Stella Hardesty is an unlikely heroine. She’s 50 years old, she runs a sewing shop, and she drinks whiskey almost every night. True, she’s in the best...moreStella Hardesty is an unlikely heroine. She’s 50 years old, she runs a sewing shop, and she drinks whiskey almost every night. True, she’s in the best shape of her life because of all the running and weight lifting, but by no means does she have super powers. What she does have is a righteous anger at men who abuse their wives, and she uses that anger to fuel her side business: serving as an enforcer for the women who need her help. In her small Missouri town word has spread that she’s someone who can help when the law can’t. That law, by the way, is represented by Sheriff Goat Jones who Stella can’t stop thinking about. But because her operation isn’t quite legal, that’s a complication that she just doesn’t need. Even with all of this, Stella’s life is pretty well under control until the son of one of her clients goes missing and the lowlife ex-boyfriend is the prime suspect. Now she’s got to roll with the punches, literally, as she tries to find the little boy before anything bad can happen to him.
This is the first book in three (so far) of Sophie Littlefield's Stella Hardesty series.
I'll admit it. The minute I start hearing about Shakespeare or British life in the 1600s, I go a little hazy. I start to get tired. So tired. And even...moreI'll admit it. The minute I start hearing about Shakespeare or British life in the 1600s, I go a little hazy. I start to get tired. So tired. And eventually I give up reading whatever it is that I'm reading.
Out of all the Shakespeare biographies out there, I chose Bill Bryson's, "Shakespeare: The World as Stage" because it was by Mr. Bryson, who is hilarious, and because it is short.
"Maybe I'll learn something!" I thought.
Well, I did. But I was sort of sleepy the whole time so I doubt it will stick with me. But that's okay! As it turns out, Bryson's book is mostly taken up with establishing what we can know about Shakespeare (very little) and what we can't know (quite a lot). And so my knowing not much about Shakespeare isn't all that bad. (Except that I did take an entire class on Shakespeare while getting a degree in English Literature, but there were circumstances. It was a 10 a.m. class directly following a 9 a.m. class on the philosophy of Nietszche. Those were sleepy times indeed, my friends.)
More to the point, the fact that we all (ok, maybe YOU all) wish we (you) knew more about Shakespeare is probably less that he was a genius than that we have more of his work than anyone else's from the time period. (That's thanks to that whole First Folio thing.) So he's the best person for scholars to go gaga over. Nothing against the bard, I'm just saying.
Highlights from the text:
Bryson on how some anti-Stratford scholars are picking at straws when trying to prove that Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare:
"So it needs to be said that nearly all of the anti-Shakespeare sentiment--actually all of it, every bit--involves manipualtive scholarship or sweeping misstatements of fact. Shakespeare "never owned a book," a writer for the New York Times gravely informed readers in one doubting article in 2002. The statement cannot actually be refuted, for we know nothing about his incidental possessions. But the writer might just as well have suggested that Shakespeare never owned a pair of shoes or pants. For all the evidence tells us, he spent his life naked from the waist down, as well as bookless, but it is probable that what is lacking is the evidence, not the apparel or the books."
See? Bill Bryson is funny. If you'd like to know more about Shakespeare, this is a great place to start.(less)
I have a bad memory. It's true. I can usually remember where I put the car keys, because I always put them in the same place. But ask me what happened...moreI have a bad memory. It's true. I can usually remember where I put the car keys, because I always put them in the same place. But ask me what happened on my 7th birthday, or the summer of my sophomore year of high school? No idea. If you tell me I told a funny story at a party a few years ago, you will probably have to repeat that story back to me before I remember. It can be...disconcerting. Therefore, I was very interested in this book claiming to be about people who can remember everything. How do they do it? Can I do it too?
It turns out that the answer is not really. They don't remember everything, they go to massive amounts of effort to remember random strings of numbers and bits of poetry and people's faces for memory competitions. Which is impressive! Not down on the memory competitions. But the lesson as far as I can tell is that you have to learn to remember like learning another language, and it all involves creating memory palaces in your mind to store the information, but once the palace is full you have to create another one or empty out the first one and start over. So you can't remember everything forever. Seems to me. THIS BOOK TITLE IS A LIE!
Still, it's interesting, especially when the author is not talking about himself and his quest to become a memory competition champion. He occasionally interviews memory savants or people whose brain formations don't allow them to have memory at all. (That's a little scary.)
There's definitely some meat to the book if you're interested in the science of memory, or self-improvement. It’s just tempered by off-color jokes (because it’s easier for the brain to remember things that involve sex or humor) and drunken parties with the author’s memory competition friends. If that's not a problem for you, then it will be a fun read. (less)
Want a vampire who doesn't attend high school in Washington? Or become romantically entangled with Southern women? Or give interviews?
Want a vampire w...moreWant a vampire who doesn't attend high school in Washington? Or become romantically entangled with Southern women? Or give interviews?
Want a vampire who's mainly a killing machine?
May I introduce you to Nathanial Cade, the President's vampire. For well over a century Cade has been bound to the will of the President of the United States, fighting for the safety of our nation against the forces of the Other Side. These forces take a lot of shapes, and the book makes references to monsters throughout history. If fish-headed men from Innsmouth make you think of H.P. Lovecraft, then this is the book for you. But even if they don't, this could STILL be the book for you.
The book begins with Zach Barrows, a White House staffer, being assigned to vampire-watching duty. Having no idea that vampires actually existed, Zach is not ready for the job. But when signs turn up that a modern day Dr. Frankenstein may be threatening national security, he has to do what he can to keep himself, and his new vampire friend, alive long enough to save the country.
It's gruesome, it's creepy, and it's action-packed.
The novels co-written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are my guilty pleasure books in the mystery and suspense section of the library. And the on...moreThe novels co-written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are my guilty pleasure books in the mystery and suspense section of the library. And the ones featuring Special Agent Pendergast are the best of the best, in my opinion.
He's mysterious. He's cultured. He's connected. He's droll. And he kicks butt. What's not to like?
Though I have to admit I liked it better when he would show up to save the day and then disappear into the shadows, like he did in his first appearances in Relic and its sequel Reliquary. (Of course those books had the added advantage of the coolest backdrop possible for a story about a murderous monster: The American Museum of Natural History in New York.) These days, however, Agent Pendergast has stepped to the forefront of the books, and we're learning more about his tangled family history.
In Cold Vengeance we learn even more about the death of Agent Pendergast's wife, Helen, and the mysterious organization called The Covenant that seems to lurk behind the conspiracy to hide the truth of her murder. When they kidnap his former ward, Constance Green, Pendergast has to act fast to find her before they can disappear forever. But he'll discover that things are even more complicated than they seem. (Aren't they always?)(less)
Ex-cop Jack Taylor is back on the streets of Galway after a stint in the asylum where he landed after a young girl he was minding fell out of a window...moreEx-cop Jack Taylor is back on the streets of Galway after a stint in the asylum where he landed after a young girl he was minding fell out of a window to her death. As he wanders around the city he runs into old acquaintances and new friends, trying to piece his life back together while looking into the murder of a priest whose head was found sitting in a confessional. Ireland has changed in the early years of the new millennium. The people have money to burn, American culture is everywhere, and the Catholic church no longer holds the power and respect it once did, due in no small part to the ever-increasing number of molestation cases in the news. Taylor must navigate the cultural landscape of the new Ireland while keeping clear of crooked businessmen, amoral priests, and a sniper or two.
If you’re looking for gritty Irish noir and you don’t mind a hefty dollop of rough language, this may be the book for you. I picked it up because I liked the blurbs on the back cover, but it turns out that Bruen is an award-winning mystery author. I can see why because this book was very readable, and though it did give a lot of social commentary, which could come off as heavy-handed if it were set in the U.S., it comes off as local color because it’s set in Ireland.
If you’d like some contemporary noir set in America, try Harry Dolan’s “Bad Things Happen.”
I wanted a book set in San Francisco to read during a recent vacation to the city, so I picked up this entry in the Nameless Detective series. With a...moreI wanted a book set in San Francisco to read during a recent vacation to the city, so I picked up this entry in the Nameless Detective series. With a detective of mysterious identity in the spotlight, I expected more of a lone wolf detective exploring darkened alleys and twisty, Noir-inflected puzzles. But while the Nameless Detective can be described as hard-boiled, he's far from a lone wolf. He's the semi-retired head of a detective agency with three other folks working under him. Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised, because with more than 30 books in his series, he wouldn't be a very good detective if he hadn't garnered some measure of success by this point.
Even though he's not flying solo, the cases he and his team try to solve offer plenty of pathos and twists to spare, so I'd say it's closer to Noir than Agatha Christie, but farther than Raymond Chandler. This time around they've got an abusive step-mother and a possible case of stolen identity to wrestle with. If you'd like a solid detective story with no frills, the Nameless Detective is your guy.(less)
Behind the Hollywood studio machine there's a hidden organization that controls the real lives of actors, not just their careers on the screen. They'r...moreBehind the Hollywood studio machine there's a hidden organization that controls the real lives of actors, not just their careers on the screen. They're called the Accident People. If they decide it's time for an actor to die from an overdose or drown on a movie set, then they make that happen--one way or another. When down-on-her-luck action star Lane Madden discovers a car trying to run her off a twisty canyon road, she knows that the Accident People are coming for her. But Madden is no quitter. She'll fight for her life, alongside ex-cop Charlie Hardie who stumbles into her path and is swallowed up in the trouble she carries with her.
Author Duane Swierczynski also writes for Marvel comics, which could explain the pulse-pounding pace he maintains throughout this book. You can't turn a page without someone getting shot at, punched in the face, injected with mysterious chemicals, thrown out of a window, or otherwise incapacitated. But no matter how bad it gets, the characters keep plugging away. This is an intense, violent read, but if you like action it's definitely for you.
You'll also be happy to know it's a trilogy, with the second title, Hell & Gone, published last year, and the third, Point & Shoot, coming in 2013.
If you like testosterone-driven, gut-punching action, you should also check out Josh Bazell's Beat The Reaper and its follow-up Wild Thing.(less)
The book as it stands is 2 parts of a planned 5-part novel about WWII from the point of view of the French.
The first part, "Storm In June," tells the...moreThe book as it stands is 2 parts of a planned 5-part novel about WWII from the point of view of the French.
The first part, "Storm In June," tells the story of several people fleeing Paris as German troops approached. It flips from one perspective to another, giving a broad understanding of the chaos, and analyzing how differences in class and social standing affect how we think of our neighbors when faced with a potentially life-or-death situation.
The second part, "Dolce," takes place in an occupied village in the countryside. The villagers, the farmers, the Viscount and Viscountess, are all initially horrified to be hosting German troops, and yet the longer they stay the more complicated the relationships become.
Nemirovsky, born in Russia but having lived in France most of her life, was considered Jewish by the Nazis, though she was a converted Catholic in practice. She was arrested and taken to Auschwitz and a gas chamber. This is why the book is truncated from its planned 5-part arc.
At the end of the book you can read some of the correspondence between herself, her husband, and others trying to figure out what was going on, and trying to free her. There are also notes she had written, plans for the unwritten sections of the book. The way she tells the story is very straightforward, and from the perspective of the characters involved. It's not over-dramatic, and it's not "historical" as such, because Nemirovsky was on the ground in France experiencing the beginnings of WWII.
What would it be like growing up with parents who were performance artists? Annie and Buster Fang kno...moreA book about art and reality and family and life.
What would it be like growing up with parents who were performance artists? Annie and Buster Fang know all about it. They spent their childhoods as props in their parents' constant projects. Caleb and Camille Fang were artists before they were parents, and they see no reason not to treat their family life as an extension of the artistic one. By throwing chaos into everyday situations, they create art that is present only in the moment. The curling lip, the widened eyes, the running feet of shoppers in malls across the country--this is what the Fangs life for.
One of the best moments in the book is when Buster and Annie are wrestling with a decision about whether they should cooperate with or disrupt the latest of the Fang family projects. They end up agreeing on the same action, but with very different motives.
And that's what the book seems to be about. What's real? Who's in control? Where do we go from here?(less)