THE IMPROBABLE THEORY OF ANA AND ZAK by Brian Katcher: A Review (YA)

A book I started during the PWR Reading Marathon was The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak.  I read it in one day, picking it up off and on during a major housecleaning. (Well, yes, it was a YA novel, and a very fast read–all the more reason for choosing (AND REALLY ENJOYING) this book.)

The back cover covers it all (pun intended)  with an pictogram that includes Ana plus Zak, plus 24 hours, plus a wild SCI FI Convention, plus an impossible manhunt, plus thousands of costumed nerds, plus an angry viking, times lots of trouble, divided by first impressions, is unequal to anything they ever expected!   The quote next to the pictogram says, “Perfect comic timing and outrageous twists.” And the book delivers!  It is very, very funny, sweet, outrageous and just a darned good read.  Some subtler ideas are introduced than just the madcap 24 hour chase, but the book is never preachy. Young adults are respected and even admired, SOME adults are “almost ok”, and surprises in ALL the relationships abound.

I would recommend it to a friend of any age.

Review:BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue

Many good novels have been written about immigrants in America who came to this country seeking a better life. Many are based on personal experience, so when we see the author’s glamor-shot photo (typical book jacket photograph), we expect her novel to end “…and they lived happily ever after in America.”  Spoiler alert:  You may not want to read the next three sentences. This novel does not end that way. And, a life lesson we learn from Jede and Neni, our protagonists, is that living happily ever after may not require living in the United States. Let me add one qualifier, the individuals of the happy couple are not equally happy with the ending decision they make.

I am an aficionado of debut novels, and this one is outstanding.  Jende and Neni, our protagonists, are  immigrants to the United States from Cameroon.  They have big plans, hopes, and dreams for their infant daughter, born in America, and therefore an American citizen, and their son, young enough to begin school in America.  Liomi , their son seems more American than some of his “real” American classmates, comes to love living in the States, but he was raised on joyous tales of his father’s boyhood in Cameroon. Therefore,he would probably be able to live happily in either country.

As the book jacket states, it is a”… dazzling, fast-paced, and exquisitely written” novel. And indeed, Mbue is an excellent storyteller. I grew to love the characters and their family and friends, suffered when they suffered, and rejoiced when they rejoiced.  I can hardly wait to read this outstanding author’s next effort.

DARING GREATLY by Brene’ Brown: A Review

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” Theodore Roosevelt

This is the quote which inspires twelve years of research on Brown’s part into vulnerability, trying, and daring greatly.  Brown, who is one of Houston’s own, holding a PhD and LMSW from University of Houston, and often teaching as well as researching there, hit number one on the NY Times Bestseller list when this book was published in 2012. It “hit a spot”/resonated with everyone who read it. Its anecdotes (often from the author’s own life) read easily and fast and leave an impression.

I first “met” Brown in a Ted Talk and was impressed at how the speaker was so open–so vulnerable.  My thoughts were, “I could never do that,” but perhaps the author’s message is that we should. One blurb says Bene Brown, “Transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead,” and indeed, this book is helpful in all these aspects of our lives.  It is and it isn’t a self-help book; it is one as far as the reader will let it be.  If nothing else its Manifesto for Parents and Manifesto for Leaders are memes we want to pass along and hang on our wall.