Rick Bragg grew up poor in Alabama. His daddy was very rarely in the picture and his momma did the best she could at whatever job she could find to keRick Bragg grew up poor in Alabama. His daddy was very rarely in the picture and his momma did the best she could at whatever job she could find to keep her three sons fed. She mostly did the back-breaking work of picking cotton for very little pay. It wasn't easy to be a single mother in 1960ish Alabama but she did her best. In this memoir, Rick Bragg writes with deep love and hard truths about the sacrifices his momma made for him and his brothers and the life he was able to build because of her. He left the cotton fields of Alabama to become a Puliter-prize winning journalist for the New York Times. This is their story.
All of that up there sounds deadly serious but mostly what I took away from this book is humor and grace. Somehow Rick Bragg's first memoir is the last one I've read and I have literally laughed 'til I cried in every one. I've read my family members bits here and there and retold stories I remember and made everyone listening to me laugh too. Maybe they're just humoring me, but I don't think so.
Reading the other books first, I expected this one to be more about momma. (It's impossible to call her anything else. I went to an author signing and the first question anyone asked him was, "How's your momma doing'?" We were supposed to be there for his biography of Jerry Lee Lewis. Who wants to know about celebrities? We wanted to know about momma.) Which is stupid. They're all about momma. She is the heart of all these stories. So I guess what I mean is that I expected it to tell more of momma's own life story. It does but I still just want to know more about her. She probably doesn't want anything like that written about herself though. I can just imagine if I told my Mama that I was going to publish a book about her life. She'd pitch a fit. I imagine Rick's momma would feel the same.
I love the tales of Rick growing up and the old family stories but I also enjoyed reading chapters about Rick's career as a reporter. Those could be pretty harsh. The parts about Haiti were just awful. I read about riots in Miami and asked my husband how he ever made it out of there alive, only half joking. As much as I love the humorous stories, Rick Bragg can make you feel like you're in the middle of any scene he wants, and sometimes that leads to some terrifying places.
I love reading Rick Bragg's writing. I hear it more than I read it, even as my eyes are moving slowly across the printed page, savoring the language. I don't know how it reads to anyone else, but his Alabama words read like home to me. He writes the way I talk and I love it. Apparently it's more about the Appalachians than it is about the state we're from because I'm a North Carolina girl but it all rings true. I listened to the audio version of his second memoir, The Prince of Frogtown, read by the author, and I loved it. I can't say which format I enjoy more.
Just go read this. It's a book with a lot of heart and sometimes those feel like they're hard to find. You'll be glad you took the time to read this one....more
Jean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He putJean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He puts together gigantic puzzles in his spartan apartment and sells books on his book barge, The Literary Apothecary. He knows exactly the right book to sell to the lovelorn when they enter his shop, but he doesn't know how to fix his own life.
When Catherine, fresh out of a devastating marriage, moves in across the hall, they both sense that they could have a real, lasting relationship, a relationship that neither of them is ready for. In an act of desperation, Jean casts his barge off into the Seine, bestselling author Max in tow, and heads off into the sunset, or at least the south of France, to seek peace and healing.
I truly wanted to like this more than I did. I read a couple of reviews, thought it sounded like the perfect book for me, and went to request it on Netgalley. It was good, not great, and in the month or so since I finished it, I've largely forgotten it.
My biggest problem was the title. I estimate that 2/3 of the book takes place outside of Paris. So now it's The Little France Bookshop. That's misleading but still, no real complaints here. I haven't been to France but it's high on my wishlist. And while quite a bit of the story does take place in the bookshop or around books, it wasn't quite as much as I expected. Instead of a love story to books, or a love story revolving around books, I felt like it was more of a love story with a few books thrown in. That's not quite fair because there were a lot of titles and author's names tossed about but they almost felt like afterthoughts. To me, anyway.
Still, the settings did come to life for me. I'm ready to take a cruise on the waterways of France in the summertime. Especially on a floating bookstore. I want to gaze at the stars, dance the tango, smell the flowers, eat the food and drink the wine.
I liked the three men who ultimately end up aboard The Literary Apothecary and the way their lives contrast to each other. Young author Max hasn't experience all-consuming love yet and he's frankly afraid of the idea. Jean had his and can't let her go. Jack-of-all-trades Cuneo joins them later on---and I can't finish this thought because that will get into spoilers.
I personally don't read too many straight-up romantic-type books, so this turned out not to be a great fit for me. Those who enjoy romance more than I do will love this one. But even for me, it was worth the read, if only for the gorgeous setting.
Simon Pare did an excellent job with the translation. If I hadn't known it was translated, I don't think I ever would have guessed. The language was gorgeous.
Thanks to the publisher for allowing me access to a review copy through Netgalley....more
In a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a biIn a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a bit of time on Earth and they actually kind of like the place. They're not ready for the End of Days. So they set out to make sure it doesn't happen.
I read this book about half a lifetime ago, which makes me feel a little old. I really enjoyed it. When I saw that it was going to be adapted for radio by the BBC and we could stream it on our side of the pond, I was excited.
I think I was a little distracted as I was listening to it. I only listened to it around the house so I could stream it over our wifi. And of course I was puttering around as I listened. I laughed in all the right places but it felt disjointed to me. I think that's at least partly because I would get focused on whatever I was doing for a minute or two and then try to pick up the thread of the narrative again. Also, the BBC app is terrible. I could only listen to five minutes at a time before the audio started whistling at me, so then I'd have to exit completely out and go back in to listen to the next five minutes. That shows some sort of dedication on my part, doesn't it, that I listened to the whole thing like that?
Also, (I'm afraid to say this), I tend to love Neil Gaiman's books but I've never been a huge Terry Pratchett fan. My sister has tried to get me to read the Discworld books forever. I've read a few. I enjoyed one and the others were just too random and over the top for me. That's how Good Omens felt to me now. I don't know if my taste has changed or if it just stood out to me more in this format.
The adaptation was very well done though. I haven't listened to many (if any) other radio adaptations, and I liked the full cast and the sound effects. I can't think of any weaknesses in that aspect of things.
I don't know if this is still available, but fans of the book should definitely check it out. I think I just had too many other things going on because I really should have loved it....more
Mary Roach has a gift for making science accessible and--dare I say it?--even funny. In this book, she tackles the digestive system.
Covering topics raMary Roach has a gift for making science accessible and--dare I say it?--even funny. In this book, she tackles the digestive system.
Covering topics ranging from thorough chewing (as in 700+ chews for One. Freaking. Bite.) to the miraculous properties of spit, from being eaten alive to the possibility (or not) of chewing your way out if you are, from "The alimentary canal as criminal accomplice" to *ahem* flatus, and ending up with bacterial transplants to treat intractable digestive ailments, this book asks everything you might possibly have ever wanted to know on the topic but were afraid to ask.
I have a pretty juvenile sense of humor, so all of the fart jokes, and spit jokes, and *ahem* "criminal accomplice" jokes had me at least giggling. In the two chapters devoted to flatulence, I was quite honestly laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. Not that it was necessarily that funny but because "Oh my gosh, I can't believe she went there. And there. And there!" I'm almost ashamed of myself. Almost. Luckily my husband and I have the same sense of humor so he just kept playing whatever game on his phone as I laughed myself silly and waited for me to catch my breath and report so he could share in the joke too.
I've worked in healthcare for years, so I've developed a pretty strong stomach (though I'm not a nurse or CNA and haven't ever had to wade into the trenches, so to speak), so nothing in here bothered me. That will obviously not be the case for all of you. If you can stomach it (heehee!), I do recommend this. If it doesn't seem to be your kind of thing, it's probably not....more
It's 1875 and Archie Dent's parents belong to The Septemberists, a society dedicated to remembering the damage caused by monsters called the MangleborIt's 1875 and Archie Dent's parents belong to The Septemberists, a society dedicated to remembering the damage caused by monsters called the Mangleborn and to preventing them from rising again to destroy civilization. On a routine trip to the Septemberist headquarters, the older Dents are taken over by Manglespawn, children of a Mangleborn, and forced to Florida where one of the monsters is trying to break free. Archie and his family servant, a tik tok man named Mr. Rivets, try to save the Dents but fail. They set off to seek help from other Septemberists and make a couple of brilliant young friends along the way.
Whew! That sounds complicated! It's not really. This is a middle grade steampunk adventure and everything's explained pretty easily.
Archie's a great protagonist. He's small for his age, smart, kind of a nerd, and apparently there's nothing special about him. He wants so badly to be a hero that he feels his normalcy is a weakness. His friend Fergus is an electrician/scientist of amazing talents. His friend Hachi is a fierce warrior, utilizing five clockwork toys to her advantage. Archie seems to just be...Archie.
I love the whole world this is set in. The fledgling colonies of North America lost contact with Europe when there was a catastrophic Mangleborn rising. They had to learn to live peacefully with the Native Americans so they've come to be known as the United Nations of America. The states we know correspond more closely to tribes of Native Americans. The colonists come to be known as the Yankee tribe. The society is pretty advanced but everything runs on clockwork and steam power.
I was fortunate to see author Alan Gratz at his book launch and he said that he wanted to write a "book of awesome," so he wrote down all the awesome things he could think of and tried to fit them all into one book. It works for me and I'm sure it will work for younger boys and girls looking for an action-packed read. I can't wait to get my hands on the second book in the trilogy....more
Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has taken boys on board and is heading to London. Sophronia knows that somethinMademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has taken boys on board and is heading to London. Sophronia knows that something is afoot, if she can only figure out just what it is. Someone seems to be determined to kidnap Dimity and her brother (What is his name? I can't be bothered to look it up just at this moment), and Sophronia's friends aren't speaking to her.
Hmmm...I loved this while I was reading it and laughed my way through several parts, even going so far as to read them to my husband. But now that I'm sitting down to write my review a couple of weeks later, I find that I've forgotten most of the book. I'm going to knock it back a star. I think it's fallen prey to the "filler" curse. How often does book two of a series only feel like filler? Entirely too often for my taste.
The book was as witty and charming as I expect Gail Carriger's books to be. I loved that Lord Akeldama finally made an appearance. He will eat Sophronia up! Hopefully not intentionally. I actually enjoyed the triangle that is forming between Sophronia, spoiled Lord Felix, and down-to-earth Soap. I'm Team Soap all the way! I fear that it's a doomed relationship before it even gets started though.
The whole thing with the other girls shunning Sophronia felt very forced. She's a smart girl and she should have realized what was going on. I guess sometimes it's hard to see it when you're right in the middle of things though.
And I think that's all I have to say about that. I'll definitely continue with the series, I just hope the next installment is a bit stronger....more
When I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore NeiWhen I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore Neil Gaiman's work. He is one of only about three authors who get their own shelf name on my GoodReads account. And then I remembered that I wasn't particularly happy with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I know I'm in the minority and I've never even written a review for it, but all I can say is that it was too weird, even for me. I hate feeling honor-bound to review a book that I didn't love so I wavered. Then I decided to go for it. I'm so glad I did!
Overall impression: It started off with a couple of stories that I didn't particularly care for so I was getting worried. I'd read the third story earlier (In George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Songs of Love and Death) and enjoyed it, but still, it was a re-read. The fourth story started to catch my attention and by the fifth, I was hooked. There were probably one or two others I didn't care for in the remaining nineteen stories, but the collection overall is fantastic.
And because I find it impossible not to mention what I think of every single story in a collection, here's where I get long-winded.
"Making a Chair"--A poem about--you guessed it--making a chair. I assume Gaiman was pushing through some writer's block with this one. Haven't we all been there? You have a million real things to do but something unimportant proves to be a welcome distraction?
"A Lunar Labyrinth"--Normally short horror stories scare me to death. So much is left unsaid. I can generally read Stephen King novels and sleep like a baby, but hand me one of his short stories and I'll be up all night, jumping at every sound. This story left a bit too much unsaid. I was uneasy but I didn't really understand what was going on so it stopped there. I'd completely forgotten about it until I started looking back through the book to write this review.
"The Thing About Cassandra"--I like the way this story turns completely upside down about halfway through. Even as a re-read it felt surprising.
"Down to a Sunless Sea"--I suspected where this atmospheric creeper was going but I still liked it.
"The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains..."--Probably my favorite in the collection. It has a dark, twisted fairy tale feel to it. Gaiman writes so much that he's practically impossible to categorize. This is written in the style of his that I like best.
"My Last Landlady"--I had no idea where this was going but it got darker and darker. I liked it.
"Adventure Story"--This one was just a lot of fun. The narrator's mom refers to meeting someone unexpectedly in the grocery store as an adventure. But she occasionally hints at some real adventures his dad (and possibly her? I don't remember now) had when they were younger. It made me think about the untold stories that people walk around with every day.
"Orange"--I love the format. It's written as a sort of police report so it unfolds gradually, leaving the reader to piece everything together. It's the story of an ordinary family and the extraordinary things that happen to them when the older sister is--well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? I enjoyed it.
"A Calendar of Tales"--I'll try to restrain myself from reviewing each of these. I read about the idea for this mini collection on Twitter and I was excited to see the end result. It was a bit hit-or-miss for me.
"The Case of Death and Honey"--Sherlock Holmes. I liked it well enough but it dragged on a bit too long and moved through time a bit too much for my taste. I prefer Gaiman's Sherlock tale in Fragile Things.
"The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury"--I enjoyed this while I was reading it but now that a little time has passed, I find that I've, well, forgotten it a bit. Not even trying to be ironic.
"Jerusalem"--Apparently there is a real disorder-y thing where people visit Jerusalem and then find themselves sort of spreading God's Word through the streets. Who knew? Not this girl. Of course this is fodder for a good story in Gaiman's hands.
"Click-Clack the Rattlebag"--Now this is the kind of horror story I like!
"An Invocation of Incuriosity"--I liked the idea but the story felt like the introduction to a novel. I really wanted to know more.
"'And Weep, Like Alexander'"--Fun enough. What if there were an uninventor running around out there, erasing some of our more egregious inventions?
"Nothing O'Clock"--An unsettling Doctor Who story. I've only watched the show a few times because my husband can't stand Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but this feels like it fits right in that world.
"Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale"--This apparently went along with some artwork on one of Amanda Palmer's albums. It was okay but I would like to see the photo it went with.
"The Return of the Thin White Duke"--This was one of those stories that, in your heart of hearts, you know works best as a story, but you really, really want to know what came before and after. It felt cyclical in a way that I can only compare to Stephen King's Dark Tower series. There's definitely more to it but we'll never know what it is.
"Feminine Endings"--Another creeper. It reminded me a bit of "Stilled Life" by Pat Cadigan, a short story that I think about surprisingly often.
"Observing the Formalities"--A story poem told from Maleficent's point of view. Pretty good.
"The Sleeper and the Spindle"--Another fairy tale. This has a bit of a feminist slant so of course I liked it.
"Witch Work"--Another poem but I can't say that I really understand it.
"In Relig Odhráin"--I took this to be about religion and the inconvenient truths that get buried under dogma. I think this is one of those things that everyone will interpret differently though. I liked it well enough.
"Black Dog"--Shadow from American Gods turns back up. I really need to re-read that someday. This was a solid story that kept me turning the pages....more
Yet another book that I've waited almost a year to review. I recently read the second one and noticed my oversight.
What I remember:
I really, really lYet another book that I've waited almost a year to review. I recently read the second one and noticed my oversight.
What I remember:
I really, really liked this. I never had any idea where it was going and it just kept getting more and more twisted. I had more questions at the end than I did at the beginning. And I was definitely left with a sinking feeling in my stomach. This situation is going to get way worse before it gets better. I liked the characters a lot. They aren't perfect by any means, but they aren't complete brats either. They fall somewhere in the middle, like all of us. They're doing their best in an unthinkable situation. I love the artwork. It's dark and disturbing but very cleanly drawn. Sometimes the art in graphic novels looks kind of smeary to me, like a comic book that's been loved a little too well. That is not the case here.
I obviously decided to continue with the series and wish I hadn't waited so long to do so. If you like graphic novels and story lines that have you questioning what you think you know, give this one a try....more
Mercy Lynch is a nurse in the Civil War, which has been lingering on for decades. Like many people, she has torn loyalties. She's a nurse for the ConfMercy Lynch is a nurse in the Civil War, which has been lingering on for decades. Like many people, she has torn loyalties. She's a nurse for the Confederacy but her husband is a soldier in the Union. Shortly after she receives word that he died in a POW camp, she receives a telegram notifying her that her long-estranged father is very sick and asking for her to come see him in Tacoma, Washington. That's quite a trek away from Richmond, Virginia, especially given the state of the country. Duty and curiosity win out and she sets out via dirigible and then train to hopscotch her way across the country.
I really enjoyed Boneshaker so I had high hopes for this book. I downloaded it on audio but read the first in print. When I realized that Kate Reading was the narrator, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Don't get me wrong--I've enjoyed Ms. Reading's narration but I've only listened to her reading fiction that is more directly targeted to women. I wasn't sure how she'd handle the steampunk action that I expected. I needn't have worried. The performance was so pitch perfect that I'll continue with the series on audio.
It's been a while since I read Boneshaker but I do think Dreadnought may actually be a little better. It's not a direct sequel but it does take place in the same book world and at the very end a few characters overlap.
I was a little disappointed that the rotters (read: zombies) aren't around very much. But when they are--holy cow!
I didn't like Mercy quite as much as I liked Briar from the first book but she was still a strong character. She's just trying to get across the country as fast as she can and she finds herself caught up in some wartime intrigue/action. She and the other civilian passengers try to stay out of it but they keep getting dragged into things whether they like it or not. Mercy just handles everything that comes along and does what needs to be done, whether that's patching up a soldier who's been shot or breaking into a private car to find out exactly what the train is carrying.
The book is so tightly focused on Mercy that I was left wanting to know more about a few other characters. Of course I don't remember their names now and I don't have a print copy to refer back to. The Texas Ranger, the Mexican inspectors, the awfully warlike young lady sharing Mercy's compartment--I'm curious about them all. I hope they show up in later books.
This was a great audio book and I highly recommend it. I can't wait to get my hands on the next in the series!...more
In this graphic novel memoir, Alison Bechdel explores her relationship with her father, who later admitted to being homosexual; his suicide; her childIn this graphic novel memoir, Alison Bechdel explores her relationship with her father, who later admitted to being homosexual; his suicide; her childhood; and her early years after coming out as a lesbian.
I really kind of hate reviewing these kinds of books. They're so intensely personal. Who am I to judge the work of someone who has effectively bled his or her heart out on the page? Any negative comments feel like personal attacks when I write them. So here's the best I can do.
Let me first get what I didn't care for out of the way. The tone of the book is so very earnest and introspective and intellectual, ultimately drawing parallels between Joyce's Ulysses and her relationship with her father. Holy smokes. I only think that way in lit class. It's appropriate and relevant, I get that. It's just not my way of dealing with crap and so I don't really relate to it.
At the same time, I admire Bechdel for her bravery in putting her story out there. I'm sure it's a form of therapy for her, getting what she feels out on paper and working it out for herself. But it also help others who may be going through something similar.
I liked the artwork a lot. The stark black and whites matched the somber tone of the book perfectly. Some of them will be too graphic for some readers though.
I think that the summary alone will tell you whether this is a book for you or not. If you're interested, I do recommend it. ...more