I heard the audio version reviewed with high praise on Books on the Nightstand and my library had it available to download right then! What luck becauI heard the audio version reviewed with high praise on Books on the Nightstand and my library had it available to download right then! What luck because this is a simply delightful romp, which I do not say about most children's books. I'm only a fourth of the way into it but thus far I love not only the story but the narrator's perfect voicing of the Boov aliens, especially J-Lo.
Twelve-year-old Gratuity "Tip" Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest ... commemorating when alien invaders (the Boov) declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?
Gratuity’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo, a futile journey south to find Gratuity’s mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom, a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious, and an outrageous plan to save Earth from yet another alien invasion.
Listening to the LibriVox audio by Mark Nelson. I have known for some time that this book was a big influence on C.S. Lewis's space trilogy and, now tListening to the LibriVox audio by Mark Nelson. I have known for some time that this book was a big influence on C.S. Lewis's space trilogy and, now that I've read all of those, am finally getting around to this one.
I can see the resemblances already but am intrigued by the story. And, of course, it's fun reading a book that someone else I "know" enjoyed so much. ...more
We went to see this show, being lucky enough to live about five minutes from the Meadows Museum at SMU. (That museum is the best kept secret in DallasWe went to see this show, being lucky enough to live about five minutes from the Meadows Museum at SMU. (That museum is the best kept secret in Dallas.)
Sorolla is one of my favorite artists and I was thrilled to receive this as a birthday gift after being able to see his work in person. I'm really looking forward to reading this....more
Scott Danielson and I discuss Valley of Bones in Episode 106 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. (While fighting over Twinkies.)
I fScott Danielson and I discuss Valley of Bones in Episode 106 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. (While fighting over Twinkies.)
I first read about it in the July 2005 Crisis magazine. They rarely reviewed fiction and this is a gritty mystery, so my interest was piqued. When the reviewer said it was a really Catholic book, but without the usual trappings found in a mystery I really perked up my ears.
In Miami, a man is hit on the head and thrown from a hotel balcony. When the homicide detective, Paz, goes up to investigate, he finds a woman, Emmylou Dideroff, in the room. She is in a trance, speaking to St. Catherine of Siena, which qualifies her to the detective as both a wacko and a likely murderer. This seems confirmed when they find a bloody weapon on the balcony with Emmylou's fingerprints all over it. She even has a likely motive but denies committing the murder. This is not as open and shut as it seems as Jimmy Paz pursues clues that lead to the international oil market, a FBI watch list, and missionaries in the Sudan.
Aside from the intricate mystery there is the spiritual factor. Emmylou claims to have communion with the devil which leads to her being put in a mental institution where, at the detective's request, she begins writing a confession. However, her confession is more along the lines of St. Augustine's Confessions ... and soon she is filling four notebooks with the story of her life. At this point we meet Lorna Wise, a psychiatrist who is determining Emmylou's fitness for trial. Both Wise and Paz have actual moments of seeing the devil that Emmylou has mentioned but they manage to lie to themselves. Little doubt is left to the reader, though, that what they are experiencing is real. Obviously this is no ordinary mystery.
Along the way we see Wise's various insecurities, Paz's Cuban-American world and how he relates to the "white" world, insights into police detecting, how men and women relate to each other, and much more. Most of all, there is a strong spiritual thread throughout that is interesting in itself as each character responds in their own way.
This all is told through four points of view: the detective, the psychiatrist, Emmylou's confessions, and pages from the book Faithful Unto Death: The Story of the Nursing Sisters of the Blood of Christ by Sr. Benedicta Cooley. These are all showing various ways of conversion, of openness to God. This feeling is intensified when we meet Paz's former partner, a strong evangelical Christian who is not afraid to share his faith. Most unusual for a mystery of this sort from a regular, well reviewed writer.
This may sound like a jumble of information but that is part of what makes this book so very interesting. The author is a masterful writer who makes everything come together naturally.
Make no mistake, it is a gritty, adult mystery and has sexual content that may offend some readers, most of which is in Emmylou's confessions. However, any offensive content has been relayed with such a lack of passion or detail that I didn't find it bothersome....more
Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.
Why have I never heard of this magnificent book before?
Thank goodness my mother, 80 years old and
Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.
Why have I never heard of this magnificent book before?
Thank goodness my mother, 80 years old and never afraid of a Kindle Daily Deal, read it and commanded me to do likewise.
In the 25th century all the work is done by robots, the ones that haven't broken down. Mankind stumbles along in a drugged stupor, trained from birth to avoid thinking and that "privacy is supreme." They haven't the basic knowledge to repair anything, much less a complex machine.
One of the last of the great thinking robots, Spofforth is the dean of the university in New York City. Paul from Ohio has taught himself the lost art of reading and wants to teach it at the university. Mary Lou has dropped out of the system only to be tempted into putting herself in harm's way by the lure of "What did you call it? Reading?" These three give us a fascinating and nuanced look at what it means to be human.
I've been jaded by the plethora of recent apocalyptic novels but this one is different. Written in 1980 by the author of such varied works as The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hustler, this book is eerily prescient.
Perhaps the highest tribute I can give this novel is that when I finished I didn't want to read another book. To do so would sully what I'd just read before I'd finished thinking about it, as well as be unfair to anything that followed because it wouldn't be able to compare.
I can only say, as my mother did, "Why haven't we heard of Mockingbird before? Why isn't it a well-known classic?"
I read this some time ago and can't think how I missed mentioning it here.
Halfway through the first story I went to the original inspiration, WilliamI read this some time ago and can't think how I missed mentioning it here.
Halfway through the first story I went to the original inspiration, William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land, to see how similar they were. Wow. Spot on, style-wise but so much more to the point than the original. Unlike Wright I'm not likely to love Hodgson's work. However, there was much to admire in this book and I enjoyed the way Wright was able to be both derivative and original simultaneously. As well as giving us good stories, natch....more
This isn't my usual sort of book. However, this issue matters greatly to me so I agreed to look it over. A quick perusal left me feeling that Camosy tThis isn't my usual sort of book. However, this issue matters greatly to me so I agreed to look it over. A quick perusal left me feeling that Camosy takes a similar approach as that proposed in How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice. That alone makes it worth pursuing.
Plus the very handy chapter conclusions looked like reasoning that goes along with Catholic teachings and that I could agree with. (Yep, I "cheated." We'll call it an in-depth preview. How else am I gonna tell if its worth our time?)
Anyway, this definitely looks worth investigating if you're interested in digging deeper....more
The best way to get an idea of this book is to watch Brené Brown's TED Talk on vulnerability. It was a real eye-opener for me and it went viral so I wThe best way to get an idea of this book is to watch Brené Brown's TED Talk on vulnerability. It was a real eye-opener for me and it went viral so I wasn't alone in loving it.
I was delighted to find this 6-talk series on Audible that I could use as a refresher. Brown pulls together all her research to continue the vulnerability conversation on a deeper level.
Brown herself is so engaging and genuine that the sessions are easy to listen to. She freely shares personal stories as examples so you know you're not alone when you recognize some behavior being discussed. And she's funny. I will never forget her story about the three-dozen cookies.
Brown's work is like a secular look at the human condition and how to live as our most honest, fulfilled selves. She doesn't ignore spirituality. Indeed, her research found that is a key component of whole-hearted peoples' lives. I was fascinated when I realized how often Brown's findings echoed personal discoveries I've made in 15 years of Catholicism. I look back at how far I've come and I see someone who has come into the light after spending much of my life in darkness.
One of the things I loved was when Brown said that if you feel shame then she can guarantee there are other people who feel that same shame. Again, a very Catholic teaching. As someone said to me the other day about the value of belonging to our parish, "I learned we're all broken. It's not just me. I'm not alone."
I didn't always agree with every single thing Brown said (and I bet she's ok with that imperfection!). However, those were usually the instances where she was making her own points instead of using research based information. My disagreement didn't come on many points and they didn't matter to the overall work.
Am I done? Of course not. We're never done, as Brown points out and as the Church also tells us. But Brown's work comes together wonderfully well for anyone who is striving for a more authentic life. (That's all of us, by the way.) I learned things that help me understand why I act the way I do. Over-functioning when stressed — right here! Will that change things? Not sure but it can't hurt to know it.
And it meshes wonderfully well with the Catholic faith which just validates both even more to me.
I'll probably be revisiting these talks occasionally for a refresher. Highly recommended for ... everyone....more
In a sense I've read some of this book already since it's a collection of Father Barron's columns from his blog and various other places (I think) aroIn a sense I've read some of this book already since it's a collection of Father Barron's columns from his blog and various other places (I think) around the interwebs.
I always like getting his take on what's happening below the surface in books and movies. This also throws in sections on pop culture and politics so it is bound to be interesting. If I could get a wish it would have been to have printouts of these columns. Wish granted!...more
Early every morning, Pope Francis celebrates a personal sort of Mass in the small Saint Martha chapel at the Vatican. The audience is made up of gardeEarly every morning, Pope Francis celebrates a personal sort of Mass in the small Saint Martha chapel at the Vatican. The audience is made up of gardeners, nuns, cooks, office workers, and always changes. What doesn't change is that the pope gives his homilies without notes just as he did when he was a parish priest. This book features highlights from almost 200 homilies covering a year from March 2013 to May 2014.
This doesn't come out until June so this is a really early mention. I was enthralled with the introduction which has an in-depth look at how Pope Francis prepares and what he thinks is important in contemplating and conveying the Word of God to the faithful. He also gives a "map" of the way Francis circles round various topics, engaging them from different angles as the liturgical readings progress day to day. That's a new idea for me, that to get a full sense of his teachings one must patiently look at it from day to day.
The few homilies I've samples left me eager for a deep, slow reading of this book. And, to be honest, that's not usually the way I feel after reading samples of books featuring Pope Francis's writing. So this is a rare find for me.
(What can I say? I loved Pope Benedict's intellectual style. It ain't Pope Francis's fault. I get that.)...more
I'd already read several of these stories online, exactly where escapes me but probably on the author's blog. However, seeing how many pieces from thiI'd already read several of these stories online, exactly where escapes me but probably on the author's blog. However, seeing how many pieces from this collection were nominated for Hugos made me finally pick up the book.
Stories range from noir style mystery to dinosaurs to time travel to mad scientists in the best tradition of solid science fiction. Wright also weaves in Christian themes, often specifically Catholic ones, which is only to be expected since the book's description points out that the author is following the Catholic liturgical calendar.
What is a mystery is how Wright manages write stories so centered in science fiction while also staying so centered in Catholicism. In a sense these could be compared to the Narnia books or C.S. Lewis's space trilogy. Except, of course, they are so obviously the creation of John C. Wright that they are entirely new and fresh.
As in any collection I liked some more than others but all are good. My absolute favorite is Nativity which caught me by surprise and left me off balance. Wright so absolutely captured the mystery, the uncertainty, the doubt, and gift of faith in that story. I felt the reality of the Passion and crucifixion, I felt the wonder and freshness of the nativity, I felt the marvel of Creation. I was in tears at the end and thankful for the goodness of God.
I do wonder whether non-Christians can enjoy these stories but obviously the answer is yes since so many of them were nominated for the Hugos by science fiction fans....more
I have really enjoyed George R.R. Martin's short stories when I've come across them and this collection cements my love of his writing in that format.I have really enjoyed George R.R. Martin's short stories when I've come across them and this collection cements my love of his writing in that format. Highly enjoyable in a variant of the trickster tale. Nothing is what it seems but who is lying and why? And how can Tuf solve the problems he encounters while not getting caught in some of the seeming conundrums?...more
For a good, free audiobook try LibriVox's Mil Nicholson. She does some of the best voices I've ever heard although I don't enjoy her straight readingFor a good, free audiobook try LibriVox's Mil Nicholson. She does some of the best voices I've ever heard although I don't enjoy her straight reading of the rest of the text quite as much.
I plumped for David Timson's reading which has some of the best expressive reading of the plain text I've heard, without being at all over the top about it.
(Writing this without spoilers probably will lead to misdirection, but I feel there are too many people who probably haven't read this book. And I DO want to say some things.)
*big sigh* Oh, that was good.
It is interesting to me that I began reading Dickens with his later books. Going backwards to his earlier creations, one can see the training wheels on in some places. There are some very predictable plot developments that the reader sees as soon as the seeds are introduced. However, Dickens (that genius) still managed to surprise me again and again with unexpected twists that made the story lively and interesting.
One thing that doesn't change from book to book is the creation of eccentric characters who begin by seeming odd and funny but wind up stealing your heart. I'd never have thought that I'd care passionately about Susan Nipper, Cap'n Cuttle, Miss Tox, or Mr. Toots but I really did.
I also appreciated the way that Florence, the character with the least development in many ways (one motivation and one only) was used to show us so much about other characters. Mr. Dombey, Edith, and little Paul all showed surprising depth as they came into contact with Florence whose only desire was love. I was especially impressed with what we were shown of Mr. Dombey's internal character using this technique.
There were times also when the power of Dickens' writing washed over me and left me bereft of my own words. Most notably in Mr. Dombey and Edith's argument in her bedroom, in Mr. Carker's conversation with Edith discussing Mr. Dombey's character, and in the chapter Rob the Grinder Loses His Place where I felt as tired and mentally confused as the fleeing fugitive whose thoughts we read. Here Dickens worked the seemingly impossible feat of making me sorry for someone who I'd been longing to see punished.
On a personal note, I was astounded by in the chapter After a Lapse when Harriet is advancing a proposition to the fellow who plays the violoncello. This book suddenly became a reflection of how many times we stubbornly think we know best and refuse God's love, only to find that his forgiveness and mercy are boundless ... especially when we've fallen the very lowest and don't deserve it ... and yet it is freely and lovingly given. I don't know if that is what Dickens intended, but it is certainly what struck me hard. It was a revelatory moment that left me turning off the audiobook to simply think about the implications of that interpretation when applied to the other stories woven into the novel.
It isn't the perfect Dickens novel. It sagged in the middle when there was a transition from emphasis on Paul to introducing Edith, and there were those predictable plot points I mentioned. It probably won't ever be my favorite (right now those honors are shared by The Pickwick Papers, Bleak House, and Little Dorrit), but it is a great book and very rewarding on a lot of levels....more
After reading Great Expectations (some time ago and after great struggles, we may recall) I had my first glimmerings of interest in reading David CoppAfter reading Great Expectations (some time ago and after great struggles, we may recall) I had my first glimmerings of interest in reading David Copperfield. Both books tell the story of boys growing to adulthood. I knew that Great Expectations began with an inherently selfish person and David Copperfield seemed its opposite, with sweet David innocently unable to see the obvious in front of his face. Or so I'd gleaned.
I was curious to see what Charles Dickens did with such different internal motivations. I enjoyed about 2/3 of it quite well and was really fascinated by Dora's place in the scheme of things. Then Dickens suddenly seemed to turn very Victorian and become intent on wrapping up every loose end in a nice package with a bow on it. And somehow it stopped being quite so enjoyable.
I have a copy of G.K. Chesterton's Appreciations and Criticisms of the Work of Charles Dickens (free on the Kindle, read it here from Project Gutenberg). He sums up a lot of my problems with David Copperfield in ways that I won't share because they'd spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet. However, he hits the nail on the head about the book overall:
David Copperfield begins as if it were going to be a new kind of Dickens novel; then it gradually turns into an old kind of Dickens novel. It is here that many readers of this splendid book have been subtly and secretly irritated.
As always with G.K. Chesterton's "biographies" if you don't already know a fair amount about the subject then you'll be lost. Luckily I did know a gooAs always with G.K. Chesterton's "biographies" if you don't already know a fair amount about the subject then you'll be lost. Luckily I did know a good amount about Dickens' life already. I was interested in Chesterton's take on the life as reflected in the books and this book did an excellent job for that. I did skip a few bits where books I haven't read yet came up. Avoiding spoilers even in such old books ......more
I really enjoyed listening to the recordings of all these talks by such a variety of speakers. The Q&As for the most part were also really interesI really enjoyed listening to the recordings of all these talks by such a variety of speakers. The Q&As for the most part were also really interesting. The one thing I didn't always love was Eric Metaxas' sense of humor. However, that's a small point. Considering how much I loved Rabbit Ears Radio and respect his books, his sense of humor is the last thing we're going to let get in the way, right?...more