Arlene left her hometown of Possett, Alabama after she graduated from high school and never looked back. She has withstood bribery, threats, and guiltArlene left her hometown of Possett, Alabama after she graduated from high school and never looked back. She has withstood bribery, threats, and guilt trips from hell from her Aunt Florence and remained in Chicago for ten years. But now Alabama seems to have found her. A face from Arlene's past shows up on her doorstep and at her job, asking questions that Arlene doesn't want to answer. At the same time, her boyfriend Burr, a Black man, is ready to get serious but he wants to know that she's serious too. He wants to meet her family. Her slightly racist family. To keep Burr and protect an old secret and her family, she must head back to Possett.
I have seen Joshilyn Jackson speak multiple times and I always enjoy myself hugely. She is hilarious! And she sure knows how to tell a story. I was hoping to listen to a book that she had narrated herself, but those always seem to be checked out at the library so I grabbed this one instead. Catherine Taber narrated wonderfully so I wasn't disappointed.
I've only read one other book by Ms. Jackson, Between, Georgia. I didn't care for it much. There was nothing wrong with it, exactly, it just seemed forgettable and it has been. I think I'll remember gods in Alabama for a long time.
I don't even know whether to say that I like Arlene. Her heart's in the right place but she's about as crazy as her Mama. She prides herself on never telling a lie but that's not quite the same as telling the truth, now is it? She goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid telling lies but I never knew what parts of her story to believe. With good reason.
There are only a couple of other characters that really stand out for me. Aunt Flo is a force to be reckoned with. She seems hard and almost cold but she has a big heart that she hides well. There are a lot of flashbacks centered around Jim Beverly, the high school quarterback when Arlene was in school. He's not a nice guy, to say the least, but he's not painted as purely evil either. He has kind moments, which make him believable.
The other characters were fairly minor and didn't stand out as much. I definitely liked Burr but he seemed almost too good to be true. He and Arlene would have some big fights but mostly he was the perfectly understanding boyfriend. Arlene's cousin Clarice is too sweet to believe. I liked her too but nobody's that nice all the time.
I thought I knew what was going on all along but it turns out that I didn't. That's becoming rare for me so I appreciate it when it happens! It wasn't just one thing but two! Holy smokes! I think my jaw just dropped when I finally saw the whole picture.
I enjoyed listening to the audio but I kind of wish I had a print copy in front of me. The first sentence is awesome. It starts, "There are gods in Alabama" and goes on to list football quarterbacks and Jack Daniels and other things like that. It's a refrain that repeats throughout the book and I loved it.
For a story about family and roots with a firm sense of place and a surprising mystery at its heart, I highly recommend this one. ...more
Hermux Tantamoq is a quiet, rather shy watchmaker who just happens to be a mouse. His world is turned upside down when the lovely Linka Perflinger walHermux Tantamoq is a quiet, rather shy watchmaker who just happens to be a mouse. His world is turned upside down when the lovely Linka Perflinger walks into his shop and asks him to repair her watch. She never returns to pick it up, even though it seemed to be important to her. When a suspicious-looking rat comes in asking for it, Hermux knows Miss Perflinger must be caught up in something dangerous. He sets out to find her and save the day.
I liked Hermux a lot. I think he and I would get along splendidly. Give us a pot of tea and some doughnuts and we'll quietly talk, or just sit and enjoy each other's company. He felt like a kindred spirit.
His community was interesting as well. There's the gossipy mail lady, the gruff cafe owner, the bossy neighbor, and the reporter who seems to be everywhere. I enjoyed reading about them all.
When it came down to the mystery, I did figure out some parts that were featured in a journal. But I was truly surprised when one part directly affecting Hermux was revealed! I knew something was up but I didn't know it was that!
I wished for a slightly different ending but I was happy enough with the one we got. I guess it leaves more room for sequels.
Campbell Scott narrated well, though not brilliantly, but he does get points for not stumbling over these tongue-twisting names!
Boys and girls in the 8-10 age range should enjoy this gentle hero and his intriguing mystery....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
In a collection of short essays, men and women from all walks of life share their defining beliefs.
I listen to NPR in between audiobook downloads butIn a collection of short essays, men and women from all walks of life share their defining beliefs.
I listen to NPR in between audiobook downloads but I seem to only be in the car for the news and Marketplace, so I've never heard any of these essays. I enjoyed them immensely.
Ranging from funny to serious, from heartfelt to tongue-in-cheek, there's a wide range of personal voices and creeds to be found in this collection. I particularly liked that essays from the first run of the series, hosted by Edward R. Murrow in the '50s, were included. They were concerned about the end of the free world due to the Cold War. Now we're concerned about the end of the free world due to terrorism of all kinds. Some things never seem to change. That said, people don't change all that much either, and I mean that in the best possible way. We still have faith in our own humanity. Many of us have religious or spiritual faith. Those who don't have faith in order and reason. Kindness, compassion, humility, personal growth, empathy--all our best traits are on display here, both in the older essays and the more recent ones.
On a side note, I enjoyed hearing the way voices and accents have changed in only about 60 years. The accents in the '50s seemed to be more pronounced. My guess is that we're losing some regional accents due to media influences. That makes me a bit sad since I enjoy hearing them and definitely speak with my own Appalachian twang! I was interested to hear women speak back then too. I find it hard to explain, but their voices sounded more breathy and feminine to me. Was that something girls were subconsciously taught? I've noticed it in old movies but assumed it was just the actress in her role. Now I'm left wondering if it was a cultural thing.
By the end of the collection, I had started tuning out a bit. They were all unique in approach but some of the fundamentals did start to feel a bit repetitive.
I understand this was issued in print and as an audio book. I would definitely recommend listening to it. The pieces were originally written for radio so it makes sense to approach them in the intended medium. However you read them, I do recommend this collection. You'll be left wondering, as I do, "What do I believe?"...more
Sophronia Temminick is a tomboy in Victorian England. The youngest of innumerable sisters, she is left alone to pretty much do as she pleases. What plSophronia Temminick is a tomboy in Victorian England. The youngest of innumerable sisters, she is left alone to pretty much do as she pleases. What pleases her is climbing dumbwaiter shafts, spying on her sisters, and generally acting in ways not becoming to a lady. When she is packed off to finishing school one day, she is not pleased.
She quickly realizes this is not just any finishing school. Mademoiselle Geraldine's staff trains young women in "The Fine Art of Finishing Others." These are lessons Sophronia can enjoy. Distraction, poison, espionage, subterfuge--she enjoys it all. But there is a serious plot afoot and one of Sophronia's classmates seems to be at the heart of it. Sophronia is determined that she and her friends will discover the secret.
I just adore Gail Carriger's books and her young adult series does not disappoint. Some authors writing YA for the first time will dumb down their writing but Ms. Carriger is most definitely not guilty of that. She writes with all the wit she normally employs, she just happens to be writing about teenagers. I tore through the book, grinning all the way through.
I enjoyed seeing a few characters from The Parasol Protectorate in this new series. They're younger and, of course, more inexperienced, which made it all the more entertaining. The forbidding Lady Kingair as an awkward adolescent and the inscrutable Genevieve Lefoux as a mischievous scamp were endearing.
Sophronia is every inch the formidable heroine I expected her to be. She's young and makes some mistakes but she's also practically fearless and loyal. She makes friends in unusual places and doesn't seem to have any prejudices. She just takes people as they are. Her friend Dimity is hilarious! Of course there are mean girls in her class and they are fun to hate.
If you enjoyed The Parasol Protectorate, you should enjoy this series as well. If you haven't tried either yet, what are you waiting for?...more
I seriously did not think I could love an audiobook performance more than I love Katherine Kellgren's narration of the Bloody Jack series by L. A. MeyI seriously did not think I could love an audiobook performance more than I love Katherine Kellgren's narration of the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. And then she narrated The Mysterious Howling. Holy cow. I am in awe of Ms. Kellgren's talent! Old men, teen girls, simpering married women, wolfish children howling at the moon, she went at all of them with gusto and I loved every minute of it!
Miss Penelope Lumley has just graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She has no family but her headmistress encourages her to apply for a position as governess to three children at Ashton Place. She seems perfect for the job since she is (obviously) a bright student and (not so obviously) an animal lover, a trait specifically requested of job-seekers in the advertisement. Miss Lumley sets off for her interview, finds herself hired on the spot, and soon learns that the three children given to her care were found in the woods within the past week. They have apparently been raised by wolves and don't speak a word of English between them. But a Swanburne girl is more than a match for any task and Penelope sets about teaching them a love for poetry, phrases of polite conversation, and the fine art of ignoring irrepressible squirrels.
I loved these characters. Miss Lumley simply doesn't see that she might have an impossible job before her. She has been hired to teach these children and teach them she will. When Lady Ashton gives her ever more Herculean tasks to accomplish, she simply tackles them the best way that she knows how. She genuinely cares for the children and has their best interests always at heart. The children, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia, are little scene-stealers. They are remarkably intelligent, good sports, and always up for a bit of fun and new experiences. They make huge strides and will try anything for Miss Lumley.
But there are sinister doings afoot. Someone is attempting to undermine Miss Lumley and set the children up for failure. Penelope is vaguely aware of it but she has no idea who this mysterious someone might be. The immediate storyline is resolved but the end of the story left me with more questions than answers and hungry to download the next book.
I can't recommend this audiobook highly enough. Young (or young at heart) readers should enjoy this immensely. ...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
Will Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidWill Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidst the cartel bosses and terrorists that are his usual hits. He's assigned to take out a woman who works for the Department of Defense. The official story is, she's got terrorist ties. He walks into her apartment and realizes something isn't right. He freezes and re-evaluates as her child wakes up and starts to panic, just in time for a second sniper to kill both him and his mom. Robie goes underground to find out what's going on. He climbs on a bus and watches a teen girl board as well. Shortly behind her is a man who looks like a professional. Robie watches as the man prepares to kill the girl, ready to act if he needs to. It turns out, she's capable of taking care of herself but now she's on the run with Robie.
I wanted something pretty exciting and fun to listen to and I have to say this did fit the bill. It took me by surprise when the sound effects started though. I can't recall having sound effects in many other audio books and I'm not sure if I like them. Mostly they just yank me out of the story as I look around, wondering where the gunshots are coming from. (I live kind of in the country in the South. It's not unusual for neighbors to indulge in some target practice.) I liked David McLarty's narration quite a bit. He has a gruff kind of voice that I thought suited the story perfectly. I also liked that Orlagh Cassidy read the female dialog but I occasionally felt too much like she was actually reading to me. I know, it's an audiobook and she is reading to me but I don't want it to sound that way. Mostly I enjoyed her narration too though.
While the book itself was exciting and I never did figure out exactly what was going on until the end, I saw too much of it coming from way too far away. There were a couple of times where I caught myself thinking, "Heaven help us if this is the best and brightest our country has to offer" and rolling my eyes. I might not have put all the pieces together but I did at least know what the pieces were. I'm pretty sure the whole thing was supposed to be a big surprise.
I don't know that I'll be running out to read or listen to more books by this author but if the mood strikes for another thriller-ish read, I'd give him another try, either in print or audio....more
Linda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" andLinda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" and Linda has a new nickname. The other kids start to tease and harass her and just generally make her life miserable. Our narrator, Jill, watches all this and even takes part in it.
Holy cow, what mean little kids these are! This was hard to read, even as an adult. Or maybe it's because I'm an adult and unconsciously prefer to look back at childhood with rose-colored glasses. We definitely had a pecking order in our class and the kids at the bottom of it were picked on but I don't remember it being this bad! The sad thing is that it all feels real though. I tended to keep to myself so there could have been mean girls cornering other girls in the bathroom and stripping them off and making fun of them mercilessly for all I know. And even if my class wasn't that mean, just the act of avoiding someone or always choosing him or her last for teams was damaging enough. There may be degrees but bullying is still bullying.
The beauty of the book is that the reader first has enough distance to see how cruelly the other kids treat Linda and then, when the tables are turned, learn how it feels to be tormented. It definitely teaches a lesson about how destructive bullying is without being too preachy.
I don't know if there are better books about bullying out there but this one has become a classic. Children should have to read it or something like it so that they can learn how hurtful their actions can be. And if a child is being picked on, it lets them know that he or she is not alone....more