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review 2017-05-22 18:35
Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman
Black Mad Wheel: A Novel - Josh Malerman

Black Mad Wheel is a story which defies categorization and instead focuses on delivering characters that you like and can believe in.

 

The Danes are a band consisting of ex-army men, (even if they were only in the army band), who are asked by the military to investigate a noise in the African desert. I know it sounds crazy, and maybe it is, but I found it be compelling dark fiction.

 

From Philip's point of view, (Philip being the band's keyboard player), the narrative switches between the trip to Africa and the present, in which he is hospitalized with every. single. bone. in his body broken. He wakes up not quite remembering everything that happened to him or what happened to the rest of the band. The very fact that he wakes up at all is a miracle. Or is it?

 

Featuring some of the creepiest scenes I've read in quite some time, the author's talent for dark fiction really shines through. I doubt that I'll ever look at a goat in the same way again and I'll probably freak out if I ever see a red piano in real life. I loved the writing and the descriptive scenes and I even loved reading about the two prior military teams that were sent to investigate this mystery sound. (Not to mention the story of the couple native to that part of the desert-it was truly disturbing.) The only difficulty I had was that the premise wasn't really believable-at least not to me. However, I suspended my disbelief, and once I did, I just went along for the ride and what a ride it was!

 

If you've ever felt a song in your heart, I believe you'll be able to identify with Philip and Ellen, his nurse, because it's the music they discover is a common bond between them. The ties between band members are also incredibly strong, (especially when they've been together as long as The Danes), and those connections are not easily broken. (In this respect, Black Mad Wheel reminds me of Robert McCammon's THE FIVE, easily one of the best fictional books about a band that I've ever read.) The last scene nearly broke my heart and I can't think of a more perfect ending.

 

Music, mystery, desert mines and mad doctors, (oh, didn't I mention that before?): with all that going on how can you resist reading this book? You know you want to! Go ahead: invest yourself in Black Mad Wheel , at the very least you'll be intrigued. At the very best, you will end up making space on your bookshelf at home-the one that houses all your favorite books. Highly recommended!

 

Available everywhere tomorrow, May 23, 2017 here: Black Mad Wheel: A Novel

 

*Thank to Ecco books and to Edeweiss for the e-ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This is it. *

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review 2017-05-20 22:08
33 1/3 Greatest Hits, Volume 1 -
33 1/3 Greatest Hits, Volume 1 - David Barker

Nick Hornby recommended several of the individual books, so I wanted to check out the series. I only read the pieces about albums I knew, but the ones I read I really enjoyed.

Library copy

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review 2017-05-19 17:56
The violinist from Bulgaria
The Shadow Land - Elizabeth Kostova

Because I loved The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, it really wasn't a difficult decision to pick up her newest novel, The Shadow Land. This book takes place in Bulgaria which is a land I am not at all familiar with beyond Viktor Krum and his Quidditch teammates. (I hope you know what that references because if you don't...let me know so I can review them for you.) You couldn't get further from witches and wizards with this book. The main character, Alexandra, is an American who travels to Bulgaria with emotional baggage (which I honestly could have cared less about) and an intent to teach English. Instead she stumbles into a mystery and a lot of dramatic intrigue. The cast of characters includes but is not limited to a wily taxi driver, an elderly artist, a menacing statesmen with flowing locks, and an intelligent street dog. I was expecting a lot from this novel and I have to admit that I came away disappointed. The characters weren't nearly as compelling or detailed as those in The Historian. **Possible spoilers ahead** The entire backstory of the main character turned out to be pointless. I had thought that there would be some kind of twist at the end but that did not turn out to be the case. For the most part, it was pretty predictable. **No spoilers beyond this point** Kostova still remains impressive when it comes to describing setting and events but as mentioned above the characters felt flat and one-dimensional. However, if you're a fan of historical fiction that is chock full of detailed descriptions then you're probably going to be a fan of Kostova's writing and if you're particularly interested in Bulgaria then you couldn't go amiss with this one. For me, I'm sorry to say, it's a 5/10.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2017-05-15 19:58
Warning: grumpy post

Apparently, The Eurovision Song Contest is over. I say apparently, since I don't keep up with these things. Usually, my mom does, for some weird reason, but this time she only watched some of it and mercifully spared my sister and me the whole house shaking ear drum breaking noise attack. Do I sound negative? Sorry. I'm having a bad day.

When my sister and I got curious, after the fact, as it were, about why many people were unhappy about the song that won, we decided to listen to a minute or so of each of the top ten songs. So we did, and I quickly realized that while the winning song definitely wasn't my thing, I could tell that it actually was a good quality song. The others were meh at best. To me, that is. I'm not judging the people who liked the others.

All this is just a prelude to what I really wanted to say.

I feel out of touch with the world. And considering the way the world is going, that's fine with me. But it does make me feel like some weird freak. I hate the music most people like. I hate most tv series and movies released these days. I hate the aggressive marketing strategies that most people seem to take in their stride. It makes me sound like some grumpy old 100-year-old and I hate that too. LOL.

So - what did I want to say? I'm not sure. Maybe that I want to take my family and find some out of the way place and at least be safe, if not happy. And dive into books and (probably old) movies and tv series and forget about the rest of the world.

Source: crimsoncorundum.dreamwidth.org
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review 2017-05-14 04:08
A Sensitive Novel About Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge
Music of the Ghosts - Vaddey Ratner

Music of the Ghosts, Vaddey Ratner, author; Jennifer Ikeda, narrator

America’s part in bringing about the revolution in Cambodia is painful to acknowledge. It seems to have been one of the catalysts that brought death and destruction to the country and helped to inspire the rise of the Khmer Rouge, a brutal regime. Although it promised to bring about a more equitable, democratic environment for all, as is often the case, there is no utopia, and instead, the horrific policies of the Khmer Rouge were responsible for a widespread abuse of power that wreaked havoc upon the people. Pol Pot, inspired by Mao Tse-tung and Marx, set up a brutal, violent and vicious regime. Thousands upon thousands lost their lives. Those who were considered enemies of the regime, sometimes seemingly at random, were arrested, tortured and murdered. They simply disappeared. Families were torn apart and left to mourn their losses without explanation or recourse. They never found out about the circumstances surrounding their kin’s imprisonment and/or death. The author’s own history and family experiences inspired this work of fiction.

This is a story about a great tragedy, but out of the landscape of horror, against all odds, hope eventually rose up to allow the country and its people to renew itself and begin again. As the tale moved back and forth in time, focusing on one or another of the characters, it presented the reader with the history of Cambodia, the culture of the people and their motives for supporting the Khmer Rouge with ultimately disastrous results for so many. At times it is a love story and at times a story of revolution and its consequences. It is a story of familial love and devotion, betrayal and loyalty. It is the story of Suteera and the Old Musician as their two generations united and began to understand what led to their misfortunes. It was in this way that they were able to forgive themselves for real and perceived wrongdoing and then to forgive and accept each other. They were able to begin again to love and respect their country and their culture and to return to the simplicity of their way of life.

Suteera Aung was 12 years old when she and her Aunt Amara escaped death in Cambodia. They made their way to America and resettled in Minnesota. The rest of her family had succumbed to the violence and war in Cambodia. Upon Amara's death, Teera decided to return to Cambodia. She brought her aunt's ashes with her to be left at the Temple there that Amara had continued to support throughout her life in America. She had also received a letter from someone who had been imprisoned with her father during Pol Pot's regime. He had sheltered with the monks at that temple for the last quarter century. He had some of her father's musical instruments. Both men had been musicians. He wanted to return them to their rightful owner as he had been charged to do so, by her father before his death.

When Teera returns to the country of her birth, she is drawn to her past and her heritage. She meets the other man who once loved her mother and who knew her father. He had sheltered with the monks at the temple supported by her aunt for the last quarter of a century. She also meets a former monk, Dr. Narunn, and as her heart opens to him and she learns of her father’s shared past with the Old Musician, she begins to discover the truth behind the inhumane cruelty they both suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. She begins to understand her own anger and discovers she can love again and forgive those who have hurt her. Although she has lived in America for much of her life, she finds she loves her own country even with its poverty and need, or perhaps because of it. There are few creature comforts, but it calls to her; after all, she thinks, how much does she really need? She has witnessed the suffering of orphans and survivors and she wants to help others more than she wants luxuries for herself. As the novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge, the author reminds us that it also tells the story of survivors and their path to forgiveness.

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