The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review | 1 comment

The Frozen Thames by Helen HumphreysThe Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 185
Source: Library

The Book:
From the cover flap:

In its long history, the river Thames has frozen solid forty times. These are the stories of that frozen river.

So begins this breathtaking and original work, which contains forty vignettes based on events that actually took place each time the historic Thames froze solid. Spanning more than seven centuries—from 1142 to 1895—and illustrated with stunning full-color period art, The Frozen Thames is an achingly beautiful feat of the imagination…a work of fiction that transports us back through history to cast us as intimate observers of unforgettable moments in time.

Whether we’re viewing the magnificent spectacle of King Henry VIII riding across the ice highway (while plotting to rid himself of his second wife) or participating in a joyous Frost Fair on the ice, joining lovers meeting on the frozen river during the plague years or coming upon the sight of a massive ship frozen into the Thames…these unforgettable stories are a triumph of the imagination as well as a moving meditation on love, loss, and the transformative powers of nature.

My Thoughts:
This book was highly recommended by several friends on LibraryThing. I’d had it on my list for a while but finally checked it out from the library.

What a unique and interesting little book. It’s a small hardcover and only 185 pages long but there is a lot of information and emotion in this little package. I’m so glad I read it.

Each chapter is set during one of the forty times that the River Thames froze over. Some of the stories feature well known historical figures but most of them are either told by or are about people from the working classes. Some are emotionally touching like the one about two lovers meeting on the ice. He sees that she has the signs of having the plague but feeling he cannot live without her he embraces her knowing it means he will contract the disease.

Some of the stories feature interesting facts. When the weather was so cold that birds were freezing to death people took robins into their homes to live so that the species would not die out in the area.

One thing I found interesting was that several times there were “Frost Fairs” held on the ice. All the elements of a local fair but in the middle of the river.

This is a fascinating little book full of beautifully told vignettes. These are things that will never happen again because of the changes in the bridges and the dredging of the river it cannot freeze over any more.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell – Audio Edition

Posted by on Mar 16, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Audio, Book Review, Sarah Vowell | 4 comments

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah VowellLafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell narrated by the author

Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 2015
Length: 8 hours, 7 minutes
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

From the bestselling author of Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes, a humorous account of the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette—the one Frenchman we could all agree on—and an insightful portrait of a nation’s idealism and its reality.

On August 16, 1824, an elderly French gentlemen sailed into New York Harbor and giddy Americans were there to welcome him. Or, rather, to welcome him back. It had been thirty years since the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette had last set foot in the United States, and he was so beloved that 80,000 people showed up to cheer for him. The entire population of New York at the time was 120,000.

Lafayette’s arrival in 1824 coincided with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history, Congress had just fought its first epic battle over slavery, and the threat of a Civil War loomed. But Lafayette, belonging to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction, was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what they wanted this country to be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans, it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing singular past.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is a humorous and insightful portrait of the famed Frenchman, the impact he had on our young country, and his ongoing relationship with some of the instrumental Americans of the time, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and many more.

My Thoughts:
The Hubster and I took a road trip last weekend so that meant I needed to pick an audiobook that was 9 hours at the longest. I checked my playlist and realized I had this book but we hadn’t listened to it yet. The Hubster was pleased because we’ve listened to other books by Sarah Vowell and he likes them just as much as I do.

This is a bit of history, a bit of humor, a bit of travel journal, and great touches of sarcasm. I learned a lot while listening to this book. I didn’t remember much of my history of the American Revolution and what I did remember skipped over a lot of what happened during the war.

There were a couple of lines that cracked us both up. It was in the section where she was talking about Henry Knox and his mission to get the weapons and Fort Ticonderoga and bring them back to the siege of Boston. Knox had abandoned his bookshop when he and his wife left Boston and he joined the militia.

Enter Henry Knox. The twenty-five-year-old bookworm approached Washington and volunteered to go to Fort Ticonderoga to fetch the equipment. Washington approved the cockamamie mission. And so, that November Knox and his brother set off for New York. Who knew they would return in January with forty-three cannons, fourteen mortars, and two howitzers dragged across frozen rivers and over the snowy Berkshire Mountains on custom sleds. The is the derivation of that old Yankee proverb that if you can sell a book, you can move sixty tons of weaponry three hundred miles in winter.

So the moral of that story, other than never underestimate an independent bookseller, was that the Continental Army and its commander in chief had a soft spot for Chief Artillery Officer Henry Knox.

Sarah Vowell has a very distinctive voice and speaking style. She’s not for everyone so if you haven’t heard her you should listen to a sample of her narration first. I personally enjoy listening to her narrate her own books. I can’t imagine any other narrator would be able to strike just the right tone of snark at the right places.

It’s fun history and great for road trips.

Rating
4.5 stars 4.5/5 for the book

4 stars 4/5 for the narration

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This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

Posted by on Mar 3, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 230
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

After their mother’s unexpected death, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are adjusting to life in foster care when their errant father, Wade, suddenly appears. Since Wade signed away his legal rights, the only way he can get his daughters back is to steal them away in the night.

Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn’t the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.

Narrated by a trio of alternating voices, This Dark Road to Mercy is a story about the indelible power of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

My Thoughts:
Every single one of my friends who recommended this book was right. I loved it.

The book is told by three people in alternating chapters.

Easter is twelve years old and while she can be exasperated by her younger sister she’s also extremely protective of her. Their mother is dead and their father signed away his parental rights. When Wade shows up at their foster home she’s naturally suspicious of him. I loved Easter. She’s smart, cynical and funny.

Brady Waller is the guardian ad litem for Easter and Ruby. He’s trying to do the right thing for them but at the same time he’s facing some demons of his own. He’s made mistakes in his past that are still haunting him.

Robert Pruitt is evil. He’s trying to track down Wade partly because he’s been hired to do so but mostly because he wants revenge.

There is a lot packed into this relatively short book. It’s a coming of age story, it’s a suspense thriller, it’s a road trip story, it’s a redemption story. It’s all told beautifully. Cash sets the story at the time that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were closing in on Roger Maris’ home run record. The sights and sounds of baseball provide the background music throughout the book.

I will be getting Cash’s first book soon and I’m happy to see he has a new one due out in October.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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The Fade Out Act One by Ed Brubaker

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Comics, Ed Brubaker | 4 comments

The Fade Out Act One by Ed Brubaker
The Fade Out, Act One by Ed Brubaker with art by Sean Phillips

Genre: Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: The Fade Out #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 120
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume collects issues 1-4 of the comic series.
From the publisher:

The Fade Out is an epic noir set in the world of noir itself, the backlots and bars of Hollywood at the end of its Golden Era. A movie stuck in endless reshoots, a writer damaged from the war and lost in the bottle, a dead movie star and the lookalike hired to replace her. Nothing is what it seems in the place where only lies are true.

My Thoughts:
I love old detective and mystery movies and this is like read in a noir book about the making of a noir movie so it was a hit for me. It’s set in 1948 Hollywood with WWII in recent memories, McCarthy Communist hunting in full force and the Hollywood studio system in flux after Paramount lost an antitrust suit.

It opens with screenwriter Charlie Parish waking up after a night of wild partying in the bathtub of a house that isn’t his. Then he discovers the lead actress of the movie he’s working on strangled in her living room. He leaves and doesn’t call the police. The plot thickens several times before this volume is over but I can’t say anything more without giving away things but there is an appearance by Clark Gable.

The art is wonderful. Sean Phillips has created an environment that looks just like the old movies and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s color work is fabulous. The panels are just as moody and atmospheric as you could want for a story like this but never too monochromatic or hard to figure out what was going on.

This is a three-volume story and I plan on getting the other two very soon.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Paper Girls Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

Posted by on Feb 7, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Brian K Vaughan, Comics | 4 comments

Paper Girls Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
Paper Girls Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Cliff Chiang

Genre: Science Fiction, Paranormal
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: Paper Girls #2
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 125
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume collects issues 6-10 of the comic series.
From the publisher:

After surviving the strangest night of their lives in the Cleveland suburb of Stony Stream, intrepid young newspaper deliverers Erin, Mac, and Tiffany find themselves launched from 1988 to a distant and terrifying future… the year 2016. What would you do if you were confronted by your 12-year-old self? 40-year-old newspaper reporter Erin Tieng is about to find out in this action-packed story about identity, mortality, and growing older in the 21st century

My Thoughts:
I started the first volume of this series not really knowing what to expect but positive that almost anything by Brian K. Vaughan would be good. It was a little bit of science fiction, a little bit of paranormal, a little bit of nostalgia for the late 1980’s and just a whole lot of fun. Four paper delivery girls stumbled into the middle of strange events that weren’t totally explained in volume one but it was so good I’ve been waiting for Volume 2.

Apparently so were a lot of other people. I finally got to the top of the hold list at the library. I read this in one sitting and I’m already getting annoyed about having to wait for volume 3. I have a feeling that this a comic series I’ll subscribe to the digital editions of the individual issues.

Three of the original girls land in 2016 right in front of the present day adult version of one of them. It’s time travel with plenty of twists.

There’s a lot of action and adventure but there is also a lot of humor. Landing 3 twelve year old girls from 1988 in 2016 makes for some pretty funny moments.

1988 meets 2016

Click on the image for s larger version

The art is wonderful. It’s colorful and even though some of the creatures are kind of gross it’s not disgusting.

This is a comic series you should be reading either in the collected volumes or the individual issues.

Brian K. Vaughan does it again.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Corman and Shana Knizhnik

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 227
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Nearly a half-century into being a feminist and legal pioneer, something funny happened to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the octogenarian won the internet. Across America, people who weren’t even born when Ginsburg made her name are tattooing themselves with her face, setting her famously searing dissents to music, and making viral videos in tribute. In a class of its own, and much to Ginsburg’s own amusement, is the Notorious RBG Tumblr, which juxtaposes the diminutive but fierce Jewish grandmother with the 350-pound rapper featuring original artwork submitted from around the world.
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers a visually rich, intimate, unprecedented look at the Justice and how she changed the world. From Ginsburg’s refusal to let the slammed doors of sexism stop her to her innovative legal work, from her before-its-time feminist marriage to her perch on the nation’s highest court—with the fierce dissents to match—get to know RBG as never before. As the country struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stands as a testament to how far we can come with a little chutzpah.

My Thoughts:
I have admired Ruth Bader Ginsburg for years. I enjoyed the Notorious RBG Tumblr from its early days. When this book was published I quickly bought a copy. Since then Justice Scalia passed away and the Supreme court became more of a battle between the major two political parties than ever before.

I was needing to read something positive and uplifting. The day after the Womens’ March seemed like the perfect time to pick this one up.

I loved it. I admire RBG even more than I did before. She has a brilliant legal mind and great sense of humor.

The book isn’t a traditional biography. It tells her story through a series of episodes from her life. It ends up being a very entertaining read. She was and is a pioneer in the legal battles for gender equality and civil rights. The accomplished many firsts for women. She also had a long, loving marriage that was truly a partnership.

There are plenty of photos throughout the book as well as some great annotated excerpts from some of her legal work and her Supreme Court opinions and dissents.

I highly recommend this.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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