Review: The River

A pair of college friends set out on a canoe trip on a remote Canadian river planning to bond over fishing, books and their love of outdoors. But they quickly find themselves in a desperate and brutal bid to survive the wilderness in Peter Hiller’s The River.

Wynn and Jack knew there would be certain risks associated with canoeing on an isolated river, but a huge wildfire they spot raging in the distance changes their itinerary and they try to make a quick exit north to Hudson Bay. Along the way they hear a man and woman arguing in the fog and when the man turns up later, alone, their trip takes another, more desperate turn.

Hiller is author of the best-selling and masterful, post-apocalyptic thriller The Dog Stars. In The River (digital galley, Knopf), Hiller shows his talent at combining raw adventure with poetic and insightful writing. His novels ooze with humanity and he seems to capture perfectly the emotions and unique responses people have to adversity.

Review: Territory of Light

A young, newly single woman struggles to raise her three-year-old daughter in Tokyo in Yūko Tsushima’s Territory of Light, an empathetic and compelling look at single motherhood.

Following a break with her husband, the nameless narrator was not prepared to be on her own and at times is not up to the task. She struggles with work, raising her child, her temper, alcohol and managing basic home chores. Through it all she begins to question her own goals and her qualities as a mother. But, though she may not realize it, during this first year of being alone she is rebuilding the foundation of her life.

Originally written as 12 serialized stories for a Japanese magazine in 1978 and ’79, and now translated to English by Geraldine Harcourt, the novella Territory of Light (digital galley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) moves at a leisurely pace, often revisiting the same themes. But the vignettes blend nicely together and the repeating themes add a sort of elegant, poetic structure to the story.

Review: The Plotters

In The Plotters, groups of assassins do the dirty work of mysterious criminal masterminds. When one assassin, Reseng, takes liberties on a couple of assignments, he disrupts the carefully crafted plans of one anonymous “plotter” and puts his own life at risk.

Hailed as an example of Korean noir, Un-su Kim’s The Plotters has received glowing reviews and promised everything I might like in a thriller: Dark humor, mystery, action and beautiful writing. The book opens with a touching and brilliantly written chapter following Reseng on an assignment. But beyond the captivating opening, the novel wavered.

While The Plotters (digital galley, Doubleday) is full of well written and moody scenes, the story unfolds in a slow and haphazard manner and it takes more than half of the book for some major characters to be introduced. Unfortunately it isn’t until then, a little too late, that we begin to understand where the plot is going.

Review: The Dreamers

It all starts with one college student falling asleep and not waking up. But the sleeping sickness quickly spreads through a small California town in Karen Thompson Walker’s unique and authentic dystopian thriller The Dreamers.

As the story progresses the reaction of the characters feels frighteningly real. People panic in a grocery store, but still have time for helpful gestures; business men and women trapped in the town wander aimlessly and are thankful for a helping hand; a father goes to great lengths to protect his newborn child and college students first panic and then volunteer to assist with the sick.

If you’ve ever wondered how you might react in a crisis, you’re likely to find some version of yourself among the characters in this novel. The Dreamers (digital galley, Random House) is a refreshing and exhilarating addition to disaster fiction.

Friday afternoon coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories to enjoy with your Friday morning afternoon coffee.

  1. Haruki Murakami’s new novel declared ‘indecent’ by Hong Kong censors.
  2. Why are there so many suckers? A neuropsychologist explains.
  3. Every law is violent.
  4. Audience member steps in to save performance of La Boheme at Royal Opera House.
  5. Five grammar mistakes even the best writers make.
  6. Reflecting on 9 years living in China.
  7. Billy Joel may never write another song.
  8. The 50 highest-paid musicians.
  9. Stephen King is going through a cinematic renaissance, thanks to directors who grew up as fans.
  10. Mel Brooks at 92.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories to enjoy with your Friday morning coffee.

  1. The industrial era ended, and so will the digital era.
  2. What I learned as a honeymoon planner for billionaires.
  3. What’s holding Mexico’s economy back.
  4. Should we hide the locations of Earth’s greatest trees?
  5. Wealth and education have made Ireland a better place.
  6. Is Barnes & Noble too big to Fail?
  7. Supreme Court’s ruling on taxes might affect art dealers nationwide.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories to enjoy with your Friday morning coffee.

  1. Live Nation rigged an entire concert to measure the biometrics of music fans.
  2. The trouble with Johnny Depp.
  3. Shrines, gardens, 7-Elevens: A Japan journal.
  4. Thousands of Swedes are inserting microchips into themselves – here’s why.
  5. Can Silicon Valley disrupt how we construct buildings?
  6. Exploring the digital ruins of Second Life.
  7. Technology in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  8. The uncertain fate of the much-loved puffin.
  9. Where have America’s truck drivers gone?
  10. Spite buildings: When human grudges get architectural.
  11. Bad .Men at .Work. Please don’t .Click.
  12. The physicists watched a clock tick for 14 years straight.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories to enjoy with your Friday morning coffee.

  1. Virtual reality so good Disney should just buy the whole company.
  2. The politicization of everything.
  3. The “Simpsons” jokes that never quite made it (and a few that barely did).
  4. Behind the scenes at Tokyo’s lost and found center.
  5. A few words to the graduates from David Sedaris.
  6. EU copyright proposal has free speech advocates worried.
  7. Netflix is hiring everybody in and out of Hollywood to make more TV shows than any network ever has. And it already knows which ones you’ll like. Related: How Netflix is trying to make sure its shows don’t get lost.
  8. An extensive investigation of the Grenfell Tower fire.
  9. Does musical paralysis set in at 28?
  10. A list of everything Anthony Bourdain hated.
  11. The wounds of the drone warrior.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories from the week to enjoy wit your morning coffee.

  1. Ex-clown is hard to hide on a resumé.
  2. Should we stop looking for intelligent life?
  3. Anger over tourists swarming hot spots sparks backlash.
  4. How I caused California’s housing crisis.
  5. The major mobile providers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — are selling your location information.
  6. How the Internet killed the critic.
  7. A bank glitch gave a down-on-his-luck Australian man access to unlimited funds. Then he did exactly what you think he did with it.
  8. Ethiopia is now Africa’s fastest growing economy.
  9. The trouble with hating Ernest Hemingway.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories from the week to enjoy with your morning coffee.

  1. The all-American bank heist.
  2. Why the dancing makes ‘This Is America’ so uncomfortable to watch.
  3. Apple’s Jonathan Ive talks watches for the very first time.
  4. Eight years after it finished, why is Lost being reappraised?

If you’re looking for a good book, David Itzkoff’s compassionate biography of Robin Williams —  titled simply Robin — was released Tuesday. Here’s a review.

Friday morning coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories from the week to enjoy with your morning coffee.

  1. A criminal gang used a drone swarm to harass an FBI raid.
  2. An oral history  of Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison at 50.
  3. The gambler who cracked the horse-racing code. Related: The man who cracked the lottery and author delays book about poker due to huge wins.
  4. The physics of doing the laundry.
  5. It’s official: Tut’s Tomb has no hidden chambers after all.
  6. Meet the man who spent the last 20 years as a full-time resident of Royal Caribbean cruise ships (video).
  7. Why barns are red.
  8. A thermodynamic answer to why birds migrate.
  9. American Airlines flight attendants rent out their seniority for $200.
  10. Ian McEwan “dubious” about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I recommend The Sun Does Shine, the autobiography of Anthony Ray Hinton who was sent to Alabama’s death row in 1985 for two murders he didn’t commit. It’s an extraordinary story of rising above hate and stoically serving as an inspiration for others. Here’s my full review.

Robin Williams movies on streaming services

Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.

I’m currently reading Dave Itzkoff’s revealing biography of Robin Williams, which will be released on May 15. It’s a compelling book and I’ll post a full review soon. Reading about the talented comedian made me want to rewatch some of his films. Below is a list Williams movies currently available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu streaming services. Of course many others are available for rental, but this list covers what’s included in the plans most people have.

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