Review: Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

Now that I have a Kindle, I find myself easily swayed by those $1.99 ebook promotions. Amazon is smart with those impulse buys! Earlier this month, I impulsively Nightwings by Robert Silverberg, which won a Hugo Award in 1969 for best novella.  The e-book from Open Road Media has an illustrated biography Silverberg along with photos. He’s a very prolific writer with multiple Hugo awards, but he’s new to me. Originally written as 3 novellas for magazine publication, this version combines all three parts into a short novel.

Nightwings opens up into a future Earth, thousands and thousands of years in the future–the Third Cycle of the human race. During the Second Cycle, the technology grew exponentially and humans made contacts with other beings. Like any good science fiction novel, the humans got cocky with their god-like power over the world, thus causing their downfall. Roum (formerly Rome) lay in ruins, with a mix of old relics such as skycrapers and new buildings. A mix of old and new like the Rome we know now.

In this future, the Watcher is part of a guild who uses a combination of old (Second Cycle) technology to “look” into deep space. He one of thousands who are looking out for an alien race who has put a claim on Earth since the Second Cycle, when humans mistreated some of their people. The planet is on the brink of invasion, but no one is truly ready. They’ve been on alert for so long, they believe the warning is just a fairy tale. The Watcher, along with his fellow travelers a Flier girl and a guildless Changeling, try to find their new roles on a changing planet.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a science fiction novel that drew me in like this one. My brain can’t always soak in enough of detailed world building, especially when it’s so different than the ground I walk upon. Nightwings was different because Silverberg drew up on familiar places and relics (albeit with a bastardized name, as would be expected since language evolves) like Roum and Jorslem (Jerusalem).  After all, I was still on Earth, just Silverberg’s future version of it.

Even though Robert Silverberg’s writing is new to me, reading Nightwings felt like cuddling up with a familiar friend. I do love classic science fiction and will definitely read more of Silverberg’s works.

What are you reading this weekend?

Book Club Discussion: The Underground Girls of Kabul

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

Our book club has been abuzz for the past couple of weeks as we read our advance copies of  The Underground Girls of Kabul by investigative journalist Jenny Nordberg. Today, on the book’s release date, we can finally share our discussion of this thought provoking look into a well-known secret practice in Afghanistan: families with no sons who raise their young daughters as boys.

Nordberg interviews and follow several girls (and their families) to further understand this practice of pacha posh, but also digs deep into gender roles in Afghanistan and in western society. I found this book utter fascinating and other From Left to Write members did as well. Head over to their blogs to read their essays inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul.

Seriously, buy a copy of The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg and one for a friend. You’ll want to discuss it with someone once you’re done. Whether you’re reading the book solo or with your book club, download the Reader’s Guide to Underground Girls of Kabul.

Follow Jenny Nordberg via her websiteTwitter, and Facebook.

Giveaway: Ark Storm by Linda Davies

Ark Storm by Linda Davies

Ark Storm by Linda Davies

Why not celebrate the weekend a day early with a giveaway? The folks at Tor have offered a copy of their new thriller Ark Storm by Linda Davies to one lucky From Left to Write reader.

My husband and I have a fondness for disaster movies (but not Sharknado), and I personally enjoy reading thrillers that involve a race against a natural disaster. I’ve already added Ark Storm to my to-be-read list:

The Ark Storm is coming—a catastrophic weather event that will unleash massive floods and wreak more damage on California than the feared “Big One.” One man wants to profit from it. Another wants to harness it to wage jihad on American soil. One woman stands in their way: Dr. Gwen Boudain, a brave and brilliant meteorologist.
When Boudain notices that her climate readings are off the charts, she turns to Gabriel Messenger for research funding. Messenger’s company is working on a program that ionizes water molecules to bring rain on command. Meanwhile, Wall Street suits notice that someone is placing six-month bets on the prospect of an utter apocalypse and begin to investigate. Standing in the shadows is journalist Dan Jacobsen, a former Navy SEAL. War hardened, cynical, and handsome, Jacobsen is a man with his own hidden agenda.

Sounds like the perfect weekend read, right?

To enter the giveaway for a hardcover copy of Ark Storm, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. (Reading this post in your email? Click the post title to head to the site to enter.) Giveaway is for U.S. and Canada only.

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Review: Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt received quite a bit of buzz during Book Expo America back in May, and rightly so. Hunt brings to light an important part of United States history that many of us should, but do not, know. Written from the perspective of a soldier, this novel takes a different look at the Civil War because “Ash Thompson” is really a woman disguised as a man. Ash leaves behind a husband to take care of their farm and joins the Union to fight against the South. Such a story was not uncommon. Many women, from both North and South, disguised themselves as men to fight for their side.

Without giving away too much, Ash becomes revered as a hero, thrown in a madhouse,and accused of treachery. Told in first person narrative, the short novel is gripping as Ash describes her encounters with civilians, her fellow soldiers and enemy soldiers. For her, they are all each their own type of battle with only one goal: to make others believe that she is a man. If her true identity were discovered, she could be imprisoned or worse.

If you’re a Civil War buff or curious about this “secret” part of United States history, you definitely want to read Neverhome.

P.S. Earlier this year, I read I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe (my review). Human nature makes me want to compare the two since they are both about women who fought as men in the Civil War. They two are different enough that I think you should read both.  McCabe’s character has a yearning to be more than her gender regulates her to be while Hunt’s character focuses on her sense of duty.

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Don’t prejudge the book when you first hear that  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a novel about post-apocalyptic life on earth. Station Eleven is a phenomenal novel that you’ll want to savor word-by-word, page-by-page, but you won’t be able to because it’s just freaking amazing.

Set fifteen years after the world collapses from a vicious flu, novel follows a traveling orchestra and Shakespeare troupe. They travel the remnants of the Midwest to perform King Lear and A Midsummer’s Night Dream in abandoned Walmart parking lots. Some people in the troupe remember what life was like with electricity, airplanes and the internet while the younger ones only hold vague impressions of an ice-cold refrigerator with a light inside. Interspersed with memories of life “before,” Station Eleven is not about a post-apocalyptic world, but more of testimony our society’s desire to survive–Shakespeare and all.

When I first heard about Station Eleven at BEA’s Editors Buzz, I was intrigued but wasn’t sure if I should fight the crowds for a copy. Sarah McCoy, author of  The Baker’s Daughter, saw my tweet about the novel and told me to throw some elbows to grab a copy of the galley. I’m glad I listened to her advice!

I’ve always been drawn to post-apocalyptic novels. It’s the science fiction lover in me, but the ones that stick with me after I turn the last page are the ones that dig into humanity’s deepest hopes and need for survival. Station Eleven at its core is about people. While the deathly Georgian flu is the catalyst for the story, St. John Mandel gives us the many ways society copes in the face of disaster. There are those that need a reason or an answer by reaching for a higher power. Sometimes the instinct is to save the past by teaching it to future generations or preserving the objects of our pass. Others draw upon classics like Shakespeare and Beethoven to feel complete. No matter how the characters deal with the new way of living, they must find a purpose to continue from before.

No matter what disasters we may face in our future, Station Eleven shows that community and hope are our best means of survival. Both physically and emotionally.

Also, any author who references Justin Cronin’s The Passage in her novel is cool in my book. I’m a huge fan of Justin Cronin.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is going on my list of top reads for 2015. The novel will  be released September 9, but I highly recommend pre-ordering it so you can dig right in!


Review: Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Last week Kathleen Flinn’s newest book Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family got me out of my reading slump. Flinn friendly voice and writing made me feel like I was one of her girlfriends. Her family’s story made me wish I grew up with her and her family.

Flinn’s memoir recounts family adventures such as taking Route 66 on their move to California to help run a family pizza restaurant and then back on the scenic highway once again to return to the midwest. The youngest of her three siblings, Kathleen Flinn spent her early childhood living on a farm. Due to necessity and debts, her parents lived off the land by raising chickens, hunting, and gardening. In a time where frozen dinners were trendy and a sign of wealth, her family still cooked every meal from scratch. Each chapter concludes with a recipe either created by the family member highlighted in that chapter or a recipe that Flinn associates with that memory.

Flinn_Grandmother quote

I absolutely loved reading this book. And I flew through it! I finished it in just a few short sittings. My parents are immigrants to the United States, but reading about Flinn’s family made me wish that I’d grown up on a farm with chickens and orchards full of fruit trees. Can you tell I like to eat?

After reading Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, I’m feeling inspired to learn about my family’s history and adventures. And, of course, the food involved in those adventures. If you like cooking or eating food, you’ll love Kathleen Flinn’s memoir. The book releases this Thursday, August 14 but you can pre-order it.  Here’s a recipe from the book to whet your appetite (click image for bigger size and to print):

Apple Crisp Recipe by Kathleen Flinn

 I discovered Flinn when I was considering culinary school, in her first book The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School. You should pick up that one too.