Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book review: Navajo Code Talkers, by Nathan Aaseng

Historical books for young adults have the potential to be the best of all worlds in nonfiction, mixing accessibility with accuracy.

This is one that succeeds. At only 114 pages including index, it’s an easy read. In those pages, it packs a lot of information about the important Navajo contribution to the United States’ WWII effort.

Along with detailing specific instances where the Code Talkers helped the war effort, the book is also full of information about the heritage, culture, and worldviews of the Navajo who volunteered, and the ways other viewed them. For instance, did you know that the Navajo language was sometimes mistaken for Japanese by American soldiers when they heard it over the radio? Because the Code Talkers project was kept so secret, the soldiers who worked with the Navajos in their units often had no clue what they were doing—only that it was important to the war effort. And while there were occasional misunderstandings between Navajo culture and the belegaana (Navajo name for those of European extraction), for the most part all the fellow soldiers got along very well.

There are a good number of quality black and white photographs scattered through the text, letting the reader get a glimpse of these men who went to war. It includes a foreword by Roy O. Hawthorne, vice president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, which I took to be a stamp of approval on the accuracy and research involved.

This book is a very good read. Whether you're a young person or an adult, you can learn a lot from this book. I don't hesitate to recommend it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book review: Decorating on eBay, by Barbara Guggenheim

Although this is obviously a book for rich people, it is still fun to read.

I don’t know how anyone could spend over 400 dollars or more to decorate a stairwell, much less the thousands of dollars that were poured into every room in this “eBay house.”

But I love eBay, and I find fascinating the pretty and useful objects the author found to decorate this home.

Since I got the book for only a dollar, it was a good deal. I can look at the pretty pictures of a rich person’s house for practically free. And really, there are some good ideas in here, like buying vintage handkerchiefs (with their soft, beautiful colors and patterns), and framing them. Vintage records hung on the wall are gorgeous; old radios add beautiful charm. Special items to create “themes” can be found for (comparatively) low prices on eBay.

If you like decorating, eBay, or just looking at beautiful pictures of home d├ęcor, this is a fun book to peruse.

Convertible Car Seat

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book review: Boring Postcards USA

This book is exactly what it sounds like: boring postcards. It contains the images of old postcards of American scenes from the 1950s.

Boring Americana. Regular scenes of restaurants, malls, hotels, highways, donuts, couches, trucks, aluminum awnings, etc.

While I can’t help wondering why someone would think people needed a postcard of an airport parking lot, for instance, I also can’t help admiring the glimpse of what daily, mundane life must have been like. I somehow got a feeling of shabby optimism from the postcards that so proudly proclaimed the names of ordinary little places and attractions.

It is heartwarming and hilarious at the same time. Difficult to get in a book with no text, eh?

This is definitely worth “reading.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Review: Beyond the Imperium, by Keith Laumer

This is the sequel to Worlds of the Imperium (which I reviewed in an earlier post). It is much better in every way, in my opinion. For starters, you get two stories for one. The first stars the same hero as the first book, and gives him a truly unsolvable problem which is nonetheless tied up neatly and in a realistic way by the end, in my opinion. I never felt like there were too many coincidences, and the hero really does act, not just have things happen to him.

It was an edge-of-your-seat read for me, and I enjoyed it very much.

The second story in the book was shorter, and had fantasy overtones, although it still took place in the same science fictional world. It was a story with resonance, meaning, to me, that it will stick with the reader for awhile. It seemed to mean something. The most important story in the character's life.

The ending seemed open to conjecture to me, but it was all the better for it.