Thursday, September 29, 2016

September Currently . . .

Here’s what I’ve been up to in September.

I’m Currently . . .

 Reading: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

Watching: Book-to-movie adaptations. I’m not a big movie fan, but I have HBO right now, so I should probably use it, right? I’m also watching all the horrible reality shows: Survivor, Hell’s Kitchen, Project Runway, Worst Cooks In America, 90 Day FiancĂ© . . .

Stalking: Are you guys following Boats Against the Current? If you’re not, you should be. Laura writes interesting discussions and has a very pretty blog.

Looking forward to: October. It’s my favorite month. I love Halloween, and cold weather, and crunchy leaves, and bonfires, and ghost stories, and the lull before the Christmas storm. Basically, I’m one of those annoying people on social media who obsesses over all the fall things.

Exercising: Are you sick of hearing about Couch to 5K yet? I’m doing the training slower than I’m supposed to, but it’s actually working! I’ve always been a terrible runner (just ask my high school gym teachers), so I’m impressed that I’m learning how to run a 5K.

Enjoying: Hiking in the mountains. It makes me happy to get away from technology for a weekend.

Photographing: I can’t go hiking without dragging the camera along.

Eating: Caramel apples and Nutella strawberries. If there’s a way to make healthy food unhealthy, I can find it.

Blogging: I’m going to be traveling at the end of this year, so I’m trying to blog ahead. If you have any recommendations for tags, memes, or discussion topics, I badly need them. I’m going to be on a blogging hiatus for most of November, but I don’t want the blog to be *crickets, crickets.* I’m blogging as fast as I can to get ahead.

Laughing at: Twitter. I tweeted about my patronus and was promptly followed by a company that makes nacho cheese. *Insert lame nacho cheese joke here.*

What have you been doing in September?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Through The Woods – Emily Carroll

Through The Woods – Emily Carroll

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss. 
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll. 
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there . . .

Review: This book consists of five spooky short stories that take place in the woods. I’ve never read a graphic short story collection before, and I’m fairly new to sequential art books, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.” – Through the Woods

I am completely in love with the art. I’ll have to check out Emily Carroll’s other work because it’s beautiful. Admittedly, I haven’t read many graphic novels, but this is my favorite art style I’ve come across so far. I especially like that the author/illustrator uses slightly different colors for each story. Some of them are bright and bold with big blocks of color. Others are more subtle and realistic.

The stories remind me of campfire tales. They’re odd, but they don’t have a lot of depth or explanation. In most of the stories, the lack of depth and explanation didn’t bother me, but one of the stories is a bit confusing because the ending isn’t explained very well.

My favorite story in the collection is “Our Neighbor’s House.” It’s about three sisters who are left on their own until a mysterious man in a big hat shows up. I like the bold colors, and I wasn’t expecting that ending.

In “A Lady’s Hands are Cold,” a girl is forced into a marriage she doesn’t want. At night, in her new house, she hears strange music and sets out to find where it’s coming from. This story probably has the weirdest love-triangle ever.

I might have missed something about “His Face All Red.” (Possibly because I was reading this book while working, as responsible adults do. In my defense, it’s an entertaining book.) This story is about a man who kills his brother. I thought the story ended suddenly, and I didn’t totally understand the ending.

“My Friend Janna” features two women who are running a psychic scam, but one of them might not be faking her psychic abilities. This story isn’t as gripping as the first two, but I like the colors and the spooky illustrations.

I had no idea where “The Nesting Place” was going when I started it. It’s about a young girl who is staying with her brother and his wife after the death of her mother. The brother’s wife may not be who she seems. The story has a lot of suspense, but the ending was kind of “meh” for me. I think I was expecting something crazier.

I was on the fence about reading this book, but I’m very glad I did. It’s worth reading for the gorgeous art alone. The words are just the creepy icing on top.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall To-Be-Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books on your fall TBR. A few weeks ago, I asked everyone on my blog and social media what I should read and review this fall. Here’s what you chose for me.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift–back into Black London.  
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.  
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.  
Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Every weekend, in basements and parking lots across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded for as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter and dark, anarchic genius. And it's only the beginning of his plans for revenge on a world where cancer support groups have the corner on human warmth.

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

Campbell's most impressive gift was his ability to take a contemporary situation, such as the murder and funeral of President John F. Kennedy, and help us understand its impact in the context of ancient mythology. Herein lies the power of The Power of Myth, showing how humans are apt to create and live out the themes of mythology.

IT by Stephen King

To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their hometown: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.  
It was the children who saw—and felt—what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .  
The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.  
Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.  
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.  
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. 
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of color. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet's obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book's final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Carolyn's not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts. 
After all, she was a normal American herself once.  
That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father. 
In the years since then, Carolyn hasn't had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient customs. They've studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God. 
Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation. 
As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own. 
But Carolyn has accounted for this. 
And Carolyn has a plan. 
The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she's forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full-time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.  
Can she handle the taunts of "towel head," the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school?

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Leaving Fishers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Dorry Stevens, new to town, is unbearably lonely until she is befriended by Angela and her friends, members of a religious group called Fishers of Men. Dorry begins attending Fishers activities with them, and is baptized. She is expected to obey unquestioningly and to recruit. Dorry grows troubled as to whether the Fishers speak for God or themselves. When she eventually breaks with them, she is cut off cold, and fears that she will be damned. Through help, she begins to think for herself and tries to build new relationships with God and other people.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

Have you read any of these? What’s on your fall reading list?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: Guys Read: Funny Business – Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Funny Business – Jon Scieszka

Funny Business is based around the theme of—what else?—humor, and if you’re familiar with Jon and Guys Read, you already know what you’re in store for: ten hilarious stories from some of the funniest writers around. Before you’re through, you’ll meet a teenage mummy; a kid desperate to take a dip in the world’s largest pool of chocolate milk; a homicidal turkey; parents who hand over their son’s room to a biker; the only kid in his middle school who hasn’t turned into a vampire, wizard, or superhero; and more. And the contributor list includes bestselling authors, award winners, and fresh new talent alike: Mac Barnett, Eoin Colfer, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kate DiCamillo (writing with Jon Scieszka), Paul Feig, Jack Gantos, Jeff Kinney, David Lubar, Adam Rex, and David Yoo.

Review: When I was a kid, I was what everybody called a “reluctant reader.” Basically, if you put a book in my hands, I’d do everything in my childish power not to read it. Jon Scieszka’s picture books are some of the first books I remember reading on my own and actually liking. His strange sense of humor worked on rebellious child-me.

I was very interested to see what kind of anthology Scieszka would curate. The Guys Read series is aimed at “reluctant reader” middlegrade boys, and the theme of this particular book is “humor.” Like all anthologies, this one is a mixed bag. A few of the stories are great, a few are terrible, and most are somewhere in between.

“Your brain is doing some great work when it's laughing.” – Guys Read: Funny Business

For me, these are the standout stories:

“Best of Friends” by Mac Barnett is about an annoying kid who tells his classmates that he won a sweepstakes. Suddenly, everyone wants to be his best friend. The characters in this story are all morally gray, so I automatically liked it.

“Artemis Begins” by Eoin Colfer is autobiographical (I think?). Eoin’s younger brother breaks their mother’s acting award, and his older brother goes to great lengths to keep the younger brother out of trouble. It was interesting to learn that many of Eoin’s story ideas come from growing up with rambunctious siblings.

My favorite story is “A Fistful of Feathers” by David Yoo. It’s about a boy whose parents attempt to replace him with a pet turkey. The plot is completely ridiculous, but somehow it’s also compelling. The characters are unique enough that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens to them.

I wasn’t sure if I liked or hated “What? You Think You Got It Rough?” by Christopher Paul Curtis when I finished it. It’s about an abusive grandfather who tells his grandson a disgusting story about hotdog nipples. The ending is too sappy for me, but the story is well-written and gross, so it somehow stuck in my mind.

It’s hard for me to critique this anthology because I’m about as far from the target audience as you can get. For me, none of these stories are funny. They’re creative, entertaining, and totally disgusting, but I don’t remember laughing while reading. I can see how this book would appeal to young boys, though, so if you have a young reluctant reader, you might want to try this anthology.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Sunday Post #66

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Guys Read: Funny Business by Jon Scieszka.
  • On Tuesday I show you which books you guys picked for me to read this fall.
  • On Wednesday I review Through the Woods by Emily Carroll.
  • On Thursday I tell you what I’ve been doing in September.

In My Reading Life

Last week, I finished Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. Then I read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and The Gigantic Beard that was Evil by Stephen Collins. Right now, I’m reading The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. Taking pictures.
  2. I’m caught up on book reviews.
  3. I’ve almost finished my final big assignment of graduate school.
  4. All the fall TV shows are starting.
  5. Hiking with my over-enthusiastic idiot dogs.

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The “One Of Every Flavor” Book Haul

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently.

This haul has a little bit of everything. Poetry, kids’ books, graphic novels, modern classics, novels. I guess there’s a genre for everybody in this batch.

Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

Every weekend, in basements and parking lots across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded for as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter and dark, anarchic genius. And it's only the beginning of his plans for revenge on a world where cancer support groups have the corner on human warmth.

The Vegetarian – Han Kang

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

Cold City – Cathy McSporran

Two weeks after his death, Susan McPherson sees her father on the street in Glasgow. Not long after, she takes an overdose and is committed to a psychiatric institution. There, she is given a cocktail of drugs and soon finds herself moving between the reality of hospital and an alternate city, permanently covered in snow and ice. In her new world, her gay brother, Jamie, is now married to Claire. The country is dominated by militant pagan groups and Christian fundamentalism is on the rise, led by the charismatic preacher, McLean. Susan is befriended by Raj, a mysterious man who creates paintings of wolves and Norse legends. As Susan is drawn into the struggles and relationships of this new parallel world, her grip on the "first world" loosens further. Can she resolve the crises in the ice-bound city in order to return to reality?

Through The Woods – Emily Carroll

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss. 
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll. 
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there . . .

The One And Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all. 
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line. 
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Native Guard: Poems – Natasha Trethewey

Growing up in the Deep South, Natasha Trethewey was never told that in her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, black soldiers had played a pivotal role in the Civil War. Off the coast, on Ship Island, stood a fort that had once been a Union prison housing Confederate captives. Protecting the fort was the second regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards—one of the Union's first official black units. Trethewey's new book of poems pays homage to the soldiers who served and whose voices have echoed through her own life.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nonfiction Tag

This tag was created by Wendy @ Falconer’s Library. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t read much nonfiction (is it too early for 2017 reading resolutions?), but I thought I’d give this tag a try.

You guys are about to get a small glimpse at my bizarre interests. I’m terrible at math (maybe I should buy a math book), but I’d guess that 85% of the nonfiction on my shelves is about religious extremism, 10% is writing reference books, 4% somehow involves dogs, and 1% is other random stuff. Basically, I read a lot about cults, dogs, and grammar.

Nonfiction Tag

1. A book well outside your base of knowledge?

I have 2 philosophy books on my shelf, but I’ve never been interested in philosophy. One is Being and Time by Martin Heidegger. The other is The Portable Nietzsche. I read both of them and remember pretty much nothing about them.

2. A book that you refer to often?

I refer to my literature and editing books all the time. The ones that come off my shelf most often are The Chicago Manual of Style, The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, and A Handbook to Literature. Don’t those all sound amazing? I’m sure you’re adding them to your TBR lists right now . . .

My shelf.

3. A book you were assigned to read and found fascinating?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It was assigned reading for 9th grade English, and I loved it. I need to track down a copy and reread it. Brutal murders are pretty fascinating. (Unless you’re the one being murdered, I guess.)

4. A book that would start a great book club discussion?

I haven’t been in a book club since I was 12, and our book discussions weren’t exactly deep. Maybe Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer would make a good book club pick? It’s about the history of the Mormon religion and modern-day Mormon Fundamentalism. Actually, that might not be a good book club pick. Is anyone interested in Mormons besides me? My book club might be a bit odd.

5. A book you could (or do) reread annually?

This might be cheating because I only read this book for the first time a few weeks ago, but I’m going to say Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson. It’s hilarious and made me feel better about the horrible things in my life. Also, raccoons.

6. An essay or poetry collection?

Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers by Frank X Walker is a book of poetry about the assassination of Medgar Evers. If you’re new to poetry, this is a great place to start. The poems are easy to understand and educational.

7. Graphic novel (or other unusual format)?

I don’t read enough sequential art books, but one of my favorites is Blankets by Craig Thompson. It’s a graphic memoir about religion, abuse, and angsty teenage love.

8. A book someone recommended to you?

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. This book has been recommended to me by so many people. But, I haven’t read it. It’s been sitting on my TBR shelf for months. Supposedly, it’ll help deepen my understanding of literature. Unfortunately, reading YA books is much more appealing than deepening my understanding of anything. I swear I’ll read The Power of Myth someday.

9. A book about books, writing, or writers?

My favorite book about writing is Stephen King’s On Writing. If you want to write anything, you need to read this first. It should be required reading for all wannabe writers. King teaches you the basics of writing in a way that doesn’t make you want to jump off the nearest skyscraper. I’ve read a lot of writing reference books, and almost all of them are so boring you’ll want to gouge out your eyes so you'll have an excuse to stop reading.

10. A book that made you laugh out loud or cry actual tears?

Can I use Furiously Happy again? That book made me laugh out loud. A book has never made me cry, but I got really sad while reading My Life in Orange by Tim Guest. The author grew up in various communes around the world. Reading about child neglect is like being kicked in the crotch and then set on fire. It’s not the most pleasant thing in the world.

What’s your favorite nonfiction book?