The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-16-15

Sunday Post

fearless by elliott jamesIn the end, I liked both Stormbringer and Fearless better than I did Scalzi’s End of all Things. I think this is the first time that I haven’t given an A or A+ review for one of Scalzi’s books. I still enjoyed the heck out of it, but it didn’t knock my socks off the way that Lock In did last year. On the other hand, I didn’t have grand expectations for either the first book in the Wyrd series, Liesmith (I originally judged this one by its ‘meh’ cover and I was so wrong), and both books in that series turned out to be really awesome. And I had fairly low expectations for Charming, the first book in the Pax Arcana series, but that turned out to be quite good and getting better. So if you like Urban Fantasy with a twist, be sure to give one or both of those a try.

Current Giveaways:

$25 Gift Card + ebook copy of Liesmith by Alis Franklin
$15 Amazon Gift Card from Elliot James and Fearless

stormbringer by alis franklinBlog Recap:

A- Review: Stormbringer by Alis Franklin + Giveaway
B+ Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
A- Review: Fearless by Elliott James + Giveaway
B+ Review: The End of All Things by John Scalzi
B Review: Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy
Stacking the Shelves (148)




clear-off-your-shelf-August-202x300Coming Next Week:

Daring by Elliott James (review)
Tales by Charles Todd (blog tour review)
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (review)
Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop
A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd (blog tour review)

Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

youre never weird on the internet by felicia dayFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: autobiography
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: Touchstone
Date Released: August 11, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was “homeschooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.

My Review:

This is a difficult book to review. I enjoyed it. A lot. I was compulsively reading it while at a baseball game with a bunch of friends and colleagues, which was rude but I couldn’t stop. But after reading it I have the feeling that I’m part of the intended audience, after all, I’m a female geek. Just not one with half the courage that Felicia Day demonstrates in her story.

You’re Almost Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is definitely a book for the same audience as The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy (reviewed here), even though it covers the same ground in a very different way – and is also less optimistic and more upfront about the trolls that have invaded geek spaces and have their axes out and ground and waiting for any woman to dare to invade their defended turf.

There was an old cartoon in The New Yorker, back in 1993 before the internet became completely ubiquitous. Thanks to Wikipedia, I’m reproducing it here:

Peter Steiner's cartoon, as published in The New Yorker
Peter Steiner’s cartoon, as published in The New Yorker

But this cartoon sums up the early parts of Felicia Day’s involvement with computers and the internet – she was a somewhat isolated homeschooled kid who liked very geeky stuff and didn’t have a community she could be herself in – until she discovered computer gaming and online chat rooms and all the slightly awkward and totally amazing online communication tools that predated the WWW explosion.

And in those online spaces she found people who shared her passions, and who had no way of knowing that she was a 14 or 15 or 16 year old girl. But then, she knew little about their real lives or in-person selves either.

There was a lot of freedom in that ability to hide behind an avatar and a screen name that allowed her, and lots of others like her, to flourish.

It’s unfortunately the same kind of anonymity that permits the garbage spewed by gamergaters and their ilk, but that was then and this is now.

The story here is how Felicia managed to take all of that geekish wonder, along with a certain number of possibly OCD compulsions and a need for an audience, and turned it into a very quirky twisty-turny career that may have begun by being in the right place at the right time, but also included a lot of sheer cussed determination and a tough ability to fight her own personal demons while living a life out loud and online.

This is a story for anyone who believes in the adage, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” who is willing to put in a lot of unpaid sweat equity and put up with a lot of sweaty fears to finally reach that point where the money knocks on the battered door.

Reality Rating B+: If you have some personal history of geekishness, Felicia’s description of her journey into the early online spaces and the effect they had on her life can’t help but remind you of your own.

Or at least, it did me. I built my first PC in 1979 from a Heathkit, and the difference having a word processor and letter-quality printer made between my undergraduate and graduate degrees was amazing, even if the letter-quality printer did sound a lot like a small-scale artillery barrage.

I wasn’t as involved with online communities anywhere near as much as Felicia, but I remember the way the world opened up as it became possible to be involved with people all over the world who had the same geekish interests that I did – those same interests that generally get one laughed at or teased among people with more down-to-earth hobbies.

This experience was one that a lot of people who were online in the 1980s and 1990s will appreciate and remember fondly, like the sound of an old modem making a connection. I thought it sounded like a dragon breathing.

But Felicia did something that most of us don’t do – she made a career out of all of her geekish loves, in spite of being classically introverted and more than a bit shy. She pushed herself, and all of her friends, into pursuing a goal that either seemed crazy or unattainable at the beginning, and she made it happen.

She also talks about the cost to herself as she relentlessly pursued goals sometimes to the point of obsession, and certainly to the point of burnout. As in most fairy tales, the ring comes with a curse, and it bit her.

So she’s pretty upfront about her gaming addiction while she was still struggling, and her depression and burnout when she started making it but couldn’t let herself off the merry-go-round pursuit of perfection in all things. There’s a cautionary tale in here along with the quirkiness and the joy.

And last but not least, some serious talk about the entrenched misogyny in some online geek spaces and her own battles with the trolls. It’s sad and scary and sooner or later affects all women who think about standing out in online culture. This is true whether they stand up and stand out like Felicia and Anita Sarkeesian, or whether they self-censor or opt-out like so many of us do out of fear of online reprisal.

All in all, though, this is a positive story about figuring out what you love and pursuing that dream – and fighting your demons along the way.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-9-15

Sunday Post

Today is officially National Book Lovers Day!

I’m not sure a single day is sufficient. If you believe in the “so many books, so little time” school of thought then one day barely scratches the surface (or makes a dent in the towering TBR pile). But it is lovely that there is an official day to promote the love of books and reading and to support those of us who are perpetually lost in a good book. Even when we are sometimes lost in a bad book.

The summer doldrums also seem to be over. We have giveaways again, and winner announcements. There are also a couple of giveaways coming up this week, so stay tuned.

eReaderGiveaway_Horz_BPCurrent Giveaways:

Two Kindle Fires, one Kindle Paperwhite, one Kindle Touchscreen plus dozens of author prizes in the Summertime eReader Giveaway
All 6 titles in the Harlequin End of Summer Tour, a limited edition Harlequin notebook plus a $50 Visa gift card in the End of Summer Tour

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann is Brandi D.

back to you by lauren daneBlog Recap:

Summertime eReader Giveaway
Guest Post by Lauren Dane – Hurley Family Summer Itinerary + Giveaway
B+ Review: Back to You by Lauren Dane
B+ Review: Charming by Elliott James
B Review: Whiskey and Wry by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron
Stacking the Shelves (147)



end of all things by john scalziComing Next Week:

Stormbringer by Alis Franklin (blog tour review)
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (review)
Fearless by Elliott James (blog tour review)
The End of All Things by John Scalzi (review)
Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy (review)

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Stacking the Shelves

Another blissfully short stack of books, or so it seems.

Sophie on topI’ve mentioned before that I’m on the American Library Association Notable Books Council. It’s an awards jury for the 25-ish notable books of the year. While I can’t say which books are under consideration, I can show you this picture. I received ALL of these boxes on Friday. While I expect to read what’s inside, I had to wait for Sophie and LaZorra to finish playing Queen of the Hill before I could even get started!

For Review:
The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason
Dearest Rogue (Maiden Lane #8) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Lowcountry Boneyard (Liz Talbot #3) by Susan M. Boyer
The Mechanical Theater (Chroniker City #2) by Brooke Johnson
Treasured by Thursday (Weekday Brides #7) by Catherine Bybee
Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Purchased from Amazon:
Absolute Honour (Jack Absolute #3) by C.C. Humphreys

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-15-15

Sunday Post

color of magic by terry pratchettAs far as reviewing books goes, it was a damn good week until the announcement of Terry Pratchett’s death. I had been feeling a bit guilty that I wasn’t quite caught up in the Discworld, but now – it just means that I have a few more treats left to enjoy before I run out. I discovered the Discworld during the period when I had a long commute and went through a lot of audiobooks. My first exposure was a recording of The Color of Magic. The world has never looked the same since. I am forever grateful for the concept of “the other leg of the trousers of time” which makes me smile and feels amazingly true all at the same time. I use the phrase (possibly a bit too) often.

And if these things come in threes, it’s going to be pretty awful. After losing both Nimoy and Pratchett, just the thought of who might be third gives me the shakes.

Back to the current crop of books. If you enjoy historical mysteries at all, you will love the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I mean it.

Current Giveaways:

The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan is Anne.

leaving everything most loved by jacqueline winspearBlog Recap:

B Review: The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley + Giveaway
A- Review: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
A Review: Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
B+ Review: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
A Review: A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
Stacking the Shelves (126)



Coming Next Week:

Lucky-Leprechaun-Hop-2015Guest Post by Author Blair McDowell + Giveaway
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop
A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear (blog tour review)
Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks (blog tour review)
Star Trek: Shadow of the Machine by Scott Harrison (review)
Cranky Ladies of History edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (review)

Stacking the Shelves (126)

Stacking the Shelves

220px-10.12.12TerryPratchettByLuigiNovi1For anyone who hasn’t seen the news, this is the second week in a row where the science fiction and fantasy world has lost someone near and dear. On Thursday, Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, died of complications from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He was 66, which is much, much too young. He left behind a legacy of fascinating, bizarre and humorous views of our world, as told through the lens of his Discworld series. His last tweets tell a story of Death from the Discworld coming for him. And of course Death came for him personally, because in the Discworld, Death always comes in person to escort wizards to whatever is beyond.

Sir Terry Pratchett was a wizard.

For Review:
Cold Iron (Malorum Gates #1) by Stina Leicht
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
The Deepest Poison (Clockwork Dagger #0.5) by Beth Cato
Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace #1) by M.J. Arlidge
The Marriage Season (Brides of Bliss County #3) by Linda Lael Miller
The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
Tin Men by Christopher Golden
To the Stars by George Takei
The Virgin’s Daughter (Tudor Legacy #4) by Laura Andersen

Purchased from Amazon:
Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs #6) by Jacqueline Winspear
Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) by Jacqueline Winspear
Cranky Ladies of History edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely
An Elegy for Eddie (Maisie Dobbs #9) by Jacqueline Winspear
An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs #5) by Jacqueline Winspear
A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs #8) by Jacqueline Winspear
The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs #7) by Jacqueline Winspear
Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs #4) by Jacqueline Winspear
Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs #3) by Jacqueline Winspear

Borrowed from the Library:
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Review: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

h is for hawk by helen macdonaldFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: autobiography, natural history
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Grove Press
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer, Helen had never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk, but in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer’s eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

My Review:

There’s an entire alphabet in this book. If H is for Hawk, then D is for Depression, F is for Father, G is for Grief. And M is for Merlin, S is for Sword, as in The Sword in the Stone, and W is for White, as in T.H. White.

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

On March 20, 2007, the author’s father, the press photographer Alisdair MacDonald, died suddenly of a heart attack while on assignment. H is for Hawk is the author’s journey from nearly unutterable grief to eventual healing. A healing birthed by the most unusual midwife – the care and training and partnership of a goshawk named Mabel.

It’s in the first wrenching depths of her grief that the author finds herself haunted by the work of an earlier writer. T.H. White, the celebrated creator of The Sword in the Stone and The Once and Future King, wrote a book titled The Goshawk about his rather inept and completely untutored training of a goshawk he named Gos, showing a surprising lack of imagination for an author whose most famous work is a feast of re-imagining.

Unlike White, Macdonald actually knows what she is doing. At least with the goshawk. She is a professional falconer, and has worked with birds of prey all of her adult life. But she never took on the training of a goshawk, a particularly fierce and vicious predator.

This story is not twee, nor is it cute like Watership Down. Fortunately, it is also not like so many works of the 20th century where real animals are celebrated and protected, but ultimately die in the end. (Think of Ring of Bright Water or even earlier works like Bambi and Old Yeller).

Training and caring for Mabel is a full-time job. And in the depths of her grief the author devotes all of her time to the bird, neglecting her job and the company of people. Mabel gives her purpose and keeps her separated from the human world that both hurt her and can heal her. She just isn’t ready to let it.

Reality Rating A-: Sometimes, I write mostly about the book. Sometimes, I write more about the ways in which the book made me think. There are rare times when I mostly write about the way the book made me feel.

Fair warning, this is one of the latter.

I chose this book for a couple of reasons. I also lost my father to a sudden heart attack. While that was over 20 years ago now, at the time it happened I was about the age that the author was at that time, and my father was also about the age that her father was at the time. There is one phone call and suddenly the world is a different and darker place. You get past but you don’t really get over.

Her journey took her much further into the black than mine did, and her method of finding her way back was very different, but the starting place was not dissimilar. I wanted to read how she managed, and sometimes didn’t.

Once and future king by th whiteThe other “hook” for me was T.H. White. I did not know much about him as a person, but The Once and Future King, which includes The Sword in the Stone, was one of my favorite books in my teens. I saw the Disney movie made from Sword when I was a child.

(The final section of  The Once and Future King is titled The Candle in the Wind. Thinking back, the title does resonate with both versions of Elton John’s song.)

White was a very troubled man. He suffered from what we would certainly call child abuse when he was very young, and was severely bullied and beaten in school. He was also a homosexual at a time when any practice was illegal, and was also a sado-masochist, a predilection which had the potential to cause him even more trouble than he already had. He was never a happy man.

While in The Goshawk he shows himself to be an inept falconer, he also attributes to the bird all sorts of motives that are much more human than avian. Even to a non-birder, his treatment of the hawk just sounds wrong.

At the same time, Macdonald’s analysis of the way that White turned his experience into Merlin in The Sword in the Stone really resonates. I will never see The Once and Future King the same way again.

goshawk by th whiteIn the interweaving of Macdonald’s multiple stories – her grief and basically lack of coping, resulting in a spiral into clinical depression – her reread and analysis of White’s Goshawk – and her ultimate re-emergence into life, there is also a celebration of the wild places that can be found in the most seemingly cultivated places, and her love and caring for the beautiful and fierce Mabel that ultimately sing out.

This is the story of one woman’s journey through the dark and dangerous places of her own heart – and her emergence into the beauty and wonder that surrounds her.

And Mabel is absolutely awesome.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

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Stacking the Shelves

The real problem with going to a conference with 6,000 or so of my nearest and dearest friends is that I inevitably come back with a cold, or something of the flu-ish persuasion. All those people cooped up in an airplane with recycled air does it to me every time. On the plane flying home, I could just feel the crud creeping over me. Yuck.

The fake problem with going to the ALA conference is the temptation to pick up a print ARC of every interesting book in the Exhibit Hall. But then, I have to get them home somehow. Actually, just carrying them around the conference floor has become enough to disabuse me of that notion fairly quickly. Books are HEAVY!

p.s. When I did the Amazon look ups for these books, I discovered that Dead Man’s Reach (actually Deadman’s Reach) is also a brand of coffee.

For Review:
After Snowden by Ronald Goldfarb
Anatomy of Evil (Barker & Llewelyn #7) by Will Thomas
Blood for Blood (Zytarri #1) by Darcy Abriel
Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew
The Curse of Anne Boleyn (French Executioner #2) by C.C. Humphreys
The Dead Assassin (Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle #2) by Vaughn Entwistle
Dead Man’s Reach (Thieftaker Chronicles #4) by D.B. Jackson
The Fellowship by Philip and Carol Zaleski
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
The Kill List (Jamie Sinclair #1) by Nichole Christoff
Love After All (Hope #4) by Jaci Burton
Speak Now by Kenji Yoshino
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
Video Game Storytelling by Evan Skolnick
Witches be Burned (Magic & Mayhem #2) by Stacey Kennedy

Picked up at Conference:
The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu
The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

Borrowed from the Library:
Death of a Policeman (Hamish Macbeth #30) by M.C. Beaton

Review: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

smoke gets in your eyes by caitlin doughtyFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: memoir
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Date Released: September 15, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession.

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?

Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin’s engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

My Review:

You would never expect that a book subtitled “and other stories from the crematory” would manage to be a quick, fun and sometimes even light-hearted read. But Caitlin Doughty’s personal coming of age story is exactly that, even though (she might say because) it also covers her introduction into the funeral industry.

This is a book about death. Not about the terribleness of it, because the author does not espouse the belief that death itself is awful. This is about the acceptance of the inevitability of death into our lives, injecting rationality into a process that is feared, hated, reviled and avoided at all costs.

Except we can’t avoid it in the end. The author’s thesis is that what we’re doing as a society is covering it up, turning something natural into something to be feared and hated. And that some of the lengths we go to in order to avoid even mentioning death and its inevitability.

If the mantra of Dr. Gregory House in the TV series was “Everybody Lies”, than I think it’s fair to say that Caitlin Doughty starts from the premise that “Everybody dies”. Which they do.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is both autobiographical and philosophical, as well as containing an extremely readable history of how humans have treated death over the centuries, particularly in Western culture but with some exploration of cultures outside of our own. She parses out the history amid her own story of her adoption into the modern funeral industry as well as her criticisms of it.

She starts out as a 23-year-old college graduate in Medieval Studies (more death, definitely more death) and a fascination with death that is not so much morbid as curious and engaged. She wants to be involved with the funeral industry because what happens to us after the inevitable event (dying) is something that has engrossed and sometimes terrified her since her 8-year-old self watched another child fall from the top of an escalator into silence. She never knew the fate of that other child, but the event, and the fears it generated, changed the direction of her life.

When she starts as a crematory worker, she starts out both deeply interested and slightly scared. We all know people die, but whatever happens behind the black curtain at a funeral home is mysterious to us. And it’s intended to be.

The author talks to us about her journey from crematory worker to mortician’s college to licensed funeral director, but she also details the actual processes that she undertakes behind the scenes.

As well as letting us see the gallows humor she shares with the staff who help her and train her. Her stories can be macabre, but they also bow to the inevitable, we all die. And it is better to face the unknown with knowledge than with fear.

Reality Rating A: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was the number one pick of the Library Reads list for September 2014, and once you read it, it is easy to see why.

The author’s personal story fascinates, because she is letting us peek into something that we all must face, but that no one ever talks about. Dealing with final arrangements for a loved one (and what happens when there is no loved one) is something that we will all face and become part of in turn. Yet no one talks about it, except in the most oblique terms.

The history of funerals and death arrangements, and the history of the surrounding industry, is broken up into quite digestible bite-sized chunks. It flows very well into the personal story that the author tells, and she makes it easy to see how past practices and practices in other cultures have helped to inform her beliefs.

The people she works with, especially at her first crematory job, have a sense of gallows humor and fatalism that is every bit as funny, in its own way, as the “meatball surgeons” in MASH. No one in this story turns out to be deadpan, except the actual dead.

While her explanations of what happens to the unclaimed bodies, and the way that the scientific donations come to their final and fiery end have more than their share of pathos, this is information that people should have when they make their decisions.

Death is a serious topic, but the author provides a treatment of this usually avoided topic in a way that makes you think, not with fear, but with consideration about the way we will handle the inevitable when it comes.

Some of her conclusions about the long reach of the death-avoidance culture and how it can be changed, left me pondering. A lot.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

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Stacking the Shelves

As this posts, I am at RustyCon, hopefully resisting the temptation to buy more books in the Dealer’s Room.

But the spring book previews have resulted in a few NetGalleys finding their way to my iPad. Binge-watching Call the Midwife and Longmire account for some of the library borrowing. Who ever said that television watching keeps people from reading?

For Review:
Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
The Bees by Laline Paull
Blades of the Old Empire (Majat Code #1) by Anna Kashina
Cider Brook (Swift River Valley #3) by Carla Neggers
The Dreamer Volume 3 by Lora Innes
The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
Late Last Night (River Bend #0.5) by Lilian Darcy
Thrown for a Curve (Perfect Fit #2) by Sugar Jamison

Borrowed from the Library:
Boots Under Her Bed by Jodi Thomas, Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner and Alison Kent
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Kindness Goes Unpunished (Walt Longmire #3) by Craig Johnson
Secrets of the Lost Summer (Swift River Valley #1) by Carla Neggers
That Night on Thistle Lane (Swift River Valley #2) by Carla Neggers