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Brown Dog Solutions | Moranifesto Book Review

Book Review :: Moranifesto

I wanted to sneak this review in before my end of the year lists because it will definitely be one of my favorite reads. This is my first experience reading Caitlin Moran, and after I finished Moranifesto, I wanted to subscribe to The Times of London in order to read her regularly. She now rates on my list of heroes. My review first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Hope you enjoy!

First line: “So welcome to my second collection of writing.”

Brown Dog Solutions | Moranifesto Book ReviewCompiling a generous collection of her London Times columns written since 2011 and adding brief introductions for each that tie the anthology together, Caitlin Moran (How to Build a Girl) has composed a manifesto. “After twenty-three years of commenting on things, you’re not really just commenting on things anymore. You’re starting to…suggest alternatives. You’re forming a plan.”  Moranifesto is her plan: a shrewd combination of culture, politics and feminism; witty and intelligent, honest and silly; a conversation worth joining.

Moranifesto is divided into four sections, each including humorous articles intended to entertain–like “I Am Hungover Again” where she concedes the fact she will “never learn to have just two glasses”  because she simply doesn’t want to–sidled up next to thoughtful pieces offering social commentary, such as Moran’s thoughts–oozing with sarcasm–in “Women Getting Killed on the Internet.”

“I’ll be frank–it does my head in to see someone who lives in a democracy, wears artificial fibers, drives a car, has a wife who can vote and children whom it is illegal to send to work up a chimney, saying, on the Internet–invented in 1971!!!!–‘NOTHING CAN CHANGE!'”

Her love letter to books in “Reading is Fierce” will endear her to bibliophiles, while her capitulation in “It’s Okay My Children Do Not Read” may make them cringe. Moran offers advice, reveals encounters with celebrities and laughs in the face of decorum. She’s blunt and colorful, inspiring and authentic. Moranifesto exposes the many facets of this complex, wickedly smart woman. Missing it would definitely be a crime.

Book review: An Obvious Fact

Book Review :: An Obvious Fact

I‘ve fallen so far behind in getting my book reviews on the blog and I apologize for that. I’ll try to catch up a little here in the coming weeks so you can have some ideas for holiday book gifts. And of course, I’m always a pusher for this man’s books, so if you know someone who isn’t reading them yet, they’d make a great gift for sure. So here’s the most recent Walt Longmire from Craig Johnson–make sure you read the acknowledgements, it’s a bonus story! My review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

First line: “I tried to think how many times I’d kneeled down on asphalt to read the signs, but I knew this was the first time I’d done it in Hulett.”

Book review: An Obvious FactFor the twelfth novel in Craig Johnson’s highly addictive mystery series, Absaroka County sheriff, Walt Longmire, and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, are in Hulett, Wyoming during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It’s August and bikers from around the world are pouring into the area when one of them is run off the road and left in a coma. The investigating officer calls on Walt to help solve the crime.

While following the clues, Walt encounters hostile biker gangs, an undercover ATF agent, the namesake for Henry’s ’59 Thunderbird and a 15-ton, military-grade MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. Meanwhile Walt’s undersheriff, Vic Moretti, shows up in her rental car, a bright orange Dodge Challenger. The suspense ratchets to nose-bleed levels and the action races non-stop. Paying homage to what is arguably the most famous orange Dodge, albeit a Charger, Johnson includes a rip-roaring car chase complete with a field full of hay bales. The Dukes of Hazard would certainly be proud.

Rounding out a dozen books with his beloved sheriff, not to mention short stories and novellas, Johnson hasn’t lost a step. An Obvious Fact is fresh and exciting, while still maintaining all the attributes that make this series so popular. It’s witty and complex with pop culture weaved into clever Sherlock Holmes literary references. The brilliantly colorful, snappy dialogue remains second to none. And dynamic characters surprise and delight readers with their charm, authenticity and depth. The most obvious fact is not deceptive at all; Craig Johnson writes a mighty fine story.

Book Review - Fredrik Backman

Book review :: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

First line: “There’s a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent.”

Book Review - Fredrik BackmanIt isn’t Black Friday yet, but I have my first literary gift recommendation for 2016. Fredrik Backman’s new novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, is stunning. This beautiful little book is a gem of a read that will be devoured in a couple of hours at most, but will demand to be read over and over.

Backman’s amazing stroll through the lives of three generations–father, son and grandson–will make your heart smile through the tears your soul cries. He paints a debilitating disease using his magnificent brush of creativity. In phrases only he could compose (and Alice Menzies deserves accolades for her astounding translation), the man who brought us Ove, Elsa and Britt-Marie, tells a mesmerizing story of minds that betray before the bodies wears out. A story of sons and grandsons who have to say goodbye to someone who’s still with them. In his letter at the book’s opening, Backman says, “This is a story about memories and about letting go. It’s a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy.”

Parts of the book take place in the man’s mind, a lovely little town square that he says gets smaller every day. The faces of the people that pass are fuzzy. They look familiar but he simply can’t focus in on exactly who they are. The man’s grandson, Noah, sits with him in his mind. “Noah’s feet don’t touch the ground when his legs dangle over the edge of the bench, but his head reaches all the way to space, because he hasn’t been alive long enough to allow anyone to keep his thoughts on Earth.”

The man’s wife also visits him in his mind. She’s been dead awhile now. “Her hair is old but the wind in it is new, and he still remembers what it felt like to fall in love; that’s the last memory to abandon him. Falling in love with her meant having no room in his own body. That was why he danced.”

While the heart-breaking dementia invades the man’s mind, Backman helps the reader experience his glorious life–his blessings as well as regrets.

This gorgeous, little volume has less than 100 pages and includes delightful, color illustrations throughout. After you get a copy for yourself–this is one you’ll want to keep, but really what Backman don’t you want to keep!?–snag some extras to tuck in stockings, to share with friends and family who might be experiencing something similar, or just to gift to someone you care about. I’d add a package of tissues to the gift though. You won’t get through this one without crying.

Book review: Balls by Chris Edwards

Book review :: Balls

Earlier this week, Chris Edwards’ debut released. My review of Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some was my first to appear in Shelf Awareness Pro, so it’s a little longer than the reviews I have from SA Readers. I am just delighted to post it today with their permission because right now this is my absolute favorite book of 2016. It blew. me. away. I hope you’ll give it a try. And if you do, let me know what you think! Here’s what I thought…

First line: So I’m standing there, peeing at a urinal for the first time.

Book review: Balls by Chris EdwardsIn this bold memoir about gender dysphoria and gender confirmation surgery, Chris Edwards explains, “That feeling of finally being complete—of being who you really are—trumps everything.” It ultimately takes Edwards more than three decades and 28 surgeries to realize his consummate body, but in 1974, at five years old, he already knows his true gender. It’s everyone around him who seems to be confused, so in his childish wisdom he deduces the answer is as simple as a haircut:

“Since everything about me was boy-like—my clothes, my toys, my obsession with all superheroes except for Wonder Woman and her lame, invisible plane—I put my five-year-old brain to work and determined that the only thing lumping me in with the girls was my hair length.”

However, a haircut doesn’t stop the female body from developing around the man locked inside. Throughout high school and college—breasts, menstruation, estrogen and a sorority—Edwards battles depression and thoughts of suicide. Using a cunning blend of heartbreaking sincerity and humor, he navigates his audience through this excruciating stage of his life:

“I was apparently too scared to actively take my own life, I drove around without a seatbelt on, hoping for someone to hit me. And I was hit. Twice. But both times the car was parked and I wasn’t in it.”

When Edwards, through the help of an amazing counselor, is finally able to share his battle with his family and friends, he finds support, compassion and encouragement. Despite his first instinct to move away and transition, Edwards remains at his job in a Boston advertising firm and courageously opens his quest to the company’s board members, his colleagues and the clients. While everyone doesn’t always understand, he patiently educates them—and his readers. Edwards also invites everyone to laugh with him—learning to pee standing up, mistakenly inviting the wrong woman on a date. His stark openness and dogged determination allow the audience to identify with him through their similarities, instead of fearing the differences.

Balls is a stunning self-portrait of an exceptional man, an inspiration for others who may be a gender not recognized by those around them. And it is a primer for those fortunate enough to be born “complete.” With eloquence and grace, as well as sharp wit and brutal honesty, Edwards explains to his audience, “The key to understanding gender dysphoria is realizing that sexual orientation and gender identity are two totally different and completely separate things.” More than anything, he exemplifies the definition of bravery. From opening himself up to his family, friends and colleagues to sharing the intimate details of his story with the entire world, Chris Edwards has no shortage of…um…MOXIE! 😉 Smart, funny, genuine and uplifting, Balls is sure to win a lot of hearts.

Book review :: Rise the Dark

Don’t fall over because I’m posting a review today. I don’t mean to cause any cardiac problems for anyone. 😉 Today’s review for Michael Koryta’s Rise the Dark first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Of course it also appeared there in a more timely fashion, but for those who missed it, I’m posting it here today with their permission.

First line: The snow had been falling for three days above six thousand feet, but it had been gentle and the lines stayed up.

book review - rise the dark

Markus Novak, no longer investigating for the Florida-based Death Row defense firm Innocence Incorporated, is taking on the intimately personal case that has plagued him since his introduction in Michael Koryta’s Last Words–the murder of his wife, Lauren. Garland Webb, the man accused of killing Lauren, is out of prison, and Novak is determined to exact justice for both Lauren and himself. He just has to find the monster first.

Webb’s trail leads Novak back to the scene of Lauren’s death. Then it takes a sharp turn, introducing him to an honest-to-goodness Pinkerton PI and sending them both to a place Novak swore he would never return, Red Lodge, Montana. Here Novak’s past collides with his present, and he uncovers the truth behind Webb–who is just the tip of a terrifying iceberg–as well as the meaning of words left on Lauren’s notebook before she was murdered, “Rise the dark.” As Koryta raises the dark on his determined protagonist with a brilliantly sadistic villain, Novak races time to prevent a global crisis.

Koryta’s second installment in the Mark Novak series is easily appreciated on its own, but readers of Last Words and Koryta’s standalone Those Who Wish Me Dead will delight in small references to his earlier works. While some of the explanations for electrical processes deter from the thrilling action, Koryta constructs an enveloping atmosphere that artfully merges the landscape’s beauty with the plot’s terror and the darkness of his characters. This dichotomy ramps up the suspense, making Rise the Dark heart-poundingly swift and chock full of explosive excitement.

new photo friday - love of story

New Photo Friday – Week 7

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’ve enjoyed a good week. It’s been a little rainy in my neck of the woods, but alas, summer has vacated the area. I saw our first signs of leaves changing colors. I love fall’s palate, but I always mourn the loss of summer. To alleviate a little of my melancholy, I’m hoping to take Rufus to the Woollybear Festival this weekend.

I also had an, um, interesting run-in with a possum this week. It wasn’t pretty–for me, the possum is just fine. 😉 And I registered for Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee this week. Anyone planning to be there, too? Should be a grand time.

Anyway, we’ve got some fun photos for New Photo Friday, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Jen

I mentioned earlier that for my current photography class we have a special project. I’ve been working on that project and wanted to share one of my current iterations today. In the past three weeks this has already morphed quite a bit and I see more significant changes in the future, but thought I’d get your thoughts on it at this point. The theme of my project is “Love of Story,” and I’m trying to evoke a comforting, reassuring emotion in reading.

I’m using a couple of light sources and have been playing with their placement and power. The ring in the gutter of the book is a new addition and I am still working on getting the lighting on it correct so it creates the heart shape evenly in the shadow.

I shot this time around with a 2.8 aperture, an ISO of 100 and a shutter speed of 1/160. When I go to work on it next, I’ll be removing some of the clutter — the post-its, the bookmark. My eventual plan is to have tea in the cup, but I want to get the composition right before I move on to that step. And obviously the lighting needs work so my entire background is not black and the highlights on the book aren’t blown out. Other thoughts about things you like or don’t like? All constructive criticism welcome!

new photo friday - love of story

Maddee

Maddee really loves taking flower shots. And she is sharing one with us this week for her new photo. This is what she told me when she sent the picture: “Taken with my iPhone, no filter. I just love the balance of rich colors and textures with the background faded out. I decided to start naming my photos for fun… this is Flower Candy.” I love that name, especially since the flowers look good enough to eat!

new photo friday - flower candy

And there you have it from us this week. Do you have a new photo to share for this week? Let us know in the comments so we can stop by and see your work! All photos, all levels of ability welcome.

Have a super weekend, friends.

book review - Dr. Knox

Book review :: Dr. Knox

My reviews are sadly backed up, and it’s overdue to get another one posted on the new site. My review of Peter Spiegelman’s Dr. Knox first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I’m posting it today with their permission. Hope you enjoy.

book review - Dr. KnoxFirst line: “Mia should’ve been it for the day.”

Dr. Adam Knox means well, but as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The good doctor is laying down his stepping-stones at a rapid rate. Knox runs a medical clinic in Los Angeles near Skid Row and lives in an apartment above the clinic. Since his typical clientele isn’t exactly leaving him flush, he moonlights–with the help of his friend former Special Forces agent Ben Sutter–taking hush-hush house calls from people who can’t or won’t publically seek medical help. But these jobs are cake compared to the young boy who shows up at his clinic.

When Alex arrives at Knox’s office, he’s suffering from a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Knox and his capable staff stabilize the young patient only to discover the boy doesn’t speak English and his mother has vanished. Knowing all too well how Children’s Services works, the doctor wants to attempt to find the boy’s mother before calling them. His good intention, however, goes beyond paving a road; it is the key to unlocking the gates of Hell. And not just for himself, but also for everyone he cares about.

Dr. Knox is feverishly suspenseful. Peter Spiegelman ramps up the stakes for Knox with catch-22s and tests of his integrity. He spreads a layer of grime over Los Angeles with manipulation, corruption and filth, successfully blocking out the rays of hope and leaving his well-meaning doctor no options if he won’t play dirty himself. Dark, evocative and riveting, perdition’s never been so inviting.

Book Review :: The Innocents

Since I’m a little behind on sharing my reviews from Shelf Awareness, let’s try to catch up, shall we? The Innocents by Ace Atkins first appeared as a starred review in Shelf for Readers. I am posting it today with their permission.

innocentsFirst line: “Lillie Virgil stood high on a north Mississippi hill at daybreak listening to old Ruthie Holder talk about the man who’d run off with her grandson’s Kawasaki four-wheeler and her brand-new twelve-gauge Browning.”

Quinn Colson returns to Jericho, Mississippi after training an Afghani police force in the Middle East. Lillie Virgil is acting sheriff; Quinn’s father, Jason, has grand plans to turn Quinn’s farm into a dude ranch, while his girlfriend Anna Lee is moving to Memphis, and a teenager consumed by raging fire walks down the middle of the road in a desperate final effort for help. The sixth book in Ace Atkins’ series may be his darkest one yet.

Quinn thought he was finished policing in his hometown when the community voted him out as sheriff. But the gruesome homicide of former high school cheerleader Milly Jones has all of Mississippi watching the investigation, and Lillie needs as much help as she can recruit. The suspect list is long—Milly’s strip club boss she short-changed on tips, the drug dealer she refused to sleep with, her drunkard father who feels disgraced by her employment—and the flames devoured any significant forensic evidence that could identify the killer. As Quinn and Lilly dig through the ashes for answers, they find far more than they bargained for.

The marriage of Quinn’s law enforcement and complex interpersonal relationships make this series an addictive read. The Innocents shines a glaring spotlight down the darkest alleys of small-town Mississippi, but does so with the compassion of one who loves the region and wants to reveal the diamonds along with the dregs. Seasoned readers will likely predict the outcome early, but the journey there is the true joy in this gem of a crime novel.