Necromancers, Time Travel and Boozing Writers: My Recent Reads

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While I’ve always read a lot, it’s gotten insane now working in a library. I’m surrounded by books all day and can pretty much read about anything on a whim. I’m usually reading at least three nonfiction books at once, some faster than others. Meanwhile, fiction I tend to keep at the most two at a time, one at work and one at home. And maybe I’ll have a poetry book or short story collection I pick up randomly. (I’ve been reading a zombie anthology for at least a year now.)

Since I’m horrible at updating my Goodreads account or actually planning out full reviews to do I’ll be adding a round up here a couple times of year for the books that stood out.

My YA streak

Slayer by Kiersten White–Set in the Buffy-verse; not exactly sure of timeline but it takes place well after the show and includes events from the graphic novels. All potential slayers have been activated, watchers council destroyed, and the end of magic on earth. The few surviving watchers struggle to figure out what to do next while the next generation faces the future head on. While it’s a totally new story with new characters it has a very famliar feel to it. It includes the sarcastic quips, witty insults, and goofy slang we come to expect from slayers and supporting characters.

Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride– This was a fun modern fantasy/horror. It includes your supernatural regulars werewolves, witches, fey, and of course necromancers. The story centers on Sam LaCroix who is completely unaware of his own supernatural nature until he meets Douglas Montgomery, a seriously bad guy. What I really love about this book was the characters. They are all very unique, entertaining and sympathetic. Even the villains have a charm to them. I will soon be devouring the second book in the series, which at the moment is the last. I hope there are more to come.

Feed by M.T. Anderson–Future society where you can vacation on the moon, suburbs are built on top of each other, forest are torn down to build air factories, and people are connected to the web 24/7 through an implant; rich boy meets poor girl they both learn how different their lives are. The thing that tripped me out most about the book was the parents talking the same way the kids do, using the same slang and displaying immature attitudes. It just seemed creepy. Otherwiseit’s a really intersting concept and while still being entertaining the book still deals with some pretty heavy morality issues.

The Grin in the Dark by J.A Dark–Okay technically this is a children’s book. It was on my list to read because it was one of few that came up when searching for clown horror. And for a kids book, it’s pretty damn scary. Teenager Hamid Abdi is babysitting his little cousins during a bad storm while the police search for an escaped convict. If that’s not scary enough there might also be a clown hiding somewhere in the house.

Horror/Fantasy/SciFi

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt–I really liked this book even though I can’t be exactly sure what happened. It’s a twisted fairy tale for grownups about a woman lost in the woods. In her travels, she meets some of the inhabitants of the forest who lead her on an adventure. It starts off simple pretty straightforward, maybe just a little odd, by the end you are questioning reality, but in a good way. As long as you don’t mind a little confusion I would totally recommend this book.

Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker–At first glance this might seem very similar to Sleeping Beauties, which was why I picked it up in the first place. However, it is a very different story. The sleeping disease first appears on a college campus which leads to the small surrounding town being quarenteened. It can affect anybody, man, woman, young old, etc., and it an lead to death in more ways than one. The book takes us through the events on the campus and the town during the epidemic.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates–This is another really trippy concept. A future dystopian United States where asking questions in a valedictorian speech is punishable by exile. Adriane Strohl is sent to the year 1959 to serve out her four year excile in a small Winsconson college.

Suspicious Minds: The First Official Stranger Things Novel by Gwenda Bond–This is the perfect read to gear up for the new season soon to be released. Essentially, the novel is a prequel to the series. In the novel, a group of students participate in a research study with the infamous Dr. Brenner. The main character and one of the students is Terry Ives, Eleven’s mother. Eventually, becoming suspicious of Brenner’s true intent they hatch a plan to stop him. Definitely a must read if you are a fan of the show.

Nonfiction

Creating From the Spirit : Living Each Day as a Creative Act by Dan Wakefield–This book is a pretty damn good guide to living a creative life. It discusses many of the myths people believe about writers and other artists. Most of these myths include self destructive and unhealthy behaviors and habits. He debunks these myths and discusses healthy ways to encourage your creativity. Reading this made me evaluate myself, especially bad habits I excuse in the name of my creativity.

The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer by Tom Dardis–The book focuses on four famous writers who embodied and reinforced the hard drinking writer stereotype. It was mentioned in the previous book and piqued my curiosity. It details and examines the role of alcohol in the writing of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and O’Neill. It’s a pretty interesting read and a good cautionary tale for those that think drugs or alcohol will help their creativity.

One Last One

High Heat by Richard Castle–I’ve read a couple of books in the series and they are usually quick and fun reads. I don’t expect much from a book written by a fictional character, but this one was just not good. The story focuses too much on a subplot about Nikki Heat’s mother instead of the central case. Which is likely because the case is so unoriginal and totally predictable. I spent most of the book yelling in my head at the characters for being so stupid. I think I’m done with these books.

These are just a small sample of books from the past couple of months. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any and how you liked them. If not let me know what books you would recommend.

Book vs. Movie: The Girl On The Train

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I’d like to say that I went into this with a fresh unbiased perception, but the idea to even read the book and watch the movie was because of what I’d heard about them. While I’d only heard good things about the book, the movie was often criticized. It’s pretty common for readers to dislike and slam movie adaptations. In some cases the criticism is well deserved but many times it’s simply because of deviations from the source material. There’s also the simple truth that it’s pretty much impossible to encompass a novel into a feature length film.

In this case I think the biggest problem is that the story isn’t as exciting or interesting if you already know the ending. The book was suspenseful because it centered around a murder mystery. Personally, I loved the book. It’s a little bit of a slow start but once I got started I finished it in a matter of days. It was structured perfectly to build up to the climax. The changing point of view and back and forth through the timeline helped build the suspense.  The reader is kept in anticipation, while slowly unraveling the chain of events that led to Megan’s murder. It’s told at an excellent pace, revealing just enough to keep you interested while still leading to unexpected twists.

As for the movie, after reading the book the whole mystery aspect is lost making it harder to capture my attention and the suspense of the story. However, I do think the movie could have been better. It didn’t really maximize on the suspense aspect of the story. In the opening scene we already know most of the details of Rachel’s past. In the movie the story seems to go too fast. I also think the structure of the story didn’t translate well on the screen. The nonlinear structure and changes in point of view worked well in the book, it lent to the mystery, dropping clues here and there. In the movie it just didn’t have the same effect. I think one of the biggest problems came at the climax of the story. In the movie it was very abrupt and I didn’t see as much of the foreshadowing we got in the book. I suspect if hadn’t read the book first I might have enjoyed the movie a bit more. Attempting to put my bias aside, I still have to say that the movie could have been better.

What is the Kafka myth? 

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Before I even moved in September, I located the nearest public library. Luckily, it is within walking distance. It was one of my the places I visited after the move. Since I’ve gotten a card I’ve tried to visit every couple of weeks. On one of my first visits I found the book, Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life by James Hawes. I actually haven’t read much of Kafka’s writing, but Metamorphosis is one of favorite books. I found it in my high school library and loved it so much it became the topic of an English paper. For which I read The Trial and compared the two stories. I didn’t know much about Kafka or even his significance in literature at that time. It seems my ignorance might have been a blessing.

According to Hawes, much of what we think we know about Kafka is not actually true. Much of what people think they know about him is actually part of a constructed image he refers to as the K-myth. Mainly this mythology promotes the idea of a poor, lonely, writer who suffered working a bureaucratic job. It goes into greater detail about so called facts about the writer and his work. Thankfully, most of which I had never heard. Hawes alleges, the less you know the greater chance you’ll enjoy reading Kafka. Below I’ve listed a few of the ones I found most interesting.

  • Kafka was poor. Okay so he did work a bureaucratic job that he wanted to leave. But being poor was not the reason. The author points out he made much more money than the average worker. Not only that he lived with his middle class family most of his life, owned a business with them, and was paid for his writing.
  • He was ignored by contemporaries and unknown in his lifetime. It’s hard to be unknown when you are publishing stories in prestigious journals. He was also in the same social circles as his contemporaries. In fact they arraigned for him to be  awarded the prize money for an award given to another writer. He may not have been world famous during his lifetime, but he was well known in his city’s cultural society.
  • His work is based on his experience as a Jew and Jewishness is vital to understanding his writing. I’m not sure something like this should be said of any writer ever. But the author also points out that Jewishness wasn’t actually a large part of his life. Why then would it take up so much in his writing.