Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

July 2014 books

Ah, July, that most productive reading month (because vacation).

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First reading 2009.

Second reading July 2014.

Jeremy read this series last month, so I thought I'd give it another go. I remembered thinking that the author's mind's eye and my mind's eye worked differently enough that it was hard for me to picture the scenery and action. That was still true the second time around. I also felt like the book's manner of presenting the story was disingenuous. The first-person narrator hides things from us that technically I think we should hear since he is our only point of access to the story.

Still, it's a good story and an enjoyable book, as long as you don't mind the fact that you can't always tell exactly what's going on.

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First reading 2009, rating 3 stars.

Second reading July 2014, rating 4.5 stars.

It's been five years since I read this for the first time, and what a difference it has made! I liked the book so much more this time and I can't wait to re-read book number three.

The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #3)The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First reading 2009.

Second reading July 2014.

My opinion didn't change so much on a second reading five years later. This was good, but I like The Queen of Attolia better. Attolia and Eugenides are some of the most interesting characters I've ever read.

A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief, #4)A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. If I didn't already know and love these characters, I could not have handled more than five pages of this book. It would have worked better as a few chapters in a book about someone else (Gen or Attolia, please), rather than following Sophos the whole time.

Still, some Gen and Attolia is better than none, so I'll take it.

Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & ReflectionsCockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & Reflections by Patrick Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a charming book - "everything you need to know about air travel." Its format allows you to pick and choose the parts you read. I was more interested in the consumer side of air travel. (Not so much the "How much do planes weigh?" variety.)

Plus, dude (a pilot) speaks truth. I loved his manifesto about the things every airport should have - free WiFi! sufficient seating at the gate! seamless international transfers! And he and I are on the same page regarding the loveliness of Emirates airlines, especially compared to American carriers. I said it here; he says it much better on page 254:

"None of those things [small niceties listed in the previous paragraph, including some of the things I mentioned in my blog post], you'll notice, was especially luxurious...and that's all right. What the [US] airlines haven't quite figured out yet, is that satisfactory service doesn't have to be elaborate. The average passenger doesn't expect to be pampered. What he or she expects and deserves are convenience, respectful employees, and a modicum of comfort...What he yearns for is a clean, halfway comfortable space to sit in, something to watch or listen to, maybe a sandwich, and for God's sake an occasional bottle of water. And something else too: workers who are polite and professional."


Paradise Interrupted: Romantic Adventures Backpacking Across the Philippines, Baby in TowParadise Interrupted: Romantic Adventures Backpacking Across the Philippines, Baby in Tow by Sarah Bringhurst

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A charming mini-memoir of a trip through the Philippines by the author, her husband, and their tiny baby. I loved how the author was very open about how foolish and naive they sometimes were. It was fun to read about their misadventures, even though I'm sure it was very stressful at the time. I'm also impressed that the author somehow got us to laugh with her, never at her - we are always on her side.

I enjoy traveling with my kids, too, so it was a treat to read someone else's travel stories from the comfort of my (overseas) living room.

Fire and HemlockFire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the old-fashioned awkwardness and mismatched love interest ages of Summer of My German Soldier and Daddy-Long-Legs, plus the nightmare-you-can't-wake-up-from feeling of The Magician's Nephew, with a cover straight out of LABYRINTH. I even considered scrolling through the covers here and finding a more respectable one, but no, I'm going to keep Perky Breasts Woman Riding a Horse for authenticity's sake because this is the actual copy I read. Jeremy made fun of me every time he saw me with it. The weird thing is that this book is by and large about a 10- to 13-year-old girl who doesn't have perky breasts and at no time rides a horse, so it's doubly mystifying. There is also very little fire and/or hemlock in this book.

And yet. I really liked this book, especially once I accepted that the enjoyment would be in the journey of reading it, not in the destination. I carried this book with me everywhere in hopes of a chance to read a few pages or even a paragraph. Yes, carried it with me, in public, even with that awful cover! There are things that happen in this book that you will not understand, even after you've read all the way through, but I found that I was OK with that.

You see, I think this book is not so much about magic and mystery and the answers to our questions as we'd like to believe. I think it is rather more a story about Polly growing up. Seen that way, as a coming-of-age story, the book works better, at least for me.

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

After I loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I purposely stayed away from anything else the author had ever written. I did not want to know anything about her or find out about any other characters she had created. I was worried that my beloved book would be tainted by anything less than genius from the same mind.

Five years after I first read TDHOFLB, I have lifted my embargo on all things E. Lockhart for We Were Liars. And it was pretty good, I guess. Spookier than I thought at first; sweeter than I thought at first. A worthy entry, but it pales in comparison to TDHOFLB.

Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1)Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The perfect Jeremy-is-out-of-town book. I loved this book's main character and its (and her) big heart. An excellent twist on the "normal kid finds out she actually has special powers" theme.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of EnglishOur Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John H. McWhorter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. I can never figure out if I like mainstream language-y books like this one more or less because I'm a linguist. This one comes off as a bit of a diatribe at times - what is he so worked up about? Some of the chapters were a review of stuff I already knew, but I did appreciate his take on the current state of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Ah, but I do enjoy a good, meaty debate about linguistics of an evening, and this fit the bill.

August 1st, outsourced

(Not) walking to the beat of a different drummer