Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Ken Burns: The National Parks: America's Best Idea
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
by Elissa Wall, with Lisa Pulitzer
Hardcover, 438 pages
HarperCollins Publishers, 2008
In September 2007, a packed courtroom in St. George, Utah, sat hushed as Elissa Wall, the star witness against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, gave captivating testimony of how Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin at age fourteen. This harrowing and vivid account proved to be the most compelling evidence against Jeffs, showing the harsh realities of this closed community and the lengths to which Jeffs went in order to control the sect's women.
Now, in this courageous memoir, Elissa Wall tells the incredible and inspirational story of how she emerged from the confines of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and helped bring one of America's most notorious criminals to justice. Offering a child's perspective on life in the FLDS, Wall discusses her tumultuous youth, explaining how her family's turbulent past intersected with her strong will and identified her as a girl who needed to be controlled through marriage. Detailing how Warren Jeffs's influence over the church twisted its already rigid beliefs in dangerous new directions, Wall portrays the inescapable mind-set and unrelenting pressure that forced her to wed despite her repeated protests that she was too young.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder
hardcover, 416 pages
HarperCollins Publishers, July 2009
Synopsis from the publisher:
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is the sweet, sexy, funny tale of Calla Lily's life set in Wells' ever-growing fictional Louisiana. In the small river town of La Luna, Calla Lily enjoys a blissful childhood under the loving light of the Moon Lady, the feminine force that will guide her throughout her life. From her mother, M'Dear, Calla learns the old, womanly art of healing through "fixing hair."
On the same river banks, Calla tastes the sweetness of first love. But when a broken heart knocks the breath out of her, Calla transforms hurt into inspiration and heads for the wild and colorful city of New Orleans to study at L'AcadÉmie de BeautÉ de Crescent. In that extravagant big river city, she comes to understand fully the power of her "healing hands" to change lives and soothe pain, including her own.
A tale of family and friendship, tragedy and triumph, loss and love, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder features the warmth, humor, soul, and wonder that have made Wells one of today's most cherished writers, and gives us an unforgettable new heroine to treasure.
I won this book in a give away. I entered it because I wanted to read it.
Monday, September 21, 2009
You'll recall her previous list of the top 20 most annoying book reviewer clichés?
Cult novel: no publicity to speak of but it got a review in Time Out.
Word-of-mouth sensation: thank God for Amazon.
Multicultural phenomenon: no one can pronounce the author's name.
American bestseller: someone had a long lunch in New York.
Manga novel: a comic book.
Cult manga sensation: a comic book that's won a prize.
Bestselling manga sensation: DreamWorks has bought the film rights.
European sensation: we got drunk at Frankfurt.
Warts and all: a few dirty bits.
Writing at the peak of his/her powers: basically past it, but who knows?
Long-awaited: we sacked two editors and it's still overdue.
Her masterpiece: she's been around for years and with a bit of luck this one will click.
His masterpiece: we have reached the end of the line with this one, but fingers crossed.
Witty and profound: three jokes and an inexplicable reference to Wittgenstein.
Now, follow Michelle's example and start looking for examples of publisherspeak on all your book jackets today!
A scientific experiment begins, and, as the button is pressed, the unexpected occurs: Everyone in the world goes to sleep for a few moments while everyone's consciousness is catapulted more than twenty years into the future. At the end of those moments, when the world reawakens, all human life is transformed by foreknowledge.
Particle physicists weren’t known for their sartorial splendor, and Lloyd had until recently been no exception. But he’d agreed a few months ago to donate his entire wardrobe to the Geneva chapter of the Salvation Army, and let his fiancée pick out all-new things for him. Truth be told, the clothes were a little flashy for his taste, but he had to admit that he’d never looked so sharp.pg. 12
What an incredible hallucination it had been! .... Lloyd took a moment to reorient himself. There had been no transition between here and there: no flash of light, no sense of wooziness, no popping of his ears. One instant , he’d been at CERN, then, in the next, he’d been somewhere else, for—what?—two minutes, perhaps. And now, just as seamlessly, he was back in the control room.
Of course he’d never left. Of course it had been an illusion. pg. 18
Michiko realized the magnitude of what Sven was suggesting. “We should check all the rooms here; make sure everyone is all right.”
Lloyd nodded and moved back to the corridor. “Antonia, you check everyone in the control room. Michiko, you take Jake and Sven and go down that way. Theo and I will look up this way.” He felt a brief pang of guilt at dismissing Michiko, but he needed a moment to sort out what he’d seen, what he’d experienced. pg. 21
Friday, September 18, 2009
Mass market paperback, 435 pages
Pocket Books, 1990
From the battlefields of a Vietnam veteran's memory to an old-time movie hero's search for a serial killer, from Halloween in a special town--where the rules of trick-or-treat are written in blood--to a Texas road where a wrong turn leads to a nest of evil, horror master McCammon is at his terrifying best in this collection of stories.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Last Last Chance
A lethal strain of virus vanishes from a lab in Washington, D.C., letting loose an epidemic - and all the world thinks Lucy Clark's dead father is to blame. The "superplague" may be the least of Lucy's problems, though. There's her mother, Isifrid, a peddler of high-end hatwear, a crackhead and pagan theologian. There's her twelve-year-old half sister, Hannah, who is obsessed with disease and Christian fundamentalism; and there's Lucy's lover, Stanley, who's hell-bent on finding a womb for his dead wife's frozen eggs. There's her grandmother, Agneth, who believes in reincarnation (and who turns out to be right).And then there's Lucy herself, whose wise, warped approach to life makes her a guide to love among the ruins. Romping across the country from New York City to rural Pennsylvania and the Texas desert, Lucy tries to get the better of her drug addiction and keep her family intact - and she tells us, uproariously, all about it.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Roses of Glory
Synopsis from Cover:
Roanna RoysonMy Thoughts:
The beautiful tavern wench from the lusty London docks whom fortune made a lady.... She was as bold and rebellious as the wild mane of hair that tumbled around her shoulders -until one man's savage passions possessed her.
Giles fitz William
The bastard son of one of England's noblest families, the stableboy who became a knight...he longed for the fiery tempered Roanna, had always wanted her, would never stop wanting her...
Destined for Danger, Desire, and Triumph
While all of England writhed in the flames of rebellion, they loved and fought with a passion that could never be conquered. Surrounded by treachery, accused of treason, forced into captivity, neither would surrender... until a final ravishing climax brought the lady and the knight together on the peaks of burning love...
How perfectly clever and diabolical was my daughter, Just Me, in her selection for this month's Critical Monkey and Don't be A-Hatin' Amendment book. She chose not just a romance with a hot couple on the cover, but a historical romance - a medieval historical romance set in 1259. The combination, for me, was excruciatingly painful. It's almost more than a person should have to bare, but I'm going to try to embrace it for what it was: a mess.
Pershall wanted Roses of Glory to be compared to The Taming of the Shrew. No, really, she did. The book is divided into four parts and an epilogue. Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is quoted at the beginning of each section. I think this is supposed to make you feel more virtuous and educated while reading Roses of Glory. The plot, well, what there was of a plot, was uneven and jumped around. I don't even know where to begin discussing it other than to note that it appeared Pershall was trying to fit the romance into some sort of historical context, and she did have her characters run around a great deal in order to give the impression of great action.
For those of you who enjoy romance novels, please know I understand, I really do, reading books that are not exactly fine literature for escapism and sheer enjoyment. I get it. However, I know that when I read for sheer escapism I'm much more likely to be looking for an action adventure kind of novel. If there's someone struggling up the face of a mountain in the moonlight with a gun in his hand and a knife between his teeth, the book might be closer to my preferences. On a positive note after reading Roses of Glory, Pride and Prejudice, in comparison, is the best romance novel ever written. At least the writing is excellent, there is a plot, and the dialogue is clever.
("Brat" would not have been used as such at this time.)
(So, now we know, "friggin' " was in common usage in the 1200's.)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Since I can’t sing this game must have been Hipee’s idea. There is no conceivable universe where my old-enough-to-know-better self would be saying, “Let’s play ‘bad mitten’ and sing.” This is one of those occurrences where common sense and caution tells you to deny it ever happened but I can’t because there were witnesses.
What we did was exactly what it sounds like. We played badminton while singing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar.
What was wrong with us?
“I iiii… don't know how to- umph - love him. What to do, how to…”
“… moooooove him. Ive been CHANGED, yessss really….”
“…changed. In these paststttttt few days, when I've seen myself..."
“I seem – that was out! My serve - like someone else. – hurumph…”
“I don't know- owwweh- how to take this. I don't …”
“…see why he moves me. –umph- He's a man. He's just…”
“… a man. Annnnnnd I've had so many men before…”
“In very –eryyyyy- many ways, He's just one more.”
“Should I bring him - your serve - dowwwnnn?"
"Should I scream – mmmuph- and shout?"
"Should I speak of – ffffffve - love, Let my feelings…”
“… out? I never –errrrrr- thought I'd come to this. “
“What's it all about? –umph - Don't you think it'ssssss…”
“…sssss rather funny, I iiiiii should be in this positionnnnnnn.”
“I'm the one- uunnnn- “
“Out, my serve - who's always beennnnn ssso calm…”
“… so coolllllllll, nooooo lover's fool, running…”
“… every –eeeeeee- show. He scares me so.”
“I never thought – umph - I'd come to thisssssss.”
“What's it all aboutttttt? Yet, if he said he…”
“… loved me, I'd be lost – osttttt- . I'd be frightened. “
“I couldn't cope – eehhht - just couldn't cope. I'd turn…”
“… my head. I'd –ddddd - back away. I wouldn't want to…”
“… know- oooooooo. He scares me so.
“I want him soooooooo. –“
“I love him soooooooo”
“Want to go again?”
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
From an award-winning short story writer comes this spare, lively, moving novel, quickly embraced by critics and readers, portraying the strangely celebrated and unsupervised childhood of four hippie offspring in the 1970s and 80s. Based on the author's own upbringing, Flower Children tells the story of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania, impossibly at odds with their surroundings. In time, as the sheltered utopia their parents have created begins to collapse, the children long for structure and restraint—and all their parents have avoided.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Marlaine Delargy (Translator)
trade paperback, 268 pages
Other Press, translation copyright 2008
very highly recommended
From the Publisher
One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?
THE UNIT is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the “dispensable” ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the “necessary” ones. Ninni Holmqvist has created a debut novel of humor, sorrow, and rage about love, the close bonds of friendship, and about a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care.
I really liked The Unit. Since it was originally written in Swedish, there is always the possibility that some nuances have been lost in the translation, as in Rolvaag's books, but I thought this dystopian suspense novel held together quite well and my attention was riveted to it right up to the end. It does appear that The Unit has some similarities to Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, however there are also marked differences between the two. Besides, it could easily be argued that all dystopian novels share a common theme - along with the label. The Unit is a welcomed addition to the genre.
RIP IV Challenge
It was more comfortable than I could have imagined. A room of my own with a bathroom, or rather a suite of my own, because there were two rooms: a bedroom and a living room with a kitchenette. It was light and spacious, furnished in a modern style and tastefully decorated in muted colors. True, the tiniest nook or cranny was monitored by cameras, and I would soon realize there were hidden microphones there too. opening
"I see," I said again.
"People who read books," he went on, "tend to be dispensable. Extremely." pg. 48
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Freaks of the Storm
371 pages, including bibliography and index
Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006
Synopsis From the Publisher:
In the course of his numerous talks and presentations to college and grade school students, civic clubs, and nursing homes, climatologist Randy Cerveny found that people of all ages are fascinated by the "unusual"-and he seized on that fascination to tell them about strange weather. Now, in his first book, the rest of us can learn of real, documented stories such as these: Odd occurrences of chickens losing all their feathers during tornadoes (so-called "chicken plucking"); Strange stories of finding lightning victims who have been completely stripped of all of their clothes (through a process known as "the vapor effect"); Weird stories of how past powerful hailstorms have both led to the ending of one war-and the complete prevention of another; Bizarre uses of weather-such as the strange contraption called a "windwagon" that literally "sailed" nearly 500 miles from Kansas to Colorado; Each chapter in Freaks of the Storm encompasses the oddities of a specific type of weather, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, and hail. The author also divides specific conditions into a set of categories associated with the overall phenomena.
Freaks of the Storm: From Flying Cows to Stealing Thunder: The World's Strangest True Weather Stories by Randy Cerveny is great! OK, ok... I am a weather geek so I'm bound to enjoy a book that features all sorts of unusual weather events. There is a brief chapter on the history of collecting weather facts and explanations for them. After that Cerveny has chapters covering: Tornadoes; Lightning; Hail; Rain; Hurricanes; Hot, Cold, Wet and Dry; Snow; Wind; Dust Devils and Waterspouts; The Oddest Weather Extremes; Oddest Forecasts: and State Weather Oddities. In each chapter he has some great examples of freaks of the storms along with explanations for them.
This book is about exactly what its title states - strange weather events. It is not a general meteorology book. It is not a textbook. If you have an understanding of the whys of weather or even if you just like reading about odd occurrences associated with weather then you will likely enjoy this book. It's a collection of odd things, not a detail treatise on one storm. Also, alas, it really did need a good editor to do some grammar and spell checking. Some mistakes (a monument called a "moment" pg. 327, and the District of Columbia called "District of Colombia" pg. 318) are really very pitiful and there were a few other writing errors. Now, I enjoyed the subject enough that I was able to overlook the errors but if they are going to bother you, then you might want to skip this book.
Highly Recommended - the very was left out due to the need of editing, but I did very much enjoy it
Such odd happenings in relation to weather were tagged in the first part of the last century with the phrase "freaks of the storm." pg. 3
Research of these unusual aspects of weather has led to some surprising breakthroughs. We now know that there is a scientific explanation behind many of the anomalies.... But given all of our incredible improvements in weather research and technology, do freaks of the storm still occur? pg. 20
In each of the following chapter, I have created a number of basic categories of weather oddities and selected an assortment of interesting (and, hopefully, entertaining) anecdotes to present their basic nature. This book contains well over five hundred different - and odd - stories of unusual weather from my archive of eight thousand entries.....Each individual chapter also contains a section on general safety recommendations for each type of given weather. pg. 21
Boys, girls, ladies, and gents, step right up! Come one, come all! Be entertained, be amazed, and be frightened! Encounter the outlandish, the odd, and the weird... the Freaks of the Storms! Step right up and hear the strangest plethora of wind, rain, and storm stories ever to be assembled in one place.
Do you have the courage to hear the creepy story of "Ice Spear of Death"? Can you endure the tale of the "Lightening Strike that ignited a Man's Stomach"? Have you the willingness to witness the cattle "Herd Shot around the World"? Do you have the nerve to learn the secrets of the horrifying "Rains of Blood or the macabre "Killer Fog of Pennsylvania"? Are you brave enough to learn the gruesome details of the Tornado Crucifixion" or bold enough to discover the intriguing secrets of the "Hurricane Pig"?
The Weird. The Bizarre. The Unusual. It's all here... so boy and girls, ladies and gents: Prepare to enter the baffling world of... the Freaks of the Storm! pg. 22
Movie Dude Weekend
Movie Dude Wisdom:
What happens when vampires get in the sun?
What happens in Twilight?
They get sparkly, glittery, and pretty. I don't like the movie. Vampires are not teenagers forever.
Robert Pattinson is the worst actor of our time. Kristen Stewart is just cute and that's it.
Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End
(We watched the first two on an earlier weekend.)
Director: Gore Verbinski
Donovan's Brain (1953)
Director: Felix E. Feist
Actors: Lew Ayres, Gene Evans, Nancy Davis (yup, that Nancy Davis)
Attack of the Puppet People (1954).
director: Bert I. Gordon
Actors: John Agar, John Hoyt, June Kenney
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The Sum and Total of Now
Berkley trade paperback edition August 2009
copyright 1966, 290 pages
Synopsis from back cover:
It is the summer of 1948. Thirteen-year-old Morris Bird III lives in Cleveland with his parents and little sister. His mother aggravates him, his sister is a pain, and his father's radio personality ego is out of control - as is Morris's own body when in the presence of girls. But over in Columbus [sic], his grandmother is dying. She is the greatest influence on his life, and cancer is stealing her away from him.
As his parents and aunts and uncles bicker over his grandmother's belongings, young Morris distracts himself with the Cleveland Indians' race for the pennant, Phillip Marlowe stories, and the common daydreams of a teenage boy. But in the end, Morris must find courage and strength within to face the harsh reality around him - and the choices he must make - because he's the only one who can.
This is the second of three Robertson novels featuring the unforgettable Morris Bird III. Fans of the first novel, The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread were anxiously waiting for this recently re-released edition. It's been 4 years and Morris is now 13 - and experiencing everything that that entails. While the story does start out slow and the climax might also be easy for others to correctly guess, The Sum and Total of Now was certainly worth the effort. My eyes perhaps glazed over a little during the baseball discussions, but then they also did in real life during game discussions when my son was this age. This isn't quite as good as the first novel, but it has been said that it is more of a transition novel between the first and the third. The final novel in the Morris Bird III trilogy is The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened and it's also just been re-released.
If you've read and enjoyed The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, you will have been introduced to Don Robertson's writing style. He does have sections where the writing is following Morris Bird III's thoughts and it's all stream of consciousness writing. While these sections could potentially bother some people, I haven't had a problem with them.
Highly Recommended - and let's face it, fans of the first will be reading it anyway