Red Spring continues the excellence in storytelling I found in the first two books of the Black Year Series, Black Fall and White Winter. In the Black Fall, we were introduced to Jonas Black, a 16 year old whose life went pear shaped when he discovered the truth about his family and his world. As Black Fall gave way to White Winter, Jonas’s world was in flames. He struggled to try to prevent his vision of causing an apocalypse from coming true.
Red Spring shows Jonas’s stumbling from one decision to the next. He makes decisions from a place of darkness and confusion. He also keeps secrets from those who love him. While he blamed his parents for raising him in a life constructed of lies, he justifies his own lies as trying to protect people and prevent his vision from coming true. New allies and enemies are introduced as well as old friends becoming enemies.
The pacing of the book is terrific. Like the previous books, the tension is balanced by humor. For example one of my favorite lines is, “Jonas, she’s not the most complicated woman in the world. She has the depth of a kiddie pool built for Smurfs.” The battle scenes are great. About three quarters of the way through the book there is an absolute shocker. I was caught completely off guard. What happens next is certainly not anti-climactic.
Red Spring is a story arc complete unto itself but it does need to be read after the first two books to get the full story. It does end in a cliffhanger but has only left me more excited for the final book of the series.
I received a copy of the Red Spring from the author in exchange for an honest review.
This is the third book in The Scattered and the Dead series. I enjoyed this one as much as the last two. It advances the storylines of several characters. It follows Fiona, Lorraine, Ray and Marissa. There are very brief sections with Baghead and Decker. Ray, Lorraine, Baghead and Decker are all characters from previous books. As with previous books, the timeline is fluid. One section may take place before the event while others take place weeks or months after the event. As you come to know the characters, it is not hard to follow.
Book 0.5 and Book 1.5 are much shorter compared to Book 1. They are not bridge books by any means. Each book is a contribution to the series, just as much as the larger Book 1. As I mentioned in earlier reviews, the universe is unique. The Scattered and the Dead universe is more real. Possibly because it is told from many points view, possibly because the characters are from such different backgrounds and personalities.
One thing I really like is how the authors break the sections up. The narrative switches between the characters. It is not one large section narrated by one character followed by the next big section by another character. Instead, it is a series of very well done cliffhangers for each character. For instance, in one of Ray’s sections, the last sentences are “And then the screaming started again. Somewhere ahead of me.” Just as you are dealing with that you are thrown into Fiona’s latest situation. It really is very good writing and excellent pacing.
The Scattered and the Dead, Book 1.5 is narrated by the authors, Tim McBain and L. T. Vargus. All the books in this series so far have had excellent production values. The clear strong voices of the narrators, who happens to be one of the authors, L. T. Vargus and Tim McBain, do a fantastic job narrating the book. They both have pleasant voices to listen to. Perhaps having authored the book helped in their ability to narrate it so well. They did not seem to be reading it as much as telling it, as one survivor after another shared their with the listener. It makes for a very intimate narration.
I highly recommend The Scattered and the Dead series. If you have not started it yet, now is the perfect time.
I received a copy of The Scattered and the Dead Book 1.5 from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
The Shadow Land A Novel
by Elizabeth Kostova
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Pub Date 11 Apr 2017
Courtesy of Netgalley
The Shadow Land is a mystery, a thriller and a love story but not a traditional love story. It is a love for a land, it’s people and it’s history. Beginning The Shadow Land I knew a little bit about Bulgaria, thanks to Ms. Kostova’s 2005 book The Historian. But I knew nothing about it’s mid twentieth century history. I did not know there was a King who allied his country to Hitler and left them to suffer one brutal dictatorship and ideology after another. Kostova brings this history to life through the people who lived it and the people who struggled to rebuild.
Alexandra is a woman in her mid-twenties who has been marked by tragedy over ten years before. Her brother disappeared the day after his sixteenth birthday on a family hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His body was never found. Alexandra had been close to him until shortly before his disappearance. Looking back she tries to find a reason, was he depressed, was it an accident but all she finds are more reasons to blame herself. She travels to Bulgaria, a country her brother dreamt about seeing, to teach and to try to move on.
The taxi from the airport deposits her at a main point in the city of Sofia. Alexandra is in the process of getting another taxi to her hostel, a low cost living arrangement until the school year begins and she receives a salary, when a good deed does indeed get punished. Trying to help an elderly couple and their son into another taxi, she accidently ends up with one of their bags mixed with hers. As her taxi begins to drive her away, she realizes the mistakes. The other family is gone and the bag Alexandra has contains someone’s ashes in an elaborately carved urn.
Alexandra’’s taxi driver, who she calls Bobby, offers to help her return the ashes. What follows is an odyssey, that covers the length and breadth of Bulgaria and it’s history. As Kostova did in the Historian, the story is split into different time periods and narrators. The voice of the dead man whose ashes are now in Alexandra’s possession are told in his journal. Other people speak for him, to tell his story and how it is so entwined with the history of Bulgaria.
The books is at it’s best when it takes these magical side trips into the murky past. A blind woman over one hundred years old tells of when the Ottoman’s were finally driven from Bulgaria. The dead man’s sister-in-law tells of a serious suitor who quietly wins the family over with his courtesy and obvious adoration for Vera, his future wife. The survivor of a inhuman prison camp where the inmates do not know their crimes. The author saved a wonderful surprise for the last quarter of the book. It made me love the characters all the more.
I recently reviewed Katherine Anderson’s Prisoner of the Asylum. The next book in the series is Slave. I love Abbey and the series that is created around her. I love the story settings. While the Asylum book was a little bit cooler, just cause you know it was in an asylum, Slave is still a very good book.
In the first chapter of Slave, Abbey and Luke set out to explore a mill, which ultimately does not pan out. She and Luke are great because they are friends, no romantic involvement, just friends. I like their comfort with each other. They a an abandoned cottage after getting tips from their urban exploration community. Once there they literally fall into a surprise in an undocumented tunnel. The tunnel has a few surprises of its own. There is also a paranormal aspect to this book. I cannot really give detail without giving away plot points.
As in the first book, the descriptions are wonderful. They are lush in detail and create an atmosphere that the reader can feel. There is a paragraph is Chapter 13 about a town at the bottom of the quarry which is just wonderful to read: “It was such a beautiful piece of water but it was cloaked in so many dark and disturbing stories.” Abbey’s parents are introduced in this book and help the reader connect with some of her backstory. It helps the character develop in the reader’s mind.
Why is Abbey finding paranormal situations with her urban explorations? She describes it as, “something inside me that called to them, and let them know that I was someone who could understand them.” I am hoping a future book can explore why that is. The ending is very special. One of the best endings I have read in awhile in terms of one or two sentences giving a world of information. I look forward to continuing to read about Abbey’s explorations, both urban and paranormal.
I enjoyed this book. The main character, Abbey, is involved in Urban Exploration as a hobby. More than a hobby actually; it is a passion. Abbey got into Urban Exploration through her grandmother. She is accompanied on her adventures is her friend Luke.
The book spans two different time periods, World War II and the present. Ms. Anderson does a wonderful job of creating a parallel between World War II and the war in the mind of a mentally ill person. The mood setting in both time periods is great. For example, one phrase really illustrates the panic and claustrophobia of the time, “Trapped in a basement with a group of mental patients while bombs rained down aboveground”.
The story that takes place during World War II is about a young woman named Isabella. She is committed by her father when she is twenty-five years old. She suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, possibly inherited from her mother. It ties to the modern story when Abbey finds Isabella’s records during an exploration of Westwood Asylum for the Insane which has been abandoned for decades. What catches Abbey’s attention is that Isabella’s records stop very suddenly. As Abbey and her exploration partner Luke continue their exploration of the Asylum and investigation into Isabella’s history, Isabella emerges, moving through a layer separating this plane from the next.
The book is well researched. In chapter six, there is a discussion of Walter Freeman that is fascinating and one of the most horrifying things I have ever read. That paragraph is equal to anything Stephen King has ever gotten me with. There are no words implying horror, no monsters jumping at you, no specific words that do it but arranging into those sentences in that paragraph is one of the most terrifying and unforgettable images I have ever encountered. And the author just slips it in there. No warning. Genius, just glorious genius. Thinking about it still gives me the creeps months later.
As I states earlier, Ms. Anderson has a wonderful gift in setting the mood. When talking about the morgue in the asylum she describes it as “the morgue, alongside the physically dead, not just the psychologically dead.”, evokes an emotion, a sense of dread, a feeling of those poor souls trapped in their own minds and in the asylum.
I previously enjoyed Ms. Anderson’s Hospital Hill. I am looking forward to reviewing more of her work.
White Winter (The Black Year Series Book 2)
by D.J. Bodden
Courtesy of author
In Black Fall, Book 1 of D. J. Bodden’s The Black Year Series, I was introduced to Jonas Black, a 16 year old whose life missed the turn at Albuquerque and ended up in a nameless circle of Hell. Jonas’s life unraveled when his father died and he discovered some very startling truths about the world and his place in it. I was introduced to vampires, werewolves, a zombie (or not) plus Jonas’s freaked out human girlfriend. Some of the individuals, no matter what species, were cool and some were just terrifying on the “I will eat your soul” scale.
When Book 1, Black Fall, ends Jonas is trying to cope with what the last few months of his life have dumped on him. It is a lot, much more than typical teen angst. White Winter, Book 2, picks up shortly after the end of Black Fall. Jonas is trying to settle into his new reality with it’s perks and drawbacks. He has a vision of a world in ashes that seems to point it’s skeletal finger at him as the cause. Who does he tell? Who does he trust enough to tell? As Jonas tries to make this decision, he and Kieran, his best friend, get sent on a road trip for Agency business. Nothing about the trip goes well and proves that their is a conspiracy to destroy Jonas, his mother, his friends and the Agency. Does Jonas try to stop them or will that fulfill the prophecy? If he doesn’t try to stop them, will that fulfill the prophecy? What is a sixteen year old boy supposed to do when he doesn’t know where to step or what to stay to avoid bringing about the events of his vision?
White Winter had as much action as Black Fall. There is great character development in the characters like Jonas, Eve, Alice and Kieran from the first book. There are new characters who range from “can you trust them” to “damn that’s freaky”. The pacing was steady and at times frantic. The battle/fight scenes are well written. They made sense and not, being anything of a military historian myself, the tactics seem realistic.
In my review of Black fall I said I would have no problems recommending it to anyone over eighteen and probably any mature high schoolers. I did read White Winter with my “mother” senses engaged and I feel that it would be fine for a mature teen just due to the violence. Parents should always read books first before they hand them over and know your child’s ability to separate fact from fiction. I would have had no problem handing Black Fall or White Winter to my son when he was eleven (and had already read The Lord of the Rings and everything Brian Jacques had written to that point).
I am eager to start the last book in the trilogy, Red Spring. Black Fall and White Winter do end with cliffhangers but also complete their particular story arc. I really appreciate authors who make sure they do complete the arc within the book. It gives it a satisfying ending but gives you a craving for the next course. I would highly recommend getting your hands on Black Fall and White Winter. I will review Red Spring as soon as I finish it. Not to belabor a point but this series would be fantastic as an audiobook with the right narrator.
Review Audiobook THE SCATTERED AND THE DEAD: A POST-APOCALYPTIC SERIES, BOOK 1 BY TIM MCBAIN AND L.T. VARGUS
When I reviewed the Audible version of The Scattered and the Dead, Book 0.5, I totally got lost in a new universe. The Scattered and the Dead 0.5 follows only one person Decker. The Scattered and the Dead Book 1 is a much larger cast and time period. The easiest way to illustrate this is to list the character’s names and where their stories start in Book 1:
Rex 68 days before
Baghead 9 yrs, 126 days after
Mitch 43 days before
Travis 44 days after
Erin 29 days after
Teddy 69 days after
Ray 3 days before
Lorraine 3 days before
As you can tell by the listing above, the book is not linear. It tells different people’s stories with very different starting points. For example, Baghead’s story begins over 9 years after the event while Mitch’s story begins 43 days before. This was the hardest part of the book for me, the chronology. My inability to keep the chronology straight was a very minor downside for me. The story was wonderful. There were characters like Erin and Mitch that I connected with. And then there were characters like Teddy that made me want to jump into the book and warn the other characters to avoid him at all costs. The ages of the characters vary also from children to middle age.
The situations that characters exist in are not static. Some characters are perpetually moving, either for foraging or for unknown reasons. Some are hunkered down and just trying to survive for as long as they can. The undead are not the worst monsters in this book. I think the authors do a great job of painting the human monsters in vivid colors. In fact, I can readily visualize some of those human monsters living here in the United States, now, without the apocalypse to create them.
As I said in my review of Book 0.5, the authors have created a post-apocalyptic universe that feels different than many of the other I have read (and I have read many). If you like the post-apocalyptic genre, this is a great series. Even if you are not a zombie fan, you will still like this series. The zombies are only one part of what drives this book.
The Audible version of Book 0.5 was fabulous and so is Book 1 also with excellent production values. The clear strong voice of the narrator of Book 0.5, who happens to be one of the authors, also narrated Book 1 with the other author, L. T. Vargus. Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus did a fantastic job narrating the book. They both have pleasant voices to listen to. Perhaps having authored the book helped in their ability to narrate it so well. They did not seem to be reading it as much as telling it, as one survivor after another shared their story with the listener. It makes for a very intimate narration.
Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
Please find this complete review and many others at Audiobook Reviewer
Calling All Angels ((The Shadow Council Case Files #1)
by John G. Hartness (Goodreads Author), Melissa Gilbert (Editor)
Courtesy of John G. Hartness
Calling All Angels takes place in the same universe as the Quincy Harker Demon Hunter Novellas. The main character is Joanna (Jo) Harrison descends from an American Legend, a man of mythical strength, John Henry. Not only has Jo inherited John’s strength, she also has his hammer. Jo has returned from helping Quincy stop Hell on Earth from happening in Atlanta. But home holds it’s own battles and challenges.
Jo lives with her elderly mother, Cassandra, and her young daughter, Ginny. Jo is a single mom, working by day as a freelance editor to support her family. She is working as a cage fighter at night. The money is great. She always wins due to her great strength. But her main reason for putting herself through the brutality of the fighting is to complete the task Quincy had given her. She is to return an item to a man. The item is a sword. The man is an archangel. Easy peasy. Or not. As usual in the Harker universe, nothing is easy. The man does not know he is an archangel, he wants nothing to do with the sword and there is a really nasty demon that wants the angel and the sword.
Calling All Angels is a fun read. As with the Harker series, the story has intriguing characters. The backstory on Jo adds more facets to a character I already liked. This is the first in a new series. I am hoping that each novella will feature a different member of the Shadow Council as I am very interested in learning the backstory on each of them. If you have enjoyed the Quincy Harker novellas or any of Mr. Hartness’s other series, I highly recommend Calling All Angels. It has the makings of another great series to get hooked on.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
by D.J. Bodden
Pub Date 10 Apr 2015
When is a vampire not a vampire? When is a werewolf not a werewolf? Or a zombie not a zombie? D. J. Bodden’s Black Fall is a fast paced read where nothing is what it seems and sometimes that is really bad. Jonas Black is a 16 yr old whose life begins to unravel when his father dies. The funeral is at night. His mother breaks open the urn and claims it is not her husband because she can tell “human” ashes. Poor Jonas is about to spend the next few months constantly thinking, “Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.”
Black Fall is a supernatural mystery built around a teenager, who used to have normal teenage problems until he found out the truth about his parents, himself and the world. The beings that populate the book were fascinating. Different than the normal run of the mill supernaturals. I did have some confusion about the power structures in the different species as well as Jonas’s existence. I am not sure if more of this will be dealt with in the next three books (Black Fall is the first of a projected four book series). It was an enjoyable read that I obtained from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. I would love to hear it as an audiobook read by someone like James Foster (hint, hint author). I would have no problems recommending it to anyone over eighteen and probably any mature high schoolers. I would have to reread it again with my “mother” senses engaged before I would go any younger. I will be looking forward to picking up the sequel when my library gets it. And seriously Mr. Bodden - Audiobook - James Foster.
The Mammoth Book of the Mummy
by Paula Guran
Diamond Book Distributors
The Mummy. What does that noun, “Mummy”, conjure in your mind? In my very strange mind, I get side by side pictures. One is the mummy I saw in the Smithsonian when I was in 7th grade (many, many years ago). The other is of the fantastic, wonderful Boris Karloff so very expressive while wrapped in linen. The new mummy movies have not changed that second image for me.
When the reader thinks about mummies in literature, the reader has to put effort into it. There just are not a plethora of mummy stories, not like vampires, werewolves or zombies. That may be because not many writers tried to work with them. Thank goodness Paula Guran collected nineteen short stories that expand and twist the typical mummy in such a way that while preserving the time honored concept allows a creative spin that leaves the reader hanging on for dear life.
The authors and stories in the book are:
* That I May Speak (Introduction to collection), Paula Guran - Guran does an excellent job of navigating the world of mummies both in film and literature.
* “Private Grave 9”, Karen Joy Fowler
* “The Good Shabti”, Robert Sharp - This story cuts between Ancient Egypt and the not too distant future. The sense of dread builds in both ages until there is a clash that I did not see coming. Great story.
* “Egyptian Revival”, Angela Slatter - This was one of my favorites. Imagine a strong, feminine Private Investigator in the Ancient Egyptian religion is proven to be real. Antiquities are now not just collectibles, they are possible gateways to immortality. A fun story. I will be adding the author to my list of new authors to check out.
* “The Queen in Yellow”, Kage Baker - Mummies and time travel. Oh and cyborgs.
* “On Skua Island”, John Langan - This one was creepy in a “they need to make this into a movie” creepy. Very good non-Egyptian mummy.
* “Ramesses on the Frontier”, Paul Cornell - I have read several books by Paul Cornell and he never disappoints. His Ramesses trip through the underworld is funny and unique and an excellent story.
* “The Shaddowes Box”, Terry Dowling
* “Egyptian Avenue”, Kim Newman - This one was really cool. I have read several of Kim Newman’s books involving his Diogenes Club. This story has that wonderful blend of supernatural and Scotland Yard. A very enjoyable story.
* “The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar”, Gail Carriger - My favorite of the collection. It does have a werewolf who isn’t, a mummy and a cat in the jar. It also has a character that I haven’t decided what he is and an author who I already put one of her books on hold at my local library.
* “The Night Comes On”, Steve Duffy - I enjoyed this one also. I will check out the author’s other work.
* “American Mummy”, Stephen Graham Jones - This was a good story set in the modern day southwestern USA.
* “Bubba-Ho-Tep”, Joe R. Lansdale - I did not see the movie that was based on this story. It did not really do anything for me but then again I am not an Elvis fan.
* “Fruit of the Tomb”, Carole Nelson Douglas - I loved this story. Having become a first time cat owner seven months ago, I can truly appreciate the worship of cats. Heart of Night is worthy of that worship.
* “The Chapter of Coming Forth by Night”, Lois Tilton & Noreen Doyle
* “The Mummy’s Heart”, Norman Partridge
* “The Emerald Scarab”, Keith Taylor
* “The Embalmer”, Helen Marshall - Not your typical mummy and two children I never want to cross paths with.
* “Tollund”, Adam Roberts
* “Three Memories of Death”, Will Hill - Another one of my favorites. A beautiful, touching story.
The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, which I received from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review, blew up the all my previous conceptions of what a mummy is. I discovered several new authors and broaden my imagination. I highly recommend The Mammoth Book of the Mummy. I hope to see other authors try their hand at this neglected beautiful genre.
I am addicted to Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novellas. I am addicted to the books and audiobooks. I look forward to the latest release with as much anticipation as I previously looked forward to the Cadbury Easter chocolates. Each book continues to build on the previous in a way that very, very few series are ever able to do. The fact that this is Book 8 in the series and I am still deeply invested in the characters speaks volumes about the author's talent.
Quincy has meet up with his group in Atlanta where they believe the next Demonic Super Event will occur. It is up to Quincy and his groups to stop them. If you are not familiar with the Quincy Harker series, get yourself started as quickly as possible. They are well worth it. Quincy's fiancee Rebecca is joined by Gabby Van Helsing, Dr. Watson, Jo Henry and Adam. Adam does not care to use his father's last name. It has the potential to cause villages to form mobs armed with pitchforks and flaming torches. Quincy's Uncle Luke is also helping. If you are not familiar with Quincy's Uncle Luke, you should know that his name at birth was Vlad Tepes. Imagine the Georgia Dome, the Atlanta Falcon's NFL team in a playoff game and Uncle Luke walking around in a Matty Ice jersey and Falcon's baseball cap. Not your parent's Dracula? No, Uncle Luke is even better.
As with the previous books, the humor is delightful. The humor never overshadows the mystery or terror that comes from Hell. It is an incredible balancing act to find the right combination and timing for the humor, mystery and terror. From Book 1 to Book 8 the quality of writing has remained very, very high. My interest has not flagged at all. In fact I am eagerly awaiting the next book.
Full Wolf Moon
by Lincoln Child
General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date 16 May 2017
Courtesy Netgalley and Edelweiss
I have enjoyed Lincoln Child’s novels for years, both his solo works and those written with Douglas Preston. I was excited to see Full Wolf Moon available for an Advance Review Copy from both Netgalley and Edelweiss. I requested from both to double my odds of scoring a copy. What do you know? I ended up with copies from both.
Jeremy Logan is a professor of Medieval History at Yale in Massachusetts. He first appeared in Deep Storm published in 2007 as a minor character. He appeared again in a side role in 2009’s Terminal Freeze. Logan finally got a bigger part in the 2012 thriller The Third Gate. The Forgotten Room, published in 2015 was all his. It is also the only one of the four I had not read. Full Wolf Moon to be published in May 2017 is again built around Logan’s character. In addition to his day job as a historian, Logan moonlights (pun intended) as an enigmalogist or one who studies unexplained phenomena. It is in this capacity that he appears in the novels named.
Logan is in the Adirondack Mountains at an artist retreat. He is planning on spending several weeks cut off from distractions to finally finish a medieval history academic paper. The retreat has a good reputation and is hosting Logan as a historian, certainly not in his other capacity. The first night at the retreat, an old classmate from Yale arrives, now serving as a Ranger for the wilderness areas that comprise the Adirondacks. There have been several murders over the last few months in an area around Desolation Mountain (great name but not sure I would buy real estate there). The Ranger asks Logan to look into the murders as a favor to him as a friend. There is something “wrong” about the situation that the Ranger cannot quite put his finger on. Logan has to separate fact from fiction and study the myths of the isolated area to try to find answers. He also has to finish his academic paper and not attract unwanted attention to the artist retreat and be asked to leave.
Logan was an interesting character. One of the area residents, Albright, was also interesting. The rest of the characters were somewhat two dimensional, including the Ranger. I never really had a strong feel one way or the other for any of them. I figured out the villain as soon as he was introduced. By the time I reached the last quarter of the book, I knew the basics of how, who, where, why and when. So the ending was not a total surprise. It was an enjoyable read though I have enjoyed Child’s stand alone novels Utopia and Death Match more. I would recommend Full Wolf Moon as an enjoyable mystery. If you are looking for full out werewolf horror Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon is still the yardstick by which I measure.
Badasses The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden's Oakland Raiders
Author Peter Richmond
Narrated by Barry Abrams
Publication date Feb 7, 2017
Running time 12 hrs 27 min
Great football. Great teams. Great rivalries. Rivalries between teams, not individuals or coaches. Football for the sake of football, not for the obscene amount of money the owners and the NFL make or the outrageous amounts the individual players can make by jumping teams every time the cash register rings up a higher amount. “Ken Stabler put it, ‘you played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back” This is the era the greatest Badasses of all time, John Madden’s Oakland Raiders, played in. The story, the characters (and what characters they were) and the atmosphere that created the Badass Raiders is told in loving detail by Peter Richmond, a lifelong Raiders fan.
There were so many unusual aspects of the Badass Raiders, the players who crashed on other teams but bloomed on the Raiders, an owner and head coach who were called by their first names, their larger than life personas on and off the field and most surprising of all the high percentage of very intelligent men with degrees in challenging majors from prestigious schools like Stanford. Yet they all created the perfect storm to create one of the best teams in the history of football. While Madden’s Raiders had one Super Bowl Ring, their winning percentages were higher than any other team of the era.
The first Super Bowl I remember watching was the 1977 Raiders vs. Vikings. My dad and I watched several Raiders games that year and I was captured by the Raider’s quarterback, Ken “The Snake” Stabler. The nickname “Snake” came from his ability to scramble long before it Wilson and Kaepernick were even conceived, literally. On August 17, 1980, I was in Houston for a week. I had the opportunity to see a preseason game between the now defunct Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints. The Oilers won 20 to 17 that day. I can remember nothing of that day except watching Stabler move. He was in the last five years of his career but the man was still the Snake.
Barry Abrams narrates Badasses with the joy of a football fan. He does a great job with various accents, from Al Davis’s Brooklyn tinged speech to the mellowed Alabama tones of Stabler. Abrams keeps the narration at pace with the writing. It is never monotone or over the top. The production quality is excellent.
I highly recommend Badasses. It is a much a joy to read as it probably was for the Badass Raiders to play. “As tight end Bob Moore, a Stanford guy, put it to me, summing up his Raiders years, ‘Seven days a week, it was as much fun as a human being could have and still stay alive.’”
The Shadow of What Was Lost: The Licanius Trilogy, Book 1
Written by: James Islington
Narrated by: Michael Kramer
Length: 25 hrs and 28 mins
Series: The Licanius Trilogy, Book 1
Publisher: Podium Publishing
Courtesy of AudFans on Facebook (@AudFansPage)
James Islington creates a very complex and complete universe in his Licanius Trilogy introduction, The Shadow of What Was Lost. I had not read the book so the audiobook was my first encounter with the author and this world. The three main characters the listener first encounters are Davian, Asha, and Wirr. All three are students at a school for the “Gifted”. In this universe, “Gifted” means they can use a type of magic. The three are good friends and support each other. Final exams are approaching. Asha and Wirr are sure to pass but Davian may fail. In this school failure not only means expulsion but being turned into a “Shadow”. Shadows are marked, physically with dark lines on their faces, and mentally, by having their memories of the school and what they learned there and their lives up to that day erased. They are the lowest of the low, scorned by all.
This is a world that has undergone a war within the last generation that caused the Gifted to be bound by laws not to use their gifts. It is a world with secrets from two thousand years ago and present, like who Wirr really is. Caeden, the other main character who joins the story later, also has secrets but they are hidden even from him. Finding out the truth for many of the characters, about themselves, others and their world may destroy them all.
Michael Kramer did a good job with the narration. He did not make the female voices irritating (a big plus in my book for male narrators). His male voices were good although a few were very hard to distinguish from each other. There are a lot of characters in the book so that is not necessarily the narrator's fault. It may be my own inability to hear as clearly as I did years ago. The accents he did were good.
I enjoyed The Shadow of What Was Lost. I will be getting the book from my local library to see what I may have missed in just hearing the book. Since there were so many unusual names, places, titles and designations, I might have not had a complete understanding of what I was hearing. I am planning on getting Book 2 when it is released in audio format. Book 1 was enjoyable and very different from other fantasy I have encountered. I would recommend James Islington’s The Shadow of What Was Lost: The Licanius Trilogy, Book 1 narrated by Michael Kramer.
A History of India
Author(s): Michael Fisher
Imprint: The Great Courses
CD - unabridged
Audio (19 CDs)
Product Number: GC0821
Released: Oct 12, 2016
Narrator/s: Michael Fisher
Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc. by arrangement with The Teaching Company
I have had some experience with The Great Courses by The Teaching Company over the last ten or so years. I have had two DVD courses and several audio only ones. The majority of the course work fine in audio only with some exceptions like a course on the great works of art. I have not only learned a great deal from each course but have truly enjoyed them.
A History of India was offered as a review copy from Recorded Books. India, as a country, a culture and a people, has long fascinated since I received a copy of The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye for my 16th birthday. I have not really had the opportunity to experience any non-fiction looks at India. A History of India was an excellent learning experience and achieved my goal of familiarizing myself with all of India, not just the historical fiction India.
The course is taught by Michael H. Fisher, Ph.D., a professor of HIstory at Oberlin College. Professor Fisher spent time living in India, with shorter periods in Pakistan and Bangladesh.He has a true love for the subject matter and it comes through in his lectures. Since this is an audio course, I would like to mention that the sound and production quality are excellent. Professor Fisher has a pleasant speaking voice. His pronunciations of foreign terms are clear and distinct so the listener can truly catch the word. When the same word comes up later, it is not an unknown term. He really does an excellent job.
The course consists of thirty-six lessons of thirty minutes in audio format. Also included is a course guide in a pdf format. The course guide consists of a summary of each lecture, including some maps or photographs. The lecture summaries are rather more complete than normal summaries. Each lecture summary ends with a suggested reading list for those who want to explore more of the material covered in that lecture.
What I really liked about the course was the completeness of the material covered. The first lecture, “Earliest History of the Indian Subcontinent” covers India’s geographic history. One of the things my children learned early in their education was that history occurs where it does for a reason. There were mountains that formed a barrier. There was a river that allowed a civilization to rise. There were weather conditions that changed the land and how it could be used. All of these are very important factors in why history happens where it does. The first lecture helps the listener understand how the geography of the Indian subcontinent shaped what was to come.
The lectures continue with the migration of different peoples into the different areas of India. Literature and religion are not neglected but have several lectures dedicated to them. Each Indian empire is discussed. Lecture twenty-three begins the exploration of the influence of European Countries. The European conquest, rebellions and eventual Indian independence are covered next. The last two lectures examine the modernization of India beginning in the 1960’s and the 21st Century from the perspective of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the surrounding nations). It really is a complete course on the history of India.
There are several ways to enjoy or utilize this course. The lectures can be listened to as time allows without reference to the course guide. The listener can read the lecture notes from the course guide and then listen to the accompanying lecture. This allows the listener to have familiarized themselves with the material similar to doing the required reading before a college class. The reader could also listen to the lectures and refer to the course guide only as they feel necessary. There is no wrong way to utilize the course.
I took thirty days to complete the course. I listened to one lecture per day, two if time allowed. I did read over the course guide for each lecture before listening to the lecture. This method required an hour at the most of my time per lecture. I chose to do it in this manner to make sure that I had a full understanding of what I was hearing. I am planning on listening to the course again in a more informal manner, probably starting in April. I learned quite a bit. I highly recommend A History of India in audio format. While driving, working at home or the office, the listener could enjoy an educational field trip to a country, culture and people unique in our world.
Prince Charles The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
by Sally Bedell Smith
Random House Publishing Group - Random House
Biographies & Memoirs
Pub Date 04 Apr 2017
I am a fan of royalty but from the 16th century and older. The modern royalty has not crossed my radar except for Masterpiece theater. When I saw a new biography on Prince Charles, I decided to pick it up from Netgalley. The likelihood of Prince Charles being crowned King grows with each year. It seemed like a good idea to learn about the man who literally would be king.
The childhood of Charles was a textbook case in how not to raise a healthy child. It really is sad. He was forced into a mold. His father tried to force the young prince to fit to his own interests, forced him to attend a school that the prince’s own grandmother stated would not be good for him. All of this without any of the usual signs of affection, either emotional or physical. Rarely a “good job” or a hug. The prince’s mother, the Queen, seems to be strangling part of the scenery instead of an active participant.
Charles seems to come into his own as he hit college. What is fascinating about this biography is not only Charles's evolution into his own man but the multiple disasters that occurred when his parents’ tried to manage him. Best example of this mismanaging is his marriage to Diana Spencer. Although Charles had found a woman who shared his interests and passions, she did not meet the requirements for inclusion in the royal family. After years of relationships that did not remotely meet those standards, he quickly selected and proposed to Diana Spencer.
This is where the book lost me. It was very critical, seriously critical, of Diana. She is painted by the author as being manipulative, having serious control issues, and being totally uninterested in Charles’s passions. She is portrayed as a good mother. She is also made use of the media to bolster her position as the “wronged” woman. Charles was involved in his sons’ lives. He did spend time with them and did not repeat the mistakes of his own father. But the media never photographed him with his sons. The media discussed Diana’s clothing, not Charles's speeches in favor of environmental causes.
Despite the author’s bias towards Charles, I would still recommend Prince Charles
The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. It is a wonderful look at a very complex man who will someday be King of England. It is an opportunity to get to know a man who will certainly shape events when he takes his place on the world stage.
Warren Adler is the author of more than forty published novels, the most famous being “The War of the Roses”, made into a very successful movie. This was my first occasion to read any of his work. I really enjoyed it and am contemplating which book to tackle next.
The plot of the book revolves around a family, Richard who works for the foreign service and is stationed in Egypt, his wife Maria and their five year old son. When this book was written in the mid 1980’s, 1986, the USSR was still intact and terrorism was starting to rise. The PLA and Arafat were the main group but others were popping up in Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Egypt. Mr. Adler was eerily ahead of his time in how he portrays this world of terrorism, each with their own agendas.
As the novel begins, Maria is sitting in her car with her not so patient son waiting to pick up her husband. He is already an hour late. He is part of the group giving the Under Secretary of State a tour of the museum. Also in the same parking lot are six men waiting to kidnap the Under Secretary to ransom in exchange for prisoner releases. When Maria’s son can wait no longer, she walks him towards the museum entrance to use the restroom, just as the dignitaries come out. The terrorist plan goes sideways quickly. In an attempt to gain something out of the botched plan Maria and her son are snatched instead.
This is where the novel excels in the dichotomy of power and how it is used. American policy is not to negotiate with terrorist. Maria and her son will most likely suffer torture and die. Except for one small fact unknown but to Maria, her husband and a few others. Maria’s father is a businessman in Brooklyn. The kind of business that Mario Puzo wrote so well about in his novels. Maria’s father is a Don, a Godfather, a mafia king. He does not play by the same rules as the government especially when his only surviving child and only grandson are involved.
His plan is simple. If the President will not negotiate with terrorist for hostages, take the President hostage. Here the book shows some dating. The mafia get into the White House relatively easy. There is only one computer involved for the CIA Director to use to contact operatives. Once the reader accepts the existence of the USSR and lack of computers and tight security, the story flows nicely. It really was a compelling listen.
Mr. Moore does a great job narrating. The overt menace of the terrorist leader is nicely contrasted with the calm danger of the mafia don. All the accents are well done. Mr. Moore infuses the emotion into the narration without overdoing it. He really made the audiobook a “must listen just a little bit longer” that turned into hours. The production values were great.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
In this, the twenty-first century, we take for granted that our planet has been thoroughly explored. Douglas Preston has brought us the tale of a hidden civilization that takes a horrendous toll on it’s explorers. It is a journey not to be missed, especially since the reader is not the one suffering the trials and pains the explorers did. Douglas Preston is a well-known author as part of the team, with Lincoln Childs, that writes the Pendergast mystery series. He also has his own books, both fiction and nonfiction that are worth checking out.
The first recorded reference to the White City is in the writing of Cortez. He was told by a guide that there was a civilization that rivaled the Aztecs and Incas located in what is modern-day Honduras. Cortez passed this information on to Spanish authorities but was never able to follow up on it. As the decades went by the legend of the White City persisted. Claims of finding the city were not accompanied by proof. The author does a good job of detailing the tantalizing clues that kept the legend alive.
Preston first heard of the White City while doing a story for National Geographic on Angkor Wat in 1996. He was told about new technology that can penetrate the thick jungle canopy to help determine if man-made structures existed. Preston was fascinated by the story and contacted the researchers to request joining the study. Steve Elkins, heading the project, accepted Preston into the group. After securing the financing, the search for the White City finally began in 2012. The preliminary work of selecting the possible sites, planning the expedition, and gathering a team of experts, not only in archaeology but also in navigating the jungle. The area of Honduras that the White City was believed to be was an isolated valley, uninhabited by man but full of danger like the fer-de-lance snake, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. The expedition finally started for the valley where the White City in 2015.
This is where the book becomes addictive. The snakes, the mosquitos, the jungle itself challenged the explorers day and night. The discoveries came quickly. The team had to decide whether to announce their finds and risk it all. Although they had accessed the site by helicopter, they knew once it was announced, others would attempt to rob the site of it’s priceless artifacts. Preston describes all of this, the danger, the hard choices, in detail that keeps the reader turning pages (in my case late into the night). Once the expedition ended, the danger did not. The worst was what many of the exhibition members unknowingly carried home with them. Despite the mosquito nets and liberal use of DEET, many members of the team became ill and had mosquito bites that did not heal. When the team compared bites and symptoms through email, they knew they needed expert medical help. Naively believing malaria was the worst, the team was shocked to find they had contracted leishmaniasis also called White Leprosy. The final discussion of this third world disease and it’s spread to first world countries was fascination and frightening.
The production values of the audiobook are fantastic. There are no issues with either the sound quality or the narrator’s clarity. Bill Mumy did a good job as a narrator. This was my first audiobook narrated by Mr. Mumy. He has a pleasant voice. As Preston is an American, it made sense to have the audiobook narrated by an American. While I did enjoy the audio and Mr. Mumy spoke clearly, I just felt there was something missing. I found myself wondering how it would have sounded narrated by James Foster, R. C. Bray, or Bronson Pinchot. I think Mr. Pinchot would have done an exceptional job as he did with The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million.
When I was in middle school, around 1973, I had a book about lost civilizations. It included the Mayan and Angkor Wat to name a few. I was fascinated with the thought that a culture could so completely disappear for hundreds of years. I remember thinking that book I read as a young teen was the last that would be written, that all lost civilizations had been discovered. The Lost City of the Monkey God rekindled all the amazement and wonder I felt many, many years ago reading about other lost cities. This is an amazing audiobook in it’s detailing of the legend itself, the preparation for and the expedition itself as well as the horrifying aftereffects on the team.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
Heaven Help Us: Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter, Book 7
Written by: John G. Hartness
Narrated by: James Foster
Length: 3 hrs and 43 mins
Series: Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter, Book 7
Publisher: Falstaff Books
Courtesy Audiobook Blast
I have had a couple of trying days lately. Trying to do taxes for my husband and I, our adult daughter and our son's one friend. Trying to untangle the insurance deductible mess. And finally have some idiot charge $980 to my Visa. Thank Heaven for a new Quincy Harker! As I spent the day dealing with all this adult crap, I listened to the latest installment in the Quincy Harker Demon Hunter Series: Heaven Help Us. It was a delight to listen to and really brightened up my day.
When last we saw Quincy, in Book 6, he was in a world of trouble and not just because he had fallen in love. Book 7 deals with the fallout of said love and the situation that ended Book 6. Quincy has to leave his home in Charlotte, NC, and lay low for awhile. Killing a Homeland Security Agent will lead to just that consequence. Quincy chooses Lockton, Ohio for his hideout specifically because it is far off the “usual suspects” grid. Using an assumed name, he plans on laying low and trying to clear his name while Rebecca, his fiancee, and a Charlotte police officer, does the same. Quincy's plan is good and last all of five minutes. Five minutes in Lockton and Quincy meets a werewolf who cares enough about his clothes to go nude before changing to his wolf form, a witch who thinks he is a demon and a demon who fixes football games. He is also a substitute social studies teacher for one day. That scene alone is the fulfillment of the fantasy of every substitute teacher who has ever dealt with a room full of moody, mouthy teenagers.
Not to let Quincy have all the fun, Rebecca has been introduced to new friends. Quincy's Uncle Luke and Abraham Van Helsing's decedent Gabby, bring along Dr. John Watson, the descendant of THAT Watson, and Jo. I'll let you read the book to find out her connection. I am not entirely sure of it myself. There are a few tantalizing clues but not enough of a reveal to answer all my questions.
One of the things I enjoy most about the Harker novels is the humor. Certain lines, heck whole paragraphs, had me laughing out loud. Listening to the book today while no one else was home, I was free to laugh out loud. And I did, loudly. Some of the best lines:
"Mort was a demon, and country music bars are a special kind of Hell, so it only made sense that he wanted to be there."
"Nah, I'm crazy, but it's a really fun crazy. Kind like Harley Quinn, without the abusive relationship."
Quincy Harker books are fantastic. From Book 1 to Book 7 there has not been a drop in the quality of writing. Each book answers some questions raised in the books before but also creates a new one. The characters have continued to grow and evolve through each book. New characters, once introduced, do the same. The humor is great. Very well written dialogue. The main characters are people I would enjoy having a beer with and watching a Steelers football game. They are, despite their supernatural origins, real people.The plots of the books are almost like carrots dangled in front of you. You almost reach the carrot but not quite. Finally several books
later when you do, you realize the carrot was not just a carrot. It was of a greater magnitude than you ever imagined.
As much as I enjoy reading the Harker books, that joy is magnified exponentially by James Foster's narration of the series. He makes it so much more enjoyable. The difference between reading and hearing a Quincy Harker is almost like the switch from 3 to 4 or 5 dimensions. Foster’s narration brings so much of the attitude, which is a huge part of Quincy’s character, to life. The lines I quoted above as examples of humor are even funnier when Foster does then in character. Kind of like you telling a joke and Eddie Murphy telling the same joke. Both funny but Murphy’s is going to take the funny to a whole new level. To me that is what Foster’s narration adds to the Quincy Harker series, it takes the story to a new, better level.
Book 8 soon? Please?
Lincoln in the Bardo A Novel
by George Saunders
Random House Publishing Group General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date 14 Feb 2017
Several months ago, Lincoln in the Bardo showed up in many of the social media platforms or blogs I read. I was curious about what type of book would need over 150 different voices to translate it to an audiobook. I was also curious about Lincoln and his son, Willie. I read a book a long time ago where a researcher is trying to figure out where Willie was buried before being moved to Springfield when Lincoln’s body was moved there. There was somewhat a mystery surrounding it. In any case, Lincoln in the Bardo has my curiosity aroused before I even read the first page.
The book is written in a very unusual style. Every paragraph, whether one line or several pages, has an attribution listed, in lowercase letters. The majority of the characters, Willie included, are all dead and residents of the cemetery. There are a few who are living and breathing. The book opens with the reception the Lincoln’s gave the night Willie died. They had been told he was doing better and it was fine to go ahead with the party. Both President and Mrs. Lincoln went upstairs to check on him several times during the party. Now here is the tricky part, some of the characters are factual as is their description of events. The others are fictional. It would take considerable time and energy to sort out which was which. But Saunders’ writing is so good it is not apparent without the research.
In some ways, it is not an easy book to read. The constant changes in narrator and the usual style of indicating the narrator of the moment is difficult at first. The language is that of the middle 1800’s. It is floral and different than modern speech. It is well worth the effort to stick with the book. The loss Lincoln felt at the dead of his young son is made very, very real. The confusion of Willie to why his father is not taking him home with him is caused by the adult ghosts unwillingness to be the bearer of bad news and tell the child he is, in fact, dead.
Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the most unusual books I have read. It was also one of the most challenging. All and all, I would recommend Lincoln in the Bardo for the unique experience and story it creates.
Shirley Jackson : A Rather Haunted Life
By: Ruth Franklin
Read by: Bernadette Dunne
Runtime: 19.4 Hours
Release date: 9.27.2016
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin is a major biography of one of the most famous writers of the twentieth century. While I have not read all of her work, her short story “The Lottery” is one of my favorites and one of these best short stories ever written. The Haunting of Hill House is THE haunted house story that all others are measured against and found wanting. Not only did she write perfect thrillers and horror, she also wrote a very popular pair of comedic looks at motherhood, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Her talent also extended to children’s books. It is mind boggling that it has been more than thirty years since the last major biography of her was written.
Ruth Franklin does a fantastic job of covering Jackson’s life in detail without getting bogged down in minutia or losing the reader's attention. She begins with a look at Jackson’s family. There is a freaky coincidence in her fascination with houses. Three generations of the men in her family dating from her grandfather and back were architects. They built some of the top show houses in the San Francisco area. Unfortunately many did not survive the great quake. When Jackson was looking for a physical embodiment of her Hill House, she asked her mother to find her pictures of millionaire houses that were no longer standing. In one of those ironic moments, the picture Jackson picked was found to be built by her ancestors.
Jackson’s family was about as WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) as could be. Their prejudices were a product not only of their time but their socio economic set. In 1933, the moved from California to Rochester, NY due to Jackson’s father’s job. They settled into the best neighborhood, sent Jackson to the best schools, and the future was set. There were several holes in Jackson’s parent’s plans. Number one was Shirley Jackson never did what she was commanded to do. Number two was worse than any fiction Jackson could event.
Jackson’s mother was an evil woman. That is my opinion, not the author Ruth Franklin’s. Franklin relates the facts. I made the judgement just as Jackson’s mother judged her each day. Jackson was told on consistent basis that she was fat, unattractive, unintelligent and would not amount to anything. She fought back by not accepting her parent’s positions on social issues, education or life in general. But toxicity, no matter how hard you try to combat it, has a cumulative effect. Jackson she suffered from depression and did attempt suicide more than once.
Jackson was fortunate in that her life turned around in some aspects when she attended Syracuse after dropping out of University of Rochester. She found people like her for the first time in her life. She also met her future partner, in marriage and creativity, Stanley Hyman. While Hyman was Jackson’s chief critic and editor, he was not a true partner in marriage. He habitually cheated on her even while dating in college and continued to do so during their marriage. He assured Jackson that he only loved her and his sexual wanderings meant nothing but they did to Jackson.
The picture Franklin paints of Jackson is a woman capable of empathy, love, and humor but injured by those who should have loved and protected her. If you ever wondered how Jackson’s characters seemed so real or her stories so horrifying about simple things like a house or a village, Franklin’s wonderful biography holds the answers.
Bernadette Dunne, as usual, does a fantastic job narrating the book. While she never “performs” in the sense of creating different voices or adding drama, she conveys Franklin’s work faithfully. It was listening to a passage about Jackson’s mother’s never ending criticism of her that created my opinion of her mother as evil. Another listener may hear that same passage and not come to the same conclusion. That is a great nonfiction narrator and author’s gift, to present the facts and let the reader decide for themselves. Read Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. Then reread Jackson’s work with your eyes opened.
by Rita Stradling
New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 18 Dec 2017
I first came across Rita Stradling's Ensnared through the Kindle Scout program. I liked the description enough to nominate it. If you have not checked out the Scout program, I suggest you do. It has introduced me several new authors. Then I saw it available for review at Netgalley. It was an enjoyable and quick read.
The story is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in the future. The future and the technology in it are an important part of the story. The curse is not what the reader normally associates with fairy tales. And this is one hell of a wicked witch. Trust me on this. This witch will make your skin crawl.
The main characters are Alainn, the young adult daughter of an important AI inventor Connor Murphy. Both Connor and Alainn's older brother, Colby, are both geniuses. Alainn is not. What she is, is a very direct and caring person. Caring enough to give up her freedom to save her father from jail. Lorccan Garbhan is an extremely (like Bill Gates wealthy) client of Connor Murphy's. Connor has designed AIs for Lorccan. Connor also has a gambling problem which he fuels with his client's money. When he cannot deliver his latest project, already paid for, Lorccan threatens to press charges and send him to jail.
While the story does have some of the traditional elements of The Beauty and the Beast, the girl putting herself at risk to save her father, the updated elements are well done. My only complaint is I was left unanswered questions about the curse itself. With the couple of f-words and descriptive sex, I would not give to a teen unless it was a mature teen and the parent read it first. This listed as New Adult and I would keep it in that category.
by Roxane Gay
Pub Date 03 Jan 2017
I had the privilege of hearing Roxane Gay speak at York College of Pennsylvania after the release of her book Bad Feminist. She was witty and empowering. I learned quite a bit that evening. When Netgalley offered her new book Difficult Women to review, I jumped on it. I am so glad I did.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay was terrifying, wonderful, confusing, eye opening, lyrical, compelling, and damn good story telling. Difficult Women is a collection of twenty-one stories.
I Will Follow You - heartbreaking but hopeful in the incredible strength of twin girls together. It left me wondering could they survived if they were separated totally? I felt as though there was a message here that women are stronger when they have each other’s backs regardless of the difference in their circumstances.
Water, All Its Weight - contained beautiful prose but had an abrupt end which left me unsure of the meaning.
The Mark of Cain - was really creepy in a stephen king kind of way. You have to read it for yourself.
Difficult Women - contains the following sections: Loose Women, Frigid Women, Crazy Women, Mothers, Dead Girls. Each section helps view the women in a non-judgemental way. It gave me a lot to think about.
Florida - Looks at a gated community from all levels, the rich residents, the service personnel, and the maids. One of the residents is newly moved in and is set apart because she is a first wife and also not a size 4. Seeing the community from all the different perspectives is eye opening and interesting.
La Negra Blanca - this story infuriated and educated me.
North Country - is set at the Michigan Institute of Technology where Ms. Gay did do her graduate work. she talks about how being one of the few black faculty she is asked, “Are you from Detroit”. Her answer is a damning comment on the college’s culture.
The other stories are:
Requiem for a Glass Heart
In the Event of my Father’s Death
Break All the Way Down
I am a Knife
The Sacrifice of Darkness
Difficult Women is a book I will read over and over. I would like to read it with someone and be able to discuss it. I feel as though I have more to learn from it. I recommend Difficult Women to anyone who wants excellent stories as well as stories that touch your soul.
This is a continuation of the discussion I started yesterday trying to figure out if I was anxious or frightened about things in my life. You can find that blog post here: http://gatun.weebly.com/blog/am-i-anxious-or-frightened
I saw my therapist today. I began by giving her a copy of the blog referenced above to read. Once she read it she grabbed a book off her shelf and sat down next to me. The book was The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety by John P. Forsyth and Georg H. Eifert. She turned to a particular page and handed it to me. This was the page (see photo below)
Anyone who knows me very well knows I have an irrational fear of bears. Seriously. Ridiculous, I know but there it is. Bears, brown, black, grizzly, polar, they all scare the crap out of me. So my poor therapist had to hear how there is no difference between fear and anxiety when it comes to bears because it is all FEAR, yes in capital letters.
Once we got past that, which I am sure will be a future conversation, we began discussing the other questions on the page. She used the questions to help me understand that fear is what I feel in the moment. Anxiety is what I feel when I think it could happen. For example, I do not drive in snow because I never mastered the art of steering in a slide. So if I was driving and the car started to slide, I would experience fear. Then. At that moment. If I am thinking about driving and it is snowing, the possibility of sliding is on my mind and that is anxiety. Fear = present moment. Anxiety = future moment. As the book states, "Fear requires little thought; anxiety needs big thought."
How does this help me? I know understand that what I am feeling is all anxiety. Yes it feels huge and overwhelming and as though it is being added to each day but it is anxiety. It has been named. It has been separated from fear. I can now begin to work on it. That process of learning to work on my anxieties and control them instead of letting them interfere with my life is going to be a long process. I am not one of those people who can meditate, do yoga or chant my stress away. (Note: Please do not send me links to meditations you are sure will work. I appreciate your kindness but I have tried and tried and even my last therapist said I am not a meditation person.) My therapist and I will have to find another way for me to work through things.
She has asked me to look at the resources available through The Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) from the North Metropolitan Health Services in Western Australia. I am going to start with the one section she asked me to and give it an honest try. I do want to improve. I do want to have control over my own emotions. But honestly when she opened the book and the first thing I saw was "Seeing a bear in the woods", my only thought was the universe was having perverse fun at my expense. I will start the "homework" tomorrow and see how it goes. I know there is not one solution for all of us but maybe if we share what works, what doesn't, and just that we are working on it, it will help lessen the stigma for all of us.
[A note to my dear children: do not give in to the urge to send me every possible bear meme including Stephen Colbert's robot bears. Yes, my dear son, this message is directed at you.]
Listening to The Killing (originally titled Clean Break) is like listening to a fantastic crime noir movie from the 1940’s. It was written in 1955 by Lionel White and made into a film titled The Killing by Stanley Kubrick in 1956. I have never seen the film and probably will not. It cannot possibly top the audiobook.
The Killing takes place in New York City and on Long Island. It is a heist novel, meaning a huge robbery is central to the story. There are several characters who could be considered the main character because of the parts they play but I feel Johnny Clay is it. Johnny has spent the last four years in jail planning the perfect heist. Not only does he have the perfect plan but he has the perfect crew to pull it off. Johnny’s crew is made up of non-criminals. The beauty of his plan is that no one should be an immediate suspect by the police. Even Johnny himself has not a record that would make him a usual suspect for that type of crime.
The heist is to rob the cashier’s office at the track immediately after the start of the biggest race of the year but right before the armoured truck shows up to collect the expected 1.5 to 2 millions dollars. Everything must go off exactly at the time planned and every man must do his job exactly as planned. This is Mission Impossible with a clock and silencer on a rifle as the high tech. If it works, they split the money, each about a half million each. If it doesn’t, Johnny is probably the only one caught and sent to jail.
Johnny’s gang consists of:
Big Mike a bartender at the track clubhouse
George Peatty a cashier at track
Randy Kennan, a cop with a need for cash to pay off loan sharks
Marvin Unger, a court stenographer
Marvin is the respectable man who has never done anything wrong. He gives Johnny a place to live and hold the planning meetings. He also fronts the money needed to pay off individuals and buy weapons. Johnny’s motivation is his girlfriend Fay. Fay waited for him while he was in prison. His plan is to pull this one job and then for he and Fay to leave the country and start living the good life.
All of this is going great until Sherry Peatty, George’s wife finds a ticket stub with an address and time written on it in his jacket pocket. She suspects he is up to something based on his recent behavior. George is a poor soul who thinks he has somehow won the luck lottery by convincing beautiful Sherry to marry him two years ago. Actually, in the vernacular of the time, Sherry is a tramp looking for the easy life and lots of money. George keeps a roof over her head and all she has to do is be “nice” to him when it suits her. She uses her hold over him to find out the minimal details on the heist. She then goes to visit Val, her boyfriend. Val is a gangster who drives a Cadillac and has a real gang of hardened criminals at his disposal. He and Sherry plan to get the details of the heist, let Johnny do the work, and then rob the robbers.
Mike Dennis’s narration is first rate. He has a wonderful voice in just doing the descriptions. When it gets to the characters speaking, his talent really shines. Listen to the gravely voice of Randy the cop which conveys his large size. Marvin truly sounds like a fussy little man who alternates drooling over the thought of the money and regretting he ever got involved. Mr. Dennis brings all of those emotions out in his narration. The accents are fantastic. His command of the different shades of a New York City accent is incredible.
The novel does a great job of introducing each character and their motivation to join the heist or try to get it for themselves. The language is full of 1950’s slang. It really is addictive. I found myself listening every chance I got. Would they get away with it? Who would end up with the money?
I received this audiobook courtesy of Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.