The Man from the Train The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James
The Man from the Train
The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery
by Bill James; Rachel McCarthy James
Pub Date 19 Sep 2017
The Man from the Train is a non-fiction review of a series of murders starting in 1898 and not ending until 1912, if indeed they did end then. The authors are a father and daughter team, Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James. The authors make a case for a series of murders to be connected. They then connect them to one man. Looking at the information they present, it is possible but the storytelling is disorganized and lacks the punch of cohesive story.
This book really did not draw me in as much as I had hoped. I really enjoy non-fiction, especially historical events. Erik Larson, author of Isaac’s Storm and Dead Wake among others, is a writer who captures the reader’s attention and keeps it. I could not help but compare Larson’s style to the James’s style while reading The Man from the Train and found the James’s wanting.
I cannot include any quotes in this review because I only have the Advance Review Copy and not the final published copy. There may be differences which is why the publishers stipulates not quoting from the ARC. If I could include quotes, I could easily illustrate what I mean by the James’s style. What I can say is that several places the authors give information then immediately say it has no bearing and is included just to show the local gossip concerning the murders. In other places, information is teased and then the reader is told more on that topic will be found in a later chapter. I found these devices to distract from the follow of the narrative. I never found myself truly engaged in the storytelling.
by Vivian Shaw
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 25 Jul 2017
I enjoyed Strange Practice immensely. I hope it is the beginning of a series. Greta Helsing (the family dropped the Van between the World Wars) is a physician, just like her late father. Just like her father and grandfather, Greta is the rare doctor in modern London who makes house calls in addition to running a clinic on Harley Street, the address synonymous for the best in health care in London. Greta’s practice treats the most underserved and needy of all London inhabitants, the unalive.
In Greta’s clinic she deals with Mummies who have chronic pain from bone deterioration, ghouls with depression, and anything else that finds it’s way to her. She is trusted and well liked by all the supernaturals. She is also overworked and clinging to her budget by her fingernails. But like her father and grandfather, this is the life she feels she is called to. She likes and respects her patients.
When Greta gets a call in the middle of the night to go to Lord Ruthven’s house. Greta has known Ruthven all her life and has known he is a vampire. When she arrives she find Varney, who is a vampyre, wounded by a poison weapon. She is fascinated as she has never had the opportunity to observe this cousin species of the more common vampire. Greta and Ruthven discover that Varney has been hit with a very strange metal stake, poisoned specifically to kill the unalive.
The story quickly takes off from there involving demons, ghouls, and humans. Ms. Shaw created a tantalizing world that I would love to see explored more. All the different varieties of unalive were fascinating. Werewolves were mentioned but not featured in this book. The writing was excellent, wonderful descriptions of the locations, monsters and humans. The story was great. It kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep. Treat yourself to vampires grocery shopping and making lattes and a woman doctor who heals as well as kicks ass to protect her patients.
The Devil’s Bible is the sequel to Dana Chamblee Carpenter’s best seller Bohemian Gospel. I highly recommend you read or listen to it first. Both books were very well researched in terms of
the time periods and the very complicated politics in addition to the Church history. In the first book, Mouse, the main character, was a very unusual female for the time period. She was better educated than most women at the time. It is not her education that struck me as much as her spirit. She was trying to live a life of her own choosing.
Mouse is changed in the second book, The Devil’s Bible. Her spirit seems very damaged, if not broken. She is not living as much as surviving. She forms no ties with anyone or anything. She lives a life of simplicity that she can flee at a moment's notice. She is more of a shadow of a person than a person. While I understand why she felt she had to live that way, I really did not like Mouse like that. It made me angry. Ever wish you could jump into a book and save your favorite character? That is how I felt, like I needed to reach it and tell Mouse I would help her. I was so glad when she decided to fight to regain herself, she was more like the Mouse from the first book.
There are so many plot points that I cannot discuss because they are spoilers, especially for someone who hasn’t read the first book. Mouse is a character steeped in mystery and mythology. She is not wholly human as though it is what she longs to be. The characters she interacts with are human and non-human. I love Mouse and really like both books.
Tantor Media had given me the first book and then offered me this one in exchange for an honest review. I was happy to accept. Justine Eyre is wonderful. Her voice has a musical quality to it. I found I could not listen to it in bed because I fell asleep. Otherwise I had to have a quieter atmosphere than usual. I think it was because of the complexity of the plot. Ms. Eyre does such a fine job of clearly enunciating every word. So it is totally my fault that I could not binge listen to it even though the story was enticing.
I would recommend both Bohemian Gospel and The Devil’s Bible narrated by Justine Eyre to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery and paranormal fantasy.
I picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess after seeing it recommended by several YA authors on Twitter. I went to Goodreads and Amazon, checked out the synopsis and the reviews. It was on sale so I took a chance and picked it up. I am really glad I did.
Nettie is a young woman who teaches at the all girl's school, Brimthorn, where she was raised. Remember the school that Jane Eyre attended? Brimthorn is just as grim plus a serial sexual predator as a headmaster. Nettie's best friend is Rook, an orphan who works as a servant at the school. Rook is "unclean" because he has scars from surviving a brush with one of the Seven Ancients. The Ancients are monsters, really proper devour whole cities monsters, that came through a rip in the fabric of reality. They are only in England. They arrived when a magician and a witch were playing with forces they did not understand. The witch burned. The magician disappeared.
Magicians and witches are now outlawed and put to death. Only sorcerers are allowed. They are, surprise of surprises, males only. There is a prophecy that a female sorcerer will appear and help defeat the Seven Ancients. Nettie may be the prophesied one. Rook may have a part to play in Nettie's success or failure. The Seven Ancients may be unbeatable.
Four hundred pages later, I was invested in Nettie. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to bring down the patriarchy that followed a woman queen, Victoria, but discounted every other woman in the country. This book is the first of a two book series. The book does end with unanswered questions but some are answered. All in all, this is one book that I did not mind being continued because I do want to continue to get to know Hettie, Rook and those marvelous Seven Ancient Ones.
A Cultural History
by Susan Owens
Pub Date 03 Oct 2017
I really enjoyed The Ghost A Cultural History by Susan Owens. This nonfiction book examines the history of the ghost or apparition. Ms. Owens, the author, was interested in how much Dickens's ghost have in common with what we define as ghosts today. How did ghosts change as technology was introduced, like the earliest shadow shows and then film? Also what is it about Britain that creates the fertile ground for ghosts? Is it the long history? The wet, foggy weather?
In early Christian history, ghosts were believed to be the souls of the dead suffering in purgatory come to warm those left behind to clean up their act. When the Protestant Reformation hit England, purgatory was edited out of their theology. The ghosts that were previously the souls of the dead now became demons and apparitions from hell. The book traces the history through each different phase or interpretation of what a ghost was, including the words used to describe them.
There is an excellent bibliography at the end of the book. It has given me a whole new list of writings from the classics that I want to read. The Ghost A Cultural History by Susan Owens is readable, entertaining and enlightening. It is releasing on October 3rd, making it the perfect Halloween present for yourself or a fan of spirits.
By Mercedes Lackey
Read by Amy Landon
The Hunter Series: Book 3
8.81 Hours unabridged
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
The Hunter trilogy, by Mercedes Lackey, is just as much fun and page turning action from the first book to the last. Each of the three books has its own mystery with an over reaching story arc for the series. The books feature a very strong female character, Joy. She does not need men saving her. In fact, she does pretty much all the saving.
The universe this series constructs is amazing. It is rich and complex, built on the ashes of our world. Our world went through a series of cataclysmic events that tore a hole through reality. This hole allowed monsters to come through, monsters from all of earth’s mythologies as well as some that no one can identify.
Along with the monsters come the “hounds”. The "hounds" are not normal dogs. Some can fly, some are the sizes of ponies and some are made of smoke. When they come through to our world they bond with an individual who have the ability to use magic. They become a team of hunters, one human with uses magic and their "hounds". Most hunters have two to four hounds. Joy started with seven. Through the events in the first and second books, she gains four more.
The other beings, besides hounds and monsters, from the otherside, as other reality is called, are the folk mages. They vary from a feral type to a sort of nobility. Some want to wipe out all humans while others are more concerned with their own affairs. The mages, of all kind, play a major role in Apex.
The character development is excellent. Joy is a believable young lady. She feels happiness and sadness and despair and desperation. Yet she continues to fight. I really like her. I like the way she has developed and grown through the three books. She has learned so much about herself that allows her to make her own decisions instead of being a tool in the hands of others. This is a young adult novel so the romantic action is described as “making out” or kissing. This would be appropriate for a teen. It is also appropriate for adults. I am fifty-four and really enjoyed it.
Amy Landon is an excellent narrator. I have enjoyed her narration through all three books. She gives Joy a realistic voice. Her male voices are good. She does a nice job on the attitude of the characters. I really enjoyed Ms. Landon’s narration and will definitely check out other books she has narrated.
I am trying to learn the correct language to discuss issues that are outside my own experience. Hopefully I got them right in this piece. If not, please help educate me. I appreciate it.
My Statement of Belief
Emboldened, public racism--from the ‘rally’ in Charlottesville, to the refusal of the White House to label it as terrorism and racism--is unfortunately not a collection of isolated incidents. They’ve been happening--literally--since before this country was formed. Despite legislation, despite stellar leaders, despite promises of a new day dawning, this is not our past; it is still very much our present.
I feel that the time has come to be as open and clear as possible about my beliefs. It is the only way I think I can deal with the climate in our society. I cannot march, I cannot donate huge amounts of money in support, I do not possess a public pulpit or any meaningful way to support social justice. What I can do is publicly state my beliefs and support for those who need allies.
Everyone has the same rights as a human. Period. There should be no distinction between race, ethnicity, creed, or gender. People who say that one is superior to another have issues with their own inadequacies.
Everyone has the right to define themselves. This includes gender and ethnicity. If someone chooses to be fluid in either gender or ethnicity, that is their right. My daughter who is Native American, African American and Caucasian was raised to define herself. She has the right to decide whether she will define as African American or biracial or any combination she chooses. She can change this definition day to day or hour to hour. It is her choice. Just as it is the choice of an individual to define themselves as one gender or none. It is their choice.
Everyone has the right to love who they choose. I support same sex marriage. I support hertoersexual marriage. If you love each other and are both consenting adults, then I believe that is your business, not the government’s or anyone’s church.
Everyone has the right to believe in a higher power whether that is a god, gods or their own conscience. Whatever they choose to as their compass for their morality.
Everyone has a right to evolve and change their opinions through their life. That does not mean they have to change to match your opinions. My own beliefs evolved through my life experiences, especially from being a parent. When my children asked a question I had to be able to explain my answer which led to me questioning my own beliefs. Secondly as my children attended college and were exposed to new perspectives, they shared what they learned with me. It helped me grown as a person and better understand what I did truly believe in.
Everyone has a right to health care. There should not be a difference in coverage between physical and mental illnesses. People with chronic illness should be supported whether or not those illnesses are visible to others. Good healthcare should note just belong to the wealthy or to our law makers. Stigma towards addiction, mental illness or any illness should be eliminated. Without open discussion, awareness and research funding will not happen.
Everyone has a right to their own opinions but not from the consequences of how they choose to express those opinions. For example, I define myself as a Roman Catholic. How do I square my beliefs with those of the Catholic Church? I don’t. I do hope when the time comes my children can find a priest to give me a Catholic funeral Mass because that is important to me.
Finally I believe
Everyone has the potential to affect positive change. Everyone can do something to make each day better. Whether supporting a friend who is dealing with illness or lending your talent as a writer to helping job searchers develop resumes that work for them, small things can make a difference. For some, like me, that is all we have to give. For others with more talent or time or treasure, they can help
I have to believe that the people who have goodness will make life better for everyone. Currently, there’s a huge shitstorm raging. Getting through it is not going to be easy or quick. It has to start with those like me who enjoy white privilege acknowledging we have this privilege, and attempting to use it to aid those who do not. The first step in support is listening. We need to start today.
In Distant Lands
A Short History of the Crusades
Author Lars Brownworth
Narrated by Joe Barrett
Publication date July 11, 2017
Running time 8 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
I have never read anything directly about the crusades. Whenever I encountered them, they were the backstory or window dressing of another story. For example the legend of Robin Hood centers around Richard the Lionheart being held for ransom when returning from the third crusade. I knew there were several crusades but not exactly how many. I knew some of the main characters like Richard, Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was Queen of France, Saladin and Suleiman but I did not really know how they all fit together. I knew there was seriously messed up stuff involved like the Children’s Crusade and the crusaders sacking Constantinople, their own ally. In Distant Lands A Short History of the Crusades helped fill all those gaps in my knowledge of an incredibly complex subject that continues to have relevance even today.
Mr. Brownworth begins the book by explaining which characters go with which crusade. I found that extremely helpful. So many of the names are not familiar, like Alexius I Comnenus, who was the emperor of Byzantium and whose request for help set the first crusade in motion. The book then lays out the logical order of events that created the need for the Byzantine emperor to seek help from the Roman Catholic Pope. He also then shows how events spiraled out of control until there was absolutely no hope of stopping the disaster that followed.
The book does a wonderful job of balancing events and people. The significance of the events, what led up to them and what their consequences were are all told in a very readable fashion. At the same time the people involved in the events are discussed in a way that gives them depth and life. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the author does a great job of illustrating the people who created the events.
Joe Barrett did an excellent job narrating In Distant Lands. His voice is very pleasant to listen to. He enunciates clearly and the production quality is excellent. He never stumbles on any of the foreign words whether French or Arabic. I would not hesitate to choose another book he narrates.
In Distant Lands has kindled an interest for me in this period of history. I have two other books picked out for my next trip into this time period (God’s Wolf by Jeffrey Lee and The Templars by Dan Jones). I will also be looking into more of Mr. Brownworth’s work. I found In Distant Lands to be very accessible while not oversimplifying a complex subject.
Red Sister: First Book of the Ancestor
CD - unabridged
Audio (16 discs)
Length: 19 hrs and 21 mins
Author: Mark Lawrence
Narrator/s: Heather O'Neil
Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure you bring an arm of sufficient size.” When I saw this sentence listed as the first sentence of Red Sister by Mark Lawrence in a tweet, I requested the e-book through my local library system. I enjoyed the book so much, I requested the audiobook through Audiobook Jukebox to review. I am thrilled to report that the audiobook enhances the experience of reading the book.
Red Sister involves a wonderful character named Nona. The book starts with her as a young child, under ten years old, and tells her story for several years as she approaches adulthood. Nona is from a very poor family. She is sold to a man who buys children from rural poor families and sells them to various organizations or institutions in the capital city. Some are sold to churches and some to be trained as basically gladiators. The buyer is determined by their gifts. Nona is originally bought by a trainer to eventually fight in the ring. She is saved at the foot of the scaffold from hanging (read the book to see why) by the abbess of a Convent of Sweet Mercy. Nona’s exploration of why she was saved, who the nuns are and the mysteries of her world are fascinating and so intriguing I did not stop reading/listening until I had to.
This is one of the most amazing parts of Mr. Lawrence’s world building, the gifts. The world of Red Sister has four tribes. Each tribe originally had a gift of their own. One tribe was larger in body size. One was very fast. One could access minor magic. The last could access major magic and do what was called “walk the Path”. The world is divided by nobility and non-nobility. Nobility can be a matter of heritage or awarded by the emperor. May I just say thank you to Mr. Lawrence for putting his glossary and dramatis personae at the front of the book?
Oh, did I mention the moon is falling? The world is very much controlled by the moon. The entire land area is being trapped between two great ice areas. The ice areas are like huge glaziers with walls hundreds of feet high. The liveable area in between is call The Corridor. During certain phases of the moon, the nights get very warm, almost hot. There is still so much mystery at the end of the first book that I cannot wait for the next book.
Heather O'Neil does a very good job narrating Red Sister. I had only heard one other book narrated by her and frankly was not fond of it. Many years ago, my son and I listened to her narration of Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill. Neither of us cared for her narration of that book. Before I requested the audio version of Red Sister from Audiobook Jukebox, I listened to the sample and found I was enjoying it. Ms. O’Neil’s narration of Red Sister is very different from her earlier work on the Hill book. In Red Sister, she is clear. Her character voices are recognizable. Her accents are good. She does an excellent job conveying emotion. I highly recommend Red Sister audiobook, even if you have already read the book.
This review first appeared at Audiobook Reviewer:
Stirrings in the Black House was a fun haunted house story. When I say fun about a haunted house book, I mean thrilling, scary, nerve racking and had it been a movie there would have been several jump scenes. I enjoyed listening to it.
Emil is a washed up concert pianist. At twenty-three, he is living with his parents and being supported by them. His career as a pianist came to a screeching halt due to his addiction to Percocet. He is now clean but in the way of all addicts, still just one misstep from using again.
Everything changes for Emil when his uncle Gustav dies. Gustav was a world class concert pianist of the caliber to play with the London Symphony Orchestra. He was a composer too. Gustav had come once to see Emil play and then dismissed him as having no talent. Emil had not seen or heard from his uncle since. Why would Gustav leave him a house? A house that is across the country from where he and his parents live? Looking for a fresh start, Emil drives his beat up car with his meager possessions to Newberg, Oregon. To Weatherby House.
The story is told in the first person. It allows the listener to share the emotions and thoughts of Emil as he arrives and finds a large two story house empty except for a massive black Steinway Grand Piano. No other furniture. No light bulbs in any light fixtures and no electricity. With his limited funds, Emil sets up electrical service and buys a few light bulbs and basic foodstuffs and settles in.
The fresh start is going as well as can be expected for Emil when he meets Kelly, a local girl. Kelly, upon hearing he lives in Weatherby House, tells him of its sordid history. The house was constructed by a cult who believed they could possess the bodies of victims they tortured to give them eternal life. When one victim escaped, the cult leaders were caught and jailed. They all died before going to trial.
At this point, I cannot discuss the plot any further with spoilers. So to recap, we have a vulnerable young man, isolated from his family, in recovery from addiction. We have a town that openly shuns Weatherby House and refuses to acknowledge it. We have a house with a bloody and occult history. Even an optimist can see this is going to end badly.
Joe Hempel does a great job narrating. He conveys the tension and fear in Emil’s voice and thoughts very well. He also does a great job on Kelly and other characters. I really enjoyed his narration. I will be seeking out more of his work as well as that of the author, Ambrose Ibsen.
Stop by Weatherby House for a few hours. Just not with all the lights off.
Stirrings in the Black House by Ambrose Ibsen
Narrator: Joe Hempel
on 29 June 2017
Length: 4 hrs and 40 mins
Courtesy Audiobook Reviewer
Gork, the Teenage Dragon
by Gabe Hudson
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Sci Fi & Fantasy , Teens & YA
Pub Date 11 Jul 2017
Sci Fi, Fantasy, Teen and YA are just a few of the genres I read on a regular basis. When I came across Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson at Netgalley, I decided to read it. I picked it up in late June and just finished it last night, just over a month later. I think it would appeal to a different type of reader than myself.
I found the first chapter to be the most enjoyable. Gork, the title character and narrator, complains about how humans how defamed dragons. He even names a few examples like Beowulf and The Hobbit. It is a very funny take from the dragon point of view. The rest of the book did not do as much for me. Again, I believe I am probably not the ideal audience. If you have a young person, teen or YA, in your family, you should check Gork, the Teenage Dragon out. As with all books for those age groups, I strongly suggest parents read the book first before handing it over to their younger family members. That is not a comment on Gork in particular but just a good practice for all parents to do. Besides the the value of pre reading for any content issues, there is a true joy to sharing books with your children, whatever their age may be.
Written by: James S. A. Corey
Narrated by: Jefferson Mays
Length: 20 hrs and 55 mins
Series: The Expanse, Book 1
Publisher: Hachette Audio
My husband and I watched The Expanse on Amazon Prime a couple of months ago. It was good but not great. I am not a hard sci fi consumer. I usually go more towards sci fi/fantasy or sci fi that is not has heavy on the sci part. I decided to check out the book that The Expanse was adapted from because the book is always better than the movie or tv series (it is a law of the universe which someday scientist will discover written with stars). I am really, really glad I did.
Leviathan Wakes is the first book in The Expanse series. The TV series uses seasons 1 and 2 to cover the story. There are significant differences between the series and the book, all of them lining up on “the book is better” side.
Leviathan Wakes takes place in mankind's future. We have spread ourselves through our solar system but have not quite reached the stars yet. There are humans living on moons of Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and in the large planetoids within the belt between Mars and Jupiter. People have been born, lived and died outside of Earth’s gravity. There are physical and cultural differences between Earthers, Martians and Belters which create a tense political situation.
The story is told from several points of view, all third person.
Julie: a poor little rich girl leaving her privileged life behind to fight for the rights of Belters
Holder: an Earther, now serving as the XO on an ice hauler
Miller: a Belter and native of Ceres who serves as a cop
Fred: an Earther and former United Nations general who now fights for the rights of Belters
Ninety-five percent is told from Holden and Miller’s viewpoints. It gives the story a much better diversity of scope than had it just been from only Earthers or Belters. There are several other characters who have large parts in the story. There is diversity in gender, ethnicity, politics, and where they call home in the solar system.
Jefferson Mays narrates this almost twenty-one hour epic. At no point did my attention lag or wonder. He really brings all the tension and wonder to life through his voice. I am currently trying to figure out how I can possible afford the rest of the series right now instead of waiting for sales or a birthday. It is just incredible. I think I may have started a love affair with hard science fiction thanks to James S. A. Corey, Andy Weir and the wonderful narrators of their books.
by Andy Weir
Pub Date 14 Nov 2017
Mark Watney became one of the best protagonist in publishing when The Martian by Andy Weir came out. He was smart, funny, persevering and adaptable. Those qualities allowed him to survive being stranded on Mars. His story was so engrossing the book hit the bestseller list followed by a blockbuster movie. Wow. How does an author top that? Andy Weir does it quite nicely in his upcoming book Artemis.
Jazz Bashara is similar to Mark Watney in several ways. She is smart, funny, adapts to what life throws at her and preservers in her dream to be independently wealthy. While Mark Watney had several degrees to hi name, using his very well educated background to solve problems, Jazz is entirely self taught. She does things her way, whether it is acceptable to the authorities and her father or not.
I love Jazz. She is a smart, strong young woman, born in Saudi Arabia but calling the moon home since she was six years old. Jazz lives on the moon. Andy Weir takes us to a future where there is a community living on the moon. Weir does a fantastic job of explaining how the moon colony came into being and how it is owned by a consortium from Kenya. It is believable and it seems like the technology he uses is available now or just over our technical horizon.
The story revolves around Jazz’s quest to move from the poverty level to a more financially stable group. While Artemis is on the moon, it does have several earth issues to deal with. There are economic classes. There is smuggling due to the high cost of shipping anything to the moon. It has crime. It also has a level of constant danger that those on earth have no concept of. Imagine if there is an explosion that takes out one of the main walls in a dome. On earth if a wall if blown out, people can be hurt or die if they are in the area. On the moon, everyone in that dome will die as the air is instantly removed. Jazz is navigating all of these issues and for the most part doing it very well for a twenty-something with only a high school education.
The secret weapon in Jazz’s plan is herself. She is confident in her ability to do whatever task she takes on to further her dream. When she takes on a huge job that could give make her dream real in one day, she knows it will be risky and possibly dangerous. Even on the moon, what is planned is often not what happens. Jazz is now fighting not only for her life but for the life of Artemis and all the people who call it home.
I loved Artemis. I have already pre-ordered the audiobook. I am not a well educated person (a 35 year old associate in liberal arts degree) and I do not speak science fluently. Andy Weir makes the science understandable even to someone like me. I was born during the Apollo era and have an incredible love for space exploration. I hope Mr. Weir continues to entertain and educate me about the possibilities of space exploration that my generation may yet see. Artemis is five stars, five bright, blazing stars.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War
Author Doug Bradley, Craig Werner
Narrated by Sean Runnette
Publication date June 6, 2017
Running time 10 hrs 12 min
Courtesy Tantor Media
When I was in 10th grade, around 1977, there was a substitute history teacher for one semester. She was younger than most teachers at the school and very cool. For two weeks, we did nothing but listen to music. She checked out a turntable and brought in a bunch of her albums. She played various songs for us and then we talked about them. After my classmates and I commented on the beat or the singer’s voice, she would chide us, “but what about the lyrics?”. She taught us to critically analyse the lyrics of music. What she was playing for us were protest songs. None of us ever knew you could protest other than carrying a sign when the local teamsters were on strike. It was a powerful lesson. One I taught my children using music from each period of history we studies in their pre-college education.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner presents the role of music in the lives of those fighting, working in support roles and protesting the war. For many a particular song was a link to their far away family and home. Other songs gave them a way to express their fear for their lives and their anger at being in a situation that made no sense no matter how it was viewed. The book does a good job of including women who served in VietNam in the discussions.
The authors also explore how the different types of music exposed the racial divide among the troops. Some soldiers found the different music as a way to learn more about each other while others used it as barrier to keep other the “other”. As the Armed Forces Radio refused to allow many popular songs to be played on their network, a string of underground radio stations sprung up with GI’s sharing their own albums over a radio frequency. The tent with the turntable and albums was the most popular tent in the evening.
Many bands from Japan and the Philippines came to VietNam to tour doing concerts for the troops. Soldiers remember the band members only knew the English lyrics to the songs. One of the unique aspects of the book are the “Solos”. A Solo is an extended quote by one of the soldiers about a particular topic. It is not just a line or a paragraph. It is longer and more in depth. It is an excellent way to allow the veteran to really tell their own story.
The last section of the book deals with the role of the same music after the soldiers returned from VietNam. It was a way of connecting with the memories of the friends they lost and those still overseas. As PTSD was finally recognized as a legitimate condition, the music became a way for veterans to connect with each other. It also provided a way to ease into the discussion of difficult topics.
Sean Runnette does a very good job narrating the book. He has a pleasant voice. When he is narrating a soldier’s memories, he conveys their emotions well, especially the individuals with a sense of humor. I would seek him out as a narrator again.
Throughout history music has provided a lens through which to view events. Ken Burns is premiering his newest documentary this fall which happens to be a VietNam. Now is the time to list to this amazing book. It will enhance your understanding of the soundtrack Burns uses and your understanding of the power of music in the lives of those who served in VietNam.
Beloved Poison is the first book in the Jem Flockhart series. As with the second book, Dark Asylum, the setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. This first book takes place in a hospital where Jem is an apothecary. The hospital cares for the lower classes, no nobility or wealthy patients are found here. The poor people have little hope of surviving their illnesses or injuries and less hope once most of the doctors get their hands on them. If they do not survive, their bodies are whisked away for the medical students to dissect. Jem is the rare person at the hospital who practices cleanliness and seems to honestly care about the patient’s welfare.
As with Dark Asylum, Beloved Poison got some many things right.
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The hospital was horrifying. I think I would have rather died at home than subject myself to what passed for medical treatment.
* The characters were fantastic. I really did not have a good line on who was evil until the very end of the book.
* Jem was wonderful. I loved what I learned about the character in the second book. Now here in the first book I have, for lack of a better phrase, Jem’s origin story. It reinformed to me why Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter.
* Again another great mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. A logical solution also, not a deus ex machina ending.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of of either of the Jem Flockhart books. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Both Beloved Poison and Dark Asylum were a joy to read. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson and hopefully seeing her titles as audiobooks.
by E. S. Thomson
Pub Date 07 Nov 2017
Dark Asylum is the second book in a series featuring Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain. Jem is an apothecary. Will is an architect. The setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. Although I had not read the first book in the series yet (Beloved Poison), I had no problems following the story and the characters. I had read about three chapters before I contacted my library and requested Beloved Poison. Any other books in the series will be requested as soon as they are available.
There were so many things I liked about Dark Asylum. The easiest way to communicate it is probably by bullet points:
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The mental health aspect was very well researched. The way people have treated the mentally ill throughout history is diverse. Some cultures treated mentally ill people as though they had been touched by the divine. Then you have the Victorians. The belief that the mental illness was caused by a weakness or failing on the individual’s part and needed to be punished is just cruel. The book does a very good job of showing that mind set while also showing the few who began to realize that possibly humane treatment would do more good than strait jackets and locked cells.
* The characters were fantastic. Characters like Susan Chance did not reveal themselves to the reader all at once. What was revealed was a well rounded and complex character. All the characters were like that.
* Jem. Oh my goodness, Jem. Not having read the first book yet, I do not know Jem’s whole story. What I do know is that Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter. There is only so much I can say without spoilers. Read the book and you will see what I mean.
* The plot at it’s heart is a mystery. What a fun mystery it was. At one point, I was sure it was this character. I chapter later I changed my mind. A chapter later back to the original one. At the end, I was totally wrong. It is wonderful to be surprised by the solution to a mystery when that solution makes sense.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of Dark Asylum or the first book in the series. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Dark Asylum was a joy to read. It really was. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson.
I was watching my twitter feed yesterday looking for the announcement of who would be selected for the role of Doctor Who. I had to laugh at some of the theories. Some of them were well reasoned and some, like David Tennant was coming back to the role, were far fetched. I was also unfortunately not surprised by the attitude that the Doctor could not be anyone other than a white male. The Doctor is a fictional character and an extraterrestrial. The usual rules do not apply.
I am excited to see Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor. I am not familiar with her work at all. I did look her up on IMDB and was impressed with her resume. I am interested to see what her take on the doctor will be. Matt Smith had such an exuberance and childlike wonder quality. David Tennant was more serious but also had a quality of danger. One the one hand I would like to see the first woman doctor treated no differently than a man doctor but that is not realistic. There should be one or two stories were her gender does play a role in terms of the society they interact with. I remember Jon Pertwee's two episodes on Peladon where women were marginalized, even when one of them was the ruler. How the writers deal with that type of situation will be very important. There has to be at least one episode where the Doctor's gender provides the conflict but it should not be a constant theme.
Dear Doctor Who writers (whether comic, tv show or audios) here is my wish list: I want the Doctor to be strong and confident. I want her to be everything positive that we want our daughters and granddaughters to aspire to. She should be kind as all past Doctors have been. She should have soft spot of us "apes". She should also not be afraid of conflict or stepping in to protect those who need it.
I also feel the show should not engage in debate with trolls who say they will stop watching the show. If polled, a large number of them probably only heard about Doctor Who because a woman has been cast, not because they are long time fans. Doctor Who fans have embraced change since William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton and every time since. We all have our favorite Doctors. For many it is the first Doctor they say (in my case, Tom Baker). Imagine those that one day will list Jodie Whittaker as "their Doctor". At least people should give the show a chance. It is a new Doctor and a new show runner.
Finally, "It has always been this way" is the worst reason for something to remain unchanged. We are looking forward to Christmas and a very special regeneration episode.
Angel Dance: A Shadow Council Case Files Novella: Quest for Glory Part 3
by John G. Hartness, Melissa Gilbert (Editor)
Quincy Harker attracts trouble. It is an unfortunate fact of life for his friends and associates. If they know Quincy, Quincy leads trouble right to them. The Shadow Council Case Files is a series of eight novellas. Quincy has to find missing angels who have lost their memory and get them back on the path to heaven. Since Quincy cannot be everywhere at once, his teams is set out to track down the lost souls. The first book in the series Calling All Angels, featured Jo Harrison, descendant of the mythical John Henry. In Angel Dance, the reader gets to spend time with Adam Franks.
Adam Franks is a complicated man. He is the sum of his parts. Adam’s father, or more accurately creator, was a certain Dr. Frankenstein. Adam is now over one hundred and fifty years old. He is abnormally tall and big and scarred. He also seems to be indestructible. This is not the two dimensional monster of Hammer Studio films. This creature is a very complex man who wants what all people want but also realizes that his very existence precludes a normal life.
Adam journeys to New Orleans, one of my favorite cities, to track down one of the lost angels. The Shadow Council's members are not the only ones looking for the angels. There are demons at every turn trying to beat Adam in finding the angel. Adam’s strength and indestructibility will be tested as well as his humanity. The story is fast paced and the characters interesting. Another fun entry in the Quincy Harker universe.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Mask of Shadows
by Linsey Miller
Sci Fi & Fantasy , Teens & YA
Pub Date 29 Aug 2017
A Queen who stopped a civil war by destroying the magic that allowed “shadows” to flay people alive. A Queen who was still working to hold her new kingdom together while one faction retreated to the mountains to plan their bloody return. Our Queen’s Left hand: Ruby, Emerald, Opal and Amethyst. The rings she wore on that hand. Also the names of her four personal guards/assassins.
An audition for a new Opal, the previous one having been killed by the nobles in the mountains. Twenty-three possible new opals. Five invited due to reputation or nobility. The rest walk ons. Kill your competition without being caught or killed yourself. Survive combat, poisons, the competition.
Sal (auditioneer number Twenty-Three) is the protagonist. One of the most brilliant characters I have ever encountered. Sal has a heart of rage because of what happened. Nacea, a peaceful land, was overrun by “shadows” created by mages who flayed people alive. The nobles let it happen by withdrawing all the troops to protect themselves and leave Nacea undefended. Sal saw the shadows destroy Nacea, person by person and was only one of two survivors. Sal has an adoration for the Queen who stopped the shadows and ended the war. Sal has a desire for a better life than a thief and fighter. Sal has motivation and mystery.
The story is so wonderfully constructed. Sal takes the measure of his competitors. The entire court and the Opal auditions are like a huge puzzle Sal must make sense of. Piece by piece a plan develops, not only for Sal in the competition but for the Queen to deal with her unruly nobles. I loved all the characters. Even the side characters had depth to them and felt like real people, not like parts of the scenery. The action scenes were very well written. I could see them in my mind and did not get confused on who was where or had what weapon.
I pre-ordered the hardback of Mask of Shadows. As soon as the audiobook is available for pre-order, I will be ordering it also. I am excited to see what Ms. Miller does with Sal and the plot in the sequel. The world Ms. Miller has created in Mask of Shadows is rich and begs to be explored.
I received an advance review copy of Mask of Shadows from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book 1 in the Bohemian Gospel series
Author Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Narrated by Justine Eyre
Publication date Jun 14, 2017
Running time 14 hrs
I had not heard of Bohemian Gospel before I selected it from the Book of the Month club. It sat on my desk for about two weeks before I picked it up. I began reading morning a blizzard struck and had finished it by the evening. Even without the blizzard I would have finished it quickly because it kept me engaged and curious.
I can only imagine the amount of research the author conducted on the time period and the very complicated politics in addition to the Church history. I am not an expert in any of those areas but I can tell you without a doubt she created a very real atmosphere. The places and characters who inhabited them seemed very real. Mouse, the main character, was a very unusual female for the time period. Her backstory explains how she came to be better educated than most women at the time. It is not her education that struck me as much as her spirit. She was trying to live a life of her own choosing, and while it did not always work out, she still continued to try.
When I had the opportunity to revisit the book by listening to the audiobook, thanks to the generosity of Tantor Media, I happily journey to medieval Bohemia once again. Listening to Justine Eyre perform it was wonderful. She has such a wonderful voice. She is also so versatile with voices for male and female characters. I really enjoyed hearing the words like Podlazice and Vaclac pronounced correctly. When I read the book, my mind stumbled over the Bohemian words. Ms. Eyre does such a fine job of clearly enunciating every word.
Although I have read a lot of historical fiction from this time period, I had not read any from this geographic area. It was all new and very enjoyable. I would recommend Bohemian Gospel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
by Christoph Martin
Clink Street Publishing
Courtesy of NetGalley
The Expansion by Christoph Martin is set in Panama and deals with the expansion of the canal. The original canal, completed in 1914, could not accommodate the modern large ships. The largest ships that could fit were labeled Pana-Max, for maximum size. After years of planning, Panama decided to go ahead with the expansion by building a new set of larger locks next to the original locks.
I was very interested in getting my hands on this book for one simple reason: I was born in the Panama Canal Zone. I am the descendent of one of the original workers. Although I left shortly after the end of fifth grade, my identity begins and ends as a Zonian. I was very curious to see if Mr. Martin could tell a good story and have an accurate Panama a the landscape on which he told it.
So many of the details are good. The oppressive humidity. The food. The mix of languages and customs. The extreme wealth and extreme poverty contained within Panama City. It was recognizable to me.
The main character of the story, Max Burns, is a British engineer who is hired to plan how the new canal will be built. He is hired by his childhood friend Godfredo Roco and his father Paco. Paco is a big league con man. His plan is to win the bid on the canal, start the work, drain off everything he can, declare bankruptcy and blame Max. He plans on doing it far into the project so Panama has no choice but to bail out the project and finish it. Godfredo is aware of some of his father’s plans but not all.
Added to the mix is Karis Deen. When the book starts, Karis is working for the Smithsonian in Panama as a biologist. She is actually a CIA agent is a deep cover project. As the canal project progresses, the US government keeps a wary eye on China who they fear want their own canal in Nicaragua and will try to sabotage the new Panamanian Canal.
The story is interesting. It is not compelling though. I had a hard time with Godfredo and Paco’s characters. They seemed two dimensional. Max seemed naive. All it all, it wasn’t a bad story until the end. The last chapter had me scratching my head. The book ended very abruptly, I mean VERY abruptly. I turned back and forth several times on my device trying to figure out where the conclusion of the story went. I am not sure if this is to be a series or not. If it is, the ending needs to get fixed or readers will not stick around for the next one.
The Ghost of Freedom
A History of the Caucasus
Author Charles King
Narrated by Michael Page
Publication date May 23, 2017
Running time 12 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
At 54 and with chronic health conditions, I know I will never have the opportunity to travel to the many wondrous places on our planet I would like. I have found that learning about those far off lands is fascinating and fulfilling. I recently listened to audiobooks on India and Scandinavia. Next up is the Caucasus. Again I was not disappointed in my audiobook adventure.
The Caucasus is still a remote and wild region on the world map. It sits at a crossroad between Europe and Asia, an isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas. The Greeks chained Prometheus up in the Caucasus to have his liver devoured each day by the eagle for giving man fire. Ovid, the Roman poet, had Jason said to the Caucasus, the end of the known world, to steal the Golden Fleece. The regions lends itself well to mythologies with its blend of beauty and danger. It is a land that has been contested and fought over for centuries. The original tribes who settled the area gave dynastic giants like the Russian and Turkish Empires more than they could handle.
The Ghost of Freedom A History of the Caucasus by Charles King and narrated by Michael Page does justice to this incredible region. King starts with a forward which explains the importance of words in the region. “In a part of the world where ethnic, religious, and political categories are hotly contested, being sensitive to labels is particularly crucial.” He then provides a in depth chronology of the history of the area as well as a glossary of words related to the area. The words are influenced by the original tribal languages as well as successive waves of conquerors from Russia, Turkey and others. I want to point out how incredible Mr. Page’s narration is concerning the many, many foreign words. Had I read the book, my eyes would have skimmed over the unpronounceable, for me, and in doing so I would have lost a part of the book. Listening to Mr. Page’s confident pronunciation conveys the rich of the words and helps spin the spell of foreign lands.
The books leads the listener through the history of the Caucasus region from the first recorded Russian foray in the mid sixteenth century to the early twenty first century struggle to emerge from the shadow of the former Soviet Union into individual nations. This is an audiobook I will listen to again. Mr. King’s storytelling on the history of the region is complex, vast and accessible. Coupled with Mr. Page’s incredible narration, the audiobook is a entertaining, educational and fascinating experience.
Gwendy's Button Box
Includes bonus story "The Music Room"
By Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Read by: Maggie Siff
INCLUDES A CONVERSATION BETWEEN STEPHEN KING & RICHARD CHIZMAR
My first visit to Castle Rock was in The Dead Zone, published in 1979. It was one of those towns, like Jerusalem's Lot, that when I made my first trip to Maine in 2006, I made sure were not on the itinerary. Nothing against either town but seriously messed up stuff happened to people there. But Castle Rock has been fairly quiet for a few years. Thanks to Richard Chizmar, Stephen King has woken Castle Rock up.
The box at the heart of this book contains chocolate (yea!), money (useful) and terrible powers. The owner of the box can invoke this powers at a cost to themselves. I cannot really say much more without giving away plot points. I will say had I been given the box I doubt I would have handled it as well as Gwendy. In true Stephen King style, the people are as horrifying as any monsters.
There were so many things I liked about Gwendy's Button Box starting with Gwendy. She is a wonderful character. One who as a teen deals well with the issues of peer pressure and fitting in. She fought her own battles and did not need a male to save her or validate her decisions. I loved the box and I was also terrified of the box. My jury is still out on the giver of the box. I haven't decided if he has cloven hooves or is some type of emissary of the gods.
It is a novella, 164 pages, and a quick read but an immensely satisfying one. In my experience a satisfying Stephen King read is one that pulls you, leaves you breathless, and invites to come back and see what you missed in your first intense read.
The bonus story “The Music Room” was vintage Stephen King. Ordinary people, ordinary lives, everyday objects combined to be completely terrifying. The conversation between King and Chizmar was an interesting lesson in how collaboration works. The bonus story and the author’s conversation are a good incentive for getting the audiobook in addition to or instead of the book.
The audiobook was fantastic. Maggie Siff does a great job narrating. She carries Gwendy’s voice from adolescent to adult. The male voices, including the man with the box, are very well done. This is one I will listen to again and again. Under three hours, a rich and complex story, great narration make it one to return to.
Joe Hill is a fantastic author. His novels have been very unique and not limited to one area. The Heart Shaped Box involved a haunting. Horns was a fantasy with a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie. NOS4A2 I haven’t finished yet because it so completely terrifies me I have only made it halfway through. With The Fireman, Mr. Hill goes into the dystopian genre.
The world is in flames. Not because of a meteor strike or nuclear war. It is burning because of a virus that turns humans into torches. The dragonscale virus spread over the world and was difficult to contain. At first, individuals spontaneously combusted destroying their immediate surroundings. Then groups of people took out entire blocks when they went up. Then the cities were in flames. No one was sure how the virus spread or where it came from. Ignorance loves a vacuum and before long the infected were segregated and then murdered.
Harper, a school nurse before the world went up in flames, is now working at a local hospital. Her husband, Jakob, is an aspiring novelist. He has got to be one of the most unlikeable characters ever written. As their world shrinks, Harper and Jakob are cut off from all their family. When Harper develops the dragonscale, Jakob shows his true ignorant, arrogant, coward colors and it is not pretty.
The Fireman is a great character. He is everything Jakob is not and more. As Harper fights to survive long enough to give birth to her child and see the child safe, he is her main ally. She must fight the dragonscale, the fires, her psychotic husband and extremist in both the healthy and infected camps. The fireman tries to help her and the other infected find a safe haven from the death squads run by the healthy, her husband included.
I read the book as soon as it came out. It was great and I enjoyed it. Then I got the audiobook narrated by Kate Mulgrew. Although I was already familiar with the story, Ms. Mulgrew’s narration kept me engaged. She did a fantastic job on all the different voices, male and female, and accents. She conveyed the emotions well and kept the tension so I could not stop listening. I enjoyed her narration so much I also picked up her narration of Mr. Hill’s NOS4A2. Now I just have to pick up the courage to listen to it.
This review first appeared at The Audiobook Reviewer.
The Radium Girls
The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
by Kate Moore
Courtesy of NetGalley
I had the opportunity to read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore through NetGalley. It was a disturbing and fascinating book. Although the dangerous properties of radium were known to the Curies who discovered it, there was a general denial by the population of its dangers. The companies that used radium to paint watch dials to make them glow in the dark did not give any warnings to their employees. Women would routinely drip paint brushes with radium into their mouths before applying the paint to the dials. When the women were finally examined after years of exposure, radium had penetrated so deeply into their tissues they literally glowed in the dark.
The author lays out a timeline of the commercial use of radium. She introduces the women who worked painting the dails. She details their health and lives before starting to work at the plant. Ms. Moore also explains the process in which different workers in different positions were exposed. As the workers begin to show signs of various illness, they sought help from a medical field that did not understand radiation poisoning. Many girls were unable to work anymore due to illness. The statute of limitations for work related illnesses was only five months. By the point the women began to realize their illness was work related, more than five months had passed since they were employed.
The book is fascinating in the wonderful way Ms. Moore makes the women truly present. The reader begins to care about the women because of the wonderful way Ms. Moore tells their story. You feel their frustration with not being able to find answers as they are suffering greatly. You admire their persistence in pursuing a legal case to stop the company’s negligence.
The book is disturbing in the level of the cover up by the company. The smear campaign included telling the public that the real cause of the illnesses was syphilis. They painted the women as suffering from a venereal disease and ruined their reputations. The legal system was a Goliath that they sick women needed to defeat.
I recommend reading The Radium Girls. Like HIdden Figures, it is a book that tells a story that we need to know. We need to hear about these women who had the presence of mind to document their stories and make sure their stories were shared from generation to generation. Laws now in place to protect employees and give them access to information about dangerous conditions are because of the legal challenges of women. That is their legacy.
The audio version is narrated by Angela Brazil. I obtained it through Hoopla Digital and my local library system. Ms. Brazil does a nice job.