Welcome one and all to the lucky THIRTEENTH meeting of The Book Review Club! Sorry to be starting a little late today. It's all due to small bumps in the road of life: a child with some tough math homework (fractions, ugh!), a little teen drama, an unfortunate run-in with the delete key. But, we're here and happy and ready to talk books!
First off, Happy Belated Ground Hog Day! Yesterday, on Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. However, many groundhogs around the country did not. Which means we're either in for another six weeks of winter. Or... we're not.
In either case, your life will be that much more interesting and fun with some books lying around, just waiting to be read. And that's where we come in. :)
A few weeks ago, Child #2 and I were riding in the car. I tuned the radio to NPR where an author interview was underway. Barbara Demick, Beijing bureau chief of the Los Angeles times, was talking about her December 2009 release, NOTHING TO ENVY (ORDINARY LIVES IN NORTH KOREA).
Barbara's book chronicles the lives of six North Koreans over a period of 15 years. These people are all from Chongjin, a very poor industrial town in northern North Korea. Chongjin was particularly hard hit during the famine of the 1990s when its factories shut down due to lack of energy and raw materials. In NOTHING TO ENVY, the six North Korean citizens (a pediatrician, a widow, the widow's daughter, a college student, an orphan and a kindergarten teacher) "fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them." (amazon.com) And we experience how they each decide to defect to Seoul, South Korea.
By the end of the radio interview, Child #2 (a 16 year old boy) and I knew we wanted to read NOTHING TO ENVY.
I don't read a lot of adult nonfiction. But I can say NOTHING TO ENVY is one of the best book I've read in the last six months. Not one of the easiest, mind you, because the subject matter tugs at your heart strings. But well, well worth it.
The title, NOTHING TO ENVY, comes from a patriotic song North Korean children learn, much the way our children learn "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
On a personal note, I find anything to do with Korea fascinating. Child #4 is adopted from South Korea. From the guarded bridge at the DMZ (demilitarized zone, I have looked out over a little corner of North Korean. One of my sisters has visited North Korea twice with food-aid groups. She returned with details similar to many of the details in NOTHING TO ENVY. Even without these connections, though, this book is excellent.
Please click on the links below for amazing reviews from amazing reviewers!
MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT BOOK REVIEWS
Stacy Nyikos: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie (young adult)
Thao of Serene Hours: THE NAUGHTY CLUB by Suzanne Young (young adult)
Sarah Laurence: BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (young adult)
Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: PETRONELLA SAVES NEARLY EVERYONE: THE ENTOMOLOGICAL TALES OF AUGUSTUS T. PERCIVAL by Dene Low (middle grade)
Linda McLaughlin: THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER by Gary Blackwood (middle grade)
ADULT BOOK REVIEWS
Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel (historical)
Kaye of the Book Review Forum: THE LOST QUILTER by Jennifer Chiaverini (historical)
Scott Parker: THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Patti Abbott: CROSSROAD BLUES by Ace Atkins (crime fiction)
Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: HARDBALL by Sara Paretsky (mystery, V.I. Warshawski series)
Beth Yarnall: DEEPER THAN THE DEAD by Tami Hoag (suspense)
Staci of Life in the Thumb: THE TIME OF MY LIFE by Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi (memoir, audio)
Stacy of The Cat's Meow: THE ANGELS GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Beth of From the Desk of Bee Drunken: NO IMPACT MAN by Colin Beavan
Jenn Jilks of My Reflections: WORDS TO RHYME WITH: A RHYMING DICTIONARY by W.R. Espry, 3rd edition
Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: WRITER MAMA: HOW TO RAISE A WRITING CAREER ALONGSIDE YOUR KIDS by Christina Katz
Jody Feldman: 101 PLACES YOU GOTTA SEE BEFORE YOU'RE 12 by Joanne O'Sullivan
**Exceptional previous reviews are only a click away.**
Note to Reviewers: You know the drill.:) If I missed you, leave me a comment and I'll rectify the situation straight away. And award myself one less cookie today!