May 21, 2015

I wanted to make a Time Lord joke but I couldn't think of any :'-(

A lot of people are preoccupied with time: How it should be spent, how it can be saved, and how to make sure it isn't wasted. Have you ever accused someone of stealing your time? Momo is the only person who is able to resist the allure of the grey men who are time thieves. An already unique child, Momo, is abandoned by all of her friends who have fallen prey to these menaces (and they really do sound menacing + the illustrations are delightfully creepy). Much like The Neverending Story, the city that Michael Ende has created feels tangible and real...actually it sounds like Rome. The characters leap off of the page. Fantasy is done right when your imagination is allowed to run rampant and a talking turtle is as ordinary as a gorilla that learns sign language (I still think that's amazing). Momo is all about making the most of your time by spending it with those that you love. I think this is an especially poignant message for adults who are bombarded with deadlines and to-do lists and children who often feel neglected by those same adults. The message is clear but the delivery is what makes Ende's writing so special and why I believe he is an underrated children's author in our country (but not in his home country of Germany!).
I love science and I love space soooo I'm readingThe 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek. By this point, most people have heard about dark matter which is the stuff that can't be seen but which we know exists because of its gravitational effects on other objects that we can see. Panek conducted hundreds of interviews with many prominent scientists which shed light on the subject (and the drama in the scientific community). My science senses are tingling with excitement!

** If you're interested in a book like Momo, you can click here. This will re-direct you to ThriftBooks.com which is a website which I have used to purchase used books many times. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 19, 2015

Prejudice, Plague, and a Prince + Witches, Oh My!

I am really loving the current trend of turning popular fairy tales on their heads. I thought it was revolutionary to turn Dorothy Gale into an evil sorceress but THIS is extraordinary storytelling. Not only did the story have a dystopian feel but there are cyborgs (!) and the Prince is more than just a pretty face who rescues the damsel (refreshingly, that's flipped around also). Topics such as prejudice, slavery, plague, war, manipulation, and many more are covered in Cinder, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. I found it intriguing how Meyer envisioned our world after its near annihilation after World War IV. Further proving that young adult novels tackle serious topics, Meyer doesn't shy away from giving the reader a glimpse of the dark underbelly that pervades a war torn society. Cinder is multifaceted and complex which makes it a no-brainer to continue with its sequel, Scarlet. It would be a mistake to dismiss this one, guys.

A few weeks back, I reviewed Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. I mentioned that she had since written prequels to that novel as well as a sequel. I placed holds on all these books at my local library…along with everyone else apparently. Finally, The Witch Must Burn became available. This novella (just in case you're unfamiliar with the term this is used to describe a short story of a few hundred pages) focuses on Jellia, Dorothy's personal maid. (Readers of Dorothy Must Die will remember this character vividly.) We're also given a bit of a glimpse into Glinda the Good Witch. It's really nothing more than a tantalizing morsel to hold the reader until they can get their hands on the next installment…which might take a while in my case. :-/

So I just checked through my old posts and it seems that I have never mentioned one of my favorite books of all time, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. (It was originally written in German and translated to English so it breaks my streak of Swedish translations.) You may recall the title from the 1984 (!) film of the same name which became somewhat of a cult classic. I try to reread this every year because it never fails to amaze me utterly. With that in mind, I've decided to read Ende's less-known book Momo which actually came out before The Neverending Story. It's a children's story about an orphaned girl, Momo, who has special gifts which she uses to combat the men in grey (I immediately thought of the epsiode Hush from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I can't wait to let you all know what I think! XD


** If you're interested in a book like any of those mentioned above, you can click here.
This will re-direct you to ThriftBooks.com which is a website which I have used to purchase used books many times. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 14, 2015

Mark Watney vs Mars

There's something to be said about a character's likability especially if the book's primary focus is "Is this guy gonna survive?!" If the reader doesn't like the guy then why continue reading? From the very start, it is easy to sympathize with Mark and to identify with him. His sense of humor is particularly enjoyable. A large chunk of the story is told through Mark's logs from Mars with intermittent jumps to NASA and his crew aboard their ship headed back to earth. There's a believability in all of the characters; even those only mentioned fleetingly. Despite being Andy Weir's first novel, his confidence in the logistics of space travel and attention to detail make this a very compelling read (science and math nerds will love it). Space travel has and will probably always hold a fascination for many readers of which I am undoubtedly one. I can't wait to see what Weir will come out with next! This is science fiction at its very best, ya'll.
After my jaunt into the world of faiytales retold with Dorothy Must Die I had a hankering for something else along that same vein. The answer to my problem: Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, this is the start of a series which I'm partly hoping I'll hate because Lord only knows I don't need another series taking over my life...That being said, this looks to be an exciting read! The premise is that Cinder (think Cinderalla but as a cyborg) is caught in the middle of a battle between the people on her planet who are ravaged by plague and a mysterious people (these are the Lunars I believe) waiting in space to strike. O_O

** If you're interested in a book like The Martian, you can click here. This will re-direct you to ThriftBooks.com which is a website which I have used to purchase used books many times. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 7, 2015

Atomic bombs + vodka + an old codger = comedic gold

Jonas Jonasson has created a fan for life. That sounds super dramatic and I suppose it is but it's true nonetheless. Irreverent humor abounds in this story about a centenarian who has truly grabbed life by the horns or in his case by the neck of the vodka bottle. Allan Karlsson, the Swede, traveled the world and made his mark in the political sphere despite having no interest in the topic whatsoever. Along the way, he managed to meet a variety of people which unless the reader has lived under a rock will be immediately recognized (and lampooned). The story begins with his escape through a window on his 100th birthday (yes, the title is literal) and follows Allan on a fantastic journey in which he makes new friends while simultaneously giving the reader a glimpse into his extraordinary past. Jonasson seamlessly works in the past with the present and I, for one, never found it jarring. A blending of true historical events with a humorously outlandish twist, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, is a must-read. (PS I just found out it was the most sold book in Sweden for 2010. Hooray!)



THEY'VE MADE IT INTO A MOVIE. THIS IS AMAZINGLY EPIC. (http://worldmovies.com.au)





I'm almost afraid that no book could ever be as epic as that movie poster right there but just in case there is something out there on the same level I'm going to keep reading. ;-) My next read is The Martian by Andy Weir and it is his debut novel. The story follows the plight of an astronaut named Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars and his struggle to survive there. Considering my interest in the Mars Rover I just had to give this book a try (and all of the bookish newsletters that I follow kept recommending it to me). Soooo here we go!!

Also, I want to give a shoutout to The Bloggess (aka Jenny Lawson) who has announced she will be going on a book tour later this year to promote her newest book, Furiously Happy. You may recall that I reviewed her previous book Let's Pretend This Never Happened a few years ago and LOVED it. I am 100% going to be checking out her newest book (about her struggles and triumphs against depression) and if at all possible visiting her on tour. You guys should look into doing the same! XD






May 1, 2015

The lure of discovery and adventure

It might come as a surprise to some of you but I actually have a Bachelor's in Anthropology. That's one of the main reasons why I was drawn to The Lost World of the Old Ones. One of the focuses of this book is the examination of the archaeological record of the peoples who once occupied the Southwestern United States. Around 1300 AD the Fremont people seemingly disappeared from the region and the reasons for this have never fully been explained. David Roberts is a climber (mountaineer? scrambler?) who also happens to be a writer for such publications as National Geographic. This is the second book that he has written which focuses on this particular area of the world but according to the preface this book delves more into the why and the how of the Fremont peoples lives and 'disappearance'. His fascination and passion for the topic are evident in his attention to detail (and sometimes his dreamy prose). You probably won't be surprised to learn that I plan on doing more research on this topic by checking out some of the books he referenced as source material (especially Steve Lekson's groundbreaking work The Chaco Meridian which caused significant backlash among the archaeological elite). If you have an interest in archaeology or simply want to learn more about the wonders of the Southwest (of which there are many) then I recommend you give this book a try. It's made me want to go hiking of all things! O_O

The Pilling figurines are remnants of the Fremont culture. They were located in Range Creek Canyon in Utah (and had quite a journey to the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum - the story is in the book). (Image courtesy of  Brian Lee.)

As I've mentioned before, I seem to have a penchant for Swedish authors. In my defense, I had no idea that the book I had picked out to read next fell under that umbrella. It's The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. With a title like that is it any wonder that I just had to read this one? The story is all about Allan Karlsson who turns 100 but doesn't feel that his adventures are entirely finished so...he climbs out of the window of his nursing home and sets off. This story isn't just about what happened after he climbed out of the window though. Allan had many adventures before he even set foot through the nursing home's doors as a munitions expert who rubbed elbows with everyone from Winston Churchill to President Truman. Join me on this newest literary adventure!

April 25, 2015

Talk about a title that's misleading...

It was immediately apparent that the main goal of Lincoln's Secret Spy was to prove that William Alvin Lloyd was absolutely not a spy. Even the end notes point out the flaws of previous works that believed this to be the case. Also, Lincoln was a peripheral figure and yet it was his picture on the cover of the book which I felt amounted to a kind of click bait for hardcovers. In fact, the authors pointed out that there were no likenesses of Lloyd on record which is why his picture is not included in the pictorial insert (although Google seems to disagree on this point Edit: The author Jane Singer has confirmed this is not William Alvin Lloyd.). If you're not a fan of minute details about train travel then I doubt you would be a big fan of this book. I applaud the authors attention to detail but I found it to be both tedious and difficult to follow because of its overuse. I know that it can be difficult to jazz up historical subjects, especially those about little known figures, but it was a bit over the top in some sections where they compared the story to a play and the reader as an audience member (or something because I honestly felt confused about their main goal with the flowery language). I saw it through to the end mainly because I kept hoping that there would be some big revelation about Lloyd that was contradictory to the rest of the book and supported the claim that he was a spy (there wasn't).

All this being said, I was inspired to go on a little quest to locate Lloyd's grave as it's located in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. It was actually a lot more arduous than I had anticipated and I spent 2+ hours trying to find it and finally had to enlist the help of a security guard. I had assumed it would be small as Virginia Lloyd, his wife, was currently quite poor at the time of William Alvin Lloyd's death. As you can see, I was very wrong.

I walked past this about 3 times before I realized it was the one.



My new friend, Mr. Security, said this was probably a part of the plot.

Here's a view of the back with my buddy, Mr. Security.

A close-up of the inscription.


Next up is The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest by David Roberts. This story delves into the history of the Native Americans who occupied the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States. Their migration from this region along with their neighbors has been a mystery for many years. Roberts travels throughout this region searching for answers and locating artifacts unseen for the last several hundred years. My Anthropologist soul is practically thrumming with excitement over this one, guys!!

April 18, 2015

So syrupy sweet you'll wish you had pancakes

If you're in the mood for a quick, predictable romance then The Inheritance is perfect for you. As far as the historical record goes, I'm quite glad that this previously unpublished work has now seen the light of day. It's fascinating to see the first novel from one of America's most beloved authors. From a reader's perspective, however, the book fell a bit flat. It is definitely a product of the times in which it was written. The main character is without flaw and is the embodiment of what it meant to be a noblewoman. From the opening pages, I knew what the ending would be and the twists of the narrative weren't so much twists as twitches. That being said, if you are a fan of Louisa May Alcott and you're curious as to where she started from in order to reach the upper echelons of literature then you should go and pick up a copy of The Inheritance.

I believe I mentioned in my previous post that I took a little trip to the library to get some inspiration for upcoming reading. It wasn't as easy as that, however. I went to pick up a copy of Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. I walked out with From the Earth to the Moon which as you might recall I read 3 years ago. *slaps forehead* After a second trip to the library, I was more fortunate (although I still didn't get Around the World in 80 Days).

Lincoln's Secret Spy: The Civil War Case That Change the Future of Espionage by Jane Singer and John Stewart is the story of William Alvin Lloyd. After Lincoln's assassination, he showed up at the White House claiming that he was hired by Lincoln as a spy and overdue for payment. Lloyd was either the Civil War's most successful spy or the most daring con man of all time. I guess we'll find out more soon!