Category Archives: Reviews

Tesla: Imagination…

Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century
Sean Patrick

When a book that claims to be about Nikola Tesla (that is Tesla’s name and face all over that cover, right?), I tend to expect the majority of that book to be about Tesla, particularly when that book is less than 50 pages long. Yet, only about half of this book was actually about Tesla, and the man wasn’t even mentioned until I was a quarter of the way in. Wait, I should amend that statement – about half of the book appears to be about Nikola Tesla, because the author fails to cite where any of his information was found.

The author does, however, spout pages and pages of self-help-style commentary about the “Secret to Creativity” and how the reader can achieve anything if only s/he learns to harness the powers of imagination, and then ends the book with a sales pitch for his book touting, wait for it, the “Secret’s of More of History’s Greatest Geniuses.” Wait, wait, more secrets of history’s greatest geniuses? I’m still waiting for the big reveal of Tesla’s secrets. All I got was a brief overview of Tesla’s life and some vague commentary on a few of his inventions. Tesla’s Wikipedia page provides more detailed insight into the man’s life, inventions, and creative process than this book and it provides citations for it’s content, y’know, just in case readers care about where the information came from.

Horoscopes for the Dead

Horoscopes for the Dead
Billy Collins

I picked this book up on a whim, my choice based entirely on the witty title.

At just over 100 pages, I also figured that this would be a quick read. It wasn’t. Because Billy Collins is really a fine poet. His poems have weight, and that means taking them in only two or three at a time. I could have powered through the book in under an hour, but then, I think all of that weight and meaning would have been lost in the flurry of words passing by. The thoughtful commentary, the sideways jokes, those warranted a careful, measured pace.

I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I would happily read more of Collins’ work.

The Water Knife

The Water Knife
Paolo Bacigalupi

This book was, frankly, an awful experience – but I think that may have been the point. I will admit straightaway that, had this not been my book club’s selection for this month, I likely wouldn’t have finished it, as I was more than halfway through before I gave a damn about what happened to any of the characters. Even then, it was more of a passing interest than an emotional investment.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Bacigalupi, is a fine writer, and his novel, The Water Knife, is very well written. The characters are distinct; the dialogue is solid, and he successfully built an immersive world that draws the reader into the dismal, dry future of the American Southwest. The problem? I don’t want to be there. I didn’t want to spend one minute there, let alone the 8-ish hours that I spent trudging through the Arizona desert’s dehydrated, uncomfortable future.

Am I sorry that I read this? Not at all. The gears in my head are turning and I’m thinking a little bit more about my own water usage as well as the entire humans versus the environment debate. We may well find ourselves facing a future like the one grimly portrayed in these pages, and that would be a sad future indeed.

The fact remains that I did not enjoy this book, and it is highly unlikely that I’ll read it again. However, I would recommend it, particularly if you enjoy dystopian fiction or if you need a kick in the gut to remind you of the value of water.

The Scourge

The Scourge
Roberto Calas

I had the immeasurable pleasure of meeting Roberto Calas at Anomaly Con back in March. I spent most of the weekend at the table next to his, and, I must say that chatting with Roberto was truly a highlight of the con.

Were it not for this experience, I likely would have never given his book, The Scourge, a glance or a thought, and certainly not a read. Why? Because it represents a cross-section of two genres that tend to simply not interest me: zombies and alternate history.

Here’s the thing, though: This book was fantastic.

When I started the read, I’d figured, hey – this guy was pretty awesome, the least I can do is trudge dutifully through his novel.
Little did I know there would be no trudging required.

The book follows three knights – one devoutly religious, one sarcastically skeptical, and the third (also the narrator), somewhere in between. The knights are distinct and complete characters who drive the story forward with believable decisions (good and bad) as they encounter the living and the undead on their journey.

And then there’s the research. I’m just going to say that some obscene amount of research went into crafting these characters, this setting, and even the source of the “plague” that has infected England. I was immersed in Calas’ England. His adaptation of historical England into an England infested with the undead was nearly seamless.

Most importantly, the characters were quirky and engaging, the story was interesting, and I didn’t want to put it down.

On Pluto

On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s
Greg O’Brien

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a memoir before (as I tend not to read non-fiction), but this one sounded particularly interesting. A first-hand glimpse into the mind on Alzheimer’s? What an intriguing (and terrifying) idea.

I was not disappointed; On Pluto was a fascinating read. Uncomfortable, heartbreaking, disjointed, this book reads the way I could only imagine a mind impacted by Alzheimer’s might think. If you are looking for a simple, straightforward, linear walk through someone’s life, this is not the book for you. O’Brien takes his readers on a journey through his life, bouncing back and forth between moments from his youth, to highlights from his adult life, to the slow decay of his recognition of people and places and the frustration and rage that accompanies it. Remarkably self-aware, O’Brien walks his readers through the parallels between his experiences and those of his mother, who shared his condition.

This book is a… challenging read, but well worth it.

The Birth of the Pill

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution
Jonathan Eig

I admit that I rarely read nonfiction. When I saw this book, however, I realized that I really had no idea at all where birth control had originated, or what American culture had been like prior to and during its development. I couldn’t be happier that I took the time to read this book.

Eig takes a topic, a history, that could have easily been written as a dry, droning textbook, and breathed life into it. His telling of this history opens a window to the past, allowing the reader to experience these people, these events, these struggles as if they were happening right now. Brilliantly done.

Broken Windchimes

Broken Windchimes
Kristine Kathryn Rusch

As an avid reader of science fiction, I found this story to be fascinating. As a musician, I found it to be intriguing, thought-provoking, and inspiring. When I’ve encountered music in science fiction before, it often feels like an afterthought, not so in this case. Rusch weaves music into this world and breathes life into it in a way that I’ve never encountered. Delightful.

At the Mouth of…

At the Mouth of the River of Bees
Kij Johnson

Fascinating. Challenging. Uncomfortable.

Every story in this collection will make you think.

Each tale draws the reader into a vivid new world, some very like ours, some very, very different, but every one created with careful intention.

Even though a few of the stories didn’t quite resonate with me, I would definitely recommend this collection (to readers of any genre), and I would encourage readers to make their way through every piece, even if the earlier ones don’t hit home, because they are each so unique.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë

A classic and a favorite. Not my first reading, but I was pleasantly surprised to have a feeling like reading it for the first time, as I had much forgotten just how snarky Jane is in her commentary throughout the book.

Not a quick read, but worth the length for a strong story with interesting twists and turns.

The Kosher Guide to…

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals
Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

Have you ever wondered whether mythical creatures are part of a kosher diet? The VanderMeers have, and they answer that very question in this book. Including a brief description of each imaginary animal, followed by commentary discussing whether the critter is kosher, this guide provides a comical journey as the authors explore a variety of creatures. My only disappointment was that they skipped many of the well-known animals that I would have expected to see included.