Month: May 2013

May 14

The Tough Stuff: Top Ten Tuesday

Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Frightening, Memoirs, Non Fiction, Psychological, Tear Jerkers, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 59

Hola Bookworms,

Today is another Tuesday, and another GLORIOUS list, the topic of which was provided by The Broke and The Bookish. Today’s topic is to list out books that deal with difficult subject matter, and the ones I’m choosing are all kind of a downer. That doesn’t mean they aren’t BRILLIANT books, because they are. It just means that they’re emotionally draining, so, you know, don’t read them all in a row.

TTT3W1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book is amazing, but such a tough read. Speak is about a girl entering high school. She is date raped at a party, and while she calls the police to break up the party, she can’t bring herself to tell the authorities what happened to her. She starts her high school career as the narc who ruined the best party of the summer all while dealing with the emotional hurricane of attending school with her rapist. It’s a rough read, but really worth it. I highly recommend it.

2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Race and incest and violent relationships and homosexuality and secrets and lies and children and turning gender roles upside down… It’s pretty amazing. It’s exceptionally powerful because it’s written in an epistolary format in a regional dialect. Try to get through it without crying. I dare you.

3. Room by Emma Donoghue. This choice seems even more appropriate now given the news coming out of Cleveland of the three women held captive in a home for a decade. Room is about a young woman who is abducted from her college campus parking lot. She is locked in an inescapable sound-proof shed and regularly raped by her captor. Eventually these systematic rapes result in a successful pregnancy and she raises her little boy, Jack, in this shed. Jack is five and he narrates the book. I think this was a brilliant choice on Donoghue’s part, because hearing this horror story through the eyes of “Ma” would probably have been too much to bear. The innocent goggles of a child make things tragic and yet, in a way, hopeful.

Don't let the colorful cover fool you, this is NOT for the faint of heart.

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Teenagers with cancer! Watching mere children face down their own mortality won’t tear at your very soul or anything. Young love cut tragically short by disease won’t make you bawl your eyes out. Living with a debilitating illness that is slowly eating your body from the inside when you should be out shopping for prom dresses and going through your angsty phase in giant baggy pants won’t mar your psyche! So heartbreaking. So good.

5. Smoke Over Birkenau by Liana Millu. Talk about the tough stuff. It simply does not get any “tougher” than books about the Holocaust. There are a lot of books on the subject, and I’ve read a number of heart wrenching personal accounts. It’s difficult to pick just one, but since I really have to pace myself on reading these (so I don’t get overwhelmed by humanity’s ability to inflict horror on itself for incredibly stupid reasons) I thought it might be overkill to fill this list with Holocaust books.

6. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. Whooo boy this one’s a doozie. Depressed teenagers. Eating disorders. Young love denied. Unbelievable acts of violence. Dealing with the aftermath. This is a draining read, but it’s really well done. Sure, it feels a bit like you’re being stabbed in the heart with a dull spoon, but it’s a good pain. It’s NOT a true story, thank God. At least you can tell yourself that when you’re sobbing into your pillow…

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7. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. I don’t care how open and honest and cool you are with your kids. It is awkward as heck to discuss periods with your prepubescent daughter (this, coming of course, from a former prepubescent daughter. The thought of having this conversation with my own offspring makes me preemptively uncomfortable.) Thank GOD for Judy Blume. Thank GOD for this book. That GOD it existed when I was 12. Margaret made all the late bloomers out there feel less alone. Thank you, Judy Blume, for being awesome.

8. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Yeah, it’s tough to be a teenager, Margaret, but it’s even tougher to be an adult with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. As you follow Alice’s mental decline you feel her frustrations and her anguish, as well as her moments of hope and triumph. It’s a beautifully rendered story, and it will make you keenly aware of your own precarious mental state. You may want to order a lot of fish oil caplets or whatever antioxidant thingies they have on the market today that are supposed to help keep your brain going strong to old age and beyond…

still alice

9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. What would you do if the most basic part of your identity, your biological gender, were called into question? Our protagonist is raised as a female but due to a gene mutation, she’s biologically male… At least, mostly. A coming of age story with the added bonus of some sweet historical fiction elements plus all the psychological turmoil that goes on when a person doesn’t fall neatly into a gender category. Powerful.

10. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Forget everything you saw in that movie. I don’t care if it won Angelina Jolie an Oscar, the book was MUCH better. It’s Susanna Kaysen’s true life account of her time in a mental hospital. I read this a long time ago, but there was one part that seriously resonated with me. Kaysen described her descent into crippling depression as the world slowing down and time crawling by. She said that there were two ways to go crazy- for everything to slow down or for everything to speed up. I’ve always thought that if I ever needed to be institutionalized, it would be due to the super fast worst-case-scenario in flashes of horror kind of crazy, at which point my brain would completely short circuit and the slow would set it. It probably says a little too much about me and my mental state that I’ve given this so much thought, but you know. I’m bad at lying.

So Bookworms, tell me. What are your top picks for books that deal with the tough stuff? I’m all ears (at least until my psychotic break, but I think we’ve got some time.)

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May 13

Awww, Sookie Sookie Now: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Crime, Fantasy, Mystery, Mythology, Romance, Supernatural, Vampires 27

Hello to my Bloodsucking Bookworms!

Oh, that’s right. The REAL vampires are still “in the coffin.” I get it, I get it. I don’t blame you for keeping it to yourselves. Actually, I may have mentioned it before, but my very existence is proof to me that vampires are not real. I am DELECTABLE to all blood sucking insects. Every mosquito within miles comes to feast on my sweet sweet blood. (I’m beginning to think I may be part fairy.) Anyway. Considering I’m so delicious to fleas and flies and mosquitoes, it would only make sense that vampires would find me irresistible, drink all my blood, and render me a whole lot of dead in very little time. Let us suspend our disbelief, shall we?

In Charlaine Harris’s version of vampire-lore, vampires “came out of the coffin” to the general public after a medical company was able to manufacture synthetic blood. The theory was that they would no longer be a threat to humans if they just drank bottled fake blood instead of guzzling humanity. After the vampires came to light, so too did werewolves and other shape shifters (I’ve yet to hear of a were-penguin, but I like to hold out hope that it is completely possible. Sam Merlotte, the resident Bon Temps shape shifter/bar owner can turn into just about anything. Just because he never pulled out the penguin tux doesn’t mean he COULDN’T if he wanted to, right?) In a world where vampires, shape shifters, and werewolves, are real, the floodgates are open to all sorts of mythical creatures. Fairies, demons, elves, and hybrid supernaturals of all kinds have encountered the lovely Sookie Stackhouse over the last 12 books. Sookie, our heroine, is a waitress in a bar in small town Louisiana.

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Sookie has been a telepath all her life, which is typically the bane of her existence. I don’t want to hear what goes on inside anyone else’s head any more than I want someone listening in on my thoughts. You can’t control thoughts, you know? All the impolite things you think but never say are what Sookie deals with on a daily basis. The fact that she was drawn into the world of supernaturals was largely based on this gift- she isn’t able to hear vampire thoughts at all, and other supernaturals are difficult for her to read clearly. Finally, some peace and quiet! Only… Not at all. Because hanging out with witches and vampires and werewolves and fairies and shape shifters makes life AWFULLY interesting… And leads to an impressive pile of dead bodies, human and otherwise.

This has all been leading up to the finale of Dead Ever After, book 13 in the series. Sookie’s had a series of love interests, among them two scandalously sensual vampires (the quintessential southern gentleman and the outrageously hot Viking), a were-tiger, a were-wolf, and exactly zero humans. Her fairy blood has proved a mixed blessing as it makes her vampire catnip (though it’s diluted enough that they don’t just eat her outright), but lands her in a world of conflict with another dimension of existence. Sookie’s dearly departed Gran left her a token of love called a cluviel dor, which is super powerful fairy magic that allows the owner one insanely powerful wish. At the end of her last adventure, Sookie used her cluviel dor to save the life of her close friend and business partner Sam Merlotte (after he was injured in a werewolf battle. Dangerous business hanging around supernaturals, even if you are one.) Unfortunately, Sam starts acting all weird about the whole thing (much to my dismay because I’ve been ‘shipping hard for Sookie and Sam to have a happily ever after since book 1, y’all.)

Sookie + Sam = Supernatural love that can reproduce and lives only the length of a normal human life!

This is a screen cap from True Blood. It’s a great show, as long as you don’t expect it to follow the books very closely… As in, the books are less of a code and more of a loose set of guidelines…

To add to the crazy, Sookie’s ex friend Arlene managed to get herself sprung from jail (because of that one time she joined a cult and tried to crucify Sookie…) and shortly thereafter get herself murdered. I know, right? Thanks to the work of some devious douchebags, Sookie is framed for the crime. While Sookie’s had to mow down a few supes in her life, it’s largely been in self defense. She’s a sweet gal, Sookie. Murder really isn’t her jam. So now she’s got to rally her troop of supes to solve the crime and prove her innocence.

I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations for this finale book because the series is fun, but campy. It would have been hard for me to be upset if she’d ended up with the hottie hot hot Eric, or her first love Bill, or Quinn the were-tiger, or even Alcide the werewolf. Sure, I was Team Sam all the way, but you know. They’re fun silly books about imaginary people and imaginary things that didn’t get all up in my SOUL the way that Harry Potter did. Fun distraction, but I’m surely not feeling bereft knowing the series is finished. I won’t tell you how it turns out, but I found the final book satisfying. A follow up book which is NOT a novel is due out in the fall. It will detail what becomes of all the characters in their happily ever afters. I’m sure that will provide any closure to any lingering questions fans have, and I applaud Harris for taking the step.

Have any of you bookworms been following the Sookie saga? Have you read the finale? How did YOU want things to turn out? Are you pleased with the results? Talk to me, my dears. I love to hear from you!

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May 09

No One Mourns The WICKED: The Death Cure by James Dashner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction, Zombies 33

Good Day Bookworms!

I would like to tell you a story today. It’s a story about LOST. Do you remember that show? Sawyer and Jack and Kate and all these people stranded on a crazy island? The creators kept SAYING they’d tie it all together at the end, but they pretty much just introduced a tertiary storyline that turned out to not be real and everyone re-united in the hereafter? Nobody ever explained why there was a frickin polar bear on the island other than some vague allusion to science experiments and fish biscuits? Why were they testing polar bears? For heaven’s sake, WHY POLAR BEARS?! Apparently it wasn’t important.

Sawyer. Reading. You're welcome.

Sawyer. Reading. You’re welcome.

I just finished The Death Cure by James Dashner and I feel a little bit of LOST letdown. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is the end of a series that I really enjoyed. Perhaps it’s because I still have questions. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don’t know. I’m just a little… ambivalent about the way things were left. But let’s back up a moment.

When we left the poor unfortunate souls from the Glade, they were being fried out in the desert and trying to complete a mysterious experiment for a mysterious entity known as WICKED. We learned in The Scorch Trials that after the earth was stricken with a devastating set of solar flares, a man made virus was somehow released that caused people to go insane. Not insane in a treatable realistic mental illness sort of way, but insane in a zombie sort of way. After victims of “the Flare” hit a certain level of brain deterioration, they begin running amok and feasting on human flesh. As it turns out, the boys and girls of the maze experiments were chosen by and large because their brains resisted the virus. They could be exposed to the air born virus all they liked and never succumb to the madness. (A few unfortunate subjects who were NOT immune were included as a control group, so the minute they were turned loose in the desert they were basically screwed. Thanks, WICKED!)

Thomas is our hero and he is one stubborn son of a gun. Once the group emerges alive from their trials in The Scorch, they’re returned to WICKED headquarters and told that the cure is nearly complete. The brilliant scientists just need to run a few more tests. By this point, Thomas and his cronies have had more than enough of this nonsense and they refuse to have their memories re-instated since they don’t trust WICKED with scalpels. All those questions I was hoping to have answered about what in the sam heck went on with Thomas before these trials started? I might know the answers to them now if THOMAS weren’t so STUBBORN!

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Thomas and his faithful crew decide they’ve had QUITE enough of WICKED’s tests and break out, jailbird style. That’s when we find out what’s become of the rest of the world. It’s not quite as dire as a full on zombie apocalypse or Captain Tripps, but it ain’t pretty. The group bounces around the remnants of a supposedly infection free Denver for a while before deciding to take a stand and destroy the entity that used them as lab rats. Even if the fate civilization is at stake. They figure that if after torturing children for 2 years WICKED didn’t get the appropriate brain wave patterns they were seeking, the search for the cure was moot. Game over, humanity! Or is it? Muahahahaha. Read the book y’all.

So. About me feeling a bit LOST. There IS a prequel. And I WILL be reading it. Don’t pull a LOST on me, Dashner, just don’t do it! My psyche is fragile! I shall keep you apprised of the happenings, my dear bookworms. Until then, tell me. These books bring up a lot of ethical questions about the rights of the few being sacrificed for the good of the many. We could totally have that discussion. OR. We could talk about why cheese is delicious and why penguins are so damn cute. Your choice, the floor is open.

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May 07

Shiny, Happy Bookworms Holding Hands (Top Ten Tuesday)

Chick Lit, Children's Fiction, Classics, Fantasy, Humor, Memoirs 50

Greetings my dear Bookworms!

The lovely ladies of The Broke and The Bookish are hosting yet another fabulous Top Ten Tuesday. This week, they’ve asked us to list books we read when we need something light and fun. I’ve compiled a list of books that satisfy my craving for literary cotton candy. Without further ado…

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1. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisenberger. I love a little chick lit when I’m down and out. This book helps put things in perspective, because there’s basically NO WAY any boss could be this bad in real life. It’s great for the “thank HEAVEN that isn’t me” giggle.

2. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin. Yes, more chick lit. If you’ve ever babysat in your life (and really, who hasn’t?!) you’ll find the humor in this book. It’s funny and poignant, and it’ll turn your frown upside down. Rich people are so weird, and if you’re the 99 percent, you’ll love it. (If you’re the one percent, you need to explain to me what the deal is with lavender water…)

3. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. How can you not be happy when you read this? It’s joyous and delightful and full of PENGUINS! Now that I’ve met a penguin in real life, I’m concerned about the hygiene aspect of keeping non house-trainable penguins in one’s home, but I’m willing to overlook it. For the sake of FUN, obviously.

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4. Daisy Fay and The Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg. Fannie Flagg is the BEST at heartwarming stories with a southern twang. I will accept all kinds of cheesy if it comes from  Ms. Flagg, she’s a treat. Daisy Fay cracked me up, particularly for a silly scenario involving a beauty pageant. Having once been in a pageant scholarship program, stories like this tickle me. Anyone seen Drop Dead Gorgeous? Hilariousness.

5. Harry Potter by JK Rowling. Very few things are able to cheer me up the way Harry Potter can. Even when things are at their most dire and tragic, Rowling always finds a way to make these stories uplifting and wonderful. Escapism at its finest!

6. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. True story- I loved Bridget so much, that my college roommate (Quirky Chrissy) and I named our houseplants after characters in the book. Bridget is the ultimate every woman. Wine. Chocolate. Humor. Love. Happiness!

7. Bossypants by Tina Fey. I like reading about funny actresses, and Bossypants is one of my favorites. Fey approaches her life story with humor, grace, and humility. I want her to come to my slumber party!

Even the cover is funny. Tina Fey with man hands!

Even the cover is funny. Tina Fey with man hands!

8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Meby Mindy Kaling. That magical slumber party where Tina Fey is in attendance? So is Mindy Kaling! I love her so much. She’s sort of Bridget Jones if she were Indian, hilarious, and had her life together. Meaning, she’s a cool funny lady who doesn’t wear a size 2 and is likely well versed in the frivolities that make life worth living. (If you’re not watching her new show, The Mindy Project, you’re missing out on some good times.)

9. The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris. Sexy vampires, sexy werewolves, sexy telepaths, sexy fairies… Fun supernatural times on the bayou (actually, it’s just in Louisiana. I’m not sure that counts as on the bayou because I think that’s a geological swamp thing that probably doesn’t encompass the whole state. However. This is about crazy supernatural fun, not geology. Also, I like saying “bayou.”) New book to finish out the series is on the horizon. Anyone else looking forward to it (and looking past the fact that the last few books have been somewhat lackluster?)

10. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I can’t help but smile while reading this. It’s the very definition of whimsy! Word play plus nostalgia plus tea equals pure delight.

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Hey shiny, happy Bookworms- what are your top picks for light and fluffy reads?

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May 06

The Best of Us, For the Rest of Us (Not to be confused with Festivus)

Chick Lit, Family, Friendship, Romance 36

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s a Monday, and let’s face it… I’d rather be on a beach. As luck would have it, I was offered a new title to review from Netgalley that is set in Jamaica. While visions of sand, surf, and fruity cocktails dance in your head, I’ll go ahead with my full disclosure statement. I may sound like a broken record, but here it goes again. I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen is about a group of friends from college who take a trip to Jamaica to celebrate one of their 35th birthdays. You know how every group of friends has that one internet billionaire who randomly calls his friends from 15 years ago and offers them free vacations? Oh you don’t? Yeah me neither. But. Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and live in book land. If we can accept boy wizards and the occasional dragon, we can get down with the filthy rich.

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Dwight the billionaire and his wife Pauline decide to treat Dwight’s college buddies to a week long Jamaican vacation complete with private plane and fancy chef. Their motley crew of guests is comprised of 3 couples, or at least it’s supposed to be. First, there’s Tina, an overwhelmed stay at home mother of four young children and her overly macho husband Gio. Next we have Allie, Tina’s BFF. Allie is a social worker with two daughters and a seemingly flawless marriage to her easy going husband Ryan. Finally there’s Savannah. Savannah has recently split up from her two timing doctor husband Gary, but doesn’t want to reveal that to the group. Instead she claims Gary is working, and she prances around in very little clothing and hits on every male in the general  vicinity.

What follows during the week in tropical paradise puts all kinds of relationships to the test. Friendships, marriages, and the all important relationship between the really rich people and the help. Actually, it’s not at all about the help, but I’m still astounded by the lives of the rich and important. Who has this much money?! Seriously!

You're absolutely right. I DO have a penguin butler. I should simmer down on the wealth jealousy.

You’re absolutely right. I DO have a penguin butler. I should simmer down on the wealth jealousy. Alfred doesn’t approve of hypocrisy.

Okay guys. Honesty here. This book was not my favorite. It was a bit heavy on the melodrama for my tastes. I think part of my problem was a lack of connection with the characters, and that’s on me more than it is on the author. Of the four women in the novel, I didn’t see any representation of myself or my circumstances. I don’t  have kids, so it was difficult for me to relate to the plight of Tina, the SAHM. The way Allie chose to handle her personal demons isn’t an approach I would have taken- keeping secrets to “protect” people seems counter productive to me. Pauline was really uptight and came from old money, so she hid her feelings pretty well, which I ALSO don’t get because my heart is forever out on my sleeve. I’m a crier, okay?!  Savannah used her sexuality in a way that made me uncomfortable. I’m kind of a prude, and it bugged me that she was so open in her flirtations and was scantily clad all the time. It’s hard for me to connect with a book when I don’t empathize with the characters.

Also. Gio. I’m not sure what Pekkenan was going for, but he felt like a caricature to me. He’s Italian and super Catholic and has a breadwinner complex. Tina seems miserable as a stay at home mom, and it’s unclear to me whose decision it was that she stay home- it felt to me like Gio may have pushed that traditional ideal on her. (Don’t get me wrong- if you’re a SAHM and CHOSE that path for yourself, more power to you. I just got the feeling that Tina was kind of forced into it and that pissed me off.) He also gets competitive when faced with the massively wealthy Dwight and tries to childishly beat him at basketball and pinball. It’s hard to draw a clear line between cultural differences and flat out stereotypes, but Gio. I just don’t know about that guy. I LIKE flawed characters, but I just couldn’t get into this set of flaws.

HOWEVER. Just because I didn’t like this book, doesn’t mean you won’t. I would recommend this title to people who enjoy reading about marital strife, the complexities of friendship, drool worthy vacations and neatly packaged endings. If you’re a stay at home mom who is conflicted about her choices, you might just feel like Tina is your soul mate. Maybe you are an internet guru with an outlandish amount of money and would appreciate reading about your personal lifestyle in fictional form. I don’t know. Books are so often a matter of perspective. This didn’t suit mine, but it might just put the rum in your hurricane.

Bookworms, I must know. Do you feel the need to relate to and/or empathize with a character in order to enjoy a book, or are you able to appreciate it for its aesthetic virtues from a distance? I’m basically asking if I’m a giant jerk got not liking this book on shallow grounds. What are your thoughts?

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May 03

We Might As Well Be Walking on The Sun: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Book Club, Children's Fiction, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Frightening, Mystery, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 24

Hola Bookworms,

The other day I reviewed The Maze Runner by James Dashner and I was all WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?! So of course, I continued the series and just finished The Scorch Trials. Here’s the deal y’all. It’s kind of impossible not to spoiler the heck out of The Maze Runner and still review The Scorch Trials, so if you want to read them and know nothing, then stop reading this review right now.

The Scorch Trials

Alright. When we last left the kids of the Glade, the guys had been “rescued” by a protest group that didn’t approve of WICKED. Then they were fed pizza and given showers and clothes and bunk beds and all was well… Until the EPILOGUE where you learn that they’re still under WICKED’s thumb. Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

So the kids find out the morning after the pizza and the sleep that they have more to do (more horrors, not just intensive psychotherapy which they will ALL NEED for PTSD and whatnot!) After, you know, starving everyone for a few days, WICKED deposits the children in what is known as “The Scorch.” So the world ain’t right, that much is clear. It would be awfully hard to have elaborate mazes in which to trap and study children in a functioning society… As it turns out the earth has suffered from a series of deadly, destructive solar flares. They’ve managed to literally scorch everything between the Tropic of Cancer and The Tropic of Capricorn. It’s a freaky desert prone to intense lightening storms. It’s impossibly hot and there is NO SUNSCREEN. (I know, I was very upset by this, but I guess a group willing to kill kids with evil monsters probably doesn’t have a lot of scruples about the possibility of skin cancer down the road.) Anyway. The kids are supposed to traipse through this desert and find a safe haven. They’re given vague instructions, because when you’re an evil scientist, you don’t explain your process to the rats.

LIGHTENING! (image source)

LIGHTENING! (image source)

But it wouldn’t be that easy! The solar flares also seem to have caused a PLAGUE known simply as “the flare.” They don’t explain how you contract it, but to me it sounds like a cross between leprosy and syphillis, so it’s pretty nasty stuff. There’s no cure either, so they dump the infected in The Scorch (kind of like they did with Moloka’i and the lepers!) In addition to battling the elements, the lightening storms, and the tribe of girls who were apparently in ANOTHER maze, our brave little Gladers have to take on infections insane people who REALLY WANT THEIR NOSES! (I’m not even kidding about that part, the flare like eats your face and stuff.)

Guys, I’m hooked. Seriously. There’s a third book and a prequel. This girl is going to be reading them. I simply must know what happens! I’m usually pretty good at predicting things, but the plots of these books have me guessing all over the place. Maybe I don’t read enough thrillers, but I’m all confused about who to trust and what is good and what is bad and who is evil… It’s so frustrating- in the best possible way!

On an unrelated note, I have decided that I’m DEFINITELY going to start us up a book club. I’ll choose a selection once a month. We will read it and then I’ll post discussion questions that are WAY more fun and interesting than anything you’d find included in a normal “book club guide.” After that, we’ll just comment the mother loving heck out of the post and chat and it will be fun and interactive and awesome and you can attend in your pajamas. Refreshments will be served from your own kitchen, which is cool because I’m a terrible cook and you can’t send out digital food… Yet.

I’d like to make June the inaugural month, so anybody with ideas for book selections, let me know! Also, if you want to get your little brain wheels a-turning, I am planning on holding a contest for y’all to NAME the book club. Save your ideas, you know, write them down on a post-it note or something. The contest will take place at the end of the month. Prizes will be epic, if you’re in the US. If you’re not, it’ll probably be an Amazon gift certificate (because postage OMG.) So. Exciting things afoot!

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May 02

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls (David Sedaris is a Master Conversation Starter)

Humor, Memoirs 50

Bonjour Bookworms,

Today we’re going to explore diabetes with owls. I know that sounds like a kicky conversation starter for a cocktail party, but really. David Sedaris wrote a new book of personal essays (and other fabulous weirdness) called Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. I’ve been a Sedaris fan since my friend Dr. Erin gave me a copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day for my birthday many moons ago. I own just about everything he’s ever published, because, well, I’m a fan. (Side note: I have known Dr. Erin since her birth, essentially, and she just graduated from vet school and I’m extremely proud!)

Funny thing about Sedaris, though. He’s kind of polarizing. I’ve always enjoyed his humor and bizarre anecdotes, which is why I’m always surprised to hear when people don’t care for him. Some friends have told me they just couldn’t get into his work, or that they were annoyed with the casual drug references, or that he’s just kind of mean sometimes. Those are all perfectly valid objections. I’ve been on the other side of the coin, you know? Chelsea Handler and I did not get along very well. That doesn’t make her any less funny to people who like her style, it just means she isn’t my cup of tea (or bottle of vodka. This is Chelsea we’re talking about.) Before I get too far into this, I’ll just go ahead and tell you. If you don’t like Sedaris, this isn’t going to be the book to change your mind. I’ll like you anyway. We can have differing opinions. The world is magical that way. If you’ve never read any of his work, I encourage you to give it a shot! Find out where you fall and if you are so inclined, join me in my fandom!

diabeteswithowls

This book starts off with a forward by Sedaris mentioning that he included some essays specifically for use in forensics competitions (read: Speech Team. Although I might question a faculty adviser who would allow some of these selections…) They are interspersed between the type of fare I’ve come to expect from my dear David (we can be on a first name basis, right?!) The only problem I had was that he didn’t WARN me when he was playing a character. Without fail, I’d arrive at a forensics chapter and it would take me a few sentences to realize it wasn’t HIS story. I’m a fan, see? I’ve read most of Sedaris’s work, so I KNOW that his mother passed away after a brutal bout with cancer. Therefore, I was terribly confused when in one of these digressions, the narrator of the piece started discussing their mother being in the next room. I’m not always the brightest.

Aside from my minor episodes of confusion, I very much enjoyed this book. Sedaris has spent a big chunk of his adult life living outside the confines of the USA. Me Talk Pretty One Day discussed his time in France at length, but one country was not enough for Sedaris and his life partner Hugh. They’ve traveled extensively and lived in a multitude of places. (Word to the wise- DO NOT get your passport stolen if you have a British “leave to remain” sticker in it.)

Things I learned from this book which are obviously completely scientific and in no way colored by the author’s quirks… The English countryside has a terrible problem with littering. China has a terrible problem with loogie hocking. Japan is extremely clean and full of delightful cuisine. People in the Netherlands think that hanging clear plastic bags of water in front of their doors keep flies away. Kookaburras enjoy eating raw duck meat from the hands of guests at Australian bed and breakfasts (though it leaves the reader to wonder if a bird eating the meat of another bird is cannibalism or if it doesn’t count because they’re a different species… I’m a mammal and I eat mammals… Hmmm…) This book is a whole lot of cultural insensitivity squished in with admiration of global diversity rolled into a nutty coating of taxidermy owls… In short? It’s a rare treat.

Bookworms, if you were to write a collection of essays about your life, what would you focus on? What would you title it? Would it ever include taxidermy and/or kookaburras?

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