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

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

toptoptop

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

gayflagpennants

How’s your reading going???

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Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

After thirteen books of building up a life, Harry’s had everything is destroyed. In the rubble of book fourteen, he has to relearn everything, starting with a very pretty physical therapist named Sarissa who will teach him the basics before Mab gives him some hands-on daily experience of how not to die. By, you know, trying to kill him on the daily. Harry gets to meet Santa Claus and is a total fanboy. We also meet Cait Sith and Lacuna, another of the tiny folk. Molly lets Harry know that there’s something really wrong with Demonreach. Harry gains some serious insider knowledge on the workings of the fae world, talks with about a million important fae peeps, and visits the Knight’s Watch–er, well, The Wall, anyway. There are a surprising number of boat fights. And in the end SOME REALLY CRAZY STUFF HAPPENS!!!

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Well that was a bit sparse. Shoot. I’ll have to find a real zinger for my next one…

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

Love,
Jobe

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Posted in Reading Challenge, Reviews

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

 

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone is the start of a five book series (soon to be six) that’s garnered a lot of attention. Gladstone has been selected for several prestigious nominations, including finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in both 2013 and 2014, and a Hugo finalist in 2017 for the series, which is called The Craft Sequence. Admittedly there were awful problems with the 2015 Hugo awards, which resurfaced in 2016, but 2017 looks to have succeeded against small-minded bigotry. Gladstone is also publishing with TOR; if you read fantasy, you know that TOR has been a mover-and-a-shaker for a long time. Fans were not pleased in 2015 (see here and here) when president & publisher Tom Doherty of Tor Books came out in defense of the same racists and misogynists who were f*cking up the Hugo awards. (In 2017 there’s some weird stuff going on, too, but it seems to mainly be Scalzi v Vox in this instance.)

Despite all the recognition from ambiguous sources, Gladstone’s own work features several aspects of a diverse cast. And Gladstone doesn’t just write books—that’s right, I let my nerd flag fly—he also writes games and serials. In addition, his middle book (third to come out, fifth in the internal chronology of the series… it’s complicated) has been on just about every diversity reading list I’ve seen lately. I think the black woman and the Asian woman on the cover are lovers, but I’m not for sure. (I’ll keep you posted).

Anyway, that black woman, whose name is Tara, is our main character for this book, Three Parts Dead, which takes it’s quirky name from Betrand Russell, “To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.” A quick internet search will also advise that “three parts” is generally understood to mean 75%.

Tara is the lawyer mage, Abelard is the apprentice priest, and Cat is the addict cop. Together they find trouble, and ultimately, answers. Each of our trio has some scenes working solo and some teaming up. I like that our main characters are young, untested with something to prove. You can really see the character development and growth that happens in these pages.

If that doesn’t snag you, rest assured this book will also provide: gargoyles, vampires, murder, dead gods, and LOTS of magic use. And you can encounter such choice phrases as “the pretty young vivisectionist” who works with “dead human meat,” or the not-so-nice professor whose magic masterfully manipulates the very fabric of the universe, “time its warp and space its weft.” This volume has a very sci-fi feel for a book that’s considered fantasy, and there are also some parts that feel steampunky. And here’s some bizzaro fun with font and cover colors—apparently Gladstone is a little magical himself.

 

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

  • PopSugar 2017 reading challenge No. 45 a book about an immigrant or refugee. I was trying to give this category the respect it deserves and save it for a serious nonfiction book, but I just don’t know if I’ll get there. The news is depressing enough. So I decided this book may be as close as I get. Tara talks about her family being immigrants twice. It was that or No. 20 career advice, since the novel explores Tara’s career path, but I think I’m much more likely to read another book about writing (my preferred career path).
  • Book Dragon’s Lair Audiobook challenge Nope.
  • Book Dragon’s Lair Pages Read challenge These 333 pgs bring me to 11,489 pgs.
  • Read It Again, Sam Nope.
  • My Reader’s Block Mount To Be Read (TBR) and Rock My TBR challenge While I have been wanting to read this series for a hot minute, the rules say I can’t count it because I checked it out from the library.
  • Diverse Reads challenge (here and here). Yes! The main character is black, as are some of the supporting cast, and Tara is a strong, capable, intelligent woman who also fights for freedom and what is right! Just the kind of hero we can love whole-heartedly. I also liked that, unlike in many books, the males in these pages play more submissive roles while the women do the lion’s share of fighting and detective-ing. This is also the first book of the series which promises an Eastern setting in book three. I will keep you posted.
  • The Book Date Full House challenge Nope.
  • The Book Date Read the Books You Buy challenge This one I have managed not to buy yet, but I make no promises for the future.
  • The Worm Hole’s What’s In A Name challenge Does “three” count for the number title, or is it disqualified because it isn’t written as a numeral 3?
  • Anne Read Along Nope.

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

Love,
Jobe

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