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
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Posted in diversity, Special Announcement

Diversity in Representation

In case you were looking for some totally badass female authors of color, here’s the newest from HuffPo interviewing Glory Edim of Well-Read Black Girl. I’ll add to the list two personal favorites, Octavia Butler and Ntozake Shange. Then HuffPo went and did it again with these 34 poets of color, kudos!!!

This reminded me to tell you about and recommend stellar poet Jericho Brown who I was blessed to hear perform when he visited UCA during my grad program. He is blowing up all over the internet from Poetry Foundation to Poetry SocietyPoets Dot Org to Poets & Writers; from NPR to PBS to Buzzfeed. He’s also featured on PEN America who are “at the intersection of Writers and Human Rights.” His accolades are piling up (which you can view on his wiki page) so be sure to check him out.

Meanwhile on another spoke of the diversity wheel, Zach Anner has some hilarious and insightful stuff to say about life and cerebral palsy: check out his awesome video, shared by Upworthy. His book If at Birth You Don’t Succeed is definitely going on my TBR list!


Posted in Random Round Up

Random Round Up w Jobe

I love seeing the progression of a thing’s development, and this article and video are too awesome not to share. Thanks Epic Reads!

Are you old enough to remember diagramming sentences? For a visual learner like me, this activity set my brain on fire in the best way. I can just imagine all those happy little synaptic connections forming. I’m sad that it’s fading away, but thanks NPR for the nostalgia.

I am a huge fan of this book series so it’s no surprise to me that Cathy Yardley is at it again with this awesome online resource.

If you’re looking for opportunities for contests and such, Aerogramme Writers’ Studio has you covered for March and April.

Last but not least, this might be helpful for character building, what do you think about what it’s saying, do you agree? Thanks to Nathen for posting about it and The Writer’s Circle for passing it around.535103_10153740817836291_221130954827427889_n


Posted in Random Round Up, Reviews, Wednesday Readers

Best of 2016 from NPR

I adore looking at book covers, which is one of many reasons I prefer 50 Book Pledge to its mainstream counterpart Goodreads (but of course I have accounts with both). NPR put out a “best of” list of books from 2016, and it does not disappoint. You’ll find a multitude of represented genres here, from romance to kid lit. You’ll likely recognize many famous names. Maybe you have even had the pleasure of reading some of these gems.

Included below is my review of Colson Whitehead’s genius work The Underground Railroad: A Novel, first featured on CALS Bibliocommons (a great site, but one which you have to have a library card with Central Arkansas Library System to use):

57a101e3c724f-imageThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead uses a premise we’ve likely all imagined: that the underground railroad consists of real trains, deep in the earth, helping slaves to escape their bondage and forge ahead to better lives in the free states. While this elegant metaphor is sustained throughout the novel with a light hand and to poignant affect, there is nothing else fanciful about this book. Whitehead doesn’t turn away from the ugly evils of southern history. We see the cruelty of white slave-owners, the hatred and fear of lynch mobs, the insidious racism of whites who pity blacks for perceived deficiencies. But we are able to bear all this because of the courage and determination of our main character, Cora, who never gives up. We find in her the best of human goodness and a heroine we can be proud to believe in. Woven into and throughout our protagonist’s tale, we spy glimpses of generational narratives in family lines, grandmother to mother to daughter and father to son. In a time when people are treated like things, do we apologize to our children for bringing them into this awful world, or do we continue our lines in defiance of that wickedness, and toil toward, even give our lives, for a better tomorrow? In light of recent violence against people of color, too often resulting in fatalities, this book is extremely well-timed. Whitehead is master writer, and this book should be required reading in high schools nationwide.
J. Jobe (Central Arkansas Library System, Encyclopedia of Arkansas)