GR friend Maciek recommended this book to me, and I highly recommend that you check out his most awesome review that does a brilliant job of capturing GR friend Maciek recommended this book to me, and I highly recommend that you check out his most awesome review that does a brilliant job of capturing this book's strengths. As for me, I knew very little about it save from what I could vaguely remember from the movie that's over ten years old now.
It's hard for me to classify this novel as anything other than "an experience". Parts of it are fun and breezy, others dark and depressing. Still others surreal and uncomfortable. It has adventure. It has epic creep. It has mind-bending elements that keep you off-kilter. The trick is that no matter what is happening or not happening on any given page, I was totally engrossed the entire time. Every time I came back to the book after a break BAM! I was right back on the beach, real life immediately falling away.
The buildup is slow and meticulous, yet never feels unnecessary. Garland concentrates on the minutiae of beach life to draw us in and make us more than just a voyeur, but a participant. It is a potent intimacy that allows us to see beach politics for what it really is. The descent as inevitable. The ending perhaps not all that surprising.
I love stories that delve into the mechanics and realities of group psychology. Who emerges as leader? As sycophant? As outsider? As threat? Remove any group far enough away from the rigorous checks and balances of "civilized society" and it's astonishing how quickly our moral compass can become "askew" at best, outright busted and broken at worst. Given enough time under the right stressors, humans can justify just about any aberrant behavior as necessary and essential. It what makes us so dangerous in war. (view spoiler)[The ease with which Richard is able to smother the long suffering Swede is chilling. He does it not out of an abiding empathy to end someone's pain, but to clear an obstacle to his escape plan. Jed won't leave if the Swede still breathes. Richard doesn't want to leave without Jed (which has more to do with Richard's ongoing obsession with Vietnam war movies and "leave no man behind" sentiments rather than real friendship). Ergo, Swede must die now. It makes me really wonder what Richard would have done if he had caught up to Karl before the surviving Swede was able to escape with the boat. (hide spoiler)]
Life on the beach did not repulse me, but I do not long for that kind of existence and cannot relate to that desire to cut oneself off from society, family, friends, history. Much of the novel reads like a dream, because once you enter into this way of life, your day to day melds, blends and becomes very dreamlike. Time is fluid and driven by the sun rather than timepieces or calendars. The characters - while fleshed out - are not knowable because they are not even knowable to one another (or even themselves). They are first names. They are nationalities. They are how many fish did you catch today. They are the last game of soccer, the last game of Tetris on Game Boy, the last joint twisted up and smoked. I would find that very lonely and off-putting. But I can also see how it can infect you, get into your bloodstream, and that once you found yourself "in it", you wouldn't want to leave. It would feel normal, and safe, and right and something to fiercely protect at all costs. Losing perspective is a frightening notion. But it happens, and when it happens it's too late. You don't know you've lost perspective, because you've lost perspective. See how that works?
There is an emotional element missing for me here because of this. I long to connect, and feel connected to characters and that just doesn't happen. That's the nature of the story and the ruthless and methodical way in which Garland writes it. I can respect that. Plus, Garland chooses Richard as the sole narrator. We just don't know how reliable he is, and we can only see the characters through his eyes, a very limited viewpoint indeed. The other aspect I'm left to ponder is (view spoiler)[the lack of sexuality. There are hints of people who have paired off, and the unrequited attraction Richard feels toward Francoise, but that's it. On a secluded beach of young, vibrant people at the peak of health and curiosity, why is this sensual component missing? Did Garland just not want to deal with it, or is it a deliberate omission? That part of coming to the beach and giving up so much of yourself means sacrificing that carnal element as well. As if you've been neutered, or given a chemical castration. Perhaps? I don't know. But I did find it odd and it left me scratching my head. (hide spoiler)]
My backpacking, hostel-sleeping days are behind me, and I don't miss them one bit. I wasn't an adventurous traveler even then. Much more cautious and boring than I would ever repeat now. The exotic seeking travelers, desirous of something completely alien, remain completely alien to me. I don't get that compulsion. But I wish them the very best on their epic adventures. Steer clear of the isolated lagoons and beach heads though. Perfection is an illusion, and a siren song. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is going to be a tough one to review. I'm not sure how I feel yet. Emotions are kind of scattered all over the place and my brain is cramped intoThis is going to be a tough one to review. I'm not sure how I feel yet. Emotions are kind of scattered all over the place and my brain is cramped into the shape of a pretzel. ...more
If you haven't read Rot & Ruin (the first of the Benny Imura books) I highly recommend that you do. This is shaping up to be a spectacular series If you haven't read Rot & Ruin (the first of the Benny Imura books) I highly recommend that you do. This is shaping up to be a spectacular series with a lot of heart. Love the writing, love the world-building, love the characters -- especially Benny's older brother Tom (be still my heart). Book 3 Flesh & Bone is coming in September, and to my utmost, fangirl delight -- it's been confirmed that there will be a Book 4 next year, Fire & Ash. *happy dance* The series definitely has its fans, but I still don't think it's getting nearly the attention it deserves, and I really want to play my small part in changing that.
This short story is set between Books 1 and 2 and it has been such a delight to re-visit Benny's world (and Tom!!!!!!) In the Land of the Dead is a series of vignettes woven together describing various aspects of life inside the fences protected from the Rot and Ruin. Whatever you do, DON'T read this story first because it is majorly spoilery for Book 1. For fans of the series, it is a gracious treat easily savored.
Benny's hilarious exchange with best friend Lou Chong made me laugh as they both stress and fret over the troubled young women they each have feelings for. It is a tender moment of innocence and normalcy in a world that has become an abomination sparsely populated with traumatized survivors, choked with fear and grief.
Another scene which delighted me to my toes has Tom continuing his combat and self-defense training of Benny and his circle of friends. Here, Benny is mercilessly teased by everyone when he screams "like a ten year old girl". Benny claims it is his warrior's cry sure to intimidate his enemies.
“It wasn’t a scream,” insisted Benny. “It was a high-pitched yell.” “Uh huh,” said Chong. “A hunting call.” “Right,” said Nix. “Like eagles use.” “Sure,” said Tom. “It was a battle cry--.” “Dude,” said Morgie, who sat on the bench, his shaved head still bandaged. “You screamed like a little girl. I’m kind of embarrassed to know you.”
Ah Benny. Still so much to learn young grasshopper.
So what are you waiting for??? This series is all kinds of awesome. If you start now you'll be all ready for Book 3 come September. How much do I love? Let me count the ways....more
Anyone remember Dead Like Me? I flipping LOVED that show, and was so profoundly irate and indignant when dull-witted, moronic executives ripped it off Anyone remember Dead Like Me? I flipping LOVED that show, and was so profoundly irate and indignant when dull-witted, moronic executives ripped it off the airwaves after its second season, with so much story left to tell. I will always remember it as an outstanding piece of television where young Georgia Lass is killed quite spectacularly one spring afternoon by an auspicious toilet seat that careens out of the sky after falling from the Russian space station. Smartmouth, antisocial George doesn't "pass over" into any recognizable afterlife however. Instead, she is recruited (against her will) to be a bonafide Grim Reaper. Her job is to "reap" the souls from dead bodies and send them on their merry way across a barrier she isn't allowed to cross. Sound morbid? It isn't. It's deliciously dark, shot through with potent humor, sharp observations, genuine emotion and a brilliant cast. I miss it still.
When I read the premise of Croak it immediately made me think of Dead Like Me. But I knew better than to hold this little book up against that show's richly developed canvas. That doesn't mean Croak is a bad book, because it isn't. It's sweet and funny and fun. Unlike Georgia Lass, Lex doesn't have to die to become a reaper. Instead, having gotten in trouble one too many times in her adolescent life, she is shipped off for the summer to stay with her eccentric, unknowable Uncle Mort who just happens to live in a tiny speck of a town known as Croak. When angry, violent, sarcastic Lex shows up in Croak she's in for the surprise of her life. Rather than milking cows and shoveling pig shit all summer long, her Uncle is going to teach her all about reaping the souls of the dead. She'll even get her own scythe.
I liked the world-building here. There are some nice details about reaping and death and souls and what happens after, though many of those details fall on the side of fluffy and superficial. Still, it is interesting finding out about "the rules". The set-up is gradual and natural and doesn't feel like a big info-dump. Uncle Mort is suitably crazy and charming and kept reminding me of Woody Harrelson in Zombieland. The "romantic interest" (c'mon, you knew there'd be one of those, right?) is actually a winner. This isn't insta-love (well, yes and no) but I didn't care because Driggs (I swear that's his name) is actually pretty funny. I really warmed up to his character. Some of the dialogue he and Lex share reminded me of my favorite screwball comedies from the 30's and 40's. And this made me giggle:
What happened next was an odd conglomeration of each of them moving in to give the other a hug, each thinking that the other was moving in to do something more, a subsequent dual retreat in the form of an awkward, octopus-like limb flailing, and a grand finale of something that could only be described as a clumsy, platonic chest bump. It wasn't pretty.
Snicker. For a breezy summer read to make you smile and keep the pages turning, you could do a lot worse than this little book. I've already added Book 2 - Scorch to my to-read pile. Interested to see where the story goes next.
Short story collections and anthologies are always a mixed bag for me. Not only do I struggle with my own personal hang-ups when it comes to the short Short story collections and anthologies are always a mixed bag for me. Not only do I struggle with my own personal hang-ups when it comes to the short story format itself, you pretty much know going in to any anthology there will be hits and there will be misses. If you're lucky, a few will emerge as outstanding pieces of awesomeness, and I'm thankful to report I experienced that here.
Two things attracted me to this collection: 1) Ellen Datlow (editor extraordinaire) and 2) you had me at dystopia. I'm addicted to tales of dark and dangerous futures comprised of post-apocalyptic landscapes, where human survival is not a given, and the long and suffocating reach of a rigidly controlled society is profoundly felt.
I admit that these days we've gotten pretty footloose and fancy-free when it comes to our definition of dystopia. I'm not a purist by any means, but there are elements I expect to see (or not as it were) if I'm going to consider a story full-on dystopian. Much of it has to do with how well the society and its rules are conceived. Dystopia (just like the devil) is in the details. But we are talking about a spectrum. And there are an infinite number of spaces on that spectrum where a story can fall. The joy comes with the discovery of just how much variety and interpretation can be applied to a genre, how much can any one writer push the boundaries past what we've come to know and expect.
For whatever the reasons (and pundits and academics will argue the causes til they run out of oxygen), YA publishing is in the throes of a passionate obsession with dystopian tales and end-of-the-world scenarios. Readers are responding in kind, feeding the monster. And I couldn't be happier about that. The more authors, new and established, are encouraged to play around in the dystopia sandbox, the better off the genre will be. Push it to its limits, see what it can do, uncover all it has to teach us and the infinite number of ways it has to thrill and chill.
The short stories comprising this anthology (like every other anthology I've ever read) are not equally strong. There are definite misses where either the idea is confused or fumbled altogether, the characters underdeveloped, the prose weak. But I don't want to focus on the negative here, because there are also some outstanding pieces of writing not to be missed.
After the Cure, Carrie Ryan: You may already know Ryan from her Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy (which I highly recommend checking out). Here, Ryan tells the story of a young girl who is a recovering blood-sucking predator of humankind. In a new post-apocalyptic world of survivors, she has been cured. But it has left her lonely and longing for something more. No longer quite human, but no longer able to run with her pack, she seeks out the company of a young man with a tragic past. The writing here is beautiful, the mood melancholy.
The Great Game at the End of the World, Matthew Kressel: This one has such a weird and dreamlike quality to it, with an unsettling underbelly vibe that I can't quite call sinister, but feels like something Lovecraft could have written. A brother and his younger sister are the sole survivors of a mysterious, unknowable, cataclysmic "event". The siblings are forced to adapt to their new environment. All I can say is that it's a strange and wonderful piece.
Reunion, Susan Beth Pfeffer: Pfeffer is a prolific and bestselling YA author. This story is dark and damaged in so many ways, with a nice twist at the end. There aren't a lot of details about the society, but what we do get is reminiscent of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. A mother and daughter proceed to interview young girls in the hope of finding their child / sister who was stolen from them years before. They recount their ordeal to her, how they had to submit themselves to the murderous whims of savage soldiers in order to find out her fate. This one is so tightly plotted, it had me sitting on the edge of my seat.
Rust With Wings, Steven Gould: I loved this one because it is such good ol' fashioned, high octane fun of action and peril. It has its roots firmly planted in the 1950's sci-fi tradition of "bugs gone wild".
The Marker, Cecil Castellucci: Interesting idea satisfyingly realized. Trust me, that's all you need to know.
Before I wrap this up, I do want to mention "Faint Heart" by Sarah Rees Brennan because it is the only one that reads like the beginning of a novel, rather than a short story. The cliffhanger ending left me screaming "Nooooo!" because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next. It is a "deadly games" premise where certain males are forced to compete to the death in The Trials. The sole survivor wins the hand of the "queen" - a genetically cloned model of perfection. I was just really getting into the story and warming up to the characters when it was over. This aggravated me more than pleased me.
This anthology is a rich grab bag, so don't be shy about diving in because you're sure to find something to suit your tastes. Just for the sheer variety of the stories -- I never knew what to expect next -- and the overall quality of the writing, I am highly recommending you check it out! ...more
As long as I can shoot with my mind and kill with my heart, my will is my own.
Oh sweet, crackling Moses, but this series is really heating
As long as I can shoot with my mind and kill with my heart, my will is my own.
Oh sweet, crackling Moses, but this series is really heating up. The only thing keeping me from showering five juicy stars all over this thing, is that I'm leaving some room for further advancement into the realm of EPIC AWESOME. Because this is where we're headed, if you kennit. The best is yet to come, and I don't have to be a demonic, succubus oracle to ordain that, hear me well.
The story arc of Marvel's ambitious (and glorious) Dark Tower adaptation has finally reached the sweet spot for me -- long, tall and ugly Roland, lethal and obsessed and (let's face it, truly fucked up) Roland, hot on the trail of the man in black, in search of the Tower that haunts his dreams. The Battle of Tull is behind him -- yet another massacre to add to the rising count -- and Roland is traveling across the endless desert with his taunting quarry always just out of reach, always just a few steps ahead of him.
Then Roland stumbles into The Way Station and collapses from heat stroke and is revived by a young boy offering him water (and who thankfully resists the urge to dispatch Roland with his pitch fork). The young boy is John Chambers, but he informs Roland that his friends call him Jake. Jake!!! Oh Jake, how I've missed you! And this is where his story begins, but if you've been on this journey before, you know this isn't where or how it ends. Not even close.
I can't tell you how much joy I got from watching these initial intimate moments shared between gunslinger and boy unfold ostensibly for the first time. The devastation and betrayal that you know is waiting for each of them just makes these early interactions that much more precious and bittersweet. I especially giggled at one early morning conversation they share when Jake wakes up to find Roland has tethered him with rope in the night.
"Why'd you tie me up? I wasn't going to run away. Or is this some kind of gunslinger kinky thing that I'm probably not old enough to know about?"
"We don't have time to palaver...Do you see this?...Take the bone and keep it close."
"Sooo first I'm tied up, and now I'm holding your magic bone. This morning could not be more disturbing."
Jake is so innocent here, so trusting, yet to be betrayed, yet to kill. You just want to wrap him up in your arms and hug the shit out of him. (view spoiler)[The scene where Roland hypnotizes him and gets Jake to recount his gruesome death in 1977 New York is effectively done. I felt his pain and terror. Bad memories, and one I did not enjoy remembering. (hide spoiler)]
This is a most welcome addition to the Marvel series, and I can't wait to read more. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to st
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop.
Wow. This little book has completely floored me. I was not expecting something so deep, so very melancholic yet shot through with the irrepressible human need to hope. Not just irrepressible, Summers shows us that hope is irreducible. Stripped to its basest core, hope just might be the evolutionary urge that has kept us going as a species for millennia -- in the face of disasters and war, atrocities and cruelty, in the face of bottomless grief, crushing despair, paralyzing loneliness and love lost. And I have no doubt that when the zombie apocalypse comes, it will be this amazing capacity to salvage hope from the ruins that will save us.
In This is Not a Test we meet Sloane, a young woman who has lost her ability to hope and thus, her will to live. She is alone with a father who beats her, abandoned by the only person in this life she has ever loved, her older sister Lily. Lily always told her they would escape together, that she would wait for her...and then she didn't. The depth of this betrayal slices through Sloane leaving her panicked, floundering, numb, then finally resigned. Her sister always said that Sloane would die without her -- and now Sloane has decided that she was right. At the point when Sloane knows she cannot possibly continue to live for another single intake of breath, zombies come pounding at the front door. The world is in chaos. Death is in every backyard, on every street corner. And suddenly, the young woman who was going to take her own life, is now running for it.
Yes this book has zombies but PLEASE, if that's not your thing, don't let it keep you from reading it. This is a story rich with emotion because Summers has such a genuine talent for creating memorable, unique characters. A book of six teens where every voice is distinctive and grounded firmly in reality is rare and precious. Hell, that's rare and precious for fiction period. The way these kids relate to one another, approaching with caution, testing for vulnerabilities, seeking approval, acceptance, a safe unconditional embrace, just left me riveted. I can tell you, I WAS IN THAT HIGH SCHOOL with them. I felt their fear and pain. I watched them come together, pull apart, rage and cry ... and I cried with them. Oh yes, there were tears people.
So many reviewers have pointed out that this book isn't about the zombies, but I would add that it's not just about the zombies. Because unlike some other books, the zombies are more than mere window dressing here or a fleeting, ill-defined threat. While there are very few actual sightings and encounters, there remains a stifling, almost suffocating sense of them at all times. In fact, there are several truly terrifying scenes, scenes that only work because Summers understands the critical relationship between tension and release. There is so much quiet in this novel, that when she ratchets up the suspense to a scream in the final 40 pages it's enough to make your heart beat right the fuck out of your chest.
I really loved everything about this book. I could search for flaws, as I'm sure they exist, but I'm not going to. I got lost in it. I thought about it when I was away from it, and I couldn't wait to get back to it. I was reading it on the bus on my way home today and nearly missed my stop because I was so engrossed. Read this! READ IT! I can't state it any more emphatically than that. Don't believe me? Read Catie's review. She'll convince you.
P.S. and I was so excited to learn that Courtney Summers is Canadian! Yay, Canada :)
Women and men. Girls and boys. People I might've known but can't recognize anymore. There is every shade of blood--black, brown, red, pink. All eyes looking at us through that same milky film that sees us for what we are and what they are not anymore.
Really?! This is what all the fuss is about? But it's so boring, the sex is so .... vanilla. Even though you're in handcuffs, the missionary position Really?! This is what all the fuss is about? But it's so boring, the sex is so .... vanilla. Even though you're in handcuffs, the missionary position is still the missionary position. Did I miss something?
There's some amazing erotic fiction out there, and a thriving fanfiction community where the stories are so MOLTEN INCENDIARY they would turn this book to ash with just one look. And what's with Ana's excessive use of the phrase "down there"? Good grief, I felt like I was reading the diary of an 8th grader. Not sexy. (view spoiler)[And then she has multiple orgasms at the drop of a hat every single time with no more effort involved than sneezing. Grey barely has to touch her -- some of these scenes are of the wham bam variety, yet with the same explosive results. Yawn. Lame. (hide spoiler)]
Conclusion: What a let down. I don't know what I was expecting, but not this totally tepid, unimaginative affair. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Really 3.5 stars but since I enjoyed parts of it so much, I'm rounding up. What? A girl's allowed to feel generous every once in awhile. This book is Really 3.5 stars but since I enjoyed parts of it so much, I'm rounding up. What? A girl's allowed to feel generous every once in awhile. This book is not without its flaws, but goddamn, it has a gritty, modern noir sensibility that I just fell in love with.
Miriam Black is a damaged -- you could even argue deranged -- anti-heroine who isn't a very nice person. She's pretty fucked up actually, and she's just as likely to rob you as she is to spit in your eye. She fills her days (and nights) with booze and sex with strange men. She's a champion of letting the expletives fly. Miriam has enough personal demons and closet skeletons to fill a soccer stadium. And they hunt her. They torment her. And no matter how much she runs, or how far, they are always just at her heels nipping away. While her jagged edges and self-destructive tendencies might not make her very warm and sympathetic, I still found her to be extremely dynamic and interesting. Her choices mattered to me and I became very invested in how her story was going to end.
This is a crime novel in that there is a lot of criminal acts taking place and a lot of vivid descriptions of violence and physical trauma. Miriam's is an unusual problem -- at the touch of skin-on-skin she can foresee the time and circumstances of a person's death. Such intimate foreknowledge is a heavy burden to bear, especially since Death and Fate cannot be foiled. The only control Miriam has over these situations is to maybe be there right at the moment of your destined demise to relieve you of your money and credit cards (you don't need them anymore, right?)
She's pretty much come to accept her powerlessness. It has made her cynical, entirely dysfunctional, and dangerous. Then she meets Louis -- a hapless, widowed truck driver who only has a month left to live. His death involves torture and would be considered gruesome even by mob standards -- and this is what Miriam knows: her name is the last word that falls from his lips. The mystery becomes how do we end up at this point, and despite knowing better, will Miriam be able to cheat Death this time? Will she even try?
While Louis is merely a character sketch, the other woman in this story -- Harriet -- is one of the creepiest, most memorable characters I've read in a while. Like the best noir classics, this book too is all about the damaged women and the choices they make. It is they who drive the story, and the men are just along for the ride.
This book concludes quite solidly but there is a sequel planned that I will definitely be checking out. Miriam is pretty intense and I really want to know where her story goes next.
If you're curious about the writing at all, here are some of my favorite turns of phrase:
The Barnegat Lighthouse has 217 steps. Each is an agony. Each a troubled birth, an expelled kidney stone, a black widow's bite. The steps are corrugated steel painted in flaking yellow. They wind in a tight spiral through a channel of black brick. It is like ascending the throat of some ancient creature.
"You want to make a change...so cosmic you're unwriting death and kicking fate square in the face, then you best be prepared to pay for it." -"With blood," Miriam says. -"With blood and bile and voided bowels."
Miriam stops walking. Clouds drift in front of the sun. Somewhere out over the water, a storm brews, and rain clatters against the tides....Lightning licks at the ocean way out there under the steel sky.
Okay, I usually don't go into the "self-help" stuff, financial, psychological, or otherwise, but this little book slipped itself into my hands one day Okay, I usually don't go into the "self-help" stuff, financial, psychological, or otherwise, but this little book slipped itself into my hands one day at work and the title made me snicker, for two reasons:
1) my co-worker is a self-proclaimed cheapskate, and she wears this moniker proudly. We joke that she needs a crowbar to get her wallet open and she buys cheap wine by the box (at least she'll be amply prepared to get suitably pissed should there be a zombie apocalypse).
2) I've always suspected (and it's now been confirmed) that I too am a cheapskate. For most of my life I assumed I spent less because I had less. I hail from very humble origins, and most of my adult life has seen very little green. What I managed to bring into my life went towards a protracted stay in the halls of academia and basically keeping myself fed and watered, and oh yeah, second-hand clothed. Of course I was a "cheapskate" -- when you have no money is there really any other option?
Now that I'm older (and hopefully a little wiser) I've been blessed to find a job I love (mostly) for a decent wage. I could be spending A LOT more than I've ever done previously in my life -- I could go crazy with credit cards and buy gobs of shoes and designer sunglasses, various Apple products, gaming systems, and plasma TVs. I could go to the spa monthly, tip my hairstylist a generous 21%. But I don't. I get my books from my public library. I wear my shoes 'til the soles wear out (my clothes - still mostly second-hand) fall into that category as well. On a good day, I probably look closer to "homeless" than "professional" - especially on the weekends.
So yeah, I'm a cheapskate. I don't like to shop (or spend money frivolously) period. My one weakness is eating out with friends. I love food - I hate to cook, so this happens more than it should. But oh well. Whenever I look at the bill at the end of a meal I think "half for the food, half for the time with friends" Win-win.
But this book -- which is really preaching to the converted -- points out that cheapskates aren't the "miserly" or selfish in your midst. They will spend money on friends, family and charities, but they will do it well within their means and responsibly (sickeningly so). Cheapskates are not impulse buyers -- they consider the pros and cons of most every purchase. And living on less (a lot less in most cases) is just what makes them happy. It's normal, not something that's hard or has to be learned. Yeager shows that "cheapskateness" is a way of life and I have to wonder if you either are one, or not. Is it really something that can be learned? If you're not a cheapskate, would you even want to be converted? And if becoming a cheapskate caused you great discomfort and frustration, what would really be the point? Overspending or not, life really is too short for that.
Despite some simple truths stated plainly and with self-effacing humor, I don't think Yeager's done all that great a job here of reaching out to the non-cheapskate's of the world and convincing them that cheaper is better. Somewhere deep down we all know that our voracious consumer culture has gotten ridiculously pervasive and while people are spending waaaaay more, none of them feel waaaay happier because of it. Mo money, mo problems, right? In these uncertain economic times, encouraging people to get back to basics and start focusing more on relationships and things money can't buy is a good thing.
But this little book isn't going to show you how to do that if it's something you're not already practicing. What's more, Yeager can come off a little condescending and even obnoxiously superior about his cheapskate lifestyle. He fails to recognize that the only reason why he's so successful with it is because it's soooo easy for someone who is already a cheapskate to their very core. Yeager isn't going to feel any pain or burn, or deprivation or disappointment.
For anyone else who isn't a natural cheapskate, learning to spend less and turn your back on our consumer culture is going to take a lot more serious effort than Yeager credits. If you are someone already at the end of your tether, not making ends meet, out of work, or without a pension or savings, Yeager's pithy, happy shiny approach may just make you want to punch him in the face.
But if you find yourself wanting to make a change, I wish you the utmost success. Come on over to the dark side of cheap living. It's not as horrible as you think. I'll even buy you a beer (during happy hour) on a Wednesday night when the wings are half-price!
I don't cook, not really. I can make an okay omelet, an edible lasagna, pretty yummy mashed potatoes and gravy ... and that's about it. And it isn't t I don't cook, not really. I can make an okay omelet, an edible lasagna, pretty yummy mashed potatoes and gravy ... and that's about it. And it isn't that I'm SO INEPT, I just don't really have the desire to cook. I don't like it. It's not fun for me. But here's the thing -- I LOVE to eat and I LOVE to watch food being prepared. Yes, I'm a food porn addict. I watch the Food Network, I drool over online recipes imagining what things would taste like. But would I ever bother to gather all the ingredients together and assemble said dish in my own kitchen? No way man.
But I'm trying to mend my cookingless ways. Every now and then I'll pick up a larger-than-life gorgeously photographed cookbook with all the best intentions in the world of taking it home and actually putting it to use this time in the kitchen rather than just feeding my porn addiction as I drool over all the pretty pictures. Oh what dew-eyed, misplaced delusion and optimism one gal can suffer from. Countless cookbooks have made it onto my lap, but none have made it into my kitchen (at least not with me there).
I have a sneaky, tingly feeling that this is all about to change thanks to Ree Drummond and her pioneer cooking kitchen ways. Drummond was a city girl living in Los Angeles and on a trip home to Oklahoma was swept off her feet by a living, breathing, working cowboy (he had the boots and hands to prove it). Drummond married "Marlboro Man" and he absconded with her to his cattle ranch which is also a sanctuary for wild Mustangs. Miles away from sushi and double lattes, Drummond learns to cook for burly ranch hands burning 7000 calories before 11 o'clock in the morning -- not to mention a growing brood of ravenous children.
These are recipes I can get behind -- simple, easy, down home stick to your ribs (and your arteries) sumptuous awesomeness. Food all about the flavor; unpretentious fare that doesn't require trips to a specialty grocery store or a certificate from the Culinary Institute of America. Drummond's recipes are not only simple country fare, but she presents each dish step by step accompanied by splendid photography so that even an underachiever like me can get motivated (and succeed) in the kitchen.
Not a horrible ending to a trilogy which began with such promise, but definitely the weakest of the three. The first half is a lot of meandering and f Not a horrible ending to a trilogy which began with such promise, but definitely the weakest of the three. The first half is a lot of meandering and false starts and waiting for something to happen. The villains are cut-out caricatures. However, I thought the ending quite strong and very exciting (bumping it to 3 stars). It is dark and violent, emotional and nail-biting. (view spoiler)[ The fate of uber-villain Saul - eaten by rats - is pretty awesome if I do say so myself. Mia swapping Sarah's number and saving her life is beautifully written, especially since she gives Sarah the ability to see auras. The new baby being born with no eyes was also interesting, especially from Adam's point of view. What a gift for a father, to love his precious child in the moment rather than living with the certain knowledge of their death date. (hide spoiler)]
If you began this series, and are wondering even the tiniest bit how Ward has finished it, then definitely pick this book up. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
***I'm reposting this review in honor of Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) who died today at the age of 82.
"That's one smal
***I'm reposting this review in honor of Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) who died today at the age of 82.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." --Neil Armstrong
Well...that was...interesting. This book is so thoroughly researched. The amount of painstaking detail used to describe the epic sublime of space right down to the microscopic level of doing your "business" in zero gravity is impressive to say the least. As a side-effect though, I did find myself getting "fecal fatigued" and "vomit weary" more than once.
Don't get me wrong -- I applaud Mary Roach in her unapologetic approach to getting the details right, because this is a side of space exploration and the life of an astronaut we've never seen before (at least not in such unexpurgated glory and triumph). In other words, this is everything you ever thought you might like to know about traveling into the final frontier (and some things you could have happily gone your whole life without ever knowing, trust me on that) but were afraid to ask.
This book is chock full of interesting tidbits as well as several mind-blowing facts, all marinated in Roach's signature wry humor and breezy writing style. It really is a delightful romp (and you'll learn stuff too!) I already feel smarter. I also appreciated that Roach extended her scrutiny beyond NASA and dug up some colorful detail about the space programs of other countries, including my own.
It was Stephen's awesome review that brought this book to my attention, and despite a few cringe-worthy, grimacing moments of "ugh!", I'm really glad I read it, and I highly recommend that you do too! ...more
Short and sweet. Interesting to get things from Four's pov, though I found the voice to be a little less than mysterious and a bit whiny. How Tris perShort and sweet. Interesting to get things from Four's pov, though I found the voice to be a little less than mysterious and a bit whiny. How Tris perceives him, and how she must unravel his personality for herself worked extremely well for me in Divergent; this felt more like an enjoyable writing exercise on Roth's part, but lacked any real depth or substance. ...more
Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is seriously effed up, and that doesn't always equate with being seriously bleeping funny but in her case, this book w Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is seriously effed up, and that doesn't always equate with being seriously bleeping funny but in her case, this book will S-L-A-Y you. I laughed so hard in parts I shed tears (and a little pee I think). Just sayin'. For anyone out there with some incontinence issues already.
Her frantic, stream-of-consciousness delivery (though punctuated with gems of insane hilarity) can get exhausting. Sometimes you just want to scream, "Jenny, will you just shut the *&%@# up already!" -- imagine being stuck in an elevator with a coked up Robin Williams who just also happens to be sipping on a Red Bull laced with vodka. As horrible as that sounds, Jenny Lawson makes it work. Despite her frantic crazy energy, she will make you laugh your ass off, teach you how to curse like a sailor (that woman loves to let the expletives fly), force you to appreciate all of life's absurdities, face tragedy with (enough) dignity, and be grateful for every single blessing that you have.
She also taught me that the most interesting person in the room is probably the one hiding under the table (or in the bathroom) hyperventilating. Only stupid people aren't locked and loaded for the zombie apocalypse (well d'uh, that one I knew already). That chupacabras are REAL. That people who tell you that acupuncture is painless are "complete fucking liars." And most important of all, Texas may be big and beautiful and have awesome BBQ, but it's also where all the bitey, stinging things live.
Today the exterminator came out to spray for scorpions again, and he left a note saying that he found an enormous snakeskin next to our house. Then I screamed, "EVERYTHING IN THE COUNTRY WANTS TO KILL YOU," and Victor told me to go lie down. But then I went to look at the snakeskin, and I was all, "This is a used paper towel." Then Victor said, "Dude. That's totally a snakeskin that's been shed. Look at the diamond scale pattern," and I was all, "That's a textured diamond weave to absorb more wetness. You can tell it's a paper towel because snakeskins aren't square. Or perforated." And I spread it out on the ground and then he was all, "Huh. That is a fucking paper towel. I think we need a new exterminator." We're probably not going to survive the year.
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this th Outstanding!
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this thing for ages and ages.
So I'm late to the party, but not that late. Due to excited reader response over WOOL 1, author Hugh Howey quickly released the next four parts in the series. Then came along this Omnibus which collects Parts 1-5. There is now a 2013 edition with a great new cover that features a blurb by none other than Justin Cronin, author of The Passage.
In a few short years, Howey has given all struggling writers out there toiling away at their craft in obscurity real hope. Word of mouth among bloggers and enthusiastic readers on sites like Amazon and Goodreads has the potential to lift the curse of invisibility from self-published works so that they may find their way to audiences who will love them. Never before have the barriers between author and reader been so few, the access so direct. No longer are authors strictly dependent on big publishing houses to discover them and deem their work important enough to go to market accompanied by a sexy publicity campaign. Authors and readers are doing it for themselves, and I for one think it's a beautiful thing.
I love everything about this story -- I love the details of the world-building, I love the characters, I love the shifting points of view, I love the slow burn when you're not sure what is going on. When it became clear to me exactly what was going on I love that I wasn't disappointed. For a post-apocalyptic story trodding very familiar science fiction territory, it still feels fresh. The author definitely gives it his own spin.
I love that the stakes are so high. I love that the author is patient and in control of his narrative. That he doesn't reveal too much too soon. That he understands the relationship between tension and release. All of that to say, I love that the writing is so strong and capable (I've read too much self-published stuff where the prose is inexcusably sloppy). Howey's writing is the exact opposite of sloppy. It's polished. Its engine hums. The shoes are shiny and it's wearing a tie. It's ready to take home to mom.
Finally, I love Juliette. She's Ellen Ripley, Katniss Everdeen, and Dana Scully all rolled up into one. She's got brains and courage and heart and a will made of iron.
There's a lot of under-developed, underwhelming dystopian fiction kicking around out there these days. WOOL leaves those attempts in its dust. It's worth your time. Trust me.
I'm trying to put my finger on what makes Defending Jacob such a compulsive read. Landay clearly has a killer storytelling instinct. The pacing of thi I'm trying to put my finger on what makes Defending Jacob such a compulsive read. Landay clearly has a killer storytelling instinct. The pacing of this novel is near perfect. He drops just enough clues, teases with just enough foreshadowing to keep the reader completely engrossed at all times. I started listening to this as an audiobook and finished it in print, not being able to turn the pages fast enough.
Defending Jacob is not a unique plot by any stretch. In fact, when I first heard about this book I couldn't help but think of the movie Before and After starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson, where their teen son Jacob (yep, he's Jacob too) is accused of murdering his girlfriend and it tears the family apart.
This book is much better than that movie though. Defending Jacob does a great job at looking at issues of guilt, innocence and culpability. It dissects the shortcomings of the legal system and the theatrics of courtroom proceedings without getting all preachy and legal mumbo-jumbo about it. It cuts to the heart of family dynamics and the parent-child relationship, poking at the difficult questions -- how far would you go to protect your child if they were innocent? guilty?
And there's the rub -- fourteen year old Jacob is standing trial for murder and we don't know if he's been falsely accused or not. There are things that point to his innocence, but also actions that point to his guilt. Even though it is a much denser read and told using a very different narrative voice, We Need to Talk About Kevin explores some of the same terrain of mental pathology and the genetic and external factors that combine to result in antisocial behaviors. For anyone who isn't sick of arguing the nature/nurture debate, Defending Jacob raises some interesting questions concerning the existence of a "murder gene" and whether violence can be passed down through the generations like eye color.
I liked that this book kept me guessing right up to the end. I loved that when it seemed to be wrapping up, there was one more sharp swerve to the left to come. ...more
That was exhausting. I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, and hugely disappointed. Writing a review for this one is gonna hurt. ---- My problems with thisThat was exhausting. I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, and hugely disappointed. Writing a review for this one is gonna hurt. ---- My problems with this second installment of Mike Mullin's Ashfall series are many I'm afraid to say, and too big to ignore. I really like this guy, and I wanted this novel to be great in the shadow of its awesome predecessor. Not. Even. Close. Without any spoilers for Ashfall or Ashen Winter, here is some of what's caused my sadness and frustration.
Anyone who knows me even a little, knows I'm a Stephen King fangirl. I love the man, okay? Not in a creepy Annie Wilkes I want to chain him to a bed as my "pet" sort of love, but his books are like meth to me. I'm hooked. I gotta have 'em. But that doesn't mean I can't put my critics hat on when need be too. I don't slaver and drool over everything the man writes. And contrary to popular critical opinion, I have no interest in reading the man's grocery list. Which brings me to one of my more recent King disappointments (it does happen). Under the Dome for me was good, but far from great. And here's why. I bring it up now because it's the same effing problem I have with Ashen Winter:
Under the Dome starts with a bang...and maintains its narrative momentum throughout. It hurtles along at an almost break-neck speed, but for a book that's over a 1000 pages, such a pace begins to wear in places. It becomes an at-times uncomfortable frenetic pattern of -- and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened.
Ditto Ashen Winter. It too starts with a bang and hurtles along at lightening speed for (in my opinion) a bloated 600 pages. The action sequences are too many to count, and exhaustively and excruciatingly described.
As with Mira Grant's book Feed, I fear Mike Mullin has fallen in love with his research and wants to include every single thing he has learned. What's worse, no detail is too small. In my review for Feed I write that: "I respect any author who goes the extra mile to "do the research" and "get the details right" but sweet holy Moses, there is no need to put EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER LEARNED into the story." I didn't think it would be possible, but that's even doubly true here.
Another thing that annoyed me and took me out of the story too many times to count are the cliffhangers which come at the end of almost Every. Single. Chapter. It's cheesy. It made me feel like I was reading a middle school chapter book or a "choose your own adventure" type deal for the kiddies. This is such a sharp departure from Ashfall I really don't know what to make of it. Ashen Winter may feature cannibals and sex slaves but it still felt ultimately "childish" to me.
Now I am woman enough to admit this could be more my fault than the book's fault. I am NOT a fan of action movies. I barely (if ever) go to the movies over the summer because the gigantic, exploding, frantic, mostly special effects all style no substance blockbusters just don't do it for me. I'm more likely to walk out with a headache and a scowl on my face, than jittering with excitement and awe. That's what happened here with this book. Mullin can write action, no doubt of that, but there's just TOO MUCH action and not enough dialogue or genuine suspense. Suspense ONLY works if it is paired with tension and release. Nobody understood that better than Hitchcock. If it's ALL release -- a go, go, go, fast and furious approach -- then you really miss the tension, that vital inexorable build that is so critical to creating suspense.
Okay, last criticism. Because this book is chock full of action, Alex and Darla (Alex especially this time) are running around behaving like movie action superheroes -- jumping, leaping, dodging bullets, getting shot, breaking in, breaking out -- at one point hanging on to the bottom of a MOVING TRUCK Robert DeNiro style à la Cape Fear. Really??? C'mon!!!! As each disaster and run of bad luck kept piling up (fodder for the chapter cliffhangers), I began to think it should have been subtitled: a series of unfortunate events. In my review for A Breath of Snow and Ashes I write: "how many times can any handful of people escape from prison, mob scenes, near death, kidnappings, etc, etc." I can suspend disbelief with the best of them, trust me, but even this was too much for me I'm afraid.
Okay, so that's the ugly truth of the bad news. The good news? Mullin is a very talented writer, and despite my disappointment here, I will continue to seek out his books. The other good news? While I'm not recommending Ashen Winter, I will continue to highly recommend Ashfall; it is awesome, and succeeds in every way where its sequel does not. ...more
Alright, alright! I admit it, it got to me -- it freaking absolutely got to me. If I were Superman this little book would be my Kryptonite. Why did IAlright, alright! I admit it, it got to me -- it freaking absolutely got to me. If I were Superman this little book would be my Kryptonite. Why did I think I would be immune? I was so smug going into this, feeling secure in my awesome, arrogant certainty that the sure to be oodles of maudlin and reams of cliches would keep me safe and sound from any wrenchings of the heart. My overall dubiousness and cynicism would serve as my protective shield, offering immunity against such ruthless emotional manipulation -- nay exploitation -- about to be perpetrated against my person. Sick kids? Cancer? Dying sick kids with cancer? Dying sick kids with cancer falling in love? Really? You're going to go there so completely and unapologetically and still expect me to respect you in the morning?
Despite all the obvious pitfalls lying in wait for John Green, he manages to avoid just about all of them (seemingly with ease). I experienced a level of integrity and commitment to the subject matter that gave sufficient weight and depth to what could have just as easily turned out to be breezy and shallow.
That's not to say that this story wallows in gloom and gravitas -- far from it. It's funny. I laughed out loud -- out loud -- and when I wasn't doing that I snickered, grinned, and tittered (yes, there were a few titters). I also bawled like a baby, but the laughter came first, and the tears were earned.
Hazel Grace -- our terminal narrator -- is lovely. You will notice she doesn't always act or speak like your average teenager, and that's because she isn't one. Hazel has been in a staring contest with Death since she was 13 years old. He hasn't beaten her yet, but it's changed her, in more ways than any of us non-terminal people could ever comprehend. Our casual intellectual acceptance that we are all terminal and will one day die is not nearly the same as carrying Death on your skin and in your bones, to feel life seeping out of your pores and stalk you in the night. To sit on your chest and steal the breath from your malfunctioning, fluid-filled lungs.
Augustus Waters is sheer delight and I don't give a donkey's ass that the way he and Hazel speak to one another is unrealistic because it is filled with such a sincere sweetness and adorable, lovable humor I couldn't get enough. It broke through my armor, tore a hole through my cynical self, and had me falling head over heels in love with these two. Each is defiant in the way that only a young person battling Death can be defiant, they are warm and insecure and brave and foolish and selfish and sad and real. I'm not going to say realistic -- we could argue that point til the cows come home -- but not once did they ever stop being authentic.
What can I say? I loved them. I loved this book. Okay?
I've never read anything by Ambrose Bierce and this was a great place to start. It is a very immediate, visceral sort of story that's all about the seI've never read anything by Ambrose Bierce and this was a great place to start. It is a very immediate, visceral sort of story that's all about the senses. There is nothing like being so close to Death that you can reach out and shake his hand to bring everything into sharp focus. Bierce's vivid prose captures the desperation and drive of a man about to be hanged, who may just be given a second chance after all. It's a story filled with dramatic flair and urgent energy. Thanks for the rec, Stephen!
Whoah ... just ... whoah. I sense there is much beauty and truth contained in this story, the understated power of which danced across my neurons and tickled my neocortex several times, with mischief and brilliance and wild abandon. I also sense this story is just a hair's breath -- achingly -- out of my reach. Several times I thought I had it -- right there -- right on the tips of my fingers only to feel it slip away like wisps of smoke or melting snowflakes. The language is vibrant, pulsating and vivid. While the landscapes remained strange and unknowable to me I was still taken there -- even when my brain resisted, my body responded.
My reading brain itched to discern knowable patterns and logic, it craved narrative. There is a story here, but it is wrapped in the coda of fairy tale, folklore, mythology, and philosophy -- an enigmatic exploration of what it is to be human -- to be alive -- to love, to remember, to be family. If human is feeling than do feelings make us human? Does it have to be all or nothing? Human or machine? Perhaps there is room for something else ... something other. Valente is not offering up any trite or definitive answers, and the reader will have to make up his or her own mind.
There is an abiding melancholy that ebbs and flows over this entire story. Something terrible has happened, there are hints, but it is also hidden and unknowable, especially to Elefsis. She/he/it has suddenly and violently been removed from Ravan only to be forcefully "merged" with Neva -- who has no choice "because there was no one else". Neva explains to Elefsis:
I have always been spare parts. Owned by you before I was born....I know it was like this for you, too. You wanted Ravan; you did not ask for me. We are an arranged marriage.
As for Elefsis, she/he/it forms a unique and binding relationship to each family member during their tenure as host. It is a transformative, organic, chemical and mechanical cleaving that is "lost" to Elefsis with each inevitable human death.
When I became Elefsis again, I was immediately aware that parts of me had been vandalized. My systems juddered, and I could not find Ceno in the Interior. I ran through the Monochromatic Desert and the Village of Mollusks, through the endless heaving mass of data-kelp and infinite hallways of memory-frescoes calling for her.
And then there is the unexpected loss of Ravan:
But Ravan was with me and now he is not. I was inside him and now I am inside of Neva. I have lost a certain amount of memory and storage capacity in the transfer. I experience holes in myself. They feel ragged and raw. If I were human, you would say that my twin disappeared, and took one of my hands with him.
This isn't an easily accessible book shall we say, and I don't think it was written with me in mind. I'm not the ideal audience and I struggled to reach into the story and have it reach into me. But gosh damn, it is beautiful and unique and it's made me wonder and consider and ponder. That's pretty awesome. ...more
DO NOT pick this book up for character development (there isn't much of that).
DO NOT pick this book up for meaty prose of a philosophical be3.5 stars
DO NOT pick this book up for character development (there isn't much of that).
DO NOT pick this book up for meaty prose of a philosophical bent that introduces new ideas and deep thoughts. Nope. Not much of that either.
DO pick this book up for a pulpy, page-turning thrill where, if you don't ask too many questions, and fully suspend all disbelief, you will be majorly entertained by high octane action sequences of cinematic gore and splendor. Cause we all need that guilt-free catharsis once in a while, don't we? Sure we do!
I picked up this book expecting an adrenaline rush laced with dark overtones of fight-to-the-death, futurized Gladiatorial scenes -- a Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park type of deal -- and that's sort of what I got, with some exceptions.
First of all, there are no "Games" plural, there is a lengthy 200 page lead up to the Game singular -- attached to the Olympics in some weird and wild (and not entirely believable) unseemly epic event of internationally sanctioned blood sport. All the countries of the world are monkeying with genetics in a Frankenstein-ish ethics-be-damned way to create monstrous animal (never human!) hybrids (as Mother Nature weeps in horror). All this effort with the sole purpose of annihilating competitors in Gladiatorial-UFC cage matches and be the only creation (abomination) left standing (if Jeff Probst and Joe Rogan had a lovechild, it would be this scuzzy event).
When you combine scientists with capitalists, great leaps forward are made, always. Throw in a healthy dose of national pride, and anything can happen.
These caged death matches is the "anything" that debut novelist Ted Kosmatka imagines. And for the most part, I was on board all the way.
In the first 200 pages leading up to "the big Event" I really thought Kosmatka was laying the groundwork for something much more profound and significant, but the last 200 pages fail to bear that out. It's standard monster of the week fare -- exciting and fun -- but standard nevertheless. We've seen this before, we've seen it done better elsewhere, yet I still like Kosmatka's spin on things and he definitely shows promise as a full-length novelist.
I wasn't entirely sold on the AI aspects of the story -- there is a "super-computer" that plays a HUGE role in influencing events -- but I never really bought into it. "Brannin/Pea" is pregnant with potential -- HAL 9000 worthy -- but I felt in the end that part of the novel could have been developed so much more effectively.
Final thoughts: Fun (check). Awesome action sequences (check). Book to change your life? Eh, not so much. But they can't all do that. This is an escape hatch book and I really did enjoy it. Recommended!