Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte Books, 2017)
This new book by the author of the best-selling (and my personal favorite) Outlander series is not a full-length novel, but instead a collection of seven novellas. That’s what the “seven stones” refers to, and the “stand or fall” part, according to Gabaldon, refers to “people’s responses to grief and adversity.” Each novella tells a story that takes place in the universe of the series, with characters from the series. Most involve secondary characters (although several are about Lord John) and flesh out a situation referred to only briefly in the novels, for example, how Joan (Claire’s step-daughter) came to be a nun. Diana Gabaldon’s writing style makes all of the stories worth reading; readers will finish each one satisfied that a loose end has been tied up. I recommend this new book for all Outlander fans, although it will mean more to you if you’ve read the whole series and not just watched the tv show.
The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard (Penguin Books, 2017)
Although this book sounds like it might be science fiction from the title, it isn’t really. It’s just that a small piece of alternative history involving a tattoo machine that puts “epiphanies” onto people’s forearms has been inserted into ordinary 21st century New York City life. These messages are chosen by the machine, or possibly the machine’s operator, it’s not clear; not by the person who asks for a tattoo. The messages declare in a sentence or phrase some fundamental truth about the person’s character.
The protagonist of this novel is a man whose whole life revolves around the stories of people who get these tattoos (his parents, to start with) and what happens to them as a result. Said main character is basically a lazy person who spends most of his time thinking about or having sex, so writing about the epiphany machine (in a story-within-the story) is a great excuse for not accomplishing anything with his life. If you’re like me and instinctively dislike people like that, you will probably not enjoy this book. I didn’t. Your mileage may differ.
I found you: a novel by Lisa Jewell (Atria Books, 2017)
This seemingly ordinary novel about a single mom somewhere in England (I don’t know English geography very well) sort of turns into a murder mystery when we’re not looking. A man shows up in a beach town without his memory and the single mom takes him in (knowing this is probably a stupid move). Meanwhile other pieces of the story are narrated as seemingly separate stories about a young foreign bride and a family with two teenagers, which eventually all come together. This is a well-written novel which keeps the reader wondering what will happen next, without so much graphic violence that you can’t sleep until you’re done. The character development is also very good, and the descriptions of life in England are a change of pace for American readers. I will probably seek out other books by Lisa Jewell.
Filed under Fiction, Mystery
Media, Millennials, and Politics: The Coming of Age of the Next Political Generation by Alison N. Novak (Lexington Books, 2016)
This is an academic book written by a professor of communications at the university where I work, so most of you who follow my blog probably won’t have easy access to it. Nevertheless it was an interesting and well-written book that I learned a lot from. As the parent of two Millennials (adults under 35), I have been hearing lately about the concept of “millennial bashing” by the media. This book provides proof that it’s real. Dr. Novak collected and analyzed two datasets about media coverage of Millennials and politics: one included 50 randomly selected episodes of 6 cable tv news programs surrounding the 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections, and the other asked a cohort of actual Millennials to write journal entries after a weekly reading of the most popular articles on NewsWhip, an online news aggregator. Her analysis shows that despite turnout levels that likely swayed the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, Millennials as a group were consistently ignored, denigrated, and even vilified by large segments of the media. I was appalled to learn that the conservative news media actually accused Millennials of voting for Obama solely because he promised them “gifts” like free contraception and better student loan policies. Not surprisingly, Millennials in return showed little trust of media (even online media) as a source of political information.
All our wrong todays by Elan Mastai (Dutton Books, 2017)
So, this is another sci-fi book about time travel and all the ways it can go wrong. This is a slightly different take on it, where the main character comes from a 2016 in an alternate timeline which is a high-tech utopian version of today. It’s a lot like the future in the movie Tomorrowland – a future based on the 1964 World’s Fair. Of course, he screws things up and ends up in our world instead. Oddly he likes it better. Anyway, it’s an interesting (and fairly long) novel; if you like science fiction you’ll probably enjoy it.
Crosstalk by Connie Willis (Random House, 2016)
It’s always a good idea to visit your library or bookstore regularly, because sometimes you will discover that your favorite author has published a new book. Award-winning science fiction author Connie Willis has written another great novel, but this one involves neither history nor time travel. It simply takes the current world, in which we are connected 24/7, a step farther. What if someone invented a surgical procedure that would allow you to communicate telepathically with your romantic partner? What could go wrong? Read this book and find out!
Steal across the sky by Nancy Kress (Tor, 2009)
This science fiction story has a unique premise which I won’t reveal. You should read it for yourself. I will say that 21 humans are selected by an alien race to visit several planets and “witness” a situation that they are expected to bring back news about to the Earth. The book takes place in a near future (nearer now than it was in 2009) early 2020’s that is not much different from the present. It tells the story of several young people who are selected for space travel, interact with the people on the other planets, and come back changed. In fact more than half of the story is what happens when they come back. This is the sort of book you will have to read to the end before you can go to sleep.