Category: Fantasy

Jun 07

Killing Me Softly: The Kill Order by James Dashner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Frightening, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 17

Hey Bookworms,

How’s it going? Been hit by any devastating solar flares lately? No? Well. That’s good. Because you know what happens when solar flares hit? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Remember back to when I reviewed The Maze Runner by James Dashner and thought it was awesome? And then I read The Scorch Trials and thought it was compelling? And then I finished The Death Cure and I was kind of meh? I’d been told that I’d feel better about things once I read the prequel, The Kill Order.

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Our story starts off with the only connection we get to familiar characters. Thomas and Theresa are nervously awaiting their decent into the Maze. As soon as Thomas is about to have his memory wiped, we are taken back in time and plunged into a world in chaos. The earth has been plagued by a series of destructive and devastating solar flares. Our main characters, Mark and Trina, only survived the initial impact by having been on the subway. The solar flares led to massive melting of the polar ice caps thus flooding the island of Manhattan and heaven knows where else. They’re taken under the wing of a pair of ex military survivalists along with a handful of other teenagers.

Half the population of Earth is assumed to have perished during the flares, what with the radiation and the heat and the melting of human flesh and whatnot. Those who are left, Mark and his crew among them, have tried to cobble together an existence out of what’s left. They’re living in shanty villages hunting, foraging, and getting their Bear Grylls on. For about a year they’re putting things back together until a bunch of douche canoes show up on an airship shooting poisoned darts at random. Their mission? As we learned at the very end of The Death Cure, they were sent by the world governments to cull the population to a sustainable level, given the Earth’s depleted resources. More humane, they rationalize, than letting nature take its course and having people die off slowly of starvation and/or conventional illnesses they’ve run out of resources to treat.

As we know, this supposedly humane virus turned out to be THE FLARE, the dreaded disease that went airborne, spread like wildfire, and drove people completely out of their minds before killing them. Sort of like Mad Cow disease, but with people… And different. AND it killed EVERYONE who wasn’t immune. SPOILER ALERT (if you haven’t read the initial trilogy.) They never did cure the damn thing, so the immunes are left to repopulate the Earth, a la The Stand… Minus significant awesomeness and supernatural elements.

Now topping the list of Stuff I'm Afraid Of: Solar Flares!

Now topping the list of Stuff I’m Afraid Of: Solar Flares! SOURCE

While I was happy to have some closure on how The Flare came to be and what the deal was with the solar flares, I had a few issues with this book. Throughout the original trilogy, Thomas has had his memory wiped and we only see bits and pieces of his past through random memory flashes. I didn’t love the device in the trilogy, but I tolerated it fairly well because, DUDE. They had their memories wiped! How ELSE would such information come through other than in fits and starts?

Dashner obviously enjoyed writing this way, keeping his audience guessing. Stylistically, I suppose he was trying to remain consistent by employing this same flashback-esque sort of shtick in The Kill Order. HOWEVER. Mark had full use of his memory. Sure, he had some mad PTSD as anyone who lived through the end of the world would be expected to. BUT. He never just comes out and tells these stories. They come to him in dreams. Strikingly coherent dreams that read like a narrative. Maybe I’m alone here, but even when my dreams dredge up painful memories, they’re NEVER cogent. My dreams always involve weird random crap popping up and a disembodied quality. Also, there’s almost always something I simply cannot do, like change clothes or find my classroom or find my car or find my train terminal or figure out why I’m skydiving…

It just seemed like an overused gag that didn’t fit the set of circumstances put forth in this novel. All in all? I’m glad I read this and got some answers to some of my nagging questions, but in the grand tradition of the Star Wars fiasco, this prequel left something to be desired.

What about you, Bookworms? Anybody read The Kill Order? Were you pleased that it brought you closure or were you all cantankerous about it like yours truly?

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Jun 04

Top Ten Tuesday TRAVELS!

Book Club, Children's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Time Travel, Travel 42

G’Day Bookworms!

It’s time for another edition of Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish! Today’s topic features books with a travel element. This should be fun. Shall we?

TTT3W1.Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This book rocked for a number of reasons. Quippy sarcasm, ridiculous situations, clever forays into the seedy underbelly of suburbia. My absolute favorite part of this novel? The trip to Antarctica. What would you expect of a self professed penguin enthusiast?

2. Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan. The Griswolds have got nothing on THIS vacation’s crazy turn of events. A group of American tourists tries to travel down the Burma Road and ends up being held captive by a local tribe led by child soldiers believed to have mystical powers. It’s a very cool book, but you may want to stay in your country of origin after reading this bad boy…

3. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. Hemingway and his first wife Hadley move to Paris during the Jazz Age. Earnest is is search of inspiration, Hadley is in search of a pleasant life. Though they live in Paris, they’re able to do so cheaply thanks to the slow recovery of European economies after WWI. The Hemingways galavant all over Europe spending time in Spain for the bullfights and ski holidays in the Alps. For as “poor” as they’re supposed to be, their travel schedule reveals none of the supposed hardship.

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4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The whole doggone series is travel-tastic. From Scotland to France to a rickety boat taking them to the Caribbean and the American colonies, Jamie, Claire, and the gang never stay in one place for long. Plus, TIME TRAVEL absolutely counts as traveling. YOU pass through a rock and head back two centuries and try to tell me it’s no big deal.

5. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris. Sedaris takes you along on his travel adventures in this hilarious essay collection. Mugged in Honolulu? Check. Suffering at the hands of a lost passport sticker? Check. Appreciate the sterile disinfectant style of Japan? Checkity check! All sorts of countries, all sorts of weirdness. David Sedaris is my kind of crazy.

6. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. A road trip out of Kentucky leads Taylor into a strange set of circumstances that land her with a toddler. Taylor and the child continue to travel and make their way to Arizona, where they establish a life for themselves. Life changing cross country road trips. They’re the stuff great books are made of!

7. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Travel in the traditional sense? There’s some of that. But when Lyra and Will start ripping holes and traveling between dimensions? Awww yeah. Travel-saurus-rex.

8. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle. You don’t just travel in this book. You travel to OTHER PLANETS! Intergallactic!

9. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Chase the legend of Dracula from Amsterdam to Istanbul to Budapest to Romania to Bulgaria to… Epic crazy travel, vampire lore, and a side of spooky. It’s good times.

10. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. TIME TRAVEL! That is all.

What about you, my globetrotting Bookworms? What are some of your favorite travel tomes?

*If you haven’t done so already, there’s STILL TIME to enter the contest to NAME THAT BOOK CLUB!

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May 23

Good Omens, Dogma, and Nostalgia

Coming of Age, Fantasy, Humor, Mythology, Personal, Religion 43

Salutations Bookworms!

I recently finished reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It’s been on my radar for a while, but I only now got around to giving it a go. Gaiman and Pratchett are both well known authors of the quirky variety, so it seems natural that they teamed up, especially given the cheeky and irreverent nature of the subject matter…

Things only a nerd who took Spanish would notice: why is there a tilde over an S?

Things only a nerd who took Spanish would notice: why is there a tilde over an S?

So, Heaven and Hell are operating as usual, what with the demons trying to make human life difficult and the angels trying to influence things the other direction. One day, Satan gets all antsy and decides to pull a Rosemary’s Baby by sending the fruit of his loins onto the earth to bring about Armageddon. Thanks to an order of Satanist nuns (who attempt to be as loud as possible to differentiate themselves from other nuns who take vows of silence… Very contrary, Satanists), there’s a bit of a mix up in the hospital. Satan’s spawn is sent home to grow up with an unsuspecting set of parents while a mortal baby is raised in pretty bizarre circumstances. Satanist nannies do their best to influence “Warlock” to embrace his evil, while the angels keep sticking their noses in to try and make him overcome his nature. Obviously their efforts are in vain, as baby Warlock is in possession of no supernatural capabilities.

While the forces of good and evil play a celestial chess game with a frustratingly mortal child, Adam, the ACTUAL demon spawn, is left to grow up like any other human. The only angels and devils perched on his shoulders are purely metaphorical. One angel and one demon in particular (Aziraphale and Crowley, respectively) play an especially important role in bringing about the end of the world, but they’ve become rather disenchanted with the idea of a celestial battle. While Aziraphale and Crowley have been growing weary, War, Famine, Pollution, and Death (the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, of course, Pestilence having retired following the discovery of penicillin) have been gearing up for the end of days. Despite the best intentions of both Heaven and Hell, neither side is particularly well prepared for Armageddon thanks to humanity fouling things up. You try plotting world destruction when your minions are unreliable!

Conflicted!

The Devil and Angel on my shoulders!

To be completely honest (and I’m embarrassed to admit this) Good Omens left me feeling lukewarm. I can’t discuss this book without bringing up Dogma. In 1999, Kevin Smith and his merry band of misfits put together a movie that was heavily influenced by Good Omens, though not a movie version of the book. Gaiman was instrumental in helping Smith craft his tale, and is thanked in the credits. I knew Good Omens and Dogma were in cahoots, but I was disappointed to find out that the story was completely different. I mean, sure. Heaven, Hell, Armageddon, creatures from another realm of existence doing battle- that was all there. But some of the elements that really drew me to the movie like heckling organized religion and giving a little spin on the family history of Jesus were absent in this book. My connection to Dogma is polluted by nostalgia. That movie came out when I was in high school, and Kevin Smith offered just the right combination of humor, intelligence, and bad language to make watching his movies as a teen a safe way to rebel while not getting into any ACTUAL trouble. (Appreciating humor at the expense of established cultural norms does not represent my feelings on religion in any way, so please don’t think that I’m being disrespectful. I simply enjoy revisionist takes on history- biblical and otherwise.)

I recently read somewhere that people who don’t read The Catcher in The Rye as a teenager will never appreciate it properly, and I think this might be the case with me and Good Omens. What about you, Bookworms? Have you ever (gasp) liked a movie better than a book? Were you ashamed to admit it?

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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 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…

toptentuesday

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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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 25

Celebrating World Penguin Day With a Letter From Alfred

Fantasy, Humor, Personal 31

Happy World Penguin Day, Bookworms!

Were you unaware of the occasion? I couldn’t let it slip by without recognition, and I think I’ve come up with an appropriate celebration. I was recently given a belated birthday gift that is, in a word, exceptional. I now have in my service this incredibly dapper gentlebird:

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Why yes, that IS a tiny fish tucked into his hat band!

This is my new penguin butler. His name is Alfred, after Batman’s butler, because we want to encourage him to aspire to greatness… And also to learn to dust Jim’s tasteful Batman statues. I cannot think of a better way to mark this momentous occasion or to thank my friends than to turn the blog over to Alfred for the day. Without further ado…

Dear Master and Mistress M,

I am would like to extend to you my sincerest gratitude for installing me in my new position. It is incredibly difficult for a penguin butler to find work these days. The terrible economy no doubt hurts our situation, but the utter lack of television sitcom butlers currently on the airwaves significantly hampers demand. It makes one long for the days of The Nanny, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Benson, and the glorious Mr. Belvedere. The dog butler statue on Modern Family just makes a mockery of our noble profession. Penguin butlers and waiters have a proud tradition dating back to the days of Mary Poppins. It is, frankly, offensive to be lumped in a category with such a nonsensical creature as a talking dog butler. Katie and Jim are not, perhaps, the most dignified couple I’ve worked for, but Katie asks for little more than the occasional glass of wine and Jim is content to tell me terrible jokes. (I swear I offer him no encouragement, it’s as though he’s used to people not following his train of thought…) As I said, I’m quite satisfied with this arrangement and I thought it only proper to send my thanks. Please send your daughter (the tiny dragon princess) my kindest regards.

Cheerio,

Alfred P. Waddlesworth

  • P.S. Katie practically demanded that I include a post script. She said “the consummate professional always has something to add.”
  • P.P.S. Katie obviously thinks this because she is NOT a consummate professional and never attended finishing school.
  • P.P.P.S My favorite book is most certainly NOT Mr. Popper’s Penguins, as you were no doubt wondering. As a professional penguin, I’m insulted by the idea of us as sideshow performers. Preposterous.
  • P.P.P.P.S The rumors of my affair with Penguin 413 known by some as “Josie” have been greatly exaggerated. (And by “greatly exaggerated” I mean 100 percent true. Be. Jealous.)

As you can see, Alfred has settled into our home quite nicely, although he DID peck at me a bit when I tried to read aloud to him. I think he’s offended by my affected English accent. I really should stop, but LOOK AT HIM! Do any of you Bookworms have plans to celebrate World Penguin Day? Have some fish for dinner, perhaps? Maybe heckle a leopard seal?

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Apr 15

Get Swept Up In The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Supernatural, Time Travel 41

Salutations, Bookworms!

I’ve been a book blogger for a while now, 8 months or so. I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing something RIGHT, because I recently got an email from a publisher offering me a free book! Now, this is not the first time I’ve been offered a book, but it IS the first time I’ve accepted one, since time constraints and/or lack of interest have prevented me from taking them in the past. You’re supposed to be VERY CLEAR AND UP FRONT when you review a book you’ve gotten for free. HEY INTERNET! I GOT THIS BOOK FOR FREE!

Now that we have the formalities out of the way… I got an email offering me a copy of The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway. I was intrigued because the email claimed that fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander would like this book. I was intrigued, but also a little wary. I mean, was I in for a poorly executed copy of Gabaldon’s awesomeness? I’m not very nice when that happens…

rivernoreturn

I needn’t have worried. This book had elements I’ve seen in other places, but they were woven together into something completely original and enthralling. If you took the time travel romance element of Outlander and combined it with the conspiracy theory aspect of, say, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, added a some of the magical bits from The Night Circus, and put it in a blender with a chocolate milkshake, you’d get close to The River of No Return. It’s delicious.

Without getting super spoiler-happy, I’ll give you the lowdown. Nick Falcott is a Georgian-era English aristocrat who decides to fight in the Napoleonic wars. Just as he’s about to be done in by a Frenchman, he vanishes into thin air and re-materializes in 2003. Oops. He’s rescued by a mysterious group known as “The Guild” who locate accidental time travelers and help them re-acclimate to the time they’ve jumped into. The Guild provides the unwitting time travelers with money and sets up new lives for them in new countries. They also force them to learn medieval Finnish. (A secret society has got to have SOME quirks, right? They can’t ALL speak Latin, for heaven’s sake.) Anywho, Nick gets all situated with his indoor plumbing and his blue jeans and indulges his affinity for homemade stinky cheeses and beautiful women for a good 10 years. All is well until he receives a summons from The Guild…

Meanwhile, in 1815, Julia Percy is super sad because her grandpa kicks the bucket and she’s stuck with her douchey cousin as heir to the manor (or castle. They call it a castle, but as there are no crowns involved, I don’t think it counts.) Julia doesn’t realize her grandfather’s gift of freezing time is anything more than a strange game the two played. Of course she realizes it’s not NORMAL to go around stopping time, but she has no idea just how important she will be to The Guild, their enemies, and Nick (bow chicka bow wow).

I imagined nick looked rather like Hugh Dancy in period costumes. You know, plus the appropriate scars and whatnot.

I imagined nick looked rather like Hugh Dancy in period costumes. You know, plus the appropriate scars and whatnot.

Okay. I need to stop talking before the spoilers happen. Here’s some stuff I loved. First, there were some seriously funny one-liners in this book. I laughed out loud several times (particularly when Nick pondered his existence as “just a dude.”) Second, despite having a very science-y twist with the time travel, it was very accessible to me. The idea that time travel was facilitated by feelings and the flow of human history rather than, like, equations and black holes made me really happy. Third, time travel brings all sorts of fun colorful characters together who wouldn’t normally get to hang out. Gender bending teen from the 80s is like BFF with a medieval Swedish turnip farmer? It’s awesome.

My only complaint, if I can even call it that, is that the book left a lot of unfinished business. I assume (and hope… nay DEMAND!) that this is the first in a series of novels, because if it isn’t, I might cry. The concepts aren’t new, but the take is fresh and FUN. If you liked Outlander or Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore or The Night Circus or just generally enjoy books that don’t suck? Check out The River of No Return. Bee Ridgway, you’ve got yourself an admirer right here.

Alright, Bookworms. Since we’re talking time travel here, if you could go back to any point in history, where would you go? Why? Would you try to smuggle in deodorant, toilet paper, and contact lenses? (Because I totally would…)

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Apr 11

What The Frodo?! (In Which Katie Begins The Lord of the Rings)

Classics, Fantasy, Friendship, Mythology 63

Vedui’ Parma Loki!

Oh yeah. That just happened. I just greeted y’all in ELVISH. Thanks to some random internet English to Elvish translator, I was able to come up with “Greetings Book Snakes!” (Worms was not listed in the translator. I improvised.) I have a feeling if, say, Legolas, were out there reading my blog, he’d be all, “You’re bastardizing my people’s beautiful language!” Luckily, Elvish isn’t a real language, so I doubt I’ll catch too much flack. YES! I FINALLY started the Lord of the Rings trilogy! I just finished The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien, and you bet your sweet lembas bread I’ve got some things to say. I may as well just go ahead an give a big fat SPOILER ALERT for this whole review, but really, if you haven’t read the book, seen the movies, or have any concept of the story, you probably don’t care. However. I’m working on being RESPONSIBLE, see?

fellowship

Nerd Cred!

You may recall a while back I read and reviewed The HobbitThe Fellowship of the Ring picks up with Bilbo Baggins as an old hobbit, ready to enjoy his retirement (from what exactly, I’m not sure, because he had a crap ton of money from his share of Smaug’s booty, but whatever…) Anyway. Bilbo has “adopted” Frodo Baggins as his heir. They really ARE family, but more distant than nephew and uncle. Tolkien is rather fond of the describing the genealogical origins of his characters… In great detail. (More on that later…) Bilbo and Frodo have a big birthday bash (if you recall from the movie, it’s the one Gandalf shows up for with his fancy fireworks.) Bilbo pulls a disappearing act in the middle of the party and heads off (presumably to his condo in Boca) after an intense parting with his ring.

In the movie, Frodo leaves home on his quest to destroy the evil ring the very next day. In the book? It takes SEVENTEEN YEARS! I’m not saying that in an “OMG that took FOREVER” sort of way. I literally mean it took from Frodo’s 33rd birthday to his 50th for him to get a move on. In the meantime, we learn a lot of stuff that’s not especially critical to the plot about the Shire and the cantankerous branch of the family that will inherit Bag-End once Frodo skips town. Eventually, Frodo, his eavesdropping gardener Sam, Merry, and Pippin go adventuring. Along the way they acquire a really sweet pony named Bill. I liked Bill.

Bill the Pony for President!

Bill the Pony for President! (Sam and Bill are BFF.)

There were moments of excitement and great dialogue and serious bro-mances of the equine variety… But in order to GET to those parts, you have to wade through endless description of landscapes and geography and genealogy and songs. Have I ever mentioned that I have incredibly poor spatial skills? I can’t tell north, south, east, or west in the real world- I don’t know how I can be expected to be concerned with the debates on route between Aragorn, Boromir, and Gandalf. And the SONGS. I’ll be honest. While I was slogging through this bad boy, I would completely skip the songs. And, um, the songs in made up languages? Yeah. Not happening.

I will give Tolkien major props for excellent world building. It’s impressive for sure. I can completely understand the dedicated ravenous leagues of fans these books have acquired, and while I skip over the songs, I see why some would dissect the songs for even MORE Middle Earth goodness. I get it… I’m just not that fandom. Now, if JK Rowling published an entire book on the assorted family histories of the Harry Potter characters, gave them a fake language, and wrote volumes of verse for them, I’d be ALL ABOUT IT.

Have any of you Bookworms out there been to Middle Earth? Did you share my experience, or would you like to burn me in effigy? I’m open to both possibilities, because it’s the INTERNET and you still LOVE ME and you wouldn’t try to burn me alive for something as silly as not LOVING the Lord of the Rings… Right?

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Apr 05

Bookish Boombox: A Mix Tape Masterpiece

Blogging, Classics, Coming of Age, Fantasy, Personal 18

Are you ready to ROCK, Bookworms?

The thing about writing a book blog is that if you have a slow reading week, you start running out of material. When I was composing yesterday’s Eleanor & Park review, I spent a lot of time thinking about high school and the parts of it that didn’t suck. One of my FAVORITE high school pastimes was making mix tapes. I’d comb my CD collection and pick out the best tracks to put together. I liked to theme it up, you know? I’d try to impress my friends by putting “obscure” songs off of popular albums on there, so they didn’t think I only listened to the hits. I WAS DEEP, I TELL YOU! Then I’d make cover art and use crayons and stickers… Ahhh good times. So. Since I am out of books to review for the time being, I’m making y’all a little mix tape. In honor of the sweet boom box I used to make those mix tapes, I’ve created a thematic homage to books. I’m calling it “Bookish Boombox: A Mix Tape Masterpiece.” Forgive me for the lack of crayon artwork.

Track One: “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin. This song is based on The Lord of the Rings. Did you know that? I didn’t. (Thanks, Internet!) It’s one of those songs I mutter along with until the chorus. Anyway, I’m working on The Fellowship of the Ring right now, and, uh, “Ramble On?” Pretty darn appropriate, if you know what I’m saying….

Track Two: “Romeo & Juliet” by Dire Straits. Obviously, this song goes with Romeo & Juliet. I like to think of it as what would have become of Romeo and Juliet if they hadn’t been so impulsive and killed themselves. It’s a sad love song, and those are the best kind! This is one of my favorite, favorite songs EVER. Enjoy it!

Track Three: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by The Police. Every single time I hear this song I shout “just like the- old man in- that book by NABOKOV!” It’s about Lolita, obvi, and I feel that having read Lolita, it is my right to be very smug and sing that lyric at the top of my lungs.

Track Four: “Yankee Bayonet” by The Decemberists. Pretty much every song by The Decemberists is a story unto itself, because they’re completely amazing. Anyway, “Yankee Bayonet” is probably my favorite Decemberists track and it’s about the civil war- from a Southern perspective, no less. Therefore, I’ve decided it totally goes with Gone With The Wind. I suppose it would go better with GWTW if Scarlett had actually been in love with Charles Hamilton and he had been killed in battle rather than by disease, but whatever. It’s a good song and it’s MY MIX TAPE.

Track Five: “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” by Concrete Blonde. Funny story about this song. My very eccentric dance teacher choreographed a tap number to this song. We wore Raggedy Ann costumes complete with yarn wigs, then threw in some fangs and capes. It was seriously creepy watching a pack of 20 adolescent girls being all evil and stuff. As if it weren’t painfully obvious, this song is about vampires, so I associate it with the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. It works!

There you have it, my friends. A little literary mix tape from me to you. Are there any songs you associate with books?

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