Posts tagged: books

Popmatic Podcast for November 11, 2015: Fall Books [P]review

By , November 11, 2015

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen KingAnd we’re back. It’s the fall and that’s when publishers go big. We give our picks for the cream of this fall’s book crop. We separate this fall’s book wheat from the book… ahhh, you get it already. And we learn that rationalized procrastination is not the same as delayed gratification. Plus—what is tickling our fancy this week.


The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Slade House by David Mitchell

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George by Kelly Carlin

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell


Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films


Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon



Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

Book Review: Two new reads in Science Fiction and Fantasy

By , May 10, 2015
Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Judd Trichter

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction


Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

By Judd Trichter

In the not-so-distant future, pollution is out of control. The streets are crowded. Drugs, prostitution, and other crime runs rampant. Why? Because Man and Android share the same streets. The tension is palpable. Androids have no real rights, other than the right to work. If one goes missing or is damaged, unless they are property of a person or company, there is no recourse from the authorities. That’s if the owner cares enough to report it, which they often don’t.

The androids are out to emancipate themselves, and humans are out to stop them, by any means possible.

What is the worst possible thing that could happen?

You could fall in love with an android.

This is what happens to Eliot Lazar. He is in love with Iris Matsuo, a C-900 android with a beautiful flaw in her eye, which remains an allegory for his relationship to her, and her relationship to the world in general. Eliot convinces Iris that they should buy or steal a boat, and head for the island of Inverness, where his mother lives. There, they can live together and be married without the social stigma.

But, when Eliot finally goes to get her, he finds her gone. Her apartment is in tatters, and the police are indifferent, at best. Except for one – an old hat named Flaubert who is getting close to the edge of retirement. His hands are tied about finding the android, but he is sympathetic to Eliot (in the same manner that people who know someone is mentally ill are sympathetic and helpful).

The kidnapping and dismemberment for parts of Iris sends Eliot into a frenzy – he WILL find her, and put her back together again. Finding each part comes with its own hazards, and he enlists his brother’s help. He makes some hard moral choices – and the book ends in a descent into madness, with the police on his tail, the world falling into chaos as android and man fight openly in the streets, and no idea whether his plot to put her back together brings back Iris, or someone else.

I’ve got to say – this book had me hooked from the beginning. The way the world is written – you can see the descent happening. Human beings are bound together by their hatred and use of androids, which are slowly destroying the world because the power they use creates waste toxic to humans and the environment.

I had a love/hate relationship with Eliot. He is a drug addict, a simpering fool, and he makes some justifications about his actions that make him seem like a hypocrite. But, he doesn’t stop. He does what he has to, what he feels is necessary to get Iris back together again. Even putting his life on the line, and confronting the leader of the android rebellion (who just so happens to have one of Iris’ parts.)

The book has kind of a bloody noir edge to it, but it doesn’t consume the entire book as it does with some stories. The world that Trichter creates as he goes is dark, dingy, and almost impossible to view without a little bit of disgust.

For an author’s first novel, this is pretty darn impressive. Add to this that Judd Trichter is the child actor who played Adam in “Big” and was in “Stanley’s Dragon”, a little tidbit I found out when I started reading his bio after the book.

Way to grow up, Mr. Trichter!


A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic


A Darker Shade of Magic
By V.E. Schwab

What if you had the ability to walk between parallel universes? How would you use that ability? What kind of trouble (or not) would you get into?

In this book, it takes a certain kind of blood magic to be able to walk between worlds. Only two people are left in the worlds who have the ability. One of them – Kell – is raised alongside the prince, kept as a messenger between the worlds. He describes each London by color – he lives in Red London, where magic is vibrant and plentiful. There is also a White London – where people fight to control magic (which, inevitably, has a mind of its own and doesn’t like this prospect). There is a Grey London, ruled over by an old mad king, which doesn’t have any magic at all (beyond what Kell brings to it).

There is also the mysterious Black London – sacrificed to protect all the other Londons. No one is certain whether it actually exists anymore – all artifacts from the place were destroyed.

Or were they?

Kell travels between the worlds for duty – but he also does a side business as a smuggler, bringing little trinkets through the doors and selling or trading them. He doesn’t have any real need to do this – his needs are completely taken care of by the King and Queen, and he wants for nothing.

I must admit, I REALLY want his jacket! (You’ll have to read to find out what I mean!)

When Kell finds himself in possession of a dangerous artifact and severely injured, he finds himself in the company of Delilah Bard – a thief who wants adventure, particularly to own her own ship and become a pirate.

When things get tricky, Kell takes Delilah through the worlds – and together they go on a dark adventure to stop a dangerous foe from taking over the three Londons.

When I picked up the book Vicious by the same author, I was delightfully surprised by her writing style and by the way she created a whole world with its own rules with just one book. V.E. Schwab has done the same thing here – the three Londons are fully realized, each with their own set of attributes (even when only glimpsed briefly, like Grey London). Not only is the world building wonderful, but the character development is done well. Kell and Delilah are both dynamic characters who are forced to change their perspectives on their respective worlds when they meet each other. Delilah is thrown into a whole new world – and she manages to adapt quickly (and maybe just a little bit gracefully). Kell is forced to face the consequences of his actions, and makes some choices that could be seen as selfless or selfish, depending on how you look at them.

I was very impressed with this book – it read quickly and easily, and the action was just the right pace, with a backdrop of interesting and well developed worlds.

If you haven’t read it yet, I also recommend her book Viscious as well as this one for a summer read!

Oh, boy! New kids’ books!

By , April 12, 2014

Boys are notoriously picky readers. They hit a certain age and don’t want to read stories about “girl stuff,” whatever that is.  

Enter Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants. These curiously named favorites are hard to keep on the library shelf, and have engaged all kids of late – picky boys especially. Readers of these doodle-heavy books have made it clear they like funny stories about average kids finding themselves in zany predicaments.

I recently read these two new(ish) chapter books, and immediately thought of those choosy readers. The stories are engaging and funny, and will hold the attention spans of even the most easily distracted. While those certain hard-to-please young men came to mind first, I’d stand behind these recommendations to anyone looking for a couple good reads.

Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber

Pete Watson sells his dad’s old CommandRoid video game (think Nintendo – your childhood technological marvel is now fodder for old guy jokes) to a nefarious character. Chaos ensues and Pete realizes his dad is now trapped in an old school video game. Will Pete be able to use his modern day gamer skills to rescue his dad and save the world from obliteration? Read, laugh, and find out. Video Game lovers in Grades 2-5 will really get into this book. As of this blog post, it’s currently available from NPL through Overdrive only.


Tesla's Attic

Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman

This is the story of Nick Slate – a 14-year-old Colorado transplant who gets hit in the head by a toaster, thus changing the course of his life and the fate of the world. 

Okay. Clearly I’m not going to be able to explain this in a way that sounds remotely normal, so maybe you can just trust me on this?  In this book, the characters feel inexplicably drawn to various inventions, and I felt inexplicably drawn to keep reading. Conspiracy? I think so. Unless it was the great writing, exciting plot, and fascinating characters. This is book one of a forthcoming trilogy. Hook readers now and they’ll be lining up for the next one.  Best for fifth graders and up.


Reading list: Summer in the City

By , June 9, 2013

Does this vacation season find you short on time and money? Don’t worry, arm-chair travel requires only one passport document, your library card. This summer why not travel to the most exciting city in the world, New York City?

Our first stop is a visit with one of the most talented and excitable New Yorkers of all time, Mel Brooks. The latest American Masters program, Mel Brooks-Make a noise offers a rare, rare, rare look into his world.  With commentary  by Carl Reiner, Joan Rivers and the gorgeous Anne Bancroft aka Mrs. Mel Brooks, this may be the most entertaining 90 minutes of television you will come across this summer.

Next on the itinerary, Man on wire, follows Philippe Petit as he prepares for his August 7th, 1974, high wire walk between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.  The walk  is remembered as “the artistic crime of the century”. It is bittersweet to recall a time when mention of the Twin Towers signified a triumph in personal artistry.

New York City apartment life offers endless imagined possibilities. Luckily for the voyeur in all of us,  a fascination with apartment living captures the eye of some our best writers and directors. Here are a few peeks past the doorman starting with the children’s classic, Harriet the Spy by Fitzhugh, Louise.

On film, The Apartment (1960) starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacClaine is the classic by which all other madcap comedies were once measured.  Other filmed “apartment” stories include any work of Woody Allen. Three apartment vignettes (included one by Woody Allen) are featured in New York Stories (1989). Carnage and A Late Quartet, both feature starring roles by great apartments.

To conclude your NYC tour, pick up The View from Penthouse B  by Elinor Lipman. This elegant story features a cast of (relatively) down on their luck roommates, two sisters “of a certain age” and a platonic male boarder. Visitors  include one recently convicted ex-husband, his millinery designing son, various friends and extended family.  Take one part saga of lost wealth add one part comedy of personalities add a dash of domesticity and in the hands of this accomplished author and the result is a perfectly executed soufflé of a novel.

Dust off the bottles of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth,  look in the way, way back of the refrigerator for those Marachino cherries, mix up a Manhattan and stay a while, it is summer after all.

“All my life, I never really felt comfortable anywhere in New York, except maybe in an apartment somewhere.”  Martin Scorsese



Popmatic Podcast September 2011

By , September 1, 2011

School’s ou… I mean in, so we share our surprisingly dark back to school picks. Crystal couldn’t join us but she gives as many picks as the rest of us combined via the Off the Shelf blog. We close with what’s tickling our fancy: historical sagas, neu-horror, awe-inspiring teachers and other bestseller alternatives.


Things we talked about

Columbine by Dave Cullen

The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle

To Sir, With Love starring Sidney Poitier (film version, only on VHS for now)

To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite (original book)

Dead Poets Society

Letters to a Teacher by Sam Pickering

Codex by Lev Grossman

Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Tree of Smoke by Dennis Johnson on CD performed by Will Patton

Crystal’s big list of back to school picks

Jesse’s evidence that spoilers are good:  Spoilers ‘do not ruin stories’, study says

Popmatic Podcast August 2011

By , August 11, 2011

Bjork and ToriOn this month’s show, we talk about things we’ve broken up with… and things we’ve fallen back in love with – the bad habits we can’t put down. And of course, we tell you what tickles our fancy! Can the host obey his own “no jokes” rule?


Things we’ve fallen OUT of love with:

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Tori Amos (what gives Tori?)

Neil Gaiman (go win another award already!)


Things we’ve fallen BACK in love with:

Tusk by Fleetwood Mac

Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Bjork (it means “birch” in Icelandic)


What’s tickling our fancy this month:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Wild Beasts – an indie, dream pop, post punk band from the UK

The Millions – a website dedicated to books and literature


Book reviews: The Diana Chronicles, Royal Feud

By , June 12, 2011

The Diana Chronicles
by Tina Brown

Join the wickedly observant Tina Brown as she takes you through the years when Princess Diana was the queen of everyone’s heart! Brown’s writing snaps, crackles and pops as she discusses Diana’s courtship with Prince Charles, the tragedy of their marriage and her later death, and the effect she had both on the British monarchy and the world. Brown is an impartial observer who does not shrink from telling us that the Golden Princess of Wales was often a needy, lonely, and angry woman, but one who had great courage and compassion. This book is a page-turner!

- AJ

Royal Feud: the Dark Side of the Love Story of the Century
by Michael Thornton

In December of 1936, Edward VIII abdicated the throne of Great Britain to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. His brother the Duke of York, was crowned King George the VI six months later. His wife was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and known to us today as the Queen Mum. She and Wallis, two women with more similarities than differences, were to have a lifelong relationship of mutual antagonism that only thawed when Edward died.

Michael Thornton paints a vivid picture of these two strong characters and their lives and struggles. Beneath her fluffy hats and constant smile, the Queen Mother is revealed a woman of extraordinary strength. And Wallis Warfield Simpson is much more than a mere gold-digger or femme fatale in this wonderfully written book.

- AJ

Book review: Loser Lit

By , January 19, 2011

I first heard about the concept of loser lit in a piece by Kate Christensen at  She subtitled her article: “In praise of the cranky, misanthropic, uncompromising nobodies of literature—may they screw up forever” and then proceeded to list a lot of my favorite books.  They’re all about people (usually men) who sabotage themselves repeatedly and unrepentantly, resulting in a downward spiral that is sometimes hilarious but always disastrously entertaining.  Here are a few of the best of the genre:

Wake Up, Sir!
Jonathan Ames



Work Shirts for Madmen
George Singleton



A Fan’s Notes
Frederick Exley



David Gates



Lucky Jim
Kingsley Amis
(a British classic of the genre)


Dear American Airlines
Jonathan Miles



A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living
Michael Dahlie
(for which the author recently won a $50,000 Whiting Award)


Bridget Jones’s Diary
Helen Fielding
(with one of the few female loser lit protagonists)



Book review: If You Like Jeannette Walls

By , January 12, 2011

If you like the addictive, almost tall-tale quality of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, try Catherine Gildiner’s two memoirs: Too Close to the Falls and After the Falls.  The subject matter is different (a girl growing up in 1950’s New York State), but the rapid-fire, whirlwind writing style is the same.

Popmatic Podcast December 2010

By , December 1, 2010

Due to popular demand Bryan reviews Late Late at Night by Rick Springfield. The rest of the show is our best of the year book, movie, and music picks.

Check out titles mentioned in this episode.

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