in the reading room: RIP X continues, the library book sale, and a laid back sort of readathon…

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ThePassageCoverFeeling slightly more accomplished this week than last. Finishing a big-ass book will do that for me every time. Rich and I finished up The Passage by Justin Cronin this week. Woohoo! We read the bulk of it audiobook style, but after I quit Scribd in a fit of pique over their new audiobook policy, we read a bit aloud from our print copy until an audiobook copy was available from the library. Anyway, The Passage…Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow. Yep, totally loved this one. “To pieces” kind of love. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, little post-apocalyptic fangirl that I am. There were times I found it heavily reminiscent of The Stand, particularly in the beginning. And then there were times when I couldn’t help but think of The Walking Dead. But really, it was its own story for sure. I was totally clueless before starting the book that it involved its own unique brand of vampires, and I’m very, very thankful for that cluelessness. (Actually, I suspect that maybe there was a time I did know when it first came out and was all the rage, but I had no recollection of that little tidbit.) Anyway, I’m just not much of a vampire girl (except for Bram Stoker’s Dracula–that book I adored), and had I known, I might not have given this a go. So yeah, Debra Anne–maybe you ought to quit ruling books out using excuses like “but I don’t like (fill-in-the-blank) books.”

Okay, back on track please. I’m not sure what it is about post-apocalyptic/dystopian sort of stories that allows me to become so involved, so invested. I was right there, living in this scary new world along with the characters. And yep, the characters made me smile, and frustrated me, and brought tears to my eyes, and made me love them, even when I didn’t agree with them or completely understand them. The story kept me engaged all the way through. And I really enjoyed Cronin’s writing. But what exactly about this book moved it from a book I really enjoyed to a book that completely captivated me, I just don’t know. I honestly cannot point to any one thing that made me love this book the way I did.

forgotten girlsNext up was The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel. I’d personally never heard of Sara Blaedel before, but I get the feeling that she’s rather a well-known crime/suspense author amongst those who tend to read a lot in this genre. And it seems she’s downright famous in her native Denmark. I just stumbled upon this book when I was searching the library website for a new audiobook to listen to during all those cooking hours. I didn’t realize at the time I downloaded this one that it was the 7th book in a series. But honestly, it didn’t matter–it certainly felt like a self-contained story. Though I do realize there’s surely a lot of backstory I’m missing as far as the protagonist Louise Rick and her best friend Camilla Lind go.

In this book, Louise is just starting a new job, having moved from the homicide department to head a new sort of missing persons unit. Along with her new partner, a partner she’s not particularly thrilled about in the beginning, she begins her new job trying to find the identity of a woman found dead in the woods. Foul play isn’t really suspected; it appears the woman took a rather large fall down a bank. Identifying who this woman is, however, is the tip of a very large iceberg.

I found the story interesting, though I wouldn’t by any means call it at-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. But at the same time, it is definitely not in the cozy mystery category. In fact, what we learn by the end of the book is truly quite horrifying, and I had a hard time stomaching some of the awfulness. Definitely trigger warnings for rape and for abuse of people with intellectual disabilities.

I enjoyed it enough, despite the horrifying aspects, to possibly give Sara Blaedel another try. I’d really love to get to know Louise Rick better. As all of Blaedel’s books haven’t been translated to English, I’ve no hope of going in order at this point, but if this book was any indication, I’m guessing I’ll be okay reading out of order.

Peril the First requires four books. These make books two and three, so I really should make it. Famous last words.

*****

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I also read a couple short stories. (Actually I read more than a couple, but I’m saving most of them to talk about when I finish the anthology the other ones are in.) But for now, I’ll mention two stories by Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat” and “Memoirs of a Madman.”

Thank you, homeschooling, for making me step into “the land of intimidating literature.” For me, the land of intimidating literature is vast and wide. Classics tend to live there. But then so do the works of a great many author’s writing today (A.S. Byatt, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, to name just a few). Literature from certain countries, like Russia and Japan. I guess one thing that guarantees I will categorize something as intimating is if I fear I’m not smart enough to understand it. The thing is, about 95% of the time that I force myself the visit the land of intimidating literature, I prove myself wrong. One would think one would learn from this and stop banishing books there to start with…but one doesn’t seem to learn from her mistakes.

And yes, the reason for all this rambling is that 1.) I was deathly afraid to anything by Gogol, and 2.) there was no reason to be. Both “The Overcoat” and “Memoirs of a Madman” were immensely readable. I was quite surprised by the humor in both these stories, though I wouldn’t call either story funny. “The Overcoat,” especially, was about the dehumanization of bureaucracy and strict hierarchies. I believe both are RIP-appropriate, “The Overcoat” more obviously so with the ghost/corpse (depending on the translation). I found “Memoirs of a Madman” overall to be sad, but in somewhat of a disquieting way. And bottom line, I enjoyed the hell out of both of them. Go figure.

*****

This week was our library branch’s book sale. Oh how we look forward to this sale every year. Rich, Annie, and I went on Tuesday (the day that is only open to Friends of the Library members). These are the beauties I picked up that day:

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On the left, the exciting new-to-me books I’m ridiculously eager to read. On the right, all books I’ve read in the past but picked up for fibro flare times when I need books that require little thinking or focus. (Not pictured: the two books I bought that I already owned. Doh.)

On Thursday, Rich picked up Eva and Thistle on his way home from work. We ate a fortifying supper before dropping Annie off at work and then heading to the book sale. Poor Thistle had to stay home to babysit the boys. 😉  Again, I may have gone a little overboard:

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(Not pictured: It’s become somewhat of a tradition over the last few years, that we give Mom, Dad, and Butch each a box full of used books as one of their Christmas gifts, and we really stocked up for that.)

Eva did okay herself. I think she said she ended up buying 30-something books. 🙂

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Ummmm…yes, Rich and I went back again on Friday. With really good intentions–we were just going to buy more books for Mom’s box Christmas box and grab some for Annie. But well, yeah…self-control is just a little too hard to come by at a library book sale. Especially on half-price day. I think Rich may have bought more for himself today than he did either on Tuesday or Thursday. 😛  And I picked another small(ish) pile too. Of course.

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The James Patterson’s are just more for “my brain doesn’t work and I’m cranky and I’m sick to fucking death of pain” periods. I’ve read them all before. The book that really excites me most from this stack is the Laurie R. King one–Eva told me about this series (Kate Martinelli) a while ago, and I’ve really been wanting to give them a go. So YAY!

I will not go back to the book sale today for bag day…I will not go back to the book sale today for bag day…I will not go back to the book sale today for bag day…

*****

Another YAY–this weekend is the Dog Days of Summer Readathon. Actually started yesterday, but I didn’t get much reading done. I’m hoping for a much better showing today. I have a ton of reading to do for school, but I’m going to try to break it up with some fun reading too.

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in the reading room: books read, RIP X, a readathon, and our fall family bingo cards

Seeing how this covers the last two and a half-ish weeks, one might think there ought to be more to report as far as books read. Well, one would be wrong. One tends to think she accomplishes more than she actually does, apparently. 😛

children of green*Finished up The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston. A short children’s book written in the 1950s. For the most part, it was charming and enjoyable. Cool old castle, a pretty awesome great-grandmother, and friendly, spirited ghosts–what’s not to love, right? But actually there was one thing that wasn’t at all lovable–a dose of horrid antiziganism. Eva warned of this when I mentioned that I was about to start reading it, and she sure wasn’t kidding. While in general, I try to avoid spoilers, problematic issues like that are one thing I appreciate knowing ahead of time. I think when I’m blindsided by some sort of ugliness like that, I then find I can’t focus on any good a book has to offer, but when I’m forewarned, I’m better able to appreciate the good despite the problems. I’m not sure if that makes any sense outside my own head.

bitter brew*Next up was A Bitter Brew: Faith, Power, and Poison in a Small New England Town by Christine Ellen Young. We made up a family summer reading bingo game to play this summer, complete with rewards. I had one last item–“read a book that involves a crime”–to complete my entire card. I’ve sort of been in the mood for a true crime read lately, so that worked out nicely. But I started and abandoned two other true crime books before settling into this one. I remembered vaguely the incident this book chronicles, the arsenic in the coffee at a church in Maine, but didn’t know a lot about it. After reading the book, I now feel that in some ways I know too much about it, and in some ways I don’t really know much at all. It was just horrendously sad in about a thousand different ways. But oh my goodness, am I glad I was not a part of that church community–they seemed to just thrive on drama. Exactly the kind of thing I try to avoid at all costs. If it hadn’t been over a third of the way through the book before the author started delving into the relationships and power struggles and such, I’m not sure I would have continued. To be honest, I’m sort of wondering if maybe true crime just isn’t for me anymore. Or maybe it was just my mood–being in a flare up, I may just have needed more peaceful or comforting or fun sort of reads. Actually, that’s probably it.

*While Rich and I were off on our glorious four-day getaway to a “cabin” in the woods, I read the first volume of four different comic series. Two I pretty much fell head-over-heels in love with and two that I was left feeling ambivalent about. I’ve really struggled in the past about whether to continue with a series when I’m not completely in love with it. It would be one thing if I hated it, or even disliked it. But it’s those ones that I sort of like, but don’t really love that cause me decision-stress. Well, I’ve made an executive decision–if I don’t love it, I won’t continue. There are just too many awesome books left to read in this world and too few years of life to even make a dent. I do realize that a the second or third volume might turn a “meh” experience into a “wow” experience with a series, but really there’s that potential with any book. I’m happy to have set myself this policy, as frankly, decision-making is not my strong suit.

So…the four series I started, two of which I will happily be continuing with:

Rat Queens, Volume One: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch was one of the most fun comics I’ve read recently. I seriously loved it with a passion! How could one not fall in love with the Rat Queens themselves, Betty and Violet and Dee and Hannah?!! They’re funny and irreverent and badass. And maybe what I love best about them is the way they care about one another. The art–awesome. I wish so badly that I had volume two already.

Sex Criminals, Volume One: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I expected to love this, I really did. I mean I love Fraction’s Hawkeye; I love the unique concept of the story; I love sex. But I don’t know…it just didn’t wow me. Too high expectations? Maybe. I don’t know, but something about it fell a little flat for me. Which really makes me sad.

Shutter, Volume One: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca. This was another huge win for me. A robot cat who bakes cookies, a reluctant hitman salamander who drives an apple car reminiscent of Richard Scarry, a slightly scary nanny who goes by the name “General,” previously unknown siblings…come on, what’s not to love?!! Plus an awesome friendship (which we’d better get back to!), a transgender character, dinosaurs, mystery. Yeah, I’m smitten.

Low, Volume One: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini. As with Sex Criminals, it’s not that I disliked it. And again I like the premise of the story. But it just failed to really grab me. And while I adore the cover of this one, there was something about the coloring of the comic itself that just didn’t appeal to me. I actually think it’s appropriate, but nonetheless it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I really do see potential in this series, but I’m sticking with my decision.

*****

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(fabulously gorgeous art by Abigail Larson)

RIP X is underway! Absolutely one of my favorite reading events of the year! But I must confess, when I first saw the announcement, I sort of felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It just completely threw me to find that Carl wasn’t hosting it this year. Don’t get me wrong–I have no doubt whatsoever that Heather and Andi will do a wonderful job! They are both completely beyond awesome, and I adore them to pieces! What threw me didn’t have to do with the fact that they were hosting it, it was that Carl wasn’t. To me so much of what I associate with RIP (and Once Upon a Time, and the Sci-Fi Experience) is Carl. So maybe it’s just that I’m not good with change or maybe it’s just a nostalgia thing, but it just caught me off guard.

Like I said, I know that Andi and Heather will make RIP X fabulous, and frankly, Carl pours so much work and heart into his events that he more than deserves a break! So now that it’s sunk in, and even more so after an email from Carl, I’m ready to revel in all things creepy and gruesome and mysterious once again.

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I will be aiming to complete Peril the First (which requires four spooky/mysterious/creepy/horrific/you-get-the-idea books). Though I can’t really say what those four (or more) books will be. These are my pools (a comics pile and a pile of novels), but who knows if I’ll even stick with them.

Not shown: I’ve been rereading Salem’s Lot (Stephen King), Rich and I are currently listening to the audiobook of The Passage (Justin Cronin), and my current non-fiction book, Spillover (David Quammen), fits RIP qualifications too (at least I think so).

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I also hope to participate in the Peril of the Short Story. Though if history repeats itself, I will likely read appropriate stories, but then fail to write about them because I just find it so frickin’ hard to do. I pulled a pile of appropriate collections off the shelves to dip into.

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Not shown: A collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that my dear friend Pat sent me, and that I’d set aside just waiting for RIP. And then RIP comes, and I completely forget to put it in the stack. One is also scatter-brained.

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And finally, there is the Peril on the Screen. I’ve no idea what I may watch though. And again, as with short stories, I really have no idea how to talk about movies/TV. But hey, that doesn’t stop me from talking about books, does it? 😛

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DDoS ReadathonHeather and Andi are adding yet more fun to my life by hosting the brand-new, Dog Days of Summer Readathon. Just a laid back weekend of reading, which sounds perfect. Even if I have to spend the bulk of my time reading for school.

 

 

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Next up, we’ve begun our Fall Family Bingo game. We did this over the summer (with all different categories), largely as a way to keep the boys reading over the summer. Shocking all of us, Max was the first to complete a row during our summer game, though Rich and I were the only ones to fill our entire card. It was a hit, so we’ve decided to do another round, running from September 2nd (the boys’ first day of school) thru December 24th.

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*****

And lastly in this week’s reading room, I only brought one new (to me) book into the house, Sula by Toni Morrison.