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New boxes

Moonglow

Title: Moonglow
By: Michael Chabon

I listened to this book on CD and was so impressed with Michael Chabon’s semi-fictional memoir about his grandfather that I also read the book. While presented as a novel, it is based to some degree on his conversations with his grandfather and other family members, and is a fascinating view of 20th century American history. In this telling, his partly fictional grandfather was a talented engineer and imperfect man, extremely interested in rockets and space travel, who served in WW II. Following a stint in the OSS, he hunted for unexploded rockets in Europe for US intelligence. The infamous V-2 rocket, designed by Wernher von Braun, was of particular interest: as a rocket, it was a thing of beauty, but its beauty was perverted by its use as a weapon. “The poor bastard! He had built a ship to loft us to the very edge of heaven, and they had used it as a messenger of hell.”

In an interview in the L.A. Times, Chabon said, "one of the nonfictional bases for this book is that when my actual grandfather was dying, he was on heavy-duty painkillers. He did talk a lot, and his memory was activated in an interesting way, maybe by some combination of proximity to death and these painkillers. I'd heard a lot of his stories, but these things that he was remembering during this period when I was sitting with him right before he died were new, like new boxes had been brought down from the attic and opened up."

Above all the true and fictional storylines, the love Michael Chabon has for his grandfather flies high.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction, audiobook
Posted by April on June 9, 2018 at 8:31 a.m.
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Slippery slope

The Senility of Vladimir P.

Title: The Senility of Vladimir P.
By: Michael Honig

A fictional portrayal of Vladimir Putin in a future in which he develops dementia and is cared for at a private dacha by a principled yet naive nurse caregiver, Nicolai Sheremetev. We eavesdrop on Vladimir P.’s conversations with political cronies and enemies, which occur entirely in his mind. He is rarely lucid, often paranoid, and difficult to manage. Over time, Sheremetev learns that every staff person at the large dacha is on the take in one way or another, grafting off the quantities of food and services provided to run the operation. Eventually even the honest nurse himself is forced to commit a dastardly deed.

It’s not entirely accurate to say I loved reading this book. Really, I was appalled at the depth of corruption suggested. I must distinguish between a distaste for the situation and my intense appreciation of the writer’s skill. The slide down the slippery slope is so well-crafted by the author, and entirely topical. You could say this book asks the question: how might a leader, by his own example, ruin a country?

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by April on June 4, 2018 at 8:03 a.m.
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Unique and refreshing

Illuminae

Title: Illuminae
By: Arnie Kaufman

I get super excited about unique things. I love experiencing something that pushes the boundaries of normal expectations. I love not being willing to put a book down because I want to know not just what will happen next, but how they will tell me about it. And I experienced all that love as I read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

An illegal mining colony on the outskirts of explored space is attacked by a competing corporation and the miners and their families have to escape in a hurry. Ezra and Kady are two normal teenagers--he’s into sports, she’s into computers--until the devastating day of the attack. They must survive with all the other refugees as they escape on some friendly spaceships whose warp-drives were crippled in the evacuation to a nearby space station.

Almost like a found-footage movie, the pages of this book are filled with an analyst’s interpretations of security camera recordings from the ships, audio and chat logs between survivors and ship personnel, scanned print communications, and epic graphic word-art imagery. And with each new document the story unfolds of Ezra and Kady’s survival in the ragtag, refugee-filled fleet on their slow and treacherous journey to safety.

The struggle of existing on overpopulated ships, a possibly faulty AI named AIDAN, a horrifying sickness running rampant through one of the ships, and the captains doing their best to prevent fleet-wide panic--and all the while, the possibility of enemy ships attacking--keeps you on the edge of your seat, making every turn of the page exciting! Due to the psychological stress, violence, and horror in this book I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than 15.

But if you want to experience a unique and refreshing way of storytelling, then look no further!

View similarly tagged posts: teen fiction
Posted by augasona on Feb. 26, 2018 at 12:37 p.m.
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A constant joy

Trigger warning

Title: Trigger warning
By: Neil Gaiman

Ever since I picked up the graphic novel series The Sandman and discovered the wonderful creativity of Neil Gaiman, I've been in love. His book Neverwhere saved my life on a terrible camping trip. No other writer has so thoroughly affected my imagination. His words make me laugh, cry, think, hope and generally sit in awe at the stories' beauty and craftsmanship.

Though often dark and thought-provoking, his stories can also be fun and lighthearted. This is the case in his most recent short story and poetry collection,Trigger Warning. Generally, I prefer novels to short stories because I love really getting to know the characters, but Gaiman's ability to leave you totally satisfied after a short story made my experience with this book a constant joy.

I am so glad that I had the chance to listen to the audiobook of this anthology. Listening to Neil Gaiman read his stories was a real treat. You can hear in his voice how much he loves his stories, and lives to tell them. You know that the way he is portraying the characters is the exact way they were meant to be portrayed. It never feels wrong.

If you haven't had the chance to read anything by Neil Gaiman, please do. He has a huge and broad repertoire, including books and comics for children, teens, and adults. He has even written a few Doctor Who episodes! And feel free to start with this collection of stories. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

View similarly tagged posts: audiobook
Posted by augasona on Feb. 26, 2018 at 9:46 a.m.
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Angel of death

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
By: David Grann

Many of the Osage would rush to see a gusher when it erupted, scrambling for the best view, making sure not to cause a spark, their eyes following the oil as it shot fifty, sixty, sometimes a hundred feet in the air. With its great black wings of spray, arcing above the rigging, it rose before them like an angel of death.

A series of killings and purported “deaths due to disease” in Osage County, Oklahoma in the early 20th century prompted journalist David Grann’s research for this sobering book. Over several years, Osage landowners were killed, and white men who tried to help landowner families find justice for the victims also were targeted. Grann’s exposition is clear and chilling: these Osage people were killed in order to funnel their land rights (especially their minerals rights) into the hands of a few white men who were pursuing Oklahoma oil strike riches in the most despicable ways you can imagine. Peppered with obstruction, witness intimidation, and ineptitude on the part of some early FBI investigators, it is an eye-opening piece of history that my grandparents would have read about in newspaper headlines in the 1920's.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction, history
Posted by April on Oct. 30, 2017 at 8:17 a.m.
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