Tag Archives: Books

American Gods- Neil Gaiman

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“So, none of this is happening. Such things could not occur in this day and age. Never a word of it is literally true, although it all happened, and the next thing that happened, happened like this…”

I had picked up this book ages ago and put it down shortly after finishing the first chapter. I wasn’t in the right mindset and I, surprisingly, hadn’t met anyone who had read it. Fast forward to about a month ago and everyone I talk to has read it and loved it! So, after finishing Into the Wild I went in the completely opposite direction and picked up the epic fantasy that is American Gods.

Let me start out by saying, I liked it. I really did. Do I think the middle lagged a little bit? Yes. All in all though it was a great story and the characters in it were endearing; well, most of them anyway. I felt like Gaiman had too many stories in his head and tried to make them all fit together, come hell or high water (no pun intended).

The story focuses on Shadow Moon a man who is imprisoned for robbing a bank. He’s quiet. He does his time and he is about to be released in to the loving arms of his wife. When the warden calls him in to his office he knows it’s bad news, maybe they’ve decided to keep him in longer and parole was just a huge joke. He’s wrong. The warden informs him that he will be getting out early because his wife was killed in a car accident the night before. So starts the journey. On his way to her funeral Shadow meets a man named Mr. Wednesday who promptly asks Shadow to be his right hand man. After some mead and a bout with a leprechaun Shadow agrees.

After this Shadow meets all kinds of gods, demi-gods, spooks, and haunts. None of which seems to phase him in the slightest. Not even when one of them bets him his life at a game of checkers. Nope. All of this seems perfectly normal to good ol’ Shadow. The only “normal” part of the book, and Shadow’s life it seems, is when his hiding out in a town called Lakeside in Wisconsin. He lives in a decent apartment, meets his neighbors, befriends the old guy whom everyone knows, and even gets in good with the local police. That’s when he hears about the child disappearances. Not so normal now.

It’s hard to describe what happens next. A lot happens. No, I mean a lot happens and doesn’t happen. When I finally made it to the end, which I loved (no spoilers here), I thought he could’ve achieved the same effect in a short story or a couple of short stories. Enter Fragile Things. It’s a short story collection by Neil Gaiman and there are a few in there about Mr. Wednesday and the whole AG crew. Maybe I will get more answers in there.

All in all I did enjoy it. A little long and a little sweeping in my opinion but I did enjoy being with Mr. Wednesday and his band of gods. I’m interested to see how they’ll pull this off as a mini-series next year. I still refuse to watch The Magician’s.

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Clariel- Garth Nix

Clariel

Unexamined feelings lead to all kinds of trouble.

I picked up the Abhorsen Trilogy back when I was in middle school. I remember loving it! I also remember thinking “this is a young adult novel?” when it described the gentle curve of a male statues, ahem, well you know. I ended up losing the first book in the series Sabriel probably in a move. It wasn’t until I was in college, and I remember this part quite clearly, that I found the trilogy for sale on amazon. I was sitting quietly, probably having a glass of wine, in our little studio apartment on Michigan Ave. when all of the sudden amazon recommended I read the Abhorsen Trilogy. I squealed with joy remembering a book a long ago lost and was desperate to find again; because for the life of me I couldn’t remember the name of the damn thing.

I devoured the trilogy and loved every second of it. I have vivid memories of staying up late and reading and hanging on every word. Fast forward to a couple months back when I was killing time wondering around over at goodreads.com and they recommended that I check out this new novel by Garth Nix. When I found out it was part of the Abhorsen world I jumped at it. I put it on the back burner for a while to read a few other things that I had higher up in my queue.

I want to start out by saying that I ultimately did enjoy this book. Ok. I should say I enjoyed the last half of the book. The beginning was very slow and when I finally was hooked on the book I was already 75% of the way through. I read another review where they said it read like a first draft not a final product; and I would agree that the first part did read a little like that. There wasn’t a lot of substance behind the words. I know he was trying to set up certain things to get you to the finale but I think the story of Clariel could’ve been told as a short story. By the time I was deep in to the story it was over and I wanted more.

***SPOILER ALERT***

 

 

One of the main reasons I ended up enjoying the end of the book was the return, or introduction rather, of a beloved character from the trilogy. A little cat that you grow to love even though he may be one of the darkest creatures known to Free Magic. That’s right, Mogget is back, or introduced, or whatever. He is still the same old Mogget that we know and love from the trilogy and I wish he had more of a leading role in this story.

Pick up this book if you loved the trilogy as much as I did, but don’t go in to it thinking it’s going to hold a candle to the original series. When you’re finished you are going to want to read the trilogy again. Something I may do, just for the sake of writing a review of it since it was well before this adventure started that I read them. I also hear that Mr. Nix is coming out with a new book this fall called  Golden Hand which is set after the events if the Abhorsen trilogy end. I never read his book of short stories that deal with the Abhorsens so I’ll probably do that before the new book comes out.

Now what to read? I may try and tackle Stephen King’s 11.22.63, I finished the mini-series last week and I’m praying that the book gives me more answers to the burning questions I have. But at 842 pages it may take me awhile to finish.

Stay tuned, friends.


Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children- Ransom Riggs

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“She had maintained her strength in the face of all this for so long that we had come to take it for granted, but she wasn’t bulletproof. She might’ve been peculiar, but she was also human.”

I finished the second novel in the Peculiar Children series last night with a marvelous glass of wine. I absolutely devoured the first installment and I was excited to get back to the world of the Peculiar’s. I have had this problem before with second novels though. Namely with the second book in the Abhorsen Trilogy: Lirael. It was a book that didn’t really go anywhere but it was crucial to the plot of the story. A story that continued in the next book.

I don’t want to say that the author had  signed a three book deal so that is what they did. I sometimes think that putting all of that content in to one book would just be too daunting. As is the case with the second Peculiar book. It took a little while for it to get rolling, but when it did, oh when it did. The ending had me in chills. The story continues with the children trying to find a solution for Miss Peregrine and their adventures area nothing short of fascinating.

I hope the last book in the series delivers all of the punches that I’m wishing it does. This series reminds me that sometimes you need a good fantasy novel to remind you that there is wonder in everything.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- Ransom Riggs

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“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

I received this trilogy for Christmas this year and was not disappointed. I have seen this series floating around in the book-iverse for quite some time and was always interested in picking it up. But I never quite knew what it was. Is it a young adult novel? Is it just straight up fantasy? What is it? Tell me! It is billed as a young adult novel, though I found some very adult themes running through out and if I had read this as a teenager or “young adult” I would definitely have had nightmares. It does feel somewhere in between Harry Potter and The Magician’s.

The premise is simple enough to follow; a boy, Jacob, witnesses his grandfather’s murder by some monster that only he can see. Then he sends himself on an adventure to find the home that his grandfather lived in before he left for WWII. Jacob remembers his grandfather’s fantastical story of a girl who could levitate, a boy living with bees inside of him, an invisible boy. There were even pictures to accompany his grandfather’s “tall tales”, pictures that are peppered through out the book to accompany the tale that you are reading. Which I find amazing! It lends just a little more to the the fantastical nature of the book, it also makes you feel you may be reading someone’s diary. The pictures are all real, some slightly doctored, which Mr. Riggs makes mention of at the back of each book.

<<slight spoilers ahead>>

 

You meet some fantastic characters along the way, not only the invisible boy and the girl who can levitate. There is also a girl called Emma, whom you find out had a rather romantic relationship with Jacob’s grandfather. This is where things get a little weird for me. Emma and Jacob strike up a rather intimate relationship, one that Riggs does comment on as being strange for Jacob. No mention on what Emma feels as of yet. I’m interested to see where Riggs goes with this sordid relationship. I also  have found myself scared for the safety of every character; it feels very Game of Thrones, he may off one at any minute. Which makes me sad because in the span of 300 pages I have grown to love all of the characters; including Jacob’s dad, who I hope makes a triumphant return in the sequel.

This book is for anyone who wants to get lost in a magical world during these last dark days of winter. It’s a quick read because you can’t put it down. You’re racing against time with Jacob to find out the truth behind his grandfather’s last words and to put the pieces together of his own life as he hurtles toward manhood.

Some of the plot twists I saw coming but that doesn’t  mean I enjoyed it any less. I’m excited to get back to Miss Peregrine’s world and fit some more pieces of the puzzle together.

So, let’s go find some loops.


Jane Eyre- Charlotte Brontë (and some thoughts about technology)

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I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.

Alright, confession time. For those of you who are friends with my on Facebook or have seen me at work you already know. A little over a week ago I was having a glass of wine after work. Then I had another glass of wine. Then I decided to get on Amazon. Two days later (Praise Amazon Prime) I had a kindle. I know…I know. I have received a lot of backlash from my fellow literary minded friends. I also chastised myself quite a bit. Years ago my mother bought me a Kindle because I was hauling The Autobiography of King Henry VIII: with notes from his fool 2 miles to and from the train in Chicago. This book is 1,000 pages and was a back wrencher. I finished that book in hardcopy, mostly just to say I did it, then moved to the Kindle. I read a few modern books; The Hunger Games, Beaches, etc. Then found “The List” and dove head first in to reading The Hobbit. As I sat on the train looking around at the people reading newspapers and the like I realized that this was sacrilegious. This is not how this book was supposed to be read. I sold my Kindle and never looked back. Flash forward to a week ago and wine. The new version of the Kindle is lightyears ahead of the clunker that I had back in 200(I don’t remember). The screen actually has the look of paper and just feel nice. The tap anywhere to turn the page is also a nice feature. A regular of mine at work said that I would love the dictionary function and that it would be hard for me to read hardcopies again because of it. She was right. If you’re on WIFI it can even translate different languages for you (Where were you when I was laboring over the Greek in The Secret History!). There’s no glare and which will be nice for when we are able to have Porch Time again. So, yes, I like my Kindle. Nay, I love my Kindle. Never fear, friends, I shall continue to read hardcopies, my own library is too large to not. I have also toyed with the idea of subscribing to Kindle Unlimited; think Netflix for Kindle. Anyone out there have it? In fact, anyone out there have thoughts about the Kindle and want to share? Comment away! Now, on to Jane Eyre.

Keeping with the theme of honesty, I saw the movie first. My fiancé was out of town and it was a rainy September night. What better way to watch Jane Eyre? I loved the movie and when I saw it on The List I knew I would probably love the book as well. I loved Wuthering Heights after all, this should be no different. It wasn’t. Eyre was easier to read actually, only towards the end does she start to write in the cadence of people’s accents. Something her sister did right from the get go. The language is beautiful and easy to understand even if you don’t know the correct definition to the words they are speaking, you get the emotion behind them.

As far as characters go…Jane was very likable sometimes annoyingly so. She always seems to do what is right for everyone around her. That’s not to say that she doesn’t look out for herself, above all things she knows the importance of being true to one’s self. Something I, and I’m sure most women, admire in her. Rochester…Oh, Rochester. For me his character swayed like the grass on the moors. One minute I felt as though the love he had for Jane would tear him in two. The next I thought he would strike her and keep her docile and compliant. As I was telling a coworker of mine; you have to keep in mind that this was written at a time when women were supposed to be docile and sit in corners with their sewing. I believe that this is why Rochester cherishes Jane so. She is different than the rest of the ladies that come in contact with him throughout his life. She can sit quietly and stare out a window meditating over her day or she can sit by his side and have the witty repartee that I believe he craves.

In the end Jane Eyre is a book not only about love but about forgiveness and how we, as a community, treat one another. There are many similarities between Eyre and Heights and I can’t help but imagine the sister’s sitting in a parlor together swapping notes and reading each other’s manuscripts.  That is a beautiful thought.


The Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis

Narnia

“Things never happen the same way twice.”

Hello again, friends. After reading Fates and Furies I decided that I needed to get back to the list, at least for a couple books anyway. I decided that I finally needed to tackle The Chronicles, especially with The Magician’s still fresh in my mind. I’m sure we all remember my rants about the similarities between the two and by jove if it gets even worse!

Now, one might ask, “But Emily, how did you know about the similarities between them if you had never read them?” The answer is simple. Back in middle school when I was living in Texas I had the very esteemed opportunity to play young Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. So, I knew the bare bones of it. But now, after tackling all seven I have come to realize that there a similarities not only to Magician’s but to a great many books.

I will not dismiss this series out of hand. I understand the weight they have in the literary world and beyond, but I will say that they weren’t my favorite. I do wish I would’ve read them when I was younger; a phrase I’ve heard from many adults whom I’ve run into while reading the series. Another is how chock full of religion it is. I didn’t see it at first. Yes, in the first book it is hinted at, but it’s not until you get in to the last three that you hear chants of “Aslan forever” or how they blatantly call him a god.

Speaking of “the last three book” there is much debate about in which order you’re supposed to read the books. There is the “Publication order” camp and then there is the “The way he intended it to be read” camp. I went with publication order and I’m happy I did. I felt it had more of a flow and the end of The Last Battle put a nice stopper on the whole series. Even though I was not quite sure where A Horse and his Boy was going or even the real purpose of it.

I did actually enjoy going to Narnia every night. Most of the characters are endearing and you are on their side on every grand adventure. Since every book seems to have the same outline. Narnia is in trouble. Kids are summoned. Kids go on adventure to save Narnia. Narnia is saved. Kids leave. My favorite adventures have to be in Dawn Treader and Silver Chair mostly because I fell in love with Reepicheep (who doesn’t) and Puddleglum. Puddleglum reminded me so much of an Ent from The Lord of the Rings, albeit more fast paced than the slow moving trees.

Though the similarities run deep, they do say that “imitation is the highest form of flattery”, I was completely taken a back when two children pop up into the wood between worlds after putting on magic rings and emerging from a sort of pond. Not unlike, a few young adults who find a button and end up emerging from a fountain in the middle of an abandoned land.

I’m glad I finally read them, it’s been a long time coming. Will I read them again? Probably not. Maybe, just maybe, I will read a few of them to my children some day. I will tell you one thing…I will never look at lamposts the same way again.

Further up and further in.

 


Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger

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You’re lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.

Years back I tried to read Catcher in the Rye. I didn’t finish it. I’m pretty sure I got thirty pages to the end and said “screw it.” Now, I’ve talked to many people about why I probably didn’t like it and the same word always comes up. Angst. I was an angsty teenager, isn’t that what being a teenager is all about? But maybe my brand of angst wasn’t the sort necessary to appreciate Rye.

So, when I picked up Franny and Zooey the other day because I had finished Bird Box and I hadn’t had time to get to the library to pick up a book that I desperately wanted to read; I was nervous. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just pick it up, read a few pages, probably hate it, put it down and then read something else.” That, obviously, didn’t happen. I actually liked it. No, I didn’t like it. I loved it! Shocked the hell out of me too. I wasn’t aware that it isn’t one but two stories that are linked together.

F and tells the story of sister and brother, Franny and Zooey respectively, and the relationship they have with each other and the rest of their family while one is going through a breakdown. Franny, as told in the first story, is at her wits end with college and is trying hard to be “a good girlfriend” to her boyfriend Lane during a weekend visit to his university; but she can’t hold it in any longer. She talks about how she’s quite theatre and wants to leave the English department because everyone is all about ego and seems so fake.

“I know this much, is all,” Franny said. “If you’re a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you’re supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you’re talking about don’t leave a single, solitary thing beautiful.”

She goes on to tell Lane about a book she picked up at the library about a pilgrim in Russia who wants to learn to pray without ceasing and how, when he finally learns how he learn The Jesus Prayer and says it over and over until it is emblazoned upon his heart and it becomes one with his heart beat. That is the key to praying without ceasing.

In Zooey you see that Franny is in full-blown breakdown and is trying to hold on to anything that may give her sanity, even if that thing is The Jesus Prayer. You also see the relationship Zooey and Franny Glass have with their mother, Bessie. She is a riot of a woman and I could actually hear my grandmother’s voice while I was reading. Bessie doesn’t know what to do with Franny but knows that Zooey is the key. I also felt that the relationship between Franny and Zooey is exactly what she needs to be searching for while she’s in that state. It is a beautiful relationship that is just oozing with familial love.

Being a “retired” actor myself the bits at the ends where he is talking to her about why she got out of the theatre and how she’s got it all wrong really struck a cord with me.

Somewhere along the line—in one damn incarnation or another, if you like–you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You’re stuck with it now. You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.

To me, this book is for anyone who is looking for something bigger. Anyone who needs someone to tell them that they shouldn’t give up on their “hankerings”, and for anyone who just needs a hand to hold while they climb out of the well that they have dug for themselves.