Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Ben Greenman

As a founding member of The Roots and a talented record producer, Questlove (or ?uestlove) has made his name in the hip-hop industry. But many don't realize he's actually a music fan first with a base of amazing depth and breadth, a true walking encyclopedia of music and musicians.

I'm not a hip-hop fan, but I am a music geek and I've read a lot of cool things about Questlove and his music geekdom. I read a positive review and thought I'd give this book a try. And I'm glad I did.

Ahmir's life is interesting, as are the stories of creation and evolution of The Roots. But what's more interesting are his opinions on music, his memories on sounds that stopped him in his tracks, and the fanboy moments that left him speechless. His loving Prince even though his parents disapproved; his loving the Beach Boys even though he's a big black hip hop guy.

I really enjoyed the book, and he made me go back to listen again to some great music in order to hear it Questlove's way. Music geeks unite!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden

Almost from the moment they meet, there's something different and precious about the friendship between 17 year olds Liza and Annie. It's when the girls realize that perhaps it's not mere friendship - perhaps it's simply love - that things become anything but simple.

I picked up this book because the author passed away recently. In a tribute, they discussed the ground this book broke for fair and accurate representation of same-sex couples in fiction. Seemed like a good enough reason to look it up.

The book was originally published in 1982, yet it's aged incredibly well; there are very few hints in the book to place it outside our own time. My audiobook (read by Rebecca Lowman) was 2008 commemorative edition, which also included a fairly extensive interview with the author on the book's impact and legacy both in her own life and in LGBTQ history.

It's a great book (the tension that builds through the middle section was agonizing for me!) and I can understand why it's had the impact it has. Gay or straight, it's a good love story and it's also a fair look at the impulsiveness of teenagers and the implications of unthought actions.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Vacationland by Sarah Stonich

While some entitled people believe the planet revolves around them, the truth is that we each DO have a kind of world that circles around us - a web of friends, family, places, and acquaintances that are all connected (and maybe only connected) by you. This book, a series of interconnected yet independent short stories, is about one of those webs - a world that revolves around a way-north Minnesota resort.

Through these stories, you get a feel for the small town of Hatchet Inlet, for the guys who hang out in the coffee shop and the visitors to the resort. We see the resort in the 1960s during its heyday, and also through its decline, piece-by-piece demolition, and rebirth. Immigrants and draft-dodgers, native tribes, locals, and tourists all fill the stories with depth and diversity of view.

This is my very favorite form of storytelling, and Stonich does it incredibly well. Each story stands alone and tells its own tale, but taken together they intermesh and marry to provide a multi-faceted view of life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Port Chicago 50

by Steve Sheinkin, Audiobook Read by Dominic Hoffman

This is an oft-forgotten story of WWII.  Sheinkin tells it in a heartbreaking manner with this children's book.  In fact, I had not heard the story at all before the book became a sensation in educational discussion lists. 

During WWII, black servicemen were still segregated from their white peers.  At Port Chicago in San Francisco, those lines were strictly drawn.  Only the black men loaded bombs.  All the officers were white.  After a horrendous explosion killing more than 300 men, several black sailors became afraid of returning to duty. 

Initially, more than two hundred of them refused unless the conditions surrounding their work improved.  When told the punishment for mutiny was death, all but 50 agreed to go back to work.

This book chronicles the trial and controversy that followed.

Friday, August 1, 2014

How To Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

Once upon a time astronomy, astrology, and religion were all the same thing - and to the characters in this book, sometimes they still are the same.

Irene is an astrophysicist working with particles to create miniature black holes in her lab. George is a cosmologist trying to prove the philosophical concepts of the universe as explained to him by the gods and goddesses who visit during his headaches. They couldn't be more different - except that when they meet, it seems the stars collide and planets realign.

Lydia Netzer does a wonderful job with scientifically geeky characters (see also her book Shine, Shine, Shine). This couple banters about physics and the cosmos in a way that truly makes it almost sexy. They're a great match; which was expected, because their mothers planned it so.

I had three different theories on what I thought might happen at the end of this book, and I was wrong. Satisfyingly wrong, even. What an odd, wonderful book!