Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
An extremely stark photograph at the beginning of Nothing to Envy illustrates so much about the North Korea Barbara Demick describes in her fascinating study of this country. Taken at night of the Korean peninsula, this photograph shows South Korea ablaze with lights while North Korea is just dark, seemingly devoid of life. Demick, who covers Asia for the Los Angeles Times, is one of the few Western reporters granted permission to travel within North Korea, albeit heavily supervised by North Korean watch dogs.
In her quest to write about North Korea, Demick interviewed several North Koreans who fled that dismal nation to South Korea. Through their stories, an exceedingly bleak picture of North Korea emerges. Perhaps the strongest characteristic of North Korea is the total and complete control that the government exerts over its citizens in every segment of their lives. Under the previous dictator, Kim Jung-il, father of the current leader Kim Jung-un, all North Korean citizens were totally indoctrinated into the belief that their "Dear Leader" (Kim Jung-il) was solely responsible for all aspects of their lives. Perhaps the most gripping part of Nothing to Envy covers the horrendous famine in the late 1990's that caused the gruesome deaths of thousands in North Korea.
Demick's writing in this book gives the reader a compellingly vivid inside look of this mysterious country, which has totally isolated itself from the rest of the world. Nothing to Envy is strongly recommended.
August 2012 Archives
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
The Master's Muse, by Varley O'Connor
This exquisitely written novel tells the story, in memoir form, of the legendary dancer Tanaquil Le Clerq, George Balanchine's last wife and the inspiration for many of his most noted works. Her career was cut short by polio at 27, which deepened their marriage in unexpected ways as she reinvented her life with style, grace and humor. By turns richly emotional, sharply observant, and witty, this is simply the best book I've read all year.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
Honest memoir of an 1100 mile solo hike with twists and turns along the way. Get out your hiking boots!
Sandcastle Girls, by Chris Bohjalian
Fictional account of the Armenian genocide of 1915-16. A riveting story of love and war.
Can't Hurry Love, by Molly O'Keefe
If Rachel Gibson is a guilty pleasure, then you definitely should like Molly O'Keefe's Crooked Creek series. Even though they do stand alone, you would do well to start with, Can't Buy Me Love. It introduces you to the Crooked Creek Ranch and its dying patriarch, Lyle Baker. It is his will that propels the narrative and ignites the conflict between the protagonists. While in the first book in the series, you get a gutsy trailer trash heroine and a hunky hockey hero, the second takes quite a different tack. Victoria Baker, born on the wrong side of the sheets, is a little hard to like. Pretty, but she whines and whinges and can't get beyond the fact that her ex-husband betrayed her and her beloved son, Jacob, with his Madoff like Ponzi scheme. She is also a thorn in the side of Eli Turnbull, a typically rugged and too handsome cowboy, who feels that his family is the real owner of Crooked Creek, Predictably sparks fly and feelings are hurt and somehow it all comes together. The writing is surprisingly good. Molly O'Keefe's biography says that among many things, she wanted to be a cowgirl and a chef. I know that I was taken by her Texas descriptions and fell in love with Ruby the housekeeper and her fantastic Tex-Mex fare. Too bad we have to wait until January for the next installment. I am sure it will be worth it! *
A Killing in the Hills, by Julia Keller
A Killing in the Hills is a debut mystery by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Julia Keller to be published August 21, 2012. Gutsy and beautifully written mystery of community, family, meth and murder in the hills of West Virginia. Prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins, returned to her roots from DC, her teenaged daughter Carla, and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong are among the more law-abiding citizens in the county. Keller contrasts abject poverty and alluring landscape--the galley drew me in from beginning to end.
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams
Wastelands is an interesting collection of short stories imagining what life might be like after the end of the world as we know it (or "TEOTWAWKI" for all you survivalist mavens out there) across an assortment of doomsday scenarios. Nuclear war, plague, global warming, whatever. The assumption being that in any given scenario, human life may be expected to survive in some way, shape or form, given that there's almost always at least some small percentage that manages to beat the odds. And while it's interesting to imagine how our civilization might ultimately meet its demise, it is equally interesting to imagine what might come after us. These stories range in tone from realistic, to funny, to scary, to the truly bizarre, and odds are that you'll find at least one or two that strike a particular chord with you; two stand-outs for me were "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" and "The People of Sand and Slag".
Band of Brothers, by Stephen E. Ambrose
Enthralling World War II account of the Screaming Eagles, the Easy Company of the 101st Airborne who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, then were used as infantrymen. The worst was perhaps the Battle of Bastogne where, besides being badly outnumbered by the German army, they lacked warm clothes or blankets, enough food or ammunition. As one of their leaders said, "In combat your reward for a good job done is that you get the next tough mission"; and "The result of sharing all that stress through training and combat has created a bond between the men of E company that will last forever." By the end of the war, 48 E company members had given their lives for their nation; over 100 had been wounded.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl
Mr. Fox is on the run! The three meanest farmers have joined forces and are out to get him. Will he be able to outfox them?
The Potato Chip Puzzles, by Eric Berlin
Winston Breen and his friends enter a puzzle contest to win fifty thousand dollars for their school. As they race against other school teams to solve puzzles, they discover there is a cheater among the contestants who is trying to sabotage the contest. The book includes puzzles for the reader to solve.