I’ve been trying for years to interest people in the Flashman books. This probably won’t work either.
Here’s the pitch. They’re adventure novels, reaso...moreI’ve been trying for years to interest people in the Flashman books. This probably won’t work either.
Here’s the pitch. They’re adventure novels, reasonably accurate historically (don’t skip the footnotes), and funny as anything I’ve read. Harry Flashman–cad, liar, bully, coward, and, especially, lecher–finds himself, to his dismay, in just about every military disaster of the Nineteenth Century. He flees Afghanistan, fights on both sides of the Civil War, survives Little Big Horn, charges with the Light Brigade, and endures China’s Opium Wars.
He meets such notables as Lincoln, Bismark, Custer, and John Brown, but usually finds his fate depending on pleasing a powerful, treacherous woman. He emerges from each adventure smelling like a rose, his superiors agog at his supposed courage.
Why read about such a loathsome specimen, someone who literally throws a girlfriend to the wolves to save himself? Flashy has no illusions about himself or anyone else, is utterly frank, and disarmingly funny. On sucking up to superiors: "I toadied as seemed best – not openly, of course, but effectively just the same; there is a way of toadying which is better than fawning, and it consists of acting bluff and hearty and knowing to an inch how far to go." On a general’s accidental wounding: "The Afghans murder our people, try to make off with our wives, order us out of the country, and what does our commander do? Shoots himself i the arse – doubtless in an attempt to blow his brains out. He can’t have missed by much." On escape: "It was my yellow belly that saved me, nothing else … That’s what you young chaps have got to remember – when you run, run, full speed, with never a thought for anything else; don’t look or listen or dither even for an instant; let terror have his way, for he’s the best friend you’ve got."
In this debut novel, Aryn Kyle creates a memorable story about a lonely twelve-year-old girl, Alice Winston, and her struggle to make sense of the wor...moreIn this debut novel, Aryn Kyle creates a memorable story about a lonely twelve-year-old girl, Alice Winston, and her struggle to make sense of the world around her. Alice’s sister Nona runs off with a rodeo star while her father tries to keep the horse ranch solvent and her mother sinks into a deeper depression. Alice suddenly must become her father’s assistant while trying to maintain good grades at school and figure out the many roles she must play in her mixed up world. Other stories weave into Alice’s world including the mystery of the death of a classmate, her secret relationship with a teacher at school, the women who board their horses at the Winston ranch, horse shows, and the life of Sheila, a wealthy girl who is taking riding lessons from Alice’s father.
I thoroughly enjoyed Kyle’s writing and the strong protagonist she creates in Alice Winston. I also enjoyed the strong sense of place that she creates as well as the many characters that brought the story together. I look forward to more books from Aryn Kyle. ~ Enjoy ~ --Kara
I enjoy Mary Kay Andrews books. They are set in the South, have quirky but lovable characters, and are funny. My brain doesn’t have to work very hard...moreI enjoy Mary Kay Andrews books. They are set in the South, have quirky but lovable characters, and are funny. My brain doesn’t have to work very hard when I’m reading a Mary Kay Andrews book, and some days that’s just what I need. Andrews takes a break from the BeBe/Weezie stories and cooks up a "dish" that will make fans of television cooking shows smile.
Gina Foxton is the host of the regional cooking show Fresh Start. There is a strong regional following for the show and it catches the attention of executives from The Cooking Channel while they are scoping out a rival show, Vittles, hosted by Tate Moody. To cook up publicity for The Cooking Channel, and to find a "hot" new show, a cook-off between Gina and Tate is planned on a remote barrier island. Food Fight pits Gina and Tate in an ultimate cooking contest where the prize is a coveted national show. Who will win the prize? The southern belle or the rugged outdoors guy?
Have you ever wondered what happens to a body that is donated to science? Maybe it is better if you never have because the answer is as varied as it i...moreHave you ever wondered what happens to a body that is donated to science? Maybe it is better if you never have because the answer is as varied as it is surprising.
This is no doubt a difficult topic to deal with but in Stiff: the curious lives of human cadavers, Mary Roach respectfully explains the many uses for human remains all the while bringing a sense of humor to it. Uses ranging from educating students in anatomy classes, to crash test dummies, to army ballistic testing, as well as some even less palatable, are covered. As gruesome as some of the uses are, research does save lives. For each cadaver used in airbag testing there are 147 lives saved. --Todd
I’ve long since repented a youthful vow to watch every movie Woody Allen ever made. The masterpieces seem so long ago, his young genius flattened into...moreI’ve long since repented a youthful vow to watch every movie Woody Allen ever made. The masterpieces seem so long ago, his young genius flattened into bland competence, his obsessions now overly familiar. And his personal life seems so creepy.
He’s still a master of the ten page comic essay tho, and Mere Anarchy hasn’t lost a step from its illustrious predecessors, Without Feathers, Getting Even, and Side Effects. Here, Micky Mouse testifies in a lawsuit. A writer with literary pretensions gets offered a shot at novelizing a Three Stooges movie. An arrogant moviemaker on a winning streak tries to dramatize the phone book.
It’s all done Groucho Marx style–a series of one liners that sometimes tries too hard, but connects often enough to be fun. --John
I just finished with Charles Todd’s newest offering, A Duty to the Dead, and I’m happy to say that he (they, really, since it’s a mother-and-son autho...moreI just finished with Charles Todd’s newest offering, A Duty to the Dead, and I’m happy to say that he (they, really, since it’s a mother-and-son authorship) have successfully brought to life a new main character! The year is 1917, and Bess Crawford is a young British army nurse who’s been injured when the hospital ship she was on is blown up. On leave, she takes home with her a promise she made to a dying soldier, that she would go to his family and deliver a cryptic message that implicates him in some past event that needs to be set right. Bess keeps her promise, but things quickly become tense and strange. The soldier’s family has a secret to keep, despite his last wishes, and Bess gets involved in finding out what it is.
Bess, like Rutledge, is persistent, brave, and clever, and she does her best to serve her country. She hasn’t quite seen the horrors that he has, though, so she isn’t as damaged and closed-in as he is. In fact, she’s pretty plucky and personable…I like her, I think Rutledge would like her, and maybe you will too! --Candice
My husband and I like to take little roadtrips on the weekends, and recently we’ve been picking locations from The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Location...moreMy husband and I like to take little roadtrips on the weekends, and recently we’ve been picking locations from The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations. It’s a nice book that compiles ghostly tales and creepy goings-on from all over the state, plus a little research on the authors’ part, and directions on how to get to the specific spooky spots. Most of the reports deal with stories or incidents from the past, although there are a few more modern (and a little less interesting) tales…the ghost from the Carlos O’Kelly’s in Marion, for instance, leaves a little to be desired, unless you’re hungry.
The authors have a keen interest in the paranormal, and do a fair amount of fact-checking. They’ve visited all the places in the book, speaking with people from the area who remember the events or the stories about them, and even check for old newspaper articles when possible to verify the tales. They aren’t gullible in the least, and will often debunk a story if they turn up contradictory evidence. Ultimately, this book is great for learning some very interesting stories about many areas in the state, regardless of whether you believe in them or not. --Candice
When reviews came in of his Sot-Weed Factor (which I highly recommend) John Barth read how his hero’s adventures seemed to follow the archetypal patte...moreWhen reviews came in of his Sot-Weed Factor (which I highly recommend) John Barth read how his hero’s adventures seemed to follow the archetypal patterns described by Joseph Campbell and Lord Raglan. Intrigued, Barth studied up, then set out to satirize the Hero (think Moses, Oedipus, Davy Crockett).
The result, insanely ambitious, fiendishly clever, intimidatingly erudite, and thoroughly indecent, is Giles Goat-Boy. Giles, fathered on a virgin by a computer, raised as a goat, sets off to save the world, which Barth posits as a university. Hence, all are students, destined to flunk or graduate.
Why has this not found its way into the canon? It’s pretty schematic. The characters aren’t people so much as representations of philosophical stances and the exploration of those stances can get pretty long. Also, the book’s university bears a strong resemblance to the Cold War mid-1960′s of the real world, and some of these references have grown obscure
Why bother then? Some of us find this really funny. Barth is also, for my money, the premiere prose stylist of the last century, his style instantly recognizable. It was fun to revisit, and I feel, as one character expostulates, "Gratituditynesshoodshipcy". --John
Forget the guidebooks, forget the history books: to plan your trip to Scotland, check out Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History by Charles Maclean. The word...moreForget the guidebooks, forget the history books: to plan your trip to Scotland, check out Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History by Charles Maclean. The word “whisky” is a shortened form of the Gaelic words “uisge beatha”, or “water of life”; in Latin it is “aqua vitae”. This beautiful book recounts in a very readable way the history of whisky in Scotland, or rather, perhaps, the history of Scotland in whisky. Whisky’s historical uses in medicine and perfumery, and its role in the monasteries, agriculture, exports and politics are all covered. You will get an overview of how whisky is made (in Scotland, from barley), with detail on the malting, fermentation, distillation and aging.
There are beautiful illustrations throughout the book, including reproductions of engravings from the early 18th century and contemporary color photos of distilleries and their settings among lochs and mountains. The pictures of the polished copper stills—the color of honey or caramel, or whisky for that matter—are my favorites. The only thing missing from the book, in my opinion, is a guide to tasting Scotch. I would have appreciated some hints on what flavors to look for, cautions on how big of a sip to take, and so on. In my limited experience, it is still hard to swallow without grimacing, but I think practice will help. --Heidi
Madeleine Wickham’s (AKA Sophie Kinsella) new book is a humorous story about a girl with a big problem. Milly is preparing for an elaborate wedding. U...moreMadeleine Wickham’s (AKA Sophie Kinsella) new book is a humorous story about a girl with a big problem. Milly is preparing for an elaborate wedding. Unfortunately, she has a big secret that she’s never shared … When she was 18, on a whim, she married a gay man so he could immigrate to the UK. After the wedding, she lost touch with her “husband” and didn’t give the marriage a second thought … until now.
Wickham writes a funny book that is perfect for the beach or other summer getaway. ~~Enjoy~~ --Kara