Saturday, July 30, 2011

Purchased for My Shelf

Listography by Lisa Nola

Not so much a book to read as a book to play with (sort of like Wreck This Journal). It's a simple premise - each page has a different question or subject you can make a list about. Yep, that's it. But it's fun to think of things for hypothetical situations - "What occupations would you like to try?" - to things that will bring back memories - "List bands you've seen live." - and things that will make you think - "List the ways you've changed since your teens." You can also make a few lists of your own at the back, and at the front you can look through the entire list of, well, potential lists. It's a fun thing to do that will show people a little bit of yourself (if you're keen on sharing). So have a good time!

Notes from the playlist: "Captain Jack's Theme" by Ben Foster

Saturday, July 16, 2011

F in Exams by Richard Benson - A for Effort

Pros: Hilarious answers
Cons: Only if some of these people didn't get the points

The Bottom Line: Ever find yourself stuck on a test question and throwing in a snarky answer instead? Well, here they all are at once!

I love stumbling upon books at work. That's how I found the nifty Wicked Plants and plenty of other cool books. Sometimes it's fiction, and other times it's something ridiculous like this book.

F in Exams has a simple premise. When a student finds him or herself unable to give the correct answer, they offer up something else - an answer that's wrong yet right all at once, and always very funny. These are hilarious answers to all sorts of questions, and if you don't find at least one of them amusing, I think there's likely something wrong with you.

Some of the questions may even still be right, but the student has done something else to make it funny, such as throw in a drawing for kicks. But most of the time they're just not what the teacher is looking for - even if I'm sure they're technically right in some manner. And these aren't just all snarky answers either. Some of them are surprisingly witty. In fact, if I were a teacher and a few of these slid across my desk, I'd just have to give a few points simply for sheer creativity.

The book is relatively small in shape and is only 130 pages long. There are chapters for each subject one might encounter in high school; Chemistry, English, History, Math, and so forth. You'll quickly breeze through all the hilarious answers and wish there were more at hand (and yet at the same time, you may wonder just what these students' test scores were and think perhaps it's okay that the book isn't bigger, if you catch my drift).

So, how about a few quick samples so you can see the kind of amusing things you'll be getting into?

Q: What is the highest frequency noise that a human can register?
A: Mariah Carey

Q: What was the main industry in Persia?
A: Cats (complete with cat doodle)

Q: Give a brief explanation of the meaning of the term "hard water."
A: Ice

Trust me. Find this little blue book in a bookstore (or even look inside it online) and flip through it. You'll be laughing in no time.


Originally posted at

Notes from the playlist: "Valse Moderne" by John Leach & George Fenton

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor - Not Onyesonwu

Pros: Quite different from anything you've read in a while
Cons: The ending is slap-dash and confusing

The Bottom Line: Time to read a book that puts all the touchy issues out there without preaching about them. It makes you think, but doesn't force you to.

Welcome to post-apocalyptic Africa. The Nuru and Okeke are killing each other. For years the Okeke have been slaves to the Nuru, but now they are trying to rise up, and the Nuru put them down in return. Onyesonwu is an Ewu child - a child of violence (rape). She is shunned and feared. But she has extraordinary powers. She can shape shift. She can visit the spirit world. And now she is about to embark on a journey that will change the lives and the history of the people of her world. Now it is time to face the meaning of her name - who fears death.

Despite the darkness in this book, it was a great change from everything I'm accustomed to reading. I haven't ventured to another continent for a while, and I honestly don't think I've ever been to Africa in a novel (at least, not that I can remember), much less a post-apocalyptic version. The author, Nnedi Okorafor, doesn't hesitate to bring up a lot of topics people usually prefer to leave out of their work or at least mellow out a little. In here you'll get genocide, rape, racism, sexism, female circumcision, and more. Don't let that scare you away from this book though, really. The things Okorafor uses aren't pushed at you in some agenda. She uses all of these elements as story elements. They further the plot, and each has significance. Yes, even the cricumsicion.

Now, if you try to attach some sort of similarities to skin color in Okorafor's story and today - don't. People have been trying to figure it out and she does in some interviews mention where she got inspired, but overall, this is the future folks, and people don't have quite the same skin color as they do now. This isn't a white vs. black thing - it's a Nuru vs. Okeke thing, both cultures that don't actually exist in reality. Still, the concept of slavery and suppression does exist and are meant for the story and hopefully to make one think.

Onyesonwu is an interesting character. You'll often root for her because she goes through so many awful things, and still at other times you'll wish she would just chill out a little. She can be impulsive, quick to anger, and emotional at moments when doing the opposite would serve her better. Usually she doesn't do the opposite because someone is telling her to and obeying isn't exactly is something Onye is fond of doing. Still, you'll hope she wins and that the ending won't be what you expect - even if you know what it will be about halfway through the book. And even Onye knows, but she perseveres.

I was glad that Okorafor utilized so many other characters. Mwita, Onye's soulmate, is a great guy and I really liked him. She also has several friends who made Onye's ordeal a little better. At first I was worried they might just fade away, but they stuck around, which was nice because they added some extra dimension to the story as well.

I don't want to get into things too much because I don't want to spoil anything, but I do have to say that the ending could have been better. Not different - just worked on a little more. This book was the June reading for Calico Reaction's book club, and pretty much everyone agreed that the ending was rushed. Even now I'm not exactly sure what Okorafor wanted to do or what she intended. I'm not really sure or even convinced about a few things, and disappointed in at least one aspect, but it's not a very big one.

But if you're good with visiting a genocidal area of post-apocalypse Africa, interested in seeing magic in it's most powerful forms, and can handle some touchy subjects (I had a Darth Vader "NOOO!" moment when the circumcision rolled around. Not so much because it was graphic or I didn't want to read it, but just because I'm aware of how many issues that awful practice can lead to and just....BAD, you know), then you'll read this book morning until night hoping that everything works out in the end...and hey, maybe it does...


Originally posted on

Notes from the playlist: "I Can Carry You" by James Newton Howard

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...