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Motor City Burning: A Novel
Motor City Burning: A Novel
by Bill Morris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.81
65 used & new from $2.44

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A murder mystery hiding something deeper, September 29, 2014
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway.
This book is about race relations in Detroit in the year following the race riots that occurred after Martin Luther King was killed, but is wrapped up in a murder mystery. The two main characters are Willie, a black man from Alabama who originally arrived in Detroit with his brother Wes to sell some guns, and Doyle, a homicide detective who is looking to solve one of the last outstanding murders from the riot.
I really enjoyed the details about each man's experience in Detroit. The author did an excellent job of conveying how the city presents itself to each of them and how the various social layers are formed. I also was interested in the internal struggle Willie was having coming to terms with his place as a black man in America. He saw around him black people that were trying to conform to the rules to be a good person and black people who were bucking those rules and ultimately found that there was no real difference in the treatment received by each of those groups. He ultimately resolves that this is an unfair country and, therefore, he does not necessarily have to work within the rules set forth by the country.
One of my favorite parts of this book is that the baseball season of the Detroit Tigers is a constant presence in the book. The baseball park is a place where everyone in the city can come together to try to piece back together the civic thread of the city.


Sherwood Nation: a novel
Sherwood Nation: a novel
by Benjamin Parzybok
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.69
58 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Handbook for a new world, September 13, 2014
I received this book as a giveaway from Goodreads. The premise of this book is that in near future Portland there is an ongoing drought that has resulted in water rationing and an increase in violence. Renee, a barista, is part of an activist group that is taking action against presumed government corruption involving the distribution of water, and during one action she ends up distributing water to the masses and the tv news image of her doing so turns her into a kind of activist folk hero. Thereafter Renee takes this activism a step farther and creates a nation out of one neighborhood that secedes from the rest of the city.
I liked that the author takes the opportunity to visit various actors in the unfolding drama to see how the events affect people within the city who are differently situated. I also thought it was interesting how the romantic relationships of the Mayor and his husband and Renee and her boyfriend are explored. It is interesting to see how the partners deal with the stress and hard choices that must be made by the leaders they love. The author made the formation of a whole new society seem so easy and begs the question of why this isn't just done---it seems like it would be so simple for us to pool our resources, work together and improve everyone's lives.
The thing about this book that kept me a bit distant from it is that I never quite understood why Renee decided to take the actions she did, what had led her to become the leader of a new nation, or how she made the decisions she did throughout the book. The cipher like nature of Renee as a character made it difficult to fully give in to the story.


The Day the Falls Stood StillTHE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL by Buchanan, Cathy Marie (Author) on Jul-06-2010 Paperback
The Day the Falls Stood StillTHE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL by Buchanan, Cathy Marie (Author) on Jul-06-2010 Paperback
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from $1.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love with a riverman, June 17, 2014
This book is a love story about a girl from the nice side of town, but in diminished circumstances, who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks and marries him against her parents' advice. What sets this book from many, many others is the setting. It takes place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, just before, during and just after World War I. The details of place are what makes the book reading. The author indicates in a note that she has done significant research about the falls and many of the stories of stunters and near death rescues are taken from history. In addition to these dramatic details, the book is also an interesting history of the conflict between those who wanted to harness all of the power of the falls for hydro electric power and those who were concerned that the necessity of moving the flow of the water would destroy the river in a way that could not be repaired.
Although the writing is not nearly as good, this book had a tone and setting that reminded me of the Anne of Green Gables books. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed those books, anyone who is interested in ecology and anyone who enjoys a love story.


Continental Drift (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Continental Drift (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
by Russell Banks
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.54
151 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars The American Dream, Florida Style, May 27, 2014
I am a big fan of Russell Banks and have read most of his more recent books and so I was excited to find this earlier book. A lot of the elements that would later coalesce more successfully in Banks' later book are in existence here in a rougher form. There is the man from New England, in this case Bob Dubois, who is uncomfortable in his skin, disappointed in his life and trying to determine what his appropriate path should be. There is an exploration of a foreign culture, in this case Haiti, in a way that intersects with the man. And there is the examination of a life that seems to be going down, emotionally and economically, in a way that is irredeemable. The different element in this book is that much of the action takes place in Florida, after Bob decides that the life he is supposed to be living is not as a boiler repair man in New Hampshire, and so he takes his wife and two daughters to live in Florida, first working in a liquor store owned by his brother and later driving a fishing charter boat.
It was interesting to read this book by an author that I felt so familiar with and to see how his familiar themes and tropes existed before they were polished in a more efficient manner; to see the warts and bumps in the road that make the book not quite as successful as it could be. I was especially frustrated by a post-script that attempted to boil down into a few pages the theme the author had been developing throughout the story and to tell the reader directly how he meant for his main character's actions to be interpreted. This description of the lesson meant to be taken from the book decreased its emotional power.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Banks as well as anyone who is interested in the immigrant culture of Florida, both immigrants from other countries and from other U.S. states, who are seeking a very specific kind of American Dream.


The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel
The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel
by Lawrence Osborne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.94
38 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A gambling ghost, May 14, 2014
This book started out as a story about a man who stole money from an old lady in London and ran off to Macau, becoming a native of the flashy casinos where the preferred game of chance is baccarat. At first it appears that this will be sort of a Leaving Las Vegas style tale of a man determined to do himself in. However, after a particularly harsh loss that leaves the man with almost no money, he meets a young woman who pays a restaurant tab he can't afford, nurses him back to health, makes love to him and then writes a strange sequence of numbers on his arm that he can't seem to get rid of. After this experience, natural nines start pouring into the man's lap, but there is an odd sense of the supernatural to the story at this point, making it seem like a parable or fairy tale, although I'm not sure what the moral of the story is meant to be.
Two old women, the one the man steals from and one nicknamed "Grandma" who is the man's nemesis in the casinos, seem to figure prominently in whatever point is meant to be drawn from this story, but I can't figure out exactly what this author is trying to say about women, or men, or luck or really anything.
I enjoyed the setting of the story, which was an interesting mix of the traditionally chinese, the residue left by the colonists and the newly Americanized culture of the casinos.


The Horse Latitudes
The Horse Latitudes
by Robert Ferrigno
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
2 used & new from $1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Twisty thriller with cool california setting, April 14, 2014
This thriller is set in an upper class California beach community in what I think was the late eighties. There were lots of good twists and turns, that kept me never quite sure what was happening or where the end point was going to be. I also liked that, for the most part, there were not good guys and bad guys, there were just people trying to muddle through various unpleasant situations. The one exception to this is a research doctor who is so bad, perhaps evil, that he brings to mind a mustache twirling villain from a cartoon.
I liked that the story was told from multiple points of view so that you can see how each of the characters were acting sensibly within their understanding of circumstances.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a fast based mystery story.


Butter
Butter
by Erin Jade Lange
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.68
97 used & new from $2.10

3.0 out of 5 stars Authentic Emotions, April 1, 2014
This review is from: Butter (Paperback)
The feeling of what it is like to be fat is captured beautifully in this YA novel. I have never been as large as Butter, the 400ish pound teenage boy at the center of this book, but I have struggled with weight all of my life and am currently heavier than I would like to be. The feelings of not having control over your body and the love/hate relationship with food that Butter has are definitely things that I could relate to.
The plot of the book exhibited its YA genre, with concerns about crushes and popularity but it took some surprising turns just when I thought I had it all figured out. My only criticism would be that the plot seemed to wrap up too neatly in some ways and left too many things hanging in other ways. I also thought that some of the emotional ambiguity about the events at the end of the book that would occur in reality were avoided, perhaps because of the young audience the book had in mind.


Coreyography: A Memoir
Coreyography: A Memoir
by Corey Feldman
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from $3.87

3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly Surprised, March 24, 2014
This review is from: Coreyography: A Memoir (Hardcover)
I was pleasantly surprised by this autobiography of Corey Feldman, one of the two Coreys that I grew up, in the eighties and early nineties, having a schoolgirl crush on. Feldman's description of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and father as a child were very well written and painted a clear picture of why Feldman felt more at home acting on the sets of movies like The Goonies and Stand By Me. I also thought Feldman's obsession with, and later friendship with, Michael Jackson was very well written and interesting. Although Feldman indicates that he was sexually abused by other people in the entertainment industry, in fact the general failure of the business to prevent this kind of abuse is one of the themes of the book, he doesn't have anything of that nature to disclose regarding Jackson. Their friendship was like that of two children, having fun at Disneyland or watching magicians. Additionally, Jackson gave Feldman important advise that finally prompted him to gain control of his career and his money from his parents.
The book becomes less interesting and less well written and Corey writes about his later struggles with addiction and the path of straight to video movies and reality shows that became his career in these later years. It seems that while Feldman was able to write with clarity and truth about the things he suffered in his childhood, the events closer to the present become foggier and more couched in an interest to ensure he doesn't alienate anyone.
I would recommend this book to anyone who was once a fan of Feldman or anyone who is interested in the film history of the 1980s.


Commencement (Vintage Contemporaries)
Commencement (Vintage Contemporaries)
by J. Courtney Sullivan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.55
308 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than Chick Lit, March 21, 2014
Recently I have been reading a lot of commentary by people who pay attention to bookish things that suggests that many books labeled "chick lit" have been wrongfully downgraded by readers of "serious fiction" [whatever that means]. Many of these commentaries suggest that some of these books, which focus on the emotions, relationships and inner lives of women, are shoved into the pink ghetto of chick lit merely because the topic is women, and if these books were about the thoughts and feelings of men, they would be taken much more seriously.
All of this is to say that I think Commencement seems to have been unfairly characterized/marketed as "chick lit" [there is a blurb on the back saying it's the smart woman's beach book]. I found it to be a really thoughtful portrait of four young women who met each other at Smith college and then who each make a different path through the world, with a little bit of a murder mystery at the end.
I really enjoyed getting to know the characters and found them to be well characterized as individuals. I also liked the explorations of female sexuality and power that each character, to some extent, faces as they experience this life. I also found it interesting that each woman had a different understanding of feminism and exercised that feminism in a way that felt right for them.


Visits from the Drowned Girl
Visits from the Drowned Girl
by Steven Sherrill
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Unconventional mystery with beautiful language, March 14, 2014
The author of this book has an MFA in poetry and you can tell from the beautiful language he uses in constructing sentences and the artistic tangents he takes to tell little pictures stories of detail that have little to nothing to do with the plot of this story. I can see where these tangents might drive some readers nuts but for me they really helped me to create a picture of the places and people that populate the story.
The plot of the book is that Benny, who works climbing towers to change lightbulbs, paint or secure guide wires, sees from his perch a girl set up a tripod and video camera and walk into a river, to her death. She leaves behind a business card and a set of video tapes and through them Benny gets an introduction to the drowned girl's life.
Aside from the plot, I think this book is an exploration of why people do the things they do, even when they know they are wrong or will hurt someone. I liked that the author didn't strive too hard to make the characters likeable, but just set forth all of their actions, good and bad, and let you evaluate their character.
The book is set in a southern town populated by oddball characters, but all of the details are skewed just enough to keep the town and its residents from becoming caricatures.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates beautiful language or who likes an unconventional mystery.


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