These are quite different from modern horror tales. Some have supernatural elements such as curses, ghosts and doppelgangers. Others are more an exploration of the twisted side of human nature-- a son gone bad, the twisted frenzy of the Salem witch trials.I found them enjoyable--they won't keep you up at night, but will give you a bit to ponder.
The year is 2019 when a listening telescope picks up an alien radio transmission of astonishingly beautiful singing. While the UN debates, things fall into place quickly for a Jesuit expedition of linguists and scholars anxious to meet God's other children.The timeline bounces back and forth between the time the singing is first heard and an expedition launched and a timeline starting in 2060 when the single surviving priest returns, physically and emotionally crippled.The last paragraph of the prologue: "The Jesuit scientists went to learn, not to proselytize. They went so that they might come to know and love God's other children. They went for the reason Jesuits have always gone to the farthest frontiers of human exploration. They went ad majorem Dei gloriam: for the greater glory of God.They meant no harm. "I was afraid this would turn into a 'religion poisons everything' novel. Instead, I was amazed by what it did turn into. Part science fiction, part spiritual journey, it was the first book in a long time that I was anxious to start the sequel as soon as I had finished.
Child Protective Services worker, Bo Bradley has Bipolar Disorder (manic-depressive). She struggles to manage her mood while being on the edge of a manic episode. In the meantime she is assigned the case of a four year old non-talking boy found tied to a mattress and abandoned. It soon becomes obvious that someone is out to kill this child. This series was recommended by another LT'er. I was interested as I have a loved one who is bipolar. It's an interesting look at BP from the inside out as well as being a decent short quick mystery/thriller. I'll continue on with the series, although I find the Child Protective Services details a bit harrowing. The department is overworked, understaffed and kids die from workers' miscalls. 3.8 stars
This is the one that I swore I wasn't going to listen to once I found out after purchasing it that the dog dies.Labradors share a special special pact to take care of their family. This is the story of a labrador's eye view of one family's disintegration. The more our narrator tries to fix things, the more out of control they become. Partly I chose to listen to this because I was intrigued to read that it is a retelling of Shakespeare's Henry IVth part II. Our four footed narrator's name is Prince. His best doggy friend is named Falstaff. Things go wrong and no matter how hard our hero tries to change this, bodies (dogs and humans) pile up, including, at the end our narrator.You do find out in the first few sentences that the dog will be put down. However, it seems so inevitable from the beginning, so much the classic tragedy, that I didn't have the same emotional reaction that I do to most stories where the animal dies.
This is the sequel to Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, which ends on a cliffhanger when daughter, Joy, runs away from problems at home. She idealistically heads to Communist China of the 50's to help build a new country during Chairman Mao Tse-Tung's Great Leap Forward.I’ve enjoyed Lisa See’s portraits of life in China in her other books and this one is no different. It is filled with well-researched details of life in the beginning of Mao’s regime. We see China from the viewpoints of one of Mao’s elite artists, average city dwellers in Shanghai and peasant workers on a farming collective. It is one of the most vivid descriptions of the resulting famine that I have ever read.The novel has enough twists to be a page turner, although like other reviewers, I felt the happily ever after ending a bit contrived. Recommended for those interested in historical novels or China. I would suggest reading Shanghai Girls first.I listened to this on audiobook and was not fond of the reader. The book is very long—13 hours-- and the reader chose to read at least half of it in a strained, tear-laden voice. It’s an emotional book with stressful incidents in the characters’ lives, but 6 hours of someone fighting back tears is waaaaaay too much.
Given to relatives to be raised when he was just a baby, Rusty was reclaimed by his father, Tom Harry, just before he started school. Tom, who first appeared as a bartender in Doig’s book, Bucking the Sun, takes him to the tiny Montana town of Gros Ventre where Tom spends most of his waking hours as the owner and proprietor of the Medicine Lodge Bar. There Rusty and his father form a loving if unconventional family. Rusty grows up in the back room of the bar, making balsa wood airplane models on a desk next to a hidden air vent which allows him to hear the outpourings of the patrons as they unload to the hard listening bar tender.But in the summer of 1960 in Rusty’s 12th year, changes arrive. A feisty new girl, Zoe, arrives in town and becomes Rusty’s best friend and co-conspirator in adventure. Del appears with the intention of recording the oral history of the 1930’s construction of the Fort Peck Dam and needs Tom to help unlock the stories from the New Deal boomtowns that sprang up along the reservoir’s banks. Then a taxi dancer (pay for dances by the minute, just like a taxi) from those days appears at the Medicine Lodge presenting Tom with a previously unheard of daughter.Although I found the first half of this book somewhat slow, the second half picks up quite a bit as changes come to Rusty. It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story as Rusty finds out that his father and the adult world are more complex than childhood experiences allow and that even in small town life stories go deep. As always, Doig’s characters pop into life in three dimensions with Doig’s rich prose as Doig tells a tale that you’ll remember.
January was a beautiful, precocious baby apparently born with a genius IQ. As a toddler, she startled adults with her adult speech patterns and understanding of adult concepts—including coming up with the abstract idea of negative numbers as a two year old. Her father dreamed that one day she would win a Nobel prize.But from the very first, there were indications that all was not well. She was hyperstimulated as an infant and almost never slept. She seemed to watch and see things that weren’t in the room. She started talking about a world called Calilini and good and evil beings.At first her parents believed this was part of her boundless imagination; her genius. As Jani’s behavior became rage-filled and violent, her parents began their efforts to help their beloved daughter.But finding treatment was not an easy task. The search for help became long and challenging. Psychologists and psychiatrists were puzzled at such severe symptoms in one so young and help in the form of the proper medication took years of experimental juggling and balancing. Mental hospitals often had indifferent or overworked staff; one hospital accused Michael Schofield of sexually abusing his daughter when he showered her after finding her lying in urine. Getting into the most experienced hospital proved impossible until the police had to escort the six year old from her classroom due to her violent, uncontrollable behavior. As if this wasn’t enough, their insurance company fought to keep her from getting inpatient care.You may have seen this little girl’s story on one of several interview shows. This book differs because Michael Schofield has truly opened his heart and soul to us so we can better understand the experience of a mentally ill child. We feel the parent’s confusion and despair as they see their daughter and their own lives disappear day by day. Michael Schofield’s emotions are raw. You may disagree or be disturbed by some of his actions, but without his willingness to speak about mistakes and missteps, we would miss the totality of the experience of parenting a severely mentally ill child and family members pushed to their own brink of endurance.Today, Jani’s schizophrenia is somewhat controlled by medicine. It’s not the sort of illness that will ever go away—the best hope is to keep it in check enough so that Jani, her little brother and her parents can have some moments of normal—those precious bits of happiness that can be snatched in even the worst of the tumult.
I was very excited by the concept of this book and was looking eagerly forward to reading it. I gave a huge cheer when I won it as a Library Thing Early Reviewer. This book is a very ambitious overview tracing Chinese goddesses/women in Chinese religion and by doing so, tracing not only women’s roles in religion, but their roles in Chinese society.Strong points: It is good overview. It has tons of footnotes—sometimes 4 or 5 per page, showing the huge amount of scholarly research that went into this project. The footnotes and bibliography will be an excellent reference.Weak points: It badly needed an editor. The flow was odd. It could not decide whether to be an academic reference or a pop-nonfiction book on the subject. Half a dozen academic footnotes per page made the flow too choppy to be read as a non-academic popular read. The style tended to be fact/footnote/fact/footnote/fact/footnote. Personally, I would have liked to see more discussion, but, as I describe below, some of the discussions were the weaker parts of the book.The author apparently tried to make this book more readable by throwing in modern references. These included, but were not limited to: what he refers to as the game of Survivor (the TV show?) (p115), Harry Potter (p118), and Chicken Soup for the Soul (p 229). These will make the book seem very dated in only a few years as well as hurt its credibility as an academic reference. Some of the discussion arguments are odd. For example, in most schools of Confucianism, there are five important relationships that consist of one group being subservient and showing deference to another. One of these is wife to husband. Griffiths argues that while women had little power under Confucianism, since some of the Confucian ideals had aspects that westerners call feminine, Confucianism shows respect for women. For instance, on page 123: “Rather than resisting warlords by force, most Confucianists argued like women, trying to flatter their ‘lords’ into behaving with ‘humanity’.” In that one remark, Griffiths not only managed to mix Confucianism with western schools of thought, but threw in a good bit of sexism at the same time. Wouldn’t you think that an editor would catch sexist remarks, especially in a book focusing on the distaff?Unfortunately, he goes on with this argument for several pages. (P127) “The virtues praised in these ancient legends seem patriarchal because they are typically ascribed to men. But actually these virtues resemble a list of traditional Western ideals for women. ….They embody ‘feminine qualities of kindness, harmony and selfless giving.’” And so you see, dear reader, (sarcasm is all mine) Confucian ideals cannot be considered sexist because the men embodying them had some qualities that Westerners think of as feminine. There is also some odd word usage. For instance, the Mandarin word translated as ‘cow herd’ or ‘cow boy’ is not the same word as the American ‘cowboy’. Since many legends do feature cow boys and maidens/goddesses, I now have an odd image of John Wayne meeting various Chinese goddesses at pre-destined times throughout the year.This one will stay in my library due to the references and bibliography. It was a worthy, ambitious project that badly needed a knowledgeable editor.
A drug company funds a research program deep in the heart of the Amazon where a little-known tribe seems to have found the secret of extending women’s fertility throughout their lifetimes. But the researcher, Dr. Annick Swenson, not been in contact with the company for over two years. The company decides to send a second researcher to the Amazon, Dr. Anders Eckman, to determine what progress has been made. After several months, a terse note from Dr. Swenson assures the company that their man Anders has died of a fever. The company then sends Dr. Marina Singh to investigate and to determine what progress has been made on the research.The problem I had with this book is that the science and research details, large and small, are so far off as to be unbelievable. Every time I began to suspend disabelief –whammy kapow –another bad detail would hit me in the face. Unfortunately, many of the plot points revolve around the science that is wrong; and if the center does not hold, the plot points cannot hold. Ms. Patchett has no knowledge of what a vaccine actually is—and her anti-malarial vaccine is not a vaccine by any sense of the word. We are also supposed to believe that Dr. Swenson is keeping secrecy about what she is actually doing because no big drug company would fund a malarial vaccine as the million third world kids that die every year from malaria don’t have the money for a vaccine and the company doesn’t care about dying kids. One of the points Ms. Patchett misses, is that most militaries in the world would have an interest in a malaria vaccine—and US funding for military research has deep pockets. A drug company would make out very well with a malarial vaccine, and work on this is quite active today, although frustratingly slow as all parasite vaccine research is. Going into a review of the book itself seems a bit like the old gag line “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” I will say, that Ms. Patchett knows how to tell a tale. I may try another of her books, but will definitely avoid anything else she writes with a pseudo scientific setting.
My favorite memoirs are those where the memoir events play out against great historical events in a way that illuminates history and culture as well as telling the personal story. This is what Wenghuang Huang has accomplished in The Little Red Guard as he tells the story of his family against the background of major uphevals surrounding the establishment and relaxation of communism in China. The result is a wonderfully readable account giving insight into an era and a culture.Huang’s grandmother was the matriarch of her family. Widowed young with a small son, she kept her dead husband’s name alive by fiercely protecting her son through wars, famines and floods—once she and her son spent three days in a tree cut off by floodwaters. Her son became a man, married and had children of his own. In the Chinese way, the generations lived together. But problems arose when Grandma, beginning to fear her own death, expressed the desire to be buried beside her husband instead of the cremation which was mandated by the Communist government. Huang’s father started secretly acquiring materials to build a coffin which remained in the two room apartment for decades; family, cousins, and acquaintances were brought into the plans to move Grandma’s body to a village for burial at that misty time in the future.Discovery of the plans would have brought censure to Huang’s father by the communist party, and would have ended his career and the careers of Huangs brothers and sisters. The coffin brought them together, but also split them apart as they struggled to merge the old ways and the new as well as family loyalty love and the communist government.I found this to be a very intriguing, well written story. My only criticism is that the last few chapters felt a bit long. Recommended.