Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nevermore: McCall-Smith, Heather Lende, The Revenant, Heinlen, Atwood, and more!

Reported by Ambrea

This week, our Nevermore readers started out with a favorite book series by Alexander McCall Smith:  The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café.  Continuing the adventures of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Grace Makutsi opens the Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café in Gaborone, Botswana—and just shortly after she becomes a full partner in the agency.  But creating a business plan is a far cry from dealing with the daily pressures of restaurant ownership, and Grace will need all the help she can get.  Our reader was thrilled with her selection.  As an ardent fan of McCall Smith’s series, she was tickled with the continuation of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and she absolutely loved listening to the audiobook.  Her only complaint is that the story seemed to end too soon, like the characters had so much more to say.

Next, our readers traveled to Haines, Alaska, in If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende.  Lende, a commentator for NPR and journalist, has spent many years writing the obituaries and social column for her local newspaper.  With her first-hand accounts of small-town life in rural Alaska, Heather Lende offers keen insight into a community comprised of aging hippies, quirky neighbors, fishermen and native Tlingit Indians—among the plethora of wildlife that share their borders.  If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name is a sweet story that’s part memoir and part biography of the author’s tiny hometown—and, according to our reader, altogether enjoyable and enlightening.  As a traveler, our reader was fascinated by the way Lende was able to evoke the surrounding landscape of her native Alaska and provide insight into the way one tiny town managed to survive in an inhospitable, but undeniably beautiful, wilderness.

Speaking of wilderness, our Nevermore readers also ventured into the depths of the American frontier of 1823 in The Revenant by Michael Punke, which chronicles the life and legacy of Hugh Glass.  An experienced frontiersman and trapper for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, Glass was often hired as an expert tracker—and then, one day, he was unexpectedly attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead.  Abandoned by the other men in his company, Glass is left alone to survive in a terrifyingly hostile wilderness.  Only one thought keeps him going:  revenge.  Based on the remarkable true story of Hugh Glass, The Revenant is an exciting tale of survival and desperation that has captivated readers—including our own—and inspired an Oscar-nominated film.  Our reader was especially excited to pick up Punke’s novel.  She thought it was fascinating to how people, like Hugh Glass, managed to face so much adversity and survive a harsh, unforgiving landscape.  She plans on seeing the film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio now that she’s finished the book, and she highly recommends reading the novel before seeing The Revenant in theaters.

Next, our readers looked at a science fiction classic, Robert A. Heinlen’s Orphans of the Sky.  Hugh Hoyland has spent his entire life on the Ship and, like most, he believes all of creation is contained within the ship—feed the sacred Converter, fulfill the Creator’s Plan.  But Hugh is about to have his entire world turned upside down when he learns—from the muties (mutated humans who live in the weaker gravity at the center of their world), no less—that the Ship is in fact a spaceship, and Hugh must be the one to actually fly it.  Our Nevermore reader was intrigued by Heinlein’s novel, saying he enjoyed Orphans of the Sky, and he found the entire theology that Hugh and his people have built around the Ship thoroughly fascinating.  However, he noted that it “plays fast and loose with the details,” providing only the barest minimum and allowing readers to fill in the gaps for themselves.  It didn’t detract from the novel, he said, but it sometimes made the story difficult to follow.

Like Robert A. Heinlein, Margaret Atwood provided an interesting future for our Nevermore readers to contemplate.  In The Heart Goes Last, Stan and Charmaine are caught up in the middle of a terrifying economic and social collapse.  Threatened by gangs and living out of the trunk of their car, they’re desperate to get back on their feet and find a safe haven in the midst of chaos.  Enter the Positron Project.  Set up in the city of Consilience, the Positron Project ensures that everyone has a job and everyone has a comfortable home.  There’s just one catch:  six months out of the year, residents have to spend time in the Positron prison system before they can return to their civilian homes.  Although Stan and Charmaine are willing to exchange their freedom for safety, they begin to learn that the Positron Project is more dangerous than they ever believed.  Our reader said Margaret Atwood’s novel was intensely interesting, but she pointed out that it isn’t exactly a “happy story.”  Although a bit strange and riddled with an unusual sense of humor, it offers a fascinating—if terrifying—look at a possible future and it’s definitely worth checking out.

Last, our Nevermore readers looked at Trailersteading:  How to Find, Buy, Retrofit, and Live Large in a Mobile Home by Anna Hess.  A relative of one our members, Anna Hess provides an insightful look into homesteading with a twist—reusing a mobile home.  The author provides information on affordable homesteading, tips and tricks to take advantage of low-cost and free housing, full descriptions of home and outdoor projects, and much more.  She profiles thirteen different families, revealing how they manage to rebuild a home and how they become self-sufficient.  Our reader said the book was really enjoyable.  It’s full of interesting information and, more importantly, offers projects and recommendations for the industrious homesteader.  She especially liked how the author managed to look at the stigma that often comes with owning a trailer and turns it on its head, highlighting the positive aspects (less debt, smaller energy bills, smaller ecological footprint, etc.) that trailersteading can bring to one’s life.

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