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January 19, 2012 Edition
Thomas Cale and his companions have been raised on violence, neglect, and cruelty their whole lives, in the name of molding them into warriors for the coming Holy War. It’s hard to imagine there’s anything left to challenge their morals (or even if the boys have any left), but when Thomas opens the wrong door at the wrong time, he is galvanized into action. In escaping from the Sanctuary of the Redeemers with two companions and the girl they rescue, he discovers a whole new world that casts much of what he’s been taught into doubt. West’s quiet reading gives listeners the feeling of being told secrets – completely appropriate to this novel of deceptions. There are some vague moments here (is this another world? A dystopian Earth?) but lots of excitement in this original first-in-a-trilogy offering.
Each of the two sisters and their friend Silas is voiced by a different reader, making it easy for listeners to fall into the story of Scarlett and her younger sister, Rosie, who are fighting werewolves (the Fenris) for other young girls’ lives. Scarlett, bitter and obsessed, lost an eye saving Rosie’s life when they were younger, and now lives to eradicate the Fenris. Rosie, though falling in love with Silas, devotes herself to becoming Scarlett’s protogee so as not to disappoint the big sister who has sacrificed so much. Set in contemporary times, Scarlett dons her red cloak (the better to hide her sharp hatchets under) and stakes out the spots where Fenris troll for victims (nightclubs, for one) while Rosie acts as bait. This novel created quite the stir when it was named on, and then quickly removed from, a list of 100 Young Adult books for Feminist Readers in 2011. Take a listen for yourself.
Culture clashes, food wars, imported High Priests, and more fill this mostly factual book on Hawaii’s history after the 1820s. Readers who enjoy Vowell’s somewhat acerbic and often snarky wit will find it intertwined here with personal anecdotes and historical tidbits, ranging from the tale of Christian missionaries trying to keep whalers from “finding their ease” ashore (the whalers fought back with cannons), to the importation of sugar cane onto the islands and subsequent destabilization of traditional culture. From the origin of the term “haole” to the annexation of the islands by the United States, this is an unabashedly biased, incomplete, and fun look at the place we go to defrost.
Whether you read this for the adoration of the wild landscape of her land in Wyoming, for the process of designing the proper house for said landscape, for the history of her new home’s geography, or for scattered details of her own extended family, this is a lovely kaleidoscope of a book. From the first time she set foot on the land, then owned by the Nature Conservancy, Proulx dreamed of building a house that would suit her solitary writer’s life. Here, she walks us through the many steps that led her to be able to walk her land while observing eagles and mountain lions and uncovering stone arrowheads, and to go home to a writer’s paradise of long tables full of manuscripts and research materials set in a many-thousand volume library. Proulx, as her fans know, is a master at describing place, and that talent shines through the sometimes boggy details of building her home, where, even those with means can’t make everything come out perfectly.