The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

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The book in one sentence: Arnold Spirit Jr. quits the local reservation high school to go to a better, all-white high school in the next county, in an inspirational underdog tale that will make you laugh!

Who would you recommend it to: If you’re looking for a refreshing, uplifting read, this is the book for you. A highly-recommended young adult book.

OK bits: It’s a story about how the biggest underdog of all underdogs there are in the world manages to triumph in life, with courage and spirit and determination. And a great sense of humour! It also won the National Book Award.

Boring bits: Nothing.

Verdict: I loved this book! Junior is funny, sweet, brave, smart and a whole lot more. A character you can’t help but root for, in whatever challenges he faces in life.

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10 Book Sale Shopping Tips

1. Go through your bookshelf and make notes of titles you do and do not have of books by your favourite authors or series. You might be able to find the missing titles at the sale, though don’t get your hopes up! Also, you will remember what titles you do have and that can avoid you from buying the same title again.

2. Bring a bag (and then a few more) if you plan to buy a lot. It’s lighter than the baskets or boxes they will provide you at the sale to carry the books. It’s environmentally-friendly too!

3. Book sales are best to go to when they just open. If you can go on the first day the moment it opens, that’s the best time as the few good books might just be yours for the taking! Also, it’s less crowded and makes the trip more comfortable than if you were to go during the weekend. If you’re a real bookworm, taking the day off from work can be worth it.

4. Unless you plan to go through every single title and spend the entire day at the sale so you won’t miss out, just skim and glance through the books. Most of the time you’ll find the same titles all over the place as you go along, so why waste time meticulously poring over every title? If you miss one you’ll probably chance upon it as you go along anyway.

5. If you’re considering buying a title and are in two minds about it, just chuck in the bag first. You can decide again when you’re about to pay for your books. If you place it back, you might not be able to find the book again, or someone else could’ve taken it if you went back and tried looking for it.

6. Before buying your books, sort them into categories of books you know you want, books you’re not sure if you want, and books that you know you don’t want anymore. You can discard the books from the third pile, and then decide again on the second pile based on how much you will spend on the first pile. This way, you can control your budget better.

7. If you’re the sort who has no control when buying books, it’s advisable not to take the plastic with you. Bring cash instead and that will limit your purchases with the amount of money you have. That said, don’t bring out such a huge chunk of cash just to compensate! There will always be other book sales, so no need to splurge on this like it’s the last.

8. Remember that book sales are places to go to try new books, not just hunting for titles you’ve been looking for. So be adventurous and buy books you might want to read but fear not liking it. If it’s cheap enough it won’t hurt, and it’ll widen your reading repertoire.

9. Dress lightly and comfortably, with good shoes! Book sale venues are often not customer friendly. And never go to a book sale when you’re rushing for time. Then you’ll really miss the good books for lack of time.

10. Enjoy the gems you picked up from the sale! And if you happened to be suckered into a few duds (I do that often because of the attractive covers!) well, at least you didn’t pay full price for the mistake.

12 Days – June Kim

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June Kim is an illustrator and cartoonist. Before coming to New York, June studied Japanese language and literature in Seoul, South Korea. Upon finishing her junior year, she came to New York to study cartooning at the School of Visual Arts. Since graduating in 2002, her comic work has been published in a few highly acclaimed anthologies such as New Thing Vol.2, but she is most well known for her work on Australian rock band JET’s album cover, as well as contributing illustrations to Flaunt magazine, Teen People, and Tokion. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, and when not working as a freelance illustrator, she can be found slowly chasing her dream to become a full time cartoonist. Her chase can be witnessed at http://www.nofishentertainment.com.

The book in one sentence: Jackie’s lover Noah dies and she thinks consuming Noah’s ashes (in smoothies) in 12 days will quicken her grieving process.

Who would you recommend it to: I’m not sure. This is my first time reading manga.

OK bits: I like the whole same sex romance premise.

Boring bits: More like there were parts I didn’t understand. The characters look alike to me and it was difficult to differentiate what was flashback and who is a guy or girl!

Verdict: I don’t know if this was good manga. I like the plot but it was just so-so for me.

The Glamorous (Double) Life of Isabel Bookbinder – Holly McQueen

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Holly McQueen has wanted to be a writer ever since discovering that the nuns at her junior school would let her off maths homework if she wrote a story instead. After unexpected detours via law, magazine journalism, and even musical theatre, she began writing her first novel in 2006. Holly lives with her husband in London. She still avoids maths.

The book in one sentence: Isabel Bookbinder wants to be the next bestselling author but is more concerned about getting the author ‘Look’ right than writing the damn bloody book itself.

Who would you recommend it to: Nobody. Not even if you like chick lit.

OK bits: Nothing. But I suppose I’m a bit biased!

Boring bits: Everything. Totally unoriginal.

Random review quote:

“A marvellously funny debut” – Jilly Cooper

Verdict: Do not touch this book with a ten-foot pole. Totally ripped off Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, right down to the interlude letters. (Even ripped off the image of my header for her cover! Haha okay, I’m lying.) Character Isabel Bookbinder is delusional, ridiculous and totally unlovable. Yes, I clearly loathe the book and so did everyone else who wrote a review on Amazon. Or Barnes & Noble, can’t remember.

The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway

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Steven Galloway was born in Vancouver in 1975. He is the author of two previous novels. The Cellist of Sarajevo is his first novel to be published in the UK.

The book in one sentence: How life amidst war (the Siege of Sarajevo) is like for three different individuals, who are all touched by the act of the cellist of Sarajevo.

Who would you recommend it to: Someone who likes a good, sad read that leaves you reflecting on life in a more appreciative way. Think Khaled Hosseini’s books.

OK bits: Of the three individuals’ stories, I like the story of Arrow, the female counter-sniper, the best.

Boring bits: Nothing boring, but it is quite slow. The language is simple enough to read but you might find yourself reading again to fully grasp the meaning of the words.

Random review quote:

“This gripping novel transcends time and place… A testimony to the struggle to find meaning, grace, and humanity, even amid the most unimaginable horrors.” – Khaled Hosseini

Verdict: My friend David did a guest post review for this book, which prompted me to look for it. By chance, I found it at a book sale for a really cheap price (RM8, that’s less than USD$3) so I picked it up. My friend is right – this is a good read and I would recommend it too. It’s not mind-blowing in that sense, but the book has a quiet power that affects you.

Guest Post Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo

This is a guest post by my friend David, who wrote a review of a book that I feel like reading now!

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(2009) The Text Publishing Company, Melbourne, Victoria
Pp 227 (paperback)
ISBN 9781921520150

I don’t know about you, but I really like stories that bring up the best of people in the face of adversaries. And this book certainly does this.

Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo, a 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize nominee and a 2009 BC Book Prize’s Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize finalist, is a fiction story that is based on the true events of Vedran Smajlović’s act of playing Albinoni’s melancholy Adagio in G Minor on his cello for 22 days, in honour of the death of 22 people who had been killed by mortars while queuing for bread. Intriguingly, the Cellist is not the main protagonist of the story, but three individuals who are trying to survive the days of the Siege of Sarajevo; Arrow, a counter-sniper assigned to protect the Cellist from assassination, Kenan, a ‘cowardly’ family man whose mission is to procure water supply from a dangerous part of Sarajevo, and Dragan, an apathetic man numbed by the daily violence and concerned about his free meals.

Divided into four chapters, we see gradual and evident changes in the characters as the story progresses. Arrow becomes more sympathetic towards the enemy, and develops an internal dilemma. At one point, she hesitates on killing the sniper sent by the ‘men on the hills’ (clearly in reference to the Bosnian Serbs) to assassinate the Cellist, because she sees him drawn to the music. Kenan on the other hand, transforms from being a fearful person, to a man of duty and courage. Having experienced death up-close after artillery shells fell near him at a water storage depot which kill and injure many, he tells himself he will not cower anymore and he makes a pledge to be one of the many who will rebuild Sarajevo when the time comes. As for Dragan, his transformation comes after witnessing his friend shot by a sniper and the death of a man who tried to help his friend. Dragan understands the importance of altruism and for the first time, takes action and lifts the body of the man out of the sniper’s fire.

It has been a long while since I have come across a novel that makes me pause at the very end to consider the gravity of the messages the book is trying to tell.

Highly recommended read.

To Sir, With Love – E. R. Braithwaite

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E.R. Braithwaite was born 1922 in British Guiana and educated in British Guiana and the United States. He served in the R.A.F. His publications include To Sir with Love (1959); Paid Servant: A Report About Welfare Work in London (1962); A Kind of Home-coming: A Visit to Africa (1963); A Choice of Straws (1965).

The book in one sentence: A man who takes up a teaching post and teaches his students about overcoming racial prejudice.

Who would you recommend it to: Someone who is looking for a good old-fashioned feel-good read.

OK bits: I like the inspirational true story of this book.

Boring bits: The beginning was a bit dull, but it picked up when he started teaching his class.

Random review quote:

“A book that the reader devours quickly, ponders slowly, and forgets not at all… Moving and inspiring” – New York Times

Verdict: I did not realise To Sir, With Love is actually a true story, or a book in the first place! I saw the movie a few months ago and I enjoyed it. The book is as good as the movie, though I could have said the book is better if I read it first before watching the movie. A good read nonetheless! Pretty quick too as it’s a slim book.

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