Book Review: The Happiness of Kati by Ngarmpun (Jane) Vejjajiva

Around the World for a Good Book selection for Thailand
Author: Ngarmpun (Jane) Vejjajiva
Title: The Happiness of Kati
Publication Info: New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006.
Summary/Review:

Kati, a nine-year-old girl lives with her grandparents and dreams of her mother who left five years earlier.  Finally, it’s revealed that her mother has ALS and is close to death.  The separation from her mother seems cruel, but it is obvious there’s a lot of love in this family.  They are reunited for Kati’s mother’s last days, a time where Kati learns a lot about her family.  Before dying, Kati’s mother tells her how she can contact her father who she has never met.  The final chapters detail Kati’s choice to seek out her father or not.  This is a touching novel, written from a perspective that realistically portrays the way a child views the world and deals with difficult issues like death.

Recommended booksThe Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer and The Book Thief by Markus Zusakd
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Norway
Author: Linn Ullmann
Title:The Cold Song
Translator: Barbara Haveland
Publication Info: New York : Other Press, c2011
Summary/Review:

This novel is a story about a family at seaside summer home and the young woman Milla who comes to work as their nanny, but goes missing and is later found murdered.  This is not a spoiler as Milla’s remains are discovered in the first pages of the book, but the manner of Milla’s demise is revealed over the extended flashback that makes up the bulk of the novel.  The rest of the cast includes Siri, the A-type restaurateur who hires Milla; Siri’s philandering husband Jon, a novelist struggling with writer’s block; their non-conforming 12-year-old daughter Alma; and Jenny, Siri’s 75-year-old mother who resents the massive birthday party that Siri forces upon her.  There’s a lot of tension in this novel as the characters navigate around one another, and while not a crime novel, the imminent crimes against Milla hang there over the whole story.

Favorite Passages:

Besides: Jon would never have used the expression “sell like hotcakes”—not only was it a cliché, it was also inaccurate. Hotcakes no longer sold like hotcakes. He had no statistics to back this up, but he was pretty sure that hotcakes fared poorly compared to smartphones or drafty houses in overpriced areas (like his own, for example) or antiaging creams.

Recommended booksMaine by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and Saturday by Ian McEwan
Rating: **1/2

Song of the Week: “Monterrey” by The Milk Carton Kids

I heard The Milk Carton Kids for the first time last week at the Green River Festival.  The California folk duo offers beautiful harmonies reminiscent of The Everly Brothers or Simon & Garfunkel.  Listen to the melancholy beauty of “Monterrey,” the title track from their latest album.

Book Review: Timewyrm: Revelation by Paul Cornell

Author: Paul Cornell
TitleTimewyrm: Revelation
Publication Info: London : Dr Who Books, 1991.
Summary/Review:

The final book in the Timewyrm tetralogy is unlike any other Doctor Who story I’ve yet experienced.  For starters, one of the characters is a sentient church, there’s an English village on the moon, and much of the story takes place inside the Doctor’s mind.  That  may sound gimmicky but this a complex and ambitious novel that examines the Doctor’s grief and anguish through the previous incarnations who live in his mind.  This is a challenging book to read as it has a lot of characters and facets and leaps from one to the other rather quickly, but a very satisfying story that pushes the bounds of a Doctor Who adventure.  It’s also very influential as the revived television series has clearly mined this novel for ideas (and the author Cornell has also written screenplays for the show).

Recommended booksTimewyrm: Exodus by Terrance Dicks
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer

AuthorEoin Colfer
TitleArtemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex 
NarratorNathaniel Parker
Publication Info: Listening Library (2010)
Summary/Review:

The penultimate volume in the Artemis Fowl series has the titular hero suffering the titular disease.  The Atlantis Complex is alleged to be brought on by feelings of guilt in recovering criminals leading to symptoms such as paranoia and multiple personality disorder.  This means of course that Artemis’ alternate personality emerges at the worst possible time leading to some chuckles, although I think Colfer overplays the joke.  The story has a different villain than Opal Koboi and this leads to some interesting variations in the adventure.  Also, Foaly is on the scene with Artemis, Holly, Mulch, & Butler making for a nice twist as well.  All in all, a solid story and an addition to the ongoing story arc of the series.  I look forward to reading the final installment.
Rating: ***

Beer Review: Narragansett Del’s Shandy

BeerNarragansett Del’s Shandy
BrewerNarragansett Brewing Co.
Source: 1 pint can
Rating: * (5.1 of 10)
Comments: Two of Rhode Island’s favorites, ‘Gansett Lager and Del’s frozen lemonade come together for a little bit of summer in a can.  The beer is straw-colored with little carbonation.  The aroma is a bit off-putting, kind of a mix of sour lemon and stale bread.  The lemon flavor is strong on first sip, but the beer becomes a bit bland after and leaves a sticky mouthfeel.  Overall it’s kind of bland and artificial, but it’s okay for a cheap summer drink.

Previously: Narragansett Beer

 

Photopost: Green River Festival

Last weekend, the whole family headed west to Greenfield where we joined Susan’s cousins Bill & Kathleen for the Green River Festival.  Susan and I last attended this festival in 2003 and always intended to go back, because it is nice festival in a lovely setting.  Seeing a festival with kids is a big change as one goes from parking a blanket in front of the stage to listen intently to music, to running around with kids and maybe hearing a good band in the background.

Nevertheless, we did enjoy some great sets by the following artists:

  • Polaris, the band who provided the soundtrack to one of the best tv shows of the 1990s, The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
  • The Milk Carton Kids, a folk-pop duo in suits whose harmonies are reminiscent of the Everley Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel.
  • An amazing set by the versatile Booker T. Jones who played not only his own tunes like “Green Onions” but great covers of songs made famous by other artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Prince.
  • Finished off the night with the bombastic tUnE-yArDs.  Kay danced and collected high fives from passersby.

The other great thing about the Green River Festival is that it has balloon rides.  At dusk, we took the kids down for a close-up view of the balloons as they were filled up with fans, heated up with a burner, and launched into the sky.

We spent the rest of the weekend at Kathleen and Bill’s house in Vermont where we played in the West River.

Bonus!

This great video shows the highlights of Saturday at the festival:

And this video gives one a virtual ride in a hot air balloon!

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