Showing posts from January, 2012

Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I am all about character, and Jonathan Safran Foer 's novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close , is full of them Oskar is an exceptional young man. Possibly autistic (though never identified as such), he feels disconnected and is more than a little eccentric. He speaks French and carries a tambourine everywhere. He lives across the street from his grandmother, with whom he speaks via walkie-talkie and through notes on their respective windows.  He is somewhat bullied in school, but that doesn't seem to bother him much. He doesn't even bother marching: he is a different drum. He is bereft and untethered to the world since the death of his father, a jeweler by trade, who had an appointment at the Windows on the World on September 11, 2001. The world is a different place now, two years later, where subways and tall buildings are unsafe, where his father's last conversation with him is pregnant with hidden meanings — and life is a mystery he has to unravel by himsel

Going Black Against SOPA and PIPA

On Wednesday, January 18, I will join Wikipedia, Reddit and George Takei others by "going dark," or at least refrain from posting anything on the Web on my blogs. I'll let Wikipedia do the talking: The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate – that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia. Click here for more information.  (Just don't try it Wednesday.) I am suspicious of government control of information, whether it's telling me what I can access or trying to get more than they should about me without going through the channels set up to protect my constitutional rights.   I am not keen on the PATRIOT Act .  President Obama's decision to extend it in 2011 is one of my greatest disappointments of his tenure in the White House. Our freedo

Review: One of Our Thursdays is Missing

Jasper Fforde could not disappoint any of his devoted readers, not even in the bleakest of circumstances. I wasn't in the mood for One of Our Thursdays is Missing , the latest installment of the Thursday Next series. That, of course, is when it's needed most — so I soldiered on. I am glad I did. As the novel opens, we find ourselves in Book World with Thursday. Well, it's Thursday, but the Written Thursday. Important distinction, and one that the Written Thursday never forgets. She's in charge of her series, keeping the characters ready for the next reader. Characters perform only when there's a reader; otherwise, they keep their own personal lives rather busy (and, in some cases, steeped in tawdry.)  The Written Pickwick is played by a very snooty Dodo and Thursday has an understudy who, rumor has it, enacted the "snooze" button once, in a panic. (If you read this book for only one reason, you must read it to learn about Book World's snooze

What Happens After 'Lights Out' at the Bookstore?

Bookstores are alive. If you ever had any doubt, watch this lovely video from Type Books in Toronto. (An added bonus: perhaps finding another adventure with Mr. Pusskins!)

Review: The Woman in Black

Rarely have I read something as subtly frightening as The Woman in Black . This relatively young ghost story, published in 1983 by Susan Hill , is insidious. The book opens on Christmas Eve, as Arthur Kripps refuses to participate in the telling of scary tales with his wife and her children. He is a well-loved and good humored stepfather, but the tales push him over an edge no one, not even he, knew was there. You see, his ghost story is true . Arthur is a solicitor whose employer has assigned him to execute the estate of Alice Drablow, who lives in a small coastal town a day's journey from London. He leaves behind his young fiancĂ©e and expects to spend a day, maybe two, straightening out the late woman's affairs. It begins with Mrs. Drablow's funeral, during which he sees a woman in black — someone who goes undetected by the only other person at the funeral, a fellow solicitor whose firm refuses all business from the town's wealthiest resident.  In fact, ev

Review: The Devil's Elixir

In Raymond Khoury's world, everyone is stupid. I don't mean something simple, like forgetfulness or density, cultural difference or sexist cluelessness.  I mean fundamental stupidity, such as, "I am an FBI agent but I won't worry about those two suspicious-looking thugs that just walked into the museum behind the person I'm guarding." The only thing worse than the stupidity is the cleverness: people who can set up undetectable ruses using elaborate plans that either involve or hornswoggle high-ranking individuals. Remind me to be written by Khoury. The novelist continues his relationship with the FBI in The Devil's Elixir , starting with a visit to San Diego. Former federal worker Michelle has her quiet Saturday interrupted by a gaggle of assassins.  She jumps in the car and calls Sean Reilly, a man she hasn't spoken to in five years, a former associate from whom she has kept a secret.  Sean himself kept more than a few secrets himself from