Patron Reviews

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

The Spirit Catches You and Then You Fall Down

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
4

In Hmong, the phrase for epilepsy is “the spirit catches you and then you fall down.” Anne Fadiman documents the life and medical experiences of a young Hmong girl born in America to parents from Laos. Before she was a year old, Lia Lee begins to have bad seizures that are initially misdiagnosed, in large part because of the language and cultural barriers between her parents and her doctors. What follows is a heartbreaking story of how things go horribly wrong, despite the best intentions, when cultures clash and there isn’t the system in place to provide a bridge for understanding. In learning about Lia, you also learn what it means to be Hmong both in Laos and in the United States. I also learned a great deal about how the Hmong contributed to the American efforts in Vietnam and what the repercussions of that help were on their society.

By Author/Artist: Anne Fadiman

A Room with a Pew

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3
Join experienced tourist and authors, Richard Starts and Miriam Murcott, on their journey through Spain. Wanting to slow down and see a side of Spain most tourists miss, the authors chose to stay in active monasteries and convents scattered through the countryside on their road trip from Barcelona in the north to Malaga in the south. They intentionally avoid the monasteries that have been converted into luxury tourist hotels and in the process have some really unusual experiences. This book really appealed to me as I had stayed at an ex-convent while in Oaxaca, Mexico and had loved the history and ambiance of the building. There is a nice section at the end offering tips for planning your own trip in Spain. It should be noted that the authors are not Catholic and have an attempt to be entertaining they have taken an irreverent tone that may be offensive to some readers.
By Author/Artist: Richard Starks and Miriam Murcott

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
4

A fun, easy read that follows the author and his fiancé on their move from Washington, D.C. to the small island nation of Kirabati. Sitting near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, Kiribati challenges newcomers with its humidity, temperature, regular blackouts and shortages of food options, water and beer. Explore the best, and the worst, the island has to offer along with Troost who writes about his adventures in an entertaining way. As enjoyable as this was to read, it did help me move Kirabati to the near the bottom of my “must visit” list.

By Author/Artist: J. Maarten Troost

The Great Pearl Heist

Review written by: DF1
4

The Great Pearl Heist is a non-fiction book that covers the theft and hunt for the world's most valuable necklace in 1913 London. Though it is a true story, the book reads like a thriller and keeps the reader captivated till the end. Anyone who has read Molly Crosby's The American Plague, will again appreciate a very well researched book that includes personal information about the characters that make you know it is really happened as she tells it. I highly recommend it.

By Author/Artist: Molly Caldwell Crosby
Format: Hardcover book
ISBN: 9780425252802

Snow

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
4

Some books are easy to read, others take self-discipline. The later was the case with “Snow” by Orhan Pamul. I always knew I was reading a significant book but that didn’t make it enjoyable. I found the characters hard to get attached to. That being said, there were a number of interesting ideas such as how news coverage can predict/cause events in the future to occur. Snow follows a Turkish poet named Ka, who has been in exile in Germany, that visits the town of Kars, Turkey just as a blizzard strands the citizens for a few days. Drawn there to report on local politics leading up to an election and a number of suicides by girls forced to remove their head scarves to attend school, Ka finds himself suddenly inspired to write poems again after a long draught. He ends up writing 19 poems during is stay which he arranges around the points on a snowflake which he sees as a metaphor for man. Several sub-plots develop including his romance with his college friend’s ex-wife. Although there were many interesting threads, I found myself hoping the snow would melt soon and that the novel would finally come to an end.

By Author/Artist: Orhan Pamuk

Istanbul: Memories and the City

Review written by: Jan Stacey Bieler
4

Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote a book about his memories of growing up in Istanbul in the 1950s and 60s. Istanbul, at the crossroads of Westernization and slow disintegration following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, was full of melancholy. Turkey's ruler from 1923-38, Ataturk, wanted to westernize the country. This continues to create tension in the role of religion in Turkish life. Pamuk's family moved several times within the city as their fortunes failed. He records his walks through many of the parts of town. One of the most moving chapters was called "On the Ships that Passed through the Bosphorus, Famous Fires, Moving House, and Other Disasters." Many people watch the ships, noticing the countries of origin and making guesses as to the political atmosphere. Other chapters discuss the role of Westerners writers and what they expected to find when they visited Turkey. As he closes the book, Pamuk realizes that his description of the city may have more to do with his life. "Is this the secret of Istanbul -- that beneath its grand history, it living poverty, its outward-looking monuments, and its sublime landscapes, it poor hide the city's soul inside a fragile web? But here we have come full circle, for anything we say about the city's essence says more about our own lives and our own states of mind." (349) Many wonderful pictures taken in the 1950s are scattered throughout the book.

By Author/Artist: Orhan Pamuk
ISBN: 1400040957

A Killing In The Hills

Review written by: Michael C.
5

A Killing In The Hills, by Julia Keller, is an outstanding debut mystery. Set in a fictional small town in West Virginia, the county prosecutor, Belfa "Bell" Elkins, is struggling to solve the Saturday morning public murder of three elderly men who gathered regularly at a local diner. At the time the men were shot in the diner, Bell's 17 year-old daughter, Carla, was sitting in the diner waiting to be picked up by her mother. Later on Carla will realize that she knows the shooter. While the involvement of drugs as the cause of the murders is certainly not new to a story of this type, there is so much more in this book that demands your attention. While the hunt for the killer is the central plot here, and Bell's work with the local sheriff the focus of the story, what makes this book so good in my mind is the way the author reveals the back story of Bell and this part of West Virginia. Bell is a native, who left and eventually returned to her home. Returning cost her a marriage, and that part of the story is not resolved. Nor is there a resolution to Bell and Carla's relationship, a troubled one that is carried through the book. And lastly there is the story of Bell's sister who is in prison for murdering their father 29 years earlier. The book's ending sets the stage for a sequel that I am eagerly anticipating.

By Author/Artist: Julia Keller

The Shadow of the Wind

Review written by: Belle
5

The Shadow of the Wind is a wonderful story of redemption. It will keep you in suspense, rooting for the characters, and you will keep wanting to read until you get the answers!

By Author/Artist: Carlos Ruíz Zafón
Format: paperback

Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All: A new Zealand Story

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3

Learn about the history of the Maori people of New Zealand through author Christina Thompson’s research and life experiences. While on vacation, the American Thompson meets and falls in love with a Maori man. Their personal story is reflected in her detailed accounts of early western contact with the Maori and the result of those interactions.

By Author/Artist: Christina Thompson

In the Shadow of the Buddha: One Man's Journey of Discovery in Tibet

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3

Come along with author Matteo Pistono on his Buddhist pilgrimage in Tibet as he follows the same path as Terton Sogyal in the late nineteenth century. His personal mission also becomes one for the Tibetan people as he bears witness to the human rights violations committed by the Chinese and smuggles photos and documents out for the world to see. “In the Shadow of the Buddha,” readers will travel both the world and in time as they learn about Tibetan Buddhism through the spiritual development of the author.

By Author/Artist: Matteo Pistono

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Review written by: Sarah Shaw
3

Alexandra Fuller has gathered together entertaining stories about her mother's privileged experiences growing up in central Africa in “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.” She follows Nicola Huntingford Fuller through the challenges she faces as a wife and mother with adult responsibilities during uncertain times both personally and in the countries she lived in. Her mother always comes through though with style, grace and humor and despite how ridiculous she is at times, you still find yourself wishing you had been there too.

By Author/Artist: Alexandra Fuller

The End of Your Life Book Club

Review written by: DF1
4

This is a wonderful book about a family dealing with terminal cancer in a positive way. The author and his mother (the one dying) read books as a way of coping and communicating. I think everyone should read it before having a loved develop any terminal disease as it provides so much wonderful information on dealing with life, family and death in a dignified, loving and even fun way.

By Author/Artist: Will Schwalbe
Format: Hard cover; Non-Fiction; 616.99 SCHWALBE
ISBN: 9780307594037

Puffins Climb, Penguins Rhyme

Review written by: James Le
4

I like the book, Puffins Climb, Penguins Rhyme and you should too because this book tells the difference between a puffin and a penguin. This book is awesome even though it only has a couple of words on each page but I really enjoy it because the book tells you amazing facts about the animals. SO YOU SHOULD READ IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

By Author/Artist: Bruce McMillan
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0-15-200362-2

First Big Book of Animals

Review written by: James Le
5

I like the book, First Big Book of Animals because this book has a lot of animals that you can learn about like lions, gorillas, monkeys, and more. In this book you can learn what the animals eat and where they live and what they like to do. So you should read this book because I learned a lot and it and I approve it.

By Author/Artist: Catherine D. Hughes
Format: Hardcover

The Serpent's Shadow

Review written by: John Le
5

The book, Serpent's Shadow is a book that you should you read and this is why. In the book, The Serpent's Shadow Carter and Sadie are following the path of Ancient Egypt. The gods are disappearing and and the chaos snake Apophis is loose and is destroying the Earth and there are no way to stop Apophis. But Carter and Sadie won't take that chance until they have been beaten. Now two magicians Carter and Sadie are figuring out a way to defeat Apophis and restore Ma'at-order-to the world.

By Author/Artist: Rick Riordan
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-142314057-3

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