Wednesday, July 26, 2017

American Eclipse by David Baron

American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron --- 330 pages including Notes on Sources, Footnotes, Select Bibliography, Acknowledgements and Index.

Published in anticipation of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse scheduled to cross the continental United States from northwest to southeast, this book (based on extensive research) looks at the social and scientific significance of the total solar eclipse of July 29, 1878 across the far western pioneer states and territories of the U.S. at the dawn of America's Gilded Age.

The nascent scientific establishment of the U.S. of that day, mostly centered in the colleges and universities of the east, was eager to assert the bona fides of American scientists at a time when Europe set the standard for scientific achievement. American scientists seized on the "American" eclipse as their opportunity to show what they could do.

A number of scientific parties traveled west to observe and make records of the eclipse, at a time when travel beyond Ohio was uncomfortable and travel west of St. Louis haphazard and primitive.  Baron focuses most of his attention on four parties: The U.S. Naval Observatory camp at Cravens in the Wyoming Territory; James Craig Watson of the University of Michigan and the inventor Thomas Alva Edison and other august observers at Rawlins in the Wyoming Territory; astronomer Maria Mitchell of Vassar College with a party of former students in Denver, Colorado; and the U.S. Army Signal Corps (first national weather forecasting service) camp on Pike's Peak, Colorado.

Baron writes both intelligently and entertainingly about the resulting adventure, and how scientists were not above making use of the popular press to whip up enthusiasm for the event. Even citizens with little or no understanding of astronomy or physics took a keen interest in the idea of America showing up the rest of the world.

Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus Reviews.

Click HERE to read a review from the Denver Post.

Click HERE to listen to an interview with author David Baron on St. Louis Public Radio.

Click HERE to watch a video of Author David Baron talking about his book and the August 21 eclipse to come from Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orcey

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orcey -- 267 pages

Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.
Definitely one of the most exciting classics I've ever read. 

School-Live, v. 7 by Norimitsu Kaihou

School-Live!, v. 7 by Norimitsu Kaihou - 176 pages

The girls have arrived at St. Isidore College.  They meet and join up with the Degeneracy Appreciation Society.  But is it truly safe at the college?

This is the latest volume in the School-Live! manga series.  It was interesting to see that the college students were less interested in survival and figuring out what happened than the younger high school kids.  As the cast grows, it is difficult to keep the various characters straight.  They look similar and the use of several different names (nicknames, formal names, honorifics) makes it difficult to remember which character is which.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick - 533 pages

Reporter Irene Glasson is determined to prove that rising actor Nick Tremayne is killing off the women in his past.  Hotel owner Oliver Ward helps her as the latest murder occurred at this hotel.

I listened to the audio version of Amanda Quick's latest historical novel.  It's a departure from her usual historical romances as she has written about 1930s Hollywood.  I thought the narration of this audio was excellent.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pastoralia by George Saunders

Pastoralia by George Saunders - 188 pages

Pastoralia - Saunders, GeorgeA decrepit theme park where workers are paid to act like cavemen by grunting, drawing crude pictures, and catching imaginary bugs all day, with the occasional goat dropped down "The Big Slot" for dinner. A self-help seminar that claims the road to true happiness begins by shirking responsibilities to your needy, suffocating loved ones. A substandard apartment complex where illiterates spend their evenings watching TV shows such as the reality-based How My Child Died Violently and The Worst That Could Happen, a program of computer-generated tragedies. Needless to say, George Saunders takes his place in a long queue of American pessimists, but few can claim a vision as corrosive and bleakly funny as the one on display in Pastoralia, a story cycle set in a hellish wasteland of late capitalism. Boasting a spare, economical prose style, Saunders takes snapshots with a cracked lens, only slightly distorting the worst images he can find. In a country weaned on corporate code, where long hours are wasted on petty bureaucracy and busywork, the theme park in the masterful title story has a ring of familiarity. While few jobs can approach the indignity of weeks hooting in Neanderthal garb, the dreary punch-clock routine that beats down the narrator and his disgruntled partner are universal. With the park in dire financial straits, workers find fewer goats slipped down The Big Slot—they're forced to subsist on "Reserve Crackers"—and their paychecks are docked for pick-up service on their "mutual big pink Human Refuse bags." Other stories are equally grim but more internalized: Winky concerns an ineffectual wimp who puts himself through a New Age seminar just to confront his sister, and in The Barber's Unhappiness, a middle-aged slouch still living with his mother ogles passing women, then concocts wild scenarios to avoid approaching them. Saunders' characters are unhealthy, uneducated, and hopeless, yet he reserves sympathy and affection for them, his satiric venom generally saved for larger targets. The collection's brilliant centerpiece, Sea Oak, is also the darkest, an urban horror story set in a dank apartment replete with "an ad hoc crackhouse in the laundry room," brass knuckles in the kiddie pool, and microwaved meat nuggets in sugary sauce. When a chipper old aunt dies of fright—due to money problems, she's buried in a cardboard coffin—she returns from the grave to shock her poor family out of complacency. Typical of Pastoralia, even the undead can't catch a break.

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

If I Run by Terri Blackstock
320 pages / 6 hrs, 41 mins

"Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they’ve failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

"But what is the truthThat’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up.

"Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

"Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices: the girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet."  --from the publisher

Blackstock's no frills and all thrills writing is at its best here.  It's a quick suspenseful read that leads right into book two.  I do wish it could stand alone as a complete story--just my preference.  Publishers Weekly says, " masterly in navigating the suspenseful fugitive plot...Crisp dialogue and unexpected twists make this compulsive reading, and a final chapter cliffhanger leaves things poised for a sequel."

Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
384 pages / 11 hrs, 45 mins

"Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all - popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she is or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, Sam realizes that it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear that she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

"But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night aren't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory. Someone else knows - someone who wants to make sure that Sam stays quiet."  --from the publisher

This is a well-written YA thriller.  The suspense is palpable and a young reader will be kept guessing right up until the end.