Friday, February 27, 2015

Do I Dare Disturb The Universe?

The book I am rambling today is one of my random acquisitions.  I picked it up at my favorite used book store because I had remembered seeing it several times at my childhood library and it was only two bucks.  It had apparently fallen out into the trunk of my car where I forgot I had gotten and when I refound it I tossed it in my backpack to bring it inside.  It never made it inside because I started reading it instead and WOW good job me.  The book is The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.  What was it about this book that got to me?  I'll tell you, but first, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
The setting for this book is Trinity School.  A private, Catholic, high school set in a predominantly white middle class neighborhood.   While the book deals with many many characters, I'll stick with the biggest players to keep this synopsis manageable.  The main guy's we follow are Jerry Renault, a freshman who is desperate to get on the football team, Archie, the semi-sadistic "Assigner" of the schools secret society called the Vigils, and Brother Leon, a power hungry man who get's his change as the interim Head Master.  The basic story line center's around the school's annual chocolate sale.  Brother Leon takes a gamble by buying twice as much chocolate as in previous year's for twice the price.  In essence the boy's need to sell twice as much chocolate as in previous years, while
convincing people they worth the higher price.  To try and get ahead of the game Brother Leon recruits Archie to use the Vigils to get behind the sale.  The Vigils are the schools secret society that seems to solely exist to assign various pranks to the younger guys.  The Vigil's are pretty powerful and a kid has yet to defy them.  Archie and Leon have a bit of a power struggle, resulting in Archie assigning Jerry the task of refusing to sell chocolates for ten days.  Since the chocolate sale is technically voluntary, there is not a whole lot Brother Leon can do about it.  Once the ten days are up everybody expects Jerry to finally accept the chocolates and start selling them, but much to everybody's surprise (including Jerry's) he continues to refuse.  At first he is not sure why, only the phrase on the poster in his locker "Do I Dare Disturb the Universe" sparking any resonance, but he eventually decides he is sick of doing something, just because everybody else is, or it has always been done.  As time goes by, other students start to follow Jerry's example, also burned out by always being ruled over by the top dogs.  This puts Archie in the position of his precious Vigils no longer having the control over the school that they are used to.  Brother Leon is also in a perilous position as he over extended the schools finances to buy the chocolate.  Archie takes charge and turns Jerry from a hero to an outcast by selling all the chocolates and giving everybody else in the school credit, making it the cool thing again.  He also has Jerry intimidated and even physically hurt.  To reinstate his dominance, Archie organizes an event for students only where he raffles off the ability call the shots in a fight between Jerry and a thug named Emile.  This results in Jerry being beat to the point of death and taken to hospital with life threatening injuries.  For a minute it looks like Archie will finally get in trouble for this stunt, by Brother Leon intercedes and no consequences are seen.  The book ends with Archie once again assured in his dominance and his friends/cronies questioning how long he can get away with it.
What struck me the most about this book was how brutally realistic it felt.  The author jumped around to several of the boys and Brothers and showed us not only their actions, but their feeling's and their thought processes.  It was not always logical, but it rang true for teenage boys (I say not ever have been one).  I have always been driven crazy by people who allow themselves to be bullied, or go with the status quo because it is easier then creating a scene and I cheered when Jerry decided to be that guy.  I loved how initially Jerry had no intentions of being the boat rocker, but after being forced into
the role, continued on, even after he was humiliated and beat up, he stood his ground.  I liked how the author showed bullying comes in  many forms.  We see the classic physical intimidator in Emile, who is not sure why he get's off on bullying kids, but he knows it makes him happy.   We see the sadistic manipulator in Archie, a guy who see's what he calls the big picture and revels in control and humiliation.  We have the adult authority figure who does not have the students best interest at heart and uses his position to belittle and terrify the students to satisfy something he is obviously lacking.  We also see the vast majority of the student body and teachers just going along with the flow, afraid to make waves, not wanting to be the person who stands out.  I feel this is still a serious issue in society (this book was published in 1974) where nobody wants to be the person who stands up and says "hey this is not ok".  We still in schools where teachers tell kids to toughen up, or to ignore the bully and it will go away.  Social media has added another dimension in which to bully each other. This book did not have the technology we have, but still managed to convey the myriad of ways one group can torture the other.  The ending of this book made me incredibly sad and yet rang completely true.  It does feel sometimes that even when a person gets caught doing something heinous, there is always somebody to protect them, while the guy who tries to do the right thing gets hurt in some way.  Overall I feel like I should like this book way less then I do because it is so bleak, but I found it to be very readable and would put this on a school list to prompt some discussion.  I recommend it to anybody who has an interest in society, bullying, or want to start a discussion.  I give this book 8 out of 10 boxes of chocolates and will gladly put it on my "must send to nephews when they are older shelf".
Why do you think I loved this bleak book so much?  What topic get's under your skin?  Does my loudness put me in the bully category?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's In A Genre?

Had a very interesting discussion (yep, let's call it a discussion) with my Hubbin the other night.  We ended up discussing the definition of various genre's.  He was saying that the meaning of what a person thought of a genre was more important then a solid if vague defined term.  I smugly told that he was absolutely wrong, that genre definitions were hard and fast and that is how we bibliophiles got on the same page about various books.   As often happens I kept thinking of our conversation and discovered that I may not have been as absolutely right as I thought I was.  I still think some sort of definition is needed when talking about genre's, but when you get down to it, maybe using genre is not the most specific of ways to classify a book.  Take Twilight for instance, I think the best genre description is paranormal romance...but one could easily make the case for it being fantasy, urban
fantasy, YA, or any number of things based on various genre definitions.  I have also discovered that genre's constantly change.  We are adding more and more styles of writing, and then combining them to create even more.  We are also much more accepting and have almost unlimited access to more then the mainstream versions of genre's.  To this end with the myriads of books out there being shoved into pre-conceived genre's, and more genre's being invented all the time, is it any wonder when I say cyberpunk, and he says cyberpunk, they don't necessarily mean the same thing.  Neither of is all right, but neither of us is even remotely wrong in our understanding of a particular genre, it's just a broad way to capture a complex idea.  All that being said, genre's are still at least a starting point in which to categorize your books, and we still need something along those lines or else MASS CHAOS! (Ok I may not have been to bed in three days and am a wee bit loopy).  Just try and keep in mind when using genre's to describe a book, or look for a book, or get suggestions for a book, to try and keep an open mind, because keep in mind Pride and Prejudice can be classified as a Classic, Fiction, Romance, or Historical Fiction and Fantasy can be anything from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and beyond and they are all valid.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I hate mornings so much.  But I am bound and determined to have a good day today.
Maybe I'll pretend I'm in a book and each hour is a new chapter...Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

By It's Cover

One of my favorite aspects of a book (besides the content of course) is how they look on my shelf.  I have probably mentioned it once or one hundred times, but I love the various covers that my spoiled self has access too.  If I had unlimited resources I would have a zillion shelves, each with a different set of the same books.  Here are some of the designs I would add to my obsessive collection
Coralie Cloth Bound Classics
Barnes and Nobles Classics
Penguin Horror Classics

This is just a teeny tiny start to what is inspiration for what will hopefully be an IMMENSE collection of pretty pretty books.   Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Bells Of Death

Are we ready for some rambling?  Good 'cause here we go! Have you ever had the experience of picking up the perfect book for the perfect moment?  I started this book with no real idea of what it was about, other then I had seen it since I was little and that many people recommended it.  What I found was a great book that perfectly fit the cold and bleak atmosphere that has been pervading the East Coast this winter.  The book is Sabriel, the first book in the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD.
This book is set in two very different realms within the same world.  There is Ancelstierre, a 1900ish era world that has science, cars, guns and the like.  In the north, separated by the Wall is the Old Kingdom, a land full of magic.  Our story centers on Sabriel, the daughter of a man called Abhorsen and sent from the Old Kingdom to live beyond the wall in a boarding school.  She receives an education not only in the normal stuff, but in the basics of what is called Charter Magic, which is what they call people who wield the "good" magic from the Old Kingdom.  Sabriel has plenty of contact with her father who teaches her to enter and walk among death, instructing her in the use of various Charter laden bells to help control the dead who seek to rejoin the living.  While at school she is visited by a shade messenger who brings her fathers bells and sword, signifying that her father can no longer use them.  Sabriel crosses the wall and is set upon by a dead creature who is intent on
killing her.  She narrowly escapes and finds her fathers house and learns that the term Abhorsen is the name given to the person who holds the office of Necromancer.  Unlike most stories, this is not a bad thing.  In this realm the Abhorsen work with death to make sure that the Free Magic (usually bad magic) is not used by the dead, or evil people to use the dead for unsavory purposes.  She meets Mogget, a Free Magic creature that has been contained in a cats body.  She continues her hurried education by learning that the Royal Family, who is instrumental to the health of the kingdom has disappeared.  After yet another dead minion tries to get her, she sets out to find her father and figure out just what the heck is going on.   Mogget joins her and she uses a construct from a previous Abhorsen to fly out of the residence.  She eventually finds one of the great Charter Stones cracked...which is really really bad as these are part of what keeps the good magic good.  She ends up down in a reservoir, rescuing a guy who appears to be in suspended animation from death.  Turns out he is a bastard prince who watched his half brother murder the Queen and Princesses to break the great Charter Stones.  The three of them set out to fight the undead shade of the princes brother and have various adventures in the old kingdom.  Eventually they learn that his body is in Ancelstierre and Sabriel and co head there to stop him.  Sabriel eventually finds her father, who is pretty much dead, but is able to help her out.  Sabriel and her friends convince the guard at the wall (who have some experience with the Free Magic) to help defend them until they can destroy the bad guy's body.  Much magic, death and mayhem occur, culminating in the destruction of the bad guys body, and apparently the victory of Sabriel and her friends.  The End.
Contrary to the brief and probably confusing synopsis I very much enjoyed this book.  The story hooked me from the first page and I kept turning them until the very end.  So what did I like.  I very much enjoyed the idea of two different realms occupying the same world and how they developed completely differently from each other.  I always wonder how a world with magic would develop, what technologies would and would not need to be invented and so forth.  This story does a bit of comparing and contrasting which I enjoyed.  Sabriel was a good character, capable, realistic and  aware of the gaps in her education.  She wants to go and get things done, but is able to actually plan and listen to her advisers without being a push over.  The atmosphere, especially on the Old Kingdom side with it's freezing bleakness was a perfect visualization of a glorious kingdom gone to seed.  I liked how death in this world worked, with it's various gates and levels gave a Dante's Inferno type feel to the whole thing, while still being very original and very complete.  The various tools the
Abhorsen had to deal with the dead were pretty cool too.  I loved the idea that the necromancers where no necessarily the bad guys in this story.  To often death is associated with evil, and while there were bad necromancers, the Abhorsen were good, necessary and revered.  What was not so awesome was a bit of ambiguity when it came to the history of the Old Kingdom and how the magic worked.  The author seemed to have a pretty rich back story to this world in mind as he wrote this book, and I got bits and pieces of it but for the most part you just kinda had to go along with it. I want to know about the Charter Magic, and the various lines of people/beings who created it, I want to know how the two separate realms came to be, and I want to know some of the personal history behind some of the various towns and peoples.  I'm hoping this is remedied in future books.  Speaking of future books, the ending to this one was way to abrupt for my taste.  I felt like we got this great story, a huge build up, a fabulous battle and that was it.  There was no real ending for any of the characters, just a bit of "Oh hey we won awesome so the stories over right?" type of vibe.  Overall a good read, a good story, good characters, and an original, fairly well executed idea. The whole book has a very neat vibe to it that I enjoyed very much.  I recommend it for anybody looking for something a bit familiar and a bit different at the same time, somebody who needs a good winter book, or just a good book.   I give it 8 out of 10 Charter Marks and will be picking up the next one shortly.
How do you feel about Death as a good thing?  How much time do you think I spend thinking about the logistics of theoretical worlds?  What other books have I been missing out on?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cop Out

Ok ok I know I owe you all a rambling or a nice long rant or something more substantial then a comic, but 36 hours later with 12  more to go and I just don't have it in me.
I will however spend the next free hour that I can find to hide under a blanket (we are experiencing below zero temps here) and finishing at least one book so next week will be an awesome week of rambly epicness (my spell check hates me so much right now :-)  )  Anyways, I hope you all have a great and warm weekend and I will see you all on Monday.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wrapped In Words

It is COLD out!  Like seriously it's so cold it hurts to breathe, fingers turning blue, ears falling off and that is just going to get my mail cold.  The plus side to all this is that I get to wrap up in a nice warm blanket like one of these and read!
Harry Potter Blanket
Keep track of your minions while you wrap up and read
Alice In Wonderland Blanket
I need this to go with my book pillow...I could get a whole Alice bed set!
Shakespeare Quote Blanket
This blanket will add a bit of wit to your wrap
Pride and Prejudice Blanket
A sweet blanket to curl up under with your sweets
Quote Blanket
The perfect blanket for when you just can't choose a favorite.
Ok I am now going to go and curl up under my own favorite fuzzy blanky until I have to go to work and face the unforgiving stupid cold.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Under A Pile

Hi folks, been a wee bit swamped so posting will be a bit spotty this week.
I will try and get something mindblowingly genius up soon, but until then.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love In The Pages

As the dreaded Valentine's Day approaches, I thought I would take a moment to share with you the men who have always been there for least in written form :-)
Prince Caspian - This prince turned king will always be my first literary love.  He stole my very young heart when I first read Prince Caspian.  He was young, he was royal, and he believed in magic...everything my little heart wanted in a boy.  He continued his spell over me in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, cementing his sailor king self into the number one literary love spot forever!

Alessan - Anne McCaffrey's books hold many of my literary crushes, but Alessan the young Lord Holder of Ruatha in Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern is probably my favorite by just a hair.  He has the look I like (Tall, long dark hair, pretty eyes...looks a lot like my Hubbin actually), the strength to overcome countless tragedies, a sense of duty and best of all a sense of humor.  He became a standard against which I have judged countless real guys...which may explain a couple of things :-)

Mr. Darcy - I think every girl who has picked up a book has had a crush on Mr. Darcy from the wonderful classic Pride and Prejudice.  It is interesting to contemplate why he is so beloved, when he is quite stand offish and border line mean for most of the book.  I think what I personally love about him is his honesty...even when it is painful and his love for Elizabeth's spirit and brain.  As a girl who is a bit on the "spirited" side, I appreciate when a guy likes a girl for who she is.

Jack - This fictional version of one of my authors C.S. Lewis is one of the caretakers in the  Imaginarium Geographica series.  This version of Jack is pretty young, impulsive, imaginative, adventurous, and loyal.  I have fallen in love with this portrayal of a man who in real life has shaped much of my literary likes and dislikes.  It's a bit surreal, a bit weird, but very cool to have this character has part of my bookish life.

Finvarra - The King of the Faeries in The Hunter's Moon is my fantasy guy to a tee.  He is cool, mysterious, wild.  He can fly, he can dance, he can play the violin ( the perfect instrument for a perfect guy).  He is tricky, he is cunning, he is fickle, he would probably be very very bad for a girl in real life, a real heart breaker.  On page though, he is just about perfect. Oh and he wears all black, which back in the day was a definite plus.

The Weasley Twins - I absolutely adore these two tricksters from the Harry Potter Series.  I really really wish I could have gone to school with these guys, I think I would have had a ton of fun.  George and Fred have the perfect balance of fun, smarts, loyalty and charm.  Also they know magic!  How cool would it be to walk into a room with these two on your arms.

Howl - I love Howl's Moving Castle and I really love Howl.  This vain, yet sweet wizard snagged my heart from the first page.  I love his journey throughout the book, showing his ability to change and grow, which is always important in a relationship.  His little vain quirks and his ability to let people be themselves is enduring and fun.  I would love to travel the various worlds with him in his castle and learn all his little secrets.
Sooooo obviously I have a thing for my book men, but I have to admit I got lucky in real life too.  My Hubbin embodies so many of the attributes that have made me fall in love with these fictional guys.  He is my real life Prince Awesome, my Pirate Lover, my Adventure Partner, my Knight in a really great suit.  I love him so much and find that he exceeds my literary lovers in every aspect...except the violin playing...but otherwise he is perfect!  Happy Reading Everybody!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tales Of Old

It took me a while, but I finally finished The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.  It did not take me so long because it was bad, but because of the way it is structured it really lent itself to picking up and putting down, making it the perfect backpack/work/station book.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
This book is a collection of tales told by various travelers on a pilgrimage.  The host proposes that everybody in the group tells a story and it is agreed.  We are introduced to our travelers (which changes depending on which version you read), in this version we have the Host, the Knight, the Miller, The Reeve, the Wife of Bath, the Clerk, the Franklin, the Pardoner, and the Nun's Priest.  Each tells a story in their turn, each adding their own voice to the group. I guess the best way to sum it up is to tell about each player's tale.
The Knight's Tale - This is a story of love, betrayal, friendship and the gods.  It is told in a mix of Greek and classic medieval story telling and is probably the most intense of all the stories.Two friends are taken prisoner and both fall in love with a princess of the land.  They both get free in different ways and pursue the girl.  It comes down to a battle between the two, with all involved beseeching their particular god for intervention.
The Millers Tale - This is probably the most popular of the Canterbury Tales...probably because it is the bawdiest of them all. A woman who is married to the carpenter is none the less wooed by two scholars.  She accepts one, and taunts the other.  Meanwhile she and her scholar lover scheme to keep her not so smart husband out of the house so that they things :-)  This is definitely a story that appeals to the lower brow among us (I loved it).
The Reeve's Tale-Here we have a tale of mistaken identity and revenge.  After people cheating people out of stuff, two men get revenge on a miller by sneaking into the beds of his wife and daughter.  There is also a beating or two.  This is a quick and dirty story to be quickly read.
The Wife of Bath's Tale - In this story, the prologue is much longer then the actual story and involves the story teller telling of her delight in the dominance of her husbands and her love of the marital bed.  She tells how she essentially bully and tortures her husbands into an early grave and moves on to the next one.  Her actual tale is about a knight tasked with finding out what women truly want.
The Clerk's Tale - This story kind of pissed me off.  It's about a king who marries a common woman then proceeds to test her loyalty by telling her he is going to kill their children.  She being the "model" wife accepts this.  He eventually reveals that he did not kill them, but rather sent them away to be raised by other people.  Seriously this is one messed up tale.
The Franklin's Tale - A fairly typical story of a couple in love.  He gets sent to fight in a war and she is wooed by another man.  She remains faithful, but makes a foolish promise to the desperate suitor that he gets through trickery.  When she is willing to give up her life rather then be unfaithful or break her promise the suitor finally relents.  In this story the husband is actually fairly understanding and supportive of his wife.
The Pardoner's Tale - This tale is a it confusing, but essentially three young men indulge in all sorts of vices and then pay the ultimate price.  The best part of this tale is that the teller is almost as bad as the subjects of his own tale.
The Nun's Priest Tale - This story takes the form of a fable involving a rooster, his chicken wives and a fox.  It is the idea of dreams and their interpretations that takes center stage in this story, with many a prophetic dream being recounted.
This is a great read for several reasons.  The first being that every story is interesting in its own way.  There is a huge variety in theme and style and it gives the book lots of interest.  The second is that it gives a glimpse into the way life was during this time period.  Third, the language is just absolutely beautiful.  The version of the book that I have (and there are tons of versions with ton of various combinations of stories) is cool because it has the original old English on the one page and a "translation" on the other.  I like reading it as much as I can in the old English because the rhythm and rhyme is very transporting, sometimes though it is nice to have a definition of some of the more obscure words.  I will say that the attitude towards women in general in this book is pretty bad.  They are expected to be docile, faithful and put up with pretty much anything the husband, father, brother or male guardian can throw at her.  I found it amusing that in the Wife of Bath's tale, she not only does what ever she wants, but tells her tale about how what women really want is the freedom of choice.  Overall I found this book to much more readable then anticipated and really enjoyed the variety and language.  I recommend it to anybody who wants to read a true classic without the daunting million page story.  Almost anyone should be able to find at least one story in this book that they enjoy.  I give this book 8 out of 10 tales and will keep it on my classics shelf.
What is your favorite tale?  How do you feel about how women were treated back in the day?  Why are all the "classics" so full of sex?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Picking The Next Book

The other day, somebody asked me how I pick my next book.  After careful consideration of this question I have found several different factors can be included in my book choosing process.
What Else Am I Reading? - I usually have about five books going at once, so if I'm already reading a dragon fantasy book, a short story collection and a reread, then I will probably pick something entirely different for my next book so I can keep a good variety going.  This actually helps me finish books faster because I am never bored so long as I keep the variety going.

What Did I Just Finish Reading? - A lot of the times what I have just finished reading will greatly affect my choice of next book.  If I loved the book I just finished, I will probably go for a similar genre, or something by the same author, or the next book in the series.  If I hated the book, I will probably go running to my favorite book shelf and quickly devour a book I know I love to get the bad taste of the icky book out of my brain.

What Am I Watching? - Movies, TV, video games, all of these will have an influence on what I am in the mood to read.  Am I watching a BBC show? Then of to a book set in England I go.  Did I just finish an awesome movie based on a book, well then I am probably downloading the literary version as we speak.  Playing a video game in space, well the SciFi shelf it is for me.

What Season Is It? - As I have mentioned before, I am a huge seasonal reader and tend to crave certain types of books depending on what season it is.  In fact I have a shelf of books that I reserve for reading only during certain seasons and will go to them whenever the weather changes.  On the flip side, I find it very difficult to read books out of season and may put off a book I'm excited about until the weather is right.

What Did I Just Buy? - Every trip to the bookstore results in some new exciting find that demands to be put on top of the TBR pile.  Sometimes it's a book I've been looking for forever, sometimes it's a book that just happened to catch my eye, and sometimes it's a book that just happens to be pertinent to something that is going on at that moment.  Regardless, these books tend to nudge up to the top of the list.

What Did I Hear About? - Sometimes I hear about a book from a website, a friend, or just randomly and for some reason must read it immediately.  I can't always pin point it, but something about the description, author, circumstances, whatever it is catches my attention and demands to placed on the top of the list.  I have had hit's and misses this way, but have learned to ignore this impulse at my own peril.

What Do I Want To Read Right This Instant - Every once in a while I just want to read some random book.  Sometimes it is a new one, sometimes it is a reread, sometimes it is just the book that is closest to me.  This impulse can strike any time, any where and involve any book. It doesn't matter how many books I am reading at this given moment, if the urge to pick up a certain book strikes it does no use to try and fight it, I just give in and read whatever it is that is stuck in my brain.  I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night and dig around my bookshelf in the dark to satisfy whatever insane literary craving has struck.  Trust me, it does no good to fight it.
These are all factors that go into picking the next book from my endless TBR pile.  It is messy, random, and usually has the result of a multi-personality list, but it gets the job done.  Now it is off to search my bookshelves for the next read. Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Love My Book Men

Not feeling so hot today so I'm gonna curl up with some of my favorite men and relax.
Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The End Is Here...Kind Of

For Christmas I got my sweet Hubbin the book Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton.  It is a combination sci-fi/adventure/puzzle/mass media game book that was...well...hmmm...yeah.  This is not going to be a typical rambling as the authors have asked people not to spoil it, and also it is so disjointed it doesn't really lend itself to a typical synopsis, but I'll do my best to give you at least the flavor of what is going on.
The basic premise of the book is this.  Back in the beginning of humanity, aliens came and picked 12 lines of humans to keep a line of what is called Players going.  The Players have to be between a certain age and physically fit.  They train in physical prowess, code breaking, puzzle solving languages and such all in anticipation of the day that Endgame will begin.  Endgame is the day when the aliens who first picked the 12 decide that humanity is no longer worthy of living and will pretty much destroy everybody.  The only people who will ultimately survive are the people who belong to the line of the winner.  In the book we eventually meet all 12 Players from all over the globe, who all have different backgrounds and training.  Near the beginning 12 meteors come crashing down around the world, killing off a ton of people, all to deliver a rock to the Players to let them know that Endgame has started.  The Players all gather in China and the alien Keplar-22 does his spiel and gives them all a clue in their heads.  The players all scatter to solve the clues, deal with family history, and just cause mayhem in general.  The book ends with one of the players getting the first key and moving on to somewhere in anticipation of the next book.  Through out the book are clues and websites that the reader is supposed to solve.  This extends far past the book into various media sites and research and various codes and such to solve.  The reader who solves the whole puzzle first wins a pretty big cash prize, so that is pretty cool.
I read this book in a different way then I normally fact I didn't read it at all, Hubbin read it to me.  This was fun for two reasons.  One Hubbin has a very soothing voice and it is very very relaxing to listen to him read.  Two, this book was horribly written, so to spice it up, I would "interpret" what the book should have really said...with the occasional "I'm Batman" thrown in for fun.  The book really was written in a very simplistic, broken up, stilted manner that made it almost painful to read.  Every sentence.  Was three or four.  Words long.  And periods were.  The only.  Punctuation. Hubbin thought this might be part of the code, but the WHOLE book was written this way and it was very very very annoying.  I also felt a bit gyped on some of the characters.  There were 12 Players and while we got glimpses of all of them, only about 5 were really focused on and of those 1, the incredibly annoying Sarah Alopay was given at least half the book.  Of all 12 Players, she was the least interesting, most annoying, typical perfect All-American girl that absolutely no originality to her what so ever.  Some of the other characters seemed to have some cool stuff going for them, but I'm not sure because they would get a page for ever 5 of Sarah's.  The puzzles themselves are WAAAAAY over my head, they seem overly complicated and at times completely random.  That is what I have Hubbin for, he is very good at this kind of stuff and has the patience of a saint (which is proven by the fact he has been married to me for so long).  He has gotten into the big puzzle fairly well and is totally ok with my random interjections of pointless trivia so that is working for us.  Maybe we will get lucky and win the prize...if not at least we had this book to bond over and that itself was worth it.  I give this book 4 out of 10 gold digging aliens and will still pick up the next book, just to hear Hubbin read it out loud.
How do you rate a book that is more then a book?  Do you like it when people read out loud to you?  Are you Batman?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Books Everywhere!

Came home from another 12 hour shift last night and had to smile.  After bringing in a book I had mail ordered I then proceeded to toss it on one of the numerous book piles that have seemed to grow up around the house in the last couple of weeks.  The best part is that not all the stacks are mine...nope, some of them are Hubbins.  We have been reading a book together (more on that in future post) that requires a bit of research so we both have current reading books, research books, new books, random books, TBR books, TBB(to be blogged) books, just bought and haven't put away yet books, work books, and whatever other books happened to not be on the overcrowded shelves at the moment books all in random piles all over the house.  I have to admit, it is kind of cool coming home to a house where any surface, ledge, shelf, basket, or remotely flat place has a mixed pile of books just hanging out, like a friend or family member.  It may be messy, it may be disorganizes, but gosh darn it if this isn't exactly what I want my house to look like :-)   Happy Reading Everybody!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Creatures Of Myth

Haven't done a short story round up in a while...mostly 'cause I lost my most recent read in a huge pile of randomness, but fear not it has been found.  The book is Creature Fantastic edited by Denise Little and is a collection of stories about so called mythic beasts. This book covers all kinds of creatures in all kinds of situations.  Here are my favorites in this book.
Father Noe's Beastery by Jody Lynn Nye - A great opening story about a mysterious man, his art shop and a current setting all makes for a very original idea and a great story.  The character of Kinsie feels current, real and adds the perfect mix of innocence and street smarts to this story.  A great original opening for this book.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Unicorn by Von Jocks - This story is funny, sweet, and kind of like a Lisa Frank picture in book form.  It has the perfect mix of humor, sweetness and just a touch of a bad guy.  The setting of a fantasy shop in an urban mall sets the almost absurd, yet great tone of this perfect unicorn story.

The Last Flight by Michelle West - In complete contrast to the above story, this one is very bittersweet and makes one think of the cons of immortality.  We hear a lot about ancient beasts, and in the case of a Phoenix there wisdom.  In this story, the Phoenix, who can shape shift into a man, decides enough is enough and the resulting story is well written, a bit sad, and a bit hopeful all at once.

The Team Room Beasts by P.N. Elrod - This is a tale of revenge...and tea.   A women is being horribly and unfairly harassed by her ex until a fortuitous meeting at her tea house gives her the ability to summon minions from the beyond to harass him into compliance.  This story is a weird mix of comedy and bit of the horrific, but in the end you feel justice has been served an then have a craving for a scone.

The Dragon in the Maiden by Pamela Luzier - Here we have a story to turn the tropes on their heads. We have a dragon that is not into eating maidens, a "knight" who is looking to marry his way into fortune, and a kingdom that essentially runs on a popularity contest.  This story was good to remind us to always get to know a person (creature) before taking what others say as the truth.
I found this book in the discount section of my favorite used book store and only paid 75 cents for it, but feel it was worth much much more.  There was a great variety of stories, settings and creatures included in this collection that made it very very readable.  I give it 7 out of 10 Loch Ness Monsters and would recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good story, mythic creatures and variety.  Happy Reading Everybody!
What is your favorite mythic creature?  Do you ever feel guilty about spending so little on bargain books when they turn out so good? Why am I stuck on the 7 rating lately?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Puzzle Book Fun

I love puzzles, crosswords, word games, anything that needs solving and I'm there.  In this vein I have found it surprisingly easy to combined my love of books and puzzles.  Here are some great puzzle books that in cooperate the literary.
Pocket Posh Sherlock Holmes
A variety of puzzles based on various Sherlock Holmes stories, and it's pretty to boot.
The Prodigious Book of Shakespeare Puzzles
This is a fun book full of puzzles and Shakespearean wit
The Agatha Christie Crossword Puzzle Book
Solving puzzles and mystery's = lots of fun
The Everything Literary Crosswords Book
All kinds of booky goodness in this one
The Literary Pocket Puzzle Book
Books, words, puzzles, whats not to love
Ok now to go put on some great music and do a few book related puzzles to enjoy my day off.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thinker Pages

So completely random post today, but saw some of this artwork and couldn't get it out of my here you go. All of this is by a Malaysian artist by the name of Daniel Lai and I think it is wonderful.

I love the combination of a recognizable figure (usually The Thinker) and book art, it seems very apropos (yay using my big girl words!).  I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did and check out the rest of his work.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sugar And Snow

It's been COLD out here!  Normally I prefer the cold to heat, but it's getting downright ridiculous.  Instead of whining, I've decided to embrace winter and read a winter book (that's not true, I'm still whining, but at least I had a good book to read while freezing my hinney off).  The book is The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen and it was the perfect winter treat.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Josey Cirrini is a woman in her late 20's who is devoted to assisting her aged and frigid mother.  Josey is the daughter of Margaret and the late Marco Cirrini, a southern belle and her entrepreneur husband.  Marco has been gone for a while, leaving Josey to care for her aging mother who has convinced Josey she is meant for nothing more then her current duties.  To combat this monotonous life, Josie keeps sweets and books hidden in the back of her closet for comfort.  She also very much enjoys winter, finding comfort in the snow and cold.  Her simple and predictable life is interrupted on afternoon by the appearance of one Miss Della Lee Baker in her closet.  This woman is a local waitress with a past and for some unknown reason has decided to take up residence in Josey's closet.
While there, Della Lee imparts much street wisdom unto the sheltered Josey, including on how to dress like a grown up, wear make-up and just live a life in general.  Della Lee sends Josey to a very specific sandwich shop for a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich (which sounds soooo yummy right now!) from Chloe Finley.  Chloe is a special girl herself, she has a boyfriend Jake (who she has just kicked out for cheating on her) and the weird gift of having apt books just randomly appear when she needs them (my dream come true!).  Chole's ex-boyfriend Jake is friends with the mailman Adam, on whom Josey has had a crush on for years.  Josey and Chloe end up hitting it off and help each other out through various going ons.  Della Lee finally reveals to Chloe that she is actually her half-sister, and that Chloe is as well (even though she does not know it).  It turns out that Marco was a lady's man and had women pretty much at will (which seems to be par for the course for rich, powerful men).  The result was at least two children and when Margaret found out, she got pregnant out of spite, as she and Marco had agreed to not have children.  This explains a lot of the coldness Josey's mother feels towards her, as she was never really wanted in the first place.  Josey finally accepts this and she and Adam finally hook up and decide to travel the world.  Chloe and Jake decide to make another go at it after Chloe discovers that she can live with out him and it would be her decision to take him back and not one of desperation.  Josey goes to her closet to let Della Lee know what is going on, when she discovers that Della Lee has actually been dead ( a suicide) and it is her ghost that has been passing along the sisterly advice.  Josey decides to accept this and goes on to live her own, full life, away from her mother and the tiny town that she was suffocating in, returning only when Chloe needs her to be the maid of honor at her wedding.
I really liked this book a lot.  It reminded me of what I loved about this authors first book Garden Spells.   This book had a subtle magic woven through out a very serviceable tale.  Let's start with the characters.  Josey was a great main character, she was pretty, but not stunning, normal shaped, not thing and willowy, she was living an expected life, but had yearnings of something more, in other words she is most people I have ever met.  This is great because I would guess that the vast majority of readers could identify very closely with her right away, I mean who doesn't have some sort of secret stash of hidden treats of some sort?  I liked her story arc and that the author gave a background and reasoning for Josey being who she is and then a fairly realistic arc to who she became.  Chloe was fun, I liked her book magic and her determination to find herself apart from her true love, but be able to be adult enough to not use that to ditch him permanently...if that makes any sense at all.  Margaret had her own arc, which included its fair share of heart ache and angst and while explained why she was the way she was, never made it an excuse for her treatment of her only daughter.  The boys Adam and Jake got their pages in as well, and while not as fully fleshed out, at least made them distinguishable from each other.  Della Lee was my favorite though, she was in equal parts tough, sad, sassy, and defeated, she was the voice of everybody else, the embodiment of the sheer weight of feelings that we all experience and sometimes have a hard time she wore a tiara
through a good portion of the book :-).  The magic and setting was perfect for a snowy afternoon.  It is set in a little ski resort in North Carolina and while it has it's share of Southern charm, it was not the typical languid, warm setting I am used to associating with the south, it was a great change of pace.  The magic like I said before was subtle, but pervasive, with every person having their own unique bit of it.  It is never explained, just accepted and it adds just the right flair to get the reader immersed in this world. In keeping with the sweets theme (which was wonderfully carried through the whole book in very clever ways) each chapter was named after a treat and their was plenty of treats eaten along the way...don't read this without a snack at hand. I found the story of Marco and Margaret to be very a good way if that makes any sense.  The dysfunction, the hurt, the secrets all led not only to their unhappiness, but to the screwing up of their kid, who did nothing to deserve it.  There were a few flaws as every book has.  I wasn't totally on board with the reason for Jake cheating on just didn't ring true for his character.  Also I wanted something a bit more substantial for Adam's secret, other then he fell down a mountain and got hurt...again, kind of not in the character that was laid out of for us. Josey's weight was seen as a negative more often then I wanted it to be...but I guess that's just reality for you.  Overall I felt the book to be a good winters read, it was able to immerse me in the story, and was written in a way that I did not feel the need to have every bit of it explained to me.  It is the type of book I like to describe as a story, a moment in time that is told to the reader and then left as is.  I give it 7 out of 10 vials of peppermint oil and would recommend it to anybody who needs to escape the cold without to much effort.
What is your hidden stash treat?  Could you read a winter theme book in any other season?  Do I use () and ...way to much?