Thursday, January 28, 2016

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Sherri Levek

What I ReadYour Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

Find It @YCLD:  Here

What It's About: Sunil Yapa revisits the chaos in the streets of Seattle, WA during the 1999 WTO protests.  Readers are introduced to characters on both sides of the conflict, including protesters, police, and a delegate from Sri Lanka.  The novel takes place during one fateful day of the protests, examining different aspects and viewpoints of this turbulent moment in U.S. history.

What I Thought: Yapa’s debut novel is an edge-of-your-seat, though-provoking read that gave me all the feels - horror, amazement, terror, and hope, to name a few.   Each character brings his or her own history to this pivotal moment, creating a maelstrom of emotions and thoughts that intersect and intensify their interactions with one another.  This novel is well-researched - Yapa spent time listening to audio and viewing filmed footage of the protests - and the end result couldn’t be more explosive and magnificent. 

Readalikes: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem, and Want Not by Jonathan Miles

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: José Beltrán

What I Read: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Find It @YCLD: Here!


What It's About: Tom Reiss, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for biography, narrates a biography of the father of famous novelist Alexandre Dumas. Alexandre Dumas the novelist based his novels on the swashbuckling adventures of his own father, French General Alexandre Dumas. Dumas the writer wrote in his memoir “You see, Father, I haven’t forgotten any of the memories that; you told me to keep…Your memory has lived in me like a sacred lamp, illuminating everything and everyone you ever touched…” Dumas the soldier was the hero at Mauld, Mont Cenis, Mantua, the Horatio Cocles of the Bridge of Brien, and Cairo. Dumas the soldier was born the Haitian black slave son of the beautiful black slave Marie Cessette and the ne'er-do-well  fugitive white French Norman noble Alexandre Antoine Davy Marquis de la Pailleterie(1714). Napoleon was the man behind Edmond Dantès’s suffering.

What I Thought: Reiss gives a front row seat to the events leading to the French Revolution and the revolution itself. The book goes to great detail explaining 1700 French society culture, especially slavery, the customs, and the players and the laws, especially Le Code Noir, the French codification of colonial slavery (1685) by the Ancien Régime. Mulattos were repressed as shown by the insolence related in the encounter and incident at Nicolet’s. D’Artagnan of the three musketeers represents the father of Alexandre Dumas as not fitting in. 

Dumas the soldier enlisted as a common soldier private, dragoon (light cavalry) and fully embodied the ideals of the French Revolution as an ardent republican, especially equality, bravery, leadership and above all his swordsmanship. Imprisoned, poisoned by the Inquisition, and later sidelined by Napoleon Bonaparte’s jealousy taking credit for the work of others such as Dumas’s victory at Mantua, Dumas was appointed to head the cavalry without mounts in the invasion of Egypt (1798) against the Mamelukes. Here Dantes witnessed slavery firsthand as Arab traders brought slaves from Ethiopia. Returning to Europe on the Belle Maltaise in 1799, Dumas almost drowned and, landing in Naples, was quarantined. Dantes finds himself the prisoner of the Holy Faith Army under Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo, which massacred Jews, liberals, and republicans. The Cardinal joined with Turk Ottomans, British, and Russian forces to purge Naples of any French influence. This 2 year imprisonment in the fortress of Taranto became the basis for The Count of Monte Cristo.

As general in chief of the French Army in Italy, Dumas the soldier clashed with Napoleon, who thought himself Caesar, on the treatment of civilians. Napoleon finally achieved his dream: he was declared dictator in 1799 with the money and support of slavers, and then emperor in 1804. Napoleon reinstated slavery and forbade mixed marriage. Dumas the author was denied a secondary education, and admission to any military school or civilian college. His mother died at the age of 69, never having received a sou (penny) of the pension that Dumas the General was denied. She did live long enough to see Dumas the writer, her son achieve international fame and fortune. Her grandson became Dumas the playwright.

Readalikes: The Orientalist, Twelve Secrets in the Caucasus

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: After encountering a pod of wild dolphins while swimming, Casey, a journalist, felt captivated and healed by these unique and mysterious sea creatures. She set about traveling the world to learn as much as she could about the dolphins themselves, the people who love them, and the ways the human and marine worlds interact.

What I Thought: I picked up this book because I was looking for something "different" to read and realized that I, like Casey at the beginning of the book, knew very little about dolphins. There's certainly plenty of marine biology in this book, but its standout feature is how Casey makes a point of tracking down and interviewing all kinds of people whose lives intersect with the dolphins'. Keeping an open mind and always wanting to hear a person's side of the story in their own worlds, she visits everywhere from an infamous marine theme park in Canada to an Irish village "adopted" by a wild dolphin to the Japanese town featured in the award-winning documentary The Cove, where much of the population's income is derived from the killing (and live selling) of the local dolphin population. She consorts with millionaire and New Age mystics - and tags along to plenty of protests.

This is not an easy book to read. Humans are only just beginning to understand how much we don't understand about dolphins, and this ignorance has led to the torture and death of dolphins even at the hands of scientists passionate about the species. Collateral damage from the various activities humanity carries out in the sea - everything from commercial fishing to military sonar testing - has taken its toll as well. Casey, though sympathetic to the dolphins' plight, is careful not to outwardly demonize many of the humans she sees inadvertently causing dolphins harm; she simply wishes they would be more considerate. Her true horror's reserved for the mass slaughter of dolphins and their inhumane treatment at unscrupulous theme parks.

If anything, I still wish there were more actual stories of dolphins in this book; it's much easier to track down and talk to people who care about dolphins than it is to find wild dolphins themselves. But that makes this book an excellent introduction to the subject - it left me wanting more. I'll probably check out a more scientific book on dolphins next, but as a primer, and as an overview of how humans and dolphins interact, this was an excellent "first read".

Readalikes: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, for another travel memoir based around a specific subject; Chrysalis by Kim Todd, for another accessible story of natural science & scientists

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. To cut one more person from her life in the middle of nowhere. She finds out exactly how wrong she is when that same afternoon, her planet is invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra, who aren’t on speaking terms, are forced to evacuate their home with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. With damage to their flagship Alexander, they are only barely able to put distance between themselves and the last remaining enemy dreadnaught. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI AIDAN may actually be another enemy to deal with; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

*Parts of this description were used from the original synopsis of the story.

What I Thought: I like to pick up new books from authors I have read in the past. I tend to avoid the synopsis and any information surrounding the story so I can be pleasantly surprised while I am reading. Illuminae, just from the title, sounds like a religious mystery or noir story about secrets and uncovering mysteries. Various definitions of the word mean to ‘shed light upon’ or ‘to generate light’ to see what is around you.

I definitely was not expecting a story as daring and crazy as Illuminae turned out to be. I was intrigued to see how far the writers would go as the story progressed from an innocent nonchalant story of boyfriend and girlfriend angst to desperate flight across space with a pursuing enemy ship, haunted by the death of loved ones, and death lurking at every corner.

The book moves fast. There are very few breaks in what is going on and just enough background and insight is provided to keep you moving without telling you what will happen next in the story. Kady’s character evolved the most and plays the biggest role in the story, and to great effect. She is pliable and forceful in the new and often horrific situations she faces while trying to save the people she loves.

I recommend this story for everyone, especially anyone interested in sci-fi thrillers involving complex character creation and plot development involving new technologies and concepts.

Readalikes: Legend (Book 1 of the Legend Series) by Marie Lu

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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