Let the Dead Speak

Let the Dead Speak
Let the Deak Speak by Jane Casey

The Long Haul

The Long Haul
The Long Haul by Finn Murphy

Monday, September 25, 2017

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds her mother missing, the house covered in blood. Everything points to murder, except for one thing: there’s no sign of the body.

London detective Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter and Chloe Emery definitely have something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighborhood’s favorite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat, or is there more behind the charismatic fa├žade?

As a body fails to materialize, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of testimonies and accusations. Who is lying, and who is not? And soon Maeve starts to realize that not only will the answer lead to Kate Emery, but more lives may hang in the balance.

With Let the Dead Speak, Jane Casey returns with another taut, richly drawn novel that will grip readers from the opening pages to the stunning conclusion.
 

LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


Let the Dead Speak (Maeve Kerrigan, #7)Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey is a 2017 Minotaur Books publication.

This series just may be nearing perfection-

I’ve been following this series from the beginning and it’s been an incredible journey. The series started off as a solid procedural, but over time has developed into a deeply complex and compelling crime drama.

In this seventh installment, we see Maeve enjoying a new promotion, which gives her more incentive to solve what turns out to be one of her most puzzling cases to date.

When Chloe leaves her scheduled visitation with her father and his new family, before her scheduled departure time, she arrives home to a house of horrors. Blood is everywhere, but her mother’s body is nowhere to be found.

Chloe is placed with a neighbor whose daughter, Bethany, is her closest friend. The girls are thick as thieves, harboring teenage secrets no one could guess at.

But, Chloe, is an unusual girl, her mother having kept her far too sheltered, which gives her a certain vulnerability due to her isolation, making her a little difficult to draw out, even for Maeve.

The suspects are plentiful, with religious zealots, shady neighbors, and Chloe’s step family all holding explosive secrets or playing their own angles.

Maeve is once again partnered with DI Josh Derwent and the pair has now relaxed into a working rhythm, although one doesn’t entirely trust the other. But, they have the added complication of dealing with a rookie who is ambitious, but annoying.

Maeve takes professional risks, walks an ethical tightrope at times, but has grown stronger, gained more self-confidence and has begun to win the battle over many of the demons that plague her.

There is a softer side to Josh, whose personal life as drastically changed, but on the job he is the same guy we all know and love- or hate- or both.

This case is one wild twisted ride, with darker psychological tones to go along with the standard police procedures. The atmosphere was tense right from the get-go and never let up, only intensifying as the case takes some shocking unexpected turns.

The ending nearly knocked my socks off. If this one doesn’t send a chill down your spine, I don’t know what will!!

I have really enjoyed watching this series develop. It has slowly turned into one of my favorite British procedurals. The stories become more tense, more complex, and riveting, as time goes by, and characters continue to grow and develop along with the storylines, keeping the dialogue and dynamics fresh and sharp.

This may be one of the best in the series to date! (I know, I think I said that about the last book, too, but they keep getting better and better!) Highly recommend!



GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Let-Dead-Speak-Mystery-Kerrigan-ebook/dp/B01N4MA5S6/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/let-the-dead-speak-jane-casey/1124362615

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jane Casey is an Irish-born author. She was born in Dublin in 1977 and grew up in Castleknock,  west of the center of Dublin. She studied English at Jesus College, Oxford.
Her first book, The Missing, was published by Ebury Press in February 2010. It was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award. She then began a series of novels featuring DC (Detective Constable) Maeve Kerrigan:The BurningThe ReckoningThe Last GirlThe Stranger You Know and The Kill (which was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award 2014). She has also begun a series of novels for young adults, featuring her character Jess Tennant: How to FallBet Your Life and Hide and Seek.

Friday, September 22, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Fans of Louise Fitzhugh's iconic Harriet the Spy will welcome 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce, the heroine of Canadian journalist Bradley's rollicking debut. In an early 1950s English village, Flavia is preoccupied with retaliating against her lofty older sisters when a rude, redheaded stranger arrives to confront her eccentric father, a philatelic devotee. Equally adept at quoting 18th-century works, listening at keyholes and picking locks, Flavia learns that her father, Colonel de Luce, may be involved in the suicide of his long-ago schoolmaster and the theft of a priceless stamp. The sudden expiration of the stranger in a cucumber bed, wacky village characters with ties to the schoolmaster, and a sharp inspector with doubts about the colonel and his enterprising young detective daughter mean complications for Flavia and enormous fun for the reader. Tantalizing hints about a gardener with a shady past and the mysterious death of Flavia's adventurous mother promise further intrigues ahead. 


READ AN EXCERPT:






MY REVIEW:



The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is a 2009 Delacorte Press publication.

Several years back, I received a copy of the fifth book in this series for review purposes. I had no idea I was agreeing to read a YA mystery, and was slightly irritated at myself for not researching the context before agreeing to review it.

But, once I started reading it, I realized the novel had a broad appeal, and YA can simply mean the characters are young, and doesn't necessarily imply it can't be enjoyed by adults, too.

I was so impressed by the book, I vowed to look up the first four installments and catch up with the series. Well, that was three years ago, so suffice it say, I got a little distracted somewhere along the way.

But, FINALLY, I have read this first installment, which catapulted the series into the public’s consciousness.

Flavia de Luce is eleven years old in 1950 and is an aspiring chemist. Not the normal goal for young ladies in this time period, and we learn pretty early on that her entire family is a more than a little eccentric.

The mystery heats up right away after Flavia finds a body in the cucumber garden, and her father becomes the prime suspect. In order to prove her father’s innocence, Flavia must investigate a sad episode in her father’s past, which is linked to a valuable stamp.

Flavia’s first person narrative is razor sharp, and laugh out loud funny. Her adventures are tense and suspenseful, and the secondary characters add just the right amount of support, while drawing a pointedly poignant portrait of Flavia, she would rather keep hidden.

As charming as she is, Flavia is also hurting, somewhat neglected, and left to her own devices more often than not, which brought out my maternal instincts, making me wish I could give her a fierce hug and reassure her, and assuage her fears, doubts, and insecurities.

The mystery is very well done, with several twists and surprises that place Flavia in direct danger, which adds a pretty intense level of suspense to the story.

I loved the strength Flavia displays, her courage, and willingness to do what it took to help her family, which makes her a positive figure for young readers and adults alike.

Other than being a huge Harry Potter fan, and having read The Hunger Games, I have pretty much skipped over the YA phenomenon for a variety of reasons. However, this series gets my stamp of approval, so far, and I am really looking forward to Flavia’s next adventure.


GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Sweetness-Bottom-Pie-Flavia-Novel-ebook/dp/B0027G6XDS/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sweetness-at-the-bottom-of-the-pie-alan-bradley/1100259021

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children's stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. His seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, "As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust" will be published in the US and Canada on January 6, 2015, and in the UK on April 23.

The first-ever Flavia short story, "The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse" has recently been published in eBook format, as has his 2006 memoir, "The Shoebox Bible".

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan -Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about  a  Palestinian family caught between present and past, between  displacement and home.

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. 

When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond. Soon Alia’s children begin families of their own, once again navigating the burdens (and blessings) of assimilation in foreign cities.

Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses is a remarkable debut novel that challenges and humanizes an age-old conflict we might think we understand—one that asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again. 

LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:







MY REVIEW:


Salt HousesSalt Houses by Hala Alyan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan is a 2017 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication.


Powerful, eye opening cultural family saga

This deeply absorbing novel follows a Palestinian family through several generations as they endure war, loss, and displacement.

As the story begins, Salma follows an old tradition of 'reading' the coffee dregs for her daughter, Alia, before her wedding.

What she sees, disturbs her, as it appears her daughter will lead an unsettled life, but she decides not to share her knowledge with anyone.

Yet, her predictions soon come to pass, as their family suffers a loss they never fully recover from and must leave the home they love.

Years later, Alia and her husband, who have settled in Kuwait, lose everything they built all over again.

The one thing I kept thinking as I read this story is how devastating war is. Politics, greed, and evil often work in tandem taking innocent lives and causing upheaval to those who only wish to carve out a comfortable life for themselves.

I know people adjust to living abroad if they deployed by the military or if they live in another country by choice, but how sad it must be to be forced to live somewhere you never fully feel ‘at home', or to have your family constantly uprooted.

It must, in some ways, feel as though their heritage has been robbed from them, their history and family ties watered down and dispersed over many places.

The historical details span several decades and gives the reader, especially people like myself, who knows very little about the Palestinian culture, a realistic glance at these events through their eyes, which is quite humbling and sobering.

Through this often forced migration, each member of the family is seemingly pulled in a different direction, with their root system yanked from them.

The women in this novel are highlighted more so than the men, not that the men play lesser roles, exactly. But, it is Salma, Alia and her daughter, Souad, who commands the pages. Their inner thoughts and the mother/daughter dynamic through generations is as normal as any, but with a different set of standards by which they often judged or criticized the other.

There is something indecent to Salma about how transparently Alia flourishes her emotions.

While this family avoids some of the truly horrible fates some have suffered because of war, but who, despite their advantages still loses the foundation they wish to build upon. Once displaced the family never seemed to find a real resting place within their hearts.

The story is told through the prospective of different characters, each bringing into focus a different feeling of conflict or of understanding or compromise.

Nostalgia is an affliction. Life a fever or a cancer, the longing for what had vanished wasting a person away. Not just the unbearable losses, but the small things as well.”

Ultimately, the story is compelling and touches on several important themes that are very much on our minds, but is also a rich family saga, with interesting and thoughtful characters.

Although, I am sure there are finer points to the story I failed to grasp, I still found this to be a very profound and thought -provoking novel.

GET YOUR COPY  HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Houses-Hala-Alyan-ebook/dp/B01I4FPM0A/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/salt-houses-hala-alyan/1124079672


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in Guernica and other literary journals. Her poetry collection ATRIUM was awarded the 2013 Arab American Book Award in Poetry, while her latest collection, HIJRA, was selected as a winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and published by Southern Illinois University Press. Her debut novel, SALT HOUSES, is forthcoming by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017. She is a Lannan fellow and currently resides in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Long Drop by Denise Mina- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

A standalone psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of the Alex Morrow novels that exposes the dark hearts of the guilty...and the innocent.

The "trial of the century" in 1950's Glasgow is over. Peter Manuel has been found guilty of a string of murders and is waiting to die by hanging. But every good crime story has a beginning. Manuel's starts with the murder of William Watt's family. Looking no further that Watt himself, the police are convinced he's guilty. Desperate to clear his name, Watt turns to Manuel, a career criminal who claims to have information that will finger the real killer. As Watt seeks justice with the cagey Manuel's help, everyone the pair meets has blood on their hands as they sell their version of the truth. The Long Drop is an explosive novel about guilt, innocence and the power of a good story to hide the difference.
 


READ AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


The Long DropThe Long Drop by Denise Mina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Long Drop by Denise Mina is a 2017 Little, Brown and Company publication.

This fictionalized account of Scotland’s notorious serial killer Peter Manuel is a gloomy and gritty portrayal of Glasgow in the 1950’s.

This unforgiving backdrop sets the stage for this story that centers around William Watt, a prime suspect in the killing of his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law. Watt, though, suspects Peter Manuel of the triple homicide. But was Watt as innocent as he claimed?

Watt and Manuel, ironically, end up going on an eleven hour bender together, a period of time that becomes a primary focus of the book, along with dialogue and testimony from the trial.

I had a very hard time getting into the book initially. I was totally unfamiliar with the case and the switch between Manuel and Watt’s night out together and the court testimony had me a little confused for a while.

But, then I remembered the book was based on a true story and decided to do a Google search. The background info really helped me to understand what was going on in the book and from then on I was much more invested.

What is so striking about this book is the stunning portrait of Glasgow’s underbelly and the brutal treatment and attitudes towards women in this time frame. It is a depressing setting, but incredibly realistic.

“To him they are no more that skin-covered stage flats in a play about him”

The psychological aspects are just as compelling, as are the court transcripts. The ‘pub crawl’ did take place, which is astonishing in itself, but the courtroom drama was utterly theatrical, with some poignancy as Manuel’s victims remembered their loved ones, their grief palpable.

The author did a very good job of capturing Manuel’s sociopathic and hardened psyche, which will give you an up close and personal look inside the mind a ruthless killer.

‘Peter Manuel does not know how other people feel. He has never known that. He can guess. He can read a face and see signs that tell him if someone is frightened or laughing. But, there is no reciprocation. He feels no small echo of what his listener is feeling.”


This is an interesting accounting of what is still considered by many as Scotland’s worst and most notorious serial killer.


                                                               PETER MANUEL

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but this wasn’t anywhere near what I was thinking the book would be like.

I think this blurb may have thrown me off course a little:


A standalone psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of the Alex Morrow novels that exposes the dark hearts of the guilty... and the innocent.

Despite the analysis of Peter Manuel and the study of his persona, and that of Watt, which provided plenty of psychological material, I don’t know if I would have described this book as a ‘psychological thriller’, at least not as we’ve come to define it currently, and this may have added to my initial frustrations.

However, once I warmed up to the subject, and understood where we headed, I found it to be a very interesting historical piece and crime novel.

I would like to come back to this book someday and approach it with the perspective I lacked going into it this first time around. I think the writing, which is spectacular once I finally got my bearings, would be better appreciated and knowing what to expect will allow me to focus on the story with more clarity.

Overall, this one got off to a rocky start, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I ended up feeling a great appreciation for the author’s angle on true events and the obvious amount of time and study she must have put in to create such a clear picture of the era, and the people involved in this grisly murder case.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Long-Drop-Novel-Denise-Mina-ebook/dp/B017RQP4G4/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-long-drop-denise-mina/1122910185

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Denise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Because of her father's job as an engineer, the family followed the north sea oil boom of the seventies around Europe, moving twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She left school at sixteen and did a number of poorly paid jobs: working in a meat factory, bar maid, kitchen porter and cook. Eventually she settle in auxiliary nursing for geriatric and terminal care patients.
At twenty one she passed exams, got into study Law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time. 
Misusing her grant she stayed at home and wrote a novel, 'Garnethill' when she was supposed to be studying instead. 
'Garnethill' won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasy Dagger for the best first crime novel and was the start of a trilogy completed by 'Exile' and 'Resolution'. 
A fourth novel followed, a stand alone, named 'Sanctum' in the UK and 'Deception' in the US. 

In 2005 'The Field of Blood' was published, the first of a series of five books following the career and life of journalist Paddy Meehan from the newsrooms of the early 1980s, through the momentous events of the nineteen nineties. The second in the series was published in 2006, 'The Dead Hour' and the third will follow in 2007.
She also writes comics and wrote 'Hellblazer', the John Constantine series for Vertigo, for a year, published soon as graphic novels called 'Empathy is the Enemy' and 'The Red Right Hand'. She has also written a one-off graphic novel about spree killing and property prices called 'A Sickness in the Family' (DC Comics forthcoming).
In 2006 she wrote her first play, "Ida Tamson" an adaptation of a short story which was serialised in the Evening Times over five nights. The play was part of the Oran Mor 'A Play, a Pie and a Pint' series, starred Elaine C. Smith and was, frankly, rather super.
As well as all of this she writes short stories published various collections, stories for BBC Radio 4, contributes to TV and radio as a big red face at the corner of the sofa who interjects occasionally, is writing a film adaptation of Ida Tamson and has a number of other projects on the go.









































































Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ghost of the Innocent Man- A True Story of Trial and Redemption- by Benjamin Rachlin- Feature and Review

ABOUT THE BOOK:
During the last two decades, more than two thousand American citizens have been wrongfully convicted. Ghost of the Innocent Man brings us one of the most dramatic of those cases and provides the clearest picture yet of the national scourge of wrongful conviction and of the opportunity for meaningful reform.

When the final gavel clapped in a rural southern courtroom in the summer of 1988, Willie J. Grimes, a gentle spirit with no record of violence, was shocked and devastated to be convicted of first-degree rape and sentenced to life imprisonment. Here is the story of this everyman and his extraordinary quarter-century-long journey to freedom, told in breathtaking and sympathetic detail, from the botched evidence and suspect testimony that led to his incarceration to the tireless efforts to prove his innocence and the identity of the true perpetrator. These were spearheaded by his relentless champion, Christine Mumma, a cofounder of North Carolina's Innocence Inquiry Commission. That commission-unprecedented at its inception in 2006-remains a model organization unlike any other in the country, and one now responsible for a growing number of exonerations.

With meticulous, prismatic research and pulse-quickening prose, Benjamin Rachlin presents one man's tragedy and triumph. The jarring and unsettling truth is that the story of Willie J. Grimes, for all its outrage, dignity, and grace, is not a unique travesty. But through the harrowing and suspenseful account of one life, told from the inside, we experience the full horror of wrongful conviction on a national scale. Ghost of the Innocent Man is both rare and essential, a masterwork of empathy. The book offers a profound reckoning not only with the shortcomings of our criminal justice system but also with its possibilities for redemption.


LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and RedemptionGhost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption by Benjamin Rachlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption by Benjamin Rachlin is a 2017 Little, Brown and Co. Publication.

"Our dangers do not lie in too little tenderness to the accused. Our procedure has been always haunted by the ghost of the Innocent man convicted. It is an unreal dream.”

This is an astounding nonfiction accounting of a Willie J. Grimes’ wrongful conviction in 1988, the beginning of ‘The Innocence Project’, and the long, hard fought battle to free an innocent man of a crime he did not commit.

As we know, our perceptions and trust in our judicial – law and order – system has changed drastically over the past several decades. With DNA evidence exonerating so many wrongfully convicted people, the system has come under even closer scrutiny, to the point where even hardcore believers in capital punishment no longer advocate for it, not because they stopped believing in the death sentence, but because they are worried to death that an innocent person might die for a crime they didn’t commit.

While, a good majority of those sitting in prisons are guilty of the crimes they are accused of, there are more and more cases like Willie Grimes coming to light. Part of the reason why is because of forensics, and high -profile cases picked up by the media. But, credit must be given to ‘The Innocence Project’, as well.


While all of these cases are absolutely heartbreaking, the case of Willie Grimes is especially hard to take. Willie worked two jobs and was in a stable relationship. But, when an elderly woman was raped, Willie was misidentified as the perpetrator, and the investigators knew it and helped the erroneous information along.

Willie did what he could to fight his conviction, even while he suffered though horrible depression and illness.

The one bright spot for Willie and others in his position was the interest and involvement of Chris Mumma, who picked up his file.


Willie with his attorneys- featuring Chris Mumma



The road was long, filled with disappointments and setbacks, but after twenty-four years in prison, Willie was finally exonerated.

This book highlights the ways wrongful convictions can occur, with law enforcement not following up, ignoring facts, creating evidence, coupled with eyewitness mistakes, in regards to identification, or with the defendant having limited legal recourse.

In the hurry to close cases, a multitude of mistake can happen, investigations are lazy/ dirty/messy- or alternative suspects are not pursued. It is a travesty. Not only do the innocent lose years of their lives they will never be able to get back or do over, but justice is not being served.

How many other women were raped because the wrong guy was convicted? How many people are walking around free as a bird, after having committed a crime, while someone else is languishing in prison or worse- on death row?

This is a very thought-provoking book, which is extremely well written and organized. It stays on topic without straying off course or going on long diatribes or preachy soap box sermons. The author keeps the book pretty much about Willie Grimes and his life in prison, how he coped, how he fought, and about Chris Mumma and the Innocence Project who noticed all the discrepancies in Willie’s case and worked to bring his plight back into the court system. Once someone is behind bars, it is very, very difficult to get a conviction overturned or get a new trial, even when there is overwhelming evidence of innocence.

Thankfully, in Willie’s case, everyone’s hard work paid off and he managed to get his moment of redemption.

Willie’s story angered me, frustrated me, and it was certainly a depressing and gloomy journey, but at the same time, I was buoyed by time and energy people put in to see that Willie’s case was finally heard.


Overall, this book is an important book, one of justice denied and justice found. There are thousands of people in prison for crimes they did not commit. It is as important as ever to prevent anyone from spending a day behind bars for a crime they are innocent of, and to incarcerate those who are guilty of those crimes, which makes organizations like The Innocence Project necessary.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Innocent-Man-Story-Redemption-ebook/dp/B01N7EQMWJ/


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghost-of-the-innocent-man-benjamin-rachlin/1125283991


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Benjamin Rachlin grew up in New Hampshire. He studied English at Bowdoin College, where he won the Sinkinson Prize, and writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he won Schwartz and Brauer fellowships. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, TIME, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives near Boston.

Monday, September 18, 2017

MONDAY'S MUSICAL MOMENT- Dig, if you will the Picture: The Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince by Ben Greenman- Feature and Review



A unique and kaleidoscopic look into the life, legacy, and electricity of the pop legend Prince and his wideranging impact on our culture

Ben Greenman, New York Times bestselling author, contributing writer to the New Yorker, and owner of thousands of recordings of Prince and Prince-related songs, knows intimately that there has never been a rock star as vibrant, mercurial, willfully contrary, experimental, or prolific as Prince. Uniting a diverse audience while remaining singularly himself, Prince was a tireless artist, a musical virtuoso and chameleon, and a pop-culture prophet who shattered traditional ideas of race and gender, rewrote the rules of identity, and redefined the role of sex in pop music.

A polymath in his own right who collaborated with George Clinton and Questlove on their celebrated memoirs, Greenman has been listening to and writing about Prince since the mid-eighties. Here, with the passion of an obsessive fan and the skills of a critic, journalist, and novelist, he mines his encyclopedic knowledge of Prince’s music to tell both his story and the story of the paradigm-shifting ideas that he communicated to his millions of fans around the world. Greenman's take on Prince is the autobiography of a generation and its ideas. Asking a series of questions--not only “Who was Prince?” but “Who wasn’t he?” and “Who are we?”--Dig if You Will the Picture is a fitting tribute to an extraordinary talent.



READ AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of PrinceDig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince by Ben Greenman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dig if you Will, The Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince by Ben Greenman is a 2017 Henry Holt & Company publication.


‘Science-fiction authors have played around with the idea of extreme longevity and what effect it might have on the human psyche, speculating that if humans lived to be a thousand years old, they’d be so preoccupied with protecting that lifespan, that they would never even cross the street. Prince took the opposite tack, and then some.”

Before you begin reading this book, be sure to take note of these words in the title: ‘The Music of Prince’.

This is NOT a biography, but more of a fan driven homage to Prince and his music with many interesting and thought -provoking insights. However, it rarely delves too deeply into the personal life of Prince.

Having said that, it would be impossible to ignore some personal aspects, and to leave them out entirely would have been a big mistake, but, when the time came to address those issues, the author gave the least amount of information possible, and did not linger on them for long. In fact, it was almost as if it made him squirm and he wanted to gloss it over and move on as quickly as possible.

So, if you are looking for a definitive biography that digs deeply into the life of this iconic musician, as well as his musical talents, this is not the book you are looking for.

However, if you are a rabid fan- loved Prince’s music, style, fashion, and mystique and would like to take a closer look at his musical influence and public life, this book will give you plenty to reminisce about.

For me, this book was a like skipping down memory lane. I was reminded of so many Prince moments I’d forgotten all about overtime, and discovered others I was totally unaware of.

To be honest, I liked Prince, enjoyed his music and aura, but at best, I was only a casual fan. Still who could forget the VMA when he wore those yellow ‘assless’ pants?

Have you ever watched that awkward interview he did with Dick Clark on American Bandstand? I had not. In fact, I never even knew Prince had made an appearance on the show. You have to look that up on YouTube.




 From a nostalgic standpoint, these reminders of Prince’s early career moments are fun pop culture snapshots that show how his styles and music changed and developed over the course of time.

But, this is not just a book packed with trivial ‘fan book’ facts. The author goes into deeper discussions about the themes represented in the music, as well as career highs and lows, who he was influenced by, his need for control and his battles for individuality, while maintaining a mass appeal to such an incredibly broad audience.






“One bear said,
‘Did you hear about Rustam?’
He has become famous
And travels from city to city
In a golden cage;

He preforms to hundreds of people
Who laugh and applaud
His carnival
Stunts.”

The other bear thought for
A few seconds
Then started
Weeping”

Hafiz



This book explores song meanings, sexuality, spirituality, and race, but also highlights life on the road, performances, and Prince’s fight with recording studios and for the rights to his songs, the snafu over copyrights in the age of the internet and the integrity of his art, the importance of his privacy and how he did things, for better or worse, in the way he thought was best, and would grant him the creative license he needed.

Knowing what we know now, this book could have had a sad, melancholy tone, but it doesn’t. It steers far from the very dark and still secretive life of Prince and stays focused, as much as possible, on his music and career.

The only downside, is that in this author’s eyes, Prince could do no wrong, and so everything he did or said was given a positive spin with some excuses stretching the limits just a wee bit, and it appears that the author is still trying to wrap his head around the darker areas of his idol’s life, still clinging to that persona he has etched in his memory.

However, to this day, my favorite memory of Prince- is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony when he joined Tom Petty on a star- studded stage and literally blew everyone away with his guitar solo in “My Guitar Gently Weeps" I am amazed. The guy was absolutely incredible.

https://youtu.be/efhlDbZ4SmY

Even though I’m not necessarily the targeted audience for this type of book, I did find enjoy the exploration of the music and the unique perspectives given of Prince’s professional journey.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a big fan, for the pop culture enthusiast, or for those who might wish to take an in depth look at Prince’s art and music without it being bogged down by too much personal drama.





  GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Dig-If-You-Will-Picture-ebook/dp/B01MRU59CS/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dig-if-you-will-the-picture-ben-greenman/1125258100

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Ben Greenman is a New York Times best   bestselling author who has written both fiction and nonfiction. He is the author of several acclaimed works of fiction, including the novel The Slippage and the short-story collections What He’s Poised to Do and Superbad. He is the co-author of the bestselling Mo' Meta Blues with Questlove, the bestselling I Am Brian Wilson with Brian Wilson, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? with George Clinton, and more. His fiction, essays, and journalism have appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post, Paris Review, Zoetrope: All Story, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere, and have been widely anthologized. His most recent book is Dig If You Will The Picture, a meditation on the life and career of Prince.

Friday, September 15, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Circle by Dave Eggers- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:


When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
 




READ AN EXCERPT: 





MY REVIEW:


The CircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Circle by Dave Eggers is a 2013 Knopf publication.

This book was recommended to me by someone recently, but I wasn’t sure if it was really my kind of book. Many folks had marked it as ‘Dystopian’ and I’m not as big on that trend as everyone else, so I waffled a little, but ultimately chose to borrow it from the library.

Reading the editorial reviews, one described this book as a parable. I can’t think of a more apt word than that for this novel.

Even in just three short years, since this book was published, many of the very things the novel cautions us about are coming to fruition. Frankly, this book was rather startling and scarier than anything I could have chosen in the paranormal or horror genre.

This is an interesting expose that naturally conjures up images of various ‘tech campuses’, and our loss of privacy in the social media age.

There are interesting parallels and a lot to mull over in this cautionary tale, and overall, the story is well written, suspenseful, and doesn’t seem all that far -fetched, in fact much of it is plausible, which is what I found so disturbing about it.

While this sort of book is not usually my cup of tea, and you won’t see me searching out similar material anytime soon, I have to confess I liked the book better than I thought I would, and can understand why is was recommended to me. It is definitely thought provoking, chilling, and had me turning and tossing for a couple of nights wondering if we are heading in exactly this direction….

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Circle-Dave-Eggers-ebook/dp/B00EGMQIJ0/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-circle-dave-eggers/1116350937


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Dave Eggers is the author of ten books, including most recently Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, The Circle and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and a monthly magazine, The Believer. McSweeney’s also publishes Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. Eggers is the co-founder of 826 National, a network of eight tutoring centers around the country and ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization that connects students with resources, schools and donors to make college possible.