Monday, August 22, 2016

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

I'd like this book even if I didn't know Mary Robinette Kowal wrote it. But the fact that she did, had me quivering in anticipation until I could get my hands on a copy. It's got that MRK touch that brings a story to life. I think all her work in her other life, which include dramatic speaking, puppetry,  and voice acting, really helps shape her conversations so that they actually sound like conversations that occur in real life. They're not overly stuffed with information, the pace and emotions are realistic, and you can hear the characters speak in your head (or at least I can. And it's not that I'm hearing voices in the she-needs-medical-evaluation sense, but that the author has given life to her characters through their words, thoughts, and action, and I, as the reader, benefit from that.)

So, I've been to Regency England (with magic!) with Mary, and to Mars, and a bunch of other places. This time, she took me to WWI, and introduced me to the Spirit Corps, England's secret weapon that gets real time battle information and military intellegence from British soldiers on the front. The only catch is that these are soldiers who have died, and their ghosts are reporting in before following the light to whatever comes next. The details they are able to give, such as where they were, which direction the shot came from, etc, helps to give the British command valuable information.

In the meantime, Ginger Stuyvesant, an American who is engaged to intelligence officer Captain Ben Harford, is one of the mediums of the Spirit Corps. She and her circle discover there's a traitor in the system, mucking up the works, and helping the Germans who want to destroy the Spirit Corps. Even though she and her colleagues provide valuable information, they have a hard time convincing those in charge that there is a true threat. And when that threat is aimed at the Spirit Corp itself, Ginger and company move into action.

There's a lot to like in this novel. I did have a quibble or two with a couple of stereotypes, but they ended up being kind of fun against the other characters. Also, I did roll my eyes and groan, and complain to my husband that I thought Michael Livingston had a hand in getting one of the troops in the trenches mentioned. (Turns out, I was right, but had to wait 136 pages to the Acknowledgements to find out my hunch was correct. The man is everywhere!) There's also a love story (though that's not the, pardon the expression, thrust of the story. It's all very proper.)

My main dissatisfaction? That I have to wait for MRK to finish writing something else for me to read. Whatever it is, i'm pretty sure I'll squee with delight when I get my hands on that, too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Summer Dragon (The Evertide, #1) by Todd Lockwood

Dear Todd,

Cut it out, will you? You're already an incredible artist (award winning, in fact), and  your art contains the very images that already populate the brains of fantasy readers when someone says "picture a dragon." Do you know how hard it is to walk into a bookstore and not see a cover by Todd Lockwood? Give us a break.

And then, if that's not enough, you're a nice guy. You actually talk to people at conventions, make friends, interact, and even get out there on the dance floor. Talk about being approachable. Jeez.

So now, you wrote a book. Well, actually, not just a book, but as the cover says "First Book of the Evertide", which I got, because I'm a friend, and thought you should have the support of those of us who know and like you. But come on, Todd, the book is in its third printing already, and it just came out in May 2016! I picked up a first edition, (pre-ordered, in fact) and when I heard how many had sold, I figured it was because of the kick-ass cover art or the drawings by the artist/author included inside.

But damn it, Todd. You can write. You can build worlds as well as draw them. You can craft characters with ink, and not just in your art, but with your words. I don't even like coming of age tales, but got sucked right into Maia's world, hopes, conflicts, and determination. She's an amazing young woman. There's even a touch of the philosopher in you, too. It's just not fair.

Plus, you broke my heart, right in two, with one of the drawings. You know, that father-daughter drawing at the start of chapter 22. The tenderness and love in his eyes, as he gazes down at his little one; her joyful posture as she stands below him balanced on her back legs, looking adoringly up at him. I love the personalities you've given your dragons.  There human fathers who yearn for what Malik had in that moment when his little qit gazed up at him in that drawing.

So anyhow, Todd, I'm kind of annoyed at you, because you've set a hard standard for us other artists to live up to. So, please put away your dreams of creating Dragon Symphony and Ballet, and give us a chance, okay? You don't want us to die of despair before the next Evertide book comes out, do you?

Thank you so much, and would you mind signing my copy?

tags: 2016-readmet-or-know-the-authori-liked-the-picturescreaturesgood-worldbuildingdragonsfirst-novel-or-bookgreat-coverpart-start-of-a-series 





Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout

A love story, though an understated love between mother and child. Lucy Barton's life is told more by what was left unsaid. But, as her writing teacher told her, we all have one story to tell. This is Lucy's, and it's fascinating. We are made of where we come from and where we go


Tags: 2016-read, an-author-i-read, made-me-look-something-up, read, thank-you-charleston-county-library, thought-provoking


Friday, August 12, 2016

A Dream Come True

My mother married my dad in 1943. She was true to him to her death in 2009. He was the love of her life. But in all honesty, she had another love, that she met in 1962 and then, in 1986 travelled back to see again: The Grand Canyon.

I was 5 when my family bundled into our sky blue Country Squire station wagon, and drove across the country stopping at as many national parks as we could between our home in Silver Spring, Maryland and our destination in California. My mother's excitement as we approached Grand Canyon National Park was palpable. The set up for visitors in 1962 was a little a bit different than it is now, I'm told. We bundled out of the car, tired from our journey. My mother, an amateur geologist and enthusiastic rock hound, looked off in the distance, and sighed with joy, until my brother tapped her on the shoulder and suggested she turn around. What she turned to see was the full beauty of that aptly named canyon, truly grand. It took her breath, her speech away, and she wept fro the sheer glory of it.

She spoke of its beauty the rest of her life. She and my father planned to travel back for their 40th anniversary. When he died in 1981, 2 years shy of that anticipated time, she thought this meant she'd never get back.  But returning to the Grand Canyon was a dream, one she fulfilled five years later with the help of my brother, Erico, and his wonderful wife, Heather.
Erico and Ruthe on the Rim of the Canyon

It was not the trip you might expect. My mother had Multiple Sclerosis, and at that time, was in a wheelchair, only able to walk short distances. True, she did exercises every day to help maintain strength and muscle tone, but she also needed at least one nap a day to restore her energy. What they'd planned, with the help of the park service, was quite amazing. They spent a couple of days on the surface, resting and preparing, then, with the assistance of the rangers and staff, Heather, Erico, and Ruthe joined a mule team, and rode down the canyon. Ruthe, who really had never ridden a horse, who had multiple sclerosis, and lacked leg strength and balance, who wore corrective glasses to hep combat her diplopia, got on a white mule named Miss Piggy and rode to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Ruthe and Heather Prepare for the Descent

The trip was both beautiful and breathtaking. Ruthe was placed in line immediately behind the lead guide, with Heather following her. Heather told me, when we got together after the journey, that Ruthe got so tired at times that Heather would look at her, slumped on the mule, then look to the side and see the drop off to the Canyon floor below, and wonder how long it would take her to jump off her mule and catch Ruthe as she slid off her own mount. When not calculating that, she would wonder how to tell those of us not on the trip that Ruthe had slipped off the mule and fallen to the river below. But just when Heather thought her tiny mother-in-law was about to put the calculations to the test, Ruthe would straighten, and then turn around a flash a beaming smile at Heather. 


That's my mom, beaming!
They made it to the bottom safely. I'm not entirely sure, but I do think Ruthe was airlifted out rather than riding back up. (I'm scanning family pictures now, and in the album, all the pictures on mule are in a descent, then the bottom, then taken from a helicopter.) I do seem to recall that once back up, there was another rest period, then travel to California for a mini family reunion, which javaczuk and I were able to fly out and join for a few days. 





She made it! At the Colorado river
The US National Park Service is celebrating its Centennial anniversary. All summer long, I've been enjoying social media images of the glories that one can discover in the parks part of the diverse system. But none of those images, as spectacular as they are, have made me as happy as discovering the pictures taken on that 1986 trip.



As a side note: In going through the boxes of memorabilia this summer, I found this letter to my mom from Grand Canyon National Park Lodges.

It's ok. Not her address any more...

To Ruthe, one of the highlights of her life was riding a mule down that "gorgeous hunk of rock." To me, the Grand Canyon wasn't the only thing that was grand or inspiring on that journey. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Homegoing: A novel by Yaa Gyasi


There's a reason this is one of the most talked about books this summer. The basic back-of-the-book blurb doesn't give the true power of the story, which follows two half sisters from different villages in Ghana, and the lives of their descendants, for 3 centuries. It's quite a tale, and an eye opener for me. I read a lot, and have experienced the lives and conditions of Africans and African Americans in many books, some quite visceral and explicit in detail. However, the linear story, added to the individual ones made this quite compelling. This says a lot, since each story pretty much stands alone for the character it focuses on. In some cases you learn a little about the previous generation/main character, in other, nothing at all. And, as the stories alternate between the decedents of each sister, this made the family tree in the front of the book exceedingly valuable for me.

I am not a lover of short stories, so the fact that I liked this book so much, which is very much like a book of related short stories, indicates the power of the writing. My one complaint is that I really do want to know more about most of the characters and their lives, and also to know more definitively the back story before their births. My knowledge of African history is not my strong suit, so I did do a bit of reading on that to help shore up the knowledge base of where the story begins. For me, as a white reader, I was quite involved and quite moved/impacted by many of the experiences. It is not my heritage, nor my history (for despite living in the South much of my life, Southern heritage is not my family heritage.) I am curious to hear how other readers, for whom aspects of this story are incorporated in their own family history, relate.

Tags: 2016-read, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, i-heard-about-it-on-npr, made-me-look-something-up, read, read-on-recommendation, taught-me-something, thank-you-charleston-county-library, thought-provoking, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, wow

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay

This book cover kept catching my eye, so finally, I gave in. I really enjoyed the story, characters, and dilemmas that occurred, though I did feel a bit removed from it all, (but at times so did Stacey, so I guess I'm excused.) There was a lot of hard living, drinking, and more uses of the f-word than even my mother (which says a lot). But overall, I came away glad I read it. The snippets of Stacey's work were interesting, and I'd kinda like to actually read her poem that was based on Frankenstein, even though it's got a lot of grimness in it. (The book was about the poem, which was a book, itself, becoming a movie.) I will look for more by the author.

Tags: 2016-read, first-novel-or-book, great-cover, i-liked-it, made-me-look-something-up, read, will-look-for-more-by-this-author

The Wake of the Bloody Angel (Eddie LaCrosse 4) by Alex Bledsoe

Dang! Another review I let languish. Sorry Alex Bledsoe, especially since I really enjoyed the book. I picked it up because I was so taken with the Tuva series, that I wanted to see how your other books were. Couldn't get the first in the series, but I was able to jump right in with this one, thankfully. Some books are great romps through whatever world they're set in, and this was one. There was enough history similar to our own, and enough that had nothing to do with this one to keep me both amused and on my toes. (I'm partial to pirate tales, being from Charleston, where they once sailed our seas, and where Anne Bonny got her start, and nearly her finish, and Sted Bonnet graced the gallows at White Point Gardens.) You did give me an ear worm though, and I'll have to see how song plays in the next book of yours I read.  I like Eddie La Crosse.

(Quietly hums  "Brandy, you're a fine girl, What a good wife you would be, But my life, my love and my lady is the sea.")