Monthly Archives: December 2012

Book Review: The Rent Collector

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The Rent Collector is a novel inspired on a documentary The River of Victory, the largest dump in Cambodia called Strung Meanchey. The story follows the lives of Sang Ly; wife and mother, Ki Lim; husband and father, Nisay;the sickly child, and Sopeap Sin, the Rent Collector. Sang and Ki struggle to make a life as “pickers” in the dump community. Sopeap is the mean, drunk, rent collector with more than one secret. The story really begins when Sopeap sees a book Ki found and brought home for Li to show to their child. Show, not read, because they are illiterate.

I was expecting a dark, dreary novel about the sufferings of the poor in a war ravaged country. Despite the setting in a dump, an entire community of people living in a dump the book seems to look beyond the sheer misery of the situation. Life seems normal for the people in the book. Yes there are money problems and environmental problems but they seem to be taken in stride. Overall, there is a very positive light shining on the dump.

The book makes references to several cultural aspects of life in Cambodia, from local remedies to the Buddha. The Cambodian Buddha is skinny compared to the fat Buddha of China, perhaps a truer picture of the Buddha who fasted and begged for food or maybe a reflection of the realities of poverty being reflected in the culture (Other religions do the same,much like a blonde haired, blue-eye Jesus of Scandinavian culture). The overall poverty of the country is also brought up in several different areas from NGOs, foreign medical clinics, and a bus retired from duties in Thailand.

In The Rent Collector there are a few insertions of traditional Cambodian stories into the story. One such story is Sarann, the Cambodian version of Cinderella and the inclusion that there are many versions of the same story. This rings true with The Rent Collector also. When I first started reading the book the language seemed a bit simple. I looked over the book thinking it may be a Young Adult book. After further reading, it dawned on me that it is written more as a fable like Coelho’s The Alchemist or a more subdued Illusions by Bach. The story is there as a wrapper to cover the lessons being taught, which ties back into the story, cleverly.

The Rent Collector is a very worthwhile read. It was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Poverty is a backdrop in the story and not the story itself. I read it through the course of a Sunday without rushing and without wanting to put the book down. A very solid “four star” rating.

Disclosure: I received The Rent Collector free from Goodreads book giveaways. It was a book I chose based on the Publishers description and my interest in Asia.

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Book Review: The Waves

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I will read this book over, and over, and over again

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Book Review: The Wise Virgins

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Enjoyable book with the battle of going with society or doing your own thing. It is pretty progressive for the time it was written and paints and picture of suburbia in much the same way as it exists now. Looking back a hundred years life, and life’s problems and choices remain pretty much the same.

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Book Review: Malice of Fortune

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With a Masters in Political Science I spent quite a bit of time reading Machiavelli. I found him brilliant and brutally honest. I think it was Fahrenheit who said something to the effect of: Machiavelli does not tell us how rulers should rule, but rather how the actually rule. I liked Machiavelli (who also wrote plays besides writing the Prince). I was really excited about this book. However….

The Machiavelli in this book reminded me more of Socrates in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventurer than the Machiavelli I came to know. If Leonardo said “science” once more in dialog I think he would have repeated the word more times than Thomas Dolby did throughout the 1980s. That and the story line seemed to be an odd mix of Scooby Doo meets CSI.

Sorry, I really had high hopes for this book. Maybe my familiarity with one of the primary characters created unrealistic expectations. It did remind me again that I need to re-read my complete works of Machiavelli again.

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Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

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The book was not what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a dark and bloody story of the French Revolution, but instead I was introduced to James Bond’s great great grandfather. A good action story for the time it was written and of course it is who tries to saves the day. The story reads like an old movie serial, fast moving story line, likeable (and hate-able) characters all in the right places. Good read for a weekend.

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Book Review: Passenger to Teheran

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A colorful account of a woman’s travel from England through Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, and back home through Russia and Europe. It is pretty impressive that a unaccompanied woman traveled through the Middle East at that time. Wonderful imagery of the travels and sights and people. Even the barren desert seems welcoming. If the authors name was not given it would be impossible to determine that it was written by a woman (until the closing pages when a customs agent proposes marriage).

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Book Review: The Machiavelli, H.G. Wells

 

I am a fan of Machiavelli. I really like HG Wells’ science fiction. I figured this would also give some background into an era I have been reading (Virginia Woolf, Sackville-West and others of that group). This read was a slow struggle. I appreciate the intent, but the story did not age well.

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Book Review: Miss Hickory

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I read this book back in 1973 and I still remembered it. I think the artwork burned into my brain.

I reconnected with a friend, recently, from thirty years and we were talking about books. I noticed on her book list was Miss Hickory. We had a discussion and I found this review: http://www.kindertrauma.com/?p=205
which was followed by a trip to the library for the book.

Ah, the good old days of warped children’s stories.

 

 

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Book Review: Life by Keith Richards

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I have no idea how Keith Richards has such a vivid memory. I barely remember high school and have done no where the amount of drugs he did. It may be better suited for musicians because he does go into quite a bit detail about his guitar playing. Much tamer/cleaner history than books written about The Stones in the past.

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Book Review: Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s

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American’s forgotten president.

Gerald Ford served in the House of Representatives for almost twenty-five years before being selected as Spiro Agnew’s replacement. Ford served on the Warren Commission, supported a balanced budget and was historically a fiscal conservative.  He was not Nixon’s first choice for Vice President, but he was the least offensive and known for his honesty.  

The Seventies was a time of no heroes.  Kennedy’s PT-109 Story came to light for its less than heroic actions.  Evil Kenevil’s failed Snake River Canyon jump tarnished his image forever. An unpopular war in Vietnam extended distrust of government.  Americans had few people to look up to and many people to distrust. Gerald Ford inherited a mess and was determined to fix it.

Ford pardoned Nixon to remove the former president from attention.  Inflation, unemployment, and a growing recession was where Ford believed attention should be focused and not on Nixon.  The pardon dramatically lowered Ford’s popularity overnight; but he always believed it was the right thing to do.  

Ford also made Chevy Chase famous on Saturday Night Live with his constant falls.  Ford was also portrayed as a klutz by the media.  Falls on the advance ski slopes,  cut on his head from hitting the wall while swimming, all added up to a clumsy president.  The truth is Ford was one of the most athletic presidents ever to serve and injuries were mostly results of training.  Ford once remarked after reports of a fall while skiing, is that he would like to see the reporter try the beginners slope; it’s hard to fall off a bar stool.

Ford inherited a mess politically and economically. He had no team that work with him through the primaries and elections; he had no team to start with and only a short time to form one. With little support in Congress Ford did all he could to fix the problems plaguing the country.

Ford is often dismissed as a president, but in reality he was hard working and honest and worked to build trust back in government and the presidency. He lost a close election in 1976 to Jimmy Carter and turned over a White House that was in order and a country that was recovering.

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