Treasure Island

You can’t really grow up in America without hearing pirate stories. Even if you aren’t a fan of adventure stories, the trope is everywhere in our culture.

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The most famous of these stories is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. This used to be the book young boys would sneak under their covers and read by flashlight, but now it is mandatory reading by schools–which takes away some of the pleasure. Not to mention the language is somewhat old fashioned and confusing to us now.

Still, read or not, the characters in these pages are everywhere–Long John Silver and his parrot are not just fictional mutineers, they are also a fishy fast food mascot. I also knew a few others, like Ben Gunn and Tom Morgan, even though I hadn’t known where they came from. Disney had a theme park “Discovery Island” based on the story, though it is shut down now. And there’s just a bunch of adaptations and other cultural references from Stevenson’s story.

To be honest, I really wasn’t that into the book itself. I really just skimmed it to get the jist. The seafaring dialect was difficult to read unless you really go slow, and I mostly had the story in my head anyway. I mostly just wanted to get through it to check it off my list and get all the cultural reference goodies. I like to connect the dots on this sort of thing to all the moments in my life that have related back to old books like this. And there were several. I’ll probably come across other scenes in other movies now that I’ll go “Ooooooh that’s the thing from the thing!” You know how that works.

Fulfills Boxall #89

Ready Player One

My husband and I are both geeks in our own rights, but we don’t geek in the same way. I am books, he is movies. I grew up in the 90s, and he is all 80s. Needless to say, our references just do not match up most of the time. We do a lot of side cocked glances at each other.

Every other day there is another movie he is referencing, then despairing because I have not seen it. Not only was I not born for most of his favorites–I also grew up in an all girl house, so even the 90s movies I really didn’t watch. We watched Disney movies and chick flicks, instead of the cult/geek classics.

However, my love of all things geek pushes me to absorb as much pop culture as possible. And so, the longer we are together, the more of his movies I am taking in. I watched the Ghostbusters a few weeks ago, that was interesting. Jurassic Park happened for obvious reasons (mmmm Jeff Goldblum). Jaws is next on the list. The references are coming!

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I need to get him to read Ready Player One. This is exactly the kind of book R would love. It has every single 80s reference imaginable–movies, music, games–ESPECIALLY games. The whole thing is set in a futuristic MMO world. I didn’t get most of the references made, but the way everything was set up, I just loved the geek. I understand why this book is making the rounds!

It’s a little Big Brotherish, with the IOI swooping in to take over everything. However, I really liked some of the concepts–especially the online school set up. The enthusiasm of the teachers, and the technology-based curriculum just sounded really amazing. One thing I do want to question here though–Parzival’s schooling just kind of drops off. At the beginning he’s worried about the consequences of being expelled, and then after the game starts ramping up, he just stops showing up. There are no repercussions, and no one from school seems to miss him. We just forget that he left in the middle of the school year.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read in this type of MMO situation. I read James Dashner’s The Eye of Minds and was not impressed at all. It had a similar concept–teenage boy hacking/moving around in a computer simulation and trying to beat the evil corporation. Ready Player One, published two years previous, is definitely the stronger book. Maybe it is just more fun, with the gaming concept and geek references. It’s a bit more lighthearted of a YA novel, than Dashner’s conspiracy dystopia. There is definitely a comparison to be drawn though.

Have you read them both? Do you have a preference?

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

Travelling requires easy, light reads. Even if I am already in the middle of something when I leave–I usually pause it for something else while I’m gone. I can never give a difficult book the time and effort it requires while I’m travelling because there are too many distractions–other people, things to do, constant stops and starts. That is why there is a whole genre called “Beach Reads” that are always touted in the summertime. People do not want complicated when on vacation.

Thankfully, I had a couple of these on my Kindle, ready to go. Yesterday’s The Flying Circus was a great travel read, and I had started it in anticipation of my trip north. And when I finished it, I pulled up The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. 

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Modern romances always make great “beach reads.” (And no, I didn’t go to the beach, but I’m going to use that genre title.) They are usually light and fun, have a similar plot pattern, and almost always resolve themselves at the end.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake was exactly that kind of book. Lou runs a fairly successful French restaurant in Milwaukee, and is thinking about opening a second place with a changing menu. Her fiance, though, is completely unsupportive of her dreams. Always trying to convince him, she shows up early on his birthday with a surprise coconut cake–her grandmother’s famous recipe–only to find his secretary standing in his living room in HER negligee.

Devastated, she tries to go back to work, thinking that will help her keep her mind of it. Unfortunately, she completely screws up order after order, on a night when the Devil Incarnate is reviewing her restaurant. He destroys her.

A while later, she meets a handsome British freelance writer and teaches him all about Milwaukee charm. They fall crazy in love, of course. And, well…you’ll have to read the rest…if you haven’t already figured it out.

Even if you have, go read it. This book, just like the title, is super sweet, with a hint of vanilla. It’s pretty hard to put down, once you start it (even if you get carsick and have to stop every chapter to look out the window). I don’t read too many books from the actual romance genre anymore, but this one was completely uncheesy…well…I can’t say that. It WAS set in Wisconsin after all. But it was delightful.

And, I mean, the whole thing was about cheese and burgers and beer and cheese, so…you know I had to love it. Come on. That’s my whole vocabulary right there!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for unbiased review. Book to be released on July 21st.

The Flying Circus

Aw man, guys! I was doing so well with posting every day, and then I finally ran out of posts. I knew it would happen at some point. Sorry to leave you hanging yesterday.

But…we were out of town this weekend for my 10 year reunion, so while I was reading, I didn’t have time or access to type it all up. It was a whirlwind of 14 hours in the car, dinner with his family, drinks with some awesome Indy friends, more time in the car, having an amaaaaaaaaaaazing time with some people I haven’t seen in a decade, a day with my family, and then another 14 hours in the car. PHEW. I am exhausted!

The title of today’s book is especially apt, because my weekend WAS The Flying Circus!

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This was a fun book to read on the way up through the south, because we are obsessed with the cropduster planes in Arkansas. They are so fun to watch swooping and diving across the highways and fields. We even saw one dive parallel to the other side of the interstate, to spray directly under some powerlines that left one tiny strip of field close to the road. I would have been terrified to be driving next to him!

The Flying Circus is set in the 1920s years when flapper/prohibition was raging. Three people running from their lives find each other in small-town Indiana and put together a stunt circus with an airplane and a motorcycle. Oh, and don’t forget Mercury, the sausage stealing dog! They become a surrogate family for each other and travel around Indiana and Illinois, selling their show, mostly making just enough to live on and pay for gas. Their love of adventure and need for the road/air is what drove them, not money. They did know they couldn’t do it without each other.

I’m usually not in to the flapperesque period pieces, but I really enjoyed this one. I had a hard time putting it down, and it was a great one to read while travelling. There was a triangle romance, and plenty of other drama, but it ended quite sweetly. This comes out next week on July 7th, and it comes highly recommended by me!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for unbiased review.

Desperation

Gotta tell you guys, I’m a little nervous about writing this review. You all know that I am very honest about how I feel about books I read. Some are fantastic! I wouldn’t love to read if they weren’t. But, some fall short of my enthusiasm.

Really, I shouldn’t phrase it that way. I am almost always enthusiastic when it comes to reviewing a book…just sometimes I am enthusiastic in the wrong direction.

Some of the adult booklrs (as in age, not XXX) have started a chat, and I was grumbling about reading this month’s “husband book”–Desperation by Stephen King. I no more told them that I didn’t like it…and then there was a huge BOOOOOOOM and I lost all my power!!

Apparently, the fiction gods did not agree with my assessment.

And so, I’m writing this on a notepad, to be posted later…we’ll see what happens when it goes live. Please, Mr. King, don’t shut my power off again.

*fingers crossed*

(Ok. This is getting creepy guys. I wrote that line, and my power came back on. I cannot make this shit up.)

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I am finding that Stephen King is a mixed bag. I didn’t hate Cujo and The Shining. And 11/22/63 was brilliant, but it was so different than anything he’s ever written that it’s hard to compare that with his other books.

Most of them are 300 pages too long, so the middle is stuffed full of nothingness. I guess it is supposed to draw out suspense, but to me it just seems like that second movie in a trilogy–the one everyone hates because absolutely nothing happens. Sure, the monsters are scary, but a scary monster can only carry you so far if the plot is a dud and the rest of the characters lack the depth of a plastic kiddie pool!

Desperation is all of these things. I really wish I had done a “hate read” on Tumblr, because it would have been hilarious. Next time I read Stephen King, I’m doing it. #haleyreadsherhusbandsbooks

Several different stereotypical groups of people go on roadtrips to middle of nowhere desert town and get stopped by giant creepy cop guy. He arrests them all on bullshit charges and begins attacking them. It’s very icky and gorey, just like a Stephen King novel usually is.

There’s two people who are on their way to rescue everyone! YES! Everyone is going to be saaaaaaved!!!! But wait…it’s only like page 250, what? Oh, right, they meet up with everyone and get trapped two. Wah whoooomp. Pretty much the plot flatlines for the next 300 pages.

And at page 524 it got interesting. All of the sudden it somewhat made sense.

But that’s my point–it shouldn’t take FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR PAGES for a book to make me interested. If this wasn’t a “husband book”–something we owned so I feel I need to try to finish–I would have trashed it 100 pages in.

 

Now you’re starting to see why the God of Fiction struck me down today, right? I’m going to be on the road to Indiana when this post goes live, so hopefully nothing terrible happens! This book has been out for decades, so I’m hoping Mr. King is ok with one person not caring for his book. My husband loves his books…they just aren’t for me.

 

Goldengrove

I like thrillers, right? I like to be creeped out.

But there is scary horror psychological thriller creepy…

…and then there is legit sexual predator “all my hair standing on end because this person is just not right” creepy. Sometimes it’s a fine line, but there is a difference. One gives me goosebumps. The other makes me want to puke.

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At first, Goldengrove is just sad. It’s a book about grieving and healing. The oldest daughter in a family of four has a heart condition, and dies suddenly, leaving her younger sister and parents to mourn.

Pretty simple premise for a book, really. The dad buries himself in his work, mom finds solace in pain medication for her arthritis. Unfortunately, that leaves the 13 year old daughter without much of a support system, and so the only other friend she has is her sister’s boyfriend, Aaron, who is also grieving.

The problem is that Nico looks so much like her sister that Aaron’s grief becomes very confusing. He starts asking of Nico some pretty creepy things. Small requests at first, but they get bigger and bigger.

As an adult, looking in from the outside, I was screaming at her to stop. But it was like that frog in a pot of slowly heating water. She didn’t realize what was happening until it was boiling over. To be honest, I’m not sure Aaron did either (although his response does make me hesitate on that), but it was still just…creepy. *shudder*

The book itself wasn’t bad. The writing was great, to be honest–and obviously I had a very real emotional response to it. It’s one of those books that I don’t know how I feel about it. I can’t say it’s a “good” book, because the emotional response I’m having is not a good feeling. But it is a well written one. It’s a book that probably should be read, for awareness and emotion, something like reading All the Rage, just go into it knowing that it’s not going to be entertainment or relaxing.

Agnes Grey

Most book lovers have heard of the Bronte sisters. And it’s pretty hard to be a romance loving biblophile without reading at least Jane Eyre OR Wuthering Heights…if not both. Charlotte and Emily are famous names in reading culture. Their tropes are everywhere, from the dark and brooding Heathcliffe-like teen boys in YA EVERYTHING, to the plain Janes of this world who go unnoticed but have so much to offer.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that there was a third Bronte sister, Anne. I’ll admit, she’s missing from my shelf too, as I look up at my two beautiful Barnes and Noble Leatherbound copies of the two books above.

But this weekend, I sat down with Agnes Grey, and I fell just as much in love with Anne Bronte as I did with the more recognizable sisters, and I wonder why she is not just as famous.

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At it’s base, Agnes Grey the basic 1800s story of a young girl from a family on the outskirts of society, who decides to become a governess, and falls in love with one of the men she meets along the way. Pretty typical baseline for that period.

However, there are some things I want to point out that interested in the characters and the story:

1. Mrs. Grey could have been rich. She came from a wealthy family, but fell in love with a poor man, and even though her father disowned her, she married him anyway.

2. Agnes was the youngest child, and doted on. When her family needed money, she decided she was going to become a governess to help earn it, even though her mother and sister told her they would handle the situation and she should stay home and be idle. She was determined to help.

3. I’m not sure if they had a diagnosis for “sociopath” in the 1800s, but the first children certainly showed signs of it. The older boy, Tom, liked to trap sparrows and pull their heads and wings off for sport, because “he was not a bird and so he couldn’t feel what they felt”. His father even encouraged this behavior. His sister was much the same way. It was very alarming. I was very glad that the book was not staged around that house for long.

4. I loved Mr. Weston. He was just so sweet and friendly, really quite adorable in how he just wanted to spend time talking with her, without being a bumbling fool like some guys can be in these novels.

 

I could go on, but it’s just a sweet, simple novel. Nothing overly complicated or twisted or dark. I was expecting something a little more gothic, because of her sisters’ writing styles, but this is really nothing like that. The romance is almost set up more like a Jane Austen novel, but with much less drama. It made for a very nice Sunday afternoon.

 

Fulfills Boxall  #88

 

 

Swerve

Last night was a blast, ya’ll! One of the area neighborhoods, Deep Ellum,  has a monthly Wine Walk that they put on in the summer. A bunch of shops and galleries serve in the back, and then everyone just kind of mingles around for a few hours. What a great way to get in our Fitbit steps, and check out some local shopping! We’ll definitely do it again.

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I ended up surprising myself–because we went out last night, I didn’t think I was going to have a chance to read and finish a new book in time for today’s blog. But hey, you know me. I can’t leave you guys hanging!

Actually, I just picked one that I hoped would be a quickie. It also turned out to be REALLY good.

With Hannibal starting back up, I am craving thrillers. That show just charges me up for that surge of electricity I get from reading terrifying, twisted stories. (Does it say something about me that I like reading about psychopaths and broken people? Maybe…but I am a broken person too.)

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Vicki Pettersson’s new book Swerve releases just after the July 4th holiday and it fills that thriller need perfectly. Kristine is on a trip with her fiance to visit his mother, when the couple is abducted by a psychopath. The mystery trucker leaders her down a terrifying road of destruction in order to save her fiance.

This book reminded me a lot of Red Dragon–even though we never got a look out from the perspective of the killer, we do hear a lot about what is going on in his head and what lead him to this point. The precision and escalation to the moments in the book, the “hot” point of the serial killer instinct, it’s all very similar to how Dolerhyde escalates.

I highly recommend this for you thriller freaks out there like me. Pick this up on July 7 and be prepared for your summer to sizzle!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

The Quest, De Kleine Johannes

Remember my tangent from the other day about historical context, and how important it is to know the environment in which the book you are reading was written?

I just finished a horribly confusing book–until I googled. Sometimes, I just get so far in over my head that I have to look up what the book is about. And that’s ok. Reading these great works is about learning–if I don’t understand something from the book itself, I’m not above looking up the SparkNotes or Wiki!

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When I started reading Frederik van Eeden’s book, I thought it was going to be a book for children. Part I begins so sweetly, sort of an Alice in Wonderland meets The Hobbit type story. Johannes comes across a dragonfly that turns into a fairy-like creature, who shrinks him down to grass-size and takes him on an adventure. It’s a story that begs to be read chapter by chapter at night to a couple of tucked-in youngsters.

But then, the story kind of goes off a cliff and gets dark and darker. It twists and turns and becomes unrecognizable from where it begins, almost if the author descended into madness after he started. I quickly became confused, and probably should have given it up–but Part I was so delightful, I kept hoping it would go back to that.

It never did. The book becomes extremely evangelical, almost punishing in its sermons–at the same time it is full of crushing doubt. Like I said…it really felt like the narrator, if not the author himself, was not in control of his mind.

And then, in Part III, the book starts eluding to socialism and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party. It’s called a different name in the book, but it sounded so familiar that it clicked, and I knew the book was written in Holland just before WWI, so bam, that was it! Once I looked up that Party (<–Click there) it all made so much more sense. All the back and forth between religion and doubt, I THINK is a metaphor for the extremes in the party. There was so much that eluded to the battles between the branches. The Twelve Apostles fit in with that too. I could be way off, but it sure made the book come together for me.

This was a very difficult book to read, but it’s the first Dutch translation I’ve read, so I wanted to stick with it. If anyone has additional analysis on this, I’d love to hear it. I’m still very unsure about how I’ve interpreted it, but I had a hard time finding notes on this in English.

 

Also–I’ve been doing really great about getting a post up every day, but I’ve finally caught up with myself! Because I finished this book late in the day (and we have plans tonight) I am not sure I’ll be able to get one up tomorrow. We’ll see. If not, I’ll resume on Monday. Have a great weekend!

The Empty Family

Of course, I read an amazing, wonderful book…and I have to follow it up with a terrible one. It never fails, does it?

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I’ve had The Empty Family on my shelf for awhile–it was one I picked up from the $1 shelf at Half-Price. I had liked Brooklyn, so I thought I’d pick something else up from Toibin. I didn’t realize until I got it home that it was a collection of short stories.

Which, ok, short stories do not always doom a book. But, I just have such a hard time with them. There’s never enough time to get into anything. Some authors are great at this. Most just don’t cut it for me.

If you’ve been around for awhile, you know how much I HATE JAMES JOYCE. Nothing EVER happens in his stories. These were a lot like modern day Joyce. There is a main person, usually a gay male, has a very vague problem to solve. There’s some tragic backstory that we get very little of, but it really is super important to the whole underlying issue. It’s all very dark and sad and it’s supposed to be beautifully depressing, but mostly it just comes off limp.

Next please!