I've taken to just picking up Sarah Vowell's latest book and listening to it, without regard for content or review. All I knew about Unfamiliar FishesI've taken to just picking up Sarah Vowell's latest book and listening to it, without regard for content or review. All I knew about Unfamiliar Fishes was that it was about Hawaii's history. It made for an interesting read (actually, I listened to it) and I learned a lot about Hawaii's past and the influence of the missionaries.
Like The Wordy Shipmates, I miss Vowell's ability to mix her own travels and reflections with the history of her subject matter. Yes, there are the occasional mentions of her nephew Owen (I loved his statement that he would marry Hawaii if he could), but they're far too few. Still, if you enjoy Vowell's other books, you'll most likely enjoy this one.
If you'd like to know more about a major turning point in the United States' history, this is an excellent book. I grew up taking Hawaii's statehood for granted. This will give you an entirely different perspective on it....more
A mix of historical fiction and fantasy, The Secret Journey of Jack London reimagines the writer's life, beginning with his adventures in the KlondikeA mix of historical fiction and fantasy, The Secret Journey of Jack London reimagines the writer's life, beginning with his adventures in the Klondike. Jack is 17 (a few years younger than the real Jack) and journeying with his aging brother-in-law in an attempt to strike it rich. While Jack is seeking gold in order to save his mother's home, his true purpose is to learn more about himself. The brother-in-law is quickly written out of the story and Jack instead teams up with two other young men. They navigate the Chilkoot Trail and White Horse Rapids and spend the winter snowed in an abandoned cabin. This would be the high point of their trip. When they do finally make it to Dawson, they are kidnapped and forced to pan for gold as slaves.
We've reached the halfway point of the book and you might be wondering where the fantasy comes in. So far, the story has stuck mostly to the facts, with minor tweaking here and there. But midway through, the story shifts, and Jack's camp is suddenly attacked by the Wendigo, a flesh-eating monster. He escapes with the aid of a wolf, Jack's mysterious guide that appears throughout the book, and a young woman named Lesya, daughter of a forest spirit. At this point, we've wandered into a bit of a supernatural romance, with Lesya teaching Jack about the "call of the wild" but also trying to keep him close to her.
Jack must escape the beautiful Lesya, avoid her insane father, and somehow defeat the Wendigo, before returning to civilization.
Expect a lot of action in this survival story, as well as beautiful descriptions of the wilderness surrounding Jack and his friends. The writing is good and I enjoyed Jack's sense of searching and the way the author played with the idea of people becoming feral in the wilderness.
Fans of books like The Monstrumologist may enjoy this. I'm not sure, however, that fans of London's works would pick it up. While there's a connection to his stories, I wonder if they would be put off by the monsters and spirits. The historical fiction and the fantasy elements don't mix well, making this feel like you're reading two different stories.
With more planned for this series, I would say that this isn't a must-have. However, if you have teens clamoring for more books that feature survival, adventure, or even looking for an Alaska-fix, this would be a good buy. Grades 7 and up....more
I picked this up because it's supposed to be a heavy influence on a video game series I like... I suppose that's a pretty odd reason... or maybe justI picked this up because it's supposed to be a heavy influence on a video game series I like... I suppose that's a pretty odd reason... or maybe just an odd video game. I don't tend to read much nonfiction either, so I was happy to find the story of the World's Fair and the Holmes' murders to be intriguing. The content was interesting, and while the "true crime" aspect did get me peaking ahead at future Holmes chapters, I also enjoyed the focus on Burnham and his motley crew of fellow architects (I think I've just greatly offended many dead architects). Olmsted's dogged pursuit of designing the perfect landscape (and not having it f*cked up by other officials/departments) was inspiring and, in a way, tragic. It feels like you only get a glimpse of the many characters that made the fair such a huge success - Sol Bloom, George Ferris, and Buffalo Bill, to name a few.
What brought the book down for me was, in some part, Larson's writing style. It felt like he was forcing many analogies or striving to include just a little bit of everything. Think of it like talking to that person at the party who's in love with a topic and can't help but share, relating it to any and all subjects you might bring up... speaking of appetizers, did you know about the fascinating history of salt? Okay, that was my own awkward analogy. But I felt like the chapters on Prendergast were just sprinkled throughout because hey, the mayor who was re-elected during Fair time was shot by him after his big event at the fair... so that relates, right? While Larson may have gotten chills from seeing the force with which Prendergast wrote his crazy postcards (see how I threw that fact in? Now you must be intrigued too, righ?), I just wanted to get back to that fair that, by all accounts, should never have been built!
I also thought that Larson glossed over some important details, ones that he even stressed earlier in his book. For example, much was made of the fact that the Fair wasn't open on Sundays, owing to Lobbying by the Sabbatarian movement. But in the "Storm and Fire" chapter, the Fair is suddenly open on Sundays and subject to a wicked storm. Since the Fair was struggling for money and being closed on Sundays was a huge loss of revenue, why wasn't this covered? I was also annoyed that, while we received a great deal of biographical information on many of the Fair's architects, we received almost nothing on Sophia Hayden, the woman who designed The Woman's Building without any formal training and was driven to breakdown by the Fair's Board of Lady Managers. More than anything, though, I think I would've liked to have read more about the goings-on of the Fair after reading about all the preparation, construction, and politics.
One of the things I really did enjoy about this book was the long list of "notable firsts," including shredded wheat, Cracker Jacks, the Ferris Wheel, widespread use of alternating current electricity, and the effects of unionization. I suppose, having read this, I'll have lots more strange facts to insert, unnecessarily, into conversations. ...more
You just can't keep Jacky Faber down... she ended the last book by helping her classmates escape from slavers, killing several members of the crew, anYou just can't keep Jacky Faber down... she ended the last book by helping her classmates escape from slavers, killing several members of the crew, and surviving a brutal attack by the captain. After their rescue by a British naval ship, the girls were taken back to Boston, and just as Jacky was preparing to walk off the ship, into the arms of her beloved Jaimy, she's pulled back aboard and placed under arrest for piracy. And yet, even with all that going against her, it's not long into this book that she's managed to escape the British crew and set off with the faithful Higgins and friends on a trip down the Mississippi river.
It would be more appropriate to describe this book as the undoing of Jaimy Fletcher. He is only a few days behind Jacky, having himself escaped from the same ship she was captured by, but an incident with two highwaymen leaves Jaimy beaten, bloody, and naked. When a young girl named Clementine discovers him and helps him, she believes him to be a "gift from God" and there to marry her. As Jaimy and Clementine follow on Jacky's trail, he continues to be stripped of his proper British upbringing. Jacky prospers and Jaimy... well, Jaimy gets thrown in jail.
This was not my favorite of the Jacky Faber series... I had really enjoyed the last book and the serious tone. This one, however, was much lighter, sillier, and full of more coincidences than you could shake a stick at. It's not like most of the Jacky Faber books don't rely on coincidences and Jacky's ability to get in and out of trouble quickly, but there were so many near-death experiences here that I was having a hard time with. Despite that, though, I enjoyed the way that Jaimy had to experience a similar set of hardships as Jacky. His relationship with Clementine troubled me, but then again, Jacky has had many relationships that went beyond friendship, and she's always left them for her betrothed.
Even though I didn't enjoy this book as much as the others, it was still a great one to listen to (superb narrator!) and a fun read. I got some American history and was introduced to some great side characters. Now I just need to keep reading!...more
I listened to this book... and the audio version is amazing. Katherine Kellgren is just the perfect Jacky Faber, as well as all the other characters.
OI listened to this book... and the audio version is amazing. Katherine Kellgren is just the perfect Jacky Faber, as well as all the other characters.
Oh Jacky Faber... even on a simple school outing, you manage to get into the worst kind of trouble. Jacky has done her best to be good and keep a low profile; she returned to Boston and has stayed at the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls, refraining from singing and dancing in the local bars or even sneaking out for a little fun. She knows that soon, Jaimy will be coming to meet her in Boston, and they can finally get married and spend their days together... albeit hiding from anyone looking to collect on the bounty on Jacky's head after the events of the previous book.
So the one little ray of fun in Jacky's life will be a school field trip to one of the nearby islands to study wildlife and have a picnic. Except... isn't there always an except? Except this little outing turns into a kidnapping, and the girls of the Lawson Peabody find themselves trapped on a slaver called The Bloodhound. Jacky rallies the girls, with the leadership of Dolly and (of all people!) Clarissa, making plans for their escape.
This book is perhaps the most brutal in the series (as far as I've read), in that it deals with the realities of slavery, rape, betrayal, and the hopeless situation of the Lawson Peabody girls. Despite the heaviness of some of the subjects, I enjoyed it immensely. This is almost a character study, taking so many of the side characters from the Lawson Peabody (just how many times am I going to type that out?) and fleshing them out, giving them back-stories, and showing that you can't judge them by Jacky's initial impression. I never thought I would become so attached to Clarissa, who we learn has a dark history and a fighting spirit that rivals Jacky's. We get to see the resourcefulness of the girls, and also that Jacky is not necessarily unique in her strength and quick wits.
If there was anything that bothered me about this book, it was Jacky's Cheapside stories. In an effort to keep up a daily routine, the girls schedule all sorts of things for themselves, including a bed-time story from Jacky. At first, she tells them of her previous adventures before returning to Boston. Then she goes on to talk about her old gang and adventures with Rooster Charlie. I suspect we're learning these stories for future events (after all, Jacky seems to constantly be running into old friends all over the world, including on the Bloodhound), and it gets a little tiresome. I was much more excited about the plans and events on the Bloodhound and didn't want to hear this history.
Okay, so the short version (after all that typing), is that this is an amazing book in the series and well worth reading. If for nothing else, read this for Clarissa!...more
I bought this book a few years ago at SDCC and I finally got around to reading it. Writers and artists come together to tell stories based off of oldeI bought this book a few years ago at SDCC and I finally got around to reading it. Writers and artists come together to tell stories based off of older postcards and the messages written on them. It's an interesting exercise, and the stories range from sweet romances to creepy murder mysteries, histories and childhoods to campy superheros. My two favorites were "A Joyous Eastertide," a man's memory of his devoted stepmother, who had Tourette's Syndrome, and "Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland," a story of a lost romance, discovered only after a funeral unearths an old, hidden postcard. There are a couple of stories/artwork that is hit-and-miss, but overall I enjoyed this collection so much, particularly compared to other collections like Comic Book Ink. There's a lot more to relate to in this collection, and it will have you thinking about the stories behind postcards... and those that could have been!...more
When I was in grad school, I signed up for a class called Death and Literature. The description sounded awesome and I was being a bit morbid. What itWhen I was in grad school, I signed up for a class called Death and Literature. The description sounded awesome and I was being a bit morbid. What it turned out to be was a philosophy class in literature class clothing, which resulted in me reading Heidegger for weeks at a time, only occasionally broken up by "She" or "Dracula." The few moments of awesomeness did not make up for the fact that I was dragged through "Being and Time." And that's what reading "Street Gang" is like.
This is not a complete history of Sesame Street. This is a slog through the personal histories of several of the key players who created Sesame Street: Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone, David Connell, Sam Gibbon, and Jim Henson. And when I saw histories, I mean you learn about their parents' upbringing, their upbringing, schooling, weird relationships, everything! This book is hyper-detailed, bogging it down. What isn't about family history is about how the show got funded, which has the potential to be interesting if we weren't forced to walk through every step of the process. And, of course, we do. You finally get to the genesis of the show and its characters and stories in Chapter 12... so if you want just that, skip to page 166.
To finish my complaint on the book's completeness, it skims a fair amount of the 1980s (compared to the detail of earlier chapters) and gives very little info on the mid-1990s and beyond. This is probably because management changed at the CTW and Davis does not fawn over these people. Elmo is the most-covered subject during this time period.
I'd also have to say that the writing structure is incredibly awkward. Readers are flung forward and backward and forward again in time within the span of a few paragraphs, all usually to tell a story that usually doesn't need telling. Like did I need to know that Cooney's personal assistant attended her abusive ex-husband's funeral for her, so she could report back to her boss on how it went? Or should the moment Jane Henson steps forward to speak and Jim Henson's funeral really be the time Davis first brings up that they had had marital problems?
That's not to say that there aren't fascinating stories about Sesame Street, its creation, and its creators. The book is full of them, but you have to be patient and dig around to get them, and I'm not sure it's really worth your time. You do gain an appreciation for how ground-breaking this series was and still is. You also wonder if maybe it was a requirement that you have a terminal illness in your future, as much of the end of the book is dedicated to all the contributors to the show who died of cancer, AIDs, or other diseases. It's kind of frightening how many people involved in the show have died.
I can't say that I really recommend this book. Mostly, I recommend the middle of this book. Unless you're looking for a history and finances lesson, with some Muppets thrown in for good measure....more
So I picked this up because I love Sarah Vowell, but I completely forgot to see what the book was about. That's sad. I popped in the first CD and feltSo I picked this up because I love Sarah Vowell, but I completely forgot to see what the book was about. That's sad. I popped in the first CD and felt myself dumped back in my junior year of high school, where my U.S. History class took up the chant of the previous AP U.S. History class... damn the Puritans! We hated learning about Puritans and we made sure that our teacher hated teaching us about the Puritans (poor Mr. Zeiner!). I had fairly low expectations for this book once I realized I would be listening to six CDs of history on the Massachusetts Bay colony. But Sarah Vowell has yet to disappoint. She is passionate about these Puritans, about the citizens and speeches, the diaries, the way of life, all of it. And it rubs off on the reader. I actually found myself wanting to discuss with friends about the way that we misuse the word "puritan." Seriously. Or ithe state in the U.S. that has had the least amount of war in it.
I will say that I really enjoy the way that Vowell goes off on tangents in her other books, and it just doesn't happen as much in this one. She spends a lot of time focused on the Massachusetts Bay colony and less bringing us to the present, making connections that make these people a bit more tangible. I would've liked to see more moments like her family vacation to Puritan tourist traps. Overall, though, this is a great book. If you like her voice (like I do), I'd recommend the audio version. You learn so much and it makes you feel a little more sorry for your history teachers....more
I loved reading this, even though I was often filled with a sense of dread and worry. Just listen to the title of the second chapter: "How to Elect JoI loved reading this, even though I was often filled with a sense of dread and worry. Just listen to the title of the second chapter: "How to Elect John McCain... or, How Many Democrats Does It Take to Lose the Most Winnable Presidential Election in American History?" Hopefully, that's not how things go, but Moore puts it out there. "Ask Mike!" is another chapter, where people ask such hard-hitting questions as "which presidential candidate do I want to have a beer with?" and "if I have to move north of the border after the next presidential election because McCain has won, what do I need to know about Canada and Canadians?", which is something I've always wanted to know. You'll also get proposals on how to fix our broken elections, what to do once the election is over, and a handy candidate guide for several senate and the house seats. And if you hate Michael Moore, he's provided you with a chapter of lines taken out of context for you to use when telling people how awful you think the book is. Generous!
The book was funny, informative, and thought-provoking. It will make you want to go out and talk to people, and not just about the election. I've been going on about Social Security, health care, and the evils of high fructose corn syrup. You learn about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, why our election is on a Tuesday and why it SHOULD be on a Saturday or Sunday, why the American people actually pay MORE taxes than the French and get so much less for it, and how wells could help America's image. If you love the Daily Show or Corbert Report, this is like one long episode in print form. Yes!
Okay, so I highly recommend this book. Go buy it or check it out from you library! Go... now!...more
**spoiler alert** Esperanza and her mother must flee their home in Mexico after her father is killed by bandits. Their home, their riches, all of it i**spoiler alert** Esperanza and her mother must flee their home in Mexico after her father is killed by bandits. Their home, their riches, all of it is gone and the only life ahead of them is working in the fields of Southern California. Esperanza and her new family struggle to make ends meet at the onset of the Depression. If Esperanza has any chance of making it in this new place, she must give up her old ways and embrace her family and her new life. Esperanza’s development is often slow and sometimes painful - she doesn’t even know how to properly use a broom. This makes it that more touching when Esperanza is able to make sacrifices and help support the family. This is a great book that incorporates history, the seasons, family, and sharing into the plot....more
Okay, I'm a Neil Gaiman nut, but it took me ages to read American Gods. And I think the book was overhyped to me. It really didn't have the same appeaOkay, I'm a Neil Gaiman nut, but it took me ages to read American Gods. And I think the book was overhyped to me. It really didn't have the same appeal that Sandman did. Maybe part of my problem was listening to the audio version, which did not have great sound quality and the narrator was really awkward. He sounded like he should be reading with a corncob pipe in his mouth, which is fine for characters like Wednesday, Czernobog, and Hinzelmann, but terrible for Laura and makes it sound like your grandfather is reading you a lot of strange sex scenes. Blerg! On top of that, I really didn't care for Shadow or for the in-between stories about how the gods came to inhabit America. The pace was just too slow and ponderous for me. Perhaps that's what comes from reading too many comic books? :P...more