Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Thoughts - Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmenn

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmeen, illustrations by Kerascoet
published 2/25/14
96 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Kerasco√ęt’s and Fabien Vehlmann’s unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny. Join princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization's heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience.  The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerasco√ęt’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann's story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over.  Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society.

My thoughts -

I don't think anything I've read for RIP this year has felt as perfect for the challenge as this slim graphic novel. This is Lord of the Flies in a fairy-tale world, it is eerie and creepy and unsettling and challenging. This is much less about the plot and much more about the layers of horror, unwrapping before the readers' eyes. This is a gorgeous piece of art, wrapped around a completely terrifying story.

Like all good graphic novels, there is much to uncover behind the first glance, and this is the type of story than can be read many times, with the reader finding something new upon each subsequent visit to this dark world. I know I'm being vague, but part of the impact of the story, for me, was not knowing very much about what I was getting into when I started. More than anything I've read in the past couple of months, this is the book that has stayed in my mind, lingering in my thoughts, popping up in my dreams. It's good, scary stuff. Recommended for readers who can deal with dark.

Finished - 10/22/14
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - R. This is not for young kids. Scary stuff.
My rating - 4/5

And with this, I have completed

Hooray for me! My first year to complete my RIP challenge. It feels pretty good, I have to say! And now I'm looking for recommendations for next year - what perilous reads have you enjoyed this season?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Shorts, R.I.P edition

Just a quick summary of what's been going on around here, R.I.P.-wise....

First I read

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
published 2006
406 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets... and the ghosts that haunt them still.

My thoughts -

I think I'm at the point where I'm just going to admit that novels with ghosts as a plot device are not my favorite thing. This book had lots of saving graces, though, so I did enjoy it very much. But the ghost parts? Not so much. I loved the emphasis on reading and literature throughout the novel, and found Margaret as well as Miss Winter to be extremely engaging heroines. Good stuff here, even if it DOES have ghosts.

Finished - 10/15/14
Source - mom
MPAA rating - PG-13 for adult situations & possible scaryness.
My rating - 4/5

Then I read the first two stories from this collection -

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
published 1953

You can read a summary and some analysis of the title story here.

I intend to read the entire collection, but it is not a collection I will breeze through. These first two stories were tough, and bleak, and full of despair. In some ways they remind me of episodes of The Twilight Zone, which used to freak me out SO MUCH when I was young. These are worlds where horrible things happen, in ways that you don't expect. 

A Good Man is Hard to Find is a gut-punch of a story. It plays with emotions and perceptions, and introduces some pretty unpleasant characters without giving any of them much of a chance of redemption. I didn't particularly choose this collection to go along with RIP, but it certainly fits the bill. Lots of perilous situations in these stories!

Next I read this novel -

Advent by James Treadwell
published 2012
448 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Once there were virtues in the stars and mermaids in the seas; but then a gift was lost, and all of that became no more than the stuff of fantasy. What if it came back? Everyone tells fifteen-year-old Gavin that the things he sees aren't really there. He hardly believes himself any more.

My thoughts -

Okay, there is A LOT going on in this novel. Elements of Arthurian legend, Faust, mermaids, Greek myth - there is a lot to keep track of, and there were moments in the novel that I could feel some of the threads slipping away from me. But I have to say that I was completely entranced by this story from the very beginning. Even when I wasn't quite sure that I was keeping track of all the fantastical bits, I was always eager to see where Gavin's story was going to take him next. I loved the writing, and I definitely plan to read the next in this series.

Finished - 10/24/15
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for fantasy violence
My rating - 4/5

And then I read -

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesa Lia Block
published 2013
240 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

My thoughts -

This YA novel was a fairly loose retelling of The Odyssey, and it didn't work all that well for me. I thought the writing was lovely, but I didn't particularly care for the story as Block told it. I thought it was difficult to follow, and there were certain plot elements that seemed to be added more to have something to say about a "hot topic" issue than to really further the action of the plot. I will read more by this author, but probably not more in this sequence.

Finished - 10/25/14
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - R for violence, language, sexuality
My rating - 2/5

So this means that I have completed

for RIP this year!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


It's Readathon time!!

Yes, I know, I'm early. But it's my first one, and I'm excited - also, I know that by the time this thing OFFICIALLY starts (at 7:00 am), my kids will be up and demanding, so I'm just giving myself a little bit of time before that to do some reading and let myself feel like I'm actually doing this thing.

Since I don't want to completely freak out those of you who are used to seeing one post every 2 weeks or so (*grin*), I'm just going to update this post all day long. So if you are interested in seeing how my Readathon is going, feel free to follow along. If not, feel free to skip this one, and come back when I resume my regularly non-scheduled sporadic posting. =)

I am starting off the Readathon with

something short - I think it will be a quick read, giving me an immediate sense of accomplishment. Here we go!!!


Update #1 - Opening Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am reading from Des Moines, Iowa, USA. I'm told it's going to be a gorgeous fall day, so I may even get to read outside for a bit!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I'm excited about The Egypt Game, which I'm starting off reading. I loved this author as a kid, so I'm interested to see if her work still holds up as an adult. I also have a couple of novels by Sharon Shinn, who is an author that always works well for me.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Buffalo cheese dip!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I've been a blogger for several years, but this is actually the first readathon that I will be able to participate as a reader, and I'm very excited! I'm in charge of the kids today, so my participation will be a bit sporadic, but I can't wait. 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

First time reader, so everything seems exciting. Mostly I'm just looking forward to the sense of community with so many other readers all reading at once. 


Update #2 - 12:30 pm

I finished The Egypt Game at around 11:45, just in time for lunch. Now we've all finished eating, the kids are settling in with some coloring books, and I'm going to start my next book. I think I'll try one from A Good Man is Hard to Find, and then settle in with Troubled Waters.

So far, so good!


Update #3 - 4:45 pm

I spent a bit of time with Ms. Flannery O'Connor (wow. I'm not sure I'm ready for her stories.), read a couple of chapters of Troubled Waters, and then picked up this novel -

This was a great library find - a young man in WWII NYC watches his brother go off to war, and experiences the inevitable struggles a family goes through with a loved one fighting abroad.  In the course of his duties to his family's store, he makes the acquaintance of the artist Piet Mondrian, and the two form a friendship of sorts. Really interesting ideas about the importance of imagination, and the trials of growing up. I'm glad I found this one!

Time to work on supper - then more reading! Hopefully when the kiddos go to bed I'll be able to do a little more with the social aspects of the Readathon.


Update #4 - 8:40 pm

Mid-Event Survey (just a bit late) -

1. What are you reading right now?

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn, one of my favorite go-to fantasy authors, and A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor, which is weirding me right out.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I have finished TWO! And started two more. So yay.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the readathon?

I'm really looking forward to digging in to Troubled Waters - the kids are in bed, so it's time for some serious reading!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with them?

Well, I guess if you call two 4-year-olds interruptions, then yes. 

In all seriousness, they were about as good as it's possible for them to be, so I actually got a decent amount of reading done. It's almost like they were cooperating with me. =)

5. What surprises you the most about the Readathon so far?

It's the food situation. I ate too many snacky things, so by the time supper rolled around I was shaky and starving. Note to self - next time, eat real food.


Update the last, 6:15 am

End of Event Meme -

Which hour was most daunting for you?

You know, there wasn't really an hour that seemed daunting, but that's because I knew I was going to fall asleep so I didn't fight it. I have to be awake all day today with the kiddos, so staying up wasn't really an option - this old lady can't do that anymore! SO I just fell asleep naturally. BUT - I set my alarm for early, got up, and finished the book I was working on this morning!

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I'm really happy with my decision to read YA novels, short stories, and a book from an author I know I love. The YA novels were quick reads, which gave me a sense of accomplishment. The short stories were nice "palate cleansers" in between longer reads. The novel by one of my favorite authors just felt completely satisfying.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

This was my first time as a reader, and I really enjoyed myself. I never saw any cheerleaders, so I did kinda miss that aspect, but I know there were a ton of readers, so if they didn't get around to me it's not the biggest deal.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I really liked the Goodreads group. I will definitely participate in that again!

How many books did you read?

Three! plus some short stories

What were the names of the books you read?

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder
Mister Orange by Truus Matti
Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
various short stories from A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

Which book did you enjoy most?

Probably Troubled Waters, just because Sharon Shinn is such a favorite of mine

Which did you enjoy least?

I actually enjoyed them all.

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I wasn't a cheerleader, but I did take a short break to "cheer" for a few of my fellow bloggers that I knew were reading, and that was fun. Short breaks seem to be the key for me.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will definitely participate again, and I'd love to be a reader. I'm happy I was able to join in when I could and not put pressure on myself to "do more". I think the leaders of the Readathon do a great job of encouraging everyone to read as much as they can, when they can, and that makes it such an INCLUSIVE event. I love it - thanks so much!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dewey's Readathon!

I'm taking the plunge! I'm going to participate as a reader for the first time ever in Dewey's Readathon!

It's hard to believe this will be my first year ever as a reader - I've been a cheerleader in previous years, but it never quite worked out for me to be a reader. Now, in all honesty, I won't be able to read for the entire 24 hours. I solo parent on weekends while my husband is at work, so my free time is definitely limited. BUT - I have decided that whatever time I have when I don't HAVE to be doing something else, I'm going to be reading. Will it be perfect? Nope. But it will be fun!

I even have a book stack all ready -

I've been paying attention to suggestions from seasoned Readathon veterans, so I have a few books by authors I already know I love; a couple of books of short stories; a couple of YA novels; and if none of these strike my fancy, I'll just pick up something else. I know I'll never get to read ALL these books during the Readathon, but it will be nice to have some good choices.

If you don't know what the Readathon is, you can find out more info here. I'm so excited to be joining everyone this year! Bring it on!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Shorts

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve
published 2014
272 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

When an American woman, Stella Bain, is found suffering from severe shell shock in an exclusive garden in London, surgeon August Bridge and his wife selflessly agree to take her in.

A gesture of goodwill turns into something more as Bridge quickly develops a clinical interest in his houseguest. Stella had been working as a nurse's aide near the front, but she can't remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French battlefield.

In a narrative that takes us from London to America and back again, Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, set against the haunting backdrop of a war that destroyed an entire generation.

My thoughts -

This was a bit of a case of being sold something that wasn't quite what I got. My expectations for the novel were one thing, but the novel itself veered off into a direction that I found did not really serve the purpose of the novel. I felt like the author was holding her readers at a distance from the story, which kept me from ever truly caring about the characters or their motivations. Beautifully written, but it left me cold.

Finished - 9/6/14
MPAA rating - PG-13 for violence of several varieties
My rating - 2/5