Patron Reviews

Reviews of books, movies, CDs and audiobooks written by ELPL Patrons.

A Hundred Flowers

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
5

Follow three generations of a family from Guangzhou as they navigate Mao’s China for a few months in 1958. Each family member is tormented by their own secrets and the tension builds throughout the novel as they are revealed to you. In “A Hundred Flowers,” Gail Tsukiyama captures visions of the oppression and fear created by the Cultural Revolution as experienced by a little boy, his mother and his paternal grandfather as they all try to make sense of life in the absence of their father, husband and son.

By Author/Artist: Gail Tsukiyama

Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
4
Revisit Nigeria with author Noo Saro-Wiwa as she returns to her native land a decade after her politically active father’s murder by the government in power at the time. Schooled in England, Saro-Wiwa became a travel writer and decided to try to visit her homeland and see it through the eyes of a tourist. Although you bear witness to the pain of her family, she also strives to paint an impartial picture of Nigeria. When there is something to celebrate, she does. But she is also quick to point out the country’s many flaws as well as its promise for the future.
By Author/Artist: Noo Saro-Wiwa

Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3
In “Travels with Epicurus,” author Daniel Klein revisits Greece with a stack of books by some of his favorite philosophers as he attempts to make sense of aging. Now in his seventies, Klein reminisces of his irresponsible days of youth when he headed to Greece after dropping out of the Sorbonne. Philosophers throughout the ages, and from different nationalities, are referenced as he explores the island of Hydra. I found myself reading it at an interesting time personally as there had been a death in my family. I think people of different ages may find it meaningful in different ways. I would like to reread this in another decade and see how my perceptions have changed.
By Author/Artist: Daniel Klein

In the Shadow of the Banyan

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
5

“In the Shadow of the Banyan” is a heartbreakingly beautiful account of survival through the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Seen through the eyes of an eight year old girl, you catch a glimpse of life before everything in her world is painfully and abruptly stripped away. Such a story would be almost unbearable to read except this one is written so beautifully. The main character’s father had been a poet and there are wonderful poetic images throughout this first novel by Vaddey Ratner. And those moments of beauty are what offer the hope and the will to survive.

By Author/Artist: Vaddey Ratner

Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
2
Jam packed with quotes, facts and history, “Naples Declared” will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Italian city and probably a lot you didn’t. I found this to be a hard read as so much information was offered that it was overwhelming, to the point of unpleasant, at times. The author clearly loves Naples and has thoroughly researched it in every conceivable way but that didn’t translate into an enjoyable read. And I think he knows it. At the end of the chapter two he says, “Even the politest people glaze over somewhere between Odoacer and Bishop Pomponius, and I am learning, at the tender age of fifty-nine, not to bore friends with things of interest only to me. At least I like to think so.” Apparently, he chose to bore the rest of us instead.
By Author/Artist: Benjamin Taylor

The Beach at Galle Road

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3

A collection of short stories woven together with a common character, sometimes a few more, “The Beach at Galle Road” gives voice to experiences in Sri Lanka during its civil war. Melancholy and madness hang over many of the characters including the westerners there to teach and do aid work. Perhaps the impact of the shifting people prevents you from becoming too attached to anyone as the book accelerates its pace toward its tragic end.

By Author/Artist: Joanna Luloff

Lessons from the Monk I Married

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
4

While in South Korea to teach English, author Katherine Jenkins meets a Buddhist monk and begins to take his mediation class before work each morning. A friendship develops between the two and later a romance. In “Lessons from the Monk I Married,” the reader will learn basic Buddhist principles along with the author as you follow the development of their relationship. If you are new to Buddhism, this is a great way to learn about its approach to life. Although I have heard many of the ideas many times, I find that I can’t be reminded of them enough. It strikes me how often I seem to reach for the right book just as I need to read it. I suspect this book, will be that right book, for almost all of you.
 

By Author/Artist: Katherine Jenkins

Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
2
Jam packed with quotes, facts and history, “Naples Declared” will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Italian city and probably a lot you didn’t. I found this to be a hard read as so much information was offered that it was overwhelming, to the point of unpleasant, at times. The author clearly loves Naples and has thoroughly researched it in every conceivable way but that didn’t translate into an enjoyable read. And I think he knows it. At the end of the chapter two he says, “Even the politest people glaze over somewhere between Odoacer and Bishop Pomponius, and I am learning, at the tender age of fifty-nine, not to bore friends with things of interest only to me. At least I like to think so.” Apparently, he chose to bore the rest of us instead.
By Author/Artist: Benjamin Taylor

In the Shadow of the Banyan

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
5
“In the Shadow of the Banyan” is a heartbreakingly beautiful account of survival through the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Seen through the eyes of an eight year old girl, you catch a glimpse of life before everything in her world is painfully and abruptly stripped away. Such a story would be almost unbearable to read except this one is written so beautifully. The main character’s father had been a poet and there are wonderful poetic images throughout this first novel by Vaddey Ratner. And those moments of beauty are what offer the hope and the will to survive.
By Author/Artist: Vaddey Ratner

Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3
In “Travels with Epicurus,” author Daniel Klein revisits Greece with a stack of books by some of his favorite philosophers as he attempts to make sense of aging. Now in his seventies, Klein reminisces of his irresponsible days of youth when he headed to Greece after dropping out of the Sorbonne. Philosophers throughout the ages, and from different nationalities, are referenced as he explores the island of Hydra. I found myself reading it at an interesting time personally as there had been a death in my family. I think people of different ages may find it meaningful in different ways. I would like to reread this in another decade and see how my perceptions have changed.
By Author/Artist: Daniel Klein

Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
4
Revisit Nigeria with author Noo Saro-Wiwa as she returns to her native land a decade after her politically active father’s murder by the government in power at the time. Schooled in England, Saro-Wiwa became a travel writer and decided to try to visit her homeland and see it through the eyes of a tourist. Although you bear witness to the pain of her family, she also strives to paint an impartial picture of Nigeria. When there is something to celebrate, she does. But she is also quick to point out the country’s many flaws as well as its promise for the future.
By Author/Artist: Noo Saro-Wiwa

A Hundred Flowers

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
5
Follow three generations of a family from Guangzhou as they navigate Mao’s China for a few months in 1958. Each family member is tormented by their own secrets and the tension builds throughout the novel as they are revealed to you. In “A Hundred Flowers,” Gail Tsukiyama captures visions of the oppression and fear created by the Cultural Revolution as experienced by a little boy, his mother and his paternal grandfather as they all try to make sense of life in the absence of their father, husband and son.
By Author/Artist: Gail Tsukiyama

From a Persian Tea House: Travels in Old Iran

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
4
In the late 1950’s, Michael Carroll and a friend travelled through Iran. A couple years after returning, Carroll published a summary of their experiences in “From a Persian Tea House: Travels in Old Iran.” The memoir beautifully captures a glimpse of an Iran that no longer exists. Carroll spends days lounging around a tea house in Isfahan developing relationships with locals that will help him the rest of his journey. He and his friend boldly drive through the country in their Land Rover, many times into areas even locals won’t go. In some communities they are welcomed and feted while in another they are chased out by an angry mob. Carroll also gives a master class in bargaining, in Chapter 4, where he discusses their efforts to purchase the rugs of their dreams as well as other vintage and antique items. Reading about the wonderful people and incredible destinations of Iran makes me hope for a day when I will also be able to visit safely.
By Author/Artist: Michael Carroll

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
5
Brigid Pasulka has written an enchanting novel that weaves Poland’s contemporary stories with those from before World War II. Each chapter alternates between the two time periods. I found myself becoming attached to several of the characters and would be frustrated at the end of each chapter knowing that I would have to wait awhile to learn what happens next. Yet at the same time, I was relieved that I was rejoining my other friends to learn the next event in their journey. This technique made it hard for me to put the book down which made it a fast read. This selection will easily make my favorites list for the entire year.
By Author/Artist: Brigid Pasulka

Dreaming in Cuban

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3

“Dreaming in Cuban” follows three generations of women, some remaining in Cuba while others have immigrated to the United States, through the important moments in their lives. The events leading up to and following the revolution are seen through different eyes as some family members support Castro and others escape to advance their lives through capitalism. There does seem to be a big streak of crazy running through the family as well as a fascination with mysticism and Santeria. Most of the characters are well developed but they are hard to like, which took away from the enjoyment of reading the book.

By Author/Artist: Cristina Garcia

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