Books & More
"If a book is worth reading at all, it is worth reading more than once. Suspense is the lowest of excitants, designed to take your breath away when the brain and heart crave to linger in nobler enjoyment. Suspense drags you on; appreciation causes you to linger."
— William Gerhardie
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Title: Torn Away
By: Jennifer Brown
Life can change in an instant. Growing up in Elizabeth, Missouri, Jersey Cameron is used to frequent tornado warnings. When a tornado rips through her hometown, destroying her house and killing her mother and sister, Jersey is left with nothing. Before long, her stepfather sends her to live with her biological father, whom she doesn’t know. Racked with loneliness and guilt, Jersey doesn’t know how to go on with her life. When it becomes clear that her father doesn’t want her to live with him, Jersey ends up with her mother’s parents, who supposedly had disowned her mother years before. Jersey soon learns that her grandparents are not the people she expected them to be, but can she learn to trust them enough to be able to overcome all the emptiness that the tornado left behind?
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Title: The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air
By: Joaquim Dos Santos
Rare is the sequel that can equal the original, yet The Legend of Korra continues and deepens the alchemy of Eastern mythology, intriguing characters and spiritual adventure that made its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender perhaps the greatest show of all time. As the avatar, headstrong Korra must bring about balance between the spirit and material worlds, and within herself. Sublime entertainment that aspires not only to diversion, but to wonder.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Clarity and wit
Title: Pawn Structure Chess
By: Andy Soltis
In 1749, Philidor called pawns "the soul of chess." Andy Soltis heeded this wisdom and organized his book not around the bewildering variety of openings, but around the handful of pawn structures that the openings reach at the mid-game. Here are archetypal positions to suit many temperaments: pugilist, assassin, architect, spy. Other writers on the subject have invented their own peculiar terminology for each pawn; there’s no such willful obfuscation here. What's more, Soltis's study is no mere list of moves with the relief of an occasional diagram. He delights and instructs with his reliable clarity and wit. A classic of the genre.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
A helluva summer
Title: One summer: America, 1927
By: Bill Bryson
Bryson has done it again; a masterpiece of research and fun.
One Summer: America 1927 doesn't have the belly laughs of A Walk in the Woods, but with his wry communication of the delightfully absurd, nonsensical, or totally awesome, he brings four months in our history under the microscope and asks us to share with him the eccentricities, the foibles, and the seminal events that made us, US. It is a robust nation he depicts, in its hero worship, its fears, its hates, and its obsessions.
Charles Lindbergh's remarkable flight led the summer off. While America had a few barnstorming acrobats, Europeans dominated the air. This untaught natural flyer decided to fly across the Atlantic to Paris, thus moving into hero status far beyond the dreams of any modern day rock star. Millions of fans, both here and abroad, swarmed his appearances and made this bashful hero's life in the ensuing months a relative nightmare. But his tour across America that summer did more to advance American aviation than his flight to Paris.
It was also the summer of Sacco and Vanzetti and the anarchists, the murder and trial of the husband killers (later filmed as Double Indemnity), and an eminently forgettable do-nothing President Coolidge. It was the summer of baseball heroes: Babe Ruth with his voracious appetites and his off- and -on buddy Lou Gehrig, bashful and preternaturally attached to his mother. Prohibition was at its height, and Al Capone and Charles Ponzi were hard at work with their illegal machinations. The greatest financial minds of two continents made the fatal decision that set in motion the Great Depression. It was the golden age of picture palaces; over 800 feature films were released from Hollywood that year. Sadly, it was also the age of loathing: bigotry and the Ku Klux Klan were rampant, and eugenics a newfound "science."
Bill Bryson must keep a team of fact checkers employed, or else he doesn't sleep much. We know from At Home, A Short History of Nearly Everything, and Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words that his keen mind is profoundly curious. His writing enlivens the most obscure details, this time of a vigorous nation with occasional inglorious moments. Bryson writes, "It was a helluva summer." This is a must read for anyone interested in our history.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Poor in Trinidad, Poor in America
Title: 'Til the Well Runs Dry
By: Lauren Francis-Sharma
Marcia Garcia is a talented but poor seamstress living in a small town in Trinidad. She falls for policeman Farouk Karam, and thus begins a fascinating yet troubling family saga told in the voices of Marcia, Farouk, and their second daughter, Jacqueline. I was reminded of T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain, in which everything that can go wrong, does. Threatened by a childhood secret, Marcia finally immigrates to the US and lands in even more trouble. I appreciated her cogent insights about American life and her strategies for surviving in New York City. "I was sure poor in Trinidad and poor in America had to be pretty much the same thing, except in Trinidad there was at least a low-hanging fruit that could keep somebody from starving."
You will want to know the definition of "cheups": it is a sucking noise made with the tongue pressed against the teeth, used by Caribbeans to express annoyance, frustration, or contempt. It would have been helpful to know this one word before I started reading.
Listen to some 1960’s calypso music by The Mighty Sparrow to create a background while you read, and check out some of the other songs used as section headings throughout the book.
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