A woman's past hauntingly returns, shaking her to the core and causing old memories to surface in this tale of stolen identity and long held secrets bA woman's past hauntingly returns, shaking her to the core and causing old memories to surface in this tale of stolen identity and long held secrets being slowly revealed. This tale was masterfully told, weaving recent events, told in first-person, with a third-person narrative of events from thirty years ago, when everything changed for three young people living on their own in a squat near the ocean. The way the tale unfolds, my own feelings mirrored those of the main narrator, moving from annoyance through anger and, finally, to understanding. The characters were well drawn, with realistic motivations and, although the twist is seen a mile off, one still feels unable to look away as the full tragedy at the core unfolds. Well written prose and an interesting story made this well worth the read. I must warn though, that the last line in the book delivers an emotional wallop....more
An informative look at how grains becomes the libations so many of us enjoy, Mr Rogers examined just about every step of the process and related muchAn informative look at how grains becomes the libations so many of us enjoy, Mr Rogers examined just about every step of the process and related much of what is known about the production and ingesting of beer, wine, and spirits. But what might have been most fascinating of all was how much of that process is still not fully understood from the standpoint of the science. We know that yeast (or a particular fungus used in Japan in the production of sake) converts sugar into alcohol, but how it accomplishes that task is largely unknown. We know that the process of aging adds subtle flavors to the stuff we drink, but again, science finds it difficult to say this chemical or that one is responsible for what our senses detect. And we know how alcohol affects us, but still yet, the mechanics of that is a mystery. There were times when my attention lagged while reading this, but that may have been due more to my mental state at the time than to the narrative. All in all, I did enjoy the book and came a way with a greater appreciation for the craft of producing alcoholic beverages. In the words of Mr Spock, "Fascinating."...more
The fourth entry in the series, this one was brutal and somewhat hard to take, exploring the world of forced prostitution and human trafficking. The FThe fourth entry in the series, this one was brutal and somewhat hard to take, exploring the world of forced prostitution and human trafficking. The Fixer, whose identity we have known since the first volume, has retired from her profession as an avenging angel and yet feels unworthy to participate fully in life, because of the early traumas she had suffered and the guilt she feels from the death she has delivered. In this story, she gets involved in a multiple homicide investigation when it becomes clear that one of her patients (she is a psychologist) disappears and it is feared her patient may wind up the next victim. Ms Woods is a master at offering up plausible red herrings and plot twists that keep the reader off balance in trying to sort the good guys from the bad guys and she was successful once again at keeping this reader in the dark until the conclusion. One thread that runs through the entire series involves the daughter of the detective, Mort Grant, who also appears in the series. Allie has chosen a dangerous life with criminals and is now in so deep that any chance for escape and redemption seems unobtainable. She proves to be capable of the same type of ruthlessness that her paramours have exhibited, and to be able to not only hold her own, but to prevail. It will be interesting to see where her path will eventually lead....more
Interesting and packed chock full of facts about both Charles Babbage, the man credited with conceptualizing the modern computer, and Ada Lovelace, daInteresting and packed chock full of facts about both Charles Babbage, the man credited with conceptualizing the modern computer, and Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, the world's first computer programmer, this was still a little disappointing in that it felt incomplete. I wanted more about how the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine were supposed to work and a clearer picture of Lady Lovelace's contributions than this offered. The author and artist of this graphic novel (that was a surprise!) admitted from the start that the primary sources are not very complete, so maybe that accounts for the void I felt. Babbage was a brilliant man with an ego the size of Texas, and his contribution to computer science is unchallenged. Ada's place in history is less secure, as many doubt her authorship of the notes she appended to her translation of an article on the Engine by the Italian engineer, Luigi Menabrea, in which she outlined the algorithms that would instruct the operation of the computer. Those first rules set down by her form the basis for all programming languages that have followed. One wonders if sexism is at the root of any doubt as to her authorship. Unfortunately, little was devoted to exploring that aspect of the story. Still, there was much to enjoy here and I am glad to have read the book. I just wanted a bit more....more
I can always count on Susan Elizabeth Phillips to tell a great story and this one is no exception. Great, fully fleshed characters, snappy dialog, andI can always count on Susan Elizabeth Phillips to tell a great story and this one is no exception. Great, fully fleshed characters, snappy dialog, and a terrific that tugs at the heartstrings. I don't know how she does it, but I sure am glad she does!...more
Sara Bareilles burst into my consciousness when she served as a judge on the a cappella singing competition show, Sing Off. It was then that I becameSara Bareilles burst into my consciousness when she served as a judge on the a cappella singing competition show, Sing Off. It was then that I became aware of her amazing song, Brave. So, when my wife brought this book home from the library, I thought, "I'd like to read that." In it, Sara bares her soul, and what a beautiful soul it is! She refers to the writing of this book as the hardest thing she's ever done, and I think I understand why. She reveals her insecurities and weaknesses with honesty and speaks of her successes with humility. I was moved to tears a few times and found lots to laugh about, too. As I read this, I couldn't get the thought out of my head, "Sara, you are beautiful!"...more
The first book of the dystopian trilogy, Oryx and Crake, ended with a cliff-hanger. Naturally, I thought this, the second installment, would pick up tThe first book of the dystopian trilogy, Oryx and Crake, ended with a cliff-hanger. Naturally, I thought this, the second installment, would pick up the story at that point and move things forward from there. But, Ms Atwood had other plans and, ultimately, I am glad that she did it her way. This installment focuses on God's Gardeners, the fictional radical ecological and religious group that was mentioned a few times in passing in Oryx and Crake, and is told from the alternating viewpoint of two of the members of the sect that survived the plague that just about wiped out the human species. It ends at the time and place where the first book ended, but arrives by an entirely different route and paints a picture that helps the reader to more fully understand the world before, and after, the "waterless flood". This tale is made all the more chilling because it requires no stretch of the imagination to envision it as a possible future reality if the human race continues along the path we are now on. As always with Ms Atwood, her characters are fully developed, rational people who behave consistently with their belief system and are very human in all ways. The landscape is stark and sparsely described but logically consistent with the idea that nature has begun to find a new equilibrium after the demise of humanity and those that remain are at the mercy of the natural world and not its dominating, exploitive masters. This is truly the work of a master storyteller....more
The first two-thirds of the book, I did not like these characters much at all and contemplated giving up on them. The Kelleher family is one dysfunctiThe first two-thirds of the book, I did not like these characters much at all and contemplated giving up on them. The Kelleher family is one dysfunctional mess, beginning with Alice, the matriarch. She behaves as if no one else matters, insulting anyone and everyone, except for her dear priest, Father Donnelly. But slowly, everyone's back-story began to emerge and one learns why they are the way that they are and one begins to feel sympathy for these damaged souls. By the end, a certain amount of healing seems to be in the offing as the various characters begin to see the others for who they really are and not for who they imagine them to be. Everyone but Alice, that is. The family may understand, or accept her a bit more, but she is unrepentant. The trigger that brings all of this together is the youngest, Alice's granddaughter, Maggie, who has problems of her own, but who struck this reader as the only likable character that kept me going through the first two-thirds. Her resolve to carry on in spite of the obstacles she faced made this what I can truly say now is a book I am glad I finished....more
I've read this before, a long time ago, but now that I have all three books of the trilogy, I am re-reading this.
I'm glad I re-read this. It is even mI've read this before, a long time ago, but now that I have all three books of the trilogy, I am re-reading this.
I'm glad I re-read this. It is even more chilling now, given the current state of affairs. The bleak, post-apocalyptic world Ms Atwood envisioned here is even easier to imagine than when the book first appeared. Crake was a genius with an extra helping of egomania who had at his disposal the means to bring about a more perfect world, but at the cost of total destruction of the current civilization. Oryx was his unwitting accomplice who, along with Crake, has achieved in death an almost god-like status among the near perfect beings Crake created to re-populate the world. And Jimmy, aka Snowman, is their shaman and protector. The story is told entirely from his perspective and ends in a way that demands a sequel, The Year of the Flood. Having begun the journey, I must now follow where it leads....more
Even though we know from the beginning what happens, this still turned out to be a dang good yarn of survival in harsh conditions that turned into a rEven though we know from the beginning what happens, this still turned out to be a dang good yarn of survival in harsh conditions that turned into a real page-turner. The only quibble I had with the story would be the abrupt way the story ended and then fast-forwarded to an epilogue that did not seem to evolve naturally out of what went before, but that was an exceedingly small quibble. The focus of the story shifted from the traumatic events at the center of the story to the aftermath and back again, almost alternatingly. It was an effective way to let the story unfold. At the center of the story are two college swimmers whose flight goes down over the Rockies in the dead of winter. What follows is the story of their attempt to remain alive until the rescue teams arrive and how that affected them when they return to their lives. Avery is a strong, capable protagonist who had been well-trained for disaster by her father, an ER doctor who did not pamper his daughter. Colin, although injured in the crash and subsequently by a predator, proved to possess the perfect complementary skills and provided the necessary encouragement to keep them both from giving up. Add to that three young boys who also survived and the responsibility weighs heavily on both athletes. Well written and emotionally engaging, this was a great read....more