Oh, David Levithan... Just when I think I couldn't possibly love your books any more than I already do, I fall head over heels for "The Lover's Dictio...moreOh, David Levithan... Just when I think I couldn't possibly love your books any more than I already do, I fall head over heels for "The Lover's Dictionary." It is both brief and brilliant- I wanted it to last forever, and yet it was a perfect little gem just as it was.
"The Lover's Dictionary" is just that- a dictionary of love. Two people's love- the tiny moments that, strung together, make up the story of a relationship. Hilarious moments snug up against truly tragic ones in the inescapable way that they do. The entry for buffoonery (about a drunken episode of subway pole dancing), is followed shortly by the entry for cocksure-- "We walk into a bar, and you're aware of all the eyes on you. We walk into a bar, and I'm aware of all the eyes on you, too. For you, this translates into confidence. But me? All I can feel is doubt."
Levithan's work offers at once an intimate, yet disassociated look at the life and story of his character. As readers, we're privy to some of the most important moments of their relationship, but the format ensures that we never fully grasp the big picture. We see the highlight reel- the same moments you might see in a film trailer. On the other hand, how many of us remember more than the highlight reel of our own relationships? We remember the moments that left an impact, the ones that stood out, whether from ordinary loveliness or from a sense of the extraordinary. Sometimes, even, from the extraordinarily terrible.
This is a book that captures the way that relationships are so often a series of dichotamies, balanced between ephemeral and permanent, awful and delightful. (less)
This was an absolute romp! "The History of the World According to Facebook is in the same vein as "The Complete History of the World, Part 1," which i...moreThis was an absolute romp! "The History of the World According to Facebook is in the same vein as "The Complete History of the World, Part 1," which is to say irreverent, frequently crass, and a pretty good way to waste an hour or two.
Like it says on the tin, Overstreet's parody presents the history of the world as if it appeared on Facebook. Since we're all familiar with it, it's a format that works. Not that it's particularly difficult to understand, of course- my parents aren't FB users at all, and they got a laugh out of it.
The book is split up roughly by era, from the Beginning of Time ("The Singularity is in a relationship with Time and Space, and it's complicated") to the Information Age ("Sir Mix-a-Lot added Big Butts and Not Lying to his interests"). The funniest bits come at the beginning, by and large- once it starts getting into the modern era, the jokes are a little old. We've all heard basically every George W. Bush crack around in the last ten years, after all. My personal favorite happens fairly early on: "God > Eve: Fail."
Don't get into it expecting any sort of actually informative experience, and leave it on the shelf if you're offended by jokes about plagues, death, or tragically stupid people. If that doesn't bother you, then read it somewhere you can share the funny bits with the people around you, 'cause trust me, you'll want to. (less)
I had a vague recollection that "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was on my to-read list, so I picked it up at the library without expecting too much...moreI had a vague recollection that "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was on my to-read list, so I picked it up at the library without expecting too much. I'm thankful that I did, as by the time I'd finished the first few chapters, I was completely in love with it.
"Penumbra" is a quest story for a modern generation. It explores the fascinating intersection between physical and digital knowledge in a way that is nothing less than joyful. In fact, one of the things that I adored most about it was that it is an emphatically cheerful text. This is not a book for people who fear the Singularity, or who bemoan the fact that e-books are ruining the industry and that nothing can possibly compare. This is a book for people who don't care what form their books come in as long as there are books. For twenty-somethings who devoured fantasy novels as a kid and have spent their ENTIRE LIVES waiting to step through a magic door and begin an adventure.
Clay is a graphic designer with an underdeveloped portfolio and no real world skills-- until the day he takes a job at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Like every bookstore of quality, it is full of mysteries, with a decidedly odd collection of customers. Like all of us who grew up on D&D and Tolkien, Harry Potter and Heinlein, Clay is determined to figure out what's Really Going On. To do so, he'll use all the resources at his disposal; after all, every quest needs a wizard, a warrior, and a rogue. He'll find the place where books meet e-books, where brilliance and innovation go hand in hand with tradition.
There's such an incredible sense of wonder, here- a joy that transcends arguments over physical vs. digital. I would offer this to people who love their Kindles, and to people who are afraid to love them. It's all going to be okay; we can meet in the middle. (less)
"Shadow Show" is a collection of stories inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury, written by some of today's greatest authors- Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atw...more"Shadow Show" is a collection of stories inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury, written by some of today's greatest authors- Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and Harlan Ellison, among others. As such, I should have absolutely adored it.
The problem, I think, is that the spirit of Bradbury's stories-what made them quintessentially his- is a lot like pornography; you know it when you see it. I didn't see it in a lot of these stories. An aspect here or there, maybe, but not the perfect blend that he captured time after time. Of course, the authors included in this anthology are not Ray Bradbury, and few could hope to achieve his mastery of story-telling, but I finished most of these stories unsatisfied. They didn't move me the way that Bradbury's stories, especially his short stories, always do.
There are two stories that caught me in the same place, though; stories that were poignant yet chilling, delightful and terrible.
"The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury," by Neil Gaiman- a man who, having treasured the works of Bradbury his entire life, suddenly finds himself forgetting them. What will happen if he forgets? Is it possible that he is the only one holding onto these memories, and that they're about to be lost forever? This was a beautiful story (not that I would have expected anything less from Mr. Gaiman).
"Children of the Bedtime Machine," by Robert McCammon- a hard, lonely woman, who finds her way back to wonder and joy through the stories of Bradbury, and who passes it on. Lovely. Also one of the only stories in the anthology to end on a happy note, which I thought was sort of terrible. It's not as if all of Bradbury's works ended tragically.
All in all, I'd suggest that you skip this and actually read some of Bradbury's books. My personal favorites include From the Dust Returned and The Martian Chronicles, which has my favorite short story, "There Will Come Soft Rains."
A "Little Night Magic" is an enjoyable enough romp, but not something that's likely to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The plot borrows pretty heav...moreA "Little Night Magic" is an enjoyable enough romp, but not something that's likely to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The plot borrows pretty heavily from your standard "paranormal surprise" grab bag: Olivia, a waitress at Crazy Cousin Betty's Waffle House, finds herself the unexpected possessor of newly-released magical power. Like most modern, "accessible" heroines, she's a little chubby, a little awkward, and the best friend, not the pretty girl. Fed up with waitressing (and her one-way crush on the cook), Olivia decides to sell her house & back-pack around Europe.
It's at precisely this moment when an odd, fairy-grandmother-esque woman arrives at the Waffle House & puts the whammy on Liv, courtesy of a stinky gym sock. Liv's long-repressed magical power (what else?) is suddenly alive and kicking. Good thing, too, because Davina doesn't just come bearing smelly socks; she also brings the news that Liv's long-lost father and sister have been murdered by a dark!sorcerer, and Liv's next on the chopping block.
Not to fear, however. Tobias, the crush-worthy cook, just so happens to be an under-cover member of the Magical Protection Squad (seriously, what else?!). Unsurprisingly, this is the main romantic conflict of the plot: he loves her! but he's her bodyguard! but he loves her! etc.
Evil sorcerer Cain (great name choice, btw. Not at all obvious) arrives on the scene, and the whole town starts to do the whacky. The townsfolk begin to fall under the Persuasion of Evil, and more than one person is out for a little magically-induced revenge.
There's a lot of amusing build-up here--not the least of which is Liv's ability to turn inanimate objects into slightly-more animate forest creatures, such as Gibson the ceramic mug-bunny. Pretty soon, though, the predictability level goes from "romance novel" to "alphabet book." None of the plot twists come as a surprise, and there's more than a few illogical moments. Tobias the Magical Bodyguard, for instance, has the power to stop people's hearts with his mind, and yet the villain keeps on being villainous, rather than just keeling over. Obviously they can't defeat the baddie right away, but a moment's discussion as to why it isn't an option might have been a better choice.
The novel's conclusion almost redeemed itself, but fumbled right before the touchdown, I'm sorry to say. The ending was more "Buffy" than "Breaking Dawn," and it was a relief to see that actions have consequences. People who made bad choices, magically-nudged or not, have to live with the fall-out. Not everybody makes it out okay. There's a token sex scene dropped in at the end, though, and it feels just that- token. As in, "the girl got the boy and there's only three pages left, so they better have sex in here somewhere."
A sequel is advertised at the end, and I'm not sure if I'd bother to pick that up. There is one book by this author (in collaboration with Jennifer Crusie and Lani Diane Craig that I would recommend, though, and that's Dogs and Goddesses. Any time she feels like writing a sequel to that, I'm all over it.(less)
Sometimes it's really exciting when a bookclub book isn't something you'd normally pick up for yourself... And sometimes you find yourself slogging th...moreSometimes it's really exciting when a bookclub book isn't something you'd normally pick up for yourself... And sometimes you find yourself slogging through chapter after chapter of drek, wondering when you'll get to the end.
"Girl Imagined by Chance" is the story of an East Coast couple in the middle of an existential crisis. Wanting to escape their meaningless lives and crappy jobs, they move to the backwoods of Idaho. Even this doesn't quite do the trick, however- Andi, the wife, struggles to find her own photographic "voice," and the unnamed husband, our narrator, becomes less and less interested in the digital gallery he manages. Hanging over them is Andi's grandmother, who wants nothing more than to see a great-grandchild before she passes on.
The couple takes the most logical course of action, and invents a child to placate dear old granny- an infant daughter named Genia. They become so involved in the fiction as to baby-proof their house and buy a crib. On the eve of her "birth," they sit in front of the hospital and devour pints of ice cream. Doctored sonograms pulled off the internet and fake snapshots of baby Genia get sent for Great-Grandma's approval.
All of this would make for a pretty interesting novel... if it had been written by someone else. Lance Olsen, however, fills the pages with the narrator's (and, one assumes, his own) second-person pontifications about the ephemeral nature of photography, how it lacks any underlying truth, how every moment is completely contextual and there is no "reality" to speak off... As my second grade teacher would have said, show us, don't tell us, Lance. There are more effective ways to get your point across then having your narrator meditate on it at length.
If there's a story similar to this, that lacks a philosophic treatise on photographic and uses third-party narration, someone point me in that direction. Otherwise, my only recommendation is to avoid "Girl Imagined by Chance."(less)
"Black as Snow" is what the author calls a 'deconstruction' of the Snow White story. Sebastian Black is a surprising re-imagining of the Snow White ch...more"Black as Snow" is what the author calls a 'deconstruction' of the Snow White story. Sebastian Black is a surprising re-imagining of the Snow White character; handsome, charismatic, and telepathic, but also incredibly callous and shallow. Sebastian and his mother, Kitty, lead a religious cult called "Evo-love," which sets Sebastian up as the next evolutionary step, while touting love and environmentalism.
If you're looking for a fairly familiar Snow White structure, you'll find it, but Nolan does a good job of refraining from smacking the reader about the head with it. Sebastian, disillusioned and disheartened with his Messiah-hood, lives his "wicked" mother behind and sets off into the wilds of California for a little R&R. Along the way he meets a host of characters determined to show him the True Meaning of Life; this is a plot line that could be rife with cliche, but again, Nolan navigates it with at least a little skill. Unsurprisingly, my favorite of Sebastian's personal dwarves are Tess and Libby, an elderly lesbian couple running an inn along the highway. They, along with a handful of others, begin to teach Sebastian about Real Love and Personal Responsibility. Other characters include Reed, the Recovering Anorexic who's Learning to Trust Again, and Ramon, the Good-Hearted Hispanic Construction Worker. Evil Mother Kitty, on the other hands, sits in her penthouse and schemes various ways to get Sebastian back into her clutches, most of which revolve around his iPhone (it's an apple, get it?). There's also, of course, a handful of nutjobs who've conspired to bump Sebastian off, using the guise of religion to cover up their personal vendettas (the author's opening of organized religion starts to show here).
Surprisingly, Sebastian's a pretty likable character, and I was interested to see what happened to him in the end. There were only a couple of scenes that threw me, but unfortunately, they were pretty big ones.
Sebastian has several conversations with a character who has Passed On, both as the character is passing, and at the climax of the book, after Sebastian's been shot by aforementioned nutjob. They have a discussion about the nature of death & heaven, and it gets a little heavy-handed.
We all come from god. All living things, even plants and animals have some of God...I think of God like...like the sun that's always giving off warmth, and we're all created out of that warmth, which is life and love. Then most of us go back and rejoin with God, with that huge sun of love, when our souls are ready...That joy you felt is to God what raindrops are to a big thunderhead cloud. Those raindrops wash and soothe and clean and nourish. And eventually, as you learned in school, all raindrops return to the sky...All people are really just raindrops who help others grow. Then when we die, we return to God--that big cloud in the sky.
The rest of Nolan's writing is fairly crisp, but there are a few places, like this, where it gets bogged down in metaphor; it happens largely in places where I suspect the author's true opinions are coming through.
The second really unfortunate episode is the book's one sex scene. My problem isn't that it's explicit (which it is, fair warning). It's that it seems like it was written by a fifteen-year old girl writing her first fanfiction. I don't know who else could write something like this with a straight face:
At first Reed was concerned, knowing she was not quite ready for their union, especially after feeling the size of him; it had been months since she'd been with a man, and she'd never been with anyone as heroically built as Sebastian.
Later in the same scene, she watches "his rippled back and shoulders writhe and twist." Really?
Even so, I recommend that you pick this up (it's $1.99 in the Kindle store) and push through to the end. After all, it is Snow White; the bad guys get their comeuppance, and the good guys live happily every after.(less)
Amusing, but far too much in the style of Douglas Adams to win any points for originality. The plot was clever, but the titular character was absent f...moreAmusing, but far too much in the style of Douglas Adams to win any points for originality. The plot was clever, but the titular character was absent for nearly half of the book. Not missing, not kidnapped, not a mystery, just... off doing something else. A string of cheap shots at the Harry Potter series certainly didn't endear the novel or the author to me. A few interesting ideas; the heavenly bureaucracy, Hell's Call Center, the Attache Cases of Death. I'd pick up the next book in the hopes that the author may have found his own style by then. (less)
Great atmosphere. A little creepy, very tense. Learned some interesting things about Florida during the 40's- didn't realize they were smuggling heroi...moreGreat atmosphere. A little creepy, very tense. Learned some interesting things about Florida during the 40's- didn't realize they were smuggling heroine as early as that! Great interactions between characters.(less)
Such an intriguing premise... with a disappointing lack of follow-through.
A genetic mystery-- The Changes--- mutating or killing most of the populatio...moreSuch an intriguing premise... with a disappointing lack of follow-through.
A genetic mystery-- The Changes--- mutating or killing most of the population of Switchcreek twelve years ago, and suddenly occurring in Ecuador: never resolved or explained.
Paxton, the main character, comes back to town for the funeral of his best friend, which the town calls a suicide. After a number of run-ins with characters of a dubious nature, he becomes convinced she was murdered. After finally discovering her murderer in the last pages of the book, he does... nothing.
If one of these issues had been resolved, I would have been able to swallow the other. As it is, I was just left feeling disappointed. (less)
A great read! Demonic possession is the norm in Del's world; if it happens to you, you accept it, move along, and eventually the demon will, too.
Del...moreA great read! Demonic possession is the norm in Del's world; if it happens to you, you accept it, move along, and eventually the demon will, too.
Del was possessed as a child, but can't move on. He constantly hears noises in his head; thumping, rattling sounds that only he experiences. As if this wasn't bad enough, Del's begun to have violent episodes in his sleep. He's beginning to realize the truth: the demon never left. (less)
**spoiler alert** "Room," by Emma Donoghue, was... complex. Uncomfortable to read. Certainly difficult to describe, in terms of my reaction to it.
"Ro...more**spoiler alert** "Room," by Emma Donoghue, was... complex. Uncomfortable to read. Certainly difficult to describe, in terms of my reaction to it.
"Room" is the story of a five-year old boy, Jack, and his Ma. Room is Jack's whole world, the only one he's ever known; they are prisoners there. Ma was kidnapped several years ago by Old Nick; she remains in his Room. Jack is the eventual result of her captivity.
Emotionally, "Room" catches you off-guard. Delight in Jack's childish observations is tempered by knowledge of their circumstances (something that Jack doesn't grasp). Relief at their eventual escape is brought up against Jack's despair at living the only world he's even known. Getting lost in the story reminds you that this is one story you wouldn't ever want to get lost in.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book was absolutely beautiful. It reminded me in many places of Like Water for Chocolate; a delightful bit of magical realism....more**spoiler alert** This book was absolutely beautiful. It reminded me in many places of Like Water for Chocolate; a delightful bit of magical realism. Rose's first forays into her 'gift' are tragic- no nine-year old is mature enough to absorb her mother's existential crisis. I enjoyed the fact that the author doesn't make light of it; it isn't a fun journey for Rose, it's a massive problem that never goes away. She comes to depend on pre-processed snack food, free of emotional complications.
It's true that Joe's experience gave me pause. However, I feel like the author certainly lead up to it well; Joe's entire existence, as much of it as we see, revolves around being alone. What better way to be alone then to turn himself into an inanimate object?
I've seen complaints that the author doesn't properly explore the motivations of the side characters (Rose's mother, for instance). My answer to that is the fact that Rose is the main character, and for most of the book she's very young. She has a hard enough time dealing with her own problems, much less parsing out why her mother is having an affair.(less)
I loved this! Junior is one of my new favorite young adult characters. He has a crappy life, and he knows it, but he finds a way to deal with humor an...moreI loved this! Junior is one of my new favorite young adult characters. He has a crappy life, and he knows it, but he finds a way to deal with humor and good grace. (less)