Book Review

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Zumas imagines a world very similar to our world, except for a new amendment, called the Personhood Amendment, has been passed. It grants embryos constitutional protection and makes abortion and in-vitro fertilization illegal. We see how this change effects the lives of 4 women in different stages of life, with different struggles. Paralleling these women’s stories is the story of a 19th century female arctic explorer and researcher who made remarkable discoveries for which she never received credit because, being a woman, she was never given a voice. This book is about women’s voices being silenced, but it is also about the ways women express their voices despite being silenced. I think of this as similar to Naomi Alderman’s The Power, but where The Power is more driven by ideas and perspective, Red Clocks is more character driven, focusing on critical moments in the characters’ lives. This was an engaging book which I would recommend. Back to Book Reviews  

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Due to an environmental shift women have developed the ability to transmit electrical currents through their hands. This power gives them the upper hand, so to speak, and the ability to dominate men. Women are no longer susceptible the physical threat men represent. Men become vulnerable, the “weaker sex.” This change affects every aspect of society, and we see how deeply rooted gender structures are in every aspect of life, from the personal to the global. Everything is recast: interpersonal relations, political and economic dominance. Everything flips upside down and we are allowed to watch as the pieces fall. We get to see how men respond to emerging power structures, and how women react to the men’s responses. I love books that shift perspective, force me to rethink and re-examine, and this book accomplished that for me. Back to Book Reviews  

The Insides by Jeremy Bushnell

A psychic joins forces with a hitman named Pig who is working for an underground cult, and they chase a witch-turned-butcher who acquired a magic knife, which happens to be from a different dimension. Magic, Mafia and interdimensionality make this book a fun read and a wild adventure. It is a quirky thriller and may appeal to fans of Stranger Things due to its interdimensional elements. Maybe it is Stranger Things crossed with Enemy of the state, and a dash of Ghost Whisperer tossed in. Or, maybe not exactly that. Back to Book Reviews  

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

An entertaining Golden-Age style whodunit set within a contemporary mystery. Susan Ryeland, editor at Cloverleaf books is reading through the manuscript of the latest novel by bestselling mystery author Alan Conway. Unfortunately the last chapters are missing. When the author turns up dead, and the chapters are nowhere to be found, there are 2 mysteries to solve. Back to Book Reviews  

Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin

Beautifully written story about 74 year old Jules Latour, tormented by the deaths of his parents and wife. Now his grandson is seriously ill. Latour, a classical musician, has a shot at making a lot of money by writing a jingle for a huge insurance co. He sees it as his chance to redeem himself and use the money to save his grandson. A wonderful meditation on life and death, love and music. Back to Book Reviews  

Escape from Aleppo by N. H. Senzai

The Syrian civil war invades the calm and familiar lives of a young Syrian girl and her family in this novel. Bombs begin dropping nearby, and troops invade to turn their neighborhood into a battlefield and force them to flee their home. We experience the story from the young girl’s, Nadia’s, perspective as she survives a bomb’s near miss and becomes separated from her family. She must then find a way to survive the dangerous streets, the skirmish’s battlefield, to rejoin her family. While fleeing, she finds a mysterious old man and his donkey who guide her through the rubble and chaos, but as confusion rules the day, she is unsure whether she can completely trust him.  Is he protecting her and leading her to safety or using her as a human shield to protect himself? And how does he seem to know so many people? Nadia’s story brings to life the brutal circumstances from which the stream of Syrian are seeking refuge. Through her eyes we see the devastation and violence, we encounter the confusion of different factions of rebel groups, and, through her flashbacks, we learn about the events leading up to the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War. This is a great novel for anyone looking for a story about the current events in Syria. It is an engrossing read and would appeal to adults as well as children. Back to Book Reviews  

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

What's wrong with the Western Diet? Why do other more traditional diets appear to be healthier, despite the fact that they do not benefit from the wisdom of our nutritionists and food industry that can manipulate the nutrients in food? According to Pollan it is *because* of nutrition research and the food processing industry that the Western diet is so unhealthful. By reducing food to it's component nutrients and ignoring cultural aspects of food and diet, they have unwittingly aided the deterioration of American's health. He argues persuasively that nutrition research is fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are suspect. Back to Book Reviews  

Pandora’s Lunchbox by Melanie Warner

Lots of information on what "processed" really means in terms of modern food production. A combination of food science history and detailed explanations of the various chemicals and procedures used to create modern packaged food. I sometimes skimmed over the technical details, but it was very eye-opening to learn just what happens to our food. I was surprised that even food I thought was natural, like vegetable oil, goes through pretty extreme processing just to make it palatable. Back to Book Reviews  

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

British MP James Whitehouse's affair with a coworker is not enough to create a scandal these days, but then she accuses him of rape. The trial that follows it told from two points of view - that of the prosecutor who is convinced of guilt, and that of his wife who believes him and stands by him but begins to wonder what really happened. He is a politician after all who knows how to bend the truth to suit his needs. The book explores not only the issue of consent and but also of privilege and power. The MP is a wealthy, handsome Oxford graduate, for whom success has always come easily, while his prosecutor is a woman who had to work hard to attain her position. Engaging and thought- provoking, with interesting characters. Back to Book Reviews  

Out in the Open by Jesus Carrasco

A new category of Western should be made called Alternative Western, or Alt-Western. Maybe that category already exists, I’m not sure, but this book could easily fit in at an Alt-Western shindig, along with Sisters Brothers, True Grit, and most of Cormac McCarthy’s work. In my perspective, Alt-Western blends traditional hallmarks of westerns with key features of other genres, such as sci-fi, horror, or magical realism, creating non-traditional westerns, in these examples mostly bizarre, dystopian or absurdist Westerns. Between the characters’ desperate grittiness, the sparse landscape, and dystopian setting this book fits the bill. Many critics have already contrasted the author’s spare, but beautiful descriptions with the harsh post-ecological disaster landscape. The contrast gives the book a simmering tension. However, I noticed that in this dystopian, post-eco-apocalyptic landscape women are nearly non-existent. Is this because this is meant to be a manly book for men? Could it be implying that a dystopian, ecological wasteland is an unavoidable result of masculinity’s impregnable trajectory? Is it because the book focuses on the brutality of men, and the main character coming of age amidst his experience and personal expression of this severe masculinity? At one crucial point, we see his opportunity to embrace masculinity’s cynicism or dredge a new path. Whether the book praises or critiques masculinity is not clear. Either way, it is a gripping read from start to finish, with brutal intensity. Back to Book Reviews