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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Descender Book Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire

Posted by on Apr 14, 2017 in 2017, 5 stars, Book Review, Comics, Jeff Lemire | 2 comments

Descender Book Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire
Descender Book Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire

Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Descender #3
Format: Comics Collected Edition
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 128
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 3 is a compilation of issues 12-16 of the comic series.
From the publisher:

One young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling space opera from the creators of Trillium, Sweet Tooth, and Little Gotham.

My Thoughts:
I pretty much love everything I’ve ever read by Jeff Lemire and this series is no exception. This volume is a bit of a break in the action of the story but it’s a good respite. Each issue in this volume focuses on one of the characters introduced since the beginning.

In each case it’s the background and history up to the point where the story left off in book two. I enjoyed the background stories but I ended up feeling sad for almost all of them. These are some damaged characters and this applies even (and almost more so) to the robots.

The artwork by Dustin Nguyen is wonderful. It’s done in watercolors but it’s vivid and varied in all of the different settings.

The lettering in this series by Steve Wands continues to be as much artwork as Dustin Nguyen’s artwork

While the break in the story to explore some of the characters more deeply was nice, I’m counting the days until the next volume comes out in July.

I highly recommend this series.

a9741-rating_5stars Rating 5/5

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A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in 2017, 3 stars, Book Review, Jodi Taylor | 0 comments

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Ebook, Trade Paperback
Series: The Chronicles of St Mary’s #2
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: 2015
Pages. 307
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon “Chief” Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.

In the sequel to Just One Damned Thing After Another, Max and company visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches. But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St. Mary’s—an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy history itself to do it.

My Thoughts:
I don’t get too worried about the ‘correct science’ of time travel stories and I was pleased to read this comment from the author at the beginning of the first book in this series:

I made all this up. Historians and physicists – please do not spit on me in the street.

It’s been almost four years since I read the first book in this series. I enjoyed the heck out of it and kept intending to pick up the second book but then suddenly it had been four years. Oops. I wish I hadn’t waited that long because there are a lot of references to things that happened in the first book that I didn’t remember that well. In fact I’m thinking of rereading it in the audio format. The important thing to know is do not read this book if you haven’t read the first (Just One Damned Thing After Another).

It’s a fun mix of science fiction, time travel, romance, workplace comedy, and a little adventure. The story is told by Madeline (Max) Maxwell with a good bit of sarcasm and humor in between the brushes with death.

The mission to the time when dodos were not extinct to bring some back to the future was hilarious. The observation of the murder of Thomas Becket was not funny at all. If you don’t mind books that can’t be pinned down to a genre or two, you should give this series a try.

It’s not great literature but it’s good light escapist fun.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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This Time Together by Carol Burnett – Audio Edition

Posted by on Mar 31, 2017 in 2017, 3.5 stars, Audio, Book Review | 0 comments

This Time Together by Carol Burnett narrated by the authorThis Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett narrated by the author

Genre: Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2010
Length: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Carol Burnett is one of the most beloved and revered actresses and performers in America. The Carol Burnett Show was seen each week by millions of adoring fans and won twenty-five Emmys in its remarkable eleven-year run. Now, in This Time Together, Carol really lets her hair down and tells one funny or touching or memorable story after another–reading it feels like sitting down with an old friend who has wonderful tales to tell.

In engaging anecdotes, Carol discusses her remarkable friendships with stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Julie Andrews; the background behind famous scenes, like the moment she swept down the stairs in her curtain-rod dress in the legendary “Went With the Wind” skit; and things that would happen only to Carol–the prank with Julie Andrews that went wrong in front of the First Lady; the famous Tarzan Yell that saved her during a mugging; and the time she faked a wooden leg to get served in a famous ice cream emporium. This poignant look back allows us to cry with the actress during her sorrows, rejoice in her successes, and finally, always, to laugh.

My Thoughts:
This is a short but thoroughly enjoyable audiobook. I requested it the day that a friend of mine recommended it. I’m so glad I did.

I grew up watching the Carol Burnett show and have always enjoyed her work. It was nice to spend some time with her again. There’s no way anyone else could have narrated this.

This is a series of anecdotes from her life. Some are funny, some heartbreakingly sad. They are all enjoyable. If you enjoyed Carol Burnett’s show I encourage you to get your hands on this audiobook,

 

Rating
3.5 stars 3.5/5 for the book

4 stars 4/5 for the narration

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Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Posted by on Mar 28, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Post-apocalyptic
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 262
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Something is out there . . .
Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.
Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?
Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

My Thoughts:
I picked this book because I was looking for a book with an X in the title for the What’s in a Name challenge. After checking out reviews from a few friends I decided it might be good.

It was even better than I had expected. Set in a post-apocalyptic Detroit it’s focus is on Malorie and her two young children. The kids are four, born after the only way to stay alive was to never look outside. Malorie has decided that now is the time to venture out on the river blindfolded in hopes of reaching a place of safety.

The story of Malorie’s terrifying trip down the river is interspersed with flashbacks that gradually fill in what has happened to her, her family, and the group of people she joined to stay alive. The menace that is out there that must not be seen is an unknown. No one knows what it is that makes people go mad and become horrifically violent and suicidal. They only know that in order to stay alive they must not see outside. They hide inside behind barricaded windows and only venture out blindfolded.

This is an increasingly suspenseful story. As the flashbacks gradually fill in the extent of the threat as well as what has happened to Malorie and her housemates the tension builds and builds.

I liked this one a lot. I’m glad I read it and while not all the questions are answered it’s a satisfying story that was delightfully creepy.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher – Audio Edition

Posted by on Mar 24, 2017 in 2017, 3.5 stars, Audio, Book Review | 0 comments

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher narrated by the authorWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher narrated by the author

Genre: Autobiography, Humor
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 2009
Length: 3 hours, 6 minutes
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Finally, after four hit novels, Carrie Fisher comes clean (well, sort of) with the crazy truth that is her life in her first-ever memoir. In Wishful Drinking, adapted from her one-woman stage show, Fisher reveals what it was really like to grow up a product of “Hollywood in-breeding,” come of age on the set of a little movie called Star Wars, and become a cultural icon and bestselling action figure at the age of nineteen.

Intimate, hilarious, and sobering, Wishful Drinking is Fisher, looking at her life as she best remembers it (what do you expect after electroshock therapy?). It’s an incredible tale: the child of Hollywood royalty — Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher — homewrecked by Elizabeth Taylor, marrying (then divorcing, then dating) Paul Simon, having her likeness merchandized on everything from Princess Leia shampoo to PEZ dispensers, learning the father of her daughter forgot to tell her he was gay, and ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed.

My Thoughts:
This is a short quick audiobook. I requested it shortly after Carrie Fisher died along with eleventy seven other people. I was glad to finally listen to it. It’s good to hear her voice again.

She wrote the book as a way of sharing the stories she told in her stage show in another format. I’ve never seen the show but my library has a DVD that I might get at some point.

Fisher is up front about her struggles with bipolar disorder, drug abuse and relationship troubles. It’s hard to imagine a book about these subjects being funny but it is. It’s not all laugh out loud though because she’s talking about difficult things.

It was a shame she died at a relatively young age. This book was a nice way to spend some time with her and feel like I was sitting down with her listening to her stories of her life.

There was no way anyone but Carrie Fisher could have narrated this. Her humor and self-deprecation come through clearly. She gets a little loud occasionally but I think that’s holdovers from telling these stories in front of a live audience.

Rating
3.5 stars 3.5/5 for the book

4 stars 4/5 for the narration

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