ISBN: 9781400079278

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 464

Setting: Japan – mostly Takamatsu (Shikoku) & Nakano Ward (Tokyo), but also some unspecified mountains

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: Two stories converge into one;  the first centers around a fifteen year old boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home and finds refuge in a library.  The second story centers on an aging mentally challenged man, Nakata, who has the ability to talk to cats, but cannot read.  The two characters are drawn to the same place in Japan for reasons which they do not understand.  While they both seek answers to complex questions about themselves, another character who goes by the name of Johnnie Walker, seeks something not entirely of this world. Continue reading

The Listener

By David Lester

Place: Publisher & Year: Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011

Genres: General fiction, historical fiction

Format: Graphic novel

ISBN: 9781894037488

Audience: Adults

Number of pages: 312

Settings: Vancouver, BC, Canada, Lippe, Germany & other locations in Europe

Time periods: Contemporary and 1928-1933

Plot summary: Hitler’s rise to power is described to the main character – a sculptor named Louise – by an elderly German couple she meets while touring Europe.  Louise is travelling in Europe as a means of dealing with the guilt that she feels after a protester fell to his death outside her apartment. The German couple’s story focuses upon the spin doctoring which Hitler performed in the early 1930’s on his way to becoming Germany’s chancellor.  As Louise travels, her background and thoughts about art and politics are described. The two stories are interwoven throughout the book to reveal how Louise is able to work through both her feelings, as well as the history she learned from the couple, to complete her next sculpture. This book has as much to say about the role of art for both individuals and for society as a whole, as it does about the historical past. Continue reading