Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lock In

Lock In is the second book I've read by John Scalzi and it was super-fantastic.  I was engaged, entrapped, "locked in" from the first chapter.  I loved Agent Chris Shane and his hardass, drinking, smoking partner, Agent Vann.  The plot was fast-paced and kept me reading late into the night. I loved everything about this story. I thought the virus was interesting, as was the advancements made to help those who suffered from Lock In. I thought Chris Shane had a very unusual first week with his new partner. I thought Chris's family was interesting and I like how they became part of the plot of the story. I thought Tony and Tayla were great secondary characters. I like Trinh and Davidson. Every character seemed to have a full life/backstory that we just don't see in the story. 

I was lucky and won an ARC of Lock In from Goodreads. I loved Redshirts and was excited to read more by Scalzi. I also really enjoy his blog, Whatever. Basically in Lock In, a virus plagues the world. Most people are affected and most end up okay, but one percent suffer from "lock in" being trapped in their own bodies, yet completely conscious and aware. Chris Shane, becomes the most famous child with Haden's - the disease gets its name from the president's wife and daughter. Technologies are created to help those who suffer from being locked in. Everything is about this one percent, which in America, where the story is based, is 1.7 million people. If you think about it globally, that's 70 million people. There is no cure, so people are continually being affected. The American president throws money at research and no one argues, everyone supports it since they all know someone locked in. After a generation of this, a couple of senators sign a bill cutting funding to Haden's research programs; that's when things get violent. 
 
The description doesn't do it justice. The book is amazing. The Agora is fascinating, people with Lock In can exist there and make it whatever they want it to me. Threeps, aka Person Transports are fantastic and I love who they're named after. Scalzi invents things I wish were real and I wonder if one day they will be. I can't express how much I enjoyed Lock In. I hope that Scalzi writes more about Shane and Vann, I want to know what happens next. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Empire Striketh Back


http://www.amazon.ca/William-Shakespeares-Empire-Striketh-Back/dp/1594747156The Empire Striketh Back is the second installment in William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Everything I enjoyed about the first book was here in the second. I still love R2-D2's asides. I enjoyed the Shakespearean insults. While the novelty of writing Star Wars in Shakespearean language was starting to wear off, there was enough new stuff to keep me interested. Author Ian Doescher goes deeper into the character of Lando of Calrissian, more than what we learn about him in the movie. There were singing Ugnaughts. Best of all, Yoda spoke in Haiku. I loved the Haikus.

Doescher writes a bit of an Afterward explaining some of his choices in Empire and how this book differs from the first. I thought it was interesting (and I appreciated it as an Afterward, not an Introduction). I also thought it was interesting that one of his readers who was an expert in Shakespeare, has never seen the Star Wars movies (has he been living under a rock?). I really enjoyed The Empire Striketh Back and I look forward to the third book, The Jedi Doth Return. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Giver


The ending!  What happened?  This is the second book in a row that I've read where the ending leaves so many possibilities.  I know that technically Lois Lowry's The Giver is the first in a quartet of books, but after reading the description for Gathering Blue, I don't know if it has anything to do with Jonas.  So, that leaves me wanting to know what happens next.  As crazy as this kind of ending makes me, I also liked it.  I like the possibilities.

I'm not really sure what my thoughts are on the rest of the book.  I enjoyed it.  I can see why so many have loved it over the years - The Giver was published 20 years ago, before dystopian novels became a thing. The main character, Jonas, is thoughtful and introspective.  Initially, he balances what he learns with the way he grows up.  The more he learns about the truth, however, especially about his father, the more he wants to turn away.  This isn't a very action-packed novel.  The reader mostly orbits Jonas and his time learning.  The Giver doesn't need action, I wanted to know what Jonas was going to learn next, I wanted to know what his decisions were going to be.

Even though I can tell from the trailers that they've aged Jonas (he's only 12 in the novel) and that there is more action scenes, I'm interested in seeing the movie.  I want to see how they bring Jonas's internal world to life on the screen.  I've heard mixed reviews on the movie.  I wonder if they traded some of Jonas's thoughtfulness for action sequences.  I'll just have to wait and see.  The book is amazing though, enduring for decades.  I'm sure I've missed tons of stuff, I can see myself reading The Giver again and giving it to my kids to read.  I think it will still be in schools and read for years to come.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Requiem


I was not ready for the story to be over.  I thought there were more pages until I checked how many I had left.  I discovered I had 10 instead of 50.  The edition of Requiem I purchased apparently includes an Alex story.  I knew it was there, but in the midst of the novel, running through the Wilds with Lena and trying to survive Fred with Hana, I forgot about it.  I only remembered it as I approached the end.  I knew it was coming too late though.  I thought there would be more. 


The ending was unexpected.  I appreciated that Lauren Oliver didn't make it neat and tidy.  I expected something like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games and so many Young Adult novels I've read recently, with an epilogue or something at the end that tells us how it all worked out.  That's why I thought there was more to the story. With so few pages left, Lauren Oliver couldn't end the story and give us an epilogue. I like the unexpected, I like that Oliver did something different. There's a certain artistry about her choice of ending. I am intrigued by the uncertainty, the lack of resolutions.  I think I like the possiblity that characters could easily live or die in the next few moments past the end of the story.

I really enjoyed the alternating passages between Lena and Hana. Pandemonium was different than Delirium and Requiem was different again. I felt sorry for Hana through most of the story. Then I felt less sorry for her. I think she did the best she could. Without adults to guide them through confusing emotional times, is it any wonder that the adolescent characters act out? I think it's good to have an adult to help talk through things, parent or not, but the cure takes that away. All these young people hear is that the cure will eventually make it all better and they just have to behave. Like that's so easy when you're seventeen, especially with no guidance. It still breaks my heart to think that parents aren't caring, aren't loving their children. That's really what starts Lena on this path, that they wanted to take her mother's love away. I like that love is explored in more than just the romantic sense. 

Requiem was an thrilling ride to the end. I enjoyed this conclusion to the Delirium series. 

I just kind of wish it was the conclusion...

Since this edition includes the story, Alex, I thought I would write my thoughts on the short story/novella here as well.  Sometimes I am unmotivated to read the short stories and novellas of "trilogies" if I've already finished the main books.  I know what happens already in the plot and, in general, it doesn't add anything to the story for me or my enjoyment of the series. 

Alex was a good story and a great character.  Alex, the story, kind of changed how I view the character. I was thinking he had gotten harder, and he did, maybe just not as hard as Lena saw him. Alex gives the reader insight into what his time was like in the Crypts, Portland's prison, and how he escaped. What I was hoping for was maybe how he got to be where Lena was in New York and how he felt when he saw her with Julian. I was hoping maybe since the story is listed as #3.5 on Goodreads, it would give us some information as to what happened after the end of Requiem. It doesn't. Alex is a good story, but I wish I read it before Requiem. It didn't really do anything for me. It was well-written and enjoyable on its own, but I wouldn't suggest reading it as a concluding story to the Delirium series. Skip to the end, read it first, then read Requiem.  If there is anyone out there who feels different, I would like to hear their opinion.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Delirium Stories

Delirium Stories is a collection of three novellas/short stories written by Lauren Oliver as companions to the novels of the Delirium series.  I read the stories as I read the novels.  Hana and Annabel were read after Delirium and Raven after Pandemonium.  After I read each story, I wrote down a few thoughts, as I often do with short story collections.

Hana

I enjoyed Hana as a character in Delirium, but I think I like her more now. From Lena's perspective, it seems like Hana is a willing participant of everything. Hana is willing, but she also sees how Lena is growing and changing. Hana sees Lena moving away from her. 

Hana has her own experience with a boy, one many of us can relate to, but is put into a different perspective in the context of Delirium. She never tells Lena. If she did, maybe Lena would understand Hana's decision.

Annabel

Though I thoroughly enjoyed Hana and learning about all the things Lena didn't know happened, Annabel was exciting.  It was sad, but also full of hope.  Annabel is Lena's mother.  This is her story, told beautifully.  From Annabel and her own mother's perspective, we can maybe see why some people wanted the cure so desperately.

I loved everything about Annabel.  I loved her determination, her emotion, and her honesty. I love the story of how she met her husband of how they never spoke of it.  I also loved Thomas and getting to know him better.  He was just a name in  Delirium, in Annabel, he was a person, who had suffered loss and wanted to help the world.  Reading Annabel is a highlight in the whole series.

Raven

Raven. Oh my. There is so much. So much you don't know while reading Pandemonium. Raven is a mother/big sister to Lena, but she's so much more than that. There is so much information in this story. If you didn't read it and just read the novels, would there be surprise? I guess I'll find out soon since I'll be starting Requiem shortly. Raven is such a wonderful, complex character. She's so compelling. Even though Lena is looking for her mother, I want her to stay with Raven. Raven has dreams and hopes and fantasies. She has new complications. I don't know if it's because I've read Pandemonium, but Raven is my favourite story of the three. Raven went back for Lena. Annabel didn't.

I really enjoyed the Delirium Stories. I'm glad I read them interspersed with the novels. It added to the overall feel of the series. If you decide to read the Delirium series, pick up Delirium Stories too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Spin Number

The Classics Club spin number is in and it's 17! 17 gives me Animal Farm by George Orwell. That's going to be so easy. I honestly was planning on reading that book this month anyway. I actually just posted about how I haven't read it yet, a couple weeks ago. I'm excited to be reading my second book by George Orwell. It's been a long time since I read 1984. I'm going to have to pace myself though, since the post isn't supposed to go up until October 6th!  

What classic will you be reading? 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Two Swords

The Two Swords was exciting, I found myself yelling at Drizzt and so many of the other characters out loud.  My Hubby is extra happy that I'm moving through R.A. Salvatore's popular series so he can talk about the books with me.  I love when a books excites me, makes me invested in the characters and the decisions that make.  While I think Drizzt took too long to get back to Mithrall Hall, I understand his choices and was glad with what happened when he finally got there. 

I totally knew what was going to happen with Delly and Cottie.  It was just so obvious to me.  I didn't guess the part with Cutter, though I knew at some point something was going to happen with the sword, since there's a graphic novel I bought my Hubby titled Cutter.  I guess that's what happens when you're just halfway through such a long series.  I also knew that if Drizzt and Catti-Brie didn't make a decision in this novel, they never would.  There was so much going on, but I enjoyed every word.  I'm excited to see if the Bouldershoulders will bring Cadderly and Danica (from The Cleric Quintet) further into the Drizzt series.

Though The Hunter's Blade is a trilogy within the grander Legend of Drizzt series, I don't feel like the trilogy stands on it's own.  Icewind Dale and The Dark Elf Trilogy stood alone very well.  They were series within the series, but had their own arcs that concluded by the final book.  I feel like there is too much left undone in The Hunter's Blade.  I'm sure the next group of books, Transitions will deal with all the upheaval and loose ends, but I just would have liked The Two Swords to feel more finished.  It's a similar feeling I had when I finished Pandemonium, but that book had the excuse of being the second book in the trilogy.  The Two Swords is the third book.

I was thinking about taking a break from the fantasy books, but with so many unanswered questions, especially about the Orc King, I think I'll be returning to Salvatore's novels soon.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Pandemonium

The ending changed everything for me. I could have said that Pandemonium can be read on its own, as a complete novel, without the "second novel" feeling middle trilogy books often have. I could have said that. I almost still want to say it. It's just those last few lines, a handful of sentences changes the entire novel for me. Part of me wishes Lauren Oliver could have saved it, left it for Requiem instead. Maybe I'm too critical of endings. 

I loved Pandemonium. It is a wildly different story than the first book in the trilogy. In Delirium, Lena learns about love and how to love. In Pandemonium Lena learns how to fight and how to survive. In Pandemonium, she is the one to teach about love. We see two sides to Lena. We see what happened to her right after the end of Delirium, who she met, how she survived. In alternating chapters, we see Lena now, undercover in a different city, pretending to be cured, infiltrating a pro-cure group. 

Lena, thinking that Alex is dead, meets a new boy. Apparently, when the description/ synopsis of Pandemonium was first released, there was an uproar from fans, upset, distraught, over the fact that Lena could possibly move on and find someone else. For me, this is a realistic part of the novel. I know it's more "romantic" to think Lena will love Alex and only Alex forever until her death, but in real life we wouldn't expect that, so we can't be surprised when an author makes that decision. I'm glad that I'm reading the story now and was spared all the complaining when the Delirium sequel was released. 

The edition I read of Pandemonium was an enhanced eBook on my Kindle app. I was interested to know what "enhanced" meant. When I saw the Pandemonium eBook on sale, I knew that this was my chance. I wonder if other enhanced eBooks are different.  This edition included videos of Lauren Oliver describing certain important scenes and what inspired them.  I found the videos interesting, but I was not always happy with their placement.  Several times the videos came before the scene she was discussing, thus spoiling the scene right before it happened.  The most often broke the flow of the story.  I liked the videos themselves, I liked hearing Oliver speak about her inspiration.  If they came after the scene, it would have been much better. 
 
Pandemonium was fantastic.  It had me on the edge, eager to know what happened next.  It's a good thing I have Requiem.  I'm also interested in reading more by Oliver.  I  know she has more books, I'd like to see what other worlds her imagination has created.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Let's Spin Again!

It's time for the Classics Club Spin!  This will be the fourth or fifth time I've participated.  This is how it works: 

  • Pick twenty books that you have left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog by next Monday, August 11th.
  • Monday morning, the Club will announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
  • The challenge is to read that book by October 6, even if it’s one you dread reading!

I've decided to change the way I make my list.  Previously, I filled certain categories.  This time, I'm using Random.org to give me a list of twenty from my remaining books. Here goes!

1. Discourse on Method, by Rene Descartes
2. Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
3. The Wings of the Dove, by Henry James
4. Three Series, Complete, by Emily Dickinson
5. Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
6. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
7. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
8. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
9. Dracula's Guest, by Bram Stoker
10. Queen Mab, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
11. The Weapons Shop, by A.E. van Vogt
12. Northhanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
13. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
14. Daisy Miller, by Henry James
15. Stories, by Hans Christian Andersen
16. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
19. The Waves, by Virginia Woolf
20. Lyrical Ballads, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth

I think Random.org gave me an interesting mix.  There are a couple I was planning on reading soon anyway, some I've been avoiding.  One I was thinking of taking off my list because I can't get into it.  I have mixed feelings about the poetry.  I've already started Dickinson's work, but was taking it slow, as there a lot of poems and I don't know if I'll want to rush it.  My intention was to read the Lyrical Ballads in the same way. We'll see what happens if one of those numbers come up.  I'm excited for Monday!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy was amazing. Amazingly awesome. I loved every minute of it. It was serious and sad and funny. I laughed out loud at so many different points. I loved Peter Quill and his mother. Gamora and Nebula were amazing.  I loved Groot and Rocket, Drax and the prisoner with no leg. I loved the head that people mined.  I loved Nova Prime.  I could go on and on.  I could talk about the movie, about the amazing effects, the sets, the planets, the father(s).  I could talk about Marvel crossover and that I can't wait for their next film, but it's going to be a while.  So, I'm going to stop.  I can only gush for so long.

Monday, August 04, 2014

12 Years A Slave

12 Years a Slave was an incredibly intense movie. It is a serious, wonderfully done film. When I see movies like 12 Years a Slave, I can't help but think of the artistry and skill that went into making the film. Every scene, every character, was amazing. This is not a movie for a relaxing movie night. Intense emotions are stirred, prodded, and pulled out as you watch Solomon Northup move from day to day, moment to moment. 

The contrast between the north and south at the time is jarring. That so many people belonging to one nation could behave and believe so differently... Well, I guess this still happens in countries throughout the world. It's just a startling thing to see both the black and white people behave so fundamentally different. 

12 Years a Slave is a book, Solomon Northup's autobiography. Why had I never heard of this book before? I feel like it should be part of the curriculum. If not in high school, then in university. Post-university, I've read hundreds (thousands) of different blog posts and had never seen this book. Where has it been? I can't speak to the quality of the book, since I haven't read it, but since the movie was so moving, then I imagine the book is fairly amazing. 

One non-serious thing I have to mention is Brad Pitt. As soon as I saw him, I thought, of course, of course, he's going to play the "hero" white person. I won't get into what the character does, but when I saw him, I just knew. I mentioned this to my Hubby, who watched the movie with me, and he said it was Brad Pitt's production company that made the movie. I should look that up. 

Every accolade 12 Years a Slave has received, I think it is more than deserved. It is a brilliant and powerful film. I'm interested in seeing more movies created by Steve McQueen.

Friday, August 01, 2014

City of Heavenly Fire

That's it. I have finished Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. City of Heavenly Fire is the sixth and final book. It was full of excitement and adventure. It took Clary, Jace and their friends to places I didn't expect. I'm not sure how I feel about the story though. I really enjoyed it up until the end.  I had the same issue with the final book in Clare's The Infernal Devices trilogy

Spoilers...

The ending of City of Heavenly Fire was too perfect. Like Clockwork Princess, I found that it was written to make the fans happy, the epilogue especially.  Every reader's hopes and wishes for the characters were there on the pages.  Maybe I've just become a cynic over the years.  I just expected a little more of the unexpected, a little more shock and awe.

I also felt like there was a little too much setup for Clare's next series, The Dark Artifices.  I understand and even appreciate a little setup.  I loved Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorns.  I loved Brother Zachariah.  However, I don't think we needed to see that Carstairs file.  It could have been part of the prologue of the next book or something.  It just took too much away from the main story, because even though the contents of the file are brought to our attention, what happens after will only be known if you read the next Shadowhunter series.

Spoilers End...

Even though I didn't really like everything about the epilogue, I enjoyed the book as a whole.  I liked Edom, the way that the group got to see the consequences if everything went wrong.  I loved the characters growing up, understanding themselves and each other.  I loved Magnus.  I wish I could have seen Magnus speak with Zachariah, but maybe in other book. So, while I wasn't entirely happy with the ending, I still very much enjoyed the book and the entire Mortal Instruments series.  I'm interested to see where the Shadowhunters take us next.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Out of Sight, Out of Mind; or, An eBook Conundrum


I love print books, but I think ebooks are cool too. I've read a few and appreciate being able to read into the night with no lights on that keep my hubby awake. I like books being saved on clouds, so that when my son deletes every app on my iPad, recovery of the books is easy. I really like being able to quickly and easily look up words I don't know. I take notes without having to look for a pen and paper (I can't write in books, I use sticky notes typically). Ebooks have all sorts of conveniences.

Here's my problem. I forget about them. My print books are on shelves, overflowing shelves, in my living room, so I see them every day. Different titles catch my eye, I think about the books I want to read and the ones I have read. I think about how many there are, if I could bare parting with any of them. I think about how I felt, what I thought, when I read them and when I purchased them. I see them.  My ebooks exist in the digital world.  I only see them if I open the app.  I don't think about them, because I don't see them.  When I have read an ebook, I have made the decision before hand that the next book I'll read will be Villette or UR, reading an ebook I don't think has ever been a random decision, where I just pick up a book on a feeling. I've always suspected this about myself, but only fully realized it recently.
 
I was out with my Hubby and his dad. We were in a shop when I saw a super cool mug, the banned books mug.  I was reading off all the books I've read with my father-in-law when I got to Animal Farm.  He said, "You've read Animal Farm." in an obviously kind of way.  I said, "No, I've read 1984, not Animal Farm." He was quite surprised.  I told him, "It's because I have it as an ebook, I forget it's there." It's true. 

I have so many ebooks that I'm excited to read... like Animal Farm. I have Cat's Cradle and Mansfield Park. I have The Scorpio Races, Shatter Me and loads of other examples I can't think of because I don't have the apps open in front of me right now.  What do I do?  Schedule my reading more?  Make notes for myself?  Open every ereading app I have before choosing my next book?  Definitely not the last one.  Maybe make more notes.  That seems like the least obtrusive option.  Because really, I want to read Animal Farm and all those other books.  I also feel like if my book-loving father-in-law, thinks I should read Animal Farm, I should.  He also almost exclusive reads ebooks now. Reading in any form is good, and reading all the books I own would be great.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Undead and Unstable

Undead and Unstable is the 11th book in MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series. Undead and Unstable ends Davidson's series within a series. Queen Betsy Taylor "fixes" some of the issues she had with the timeline. The ongoing battle with Laura's mother is over. The major storyline for the last few books gets tied up. That doesn't mean that it's all over. There have been three more since this one was published. I'm guessing that they will deal with Laura's reaction to what Betsy has done. Also, what is up with Jessica's pregnancy? What will happen to Marc? During the books, there will probably be more fights between Betsy and Sinclair, but they always make up. Also, there are merfolk in the next book.

Though I enjoyed Undead and Unstable, I found the middle chunk of the book to be a lot of talking and not a lot of action. It's times like this I wonder if the author has some kind of minimum word count to reach. I like that Betsy is ditzy, but eventually works it out. I like her babbling. I even like her obsession with shoes. But I think the novel could have easily been shorter. Even with the extra words, I still enjoyed the story. I like Queen Betsy and her "minions". Davidson's books are fun and a great distraction from life. I'm excited to read those three books I don't own yet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Alice Through The Looking Glass, Stratford Festival

Alice Through the Looking Glass is being performed as part of the Stratford Festival this year. I was lucky enough to get tickets for a performance where the proceeds went to the United Way. I was excited to see Alice, looking forward to whimsy, colour and fun. Alice was good, but not great. The second half, after intermission was fabulous. It was engaging, funny and exciting.

I love the theatre and was so excited to see a play in Stratford this year (I’m hoping to see another one in the fall).  I wish I could have been as excited about Alice as I was about Tommy last year.  Alice Through The Looking Glass is fabulous source material (which I should read), I thought there would just be more.  The costumes were fantastic, the bicycles were perfect.  The set, the effects, were all brilliant.  If you can sit through the talking of the first half, the second half is definitely worth it.  It’s worth it just to see Humptey Dumptey have his fall.  That was hilarious, laugh out loud funny. 

I have to warn, this show is not really for little kids.  I did not bring my five-year-old and I’m glad.  There were kids her age there and younger.  They were so very bored.  It was better for them for the second half too, but there were things happening throughout the whole play that I don’t think they would necessarily understand.  Children should be at least 8, I think, maybe older.

Alice Through The Looking Glass was fun.  More than anything, it has made me want to read the book.  I’m looking forward to the next play I see too.  I hope I get to see another play at the Stratford Festival this year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wolf At The Door

Wolf At The Door is MaryJanice Davidson's first Wyndham Werewolves novel since Derik's Bane.  All other Wyndham Werewolves stories have been short stories or novellas. I've read some of the stories, when they were in Davidson's own collections, but not in collections that have multiple authors, so I haven't read all the "background" info. Honestly, you don't need the Werewolf info, though it might be entertaining. The more important information is from the Undead series. Wolf at the Door is a crossover book that features Betsy Taylor, queen of the vampires.

I really enjoyed seeing Betsy from an outsider's perspective. When Rachel and Edward meet Betsy and the gang for the first time, they are nothing like the couple expected. The smoothies and shoes are enough to confuse anyone. Add in the pregnant human and the cop, it all becomes a little unbelievable.   Everyone expects Betsy to be some kind of dark, evil she-demon and she's just not.

Okay, enough about the vampires, let's talk about werewolves.  Specifically, female werewolves who don't find their "mate" in their twenties.  This is the second Wyndham Werewolves story I've read that has a super hot werewolf woman down on herself. Listen lady wolves, maybe not everyone finds the right person right away. It's okay. There are hundreds of thousands of werewolves out there, and billions of human men.  One of them will be right for you.  Also, who needs a man?  Rachel was getting along great.  Edward was just a bonus to her Minnesota trip.  Rachel was a great character.  She was confident and intelligent.  Edward was an adorable geek.  He was even more down on himself than Rachel.  He seemed like the kind of geek I'd love to talk to.  I smiled at all the super geeky references that Edward made throughout the story; they gave the novel a little something extra that appealed to me.

Wolf at the Door could maybe be read on it's own, but I don't recommend it.  I think a reader needs to have a little background on Queen Betsy, though not necessarily on any of the Pack.  Derik, from Derik's Bane is only mentioned once in passing, so reading the last Wyndam Werewolves novel is perhaps unnecessary. Davidson gave me everything I wanted from Wolf at the Door.  It was light, fun and entertaining.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

For a long time, I thought I had read Judy Blume. If you're a bookish kid, and I was, of course you've read something by her. As I got older, I thought about it, read about her books, looked at her catalogue, and realized that I hadn't ever read one of her books. How did that happen? How did I read, and read, and READ, and not one of those authors was her? As an adult, I wondered if I should fix that gap in my reading life, especially since I felt that in just a few years, this was the kind of book my daughter might be reading.

Then, the day after I had finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five, having NO idea what I should be reading next (big book hangover), there it was on a big book table, marked down... A children's classic missing from my life, on sale! It called to me and I took Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. home and started reading it the same day.

I could have easily read the story in one day. It’s not long; reading it in one day would have been a snap. The plot flows, follows Margaret along on her pre-teen adventure.  Moving, boys, breasts, and periods, what is the next disaster going to be?  I really sympathized with Margaret, thought she was crazy, mean, nice, and hormonal.  I related with Laura Danker.  I have known more than one Nancy. We have all learned the lesson that looks aren’t everything, but it’s hard to learn that at twelve.

There’s something about finding out a book is banned that makes me want to read it more too.  I’ve read so many articles and lists about banned books and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is so often on them.  That was one of the reasons that if I were to only read one Blume, this would have to be the one.  I can tell why it was banned.  Periods and God.  No one wants to read about a girl trying to discover those two things.  Gross, right?  Also, blasphemous.  I actually thought that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is a great book to help a young person learn about those things.

The ending was the only thing I wasn’t completely happy with. It felt too open, there was too much left unsaid. It's not like I need books to wrap up every loose end, I just like books to feel finished. Maybe part of my problem was that there were about 20 more pages after the end of the story, previewing another of Judy Blume's books. I didn't know that, so I turned the page expecting more story. It was a very disappointing moment, and not the first time that has happen, when I saw what was on the next page. Please publishers, note somewhere that there's a preview of another book included so I'm not sad at the end. Thanks.

I am glad I finally read this book. It’s a modern classic, fun, sweet and something I’ll be recommending to my children and my friends’ children and anyone who hasn’t read it.  I know Blume has written books for adults, I’m interested now in reading one of those. If anyone is missing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. from their reading lives, you should fix it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slaughterhouse-Five


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21903582-slaughterhouse-fiveSlaughterhouse-Five was brilliant.  It was perfect.  Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death was engaging, intriguing and could easily be read in one sitting.  I wish I could have read it in one sitting; it was so difficult when I had to put it down.  When the mood struck me to finally read Kurt Vonnegut Jr., I had a choice between Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, both of which I own.  I decided to let the internet help me.  Slaughterhouse-Five is touted as Vonnegut's best novel.  If it's his best and I start with his best, then will all his other novels leave me unsatisfied?  However, if it's his best and I don't like it, then I wouldn't likely bother with any of his other books.  So, I cracked open my lovely edition of Slaughterhouse-Five.

One of the reasons I felt eager to read Vonnegut was because of the Classics Club.  I recently posted about Alias Grace for the Club.  While on the site, I noticed that their July event/era was Postmodernism.  Postmodernism is a curious thing.  There is no date ending postmodernism, because we may still be in it, though some say it ended in the 1980s.  As the name suggests, it comes after modernism (some modernist writers: Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, James Joyce).  Postmodernism includes writers like Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Haruki Murikami.  Is everything they write postmodern?  I don't know.  I've always felt like postmodernism is something difficult to pin down.  There's definitely an overlap between modernism and postmodernism, postmodernism and postpostmodernism
 
I wasn't planning on giving a lesson on postmodernism, but I do think Slaughterhouse-Five exemplified that epoch.  I wish we had read this book way back in high school when I was learning about different eras in literature.  I can't remember the example of postmodernism we read (shows how much it made an impact on me); I know that my teacher explained it as something that uses the writers' real life experiences and fictionalizes them.  There's often time-jumping and flashes of scenes.  I understand what she was trying to tell us now, more than I ever have before.  Billy Pilgram is the main character, but he's not the narrator.  The narrator is someone who knew Pilgram and was around him when a lot of these events occurred. The narrator and his friend, O'Hare are researching the Bombing of Dresden, they were both there, for the narrator's book.  I tried to explain all this to my Hubby, as I was telling him how this book might be a new favourite and I don't know if I did a good job.  Vonnegut did an amazing job of making the time-jumping aspect of the story part of the plot.  It is just something that happens to Pilgram.  Everything about the novel seemed to evolve and flow naturally.
 
There is also often an aspect of metafiction to postmodernism, as there is in Slaughterhouse-Five.  Metafiction is another literary (and can be used in other media) device that can be difficult to understand.  I've know people to run away from the word metafiction, but in Vonnegut's novel, it is used brilliantly.  The narrator openly discusses the book he's writing, includes conversation with his friend O'Hare.  O'Hare's wife tells the narrator that a book on World War II should be called The Children's Crusade, the alternate title for Slaughterhouse-Five.  "Slaughterhouse-Five" doesn't show up until much later in the book.  Another aspect of metafiction is the author putting themselves in their story.  At first, it appears that the narrator is Vonnegut, but Vonnegut also speaks through the character of Kilgore Trout, a science-fiction writer, who is also partly based on one of Vonnegut's friends.  Is Vonnegut then in his own story twice?  Maybe they represent two different sides of Vonnegut's personality or this thoughts on the book.
 
Phew! I did not mean for this to be an essay... Slaughterhouse-Five was just such a fascinating novel.  I loved it.  I could re-read it right now.  I'm sure there's loads I missed.  Pilgram and the narrator are both intriguing.  I'm glad that the Classics Club put it into my head that I should read Slaughterhouse-Five now.  I read Generation X recently, maybe I should tackle some more postmodern novels?  I definitely want to read more Vonnegut.  It's a good thing I already have Cat's Cradle.  I might need some recovery time for my brain though.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Books of 2014 - So Far...

I've seen a lot of "best of 2014, so far" lists lately. The end of June marks half the year; I suppose that has people thinking about what has passed in 2014 this far. 

If I think about the first six months of 2014, I think about some great new food I've made, like my quinoa salad recipe, which I hope I'm not making too often now. I also think about how my kids have grown. My son's vocabulary has ballooned. My daughter finished her first year of school. My Hubby is preparing for Warrior Dash. I became unemployed, but have enjoyed the extra time with my children...and the extra reading and writing time. 

I've read some fantastic books this year, so far. I don't think I could make a "best of" list right now because I loved them so much. I've read some new favourites, additions to great series, stories full of fun, fright, love and sadness. 2013 was full of great reads and it looks like my choices are still going strong; 2014 will be a fantastic reading year too. 

Reviews this year, so far:
 
 
Food:
 

Some thoughts:
 
 
Umm... Wow.  I did not realize I had posted so much in the last six months (and that's not everything).  What was I thinking linking to everything.  Ugh!
 




Friday, July 11, 2014

The Silkworm

The Silkworm was everything I hoped it would be. Robert Galbraith's* second novel was every bit as good as The Cuckoo's Calling. I love Strike. I love Robin. I'm really interested to see where their relationship is going, as I think it is the driving force behind the book and series. I'm also interested in seeing how Robin and Matthew's relationship changes as she changes.

Minor  Spoilers

In the aftermath of the Lula Landry case, Strike built on his 15 minutes of fame. (It is what I hoped would happen.) Then one day, tired, he takes on a case from pushy Leonora Quine. I really hoped that Galbraith wouldn't do a second time what he did with The Cuckoo's Calling and make the killer the person who hired Strike. I was pleased with that and everything that happened in the novel. It was exciting and fluid. I had to know what happened next.

I really liked all the new characters we got to meet. We got to meet one of Strike's half-siblings on his father's side. I loved Al. I definitely want to get to know him better. I felt so bad for Nina, though she was a bit pushy and presumptuous. Strike has some interesting and diverse friends. I really liked Robin's mother too. I'm excited to see how their social circles expand and collide. I'm already checking, hoping, to soon have another Coromon Strike novel.


* I know it's really J.K. Rowling.  I just like to pretend.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Lone Drow

The Lone Drow is the second book in R.A. Salvatore's Hunter's Blade trilogy.  It is also book 15 in the overall Legend of Drizzt series.  That means I've read 15 Drizzt books!  When did that happen?  It doesn't feel like 15.  I still remember how excited I was when I read The Crystal Shard.  Was that really 15 books ago?  The more it doesn't feel like 15 books, the more I think I'm enjoying it.

The Lone Drow was everything I want in a fantasy book.  There was loads of action, so much more than the previous book, The Thousand Orcs.  This was a book of war.  The dwarves of Mithral Hall and their allies, fighting valiantly against hordes of orcs, with frost giants and trolls thrown in to make the situation even more dire.  There were moments of love, of hate, of tragedy and emotion.  There were heroic resurrections and heroic falls.  The Hunter's Blade books have really hooked me back into Drizzt.  I have to know what happens to him.

Vague Spoilers....

I wish Drizzt had been reunited with the other Companions.  They're so close and yet so far.  They know he's alive, but he really believes that they're dead.  I understand why he thinks Bruenor is dead, but the others?  Why doesn't he believe that at least one of them is alive?  Maybe it's just a "prepare  for the worst" kind of thing. 
 
I am really interested in seeing where Drizzt's relationship goes with Innovindil.  She's his first real elf friend.  There are things he can learn from her that he can't from humans, dwarves or halflings.  She isn't just a flat character either, goodly all the time.  She has a dark side that might be growing.
 
The ruby thing with Bruenor was clever.
 
There is so much story left to tell.  This is definitely a "middle" book in a trilogy.  Lots of things happen, there is a lot of action, and there is no conclusion.  Where will the characters end up?  Will any of them die?  Will they come back to life? I'm excited to see where the Legend of Drizzt will take me.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Alias Grace

Alias Grace was brilliant.  Margaret Atwood created a world I fell completely into each time I opened the book.  Grace Marks was an intriguing, unique character.  Did she do it? Atwood doesn't judge, but gives the reader clues and information needed to make up their mind.  She created a sympathetic character in Grace.  I wanted so much for her to be innocent, but the more I got to know her, the more I knew the answer would be more complex than a simple yes or no.

Simon Jordan was an interesting character.  How much of what happened between him and Mrs. Humphreys did Atwood make up? How would she even verify any rumours?  I don't really want to know. While I enjoyed him as a vehicle for Grace to tell her story, I also enjoyed his own sub-plot.

I loved reading a story set in a place where I've lived (not the penitentiary).  I like that it's the city, but in the past, like looking through a lens backwards in time.  It's interesting hearing about the muddy streets of Toronto and the long journey from there to Richmond Hill.  It added an extra dimension that I found fascinating.
 
There was so much driving this novel.  The plot was flawless.  It was detailed, complex and reality based.  The characters were deep, varied and engaging.  The pacing was steady and quick.  I was surprised at how quickly I read it.  I fell completely into the story, from the descriptions of the penitentiary, to Mr. Kinnear's farm, to all of Grace Mark's inner dialogue.
 
I read Alias Grace as part of the Classics Club Spin.  The spin really encourages me to keep working on my Classics List.  You don't need encouragement though, to read Alias Grace.  It is Atwood at her finest.  It might be my new favourite Atwood.  We'll just see how I feel after I re-read The Handmaid's Tale.