A young girl wakes in a cave, injured and in pain, with no memory of what’s happened to her. She slowly heals and makes her way outside, and uses herA young girl wakes in a cave, injured and in pain, with no memory of what’s happened to her. She slowly heals and makes her way outside, and uses her hypercharged senses to orient herself. Eventually she (and the reader) discovers she’s a vampire with the appearance of a young black girl.
The device of someone with amnesia is useful – she narrates her re-entry into the world. It’s fascinating to watch her slowly recover some of her memories of what she needs, how to care for herself. Later, when she encounters others of her kind – Ina – they explain everything to her about her family, her past, her people. I liked that too. They’re white, but she was a genetic experiment to combine human genes with Ina to create an Ina whose dark skin lets her tolerate sunshine and who can stay awake and think during the day. She’s 53, almost mature in Ina years.
She finds out she’s lost all her whole family, her male and female relatives who live in sex segregated communities, and her previous family of symbionts. She remembers nothing about them. There’s interesting suspense about who’s doing the killing and why. The twist: it’s not villagers with torches but racist vampires.
Along the way I realized I was uncomfortable with the relationships. Ina form families with human symbionts by biting them and using their venom as an addicting drug. After Shori leaves the cave she’s picked up on the road by a guy named Wright. She bites him in self defense and it’s pleasurable for him and draws him to her. That’s how it works. Once a human is bitten, the Ina can kind of control their mind, and after more bites they can be bonded to each other. Symbionts age more slowly than humans and don’t get sick, but they’re tied to their Ina and can die if their Ina does. They live wherever their Ina chooses, in a family of other Ina and symbionts. Many keep the same nocturnal hours. They might marry other humans in the Ina family and have children, though apparently there are Ina who see their symbionts as lesser creatures and who don’t treat them well, though we don’t see this.
There’s a lot of talk about how the symbionts have free will and can leave but we never see this actually happen. Wright accepts the bond without really understanding its implications. Shori bites Celia and Brook because they need to be taken in by one of her kind after they’ve lost their Ina (her father) but again, after enough bites they’re tied to her too. They had to choose to let her take them on but it didn’t seem like much of a decision for them – do each of them really want to do this? It feels like they just go along.
Theodora was the different one: Shori uses her as a random food source when she’s still learning what she needs, but realizes she’s drawn to her – her scent, her cluttered office etc. Theodora loves her, too, but how much of that is simply because of Shori’s venom?
Perhaps this is an allegory of slavery. Ina love their symbionts, they’re family, and they protect and care for them. But Ina need their blood to live, and symbionts aren’t free to go. Not really. So I think discomfort is what Butler wants us to feel.
It’s surprising to read reviews where people are offended because she looks like a child and has sex with human adults (and seems to be experienced with sex, I guess? It’s not really clear) which to them is pedophilia. I didn’t even think about this. I wasn’t visualizing her, I knew she was actually 53, pedophilia isn’t an issue for me, and this isn’t pedophilia. I think even if I had visualized her – something I rarely do when I read – it wouldn’t have bothered me. She’s 53, nearly mature. I guess the case could be made that she’s more like a young girl who hasn’t reached menarche – we know she’s not quite old enough to mate with other Ina, but old enough that her scent makes males uncomfortable. Not enough information.
What did make me uncomfortable was all the touching: hugging, snuggling up together in bed, back rubs, her need for constant touch from her symbionts and their willingness to give it. I felt skin fatigue just reading about it. But that’s my problem, not a problem with the book.
I was hoping there might be a twist, that her amnesia would turn out to be hiding something from her and from us. But once you get used to the Ina and their world, the plot is straightforward. I didn’t like Shori very much, truth be told. She’s sure of herself in a way that sometimes comes off as arrogance – that trips her up in the book, too, a few times. I didn’t like that she has this New Agey-name while nearly everybody else in the book has regular, familiar names. Maybe her mothers and other ancestors we never get to meet had similar names, but it was jarring.
It was an interesting, thought provoking book that I’ll be processing for a while. I’m sorry that Butler died before she could write a sequel. I’d very much like to know what happens to Shori and her family next....more
An odd but charming book about a family of canaries and their relationships and experiences. Gustav Eckstein was a psychologist who studied animal behAn odd but charming book about a family of canaries and their relationships and experiences. Gustav Eckstein was a psychologist who studied animal behavior and I don't know if these canaries were part of his research or simply laboratory pets, but he observes them with both scientific interest and fond affection. It's sweet to think that in 1936 somebody could write a book about his family of canaries and get it published....more
A mystery from the POF of a woman archeology professor who gets involved with solving a murder. I liked it at first, interesting archeology stuff andA mystery from the POF of a woman archeology professor who gets involved with solving a murder. I liked it at first, interesting archeology stuff and gripping mystery, though I was kind of irritated by a lot of mentions of her thinking about how fat she is. Probably not unrealistic but maybe a little too much.
Now that I've finished I have to say it was a big disappointment. The mystery just was solved a little too easily and with clues that the Mary Sue-ish protagonist discovered (and I guessed the murderer right away, which is a minus); there were some emotional things that didn't feel right (when she realizes someone she trusts may be untrustworthy, the description of her reaction didn't have the resonance I thought it needed; there are all these times when she's in danger but stupidly blabs to lots of people about her wherabouts and other things; something bad happens to a pet (and it was obvious this was coming) but she doesn't do anything to protect another pet. Finally it contained my most hated trope every and I'm going to say what it is because I think this book is so bad it should be spoiled: people have sex one time and a pregnancy results. At least the man isn't on his deathbed which is usually how this works.
Apparently this on the Mary Higgins Clark award in 2011 which is astonishing. Bah....more
Gregory got interested in ham radio after finding a scrapbook of QSL cards, the postcards hams send each other to confirm they talked, at a flea markeGregory got interested in ham radio after finding a scrapbook of QSL cards, the postcards hams send each other to confirm they talked, at a flea market. They're graphically appealing, usually with a picture or something about the place where the ham lives, and information about the call. This book is both a history of one man's multi-decade hobby, and of radio and amateur radio in general. It's interesting and the cards are fun to look at.
I was mildly frustrated that they didn't explain why it's called "ham radio" until pretty far along. Wikipedia has this: "The term "ham operator" was commonly applied by 19th century landline telegraphers to an operator with poor or "ham fisted" skills. Early radio (initially known as wireless telegraphy) included many former wire telegraph operators, and within the new service "ham" was employed as a pejorative term by professional radiotelegraph operators to suggest that amateur enthusiasts were unskilled. In "Floods and Wireless" by Hanby Carver, from the August, 1915 Technical World Magazine, the author noted "Then someone thought of the 'hams'. This is the name that the commercial wireless service has given to amateur operators...""
There are also various folk etymologies including one that the first radio station had the call letters HAM, etc.
Anyway, I enjoyed the words and pictures and it was a good read on hot days and when I had a cold and couldn't read something more demanding....more
Keith Stewart is a mechanical engineer who loves building models of things like engines and clocks, and writes a column about that for Miniature MechaKeith Stewart is a mechanical engineer who loves building models of things like engines and clocks, and writes a column about that for Miniature Mechanic magazine. His comfortable life with his wife in a London suburb is upset when his sister and her wealthy husband, who've left their daughter in Keith and his wife's care, are shipwrecked sailing from England to Vancouver. Keith, a man who's never left England, must find a way to get to a remote South Seas island to see about his sister and brother in law's graves, salvage the ship, and deal with something else that will greatly affect their daughter's future. It turns out that his columns have readers all over the world and there are many fellow engineers who are happy to help him along his journey. He even manages to earn a considerable amount of money as consulting engineer. It's a pleasant and satisfying read, with some amusing characters along the way. I know little about engineering or sailing but enjoyed the descriptions of handling sailboats and various engineering and mechanical things. Keith's tiny generator that he built for fun figures into the story, impressing everyone and making friends for him wherever he takes it. Keith's a likeable guy but it's a little strange that during his months long adventures he doesn't seem to miss his wife or worry about her or their ward, and doesn't even write home. But on the other hand, that's a lot like some of the engineers I know. What I liked is how the common language of engineers and problem solvers is shown to unite a group of very disparate people, from a barely literate guy who built is own sailboat and sailed it across the Pacific, to a business tycoon....more
An Indian woman is violently raped on the reservation, and her son, now grown, narrates the story of how his thirteen year old self dealt with it. TheAn Indian woman is violently raped on the reservation, and her son, now grown, narrates the story of how his thirteen year old self dealt with it. There’s lots about family and friendship and of course Indian legal issues. The relationships the kid has with his friends and family feel really true. I loved it even though it has one of my most hated tropes, kids trying to solve a (potentially dangerous) situation on their own. The descriptions of ghosts and the tales his grandfather tells are perfectly done, and fit neatly into the images of the rez and his world where spiritual and practical things meet. There are many beautiful images of people and Indian lives, like a description of older women dressing up and then dancing gracefully at a pow wow. ...more
A poet from our time (1949) is transported years into the future, which is now a peaceful, Goddess worshipping world culture where money, technology,A poet from our time (1949) is transported years into the future, which is now a peaceful, Goddess worshipping world culture where money, technology, and wars have been eliminated and people live in rural villages and in defined social groups. I love utopia/dystopia fiction, and part of what I love is being dropped into this alternate world and figuring out how things work. This one doesn’t have that because from when he arrives, everything is explained to him (and us.) I don’t believe for a second that this culture would work; I don’t have that much faith in humanity, but it’s interesting to speculate. What made it a page turner was the interactions between the protagonist and other characters including a troublesome woman from his past who has somehow appeared in the future with him. But that sort of fizzled out and it was ultimately kind of philosophical musing about Goddess culture and good and evil, which was okay (especially because of my acquaintance with the Goddess) but eh....more
He's a collector of vernacular photos from flea markets, like me, and I first became aware of him through some stories on the Mental Floss website. HeHe's a collector of vernacular photos from flea markets, like me, and I first became aware of him through some stories on the Mental Floss website. He's even written a fantasy book sort of based on some of those photos, which I didn't like very much. Anyway, one of his essays was about photos with writing on the back that makes an otherwise unmemorable pictures suddenly meaningful. Like a road in Texas, and when you turn it over it says "This is the spot where Daddy had his accident and died." This book is a collection of such pictures, found by him and by other collectors. It's great. Lots of them are mundane with messages of love or things like that, and most are charming just because they're old. Then there are things like a series of photos taken at Dachau. A picture of some cages turns out to say, on the back, that these were kennels for dogs that were used to chase and attack prisoners....more
To refresh your memory, Kay Thompson trained as a singer and pianist, started out as a singer on the radio, and began doing arrangements. She had seveTo refresh your memory, Kay Thompson trained as a singer and pianist, started out as a singer on the radio, and began doing arrangements. She had several radio shows, then moved on to Broadway, where she wrote and arranged songs but never hit the big time as an actress. She went to MGM in the 40s, where she did arrangments and coached singers like Lena Horne and Judy Garland. She was Liza Minelli's godmother. Then she left the studio to sing and dance in a nightclub act with the Andy Williams and his brothers. Naturally, she arranged all their music and choreographed their dancing in a new energetic style - by the way, she and Andy were lovers. The act was a huge hit in New York and Las Vegas. Around 1955 she finally got around to writing a book about the character she'd drop into to make her friends laugh, a little girl named Eloise. She was a huge hit, too, and Kay wrote several sequels. Somewhere in there she finally got a worthy movie role, the fashion editor in "Funny Face". She never got another good movie role and eventually stopped doing cabaret, but in 1973 she directed a legendary fashion show of American designers at Versailles. When Judy Garland died, she stepped up to manage her funeral and Liza says she was the person who stood behind her and her sister with her arms around them. Liza was a loyal friend to Kay, too; she had Kay move in with her in her last years.
I really enjoyed this biography. Sam Irwin, who started out as Brian De Palma's assistant and went on to direct and produce movies including one of my favorites, Gods and Monsters, was hired to direct a documentary on the history of Eloise, and once he started interviewing people, he realized her story should be a book and that he had the passion to do it. He had no idea how big the project would be! He talked to what seems like hundreds of people - after all, Kay knew everybody in Hollywood and on Broadway - and learned her family history from her niece and nephew. Her journey through radio and on to Hollywood has lots of great stories - she had a feud with Mary Martin, of all people - and while Irwin clearly loves her, he doesn't hesitate to point out when she made bad decisions or was her own worst enemy.
The theme that emerges in Kay's later years is that while she had tremendous musical and acting talent, she was a perfectionist who had to be in control. Noel Coward wanted her for the role of Madame Arcati in a musical version of Blythe Spirit and to star in Sail Away, another Broadway show, but she refused these and other roles. She claimed she had a complex about working on Broadway because of being let go from shows when she was starting out; the truth was she just couldn't commit to anything if she couldn't be in charge. She was almost signed as the friend of Rosalind Russell in the movie version of Auntie Mame but made so many demands that she was replaced by Coral Browne. There are many stories like that. As for her books, Hilary Knight, the illustrator of Eloise, eventually refused to work with her because she was so insistent on doing things her way. It's frustrating that for whatever reason, she didn't make more movies or write more books. I wish I'd known her! ...more
Psycho thriller told in separate threads by a husband and wife. The wife goes missing, the husband is accused and then there are some fun twists and tPsycho thriller told in separate threads by a husband and wife. The wife goes missing, the husband is accused and then there are some fun twists and turns.
I liked it, but I think my expectations were too high - I wasn't as surprised by the first twist as I might have been, though it worked great, then I expected even more twists than the book actually had. I thought a particular character would be more involved, but no.
A few thoughts about the ending, which was pretty close to perfect, behind a spoiler tag.
(view spoiler)[I see a lot of people didn't like how it ended; I'm guessing they wanted to see some kind of dramatic resolution with somebody getting killed (BURN THE WITCH!) or some other kind of closure. But I thought it was just right. He's scared of her... but fascinated, can't imagine being with a less intelligent woman. She wants his adoration. They're going to be together forever. The one thing I didn't really buy was her getting pregnant from his discarded wank-off tissues - I don't think sperm can actually live that long. Plus I didn't believe he really wanted to be a father. But it will all work out. (hide spoiler)]
A group of linked stories, many of which are about a woman named Sasha. They're all entertaining, some more than others. There are themes of being autA group of linked stories, many of which are about a woman named Sasha. They're all entertaining, some more than others. There are themes of being authentic and true to yourself in a lot of them, but that just didn't speak to me - either I'm already living authentically or I'm a phony, I guess. Anyway, I didn't love it. It started out fine but became a chore to finish. I think part of it was that the trajectory of her life seemed disappointing to me (marriage and kids, and the Powerpoint diary of one of them was just tiresome and gimmicky.) Maybe the bigger problem was that a big issue of hers introduced in the first story (her stealing) never really got explained, unless I missed something, which is certainly possible.
Edited a few days later to add: Okay, I listened to this podcast of people discussing it and it reminded me of many of the book's subtler points, including maybe an explanation of her stealing, and it made me realize there were a lot of things I like about it. So, it gets another star. It really is a book that works best if you read it in one go, instead of a little every day, as I did. http://fuzzytypewriter.wordpress.com/......more