Reader's Link - December 2009 Staff Picks Archive

Discworld, world and mirror of worlds- Night Watch

Guards! Guards!

Title: Guards! Guards!
By: Terry Pratchett

"Ankh-Morpork! Brawling city of a hundred thousand souls! And, as the patrician privately observed, ten times that number of actual people."

A dragon is ravaging the largest city on the Disc and it's up to Captain Vimes and the dregs of the Night Watch to save the city. But is it worth it?

The first of the Night Watch books, and eighth in the series, it is here that Pratchett begins to shine as a commentator on the nature of humanity. Populated with fast fingered coppers, opportunistic merchants, obsessive heiresses, a total whittle of a common dragon, and a very well read orangutan, Guards! Guards! blends film noir and Monty Python in producing a colorful introduction to life in the big city.

It is not necessary to have read any of the other books in the Discworld series to enjoy this entry but it is important to read this one before moving on to the other Night Watch books.

View similarly tagged posts: science fiction,fantasy
Posted on Dec. 21, 2009 at 7:50 a.m.

Friends Forever

The Girls from Ames

Title: The Girls from Ames
By: Jeffrey Zaslow

Imagine a group of friends that you have known literally all your life. You grew up in the same small town, knew each others' families, attended the same schools, went to the same parties, went off to different colleges and jobs, moved to different parts of the country, married, had children, and experienced family and personal tragedies. This is the true story told in The Girls from Ames. It is the story of friendships lasting over 40 years and all across the country.

The girls from Ames have gathered together for a long weekend once a year throughout their adult lives. They meet at one of their homes or somewhere else fun. Sometimes just the girls meet and sometimes they bring their families. During the rest of the year they talk on the phone and keep in daily (sometimes hourly) contact through e-mail.

I listened to the audio version of this book in my car and there were times I just couldn't stop listening when I arrived at my destination. I became so involved in their lives and their friendships that I wanted to know how it all turned out. I also value my own friendships more after reading this book.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,audiobook
Posted on Dec. 17, 2009 at 2:39 a.m.

A Swede in Zambia

The Eye of the Leopard

Title: The Eye of the Leopard
By: Henning Mankell

Henning Mankell, the creator of Kurt Wallander mysteries, does not restrict himself just to the boundaries of Sweden, his native country. By working as director at Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique since 1985, he has truly made Africa his second home. The Eye of the Leopard has shown us a glimpse of his quarter century of experience outside Sweden. To flee from a series of personal tragedies, and to escape "an inheritance of the smell of elkhound, of winter nights and an unwavering sense of not being needed (p. 46)," Hans Olofson, the protagonist, landed in Zambia in 1969 and started his pursuit of an unfulfilled missionary dream by one of his two dearest friends. Little did he know that his short visit would last 18 years and he would settle down to become a chicken farmer, or mzungu, the local term for a wealthy white man.

Achieving such societal status does not come without paying a high price. Throughout those 18 years, Hans fought long and hard against malaria, social unrest and corruption. But it was the dark force of the underground movement, wearing leopard skins to kill the first two friends he made in Africa, which finally shook the foundation of his new life and confidence. After dark, he had to vary his bedrooms, and arm himself with a shotgun, pistol and German shepherds. To make up for his sleep deprivation, he had to go to the Hotel Edinburgh in Kitwe. The final straw was that one of the assassins making attempts on his life turned out to be his young black journalist friend, Peter Motombwane, one the brightest and most promising people Zambia can offer. After failing to transform his farm into the political model of his dream, and coming to the painful realization that a white man could never help Africans develop their country from a superior position, Hans sold his chicken farm and left Africa, with the hope that "From below, from inside, one can surely contribute to expertise and new working patterns (p. 187)." Aside from the sociopolitical awareness, characteristic of Mankell's novels, the book explores another eternal theme. It is the relationship between Hans and his woodcutter father Eric, a strong reminder of Kurt Wallander's troubled relationship with his own artist father, who, painting with the unchanging landscape with or without a grouse, never approved of his son's decision to join the police force.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted on Dec. 9, 2009 at 2:02 a.m.

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