Library Loot (7 January 2011)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

I lugged a whole lot of books to return to the library and ended up lugging quite a load back home!

Dreamhunter: Book One of the Dreamhunter Duet – Elizabeth Knox

For the Global Reading Challenge (New Zealand), via Tor.com

Laura comes from a world similar to our own except for one difference: It is next to the Place, an unfathomable land that fosters dreams of every kind and is inaccessible to all but a select few, the dreamhunters. These are individuals with the ability to catch larger-than-life dreams and relay them to audiences in the magnificent dream palace. People travel from all around to experience the benefits of the hunters’ unique visions.
Now, fifteen-year-old Laura and her cousin Rose, daughters of dreamhunters, are old enough to find out if they qualify to enter the Place. But nothing can prepare them for what they are about to discover. In the midst of a fascinating landscape, Laura’s dreamy childhood is ending, and a nightmare is beginning.

Graceland – Chris Abani
For the Global Reading Challenge (Nigeria).

The sprawling, swampy, cacophonous city of Lagos, Nigeria, provides the backdrop to the story of Elvis, a teenage Elvis impersonator hoping to make his way out of the ghetto. Nuanced, lyrical, and pitch perfect, this is a remarkable story of a son and his father, and an examination of postcolonial Nigeria, where the trappings of American culture reign supreme.

Joss and Gold – Shirley Geok-lin Lim
Also for the Global Reading Challenge (I’m trying to get as much read as I can before March!). This one is set in Malaysia/Singapore.

Now in paperback, Shirley Lim’s long-awaited first novel traces the unconventional development of an extended family struggling to find common ground. At the center of this engaging “un-love story” is Li An, a strong-willed Malaysian woman who finds herself attracted to Chester, an American Peace Corps volunteer. On a night of violent riots, Li An and Chester are drawn together, forever changing both their lives. Lim’s characters find themselves caught up in the larger tensions between East and West, women and men, freedom and responsibility. With insight and wit, Lim shows us that what we expect may not always be what we get, but all roads lead us, ultimately to our deepest selves.

Ali and Nino: A Love Story – Kurban Said
I might have heard about this before (I think it was Eva who reviewed it), but the most recent mention was on FiveBooks. Kurban Said is the pseudonym of Lev Nussimbaum seems to have led a rather interesting life, and inspired the book The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life by Tom Reiss. It’s also for the Global Reading Challenge.

First published in Vienna in 1937, this classic story of romance and adventure has been compared to Dr. Zhivago and Romeo and Juliet. Its mysterious author was recently the subject of a feature article in the New Yorker, which has inspired a forthcoming biography. Out of print for nearly three decades until the hardcover re-release last year, Ali and Nino is Kurban Said’s masterpiece. It is a captivating novel as evocative of the exotic desert landscape as it is of the passion between two people pulled apart by culture, religion, and war.

It is the eve of World War I in Baku, Azerbaijan, a city on the edge of the Caspian Sea, poised precariously between east and west. Ali Khan Shirvanshir, a Muslim schoolboy from a proud, aristocratic family, has fallen in love with the beautiful and enigmatic Nino Kipiani, a Christian girl with distinctly European sensibilities. To be together they must overcome blood feud and scandal, attempt a daring horseback rescue, and travel from the bustling street of oil-boom Baku, through starkly beautiful deserts and remote mountain villages, to the opulent palace of Ali’s uncle in neighboring Persia. Ultimately the lovers are drawn back to Baku, but when war threatens their future, Ali is forced to choose between his loyalty to the beliefs of his Asian ancestors and his profound devotion to Nino. Combining the exotic fascination of a tale told by Scheherazade with the range and magnificence of an epic, Ali and Nino is a timeless classic of love in the face of war.

Paradise of the Blind – Duong Thu Huong

One more for the Global Reading Challenge!

The first Vietnamese novel translated and published in North America, Paradise of the Blind is a riveting and revealing view of one family’s life over the past forty years. At its heart are twenty-year-old Hang, her mother Que, and her father’s sister Aunt Tam. While on a long train ride, Hang, now an “exported worker” in Russia, recalls her family’s history. Before her birth, the 1950s land reforms campaigns created a split in her family that has never been overcome. It forced Hang’s mother to move to the slums of Hanoi – far away from the home of her ancestors – and work as a street vendor. Hang remembers the neighborhood with “seven different sticky-rice vendors. You could recognize each one immediately by the lilt of her voice. Their dawn cries were the first music of my childhood.” Aunt Tam still lives in the hamlet where her family is from, unable to forget the past and determined that her hard work will benefit Hang. Hang is caught between her mother and her aunt, the government’s past and present actions, and her own yearnings. The foods, flowers, heat, and rain of Vietnam are evoked to expose the broken world of Hang and her family. Duong Thu Huong, an advocate for democratic political reform and one of Vietman’s most popular writers, wrote Paradise of the Blind in response to a government call for writers to use their art to encourage traditional Vietnamese values. More than 40,000 copies sold before it – and her other novels – were banned.

Lady of Quality – Georgette Heyer

Chalk one up for the book bloggers! I would not have heard of Heyer if it were not for the many book blogs I read.

Miss Annis Wychwood, at twenty-nine, has long been on the shelf, but this bothers her not at all. She is rich and still beautiful and she enjoys living independently in Bath, except for the tiresome female cousin, who her very proper brother insists must live with her.
When Annis offers sanctuary to the very young runaway heiress Miss Lucilla Carleton, no one at all thinks this is a good idea. With the exception of Miss Carleton’s overbearing guardian, Mr. Oliver Carleton, whose reputation as the rudest man in London precedes him. Outrageous as he is, the charming Annis ends up finding him absolutely irresistible.

The World Without Us – Alan Weisman

I’ve always wanted to read this book. And I just happened to be wandering around the right shelf at the right time.

A penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity’s impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.
In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.
The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York’s subways would start eroding the city’s foundations, and how, as the world’s cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists—who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths—Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.
From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth’s tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman’s narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn’t depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.

The Sandman Vol. 10: The Wake – Neil Gaiman

And with the start of 2011, I finally finish the Sandman series!

This is the conclusion to the much talked about Sandman series. It may be best to start your Sandman acquaintance with earlier episodes, but The Wake stands as one of Neil Gaiman’s strongest and most consistent Sandman volumes to date.

Violent Cases – Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean

And in the teen graphic novel section, I found more Gaiman graphic novels!

An exploration of the trappings of violence and the failings of memory, Violent Cases marks the beginning of the astonishing and award-winning collaboration between author Neil Gaiman and the artist Dave McKean, offered in its first Dark Horse edition, in softcover format with cover flaps. Set only in the memory of its author, this brillant short story meanders through levels of recollection surrounding a childhood injury. After dislocating his arm, a young boy is taken to see a doctor – an aged osteopath who was once the doctor of legendary gangster Al Capone. Through studied observations and painstaking attempts at truthful recall, the author reconstructs his tattered memories of the events surrounding his meeting with the doctor, and delves into the psychological complexities that emerged from the doctor’s bizarre tales of Capone’s life of crime. Gorgeously illustrated in mixed media by Dave McKean, Violent Cases is a sensuous and thought-provoking meditation on our memories.

The Books of Magic – Neil Gaiman

A quartet of fallen mystics dubbed the “TrenchCoat Brigade “is introduced in this first collection of the adventures of Timothy Hunter. John Constantine, the Phantom Stranger, Dr. Occult and Mister E take Hunter on a tour of the magical realms. Along the way he’s introduced to Vertigo’s greatest practitioners of magic and must choose whether or not to join their ranks.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

See more Library Loot here

10 Comments

  1. I read a different Abani novel, and it just blew me away. I’ve been meaning to follow up with Graceland! I’m quite curious to see what you make of Ali and Nino. 🙂 I thought Paradise of the Blind was so interesting with its peek into everyday Vietnamese life; perhaps not the best written book ever, but worth reading for sure. And The World Wtihout Us was quite interesting! I’ve added Joss and Gold to my TBR list. 😀 I read a Malaysian book last year, The Gift of Rain, and loved it. I also enjoyed the first of the Inspector Singh Investigates series, so I want to read more books set in the region!

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    1. Of course, Eva, you would’ve read many of the books on my list! I’m looking forward to reading my loot (and of course adding more to my TBR list thanks to your blog posts!)

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  2. I thought The World Without Us was quite interesting, and I’ve found myself thinking back to it many times since I read it: very memorable, and surprisingly relevant, giving that the world’s still with us these days. (And I’ve wanted to read Chris Abani for ages.)

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    1. Ah, that’s always a good sign – recalling a book you’ve previously read despite the many many many new books you read! I’m looking forward to it.

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  3. Great loot. I still have not read any Gaiman yet. I’m hoping to read more graphic novels this year and my husband owns the first few Sandman graphic novels. I have no excuse!

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