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Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Book CoverI admit the title got me on this one.  And I still think the title is good, probably the best part of the book.

In the beginning this book promised a lot:  mysteries & conspiracies, action & adventure, love and even a little sex (it is a YA novel after all).

In the end I was left unsatisfied and totally disappointed.  None of the promise was fulfilled.

I don’t have a huge problem with zombie stories, though as a germ-phobe I always get distracted about where such epidemic zombie infections come from.  I think that lately though, zombies are a bit overdone.  I mean look at some recent movies: 28 Days Later, I am Legend, and even Shaun of the Dead.   These are just some mainstream movies, I haven’t even delved into the “horror” movies.  Basically the undead are everywhere. 

Still this book could have capitalized on the current (and probably persistent) zombie-philia. 

It didn’t. 

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Cover ImageI bought this book thinking of Jesse, and how it would be a great book to read together.  And then I remembered that Jesse is MIA, on this blog but also in real life.  No worries, he’s alive and well but apparently distracted from blogging for the moment.  I will send him this link and perhaps I can guilt, I mean, lure him back in.

This book was indeed the perfect book for us to have read together.  So much so that I will probably be mailing it to him with the demand that he read it, like, immediately and report back.  In the meantime I’ll be on to something else. 

In other words, exactly how we used to be about books.  I would recommend a book to Jesse and he would read it, many many months later, at which point I would have forgotten entirely what it was about or what my feelings or thoughts on it were.

Sigh.

I think it’s a neat phenomenon though, this idea of buying books with other people in mind.  It certainly broadens one’s experience to pick up a book that you would choose for someone else and to read it yourself.  I have done this with many times with Jesse and it has never led me astray (with other folks it has.  Beware, you have to chose your reading muses carefully).  It’s different too, than reading a book and thinking “So and so would like this very much.”  It’s sort of a premeditated book choice instead of a referral.

It’s another way that reading can be a social, communal activity, even though the other person might not even know you are thinking of them.  I’d advise if you do this, to let the other person know – “this book made me think of you.” 

Unless of course it’s something along the lines of Tuesdays with Morrie

That’s just mean.

Details

I’ve written before about how I develop ( oftentimes extreme)  author crushes.  Chabon and Maguire are two of the my biggest.  They make me want to a be better writer (which is to say a good writer), they make me feel ashamed that I  have never created the kind of sentences they do, seemingly effortlessly.  I often stop and reread, particularly in Chabon’s case, a phrase that is a brain teaser, something you have to really sit and ponder before you really get it.

Suffice to say, I love these guys.  I adore them.  If I were a worshipful person, I might even deify them. 

Which is why these two books were such a fist-in-the-gut disappointment. 

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I have a really hard time choosing books for trips.   What you may ask, just take one of the three books you are currently reading!  Ah, but you would be quite mistaken.  First, I am very likely (unless I just started it) to finish any of them while in the middle of the trip (or worse, halfway through a plane flight).  Second, especially on a vacation, I want to bring something new and potentially exciting.  I don’t want the same old book I’ve been reading before bed.  I want a vacation book!

So alright, I’ll bring an entirely new book.  Except well, that too leaves me open to problems.  What if, on the plane on the way there, I decide I’m not really that “into” the book I brought.  Perhaps I brought the wrong book for the mood (often a hard thing to gauge when one embarks on a journey) or maybe the book just stinks.  Then what?

Let me try this again. Clearly new books are the way to go, but I’ll need a backup.  To be safe probably two backups.  Of course if I’m going on a trip of more than a few days, one with some downtime for reading, I will likely read one book at least, so to be quite certain I’ll need three backups. 

OK got it.  Four new books. Read the rest of this entry »

[Author’s note:  I’m taking off on a tangent today, so don’t be alarmed. The blog format will stay as usual, this is just a jaunt into a new direction. I’ve been sick for over a week, so you can blame the cold medicine if you wish.  I certainly am.  *I have not read this book*  But I want to really, really badly.  Unfortunately I will need to wait a) to get it from the library or b) until it comes out in affordable paperback to read it.  But that doesn’t meant I can’t start talking about it.  It’s a little thing we in the biz call buzz.]

I’ve only very recently become the kind of person who reads the NY Times Sunday Book Review.  Before this, I had always found my books in a very haphazard, but still pleasantly random kind of way.  Now I read reviews.  I try to follow what’s new and exciting.  Actually it’s taken some getting used to; it’s a little unsettling to be aware of books when they come out (or before) as opposed to picking up a stray paperback from a pile in a store.  Moreover it’s not healthy for my book buying habit – because, for me, to be aware of the new hardcovers is to buy them.

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We’ve talked about this before.  A poorly written book with a good story at its core can still be very interesting.  In fact in a lot of cases, it will be wildly popular and ridiculously lucrative.  A badly written book can still compel you to keep reading.  Even as you wince and groan at the language, you keep pursuing the ending.  You want to see the story unfold, so you stick with it.

Unfortunately.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been slogging through the over 600 pages of The Historian, lugging its hardcover heft to work and back (so much so the binding broke) and all I can think is that 1) Thankfully I read this book when I was commuting by train again and 2) I’m glad I only paid $6 for this book.

This book commits a crime greater than just being poorly written.  It’s a repetitive, drab, pedantic history lesson yes, but that could be forgiven (I loath little more than a character summarizing what another character has just said – apparently for the remedial reader’s benefit).  The problem is that between verbose and awful, awful prose (example – “It was too serious to not be taken seriously”) there are hidden gems like this one:

“. . .but it seemed to me now that a Catholic church was the right companion for all these horrors. . .I somehow doubted that the hospitable plain Protestant chapels that dotted the university could be much help; they didn’t look qualified to wrestle with the undead. ”

Sounds intriguing right?

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SDThe pressures of Ms. Prose notwithstanding (yes, she has a point; she’s just sending me in the wrong direction), my goal with this blog was to slow down my reading. To allow myself to digest what I am reading. To pause and enjoy each story for itself, as a journey instead of a notch on my bookshelf. Though it may not seem like it, I have actually slowed down considerably.

I still read a lot because reading is what I love to do. It’s what relaxes me; it keeps me sane. It makes all that time spent inside my own head not only normal but productive. I used to think I was weird, but I’m beginning to realize I’m not abnormal. Just perhaps in the wrong profession. I’m sure I would love to hang out with popular fiction writers (except Robert B. Parker who is a notorious – and arrogant – non reader. Could be why his books stink). Earlier this week I read an article about J.K. Rowling and her words only solidified my love for her:

“I never need to find time to read. When people say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, I love reading. I would love to read, but I just don’t have time,’ I’m thinking, ‘How can you not have time?’ I read when I’m drying my hair. I read in the bath. I read when I’m sitting in the bathroom. Pretty much anywhere I can do the job one-handed, I read.”

Exactly.

 

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What to read next? It’s probably one of the most exciting and frustrating questions a reader can ask.  It’s a tough question.  Tougher still if you are a discerning reader looking for something new and interesting. 

Though I like a good mind candy, beach read book as much as the next person, I’m a little more demanding when it comes to “good reads.” If it’s currently on the NYT bestseller list (Harry Potter being the exception), I don’t read it.  If I see more than two people on the subway reading, I skip it.  If it’s in the top 100 on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I’ll pass.  A good website for fiction for the anti-masses is bas bleu though they have been known to be very wrong (the Hazards of Good Breeding and Lucy are two notable examples). 

The safest bet is to ask other reader friends.  Reading is an experience made more enjoyable by sharing.  The simple phrase “You gotta read this!” makes what is necessarily a solitary activity suddenly a social one.  It’s the one thing guaranteed to drag us – hard core readers that is – out of our shells.  We hold up our titles like recent travellers with a photo album.  We want others to read – to see what we saw and to live what we lived.

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There are many stories about warped or slightly skewed fairy tales.  This is certainly one of them, but not quite.

The most important difference is of course the quality of writing.  This is my first experience with John Connolly, but it will decidedly not be my last.  He has a eye for imagery and a gentle but persistent grasp on plot.    This man knows how to tell a good story.

The second reason is that the warping of the classic tales in this story are not for political purposes (don’t tell that to the communist 7 dwarfs though).  Or for simply humorous ones (although it is quite humorous at times).  It is for one simple reason: The characters themselves made it that way.  Each of the monsters and magical perversions in this world is someone’s fear, based in the foundation of sometimes horrific children’s tales.  The rulers of this kingdom are stolen children, trapped in a world they don’t know or understand. They make sense of it the best way they can – through the lens of tales they grew up on. 

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Cover ImageOK, I have an assignment for you. 

Cover Image

Go out to the bookstore or library. 

Get The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear.

Read it, preferably aloud, to a loved one. 

 

Finished? 

Good, now that you’ve had a little taste of Moers, you’re probably good and soundly addiction.  Go straight back out and get Rumo (sorry, I should have told you that the first time). 

I’m not a fan of sequels, and thankfully this one is not.  You will see recurring characters and creatures from Blue Bear, but you will not see (at least I haven’t so far) Blue Bear himself.  For the uninitiated, this tale of Zamonia will seem like a bunch of nonsensical balderdash.  

Readers of Blue Bear will know it’s a bunch of nonsensical balderdash. 

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading

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