Resident information sponge Bill Bryson goes through his home, room-by-room, to present the history of private life and how many of the items we see aResident information sponge Bill Bryson goes through his home, room-by-room, to present the history of private life and how many of the items we see and interact with on a daily basis came to find their way into our everyday lives.
At Home feels like a handbook for making small talk at social gatherings. Let’s look at a few talking points:
Next time your friend tells you about her trip to Paris, you could mention that when the city had opened submissions for a monument that would eventually become the Eiffel Tower, a proposal was also given to erect a giant 900 foot guillotine. Not quite as romantic, right?
Is your friend remodeling their home? You could mention that early designs had a home consisting of one giant room dubbed “the hall”. Additional rooms and floors only became viable when the chimney was invented to funnel out smoke from the open hearth. Who wants to walk around in a haze of smoke? Well, smoke from a wood stove, I suppose.
This one took me a while to read. I found that as with most Bryson books, I can only take so much in a single sitting considering the wave of information his books unleash. While most of it is interesting, some of it was a bit of a slog to get through. Luckily, what I found to be boring was on the short end of the stick. After laying down this big ol’ book, I’ve now got three Bryson novels under my belt. Unfortunately, this is probably my least favorite. That isn’t to say it’s poorly written, I just found the subject matter of the other two (One Summer and A Walk in the Woods) more interesting as the book went on....more
In 1997, three organizations battled for sports entertainment supremacy. You had the juggernaut WWF (World Wrestling Federation), who despite a massivIn 1997, three organizations battled for sports entertainment supremacy. You had the juggernaut WWF (World Wrestling Federation), who despite a massively successful 1980s, had entered a cooling off period as it struggled to find its footing amid a steady stream of superstar exits. You had Ted Turner’s WCW (World Championship Wrestling), a company filled with those same stars who helped the WWF rise to prominence as they left for fat, guaranteed paychecks and a lighter work schedule. Finally, you had Paul Heyman’s revolutionary ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), a promotion built on not only original talent, but “misfits” from the WWF and WCW who came together to present a violent, reality-based style that thrived amongst an underground community of rabid fans.
Amid all the chaos on screen, backstage antics were just as compelling. There was the very real drama between Bret “The Hitman” Hart and his rival Shawn Michaels as they fought to be considered Vince McMahon’s “number one”, hoping to secure the spot at the top of the food chain. In WCW, there was Hulk Hogan’s dreaded “creative control” card built into his contract allowing him to nullify anything that was asked of him to perform on-screen. This effectively gave Hogan as secure a spot on top as possible leading to inner turmoil and contempt among “the boys”. In ECW, there was Heyman’s struggle to get onto pay-per-view, desperate to show his company was on equal footing with the “big boys”.
Given the wealth of information within, I would say where the book really shines is in detailing Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels’ journey to the 1997 Survivor Series – I would even go so far as to call it the definitive account of the “Montreal Screwjob”. While I’ve heard of the events that occurred that night over and over again, I still found myself riveted to the story, wondering if they really were going to “screw” Bret over, that’s how well paced it was. Learning more about Bret Hart’s contract negotiation with WCW, his refusal to drop the title to Michaels prior to leaving and reading about each person’s part in the double-cross led to me uncovering things I previously did not know.
Through documentaries, books, podcasts, Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer and original interviews with Jim Cornette, Vince Russo, Ken Shamrock, Tom Pritchard and several others, co-authors Justin Henry and James Dixon paint a vivid picture of all that occurred during that volatile year. Not only is it impeccably researched, the writing is also strong and easily digestible. I would find myself consuming large chunks of the book in a single sitting. Like many of my favorite wrestling podcasts that focus on a specific timeline (The New Generation Project Podcast, The Attitude Era Podcast), I didn’t want it to end. I could easily have read another hundred pages. In speaking with co-author Justin Henry, he alluded to me that additional books are being considered for the series, so I can only hope they show up sooner than later....more
“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you..”
A deadly plague dubbed “dragonscale” – a disease that causes its carriers to burst into flam“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you..”
A deadly plague dubbed “dragonscale” – a disease that causes its carriers to burst into flames shortly following the appearance of black and gold scale-like patterns on their skin – is sweeping the nation. Small town nurse Harper Grayson becomes infected following a long stint working in a Massachusetts area hospital. When she and her husband discover she’s pregnant, the decision whether to keep the baby leads to a pretty nasty split. With nowhere to go, and looking for a safe haven to bring her child to term, Harper hooks up with a group of similarly infected individuals hiding out in a backwoods summer camp named Camp Wynward. The residents there seem to have found a way to control the infection and Harper is hoping she can survive long enough to see her child arrive safe and sound.
After turning the final page last week, I noticed it took me nearly a month to read this sucker. Sure, it’s nearly 800 pages, but I’ve flown through any one of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse novels in nearly half the time – so why did it take me a few weeks to reach the end of Joe Hill’s barnburner of a novel?
Likely because it suffered from what I thought was a slow start. Although the tension does pick up about a quarter of the way into the story, those first hundred or so pages felt like a real slog to get through. Granted, while there was a lot of groundwork to be laid concerning the breakdown of society and the spread of dragonscale, I found that Hill lingered a little too long on Harper’s life before joining up with the Wynward crew.
Once Harper arrives at camp and we’re introduced to a whole slew of new characters, the novel seems to shift to a “Lord of the Flies” style story complete with backstabbing and power-struggles. A lot of the more integral characters strongly develop and evolve reasonably to suit the changing atmosphere of the camp. Those in power seem to be willing to do anything to maintain control and keep the camp off the radar of the “cremation crews”, groups of self-governed militarized killers who hunt down and burn those afflicted with the mysterious malady.
The mark of a good central conflict is when an author can make both pros and cons for those occupying either side of a fundamental disagreement. While I thought that Harper was correct to defy authority, the actions of those at the head of the camp – while extreme – were done for the right reasons. Harper was reckless on a few occasions and her actions did put the camp at risk. On the other side, Carol Story, the daughter of camp patriarch Tom, went a little nuts on the paranoia scale and while she could have done things a lot differently, she wasn’t exactly power hungry. I thought the dynamic between both the perceived “good” and “evil” sides went a long way in keeping things interesting and the tension at a ridiculously high level.
Joe Hill had me a little worried at the beginning of the story but I stuck with it and it paid off in a big, big way. The Fireman is a high-octane thriller that will leave you severely singed....more
Patrick and Angie have led rough careers as private investigators and after the events in Sacred, they’ve decided to pull back a little. When we catchPatrick and Angie have led rough careers as private investigators and after the events in Sacred, they’ve decided to pull back a little. When we catch up with them in Gone Baby Gone, they’ve all but sworn off cases that could lead to violence, death and destruction. Unfortunately for them, when young Amanda McCready goes missing, Amanda’s grieving Aunt and Uncle are persistent in their requests for the detectives’ help.
Patrick and Angie aren’t sure they’ll be able to offer much up in the way of help. The Boston PD have been working around the clock trying to find Amanda and with her face plastered all over the city, every citizen will have their eyes peeled. There’s also the matter of the girl’s mother, Helene. To put it simply, she’s a burnout. She spends all her time glued to the TV, strung-out on drugs and alcohol. In fact, her negligence was the direct cause of Amanda’s disappearance. Patrick and Angie team up with Crimes Against Children (CAC) officials Remy Broussard and Nick Poole. The foursome work together to turn Boston upside down.
If you thought Darkness, Take My Hand was a tough read, Gone Baby Gone will rip your heart out. Patrick and Angie are put through the proverbial thresher, their lives and relationships come under unbelievable strain as they desperately try to recover the missing girl. While the body count isn’t on the level of the first few novels, the tension is tight and unrelenting.
If anything, Lehane can write a hell of a page-turner. Gone Baby Gone is a visceral read that I wouldn’t recommend for those with a weak stomach or who deal well with child abuse in fiction. But I would argue it’s an important read, if only that it questions morality and what it means to “do the right thing”....more
A unspecified world catastrophe forces the evacuation of a northern Canadian astronomical research station but disaffected scientist and perennial lonA unspecified world catastrophe forces the evacuation of a northern Canadian astronomical research station but disaffected scientist and perennial loner Augustine decides to stick around to finish his work. He doesn’t care what happened nor is he particularly bothered by the seriousness of the event – he just wants to be left alone to dither about and end his days comfortable and surrounded by familiarity. Not long after his colleagues hit the bricks, he discovers Iris, a lone child, left behind.
Sully is part of a team of astronauts on their voyage home following a successful research mission deep into space. Somewhere along the way, they lost all communication from Earth. Diagnostics indicate that their equipment is functioning as it should but the mysterious silence leaves them shaken. As they move closer to their destination, they begin to wonder what awaits them upon their arrival.
I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Good Morning, Midnight was an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic novel where instead of explosions and panic, we’re left with an unexplained deafening silence. Coming in at a little over 200 pages, this was a pretty quick read, although I felt it seemed to drag at points. It could be because I’ve been reading a lot of page-turning plot-driven stuff lately.( That’s kind of a burn to this book, was that intentional? – yup) Lily Brooks-Dalton is content to meander about, digging into both Sully and Augustine’s past, which while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the writing is very strong – my mind would often wander and I’d lose my place.
In the face of so many end-of-days stories where “the event” is the central plot point, I liked the author’s idea to keep whatever happened largely unknown. In this way she was able to focus more on what drives both Sully and Augustine when faced with the unknown. I found this helped to put me into the shoes of the characters and feel their fear and concern along with them. That being said, I felt a lot of the backstory and info-dumping surrounding Augustine’s sexual history and alleged sociopathic behavior sort of irrelevant when the author returned to it near the final act of the story. I can see what she was doing in trying to explain his unexpected attachment to Iris, but I found my eyes glazing over large chunks of text due to it feeling more like a retread than breaking new ground on the character. It seemed like the author really couldn’t decide how to present him. It left the scenes where I was meant to view him as a sympathetic character fall flat. Did we really need more reasons to think this guy was an asshole?
I liked Sully a bit more than Augustine, but I guess that was the point. They both have similar reasons for pursuing their scientific endeavors, but I felt she came across a little stronger and a little more rational than Augustine. I will say that I didn’t really care all that much for the shoe-horned love story, but I suppose that added a bit of weight to the interactions aboard the space shuttle. I would have been more than happy to read a novel about her alone, which is odd because it was hearing about Augustine’s story that drove me to the book initially....more
In 2011, the mysterious disappearance of Maura Murray caught the eye of freelance investigative journalist James Renner. But this wasn’t exactly new tIn 2011, the mysterious disappearance of Maura Murray caught the eye of freelance investigative journalist James Renner. But this wasn’t exactly new territory for Renner. Years before, he had dug into the disappearance of Amy Mihaljevic, a case that left Renner with PTSD. Why would he want to subject himself to this scenario again, you ask? As the title says, it’s an addiction. Renner has an undying thirst for the truth and True Crime Addict takes the reader inside the author’s quest to quench it.
I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I thought this was a hell of a great read. While it did start a little on the slow side, it didn’t take long for Renner to push the pedal to the metal. Extremely short chapters (we’re talking three-to-four pages in length) help to speed up the book making you feel like you’re flying through the story. This is likely why I gulped down huge chunks of it in single sittings (“only one more chapter, then I’ll go to bed. OK, that was pretty short, only one more.. etc”).
Along with his frustrations in trying to break open the Murray case, Renner weaves in bits of his own history (one particular part of his past is not the easiest read), detailing both his childhood, career and current struggles with his son’s violent and strange tendencies. I thought this was an excellent choice. Not that I see anything wrong with an entire book delving into the case itself, I just felt that adding in these pieces of information kept things fresh and interesting – especially when you consider where the story ultimately ends up.
With True Crime Addict as well as his previous book about the disappearance of Amy Mihaljevic (Amy: My Search for Her Killer), Renner has proven to be an accomplished non-fiction writer. I’ve been hearing great things about his fiction work and if those novels are as gripping as True Crime Addict, I have no doubt I’ll enjoy them....more
Following the events of Darkness, Take My Hand, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro have shuttered their agenThere’s something ugly about the flawless..
Following the events of Darkness, Take My Hand, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro have shuttered their agency and have begun to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. A year has passed when they’re approached (and by approached, I mean drugged and tossed in the back of a van) by an ailing man desperate to find his missing daughter. The pair are hesitant to accept but when enticed by a hefty sum of cash, it becomes an offer they cannot refuse.
Sacred takes Kenzie and Gennaro down the coastline to sunny, balmy Florida as they investigate a case with more twists and turns than a tangled slinky. Seriously, this one is all over the place. I’ve seen a few folks mention that Lehane plays on Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep with regards to the plot and I can absolutely see that. Like Marlowe, Patrick and Angie more or less fall into things as time progresses, playing their cards close to the chest and not having to do a whole lot of detective work outside of putting boots on the ground and knocking on doors.
During the first two novels, Kenzie and Gennaro certainly took their lumps and Sacred is no different. The duo are beaten and roughed up badly during the story, to the point where a doctor advises Patrick that he start having kids now as he shouldn’t expect a long life. Can’t say I blame the doctor though. Hard to anticipate your golden years when you’re constantly avoiding bullets and breaking bones on a regular basis.
It’s going to be tough to top Darkness, Take My Hand and although I found Sacred to be not as strong as its predecessor, I still tore through it relatively quickly. Unfortunately, there are only six novels in the whole series, so this series is going to be over a hell of a lot sooner than I’d like....more