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Showing posts from January, 2014

CBR6 #4: Poems New and Collected by Wisława Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska is one of my very favorite poets. Her work is often both abstract and specific, and she combines remarkably evocative imagery with a variety of emotions, ranging from frustration to detached interest to dry humor. She is one of the few things I got out of a college lit class that was worth remembering.

Poems New and Collected is a retrospective of her work, and spans forty years of poetry. My favorites were probably from the pieces published in her 1972 work Could Have, though I liked poems from her entire collection. She writes on a variety of themes, including love, death, and most often what it means to be a part of humanity, and the collective experience thereof. It's kind of interesting to see how the themes change and develop over the course of forty years of writing.

The piece below is an example of one of her shorter works, this time from 1957's Calling Out to Yeti.

FOUR A.M.

The hour between night and day.
The hour between toss and turn.
the hour of …

CBR6 #3: In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff

Stefanie Pintoff's debut novel was both a fantastic historical fiction and a compelling detective story.

It's 1905, and Detective Simon Ziele has moved out to the New York City suburbs after his fiancee perishes in the General Slocum disaster (that detail being what hooked me on the book in the first place, since that wreck is one I was very interested during my maritime disaster phase). He expects the life of a small-town policeman to be fairly quiet, but it isn't long before a horrific murder drops into his lap. The victim seems to have had many enemies, but none with a hatred violent enough to result in bloody homicide. Ziele is at a loss until Professor Alistair Sinclair shows up--Sinclair has been pioneering a field of criminal psychology at Columbia, and he thinks one of his test subjects might be the man the police are looking for...the only problem is finding him.

Ziele and Sinclair wind their way through the neighborhoods of old New York, coming into contact with …

CBR6 #2: The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff

The Harrowing would make a great movie. I'd cast Elizabeth Olsen as Robin, the depressed and lonely protagonist, spending her Thanksgiving break in a supposedly empty dorm. Brittany Snow as her nasty southern belle roommate Waverly, and Chris Hemsworth (or someone younger...I'm old and don't know who the current crop of stars in the "college student" age group are anymore) as Patrick, her jock boyfriend who also ends up staying behind. Rounding out the five "discarded" students who find themselves thrown together for three days in Baird College's Mendenhall dorm would be Eva Amurri as Lisa, the sexy bad girl, Kit Harrington as dark musician Cain, and Dane DeHaan as mousy nerd Martin. The five find themselves riding out a nasty storm together, and then of course they discover an old Ouija board...

This was actually a pretty gripping little horror story. The pace remained pretty consistent, and although the protagonist started out a little bit wh…

On Life: A Manifesto

Another new year.

Jesus, it seems like Thanksgiving was only last week and now suddenly we're halfway through January already. As I get older, it seems like time gets significantly more capricious each year. It's like "I can't wait for spring / where did spring go? / Why is it so hot? / Oh God, will it ever be warm again? / How can the holidays be here already I thought it was still summer?"

 At the end of last year, I was feeling kind of lost and directionless. A bit like a paper boat that had gotten stuck in an eddy--just swirling around and around in circles, not sure how to go forward...not even entirely certain which direction WAS forward. I was feeling trapped, with no idea what to do about it. Lucky for me, a good friend did me a solid and gently lifted my little boat out of the whirlpool, dispensing some good advice and depositing me back into the stream, ready to surge forward toward the horizon. (Thanks, friend. I hope to have the chance to return the f…

CBR6 #1: Combat Corpsman: A Navy SEAL Medic in Vietnam by Greg McPartlin

Another year, another Cannonball Read. Last year was something of an abject failure, as I didn't even manage to complete the quarter Cannonball (13 books read and reviewed -- I read plenty, but fell behind with the reviews and never caught up). However, it's a new year, which means a clean slate (at least as far as this little endeavor is concerned.) I've only signed up for the half-Cannonball, though I hope to manage the complete again this year.

Anyway, on to my first review of 2014! This book was a gift from the lovely llp (as part of the CBR gift exchange), to whom I am extremely grateful. I've been wanting this book for ages, but it refused to drop into my price range. 

Greg McPartlin's tale of his exploits as a corpsman attached to a SEAL team during the later years of the Vietnam conflict is pretty great. McPartlin's has a strong, likeable voice, and his tale is full of gripping combat adventures, the brotherhood of the military, and attempts to kee…