"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Al Franken

TITLE: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
AUTHOR: Al Franken

I read this slowly on my Kindle app, starting before Franken resigned from the Senate and finishing it after, and my big takeaway is that I wish he hadn't resigned, because we need him, or someone like him, or many someones like him in government.

The book covers his early years, with a whirlwind tour of his formative years, a few chapters on his comedy career (including some nice behind-the-scenes looks at "Saturday Night Live"), then following with his entry into politics, and finally, his time in the Senate. What I most want is a follow-up that includes his resignation and how he feels about the current state of the US.

The insights into how government works, or doesn't, and his opinions of his fellow senators are worth the price, alone. This is a funny, serious, snarky, wise, and important book. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

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John Oliver Funko Pop with Marlon Bundo Book
This book is a delight. And the proceeds go to support good causes that aid gay youth.

A Hero of France

TITLE: A Hero of France
AUTHOR: Alan Furst

With this book now read, I am caught up with Furst's series set during World War II and am eagerly awaiting another. This one focuses on the French Resistance in 1941 and the covert work done by the leader of a Resistance cell who is known as Mathieu. He and his team specialize in getting downed British fliers out of occupied France so they can be returned to England to fight again. A few familiar characters from previous books show up and I admire Furst's ability to juggle all the characters' timelines as his books are not written in strict chronological order. This attention to continuity and connections add realism to the series and while each book stands on its own, reading all of them gives the reader a real sense of the concurrent events of a Europe in the midst of war.

There's plenty going on here: various missions, overtures from British intelligence to help and perhaps take over the running of the escape pipeline, and the German high command determined to break up the organized French resistance. But as usual, it's the characters who get under my skin more than the events. Furst bases his books on well-researched events and activities, bringing to life the simple bravery of people fighting for what they believe in. And in today's political climate, these books are a good reminder of how easy it is to lose one's freedoms. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Golem and the Jinni

TITLE: The Golem and the Jinni
AUTHOR: Helene Wecker

This took me a lot longer to read than I would've liked, partly due to the smallish text (maybe I should've read it on my Kindle), but toward the end, partly because I didn't want to say goodbye to these characters. I read a sequel is coming in the fall, but this book has a perfect ending and while I welcome the chance to read more about Chava the Golem and Ahmad the Jinni, I would have been happy enough with just this.

Chava is a Hebrew creature made of clay to be the wife of a man who dies en route from Prussia to New York City in 1899. An elderly rabbi realizes her true nature and takes her under his wing, trying to teach her how to fit in. Ahmad (his real name is unpronounceable) is a jinni released from a flask by a Syrian metalsmith after years of captivity. Still trapped by the iron cuff on his wrist, put there by the wizard who had imprisoned him, the newly-named Ahmad is stuck in human form.

Wecker makes full use of their opposing natures as the two non-human creatures happen upon each other one night and form an odd friendship. Chava has been left masterless yet privy to the thoughts of all humans she comes in contact with. Needing neither sleep nor food or drink, possessing no beating heart, she is under constant stress of being found out. A being of superior strength, she poses a danger to society and she can be destroyed by the reading of a particular spell. Freed from a master's control though by nature she was made for such control, Chava struggles to find her place in the city she finds herself in.

On the other hand, Ahmad is a creature born to soar and the constraints of human form and the need to also fit into society, are as chafing to his nature as the cuff on his wrist.

Dangers come from all directions, including the arrival of the elderly mystic who created Chava who is seeking eternal life, the bewitched man who senses Ahmad's true nature, and instances where both Chava and Ahmad inadvertently reveal their special abilities. Wecker does a wonderful job weaving together the disparate characters and events, including flashbacks, to give us a fully realized, fantastical New York City at the end of the 1800s. Along the way, she gives us a treatise on what it means to be human, as well as an unexpected love story.