Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny (2012)

I always love books about books, strong women, and historical periods, so this book satisfied all those and wasn't a bad read, but wasn't great. Dr. Gabriella Mondini has been taught the healing arts by her father in Venecia of the late 16th century. Her father took off ten years ago to explore diseases in other countries for his book that she had been helping him write. Since she hasn't heard from him for a while, she takes off to look for him with two of her servants. They travel through Germany, Netherlands, England, Ireland, France, Spain and Morocco. Interesting way of showing these countries from those times, but I had a hard time believing that a single woman could do so at that time, even when she did dress up as a man. I was wondering how she was able to communicate in all those countries, and lastly, I wondered how she could take that much currency with her that worked everywhere and that was never in danger of being stolen. But I guess you can take a positive look at the world, as I usually do, but with my own foreign travels coming up, I must be feeling extra paranoid. I felt I just got a glimpse into how women were treated at that time.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (2009)

This was an inspiring book on human spirit and gave me a bit more insight into the Mexican border and immigrant issues. A town on the coast of Mexico is threatened by drug dealers and there are no more men left in town to protect them, so Nayeli and her two girlfriends, along with Tacho, the gay owner of the town's cafe, head north to bring back men to protect their town. They are supported by Irma, Nayeli's aunt and newly elected major. Nayeli also hopes to bring back her father. We follow them on the long bus ride to Tijuana, their attempts to cross the border, the various people they meet along the way - both good and bad, the makeshift communities Mexicans live in on both sides of the border, the border patrol, and attitudes of various people towards them. They pick up some interesting characters along the way. The story is full of Spanish expressions and conversation, some translated, some not, but the gist was always understandable. I listened to this one, but it might have been nice to see the written words as they were spoken, so I might learn some Spanish - maybe some other time.

Latvian Storytellers (2006)

This came from our university's Japanese professor, a set of three tales by Latvian writers:
  • Para by Gundege Repše
  • The Innocent Virgins by Pauls Bankovskis
  • Amaryllises by Nora Ikstena
  • The Snake by Laima Muktupavela
  • Still Life with Pomegranate by Inga Ābele
  • push, push by Andra Neiburga

I actually did know all of them by name and had read something from half of the authors. This just reminded me that I do need to take time this summer to read more of the local Latvian authors. I really enjoyed these stories.