Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey

A million years ago (ok, ok, earlier this year) I read The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. The Boy on the Bridge is its prequel. Carey’s new spin on the zombie apocalypse is precipitated by the cortyceps fungus, making an army of mindless undead who know only hunger–that’s the premise established in the first book. Except that the boy, Stephen Greaves, has discovered a second generation of the fungus’s mutation, and these blood-drinkers are sentient… and children–that’s the stage set for this second book. In-fighting and politicking between scientists and the military land Stephen, our autistic genius main character, in a very dangerous mine field, trying to keep his new friends from killing or being killed by his race, humans 1.0. I listened to the audiobook for both volumes, so I should point out that the voice-acting as well as the writing are great.

The main complaint about this book seems to be that it isn’t as thrilling as its predecessor, and I will agree; but I’d argue that this sets out to be a different kind of book. Carey’s scope in Girl is macro, where we feel the weight of the fate of the world. In Boy, already knowing the fate of the world, the scope becomes micro: for this novel, the whole world is the 10-person crew on the bus, which expands to include the zombie children once Stephen learns of their existence (and narrows as characters are killed). The writing is certainly up to snuff. Again Carey brings us beautiful and insightful language. Who else comes up with her cropped white hair like exhaled smoke. Terrific stuff.

This book got a lot of people buzzing. NPR said that “Carey uses this larger crew and the slightly earlier timeline to explore the anxiety and desperation of living on the precipice of a breakdown.” The Verge compares Stephen to the main character of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, another book with an autistic boy as the main character, which isn’t an unfair comparison, if a bit limiting. As readers here, we get to experience all of Stephen’s emotional distress, anxiety, fear, and love from the inside, as well as the way he is treated and thought of by other characters.

The Verge complains that “From the beginning…its character dynamic is so strikingly similar…Once again, there’s an underage genius who’s underestimated by his travel companions, except for the nurturing mother-figure.” While it’s certainly true that Carey has created a formula that works and used it twice, he himself (in the narrative) states “all journeys are the same journey,” and it was only a few books ago that we heard Ann Patchett say the same, “just about any decent writer you can think of can be boiled down to one story. The trick, then, is to learn not to fight it, and to thrive within that thing you know deeply and care about most of all.”

Greaves goes about the rest of his waking up ritual, in spite of the fact that he hasn’t been asleep. It’s not just to forestall questions. He needs to do it because each day has a shape, and the waking up ritual is one of its lode-bearing components.

“Don’t be scared,” he slur. “It’s okay, it’s okay.” But they’re not. and it isn’t.

He wants to find who did this and teach them the going rate for eyes and teeth.

His hands are shaking. There is no sequence here. None of the things he is doing are on the long, long list of things he has done before.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

October is zooming! How is it half over already??? Are you ready for nanowrimo.org???
Much Love,
Jobe

Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett (a Byliner book)

ann-patchett-the-getaway-carThe Getaway Car by Ann Patchett fit the primary criteria for the kind of book I was looking for: very short & filled with writing advice. I downloaded the Kindle book at the airport between flights. This mini-memoir, which is a dainty 45 pages, was the perfect book to finish out the tail end of my airport travel. I already knew I liked Patchett from reading Bel Canto, and I was delighted to find there was an easy source for her compiled writing advice.

Goodreads does this cool thing where it links to your Kindle and gives you the option to upload and share your highlights, so here are mine:

  • The story is in us, and all we have to do is sit there and write it down. But it’s right about there, the part where we sit, that things fall apart… If a person has never given writing a try, he or she assumes that a brilliant idea is hard to come by… Writing the ideas down, it turns out, is the real trick.
  • Living a life is not the same as writing a book… Maybe everyone does have a novel in them, perhaps even a great one. I don’t believe it, but for the purposes of this argument, let’s say it’s so. Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.
  • What begins as something like a dream will in fact stay a dream forever unless you have the tools and the discipline to bring it out.
  • Art stands on the shoulders of craft.
  • Playing the cello, we’re more likely to realize that the pleasure is the practice, the ability to create this beautiful sound—not to do it as well as Yo-Yo Ma, but still, to touch the hem of the gown that is art itself.
  • Writing must not be compartmentalized. You don’t step out of the stream of your life to do your work. Work was the life.
  • I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot. But I can’t teach you how to have something to say. I would not begin to know how to teach another person how to have character, which was what Grace Paley did.
  • What influences us in literature comes less from what we love and more from what we happen to pick up in moments when we are especially open.
  • An essential element of being a writer is learning whom to listen to and whom to ignore where your work is concerned.
  • I had thought I was a writer when I was a student, but would I still be a writer now that I was also a waitress? It was a test of love: How long would I stick around once things were no longer going my way?
  • I made a decision on the trip up: I was going to put writing first. I should have done this earlier, but there were always too many other things going on.
  • I didn’t know exactly where writing fell in this inventory. I was sure it wasn’t at the bottom of the list, but I also knew it was never safely at the top.
  • The part of my brain that makes art and the part that judges that art had to be separated. While I was writing, I was not allowed to judge. That was the law.
  • (If you want to study the master of the well-constructed chapter—and plot and flat-out gorgeous writing—read Raymond Chandler. The Long Goodbye is my favorite.)
  • Even if I don’t believe in writer’s block, I certainly believe in procrastination. Writing can be frustrating and demoralizing, and so it’s only natural that we try to put it off. But don’t give “putting it off” a magic label. Writer’s block is something out of our control, like a blocked kidney—we are not responsible. We are, however, entirely responsible for procrastination, and in the best of all possible worlds, we should also be responsible for being honest with ourselves about what is really going on.
  • The more we are willing to separate from distraction and step into the open arms of boredom, the more writing will get on the page.
  • Pick an amount of time to sit at your desk every day. Start with twenty minutes, say, and work up as quickly as possible to as much time as you can spare. Do you really want to write? Sit for two hours a day. During that time, you don’t have to write, but you must stay at your desk without distraction: no phone, no Internet, no books. Sit. Still. Quietly. Do this for a week, for two weeks. Do not nap or check your e-mail. Keep on sitting for as long as you remain interested in writing. Sooner or later you will write because you will no longer be able to stand not writing.
  • It might not have been a realistic life, but dear God, it was a beautiful one.
  • Dorothy Allison once told me that she was worried she had only one story to tell, and at that moment I realized that I had only one story as well (see: The Magic Mountain—a group of strangers are thrown together…) and that really just about any decent writer you can think of can be boiled down to one story. The trick, then, is to learn not to fight it, and to thrive within that thing you know deeply and care about most of all.
  • Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

Starting to get a handle on things, better late than never!
Much Love,
Jobe

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Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

Manage Your Day-to-Day (a 99U book)

febc4227f81d6c1df39250d7a0e15764Manage Your Day-to-Day was a book I had heard about, forgotten about, and heard about again. I downloaded the Kindle book and highlighted as I went along. It was a great short book for travel, comprised of short essays by some great minds—including my man Leo Babauta of mnmlist and Zen Habits—and interspersed throughout with quotable quotes. Basically this book is page after page of terrific advice for creative minds from creative minds. I challenge you to give it a try.

Goodreads does this really cool thing where it links to your Kindle and gives you the option to upload and share your highlights, so here are mine:

  • If you want to create something worthwhile with your life, you need to draw a line between the world’s demands and your own ambitions.
  • It’s better to disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox.
  • Usually I write for many hours during a day, though sometimes it might be a stint as short as fifteen minutes—and I never skip a day.
  • Frequency makes starting easier.
  • By working every day, you keep your momentum going.
  • She hadn’t done much work, so what she did accomplish had to be extraordinarily good. Because I write every day, no one day’s work seems particularly important.
  • I have good days and I have bad days. Some days, I don’t get much done at all. But that’s okay, because I know I’m working steadily.
  • Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly.
  • Nothing is more satisfying than seeing yourself move steadily toward a big goal.
  • You see yourself do the work, which shows you that you can do the work.
  • You make yourself make time, every day.
  • “It’s the task that’s never started that’s more tiresome.”
  • “What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.”
  • Tactics are idiosyncratic. But strategies are universal.
  • There are many ways you can signify to yourself that you are doing your practice. For example, some people wear a white lab coat or a particular pair of glasses, or always work in a specific place—in doing these things, they are professionalizing their art.
  • The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it.
  • We’re designed to move rhythmically between spending and renewing our energy.
  • Sleep is more important than food.
  • How do you meditate? Find a quiet space and sit. Stay upright, keep your eyes open but not focused on anything in particular, and breathe through your nose. Start by noticing your posture, your body. Then focus your attention on your breath, as it comes in and out of your body. Notice your thoughts coming up, acknowledge them, but don’t engage with them. Always return your attention to your breath. Keep doing this for at least a few minutes, and you’re done.
  • At first meditation will be uncomfortable, but you’ll get better at it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and you’ll get better at being mindful, and being comfortable in solitude. You’ll also learn to watch your thoughts and not be controlled by them. As you do, you’ll have learned a key skill for focus: how to notice the urge to switch tasks and not act on that urge, but just return your attention to the task at hand. This is what you learn in solitude, and it is everything.
  • In a world filled with distraction, attention is our competitive advantage. Look at each day as a challenge—and an opportunity—to keep your eye on the prize.
  • The amount of value lost to unchecked use of convenient but distracting work habits is staggering.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

Do things feel really busy and overwhelming just now, or is that just me?
Much Love,
Jobe

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Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery

Now that the secret is out of the bag and you all know I’ve committed to yet another reading challenge, I feel comfortable telling you I’ve just finished book 2 of the Anne series, Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The Anne Read Along challenge is one that I heard about it from The Book Date, who heard about it from co-hosts Jackie at Death by Tsundoku and Jane at Greenish Bookshelf, the latter being its progenitor. The challenge suggests a book a month from May through December, so naturally I’m hopelessly behind and will likely experience some miraculous (read: obsessive) catch up toward the end.

If you’ve never read Anne of Green Gables you really ought to. It is an absolute classic, beautifully written, and a piece of history. Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in 1874 and published the first Anne book in 1908; this second volume was published in 1909. So if you’re looking for “a book 100 years or older,” these count, and since they’re public domain, you can also read them free via Project Gutenberg. If you’re around my age, you probably grew up on the Megan Follows movies. #meganfollowsismyanneshirley ❤

Anne of Green Gables is about a precocious orphan girl who gets adopted and learns what it is to have a home. Anne of Avonlea picks up the story as Anne has completed a teaching program and is now teaching the elementary school she once attended. She started the first book at age 11; this one opens with her at age 16. Her students, and readers, naturally, adore her. She and Marilla adopt a pair of twins, Davy and Dora. And Anne also makes friends with Miss Lavendar, Charlotta the Fourth, and little Stephen Irving. Anne’s life continues to be surrounded by the beautiful, provincial life of rural Prince Edward Island. And Anne continues to get into and out of several scrapes, though it’s clear that she has done and continues to do a lot of growing up.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

So there’s book 2 of 8 completed for the Anne Read Along. How’s your reading going?
Love,
Jobe

Posted in Jobe Update, Reading Challenge

Reading Challenges Progress Report

[ // JANUARY // FEBRUARY // MARCH // APRIL // MAY // JUNE // JULY // AUGUST // ]

With August done our year is 2/3 finished with 1/3 to go. I’ve read 33 books so far.toptoptop

Challenge Completed Status
PopSugar 33 of 40 83% main
33 of 52 63% advanced
Audiobooks 1 100% bit level reached!
10 100% Byte level reached!
11 of 25 40% Megabyte
Pages 12,000 pages! 100% Bonsai level reached!
50% Shrub
Colors 9 of 9 colors! All 9 colors completed!
Reread 3 of 4 75% Déjà Vu
3 of 8 38% Feeling Nostalgic
Mount TBR 8 of 12 67% Pike’s Peak
8 of 24 33% Mount Blanc
Rock My TBR 8 of 12 67% completed
Diversity & Diversity 8 of 12 67% completed
Full House 23 of 25 92% completed
Books You Buy 12 of 41 29% Making Inroads
What’s in a Name  3 of 6 50% completed
Anne Read Along  1 of 8  13% completed

gayflagpennants#popsugarreadingchallenge #rockmytbr #diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017 #AnneReadAlong2017

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Non Fiction –> Free Space: Kindling by Angel Blackwood On TBR for 2+ years: Divergent by Veronica Roth More than 500 pages: Allegiant by Veronica Roth Page Turner: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey Middle Grade book: Ash by Malinda Lo
2017 published: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan Published pre 2000: Autonomy and Rigid Character by David Shapiro UK/European author: Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker Back List book from fav author: White Night by Jim Butcher, book 9 Dresden Files Book from a list: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Award Winner: Abarat by Clive Barker Books about books: Lamb the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore Size word in title: Small Favor by Jim Butcher, book 10 in the Dresden Files Two Word Title: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher, book 8 Dresden Files Debut book: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Food on cover or title: ????? Cozy Mystery: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, book 7 in the Dresden Files Book from childhood: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery Diversity book: Lost Girls by Alan Moore, illustrated by Melinda Gebbie Australian/NZ author: ?????
Western: The Dark Tower comic series by Stephen King USA/Canadian author: Insurgent by Veronica Roth Not really for you: The Destroyer #46 Next of Kin by Warren Murphy Attractive cover: Tithe by Holly Black Borrowed: The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell

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How’s your reading going???

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Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

The Dark Tower comic book series by Stephen King

The Dark Tower. You’ve probably heard of them. The comics are based on the novels by Stephen King, and are “plotted by Robin Furth and scripted by Peter David” per the wiki entry. You may have heard the buzz about the new movie, which stars Idris Elba, which prefaces the upcoming series of the same star. That’s a lot going on for a book series that started in 1998, about 20 years ago. So far I have read the first complete arc of installments:

  1. The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger Born (240 pgs)
  2. The Dark Tower – The Long Road Home (160 pgs)
  3. The Dark Tower – Treachery (176 pgs)
  4. The Dark Tower – Fall of Gilead (208 pgs)
  5. The Dark Tower – Battle of Jericho Hill (144 pgs)

1001004005395707In the first book we get the first adventure of the young man Roland, and his two besties Bert and Alain, which make up a ka-tet, aka crew. We meet villains like Marten, Rhea, and the Big Coffin Hunters, and we hear about even more scary and notorious ones like John Farson and the Crimson King. Roland forgets the face of his father while he’s getting it on with his new honey, Susan. There’s some serious fighting over oil: one side wants it, the other doesn’t want them to have it. And don’t forget the super weird squid-tree-monster, called the thinny. The comics differ from the novels (I’ve been told) because they start his story chronologically, rather than looking back from “present day” with the older, more experienced Roland.

longroad1In book two Roland gets addicted to grapefruit, Sheemie shakes hands with electrocution, and a vicious pack of wolves threaten to eat Bert and Alain. B & A have to contend with Roland’s serious new sleep-walking problem, Sheemie very unexpectedly saves the day, and the Crimson King is the ugliest cousin. The ka-tet goes home to celebration because their town thought they were dead, and Roland is too weak to give up his grapefruit habit.

9780785135746_p0_v1_s260x420In book three the dads of the main characters go on a mission to thwart Farson. Lots of people die. There are several mentions of people having wives and infants or infants on the way. Aileen is the girl who wants to be treated like a boy, since, you know, sexism. She’s super badass (that’s her on the cover) and I’m rooting for her. There’s a super creepy nunnery where Roland’s mom is in deep trouble of her own making, Roland keeps getting haunted by Rhea and visions of his father’s future death until he decides to give up the grapefruit for good, and there’s a party with some dancing and riddles and killing. A spy is discovered, and Roland has some serious issues with famous last words.

Book four gets pretty brutal. Insidious traitors in the midst of Gilead’s greatest are Dark_Tower_The_Fall_of_Gilead_Vol_1_4everywhere, killing everyone, and then there’s a crazy war and basically everyone (else) dies. Kill the philosopher, kill the doctor, kill a pregnant lady’s unborn belly-kid, kill the faces of our fathers. This volume is not for the faint of stomach. There’s a poisoned book that wreaks havoc on Cort, Roland goes to jail, and Aileen (gods bless her) cuts her hair short to be one of the boys. Speaking of boys, a lot of the kids have to take up arms when the grown-ups are mostly slaughtered. A creature type is introduced, “slow mutants,” and I’m unsure if it means they move slowly or they’re slow in the head, but they’re icky looking. Oh yeah, and Sheemie sneaks into the city with his donkey and is reunited with Roland’s ka-tet.

90fcb3683f851774f3113141dd244cb2_xlBook four also marked a change in art style, one I didn’t prefer (eh, you can’t please everybody all the time). The first three books were done by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove working together; the fourth is Richard Isanove and Dean White. But I was in luck because book five is back to the first team.

The fifth and final book of this arc opens with a special earthquake called a beamquake, because it’s to do with the beams that originate from the tower. Roland and gang try to follow the tear in the earth back to the tower but now that the bad guys are in charge stuff like time and physics don’t work. They wander the wilderness for nine years (which is guess than 40, I guess) and they fight Farson’s forces as a small but determined resistance. Of course the band wouldn’t be complete without a traitor, which makes sense since the evil baddies are all about taking advantage of weaknesses like love and family and such. There’s an ambush and an attack and basically almost everybody dies, which we should’ve seen coming since it’s like 20 gunslingers vs. a kajillion baddies. Marten tries to play hide and seek with different skins but Roland’s dad didn’t raise no fool. Fin.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

Comic books and Stephen King. What more could you ask for?
Love,
Jobe

Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

 

 

Usually there is a year of downtime in the universe of the series before the characters get into a new adventure of mischief. Ghost Story, by contrast, follows Changes by only moments, in a grand continuation. The readers follow the Ghost of the story as he attempts to solve his own murder, and he entreats the help of all of our usual suspects. I kept wracking my brain, wondering if the ghost is “really dead” or if there would be some time magic hijinks to just rewind the world for an “and then he woke up” effect. And I’m typing this before I’ve reached the end, specifically so I couldn’t accidentally give anything away about the resolution of the story. In addition to the excellent writing you’ve come to expect, spooky book 13 of the Dresden Files departs from the regular Harry-saves-the-day story and shows a lot of the other characters in their own right and/or coming into their own.

There were two things that happened during my reading experience. First, the audiobook that I checked out from the library was narrated by someone other than James Marsters. WHAT?!?!?!? I just could not get over it and I could not get into it! This wasn’t my narrator! You can’t just have someone narrate TWELVE WHOLE BOOKS and then switch. It’s too jarring! Too traumatic! When I searched the web, I found I was not the only one who’d complained. In fact, poor audiobook performer John Glover, whose only crime was not being James Marsters, was the new most hated man on the internet since Jaqen H’gar changed faces on Season 2 of Game of Thrones. (Poor guy.) 30 MOST SHOCKING MOMENTS IN GAME OF THRONES 17. CHANGING FACE

Well I only made it through a disc and a half before I decided I just couldn’t do it, I signed up for a free trial of Audible and listened to it to completion on my phone. (I’ve also been tinkering with ebooks in my iPhone’s Kindle app, so maybe there’s hope for me yet.) The other thing that occurred during my read (and this figuratively never happens) is that I cried. Not gonna lie. The first time Harry and Molly talk, I just couldn’t take it. Now I don’t know if that’s because it was audio instead paper, whether it was because I had earphones in instead of car stereo. All I know is that that scene hit me hard.

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Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
#popsugarreadingchallenge
#rockmytbr
#diversereads2017
#whatsinaname2017
#AnneReadAlong2017

So there’s my August atm, how’s yours?
Love,
Jobe