keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
As of January 1st, 2009.
- denotes incomplete readings.
* denotes flocked review.

1. Amberlight by Sylvia Kelso
2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (reread)
3. Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools You Should Know about Even If You're Not a Straight-A Student by Loren Pope (reread)
4. The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by André Comte-Sponville
5. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
6. The Duchess, Her Maid, the Groom & Their Lover by Victoria Janssen
- Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology by Nick Gevers (ed.)
7. Fat Envelope Frenzy: One Year, Five Promising Students, and the Pursuit of the Ivy League Prize by Joie Jager-Hyman
8. Fruits Basket vol. 21 by Natsuki Takaya
9. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
- Looking beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You by Loren Pope
10. The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates by Daniel Golden
- Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias by Dunja M. Mohr
11. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
12. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
13. Chalice by Robin McKinley
14. Westmark by Lloyd Alexander
15. Forever Princess by Meg Cabot
16. *Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
- Perspectives on American Politics by William Lasser
- Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges (2008) by Frederick E. Rugg
17. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
18. Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss (eds.)
19. *Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert
20. The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander
21. *Midwinter by Matthew Sturges
22. Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly
23. Questions and Admissions: Reflections on 100,000 Admissions Decisions at Stanford by Jean H. Fetter
24. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
25. Natural Law by Joey W. Hill
- Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers by Elaina Loveland
26. Rock Hard Apps: How to Write a Killer College Application by Katherine Cohen
27. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
- The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by Nicholas Lemann
28. *Wildfire by Sarah Micklem (ARC)
29. *The Betrayal by Pati Nagle
30. His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls
31. How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
32. What Colleges Don't Tell You (and Other Parents Don't Want You to Know): 272 Secrets for Getting Your Kid into the Top Schools by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross
- The Shape of the River: Long-term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions by William G. Bowen & Derek Bok
33. Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro
34. Acing the College Application: How to Maximize Your Chances for Admission to the College of Your Choice by Michele A. Hernandez
- Documentary Expression and Thirties America by Bill Stott
35. Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America by Leon Dash
36. Stranded with a Spy by Merline Lovelace
37. The Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop
- The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
38. Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton
39. Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges--and Find Themselves by David L. Marcus
40. *When the Tide Rises by David Drake
41. *In the Stormy Red Sky by David Drake
42. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
43. The Dark Reaches by Kristin Landon
44. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
45. A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
46. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
47. Chronicle of a Blood Merchant by Yu Hua
48. L'etranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus
49. Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
50. Beloved Vampire by Joey W. Hill
51. Rhinocéros (The Rhinoceros) by Eugene Ionesco
52. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
53. Maigret et la vieille dame (Maigret and the Old Lady) by George Simenon
54. The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by Alexandra Robbins
55. Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
- Jhegaala by Steven Brust
56. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
57. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
58. Dreams Made Flesh by Anne Bishop
59. Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid) by Molière
60. Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
61. The Family Trade by Charles Stross
62. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
63. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
64. Riversend by Sylvia Kelso
- Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton (reread)
65. Mort by Terry Pratchett
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A Wild Sheep Chase
by Haruki Murakami
353 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Literary/Fantasy

On first glance, this novel just seemed dang weird. Then I met a dear friend who adores Murakami and assured me that he was indeed dang weird, in a good way. Then I read A Wild Sheep Chase and personally confirmed that Murakami writes dang weird stuff--in a very good way.

The nameless narrator works in a small advertising agency, has a normal ex-wife and a strange girlfriend, and is one day sent upon a quest: to find the sheep with the black star on its back, as depicted upon a postcard from an old friend. What happens after that doesn't make much sense, but it's so glorious that I don't care. I mean, there's a picture of a sheep man. Murakami is at the epitome of both Japanese mainstream popularity and Japanese magic realism; I, of course, loved his existentialist themes.

That said, many of my friends are just bewildered by this book. Read it with an open mind; being familiar with magic realism conventions helps a lot. I am reminded of A Hundred Years of Solitude without the emphasis on folklore or family, or for that matter the sheer density.
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Bless Me, Ultima
by Rudolpho Anaya
290 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Literary/Fantasy

More required reading, my least favorite of the five I had to read. Anaya is a wonderful writer with a talent for landscapes and symbols; I just wish he was less brusque with Meaning and Theme and This Is an Important Bildungsroman. The sub-subgenre, Chicano (as differentiated from Latino) magic realism, does not interest me much more than Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, a brilliantly written masterpiece that I can't bring myself to like very much.

Plot, you ask? Well, Antonio Márez is a young boy (age 6, I believe?) born to a happy but divided family--his father is a Márez wanderer of the llano, his mother is a Luna farmer who wants him to become a priest. Ultima, a wise old curandera or healer (Anaya mostly avoids the inherent pitfalls in this characterization), comes to live with them, bringing mystic if not magical events with her. Antonio's religious struggle throughout the novel was the most/only interesting part to me. For example, he secretly admires Florence, a schoolfriend and declared atheist who later meets a significant end. His devout Catholic mother is almost a cariacture of blind faith, while his father's subverted agnosticism feels natural. It's certainly a novel worth exploring further on issues of faith and belief, in the supernatural or otherwise; but I can't say I liked the book much. [/Keix's never-ending search for entertaining works of literary merit, Module 496]
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The Dark Reaches
by Kristin Landon
292 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/SF/Romance

I picked this up from the library on pure whim. It's pulpish soft SF--fluffy to the max, but more to my taste than equivalently pulpish hard SF. Landon skims over space battles but doesn't shy away from gore (Exhibit A, the captured Cold Minds pilot). I'm vaguely interested in the worldbuilding, though not enough to seek out Landon's other books. The romantic relationship was interesting, not compelling.

Sorry I don't remember anything else... it's been a few months, and it was quite a forgettable tale. Warning for some serious backlog spam up ahead.
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The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro
245 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Literary

Stevens is an English butler of highest repute and ability now serving a modern American employer, Mr. Farraday, who inherited Darlington Hall after Lord Darlington's (untimely?) death. The tale is structured, like Ishiguro prefers, as a rambling first-person narrative. Stevens reminisces at length, through convoluted verbal hedges and self-denials, about his long time in Lord Darlington's service and his complicated relationship with Miss Kenton, the housekeeper.

This was mandatory reading for me, and I had high expectations of Ishiguro. It's important to note that narrative structure is about the only similarity between Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go (his wonderful dystopic SF novel); still, I did enjoy Steven's distinct voice.
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Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges--and Find Themselves
by David L. Marcus
244 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education

An interesting and compelling addition to the admissions case study subsubgenre, in the tradition of Jacques Steinberg but from the guidance counselor's (GC's in admissions lingo) perspective. Smitty sounds like a wonderful counselor, although I have some qualms about his ethics (handpicking all of his counselees, "special projects"). And of course it's ironic that he started a private consulting practice charging $330/hour immediately after retiring from the public school system. Good advice here, reiterating much of Harry Bauld's excellent advice [review forthcoming] on essay-writing and useful-but-not-brilliant tidbits like taking the ACT (considered to be more straightforward).

What I found interesting, in a personal level, was that Smitty didn't even know of Deep Springs's existence despite his decades of work in and intimate knowledge of the admissions world. I suppose he never recommended TASS/TASP to his students, either, which is a pity. Lee (a Korean-American overachiever) would have thrived at DS, based on his portrayal in the book, even though after a semester at NYU he claims otherwise. --Well, everyone thinks that their college of choice is the best ever after they've attended and experienced it. Other colleges could be just as "good" for you, and possibly--le gasp--"better" in an objective sense.

Anyway, as far as college admissions books go, this is definitely one of the better ones. And up-to-date, covering the competitive 2008 cycle, which counts for a lot.
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Skin Trade
by Laurell K. Hamilton
486 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Romance

Miracle of miracles, I think Hamilton is becoming increasingly more readable. Her most recent Anita books have had noticeably less sex and more plot. I approve and will be going back to read some of her earliest Anita Blake books if/when I have the time/inclination. I find that it's best to approach Hamilton like an episodic TV show; Anita reminds me of what I imagine Buffy would be like. (Note that I have no actual experience with Buffy.) If you think too hard, it's unrealistic that Anita keeps getting into this much trouble, every single book--but these books are not meant for heavy thinking. I do appreciate Hamilton's overarching plot and the small movements in it.

Not much of Jean-Claude or Nathaniel in this one, though, which is sad to me.
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The Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness
by Anne Bishop
1204 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

I found the omnibus edition of this at Half-Price Books and couldn't resist, given how much I've heard about Bishop's original series. While I was devouring all 1200+ pages, I kept describing it as "cracktastic" (and then having to explain that term)--because oh, its reputation is so true. Jaenelle is the most blatant Mary-Sue I've actually liked; Saetan/Daemon/Lucivar aren't much better as Gary Stus. (Speaking of which, can the demonic allusions be any more obvious and irritating?) The power dynamic became annoying at times, but it was also comforting to know that she would always save the day. This is definitely dark fantasy, complete with explicit scenes (sex, violence, or both) and magnetically disturbing anti-heroes. On an academic level, it's also a good case study of a matriarchy, and I've been collecting those. I think I may have some issues with gender roles; it feels very rigid, and wrong in that sense, but I can't articulate why.

Bishop's strength, by far, is characterization. I can think of no other explanation as for why I enjoyed reading the series so much, but can't say I loved or even really liked it. I hear that the later books can be messy--which should I avoid, if any?
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Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America
by Leon Dash
279 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Nonfiction/Documentary

This book is a semi-compilation of a Pulitzer-Prize-winning article series Dash wrote for the Washington Post. It tells the story of Rosa Lee, a typical (or so Dash presents her) example of the black urban underclass. Her story starts off as compelling and poignant, but about a third of my way through the book, Dash's disjointed storytelling became merely repetitive and boring. The "plot" is a depressing cycle of multi-generational poverty/welfare/drug use, i.e. a case study of a poor urban black family. Ultimately, interesting for the academic sociological information, but not remotely entertaining for me as a "regular" reader.
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Diamond Star
by Catherine Asaro
495 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/SF/Romance

I didn't realize how starved I was for good fluff; I sped through this newest Asaro in a single night despite its flaws. I'm not a rock fan, so the premise didn't excite me, but I do adore the Skolian Empire world. Diamond Star involves an all-too-predictable addiction arc. I have little sympathy for Del being broke when he can splurge whenever he wants. Del himself treads a thin line between amusing and annoying. I love Asaro for both politics and relationships, but in this particular book, I wanted more space opera and less obstinate romantic misunderstandings. As [ profile] buymeaclue would say (I hope I get this right): less boyfriend, more roller derby.

Still want more books like The Moon's Shadow, about Aristos politics. Especially Jai/Tarquine. Or even about Kelric, who is more interesting when he's not perceived from the POV of a rebellious teenage rock star. Dehya is really interesting too; I'm not so fond of Roca, but her story seems to have come to an end with Eldrinson's (natural) death.
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The Shape of the River: Long-term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions
by William G. Bowen & Derek Bok
472 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education

I meant to finish reading this, I really did; but again, library time constraints beckon. For future reference, I got to page 112, a little under 1/4 of the way through. I will try to write up what I wrote with relative objectivity, but I shan't hold back from interjecting (biased) commentary. From skimming the rest of the book, Bowen and Bok seem to have done a great job documenting the success of minority students admitted to highly selective institutions, years after they graduate (or don't graduate).

For those who don't know, Bowen & Bok are two former Ivy League presidents (of Princeton and Harvard, respectively) better-known within higher education for their later, controversial work on SAT scores and admissions expanded to all races; in comparison, this earlier publication consciously simplifies the world to black and white. In the later study, B&B found that when using white as the baseline, blacks and Hispanic [not necessarily Latin@, since federal race classifications include Spain origin as Hispanic] students received a significant boost while Asian students were actually negative, i.e. in order to be considered equivalent to a similar white applicant, s/he had to score higher on the SAT.

All data in this study was based on a detailed database combining information from 28 colleges and universities, who are listed on p. xxviii-xxix. B&B do a reasonably good job of straddling the fence, providing evidence for and against both sides of the affirmative action debate. I'll be discussing mostly the information that I want to remember, i.e. anti-, but first I'll summarize the opposing details and encourage you to read the book for yourself. In essence, the black students who would not have been admitted under a hypothetical race-neutral process go on to exceptional achievements despite their weaker academic skills.

So let's start with the definition of race-neutral: it is NOT admitting by the numbers. B&B grouped black applicants by SAT ranges and posited that they would have the same probability of admission as white applicants in the same ranges. This causes the overall chance of admission for black students to drop from 42% to 13%, versus an overall chance of 25% for white students. The real-life Berkeley example bore out this hypothesis remarkably, although B&B make no mention of the large increase in Asian students as a result of race-neutral at the UCs (31-3). Similar drops in enrollment would occur at the most selective law and business schools (45), where "black applicants [to business schools] were 2.7 times as likely to gain admission as whites with comparable records. Hispanic applicants were 2.8 times as likely to be admitted" (45-6). For med school, the median pre-med science GPA for accepted students was 3.1 for blacks vs. 3.6 for whites; correspondingly, "the median test scores of blacks accepted to medical schools was lower than the median for whites who were rejected" (46). This establishes that regardless of what happens later--and much does happen later--admitted black students (and presumably Hispanic students) are less qualified in comparison to white students (and presumably Asian students). Speaking of which--I find myself constantly wondering how Asians fit into this world, as Hispanic students are much more similar to black students in profile than Asians are to whites. "The real racial divide in America was and remains black and white" (xxvii, Shelby Steele qtd. by Scott Shepard 11)--I absolutely, positively disagree. Such a statement--from someone implied to be one of the "scholars from the black, Hispanic, and Asian American communities" (xxvii)--erases the existence of Hispanic, APA, and Native American peoples from "America" and the importance of a multicolored discussion of race.

Prior to affirmative action in the late 1960s, "the selective colleges would rather be selective than integrated" (qtd. in 5)--nothing wrong with that wish, in my mind, as the selective colleges should not be lowering standards for the sake of diversity. "Harvard [Law School] began admitting black students with test scores far below those of their white classmates....and black enrollment began to rise" (5). That cause and effect seriously concerns me with its lack of acknowledgment of racial discrimination--to discriminate on the basis of race, which is exactly what happened. A graph on p.27--before recentering, but nevertheless interesting: at a combined SAT score (out of 1600) below 1000, about 10% of whites and 20% of blacks gained admission (I am estimating based on a graph, so bear with me). The gap is largest in the "1200-1249 range, [where] the probability of being admitted was 19 percent for white candidates, as compared with 60 percent for black candidates" (26). Finally, at the 1500+ mark--close to perfect scores--about 70% of whites and 100% of blacks gained admission. Even in the '90s, admission at the most selective schools was never guaranteed by "high stats"--except for those few and exceptional black candidates, it seemed. "To sum up, black candidates are consistently admitted at higher rates than legacies, who in turn are admitted at consistently higher rates than non-legacies, but the 'advantage' enjoyed by legacies is concentrated at the upper end of the SAT range" (28-9).

Socioeconomic AA would not "substantially cushion the effect of ending racial preferences" (Thomas Kane, qtd. in 47), because while URMs are disproportionately poor, "they still make up a minority of all college-age Americans with low incomes" (47). B&B also briefly references the prohibitive cost of implementing such a program to the same degree as current racial AA. To which I say: well, yes, and remind me why a poor black person is more deserving of admission than a poor Asian person, other factors held constant? Socioeconomic AA is not meant to substitute for racial AA; it is meant to help those who will always need more help. In capitalist America, there is no doubt whatsoever that the poor student is always disadvantaged over the identical well-to-do student. Even Questbridge, which I wholeheartedly support, helps only the very tippy-top of the poor students (it is more useful in guaranteeing affordability than in affecting admissions, since most Questbridge finalists would have been admitted on stats and extraodinary personal qualities anyway). [/soapbox]

B&B does unequivocally disabuse the notion of academic "mismatch." Average college GPAs may differ by over half a point (72), but black students still go on to do well in life after college (no doubt aided by affirmative action at law/med/grad schools, says my cynical mind). Interestingly, the SAT remains useful in significantly predicting both academic performance in college and postgrad achievements, although the prediction is stronger for whites than for blacks. Graduating from a top college does affect one's postgrad prospects within higher education. James Thomas, former dean of admissions at Yale Law School: "Someone who has played--and succeeded--on a tough field lets us take a little more risk and admit someone who strikes our faculty as having that something that's going to make a difference in the world. Does this mean that we don't take someone from an off-the-beaten-track school? No, but that person has to have every single thing in line--there's no margin for error" (personal correspondence, qtd. in 101). Note: Blacks who are "specially" admitted go on to disproportionately achieve exceptional accomplishments. I have not discussed that data here because it is irrelevant to the basis of my position on affirmative action, although I have read every word of it.

A very good book, highly recommended as long as you aren't afraid of social science stat-talk (and even if you are). Alas, it didn't change my personal opinion. (I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a brilliant argument that will push me across the fence.) The ends never justify the means, and however beneficial AA is/would be, its very existence remains discriminatory and hypocritical to statements of nondiscrimination.
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What Colleges Don't Tell You (and Other Parents Don't Want You to Know): 272 Secrets for Getting Your Kid into the Top Schools
by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross
307 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education

A different perspective from the usual ex-adcom tell-alls. There's some good advice in here about fit and parenting, but also some crazy and borderline-ethical approaches to "packaging." The "272 secrets" format is really gimmicky. Useful advice is buried among the dross, though, if one reads with a strong dash of salt. Best read in conjunction with other books of the genre, especially Hernandez's adcom perspective (which is quite derogatory toward "packaging").
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How to Read Literature Like a Professor
by Thomas C. Foster
314 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary

Light-hearted and interesting. Topic: exactly what the title implies. Not as insightful as I'd hoped--the analysis bounces between obvious and really obscure--but definitely "lively and entertaining." Do the case-study analysis at the end; I didn't due to time constraints, but I wish I had.

Also includes a useful list of Christ-figure signifiers, for those of us who didn't grow up in the Western tradition. I will quote a paraphrased version here:

1. crucified, wounds in the hands, feet, side, and head
2. in agony
3. self-sacrificing
4. good with children
5. loaves, fishes, water, wine
6. 33 years old
7. employed as carpenter
8. humble modes of transportation, feet or donkeys preferred
9. walked on water
10. portrayed with arms outstretched
11. spent time alone in wilderness
12. confrontation w/ the devil, possibly tempted
13. last seen in the company of thieves
14. aphorisms/parables
15. buried, but arose on the 3rd day
16. disciples, 12 at first, though not all equally devoted
17. very forgiving
18. redeem an unworthy world
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The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy
by Nicholas Lemann
406 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/History/College

Well: the first 50 pages are extraordinarily boring, I can say that much. I'm tremendously interested in this particular nonfiction niche, but I am not interested in the life stories of the men who invented and shepherded the SAT into its current form. I'd rather hear about, y'know, the test itself and its societal impact or effects. Perhaps this book does cover such ground, but I've already run away from the first 50 pages of dry-as-California-forests biography.
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One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez
448 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Literary/Historical/Fantasy

Nobel laureate Márquez founded magic realism with the publication of this novel, considered his masterpiece. It is at once Latin American social commentary, a fictional biography of the region and its culture, an epic chronicle of a South American village's rise and fall, and the family history of the Buendias. Plot: there really isn't one, aside from the conglomeration of the previously mentioned topics. This is such a wacky novel! My head hurts from trying to distinguish all of the Aurelianos (and José Arcadios, and Amarantas/Úrsulas/Remedioses). And can there be much more incest? Unfortunately, for me the book has one fatal flaw: I didn't once care about any of the characters. They were born and they died, but I only kept reading because I wanted to finish reading.

Nonetheless, if you are interested in magic realism, lit theory, or Latin America, I highly recommend One Hundred Years of Solitude. Character development is not a strong point, but in many ways, that is the point.
keilexandra: (glomp)
Natural Law: Nature of Desire
by Joey W. Hill
313 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Romance

A dynamic and compelling love story, BDSM-style. Not quite as hard-core as Hill's vampire series, at least physically--this is about Violet breaking down Mac's emotional barriers, fascinating to observe for even the "vanilla" readers. A nebulous contemporary setting works well; Mac's profession--homicide detective--leads to realistic drama and conflict. I just have one question: how did T&K know that Mac was a cop? I'm suspicious of Violet "fingering" him right away, and even moreso of T&K having the same sense as lay(wo)men.

Just beautiful. In between the budding romance is a tense murder mystery, and the two plot threads twine together nicely by the end. For once, I don't mind a domestic happily-ever-after (no babies, thankfully) because, oh, Violet and Mac so deserve each other after all of their mutual suffering. I like Tyler's advice to Violet: it's easy to fall in love in three days, the trick is to stay in love.
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My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
423 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Literary

Yes, [ profile] beteio, I finally read it. 'Twas not better nor worse than I expected; the premise was intriguing and my attention consistently captured, but I have no urge to ever reread this. Anna, the book's protagonist--though not the sole narrator--was conceived thirteen years ago to provide a genetic match for her sister Kate, who suffers from repeated relapses of a rare leukemia. When Anna is called upon to donate a kidney to her sister, she walks into the office of a lawyer and sues for medical emancipation. At times, I was more interested in the side romance between the lawyer and his ex-lover from high school than in the main plot, which moves very slowly as Anna frustratingly changes her mind / chickens out innumerable times. But the ending, a bittersweet twist, is worth waiting for, especially since the actual reading moves quickly.

No further commentary, alas, because I misplaced my notes from when I read this in April.
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Questions and Admissions: Reflections on 100,000 Admissions Decisions at Stanford
by Jean H. Fetter
276 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education/College

Fetter was, to my knowledge, one of the first admissions "insiders" to write publicly about college admissions practices that many would have preferred to keep private. Although this book was published in 1995 and competition has increased tenfold since then, it still provides useful insight through an unmatched depth in both analysis and case studies.

For instance, in the 1960s, minority students were judged "outside the competition" along with athletes and faculty children--meeting "basic entrance requirements" but not necessarily "more qualified than all rejected applicants" (93); while increased representation in the applicant pool obviously renders this approach impractical, I wonder to what extent it is still true today (i.e. "special consideration" groups only competing within the group for admission). Fetter once reversed an admissions decision (from denial to acceptance) when it was discovered that the applicant qualified as a faculty dependent; similarly, Stephen Carter was offered law school admission after an initial denial because he "was originally assumed to be white" (103). Daniel Golden's Price of Admission, a much more recent publication, confirms many of these preferences.

Such a comprehensive admissions survey would not be complete without a discussion of affirmative action, and Fetter does so admirably (albeit with some dodging). She cites Ira Glasser's three reasons for AA:
1. legal remedy redressing past/present discrimination
2. temporary compensation of opportunity
3. visible representation of minorities

Of the three justifications for "positive" discrimination, it is worth noting that the Supreme Court has declared #3--the striving for diversity--as the only legal rationale for affirmative action in a college admissions context.

In approx. the 1985-1995 time period, Fetter admits to determining applicant ethnicity from other information (e.g. standardized test records) for special consideration, even if the applicant declined to self-identify on the application: "If a minority student chooses not to self-identify as a member of a minority group to which we give special consideration, should he or she receive that consideration? My opinion is that if we are reasonably sure of the ethnicity, the answer is yes" (103). On pages 106-7, Fetter poses a scenario of 3 unexceptional student hypotheticals from the admissions pool, each middle-class but of three different ethnicities (black, Asian, white). Unfortunately, she never gives a concrete answer as to what decisions she would have made; in subsequent discussion, she does argue that middle-class blacks are still disadvantaged by racism. [Opinionated Note: Asian students are hardly exempt from societal racism, yet because their representation is deemed sufficient, they receive no "special consideration."]

Discussion at length on pages 111-36 using the statement-comment format:

Cut for length )

Fetter's book is 15 years dated, an eternity in college admissions. But for those seeking an in-depth introduction and/or solid grounding in the theory behind college admissions, I highly recommend this.
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[WARNING: Here there be spoilers.]

The Kestrel
by Lloyd Alexander
244 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

The second in Alexander's Westmark trilogy; still distinctly YA and "adventurous." I often find this type of book tiresome unless there is Martin-style realism, which would be entirely inappropriate here for both the target audience and Alexander's style. Still--teenaged monarches running off in disguise? Really?

On the other hand, I was glad for the lack of political marriage alliances, since the plot otherwise satisfies several other cliches (case in point: Cabbarus, who should have been killed in Westmark to begin with--yes, I know his forgiveness is crucial to Theo's moral development, but plot should not serve the author so blatantly). More politics in this book than the previous, which is yum. I enjoyed seeing civil war from a sociological perspective, and Theo's transformation into the Kestrel was chilling. I loved Connie and I hope he gets a starring role in The Beggar Queen.

Random questions/annoyances: When did Theo propose? I loathe off-screen turning points, which an engagement between the protagonist and his love interest definitely qualifies. What happened to Monkey--was he a traitor? Is he dead? If his ambiguous end is a next-book lead-in... Like I said, I haven't much patience for this type of book.

Westmark was nonetheless a compelling read and a slim volume. Many of my friends (*cough* [ profile] mrissa, [ profile] yhlee) are in love with it, so I would recommend giving Alexander a try despite my own tepid feelings. I promise you won't lose too many hours of your life. I'm still not a fan of Alexander or this series, but unlike after Westmark, I am persuaded to at least read further.


keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)

January 2011



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