Alas, Babylon!  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Alas, BabylonImage via WikipediaAlas, Babylon

Alas, Babylon!

By Pat Frank, 1959, from the library

You should know

I love good science fiction, and this is apparently considered among the best science fiction out there.

So?

In this story, the United States is hit by multiple nuclear attacks, and a small town in Florida narrowly misses being hit by fallout.  Randy Bragg, the protagonist, takes it on himself to protect and care for his family, his neighbors, and soon, the town.

In addition to being a compelling story (I read most of it in a single night), it is one that offers much to think about.  Much of the story is a product of its time, the late fifties, and it spins out what would be considered most valuable as time goes by.  No doubt you've thought to stock up on canned goods and bottled water in case of an emergency, but I for one never thought of salt, flour, yeast, or needles and thread.  Which I really should have.

There are some mildly sexist themes in the book, but nothing unexpected given the context (the women are considered strong and indispensable... but relatively useless when lacking the guidance of a man) and race issues are handled carefully, the author pointing out the issues of the 1950s south without becoming too preachy or self-satisfied when his heroes overcome their biases with ease. (NB: I say this as a white northerner, so feel free to disagree if your personal context allows you to see something I missed.)

It's a great post-apocalyptic survival tale, all told.

Rating

Read it if...
You like survival tales, post-apocalyptic fiction, or just really well-written fiction.

The rest of the Internet

A reflection on the book and its author, 50 years later.
LobaBlanca found Alas, Babylon to be far superior to The Road.
You can like the book on Facebook
Dhymna at Culinary Carnivale finds the book horribly underrated and overlooked on many lists of the best post-apocalyptic books.
Dame Durden at Dewey Decimal Shenanigans take issue with the idea that this is just another boring required-reading assignment.
Q at The Science Fiction Expert remarks on how optimistic the book is given the subject material.
The obligatoryWikipedia, LibraryThing and SparkNotes pages.

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Lawrence of Arabia (Post in Progress)  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cover of "Lawrence of Arabia (Single Disc...Cover via Amazon

Lawrence of Arabia

1962, from television

You should know

For some time, I've been wanting to view the AFI's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.  It recently occurred to me that, since we have a TiVo, all I have to do is plug the names of the movies in, and every few days a new film will be waiting for me.  Nice.

So?

This movie is a dramatization of part of the life of D. H. Lawrence.  I want to say it was fascinating and full of drama.  Parts of it were.

Basically, Lawrence, a British officer, takes it on himself to work with the local Arab population where he is stationed.  He takes on their dress and some of their habits -- and, of course, their cause -- and becomes a local hero.  The British don’t want to take him seriously, but his unorthodox methods eventually make him the only man for the job when the British and Arabs need to broker agreements.

But, as an epic of its time, the movie was full of panoramic shots of sandy desert dunes or colorful camps.  Lovely cinematography, but in every case, after a minute or two of it, I would get distracted -- and the next thing I know, there’s important dialogue happening that I can barely follow.  So that didn’t help.
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Abundence (Post in Progress)  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, in coronati...Image via Wikipedia

Abundance

By Sena Jeter Naslund, 2006, from the library

You should know

I'm not really into the French Revolution, but I do enjoy compelling biographies and well-written historical fiction from time to time.  This was recommended via Twitter.

So?

This is a novelized version of the life of Marie Antoinette.  I don’t know enough about her historical life to tell you how accurate it is or is not, but it was an engaging read.

The book begins as the Marie is leaving home for the first time to marry the young prince she has never met.  It continues as she adapts to French life in general and the royal court in specific, hears about wars and revolutions abroad and at home, and finally ends at the guillotine.  This is presumably not a spoiler, and if you didn’t know going in how it ends, shame on you.

Much of the book is presented in the form of letters between Marie and her family and confidantes.  This adds some nice outside perspective to a novel that is otherwise told from the protagonist’s point of view.

Rating

A pretty good beach read.
Much of it reads like a period romance novel, but the intrigue gives it a bit more weight.  Obviously, it doesn’t have a happy ending, but it’s light enough overall.
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Other People's Reviews: Split Decision  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY - JANUARY 13:  Contestant...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeGame nights are fun.  Ken Jennings is really smart.  So when Ken and his family play-test a new board game, I pay attention to his response.

Split decision looks like a lot of fun, and an Apples-to-Apples style good time for adults who want to kick back and goof off as they compete.  I'd be willing to play it, and you should read the review and see if you'd like to, too.




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Blackbirds (Post in Progress)  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I was chatting with a fellow blogger recently, and mentioned to him that I have a ton of half-written reviews waiting to be finished and posted.  He suggested I just post what I have and finish them as I go.  If this is a good idea, he gets the credit.  If this is a bad idea, he was kidding and it's all on me.  Either way, go check out his blog: The GIN is IN.


Blackbirds

41-19 30th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11103

You should know

Chris and I decided to go for a walk in the new neighborhood late one Sunday night and see what kind of dining establishments were still serving dinner.

One little place had drink specials and wing specials during all football games, and since one was on at that moment, we figured, "Why not?"

So?

So of course Chris was nice and distracted by the game, but I expected that.  He got the wings ("1/2 dozen or one dozen.  Hot, medium, sweet & sour, and honey bbq, and I got a Blackbird's Burger("8-oz. burger served with fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion. Add 50¢ for a topping of your choice: bleu cheese, american, cheddar, mozzarella, sauteed mushrooms, sautéed onions, or bacon.  Add 1 dollar for avocado or goat cheeseburger.")  Of course, the game night menu is not as clear as the online menu as to what does or does not count as an additional topping, so I ended up paying a little more than I expected, but it was still good.  The food was good, but not especially impressive.

To drink, I got a Coney Island Lager ("A hybrid mash up of styles between European brewing traditions. Very unusual malt bill and hops that nod strongly at American craft"), which was nice but not amazing, and Chris got a Franziskaner.

The burger was excellent, and Chris enjoyed their wings, though so many places have wing specials that he won't get them unless he's getting the beer included, as well (which is a feature of their late-night menu).

Since then, we've gone back multiple times, usually when we want a late dinner and everyone else has stopped serving food.

Rating

Check it out if you're in the neighborhood
It's definitely worth stopping by if you're around, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to recommend traveling to get there.

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Your Mission: Children's books edition  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Picturebook1Image via WikipediaNow that I'm at an age where friends are beginning to have children, I've decided that I'm going to be that family friend -- for good or ill -- and try to give the gift of a love of reading.

I'm collecting a list of beloved children's books, from board books through first readers into YA and teen-friendly adult books.  The current list spans from Where's Spot through East of Eden, if you're looking for a range.  I'm especially hoping for books I remember loving as a kid, but have forgotten (but there's a handful of people whom I'll let vouch for a book, if I've never read it).

So your mission is to let me know which books you read until the covers fell off when you were a kid.

Note: if it's a series, no problem, but ideally I'll just pass along the first book unless/until the child expresses an interest in it. See: The Baby-Sitters Club (#1 Kristy's Great Idea); Animorphs (#1 The Invasion); Goosebumps (#1 Welcome to Dead House).

And don't worry -- if I give your child a book she already owns, I encourage you to pass it along to a friend or a charity.  Spread the words!

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Mothers and Other Liars  

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mothers and Other Liars

Mothers and Other Liars


2010, by Amy Bourret

You should know


I got this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.

So?


Ruby Leander, a young woman who lost all her ties to her old home, decided to randomly head west, where she found an abandoned baby.  She took the child in and built a life for herself and her new daughter, Lark.

Years later, Lark's true origins come to light, and Ruby must face her daughter's horror, her boyfriend's conflicted morality, Lark's biological family's demands, and the justice system's insistence that Ruby is a heartless kidnapper. Ruby is faced with sorting through her years of lies and omissions to get to what is best for her family.

Rating

Consider it for a beach read
It’s a cute book, engaging enough while I read it but fairly forgettable once I put it down.

The rest of the Internet

Amy Bourret’s official site.
The LibraryThing page.
The Facebook community.
Read an excerpt at She Loves Hot Reads.
Nely at All About (n) praises the book.
Lazygal at Killin’ Time Reading finds certain themes in the book problematic.
Jacki at Lovely Little Shelf compares the book favorably to the works of Jodi Piccoult.
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