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Literary Dump

Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:53 am Idlewild - Nick Sagan

This won't be the first time I've read this book, but I decided to reread it recently because it really is very good.

Quoting the back of the book: "A young man is suddenly startled awake. He has no memory. He knows only one thing for certain: Someone is trying to kill him. Unsure of whom to trust, he is reacquainted with eight companions - trainees of an enigmatic figure known as Maestro. AS he attempts to unearth his past and outwit an unseen enemy, skills he doesn't realize he has come into play. And it soon becomes clear that there is far more than his life at stake."

The story starts out with this boy, Halloween, struck with amnesia. He lives mainly in IVR, a virtual world where the kids in it can change their surroundings at will and jump off buildings only to be quickly mended. Of course, this world is so real to them that they still feel pain before their Nannies can fix them and they still have to go to school. 

Now there is just something so cool about the idea of a virtual world. Imagine if you could create everything from the color of the sky to the inverted pyramids in your backyard, as Isaac does. Of course, as in the story, there would be the problems of the virtual people put there to teach and guide them getting a little too human and malleable for their liking.

All in all, fantastic book. I just found out that it's a series, so I'll be waiting for my copy of the next book, Edenborn, to come into my local library any day now.

Here's my favorite quote from the book: 
"I think you can take a man's measure by the monsters he fancies. I used to love vampires. All traditional monsters really, but bloodsuckers most of all. They give up their souls to live forever. Tough trade, but if you're scared of dying, it's a pretty good deal.
According to legend, vampires congress between the land of the living and the land of the dead. There's a barrier between the two realms, and as the days get shorter the barrier gets weaker. And when is the barrier thinnest? Halloween!
So after choosing my name, I had to surround myself with vampires - for years, they sucked blood from Tyler's cyborgs, the marrow from Mercutio's hobgoblins, the noxious ichor from Fantasia's Smileys. And then they just sucked. Which is to say they didn't shock me anymore; I outgrew them.
Three fears, I thought, remembering an old theory of mine...
Traditional monsters play on three fears.
First, they echo the predators who chased our ancestors. You fear the fangs of a vampire the way you fear the fangs of a wolf. That's an external fear, a fear of the beast.
Second, they evoke human aggression and human perversion. A vampire looks like a man and yet it is an eater of men - here's a hint of cannibalism, our oldest taboo. That's an internal fear, a fear of the Beast Within.
Third, we fear transformation into the Beast - a chance bite from a wolf can turn you into a bloodthirsty monster, Dr. Frankenstein can reanimate your corpse with a bolt of lightning, the right combination of chemicals can turn good Dr. Jekyll into evil Mr. Hyde. We fear the monster's capacity for evil because we can recognize it in human hearts.
Lovecraft's monsters are fundamentally different. They're alien. Their motivations are largely unknowable. We fear them - I fear them - because they evoke the paranoid possibility that something dark and inscrutable wants to destroy us for absolutely no reason - or for reasons that we can't understand because if we could, it would drive us mad."

And here's a little fanart I found of Halloween with his Lovecraftian freaks...

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Sep. 8th, 2007 09:03 pm Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature - Robin Brande

Let me just say that I loved this book. I know I throw around that word a lot, but I really loved this book. I started and finished it all today and I am in love with it. I want to march right up to Barnes & Noble and buy my own copy and I am very cheap with my money.

Book Jacket: "Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you. All because you did the right thing. Welcome to life for Mena Reece, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her - not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth. And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine as she is caught up in a controversy involving science, religion, freedom - and a heart-racing, blush-inducing, can't-stop-thinking-about-him crush. Now Mena's own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways...."

This book was amazing. So many issues I've had myself with religion were addressed and topics were brought up that I'd never even thought of. I really sat up and paid attention to what I was reading, instead of just going along like I usually do. For example...

Ever hear the parable of the talents? (Matthew 25:14-30) Mena was reading it one late night and discovered that it could be interpreted as a story about survival of the fittest. Think about it. The servant who came back with the most talents was richly rewarded. The one who came back with a decent amount was rewarded as well. But the servant who came back with just exactly what he'd been given, no more, was punished. He was punished for being afraid of growth and change, hiding his talent in the dirt.

Like Mena says on page 152: "I believe in evolution, and I believe in God. I just haven't worked out the details yet."

All of Mena's former friends were so terrible to her. It's actually something I've often feared about my own acquaintances through the church. Of course, for Mena, this group who turned away from her held everyone in her entire life. Everyone publicly scorning her. And what the pastor said to her when she went to church was so horrible, I can't even describe. You'd just have to read it. I was horrified. And all along, what Mena had done was right! But still, they were just....disgusting.

On a side note not related to religion at all, I believe Casey Connor has replaced Seb Mantegna as my all-time literary love of my life. It wasn't even something I expected to happen. I never thought it would, but sigh, Casey is heart-wrenchingly amazing. First off, though this wouldn't have been enough on its own, he has dark, curly hair and deep blue eyes, my exact perfect loverboy type match. Then, next, he's a completely cool nerd. He was completely shocked when Mena told him she'd never read or watched Lord of the Rings. "Okay, you realize I'm going to have to do an intervention...Okay! It is not okay, Mena. It is definitely not okay." Also, when she went into his room for the first time, he had a Nimbus 2000 mounted on his walls. Sigh. And he was soooo incredibly sweet with the puppies they were raising for their science project. 

I didn't plan on going into a squee-a-thon about Casey there. I apologize.

This book is amazing and I want everyone to read it. No skirting around here.

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Aug. 31st, 2007 10:02 am In the Belly of the Bloodhound - L.A. Meyer

This is the fourth book in the Bloody Jack series, a series about a young orphan girl from London who disguises herself as a boy to work on a ship in the Royal Navy. After this, with each book Jacky goes on more exciting and dangerous adventures.

According to the official website: "The Bloodhound being a slave ship bound for the slave markets on Barbary Coast of North Africa. And guess who's locked up in the hold of the Bloodhound and on her way to the auction block?"

Just when I thought there wasn't possibly any other way for Jacky to go and get in trouble, she lands herself and all of Mistress Pim's girls on a slave ship. I never would have thought of that. It was the best book yet of the whole series. Pirates will always be a subject to draw a person's attention, and I'm no exception.

I loved how the dynamic changed between Jacky and Clarissa Howe. I had initially wondered how they were going to stand each other together in the small below deck of the ship, but I was pleasantly surprised with the way the author had them working together, however on edge they were toward one another. 

Also, one thing I really enjoy about this author is his way of really giving personalities to all of the characters, even very small ones. There had to be roughly 15-20 girls down there in the ship, not to mention the slaving crew up above, but all of them were distinctive enough that it was easy to keep all of them straight immediately after you meet them. The character of Rebecca especially caught my attention, more as a plot device than anything else. It really showed the differences between Jacky and Clarissa to see what their responses were to Rebecca's betrayal.

This series is very good and I know many people who enjoy it, young and old, a treat for everyone.

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Aug. 31st, 2007 09:17 am The Spell Book of Listen Taylor - Jaclyn Moriarty

I finished The Spell Book of Listen Taylor just before I started God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, so just the other day. I was excited to see this book at the store. Jaclyn Moriarty is one of my favorite YA authors and I've always enjoyed her books.

Book jacket time: "The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret - one so huge it draws the family to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night, and sometimes involves breaking and entering. Into their world comes Listen Taylor, inexplicably friendless, about to enter Junior High. Her father is dating a Zing, and she barely knows what she's getting into. Enter Cath Murphy, a young teacher at the elementary school that Cassie Zing attends, suffering from a broken heart. How will the worlds of these two young women connect with the delightful madness that is the family Zing? Only the reader can know!"

I have to say right off the bat that this wasn't my favorite of her books. Maybe I'm just partial to the Ashbury/Brookfield world she's created in the other of her books I've read, but I was slightly disappointed. This isn't to say that it was a bad book by any means. It was classic Moriarty style, dropping in innocuous comments that later become big parts of the story. I love when I read something and think, "Well, damn, how did I not think that would be important earlier? Ahh, you've tricked me again!"

This happens a lot with Jaclyn Moriarty. Whenever I start one of her books, I always have an idea in my head of what I think the book will be about and I'm almost always wrong. Even with the book summary, Moriarty is the master of surprise plot twists. It's a roller coaster ride and I love every minute of it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who's read and enjoyed other of Jaclyn Moriarty's books. I quite thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Aug. 31st, 2007 08:54 am Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer

The first of my summer books, I read Eclipse at the beginning of August. I realize I won't be able to type the book jacket for all the books I talk about, but I do happen to have this one beside me...

"As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob - Knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?"

I love this series and I feel like it gets better and better with each book. After reading Eclipse and being as thoroughly excited by the story as I was, I just can't wait until the next, Breaking Dawn, is finished. I really loved how we learned about Rosalie's and Jasper's pasts, Rosalie's because it explains her attitude toward Bella throughout the series and Jasper's because it became very important to the plot and was actually a very cool plot idea.

One thing that a lot of Stephenie Meyer fans talk about is the Edward/Jacob feud, which was very forward in this book. I have to say, no offense to Edward, but I have always been a Jacob fan. Although I don't know if Bella and he would ever really work together, I've always been drawn to his character. Edward is just a bit too protective and possessive. It tended to annoy me after a while. If I were acquainted with a boy like Edward, I think I would have to yell at him to chill out every once in a while. Jacob, on the other hand, is very easy-going and fun. True, he doesn't know when to take no for an answer, but perhaps it's like they say in Dr. Who: "Unrequited love. It's fantastic, 'cause it never has to change, it never has to grow up and it never has to die! " Jacob does seem to be giving up, but I don't think that'll really last.

I was glad that Bella didn't become a vampire in the book. I know she wants to become one, but I don't know that I want her to become one. I feel it would change the dynamic a lot between her and the other characters, which could be either good or bad. I'm afraid for the possibility of the latter because I'm really enjoying this series so far.

Overall, I would recommend this series to almost everyone. It definitely is geared a bit more to girls than to boys, but it is a very well-written story and the characters are fully fleshed out in a way that's admirable in these days of literary Mary Sues.

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Aug. 30th, 2007 10:10 pm God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian - Kurt Vonnegut

My first book is God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut. This is actually the first Vonnegut book I've ever read, although many people I know have said good things about him. I was really intrigued by the title more than anything.

First, I will copy what the book jacket says, as I feel that's the best way to summarize a book, being a summary usually written by the author...

"In God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, Vonnegut skips back and forth between life and the Afterlife as if the difference between them were rather slight. In thirty odd 'interviews' - with Sir Isaac Newton, Clarence Darrow, James Earl Ray, Eugene Debs, John Brown, Adolf Hitler, William Shakespeare, and Kilgore Trout, among others - Vonnegut trips down 'the blue tunnel to the pearly gates' in the guise of a roving reporter for public radio."

I found this book to be very good, although quite randomly put together, like a series of short 2-3 page stories that were somewhat connected. One thing that I definitely liked was that I hadn't heard of some of the people he "interviews". I always like to learn something new when I read a book; it gives you something to talk about when no one has read the book. Most people I know like to hear the odd fact now and then.

One odd fact of this book... Did you know the people of Tasmania were completely wiped out by genocide? There is no one on this planet who has an original Tasmanian relative, that's how completely they are gone.

It was interesting to me how his way of talking to people in Heaven was to have Dr. Kevorkian put him 3/4 through a lethal injection, then bring him back. The book was written in 1999, which was when Kevorkian was put in jail, so I suppose that's what inspired the author. It also gave a good reason at the end for him to stop his interviews, that the Dr. was no longer able to help him.

I really liked his vision of Heaven. A place where you can pick the age you appear, no Hell at all, and a daycare center for babies that die who then become angels. It was very pleasant to picture, although the main character never actually goes all the way into Heaven, just as far as he can before Saint Peter bars him.

My favorite interviews were the ones with John Brown and Sir Isaac Newton. John Brown was the man who lead the attack on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, if you remember that from your history classes. Brown comments in his interview about how Jefferson was a hypocrite. And really, a lot of the famous political figures from the past were, but as they say about studying the past in the play "The History Boys" by Alan Bennett, "It's not lest we forget, it's lest we remember". 

Going to Sir Isaac Newton, this section puts forth my favorite quote of the whole book: "It isn't enough for Newton that during his eighty-five years on Earth he invented calculus, codified and quantified the laws of gravity, motion, and optics, and designed the first reflecting telescope. He can't forgive himself for having left it to Darwin to come up with the theory of evolution, to Pasteur to come up with the germ theory, and to Albert Einstein to come up with relativity."

What made me continue to read this book, what really caught my attention and kept me going until the end, was Vonnegut's irreverent tone. Shakespeare may have been a great writer, but what the main character is more interested in is if he actually wrote all his plays and if he really had affairs with both men and women. He doesn't especially revere these famous people he writes about, but reveals that, in the end, they are just normal people. 

Although this was an unusual choice for my first book to review, I did quite enjoy it. I would probably not recommend it for everyone, as it isn't a fluid story, which may turn some people off. Also, it's quite short, only 78 pages, so it wouldn't occupy anyone for very long. It took me less than 24 hours. But it is a very entertaining book and classic Vonnegut, from what I've heard
For the next book I will be reading, I have a choice between On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony and Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I'll probably start one or the other tonight or tomorrow. Can't go too long without a book, can I?

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