Information, Answers & Reviews

Garbage! Water! Or Why I Love Non-fiction

GarbologyI read a lot of narrative non-fiction - historical, microhistory, natural sciences, travel, and environmental. I read these to be better informed, but also for pleasure so my ultimate test for a narrative non-fiction book is whether it would have made a better magazine article. I hate finishing something that I think was interesting, but could have been boiled down into a 20 page magazine article with the same impact. I've recently read two non-fiction books passed the magazine article test and then some. 

The Big Thirst: The Marvels, Mysteries & Madness Shaping the New Era of Water by Charles Fishman isn't about how to make changes in your lifestyle with regards to water conservation. It isn't a how-to book for urban or rural planners. It is a book that will challenge what you think you know about water from the big picture including where it comes from and what do we really mean by "clean". This book will also identify our emotional connection with water and will put those assumptions to the test. Near the end of the book, an economist presents a model for future water use that makes sense for both dry places like Las Vegas and Australia should also be considered for wetter places like Atlanta and even Bloomington. There are pages and pages of research, calculations and notes at the end, but the book was captivating, accessible and provides much food for thought. Read more »

Schrodinger's Cat is not dead; Schrodinger's Cat is not alive. It is missing

ISBN: 
054961884193

Everything is interconnected, therefore if the case you are working on isn't getting anywhere, follow the first person you see who seems to know where they are going and the likelihood is you will arrive at the place you need to be. This is the philosophy of "Dirk Gently" a short run BBC Four series based on the book "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams. Read more »

The Murdoch Mysteries - It Never Snows in Toronto

ImageRecently I've begun watching a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) series called The Murdoch Mysteries. The program set in 1890's Toronto Canada features a young detective by the name of William Murdoch. Like Sherlock Holmes Murdoch is ahead of his time. He applies not only skill, but also new discoveries in science to his investigations. The mysteries are as good as any that have come out of the BBC and the show doesn't take itself too seriously. Read more »

2013 Edgar Awards

Live by NightThe Edgar Awards were announced last week and because I am not normally a mystery reader, I usually only give a cursory glance at the winners. But this year, not only are there several winners and nominees that are pretty high on my to-read list, but I've even read one of the winners. 

The Mystery Writers of America present the Edgar Award to the best mystery books every year in a few different categories. This year there looks like many good choices. Who knows, maybe I'll be a mystery reader yet! Check out the entire list of winners and nominees at the Edgar Award website.

Best Novel: Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

Best First Novel: The Expats by Chris Pavone

Best Paperback Original: The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters

Best Fact Crime: Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French

Best Juvenile: The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Best Young Adult: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Light between Oceans

ISBN: 
9781451681734

When we lived in Alaska, every summer we rode the Alaska state ferries past some islands--rocky, bird-filled--that had only one sign of civilization, the bright revolving lighthouse. Each time I wondered about this way of life that had almost faded. This wonderful novel fleshes out what life was like for a family in the 1920s off the east coast of Australia.

If you ever wondered about this vocation, Stedman captures the isolation and the magic of being far from the crowd, the joy certain light house workers found in a solitary working environment where the people you served--the sailors and merchant shipmen--relied totally upon you even though you would never meet.

The Light between Oceans begins with young Tom Sherbourne riding a boat to Partageuse on the east coast of Australia after having recently been discharged from the military. He'd won some medals in WWI and was now assigned to be a temporary lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. While in town getting his papers processed, he meets Isabel, a girl of nineteen, who invites him to feed bread to the ducks at the dock. When he thanks her later, she says, it's just a silly thing, but he replies that he enjoyed it very much. Tom is scarred by the violence of the war and by his family life before when his mother abandoned him and his father and brother. In fact, Tom refuses to speak to his dad over what happened. Read more »

Shine by Lauren Myracle

ShineWarning: this book contains Serious Issues. You've also been warned that there aren't any angels, zombies, vampires, demons, or changelings. No one has supernatural superhero powers. It isn't set in the future and there has not been an apocalypse. Still interested? Yes! I loved this. Shine by Lauren Myracle is a realistic, gritty and powerful coming of age story that is raw and emotional but also completely worthwhile.

After Cat's friend Patrick is brutally assaulted, marked with a gay slur, and left for dead at a gas station in their hometown of Black Creek, NC she decides to figure out who could have done something so horrible. The sheriff is investigating, but seems sure that it was outsiders - just someone passing through. At face value, this book is a mystery. Cat sets out to interview people who were with Patrick the night of the attack to establish a timeline and she tries to determine motive. Patrick was friends with many people in town who were also uncomfortable to some degree with his homosexuality.

But really the heart of this book isn't so much figuring out who did it, but how the characters come to terms with the resolution. Cat also has to face her own demons in this process.  I liked that she wasn't a superhero, but a girl who got kind of messed up and is really trying to do the right thing.  Read more »

Sparkle in the Wreckage

ImageIs there any going back once a world has become a dystopia? That's what I kept wondering as I read my first two books from the new batch of Rosie Award nominees. Libba Bray's Beauty Queens is set in the near future and concerns thirteen survivors of a plane crash on a tropical island. They also just happen to be contestants in the Miss Teen Dream beauty contest, sponsored by The Corporation, a company whose ubiquity in media and the marketplace make them a not-unfamiliar behind-the-scenes corporate dictatorship. Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is set in a much less-familiar future Chicago. Read more »

Anna and the French Kiss

ImageDespite being short, Etienne St. Clair not only has amazing hair and slightly crooked-cute bottom teeth, but also is a perfect combination of French maturity and American goofiness - with a British accent! Does it get any better? Anna doesn't think so. But it could get worse. St. Clair (as everyone calls him) is taken.

Anna and the French Kiss, a recent Rosie Award nominee, begins with Anna's move for her senior year in high school from Atlanta to Paris. Anna's dad thinks it would be a good experience for her to attend the School for Americans in Paris and pulls some strings to get her into this exclusive school. It is tricky at first, because the school is small and Anna is the only new student (aaaand doesn't speak any French). Despite feeling homesick for her best friend, a new romance from her old job at the movie theater, and her little brother all back in Atlanta, Anna makes friends with her neighbor in the dormitory and starts hanging out with her and St. Clair's circle of friends. Read more »

A Story of New York City When Robber Barons Were Kings

ISBN: 
9780151014477

Mark Twain christened the years between 1877 - 1900 the Gilded Age. Through business enterprises such as, railroads, oil and real estate, families were able to amass enormous personal fortunes. This book is the story of a daughter and a son of two of these wealthy New York families, the Minturns and the Stokes.

Edith Minturn and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes were childhood friends. At age 28 Isaac convinced Edith to marry him. Neither one was particularly interested in wealth and making money. She worked as a social reformer. Isaac trained as an architect but was more interested in history especially New York City history. They were products of their time and environment and when the stock market crashed in 1929, they crashed with it. Read more »

Photographing a Vanishing America

ISBN: 
9780618969029

If you've ever seen any of Edward Curtis's photos of Native Americans, you cannot forget them. Not only did Curtis capture members of various tribes with respect but their individuality and humanity stares at you from the page. He also recorded many spiritual ceremonies and active shots that give us some insight into what daily life was like for these people.

This excellent biography tells the story of the famous photographer's life, how he came from utter poverty in Wisconsin, then provided for his entire family as a young teen-ager, to a hardscrabble existence fishing and crabbing near Seattle. But in his late teens, he buys something for himself - a rare occurrence. He purchases a lens for his dad's old camera. 

Soon he manages to round up $150 - a large sum for a young man supporting an entire family in those days--and buys into a photography business in downtown Seattle. In a mere two years, he becomes the most famous photographer in the Northwest, in high demand to immortalize society and business leaders. But though the work makes him rich and feted by society, it's the Native American culture that draws him. He realizes that the country has finished expanding, that the westward migration has ended, and that the native tribes will have less and less space to call their own. Curtis understood that their way of life-- the clothing, the hunting, and especially the spiritual ceremonies--will mostly cease to exist. Read more »

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