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Archive for the ‘Good Reads’ Category

Good Read – The Sisters Brothers

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The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick deWitt

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With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.


Matt Markgraf says:

I read this on the spurs from this year’s great western flicks: True Grit and Cowboys vs. Aliens. The Sisters Brothers is a sharp-tongued, gallows humor bloodbath that goes down smooth and strong like fine brandy. It’s Quentin Tarantino absurdism, following around Charles and Eli Sisters, two hired gunslingers on a mission to hunt down Herman Kermit Warm. I was often shocked by the brothers’ punishing sense of justice and judgment, yet I found myself nodding along, ensnared by the not so fair-handed reasoning of Eli Sisters. The Wild West was a free-for-all and the Sisters had an oddly charming way of collecting their entitlements. The emotion and action in this story is finely, finely tuned. You will hate the brothers, love them and most of all be absolutely riveted by the story’s poignancy.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Written by Matt Markgraf

August 24, 2011 at 11:59 am

Good Read – A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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A Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin

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Here is the first volume in George R. R. Martin’s magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. As a whole, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Magic, mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill these pages and transport us to a world unlike any we have ever experienced. Already hailed as a classic, George R. R. Martin’s stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

 

Tracy Ross says:

In 2005 Time magazine famously called George R.R. Martin “the American Tolkien” based on his A Song of Ice and Fire series.  After one reads A Game of Thrones, it’s clear that Martin deserves at least that much praise.  Tolkien’s chief talent as a writer was his ability to build worlds.  Martin shares Tolkien’s talent for creating an expansive world that his readers can and will get lost in.  However, whereas Tolkien’s characters were quite clearly good or evil, Martin’s occupy the rather large grey area that exists between the two extremes.  As you read this book, you’ll be transported to the world of Westeros, where the seasons last years rather than months, and powerful families wrestle for control of a great iron throne made from the melted swords of the conquered enemies of a long-dead king.  Martin does not treat his characters well.  There’s plenty of incest, rape, betrayal and murder to be found in Westeros, but also a surprising amount of honor, courage and duty.  In short, the characters in A Game of Thrones talk and act like real human beings.  Characters commit horrible acts out of self-interest and self-preservation rather than to fulfill some grand evil plot.  Finally, don’t assume that your favorite characters will be around at the end of this series.  Martin has consistently shown the willingness to kill any character at any time if it advances the greater story.  And what a story it is; once you start reading A Game of Thrones, your biggest challenge will be putting it down long enough to work and sleep.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Written by Matt Markgraf

August 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi

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In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.

Matt Markgraf says:

I’ve always been in love with the idea of Steampunk, but finding a decent novel in this superb sub-genre is hard. The turn-off for me is in the self-awareness of the author in the constructing of the nuanced world, where the gimmick takes over plot and character development. Paolo Bacigalupi, while hard to pronounce, is certainly a name to remember as an example of “doing it right.” I discovered Paolo with the tremendous adventure in The Windup Girl, and was drawn to his award-winning YA novel Ship Breaker.

The only thing YA about Ship Breaker is its young characters. Aside from that it’s a gritty, grimey, post-apocalyptic and almost perceptibly political adventure set on the American Gulf Coast. What struck me was the fast-paced and chlautrophobic narrative. The novel begins with Nailer, the main character, climbing through the tight ventilation ducts of old ships, tearing out copper wiring and other metal with any kind of worth. Paolo doesn’t waste any time with flowery steampunk descriptions, but dives right into the dirty depths whether the reader is ready or not.

The second half of the book is where the politics regarding the catastrophic results of harvesting fossil fuels and the insurmountable division of class warfare come into the forefront. When Nailer discoveres a wrecked “swank” ship full of “riches” (things we may take for granted), and later when they struggle to get by in a very different New Orleans were memorable moments.

The character development is top notch, interactions are carefully written and the world will leave grit in your teeth. Ship Breaker is a quick read, and a substantial one.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Written by Matt Markgraf

July 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Good Read – Pogue’s War: Diaries of a WWII Combat Historian

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Pogue’s War: Diaries of a WWII Combat Historian
by Forrest C. Pogue

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With a foreword by Stephen Ambrose and a preface by Franklin D. Anderson Forrest Pogue (1912-1996) was undoubtedly one of the greatest World War II combat historians. Born and educated in Kentucky, he is perhaps best known for his definitive four-volume biography of General George C. Marshall.  Pogue’s War is drawn from Forrest Pogue’s handwritten pocket notebooks, carried with him throughout the war, long regarded as unreadable because of his often atrocious handwriting. Supplemented with carefully deciphered and transcribed selections from his diaries, the heart of the book is straight from the field. He not only graphically – yet also often poetically­­ – recounts the extreme circumstances of battle, but he also notes his fellow soldiers’ innermost thoughts, feelings, opinions, and attitudes about the cruelty of war. Franklin D. Anderson, Forrest Pogue’s nephew by marriage, is a longtime educator. He lives in Princeton, Kentucky.

Todd Hill says:

From the war-time diary of combat historian Sgt. Forrest C. Pogue, long time Murray resident and professor at MSU. Incredible story of coming ashore at Normandy. Just after the June 1944 invasion… Highly recommended!

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Good Read – I Am Not The Same Girl: Renewed

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I Am Not The Same Girl: Renewed
by Stacy Lattisaw Jackson

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“I Am Not The Same Girl: Renewed” is the life story of Stacy Lattisaw. As a young Rhythm and Blues (R&B) singer, she completed a total of 12 albums and toured with Michael Jackson and the Jacksons. She traveled the world as a singer and shared the stage with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Teddy Pendergrass, Stephanie Mills, Johnny Gill, and a host of others. As she began to mature in age and mind, her desires began to change and she cried out to God and asked him to fill the void in her life. Soon after Stacy walked away from the secular music world and dedicated her life to the Lord. Today she is renewed and walking in the destiny that God has set for her life.

Brian Clardy says:

West Tennessee did not have the type of cosmopolitan glamor of its more urban counterparts, but young people were still able to stay current on the latest music by innovative artists. Whether it was Prince, the Rolling Stones, or the Charlie Daniels Band, area listeners bought records by artists that appealed to their imagination and sense of having good clean fun. One of those artists was Stacy Lattisaw.

Brian Clardy spoke over the phone with the author about her book.

Click here to listen to the interview.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Written by Matt Markgraf

July 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – The Return of the Native

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The Return of the Native
by Thomas Hardy

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One of Thomas Hardy’s most powerful works, The Return of the Native centers famously on Egdon Heath, the wild, haunted Wessex moor that D. H. Lawrence called “the real stuff of tragedy.” The heath’s changing face mirrors the fortunes of the farmers, inn-keepers, sons, mothers, and lovers who populate the novel. The “native” is Clym Yeobright, who comes home from a cosmopolitan life in Paris. He; his cousin Thomasin; her fiancé, Damon Wildeve; and the willful Eustacia Vye are the protagonists in a tale of doomed love, passion, alienation, and melancholy as Hardy brilliantly explores that theme so familiar throughout his fiction: the diabolical role of chance in determining the course of a life.

Kate Lochte says:

In February the National Symphony Orchestra performed Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe in the Carson Center in Paducah.  Its thrilling layered themes were enchanting.  Music for a ballet that debuted in Paris in 1912, the Ravel made me think the Hardy novel, Return of the Native.

Returning to the book, it was wonderful to come upon Hardy’s chapter “The Figure Against the Sky” when the tragic heroine of the book is listening to the wind on Egdon Heath (the wild setting of the intensely romantic tale):  “Part of its tone was quite special; what was heard there could be heard nowhere else.  Gusts in innumerable series followed each other from the northwest, and when each one of them raced past the sound of its progress resolved into three.  Treble, tenor, and bass notes were to be found therein.  The general ricochet of the whole over pits and prominences had the gravest pitch of the chime.  Next there could be heard the baritone buzz of a holly tree…” Ravel’s composition evokes the complicated music of the world turning as well.

Return of the Native’s main characters are either deeply at home on the Heath or yearning to escape its hold.  That’s the conflict as much as the unwise decisions about marriages less motivated by genuine affection than by desire to mate in one’s own class or above it, but certainly not below it.  Hardy’s love of descriptive prose clothes these simple plot lines in the beautiful dark finery of the natural setting.

If you enjoy being carried away into the wildness of the world and the human heart, this book might just be a good read for you, too.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Good Read – Across the Universe

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Across the Universe
by Beth Revis

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Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next. Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Matt Markgraf says:

One of the most anticipated young adult novels of the year. Publisher’s Weekly raved about the first chapter, when it was released several months before the book. I caught a glimpse then and was floored by the vivid detail, the rich and colorful details and the easing into the ‘rules’ of the science fiction world. The story begins with young Amy being freezed in a cryochamber as her family attempts to flee Earth. The second perspective follows Elder, the young leader-to-be of the spaceship Godspeed. Things, of course, go awry and their paths cross. Both characters are believable and refreshing and the spaceship is a fascinating microcosm of an idealistic sustainable earth. Any fan of sci-fi with a little romance will love Across the Universe.

Check out our Good Reads page for more recommended books.

Written by Matt Markgraf

June 27, 2011 at 11:45 am

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