October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard is a heartbreaking poetry collection from noted writer and LGBT activist Leslea Newman about the 1998 murder of twenty year old Matthew Shepard. Shepard was abducted from a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, beaten and robbed, tied to a fence where he bled and cried for eighteen hours until a passing biker found him, and died after laying in a coma for five days. Shepard was targeted by the two young men for being gay. The poems are told from various points of view, the fence, a doe who laid beside him that night, his attackers, his family and friends. Absolutely beautiful poems about a horrendous hate crime. Must read.
Gritty short story collection by some of fantasy’s best authors like Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Holly Black with urban settings. Dark and atmospheric, great fantasy read.
Interesting book on the history of salt. It is amazing what is now so plentiful that we throw on our roads as a de-icer was once a precious and rare commodity that caravans crossed the desert for and created empires. Salt discusses methods of salt extraction, uses of salt as a preservative and seasoning, and the practical applications of salt in industry. Fun fact for the day; salted fish sauce has long been a flavoring used by societies from the Romans and Greeks in antiquity to the cuisine of southeast Asia and China today and initially, our favorite condiment catsup was an anchovy tomato sauce until the Americans and the British moved away from having fish in the sauce.
A must read for fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Charming period piece about a rich American girl whose mother has aspirations for her to marry a title. Very witty and intelligent; full of sables, Chippendales, and landed gentry.
Do you ever cheer for the monster? Wish that you were an evil genius? Think that the mad scientist should win once in a while? Then The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is the book for you. Full of nefarious plots and slavering Igors, it is a wildly entertaining romp of short stories where the superheros are often just stupid saps and the wicked do not get their just deserts. Muahahahahaha!
Very entertaining short story collection by some of the big names in fantasy and paranormal fiction like Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, and Rachel Cain. Great read for fans of the genre.
Literary Rogues is a very entertaining read about the bad boys and a few bad girls of literature. Nothing new that we didn’t learn in Lit 101; Bryon was a sex fiend, Coleridge was an opium fiend, and suicide is a very real hazard of the writing profession. While perhaps not groundbreaking , Shaffer, who writes for Maxim and The Huffington Post, has a breezy fast paced writing style very well suited to stories of vice and excess with a healthy dose of genius and madness thrown in. Good fun light read.
The Unwanteds is one of this year’s Mark Twain nominees. It is the story of the land of Quill where every year there is a sorting of thirteen year olds. Some become Wanted and go on to positions of power and influence, some become Necessaries who do the manual jobs, and some are Unwanted who are purged and sent to their deaths. In actuality, the Unwanted are taken to a magical land where their talents of creativity and imagination which had doomed them are cultivated and nurtured. But their world can not remain hidden forever. I really liked the ideas of this book but found the premise to be much more promising than the execution. The world building was very spare and the characters not very well developed. A lot of fluff and very little bones.
Nine hundred and nineteen members of the People’s Temple died on November 18, 1978 in Jonestown. Guyana. Hundreds of members survived. Some people were still in California waiting to come to Jonestown, some were running the offices in the port city of Kaituma receiving supplies and new arrivals, some escaped through the jungle, and one elderly woman slept as the murder squad passed over her, thinking she was already dead. Thousands of more people lost their children, parents, sisters, brothers, and spouses to Jonestown. Stories from Jonestown is about the survivors. Leigh Fondakowski, who wrote the critically acclaimed play and movie The Laramie Project about the murder of Matt Shepard, conducted three years of interviews preparing for a play about Jonestown. The experiences that she and her collaborators collected from people are recounted in their own words and voices. This book is not National Enquirer sensationalism of Jim Jones with his orgies and drug use, of dead bodies littering the jungle, of poisoned kool-aid, and brainwashed cultism. Stories from Jonestown is about well intentioned people reeling from the Vietnam war, the assignations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, and the seeming breakdown of American justice and ideals. Jim Jones and the People’s Temple promised racial and social equality, a new society where black and white, wealthy and poor, old and young would care for each another and worship, eat, and live together as one. These are the stories of parents watching the footage on the television and praying their child was not there, of members who know that had they been there, they too would have obeyed the order to drink, a man who left his child behind as he escaped. These are stories of regret and anguish, of accountability and shame, of people who remember Jim Jones as a monster, or a fallen saint, or their father. These are stories of how Jonestown has never left them, in dreams and griefs and night horrors. This is the story of how a promised social utopia spiraled into torture, paranoia, suicide, and murder. These are stories that must be heard.
Kudos Claudia on an excellent recommendation. Her intriguing review of The Thirteenth Tale got me to pick up the book and then I couldn’t put it down. The Thirteenth Tale defies categorization. It is suspense and mystery with a splash of paranormal with a healthy dose of Gothic ghost story. Setterfield is a master of the chimera of words, her text shades from beautiful to sad to horrifying within a sentence. The plot, ah the twisting and turning plot; madness, governesses, reclusive authors, feral children, murder, love, heartbreak, incest, and bibliophilism. And the ending, ah the ending, you never see it coming and then realize it couldn’t have been any other way. Perhaps a perfect book if there ever is such a thing.
The Child’s Child is written by acclaimed British author Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine. It is a novel-within-a novel about society taboos and how very little that they change over time. The framing story is about a modern brother-sister pair who co-habitat a house left to them. The brother brings in his male lover who upsets their life together. The interior novel is a book that is being edited by the sister about another brother-sister pair in the early 20th century who, after the girl finds herself pregnant out of wedlock, moves in with her homosexual brother and acts as his wife to allay society censure. While the book itself is well written, I find the characters in The Child’s Child to be tragic yet somehow unlikable. Blatant bigotry and violence mirrors the stories of both pairs of siblings throughout the book. I was left unsure after finishing the book. To be frank, I did not like it and yet it has very important things to say about society and it’s treatment of what it deems “undesirable”.
Here I Go Again is an utterly charming read. What happens to the prom queen long after high school is over? Well, if she is Lissy Ryder, our sort of heroine, she loses her high caliber job and her quarterback husband and moves back in with her parents. She goes to her high school reunion for a little soul-soothing adoration to only find that all the so-called losers she merciless mocked in high school are now very successful people who happen to hate her. If only she could go back in time and change her choices, perhaps karma wouldn’t be kicking her in her not so pert hinder parts now. Well, thanks to a former classmate turned guru extraordinaire she can. Here I Go Again is about coming to terms with who you are and who you were, about life after Friday night football and mean girls, and about the best revenge is a life well lived.
Far From the Tree is perhaps the greatest non-fiction book that I have ever read. It is luminous and extraordinary, lucid and clear eyed, heartbreaking and redemptive. A spare description is to say that Far From the Tree is about parents of exceptional children and their relationships with their children, the medical and educational communities, societal systems, and the greater world itself. Those few words though fail to even begin to capture the complexity of emotions, personality, and humanity that this book about. Framed by an introduction and a summation, each of the ten chapters deals with a specific condition; some of them conventional disabilities like autism, deafness, or down’s syndrome, and others less easily cataloged, like prodigies, criminals, and children of rape. Solomon draws from forty thousand pages of interviews he conducted over a decade with parents, children, doctors, educators, activists, and researchers. He discusses not only the spectrum of each condition but also the causes and treatments. He cites both cutting edge science and historical precedents. He debates controversies of limb lengthening, cochlear implants, sexual reassignments and executing children. But at its heart, Far From the Tree is about parent and child. What is it like to have a child that is vastly different than you, with experiences you can never really understand, who will likely fail to achieve the basic milestones of life? The parents in Far From the Tree run the gamut of reaction, some become activists and tireless supporters of their children, some try to endure to the best of their abilities, and some institutionalize, abuse, or even murder their children. Solomon never flinches from the complexity of his subject’s lives. The chapters on transgender children and the children of rape are especially heart-rending. Solomon is gay which gives him great insight into being a very different person than a parent expected and also is a parent which gives him the emotional insight of child-love. Far From the Tree is far from an easy read, it is long, extremely dense, and often emotionally wrenching. It is though an extremely worthwhile read that will touch your soul.