An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for bookOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book lovers as well as fans of the author and the genre.
About: This audio version of In Other Worlds is a catalog of Margaret Atwood’s relationship with science fiction and contains a number of her unpublished lectures including those titled “Flying Rabbits”, “Dire Cartographies”, and “Burning Bushes”. In the lectures she gives examples of the books which are important to her and her perspective around science fiction and more – how each book she describes affected her development, its place in history, and how it helped to create the genre as we see it today. Also included are her personal, respectable, and well thought out definitions for the sub and overlapping genres within the broad scope of speculative literature and science fiction. At the end of the book are two short stories written by the author and read by Susan Deneaker.
Thoughts: I devoured this short read/listen, since I adore anything sci-fi and books about books. It was a complete pleasure for me. Atwood has some intriguing ideas about what the genre of science fiction is all about, especially for me considering my obsession with defining genres. That Atwood goes into depth was helpful since I learned many things from this book, which for me is what it’s all about. I now have other ways of referencing and categorizing a book.
I am certain that this is not a book for everyone, however, I would recommend it as a must read for any serious science fiction geek. It’s also good for the reference shelf since it contains loads of information on classics, and of course those interesting “speculative” genre definitions that she has provided. In my opinion it’s a great listen. I will be purchasing a paper copy for my personal library. I give this terrific nonfiction book - a big 4 stars....more
A self published children’s book that gives some insight into issues kids may be facing with their parents tOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A self published children’s book that gives some insight into issues kids may be facing with their parents today, especially when it concerns a step parent - an often difficult relationship for children. It has sweet and fun color illustrations.
About: Billy and Susan have been living with grandma and grandpa for the past year while dad has been away fighting for their country. They miss him a lot and their mom too, who has recently passed away. Their newest concern is that Daddy has remarried. They now have a new mom – a stepmother. They have heard all the bad things about stepmothers from stories and both are scared. As they imagine all the horrible things this new evil stepmother will do to them, they become even more uncomfortable at the prospect of meeting their new mom.
But when they meet Daddy’s new wife they find that she is pretty, and it turns out she is also very nice. When she meets both children she promises to try and be a terrific stepmother and get to know them better so that maybe some day they will love her as much as their dad does.
Thoughts: An important short story for boys and girls to help them transition into a new family arrangement in a positive way. It has a thoughtful introduction for the adults at the beginning to assist parents to in turn help their children understand the stereotypes and scary thoughts that may be concerning them about a new and different parent - a relationship which often holds much angst and tension.
The book has 30 colorful pages, sweet illustrations, and meaningful and important text for small children to read. Not all stepmothers are evil or wicked, even though there are many stories which tell them that they are. Like most of William’s books it has a creative and cute twist at the end which is fun and intriguing, and a listing of Bill’s other wonderful children’s books is also at the end of the book. Highly recommended, it’s a 4 star read that is helpful for growing and changing families in understanding a complex and often difficult relationship....more
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition ofOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition of a twelfth-century Sufi poem and is done in predominantly fall colors with a mix of ancient and modern styles.
About: A conference of birds is led on a quest by a poet who has turned into a hoopoe bird after a disturbing dream. Gathering them together, he wishes to know the reason for all the wrongs in the world and a way to change them. But to do so they must find the king – Simorgh.
As they travel a long and arduous distance, the birds come to realize that each of them is but a tiny piece of an immense and larger whole. Flying through the daunting terrain (valleys of tribulations and mazes) to reach their goal, most will not survive the trip. But those that do will receive a gift - a realization that what they are seeking from their quest can be found inside each of them.
Thoughts: Read several times over, allowing the art and poetry to settle, this book gets better with each subsequent read. It’s deep message is told metaphorically, visually, and simply, with a spiritual twist that transcends religion. A tale which moves us to know we are all on a journey to one place, a trip which many may not entirely understand.
It has only a small amount of writing but mostly images that appear to be tempera paint and carved block print on beautiful thick colored paper (I would love to see the author’s originals). The images are done in warm earth tones except for the culmination of the story where Peter Sis uses cool and vivid colors to give the crescendo a significant visual meaning. Importantly the art work feels both ancient and modern giving the impression that it is an old story told in a new way.
A relevant rendition that is just as meaningful today as it was a thousand years ago. I can see this book sitting on an office or home table, or in front of a comfortable chair or sofa, since it is a relaxing read. This is a terrific holiday gift for a special person, professional, or family. I give this book a 4 star rating. I loved it and will read it again....more
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. TranslatOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. Translated to English from Japanese, it is a novel that has the distinct feel of its country’s setting.
About: There are a a number of story lines in this complex and layered story, with the two primary ones based around Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata. The story starts with fifteen year old Kafka in the process of running away from his home in Tokyo, perhaps due to his emotionally unavailable father or to find his mother and adopted sister, who left when Kafka was little. As a usual sort of intelligent teen with some unusual attributes (he has an imaginary boy named crow who advises him on various issues), he takes his “road trip” to escape.
Then there is Mr. Nakata, a lovely “simple” older man who cannot read but can amazingly speak to cats (and boy are the cats amusing and well done). He has a “Zen” like characteristic to his attitude and also to his speaking quality in the audio version. Although the two men never actually meet, they move inside the story with their own personal quests overlapping frequently - with the intricate connections becoming clear as the story progresses.
Thoughts: Kafka on the Shore has a variety of themes which may intrigue potential readers, as they did me. Some of these are - cats; World War II; philosophical musings; discussions around literature; the use and discussion of literary tropes such as metaphor, allegory and more; and the arts, including music. Murakami addresses gender and feminism in an indirect way. He has also woven in Asian spiritual themes such enlightenment and rebirth, and some interesting imagery regarding body fluids. The strongest thread in the story is its connection with the mythical story of Oedipus, that creates an unusual twist within the book. For a bit about this myth, here is a short definition:
As a Freudian psychological metaphor describing son–father psychosexual competition for possession of mother, the Oedipus complex derives from the 5th-century BC Greek mythological character Oedipus, who unwittingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother… (via Wikipedia)
It’s interesting that several of Murakami’s major themes for Kafka on the Shore are metaphor and the myth of Oedipus, and that this shocking complex is also considered a metaphor in its definition above.
I felt that the readers’ voices for the characters where done very well, giving life to the various and well developed characters. I liked that so many of the themes stimulated an intellectual side for me and that better yet I learned a few things. However, I had a conflict – there were too many sexual references and scenes, some were too detailed. Indeed the end of the novel became more about our main protagonist Kafka’s sexual desires and experiences than anything else. Otherwise a very worthy read and well done in this audio version. I give this intriguing audio book 4 stars; more if the sex had been a bit more subtle. ...more
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which linOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which links to the US Civil War. Readers won’t guess what the source of the horror is until two thirds through the book; be prepared to linger at the edge of your comfort zone and have a hard time putting this book down.
About: Main character Frank Nichols is a WWI vet turned college professor. His girl friend Eudora and he have decided to marry after a several year affair which has destroyed her marriage and his career.
Against the advice of his deceased aunt they move into the house she has given him in her will. The small Southern town where the house is located (near the river) is where Frank plans to write his historical book. It will be about his notorious and cruel ancestor whose plantation was also located “across the river”, where he was horrifically murdered at the hands of his slaves.
Our narrator, Frank, and his young wife do not recognize what lurks just beyond the river, even though he has been warned by a variety of sources not to venture into the woods. But soon they and the entire town will be caught in a tangle which will alter their lives and the landscape completely .
Thoughts: I found Those Across the River in audio at our local library, and think it is a perfect read for Fall since the climax for the novel is set around Halloween. The reader has a slightly sad and light southern accent – perfect for Frank. Interestingly he also has a variety of deeper accents which are effectively used for the other Southern characters in the novel. All work very well in helping make this book a heartbeat-increasing pleasure to listen to.
With its historical thread I was thinking that it was going to be a realistic thriller, but after finishing think that I would define it as horror. I liked the dark paranormal aspect although would not recommended it for “sensitive readers”. There are some interesting and gory scenes - one in particular a graphic sexual encounter which may shake up some readers; it did me.
I would recommend it for those who enjoy Southern gothic stories, thrillers with a paranormal edge, horror aficionados, and anyone with an interest in the US civil war (sadly only a too short thread as I found myself wishing for more). I liked that everything did not end up in a “traditional story tied bow”, and give this audio book 4 stars. I will be watching for more from this author since it did surprise me. ...more
A “literary tragicomic” that is translated from Norwegian. It’s a short but challenging read which is at tOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A “literary tragicomic” that is translated from Norwegian. It’s a short but challenging read which is at times brilliant, heart-wrenching, sadly funny, and with some interesting bits which require mathematical knowledge to fully understand their references.
About: It is told in the first person by an aging woman Mathea Martinsen. She is a cerebral individual, currently obsessed with death, and perhaps possessing a social anxiety disorder. She stays in her apartment with little desire to connect with anyone other than her husband. With no children, her life consists of the television and going to the store, while simultaneously trying to avoid and connect with her neighbors.
When she finally realizes something is missing from her life – that she wants to be and feel important - she attempts to set things right in a dilapidated series of too-late actions. It seems the harder she tries to be someone, and to connect with others, the worse things become. While she remains oddly positive, as the title suggests she only feels smaller. As her muddled attempts become more desperate, her descent leads to a culmination which is not entirely expected and completely heartbreaking.
Thoughts: One of the reasons I love translated literature is that it helps me to think differently. This book definitely did, and then some. It pushed me to re-read passages, research references, and to do quite few “Googles”. I would even say that with so many looking up of references while reading this ARC, it felt like it was not completely finished.
However, many of the analogies were brilliant and curious. The author has a variety of these interesting tidbits scattered through the story line coming directly from Mathea’s thoughts and actions. An example is that Mathea puts many thing into numerical concepts and theories, speaking to her connection with the world and her relationship to her husband – his nickname and even the title is a reference to a numerical theory.
So, I was a bit conflicted about this book. But remembering it is an ARC I will be searching for a finished copy to compare the two. Perhaps footnotes for the Norwegian cultural references and math connections would help? I don’t always want to stop reading to find an answer to a question.
Recommended for readers that enjoy translated fiction, mathematical logic, and for those looking for a much deeper read. I give this short and intellectually intense book 3 stars as it is in its ARC format; more if my concerns have been addressed in the finished copy. ...more
A well written, intelligent paranormal novel with a very sexy thread. All set within a modern world, inclOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A well written, intelligent paranormal novel with a very sexy thread. All set within a modern world, including a special kind of “werewolf” - a changeling.
About: When Zoey moves to the Canadian countryside to escape city life she is hoping to find peace and healing. As a reporter with a gift of psychic insight she was devastated at not being able to help the victims of the tragedies that she wrote about. However, the change she sought with this move to a small town turned out to have a bit more excitement than she planned.
As the story opens she inadvertently meets handsome and down to earth local veterinarian Connor McLeod, as he rescues her during an ice storm. She is precariously fighting off the attack of a very BIG wolf. Stranded on top of her funky truck, in her attempt to survive she is bitten; a sentence which could lead to a “change” at the next full moon - but not if Connor can help it.
Thoughts: I’m not a big romance reader; I am however exploring speculative fiction. So in an attempt to explore all bases including paranormal romance, I chose Changeling Moon. I am glad since I enjoyed it. Quite a lot actually. It’s a story that is not all “love, fluff, and dreamy stuff” – what I generally don’t like about some romance. There are some intense and horrific scenes, with light cursing and more than a few very sexy scenes – which I would define as erotic. So readers that are looking for a “clean read” should be aware, but in contrast and for my tastes its swearing and gore were not blatant, misplaced or overdone. The sex was interesting and creative versus silly, boring, or just plain hilarious – a big plus; as the latter is another peeve of mine.
The story has an interesting paranormal creature – the changeling; which according to the story are like werewolves. However, they are not constrained to having to turn “animal” at every full moon. They can change at will while still retaining their mental and human clarity, allowing them control in contrast to the classic werewolf. It’s an interesting combination which I am unfamiliar with as I have read very little about werewolves in the past.
Author Dani Harper is a reporter turned novelist, which is perhaps why her main character Zoey feel very realistic. This experience also adds clarity and truism to the book around the reporting done in the novel - which gives the story a bit of needed depth. It is clear that Changeling Moon has benefited from the author’s writing experience.
I can’t say one thing bad about this novel. It was great for an escape; in a genre where one can be assured that there will be a happy ending and which readers expect. The next in the series is now sitting on my nightstand for a needed break from some of the “heavier” novels I have recently read and will be reading soon. At 4 stars – it is an intelligent and entertaining story, recommend for anyone wanting a romantic, thrilling and sexy read....more
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -rOriginal and a more complete review posted at Layers of Thought.
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -representing the best in the science fiction and fantasy field published in 2009. All chosen by peers from the SFWA –Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
In summary: I enjoyed every story in this great anthology, one of which is the best short stories I have ever read. Yep, it was that good. Subjective star ratings are shown for each individual work. I encourage you to read these yourself as they are an exciting bunch for anyone interested in SFF (and horror since there are many threads within this selection). Overall, I give this book a rare 5 stars.
Short Stories ~ (under 7,500 words):
“Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” by Saladin Ahmed ~ An exotic story set in old Iran where a Sultan’s physician is sent into a dusty rural area as punishment because of his directness (he confronted the king, opposing the marriage of his lover to an old rich man.) During his exile he is called to cure a hermit’s wife, who has a startling affliction. Purported to be a witch, she is in fact more. With descriptive language and light insight into some of daily practices from Muslim culture, I re-told this great tale to John over Persian food the subsequent evening. Delicious and entertaining at 4.5 stars.I remember the future2
“I Remember the Future” by Michael A. Burstein ~ An aging and dying science fiction author deals with the anger and angst from his daughter from his slights and perceived neglect toward her over the years. As he descends into a happy madness, there was a tear inducing ending. 5 stars.
Non-Zero Probabilities” by N. K. Jemisin ~ A down to earth and intelligent story, that is a “walk around” New York. It has a creative, fantastical, and magical link into a probability of sorts. It made me giggle and blush too. 4 stars.
“Going Deep” by James Patrick Kelly ~ A science fiction story whose main character is a tween girl. Living on a dying space center this girl’s genetic heritage is determined as – “space traveler”. The last in this “retired” collection, it is a relatable tale which accesses the psyche of the main character in an amazing way. A terrific story, which I want to read more of. It’s a 4.5 stars in my opinion.
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh ~ Horror, science fiction, and humor mesh in this story, where attractive dead women are frozen for reanimation and can be revived for dating and marriage purposes. Darkly hilarious and an incredible idea, this tale gave me “giggle tears”. I laughed till I cried at 4.5 stars.
Winner: “Spar” by Kij Johnson ~ A dark, horrific, and erotic science fiction short that includes an amorphous non-human alien. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. This story deserves 4 stars.
SFWA Author Emeritus – Neal Barrett, Jr. ~ “Getting Dark” ~ A southern story of sorts where the female narrator is haunting or being haunted - perhaps both? This is surreal and earthy, with a dark and sexual thread told in an authentic female voice. I give it 4 stars.
Novelette ~ (over 7,500 and under 17,500 words):
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi ~ Set in the future, a Laos refugee escapes his deteriorating country for the US only to find that his idealism does not work here - within the ever increasing thrill and monetary seeking society that the US has become. With an environmental thread - apparently one of this author’s major themes; this is an incredible story with interesting and sensitive cultural insight. It’s definitely a 5 stars.
“Vinegar Peace” by Michael Bishop ~ An emotional and convoluted story about orphaned parents - designated as such and put to pasture when they loose their children in death. Set in the future it is difficult, full of angst, and has a hallucination-like feel to it as it is often a natural consequence from a severe loss. Its is a 4 stars in my opinion.
“I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said” by Richard Bowes ~ A dying man is brought into a hospital and falls into various dream like states around his life and the experiences of his friends; many ill like himself from Aids-related complications. I laughed, cried and just loved this incredible story. I’m now a serious fan; this is a 5 star from an incredibly sensitive and insightful author.
“Divining Light” by Ted Kosmatka ~ Every once in a while you read something that just “blows you away”. That is the case with this story – consequently it is my favorite from the collection. It goes beyond any of my expectation and includes elements from several of my preferred genre mixes - horror, science fiction and an encompassing “meaning of life” thread. In my opinion it’s an impossible 5.5 stars. a memory of wind
“A Memory of Wind” by Rachel Swirsky ~ Reviewed by me in another post - linked via the title. It is based upon Iphigenia and set in ancient Greece. I gave it 4 stars.
Winner: “ Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” By Eugie Foster ~ In this consciousness-bending story – described as a “dystopian” tale - identity is a key element. The individuals of this society are required to wear masks imbued with different drugs/hormones which change daily. There is an element of blending of genders so the story will be classified as GLBT; it also contains a horrific thread. I enjoyed this phantasmagorical story at 4 stars.
Damon Knight Grand Master - Joe Haldeman ~ “A !Tangled Web” ~ An excellent science fiction short which tells the tale of a business deal made between humans and aliens on a planet other than earth. The aliens have an interesting physiology and language, and a method of self-depreciation which is beyond western behaviors. Because of this it’s a darkly funny short with an intriguing alien, written by an author who is rightly honored as a Grand Master in the field. This is my first story by him at 4.5 stars.
Rhysling Awards (poetry):
“Song for an Ancient City” by Amal El-Mohtar ~ Is about a magical ancientthe women of nell gymme's city; a short and lovely poem.
“Search” and “Fireflies” by Geoffrey A. Landis ~ The first poem speaks of a hope in finding other life forms in the stars; the other compares fireflies and the stars.
I enjoyed all three at 4 stars each.
A bundle of highly recommended stories from this “cream of the crop” collection. This was a tough one to complete. How do you review an anthology such as this? I am thinking maybe I should start working on the 2010 winners and nominees since maybe I will be fortunate enough to receive next year’s copy of the Showcase. One can dream....more
A dark modern fable translated from German. It is a literary novel that is tragic and blacOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually
A dark modern fable translated from German. It is a literary novel that is tragic and blackly humorous, told by a narrator who is definitely misguided and “unreliable”.
About: Set in Russia in the 1970s, The Hottest Dishes is told in the first person by the self-centered Rosa. It starts with Rosa’s daughter Sulfia becoming pregnant in her early teens and not willing to disclose who the father is. Understandably Rosa is not delighted with the situation, but claims her “troublesome” granddaughter Animat as her own and attempts to mold her into an image of what she believes a child and a Tartar should be (Tartars are descendants of Genghis Khan or “mountain people”).
As the reader is lead though the changes, deaths, and difficulties during the deterioration and dissolution of the Soviet Union (most historical details are easy to miss due to the extensive family drama), the tale culminates in a family visa finagled through some twisted means by Rosa from a German native who is researching Tartar Cuisine.
My Thoughts: Rosa is an intriguing character who is definitively an unreliable narrator, possessing a vision of herself that is unreasonably high. She navigates her life with a positive flair that ignores the perspectives and feelings of her family, creating situations which are painful and heartbreakingly sad. All the while she downplays the difficult reality in her world and country, which is more than a bit askew. Although her ability to get by in a harsh world is at times mildly admirable, in the end I was left asking myself the questions: How far would you go to get by or survive? What would you be willing to sacrifice for a chance at a better life for yourself and your family?
This is a short novel but one which I would consider a “chewy” read; it took me some time to finish due to its denseness. The text was not difficult, and the translation is excellent, but due to Rosa’s complexities and the unusual family dynamic she inadvertently creates it took a bit longer than normal. I had to stop to digest what it was about Rosa that I empathized with and what it was that I had a hard time understanding, and why her horrific opinions were in fact humorous. In the end I decided that at her best she is an extremely misguided “mother hen”. But as the adage goes “when does the means justify the end result”?
In conclusion I think that the story can be seen as dark fable for those who “do way too much”, providing lessons on what not to do even though one may think they know what is the best for everyone. Rated at 3.5 stars I enjoyed this translated story, and recommend it for readers who like literary fiction, unusual and complex characters, black humor, or those who would like a lot to think about. This is another book which would be perfect for a discussion group, as there could be so much to talk about. ...more
There is a reason why some novels win multiple awards; this historical fantasy is one example of a book thOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
There is a reason why some novels win multiple awards; this historical fantasy is one example of a book that deserves all the accolades it has received. An incredible tome which is a grand meandering adventure into the historical, magical, and darkly hilarious. It is a perfect read for fall.
About: Set in the early 1800’s during the end of the Napoleonic wars in an England where magic and fairies exist; the story begins with Mr. Norrell as the self proclaimed “magician” of the age. He has delegated himself the task of re-establishing an order to English magic so that it can become as highly valued and respected as it once was. So in a twisted effort he eradicates every other magician/practitioner in the land.
Enter Jonathan Strange, a younger and more socially adept individual, who becomes Norrell’s student, learning what the older magician deems important to his acolyte. Sadly Norrell also hordes and hides all the most important information. Still his student develops, as Jonathan Strange is everything Norrell is not - possessing a natural ability for creating spells and magic.
This natural conflict is mixed together with an “evil fairy” and well developed characters. Woven into the mix are interesting historical facts, fantastic fairy history and a make-believe history of English magic. The result is a multi-layered, complex, dryly funny and wonderfully meandering story.
Thoughts: As mentioned there are many well developed and intriguing characters in this huge book (900 or so pages or 32 hours of listening time). It has human sized fairies (not the fluffy kind) and a mix of curious and down to earth servants -including appropriate roles for men and women during this historical period. It has a writing style which has an old fashioned English feel; quite proper and appropriate for a pre-Victorian historical era.
This book was so much fun and I learned some actual history (which I am completely inept at), as a lot of the detail is actually grounded in fact. But the best part is the intriguing amount of imaginary fairy and magic history included, which is entertaining and wonderful. A perfect historical book for those who don’t like history.
Listened to in audio, the male narrator did an excellent job of moderating his voice for each of the characters, classes, and genders. I was even surprised that the footnotes worked well in the audio version - as there are many. Here are two short and fun examples of magical spells which the author included in one of the many footnotes, which I could imagine using at one time or another:
Chauntlucet: a mysterious and ancient spell which encourages the moon to sing. The song the moon knows is apparently very beautiful and can cure leprosy or sadness in anyone who hears it.
Stokesey’s Vitrification turns objects – and people – to glass.
I loved this wonderful book and give it 5 stars. Highly recommended if you enjoy historical fiction and/or fantasy; also for non fantasy readers who may be interested in reading something with magical elements. This was a fabulous and complex tale!...more
A classic gothic tale which has “Faustian themes”. The story can be seen as questioning character and its reOriginal copy posted on Layers of Thought.
A classic gothic tale which has “Faustian themes”. The story can be seen as questioning character and its relationship to youth and beauty within the setting of upper class Victorian London.
About: Dorian Gray is a wealthy young Englishman who has an angelic handsomeness. His beauty is such that he is believed to possess exceptional character too. When he becomes a subject for a painting by a local artist everything changes. As the gorgeous Dorian’s painting is finished, the artist realizes it has become the best work of his career – so much so that it contains an essence of himself including a piece of the artist’s soul.
When viewing the final version of himself on canvas, Dorian realizes how extraordinary he is physically – but this has sad consequences too, since Dorian’s vanity becomes warped; particularly when he realizes from one heartless act that the painting reflects his rightfully earned ugly expression:
The quivering, ardent sunlight showed him the lines of cruelty round the mouth as clearly as if he had been looking into a mirror after he had done some dreadful thing. ~ Chapter 7
For Dorian the picture becomes an obsession, an intrigue, a game around how the picture will look as he descends into debauchery and cruelty. He watches the changes with a twisted intrigue and curiosity:
For there would be a real pleasure in watching it. He would be able to follow his mind into its secret places. This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul. ~ Chapter 8
Thoughts: Listened to in audio, the proper English accented reader does a nice job of rendering a classic story so that it is easy to listen to. With various accents and changes in gender as well as its old fashioned writing this is a perfect book for an “audio read”.
Written over 100 years ago this is Oscar Wilde’s only published novel. It was first printed in a magazine and then published in various other versions over the years with parts removed and replaced, since the book was not without controversy. As a know gay author, his homosexuality is reflected lightly in this novel, as well as his subversive opinions around upper class Victorian life-style. Perhaps he was imparting an important message around beauty, character, and more? I am certain he was. One which is also appropriate for today.
In addition to the historical details and interesting cultural information from Dorian’s world travels, I found that there is a syndrome named after the main character. Although not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), it is called Dorian Gray Syndrome:
A cultural and societal phenomenon characterized by an excessive preoccupation with the individual's own appearance accompanied by difficulties coping with the aging process and with the requirements of maturation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorian_G... ~ Wikipedia
I liked that little piece of pseudo-medical geeky-ness quite a lot actually, as it says something about human nature along with this horror story and Wilde’s point.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those novels that can be discussed at length, analyzed and rehashed and then some. I am happy to say it was not a forced read as a young adult in college or high school, otherwise it would have ended up in the pile of books I disliked. The language is of course antiquated and perhaps a bit drawn out by today’s standards. However as an adult I enjoyed it in this specific audio reading. It has an amazing premise and a strong message. I give this classic piece of literature a 3 stars. I liked it.
The edition I listened to: Unabridged; Blackstone Audio, Inc. 7 hours, 44 minutes; Feb 13, 2008; Awards: Audio Award Nominee - Audio Publishers Association
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an4.5 star rating.
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an incredible work of horrific and tragic fiction. It is a shocking “page turner” that I could not put down.
About: A tale of a haunting, either imaginary or not. It’s also a story of love and a loss so obsessive that it creates a monster from a man, mangling him into a cruel character that manipulates those around him for revenge, power, and pleasure. His anger seethes into the lives of family and those who he should love and cherish. Sadly, due to the constraints of the time, those around him cannot escape his internal conflict, external tortures, and schemes.
The story unfolds within and around two houses or manors in the late 1700s/early 1800s, in the English countryside. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are the names of the houses where the story takes place, among the rock strewn landscape of the bleak, damp and beautiful Yorkshire Moors.
The story is told from the perspective of a new border (Lockwood) who arrives to rent Thrushcross Grange in an effort to escape city life in London. Hoping for idyllic countryside and folk, he finds things are not at all as he had wished or imagined. He is appalled yet intrigued as to the reasons why there is such lack of normal civility at Wuthering Heights, so he consults the household’s servant, Nelly Dean. Through a series of conversations she tells him the horrible and convoluted tale. As they progress, Nelly’s strong character and moral sensibilities come through as she passes along the tragedy of the young Heathcliff and Catherine, spanning their childhood and beyond.
Thoughts: Some of you may know that John (my husband) is from North Yorkshire, growing up only several miles from where the Bronte’s lived, wrote, and died. So naturally I have visited the area frequently over the years. When visiting one can see the landscape is rocky and harsh with its boggy, peaty waters running through its craggy hills. It is generally damp and cold with summers that can be lovely and warm but only for a moment. This description of the moors is also a metaphor used throughout the novel; it mirrors a conflicted passion between the main characters.
It is accepted that life there was harsh 200 years ago, and still is for farmers working there today. They are known to be surly and cranky, so Heathcliff's temperament was no surprise, yet his extreme cruelty was. He is a character who is sadistic and that overshadows most of the other well fleshed out figures – even the wild, strong-willed, yet spoiled Catherine. I was shocked, thinking the book was categorized as a romance and it that would be light. Boy was I wrong.
You may think that through my description above that I did not particularly like Wuthering Heights. I loved it and think it is an incredible surprise of a horror story. It’s a harshly “romantic” tale and an enduring historical classic. It has a wonderful and deeply conflicted character with a chafing angst. It deserves a 4.5 stars and gets a big “Wow” in my humble opinion.
The version I listened to is included below, as is a paperback I used as reference – the Yorkshire accent is difficult even today, let alone 200 years ago when the book was set and written. Even John as a native Yorkshireman had difficulty translating it for me. The best part of the particular version I listened to is that the narrator has a “proper” Yorkshire accent and sounds just like my sister in law (a native). It gives the reading an authentic feel.
Audio: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged; 11-CD Set; read by Janet McTeer and David Timson; 13 hours, 9 minutes; May 15, 2007;
Paperback: Signet Classic; introduction by Alice Hoffman; copy shown above also includes an afterword by Juliet Barker; 352 pages; March 1, 2011; ...more
A literary murder mystery set in an icy winter in Canada's Old Quebec City. This story includes an exceedOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A literary murder mystery set in an icy winter in Canada's Old Quebec City. This story includes an exceedingly likeable and down to earth character - Inspector Armand Gamache.
About: Inspector Gamache is still healing from a traumatic event which has him reeling both physically and emotionally (a thread continued from Louise Penny’s previous book in the series – The Brutal Telling). Meanwhile he is inadvertently brought into a search resulting from a recent murder which has occurred in the historic city. An eccentric amateur archeologist has been found dead in the basement of a local English library and historical society, creating some interesting side lines regarding issues prevalent since the birth of the country – the separation of French and English nationalities.
Another murder (from a past book) is interwoven into the story, and Gamache is having second thoughts about the man he convicted. He is also having flashbacks about a mistake for which he feels responsible, which resulted in the death or severe injury of some of his co-workers. As he and his dog make the rounds - visiting cafes, experiencing local color, food, and lore - he ponders the historical founding of Canada itself and attempts to make sense of his losses.
Thoughts: This story has lyrical writing, human insight, some very cozy scenes in the freezing landscape, interesting local information and an extremely likeable character. Armand Gamache is thoughtful, intelligent, listens, is ruggedly attractive, and is a seasoned and effective Chief Inspector in one of the largest cities in the country. You cannot dislike this character.
Bury Your Dead is book number six in the series, but it can be read as a stand alone. I did not feel I missed reading the first five in the series, or at least not until the very end - the cast of character is huge from lingering threads in previous books, so that did get a bit confusing. However, I do now feel compelled to read others in the series to fill in the missing pieces, so Bury Your Dead is a workable place to start. In summary it is an accessible literary mystery best for a cold winter night or for some coolness in the heat of summer. I’d give 4 stars to this intensely insightful novel which has a flowing writing style. It is moody yet cozy, and such a lovely read. ...more
4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and pre4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and precocious young girl as the main character. All set in an exotic, magical, yet politically volatile country and time.
About: When Eleanor Cohen is born there are auspicious signs that she is not your normal child. She is to be a prodigy with gifts of memory, languages, extreme intelligence and something which is just a tad mystical. Set in the late 1800s in what is now Turkey, 8 year old Eleanor finds herself in Stamboul within the struggling Ottoman empire, after a decision to follow her father. As the fates conspire she is linked to the king - Sultan Abdulhamid II - and becomes his adviser for a short time during the ill fated years of his declining empire.
Thoughts: This was such a lovely read with my very favorite type of female character, one who is strong, brave and kind. Yet Eleanor is also beyond brilliant. Endearingly she makes a few girlish decisions creating a wonderfully realistic and exceedingly likeable character.
As a historical fiction novel, it is light enough to appeal to those who are not so historically inclined (like myself). I would even recommend the book to young adult readers due to its wonderful character and easy to read lyrical writing style. For those that enjoy history, also mentioned are classic texts which are significant to the political choices made within the novel, making it of particular interest.
As Lukas’s first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul is complex yet easy to read. His descriptions are sensual but there is no sex in this story, and many volatile elements are just alluded to. This combination gives the novel a very strong appeal -it’s a rare combination in my experience and leads me to think that Lucas is an extraordinary writer. He took six years to complete this story and it shows.
In my opinion this book is rated 4.5 stars since it doesn’t get much better - a lyrical historical novel with mystical yet realistic threads. I am wondering when we will see his next book? Hopefully it won’t be another six years....more
A young adult dystopian that sounds so realistic in the audio version that it’s frightening. Funny and heaOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A young adult dystopian that sounds so realistic in the audio version that it’s frightening. Funny and heartbreaking, it will help readers think about what our world could become if capitalistic advertising is allowed to run wild in combination with technology.
About: It appears that Titus is a regular teenager, the only difference is that in his world everyone has a “feed” implanted in their brain. It transmits constant personalized ads into their vision and auditory senses, including a way to keep in constant contact with anyone at anytime. It’s responsible for the fact that actual reading has become a thing of the past, since all communications are voice and thought activated via the “feed”. Sadly, also in this world the oceans are toxic, sterile, and no fish exist all in response to their rampant consumerism.
It's all too normal for Titus and his friends. As they party, take trips to the moon, and ingest the occasional mind altering substance, they lead their “normal lives” with a “party on attitude”. However, this world view is about to change when Titus meets a girl named Violet who is very different from anyone he knows. He begins to realize that, along with all the teen fun and games, there is an underlying angst and horror which they are all trying desperately to ignore and marginalize.
Thoughts: I enjoyed listening to this book in audio, with its well done and interesting sound effects. Told in first person by Titus, it’s coupled with their future version of “teen speak”. I dare you not to go around calling friends and family members “Unit” instead of “Dude” or other current young adult colloquialism. There was a romantic element to the story which is told from the guy’s perspective which I enjoyed. With a realistic ending that is not your “drive into the sunset” cliché. There are a good number of interesting science based elements in addition to the implant – including cloning and hover cars, however the best bit is how the actual feed sounds in this audio version that I think is particularly brilliant.
I enjoyed this novel in audio and would recommend it for any teen (adult too) who enjoys a good dystopian. I could even imagine using the written version within the classroom as a modern day trade out for 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, or perhaps in tandem with required high school readings; giving a fresher perspective to the classics. I give this audio version a 4 stars, since in addition to the author’s creative technological ideas which are a key to the book, the reader and audio producer have also contributed to create a darkly funny and all to realistic “listen”....more
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey vOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey via internal biological internet connections into an intriguing online world.
Trouble is well known online as one of the best and most notorious “crackers”. She is a future version of a hacker, where cracking is breaking through IC(E) – the acronym for the complex security systems which simulate actual ice. Intriguingly, web users have connections to the web via “dollie ports” and “brain worms” giving a “virtual reality” experience to being online, where one smells color.
A story set in a dystopian US where things have gone environmentally sour, the beaches are so polluted that visiting them is toxic. Political factions have set in place laws which make “cracking” illegal and dangerous. As the stakes become higher, Trouble disappears in an effort to protect herself.
What brings her out of hiding is that someone is using her name. Not happy (neither are some significant powers that be), she emerges to set things right. As Trouble lives up to her name - she and her friends have an interesting and not entirely safe romp into an online and real-world futuristic adventure.
Trouble and Her Friends is cyberpunk. It is a subgenre which is characterized by a high tech dystopian environment with characters that are of marginal class standing. It is also said to have a “noir-ish” feel. Which are perfect descriptions for this science fiction novel.
Melissa Scott uses many intriguing science fiction concepts - for example the “dollie ports” and “brain worms” which actually hook the user up to the net through implants into the body. Beyond the nerdy bits she also has included romance (lgbt), virtual sex (nicely done), and the experience of traveling the net via internally hard wired brain connection with some excellent results.
I could not imagine a writer being able to tell you about a virtual web experience as it occurs in Trouble’s world. But she does – and very well at that. Scott uses a technique that toggles between real world and internet experiences, using italicized letters for the virtual world travels and normal text for the real world experience.
Despite the description, the book is very accessible and is actually a mystery thriller set in a darker future time. There are strong female characters (another favorite element) and it has some realistic science (another one too). I will be looking at this author and this subgenre more. This is an impressive novel with a redemptive ending. I give it 4 stars....more
A tear inducing novel about family love and the methods we create when coping with a life threatening illnOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A tear inducing novel about family love and the methods we create when coping with a life threatening illness - in ourselves, and in those we love most.
About: Set presently in the US, our key characters are Chris and his 14 year old daughter – Becky. From the very beginning it is clear that Chris adores Becky in a way that is perhaps beyond the norm, even to the point of ignoring his own needs and development. This is in part due to a difficult illness Becky has been afflicted with as a small child. Within this extremely constrained and nightmarish situation, and as a means to cope with medical treatments, the two contrive an elaborate and fantastical world together. This is their story, of their parallel and perhaps symbolic world, and what happens when the fine line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred during life altering events.
Thoughts: A realistic story that also possesses a fantastical thread with elements of both science fiction and fantasy, Blue has an ecological theme which I particularly liked. I would even say it is on the verge of magical realism. I think that because of its connection to “real life” and its setting in the “real world”, this makes the book an opportunity for non-fantasy readers to adventure into the speculative.
One thing that I particularly liked is that it feels like the author has a good grasp on and around human nature. For example, he has an understanding about what it is like to be a good parent, and what it can feel like for a person to be extremely ill. With examples of both within the pages, I want to share one quote which summarizes the feelings of a parent:
One of the first things Chris learned as a father was that being one allowed you access to previously unavailable resources. The ability to function coherently at two in the morning when a baby needed soothing, a bottle needed heating, and a diaper needed changing at the same time. The ability to navigate through a little kid’s tantrum without either screaming or running away. The ability to perform the same bit of slapstick several dozen times in a row because it made your child laugh. The ability to bear up when your preteen chose a sleepover at a friend’s instead of the plans you made with her a week before.
I really enjoyed this read, but I do have to say that I had a slight confusion while reading. I kept going back and forth as to who the book’s intended audience were -tween/young adult, or adult. I felt like I wanted to recommend it to parents to read to their children with its child friendly fantastical elements and language development. However with some very adult mentions, like the Karma Sutra, this could be precarious. In the end I would recommend this book to adult readers only.
In summary Blue is an accessible page turner which includes an intriguing and creative concept. I liked that all the interwoven and layered threads constructed through the story followed through and that all my questions about this “other world” were addressed. My favorite part of the book is it’s heartbreaking yet affirming ending. Although I choked back tears unsuccessfully through the last 15 pages getting the pages all soggy and damp, this sweet novel is also redemptive, which is such a wonderful combination. I give this novel 4 stars....more
A perfect read for Valentine’s Day - Delirium is set in a future US, where love is considered aOriginal review at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually
A perfect read for Valentine’s Day - Delirium is set in a future US, where love is considered a disease and the cause for all social ills. Everyone by the age 18 is to be “cured” via an operation which is not entirely safe or effective.
Setting: Lena is like most normal teen girls - slightly insecure, and she does not realize her abilities and attractiveness as a growing woman. As she is coming up to this important date where she will have her operation to free her from this “disease”, she starts to become less comfortable within the world she has been raised and indoctrinated in. She begins to question what is beyond the electrified fenced boundaries surrounding her country and wonders if anything is beyond them in the area considered the wilds; and what about the people – invalids, who are said to have once lived there?
Thoughts: I enjoy dystopian novels – I would even say love them. I am guessing it is because of the science fiction element which they commonly possess, and perhaps the element of horror too. Happily there seems to be quite a few of the young adult variety being published at the moment. Another reason is that from my perspective as a woman and an adult reader with a degree in education – I have a strong belief around the importance of intellectual empowerment for girls and young women. This genre can be a way for girls to absorb something alongside their romance which may work toward in-depth thinking into science or politics. I like that.
Beyond the genre there are several things I liked about this novel. Lauren Oliver uses a technique where each chapter is preceded with a snippet of the “new world order” – these are the reworked laws, poetry, fables and mythology which have been changed and distorted by the creators of this twisted society - a method used by the usurpers of overturned societies since the beginning of recorded time. I loved this aspect, giving the story contextual interest and attesting to the power of literature and stories as a way to establish and maintain belief systems. She also includes a number of insightful thoughts and grounding ideas about love and human nature - perfect for a young adult novel - which encourages me to positively promote her books.
I did have two problems which are taste oriented and version related (I read an ARC version of the book). The first “niggle” is that the main character goes into depth about her feelings and emotions, which most women/girls will enjoy. For me it was just too much at several points. Additionally, when I read that the main character was about to vomit for the 10th time I felt like throwing up myself. It led me to think about what are the other ways a writer can describe extreme distress? I imagine that these bits have been edited out or changed since an ARC version is not entirely edited.
On balance, it is apparent that Lauren Oliver is a talented author. The book has a great premise, I liked the crescendo and the ending was a good one - heartbreaking but with that necessary element of hope and strength. The best news is that there are two more in the series coming in the next few years - Pandemonium (2012) and Requiem (2013). Both are the planned sequels to what I hope to be a very popular series. I give this young adult novel 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot....more
An epic young adult fantasy with a modern and creative twist. A humorous and mildly scary hero’s journey,Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
An epic young adult fantasy with a modern and creative twist. A humorous and mildly scary hero’s journey, this book is perfect for smart youngsters from tween-age into ancient adulthood.
About: In a fantastical world where spells are created from magical languages, the main character Nicodermis is a trainee in the skills needed to create these spells. He believes himself to be an insignificant part of a bigger picture. There is a big problem with his spelling (he can’t), so his teachers place him with a variety of other “marginal” acolytes with various disabilities. Here he becomes a leader (of sorts) in a world which does other than appreciate them.
In this mountainous and almost medieval world, Nicodermis’ connection to his greater purpose is not quite clear and all is not well. Evil powers are bent on keeping everything as it is or worse - imbalanced and dark. They will do anything to stop the fates in motions of which Nicodermis is key.
My Thoughts: Fresh and inclusive of a wide variety of diverse types of characters, this is a fun read. Nary a bad word, or sexual reference, it’s a perfect read for young adults and those looking for a “clean” fantasy setting. The author has some interesting swaps for cursing which are in fact quite hilarious. Here are examples:
"Splattering spud”; “Ooo, you dirty son of a rat-eating butt dog!” And an example of a curse as bad as it gets - “Drink goat piss, you slimy pigeon penis”.
Kids of all ages will have to laugh at this. I did.
The characters are wonderful and loveable and Nicodermis is a very relate-able main character. A humble hero who is on his journey and refuses to admit that he may just be the one to save his world. There are also several flawed and interesting supporting characters - a blind old wise man with dreadlocks and magic gargoyles that are created from the written spells, a wonderful talking bird named Azure that loves to be scratched on its head (gosh darn cute and I want one), a dream dragon, and elemental ghosts. But don’t worry there are exciting and dark bits too involving a scary and ancient evil; also a clay Golem housing an amazing monster which is frightening and imaginative. This is definitely the beginning of an epic series.
An impressive first novel - the book has an easy to read style that is imbued with a subtle humor, a characteristic which is apparent on Blake Charlton’s blog and in his interviews. I cannot say one negative thing about this debut novel and am expecting some amazing fiction from this new and talented author. I can’t wait to read the next in this series, Spellbound, which I understand is even better than this first novel. 4 stars for this fun, creative and giggly debut novel....more
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verges on the paranormal.
About: Arriving at his most recent boy’s school, the story’s narrator is among a number of “marginal” young adults living at the facility, perhaps with behavior problems or mental health issues – quintessential “lost boys”. The school appears to be their last resort before incarceration or asylums.
The story has a murky and gothic feeling – being set in an icy wintery season, containing dysfunctional adult characters, and taking place within decrepit halls and dusty corridors. Amazingly the story teller is never named. Lost in the system and within himself, our narrator tells his tale via cryptic journal entries, through which we see that he is “damaged” as he enters yet another broken educational facility.
Enter Willy, a charismatic, intelligent and contrastingly wealthy roommate to our story teller. He sees through the façade of the school and its teachers, and assists the boys to understand they are of value – especially our unnamed character. But this comes at a price, and as the story progresses the reader can only guess what is really going on.
My Thoughts: Through the narrator’s journaling, appropriate for a young person’s developing writing skills, the reader is led on a dark roller-coaster ride with only small glints of hopefulness. We see a lack of self worth, dark teacher student conflict, and a crooked system where the needs of the lost and disabled are not met by teachers/administrators. This is contrasted with emerging feelings of self discovery, including youthful romantic angst, and some normal coming of age fun and games.
Robert Dunbar’s grasp of the human experience is heart-piercing and he clearly understands these lost souls. Here, Willy is speaking to our main character:
“You don’t know what you are. You’re lost in yourself and you can’t always be. Would be a tragedy. Yes? No? Don’t nod like that. You don’t understand. Are you even awake enough to hear? It would be a tragedy because you feel, and you can’t imagine how rare that is, not yet. But you could. Be strong. If you survive long enough.”
One thing I think may be difficult for some readers is accessing the narrator’s language – a key to the story. It is choppy with some stream of consciousness thought which gives it a dissociative feel. However, I loved it and was at the edge of my seat while reading the book. The author effectively uses this and a variety of techniques to create a combination of angst and chills
In summary Willy, with its bits of resolution and redemption, was hard to put down. I think that it will be enjoyable for many mainstream readers, especially those who enjoy coming of age stories, stories that border on paranormal, and those that leave the reader wondering how it will all work out. There is some light m/m romance and glbt intimacy with tasteful sexual allusions, and also some slightly strong language and gore. This novel is distinctly intelligent, emotionally insightful and alarming; the reader is left with only a reference, a wonder, and a delicious dark suspicion of what has actually occurred. This genre-blending story gets 4 stars in my opinion. I loved it!...more
This story is from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is tolOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
This story is from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is told in the first person by Penelope, wife of Odysseus and cousin to Helen of Troy.
Interestingly Atwood tells this in an unusual and layered way. Penelope is in Hades as she tell the story and pieces are conveyed in poem format at the beginning of each chapter, from the perspective of Penelope's 12 maids. These maids are sacrificed by Odysseus on his return after his 20 year of travels in the Mediterranean after the Trojan war. Needing a “scape goat” to keep his honor in tact, all twelve are hanged for mingling with Penelope’s suitors - who were hoping that Odysseus would not return so that they could take over his household and wealth. Through this story we see the perspective of a woman’s life via Penelope’s modern voice re-telling.
Highly creative, Atwood has crammed an amazing amount of information in this story which is only three hours long. It has some interesting scholarly theories around a goddess cult which was believed to have included the 12 maids. Her perspective is light with a humorous thread, but nevertheless is understandably dark, as are most myths. This was my first Margaret Atwood book and I truly enjoyed it and am now a big fan. Highly recommended at 4 stars.
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (in audio) ~ by Margaret Atwood; Laural Merlington (Reader); Canongate Myths series # 2....more
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusualOriginal review post on Layers of Thought.
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusual insight and quirkiness with unique and thought-provoking stories, and some that will leave you with a smirk.
This is author Ben Loory’s first book of odd tales, yet he has published many in literary magazines over the past several years. His new collection feels like modern and bizarre fables - a book for those looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.
The stories range from downright silly and funny to completely strange, while others will make your heart ache and more than a few may prevent you from sleeping. The stories in the book contain themes ranging from talking octopi who live on land rather than water and live like humans, to monsters of various kinds and much more. Definitely an adult book with some mature themes and not recommended for youngsters; it’s a book for “kids at heart”.
I read the book in it’s ARC/ebook format, but I have seen the paperback copy at our local indie book store. It is small, thin and easy to handle or to carry with you. Perhaps pick it up and read when there is a extra few minutes to fill, maybe before bed, or any time where one is interested in a mind altering, or potentially guffaw inducing “quickie” – each story will only take a few minutes to read. I give this collection a 3.5 stars and just love the interesting cover with the orange tentacle, UFO and blue water back ground. ...more
A young adult science fiction novel that examines some of the moral issues around the ability to put humanOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A young adult science fiction novel that examines some of the moral issues around the ability to put humans to sleep for extended periods of time.
About: Rosalinda (Rose) has been in “stas” (chemically induced sleep inside a tube) for 62 years. She was “forgotten” in a basement and awakes to a world very different from the one she left. Of course she doesn’t quite fit in. Understandably Rosalinda is weak, thin, and has difficulties relating to other teens because her mannerisms and language are old-fashioned.
Even more complicated is that there appears to be an unknown force that is stalking her and wants her dead. Rosalinda does not quite understand why and also doubts her perceptions that it could actually be happening. As she discovers who she really is and attempts to capture the heart of her “not so available prince charming” (there is a thin thread linking it to the fairy-tale sleeping beauty), the reasons become clear as to why she has remained asleep for so many years. Worse yet, perhaps it was not a mistake.
Thoughts: First I want to mention that I particularly liked this little snippet from the book. It is where the main character Rose is conversing via a tablet of sorts to a friend, which allows a form of texting. She is asking this genetically altered male Otto (who has blue skin) about his girl friend Nabiki:
Is Nabiki interesting?
Very. She has many layers of thought. Which is why she can feel hostility and sympathy for you at the same time. ~ page 105
It was really fun to read a novel that has the blog name in it!
Interestingly, I read the first half of this book from Net Galley in its ARC ebook format. I finished it in audio which is the cover you see above. I also took a look at a paper copy and read several chapters that way too. I liked seeing the differences in the versions and will have to say that I enjoyed the first half of the novel in the ARC format the most. The published version had been changed a bit from the ARC and the audio version had a reader which presented Rosalinda as depressed, and whiney. I understand why this characteristic was used to depict her, however, it is one that I did not like listening to in audio.
All in all this book is one of the meatier young adult dystopian books that I read during the 2011 year. I liked that it had real science as a basis for the world’s technological advancements and that the author addresses some interesting issues, moral and legal, around the ability to be able to put someone to “sleep” for long periods of time. Most importantly and unusually she addresses what may happen when the sleeping beauty does not get the so called prince.
I give this young adult book 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot and wonder how it would have felt if I had completed the ARC version in the time allotted with the expire-able version. Conversely, reading these several versions made me curious about the differences between them and why publishers and editors make the changes they do....more
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and faOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and falls in love. And it has a great cover!
About: The main character, whose name is “R”, has little or no memories of who he was prior to his “death”. So a letter is all he uses as his name. He does know a few things about himself though - based upon the suit he wears he thinks that he must have been a professional. Better yet, he was probably good looking since his appearance is not “as bad” and he doesn’t smell “as much” as the other zombies he knows. Also he has a growing ability to communicate beyond the prerequisite grunt or moan, which continues to improve as he starts to ponder about who he is and his purpose in “life”.
To complicate things more, while out on a hunt with his zombie “buddies” he gets a taste of a young man’s brains which allows him to see and feel this victim’s (or should I say lunch’s) memories. In doing so he begins to share growing feelings for a feisty and pretty young woman who is his dead meal’s girlfriend. As he explores his growing love interest, the two share a common bond - a desire to look beyond their apocalyptic world. As they do so, inner turmoil and growth abound, all mixed with a lot of drama, some violence, understandable campiness, and light romance.
Thoughts: This novel borders ever so slightly on the literary side, with its interesting and almost too lengthy existential processes – all around R’s personal growth, meanderings, reflections and angst. It is not your usual horror book since it is only mildly scary and delves into the emotional changes of a zombie beginning to remember that he was once a man.
Recommended for readers desiring a “lighter” zombie story, who enjoy some reflection mixed with romance; also for those in need of some farcical fun. It has an unbelievable ending which is also redemptive. I liked this story at 3 stars. ...more
A darkly hilarious, and almost unbelievable journalistic journey into how “madness” is defined, recognized, and treated within western culture and the mental heath industry.
In attempt to the question “what is it that defines madness?” Jon Ronson spent two years undertaking some intriguing travels and interviews and then carrying out further research. As he examines himself, journalism, the entertainment industry, psychiatry, pharmaceutical companies and more, he blends it all together with a reflective and self effacing style. On his travels he meets a psychologist who has created a check list that is used to define psychopathic individuals – hence the book’s title.
So what is a psychopath? (Also termed a sociopath or someone with anti-social personality disorder). And why a test? In his research Ronson finds that these are individuals who are lacking in common empathy and a moral sensibility. In other words they have no guilt. A psychopath’s very nature is often hard to recognize since they are charming, chameleon like, and blend well within the general population. They also prey upon unsuspecting people in order to satisfy their desires and perceived needs. Is there more of an excuse to define them? Ronson reports that it is believed that psychopaths account for as many as 25% of the prison population; by comparison, within the general population it is assumed or speculated that the respective figure is just 1%. He examines where these individuals are most likely to appear within the “free pollution”, including a theory that a much higher percentage of the world’s most powerful positions (CEOs, politicians, world leaders) are held by psychopaths. Not too hard to imagine.
Most interestingly the book contains some shocking evidence on just how far we have yet to progress in understanding what mental illness is and how best to treat it’s varying manifestations. Ronson includes some amazing situations - one in particular I would have believed could only exist in fiction (and maybe in his novel-turned-movie Men Who Stare at Goats). In this instance a prison psychiatrist, in an attempt to “cure” his psychopathic patients of their lack of empathy, grouped them together, isolated the group, and administered LSD for eleven day periods. The results were darkly hilarious and not at all shocking. Ronson does not stop there.
This is highly recommended for anyone interested in the mental health or medical field, journalistic writing, and those with a twisted sense of humor – and I score on all of those counts! Be forewarned that this book is not for the “faint of heart” or those wanting conclusive endings. I give this book a 4.5 stars. I completely enjoyed this informing, intelligent, and darkly funny read....more