Tag Archives: books

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TImeMark Haddon’s novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the few books that I would put on a “must read” list for everyone.  Honestly, it moved me to tears, and I had to put it down in places because I got a little overwhelmed.

This first person narrative, told by Christopher John Francis Boone doesn’t only explore the narrator’s deep desire to uncover the culprit in the mysterious death of a neighbor’s dog, it explores the mind of a 15-year-old boy who knows every prime number up to 7,057, doesn’t understand human emotions but relates well to animals (especially his pet rat Toby), hates to be touched, and despises the color yellow with a passion I reserve for…really, I don’t think I detest anything with the verve Christopher despises yellow.  Christopher struggles with the world because he sees everything, and when you see everything I can imagine the world feels too big, too much, and definitely too busy.  He likes small places, dreams of being an astronaut for the quiet stillness of space, and expounds on mathematical theory that, quite frankly, I’m not sure I really understood.

One of my favorite things, that didn’t really hit me until I finished the book, was the insight the reader has of the people who are part of Christopher’s life.  Although Christopher doesn’t understand what expressions of human emotion mean, he sees them and passes them on to the reader.  Through him, we grasp what the narrator doesn’t, Christopher’s parents’ struggle with a child who can’t stand more than the most minor touches.  You get a clear sense of their heartache when they desperately want to give their son the physical comfort that so many of us take for granted,  but Christopher cannot bear.  The reader understands the strength, courage, patience and amazing love that raising a child with these challenges takes.

All of this makes it sound like this is a dour novel, but it isn’t.  The emotion, that Christopher wouldn’t understand at all, is neatly balanced with humor and brilliance.  Christopher’s honesty and other characters reactions…most of us aren’t used to unflinching, uncompromising honesty, and the reactions he gets when he just tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, are beyond humorous.  It also gives the reader a real look at how often we aren’t completely honest.  The details we leave out to prevent embarrassment, the white lies we tell to avoid an uncomfortable situation, the conversations we skip to prevent us from dealing with confrontation.  These things aren’t necessarily dishonest, but for someone like Christopher who doesn’t understand how to lie, these every day ‘courtesies’ look like lies and dishonesty.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time offers the reader insights into humanity, emotion, and the strengths and failings of people all through the eyes of someone who is unable to process most of those things.  Christopher’s journey through the mystery of Wellington’s death and the truth it reveals about his neighbors, his family and himself is poignant and beautiful.  You get to see the impact he makes on those who surround him.  His uncomfortable truths push them into growth they probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.  Christopher’s awkward questions oftentimes push people into recognizing pieces of themselves that they’ve never had to think about before.  The supporting cast in this novel finds what’s really important to them, the devastation that can arise from the most well-intentioned white lies, that just because you don’t understand the way someone else cares it doesn’t mean that they don’t, and Christopher, well, he learns the most important lesson.  The one that anyone who has ever been told they aren’t enough needs to know.  Christopher learns that he can do anything.  The novel’s final paragraph tugged on my heart, but the ending….it’s….better than good.  It is inspiring.

First Lines

It was 7 minutes after midnight.  The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house.  Its eyes were closed.  It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream.  But the dog was not running or asleep.  The dog was dead.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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Tasted, Devoured or Chewed and Digested Thoroughly?

Beautiful_Books“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
― Sir Francis Bacon

Are there books you devour?  A genre you can’t resist tasting?  An author whose work you digest thoroughly?  Until, I get into a book, I can’t tell which one it will be.

Right now, I really want to devour Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but I keep having to put it down to be a responsible adult…I don’t like being a responsible adult.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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For Those in Doubt…Including Me

I get these Daily Rumpus emails by Stephen Elliott, and Saturday he linked to this video on The Rumpus site. The Gap by Ira Glass came at a good time. Reading over the short stories I’m working on, and recent drawings left me with the it’s-all-crap feeling. All the creative types I know suffer through this, and sometimes it is just a phase…sometimes that phase makes encore performances.

  1. It doesn’t all suck. It just isn’t…polished.  You’ll either get an end product you’re satisfied with (deadlines keep me from the endless “perfecting” that happens otherwise) or you’ll get three wishes from a genie…okay, so maybe just an end result you don’t hate.
  2. Keep working.  None of us ever get where we want to be without effort.  Besides, if we got everything perfect the first try, what do we have to strive for?
  3. Imperfections are where the love lives…just keep working

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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Urban Shaman: Holey Entertaining Mashup

Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy

urbanshamanThis is a book that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while.  It kept popping up on recommendation lists and in conversations about genres I enjoyed, but I never picked it up for one reason or another.  It was that fateful trip to Dallas to Half Priced Books that I finally found this sucker…well, for a price I was willing to spend.  Books are expensive and I have a habit to feed.

I know, I know.  What about the library?  I have this thing with libraries.  They are fantastic, beautiful, fascinating places.  Two issues for me though.  Issue the first, they want the books back.  When I like the book, I don’t want to give it back.  It is mine.  I want to hold it and squeeze it and call it George…or something like that.  Second, when I am given a time frame in which I have to do something, I immediately procrastinate until the very last minute.  It is a failing.  Then I end up having to give back the book that I don’t want to give back, but I never actually got a chance to read because I put it off too long.  Oh yeah, it is stupid. (Every time I say/type/read “stupid” I hear it in Debra’s voice from Empire Records.) Luckily, used book stores will let you buy used books for half off the cover price, and then buy them back from you if you don’t want to keep them (Like I ever don’t want to keep a book, pfftt).  This would be why I had to buy two new book cases this month.  (There are two bags of books to go to the used book store…probably…maybe…most likely.)

Urban Shaman is about the merging of cultures in an individual at its heart.  Joanne Walker (legally, Siobban Joanne Walkingstick, see what I mean about merging cultures?)  She has an Irish mother and a Cherokee father and she gets dumped into the deep end of being a shaman in Urban Shaman.  By trade, she’s a mechanic for the police…she also attended the police academy, so technically we discover she’s an officer although she’s never spent a day in the field and she doesn’t think of herself that way.  In her mind she’s a mechanic.  Then again, good old Joanne doesn’t think she believes in things like “gut feelings” either.  All of that changes when she sees a woman being chased, and just knows that she has to help her.  According to her she feels like she’s “going to puke” if she doesn’t help this mystery woman.  The catch is, Jo sees her from the window of a landing airplane, so location is an issue.

This book was really enjoyable.  I like Joanne.  Maybe because female, native american mechanics in this genre remind me of Patricia Briggs’s character, Mercedes Thompson.  Mercy has long been a favorite of mine.  Maybe because I just like strong female characters.  Whatever the reason, I like Jo Walker.  She’s smart and sassy.  Joanne rolls with the punches in this story, maybe a little too much though.  She takes a near death experience that awakens her shamanistic powers, healing herself as she’s discovering said powers and conversations with a Celtic god in stride with very minimal doubt or freak out.  Now, she’s told up front that doubt is going to get her killed, but hey, human here.  I’d have more than a passing acquaintance with doubt and a major melt-down or two if any of that happened.  This is only the first book though, so maybe the breakdown and freak out stage is coming.  Strength and sass can only get a character so far, at some point they have to be vulnerable and human too.  Otherwise, I’m not going to be nearly as invested in the next stage of the story.  Ms. Murphy hints at plenty of vulnerability, but we never really see anything other than the cracks in the windshield that Joanne patches over.

I can certainly see the tie between shamanism and the vocation of a mechanic.  Both of them are healers in their own ways.  The first deals with the spirit and the second deals with something physical and outside of the individual.  It makes sense for someone who has tried to move away from anything dealing with her culture or upbringing to be drawn to a profession like mechanic.  It is as far away as Joanne could get from healing the spirit, mind or body and still fix things.  Not just fixing anything, but repairing something that requires attention to detail, patience, experience, and knowledge.  Not coincidentally, fixing up cars doesn’t leave a lot of room for introspection either. (Not that I actually have any personal experience with this, mind you.  I can’t even change my own oil.)

Part of the appeal in this novel is the melding of cultures too, and that is a purely personal thing.  My father’s family background is Irish and Cherokee while my mother’s is Greek and a mix of a bunch of other things including Osage.  There is a rich religious, mythological, and mystical culture in all of those.  It is fascinating to read something that pulls in parts of my own heritage and uses it as plot points.  Part of me finished the book then sat back to think.  Wow, could you imagine throwing a couple of Greek gods in with all that madness?  (Hmmm…..interesting thought there.)

The plot felt forced in places though.  I don’t want to give away any more spoilers than I already have, so I’m not going into great detail here.  Let’s just say the plot has some holes that you could drive a Mack truck through.  There could be great explanations and fills in the next books though.  The characters are flat in spots where there could have been a lot of depth.  With Joanne, I gave some examples, but this is true of the supporting cast as well.  Some of it could be mystery.  There’s this Gary dude, and I think there is a lot more to him than meets the eye…otherwise he makes no sense.  Another thing, for a world in which, normal people don’t know about this, they sure are accepting of it, and there sure are a lot of people in her circle who do believe in…supernatural thingamajigs.  As I said, this is the first book, the depth could come in the subsequent books.  It certainly did with Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.  All the reviews of this book have indicated that the next two in the series Thunderbird Falls and Coyote Dreams are much more engrossing novels.

Even with all the holes, I didn’t want to put this book down.  I needed to know what was going to happen next.  The action moved at a quick pace with no real sense of lagging, and the reader stays intrigued and needing to find the answers right up to the end.  I loved the fact that C.E. Murphy has obviously done her research on Celtic mythologies, because her depictions of the pantheon and elements completely sync up with everything I’ve read.   There were no discordant notes there.  (Believe me, I’ve read a lot on this subject.  I’m not an expert, but I know when something doesn’t fit with all the other stories!)  I wish the same could be said for the Native American side of things.  Joanne does point out that things seen/mentioned aren’t even Cherokee and questions that.  I found it interesting that the character has more knowledge of the Native American side of her heritage, although she’s ignored it since she was 15, and yet that rich heritage isn’t explored in this book.  Joanne doesn’t really know much about her Irish heritage, but everything is focused around that history and mythos in the novel.  I found that odd considering the title of the book, Urban Shaman.

This series has eight books that I can find, and possibly some spin offs.  The author’s site is a bit disorganized.  I couldn’t actually find a list of books that she’d authored under any of her pseudonyms, but it was fun.  Even though I didn’t find what I was looking for, I poked around for a while.  There are definitely chuckles to be had.  I also discovered that she does comic books and there are pseudonyms.  Since comic books are quickly becoming a new interest of mine…hmmm, there are thoughts again…dangerous!

Has anybody else read this author?  Please let me know what you think in the comments below!

‘Til next time,

Jessica

The reading order I’ve been able to find goes thusly:

Walker Papers #1

Walker Papers #1

Anthology:Banshee Cries Walker Papers 1.5

Walker Papers 1.5

Walker Papers #2

Walker Papers #2

Walker Papers #3

Walker Papers #3

Walker Papers #4

Walker Papers #4

Walker Papers #5

Walker Papers #5

Walker Papers #6

Walker Papers #6

Walker Papers #7

Walker Papers #7

Walker Papers #8

Walker Papers #8


Book Before Movie? Movie Before Book? Decisions, Decisions

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of BonesI’m breaking my rules with this book.  There is a movie, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, being released in theaters on August 21, and normally I watch the movie first then I read the book.  This way I’m not disappointed in the movie and I enjoy the book.  Books are always better, you know that, and they have to cut so much out of the book to make the movie less than 17 hours long that I’ve generally been safe with this approach.  (Well, the only exception has been The Hunger Games I almost didn’t read that book because I watched the movie first.  However, my best friend bought the book for me as a gift, and I did end up reading it…and loving it too.)

It all began when I was in Dallas for the Neil Gaiman signing, I went to the Half Price Books headquarters, and came across Clockwork Angel also by Cassandra Clare.  This is the first book in the Infernal Devices series…it comes after The Mortal Instruments series, and it looked good…really good..really interesting, and I realized that if I didn’t start at the beginning there might be spoilers…I hate spoilers.  The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices are all part of the Shadowhunter Chronicles…I’m listing them below, because they are now on my literary “grocery list”.

So should I risk it?  Should I break my own rule and read the book before watching the movie?  My rule hasn’t been a secrete, I’ve proclaimed it often and sometimes loudly (I’m just not a quiet person), and since announcing my rule about watching the movie first, I have had several people inform me that I have it backwards.  Really? Can you be wrong about this kind of thing?

Well, wrong or right, I’m not able to wait.  Patience may be a virtue, but it really isn’t one I can claim….and people told me I was wrong, so I have to at least test their theory, right?  Can anyone say unnecessary justification? Basically….screw it, I’m reading the book now.

onesheetCity of Bones has that whole bit with a layer of the world beneath ours that most people can’t even see that I just can’t get enough of.  I found Ms. Clare’s world to be very well built.  There were none of those so-how-does-this-work? moments for me.  Only people with the Sight can see Downworlders, demons and Shadowhunters for what they really are.  Everyone else lives on blissfully ignorant of the war being raged around them…it isn’t a new plot device, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good one.

I like the mythology that she uses to build her world as well, and I’ve read enough to have heard mention of the Nephilim and the mortal instruments.  In this last season of the television show Supernatural they referenced the human-angel hybrid, Nephilim.  House of Night series by P.C. and Kirsten Cast also reference the creatures.  Wikipedia’s page lists a whole ton of references from Assassins Creed, The Dragoneers, X-Files, Magic: The Gathering and Hex.  Even before my trip down the fascinating rabbit hole that is Wikipedia, there was enough tickling the edges of my brain to make me want to go digging.  (Where did I read about this stuff?  The bible?   This is what happens when you pair an English Literature Major with a Minor in History…It has been driving me bonkers!)

clockworkangle-265x400WARNING!  Sometimes I’ll go off on random tangents to dig up all the information I can find whatever subject strikes my fancy at the moment. (Don’t worry,  I promise that if I go a-researching I won’t stop writing my blog….it may get a bit more…esoteric at times though, fair warning.)  Previous “hunting trips” have included gemology, theology (everything from Judeaism to Buddhism to Wicca) and how to read and write in Arabic (I did live in Saudi Arabia at one point.  I also don’t recommend trying to learn a language on your own…especially if it involves another alphabet…it is REALLY hard!)  Curious minds want to know!

Aaaaaannnnddd, back to the book!  City of Bones started out a bit slow, but picked up nicely with in the first couple of chapters.  I say it started out a bit slow, but there’s a murder in the first handful of pages, so really not that slow.   The more I think of it the more I wonder if could have been done a bit deliberately.  There’s a roughness to the beginning of City of Bones opening chapters.  You already know I’m a sucker for a well written, well rounded character, and Clarissa (Clary) Fray seemed a bit flat at first.  Something in the first few chapters just seemed off, unfinished maybe, but I think that’s intentional because there are revelations to be had, my friends.  My thoughts are either that the unfinished feel of the early chapters was an intentional device or the author was trying a bit too hard not to reveal secrets, because, without revealing spoilers, there are secrets aplenty.  With each new unveiling, the characters gain depth, the plot, as they say, thickens, and even the imagery gains sharpness that was lacking.  Friendships are built, relationships are broken, enemies made and allies gained….and nothing is really as it seems.  Excuse me while I go grab the next book City of Ashes  so I can see what happens next….

First Lines:

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest.  He stared down at the boy in the red zip-up jacket and shook his shaved head.  “You can’t bring that thing in here.”

Would you rather read the book first or watch the movie first?

Any books that are coming to the big screen that are “must reads” ?

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica

The Shadowhunter Chronicles

The Mortal Instruments Book #1

The Mortal Instruments Book #1

The Mortal Instruments Book #2

The Mortal Instruments Book #2

The Mortal Instruments Book #3

The Mortal Instruments Book #3

The Mortal Instruments Book #4

The Mortal Instruments Book #4

The Mortal Instruments Book #5

The Mortal Instruments Book #5

Coming April 2014 art by Cassandra Jean

Coming April 2014 art by Cassandra Jean

The Infernal Devices Book #1

The Infernal Devices Book #1

The Infernal Devices Book #2

The Infernal Devices Book #2

The Infernal Devices Book #3

The Infernal Devices Book #3


Just Let Me Add You To My Contacts

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
― J.D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye

Which authors would you like to call up whenever you wanted?

Which book of theirs inspired you?


Affliction: The Book that Consumed Two Days of My Life…When’s the Next One?

afflictionThe Universe was telling me I had to read Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton…now….no waiting for the paperback.  See, I had a trip to Houston this week, just for the day, and apparently I’m not at my best at 4:30am.   On the way, I had work to do, and on the way home I worked on a short story I’ve been playing with…until I ran out of paper in my notebook.  I didn’t bring a book, nook, headphones, iPad and my laptop battery died.  Seriously?  I can’t remember the last time that I left home without a book in my purse or a spare notebook and pen.  Therefore, I had to buy a book at the airport.  I am not a sit quietly and do absolutely nothing kind of girl.  After scouring shelves for a paperback that caught my fancy, something blue caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  I waffled a bit, I can’t lie.  Usually, I’ll check the hard cover out of the library, but wait to buy Ms. Hamilton’s books until they come out in paperback.  Books are expensive in hard cover, and Affliction is the 22nd Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novel…I own all of them…a paperback would match the others.  The waffling lasted all of maybe five seconds before I trotted up to the counter to pay for my entertainment.

If you haven’t read any of the Anita Blake books, start at the beginning with Guilty Pleasures.  The full list, in order, is below.  Set in St. Louis, vampires have been given equal rights by the Supreme Court.  They are people now.  Lycanthropes are out there too, but they don’t have the same rights as people, at least not yet.  The characters develop so beautifully over the subsequent books, and that arc is so fun to read…and re-read again and again.  Sometimes, I’ll go back to read the early novels and I just want to give her a hug…or warn her away…or laugh because I know she is SO changing her mind about that in a few books.  LKH never disappoints, and Affliction is no exception.  Filled with bad guys (both preternatural and human), good guys, emotional landmines, and a special brand of romance, her books are fraught with one disaster or near disaster after another.  For books about the paranormal, the characters are relatable.  Anita likes to pick at her relationships, and uncovers damage, strength and insecurities that most of us would never show the world.  Some of these I can see in myself sometimes, and it makes you love or hate the characters all the more because of it.

In Affliction I found myself smacking myself in the forehead and saying out loud, “Asher, what have you done NOW.”  Mentally begging someoneguiltypleasures to pull their head out, so they can see what’s in front of them, and shaking my head because I was sure her irrational jealousy was going to get her or someone else killed.  I usually read Ms. Hamiton’s books in one shot, because I simply have to see what happens.  They are those “just one more chapter” kind of books that are hard to put back down to go back to normal life.  There are cliffhanger chapters that are nearly impossible to walk away from.  I felt bereft every time I had to walk away.  These are characters and stories I dream about if I have to sleep mid-book, and Affliction wasn’t any different than the last 21 Anita books.  This book, my schedule demanded that:

1) I put it down to sleep, at least four hours the first night.  I was NOT happy, and my dreams were filled with Anita, vampires, weres of all shapes and sizes and, of course, zombies.  You can’t have Anita without zombies.

2) I put the book down to go to work.  That’s what keeps me in books.  It was done grudgingly, and with a chapter or three read over breakfast…I may have been a bit late for work too.

3) I put to book down to talk to people who actually deserved an answer, and didn’t know better than to talk to me while I’m reading (especially the last 20 pages of a book).  I managed polite, but I don’t know about friendly.

Anita Blake is not only a vampire hunter, she’s also an Animator…she raises the dead.  Yep, that’s zombies. That’s her day…well, it is the job she gets paid for.  You have to raise zombies at night.   Until now, she’s never really been afraid of them.  She’s always known what to expect, because raising the dead is something that she had to learn NOT to do.  As she says:

Most animators need practice and training to raise the dead; I got training so I could stop doing it by accident.  A beloved dog that crawled into bed with me when I was fourteen, roadkill that followed me like I was some nightmarish Pied Piper, and finally a college professor who had committed suicide and came to my dorm room so I could tell his wife he was sorry.  I wondered if the lone shambling zombies that they’d occasionally find wondering around were accidents from untrained animators like I had been once.

These zombies are nothing she’s ever seen before, and Anita is afraid.  When The Executioner, preternatural expert and all around badass (it really doesn’t matter that she is a petite woman) has no idea what’s going on, you know you’re in trouble.  Micah’s estranged father is dying.  They knew the trip would raise issues they would rather let die, but this was not what they had in mind.  Who knew that going home would this dangerous?

Have you started to notice that I love books with great characters.  This series has great characters, in every sense.  Quirky, endearing, dangerous, maddening, lovable, frustrating, terrifying, funny, and human; more often than not these traits all come around in one person.  As I re-read that last sentence, I think of all the other characters I love and love to hate in this series and realize that I could list the whole gamut of personality and emotion here, and you still won’t know what I’m talking about until you read about them. She doesn’t shy away from any aspects of their personality, even (thankfully!) their sexuality, so be prepared.

However, good books are not driven by characters alone (although, I do think that a great character can save a mediocre plot).  I really liked the plot in this one (and all the others).  Although at first, I was sure that I knew what was going to happen.  Really wrong about huge parts of that, and I should have known better…forgive me.  I figured out who the baddie had to be, but couldn’t figure out how it happened or where the badness boost came from.  The story moves fast, and there’s sub-plots and relationship arcs and…and…nope, can’t say anything else…spoilers.  The details are great too, and you can tell that there is some serious research behind weapons, police procedure, etc.  Sometimes you even get unexpected biology lessons…no, I’m not joking.

A personal aside, to Ms. Hamilton…thank you, thank you, thank you for more of Jean-Claude in this book.  I had missed him, a lot.  I needed more of him.  I was worried that he was starting to feel ignored.  (I do know he’s fictional, thank you very much.)  Truly, you’ve made so many characters such an integral part of Anita’s life that, while I know everyone can’t be on stage all the time, I miss them when they aren’t there.  Thank goodness for re-reading old books.  They are a balm when I am missing certain characters.

Laurell K. Hamilton has another series sourrounding a Faerie princess, Merry Gentry that is definitely worth a look as well…I have all of the Merry books as well.  We’re all waiting anxiously for the next in the series.  The author is also on Twitter, @LKHamilton.  Through her tweets, I’ve been introduced to a lot of great authors, like Neil Gaiman (as I mentioned in my very first real post), and she also gives quite a bit of insight into her writing process through the tweets and her blog.  The good days and the bad.

First Lines:

My gun was digging into my back, so I shifted forward in my  office chair.  That was better; now it was just the comforting pressure of the inner-skirt holster, tucked away underneath my short royal blue suit jacket.

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica

guiltypleasures

Anita Blake Book #1

Anita Blake Book #2

Anita Blake Book #2

Anita Blake Book #3

Anita Blake Book #3

Anita Blake Book #4

Anita Blake Book #4

Anita Blake Book #5

Anita Blake Book #5

Anita Blake Book #6

Anita Blake Book #6

Anita Blake Book #7

Anita Blake Book #7

Anita Blake Book #8

Anita Blake Book #8

Anita Blake Book #9

Anita Blake Book #9

Anita Blake Book #10

Anita Blake Book #10

Anita Blake Book #11

Anita Blake Book #11

Anita Blake Book #12

Anita Blake Book #12

Anita Blake Book #13

Anita Blake Book #13

Anita Blake Book #14

Anita Blake Book #14

Anita Blake Book #15

Anita Blake Book #15

Anita Blake Book #16

Anita Blake Book #16

Anita Blake Book #17

Anita Blake Book #17

Anita Blake Book #18

Anita Blake Book #18

Anita Blake Book #19

Anita Blake Book #19

Anita Blake Book #20

Anita Blake Book #20

Anita Blake Book #21

Anita Blake Book #21

Anita Blake Book #22

Anita Blake Book #22


He’s Gone and Done It Again – The Ocean at the End of the Lane

TheOceanattheEndoftheLane_Hardcover_1359996597Neil Gaiman has gone and done it again.  I thought I was finished being impressed with him after I finished Fragile Things.  Apparently, I was wrong…like really, really wrong. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about growing up, wanting to keep some of that childlike wonder, sacrifice, human nature, friendship and family.  It is about … life.  To begin, there’s a pond that’s really an ocean, a farmhouse where the moon is always full on one side, a very “normal” type of family, and the Hemstocks.

The storytelling, oh my gosh, the storytelling in this book.  You just get drawn in and you don’t want to leave.  (Well actually in some of spectacularly creeptastic parts you REALLY want to leave, but you can’t because you absolutely have to know what’s going to happen because the protagonist is seven….SEVEN, and what seven year old actually does what you expect?)  However you don’t leave, because well, you’re reading Neil Gaiman.  If he has a book that doesn’t leave you, at some point, distinctly unsettled and/or deep in thought about something…well….I haven’t found it yet. (Don’t worry.  I’ll keep reading, just in case.)

Me, I like a good fantasy book, so I’m used to suspending reality, for a while, to live in the world the authors create for me.  Usually, I don’t think about the whys or wherefores so much.  I’ve started paying attention though.  Who better than Mr. Neil Gaiman to pay attention to WHY I’m willing to believe that his world is THE world for a while?  The stories I like the best these days are the ones that take the world we live in and twist it just a bit.  Think American Gods here, a whole different world layered over our own, sometimes one that “normal” people never see.  Kim Harrison, with the alternate world that changed because of tomatoes.  Laurell K. Hamilton’s St. Louis where vampires have been given the same rights as humans by the Supreme Court.  They make you think about possibilities long after the book is closed, and real life has intruded again.  The magic of “what if”.

The protagonist in The Ocean at the End of the Lane  is a seven year old boy. (I may have mentioned that earlier…once or twice.)  Children are amazing little people, aren’t they?  Watching them learn about the world is an experience, wonderful, hilarious, and just plain weird in turns…and sometimes all at once.  Everything is … data.  (Have you ever used a…socially unacceptable for a two-year-old word…in front of a two-year-old?  They zoom in on that thing like a heat seeking missile, and they think this is the best word they have ever heard.  It is repeated incessantly…in front of the most inappropriate people…like the pastor, their grandparents, or your boss?  Let me tell you about The List sometime.  My niece and nephew wanted to have a shirt printed for me that said “That’s on The List”) Each bit of information they absorb informs them of what the world is, and I think what makes this book and this particular twist on the world so believable.  This childhood ability to adapt a viewpoint of the world, based on new experience. Some things are still fluid, at seven.  Our protagonist isn’t a little kid anymore, but he doesn’t struggle as much as an adult against a set idea of what is “supposed to be” either.  He sees some pretty wild and crazy stuff, but his friend is there.  She isn’t scared, so it’s okay.  There are some things our protagonist is certain are absolute truths, (I mean, I know a few seven year olds who are convinced they know EVERYTHING, don’t you?),but even these get shaken a bit.  Eventually, he’s just taking things as they come, rolling with the punches… it is all just data.  Your friend shows you an orange sky? Weird, but it is right there in front of you so, okay. Adults struggle more to accept sweeping alterations to their perception of the way things really are.

Autographed Ocean

The fantastic events that happen in The Ocean at the End of the Lane are not unbelievable because the character believes.  The fantastic is in turns disturbing, creepy, unsettling, and sometimes beautiful.  The truly scary parts, for me, came from the purely human.  It gave me goosebumps.  It still gives me goosebumps.  It takes some of those vital absolutes our protagonist has and … shakes them up, makes them less certain.  One of his absolutes turned to vapor.  Just.  Like.  That.

During my recent opportunity to attending a reading and book signing, where I got my very own copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane signed, I discovered that Neil Gaiman wrote this novel by accident.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, this started out to be a short story for his wife, Amanda Palmer.  Then it became a novelette.  As it became longer, he said that he resigned himself to it being a novella.  Finally, he says he had to send an email saying that he had accidentally written a novel.  Maybe this is what they mean by “happy accidents.”

For all this is an “accidental” novel, there isn’t a wasted word in this beauty.  It is filled to the brim with everything that you love about reading Neil Gaiman.  I found no passages, paragraphs, scenes or even sentences that dragged. Everything has weight here.  Everything has meaning.

First Lines:

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm.  It wasn’t very big.

Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly.  She said they’d come here across the ocean from the old county.

Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.

Old Mrs. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, said they were both wrong, and that the place that had sunk wasn’t the really old country.  She said she could remember the really old country.

She said the really old country had blown up.

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica


Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

9780062024046_p0_v1_s260x420Oh my, oh my, Veronica Roth, please write faster! Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent, was just as riveting as I hoped, and waiting until October for all that I’m sure will be waiting in Allegiant is going to be torture. This book dives deeper into the fault lines of the characters, and, although I hate seeing the characters’ angst, it is always fascinating to stand outside a situation and see so clearly what the characters cannot see for themselves, just like the real world.

This post is harder than most to write without spoilers for both this book and the last! Oh, I want to tell you what happens so badly, but I promised I wouldn’t….so I won’t. This is not an easy feat though. I just want you to know.

I will tell you this is fairly typical of a middle book in a series, a little darker and not a lot of resolution going on. However, I like the story arcs for this series. Not only the over-arching story-line, but the story lines for the individual books as well. They’re well thought out, well put together and I have a sneaking suspicion that the devil will be in the details, as they say. Insurgent left me thinking deep thoughts also. I’m not going to be sharing, because…spoilers…I’m really afraid these deep dark thoughts will give away plot points, so….moving on.

These characters don’t feel flat to me. Everyone, even major-minor and minor characters feel three dimensional. As I said, I think the devil is in the details in this series, and I’m hoping that I have paid attention to all those little things that are going to be revealing as we move further into this world Ms. Roth has built. A bit of the resolution in this book felt a tad forced, but I have a feeling that these issues will pop their ugly little heads up in the next book, and may not be as resolved as they seem to be. In fact, I kind of hope they do, it would be in keeping with real people and relationships. Seriously, how many of you have decided something is resolved only to have another argument about it five weeks, seven months, or even a year later? It isn’t pretty, but I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gone through that at least once…or three times. Not only that, but these characters have been through a lot already, and it doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. Have you ever just pushed down the stuff you’re just too busy to deal with right now? (Confession, yes, I have.)

9780062024060_p0_v4_s260x420Now, definitely recommending this one. (I already have to…well to everyone I know that reads…like at all.)  Have you read any good books lately? I’m feeling a craving coming on for some new fiction. Allegiant doesn’t come out until October 22, and it is only the end of June! That’s….that’s a lot of days.  Got any good recommendations?


Young-Adult at heart! This week’s review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent

by Veronica Roth

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Apparently, I’m on a young adult book kick.  Really, it just seems like a lot of really great books are coming out of the YA section lately.  First, The Fault in Our Stars and now Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Although, C. S. Lewis once said:

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

I have found that to be incredibly true, haven’t you?  Of course, this is coming from the man who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, and I never get tired of reading those.  Those books are like The Hobbit, an old friend you just have to visit every now and again.  I went and grabbed a book off the shelf with nothing more than a recommendation off the internet…again. (It’s worked pretty well so far.  Confession, I’ll probably do it again.) This title, Divergent,  just kept showing up.  It was in posts on Tumblr, on Pinterest, and Twitter and it stuck in my head.    The word “divergent” is such a great word anyway, and I am such a vocabulary geek.  (Did you know there is a book called The Synonym Finder?  Oh yeah, baby, it is awesome.  It even includes slang. No, I don’t read the dictionary for fun…maybe, I’ve read The Synonym Finder.)  However the info below actually comes from Merriam-Webster.

di·ver·gent

1 a : diverging from each other <divergent paths>

b : differing from each other or from a standard <the divergent interests of capital and labor>

2: relating to or being an infinite sequence that does not have a limit or an infinite series whose partial sums do not have a limit

3: causing divergence of rays <a divergent lens>

— di·ver·gent·ly adverb

Origin of DIVERGENT

Latin divergent-, divergens, present participle of divergere

First Known Use: 1696

divergence

noun

1.  a movement in different directions away from a common point <a growing divergence of opinion about that U.S. president’s place in history>

Synonyms bifurcationdivaricationdivergencyseparation

Related Words differencedisagreementdiscrepancydisparateness,

disparitydissidencedissimilarity

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This week I flew to San Diego for a business trip and read this on the plane on the way there…let me repeat that.  I read Divergent on the plane ride from Tulsa to San Diego.  There weren’t even any measurable layovers.  Well, the plane stopped in Las Vegas, but I didn’t even get off the plane. (I did move to a better seat though.)  Not only did I finish this book in an afternoon, but I went searching for the sequel, Insurgent…right away, as in immediately.  However, it wasn’t in the bookstores in the airport. (Bummer!) Now, while I couldn’t find it in the airport, I know where to pick it up tonight, as in like two hours!  (Not that I’m counting down or anything…no really! There are some cravings that just have to be fed!)

This series is set in what used to be Chicago.  Everyone is divided into one of five factions, Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Dauntless, and Amity. You choose your faction at sixteen after an aptitude test.  If you choose a faction outside of your family’s faction, you may never see them again.  Your loyalty to your faction comes before family.  This Choice is the biggest decision of your life.

My family might be able to help me make my choice, if I could talk about my aptitude test results.  But I can’t.  Tori’s warning whispers in my memory every time my resolve to keep my mouth shut falters.

Caleb and I climb the stairs and, at the top, when we divide to go to our separate bedrooms, he stops me with a hand on my shoulder.

“Beatrice,” he says, looking sternly into my eyes.  “We should think of our family.”  There is an edge to his voice.  “But.  But we must also th

ink of ourselves.”

For a moment I stare at him.  I have never seen him think of himself, never heard him insist on anything but selflessness.

I am so startled by his comment that I just say what I am supposed to say: “The tests don’t have to change our choices.”

He smiles a little. “Don’t they though?”

Once you choose your faction, the fun is just beginning. (Can you hear the sarcasm there?  When will we get a sarcasm font?  It should come in Italics, Bold, and Sarcasm.  It would make my life SO much easier! ) After you’ve chosen, you go through initiation.  Not everyone in every faction is initiated, and if you aren’t….you become factionless.  That means no home, no real source of income, and still no contact with your family.  In this world, faction equals home and community, and the emphasis is certainly that you cannot survive or at least cannot live well without a faction.
In this book I kept thinking of something that I heard the actor who plays John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the new film Star Trek: Into Darkness  say about his character.(if you haven’t seen this yet, finish reading this post and GO SEE THE MOVIE!  It is fantastic! At the very least, check out the trailer!)  I’m going to get the actual words wrong, I’m sure, and I’m sorry for it because it was very well said. Hopefully, I get his intent right, however.  Every terrorist is someone else’s freedom fighter, and that concept kept circling through my mind along with a question.  When do the ends no longer justify the means?  Isn’t that just a cheery whirlwind of thought.Can you imagine having to choose your future at sixteen? Doesn’t it feel that way when we choose a college or career path? This is so much more permanent, because we all have the option to change our minds about the university we attend . . . or not… the career path we take…or don’t, our future is not set in stone.  Our future is what we make of it…it’s a liberating and terrifying concept, to realize that you’re responsible for what happens next.  Isn’t it? Not the circumstances, but the path you take…

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I know, I know.  These are deep thoughts this week!  On bit of a lighter note, they are turning Divergent into a movie.  As I was checking out Veronica Roth’s website, I found stills from the movie.  There’s information about casting info on there too, not to mention BOOKS!  There is a third book too, Allegiant, that will be released October 22, 2013. (Why is October so far away?  To pre-order or not to pre-order, that is the question of the day.  Because I totally need to add something else to my reading list, right?)

First Lines:

“There is one mirror in my house.  It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.  Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.”

Next up…trip to Washington DC, and, trust me, I’ll have a couple of good books to keep me company on the plane.

Til next time,

Jessica