Tag Archives: book

Waiting on Wednesday: Never Apart by Romily Bernard

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Mid-week and it’s time to not only look forward to the weekend but some new books.  This week’s Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine) is Never Apart by Romily Bernard.

This one comes recommended by best-selling author lady and friend, Sally Kilpatrick.

Here’s the back cover blurb, courtesy of Goodreads. Continue reading

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An Interview With J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark

 

ronaldyorkWhile cleaning out his childhood home, Nashville’s  J. Ronald M. York discovered a box of letters and news clippings that uncovered a long-held family secret.  For several months in the fall of 1955, Ron’s father was held in the Dade County Jail awaiting trial on charges of sexual abuse of a minor.  During that time, Ron’s father and mother wrote daily letters to each other.

After the death of his father, Ron discovered the saved letters and clippings held in a box.  Ron had uncovered a secret that his family had held for close to sixty years.  His new book, Kept in the Dark, publishes those letters and follows Ron’s journey toward finding out what happened to his family when he was just three years old.

Ron has graciously agreed to talk to me about his book.

Question: How did you begin to pull the story together of what happened to your family?

J. Ronald M. York: Once I came to terms with what the letters revealed, I wanted to know more. The newspaper articles helped explain the charges, while the letters gave me insight to what my parents were going through. Still, there were blanks and even a couple things they had code words for that needed to be explained. I checked with the few remaining people connected although no one would know the whole story. However, those bits and pieces of information gave me leads to follow in my research. Google and Ancestry dot com became my closest friends. Continue reading

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Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

My 2014 reading year was book-ended with offerings from the stars of Parks and Recreation. One of those books I loved and the other I was a bit disappointed in.

I hate to admit it but I didn’t much care for Nick Offerman’s book, despite loving his character of Ron Swanson on the show. But I was pleasantly surprised at Amy Poehler’s autobiography Yes Please.

Part of this could be that I chose to listen to the audio version of the book. Poehler narrates her book and has a number of guest stars stop by the audio booth to lend a hand. This helps the book take on a conversational style and made me feel more like I was sitting across from Poehler as she related each of these stories. (It also helps that the final chapter is read in front of an audience and comes across feeling less like an essay and more like a testing out of new stand-up comedy material).

Having Poehler relate her life’s story helped me to understand why she bragged about some things and why she was reluctant to talk about others. But over the course of the several hours I spent listening to this, what I came away with was a feeling like Poehler and I were now old friends who might hang out and grab waffles sometime at J.J.’s Diner (wait, that’s Leslie Knope…but you get the idea).

An entertaining, fun listen on audio book. And one that doesn’t overstay its welcome and left me wanting just another few minutes with it.

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Review: What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

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What Dreams May Come

Many of Richard Matheson’s short stories and novels take a supernatural premise and make it relatable through the use of the characters and their reactions to it.

This isn’t the case with Matheson’s What Dreams May Come. The novel is Matheson’s attempt to look at what happens to us after death and while it’s interesting, I never felt like it necessarily connected with me in the same way that other Matheson novels and short stories have.

Driving home, Chris Nielsen is killed in a car accident. After his spirit lingers in our world for a bit, Chris transcends to the next level of being. While he’s content there, he misses his wife Anne and longs for the day she’ll join him on the other side. But when Ann can’t take the pain of missing Chris, she commits suicide, condemning her to a purgatory of sorts from which her spirit can’t or won’t escape. Chris decides he needs to rescue Ann and undertakes a journey to the underworld to bring her back.

There are early passages in this novel that work very well, from Chris’ initial frustration about not being able to interact with his family and friends while “stuck” on this plane of existence. And while Matheson attempts to set up the romance and deep love that Chris and Ann share, it never quite becomes as transcendent as the novel requires. Chris’ grand gesture to potentially throw away his eternal existence to “save” Ann should feel more monumental than it does.

I found myself growing frustrated with the novel at points because, as I said before, Matheson has given us stories focusing on “love that transcends the bounds of time and space” before in Somewhere in Time. And yet as unbelievable as the premise is that a man could will himself back in time to be with the woman he loves, I found it far more easy to suspend my disbelief for that premise than I did for the premise here. Part of it is that I was a bit more invested in the characters in Somewhere in Time (aka Bid Time Return) than I was in What Dreams May Come.

But even “lesser” Matheson is still enjoyable Matheson. And while I didn’t love this novel as much as some of his other works, there are still some good nuggets buried in here.

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Review: Killing Ruby Rose by Jessie Humphries

Killing Ruby Rose (Ruby Rose #1)

If I’d stopped after three chapters Killing Ruby Rose might have been one of the better guilty pleasure books I’d read in a long time. For those first few chapters Jessie Humphries channels Veronica Mars at its best — with a smart, drive heroine who isn’t intimidated and refuses to back down from a challenge.

In this case, the challenge is solving the murder of her father by investigating five potential subjects, all of whom could have a connection to the case. But it’s here that the issues that ultimately dropped this novel down a lot in my estimation began to rear their ugly head.

I’m all about willing suspension of disbelief (my favorite TV show of all time features a character who can change bodies and travels through space and time in a blue box that is bigger on the inside) but sometimes it has to be earned. And it’s unfortunately not earned in Killing Ruby Rose. Even though her father was a police officer and her mother is DA, I find it hard to believe that Ruby would be able to have the amount of access to the files she does or that she could cover her tracks on having them as effectively as she does. And while I’m not female and have never worn high heels, a bit of Googling makes it hard to believe that any sane person would chose to do a bit of undercover investigation in the shoes that Ruby describes in the book. (Honestly, I can’t see Veronica Mars in high heels like this — at least while out on an investigation!).
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Review: Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov

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Better late than never, I guess. January is the Vintage Science-Fiction Non-Challenge month hosted by Little Red Reviewer. I had intended to read a few more vintage sci-fi novels during the month to participate, but the best laid plans often go astray….

However, I was able to pull a book off the TBR pile and read it, as well as watch the movie. It’s Isaac Asimov’s adaptation of Fantastic Voyage.

If you want to read what others have done for the month, check out Red’s page. You’ll find some great stuff!

Fantastic Voyage

Being a bibliophile (aka literary snob), I generally like to read the book (or short story as the case may be) before I see the movie. But in the case of Fantastic Voyage, it isn’t necessarily that simple. The novel is a tie-in into the movie and it’s likely the book wouldn’t exist without the movie. But a quick clicks of the keyboard quickly helped me discover that Isaac Asimov’s adaptation of the 20th Century Fox blockbuster hit the shelves a few weeks before the movie opened, so I felt comfortable in my decision to read the book first and then see the movie.

And I think it all worked out for the best.

My research leads me to believe that Asimov had to be talked into adapting the movie’s script for the printed page and that he agreed to do it if he could be allowed to at least bring some put some science in the science fiction of the plot and premise.

And you can certain see Asimov trying to put some credible science into the concept of miniaturizing a top-secret, top-of-the-line submarine with five people inside down to the point where they can be injected into the body of an injured man. The man in question is a high ranking scientist who is defecting and could help keep the balance of power in check for both sides during the Cold War. The Enemy (they are always capitalized by Asimov) try to take him out on the way to the top-secret installation where he will reveal his secrets to our side and help us either keep up with our Enemy and maintain the balance of mutually assured destruction.

Just as the film spends the first half hour or so setting up the situation and the characters, so does the book spend its first third or so setting up the background. As I said before, it’s interesting to watch as Asimov attempts to reconcile the fantastic premise with real-world science of the day and to speculate on if this could or would happen in the future. The concept of shrinking down people to go inside a person and help break up a clot in a near inoperable place is a fascinating and intriguing and it was apparently very influential. Most genre shows worth their salt will feature a story with character shrunk down a bit — in fact, Doctor Who did it at least twice that I can think of during the classic series run.

Interestingly, Asimov’s book inserts a bit more drama to the situation by emphasizing that this is a race against time — not only to help break up the clot and help reduce any permanent damage to said scientist but also because there is a limit to how long the sub and crew can be miniaturized before the process wears off and they began to revert back to normal size. There’s also the intriguing idea that the passage of time will FEEL different to our heroes in their miniaturized form as opposed to how time is really passing for all of the normal sized people on the outside. The movie does give a nod or two to this, but it doesn’t feel quite as pressing and weighing on everyone as much as it does in the novel.

There’s also the angle of a saboteur being on board the ship and wondering who it might be. Again, the movie brings this up, but it’s not quite as pervasive as Asimov makes it out to be in the novel. Of course, it could be that reading the novel takes a bit longer than watching the film and that allows time for these ideas and turns of events to sink on the reader, rather than just being another obstacle to overcome on-screen.

And while the mission is fairly straight-forward on the outside, once inside the body of the scientist, things go a bit awry. Both the movie and the novel have to come up with a crisis point every few minutes or pages to keep our heroes on their toes. And it’s probably a good thing because it would be rather dull if they just zipped right to the clot, broke it up and got out again without any complications. It’d also make for a shorter book and movie.

Honestly, I have to say that I enjoyed the novel more than the film. The film is good and I can respect and admire how ground-breaking and spectacular the effects were for the time. But there are large parts of the film that feel like stretches of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — we’re supposed to sit back in awe and wonder of what’s unfolding because holy cow, this is fantastic and amazing. And while I’m all for stunning visuals, I still think there should be a plot driving these visuals.

It’s also interesting to see that Asimov expands the ending a bit more — he gets out two love-crossed heroes together (sort of) and we get confirmation the mission was a successful one. Watching the movie, I guess we can figure that it worked because our heroes remove the clot and escape before they revert back to regular size, but the movie doesn’t confirm this for us. Instead, everyone is shaking hands and congratulating our heroes on a job well done and ignoring the fact that we left one guy behind for dead and the sub breaking up inside the scientst. After putting so much emphasis on why we had to get out in time, the movie seems to say — well, it’s OK cause those white blood cells took care of it all. Asimov at least attempts to explain why it’s OK in his version of events.

One thing I find interesting is that outside of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, this is probably his best known work. And while part of me wishes that his Robot novels were better known, I still can’t help but think this book is a good entry point for readers who want try some Asimov but not necessarily feel like they want to take on his Foundation series just yet. It’s a good entry point book. And the fact that you can go out and see the movie after you’re done reading is probably another good selling point.

Is this great Asimov? Probably not.

Is it good Asimov? Absolutely.

It also intrigued me enough to make me want to pick up Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage 2: Destination Brain and read it. I’ve read that it’s less a sequel to this on but instead more of a re-telling with Asimov trying to put better science into the science fiction.

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