The Girl With All the Gifts is a surprise favorite for me this year. My literary catnip is authors who can make me empathize with unlikeable characterThe Girl With All the Gifts is a surprise favorite for me this year. My literary catnip is authors who can make me empathize with unlikeable characters, which this book has in SPADES, my friends.
Melanie is a child genius who’s locked in a military compound with other orphans in a United Kingdom that’s been ravaged by a viral outbreak and hunted by legions of “Hungries.” All she knows of the world is limited to a tiny classroom and its small band of teachers and military personnel who march the children from one daily task to the next.
When I first picked up this book, I was like “OK, dystopian post-apocalyptic blah blah blah, whatever.” I read a few pages on my e-reader and forgot all about it. Then I crossed paths with the audiobook and decided to give it another try. And holy flying bananas, I LOVE it. It’s like Kazuo Ishiguro meets Max Brooks with rad lady characters. And references to Greek myths. And just the right amount of creepy sciencey stuff. Whether you like to read for character, language, action, or setting, this book is bound to hit one of your sweet spots. Best yet, Carey nails the landing with twisty outcomes that I never saw coming.
As narrator, Finty Williams is the bee’s knees. She has the range to make characters seem like monsters in one moment, and misunderstood heroes the next. And also a cute British accent. Read (or listen to) this!...more
This British thriller started as my hero, full of badass feminist promise. An overstressed mother in the English Lake District loses her best friend’sThis British thriller started as my hero, full of badass feminist promise. An overstressed mother in the English Lake District loses her best friend’s 13 year old daughter during a string of local disappearances, and thus we head down the dark and twisty path of modern parenthood. Just What Kind of Mother Are You? has all the right ingredients: cheating spouses, plotting frenemies, sinister fathers, secrets roiling just beneath the surface of everyday domestic life. There's even a subplot about dog rescue. But as I tore through, I started to feel disappointed and was reminded of praise Gillian Flynn recently showered on Alafair Burke: "you know you’re in good hands with her, and can relax without wondering if things are going to fall apart midway through." That thriller pixie magic didn't quite happen for me here; this is Daly's first novel, and I think she’s still feeling her way through, sharpening her craft and learning all the tricks. Her language and insights are both shrewd, and I'm looking forward to how much more effortlessly she'll handle the twists in her second and third books....more
The best compact survival book I've found. Short on excess narrative, replete with diagrams and step-by-step instructions for foraging, hunting, medicThe best compact survival book I've found. Short on excess narrative, replete with diagrams and step-by-step instructions for foraging, hunting, medical attention, shelter, and everything you'd need to know in an emergency survival situation. This is the one we've decided to pack in our emergency preparedness kit....more
Sometimes Debbie Bliss leans slightly too "Martha Stewart" for my personal tastes, but I really liked nearly all of the patterns in this book. They seSometimes Debbie Bliss leans slightly too "Martha Stewart" for my personal tastes, but I really liked nearly all of the patterns in this book. They seemed really modern, cute, and tasteful to me, and the seasonal arrangement is really nice.
The only thing that bummed me out was the incorporation of too much sewing -- fabric bag linings, contrasting pillow fabric, etc. I knit because I don't like to sew :-)...more
There are two kinds of readers: those who are devoted Jon Ronson fangirls-and-boys, and those who haven’t heard of Jon Ronson yet. Friends, I presentThere are two kinds of readers: those who are devoted Jon Ronson fangirls-and-boys, and those who haven’t heard of Jon Ronson yet. Friends, I present Jon Ronson: a bespectacled British journalist who writes thoughtful long-form journalism about quirky fringe phenomena like telepathy, aliens, and psychopaths. He was first introduced to an American audience on the radio show This American Life, and he’s got a knack for the sort of stuff that makes fans of that show swoon — sniffing out the peculiar in everyday life, getting to the heart with equal parts empathy and wit, and drawing wry conclusions about modern life. Lost at Sea is his collection of haunting and hilarious shorter pieces from the past decade, including stories about Insane Clown Posse, James Bond, Stanley Kubrick, robots, and too many other bizarre and wonderful things to name. Ronson is a fabulous narrator of his own work, and my like for Lost at Sea blossomed into full-blown love when I switched from the print to the audio.
Footnote: the audio is worth it simply for the pleasure of hearing Jon Ronson read Insane Clown Posse lyrics in a dry British accent, and the chapters were the perfect length for commuting and exercise stints.
Rats, didn't have time to finish this before it was due back at the library. Will have to pick it up again soon to finish. Loved the first half -- GauRats, didn't have time to finish this before it was due back at the library. Will have to pick it up again soon to finish. Loved the first half -- Gauntlet's got a great grasp on non-stuffy academic writing. And he talks about dinosaur cakes....more
At first I thought this amigurumi book was pretty cute, but on closer inspection most of the patterns are pretty derivative. Most of what's in here caAt first I thought this amigurumi book was pretty cute, but on closer inspection most of the patterns are pretty derivative. Most of what's in here can also be found in Ana Paula Rimoli's amigurumi series, but I think she does it much better.
For me, the few stand-out patterns in this book are the ballerina bunny, a surprisingly cute rat, and a calico kitty. American crafters take note -- this book uses British annotation, so "DC" doesn't necessarily mean what you think!...more
Last week while I was in line for coffee, I got asked if I was a psychopath.
This wasn’t because I look psychopathic (I hope), but because I was carryiLast week while I was in line for coffee, I got asked if I was a psychopath.
This wasn’t because I look psychopathic (I hope), but because I was carrying a copy of Jon Ronson’s newest book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, under my arm. It’s my favorite book of the moment, and the one I’m going to badger everyone I know to read.
I’ve been a huge fan of Jon Ronson’s since I first encountered his non-fiction book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, in a used book store in Burlington, VT, circa 2007. The Men Who Stare At Goats is loosely about U.S. Army officers who try to harness psychic energy in an attempt to disintegrate live goats, and since its publication in 2004, it’s been turned into a film starring George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges, and Ronson has been invited as a regular contributor to NPR’s This American Life.
Ronson’s forte is weird fringe journalism, wherein he investigates psychic and paranormal military ops, extraterrestrial theories, Roswell type stuff, and now, psychopathy. But the thing that makes him so much more than a run of the mill conspiracy theorist is his knack for serious journalistic endeavors: how did our psy-ops military culture lead up to Abu Graib? How foolproof is the rubric we use to label people psychopaths? And should we be more concerned about the psychopaths who are in prison, or the ones who are running the world’s biggest corporations?
From the Stockwell Strangler to former Sunbeam CEO Al Dunlap, Jon Ronson sets out on a quest to understand the nature of psychopathy and power. (According to Bob Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist Revised, at least 4% of our world leaders meet the minimum qualifications of psychopathy!) Ronson’s anecdotes are witty and revelatory, and will make you feel a little like you are able to identify the psychopaths in your own life. But at the heart of his investigation, Jon Ronson unveils his own unsettling hypothesis about our culture’s fascination with madness, and why we’re all sort-of comforted by those pill-popping personalities we see on reality TV.
If nothing else, The Psychopath Test is a fabulous conversation starter. I suggest you take it with you next time you go for coffee. You might get asked if you’re a psychopath....more
What more is there to say? I'm so glad I gave the Jim Dale-performed audio books a chance for the last four installments of the Harry Potter series, fWhat more is there to say? I'm so glad I gave the Jim Dale-performed audio books a chance for the last four installments of the Harry Potter series, finally getting to know Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Snape, and all the rest. Although I still haven't figured out why they had to resort to using all that polyjuice potion. I do now like to go around yelling "lumos" and "stupefy" at things....more
After writing off the first three Harry Potter books, I finally decided to give the saga another chance via audio. A lot of people told me that the boAfter writing off the first three Harry Potter books, I finally decided to give the saga another chance via audio. A lot of people told me that the books get better and better starting with #4. And although I'm inclined to disagree with that assessment, I did really love listening to the fantastic Jim Dale narrate the story and finally bring it to life for me. His voices are phenomenal, and he brings out all the hilarious nuances in characters like Hermione, Ron, Snape, and my favorite from this book, Madame Maxime!
I super-loved Hermione's campaign to liberate the House Elves, and I think J.K. Rowling is also really superb at writing action sequences. What I didn't love, on the other hand, are the 5 chapters of false villains at the end ("Mr. A is the villain! No wait, Mr. B is the villain! But actually, Mr. C. is the real villain!"), and how each villain narrates, at great length, his inner psychology and motives. Yawn.
I think I'll end up listening to the rest of the series, just because I really love how Jim Dale animates the characters. I still don't think any of Rowling's characters or plot lines are especially substantive or engaging, but I can finally appreciate the entire package for being so playful and fun....more
This is my favorite Iris Murdoch novel so far! It's her earliest book, and in it she addresses favorite philosophical themes that she will return to oThis is my favorite Iris Murdoch novel so far! It's her earliest book, and in it she addresses favorite philosophical themes that she will return to over and over again... love, truth, platonic ideals. But this book seems less jaded, spiteful, and rambling than her later works. The story is also more compact and elegant, and the characters are more sympathetic. In Murdoch's later books, the protagonists seem to devolve into raving caricatures of themselves, but in "Under the Net," Jake Donaghue is more of a tender, yearning Everyman. And on top of all that honesty and tenderness, Murdoch is her usual quirky and hilarious self. All the elements I really love about her writing really shine through beautifully here. Yep, I loved this!...more