The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman – Book Review

The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman
Published by Avon A, an imprint of Harper Collins

Tess Monaghan is not one who can tolerate sitting on the sidelines for long. Unfortunately, that is precisely what she has to do, on bed rest during a complicated and unplanned pregnancy. Separated from her normal life of as a PI, Tess has nothing much more to do than sit and look at her window. Every day, at approximately the same time, she sees a woman in a green raincoat walking a dog in a matching raincoat. One day, while Tess is watching, she sees the dog come running out, dragging his leash behind him, with his owner nowhere to be seen. Tess is not one to shy away from a mystery, so the question of what happened to The Girl in the Green Raincoat.

Perhaps my favorite thing about The Girl in the Green Raincoat is that Tess acknowledges the similarities between this story and Rear Window. Lippman’s writing and plotting in this novella are superb. I enjoyed exploring the mysterious disappearance along with Tess. I think that her confinement put her more on par with the reader who in mysteries are at the mercy of the main character, much as Tess is at the mercy of those around her and whatever she can find on the internet.

I enjoyed this first look at Laura Lippman’s work. Recommended

Buy this book from:
Powells| Indiebound | Amazon*

Source: Publisher, via NetGalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Genome by Matt Ridley – Audiobook Review

 

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley, narrated by Simon Prebble
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by Harper Perennial, imprints of Harper Collins

Synopsis:

Our genomes determine so much. Not only who we are, but our history as well. In Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Matt Ridley takes us through the history of ourselves. In order to make it more easily comprehensible, Ridley uses the extended metaphor of literature.

There are twenty-three chapters, called chromosomes,
Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called genes.
Each story is made up of paragraphs, called exons, which are interrupted by advertisements called introns.
Each paragraph is made up of words, called codons.
Each word is written in letters, called bases.

Ridley discusses everything from disease resistance, species evolution, the selfishness of genes, to eugenics and the determinism of genes.

Thoughts on the work:

I do not have the background to speak to the validity of Ridley’s science. His presentation, however, is top notch. He hits the balance precisely between meaty detail and neither condescending to nor overwhelming his audience. I particularly liked the way he organizes his content, into thematic chapters based on the 23 human chromosome pairs. The content itself was fascinating as well. Every minute it seemed I was learning something new and interesting about the genes that make us who we are.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Simon Prebble does a fantastic job, as always. Even with Ridley’s engaging style, the wrong narrator could have made Genome incredibly boring, but Prebble does the work to keep my attention constant.

Overall:

A fascinating book. If you’re worried about getting bogged down in the science, try the audio. Even if you barely passed high school biology you will understand enough to get the gist without becoming overwhelmed trying to parse every sentence.

Buy this book in audio:
Audible

Buy this book in print:
Powells | Indiebound | Amazon*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard – Book Review

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
Published by Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins

On Halloween night, 16 year old Norah Lindell disappears. This disappearance colors the lives of the boys she left behind, her school mates, for years to come. Norah’s sister becomes suddenly tantalizing in the year following Norah’s disappearance, a product both of her own coming of age and of the boys’ fascination with all things Lindell. Even as the boys continue to grow into adulthood, they never stop thinking about Norah and what might have become of her. Of course, her fate might have been the tragic end of so many disappeared young women, violated and killed. But perhaps she left on purpose, and ended up creating a life out West. Then again, she might have traveled the world, ending up in the midst of the India in time for the bombings in Mumbai. The boys – and the reader – will never know, but that does not stop them from wondering, from imagining.

At well under 300 pages, The Fates Will Find Their Way is a slim volume that packs a huge punch. Pittard’s writing is not only lovely, but absolutely captivating. Interestingly, this is the second novel I read this year told in the first person plural (we, etc.). It is never completely clear in The Fates Will Find Their Way whether it is one boy speaking for the group, but I like to think that it is something akin to their collective memory. The boys were always more of a group than individuals, although individuals were often named. I never felt that I got a good handle on most of them as individuals, but as a group they had an amazingly strong identity that their weaker individual identities was not a stumbling block to enjoying the story.

There is so much to this little book that it is difficult to do it justice. Suffice it to say that I think you should read it. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound | Amazon*

Source: Publisher, via a trade show.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

I is an Other by James Geary – Book Review

I is an Other by James Geary
Published by Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins

Generally I prefer to write my own synopses of the books I review here. I think that reading a different description than the one found on an online bookseller’s site, or on the jacket flap provides my readers with an additional window into the book, and I think the way someone summarizes a book can tell you a lot about said book. Some books, however, are somewhat beyond my powers of synopsis. That being the case, I will have to share with you part of the publisher’s description of I is an Other.

From President Obama’s political rhetoric to the housing bubble burst. James Geary proves in this fascinating and entertaining book that every aspect of our experience is molded by metaphor.

When they say that every aspect of our experience is molded by metaphor they aren’t kidding. Geary covers everything from politics, to brain function and autism spectrum disorder, to the power of metaphor on our psyche. In the best of all worlds, I is an Other would be treated to an extensive scholarly discussion and review. There is a lot of meat there. I am a person who does not tend to take notes or mark passages when I read, but I marked passages in I is an Other like a crazy person. Unfortunately, I am still trying to wrap my head around the entirety of the information presented.

The scope of I is an Other is astounding, but Geary is somehow able to bring it together cohesively in slightly over 200 pages. Each chapter is predominantly self-contained on the chosen subject, although they are best written in sequence, as some prior knowledge is built upon from chapter to chapter. In addition to making a huge topic approachable, Geary also does an admirable job of making his content understandable. He goes into a degree of depth not only about metaphor, but about his different subjects as well, and the same person who is interested in metaphor may not be someone who would knowingly pick up a book on the market crash, or on brain science.

Still, Geary manages to put everything in comprehensible packages – primarily through metaphor, thereby proving the basic premise of the book in the first place. A degree of well-rounded intelligence and breadth of knowledge is assumed, however, as is a willingness to put on your thinking cap because, while Geary wants to make his subject readable, he is not particularly interested in dumbing it down. It isn’t required that you know what an active metaphor is, but you must at least think about it or look it up.

The idea that metaphor is so much more than language was positively revelatory for me, and I think this is a book that could fascinate many who are willing to put in the effort and not be intimidated by the initially cryptic title and cover. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound | Amazon*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor – Book Review

The Gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins

Disillusioned with his empty and unfulfilling existence, David accidentally finds a new life while walking aimlessly late one night. When he finds an old friend, Thomas, digging through a dumpster to find uneaten sandwiches to take back to his anarchists’ collective, David returns with him, determined to find anything more meaningful than work at a call center and internet porn. At Fishgut, Thomas’s home, David finds himself becoming involved with two women, Katy and Liz, and the religious fervor which has grown up around a former housemate who has disappeared, and of which Katy is the champion.

In “The Gospel of Anarchy,” Justin Taylor has written a beautiful book about human weakness and our desire to connect and grow, our need for something bigger than ourselves. I am as surprised as anyone to call a book beautiful that has, in the beginning of the first chapter, an extensive scene regarding a character’s porn-viewing habits, but David’s pain and self-loathing is manifest in that scene, and his desire to change his life and his circumstances is incredibly moving. None of the characters are particularly likable, but they are written with such empathy and they are so indicative of the human spirit that they are impossible to ignore. Perhaps these characters have different vices than most of us, but they are no more flawed than we are and, like all of us, deeply long for physical and spiritual connection.

One thing that works very well in “The Gospel of Anarchy” is Taylor’s hodgepodge of styles. Within chapters the point of view changes from character to character, from first person for David to third person for the rest of the housemates. At one point, the tense even changes between past and present. Considering this entire book is about anarchists, however, this added to the veracity of the story being told and, surprisingly, managed not to be distracting.

Highly recommended, but definitely not for everyone. I love it as an exploration of the role of religion and human connection in our lives, but sensitive readers may be turned off by some of the language and sexuality.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: Publisher via NetGalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.