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The Flame is Well Forged

Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan

5 of 5 stars

This is one of Tor.com's new novella line. This particular story was 100 pages, and for an introduction this format was perfect. Sometimes a book doesn't need to be doorstop size to make its point.

Speaking of "perfect," look at this opening paragraph.

The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.

And so, in reply, there is a woman.


Now that, my friends, is a hook, and the author reeled me right on in. The writing is smooth as silk, with not a word wasted, and the pacing was excellent. Due to the book's length, there aren't that many characters, but the people we do meet are vividly drawn. This nameless woman is prickly, sarcastic, and stubborn, and she never gives up. She doesn't know who she is, or how she has been summoned, or why she has been set to a task against her will. This is the story of her task and how she completes it, and what she finds out about herself along the way. It's a story of memory and identity, what you are willing to give up and what you fight to keep.

(One oddity I noticed in reading the other Goodreads reviews--a couple of people mentioned this story is told in first person. It is not. It is third person, present tense, with a tight focus on its protagonist. I guess the POV is so tight it fooled a few people into thinking it's first person, but it isn't.)

I would love to find out more about this world. We're given just enough details to whet the appetite (and I've already pre-ordered the sequel, due out in a few months). Hopefully the next volume will do this. 

 
This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/167509.html. Comment either here or there.
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Tramps Like Us

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

5 of 5 stars

I haven't read a musician's autobiography in a long time, after I struggled to get through Keith Richards' Life and had to give up on it. I've glanced at a couple since then, but they all seemed to follow the same boring trajectory: fame, fortune, sex and drugs, the latter of which led to a complete bottoming-out, followed by a torturous climb back to sobriety and sanity.

Fortunately, Bruce Springsteen's memoir isn't like that at all.

For one thing, the man can write. (Of course, since he's been writing songs for nearly fifty years, you would automatically think so, but lyrics, which have to rhyme and scan, are very different than prose. Maybe that's why most of this book's chapters are so short--they're mini songs.) I don't know how he'd do with fiction, but the prose in this book is excellent. His voice is sharp, wry, funny, and brutally honest. The heart of this book is his complicated relationship with his father, which weaves through from beginning to end (though towards the end of Douglas Springsteen's life, father and son found some understanding and peace). Then there is Bruce's frank discussion of a life lived with depression, and the fact that he's been in therapy for decades, which obviously contributed to the insights about himself in these pages. I also appreciated that on some subjects (namely the sex part of the rock n'roll equation), he didn't let it all hang out--there's no salacious kissing and telling here, although he is forthright about the failure of his first marriage.

(But the stories about his second wife, Patti Scialfa, and his children, are some of the funniest and most heartwarming in the entire book. This is a bit of a long excerpt, but I just love this.

She also guided me when she thought I was falling short. For years, I'd kept musicians' hours, a midnight rambler; I'd rarely get to bed before four a.m. and often sleep to noon or beyond. In the early days, when the children were up at night, I found it easy to do my part in taking care of them. After dawn, Patti was on duty. Once they got older, the night shift became unnecessary and the burden tilted unfairly toward the morning hours.

Finally, one day she came to me as I lay in bed around noon and simply said, "You're gonna miss it."

I answered, "Miss what?"

She said, "The kids, the morning, it's the best time, it's when they need you the most. They're different in the morning than at any other time of the day and if you don't get up to see it, well then...you're gonna miss it."

The next morning, mumbling, grumbling, stolid faced, I rolled out of bed at seven a.m. and found my way downstairs. "What do I do?"

She looked at me and said, "Make the pancakes."

Make the pancakes? I'd never made anything but music my entire life. I...I...I...don't know how!

"Learn."


Patti Scialfa sounds like a woman who brooks no nonsense. I'd almost rather sit and talk with her than Bruce.)

Because we don't get the usual rock and roll cliches in these pages, this book has a rare depth. I particularly appreciated the stories of Bruce's political awakenings, encapsulated in the controversy over his song "American Skin (41 Shots)"--sadly prophetic indeed, in the age of Black Lives Matter. There are also fascinating insights about his songwriting; the themes he wanted to tackle with each album, what he wanted to say to his audience and how he constructed his songs to fit. This book is five hundred pages long, but it's well worth the read, whether you're a fan or not.

 
This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/167364.html. Comment either here or there.
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  • Fri, 18:00: RT @progressive4u2: I am in the camp of Rep. John Lewis, and I imagine along with 65,844,954 other fellow #Democrats that #Trump is illegit…
  • Fri, 18:15: RT @Lee_in_Iowa: Hey, Berners. You know those "DNC emails" you believed? Looks like you got PLAYED: per Newsweek today: https://t.co/36Q7FX
  • Fri, 18:32: The more I hear about Jason Chaffetz, the more I think he is an unprincipled slimeball. #inners #uniteblue
  • Fri, 20:08: RT @msgwenl: I hope everyone who voted for Stein because "both candidates are the same" has enough healing crystals to replace their health…
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  • Sat, 10:40: Well. This is spot on. https://t.co/UD7ykT68Ly
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  • Sat, 10:44: RT @PragObots: Clearly, the FBI was trying to protect Trump and his Russia ties. But why? Does Russia have something on Comey, too?
  • Sat, 10:44: RT @djrothkopf: Beyond the disgust Trump going after John Lewis rightfully generates, consider message Trump's bullying civil rights hero s…
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  • Thu, 20:12: RT @SenFranken: I voted no on a GOP resolution to begin gutting #ACA last night bc this is the replacement plan the Republicans have presen…
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"The blood of your parents is not lost in you"

The Gene: An Intimate History

4 of 5 stars

One of my favorite non-fiction books of the past few years was The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. It won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize. This book is both a sequel and prequel to Emperor. One of that book's main themes is that cancer is a genetic disease, with cells basically running amuck because of mutated DNA. I don't know if the author realized he was setting his next book in motion by saying this, but this book is pretty much the followup he had to write.

Needless to say, it is quite heavy on the science. Personally, I love this kind of stuff, but be aware that this book is 500 pages, not counting the endnotes, and it's definitely not something you can race through at the beach. It traces the discovery of genes and DNA, from Gregor Mendel's "units of heredity" to modern-day epigenetics. Siddharta Mukherjee, as was made clear from his first book, is an expert at explaining incredibly complex scientific material to a layperson audience. He is also an engaging writer in his own right, as evidenced in this excerpt from p. 310, discussing the beginnings of the Human Genome Project:

"If the Genome Project had not found Collins in 1993, it might have found it necessary to invent him: he was almost preternaturally matched to its peculiar challenges. A devout Christian from Virginia, an able communicator and administrator, a first-rate scientist, Collins was measured, cautious, and diplomatic; to Venter's furious little yacht constantly tilting against the winds, Collins was a transoceanic liner, barely registering the tumult around him."

Mukherjee also adds a deft personal touch to the story, with his family history of mental illness. This humanizes the author, and makes it clear that his imposing tome is a bit more than a dry scientific premise. If you loved The Emperor of All Maladies, as I did, I think you will enjoy this. 

 
This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/166913.html. Comment either here or there.
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  • Thu, 19:11: Just got through, finally, and voted on the survey. However, the mailbox is full. Hopefully outraged women are burn… https://t.co/BAVSgC7ZYT
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