Eaters of the Dead

Right from the beginning of a Michael Crichton novel, he begins selling untruths. But the way he folds them into his introduction, they seem like an Author’s Note at the start of any other book, laying the real, historical foundation before diving into fiction. The reader can hardly separate his “facts” from reality and is immediately drawn into whatever world Crichton has masterfully created.

With his science fiction, he often creates fictitious organizations or groundbreaking legal statutes–anything that will build up his coming story and provide a plausible backbone. It is almost tempting to Google InGen and expect to find real stocktickers or company data.

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When I pulled Eaters of the Dead from my shelf, two things happened:

  1. I was shocked to find it wasn’t sci-fi. It sure sounds like a book about zombies. And it’s Michael Crichton, right? He is one of our best known creature sci-fi writers. What the heck is this? “The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan, Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in AD 922.” Ooooookkkkk….
  2. I was able to GOOGLE IDN FADLAN AND FIND INFORMATION ON HIM. He was a real person. His manuscript was real, Crichton didn’t make this up.

So then I was really confused. What was this book I had in my hands? Michael Crichton did a historical translation? That didn’t seem right. But, I couldn’t put it down. The book is absolutely fascinating.

Of course it is. It’s Michael Crichton.

Ibn Fadlan is a 10th century Arab ambassador from Bagdad, who crosses paths with a group of Vikings on his way north. He travels with them for awhile, and writes about their barbaric customs–before being enlisted in their war against a cannibalistic ghost-like creature.

This “manuscript” isn’t very long, only about 180 pages, along with extremely detailed footnotes. The details about Arab and Viking culture were extremely interesting–I have 3 pages of notes from those 180 pages.

…but now I am questioning everything I wrote down…

Michael Crichton, genius that he is, took the first half of the book from the real Ibn Fadlan manuscript. That part really did happen. But after that first half, things get a little crazy, and you can tell that the supernatural is taking over and maybe things aren’t totally real anymore. It turns out he took the rest from a story in Beowulf. The footnotes, which seem like Crichton explaining Ibn Fadlan’s translated words are actually a fictitious narrator. Now, they are obviously extremely well researched, and probably factual (mostly), but with MC…, question everything.

Either way, real or not real…this book is brilliant. Some of you may know it as The 13th Warrior, as it was republished under that name when it was turned into an Antonio Banderas movie (I have feelings about that, but I’ll keep my mouth shut). I’d never heard of either, I just knew it was on my shelf with the rest of our MC books. It definitely needs to be read by any MC fan–I’m not sure it will push Prey out of line for my favorite, but it might be number #2 now.

Buy Here:

Airplane Rides: Observations from Above

I have a fear of flying. More accurately, I have a fear of falling.

The take offs and descents, that’s what gets me. Oh, and turbulence. I HATE turbulence. That feeling that the plane is going to drop out of the air at any second…it is torture. Once we are at cruising altitude, I’m generally ok (You know…except for turbulence. Did I mention that I hate turbulence?) But until then, it is white knuckles and my husband telling me to breathe. Same on the way down. Oh god.

I’ve been travelling a lot more since meeting R. Until then, the last time I had flown was as a young teenager, before most of my anxieties kicked in. I was totally not prepared for how much flying would scare me that first time up. Now, at least I’m ready for it, I guess.

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Jake Alexander (a pseudonym) has written down 10 stories that were told to him by fellow frequent flyers. Interestingly enough, none were quite as panicked as I am about flying. I guess that would make for a less interesting story (I hate talking on planes). Anyway, somehow all 10 people seriously open up about some pretty real stuff.

This is one of those books that I’m juuuuuust not sure about. There’s some of the stories I liked. Pastor Daniel, flying to New York to take a break from his faith. The goth kid running away from home, so tough, but really she just wants to be loved by her parents.

However, most of the stories had a very real theme running through them. This is very much a MAN’S book. Ladies, don’t look for many feminist themes here. Jake hits on every single female he comes across (except maybe the underage goth girl), including two gay women who clearly have absolutely no interest in him. He is completely wasted nearly every single sentence of this book. Stoli on the rocks. Seriously. There’s only one reason to drink vodka straight. *shudder* He even allegedly convinces a women to masturbate under one of those blankets in a bag while he watches. Ew.

Oh, did I mention that he ALWAYS flies first class? As in, at one point he says he had not flown coach in 10 years. Snooty patooty. He’s also one of those people who bitches out the desk workers, and talks about them as if they were the dirt under their feet. The worker who is a “nineteen-year-old overweight, underpaid child” and “her fate had already been sealed by a fatherless child, an abusive parent, an absent education or maybe all of the above.” You know what, I am sure about this book. Very sure.

I think the moral of this book, if there is one hidden in the liquor and sex, is that slowly through this journey of constant drunken plane travel, he realizes that maybe there’s some greater life out there than this. He has this great epiphany, decides he’s going to change everything. And then at the end of the book (Yeah I know, SPOILER. Trust me, it’s huge, I promise.) he’s had a four day affair with an actress, and he makes her breakfast. WHOA. MINDBLOWING CHANGE. I AM SO IMPRESSED.

I feel like maybe I shouldn’t write reviews at ten o’clock at night. Or maybe I should, this is probably pretty entertaining. At least it is honest. I’ll never be anything but!

Guys, I didn’t love this book, obviously. It did make me outrageously thirsty. But, I’m a gin girl. Sorry Jake.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. (This was technically from NetGalley, but it has been out since December 2014. I’m not sure if they consider this an ARC anymore or not.)

A Dance with Dragons

Winter is coming…

…and goddammit Martin, HURRY UP AND FINISH YOUR BOOK ALREADY!!!!!

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A Dance with Dragons was just as much fun, and just as frustrating, as all the rest of the series. Except, now, there is no “rest of the story” at this point. I know more is coming, but I can’t just grab the next book off the shelf and holy cow what a cliff hanger. Multiple cliff hangers!!!!!!

The timeline here is a bit confusing, since it overlaps with A Feast for Crows. You see Samwell Tarly back with Jon at the wall, and it makes absolutely no sense…until you remember he hasn’t left yet! For the first half of the book, the chronology is the same as the previous book, it is just a different set of narrators. Then, the timeline slowly starts to align again, and by the end of the book, everything has converged and moved on.

Oh, and remember how troubled I was about Theon Greyjoy’s storyline? We see him again here, finally. And wow, I had no idea how much the show had elaborated on his torture. No WONDER I was so confused about him. On one hand, it does show more about how Theon became the damaged Reek, but geez guys. That’s a lot of torture to add, that isn’t actually written into a pretty heavy book. In the book, everyone just assumes he’s dead. And now they’ve already shown the Asha card–she’s already tried to go in and rescue him once and failed. How are they going to get him out the second time?

I am really looking forward to seeing how Maisie Williams does Arya’s time in the Temple of the Many Faced God. That’s going to be a really interesting part to play!

And, of course, I have a lot of thoughts…mostly screaming…about the ending. But, I’ve given away a lot of spoilers already, so I better keep my mouth shut.

 

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HURRY UP GEORGE RR MARTIN!!! WINTER IS COMING!!!

 

A Clash of Kings

My Game of Thrones journey continues with George RR Martin’s second book:  A Clash of Kings. Second books can sometimes be a let down, or filled with long, uninteresting scenes as we wait for the action to ramp back up. And at first, I was a little afraid that was going to happen. There wasn’t much going on, there was a lot of action pausing going on. Conversations and battle planning, strategizing. “What are we going to do next?”

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But, it never takes long for Martin to draw you back in. That’s why these books are so enthralling. Even though there is so much going on, so many characters to keep track of, and goddammit, every body freaking dies…you just can’t help but run to keep up, because you have to know what is going to happen next.

And it’s even better rereading this, I have to tell you. There is so much I missed on the first go round–I swear, if someone had a camera watching my face as I read this, they’d see me leap out of my chair, or pump my fist, or slam my hand on my desk. It’s probably quite comical.

Here’s some thoughts that I noted down from Book 2 (spoiler alert):

–Samwell Tarley is one of my very favorite characters. I love how he talks about books, the wonder of them. Tyrion (who is another favorite of mine) appreciates learning and knowledge too, but as a weapon. Samwell gets pure joy from reading all night, he loses track of time, gets lost in the pages and goes from one subject to another without stopping.

–Eureka Moment–There’s a Reek that precedes Theon! I remember being so confused by this whole storyline previously, and I knew when I watched the show that something was missing. I completely missed that Ramsey had already had a “pet,” and that’s how he ends up capturing Winterfell.

–The relationship with the Starks and their wolves is so much more intense in the books. The wildlings are going so far as to call Jon a Warg towards the end of Clash of Kings, and I never realized he had the same abilities as Bran. It makes sense, that they would all have that trait…Arya talks about being a wolf too, but I always just thought that she was projecting. Rickon too talks about his dreams into ShaggyDog. I really like this connection, and I’ll be interested to see where it goes.

I Wish It Ended Differently

SPOILER ALERT

 

I try not to post spoilers on this blog, but…with this type of post…I can’t help it.

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For those of you who haven’t read My Sister’s Keeper, you should. It’s about a second daughter who was conceived really only to be a donor baby for her sick older sister. When she’s a teenager, she hires a lawyer to fight back. She loves her sister, but she’s tired of all the surgeries and wants a voice of her own.

The book is incredibly written–my favorite of Jodi Picoult’s by far. And the movie absolutely did not do it any justice at all. Ugh.

Anyway, the end makes you scream and throw the book across the room. Anna (the main character fighting for medical emancipation) gets in the car with her lawyer and they get in an accident. After everything she fights to achieve…she is pronounced BRAIN DEAD and they give her body to her sister anyway.

It’s not that I necessarily wanted her critically ill sister to die either, but come on. You can’t take me on this journey of courage and self-discovery and build up all these wonderful characters and then POOF. The brave little girl dies. What?! NO!

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