Category: Fantasy

Sep 04

Take Me Down, Six Underground (Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman)

Fantasy, Mythology, Supernatural, Travel 53

Well Hello Bookworms,

I am not much of a world traveler, so it may surprise you to know I have, in fact, left the good old USA on occasion. When I was in college, I took a mini-mester in London. It was a two week trip where our instructors traveled with us. We took three hours of class a day and spent the rest of the time sight seeing and rambling around trying not to be overly obnoxious. Not sure that we succeeded. In any case, we were supplied with two week pass to the London underground. Thus, I became entranced with “The Tube.”

The London subway system is a massive network of underground tunnels, like any subway. However, having never used a subway system in any other major city, I found it weirdly romantic and exciting. This is likely because I was commuting to tourist destinations instead of work… I imagine the mystique would fade quite quickly if it were part of your day-to-day routine…

That’s the case for Richard Mayhew, the protagonist in Neil Gaiman’s NeverwhereRichard moves to London from Scotland. After a few years of commuting on the Tube, it’s lost its intrigue. He is concerned primarily with his job and his (rather pushy and unpleasant) fiance Jessica. All is well until one night as they head off to dinner.

Richard and Jessica unexpectedly encounter a young woman on the sidewalk… Bleeding profusely. Richard feels compelled to help while Jessica threatens to break off their engagement if Richard doesn’t continue on to their dinner. (Yeah, Jessica kind of sucks, though she DOES suggest calling an ambulance as they continue on their way, so I guess she’s only medium evil.) Richard, acting on instinct, takes the mysterious girl in his arms and back to his apartment after she implores him not to contact the authorities. Richard finds this a bit suspicious, but after a disturbing run-in with a pair of rather unsavory characters, Richard surmises the girl has good reason to keep a low profile. Richard then accompanies the girl on a strange adventure into another world known as London Below. neverwhere

This IS Neil Gaiman after all, you’ve got to expect some magic. London Below is situated in the space between subway platforms. It’s in the abandoned stations, the basements, and sewers of the city. It’s where the “people who fall through the cracks” end up. An odd mixture of characters make their homes in London Below. The underworld seems to be disconnected from time as we experience it, so you run into medieval monks as easily as Victorian castaways, the odd witch, and occasional bounty hunter. London Below is also extremely dangerous. Mythical beasts walk around unchecked. Rats converse with humans. Doors appear out of nowhere. Assassins run wild. But for all its strangeness, it’s also fascinating.

Neil Gaiman is a master of the creepy. He blends magic, mythology, and spooky ambiance seamlessly. I love that he chose the London Underground as his setting for this book! I always get excited when books are set in places I’ve been. I mean, it’s certainly cool to visit places you’ve never been in your reading, but there’s something about having a personal connection with a place. Anyway, I believe Neverwhere is my favorite Gaiman to date. Perfect reading for the transition into fall. I recommend it to anyone in the mood for a little bit of an eerie adventure.

Have any of you Bookworms out there enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s work? Have you read Neverwhere? What did you think? Have you ever imagined a mysterious underground civilization hanging out in your city? (It’s okay if your imaginary underground city includes the Ninja Turtles. I know mine does.)

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Aug 09

Peter Pan Brings Out My Inner Cynical Grown Up

Children's Fiction, Classics, Coming of Age, Fairy Tales, Fantasy 46

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Have you ever noticed that stories you knew as a child take on a very different meaning as you grow up? I was struck with just such a conundrum this week as I read (for the first time) Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. That’s not to say I wasn’t familiar with the adventures of the one and only Peter Pan. Far from it.

We didn’t own the Disney version of Peter Pan– this is probably due to the fact that Disney randomly pulls movies off the shelves for periods of time and it wasn’t available when I was in my prime Pan years. We did, however, own a VHS recording of the glorious 1960 production of Peter Pan the musical starring Mary Martin. I watched it often, which is kind of weird, because it always creeped me out a bit. I was particularly bothered by the cake Captain Hook tried to lure the Lost Boys into eating, because despite the sinister green frosting, I was certain “so damp and rich a cake” would be delicious. (Even if it was poisoned.) I hoped that in reading the book, my brain could conjure up the magic of Neverland better than a full grown woman playing a 10 year old boy…

This is the Peter Pan I grew up with. Realistic, no? (Source)

This is the Peter Pan I grew up with. Realistic, no? (Source)

Magic my brain could not conjure, but creepiness? Creepiness came through in spades. First. Barrie kept emphasizing that Peter Pan still had all his baby teeth, though he was about 10 years old. That would look really weird, you know? Kids start losing teeth between the ages of 4 and 7… A normal 10 year old would have regular teeth. The idea of Peter wandering around Neverland with teeny tiny chicklets all up in his mug seriously bothered me.

I realize the play was originally written in 1904, so expecting cultural sensitivity is a little unfair of me. However, I’m pretty sure Native Americans don’t relish being referred to as “redskins” or “savages” even in whimsical children’s literature. The book didn’t give a particularly flattering portrayal of females either. Tinkerbell was a serious biz-nitch, and the mermaids were nasty wasty skunks. All Wendy ever wanted to do- even in NEVERLAND- was play mother to a troop of boys. Why couldn’t WENDY go out and have the adventures? Why was she always doing laundry?!

And that Peter Pan? I’ve heard of Peter Pan syndrome- it’s applied to men who refuse to grow up and won’t commit to a relationship. Basically they’re pretty big douchebags. However. The name of this syndrome is even  more appropriate than I realized, because Peter was kind of an ass. Seriously. Peter Pan is a rather cultish figure, if you think about it. He entices children to run away with him. He’s so completely invested in the illusion that he literally cannot tell if he and the Lost Boys are consuming real food or just pretending. (Which means he starves them half the time. Bad form, Peter!) He gets the boys into deadly confrontations with the “redskins” and pirates. Deadly, yo. These little boys are slaughtering people. What the what? Adventures, indeed! Hmph.

Peter Pan, JM Barrie 2

 

Now that I’ve eviscerated a timeless children’s classic, do I have anything nice to say? Sure. Nana was awesome. Any dog that can play nursemaid is a-okay in my book. I also rather enjoyed that Mr. Darling chose to punish himself after the children ran off by living in Nana’s kennel. That was amusing. And Smee. There’s something utterly charming about a pirate that has no idea how darn cute he is. I don’t know why, but Peter and Wendy just didn’t engage my childish wonder the way I’d hoped it would. (Although Hook, the 90s remake of Peter Pan starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman? THAT is a good time right there. I hate myself for liking a movie better than a book, but there it is. Please don’t shun me.)

What’s the moral of the tale of Katie and Peter Pan? Always go into classic children’s literature expecting it to be darker and creepier than you remember. I’m always able to remember this when heading into traditional fairy tales, but I suppose I should amend my theory to include any books with fairies as characters as well. Second star to the right and straight on till morning, Bookworms.

Have any of you ever revisited a childhood story and found it stranger than you recall? Tell me I’m not alone here!

 

 

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Aug 08

Everything You Never Knew You Wanted To Know: A Bookish Q&A

Blogging, Book Club, Children's Fiction, Classics, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, E-Readers, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor 43

Hey Bookworms!

What’s this? Why it’s a survey about books! Why am I doing this? I may or may not be slightly behind in my reading. Plus, I like to change things up from time to time. So, I’d like to thank Rory at Fourth Street Review for inspiring Sarah of Sarah Says Read to complete this survey… I’d also like to thank Sarah for posting it so that I’d have something to jabber about today. My blog friends are the coolest.

Book Q&A Rules

1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

The octopus is a bookmark I got from a friend. Delightful, no?

Plus, my bookmark totally matched.

Your Favorite Book Cover:

I don’t think I can really claim to have a “favorite book cover.” Cover art usually isn’t something I get all swoony over. However, I really dug the cover of FangirlI’m in a coral and turquoise phase right now. Which leads me to this particular turmoil:

Katie: I really love coral and turquoise

Inner Snarky Voice: Oh really? You love coral and turquoise? Maybe you should move to Miami in the 80s and see if The Golden Girls need another roommate.

Katie: Ouch, Inner Snarky Voice. But kudos on working The Golden Girls into a blog post. Bea Arthur would be proud.

What are you reading right now?

I am currently ping ponging between Peter and Wendy by JM Barrie and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafron. (Fellowship of the Worms pick, you guys! Although, a little housekeeping. Instead of tackling this on Monday the 12th, we’ll be doing it on Thursday the 15th. The blogoversary is on Monday and I’ve got a SWEET giveaway I want to do.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

Oh goodness, I’ve got quite a stack. It’ll just depend on how the mood strikes me when it’s time to pick up the next one.

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to? 

Oh yes. These too.

Oh yes. These too.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Yeah, they’re all classics. I need to fill in the holes left by my education.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/ lounge right now?

We don’t get any magazines. Is that weird? And if we did, they wouldn’t be in our bathrooms. We wouldn’t want our reading material to be flagged, now would we?

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

That’s a bit of a sticky question, now isn’t it? There’s plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of books that I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. To somebody. Somewhere. Who has terrible taste… Nah. Really, I can’t think of one. I’m going to abstain.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I just can’t. I don’t understand what all the hoopla was about. I’m either not smart enough or not cool enough to appreciate it. Probably a little bit of both. But. Meh.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. (Sarah and I concur on this one!) Seriously, I do recommend this to just about everyone because it’s got a little something for everyone. Sci-Fi? Historical Fiction? Romance? Naked Time? Trauma? Family Relationships? Practical applications of leeches? I’m telling you. Ev. Ry. Thing. And it’s completely amazeballs. So there’s that too,

Mmmm. Jamie Fraser... (Source)

Mmmm. Jamie Fraser… (Source)

What are your three favourite poems?

I don’t read a whole lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, it’s just that… If poetry were music it would be classical. I prefer my music to have guitars and lyrics. That said, Emily Dickinson is my homegirl.

Where do you usually get your books?

Most of the time I order titles for my Kindle from Amazon. I do occasionally get books via NetGalley, and the library, of course.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

None that I remember. I do recall climbing trees a lot and wanting to drag a book up there with me, but a tree limb isn’t a comfortable lounging situation for more than a few minutes. Even a 10 year old backside could tell you that.

Gratuitous cute childhood photo.

Gratuitous cute childhood photo. I am like 3 or 4 here. Not 10. Late bloomer I was, but not THIS late.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

I stayed up way too late finishing Fangirl last week. What can I say? I HAD TO KNOW THINGS.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

Sometimes when I take those “have you read this” quizzes and they list “the collected works” of someone, I’ll go ahead and mark it if I’ve read  a handful of their stuff. No, I have not read ALL of Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe or Oscar Wilde. It seems unfair to have to have read the ENTIRE catalog to get credit. Humph.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

I barely notice covers these days thanks to my digital predilections. I have, however, bought plenty of books just because they were on sale. I’m a sucker for a bargain bin.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

When I was really small, we had this book about an owl. I remember it had a dark purple cover. No idea what it was called, but that was a frequent bedtime request. Once I could read to myself, I dearly loved pretty much anything by Beverly Cleary.

MORE gratuitous cute childhood photos...

MORE gratuitous cute childhood photos…

What book changed your life?

Changed my life? That’s a tall order, now isn’t it? I don’t know that it changed my life, but Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret soothed my tortured tween soul in ways nothing else could have.

What is your favourite passage from a book?

I’ve always loved Alice’s famous line “Curiouser and curiouser.” Because she was always messing up her words. Much like Amy in Little Women. I have a fondness for reaching beyond one’s vocabulary…

Who are your top five favourite authors?

Tough call but… Diana Gabaldon, JK Rowling, Rainbow Rowell, Jojo Moyes, and Margaret Atwood. Aaaaand basically the only thing any of them have in common is that they’re female. Which is unintentional, but whatever. High five to my literary ladies!

What book has no one heard about but should read?

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Yes, it was an Oprah’s book club pick, but it’s one that’s sort of been glossed over. I don’t hear much about it and it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.

What books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

Uhhh… I kind of hate the term “evangelist” because it has negative religious connotations for me. Although, since we’re on the topic of religion, let’s talk about ladies and their roles in it. How’s about The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood? All awesome.

My brother got a Broadway musical, and all I got was this (awesome) book.

My brother got a Broadway musical, and all I got was this (awesome) book. Nobody bought me a technicolor dreamcoat.

What are your favourite books by a first time author?

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Go read this right now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

What is your favourite classic book?

That is a tough call, because I love me some classics. Probably Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Five other notable mentions?

Notable classics I actually enjoyed? Sure. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Right. Now I’m supposed to tag people or something? Well I’m not doing that. But if you’re a blogger and you need a topic one day, I recommend this survey. Fun times, I tell you. Fun times. 

Anybody have anything to add to this list of goodness? Another question to me to answer? Your own answer to some of these? Talk to me, Bookworms!

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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.

killorder

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.

pariswife

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.

dead-ever-after-by-charlaine-harris-cover-3_4_r560

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…

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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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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.

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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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