American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

American DervishAmerican Dervish, Finished listening 12-4-12, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2012

The unabridged audio os 9.5 hours and read by the author.

Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.

Mina is Hayat’s mother’s oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah’s doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat’s skeptical father can’t deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family’s Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina’s side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.

from Goodreads

The book does an excellent job at delving into the life of Pakistanis that had moved to the midwest, with their customs and faith.  At times it felt like an Islam primer and I’m saying that in a positive way.  I enjoyed learning about new aspects to the religion that I was unfamiliar with, it’s been a long time since my college religion class!  Hayat’s parents were very lax Muslims and when Hayat became entranced with the Koran he thought he had found a way to get them both to Heaven.  From the outset of the novel you know that Hayat loses his faith so there’s no surprise there, but how he loses it is sad.

Since I really enjoyed that aspect why am I only rating it a 3?  As a story I just didn’t connect.  I never really liked Hayat and since it was his story that was a problem.  The character I found most interesting was his father, a flawed man with a sound mind.  As a coming of age story I was somewhat bored through most of it, although that may have more to do with me than the book.  I thought the beginning and end of story served little purpose. At the beginning I thought there would be more about his current life and in the end I didn’t feel like he’d made big strides as a person.

I thought the author did a fine job with the narration.  I am always drawn to audio books read by the author and this totally felt like his story as he was reading it.

I won the audio book cd’s from Nise and would love to share the love.  If you are interested in having me send them to you, just be the first to leave a comment to tell me so.  You could listen to it on your holiday travels 🙂

Cleveland Christmas Memories by Gail Ghetia Bellamy

Cleveland Christmas Memories: Looking Back at Holidays PastFinished 12-4-12, rating 4/5, 120 pages, pub. 2012

To be born in the ’50’s and raised in the ’60’s in a middle-class family meant that nothing much happened.

It is difficult to describe the simplicity  of those years to the current generation.  It is the scarcity of material possessions, the absence of media and ubiquitous electronic communication devices that make my generation’s Christmas memories so unique.

My memories, I am sure, are almost exactly like those of all the children of my era-those of us fortunate enough to have parents who took the time to carry out all the relatively new traditions of an American Christmas.

(from the entry by Diane Vogel Ferri in Christmas, Cleveland-Style)

Native Clevelander, Gail Ghetia Bellamy, collected hundreds of stories from those who lived in Cleveland from the 1940’s on and put them together in this great book.  It’s a glossy oversized paperback that feels like a scrapbook of Cleveland in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Along with the hundreds of stories from the people who lived and worked here there are over 200 photos that add to the eye-catching layouts.  If you know of a Clevelander from that era or even a little later this is an easy gift choice.  It will sit out and be looked at all year round.

As a somewhat new Clevelander, we moved here in 2000, I thought it was a fun look back at the days when downtown was THE place to be at Christmas, with its huge department stores and window displays.  Our new casino is housed in the old Higbee department store so it was fun to see the pictures of a different time.  My favorite section was the one about food.  It really highlighted the diverse Cleveland population.  (Something I think Les Robert’s mystery series does very well too :))

A great addition to any Cleveland library (home or public), a perfect gift for anyone who grew up here or who has an interest in Cleveland history.

I want to thank Jane from Gray & Company for sending me a copy.

Quizzes, Winners and Stuff

Here’s the deal, I’m just coming off my third sickness in three weeks and I’m tired.  I’ve had the flu since Friday and am feeling better today (a good thing since Jason had to go to work!), but I’m still plum tuckered out.  So, I’m wrapping up  the quizzes for the year.  I decided to do this yesterday, even before I scored the quiz and saw that we have a first time quiz winner.  Overtaking Nise at the last minute is…

Hannah! (Word Lily)

Congratulations 🙂  You have won a $30 Barnes & Noble gift card just in time for Christmas shopping.

and the randomly chosen winner (ie Jason) is (drumroll please)

Marie! (Boston Bibliophile)

She will be receiving a special gift from me just for participating.

And just so you don’t think I just made up numbers for that last quiz, take a look at my crib sheets

003So, look for new quizzes in January!  I will be giving away my copy of The Nutcracker when I review it this week for those that are entered through last week’s quiz.

Thanks to all who come by every Tuesday to play along.  It’s always one of my favorite (and most popular) posts of the week 🙂

Sundays with Gage – the countdown to Christmas

Gage is a little young to appreciate counting down the days til Christmas, but I’ve seen so many cute children’s books for advent posts that I thought I’d give it a shot. I chose 22 books and 2 dvds (mostly from the library) and wrapped them up, put a number on them and them put the numbers on a box I still had wrapped from last Christmas.  I’m hoping that this will help him with numbers too since he doesn’t seem to care about learning them!

Each day we’ll open the box and find the corresponding book.  I plan to have a corresponding activity for each of the books.  I found this easy one on Pinterest (bubbly bowl of snowballs).  He liked the sensory aspect of the book, but was less interested in the bubbles.  I am going to post all the books and activities, so watch out for toddler overload the next few weeks 🙂