Archives for posts with tag: book reviews

I read the first two of Penny’s mysteries in order, but then skipped ahead because I found a used copy of this one. I regret it a little because I think there’s one prior to this that informs a subplot here. Does anyone know? But this one was a step up from the previous two which I thought were quite good. Penny, perhaps because she’s grown confident because of the success of her earlier books, delves into Canadian history and politics here. They are essential to the plot (in ways that made me wish I understood them better) and make the story take on an impressive level of depth in the way Mankell did in his Wallender series.

Really good stuff. I have one more used one to read, but perhaps I should go back to reading them in order.

The subtitle of this book – When Violence Strikes and Community Security is Threatened – is only part of the reason I read this. We have had violence in and around our school. But our students carry trauma of all sorts with them every day. I think we need to understand this better in order to teach more effectively. I know resources are a part of it, but I can do little to control the allocation of funds, personnel, etc.. But I can try to understand. This was a good introduction and contains several useful visuals.

This collection is not for those who like their stories to go in straight lines. Though Millhauser is intersted in straight lines. In my experience with his work, he’s very much interested in the architecture of our lives. If I inferred anything from what he’s up to here, there seems to be a theme about happiness and place. It is not new to say we are forever discontent, but to say that we’d become more in love with a woman’s reflection in the mirror than the woman herself, well, that’s new. Or that there’s a place where they will help counsel you to commit suicide? That’s new as well. Or that there’s a place that will expel you when you no longer belong there? You get the idea.

I find Millhauser to be very much underrated, but maybe he’s just my kind of strange.

Solnit combines current events and the work of writers like Woolf, Faludi and Freidan to position herself in what she calls the gender wars. She’s both pragmatic and passionate. And you know what? She’s absolutely right. Even though I think that she (like others) makes too much of the significance of social media traffic (that a certain hashtag is trending means something; it just doesn’t mean everything), her point that we are saying things we wouldn’t say 50 years ago and that we have words for things (rape culture, date rape) that we didn’t and couldn’t name 50 years ago is well-taken. Solnit’s precise and straightforward essays (several of them begin with wonderfully metaphorical passages), particularly “Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite,” made me see connections among colonialism, capitalism and our rape culture. I cannot recall, at this point, what I thought of Anita Hill’s testimony when I first heard it, but I am quite sure that I wish I’d read this first. Better yet, I wish I’d kept quiet.

I’ve known of this well-regarded book for a long while, but I don’t think I was ready to read it. A visit to the 9/11 Museum finally prompted me. It is a very, very good book. Wright’s research is incredible.  To watch bin Laden’s transformation from a human being I could recognize to a deluded fanatic was both astonishing and understandable.

I had long heard that one of the United States’ problems was a lack of cooperation among various agencies. Until I read this book, I was willing to give them some slack. This was unprecedented. Who knows how many threats they have to sift through on a daily basis, etc.? But that forgiveness is all gone now. We knew things. We had information. The failure to share information because of rivalries, wrongly interpreted laws, and individual personalities is recounted here, and without necessarily blaming anyone, Wright points out numerous times when opportunities to capture or kill certain people were missed. This is not to say that 9/11 would not have happened, only to say that opportunities – major ones – were missed for largely petty reasons.

So if you’re ready, this, I think, is the book to read.


I had decided a while ago that it was time for me to move past just Kindred, and this title kept popping up after the recent election. As with Kindred, I wanted just a little more nuance and polish in the writing. The ideas in both books are thought-provoking, but the prose, especially the dialogue, can be a bit wooden and didactic.

I have never really understood the purpose of genres – beyond marketing and shelving things in libraries and bookstores. I don’t see why this title was in the Science Fiction section at the legendary and awesome Strand Bookstore. It is no more science fiction than any other dystopian novel. And those are generally found in the general fiction section. I only know the two titles I’ve mentioned, so perhaps her other books are more obviously science fiction, so people tend to put all of her work in that section.

I had some time to kill before a tour of the Tenement Museum, so I walked to the Museum at Eldridge Street. And I am glad I did. What a remarkable place! The history of the synagogue and the story of its renovation – which continues to this day – is incredible. It is just a beautiful vibrant place, and this book does a great of taking the reader through its restoration. The photographs are great, and the attention to detail is appreciated. If you are visiting the Lower East Side, be sure to stroll through Chinatown and check this place out. Kiki Smith’s window alone is worth the price of admission.