May 2014 books

Greek Mythology (Junior Genius Guides, #1)Greek Mythology by Ken Jennings

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this for my kids, and then ended up stealing it from them so I could read it myself. Miriam (age 8) and I finally called a truce and shared the book by flipping the pages to read our favorite parts to each other as Magdalena listened in. The drawings are awesome. The text is great. The tone is engaging. I officially love this series. Youth non-fiction is tricky to get right, but Ken Jennings succeeded. So well, in fact, that Miriam actually ran back from the morning bus the other day yelling "MYTHOLOGY!!!" and grabbed this book to bring to school. This will be good for many re-reads to come, and different bits of the book will catch her (and Magdalena's and eventually Sterling's) interest at different ages.

Because the thing is, we live overseas and don't have access to an extensive library of children's books. If I'm going to buy a book, it can't be for just a one-off read. It has to be WORTH it, for years to come, for all the kids. I took a risk on this (and Maps and Geography, the only other JGG available from The Book Depository) and it paid off, big time. Hooray!



A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in IranA Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Audiobook.

3.5 stars. Always interesting, but I've read better captivity-narrative books, even ones that take place in Iran, specifically. Plus, I couldn't get over how insufferable these three people were. They certainly did not deserve to be put in Evin prison in Tehran, and bless them for holding fast to their sometimes odious convictions throughout the ordeal, and I'm glad they're free, but. BUT. There is a massive BUT somewhere in all this that I cannot or will not put into words.

(I concede that some of the attitude I picked up from this book may have come from the narrators' voices rather than the prose itself.)


PanicPanic by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm tempted to give a big ol' MEH to this book. I mean, I read the whole thing and enjoyed it, but I will probably never think about it again. Its major strengths are that Heather is one dang interesting human being, and that sometimes it is nicely spooky.



Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live SquidLost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid by J. Maarten Troost

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It is unfortunate for every travel writer ever that I will always compare their work to Robert D. Kaplan's. I can't help it. It's what I do. So when I read books like Lost on Planet China, that are meant to be high on anecdotes and observations and very light on politics and context, I end up disoriented. This book was fun, but ever so slightly slipshod. I am reminded of The Wilder Life, where ten pages in, I knew I did NOT want to spend a whole book with this person. Troost is a fun companion - even a laugh-out-loud one - for a lot of the time, but sometimes I just needed a break.

"You're sexy again!"

May 30th, outsourced