Non Fiction Reviews

So while foraging at the library I realized I needed a break from all things magical and all things YA. So instead I headed off to find some non-fiction books, because what could be further away from magic? The truth! Enter inappropriately titled travel memoir!

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Marteen Troost
2004, 272 pages

Disclaimer: the only cannibals in this book are the dogs living on the island.

The plot is this: fed up with his life in the US, Marteen and his fiancee Sylvia decide to pick up and move across the world to the tiny island of Tarawa. Where might this be, you ask? Let me show you:

I realized after posting that we need a little clarification about where Tarawa actually is. Because it is THAT tiny!! Anyway, it is in the Kiribati island group. Carry on.

On this island the local airplane is held together with masking tape. Yikes. The author describes his life on the island in amusing anecdotes on an atoll where fish is the main food and there is one street on the overpopulated island.

While the predicaments he finds himself in are fairly amusing, the whole Third World country aspect makes me a little sad because my friend was recently posted in such a country in Africa. It also further drives home the fact that there is no way that I could handle living in a country such as this. I would go nuts. So, am I a bad person for admitting that?

I found this book to be interesting AND entertaining. It was also a pretty quick read, which is shocking when considering the fact that it’s non-fiction.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Non-Fiction #2

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
2012, 318 pages

To continue the non-fiction streak, I picked this gem up, surprisingly, at my teeny weeny town library. Who would have though? So, the author, otherwise known as The Bloggess, has a blog full of randomness that I read and enjoy. It’s amusing and often sounds like things that my friends–you know who you are–would say, or think, or do.

I have no idea how much of the book is true–so very much of it seems highly improbable. Like bringing your boyfriend home to have a bobcat kitten (or would it just be a bobkitten?) thrown at him by your father. That just seems wrong. On the other hand, how could someone make that up?

Most of the book is hilarious, with me laughing quietly to myself, but sometimes it veers into seriousness and I’m bummed. This book is just a rollercoaster of emotions! But then I got a little tired, because there is so much randomness. Really the book is a lot of blog entries put into a book. Maybe having them in one place is too much of a good thing. Maybe blog format is best.

To sum up, it’s amusing. But my initial woo! awesome! was replaced by almost too much randomness. But it is pretty awesome. Best in small, blog quantities.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 bedazzles


Song of the Lioness Series

We shall be doing an entire series in this post, mainly because each book takes about five minutes to read. I read one of the author’s series, the Immortals, and loved it. So, on an afternoon where all I wanted to do was read a book on the deck, I needed something quick and fun.

Also, the books I’ve been reading on my Kindle have had numerous grammar mistakes. Seriously. That’s just irritating. Anyway, here we go!

Alanna: the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
1983, 274 pages

The first book, as I think many of her books do, in the kingdom of Tortall. Alanna is 10 and she and her twin brother are being sent from home to the convent and to become a knight, respectively. However, Alanna’s brother, Thom, would rather be a sorcerer and Alanna wants to be the knight. Alanna and Thom decide to trade places, because their father doesn’t pay much attention, as he is too busy studying.

Alanna goes to become a knight where she meets new friends, including Prince Jonathan. She begins training with everyone else, fights some bullies, casts some spells and saves the life of Jonathan. She also has to fight Prince Jonathan’s uncle, who is evil but able to convince everyone around him that he is awesome.

In the Hands of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
1984, 264 pages

The second book focuses on Alanna’s relationship with the Prince and more fighting and training to be a knight. She also has to figure out how to tell people that she’s a girl, because obviously that’s going to get out eventually. Evil uncle is still at it, and Alanna has to figure out how to beat him.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
1986, 284 pages

The third book has Alanna traveling off to new worlds and meeting a new tribe and becoming a shaman for them. There are more battles, fighting, relationships, etc. Everything you could really want in a book.

Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce
1990, 384 pages

The last book in the series has Alanna trying to capture the Dominion Jewel, which will bring peace to the land of whoever has it. Naturally this involves some serious challenges. She also goes back home and finds it in a mess, there are people trying to get rid of the king, and the evil uncle is still around.

The point of all of these books:

They are awesome. They have magic, and adventure, and girls kicking ass, without all of that teen angst that seems to be everywhere in YA novels right now. Also, the girl is clearly in charge, and not mooning over boys, as so many of the recent YA reads have been. Mostly, it’s just awesome. So you should read it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Today’s Observations

For some reason that I don’t understand, today’s shift was slightly more interesting than most.

There was the woman who was looking for books for her fourth grade son. He needs to read 25 books by the end of the school year and has four left to read. She wanted books that were about 50 pages long. I’m sorry, what? Why do they need to be this short? What’s he do in the afternoon? Have him read! She ended up buying Magic Tree House….so lower than fourth grade level, but whatever.

The second was a French man with his son. The display of Barbie and Disney princesses called to the little boy, who is maybe two, but Dad was having none of it. “Par les filles! Les filles!” For girls! Girls! The father kept saying, louder and louder as if son was a little hard of hearing. He’s two, who cares?! Clearly they then had to go get some manly toys, maybe the boy had a GI Joe in his future.

And lastly is this book I found on the shelf. The Bedtime Book for Dogs. Is this real? I mean, seriously? The back cover says to read it to your dog before bed. I just…..can’t even.

Here’s the back cover:
2013-05-04 18.06.05

And here are the first two pages:
2013-05-04 18.06.37

2013-05-04 18.06.44

So the question remains, is this book a serious thing? On his website, yes, I googled because it is that ridiculous, there seem to be an awful lot of posts about his dog. So maybe it is. Either way, yikes!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
2013, 275 pages

Oh David Sedaris, you. Way to have me chuckling to myself in a nearly empty bookstore during a short but boring shift. Thanks!

Essentially, he writes essays, or teeny tiny stories, if you will, about amusing things. There’s the one about searching for, and buying, a taxidermied owl for his partner, or the one about how Australia is like Canada in a thong, or the one with his Dad using a fraternity paddle as a disciplinary measure. All done with a lovely snarkiness that I enjoy.

My two favorite bits:

“All these young mothers chauffering their volcanic three-year-olds through the grocery store. The child’s name always sounds vaguely presidential, and he or she tends to act accordingly. ‘Listen,’ I’d like to say, ‘I’m not a parent myself, but I think the best solution at this point is to slap that child across the face. It won’t stop its crying, but at least now it’ll be doing it for a reason.'”

Yes! I have met these children! And their parents! And I agree.

“I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me. It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, ‘Fuck this. I’m going to Los Angeles!'”

While the pig and shoe polish bit may be a little hard to picture, I can definitely think of people who haven’t looked in the mirror before leaving the house. Makes airport people watching infinitely more interesting, but still bizarre.

So, this is a quick read with lots of funny bits and I approve.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles

American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2001, 588 pages

I’m sorry to disappoint guys, I know that some of you are/were super excited that I was reading this book. I do not think that I liked this as much as I did Anansi Boys. But, before you throw up your hands and say that I must be crazy, hear my out. The entire book deals with the gods that were brought over as people moved to the United States. And I loved that aspect. However, it also means that for a lot of the book I was a little bit confused.

It’s like this: I’m walking down the street, and I see someone that is vaguely familiar. I should recognize them, but how do I know them? I keep stealing glances, and they’re glancing right back because clearly, sometime, somewhere, we met. But I can’t figure it out, and just keep walking, maybe with a final look back, and end up slightly annoyed for the rest of the afternoon. That is the book, in a nutshell.

I think that I need to bone up on my mythology from all over the place and then read this again and it will make more sense. The gods that I could figure out include:
Haitian gods (who knew that that college class on Haitian culture would finally come in handy?)
Egyptian gods (thank you, Rick Riordan and your children’s series)
Norse gods (sadly, the movie Thor is the reference for this one)
Leprechauns (that’s just something everybody knows)
Anansi (both because I know the stories and because I read the aforementioned Anansi Boys)

The plot is this: Shadow’s in jail. He did something bad a long time ago, but he’s getting out soon. Sadly, days before he gets out, his wife is killed in an accident, along with his friend who was going to give him a job. At a bit of a loose end, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday, a god. Wednesday offers him a job, protecting him (Wednesday) and doing what he says. Shadow agrees. Craziness ensues. The old gods are no longer worshiped in America, instead the new gods, such as Media, Internet, and Cars exist. There are some that have even died out, such as the god of Railroads. So, old gods are fighting new gods to not be forgotten and to take precedence in the minds of Americans. Really, kind of an awful thought.

Gaiman has a way with words, I will give him that.
“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.”

Another awesome bit is that all of the weird roadside attractions are actually sites with a “window to the Immanent,” or, holy places. “[Churches are] about as significant…as dentists’ offices. No, in the USA people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they’ve never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit. Roadside attractions: people feel themselves being pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent.”

And that is what I have to say about that.

Rating: 3.99 out of 5 bedazzles (so close, I think if I learn some things and read it again I would enjoy more)

In a separate but awesomely related note, HBO is apparently going to create an American Gods series. So that’s pretty sweet.