Category: Coming of Age

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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Apr 30

Word To Your Mother: Top Ten Tuesday Collaborates and Listens

Children's Fiction, Classics, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Time Travel, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction, Zombies 45

Salutations, Bookworms!

I know you stayed up all night trying to guess the topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish, didn’t you?! This week we’ve been asked to list off the top ten words or phrases that make us want to pick up a book. I’m a refined consumer of literature, see? JUST because a book says something saucy on the book jacket doesn’t mean I’ll buy it, but there are some terms that don’t hurt a book’s chances. I may be a snob, but I’m highly susceptible to marketing tactics.

toptentuesday

1. Time Travel- Awww yeah, I love me some time travel. I typically prefer accidental time travel, so if there’s a deliberate machine involved? Probably not going to be my cup of tea. However. Outlander, The River of No Return, and The Time Traveler’s Wife? Yes, yes, and yes. Break me off a piece of that time space continuum.

2. Penguins- Hi, I’m Katie. Have we met? If we have met in the past, oh, 22 years or so, you know that PENGUINS are my spirit animal. Sadly, they don’t make a ton of appearances in books for grown ups, but hey, kids books are a thing. Remember If You Were a PenguinMr. Popper’s PenguinsOr how about when penguins DO show up in adult books, like the awesomeness that was the trip to Antarctica in Where’d You Go BernadettePenguins can ONLY help you, I say! Penguins forever! (Seriously. Just ask Alfred. Or Josie.)

PENGUIN LOVE

PENGUIN LOVE

3. Plague- This probably makes me horrible, but plagues are fascinating! Reading up on the bubonic plague in Ken Follett’s World Without End was the shiz-nit. And the letumosis outbreak in Cinder? That’s where it’s at! And my heavens, THE STANDThe mother-loving Stand, people!!!

4. Flowers- I LOVE flowers. Darn near as much as I love penguins. It can be pretty intense. So, when flowers feature heavily in a story I do some serious geeking out. Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s Language of Flowers was amazing. More of this, please, author types. (Gardens are good, too, but I don’t grow vegetables. Has anyone else noticed that Alice Hoffman is maybe a little obsessed with growing tomatoes? No? Just me? Moving on then…)

5. Zombie- “What’s in your heeeeeeeeeeeeeeead, in your heeeeeeead, zombie, zombie, zo-omb-a-yuh-a-yuh-a-yuh!” Don’t pretend that you don’t rock out to The Cranberries. And if you legitimately don’t rock out to The Cranberries, don’t tell me, because, yodel-y Irish rock from the 90s kicks arse. But really. I like for real Zombies, too. World War Z and Warm Bodies are my JAM

6. History- I am a sucker for historical fiction. Chilling in ancient Greece like in The Song of Achilles or dabbling in the Underground Railroad and rocking a bonnet like in The Last Runaway or experiencing the scandalous world of the Tudor court in, well, basically anything by Philippa Gregory… It’s the only way I can time travel, and really the only way I WANT to time travel. Indoor plumbing is my favorite.

7. Dystopia- It’s almost ridiculous the amount I adore screwy fractured future scenarios. The Giver and The Hunger Games and Brave New World and 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale just make me feel warm and fuzzy about our effed up present. Let’s face it y’all. It could be a whole lot worse. Gratitude, brought to you by oppressive governments, lack of color, religious persecution, and kids fighting to the death for sport! 

8. Saga- Sweeping epics are right up my alley. The word “saga” implies length and drama and change and grand scale. Les Miserables and Gone With The Wind and The Pillars of The Earth are some of my favorites. If it couldn’t be made into a mini-series or a very long movie, I want nothing to do with it. (That isn’t really true. See this? Terrible liar. I tell you IMMEDIATELY when I lie. I also like books that couldn’t be long movies and mini series, but it didn’t WORK with my POINT there. Ugh. I’m a walking vial of sodium pentothal.)

9. Whimsy- I’ve mentioned how fervently I adore Amy Sherman-Palladino, head writer of Gilmore Girls and Bunheads haven’t I? Yes. I know. I obviously have. One of my all time favorite quotes came out of Kirk, Stars Hollow’s resident weirdo when he was describing his new Condoleeza Rice decorative mailbox: “Whimsy goes with everything.” Whimsy DOES go with everything, books in particular. Alice in Wonderland probably gets to wear the tiara for most whimsical title of all time, but Harry Potter, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and The Night Circus aren’t in short supply on the whimsy front.

Curiouser and curiouser...

Curiouser and curiouser…

10. Awkward- I spent the weekend with some of the world’s most excellent friends, and we were discussing high school. They both said that they had enjoyed themselves. I said, “I was too busy being morose and wearing really baggy pants.” Both of those things are true, and both are reasons I have a serious soft spot for the awkward characters. Bridget Jones? Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Eleanor & Park? To paraphrase a song I heard far too often at wedding receptions, “These are my people. This is where I come from.” Teen angst is CHARACTER BUILDING, dangit!

Oh Bookworms, my Bookworms, what are some of the words and phrases that make YOU think you’ll like a book?

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Apr 29

Maybe I'm A-Mazed by James Dashner's The Maze Runner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Frightening, Mystery, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 27

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was busy and I got to spend it in Chicago with an array of my FAVORITE PEOPLE EVER! So. I am exhausted, but so happy. However. You are not here to listen me brag about a fun weekend with people I love. No, no. I shall simply keep the epic-ness of it all to myself for the time being. You are here for the books, and a book you shall have!

I recently finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I had several of you awesome readers recommend it to me, so I decided to listen to the voice of the people. The Maze Runner is a young adult dystopian novel, a genre with which I have a love-hate relationship. So. Love? Or Hate?

200px-The_Maze_Runner_coverWell, this novel begins with our protagonist Thomas waking up in a dark box. As he comes to, he’s surrounded by a bunch of boys heckling him. Thomas is a new arrival to a bizarre community of adolescent boys. The boys have created a little agrarian society in the middle of an enormous maze. (Imagine, if you will, a corn maze on steroids where the corn is replaced with enormous super tall ivy covered walls.) Thomas has no recollection of who he is or how he came to be in this place, but all new arrivals go through that. NONE of the boys are entirely sure how they ended up in the Glade or what the freaking deal is with the maze. All they know is that the maze is extremely dangerous (thanks to cyborg-slug-stabby monsters known as Grievers.) The boys aren’t too keen on being marooned there. The guys in the Glade treat information on a strictly “need to know” basis, which annoys the crap out of poor confused Thomas (and, frankly, the reader as well.) While its annoying, all the scintillating little details and the secrecy kept me reading… And annoying a co-worker who’d already read this with questions immediately followed by “No, don’t tell me!!!” (Sorry June, but you brought this on yourself!)

The maze itself smacks of government conspiracy, and the fact that the Glade has an impressive graveyard full of maze casualties reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games, what with the murdered children and all. Fortunately, I shan’t be shouting, “Simpsons did it!” at this novel (unlike, say, Ally Condie’s Matched series.) This book also called to mind Lord of the Flies, but it was amazing how the boys were able to keep order, unlike the English schoolboys of Golding’s imagination. The Glade boys were smart enough to understand that if they didn’t maintain structure, their already confused lives would descend into complete chaos and none of them would survive. If they held it together, they at least had HOPE of solving the maze and getting back to their lives… Not that any of them remember their lives, really, but they figure it’s got to be better than being murdered by a weird cyborg slug monster (can’t argue with that logic.) Basically? I’m hooked on the maze and you bet your shank-klunk-shuck-bloody-weird-Glade slang I’ll be continuing this series.

So, Bookworms. The Grievers in this book are really the stuff that kids’ nightmares are made of. What did your childhood monsters resemble? Cyborg slugs? Big blue monsters with a heart of gold? Villains from Super Mario Brothers come to life? Inquiring minds want to know. (Mostly I want to know that I’m not the only one who was afraid of those ball and chain things with teeth from Mario 3…)

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Apr 29

Maybe I’m A-Mazed by James Dashner’s The Maze Runner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Frightening, Mystery, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 27

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was busy and I got to spend it in Chicago with an array of my FAVORITE PEOPLE EVER! So. I am exhausted, but so happy. However. You are not here to listen me brag about a fun weekend with people I love. No, no. I shall simply keep the epic-ness of it all to myself for the time being. You are here for the books, and a book you shall have!

I recently finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I had several of you awesome readers recommend it to me, so I decided to listen to the voice of the people. The Maze Runner is a young adult dystopian novel, a genre with which I have a love-hate relationship. So. Love? Or Hate?

200px-The_Maze_Runner_coverWell, this novel begins with our protagonist Thomas waking up in a dark box. As he comes to, he’s surrounded by a bunch of boys heckling him. Thomas is a new arrival to a bizarre community of adolescent boys. The boys have created a little agrarian society in the middle of an enormous maze. (Imagine, if you will, a corn maze on steroids where the corn is replaced with enormous super tall ivy covered walls.) Thomas has no recollection of who he is or how he came to be in this place, but all new arrivals go through that. NONE of the boys are entirely sure how they ended up in the Glade or what the freaking deal is with the maze. All they know is that the maze is extremely dangerous (thanks to cyborg-slug-stabby monsters known as Grievers.) The boys aren’t too keen on being marooned there. The guys in the Glade treat information on a strictly “need to know” basis, which annoys the crap out of poor confused Thomas (and, frankly, the reader as well.) While its annoying, all the scintillating little details and the secrecy kept me reading… And annoying a co-worker who’d already read this with questions immediately followed by “No, don’t tell me!!!” (Sorry June, but you brought this on yourself!)

The maze itself smacks of government conspiracy, and the fact that the Glade has an impressive graveyard full of maze casualties reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games, what with the murdered children and all. Fortunately, I shan’t be shouting, “Simpsons did it!” at this novel (unlike, say, Ally Condie’s Matched series.) This book also called to mind Lord of the Flies, but it was amazing how the boys were able to keep order, unlike the English schoolboys of Golding’s imagination. The Glade boys were smart enough to understand that if they didn’t maintain structure, their already confused lives would descend into complete chaos and none of them would survive. If they held it together, they at least had HOPE of solving the maze and getting back to their lives… Not that any of them remember their lives, really, but they figure it’s got to be better than being murdered by a weird cyborg slug monster (can’t argue with that logic.) Basically? I’m hooked on the maze and you bet your shank-klunk-shuck-bloody-weird-Glade slang I’ll be continuing this series.

So, Bookworms. The Grievers in this book are really the stuff that kids’ nightmares are made of. What did your childhood monsters resemble? Cyborg slugs? Big blue monsters with a heart of gold? Villains from Super Mario Brothers come to life? Inquiring minds want to know. (Mostly I want to know that I’m not the only one who was afraid of those ball and chain things with teeth from Mario 3…)

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Apr 26

Twinkle, Twinkle, Silver Star…(The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls)

Coming of Age, Family, Humor, Psychological 42

Howdy Bookworms!

I like to browse Amazon when I’ve got some down time. I’m always amused by what they “recommend” to me. As you know, on occasion I enjoy a trashy romance novel. It’s always funny to see my recommendations after I’ve downloaded one of those bad boys. Sometimes, though, their magical Amazon algorithms work appropriately and aren’t distracted by outliers. The other day I was hunting for a good read and I came across a new release by Jeanette Walls. You know, Jeanette Walls, of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses?! I was REALLY excited! The only problem? It hasn’t been released yet. I hopped on over to NetGalley and hoped against hope that The Silver Star would be listed and that I could somehow convince the publisher to give me a copy. DUDE! IT WORKED!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I conned the wonderful people at Scribner (through NetGalley) into giving me an advanced copy of this book. In exchange for an honest review, of course. Again. I am a horrendous liar. Credibility: in tact.

The Silver Star follows the lives of a pair of sisters named Liz and Bean Holladay. Their mother is a bit of a free spirit… In the sense that she periodically abandons her children to pursue her music career and/or religious enlightenment… Liz and Bean are spooked when, during one of their mother’s prolonged absences, the cops start looming. Liz and Bean decide to hop a bus across the country and hole up in their mom’s hometown with the reclusive uncle they’ve never met. Hey, their options were limited, you know?

silverstar

Liz is a smart, sensitive overachiever and she’s fiercely protective of Bean. Bean, despite her scattered upbringing, has emerged from childhood largely unscathed thanks to Liz’s consistent influence. Once Bean and Liz arrive in Byler, VA, they confront their mother’s past, their family history, and the realities of small town life in the south during the 70s. Neither Bean nor Liz have met their respective fathers, but being in Byler affords the girls the opportunity to spend some time with Bean’s extended family. Oh yeah. The once wealthy Holladay family is now kind of broke… And integration is happening just in time for the new school year. So. They’ve got a big steaming pot of drama as a backdrop for their coming of age story.

I really liked this book, you guys. Jeanette Walls has a way with storytelling. I thought the characterizations were beautiful- I felt very attached to Bean and Liz! Given her background, I’m always struck by how Jeanette Walls portrays irresponsible adults. (If you haven’t read The Glass Castle, you SHOULD, but her parents were just bananas.) I find her adult characters, though often deeply flawed, are portrayed with compassion. They’re given layers and histories that explain their motivations. Sometimes they’re mentally ill, sometimes they’re careless, but above all, they’re usually holding things together the best they can. I appreciate the lack of cynicism. It’s rather uplifting.

Now, to be fair, this didn’t hit me with the intensity that The Glass Castle did. HOWEVER. I think that’s because this is a work of fiction, and The Glass Castle is a memoir of “OMG I cannot believe this happened to real people” proportions. Vibe-wise, I would compare this book to The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (probably because of characters named Bean) and Homecoming by Cynthia Voight (because of journeys and long lost relatives.) Give it a shot!

On an unrelated note, I’d like to show you this:

This is Liz's spirit animal.

This is Liz’s spirit animal.

Why yes, that IS a photo of an emu looking hilarious and devious. It’s also COMPLETELY RELEVANT to this book. I just don’t know when I’m ever going to have an opportunity like this again so I am seizing the moment. EMU!!!

So, Bookworms. Tell me. Is there more ridiculous looking animal on the planet? What’s your favorite weird looking animal?

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Apr 23

Well, That's Not What I Was Expecting (A Top Ten Tuesday Adventure.)

Classics, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Humor, Time Travel, Top Ten Tuesday 71

Tis Tuesday, my dear Bookworms!

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is brought to you, as usual by The Broke and The Bookish. They’ve asked the book bloggers of the internet to list out the books we’ve read that really weren’t what we were expecting. Something you thought you’d love but didn’t? Something you thought would be terrible that you adored? Let’s get to listing!

Katie Is Disappointed

This is my McKayla Maroney face. Sort of.

This is my McKayla Maroney face. Sort of.

1. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I feel like an uncultured blob of loser admitting this, but I really did not like this book. I can always tell how much I like a book by how well I remember it. The only thing I really remember from this one? One of the teenager’s mothers made homemade yogurt. That was weird. Otherwise? Something about gold leaf instead of Viagara? Yeah. I expected rock-n-roll coming of age stories. I got angry middle aged people lamenting their lost youths. Just… No.

2. On Gold Mountain by Lisa See. I’m bad at non-fiction, and I didn’t realize just how much of a plod this was going to be when I picked it up. I had visions of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls and Peony in Love and I got… Well. None of those things.There were an awful lot of less than thrilling business ventures were described in great detail. Bummer.

3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. After reading The Fault In Our Stars, I was quite certain I would love everything John Green had ever written. Too bad I spent the majority of this book wanting to smack Colin around…

4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I know there are zillions of people who found deep meaning in this book. I happen to not be one of them. I would have stayed at home with my flock of sheep, and would never advise anyone to go in search of their personal legend if it meant giving up all their security. That’s just plain foolish, y’all.

5. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I was sure that this book was destined to by my new favorite novel- all the cool kids dig Vonnegut! Sadly, it just was not my thing. Sorry Vonnegut fans, I am not one of you.

Katie Is Pleased

IMG_8777

This is my “YAY!” face.

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I KNOW. The amount I rave about these books is ridiculous, but honestly? I almost didn’t read them. My Aunt Margie got my mom hooked on them. I remember calling my mom from college and she’d be all, “Oooh these BOOKS! She’s being tried for witchcraft! But she went back in time. Jamie will save her. He must!” And I was like, “That sounds ridiculous!” Eventually I gave into peer pressure, and the rest is delightful history. But. Now you know the truth.

2. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I first heard about this book on the YA blog circuit. I’d never heard of John Green before (for shame, I know) but I was completely expecting this book to be a Lurlene McDaniel knockoff (Lurlene McDaniel wrote a series of books on critically ill teenagers that were all the melodramatic rage when I was in 5th grade.) I thought I’d get snarky blog fodder from it. Have I mentioned that I’m not a good person? Anyway, I loved this book so much I read it in a single sitting.

3. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I read this initially because I felt like it was something I should read. I was thinking that it would be a slow-going classic that would put me to sleep. I WAS WRONG! So very wrong. And so very HAPPY to have been so wrong!

4. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I can’t even tell you how long this sat on my shelf. My mom gave it to me, but I saw the word “alzheimer’s” and thought “old people book.” Isn’t that terrible? I’m ashamed of myself. My mom usually has decent taste in books, I should trust her opinions, ESPECIALLY after the Outlander incident. Sigh. Teenage habits die hard I guess.

5. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I read this as a senior in high school. It was assigned reading, so I naturally expected the worst. I was utterly tickled to find myself engrossed in the soapy scandals of the sisters Bennett! It was exciting and intriguing and full of questioning what glances and offhand comments meant. It was like Jane Austen KNEW how I analyzed boys! (Which is rather unfortunate, seeing as I was analyzing boys quite a long time after Ms. Austen was… This probably explains my lack of dates.)

What books surprised YOU, Bookworms? The good, the bad, the ugly. Spill it!

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Apr 19

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley… And Katie's Phobias

Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Psychological, Religion 43

Have you heard the good news, Bookworms?

Have I ever told you about my intense, paralyzing fear of religious cults? The Children of the Corn is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen. I have absolutely no intention of ever reading the book, because that would be giving the creepy preacher kid permission inhabit and chew up my soul. When I saw that I’d been pre-approved for Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley on Netgalley (yes, boys and girls, that means I got another free book!) I was concerned, but like the proverbial curious cat, I couldn’t stop myself from giving it a whirl.

Amity & Sorrow is a novel about a woman named Amaranth who escapes a polygamous religious cult with her two daughters. Her elder daughter is named Sorrow, and believes herself a vessel of holiness and a prophet. Her younger daughter, Amity, is a 12 year old girl who is trying to make sense of her life’s upheaval.

amity&sorrow

Their wrists are strapped together because Sorrow has had too much of the metaphorical kool-aid and is a flight risk…

A little about this cult. This is NOT a fundamentalist Mormon sect, thought that’s certainly what I typically associate with polygamy and prairie dresses.  It appears the patriarch Zachariah originally hailed from such a society, and he’s borrowing some of their traditions to create his own little world. Most notable is that instead of this being a community, it is a SINGLE family (if you’re interested in some fiction about a fundamentalist Mormon sect, check out The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff .) Zachariah is the ONLY husband in a community of FIFTY wives and twenty seven children. There are no elders, organization, or other men (over the age of 16.) Every time Zachariah takes on a new wife, every wife watches him ceremonially consummate his union with the new wife (this part reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale.) Now. I am all for freedom of religion. But making your 49 wives watch you get busy with the new one? That can’t be good for anyone. The cops get wind that in addition to the many. many wives, there is something untoward going on with one or more of the underage children. (SPOILER ALERT- there is.) But polygamy isn’t Zachariah’s only passion. He’s also CONVINCED that doomsday is nigh. When the authorities close in? The temple goes up in flames.

BUT! Amaranth escapes the flames with her daughters in tow. Unfortunately, she totals their getaway car in the middle of the Oklahoma panhandle and has to throw herself on the mercy of an unsuspecting farmer. Sure, it will be difficult for them to adjust, but they’ll be okay now, right? A farm’s a good spot for people who are used to an agrarian lifestyle to rebuilt their lives, right? Maybe it would have been, if Sorrow wasn’t so FREAKING CRAZY. That cult and her father did a NUMBER on her and she’s just not stable. Not even a little. She is manipulative and cruel and violent and a bit of a pyromaniac.

Sorrow is a Firestarter, but unlike Drew Barrymore, she needs to use matches (laaaame.)

Sorrow is a Firestarter, but unlike Drew Barrymore, she needs to use matches (laaaame.) Source

Amaranth is an emotional mess because once she’s removed from the cult she sees just how horrifically it has affected her daughters. My dear sweet anti-cult LORD, the girls CANNOT READ! (This also reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale, but Offred is smart enough not to like it…) It doesn’t really help Sorrow’s decent into madness that her mother decides to spend some quality naked time with Bradley the kindly farmer, but nothing short of intense psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs could really have helped Sorrow.

Sound crazy? It is! It was a tough read for me, subject matter wise, because, cults are my personal phobia (that and swimming in fish infested water…) The story sucks you in, and it certainly got to me. I gasped aloud at several points, much like a coached live studio audience at a sitcom taping (do they do casting calls for audience members? Because I’m REALLY good at the gasp, and the giggle. I’d even throw in a catcall if the need arose…) I understood the characters’ motivations, even if I wanted to inject them with tranquilizers have them committed. I don’t know that I would recommend this to everybody, because it’s got a lot of disturbing elements, but the crowd that enjoys tales of psychological trauma will eat this up. You want something to get under your skin? Amity & Sorrow just might me the book for you!

(PSA: It could seriously upset people who have suffered physically or psychologically at the hands of an oppressive religious group, and it’s probably NOT a good idea for survivors of rape and/or incest.)

So, Bookworms. I am very interested in hearing about YOUR phobias so I don’t feel all vulnerable and whatnot. Share with me. What are some of your greatest fears?

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Apr 18

All You Need Is Love… And Warm Bodies (by Isaac Marion)

Coming of Age, Frightening, Humor, Romance, Supernatural, Zombies 26

Braaaaaaaaains… I mean, Bookworms.

Sorry about that, guys. I just finished reading Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion and I’m still recovering. It’s an uplifting zombie novel with heart (beating and otherwise…) It’s not often I get to use the word “uplifting” in conjunction with “zombie,” but Warm Bodies is a rare novel.

warm bodies

We start off in an airport that is no longer functioning. It’s home to “R” and countless other zombies. R is a bit of an enigma. He cannot remember his former life, and all he can recall about his name is that it began with an R.  Oh yes, he also lusts after human brains. BUT. He can hold conversations. As long as they’re in sentences of 4 syllables or less. His best friend “M” retains an echo of his former life, and something approaching a sense of humor. R amuses himself by riding the escalators up and down when the generators periodically kick on. One day he grunts to a lady zombie. They make a pilgrimage to another portion of the airport and are married, zombie style.

WHAT?! I know, right? Not only is this book written from the perspective of a zombie, the zombies in question are ORGANIZED. They have something approaching a religion, which is manned by skeleton priests. They bring food back from hunting trips for the child zombies. They hold “school” during which they teach the zombie children how to go for the jugular. Big departure from traditional zombie lore! However, they fact that THEY WANT TO EAT YOU ALIVE remains. They TOTALLY want to eat you alive. Your brain especially, because they can relive bits an pieces of your life by digesting your brain… Like a little movie montage…

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I love how the clip art brain has “thinking” lines. Zombies are particularly fond of the little zaps.

One day, R and his compadres go on a hunting trip. They set upon a group of unsuspecting teenagers on a salvage expedition. While R is devouring a particularly tasty brain, he starts to FEEL his victims feelings more intensely than he ever has before. R notices a girl he recognizes as “Julie” (thanks to his delicious snack) and has an uncontrollable urge to protect her. He smears her with stinky dead blood and hauls her back to his home sweet home- his own personal 747. How’s THAT for creepy? Kidnapped by a zombie?!

Julie has a peculiar effect on R. He is suddenly capable of speaking in longer sentences. He resists the urge to gnaw human flesh. He begins to feel and care and be more aware than he can ever recall being. Julie does a remarkable job of not freaking the frick out. I guess that comes from living in a cramped stadium with what’s left of humanity while fighting off things that want to eat you. Julie and R bond over music, of all things. Julie loves the Beatles (and while “All You Need Is Love” isn’t specifically referenced in the book, it’s clear to ME that’s our theme song here) while R prefers the soothing sounds of vintage Frank Sinatra on vinyl.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo may just have saved the world.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo may just have saved the world.

R’s zombiness thaws the more time he spends with Julie. Needless to say, much like the Capulets and Montagues, neither the zombies or the humans are too keen on this little romance. I won’t be the queen of spoilers… Who are we kidding? Yes I will. Let’s just say this has a much happier ending than Romeo & Juliet. HA!!!!! I just got that! “R” as in Romeo and Julie, like Juliet! You are one clever fellow, Isaac Marion. Ahhh good times. It’s a refreshing departure from the doom and gloom of the zombie genre. The message of hope is one we could use more of these days.

I have NOT seen the movie version of this, but I’ve heard great things. I don’t think I’d be too disappointed by major plot changes- the girl-meets-zombie-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks premise is enough to keep me entertained! What do you think, Bookworms? Anybody read this? Seen the movie? What do you think?

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Apr 16

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves (Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Kickass Heroines)

Classics, Coming of Age, Crime, Dystopian, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Women's Studies 53

What’s Up, Bookworms?

The ladies at The Broke and The Bookish do an amazing job of coming up with Top Ten Tuesday prompts, you know? They’ve kept this going for a couple of years now, which is kind of incredible. This week’s topic is a “rewind,” so it gives me the opportunity to do one of the top ten lists that were used before I started blogging. I have chosen to make a list of Kickass Heroines! There are so many awesome female characters in literature; this should be a super fun showcase!

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1. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I really don’t care if The Hunger Games are teetering on the brink of overexposure. Katniss is BADASS. She learns to hunt with a bow and arrow to provide for her family. She steps up to take her little sister’s place in a barbaric contest put on my her oppressive government. She manages to NOT DIE during the tournament. And then? She outsmarts the game makers. I want Katniss on my side in the Zombie Apocalypse. I”m just putting that out there.

2. Caris from World Without End by Ken Follett. World Without End is the sequel to Pillars of the Earth but since it’s set 300 years into the future, it’s only sort of sequel-ish. Anyway. Caris is awesome because she keeps up a rockin’ hospital during the bubonic plague. Nobody at the time understands germ theory,  but she makes some brilliant decisions (face masks, regular hand washing) that keep the medical staff alive. This seriously pisses off the priests who claim only God can prevent illness- the nuns in the hospital that take this approach to healing drop like flies. She may never have gotten the upper hand in the church, but at least she outlived the jerkface Prior. Take that!

3. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by JK Rowling. Hermoine RULES. She is smart and brave and fabulous. She could easily have carried her own series. ADORE. Book Hermione isn’t as drop-dead-gorgeous as Emma Watson, but I think if Hermione were real, she’d totally approve of the casting decision. It may only be a Muggle university, and she may have dropped out, but Emma Watson DID get into Dartmouth.

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4. Claire from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I know I talk about loving Jamie all the time, but Claire is pretty stupendous. I love what she does with all her modern medical knowledge when she goes back in time. Making ether? Making peni-freaking-cillin? Removing tonsils at the dinner table with only whiskey as anesthetic?! Plus, she is really resourceful and accepts some old school remedies that actually WORK. Leeches? Gross, but effective at swelling bruise reduction. She’s pretty fabulous. No wonder Jamie adores her.

5. Arya Stark from Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Arya starts out as a spoiled tomboy, but once her father is executed, she’s forced to grow up fast. It’s a good thing she’s not gone through puberty yet, and that she took those fencing lessons. Disguised as a boy? Apprenticing to creepy temple? Keeping herself alive when all the Lannisters in the land would have her head on a pike? I wouldn’t cross her, she’s scrappy.

6. Joan from Pope Joan by Diana Woolfolk Cross. Joan loves to read, and she’s smart. Sadly, her dad is a jerkwad who doesn’t believe women should be educated. Thanks to a stubborn tutor, she’s taught the basics and accepted with her less scholarly brother into a real school. She goes to great lengths to ensure her right to learn. After a marauding band of vikings lay waste to her town, she escapes by dressing in her brother’s robes and joins a monastery. Oh, yeah. And she sort of accidentally becomes the Pope. Woops.

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7. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane refuses to believe she’s a horrible human being despite the horrendous treatment she endures in her childhood. She goes on to excel in her studies and become a governess. She’s making her own way in the world when fate steps in, and she falls hard for Mr. Rochester. However, when the whole crazy wife in the attic comes to light, Jane has enough self respect to skip town. Then, when the crazy wife jumps off the roof and Rochester is a broken man, she finds it in her heart to forgive him. Compassion, resilience, strength? Yep, Jane is totally role model material.

8. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Series by Stieg Larsson. Alright. Confession time. I didn’t LOVE these books. They were alright. A lot of talk about Swedish politics I wasn’t crazy about, sexual violence repels me, and Blomquist was a man-whore (he seriously would bang any breathing female, I swear.) HOWEVER! Lisbeth was AWESOME. Super smart, photographic memory, badass hacker with a penchant for leather and exposing corrupt government officials? Oh yeah. She’s nobody’s victim!

9. Colonel Christina Eliopolis from World War Z by Max Brooks. This book is written in vignettes with a wide swath of humanity describing their experiences during the Zombie Apocalypse. This woman was AMAZING. She’s stranded alone in Zombie ridden territory and manages, with the help of another woman on a CB radio (real or imagined, it’s up for debate), to kick a whole lot of zombie butt all by herself. I want her on my team, yo. Can you imagine a Z team with Eliopolis and Katniss? It would be like a Rick and Daryl duo, but they’re sisters killing zombies for themselves. (While we’re on the subject, I want Michonne on my team too. If you don’t know who Rick, Daryl, and Michonne are, you need to stop what you’re doing and check out the first three seasons of The Walking Dead in their entirety.)

10. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Who doesn’t love Jo?! I could gush about how much I love her, but I’ll let her explain why… “I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

Who are some of your favorite literary ladies, Bookworms? Tell me all about it. Girl Power!

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Apr 09

Once Upon A Time, Before Words For Worms… (Top Ten Tuesday- The Prequel)

Blogging, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Dystopian, Family, Friendship, Frightening, Humor, Memoirs, Psychological, Top Ten Tuesday 64

Good Day Bookworms!

It’s Tuesday, which can mean quite a number of things… What it means on this blog, however, is that we make LISTS. That’s right, it’s time for Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish! This week’s topic is the top ten books I read before I was a blogger. Here’s the thing. A lot of stuff I’ve blogged about, I read before I was a blogger. I learned to read when I was like 5 or 6… And I’ve only been blogging since August… That’s a whole LIFE of reading outside of the blogosphere. I’ve tried to narrow today’s list down to ten books that haven’t gotten a whole lot of attention on my blog… I feel like I’m screaming Outlander and Gone With The Wind and Song of Achilles every week, so I’m trying to feature some of the lesser known heroes of my bookshelf.

toptentuesday1. Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi. If you liked The Book Thief, you will love Stones From The River. It’s about a woman named Trudi who has the bad luck to have been born a dwarf in what would become Nazi Germany. Spoiler Alert: Both books involve books, resisting the regime, and hiding Jewish people at great personal risk. It’s a fantastic read and I highly recommend it!

2. Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. Anita Shreve wrote an entire series of books set at the same beach house throughout different points in history. I don’t know if I should really call them a series, though they are all obviously entwined. The characters and situations are all so different, only the landscape ties them together. Anyway, Fortune’s Rocks is set in the early 1900s (I wanted to say “turn of the century” but the stupid HANDS OF TIME just keep on ticking and that phrase is no longer useful to me!) There’s a young girl, an older man, and the kind of scandal you’d expect from a young girl getting involved with an older man (who happens to be a “fine” “upstanding” married doctor with children.) This is BY FAR my favorite Anita Shreve title, so you should probably read it.

3. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. This book was given to me by one of my dearest friends (who happens to have just recently graduated from veterinary school. Can we all give Dr. Erin a big CONGRATS, Words for Worms Style?) Dr. Erin gave me this book on my 19th or 20th birthday (I cannot remember, I am very, very old.) Sedaris’s humor is quirky and irreverent and bizarre and wonderful. My personal copy may look a wee bit worse for the wear, but it’s one of the books I practically beat people with until they agree to read it. (That may or may not be why it’s a wee bit worse for the wear…)

The Easter Bunny doesn't leave chocolate for French children. Church bells that fly in from Rome do. I know. I KNOW!

The Easter Bunny doesn’t leave chocolate for French children. Church bells that fly in from Rome do. I share David Sedaris’s WTF?! on that one!

4. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. Okay, maybe I’ve discussed some of these titles before, but dangit, they’re awesome! I read this for a literature class in college and was astounded to find myself with a taste for eel and sticky rice and a host of other Chinese dishes that I’d never eaten nor cared to taste. The mark of badass prose? Making exotic food sound appealing to a girl with a bland palate. High five, Amy Tan!

5. Fall On Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald. I know some of you out there shy away from anything bearing an Oprah sticker, but trust me on this one. It’s practically a Greek tragedy, except that the characters are Lebanese and Canadian. Really amazing, disturbing stuff, and it’s stuck with me for years. Side bonus? The title always gets “Oh Holy Night” stuck in my head, which is among the most beautiful Christmas carols (which has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the book, it’s just the way my brain works.)

6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is a YA title, but it deals with THE TOUGH STUFF. Basically? The main character is date raped at a party just before she starts high school. She calls the police who come to bust up the party and is treated as a pariah. Everyone knows she was the narc, but nobody knows WHY. She never reports the rape, but has to attend school with her rapist. The emotional aftermath is raw and real and frightening. It’s a great book, but if you’ve got some of your own personal demons on this subject, you may want to skip this one.

Kristin Stewart starred in a movie version, but since brooding an morose is her default expression, it might not be too bad...

Kristin Stewart starred in a movie version, but since brooding an morose is her default expression, it might not be too bad…

7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Awww yeah. Dystopia time. The premise of this book is that society has begun to breed human clones in order to harvest their organs for the greater good of the population. This novel takes you inside the lives of these clones. It’s a little bit science fiction, a little bit dystopian, and a whole lot of ethical conundrum rolled into a tasty little package.

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. This book tells the story of an intersex individual from a Greek family that immigrated to the US. Thanks to a genetic mutation, the narrator is raised believing she is a female until hormonal changes at puberty eventually lead to the discovery that she is biologically male… Sort of. It’s a fascinating look at a medical condition I was never aware of, and the impact gender can have on one’s psyche and family unit. If you can read this book without empathizing the crap out of Callie/Cal, I’m concerned about the size of your grinchy heart.

9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. When Susie Salmon is brutally raped and murdered by her creepy neighbor, she continues to keep track of her family from the “other side.” Yes, this book starts out with a horrific tragedy, and it’s not easy to read. That’s really not a spoiler at all, because it’s at the very beginning of the book. The meat of this book is watching how her family deals with the tragedy. It also goes to show that the BEST murder weapon is, in fact, an icicle (which is NOT, by the way, the weapon that is used on Susie.)

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I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie… I get grouchy when they stray too far from the book. That said, Stanley Tucci is one creepy creepster. ::Shivers::

10. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. This is one of Atwood’s lesser known novels. It never gets the accolades of The Blind Assassin or Alias Grace but I thought it was fantastic. It’s about a psychopathic woman who makes it her life’s mission to destroy all of her “friends'” love lives. It taught me a great many things, not the least of which being that one can give oneself scurvy by being bulimic. As if we needed ANOTHER reason eating disorders are horrible. Now you know you can get swarthy pirate conditions. Not cute, y’all.

So, Bookworms. I know that a lot of you aren’t bloggers, let alone book-specific bloggers, but I like to think that this top ten list is more of a memory lane sort of theme. What are some of the best books you’ve read in the not so recent past?

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