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The Seven Ages by Louise Glück

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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The Seven Ages by Louise Glück is a book about transformation and, by extension, aging and death — the battle between faith and the fear of mortality.  The title opens with a cryptic tale of a human who arrives on Earth even before the Garden of Eden, when it is just dust.  The narrator loves it all the same, even in its barrenness, but like many humans she wants to possess it.  How do you hold onto something that changes and is going to continue changing? The short answer is: you can’t.  Except maybe in a dream but even memories change.

Throughout the book, Glück touches, tastes, and experiences a variety of things, but in “The Sensual World,” she says, “I caution you as I was never cautioned:// you will never let go, you will never be satiated./You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.//” (pg. 7)  We have entered that garden and we have tasted the forbidden fruits, and even as we are punished, we still want more.  We cannot get enough sensory input, which leads to emotional attachments that continue even as we age, even if they are not acted upon.

In “Birthday,” the narrator remembers “that age. Riddled with self-doubt, self-loathing,/and at the same time suffused/with contempt for the communal, the ordinary;…” (pg. 20) The narrator is on the outside at this party, watching those who are wrapped up in making friends and making connections, but also vividly aware of the solitary member who prefers their own counsel.  Here again, the narrator cautions that in silence it is difficult to “test one’s ideas.  Because they are not ideas, they are the truth.//”  She speaks of this again in “From a Journal”: “how ignorant we all are most of the time,/seeing things/only from one vantage, like a sniper.//” (pg. 25)

Once we come away from ourselves and view the world differently, usually after years of a narrow focus, we come to realize that we want more time.  We want “to extend those days, to be inseparable from them./ So that a few hours could take up a lifetime.//” (“The Destination”, pg. 28)  The Seven Ages by Louise Glück is an exploration of aging through the lens of an observer, someone who has experienced life and who has separated herself from it when necessary.  Things we see are not as we expect, things we obtain do not satiate our appetites, and in our haste to achieve things, we break them.  Human frailty cannot be escaped, and we cannot return to our youth.  Glück attests to these stages and says that appreciating what has come before is hard, especially when we are hungry for more and have run out of time.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Louise Glück was born in New York City of Hungarian Jewish heritage and grew up on Long Island. Glück attended Sarah Lawrence College and later Columbia University.

She is the author of twelve books of poetry, including: “A Village Life” (2009); Averno (2006), which was a finalist for The National Book Award; The Seven Ages (2001); Vita Nova (1999), which was awarded The New Yorker’s Book Award in Poetry; Meadowlands (1996); The Wild Iris (1992), which received the Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award; Ararat (1990), which received the Library of Congress’s Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. Louise Glück has also published a collection of essays, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry (1994), which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 9+ hours
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The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige, narrated by Devon Sorvari, is book two of a series, and this is a series you’ll want to read in order. (check out my review of Dorothy Must Die)

Amy Gumm is battered and bruised and concerned about The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, particularly about the safety of Nox, a brooding young warlock. Even though she’s failed in her mission to kill Dorothy, she is determined to complete her collection of the objects controlling the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion.

She’s still unsure who she should trust in the world of Oz, a place that’s full of fluctuating magic.  Left on her own, she finds herself face-to-face with distrustful wingless monkeys who refuse to get involved in the war against Dorothy.  She has little choice but to strike out on her own and find Nox and figure out how best to take care of Dorothy and the evil powers that rule the Emerald City.  As she enters the land of forgetfulness and digs deep to find her true self, she must struggle to keep the dark magic at bay.

Unlike the previous installment, Paige has created a very fast-paced book that provides the right balance between backstory and action, as well as character development and description.  Amy is the main focus, and as she comes into her own, readers will cheer her on, even when she’s making decisions that may not have the best outcome.  Readers will want to root for her.  Even as she still has doubts about her abilities and her role in the war, she’s coming to terms with her place in it and she’s taking action.

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige, narrated by Devon Sorvar, does end on a cliffhanger of sorts, but readers won’t mind since they’ll be even more invested in Amy’s story by the end of this second book.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Danielle Paige is a graduate of Columbia University and the author of Dorothy Must Die and its digital prequel novellas, No Place Like Oz and The Witch Must Burn. Before turning to young adult literature, she worked in the television industry, where she received a Writers Guild of America Award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She currently lives in New York City.

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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Hush Hush by Laura Lippman, narrated by Jan Maxwell, is the 12th book in the Tess Monaghan series, but it’s not necessary to read these books in order.

As a new mother, Monaghan, a private detective, struggles with her ability to parent well, and she’s often her harshest critic.  Her concerns about her own parenting skills are the backdrop to the case she’s working involving the “baby killer” Melisandre Harris Dawes, who left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. She was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, but when she’s back from a stint abroad to avoid the press and tries to reconnect with her two daughters and film a reunion documentary, the process is much harder than she expects, especially as her ex-husband strives to keep her out of their lives.

Baltimore comes alive in this novel, as Lippman is careful to supply readers with both the good and bad elements of the city. As Monaghan struggles with her new role as a mother and to pay the bills, she and her partner Sandy Sanchez have little choice by to take up her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray’s offer to assess Melisandre’s security needs. In the midst of this, people end up dying, and the finger starts pointing at her client.  Jan Maxwell is an excellent narrator, particularly when she has to narrate the dialogue for a very manipulative and closed off woman.

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman, narrated by Jan Maxwell, was a twisted tale that will have mothers everywhere praising their own parenting abilities in comparison to Melisandre.  Monaghan, like most new mothers, must juggle new responsibilities with their jobs, but at least her partner provides some help, as do her parents and daycare.  She’s a brilliant woman who struggles to do it all, but in many ways, the book is a cautionary tale.  Mothers should not have to do it all, and they should be able to ask for help and rely on others.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.

Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light.

Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since. She is the daughter of Theo Lippman Jr., a Sun editorial writer who retired in 1995 but continues to freelance for several newspapers, and Madeline Mabry Lippman, a former Baltimore City school librarian. Her sister, Susan, is a local bookseller.

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig is a collection of short stories set during World War I, the Great War. Love is at the crux of each story, whether its a lost love or the love of a child lost to war, and these men and women are tested by the ravages of combat.  These writers have a firm grasp of the subject and readers will never question their knowledge of WWI or the human condition.  From a childless widow of German heritage living in France in “Hour of the Bells” by Heather Webb to a young wife left in Paris alone and estranged from her husband’s family in “After You’ve Gone” by Evangeline Holland, people are torn apart by war in many ways and those who are left behind to pick up the pieces are weary and forlorn.  They must pick up their skirts or what remains of their lives and move on, despite the pull of the past, the future that will never be, or the emptiness of their homes.

“But the trick was not to care too much.  To care just enough.” (from “An American Airman in Paris” by Beatriz Williams, pg. 244 ARC)

“Sixty years gone like a song, like a record on a gramophone, with the needle left to bump against the edge, around and around, the music gone.” (from “The Record Set Straight” by Lauren Willig, pg. 44 ARC)

These characters care, they care a lot, and even after the war is long over, the past still haunts them, at least until they are able to make amends or at least set the record straight.  How do you get past the loss of loved ones, do you wallow? do you seek revenge? how do you hold on to hope? Sometimes the war doesn’t leave a physical reminder, but a mental and emotional one — scars that are harder to trace and heal.  These stories are packed full of emotion and characters who will leave readers weeping and praising the hope they find.

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig takes readers on a journey through and over the trenches and to the many sides in a war — crossing both national and familial borders.

Rating: Cinquain

Connect with the Authors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m counting this as my Fiction Book Set During WWI.

 

The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 336 pgs.
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The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb will immerse readers in the religious fervor of Judaism, which is both beautiful in its confinement and infuriating in its inability to be more flexible. Opening with Maya Kerem reminiscing about her parents, the novel seems as though it’s going to be a love story about her parents, but then, readers are introduced to German Jew Walter Westhaus, whose life is shattered one night by the Nazis in 1938.  The tragedy he experiences in his apartment pushes him into blind action, leaving his homeland to board a boat and travel not to Palestine as he and his fiance dreamed but to Bombay, as he follows a man with a brown felt hat.

“They are alone for four days and their recognizable lives become obliterated, irrelevant.  For both of them, this time is not joyful, but necessary.” (pg. 199 ARC)

Despite the complications and the religious context, the story of Walter is one that is familiar, a man who becomes lost in the face of trauma and who wanders to find meaning in what’s left of his life.  The man with the brown felt hat befriends him among the spices and dreams of a different life for Walter.  He begs Walter to come to America and become a scholar of religion and faith.  This is a friendship held at a distance, a connection that allows Walter to meet Sol Kerem and Rosalie Wachs, with whom he will be connected in the most beautiful and impossible ways — creating a deep love and braided life that is beneath the surface of all that they are.

The poetry of the Torah and the other texts examined in Rabbinical school by Walter and Sol mimic the beautiful relationship between Sol, Rosalie, and Walter, an impossible braid that cannot be broken because if it were, all strength would be lost.  While Gottlieb’s characters are each lost in their own way, when they come together, they find the strength and faith they need to keep going, even when they are miles and countries apart.  Like the intertwined relationships of the novel, Gottlieb weaves in religious texts and rituals in a way that is seamless and artistic, making beautiful the impossible.

“…the secret of these weeks will resound in my bones as private music that only I will be able to hear.” (g. 70 ARC)

The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb is a rapture where decisions are not analyzed but made, and where love is the driving force of faith.  Even in death, a story can live on, unraveling its intricate and closely held secrets for all to behold.  It’s a mystical take on the average lives we lead and how they compare to the dreams of something more that we harbor in locked places.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Author:

Amy Gottlieb’s fiction and poetry have been published in many literary journals and anthologies, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. She lives in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m calling this my A Fiction Book set during WWII.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 6 CDs
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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, was a book that was anticipated by many and vilified by others, and I honestly had no desire to read it because of the hype.  (I only picked up this audio because it was available at the library and I needed a new one.)  Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, has returned to Maycomb, Ala., and her aging father, Atticus.  As the civil rights movement gains speed and the NAACP continues to push for rights, the South balks at integration and federal government interference.

Witherspoon is the perfect choice in a narrator for the story, and it is not just about her ability to play Southern characters.  She provides the right amount of empathy, emotion, and detachment needed by each of the characters to make them wholly different from one another, and yet still share similar experiences but view them differently.  There are differences between this novel (which is said to be Lee’s first) and the previously published book (TKAM), and those differences can be stark, especially when there are outcomes in the previously published book that go very differently here. Those are things an editor should have attended to before publishing, but are not the main crux of this story.

This is not about the rape case that Atticus defended, this is about us as children and how we generally worship our parents in one way or another, only to be disappointed that they are humans and not gods.  It’s a book about a young girl who worshiped her father, took in everything he said with little examination, and continued to apply it to her daily living.  Scout has held her father to an impossible standard, and when she returns to find him at a council meeting — one in which she would expect him to protest not take part in — her images are shattered, and she is forced to not only reconcile what she thought she knew about her father but what she knew about herself.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, is a novel about finding the courage and strength to change and to help those around you do the same. The south was in the midst of heavy transitions when Scout returns, and while she was “blind” to the hearts of those around her, even when her eyes are opened to their motivations, it is clear she still has a lot to learn.  The end seems to leave things wide open and unresolved in a way, like Scout’s journey is not finished.

About the Author:

Harper Lee, known as Nelle, was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville, the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who served on the state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

After graduating from high school in Monroeville, Lee enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944-45), and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama (1945-50), pledging the Chi Omega sorority. While there, she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, “Ramma-Jamma”. Though she did not complete the law degree, she studied for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC. Lee continued as a reservation clerk until the late 50s, when she devoted herself to writing. She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York to her family home in Alabama to care for her father.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year’s wages with a note: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Within a year, she had a first draft. Working with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, the novel was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in a poll by the Library Journal.

About the Narrator:

Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, known professionally as Reese Witherspoon, is an American actress and producer. She began her career as a child actress, starring in The Man in the Moon in 1991. Witherspoon quickly established herself as a talented actress in films such as Pleasantville (1998), Election (1999) and Cruel Intentions (1999). While filming Cruel Intentions. Behind the camera, Witherspoon launched her own production company Pacific Standard in 2012, which was behind the 2014 films Gone Girl and Wild. The latter, based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, stars Witherspoon as a woman who takes to the road after the death of her mother. Witherspoon has earned raves for the role, receiving Oscar, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards nominations.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 72 pgs.
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The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, intertwines the fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, and in this beautifully illustrated book, these fairy tales come to life.  In beauty and with courage, these young royals must beat back the darkness with cunning strategy.

Gaiman’s prose mimics the fairy tale language of these tales and he drops hints as to the identities of the queen and the princess.  Younger readers and their parents will enjoy these stronger role models, who do not wait around to be rescued but rescue themselves.  Rather than simply marry as expected, can a queen choose another path for herself, something unknown but more satisfying?  Should a princess wait for another queen to rescue her, or use her own mind to puzzle out a solution that can save her life and defeat the darkness?

While there are not seven dwarfs, but three, and they tend the queen with beautiful textiles, rather than jewels, these dwarfs are inquisitive and adventurous.  The detailed descriptions of the townspeople and their sleeping postures, alongside the illustrations, provider readers with a well-rounded picture.  The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, is gorgeous both in visual beauty and in substance, mirroring the strong royals in Gaiman’s tale.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, and is the recipient of numerous literary honors. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebook, tumblr, and his blog.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 293 pgs.
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The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond, which was a February book club pick, is a fantastic cookbook for novice cooks and those with a little more experience.  This cookbook not only provides step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow, uses items that are pre-prepared (such as Pillsbury Crescent Rolls), and offers alternative ingredients, but it also tells a story of frontier life and gives step-by-step photos to show what recipes look like throughout the process to ensure that those following along are doing things as close to her instructions as possible.  I found the instructions and pictures of each step very helpful; they kept me on track, which I need with a 4-year-old helping in the kitchen who tends to get me easily distracted and missing steps.

For Thanksgiving week, I made the Peach-Whiskey Chicken using chicken legs, but you can use breasts and other types of pairings and types of chicken.  The directions were easy to follow with the measurements laid out, though the times for cooking in each step were approximate depending on your stove type and some steps could take longer.  We thoroughly enjoyed these messy chicken legs, and while I had a hard time finding peaches — I ended up using frozen peaches — it was good to make something so tasty from scratch.  This was the recipe that took me the longest time to prepare.

For the actual Thanksgiving dinner, I made the Whiskey-Glazed Carrots — are you sensing a theme here? — which was a relatively simple recipe to follow, though it took me a bit to find the skillet I have that has a lid — many of my pans do not have lids.  There’s something I do each Thanksgiving — I make different types of carrots with the hope that I can get Anna‘s daughter to eat them.  She doesn’t like carrots very much.  So far, I’ve gotten 2 okays in the last couple of years.  I’ll take it.  Next year, I’ll find another recipe for carrots.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I had a day off to do some editing and decided to take a break and make Apple Dumplings using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.  Cutting the apples was the hardest part because I don’t own an apple corer for some reason, so I had to cut the apples into 8 pieces — no they were not the same size — and core them once I cut the apple.  The rest of the recipe was a breeze, though I didn’t use Mt. Dew as the recipe indicated.  I used the variation of ginger ale, and I think they came out really well.  I don’t often eat ice cream, but I bet these would taste delicious with some vanilla bean ice cream.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond is delightful cookbook, filled with great recipes, anecdotes about frontier life, and advice on alternative recipes and pairings.  This is a cookbook I would recommend to anyone who wants to try something new but wants it kept simple.  I love that there are a variety of meals from spicy to mild, and the desserts in this book look so good just from the pictures.

About the Author:

Ree Drummond began blogging in 2006 and has built an award-winning website, where she shares recipes, showcases her photography, and documents her hilarious transition from city life to ranch wife. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Ree lives on a working cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband, Ladd; their four kids; their beloved basset hound; and lots of other animals.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman is a fanciful collection of short stories in a variety of forms, including those that use letters, poetry, and stories within stories. In the introduction, Gaiman explains what he means by trigger warnings and subsequently explains the seeds that began the stories and the thought processes behind them.  Readers who like surprises may want to skip the explanations and head right into the stories, because on their own, you can see how trigger warnings might be necessary for some readers.

“I’m thinking rather about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. … And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead.” (pg. XV)

Stories in the collection are twisted, have dark shadows that play at the edges, and will have readers contemplating what on earth they’ve just read.  “A Calendar of Tales” was a fun experiment conducted with the help of Twitter in which statements from strangers spawned ideas for stories, and these tales are spontaneous and captivating with images that references the months of the tales.  Readers will love the tone used by Gaiman, who builds little mysteries one word at a time.  Gaiman has chosen his formats and language very carefully — sucking readers in quickly and astonishing them by the end.  However, one story — The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, previously reviewed here — that makes an appearance in this collection may be better read in its illustrated format — it’s so much richer.  But one of the creepiest and unsettling stories in the collection is “Click-Clack Rattlebag” in which a young boy asks for a scary, but not too scary story before bed from his babysitter.  The story that’s told is not what the babysitter or the reader expects, and it will have readers looking very closely about the shadows at the edges of the room.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman was a satisfactory collection and while the theme seems to be the inescapable past, many of these fanciful stories also seek answers to what happens when you begin forgetting or when the future you expected does not come to pass.

Other Reviews:

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

About the Author:

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, and is the recipient of numerous literary honors. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebook, tumblr, and his blog.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 352 pgs.
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Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore is a long-awaited follow-up to A Dirty Job, which I loved.  Readers should start with the first book before reading this one.

Charlie Asher, a death merchant, has taken on a new form, and his daughter is living with his sister even as his situation becomes more hopeless.  Minty Fresh reprises his role as comic relief, but there really is much more of that going around in this novel.  San Francisco is one again under threat from dark forces.  The Big Book of the Dead has sensed the change, and as things happen magically, the instructions in the book morph into dire warnings — most of which are ignored, at least until the banshee shows up.  Through a mix of characters from the previous book, Moore is at his best with these sarcastic, wise-cracking misfits who riff off one another like guitarists in a large band.  Their tune is haphazard but effective in this hunt for balance in the world of the dead.

“‘Sure, you could say talked. Ghosts mostly communicate by odor. Gotta tell you, you got a house that smells like farts, you got a haunted house.'” (pg. 75)

“With that, great clouds of fire burst out the twin tailpipes of the Buick and it lowered its stance like a crouching leopard before bolting out of the turnout.” (pg. 122)

Moore is a talented writer, who can write a funny quip and hilarious dialogue in one stroke and a gorgeous set of literary images in another. This duo of books combines the best of those talents, along with some great supernatural elements that are based not only on Egyptian mythology but also Buddhist teachings. This mash-up is unique and engaging, and his characters bring it to life easily. From Minty Fresh who wears all lime green clothes and owns a secondhand music store to Lemon who wears all yellow and has a calm demeanor that covers his dark motives, Moore’s characters will have readers laughing and questioning every turn of plot.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore is a wonderful follow-up that will have readers wondering about where their soul is headed, who will guide it where it needs to go, and whether they will one day find themselves with a super-ability they never wanted.  It’s another winner from this author.

About the Author:

Christopher Moore is an American writer of comic fantasy. He was born in Toledo, Ohio. He grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University and Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 208 pgs.
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Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss has a cover that glows like the radium discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie, and the collage format allows the text, photos, illustrations, and documents to inform one another in a unique way.  Not only does Redniss use interviews with scientists, A-bomb survivors, and Marie and Pierre Curie’s own granddaughter, but she also utilizes Marie Curie’s own words from her diaries and letters.  The book chronicles not only the discovery of Radium and Polonium, but also how Marie and Pierre came to be working and living their lives together, as well as Marie’s life after the death of her husband.

What’s interesting about this book is that it not only examines the history of discovery and the resistance to commercialization held at the time by the Curie’s and other scientists.  There are some points in the book where the transition between the historic events and the more recent consequences of Curie’s discoveries could have been smoother, particularly the section about the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant meltdown that comes right after Marie has lost her husband and moves with her daughters closer to Pierre’s father.  Beyond that, those who have studied Curie in school may not know about her work with hospital X-ray units or how her work was carried on by her children.

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss condenses a lot of historic fact into a small volume and offers supporting documentation for her findings.  This collection would be a great addition to school classrooms and could help make a hard-to-understand subject easier to digest.

***Another thank you goes to Bermudaonion for bringing my attention to this one***

About the Author:

Lauren Redniss is the author of Century Girl: 100 years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies and Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award for nonfiction. Her writing and drawing has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, which nominated her work for the Pulitzer Prize. She was a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers at the New York Public Library in 2008-2009, became a New York Institute for the Humanities fellow in 2010, and is currently Artist-in-Residence at the American Museum of Natural History. She teaches at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City.

Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Source: Harper
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn, an actress herself, has embarked upon an ambitious collection that looks at the narcissistic and self-mutilating world of Hollywood through the eyes of actresses’ whose lives ended prematurely by their own hands or through the actions of others.  From the famous Marilyn Monroe to the less well-known Barbara La Marr, Tamblyn calls into question the need for perfection among female actresses and how hard it is to find work once these actresses reach a certain age.  There’s also one poem about Lindsay Lohan, which readers may have various reactions to, including shock, dismay, and possibly laughter. (if you want to read what happened when she read the poem, beware it is a bit of a spoiler about the poem)

From "Thelma Todd" (pg. 3-5)

At the bar I run into Nancy,
drinking away her forties,
her eyes are flush broken compasses.
Lost between age fifteen and fifty.

Fermented blood.
Deep-sea drinker.

I do not look into her ocean.
The fish there float to the bottom.
I fear I'll go down there too,
identifying with the abyss.
Washed up.
Banging on the back door of a black hole.

These poems are at best depressing and at worst horrifying. These sparkling actresses are snuffed out by the pressures of Hollywood, but they also have their own demons chasing them. Tamblyn’s sense of the tragic is acute when exposed in lines like these: “But first she said, I’m sorry, Charles, it’s over between us,/tied together the sheets of their love letters,/climbed out the window of his soul.//” (from “Dominique Dunne,” pg. 25) and “I’m going to floss my teeth with the public hair/of the Hollywood night air,/memorize my lines before I snort them.//” (from “Bridgette Andersen,” pg. 30-1) These women’s lives and those of living actress continue to become objectified, and it’s hard to imagine living with that on a day-to-day basis. In many ways, the collection almost suggests to those female actresses who have lived in Hollywood longer, continue to work, and do not fall into a spiral of depression that they are the exceptions.

There is a sense of fight in these poems, as if Tamblyn is calling attention to these tragic stories not only to encourage female actresses to shun these arbitrary pressures, but also to call attention to the public’s role in these tragedies. Celebrity lives have become fodder for the American public, and these poems want to demonstrate the darkness that can follow such attention. Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn is an ambitious collection of poems that will have readers thinking about their own roles in celebrity gossip and objectification.

About the Poet:

Amber Rose Tamblyn is an American actress, author and film director. She first came to national attention in her role on the soap opera General Hospital as Emily Quartermaine. She also starred in the prime-time series Joan of Arcadia, portraying the title character. Her feature film work includes roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Grudge 2, The Ring, and 127 Hours; she had an extended arc as Martha M. Masters on the main cast of the medical drama House, M.D. She also had a starring role on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men during its eleventh season as Jenny, the illegitimate daughter of Charlie Harper.