Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘book review

Book review blast!

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While I was at the 2009 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Colorado a few months ago (yet another thing I should post about – fear not, it’s on the way) I picked up various advance readers’ editions of books scheduled for publication this spring. Instead of doing in-depth reviews, I’m going to briefly mention some along with my observations. Here goes:

Socialism Is Great!“Socialism is Great! A Worker’s Memoir of the New China” by Lijia Zhang
Zhang’s poignant memoir makes the case for literacy, education, freedom of expression, coming of age, intellect and love. That may seem like a high charge for a 360-something page book, but you will not be able to put this one down. Zhang’s experience as an international journalist makes this autobiography flow with rhythm and spirit sure to engross anyone interested in China’s cultural history.

Annie's Ghosts“Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret ” by Steve Luxenberg
This memoir tells the story of Luxenberg’s unearthing of a deep family secret. When his mother passes away, he finds out that she had a sister – kept hidden in various mental institutions throughout her entire life. The book is well-written and holds a journalistic bent, expected as Luxenberg is the editor of the Washington Post. As he traces Annie’s records from one hospital to the next, readers learn much about the social history of various institutional movements in America. While the story is an interesting one to follow, the questions Luxenberg asks of himself reveal the true gems. Should he be blowing open this closely kept secret? What will the publication of this book do to his family? Are some secrets meant to be kept forever?

Clara's War“Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival” by Clara Kramer
Un-fucking-real. Pardon my language, but this story is incredible. Kramer and 17 other Polish Jews lived in an underground bunker for twenty months in order to escape persecution and murder by the Germans during WWII. During that time, we learn about the depths of humanity, the loss of loved ones, the sacrifices of family and more. The diary of 15-year-old Kramer is on permanent display at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and is the basis for this heart-stopping story.

I also picked up the following but have yet to complete them: “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci, “The Believers” by Zoe Heller (author of “What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal”), “Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska” by Miranda Weiss, and “Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide to Your Favorite Music Scenes- From Punk to Indie and Everything In Between” by Leslie Simon (author of “Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture”). More on those soon! And by soon, I might mean summer…

What are you reading?

Written by Erin Dorney

March 6, 2009 at 5:37 AM

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Book Review: Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living by John & Geri McPherson.

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mcphersonThis book is seriously hardcore, or perhaps for the seriously hardcore. Its chapters cover the basics of life in the wilderness (“Primitive Fire and Cordage,” “Primitive, Semipermanent Shelters,” “Primitive Wilderness Cooking Methods”) as well as the gritty details of making it in the great outdoors. Readers looking for step-by-step instructions on how to brain-tan a buckskin, field dress a fresh kill, or eat a mouse without catching Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome have come to the right place.

The authors, John & Geri McPherson, boast respectable qualifications. John, with eight years of experience as a paratrooper, and his wife Geri are in their fourth year of teaching primitive skills to the survival instructors of the U.S. Army Special Operations Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school. Since 1978 they have lived on their own homestead complete with log home, outhouse, gravity-fed water and lacking electricity.

The book features over 600 step-by-step photos (no, I didn’t count them). However, most of the photos leave much to be desired. A higher quality color camera would have been a wise investment. The conversational writing style is bearable while the photo captions are continually unclear and unwieldy. But let’s face it folks, if you’re choosing to read this book, you’re not interested in a well-written literary tale about a fantasy night out camping in the woods; you need the dirty, descriptive details and you need them NOW.

The book bills itself perfectly, giving readers exactly what it promises. Hopefully, if I ever find myself in the woods with nothing but my bare hands and have to survive, I will have had the librarian-esque foresight to cache this book in a stone-lined, clay-sealed pit for future reference. Alas, it’s doubtful…

Many thanks to Mini Book Expo for Bloggers and Ulysses Press for this free copy of Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living.

Written by Erin Dorney

December 1, 2008 at 2:06 AM

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Book Review: Sweetsmoke by David Fuller.

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“In 1862, while Civil War rages between the North and South, there are daily battles being fought outside the killing fields. At Sweetsmoke in particular, a Virginia tobacco plantation, one slave has pledged to avenge the senseless murder of a friend.

Cassius, a skilled and sought-after carpenter, sets forth to find out who is responsible for the murder of Emoline Justice, a freed slave. What he learns about the people surrounding him pales in comparison to what he learns about himself in this tale of love, deceit and the thin line between the two. His interesting relationship with plantation owner Hoke Howard, his secret literacy, and his place within the plantation slave hierarchy all contribute to the portrait of Cassius as determined, resourceful, and intelligent.

Sweetsmoke is the first novel hailing from screenwriter David Fuller, and by confronting many of the undeniable horrors of the Civil War era, the novel emerges as a well-written, enlightening and compelling slave narrative, enjoyable to any historical fiction reader.”

-Erin Dorney, August 2008

Many thanks to Mini Book Expo for Bloggers and Hyperion Books for giving me the opportunity to read this Advance Reading Copy of Sweetsmoke.

Written by Erin Dorney

September 1, 2008 at 2:17 AM

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Book Review: Lost by Cathy Ostlere.

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“Lost is the inaugural and award-winning novel of creative non-fiction from Cathy Ostlere. What began as a collection of poems has spiraled into a full-fledged lyrical journey describing the grief of losing a sibling.

David and Sarah, Ostlere’s brother and his girlfriend, go missing on the Atlantic during a 1200-mile journey from the coast of Ireland to the island of Madeira. Lost invites readers along to witness Ostlere’s heartbreaking memories of her brother’s upbringing, unique personality, and beloved place within numerous families. Such a great loss subsequently leads Ostlere to carefully examine her own life choices, including her land-bound duties as a wife and mother. Written with honesty and style, Lost is sure to strike a compelling chord with any brother or sister.”

-Erin Dorney, August 2008

Many thanks to Mini Book Expo for Bloggers and Key Porter Books for giving me the opportunity to read this superb work!

Written by Erin Dorney

August 31, 2008 at 10:58 PM

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Book Review: Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan.

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Love Marriage is the first novel of promising young writer V.V. Ganeshananthan. What began as her Harvard senior thesis has blossomed into a multi-generational, multicultural tale of love, tradition, and family.

The fictional story unfolds through the eyes of Yalini, an American-born daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants. As Yalini reveals the secrets of her family’s past in Sri Lanka, including the story of her uncle, a former militant Tamil Tiger, readers witness her internal struggle between American modernity and the customs of her ancestors. The thread of differing types of marriages (arranged, love, self-arranged, outside, cousin, village, abroad, without consent, under pressure, proper and improper) unites the pieces of her relative’s stories that she can wheedle out of her close-lipped parents. For the rest, she must rely on her dying uncle, whose time is quickly coming to a close.

Reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, Ganeshananthan’s Love Marriage has the capability to transcend American indifference, quietly sharing the background and history of a culture frequently identified as the enemy. The novel, well researched and magnificently crafted, will surely (and thankfully) not be the last we see from Ganeshananthan.”

-Erin Dorney, July 2008

Many thanks to LibraryThing and Random House for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Edition of this book through the Early Reviewers program.

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July 27, 2008 at 3:38 AM

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Book Review: Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein.

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“Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp is a coming-of-age story detailing the dramas of a chubby adolescence. Complete with teen-aged diary excerpts, Klein takes readers on a condensed journey of her time spent at a fat-camp, her struggles with a weight loss support group, and the unforgiving mockery of her peers.

Composed in a very Juno-esque narrative style (quirky attempts at wit and humor laced with sarcasm), Klein’s memoir is quickly paced but lacks development. While honest discussions about body image, self esteem and family dynamics do occur, they are cursory at best. Readers are left wondering why Klein delves into certain topics yet neglects to explain their relevance or importance (including her relationship with her sister as well as her budding sexuality).

Although Klein’s memoir is jumpy and somewhat repetitive, there are a number of passages that truly illustrate her strengths as both a writer and a woman. However, it’s tough to struggle through the rest of the book to pick out the gems.”

-Erin Dorney, May 2008

Many thanks to LibraryThing for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Edition of this book through the Early Reviewers program. This review is also posted on my LibraryThing account.

Written by Erin Dorney

May 23, 2008 at 6:20 PM

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Book Review: Minus The Imple by Robert Chandler.

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Today I had the pleasure of finishing a book written by my mentor and colleague Bob Chandler. His novel has been years in the making, and I have seen firsthand the many struggles he has overcome to hone this work for public consumption. Below is my review, which I am also posting to his blog. I urge everyone to download or purchase the book, which has won a prime position on my bookshelf.  Congratulations Bob, on a job very well done.

Minus The Imple is a book about the pleasure of living and the importance of self-worth. The inaugural novel and fictionalized true story of Robert R. Chandler explores the growth of a boy destined to experience both heartbreak and overwhelming happiness. Throughout the course of first loves, sexual trysts, college inebriation, marriage, and divorce, readers are swept along on a journey of self-discovery rarely initiated by most. Describing a finely crafted tale of phenomenal experiences, Chandler invites readers to question their souls, their strengths, their weaknesses and everything in between. To quote the gifted author: “It’s simple, really…” Recommended for public and academic libraries, as well as anyone searching for perspective on the harsh but joyous realities of life.

-Erin Dorney, May 2008

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May 9, 2008 at 4:33 AM

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