Archive for April, 2021

We Begin at the End

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

By Chris Whitaker

The Short Take:

A nimble plot and incredible characters make this novel shine. It’s surprisingly noir for a book set in a California coastal resort town and sunny Montana, it combines elements of thrillers, westerns, and Dicken’s style tragedy. I could not put it down.

Why?

The two central characters couldn’t be more different–or more intriguing. Walk, the sheriff, has never left his small town and exudes loneliness. Thirteen-your-old Duchess is a self-described outlaw; a tough as nails spitfire who fiercely protects her five-year-old brother. The siblings need protection: Oliver Twist didn’t experience the constant danger these two endure and adults continually fail them.

Whitaker has a different way of describing his settings, more reflective of the emotions of the observers than a physical description. It can take a bit to sink into it but then you appreciate the texture it adds to the characters and plot.

And it is some plot. Even though you get a solid feeling “something isn’t right,” the author still manages to delivers surprise after surprise as the mystery begins to untangle.

A Little Plot:

A long ago death and a fresh murder seem to be linked to the same man, a newly released convict who was Walk’s best friend. The convict was also the boyfriend of Duchess’ mother, now an unstable substance abuser with abundant beauty and equally abundant bad life choices.

There’s also a dark and dangerous real estate developer bent on revenge. Whitaker gives you a lot to work with.

For a bit more about the author and this book, click here.

Klara and the Sun

Monday, April 19th, 2021

By Kazuo Ishiguro

The Short Take:

Kindness, the sun, and love power AF (artificial friend) Klara; a narrator so compassionate and complex she out-humans the humans around her. Set in the near-future, this novel has sci-fi elements but it is solidly focused on faith, hope, and charity.

Why?

Ishiguro explores how our increasing reliance on algorithms, data, and computer intelligence might affect our humanity. Yet, he presents this through the eyes of a completely loving and caring AF. It’s hard to say who shows more soul–the AF Klara or her human owner, Josie.

The major points that shape the narrative are slowly revealed, almost like a series of mysteries. However Klara, with her impressive intuition, realizes what is happening and what needs to be done about it before we do.

It’s a familiar yet different world and Ishiguro introduces it to you gradually. Eventually you learn what “lifting” is, why AFs matter, the cause of Josie’s mysterious illness, and much more. All the pieces fall seemlessly into place and the final picture is one of the brilliant light of genuine love.

It’s a beautiful book and perfect for these times and the questions we face.

A Little Plot:

Klara hopes to be purchased (young teens seem to be the only owners of AFs), and carefully observes and thoughtfully interprets the actions of all the humans around her to better prepare herself for her future role. When Josie selects her she is delighted even thoughJosie warns her that she is sometimes sick. Klara remains undaunted and devotes herself to Josie’s well-being, in every sense.

You can learn more about Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro by clicking here.

Solutions and Other Problems

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

By Allie Brosh

The Short Take:

Brosh’s unique yet insightful views on family, pets, depression, and a host of human foibles will keep you laughing and make you think. What could be better?

Why?

Quirky drawings, surprising observations, and amazing creative thinking; these are Brosh hallmarks. And they’re on grand display in her newest book. Take the title, for example. It makes you smile, then you stop to think: Many solutions do result in other problems. That’s solid Allie Brosh.

I’ve always been a fan and was saddened when depression took her away from regular postings on her blog. However, she’s found her way into work again, and this is her second book.

Her strange drawings are oddly expressive. But it’s the subjects she explores, like dealing with questions and reactions when a dog starts retaining water in enormous quantities. These will have you giggling like a maniac as you nod your head in understanding. You might not have been there exactly but you get it completely.

A Little Plot:

Her stories range from childhood experiences to the here and now. There’s no order to their presentation, though a couple build on each other.

Brosh’s publisher agreed to let her put one chapter of her book on her old blog. Such a treat! And you can explore her other fantastic creations in the blog archive, or simply click on her favorites. But do click here to visit.

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