Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blog News

Great news!  Massive Book Deaf post coming up!

There will be reviews and giveawaysof a couple cool books:  Safe from Sea, The Traitor's Wife, Sex on the Moon, etc.

I'll also be reviewing my backlog of indie authors and some cool interviews.

I will be dedicating December to books by and about people of color.  So, I would really appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks for sticking around!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok

The Memory Palace
Title The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Publisher: Free Press
Published: August 9, 2011
ISBN: 9781439183328
Pages: 336                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Memory Palace is Mira Bartok's haunting memoir of the profound affect her mother's schizophrenia had on her life.  The title refers to a mnemonic device of creating a palace and populating it with facts and events one wishes to remember.  Ms. Bartok uses this method to reinforce her memory after sustaining a head injury that lead to cognitive deficits in her memory, language processing, and other executive functions of the brain.  In the book, she lays the foundation for her palace and builds several rooms using her mother's diaries to supplement information about her mother.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As she sifts through memories, she begins to understand her mother's plight - frustrated by the limits of society in a time of rigid standards of proper behavior and struggling with her disease in a time of relatively primitive methods of treating the mentally ill.  Her mother muses in her diaries of what could have been if she didn't have schizophrenia.                                                                                                                             How best to manage a parent with severe mental illness who due to the very nature of her disease is unable to seek assistance herself  After surviving her childhood and her mother's increasingly paranoid and aggressive schizophrenia, Mira thinks by moving to another city she can simply rid herself of her mother.  When plans to get guardianship of their mother fails, both she and her sister resort to changing their names.  Mira keeps a special Post Office box to keep in contact with her mother.  Finally the sisters can find some peace of mind after years of impromptu visits and  police visits due to their mother's paranoia.  For a long time Mira struggles with her choice to essentially abandon her mother but feels its the only way to maintain her artistic life and her own sanity.  Vacillating between avoidance of her mother and worry over her mother's state, Mira eventually realizes that there is only so much she can do.    Sharing her mother's last days and interacting with the women from the shelter, reaffirm to her that her mother despite the schizophrenia was loving, kind, and still capable of bringing light into others lives.                                                                                                                                    A memoir of schizophrenia, this book could have become a jumbled mess but Ms. Bartok's writing is fluid enough to keep one from getting overwhelmed.   She weaves a tale using fragments of her memory and excerpts from her mother's diaries finding several parallels between her urge to be an artist and her mother's abbreviated artistic life.  This book is beautifully illustrated to match the theme of every chapter.  All in all the book is a difficult read but well worth it. *This book was provided by the publisher Free Press in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

When She Woke             When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (Algonquin, Oct. 4, 2011)

Per Amazon:
Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she’s shared a fierce and forbidden love.

When She Woke is a fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future—where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

What are you looking forward to reading this fall

Friday, August 12, 2011

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read as a way to find new blogs and make some new friends.  Go to Parajunkee to find the other participants.  This week's question:
Q. How has your reading habits changed since you were a teen? or If you are still a teen what new genres are you in love with currently?
I haven't really changed my habits that much.  I've always read across the shelves not really paying attention to genre.  The only difference is that I can afford to buy books and don't have to wait for the library to get them.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill

 The Butterfly Cabinet: A Novel
Title The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill
Publisher: Free Press
Published: July 26, 2011
ISBN: 9781451611595
Pages: 240

Ripped from the headlines (the late 19th century ones), The Butterfly Cabinet is based on the death by suffocation of young girl. We learn the background story via the maid Maddie and the lady of the house's narration.  Maddie narrates from her entry in to service of the family and the lady of the house Harriet Ormond narrates from her prison.  As the story unfolds, the web of secrets that cloaked this family tragedy is unwound. In addition, we get an idea of the political turmoil and pandering that contributed to Mrs. Ormond's conviction.

Based on the "facts" as they stand, Mrs. Ormond is irrefutably guilty of excessive cruelty to her children and by extension the death of Charlotte.  In her prison diaries, she details her difficult relationship with her parents and her resultant difficulties with the rearing of her own children.  Harriet details how she bristles at the attitude and actions expected from a woman such as herself.  Striving for self-control, she expects the utmost discipline from every one - servants and her children alike.  Unfortunately, her inability to be flexible leads to her downfall.

Maddie finally has a chance to unburden herself of the secrets that have plagued her for nearly eight decades.  Her story allows us to see the story from the angle of the working class and servants, who are viewed looked down on yet necessary for the class system to continue.  Her seemingly unimportant presence belies the significant part she plays in this family's history for several generations.

The book was a great peek into a past era that still informs the present.  The seemingly unnecessary elements are all wound up at the end to complete the story.  Politics, religion, class system, and culture all collide to create the perfect storm to ring in the end of an era.  Bernie McGill manages to create a suspenseful and detailed story from a mysterious true event from an age gone by.

**This book was provided by the publisher Free Press in exchange for my honest opinion.**

Review: Angela Sloan by James Whorton

Angela Sloan: A Novel 
Title Angela Sloan by James Whorton
Publisher: Free Press
Published: August 2, 2011
ISBN: 9781451624403
Pages: 224

For Angela Sloan, life is a never-ending CIA mission.  Rescued by CIA agent Ray Sloan after her parents' murder during a rebellion in Congo, Angela learns from day one how to start crafting a new identity.  Ray gets assigned to teach at the CIA training academy and spend his spare time training Angela on how to maintain one's cover and how to use others to supply information and goods that further the mission.  Other than Ray's drinking himself into a stupor and refusing to discuss the past, life is going swimmingly until Ray gets involved the Watergate break-in.  First they hide out under new identities at a hotel hoping to avoid repercussions of the event.  When it becomes clear that the situation is even more volatile than he planned for, Ray leaves Angela to the next phase of their mission which is rendezvousing when the coast is clear.
    Angela is left to fend for herself and figure out the rendezvous point while avoiding any agents sent to look for her.  She gets the first kink in her plan when the waitress from the Chinese restaurant she bought her fake ids from sneaks into her car for a free ride.  Starting to feel comradery and responsibility for Betty, Angela circles to reconnect when they part ways.  This leads to her bumping into Marilyn, a CIA agent sent to recover her and Ray.  While running away from Marilyn, the two girls fall in with some hippies who are about everything except peace, love, and sunshine.  Angela has to use all her lessons in spying to reach the rendezvous point while worrying constantly about Ray.
  Having read books from the 70s, the book seemed really 70s with all the agitating and mysterious movements in the background.  This book was somewhat confusing to follow.  There were so many twists regarding every body's identity and Angela's suspicion of every one's intention toward her.  Add in all the confusion about Ray's past and Angela's origin and it can get a bit crowded.  Even though Angela tried to come across as an agent on a mission, a good portion of the book is spent exposing her naivete and the preposterous situation Ray leaves her in.  Once you read the book and see where he's coming from, you understand what he did even if you don't agree with the method.  Some of the characters are really wacky, but I guess it wouldn't be an interesting book if everyone was normal.  Having read books from the 70s, the book seemed really jam packed with the zany characters that always fill stories from the 70s.

**This book was provided by the publisher Free Press in exchange for my honest opinion.**

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pick and Pan

Wildefire by Karsten Knight is a great YA novel. The action starts from the very beginning of the book and continues on throughout.  Dealing with the aftermath of her impetuous older sister's actions, Ashline Wilde transfers to Blackwood Academy for a fresh start.  Everything is going great until she learns she is part of a group of gods and goddesses meant to save the world from destruction via methods and forces unknown.On top of all that, Ash must figure out her powers and decipher her message. 

I liked this book and would love to follow the adventures of Ash and her fellow gods and goddesses.  I almost didn't read this but I'm glad I gave it a chance.

Bed: A Novel
Bed by David Whitehouse is the story of Mal Ede narrated by his brother.  We never learn the brother's name.  Mal has always been a problem child - fussy, contrary, and demanding of almost constant attention.  Despairing of the responsibilities of adult life, Mal goes to bed on the eve of his 25th birthday and never gets back out.  The rest of the book is everyone scrambling to accommodate him. 

I didn't like this book whatsoever.  I couldn't understand the motivations of anybody in the book.  The younger brother clearly resents Mal but chooses for the most part to live in his shadow in almost every sense (even dating Mal's old girlfriend).  He doesn't even identify himself.  I could get into this book; I couldn't even invest time or energy into the character's lives.  I couldn't understand anybody's motivation in this book.  They all seem to have too much time on their hands.

*Both these books were provided by the publisher Simon and Schuster via Galley Grab.*

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

 The Sun's Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet

Title:The Sun's Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet
by Bob Berman
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Co.
Published: July 13, 2011
ISBN: 9780316091015

The Sun's Heartbeat and Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet is Bob Berman's engrossing biography of the sun.  Chronicling from the creation of the Sun to it's predicted future, The Sun's Heartbeat gives many facts about the Sun previously unknown by the average person.  Examples include:
  • Every rainbow is unique to the person viewing it. Two people can never see the same rainbow; One person can never see the same rainbow twice.
  • The sky is really violet but on that end of the color spectrum, our eyes easily perceive the blue.  Hence, we see blue skies.
  • Our eyes are designed to see the color green.  Green is the last color the human eye can see in the dark.
  • Shockingly contrary to everything we've been told, sunblock might be more of a con than a pro due to the reduction of vitamin D production in its wearers.
From the cataclysmic events that led to the sun's creation to the wacky behavior of the sun in recent, we see how the sun has shaped human civilization and continues to affect our daily life.  It's really startling to see the progression of sun science from ancient temples designed for various equinoxes and eclipse viewing to people being harassed for espousing doctrine that varied from the Church's stance on the Sun, its origins, and its relation to earth.  We seemingly have made a loop recently from massive gains in our knowledge of the sun to the denial by many of global warming even with vast and mounting evidence.  (Yes, it exists even though many places had brutal winters recently.  Most of our temperature gain will be during the winter nights when most people aren't awake or outside to tell the difference.)

For us amateur sky observers, Berman details the varied solar events (eclipses - full and partial, rainbows, diffraction, aurora borealis, etc. and how to observe some of these.  He also includes a handy list of solar eclipses in case the reader wants to see one. 

This book is right up my alley with all the random cool and strange facts about our Sun.  If you are a science fan or enjoy learning about new things, this is a great book for you.  Bob Berman was able to explain pretty complex science in understandable language.  He uses sources from various cultures not just European to show the way earthlings have dealt with the sun and used it to develop cultures (some ancients using their knowledge of eclipses and such to lord it over other less advance cultures).  He gives plenty of evidence of the whole global warming phenomena that explains the cold winters/moderate summer in many place.  Get this book to increase your solar awareness.

**This book was provided by the publisher Little, Brown, and Co. in exchange for my honest opinion.**