Saturday, September 29, 2018

Baby, you're gonna be mine

Baby, You're Gonna Be Mine / Kevin Wilson, read by Kirby Heyborne and Johanna Parker, 270 pgs.

A short story collection, many of which are hard to read.  I mean they feature characters that you don't want to know.  A man dealing with his adult son who is so angry, he is someone you never want to meet.  A younger sister who gets fired from her job, then seduces the husband of her older sister's friend.  A woman who is called to take care of her 4 nieces and nephews when her sister is jailed for trying to kill her husband. A young boy who upsets his divorced mother when all he wants to do is dress up as his older brother who died for Halloween.  Almost all of these situations will weird you out in one way or another.  The audio version makes it all seem more real. Bizarre.

Cradles of Power

Cradles of Power: Mothers and Fathers of American Presidents by Harold Gullan  408 pp.

I feel like I had been reading this book forever because it is perfect for reading in small bits. While the Presidents and First Ladies are much written about, little is publicized about their parents and their influence on their famous offspring. Their stories include fascinating vignettes of history, charming love stories, hardships, tragedies, and successes. Some parents actively encouraged their sons' political ambitions while others were not at all thrilled with their aspirations. Wm. McKinley's mother wanted him to be a Methodist bishop while Lyndon Johnson's father groomed him for politics from a young age. The book covers the presidential parents from Augustine and Mary Washington through Barack Obama, Sr. and Ann Dunham. And how many know that George H. W. Bush's father, Prescott Bush, was an early founder of Planned Parenthood? The parents are as varied as their Presidential offspring and many of their stories explain much about the men they raised.   

Born a Crime

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah  288 pp.

This memoir has been blogged about by LindaPatrick, Kara, and Christa. Read their takes on the book and they pretty much covered everything I would have. I also listened to the audiobook which was read by Noah. I found the degrees of racial division during the South African Apartheid to be very interesting.  The relationship of Trevor Noah's black mother and white father was a crime which explains the title. But he was neither black nor white and thus fell into the category of "colored" which included people of mixed race, Indians, and Chinese. Japanese, however were "white". As a colored boy, he was discouraged from associating with blacks. This is racism at its most convoluted.  The story of his early life makes it even more remarkable that he is now the television personality we are accustomed to.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity / Kwame Anthony Appiah, 256 p.

I enjoy Appiah's NYT ethics column.  I appreciate his cool yet compassionate responses to readers' sticky questions of right and wrong.  And I also enjoyed this, a discussion of five hooks on which many humans hang their own sense of who they are: creed, country, color, class, and culture.  Appiah's own heritage as descendant of Ghanaian royalty is frequently explored as a way of illustrating his ideas to great effect.  The contents and point of view in this volume, written by a philosopher and world citizen, are not surprising, but its eloquence and evenhandedness make it a very worthwhile read. 

City of Bones

City of Bones / Michael Connelly, 393 pages, read by Len Cariou

A golden retriever finds a bone on a wooded hillside in Laurel Canyon.  It turns out to be that of a twelve-year-old boy, missing for many years.  Harry takes the case while getting involved with Julia Brasher, a new young officer in the LAPD.

Clock Dance

Clock Dance / Anne Tyler 292 pgs.

Willa Drake leads a life that has mostly been laid out by others.  She was not crazy about getting married before finishing college but then when here parents objected, she decided that defying them was more important than sticking to her own ideas.  This book visits Willa as a child, a college girl, a middle aged mom and then a remarried widow.  It is this last time frame that is most interesting.  Her oldest son's ex-girlfriend gets shot in the leg and a neighbor sees her number and thinks she is the grandma.  Willa ends up traveling to take care of Cheryl, a little girl she never actually met but who is happy to adopt her as a grandmother.  Willa has never felt more useful but her husband Peter wants her home.  She bonds with Cheryl and her mom Denise and their neighbors.  All the while, Peter is calling to complain that she isn't there to cook for him, etc.  Willa finally gets a big of a backbone and does something for herself. Tyler is a great writer but this book is not one of my favorites.  It made me sad that it took Willa 60+ years to find her way but better late than never.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Rise of the Evening Star

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star, Brandon Mull, 441 pages, 2007

Rise of the Evening Star is the second entry in the Fablehaven series, and Seth and Kendra's entry into the world of Fablehaven continues. While the first book focuses just upon the Fablehaven preserve, Rise of the Evening Star expands upon the world in which it resides. While many of the challenges presented to the protagonists in the first book are self made, in this novel the challenges and foes come from an evil society aligned against the interests of the preserve. The level of intrigue and misdirection created by the antagonists makes for some interesting twists and turns throughout the story, and kept me turning the pages long after I should have gone to sleep for the night.

A Hiss Before Dying

A Hiss Before Dying by Rita Mae Brown (2017) 350 pages

Here is a mystery that alternates between 1786 and the present day in the same small community in Virginia. The characters in the modern day have found two dead bodies that don't appear to be related; one is a trucker who left his truck running and disappeared, later to be found dead, wedged under a boulder on a hillside, his face mangled. The other is an unidentified black man who is found on private property, a gunshot victim. He is wearing a metallic chit on a chain, which is something that slaves used to wear when they were off their property, doing business for their master. The stories from the two time periods intertwine in a fascinating way. Many of the 1786 characters are slaves and the metallic chits are used in their storyline. The relationships between the characters in 1786 are particularly well-developed.

I've enjoyed this author's works before, and like the point of view that the animals contribute. But when I opened this book and saw the 6-1/2 pages listing the cast of main characters, showing which characters are from which of the two time periods, I was almost ready to choose another book instead. Before long, though, I was completely sucked in and am glad I did not abandon the story.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy  449 pp.

I don't know where to start about this book. It is full of so much . . . characters, heartbreak, unrest, war, bigotry, love, death . . . ultimately every part of life. The story covers the years of unrest between the Hindus and Muslims including some of the darkest and most violent episodes like the Kashmir Insurgency between the Kashmiri and the government of India. The story begins with the birth of a son to a doctor and his wife. Aftab is intersexed and becomes a hajira who takes the name Anjum to live as a woman with a group of other hajiras. From there the story introduces more characters including hunger-striking protesters, vicious military personnel and rebel agents, a journalist, and so many others. The story is ultimately about people and their relationships and the fact that love of our fellow humans is the only way to put an end to all the dissension in the world. I listened to the audiobook read by the author and it was often hard to keep track of which character was which. At one point I found myself confused about what was going on in the story. I feel I should go back and reread it in print to get the full effect.

Universal Harvester

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle, 214 pages

Universal Harvester brings us back to late 90s in small town Iowa where VHS was the standard format and very few people had cell phones. Jeremy lives a simple life. He is 22 years old, works at a locally owned video rental store, lives with his father, and is in no hurry to do anything else. His life was put on hold when his mother dies in a car accident six years prior. His comfortable, though limited, life is disrupted when a customer complains that a violent scene has been spliced into a film. He and his manager find themselves pulled into a decades-old mystery as they find more movies with scenes spliced in.

This is not my typical genre. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance if it was written by any other author. But I am a die-hard fan of his band, The Mountain Goats, and would read the ingredients list on a shampoo bottle if he wrote it. I am glad I did!  

For those who like audiobooks, it is read by the author. I have read the book and listened to the audio and preferred the audio. 

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, 404 pages
In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover

16-year-old Mary Shelly Black’s life is falling apart. The year is 1918 and between WWI and the Spanish flu, death breathes down everyone’s neck. Furthermore, her father has been arrested under the Sedition Act and she is forced to move to a new city to live with her overprotective aunt. The one silver lining to this is that she will once again be close to her childhood best friend, Stephen. It is only once she arrives in town that she finds out he has enlisted and will be leaving within the week. A telegram arrives shortly thereafter announcing that he has died a hero’s death on the battlefield. When Stephen appears to her and she herself has a near death experience, she is forced to re-think her entire worldview. She now must help him understand what has happened - and solve her own mysteries - in order for him to rest.

Winters brings this book to life through archival photos and descriptions so evocative, you can practically smell it (I will never look at an onion the same way again). I recommend this for anyone who likes strong female protagonists, historical fiction, or books about resiliency in the face of disaster.

The Husband Hunters

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy, 307 pages

Between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Prohibition, some 40 ultra-rich American women crossed the Atlantic to marry into the British aristocracy. In doing so, they managed to save their husbands' estates, buy themselves titles, and weasel their way into the top tier of society on both sides of the pond. In this fascinating book full of Vanderbilts, Astors, dukes, and earls, de Courcy tells many of these heiresses' tales and spells out the lavish lengths to which these women (and more honestly, their mothers) would go to to secure these socially acceptable matches, as well as offering plenty of background as to why (beyond the obvious dollar signs) these titled gentlemen would accept such spouses. The book is absurd in the best possible way, and I loved reading it. Recommended for fans of Downton Abbey (which, you'll recall, includes a transatlantic marriage).

The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq

The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq by C. J. Chivers, 374 pages.

Chivers gives us several moving portraits of American soldiers, sailors (Navy Corpsmen, anyway) and pilots who fought in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is stunning to realize that over 2.5 million American military personnel have served in these two conflicts since 2001. Chivers, who served as a Marine Corps officer, starts his book with the story of Lt. Layne McDowell. McDowell's carrier, the USS Enterprise, was returning from the Persian Gulf in 2001 just as the twin towers were destroyed. McDowell, who had flown combat missions over Serbia and Montenegro, would now fly his first missions in his F-14 Tomcat over Afghanistan. Years later he would return to the conflicts flying an F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Leo Kryszewski, a Staff Seargent in the Army served in Iraq. Dustin Kirby, a Navy Corpsman was horribly wounded while serving with the Marines and lost years to recovery and post traumatic stress (and attendant problems like alcohol abuse).Army Air Cavalry Kiowa helicopter pilot Michael Slebodnik served and died in Afghanistan. All of these important stories, and others, are respectfully told in an engaging and riveting narrative.
An important account of these seemingly endless wars.
The downloadable audio is narrated ably by Scott Brick

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, 423 pages.
Egan won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction for this lyrical, richly detailed novel. Anna Kerrigan, born in the 1920s, watches as her family slowly falls apart during the late 1930s. Her beloved sister Lydia has been unable to care for herself, move, or interact with anyone since her birth. her father Eddie, former theater owner and actor, former bagman for the union, and formerly close to Anna, disappears from their lives. Anna's mother is always there, but she, like Lydia, stays in the background. This is mostly Anna's story.
When the war breaks out Anna takes a job at the Naval Yard, measuring precision parts. She soon finds this work boring and, after seeing divers working on ship repairs, she decides that this is the work for her. While working toward this goal, and losing her remaining family, Anna reconnects with a man from her father's past, Dexter Styles. Egan does a wonderful job of weaving the different threads of this story together. This time, as I read the book in preparation for book group, I found Lydia a little too perfect and mother Agnes a little too one-dimensional, but it is still a very good read.

The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump

The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump by Michiko Kakutani,
208 pages.

The former book reviewer for the New York Times gives us a brief but well-thought out account of the Trump campaign and presidency, touching on fake news, Russian trolls, climate change denial, and the death of honest debate. An interesting read which brings in historical comparisions to Hitler and Stalin, and which quotes Hannah Arendt and David Foster Wallace.
While at times the book reads like a recapping of many of Trump's lies, falsehoods and delusions, Kakutani gives enough cogent analysis to make it worth the time to read.

Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, 466 pages.
Novik brings us into an odd world of Russian fairy tales mixed with modern fantasy. Miryem must work to rescue her family from her father's failure as a moneylender. He was lending to anyone, and collecting from no one until all of the family's money was gone. Her abilities to turn the silver she lent out to the gold she collected attracts the attention of  the Staryk, strange and frightening ice-creatures who terrify the people who live near their woods. The tasks Miryem must complete for the Staryk bring changes to her life, to Wanda, Miryem's servant / friend, and to the life of the new Tsarina. Irina had no hopes for marriage until her father bought the silver jewelry made from the Staryk coins. The beauty of the silver cause almost everyone to see Irina differently. Her new husband, the Tsar Mirnatius, doesn't seem to see the jewelry; something else make him want her for his wife. Irina must think quickly when she discovers what it is the Tsar really wants. The way the stories converge makes for a thrilling read. Novik tells a fascinating tale.


Uprooted by Naomi Novik, 435 page.
Agnieszka, a wonderful character, is taken to serve the wizard, locally known as the Dragon, who guards her village. Everyone fears the Dragon, he takes one young woman from the village every ten years. Everyone, it turns out, fears the woods outside the village more. A dark unfathomable evil waits for anyone who wanders in the woods or drinks from the water there. If they survive, if they wander out, they come out changed and dangerous and must be killed before they kill all of their former loved ones. The Dragon is there to protect the villagers from the dark power of the woods. As Agnieska learns from the Dragon, she finds that she herself has power, and she finds that the evil in the woods is growing and will soon overrun them all if it cannot be defeated. A very good fantasy work.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Void Moon

Void Moon / Michael Connelly, 391 p.. read by L.J. Ganser

Cassie Black has success selling cars at an LA Porsche dealership, not a mean feat for someone who's just left prison in Nevada and is still on parole.  Why then does she leave her comfortable new life behind to return to the place where, 6 years earlier, Cassie lost her love and her freedom: the Cleopatra casino on the Vegas strip?  Can she survive one final job?

In order to enjoy a heist, the reader has to like the con and loathe the victim.  As always, Connelly understands good storytelling, so we root for Cassie all the way.   Chock full of action and surprises and, of course, supported with carefully researched technical detail, Connelly entertains with outlandish scenarios that just manage to be plausible. 

Anatomy of a miracle

Anatomy of a miracle/ Jonathan Miles, ready by Edoardo Ballerini, 355 pgs.

Cameron Harris was injured in Afghanistan and is a paraplegic.  His sister Tanya takes care of him in Biloxi Mississippi.  The siblings lost their mom in a car accident then several months later, Katrina hit and wiped out their house.  Now they are getting by. One day at the Biz-E-Bee convenience store, Cameron rises up and walks away from his wheelchair.  Following his miraculous recovery, Cameron finds himself a celebrity, he is being filmed for a series on the Lifetime TV network, the Catholic Church is investigating his recovery as a miracle and his doctor at the VA is looking for an explanation.  Is there an explanation?  Or is this really a miracle?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Stuck in Neutral

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman  130 pp.

This is the third of the books I will be using as part of the Great Stories Grant. I read it when it first came out in 2000. It's one of those stories that stick with you. Shawn McDaniel is a severely disabled fourteen year old. He has acute cerebral palsy with no motor control, severe intellectual disabilities, is unable to speak, and seizures. Trapped in this wretched body is a boy who is, in fact, very intelligent, understanding, and funny. However, his inability to speak means no one knows that anything is going on in his brain. Everyone, his doctors included, believe he nearly vegetative. Shawn's father left the family because he could not stand to see his child in this state. He is most disturbed by Shawn's seizures which he wrongly believes are painful to Shawn. Shawn, on the other hand, finds the seizures enjoyable and a way that his brain takes him out of his dysfunctional body for a brief time. His father is contemplating "putting Shawn out of his misery" by killing him. Shawn is aware of his father's intentions and desperately wants to assure him that he is not in pain. The ending is . . . something you'll have to read to find out. This is a short but powerful novel.

House of Echoes

The House of Echoes by Brenden Duffy, 384 pages

House of Echoes book cover
Caroline and Ben Tierney need a change. Ben is struggling to write his next novel, Caroline is trying to cope with her recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and Charlie is being bullied at school. They think they’ve found the perfect opportunity when Ben’s grandmother leaves them an estate in Swannhaven, a village in upper state New York, in her will. However, they discover that Swannhaven is not the idyllic small town they had envisioned.

Duffy provides a fresh take on a classic trope by exploring local history rather than limiting the scope of the novel to the house itself. This is quite a feat as the community dates to 1776, when a famine strikes that sets in motion consequences that would be felt for generations to come. This history is brought to life through the use of letters and newspaper articles. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good gothic horror novel.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Drop

The Drop by Michael Connelly, 388 pages.
I had read this about 6 years ago. It seemed familiar, but my memory of it seemed a little off, until I realized that part of the book  was made into one of the seasons of the Amazon series Bosch. I had seen that video version much more recently, and the story had been changed significantly from the book to the medium-sized screen. In this novel, Bosch and Detective David Chu are given a fresh hit on a cold case; they have a DNA match on a 1989 murder. Though it links to a known sex offender, there's a problem with the case. But before Bosch and partner are able to begin investigating, Bosch is called in by the Chief of Police to investigate the death of the son of Irvin Irving, Bosch's former boss and longtime foe. Complications ensue and Bosch must decide who is in the right and who is trying to get away with something. The case of the George Irving continues to twist and turn even after the case seems to be closed. In the cold case, it's fairly straightforward though there is still some nuance concerning guilt and innocence, good and evil. The nuance comes from two of the background characters, a victim of a child molesting killer who has grown up to become a sexual predator himself, and a therapist who tells Bosch how her son is in prison for raping a woman. The graphic detail in the book concerning child rape and murder is off-putting and I believe this is one of the books that caused me to take a break from reading Connelly.
Read by Len Cariou, which is always a good thing.

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth, by Ken Krimstein, 233 pages.
I knew absolutely nothing about Hannah Arendt before I read this book. I am not proud of that, I'm just saying. This was an absolutely fascinating introduction to the German / Jewish philosopher, writer, and thinker. Arendt was a student of Heidigger, and for a time, his lover. After her affair with Heidigger ended, and as the Nazis came to power, Arendt has to make her first escape.
Krimstein's art and story reinforce each other and strengthen the narrative, and it is quite a narrative. Arendt and her mother have to escape the Nazi's again, moving first to Paris and then on to Portugal before finally ending up in the United States. She knew many of the great thinkers of the day, from Einstein to Brecht. She taught at Princeton and penned some of the most important works of the twentieth-century including The Human ConditionThe Origins of Totalitarianism, and Eichmann in Jerusalem.
A fascinating look at an extraordinary thinker. Easily my favorite piece of graphic literature of the last couple of years.

Akata Witch

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, 349 pages.
Okorafor is a great writer. I have really enjoyed everything I have read by her. This book, written earlier than her Binti novels, are also juvenile / YA and have a more traditional fantasy feel, but with roots in Nigerian culture and history. Sunny Nwazue was born in the United States to two Igbo parents. The family moved back to Nigeria when she was nine and have been living there for the last six years.
The "akata" in the title means "bush animal" and is also slang for a foreign-born blacks.  While dealing with some problems at school, Sunny discovers that she has magical abilities.Her friend Orlu introduces her to Chichi, and together they meet Sasha, an American teen sent to live with family friends. As Sunny begins to understand her powers she finds that she and her friends are  the group that must fight a growing dark power, and that this power was responsible for the death of Sunny's grandmother. A compelling book with great characters. I look forward to reading Akata Warrior.

We Are Gathered

We Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman, 275 pages

Carla, an assistant to a famous actor, describes herself physically first by talking about her large port-wine stain, "covering half my left cheek, encircling my left eye like a claw, extending down my neck . . ." She had a limp resulting from the circulation problems that caused the birthmark, and endured braces and orthopedics, and learned to live with books, and by her self. Carla is attending the wedding of her childhood friend, Elizabeth. Also present at the wedding are Elizabeth's despot of a grandfather and others who make this story interesting.
Funny and tender at times, Weisman gives us a good read.

From Cradle to Stage

From cradle to stage: stories from the mothers who rocked and raised rock stars / Virginia Hanlon Grohl, 239 pgs.

Reading about Dave Grohl over the years, you get the sense that he is someone who knows how to have fun.  He is well known for mentoring younger musicians and showing up for tributes and ceremonies.  Reading this book, you figure out right away where he gets this from.  His mom is also tons of fun and has written about meeting other mother's of famous musicians from Kelly Clarkson's mom to Dr. Dre's mom.  It is really fun to read about these women, most of whom are impressive in their own fields or just so supportive of their kids, they made space for them to become famous.  Each interview is only a few pages but seems to contain a lot of family and personal history.  Very fun to read.

The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, 1258 pages

For six years, the Alethi people have been at war with the Parshendi warriors that live across the Shattered Plains — after all, it was the Parshendi who hired the assassin that killed the Alethi king the same day that peace was declared six years ago, right? Right? Today, we find the king's brother Dalinar attempting to lead and live by the Codes that his brother held dear, despite the scoffs of his peers and his nephew, the new king — yet Dalinar is also experiencing mysterious visions (hallucinations?) that he's unsure how to interpret. Elsewhere, the king's daughter Jasnah is off on a deep research trip when she decides to take on the persistent Shallan as her apprentice and ward, though Shallan has her own ulterior motives for seeking the apprenticeship. Finally, we have Kaladin, a slave-branded former warrior who carries the guilt of many deaths — as well as the disappointment of his father, who wished him to become a surgeon — heavy on his shoulders.

Bouncing between these three storylines, Sanderson weaves a compelling story of a world on the brink of an untold disaster. It's a long book that takes a bit to get into (the completely alien flora and fauna certainly make it a bit harder to dive right in), but once you do, it's a fantastic story full of multi-dimensional characters battling their demons and struggling to make sense of the world around them. Despite the time commitment of a book of this size, I already have plans for reading the next tome in this series. It's well worth it.

Fly Girls

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O'Brien,
338 pages

Everyone knows about Amelia Earhart, that daredevil aviatrix who got lost in an attempt to fly around the world. And while Fly Girls tells her story as a aviation pioneer, it also tells the story of her contemporaries, who were just as daring and outspoken and amazing as their more-famous compatriot. This fascinating book also tells the stories of Florence Klingensmith, Louise Thaden, Ruth Elder, and Ruth Nichols, all of whom were pioneers in their attempts to race against men (Klingensmith and Thaden, the latter of whom beat the boys at a cross-country race when nobody thought she had a chance); cross the Atlantic (Elder); and set speed, altitude, and distance records (Nichols, who held them simultaneously). It also gives much more context to Earhart's well-known story, making it clear that she truly was the outspoken feminist that I've always idolized.

I loved this thrilling and inspiring book, and I thank Keith O'Brien for introducing me to so many new heroines. Extra props to Erin Bennett, who read the audiobook and helped bring all these women back to life.

Friday, September 21, 2018


Fablehaven, Brandon Mull, 359 Pages

Fablehaven is Brandon Mull's first book in the Fablehaven series, a series that follows the growth of two siblings, Kendra and Seth, as they seek to defend a preserve populated by fairies and other mythical creatures. For those who are fans of young adult series like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, this is right up their alley. The world built by Mull's book is engaging, and the characters show promise for growth and learning as the series progresses. Kendra and Seth balance each other nicely, and the supporting characters are rich and engaging.

Fear: Trump in the White House

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward (2018) 420 pages

Bob Woodward's chronicle of Donald Trump's ascent to the White House begins in 2010 with a conservative activist attempting to get Steve Bannon to meet with Trump, saying he thought Trump was considering running for President. Bannon was dismissive at first, but got behind Trump as Trump showed he was serious about adopting views that would be acceptable to conservative voters. One might say the rest is history.

For those of us who try to keep up with Trump in the news, but in the deluge can't keep all the players straight, nor remember all the twists and turns and personal attacks against the media, the Democrats, immigrants, issues with China and North Korea, etc., Woodward's book organizes, in great detail, events and conversations others have had with Trump, as well as conversations among Trump's staff regarding how to deal with Trump. In this timeline, primarily from his nomination as the GOP candidate in 2016 through March 2018, even though much had been noted in the media, much was eye-opening, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Nothing good can come from this

Nothing good can come from this: essays / Kristi Coulter, read by the author, 210 pgs.

If you drink a lot and are smart, you might eventually realize that you should try to quit.  Sometimes you think about that for 10 or so years before you actually make the effort to quit.  If you are Kristi Coulter, you start realizing that everyone you KNOW drinks and people at work drink and you have a hard time finding space to NOT drink.  But she does it, she stops.  It isn't easy but doesn't take too long to start seeing some advantages. The bad physical feeling every day turns out to be a continuous hang over. Getting rid of that is a positive.  There are other positives too...and some negatives. Life really changes.  Coulter has an interesting perspective.

Maeve in America

Maeve in American: essays by a girl from somewhere else / Maeve Higgins, read by the author, 245 pgs.

I had not heard of Maeve Higgins before listening to her book but now I love her.  I could listen to her read all day, she has the perfect accent.  Also, her essays are hilarious and she is thoughtful while being funny.  Maeve does comedy and so amazingly charming that you want to agree with everything she has to say. Her podcast about immigration was canceled because it was supposed to be funny but always turned out quite serious is a cautionary tale.  Her dog borrowing makes a lot of sense for people who don't want to commit to full time pet ownership.  But the best is her search for a husband using a inspiration from a favorite kids book.  Recommended.

The Word Is Murder

The Word Is Murder: a Novel / Anthony Horowitz, 390 p.

Horowitz, author of Magpie Murders (which I enjoyed but seem to have neglected to blog about...), Foyle's War,  and Midsomer Mysteries, among others, has this time inserted himself as a character.  A woman visits a funeral home to plan her own funeral and is murdered the very same afternoon.  Horowitz is approached by the mysterious Hawthorne, formerly of Scotland Yard, who seems to work as an outside contractor to the police on especially difficult cases.  Hawthorne and Horowitz team up to solve the case and write a book, but their personalities clash and the investigation becomes tangled and dangerous.

This was a disappointment after Magpie.  Hawthorne, I gather, is meant to be a Sherlock to Horowitz' Watson, but, at least in the first of what may be a series, his character just isn't developed enough to be at all interesting.  He is smart, obsessively private, and...homophobic.  Yes, that's distinctive, but it's hardly endearing in the way that Holmes' many quirks are.  The murder story is well-plotted, with plenty of mis-direction and cliffhanging.  Enjoyable but not quite up to the hype.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Tourist

The Tourist / Olen Steinhauer, read by Tom Weiner, 408 p.

Milo Weaver, a former CIA tourist or black ops agent, investigates the murder of a trusted colleague in Paris.  He also happens to be accused of her murder, which complicates things.

An intricate plot made this a tricky (for me) listen - I kept wanting to refer back to earlier chapters to clarify things.  Very ably read by Weiner, but I suspect my next Steinhauer will be in print.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrence Hayes, 91 pages.
Really great, moving, disturbing, and lyrical (more in the "words in a song" definition) poems about so much of the struggle we are locked in regarding race, and life in America right now. But it's not just that, the poems are bigger and wider, not scattershot, playful, but deadly serious, reaching back through time and locked in our particular present.
The 91 poems are presented, at least in part-I'm not a 100% sure how to read anything anymore, as notes to the assassin:

. . . In this we may be alike, Assassin, you & me: we believe
We want what's best for humanity. I'll probably survive
Dancing with the kinds of people who must find refuge
Among the sweat & rancor of a Fish & Chicken Shack
But Assassin, they'll probably murder you. Do you ask,
Why you should die for me if I will not die for you. I do.

Others don't seem so narrowly focused, aimed at the wider world:

The song must be cultural, confessional, clear
But not obvious. It must be full of compassion
And crows bowing in a vulture's shadow.
The song must have six sides to it & a clamor
Of voltas. The song must turn on the compass
Of language like a tangle of wires endowed
With feeling. The notes must tear & tear,
There must be a love for the minute & minute,
There must be a record of witness & daydream.
Where the heart is torn or feathered and tarred,
Where death is undone, time diminished,
The song must hold its own storm & drum,
And shed a noise so lovely it is sung at sunset
Weddings, baptisms & beheadings henceforth.

Terrence Hayes is (gives? is? i dunno) a great gift to readers.

The Shakespeare requirement, by Julie Schumacher

A follow-up to the author’s highly successful Dear Committee Members.   We’re back again at Payne University somewhere in the great Midwest.  In the earlier volume, Willard Hall was shared by the Economics and the English Departments, but Econ was rapidly expanding its reach and territory after a series of generous grants from wealthy donors.  Jason Fitger, the writer of endless letters of recommendations in the first book, is now Chair of English.  He’s endured over a year of construction dust and noise as the Econ Department builds its palatial new digs on the second floor.  Now that Department is eying the remaining space on the first floor and the basement.  The University President is pursuing advancement in the ranks of university through a new initiative called QUAP, the quality assessment program, and Fitger has been dragging his feet in producing the English Department’s required SOV (Statement of Vision).  When he finally presents it to his faculty to vote on, he runs into a road-block in the form of Professor Cassovan, the elderly Shakespearean, who strongly objects to the absence of any reference to his subject.   As in the first book, most of academia and its associated pretensions are skewered.  As is frequently quoted, "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."  Hilarious and somewhat bittersweet as well.  308 pp.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, by Robin Sloan

A newly hatched art school graduate, Clay Jannon is desperate for a new job in San Francisco after the economic downturn. He has he lost his web designer position at NewBagel, a failed startup.  He takes a position as the night clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, a dim, tall and narrow space with an assortment of “normal” books for sale on the first floor and towering shelves of arcana stretching above.  There don’t seem to be many customers at any hour of the day or night buying books, but an eccentric cast of regulars appears intermittently to borrow the volumes stored above.  Clay has a successful childhood friend who has made it big in tech, and acquires a few more interesting and clever friends as he seeks to figure out just what is going on behind the scenes at his unique and mysterious workplace.  Quirky, like his later Sourdough, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and a delight to spend some time with.  288 pp.