Saturday, January 19, 2019

Review: A Map of Days

A Map of Days A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this strange series by Ransom Riggs. This is the fourth installment of his Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. I thought the last book was the final one but he has continued on and has certainly left the story open for more installments. I also thought the last book was my favorite but this one outdoes it.

In this story, Jacob, Emma and a few of the other peculiars settle in America for a short time. While visiting Jacob's home preparing to blend in with the normals a few of the gang visit Jacob's grandfather's home and stumble across a secret den that reveals the work that Abe was doing in order to help peculiars around the world. This leads Jacob, Emma, Bronwyn, Millard, and Enoch on a secret mission that reveals itself along the way. All they know is that there is someone that they need to save. They encounter many peculiar people along the way that help them figure out their mission, as well as some people who are intent on keeping them from their intended task.

I love this series. I love the idea of the author taking some bizarre photos he has found in places like rummage sales and antique shops, and building a whole series of books around these pictures. How creative! It's a little bit history, a lot of fantasy, and a bit of horror wrapped up into a very...peculiar...story.

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Review: Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sarah Smarsh grew up in the 1980s and 1990s in rural Kansas, just outside of Witchita. Her family life was pretty typical of poor rural midwestern families who lived day to day, surviving off of what work they could find and hope that each year's crops would get them through another year. She also came from a long line of women who became mothers at an early age and shacked up with the next guy that seemed like they could pull them out of their sad circumstances. The men usually ended up being abusive and uncaring, leading many to multiple divorces and broken hearts. Sarah vowed to end the cycle and pull herself out of poverty, forgoing a family for a college degree. This story is not just Sarah's. In fact, it is more the story of 3 generations of women before her and the economic causes that kept them in rural poverty.

Smarsh's memoir examines the causes behind generations of mid-western rural women who seem to find themselves locked into a cycle of teenage motherhood and broken marriages. It's hard for many to believe that this cycle continues for many in our era of technology. Having grown up not far from where Smarsh lived, I understand the circumstances she reflects on and remember many women who had big dreams of independent success but ultimately ended up following in their mother's footsteps, having children young and a string of men in and out of their lives.

Smarsh used an interesting technique of addressing her story to an unborn child. It is a technique similar to Ta-Nehisi Coates' letter to his son in his book Between the World and Me. However, I don't think Smarsh's use was as successful. Her idea was to write to the child that might have been, had she continued the cycle of her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. It kind of bothered me until the end when she makes a point of saying goodbye to this child that would have been born in poverty. This child will never be because she broke the cycle and has become a successful woman. I think if she had teased that information at the beginning and then reference back to it at the end it would have been better.

Overall, it was an interesting read that made me reflect back on my own mid-western childhood and the circumstances of many rural people I knew growing up. I don't think this book is for everyone. There are no major insights or revelations that come out of it, but the ending does provide a bit of understanding of why poverty exists in small-town America.

I received this book gratis through Goodreads Giveaways.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Hi Bob!

Hi Bob! Hi Bob! by Bob Newhart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an Audible book that I enjoyed listening to on a recent trip. Bob Newhart interviews several standup comedians that he is friends with. The notables include Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Conan O'Brien, and Sarah Silverman. They all tell stories of how they have met, how they got into the business, and they wax nostalgic on some of the projects they've worked on together. There's a great chapter on Don Rickles, who was Newhart's best friend.

It's a very entertaining book to listen to and nice to hear these people as themselves and not as the characters they portray or in "entertainment" mode. I also liked that they played clips of shows that they were talking about. These are shows like The Tonight Show that Newhart guest hosted many times, as well as his own show, The Bob Newhart Show, that Lisa Kudrow was a guest on. Great book to pass the time on while driving.

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