I’m belatedly finshing up Janssen’s recommendation for June, which was These is My Words and so far, I’m really enjoying it. I took a small break to hit the library and stocked up on a few books for this week. I have about three more weeks of Summer Break before I have to start easing back into school-mode. I’m going to read as much as I can during the next three weeks.
I checked out Soulless by Gail Carriger and it was really good. It’s a genre called steampunk, which I’ve heard of but was not familiar with. Apparently that’s a sub-genre of sci-fi with fantasy elements usually set in 19th century/Victorian era (thank you, wikipedia). It’s not at all the type of book I’d normally pick up (not necessarily the genre, but that era is not one I’m particularly in to – shame on me, I know), but I’m glad I did. It was fascinating and I couldn’t put it down. I don’t know how to explain the story but it’s about a woman who has no soul and it involves vampires and werewolves. Hmm, that really isn’t helping, is it? Ok, I’m going to let Publisher’s Weekly explain it better:
Starred Review. Carriger debuts brilliantly with a blend of Victorian romance, screwball comedy of manners and alternate history. Prickly, stubborn 25-year-old bluestocking Alexia Tarabotti is patently unmarriageable, and not just because she’s large-nosed and swarthy. She’s also soulless, an oddity and a secret even in a 19th-century London that mostly accepts and integrates werewolf packs, vampire hives and ghosts. The only man who notices her is brash Lord Conall Maccon, a Scottish Alpha werewolf and government official, and (of course) they dislike each other intensely. After Alexia kills a vampire with her parasol at a party—how vulgar!—she and Conall must work together to solve a supernatural mystery that grows quite steampunkishly gruesome. Well-drawn secondary characters round out the story, most notably Lord Akeldama, Alexia’s outrageous, italic-wielding gay best vampire friend. This intoxicatingly witty parody will appeal to a wide cross-section of romance, fantasy and steampunk fans. (Oct.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Seriously, how can you pass up a review like that? (even as I admit that half of the review didn’t make a lick of sense to me) I thought the characters were interesting and likable, and the fantasy elements involving supernatural creatures didn’t seem so implausible. It’s the first book in a series and there are romance elements as well as the mystery, sci-fi and fantasy components. Overall, it was a really entertaining story and I’m looking forward to reading the next installments. I know what you’re thinking; the vampire/werewolf thing is really overdone right now, but I’m just going to say that if the Twilight werewolves were more like Lord Maccon …well… Team Edward would cease to exist.
I also picked up Stephen King’s latest short story collection called Just After Sunset. I adore his novels and his novellas even more. I’m always pushing his story collections on to people who say they don’t like his books. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption? How can you NOT love that story (and movie…it’s on my top 10 list). I haven’t been happy with his novels since “the accident” but I have high hopes for these short stories.
Let’s see, I also have Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I admit I only got this up because my library didn’t have American Gods. No, I don’t mean it was checked out, they don’t have a copy at all. I find this very strange. Every Neil Gaiman fan I know raves about this book, more than his others, but my library doesn’t have a copy. *sigh* I don’t understand this particular library (even though it’s where I got my start as a 16 year old page, so I will forever be thankful for the humble beginnings of my librarianship). OK so my real beef with Gaiman is that I don’t “get” him. Yes, Coraline was terrific, odd and weird, but terrific, but The Graveyard Book? I just….didn’t understand it. Sometimes I think that whole British thing is lost on me. Anyway, I have high hopes for Stardust and that I’ll be reading American Gods as soon as my library can get me a copy. I used to follow NeilHimself on twitter, but Heavens to Betsy, that man tweets a little too much.
Another book I got today is PostMortem the first Kay Scarpetta – Patricia Cornwell book. My friend, JenTastic recommended them and I’m going to give this here mystery genre a looksee.
I have some good reads ahead of me…hope you do too. I know I have another five weeks to wait, but I’m anxiously awaiting Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It will be like Harry Potter release day all over. I will not answer my phone, facebook, blog, or tweet (ok, maybe I’ll still tweet) while I’m devouring that book. But more on that later. If you have not started reading Hunger Games yet, what are you waiting for?
ok so Janssen is the winner I’ll be reading These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner sometime in the next two weeks. Maybe I’ll make it to the library in NC while I’m still here, if JenTastic doesn’t unleash the closet trolls on me at night.
If I didn’t pick your selection this month it’s because you didn’t make a suggestion. Have no fear, you can try again in July.
In an effort to get move people involved in my book discussions (and reading my blog) I’m borrowing an idea from Janssen at Everyday Reading (whom I don’t really know…I just think I do because I read her blog all the time and then I read this too because I am a curious person.) She has another blog that she writes with her mother and sister but it’s a finance/thrifty themed one.
Anyway, each month I’m going to take suggestions on what I should read for that month. I’ll choose a random comment and if I haven’t already read the book, that’s the one I’ll pick. If I have read it, I’ll pick another one. I’ll read the book and report back to the Interwebs what I thought about it. When you make your suggestion, please leave your email or blog so that I can contact you if I have to discuss your suggestion.
The titles can be for children or adults, picture book or chapter book, classics, fluff, mystery, whatever you’d like. I will say that I’d prefer not to read too much technical nonfiction, so please make that consideration. I will say that if you make a good enough case for your book, I will give it a try.
Here’s Janssen’s original post, the one that inspired this reading movement. I promise not to steal all her ideas (Even though I’ve already used two of them on my blog. I did ask permission to borrow this one!)
It’s probably not the best time to mention that I’ll be out of town most of June, but I’ll do my best to read the selection. I’m helping my friend Jen from JenTastic move from one base to another while her husband is still deployed in Iraq. She’s moving halfway across the country with just her three kids, it’s the least I could do. Plus she’s great company. I just wish she’d finish reading The Hunger Games so we can discuss it.
To my few loyal readers (that’s you Val, Jen, Lillian, Kim and the person in China who keeps visiting my blog) it’s time for you to make your suggestions!
P.S. This is totally not book or reading related but GOOOO CELTICS!!! NBA Finals 2010 here we come!
I like to read. A lot. I have a book “in progress” at any moment. I even have different books stashed in all areas of my house in case I happen to have a free moment, at which point, I’ll pick up that book and start reading. I even have a book in my car for times when I’m waiting for people or stuck at trains. I can’t help it, this has always been my habit. Right now, I’ve just finished a few terrific ones.
I say this all the time, even though I’m a school librarian, I try not to review books (unless I find them terribly horrible and even then, I try to be polite about it.) I don’t want to push a student (or anyone) away from a book just because I don’t like it, or think it’s subpar. Think about it, how else are you supposed to be able to distinguish between poor, ok, good and excellent literature if you aren’t exposed to all kinds? I read my share of books that are OK and that’s fine with me. Each book serves a purpose and I’m just as thankful for light, entertaining, mindless fun books, and the intense, suspenseful, life-changing books as I am for the nostalgic, old friend, comfortable couch like books.
Having said that….here are some recent books that I have found to be terrific and dare I say spectacular:
After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick. I love this author. I love all of his books. I love that he used to be a middle school teacher. Here’s a bit of history about the author. The story goes (I heard him give this speech, so I know it’s accurate) that he had a student who was going through a rough time at home. Her brother had just been diagnosed with cancer. He asked the student’s mother if he could recommend some books for her to read, to help her cope with what was happening, but he couldn’t find any books that would help this particular student. Sooo, he wrote one for her. How amazing is that? That book was called Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie. It was funny, moving, emotional and pretty incredible. He’s written a few more since then and I’ve enjoyed them all. In February, his latest book, a follow up to Drums, was released and it’s called After Ever After. I laughed out loud at parts, cried at others and found it very satisfying overall. I know I’m be vague about the actual story, but I don’t want to give anything away. Go to your local library, check it out, give it a read, and let me know what you think.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I’m not sure I’m able to speak coherently about this book yet. It was so spectacular that I’m still recovering from the read. It’s been on my “List” for a while because it’s been the rave of middle school and high school librarians for about two years, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. This year it’s one of the 20 books nominated for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award for grades 4-8. My school participates in this award, and it’s about this time of year that I start reading the nominees and figuring out which ones are appropriate for my 4/5th graders. (Two years ago The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan won….incredible book…another special treat.)
While The Hunger Games is not quite appropriate for my students, for anyone older than 13 or 14 I say go for it! (side note: this is a perfect book for a parent to read with a teenager…lots of deep discussion material here and I promise you’ll find it exciting, fascinating and thought provoking). It’s about the US in the not so distant future, which has become a dystopian society divided into 12 districts. Districts vary in jobs, wealth, resources and life is not pleasant. In an effort to control and oppress the citizens, the Capitol hosts the annual Hunger Games where 2 tributes from each district (one boy and one girl from 12-18) are chosen lottery style and dumped into an arena competing to become the last one standing. It’s brutal, intense, ridiculously addictive (I stayed up all night to finish reading and then I finally took a breath) and a fascinating story. I’m so glad I finally read it, annoyed it took me so long and really want to share it with others. The characters are well-developed, rounded, unpredictable and very believable. Highly recommended.
Books I’m reading right now:
Heat Wave by Richard Castle — I’m a big fan of the TV show and I just borrowed the book from a coworker.
To Kill a Mockingbird – This is my “car read” right now – loaded on my ipod
Books I’m looking forward to reading soon:
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris — out in early May
The Gregor series (by Suzanne Collins)
I’ve been a reading nut for the past few weeks, pretty much to the detriment of everything else that wasn’t work or required household jobs (like making dinner). Last September, HBO started airing True Blood, which is based on a series of books about a telepathic waitress who gets involved in some mysteries involving vampires and other supernatural creatures. Does that not sound like great TV or what? The TV series is highly enjoyable and right in tune with HBO’s other great shows like Rome (sigh. I miss you, Lucius Vorenas and your equally intense friend Titus Pullo).
Back to True Blood…it’s bright, sassy, and full of excess. In typical HBO fashion it’s excessive everything…violence, sex, humor, over the top characters. Someone summed up the show in three words. Vampires and hillbillies. It’s a pretty accurate description, but they are likable hillbillies. Some of them. Ok, most of them are pretty stereotypical., but I can’t help but like the show, even the vampires. Especially the vampires. Highly ironic considering I spent my entire childhood, teenage years and even some of my early twenties being scared to death of vampires. Really, I’m not kidding. I had a real, tangible fear of them. Damn you Stephen King and your Salem’s Lot. I read that book in high school. Literally. I kept it in my locker and refused to take it home. It scared the bejeezus out of me. I somehow convinced myself that if i only read about vampires during the day when they were locked away in their hidey holes (aka coffins), I would be safe from them. I had nightmares for years about them. Until I read It and then my vampire nightmares were hijacked by a really scary clown hiding in the sewer.
Anyway, the TV show is based on a series of books about a waitress (Sookie Stackhouse) and the vampires who have now gone public. I bought the first four books just after we started watching the show and began reading the first one (Dead Until Dark). I quickly decided that I wanted to watch the entire first season on HBO first before tainting either the books or the show with the influence of the other.
I had a hard time getting into the first book and adapting to the author’s writing style. I’m by no means a book snob. I read everything…good, bad, classics, pulp. Whatever. I give it a try. I was having trouble reconciling the character in the book with the actress playing her on the show because I didn’t like the way the character came across in the beginning of the book series. So I ended up putting the book aside until after the season ended. Then, I got caught up in basketball (Go Cetics!!) and CSI and Grey’s Anatomy. Then it was June and before I knew it, True Blood season 2 was going to begin. I started reading the first book again from the beginning and it was much easier now that I wasn’t doing a direct comparison to the show; the characters were able to live on their own. I flew through the first two books while we were in San Francisco, then watched the entire season and finally just read the last 7 books in the series over the past 3 weeks.
I love the books…they are fun and light and just like really good, filling, addictive candy. The books have become more fantastical as the series progresses. Besides vampires, you’ll meet were-creatures, shape shifters and fairies just to name a few. The book covers are elaborate and over the top… illustrations with just the right hits of sparkle, plus the occasional hovering vampire, flying coffin and gigantic tiger. I’m happy to say that the show is doing the right thing by the books. They’ve changed some details, fleshed out characters and moved some events around, but the overall feel is very good. I especially like that the author, Charlaine Harris, is very involved in the general show, even though she does not do any of the script writing. Did I mention that True Blood has an awesome theme song and opening credits? That song is so good I won’t even fast forward through it. (youtube to it!!)
HBO has also just started marketing a Tru Blood beverage. It’s a blood orange soda that looks exactly like what’s on the show. How fun! In the books/show, the vamps are able to go public because of the development of a synthetic blood substitute, Tru Blood, that allows them to live without human blood. (Of course, not all of them choose to drink it.)
I could write another ten paragraphs about the world’s reaction to the True Blood phenomenon. How some people feel the books and show are making elaborate social commentaries on a myriad of topics encompassing race, religion, homosexuality and poverty just to name a few. Personally, I’m not sure I’d dig that deeply into the show or the books. But that’s just me. It’s pure superficial entertainment on my part.
I can’t believe I wrote an entire post about a vampire book/TV series without even mentioning how good looking most of them are, especially the two main vamps. Do a quick True Blood Google search and you’ll see. You won’t be disappointed. Bill (dark haired) is pretty darn good looking, and Eric (blond Viking vampire)..he’s…well, let’s just use the word luscious. It certainly fits. So sad that I have to wait until next June for season three, but if they stick even a little bit to the 3rd book, it should make for some excellent TV.
Next up on my reading list is our October book club selection: Roast Beef’s Promise. It’s about a son who promises his dying father that he’ll spread his ashes in every state. I sure hope it’s funny.
And on the TV front is Dexter. Another superb cable show also based on a book series…but more on serial killer, forensic blood spatter analysts another time.
Happy Reading! (and watching!)