zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (books)
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Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Kiyosaki, Robert T.
There are a few interesting and useful ideas in here, if you can get past all the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps waffle. (And much of the book really is repetitive waffle.)

The point that in practical terms "assets put money in your pocket; liabilities take money out of your pocket" seems a very important one. Thus, the house you live in is a liability (you pay the mortgage, maintenance, property tax, etc) while the house you rent out is an asset (you gain rent). Not that owning your own house is therefore a bad thing, but it's not putting money in your pocket so if your goal is to get rich then buying a bigger one isn't going to forward your goal.

But it's hard to get past the fact that it would have been better titled "Rich Dad, Average-income Dad". Occasionally the author acknowledges that people who are really poor can't choose to save money; but ultimately the book is aimed at the kind of person who's got a secure job, would be perfectly comfortable if they didn't keep trying to keep up with the Joneses, but wants to know how to get rich so they could keep up with the Joneses after all.

Things Fall Apart by Achebe, Chinua
Wonderfully detailed and with a feeling of being very broad in scope as well, despite its focus on one main character.

The ending came a bit quickly for me - though we see that events are distressing Okonkwo, I hadn't really felt it strongly enough that his final decision flowed smoothly for me; I think I needed a bit more of a claustrophobic/desperate no-choices-left feeling which I hadn't got.

The Lovely Bones by Sebold, Alice
(Trigger warning: the first chapter narrates the rape and murder of a minor from her own point of view.)

The conceit of this story, that a murder victim is narrating from heaven, worked brilliantly here. The story is only about her to the extent that it's from her point of view; really it's about the healing of her family and friends, and those were all the parts that made me teary.

Sandro of Chegem by Iskander, Fazil
This is a large book, and not a structured one exactly -- apparently the author's intention was originally to write something picaresque, but it morph...moreThis is a large book, and not a structured one exactly -- apparently the author's intention was originally to write something picaresque, but it morphed. It's delightfully narrative: the narrator talks about his uncle Sandro of the village Chegem in Abkhazia, and each tale gets sidetracked from its sidetracks so we travel back and forth in time and round and round in every circle of village life -- and Soviet life, including a couple of meetings with Stalin.

The lack of discernable structure means it doesn't really pull you forward with that desperate urge to find out what happened next (there's no great goal to achieve or terrible fate to be averted; it's more an extended series of slices of life) but it is easy to dip in and out of and the narrative voice is delightful to read.

Tales for Canterbury: Survival, Hope, Future by Hart, J.C.
The first few stories had me on the verge of hyperventilating-teariness, they were that good at evoking the concept of survival. Many later stories were brilliant in other ways. Some others were less successful; one or two were so bad that the only reason I hesitate to name names is that this was a charity anthology for which none of the authors received payment. Besides, mileage varies or they wouldn't have been accepted in the first place.

In any case a few duds out of 34 stories leaves a lot of good stuff left over.

Tina Makareti's Shapeshifter was an absolute standout: her point-of-view character's voice and all the dialogue is just brilliant. Even if you don't adore well-done dialogue like I do, the story is perfectly crafted.

RJ Astruc's Desperately Seeking Darcy is... a mixture. I think it's probably best to read it as a parody of what Americans with no exposure to anything outside old TV and older books think Britain (and butlers and teenagers) is like. (The story is certainly intended as humour, just this aspect of it was a bit ambiguous.) If you can get into that mindset then you can concentrate on the story and the characters, and the characters -- especially Jessica -- are adorable.

Patty Jansen's Looking for Daddy is a zombie apocalypse story for people who don't like zombie apocalypse stories and I highly recommend it. (As opposed to Lynne Jamneck's Extract, which is closer to ordinary zombie apocalypse stories despite which disadvantage it hooked me in (and mildly triggered me, but I say this in a good way) and packed a cunning ending too.)

Some stats I compiled from curiosity:
* Of the 34 authors, 9 are men and 25 women, which makes a nice change.
* 26 seem to me to be white; 6 I'm not sure about though I suspect at least 5 of them are also white; 2 are people of colour including one Māori author. I know the anthology was assembled in a hurry but this is still a disappointing proportion.
* 23 identify as in or from New Zealand (including 4 in or from Christchurch); 3 are Australians and 8 are other overseas folk. This felt like a good mix.
* I didn't collect stats on sexual orientation, but from memory two of the stories featured a lesbian couple; also two featured an MTF character.

Red Rose, White Rose by Chang, Eileen
A novella of jerky men, stupid women, and rather a lot of adultery. There's probably more to it than that but I found it hard to get past these things.

The Wicked Duke Takes a Wife by Hunter, Jillian
Rated as 1 star because I couldn't find an option for negative stars. Why do I do this to myself? In this case it was because of the word "wicked". I knew he'd get reformed or something boring in the end, but I thought it could be fun in the meantime.

But it was not to be.

Look, when you see the words "wicked duke" in the title of a book (even a romance that has to obey certain conventions) doesn't it make you think that this duke must have done (at least in some far-distant past) something wicked, amoral, or at least perhaps not completely Done? Even if he doesn't eat virgins for breakfast or steal candy from babies, at least he must snap at his servants and lance cruelly witty rejoinders at Our Heroine.

The eponymous duke in this novel, however, has done nothing worse than be in the vicinity of his brother's accidental death and thus reaps the faintest of suspicion by some people who don't matter in any scheme of things that it was murder. Oh, and be shy of how every woman in the world jumps him at the first opportunity. Also he's a good uncle, a devoted nephew, and a perfect lover and gentleman.

Dear Author: I do not think this word means what you think it means.

A Faraway Island by Thor, Annika
Two sisters are part of the 500 Jewish children evacuated from Austria to Sweden; they end up in separate but nearby families on a small island. The younger fits in quickly, the elder (on whom the story focuses) is bullied at school and feels unwelcome at home. These are fairly predictable plot-shapes but nicely told.

Also began a new Around the world in 203 books project, hence Sandro of Chegem. Should get onto the next country now, if only my ereader weren't highlighting how annoying it is to lug a paper book around everywhere...
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