Chuck Wendig: Blackbirds, Mockingbird

The first time Miriam Black touches you, she can see how/when/where you’re going to die. (The death scenes delivered to the reader usually have an ironic or morbidly slapstick component, kinda like the pre-credit sequences of Six Feet Under; seems Miriam rarely touches people who slip away uneventfully.) When we meet Miriam she’s given upContinue reading “Chuck Wendig: Blackbirds, Mockingbird”

Aryn Kyle: Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories

My friend Terri wrote a scathing review of this book, and it acted on me like the classic spoiled milk skit: “Ugh, it’s terrible! Here, taste it!”* I was perversely curious, and after noticing that other reviews of the book seemed wildly polarized — love it/hate it, not much inbetween — I was downright intrigued.Continue reading “Aryn Kyle: Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories”

Dirk Hayhurst: The Bullpen Gospels

I had somewhat ambivalent reactions to The Bullpen Gospels, but on the whole I was entertained. Hayhurst looks at baseball from the unusual perspective of a perennial minor leaguer. He’s someone (this is my judgment, not his) without enough potential to get promoted rapidly to MLB status, but too potentially useful as a sort ofContinue reading “Dirk Hayhurst: The Bullpen Gospels”

Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages

A history of female pirates faces formidable challenges: career criminals tends to be systematically sensationalized and mythologized, pirates were overwhelmingly from a socio-economic class virtually ignored by traditional historians, and the doings — or even presence — of women is likewise ignored by many historical sources. A handful of female pirates left a verifiable historyContinue reading “Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages”

Dave Shelton: A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

This is an odd little book for sure. Shelton’s illustrations have some of the whimsy of Peggy Fortnum’s classic drawings of Paddington Bear, but the story of this unnamed ursine and lad, though grounded in a wealth of specific physical detail, is almost certainly too amorphous for most children’s taste. The book plainly operates atContinue reading “Dave Shelton: A Boy and a Bear in a Boat”

T. A. Pratt: Blood Engines

Blood Engines is a contemporary fantasy, but tonally the works it most reminded me of were Zelazny’s Amber books — especially the latter set centered around Merle — and Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels. Protagonist Marla Mason displays a similar flexible morality, penchant for multi-flavored mayhem, and degree of badassedness. There’s also a dash ofContinue reading “T. A. Pratt: Blood Engines”

Lee Carroll: Black Swan Rising

I found myself dawdling as I got near the end of Black Swan Rising, because I didn’t want to reach the end. The broad strokes of Garet James’ story follow a familiar template (make allies/learn skills/face a rising evil) but the details feel surprisingly fresh. The husband-and-wife authorial team (Carol Goodman/Lee Slonimksy) offer a takeContinue reading “Lee Carroll: Black Swan Rising”

Debbie Millman: Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits

Brand Thinking offers 22 short interviews with an astounding array of heavy hitters in branding, identity design, and related disciplines. It’s a fascinating and invigorating read. Millman coaxes the likes of Tom Peters and Karim Rashid into moments of almost shocking candor; Dori Tunstall and Alex Bogusky unflinchingly address issues of social and environmental responsibility;Continue reading “Debbie Millman: Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits”

Steve Brezenoff: Brooklyn, Burning

Brooklyn, Burning is set among a community of teens in the punk scene on the edge of homelessness. This is triple jeopardy territory to write about without coming off as condescending, dated, or moralizing, but Brezenoff uses some clever tricks to pull it off. His first person narrative voice is credible: sharp about some things,Continue reading “Steve Brezenoff: Brooklyn, Burning”

Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill : Black Mass – The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob

The arrest of James “Whitey” Bulger this past June left me feeling like I was missing too much context: it clearly closed a significant chapter for my new home, and I had only a vague (and mostly incorrect, it turns out) awareness of his role in Boston history. And I’d seen people reading Black MassContinue reading “Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill : Black Mass – The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob”