Content advisory for language, both profane and anachronistic. If that doesn't offend your sensibilities, you may find it appealing. I liked the motleContent advisory for language, both profane and anachronistic. If that doesn't offend your sensibilities, you may find it appealing. I liked the motley cast of characters, none of whom could be called a hero, most if not all falling into the villain role, but all acting in their own (often conflicting) interests....more
It’s fitting that The Bosnia List begins at the bar with Kenan Trebinčević and his brother, Eldin. Reading this memoir feels like taking a seat next tIt’s fitting that The Bosnia List begins at the bar with Kenan Trebinčević and his brother, Eldin. Reading this memoir feels like taking a seat next to them at the bar and listening to their story. It’s a riveting account of their escape from war-torn Bosnia, told in a conversational style by Kenan with journalist Susan Shapiro. So pull up a chair and keep the drinks flowing, because you won’t want to walk away until you hear how it ends.
The escape from persecution is a necessary part, but it’s not the whole story. Kenan’s friends, neighbors, favorite teacher, and idolized coach all turned against him and his family when the ethnic cleansing began. Their survival and escape from the deadly conflict is remarkable, but it is the decision to return two decades later that is staggering. Kenan and Eldin go along with their ailing father’s desire to visit their homeland, but Kenan goes with his own agenda. He makes a list of a dozen redresses that begins with “Confront Petra about stealing from my mother” and “Stand at Pero’s grave to make sure he’s really dead.” This is no social visit for Kenan, who has been having involuntary revenge fantasies. How he reconciles the items on his list provides the resolution to this tragic tale.
I was in high school when Slobodan Milošević incited Yugoslavia to tear itself apart. I was studying Russian at the time, so I followed the developments in the news, but only through American channels. I didn’t have a sense of what it meant on an individual level until I read The Bosnia List. I am grateful that Lindsay Prevette at Penguin Books directed my attention to it, and that Penguin is allowing me to giveaway a copy!...more
Tachyon Publications has released the first printing of She Walks in Darkness, a previously unpublished work by Evangeline Walton! I have yet to readTachyon Publications has released the first printing of She Walks in Darkness, a previously unpublished work by Evangeline Walton! I have yet to read her Mabinogion Tetralogy, but this came recommended by Tim Powers and Patricia A. McKillip (two more fine authors who have recently published with Tachyon), so I was thrilled to receive and read it! I didn't know what to expect from Walton's writing, but I was anticipating a supernatural story based on those recommendations. Things seems to be heading in that direction as young newlywed Barbara Keyes considers the statue of Mania, the Etruscan goddess of the dead, in the courtyard of the Tuscan villa where she is honeymooning with her archaeologist husband. Barbara happens upon the dead body of the estate's old caretaker, which then vanishes just as mysteriously as he was killed. Barbara must descend into the dark catacombs beneath the villa, and the story takes as many twists and turns as she does in discovering the truth of the sordid crime!...more
I've read my share of Russian literature, but nothing quite like the stories of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. She writes of the harsh everyday existence meI've read my share of Russian literature, but nothing quite like the stories of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. She writes of the harsh everyday existence melded with just enough absurdity to make it palatable. These are stories of neglected young girls, wives, mothers, and widows looking for love in humble and inhospitable circumstances. The love they uncover is not redemptive, but it is enough to sustain them. They are making the best of a bad situation, but this isn't an instance of taking lemons and making lemonade. This is trying to make Dandelion Root Tea from the Russian Dandelion, which is better suited for the production of rubber....more
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr. concerns Ron Currie, Jr., author of a book that sounds a lot like Everything Matters! by Ron Currie,Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr. concerns Ron Currie, Jr., author of a book that sounds a lot like Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr. His new book tells the Truth about the individuals who inspired the characters from his first book, including the author himself. While the two books essentially (and existentially) share the same starting point, they diverge drastically on the spectrum of speculative fiction. In Everything Matters! the imminent demise of life on earth underscores the importance of all that life entails, whereas in Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles the probability of the Singularity has the potential to prolong life indefinitely in another form.
Currie wrote it in another form, forgoing the standard chapter format for a series of interconnected vignettes strung together. His writing is innovative in subject, structure, and style. Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is a wonderful interpolation of identity, which makes the unattributed reference to U2′s “The Fly” all the more apropos!
I read Everything Matters! prior to reading Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, and, while it informed my reading, it isn’t necessary. In fact, it might be more interesting to read them in reverse order. It doesn’t matter which one you read first, as long as you read both books!...more
Sanderson strikes again in Steelheart, released today! It’s his second YA book this year, and like The Rithmatist it features a non-powered protagonisSanderson strikes again in Steelheart, released today! It’s his second YA book this year, and like The Rithmatist it features a non-powered protagonist who gets ahead by meticulous attention to detail. David also lost his father, but, unlike Joel, he witnessed his father’s death. He watched as Steelheart brutally murdered an ordinary man who thought Steelheart was the hero they needed. They need a hero because every Epic who gained superpowers at the advent of Calamity became a villain. There are no heroes save for the Reckoners, a shadow ops group of humans that take down the Epics within their reach. They choose their battles carefully, picking the Epics who appear unbeatable yet possess hidden weaknesses. Not even the Reckoners will stand up to Steelheart, however. His rule of Chicago is uncontested until David alters the already altered landscape. He saw Steelheart bleed the day his father died, and will stop at nothing to strike again.
That is the premise of Reckoners #1, but it’s not what makes Steelheart so gripping. Sanderson’s take on the superhero genre is full of great characters who don’t need to wear spandex suits to be colorful. That’s how he succeeds in taking something familiar and reinventing it – by creating characters with motivations and secrets in addition to special abilities. I should point out that I’m describing the Reckoners and not the Epics. It’s their series, and they make it work. The Epics may have impressive powers – Nightwielder is the Epic version of the Darkling – but the Reckoners have impressive personalities. It’s David’s heart, not Steelheart’s immunity, that makes the difference!
It’s worth noting that both Sanderson and Wells – friends who share a writing group – use alternate versions of Chicago. In Steelheart much of Newcago has been turned to steel (including part of the lake), and in Fragments the lake has flooded the low-lying part of the city (including Soldier Field, site of an important scene in Steelheart)....more
This was a new release when I started reading it, and I am still categorizing it as such. The triviality of the two months it took me to read and reviThis was a new release when I started reading it, and I am still categorizing it as such. The triviality of the two months it took me to read and review it has no bearing on the subject matter or the presentation; Thomas Jefferson is fascinating, and Jon Meacham could win another Pulitzer Prize for Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. In it another aspect of Jefferson is brought to light: “He dreamed big but understood that dreams become reality only when their champions are strong enough and wily enough to bend history to their purposes.” Jefferson was a philosopher, but that did not make him an ideologue. He was pragmatic, both in his personal affairs and his public service. He learned how to acquire and wield power early in his career and put those lessons into practice. It takes power to withstand tyranny, and Jefferson was a champion of democracy. Jefferson was narrowly elected president, but his principles guided four of the five presidents who succeeded him. “And so began the Age of Jefferson, a political achievement without parallel in American life,” Meacham writes. Would that it were so to this day, sir....more