Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for August, 2006

The Seeing Stone (Arthur Trilogy, Book 1)

Posted by nliakos on August 26, 2006

by Kevin Crossley-Holland, read by Michael Maloney

During the closing months of the year 1199, the life of 13-year-old Arthur de Caldicot reflects that of the young King Arthur as the 12th-century Arthur observes scenes from the life of his namesake through a magic stone given to him by Merlin, close friend of his family.  I did not think of this as a young adult novel until I read a review of it after finishing it, but I suppose that given the age of the protagonist, it is.  I really enjoyed it.  The characters are realistic and well-drawn and the depiction of medieval life on a manor near Wales was detailed and convincing.  Maloney’s reading is excellent.

Posted in Children's and Young Adult, Fiction, Recommended for ESL or EFL Learners | Leave a Comment »

Everything Is Illuminated

Posted by nliakos on August 21, 2006

by Jonathan Safran Foer, 2002 (Recorded Books)

I tried reading this  once before for a book group but did not get very far.  Partly, I was put off by the fractured English of one of the book’s narrators, Alex, who loves to use his thesaurus and as a result says things like “This was very rigid,” when he means it was difficult.  (In my job as an ESL teacher, I encounter this sort of word choice problem all the time, so I was not anxious to find more exanples.)  Partly, I was put off by the other narrator’s story of a shtetl in Ukraine a couple of hundred years ago.  But several people had recommended the book to me, so I tried again with an audiobook, this time finishing it.  I have to admit, although I did not like everything about it, I am glad I read it.

On the surface, the book is about two young men (an American Jew named Jonathan Safran Foer–not the author–and his Ukrainian guide and “translator”, Alex/Sasha) who go on a quest to find the woman who may (or may not) have saved Jonathan’s grandfather from the Nazis during World War II.  The format alternates between Alex’s letters to Jonathan recounting the quest (on which they are accompanied by Alex’s “blind” grandfather, who serves as their driver, and their dog, Sammy Davis Junior Junior)and Jonathan’s narration of the shtetl history, which seems like pure fantasy.

There are some very funny moments and also tragic descriptions of the holocaust as experienced by the people of the shtetl which left me horrified.

I also enjoyed listening to an interview with the young author on the last tape.

The audiobook features two different readers: Jeff Woodman and Scott Shina.  Unfortunately, Recorded Books does not tell us which one reads which character.  I particularly enjoyed Alex’s “accent” (maybe Jeff Woodman?), but both readers did an excellent job.

Posted in Fiction | Leave a Comment »

The Blind Watchmaker

Posted by nliakos on August 21, 2006

by Richard Dawkins, 1987, 1986

The subtitle of this book is “Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design,” making it exceptionally relevant in these days of talk about “intelligent design.” In the book, Dawkins picks apart the argument that life is too complex to have evolved through natural selection, showing that natural selection is quite capable of explaining the most complex biological phenomena, such as the human eye, given enough time.

For me (already convinced that natural selection occurs), Dawkins’ arguments were cogent and convincing (but then I didn’t need to be convinced).  He is occasionally kind of annoying, as when he blithely states, “Our refutation of Lamarckism, then, is a bit devastating” (p. 303).  However, I mostly enjoyed his conversational style. He uses analogies very effectively to communicate complex ideas.

Posted in Non-fiction | Leave a Comment »