Category: Fantasy

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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Feb 18

Gold! Always Believe In Your Soul: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Coming of Age, Fantasy, Mythology, Supernatural 40

Bonjour Bookworms!

I like getting my reading material for free when I can, so I’m constantly checking up on my library’s digital selections. Though they’re not as extensive as I would like, sometimes I’ll get the chance try something out that I’m too “on the fence” about to purchase. In my most recent foray, I sampled The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist tells the tale of a young shepherd from Spain who dreams of traveling the world. The entire book is written in parable form, and it focuses on finding the truth in life and discovering one’s own personal legend. The meaning of life and whatnot. Deep stuff.

Our hero decides to take his chances in the wide world and sells his flock of sheep on the advice of a gypsy and a “king” (I have doubts of his actual monarchical pedigree.) The little shepherd is advised to seek his own personal legend and find his treasure near the pyramids of Egypt. Along the way, he gathers lessons from a crystal merchant, a British man obsessed with alchemy, a really cool camel, and a lovely lady from a desert tribe. All seem to be pointing him toward his purpose in life.

the_alchemist2 (1)

Y’all, this book was just not my thing. I’m not great at getting into this kind of head space. Like… I take yoga, right? I find it relaxing, I appreciate the stretching and the way it makes my body feel. However… At the beginning of each class we’re taken through a sort of mini meditation. We’re instructed to clear our minds and concentrate on the present and our sense of being.

You know what I concentrate on? The fact that we’re trying to meditate in the basement of a recreational center that has a basketball game going on directly overhead and a Zumba class across the hall. I think about the old dude and his shiny blue pants. Are they pants? Are they tights? Were they made for cycling? Does this dude shop at a fancy yoga store I know nothing about? Perhaps my cheap Target yoga pants are laughable to this master of yoga. Wait. Did somebody just fart?!

I'm seriously concerned about the man tights.

I’m seriously concerned about the man tights.

I have no doubt that this book really resonated with a lot of people. I mean, it must have, because it’s a best seller. I am NOT a risk taker, so I have a hard time with encouraging people to, um, metaphorically sell all their sheep and go treasure hunting at the pyramids of Egypt. I don’t want to sound like a big grouch who lives to crush dreams. By all means, have dreams! Pursue them… But, you know. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Or something. And thus, I leave you with this random song my eccentric dance instructor once choreographed and has thus become an earworm in my brain for all of time. Gold = Alchemy + “Always Believe In Your Soul” Lyric = Appropriate. (The beauty of fake math is that it need not make sense.)

Bottom line? I’m glad I got this from the library and didn’t pay for it.

Anybody else read this book? What did you think? Anybody else take yoga? Are the blue man tights a thing?

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Feb 08

Little Red Riding Hood meets Beauty and the Beast meets the Thriller Video: Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguie

Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Young Adult Fiction 28

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

What’s that? You want to hear me ramble about Little Red Riding Hood again? You’re in luck because more Project Fairy Tale is coming your way! Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguie is a young adult novel that takes Little Red Riding Hood and molds into something completely different… Not unlike the way I can model some sweet, sweet play-doh into tiny ropes of spaghetti. (Work with me here, it’s been a long week.)

scarlet moon

The book starts out with a young Little Red Riding Hood and her brother racing through the woods, a wolf in hot pursuit. The wolf gnaws on Little Red’s legs (her name is Ruth in this novel) and then her brother rescues her by stabbing the wolf. Once Ruth gets home and all stitched up, her brother Stephen decides he needs to go fight the Crusades.

Yes, the Crusades! So. Ruth is left at home for the 9 year gap in the story during which she ages enough to become a viable love interest. She works in her father’s blacksmith shop- in pants (GASP!) Eventually, her cousin Peter returns from the Crusades with grim news about Stephen (he’s killed in battle) and a SERIOUS case of PTSD.

Ruth and Peter’s grandmother was run out of town on suspicion of witchcraft once upon a time, but Ruth always assumes she’s just an eccentric healer/early scientist type. Perhaps just a bit of a hippie who likes to experiment with the mushrooms she finds in the woods. Whatever. Peter is convinced that she really knows magic so he takes to spending inordinate amounts of time with her to “train.” Much to his dismay, he learns little more than herbal remedies.

In the meantime, Hottie McHotstuff nobleman shows up in front of Ruth’s blacksmith shop after his horse throws a shoe. I know what you’re thinking. The Crusades were FOREVER ago, and horseshoes seem a wee bit on the industrial side. DO THESE DATES COINCIDE APPROPRIATELY? Have no fear, my bookworms, you sticklers for accuracy. They DO in fact work out. I googled it, baby. I now feel a little bit ignorant on the history of farriers, but I’m working on that. Horseshoes are like super ancient, believe it or not. Anyhow…

Hottie McHotstuff’s name is William. He’s got it bad for our lady in pants. Who can resist chicks who wield molten weaponry? But William also has… Dun dun dun! A SECRET! This is a young adult novel. With a supernatural twist. And a wolf. I’ll give you three guesses where the author went with this… But you’ll only need one.

WEREWOLF!

WEREWOLF! (This one wears a shirt. Most of the time. More’s the pity.)

William and Ruth are all attracted to eachother and stuff, but William can’t allow himself to marry Ruth without revealing his secret. Way back in the first Crusade (there were a bunch of them. Anybody else totally rolling their eyes at humanity’s incessant warring over religion?) William’s ancestor kills a farmer by accident and is cursed by the farmer’s witchy wife to become a werewolf. The curse becomes his legacy. Remember that wolf that tried to eat Ruth? IT WAS WILLIAM! (Seriously, I need a soap opera soundtrack in here. It would be so much more entertaining!)

So now we have Little Red Riding Hood meets Beauty and the Beast, with a dash of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video on the side. Can Ruth look past the fact that William might eat her by accident in a fit of passion? (Bella in Twilight seemed to have gotten over it effectively, but Ruth’s got more self respect. I mean, the girl rocks PANTS, y’all.)

I know I know. SPOILERS. This book was actually a really fast read. Despite being a little cheesy and predictable, it wasn’t awful. If you like paranormal YA romances, this is right up your alley. If you’re a snarky pain in the ass like myself, you might want to read it anyway. How often do you get to make play-doh spaghetti out of two fairy tales and a pop culture icon?! (I take metaphors way too far, and then I just keep on going…)

So Bookworms, I’ve got to know. Does anybody else out there fact check their historical fiction? I’m not so brilliant at history that I’ll hold authors to extreme specifics, but if something sounds wonky, I look it up. Is it just me?!

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Feb 05

Little Red Riding Hood: Where Fairy Tales meet Soylent Green

Children's Fiction, Fairy Tales, Family, Fantasy, Frightening 40

projectfairytalebutton2

Happy Tuesday, Bookworms!

Once upon a time, I committed to Project Fairy Tale. The brain child of Alison at The Cheap Reader, a bunch of bloggers got together and decided to check out some fairy tale goodness. This month I’m going to be diving head first into all things Little Red Riding Hood… Within reason. I mean, I watched that movie with Amanda Seyfried in it the other day, and despite the fact that she’s gorgeous, that was one giant crap fest. (Seriously. There was a sexy folk dance. Let that sink in. Sexy. Folk. Dance.) I’m a book blogger, not a movie blogger, so I’m going to be reading a bunch of Little Red Riding Hood re-tellings and such. Good times shall be had on the way to grandmother’s house!

To start things off, I pulled out my big old collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales so I could get a baseline story in place for my comparisons. According to the Brothers Grimm, LRRH meets up with the big bad wolf in the forest. He thinks she looks delicious, but knowing she’s on her way to Granny’s, he decides to devour them both. He distracts Lil’ Red by suggesting she pick some flowers (a girl after my own heart. Seriously.) Then he heads off to Granny’s, gobbles her up, and dresses up in her nightgown to lie in wait for Lil’ Red.

Because little girls totally can't tell the difference between their grandmothers and wolves.

Because little girls totally can’t tell the difference between their grandmothers and wolves.

Once Lil’ Red arrives, the wolf gobbles her up too. Jerk. Luckily, a woodsman happens to be walking by and sees the wolf looking bloated. He figures that by chopping him open, he may be able to save whatever he’d just eaten. Because, you know… Much like a snake, wolves unhinge their jaws and swallow their prey whole, right? Whatever, it’s a fairy tale. Anyhow, the woodsman saves the day, Granny and Lil’ Red come out in one piece, and everyone learns their lesson.

I’ve since lost track of this, but when I was in college, I wrote a kickass essay comparing an old (like way pre-Grimm) version of Little Red Riding Hood to the Grimm’s version. You know what happens in the old one? Lil’ Red arrives at Granny’s where she’d greeted by the Wolf-in-Granny’s-Clothing and invited to have a snack. Do you know what the snack is?!?!?! It’s GRANNY! After Lil’ Red eats some Soylent Grandma, the wolf gobbles her up. Only, he eats her properly this time, like a wolf does with the teeth and the chewing. So. Yeah. Not a happy ending.

How much do you love the bathrobe and towel in the background?

Freshman year of college I got my fairy tale on for Halloween.

In case that little anecdote didn’t make it abundantly clear, the fairy tales of yore are a heck of a lot different than the Disney-fied ones most of us are familiar with. I suppose when plague and famine are forever at your doorstep, you don’t have a lot of patience for misbehavior. You tell your kids the most terrifying cautionary tales you can come up with to scare them straight.

So Bookworms, what are your favorite fairy tales?

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Jan 28

Cinder (ella, ella, ella, ay, ay, ay) by Marissa Meyer

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction 35

Hey Bookworms!

So you all remember that I’m doing the whole Project Fairy Tale thing in February right? Well. While I was out trolling the interwebs, I noticed that there’s a brand spanking new version of Little Red Riding Hood due on the scene February 5th. The only issue I had was that it was the second in a series… OBVIOUSLY, I needed to read the first book in the series, especially since I’ve seen a bunch of YA book bloggers fawning all over it. The first book in the series is a fractured version of Cinderella- Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

On her way to the ball, she really could have used Rhianna's Umbrella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay.... Just saying.

On her way to the ball, Cinder really could have used Rhianna’s Umbrella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay…. Just saying.

Meyer takes the traditional Cinderella story and short circuits it. Instead of being set long ago in a land far, far away, Cinder is set in the distant future. 126 years after the end of the 4th World War, to be precise. Funnily enough, aside from the technological advances, it’s not so different from medieval times. There’s a big fat ugly plague that looks and sounds awfully close to the Bubonic plague. Only this one wasn’t perpetuated by fleas on rats. (Also, in case you were curious, I’ve heard that Bubonic plague, at least the version that decimated a quarter of Europe’s population was caused by a bacterium that would easily lose in a battle against penicillin. Don’t be hating on mold, y’all.)

There’s also, um, robots. Lots of robots. Our heroine is bionic. She was in a terrible accident as a child and instead of spending her life in a wheelchair, surgeons made her part robot. Unfortunately, cyborgs are treated as second class citizens. I had a couple of issues with this bit. Like… The whole cyborg thing basically evolved from making really fancy prosthetic limbs and stuff. I can’t believe a culture that evolved from ours would have too big a bone to pick with advanced prostheses. The prejudice against cyborgs is universal, even if the person’s only got a robot foot. Cinder’s case is a little more complicated though. She’s nearly 40% manufactured and she’s got a computer all up in her brain. It wouldn’t be fair to, say, have her play chess against a normal human, but otherwise I have a hard time believing cyborgs would be so poorly treated. She still has FEELINGS!

Full on androids have no rights at all.

Full on androids have no rights at all. Their feelings are manufactured on personality chips.

Anyway. Cinder is a badass lady mechanic. She gets all greasy and fixes robots and hover cars (sweet right?) and the iPad’s great great great grandbaby. She’s super good at it because A. she’s got a computer in her brain and B. because she learned how to tweak her own mechanical bits and pieces. One day, the Chinese equivalent of Prince Harry shows up and is all “hey Cinder, wanna fix my robot?” And she’s all “ooooh hottie hot hot.” Here’s my other big objection to the book. Monarchy. Seriously? You’re telling me that a peaceful society was able to form based on a monarchy with no apparent checks and balances for 126 years? No uprisings from the unwashed masses? No spoiled royal black sheep in the family tree made a mess of things? I just don’t see it. But it IS Cinderella. I suppose we need a prince.

So anyway. Cinder’s got a pretty rotten stepmother, one mean stepsister, and one nice stepsister (kind of like in Drew Barrymore’s Ever After.) Cinder’s got to fix this robot, deal with plague, and find out all about her mysterious past because there are these evil moon people who want to cause trouble. Yes. You read that right. EVIL MOON PEOPLE. They’re called Lunars, but I can’t hear “Lunar” without hearing Christy Carlson Romano singing “We went to the moon in 1969, that’s when we made a landing that was luuuuuunar!” (Any Even Stevens fans out there? Anyone? Bueller? Yeah. I hear the crickets. I’ll shut up now.) The theory behind the Lunars is that they’ve evolved from a human colony that settled the moon hundreds of years before our story begins. Somehow, they’ve evolved an ability to manipulate people into doing their bidding. It’s sort of like a vampire’s glamour brainwashing. Only they’re from the moon. They’re another monarchy led by the most evil queen who has ever existed. The Lunars keep threatening to go to war with Earth (and despite the fact that the moon is way smaller than the earth, somehow the Lunars have superior technology and would probably decimate mankind.) Also, it’s suggested that the plague was advanced biological warfare sent to earth by the Lunars. Naturally, humans aren’t the biggest fans of the evil moon people.

Now I'm VERY suspicious of you, MOON!

Now I’m VERY suspicious of you, MOON!

When I write it all down with a wee bit of snark, it sounds like the most ridiculous premise ever. I won’t go so far as to say that this was my FAVORITE BOOK EVER ZOMG,  but I was totally drawn in. I embraced the sci fi and found myself hating the evil moon people. I really wanted Cinder and the prince to hook up and live happily ever after! Unfortunately, this is the first book in a series, so I was stuck with a cliffhanger. Luckily, Scarlet comes out in less than a week, so I don’t have long to wait!

Science Fiction at this level of robot-itude is a little out of my reading comfort zone. Do you bookworms like to dabble in different genres, or do you prefer to stick to reading what you’re sure to like?

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Jan 24

11/22/63 by Stephen King: Time Travel Without a DeLorean

Crime, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Time Travel 46

Hey Bookworms, what did YOU do last weekend? January is pretty bleak in the Midwest. It’s cold. Sometimes it snows. It gets dark early. Not fun. The only good part about cold weather is that you’re not expected to leave the house to be productive. It is perfectly acceptable to spend the weekend READING while lounging in front of the fire… Under a blanket… In your penguin slippers.

This photo isn't brand new.. I mean, I've already taken down the Christmas trappings. The spirit remains the same.

This photo isn’t brand new.. I mean, I’ve already taken down the Christmas trappings, but the spirit remains the same.

I spent the entirety of my weekend snuggled up under blankets, reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I’m pretty careful when it comes to Stephen King… I tread lightly because I don’t like having nightmares. I’m not a fan of scary clowns. The dead? Let them rest in peace. Don’t go raising them just to scare me. I absolutely REFUSE to go into “haunted houses” at Halloween. Just no. I’m anxious enough, thankyouverymuch. However, I decided to give King another shot because I really enjoyed The Stand.

11/22/63 isn’t a ghost story, it’s a time travel story! I feel like I repeat myself a lot on this blog, but… I LOVE TIME TRAVEL! An average guy in Maine (and obviously it’s Maine, because it’s Stephen King and he always writes about Maine) stumbles upon a bubble in the time space continuum that takes him back to 1958. Well, he doesn’t exactly stumble upon it. He’s introduced to it and given a mission. He’s to go back in time and make sure Kennedy does NOT get assassinated. The theory behind his mission is that the Kennedy assassination put any number of rotten scenarios into motion: the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War, global warming…

king

So our average guy, Jake, decides to make this happen, for the good of mankind and all. Can you imagine the kind of power you’d have in the past? Haven’t we all had the same fantasy while watching Back To The Future? By going back in time, you’d have the advantage of knowing the next big stock, the winner of the next big game. You could make a fortune. How would what you changed affect the future?! Would your changes cause you to disappear a la Marty McFly? Would your changes result in hideous wars and pestilence? Or would your changes result in… wait for it… WORLD PEACE?!

Delorean5

“Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?” (Image from Wikipedia)

Jake’s journey through his the 50s isn’t an easy one. Every time he tries to make a significant change to the past, he’s met with ridiculous and endless obstacles. Turns out, the past isn’t fond of being meddled with. Several times throughout the book, Jake refers to the past as an angry machine with teeth. I’m about to admit something terrible for a book snob. I never finished reading The Langoliers… I watched the miniseries instead. All I could picture when I read “angry machine with teeth” in reference to time travel were those badly animated cannonballs with teeth that devoured the stale past in The Langoliers. I’m not THAT familiar with King, but I know that he combined a lot of elements of his different novels into The Dark Tower Series. I’m not sure if King was intentionally pulling a Dark Tower here or if he was just out of ideas, but, dude. I noticed.

I’m not going to be Spoilerella today, so I won’t tell you if Jake’s mission succeeds, or if he breaks the future, or if he gets everything he ever wanted. You can read it for yourself if you’re curious. All in all? I liked this book. It was long, as King novels tend to be, but it was entertaining. The best part? It’s unlikely to give you nightmares. You time travel aficionados will likely find this as amusing as I did.

So Bookworms, if you could go back in time, what major event would you change? Do you think there would be unintended nasty consequences to your changes?

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Dec 21

Don't They Know It's The End of the World?

Dystopian, Fantasy, Humor, Personal 21

Hi Bookworms! Today is “Doomsday.” People who have misinterpreted the Mayan calendar have decided that the world is supposed to end today. I’d really prefer the world not end. I have things planned for next week. Beyond that though, I’d do very very poorly in a post-apocalyptic world. I looooove dystopian novels, so I figured I’d explore how I’d perish early on in some of my favorites. Ready?

1. The Stand by Stephen King. It’s easy to assume that I’d die in the plague that kills 99% of the population, but I have a really impressive immune system. I may be jinxing myself here, but I haven’t needed an antibiotic since I was 16 and had my wisdom teeth removed. I get sick very infrequently. So. I think I’d survive Captain Tripps. One of my favorite parts of The Stand though was that King discussed the casualties that occurred AFTER the flu had run its course. I’d probably survive the flu only to succumb to something really stupid… Like getting a paper cut from a book and contracting a flesh eating bacteria. It would be my cosmic punishment for bragging about my immune system and how I don’t need antibiotics. I’d survive the virus to be taken out by a self important bacterium.

Good vs. Evil. Super Flu. Apocalypse.

Katie’s battle with the paper cut didn’t make the final draft.

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If I were in Katniss’s shoes, I wouldn’t make it very far. I lack aim, archery skills, and knowledge of edible forest plants. The good news is, I probably wouldn’t need those skills. You know how at the very beginning of The Hunger Games the contestants stand on pedestals until the countdown is over and the games begin? If anyone has a “false start” their pedestal explodes. That would be me. Considering the alternatives in the arena, that’s probably not a bad way to go.

Ka-Pow!

Ka-Pow!

3. World War Z by Max Brooks. I shy away from physical violence, and I’m not especially strong. To be frank? I’m a weenie. I can’t even arm wrestle effectively. I’d be bitten very early on. But then? Then I’d be a zombie! Only, I’d make a terrible zombie! I’d be really really slow and unobservant. I’d be the zombie that they use in demonstrations to teach small children how to defend themselves. At least I’d be useful to humanity in some capacity. As the loser-iest zombie.

Zombie Katie!

Katie: The Loser-iest Zombie

4. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Yes, I know this isn’t an “end of the world” scenario, but I being in the middle of a war zone is definitely an “end of the world as we know it” scenario. Scarlett was really annoying during peace time, but she kind of kicked butt during an emergency. She delivered babies and farmed cotton and still managed to keep up her unhealthy fixation on Ashley. If I were a character in Gone With The Wind, I would not be Scarlett. I’d be like her first husband, Charles Hamilton. He got sick and died before he even saw combat. That’d be me. I was always the one dying of dysentery in Oregon Trail. I know I have a great immune system, but I’ve never had to contend with dysentery, okay?

That's me.

That’s me.

5. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Technically, the villains in this book were vampires, not zombies. Why wouldn’t I make it? I am DELICIOUS. No, seriously. Blood sucking insects seek me out. If there is a mosquito within a mile radius, it will find me and feast. Once, I lived in an apartment and my upstairs neighbor managed to infest my apartment with fleas. Do you know what fleas like to eat when there aren’t animals readily available? KATIES! It was beyond miserable. This contributes to my pervasive and borderline obsessive fear of bed bugs. In case you were ever curious about the existence of vampires in the real world, the fact that I’ve yet to be eaten is definitive proof that they do not exist. I’d be vampire catnip. For reals.

vampire-bats-2-clipart

It’s a good thing vamps aren’t real. They’d be seriously offended by this clip art.

There we have it. Five very specific reasons I would not survive any number of apocalypse scenarios. Like I said, it’s a good thing the world isn’t ending. I am going to celebrate by enjoying some of my favorite things: pizza, electricity, the internet, and my husband. Who will continue to have zero chance with Taylor Swift. Happy days, Bookworms. Happy days.

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Dec 10

I Finally Read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Children's Fiction, Fantasy 52

Hello Bookworms. I’ve missed you. While I was away, I drowned my sorrows in the pages of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I’m highly susceptible to peer pressure, and with Karen at BlogHer hosting a read along , I decided the time had come. I needed to get started on my Tolkien.

Okay. We’re in Middle Earth, right? Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, which means he’s short, he likes to eat, and he has weird giant hairy feet. Also, most Hobbits don’t care to leave their homes (I think I’d do quite well in the Shire… Somebody dig me a Hobbit hole!) He’s acquainted with a Wizard (because there are Wizards and Elves and Dwarves and Goblins. Suspend your disbelief, okay?) by the name of Gandalf. Despite Gandalf’s rather dashing beard, he’s kind of rude and fond of getting the unsuspecting into pickles and showing up at the last possible moment to assist them in the battle.

Hobbit1

Gandalf manages to talk Bilbo into taking a quest with a baker’s dozen Dwarves. The Dwarves were out to battle a dragon to reclaim their kingdom and treasure. It would make for a terribly boring story if the troop had an uneventful trip, asked the dragon nicely to give them back their treasure, and won the day with no conflict, wouldn’t it?

Tolkien wouldn’t  have that! There are all sorts of challenges! There are battles with Goblins and kidnappings by Elves and excellent hospitality provided by man-bears. There are dark dreary forests and narrow escapes. There are conversations with birds and trips down rivers in barrels.

It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Only… I wouldn’t call it my favorite children’s adventure story ever. I mean, the adventures were great. It’s just that the timing felt weird to me. Like… Seriously, are they still walking through the forest? And it’s STILL so dark they can’t see? Great. And oh, they’re in barrels now? Yep. Still in barrels. Rolling down the river in some barrels. And… Yeah. We’re STILL in the barrels! I guess I was just a little frustrated that the action didn’t always coincide with my timing.

I'm guessing Smaug wasn't this friendly looking... And the blue spots would be sapphires.

I’m guessing Smaug wasn’t this friendly looking… And the blue spots would be sapphires.

The only other thing that bothered me was that doggone dragon. Did anyone ask Smaug why he felt he needed all that treasure? Maybe he didn’t need to be slain, maybe he just needed a hug! Instead Bilbo goes and steals his treasure, pisses him off, and causes Smaug to have an emotional outburst wherein he lays waste to a village of men. It’s pretty bad. So eventually, you know, the dragon is slain, Bilbo gets back to the Shire. All is well. Only… The dragon was like jewel encrusted, and the men of the town refuse to harvest the jewels off the rotting dragon corpse. They think it’s bad juju or something. I think they were just pansies. Because, come on. Everyone knows that dragon jewels are worth a fortune on the black market. This is why I’d probably be eaten by Orcs at the earliest possible opportunity were I a character in a Tolkien novel.

Have any of you Bookworms tackled The Hobbit? What did you think? Would you harvest dragon jewels?

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