Lost at Sea is a collection of essays by Jon Ronson, a writer well-known for writing about the weird and whacky with thoughtful consideration. RonsonLost at Sea is a collection of essays by Jon Ronson, a writer well-known for writing about the weird and whacky with thoughtful consideration. Ronson has a unique voice and if you've ever heard him on This American Life you will hear him reading his essays to you in his head. Warm, wonderful, deeply personal, these essays are a collection of some of his best works. Funny and engaging and a great read....more
I'm not entirely sure what I think about this book. On the one hand, the writing and word play are creative and Mr. Kiesbye has an interesting idea, tI'm not entirely sure what I think about this book. On the one hand, the writing and word play are creative and Mr. Kiesbye has an interesting idea, the result just wasn't all that great. I didn't find anything about the story itself creepy, but rather felt that the author was just trying to make me nauseous. While nausea can be an important part of any horror novel experience, nausea for nausea's sake is just a great big yawn.
Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone really wants to be an updated Shirley Jackson novel. The thing is, Shirley Jackson already wrote this novel and she did it in a short story. A better short story than this novel. Reminiscent of The Children of the Corn by Stephen King? Of the Brothers Grimm? Sure. Did it add anything new to the conversation? Not so much.
Ultimately this book left me disappointed and thinking, "What was the point of that?"
Hmm. I guess I do know what I think of this book....more
I wasn't sure what to expect from Talking to the Dead, but I was blown away. D.C. Fiona Griffiths will be compared to Carol O'Connell's Mallory, but sI wasn't sure what to expect from Talking to the Dead, but I was blown away. D.C. Fiona Griffiths will be compared to Carol O'Connell's Mallory, but she's her own person with her own set of issues and weaknesses and many strengths. It's obvious from the beginning that something is off with her, but Mr. Bingham doesn't slam you over the head with her difference and this makes the mystery more compelling - the mystery of her and the mystery she's working to solve.
Fiona is a Cambridge graduate with a brilliant analytical mind. She finds her initial work on the police force stultifying - how interesting can forensic accounting really be when you aren't a forensic accountant? When a child and her mother are found dead in a squat, Fiona is captivated and begins to insert herself into the investigation finding unexpected links and causing lots and lots of mayhem.
Fiona isn't one note. Her character is well-developed and seeing the events of the book through her eyes is pretty amazing. Her intellect and attention to detail and essential vulnerability make you want to cheer her on and to protect her from herself and the rest of the world. With the beginnings of some great secondary characters, Mr. Bingham's got himself a great series going if he wants to continue the story. If he doesn't the work stands on its own. Much enjoyment to be had in reading this one!...more
The Bosnian war is sort of a blur to me. I was directing theater and managing bands for most of the 1990's. This meant living on 2-3 hours of sleep anThe Bosnian war is sort of a blur to me. I was directing theater and managing bands for most of the 1990's. This meant living on 2-3 hours of sleep and very little in the way of news or television. When you live in those worlds many things become a blip on the radar - you flag them in your head - "I should know more about that" - and then move on to whatever needs to be tackled next. Recently this flag popped up in my head again when I was offered a copy of the updated edition for review.
Logavina Street is great journalism. Combining a general overview of the history and roots of the multiple conflicts, Ms. Demick goes on to explore the war through the eyes of the residents of a single street. Many books on war are so focused on the minutae of battles and political tactics that the reality of the person on the street who is neither soldier nor politician is lost. This is moving story and cautionary tale and started me out on what will be a longer journey in trying to understand what happened there. Heartbreaking and utterly readable - highly recommended. ...more
Mantel writes beautiful prose and has a deeply held perspective on history. After a zillion books about Anne Boleyn and her fair, but lost head, ManteMantel writes beautiful prose and has a deeply held perspective on history. After a zillion books about Anne Boleyn and her fair, but lost head, Mantel's telling of this story is rich and compelling. Seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, the Tudor court is both glittering and rotting. As Henry's top advisor it is up to Cromwell to re-write the past, to punish transgressors to Henry's vision, and to remove any obstacle to Henry's desire for a son.
Henry is an after-thought here. He's the Wizard of Ozian character, back behind the curtain, pulling the levers and setting the task. The stars here are Anne and Cromwell as they pursue a fever-pitched battle for survival. If you know only the bare bones of this history, you know who won (and no, it was neither Anne nor Cromwell).
Mantel's writing is impeccable, her plot and timing spot-on, her imagery vivid. This is not your average historical fiction, but rather a deep dive into the history of the Tudor court in all its tarnished beauty. A must read....more
As enlightened as we like to think ourselves, mental illness is an area where we still have a long way to go. Stigmatized as weak-minded people who suAs enlightened as we like to think ourselves, mental illness is an area where we still have a long way to go. Stigmatized as weak-minded people who suffer from mental illness find it very difficult to receive the treatment that they need - sometimes due to lack of money and health insurance, often because admitting to this is taboo in their culture (yes, even here in America). The human and economic cost of mental illness is a large one and yet we continue to say, in our own Puritancial manner - "Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stop sniveling." Think I'm kidding? Read any news article about PTSD and whether or not it's "real" and then come back to me.
During the eighties some huge and distressing scandals in mental health institutions combined with a desire to spend less money on our people and more money on defense to close many inpatient facilities, dumping thousands of people with long-term mental illness on the streets of our nation. Among mental health professionals the idea behind deinstitutionalization was to give people an opportunity to live as normal a life as could be managed for them and included plans for transitional housing, permanent assisted living in group home situations for those who needed the structure, and a robust network of outpatient mental health care. Most of this got lost in translation. These days we spend a whole of money institutionalizing those we consider criminals and sometimes inpatient programs for the mentally ill become dumping grounds for these people - diagnosed or not.
I knew we were in yet another bad economic downturn when the number of homeless and mentally people dramatically increased here in Berkeley (where I live) and in Oakland (where I work). I've watched the past four years as these numbers increase with new members from other places, or with those who have been on the street long enough to be driven insane. It is a moral catastrophe and it makes me feel sad and helpless. I give food where I can and try to speak to many, but I can't get them off the street and I can't give them the care many of them desperately need.
The Devil in Silver explores the plight of the mentally ill - those locked up because they should be, those locked up by accident or design; many of these people will never see the outside world again because there just isn't anywhere for them to be. What if you were institutionalized because it was convenient? What would it be like to be in this new environment? What if you discovered that the Devil was locked up with you? What then?
Filled with authentic voices, a killer story playing with a number of horror tropes, and a pinch of social commentary, The Devil in Silver is a book that will scare you while making you question yourself and your society. Well-written, never preachy, this book is a masterful experience. Highly recommended....more
Lucretia and the Kroons is a novella with all the punch of a full-length novel. It's not often that authors write about children dealing with their frLucretia and the Kroons is a novella with all the punch of a full-length novel. It's not often that authors write about children dealing with their friends' deaths, but Victor LaValle is not afraid.
Lucretia's best friend, Sunny, suffers from an illness (probably cancer) that has slowly taken her away from her friend. Treatment and medication have rendered her almost unrecognizable, but still Lucretia remains faithful. Then comes the day when Sunny disappears and Lucretia finds herself on a mad and frightening and marvelous adventure into the unknown with only a mysterious and monstrous woman as her guide.
I very much enjoyed this book. It was sweet and genuine and scared the pants off of me. Mr. LaValle has a great way with words and storytelling and opens a big picture window for his readers and characters to step through. Wonderful read and appropriate for middle grade kids and all of us older kids who aren't easily frightened or just love to be scared! ...more
If you are a fan of Norse mythology, historical fiction, and legends of Viking warriors come from the mists of the sea to change lives, Blood Eye's aIf you are a fan of Norse mythology, historical fiction, and legends of Viking warriors come from the mists of the sea to change lives, Blood Eye's a great book for you. Wrap it up with a tale of a boy's journey to manhood and you've got the first in a trilogy that promises to be entertaining throughout.
Osric is shunned throughout his adopted village for his blood-red eye - loved only by the mute carpenter who takes him under his wing. All of that changes on the day that Jarl Sigurd and his Fellowship (think of a Band of Brothers, only Norsemen) arrive on the shore of his village for a bit of trading that goes poorly. Osric finds himself drawn to these men who believe him to be blessed by Ódin. Taken up by Sigurd and given a place of his own among The Fellowship, Osric battles his conflicted feelings about the violence and bloodshed he's seen these commit as balanced against the violence and bloodshed committed by the Englishmen he's lived among for so long. Enraptured in the myth of Sigurd, Osric finds his own way through the world.
Great for fans of Bernard Cornwell or for anyone looking for a ripping yarn with plenty of battles, brutality, and a damsel who might or might not be in distress, Blood Eye is a lot of fun to read. I look forward to Book 2 in the series which promises to expand on the many unanswered questions in the original. A satisfying and entertaining escapist read. ...more
Val McDermid is one of the great writers of thrillers - particularly those with both a psychological bent as well as a stunning amount of brutality thVal McDermid is one of the great writers of thrillers - particularly those with both a psychological bent as well as a stunning amount of brutality that manages to be essential to the plot rather than a voyeuristic add-on. She is unusual in that she manages to write both series books and standalones that all each work on their own merits. Usually series writers don't write very good standalones and vice versa, but McDermid is utterly dependable. Her books are always well-plotted and fun to read, but also full of humanity in all its dreadful beauty. Can you tell I like her writing?
The Vanishing Point takes on the world of reality television stars in the UK (although it's not much different than in the US) - these "ordinary" people who become famous mostly for making asses out of themselves on television for the world to see. McDermid argues that this behavior is part of a carefully plotted strategy to grab fame and fortune, but becomes self-limiting because while bad behavior is amusing for awhile at some point people just get bored with the trainwreck and the money stops coming in. "Oh, look, another head on the tracks - how expected." If you've followed the history of many of these people their lives become this tawdry public tragedy with little of happiness in them, perhaps because most have nothing to offer but their spectacle. It's bread and circuses, right? Not just circuses.
In Scarlett, the mother of the child taken in this book, McDermid creates a character struggling to free herself from the bad reputation that built her career - trying to change it up, to be someone different. Much of this seems inspired by the impending birth of her child, Jimmy, and her desire to provide a good home for him (where good means continuing to have loads of money), but there are glimpses of someone trying to rise above circumstance and bad choices to become a real person rather than a caricature. Scarlett's change is chronicled by her ghost writer, Stephanie, a woman who specializes in ghost writing for celebrities, but who becomes drawn into Scarlett's world through the friendship that grows between them. Someone's using someone, but it's hard to decide who or when or even why. When Scarlett dies tragically from cancer - brave and fighting until the end, her reputation utterly redeemed - she leaves her son to Stephanie, but not her money.
At the point where we come in, Jimmy has been taken from Stephanie at an airport in the US from right beneath her nose. TSA doesn't notice and labels Stephanie a danger from the moment she breaks free of security to go after her child. The Vanishing Point tells the story of before and after and draws the reader into all of its different worlds. It's a great read, loads of fun, and plenty to keep the reader turning pages. Highly recommended....more
I had mentally applauded James Lee Burke for appearing to kill off Clete and Dave at the end of The Glass Rainbow - I was sad, but also thought it wasI had mentally applauded James Lee Burke for appearing to kill off Clete and Dave at the end of The Glass Rainbow - I was sad, but also thought it was time for them to have a more or less graceful exit from the stage. Mr. Burke has let them age throughout the series and I was beginning to wonder what trouble they might find themselves in that they might not be able to survive. In the latest book, Creole Belle, it is apparent that this was not the plan.
I will take a ride with James Lee Burke anywhere he wants to go. I love his writing, his stories, and his characters - they've all been like family to me as I've read about them for so many years. Tin Roof Blowdown was Burke's paen to Katrina and the damage wrought by her and by a neglectful government at all levels. It was beautiful, impassioned, and one of the few Katrina books I've been able to read (it all still makes me too angry and sad). Creole Belle is about the post-Katrina world, but in particular the post BP oil spill world - a pean to a way of life that is quickly vanishing into the black tar left behind by oil company carelessness and by the state's own dependence on the industry for much of its livelihood.
I liked Creole Belle. It's poignant and contains many of the elements I expect from Mr. Burke's novels - the Bobbsey Twins, the sense of place, the mystery of the haves and the have-nots, the desire to right wrongs and the regret that sometimes you just can't win. It works as a thriller, but ultimately feels a lot more like a diatribe against the outside forces the Louisiana has allowed to come in and rape its beauty. This isn't the best novel Mr. Burke's ever written, but I'd recommend the worst James Lee Burke novel over dozens of others. If you haven't read this series, you're really missing out. ...more
I've been very fortunate over the past several weeks to read a number of wonderful books that take folk tales, fairy tales, mythology as their heart.I've been very fortunate over the past several weeks to read a number of wonderful books that take folk tales, fairy tales, mythology as their heart. The Salt God's Daughter is one of those books. Ruby's story, based on the Celtic tradition of the selkie - uncanny creatures who appear as seals on the sea, but can shed their skins and walk when on land. Traditional tales of the selkie often lead to tragedy as a selkie and human fall in love (or not) and make a life together. It's the "making a life together" element that's tricky since often this part happens because the human partner steals and hides the selkie's skin so s/he cannot go back to the sea. I know you're thinking of The Little Mermaid (the Disney version). Stop. This folklore is a lot more complex and dark than anything anyone from Disney ever conjured.
The Salt God's Daughter is also about mother/daughter relationships. As a daughter I know how conflicted and complex these relationships are. Ruby weaves a tale of mothers and daughters and their bonds. Rich in imagery of the sea and of the moon, The Salt God's Daughter is a great follow-up to Ruby's first novel, The Language of Trees. Ruby has a talent for threading disparate parts of story into a coherent whole and I am glad to say that her sophomore effort is just as wise and wonderful as her first. Highly recommended....more
One of the best things about Giving up the Ghost is that it is not the memoir you expect. From the publisher's description it sounds like it's going tOne of the best things about Giving up the Ghost is that it is not the memoir you expect. From the publisher's description it sounds like it's going to be sort of a search for information about his friend, but mostly a somewhat serious/somewhat silly romp through paranormal places. It's not that. Not even close.
If you were ever different as a kid, ever bullied or just shunned by the other kids around you, you're left with two basic choices: conform or defy them. Mr. Nuzum chose to defy his classmates and it's a choice I can relate to because I also steadfastly refused to conform and made a lot of bad choices along the way. It was very easy to me to relate to Mr. Nuzum, stuck in small town Ohio, wanting something different, but not sure what, doing too much damage to yourself along the way. I was fortunate because my early bout with depression was caught at its beginning and I was very fortunate to see a wonderful therapist where I was first in college. At that time there weren't a lot of anti-depressant options, but she saw me three times a week, listened to me, guided me firmly, and helped me talk my way through to the other side. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't had her help.
We all know what it's like to be haunted, I think - by people or places or dreams that never came true - something about all the possibilities that didn't reach their potential sticks with us. It is all of that that is so hard to forget. Mr. Nuzum's brutally honest memoir takes the reader through one person's life (so far) and that person's attempts at self-destruction and ultimate desire to be whole. While I'm not sure he reached the conclusions he might've wanted, the journey is interesting and I'm glad he chose to share it. Lots of people have similar pasts, similar ghosts, but not everyone writes about it with such straightforward honesty. A good, if sometimes difficult, read. ...more
I was attracted to The Healer of Fox Hollow because it deals in matters of healing (faith and otherwise) and is set in the Smoky Mountain region of TeI was attracted to The Healer of Fox Hollow because it deals in matters of healing (faith and otherwise) and is set in the Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee. I grew up in Memphis - far from the Smokies - but I've been there and know a bit about the culture there (especially their folk tales) and also know that they are beautiful in ways you can't imagine.
The Healer of Fox Hollow is an excellent book with a troubled and traumatized main character who finds her way through her gift of healing. Industrialized nations are fond of denying traditional methods of healing, but are more and more incorporating these ideas into their practice. The main thing about healing in my mind is whether or not it works in the mind of the patient. Sick people come from many cultures and their disease processes will benefit from modern healing methods, but sometimes those just aren't enough. Sometimes people need healing that is traditional to their cultures to become well, to feel cured.
In the Smoky Mountains - and anywhere that there are Pentecostals - this means faith healing or the "laying on of hands." There is also a strong tradition of healing using herbal methodologies that have been around for centuries - many of which are highly effective and have been incorporated into modern medicines. Think of aspirin, derived from willowbark tea - mentioned for its analgesic and blood thinning properties in Egyptian papyrus.
An ode to the Smoky Mountains, to the power of faith to heal oneself and others, and a journey from trauma to wellness taken by one amazing character. This is an excellent read and would be a good book club choice - so much to talk about.
If you're a science fiction fan you probably know of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. They state:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, th If you're a science fiction fan you probably know of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. They state:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2) A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
These basic Laws were used throughout Asmiov's fiction and have been applied in many other robotic fictions. The fun starts, of course, when the fail-safes, well, fail. When a type of robot suddenly begins disobeying orders, injuring or killing human beings, and defending its own existence it becomes a wonderful center for a plot that almost always questions our definitions of "real" and artificial."
In vN, Madeline Ashby tells the story of Amy, a von Neumann robot, who finds within herself the means to break all the rules and survive. Her rules violation makes her a target and vN explores her journey as a fugitive from human and robot society.
Amy is wonderful. She is very self-aware and never ever indulges in self-pity. Instead, she faces all of her challenges head-on (and there are many challenges). Throughout the book we watch her ask the right questions, act to protect herself and the people/robots that she loves. We learn about all the ways the von Neumann machines in her world are abused and all the many possibilities for change.
For a girl who starts out the book eating her grandmother, Amy is a real treat - a female heroine in a genre where there are few of these. vN is book one of a series - The Machine Dynasty - I can't wait to read the second book!...more
It is difficult for me to express how much I am over books written for young adults that glorify abusive relationships - whether physical or emotionalIt is difficult for me to express how much I am over books written for young adults that glorify abusive relationships - whether physical or emotional abuse is abuse. Yet another book of this flavor. Dear authors - please stop encouraging young women to seek out and carry out these awful relationships with never a hint from you of all the ways it's utterly damaging. Enough....more