Category Archives: Book Reviews

Final Thoughts on Little Dorrit

Charles Dickens at his Desk in 1858 – This was from Wikimedia and I make no claim to ownership

OK, confession time – I did not finish Little Dorrit until last night.  I have a lot of excuses (other reading, a huge amount of writing, etc.) but for the most part they are just that, excuses. 

Anyway, when I was about three-quarters of the way through, I drew up a list of talking points.  Well, after finishing, I have some other things to say…. I will mention these talking points, I just won’t spend as much time with them as planned.  Still, maybe I will spend too much time on them ;) (long post warning…)

One thing that I noticed when I was deep into the book was that Dickens had spent the first 100 pages or so (my copy had 787 pages) just introducing characters and planting a few seeds of plot and subplot.  When I started reading, I only did a few pages at a time, usually before going to bed.  The problem was that there was no plot or substance to get my teeth into at first and so it was a real chore getting through the first 200 pages – I spent almost 4 months on those pages and less than 4 days on the other 587 pages!

Continue reading

Hidden Figures – Almost a Review

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A few weeks ago, I read the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I really liked the book and can’t imagine the movie covering one tenth the ground it did.  There is so much context and background in the book, and yet I know the author was still only scratching the surface.

This is not a review of the book (review = excellent.  Read it).  I just want to say something about the book, something that I thought about as I read it but that is even more relevant after the recent events in Charlottesville.

A lot of this book is about racism at its ugliest, but also how some people were able to rise above it, or perhaps “rise in spite of it” would be a better phrase.  A little background about how hard it was for people of color, and blacks in particular, to get ahead in the pre-World War II era was needed to place the events of the book in context.  There were black professionals back then, but for the most part they were segregated, dealing with the black community at much lower pay than their white counterparts.  The idea brought out in the book that they had to accomplish twice as much to achieve half of the recognition, unfortunately, is still with us to some degree to this day. Continue reading

Book Review: Possibilities – Herbie Hancock with Lisa Dickey

possibilities

If you were to ask people to list the five greatest living jazz musicians, Herbie Hancock would make it onto most people’s list.  If you asked for the top ten jazz musicians, those with the greatest influence, of all time, he would make more than a few lists.  If you are of a certain age you might remember his pop/jazz/hip-hop crossover hit, Rockit, its great video and the MTV Award presentation.  If you are a keyboardist of a certain age you may consider his solo on the song Chameleon as one of the greatest analog synthesizer solos ever recorded.  And many know him from his days as the pianist from Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet.  I would say that in many ways Herbie Hancock was the great inheritor of the Miles Davis legacy.  Miles never stood still, and claimed to have “reinvented jazz five or six times”.  Herbie followed in his footsteps by never following in anybody’s footsteps, including his own.  His music constantly shifted and changed.  Sure, he did occasionally do a little nostalgia, like the whole VSOP thing, but for the most part he tried to do something different ever few years.  Remember, this is a man who has won fourteen Grammys and an Oscar, and has received many other honors.

Being a music lover who is into jazz I had to read his autobiography, Possibilities. Continue reading

Book(s) Review – Imperial Radch Series (Ancillary Justice, Sword and Mercy)

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There are a few things that I need to talk about before I begin this review.  First, the review is for three books, Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy, the three books in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch Trilogy.  Or is it the first three books of her Imperial Radch Series?  I believe it’s a trilogy, but time will tell.

I try to make sure there are no spoilers in my reviews.  In this one I take it to an extreme.  There is something you will figure out in the first chapter or two of the first book, Ancillary Justice.  It is perhaps the core idea of the series.  But to me it was a “wow, very cool!” moment when I discovered it.  I’d feel evil if I took that moment away from you.  I am going to talk about things you’ll find out along the way, but they aren’t the “Wow, very cool!” type things as this fundamental concept of the author’s universe.

One thing you’ll figure out later in the book is what the names of the books are about.  In this universe an “ancillary” is a human body that is controlled by another intelligence as part of a larger, cohesive unit.  The “bigger” intelligence is usually an artificial intelligence of a ship.  That isn’t a great definition, but will do to get you started.  And what are the ships that have these “ancillaries” tied into their network? There are generally three types that are important in the books (again, with a grain of salt), all three being armed military ships with the ancillaries being used, in one role, as soldiers.  The three ships are the huge troop carriers, the Justices (i.e., like the first book), the much smaller, faster Swords (second book) and the Mercies (third book).  I’m not sure exactly what a Mercy is except that it isn’t as well armed as a Sword, at least not for ship to ship combat.  So, we have three ship types and three books with the ships in the title, which, at least in part, is where my guess that the series will stop at a trilogy comes from. Continue reading

Book Review – Neil Gaiman American Gods

neilgaimanamericangods

A month or so back my sister posted a trailer for a new Starz series called “American Gods”.  I asked about it and her response was, “Are you kidding me!?! You haven’t read the book!?!”  Sorry, no.  Well, she told me it was a must read, particularly since my main genre, at least for my books, is urban fantasy.  So I read it….

First, a little administrative task: I need to tell you that the book I read was the “Author’s preferred text”, 10th anniversary edition.  It has been edited from the original release and some material that was removed (like 15,000 words) was added back in.

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The book American Gods begins with the main character, Shadow, waiting to be released from prison after serving for three years.  With an introduction to some of his fellow prisoners you get the idea that it was memories of his wife that made his time in jail bearable.  As he waits for his release, the tension in the air increases, like a storm brewing on the horizon.  With just a couple of days to go he is called down to see the warden.  He is told that he is being realized early.  Why?  Because his wife had died in an auto accident.  The woman who made the wait worth it would not be there for him.  On his way home to the funeral he bumps into a mysterious man.  This is a meeting that will totally change his life, change his life and more, much, much more…

OK, that’s how it begins.  I don’t want to get too deep into it because I don’t’ want to let the cat out of the bag about the premise of the book.  “Premise” might be the wrong word.  There is a truth behind the people Shadow meets both in his real life and in his strange dreams.  As a piece of “speculative fiction”, there is one thing you have to believe to make it real.  It isn’t the biggest secret of the book and most reviewers will tell you up front what it is.  I mean, just look at the title.  I don’t want to let it out because it is fun to discover it at the same pace Shadow does.  No, it really wouldn’t be a spoiler if I told you, particularly since the whole book is about it and you’ll find out sooner than later, I just don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun. Continue reading

Book Review – The Yearbook

 

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“The Yearbook” by Carol Masciola

Lola Lundy was more than a misfit. After her mentally ill mother’s suicide she was hustled off from foster home to foster home, usually leaving by running away. She was a poor student who had a criminal record. Not edgy enough to be cool she just did what she needed to do to survive. Shortly after arriving in the Ohio rust-belt city where her mother had ended her life, Lola slipped into the school library in an attempt to escape attention and be left alone. This was the start of an adventure that thrust her back to the town’s heyday of 1923 where she was different enough to gain attention. One of the people who noticed her was the handsome, studious Peter. Lola thought she had found her soulmate, but before she could go on she was whisked back to the present.

Was it a dream? Perhaps she was going insane, like her mother. Maybe she just needed a place of refuge where she could fit in and perhaps the still growing, clean city of the 1920s, where everything seemed possible, was just the place her mind needed to go. To Lola, however, it was perfectly clear. She believed she really did go back in time and was desperate to return, desperate to find her true love who she had left almost ninety years behind.

The Yearbook is a YA novel by Carol Masciola. It might be described as a time travel romance with a psychological edge. Continue reading

Book Review – Silk for the Feed Dogs

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Silk for the Feed Dogs”, a novel by Jackie Mallon, follows Irish farmer’s daughter Kat Connelly as she works her way through the fashion world from the “fashion” house of a bottom feeder in London to the top of high fashion in Milan, all the while showing glimpses of this world from an insider’s point of view.

I’m sure a lot of people are currently asking why I read a book about the fashion world. A sense of style that I like drew me into this book that had at least a bit to do with the main character’s sense of style. In my case, I fell in love with Ms. Mallon’s illustrations for the book. Continue reading

Deception – A Book Review

deception

“Deception” is a novel written by fellow blogger Eloise De Sousa.

A very bad day is made much worse when the tardy Amanda is called into her boss’ office.   With the first not-what-you-think twist of the novel, Amanda is given news of her parents’ death back in Africa. For the first time in her five years of hiding in England Amanda is forced to confront her secret past. She must return to Africa to take care of family obligations, but is persuaded to make it a working trip. To make matters worse, she finds a very strong attraction to the handsome stranger she’s paired up with on her trip to Harare, Zimbabwe.

So begins Eloise De Sousa’s “Deception”, a novel that combines the genres of Romance with Suspense. Continue reading

Review – “Hidden in Plain Sight”

GoldenRule

I know I just said I was going to review books of fellow bloggers, but I saw a review of this book by Jane Allen Petrick on Marilyn Armstrong’s blog, Serendipity, and I felt like I had to read it.  I’m glad I did, as you’ll see.

When you think of Norman Rockwell and his art, what usually crosses your mind? Most people think about drawings and paintings depicting normal (white) people in plain (white) folksy settings, usually in (white) middle American, doing normal (white) things. The drawings are often very realistic and tell stories with a bit of humor yet respect for the (white) subjects. Some might even hold him up as someone who illustrated Good Old Fashioned (White) American Family Values.

Did I say most people see Norman Rockwell’s vision of America as being very Caucasian? Continue reading

“Come Laughing” – Review

comelaughing

OK, I have a couple of confessions to make. First, yes I have read erotica. Second, actually, I really haven’t read a lot of it. What I’ve read has been along the lines of short stories, or a long story divided into short episodes, that are amorous in nature and designed to make the reader want to participate in adult behavior. Since this is a family friendly blog, or at least I pretend it is, I’ll just say that by “adult behavior” I do not mean taking responsibility, paying bills or raising kids. Well, for that last one you could say I mean the initial prerequisite to raising kids, at least if you want them to have your genetic material. But those others, no, by “adult behavior” I meant something else entirely. That is, erotica may be for mature audiences, but they need not be that mature.

I decided to read Alienora Taylor’s book “Come Laughing”, a book that may be described as erotica of a mirthful nature. This book consists of 69 pieces of humor of a sexual bent. I say “pieces” not only because “piece” is a bit of a double entendre, but because the book is comprised of various articles, essays, editorials, flashes of memories, short works of fiction, fantasies and at least one poem. They cover a variety of subjects from sexuality as you age to sex education to, well, just talking about that favorite subject in all of its positions and permutations. Continue reading