Monday, November 29, 2010

Are you well read?

I saw this list over a Dead End Follies and Too Many Books, Too Little Time and thought I'd play along.  Supposedly the BBC put together a list of 100 books and claim that people will only have read 6 of these books on average.  I'll bold the books I've read, italicize the books I've read a part of.

I say "supposedly" because I noticed these 2 blogs have 2 different lists of books.  So I tried searching for the list the BBC put together.  And I can't find it.  I found a list of the top 100 nation's best beloved books but this didn't say anything about how only 6 of these books are read on average.

I then found the list Too Many Books was using over at LibraryThing, but again, nothing about the BBC or 6 reads.

Kristjan Wagner over at Pro-Science noticed the same thing I noticed, namely that this BBC list isn't around.

So from all I can see the BBC doesn't think people will only read 6 books on the list below, but I still want to see how many I've read so here we go.  I'm using the list off of LibraryThing only because that's the list I've seen repeated a couple times.  If someone can find an actual list by the BBC please let me know!

Let's see how I stack up:

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien -- I read the first two books of the series but just couldn't make it through Return of the King. I tried but couldn't do it.

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell 

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare -- I've read a lot of Shakespeare but I can't say I've made it through all of the works (Timon of Athens, A Winter's Tale)

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (at least twice)

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis -- So the Chronicles of Narnia was just mentioned at number 33.  Does this not count as part of it?

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante 

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery -- read it in English and French! Don't ask me to do that again, I don't remember enough French to do it.

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare -- This list is repetitive.  It already asked if I'd read the complete works.  Come on people!

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl 

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I have 30 bolded and 7 italicized.  How do you stack up to this completely arbitrary list?

Update!  My good friend Paolo is far better at internet research than I (and probably doesn't give up after 5 whole minutes of looking) and found what looks to be the original list on the Guardian.  No mention of the BBC or 6 books but if you want to check it out, here you go!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

You breached

Hope all that celebrate it had a happy Thanksgiving and if you had to travel there was minimal groping at the airport.  I was in the middle of nowhere the last few days which meant I had limited online access so I'm just catching up on everything now.  It was nice to unplug but my email and Google Reader are a bit daunting at the moment.  In between stuffing my face with far too much food and playing with my dad's terror of a dachshund Puccini (my grandmother likes Italian opera and my dad likes puns), I did manage to finish The City and The City.  

I was honestly let down by the book and I partially blame this on expectations set by a blurb* on the back of the book.  A blurb from The Times says: "The names Kafka and Orwell tend to be invoked too easily for anything a bit out of the ordinary, but in this case they are worthy comparisons."  I expected the dual cities to be explained and to offer some sort of social commentary for the modern world.  But that never happened.  The two cities make for an interesting setting but the story remains a fairly straightforward murder mystery.  Woman found murdered because she was getting too close to The Truth, detective has to discover The Truth to solve the mystery.  It's not a bad story or a bad mystery but that blurb made me expect so much more.

The mystery itself was interesting and I wasn't able to guess it before hand.  Of course I usually don't guess the outcome before hand so take that with a grain of salt.  Just because the book wasn't what I expected, the setting felt like more than just a gimmick.  The setting is integral to the mystery, I just wish the setting had been more important than the mystery.

I've sat here staring at this entry for awhile and I'm not sure what else to say about the book.  Give it a try, it was an interesting story but Kafka and Orwell it is not.

*Greg at The New Dork Review has a great post about the importance of blurbs so check it out if you get a chance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Top Holiday Books...and Movies

The good people over at The Broke and the Bookish have asked us to name our top 10 holiday books.  Here's the thing, I don't really have holiday books and certainly not 10 of them.  I hardly ever make it to 10 on these lists anyway but I won't come close to naming 10 books.  But I still wanted to play so I'll include movies as well.  I still don't think I'll make it to 10, but I'll get closer.

First, the books 

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  I got this book when I was little and I love it because it's so funny.  Yeah it has the schmaltzy story but if that's all I want there are thousands of versions of the story.  I like Dickens voice and tone and humor. 
 2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.  I love Seuss and while this isn't my favorite of his books it's wonderful anyway.

Well, I exhausted my holiday books quickly.  I know there are others but they aren't ones I read as a matter of tradition and so they stay off the list.  So onto movies.

3. A Muppet Christmas CarolLike I just said, there are thousands of versions of A Christmas Carol out there but this one is the one I regularly watch.  Why?  Because it is almost exactly Dickens version of the story and quotes it directly over and over again.  Plus I love muppets.
4. Babes in Toyland.  For those that aren't familiar with this one, it's a Laurel and Hardy movie that was always on TV around the holidays.  I got excited the other day when I saw it'll be airing on Thanksgiving.  I should remember to set up the DVR for that, since I don't think I'll be able to talk others into watching it.
5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I don't really branch out much with my movies but I love Seuss and this one has singing by Tony the Tiger!  What's not to love?

OK, so that's actually the end of my regular books and movies.  I guess we don't have a lot of regular traditions.  For Thanksgiving we usually watch a movie but it depends on what's on TV.  There's usually a Bond marathon going on so we'll catch part of that.  Last year we all watched Die Hard and I wouldn't mind if that ended up a tradition.  After I told my dad about my Halloween he asked me to bring Rocky Horror with me this year so maybe that will end up a regular thing because nothing says family gatherings and giving thanks like a group of singing alien transvestites. 

What are your favorite holiday books, movies, TV shows, whatever?

Update! While I looked through other people's lists I remembered on more movie/TV show I love around the holidays.  The Rankin and Bass TV movie The Year Without Santa ClausI love the Heat Miser and Snow Miser songs. I like the other Rankin and Bass movies but this is my favorite, followed in close second by the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie because of the Island of the Misfit Toys and the Abominable Snowman.  

Monday, November 22, 2010


I've clearly fallen down on getting posts up and my reason is no better than the book I'm reading, The City & The City by China Mieville, is difficult to get into. For the first part of the book I haven't really had too much to say.  It's not that it's uninteresting, it's just difficult for me to give all of my attention to it because it's difficult to really grasp the world the story takes place in.  I still have more than half the book to get through but I want to try to explain the setting and try to work out whether the setting is helping or hurting the story.

The story is a fairly typical crime story: a woman's body is found and Inspector Borlu has to solve the murder.  But the setting is what makes the story something more.  The woman's body is found in Beszel but she was most recently working and living in Ul Qoma.  These two cities actually exist in the same physical location but due to a schism that has yet to be explained, the two places don't interact.  Not only do they not interact, they're not allowed to interact.  Even if your neighbor's house is an arm's length away from you, if your neighbor lives in Ul Qoma and you live in Beszel you have to "unsee" their house.  If you failed to unsee, you will have breached, which means a committee that is above the laws of either Beszel or Ul Qoma will come and deal with you and you will not be heard from again.  Here's Borlu explaining some of the (very little) leniency with Breach.
"If I or one of my friends were to have a moments failure of unseeing (and who did not do that?  who failed to fail to see, sometimes?), so long as it was not flaunted or indulged in, we should not be in danger.  If you were to glance a second or two on some attractive passerby in Ul Qoma, if I were to silently enjoy the skyline of the two cities together, be irritated by the noise of an Ul Qoman train, I would not be taken." (64)
The two cities inhabit the same physical space but they must live in different worlds.  The people do acknowledge that the places are sharing the same space but to claim that the two cities are one in the same is blasphemy.  The citizens have a word for same physical space but vastly different places: grosstopical

These two cities don't exist on some foreign land or even distance future where all countries are like this.  The girl that was found murdered is from the US, studying in Canada and attending her universities campus within Ul Qoma to work on her archaeology PhD.  They don't go into much detail about how other countries view the cities unique position but, from the standpoint of the locals, it is certainly tolerated.  The girl and others who wish to visit either Beszel or Ul Qoma must take a 2 week long intensive course so they can learn to unsee the other city-state before they are issued a visa.    Tourists have to learn to not only unsee foreign buildings that are right in front of them, but also unsee foreign people who are sharing the same sidewalk as them.  You cannot notice them but you also can't walk through people as if they aren't there.  You have to avoid them without noticing them or be guilty of Breach. (If you notice them, Breach!  If you do such a good job of not seeing them that you run into them, Breach!)  Borlu describes an incident from his childhood, when Breach showed up after an Ul Qoma van skidded on Ul Qoma streets and hit a Beszel vehicle.
In seconds, the Breach came.  Shapes, figures, some of whom perhaps had been there but who nonetheless seemed to coalesce from spaces between the smoke of the accident, moving too fast it seemed to be clearly seen, moving with authority and power so absolute that within seconds they can controlled, contained the area of intrusion. (81)
It takes a little while to learn all of the rules for the cities.  At no point does the narrator give all of the information to the reader.  You get clues that something isn't quite right for awhile until finally the details fall into place.  The problem with this is I had trouble focusing on the text, which was very clearly avoiding  the details.  In World War Z the reader doesn't get all of the details because it's clear that everyone is already familiar with the details and this style works.  You're given enough to follow what's going on while enough is held back that it a) feels real and b) lets you fill in some of the details yourself to make it even scarier.  The City & The City isn't a horror story so there is no reason for the reader to fill in the unknowns to make it scarier and the missing details are confusing.  My friend that recommended the book to me had tried to explain the dopplurbanology (as it is called in the book) but it is hard to explain.  I'm not sure if already having an idea about the 2 cities made the beginning more confusing or not but now that more of the rules are explained the narrative flows better.

As it stands I am more interested in the 2 cities than I am in the murder, now that I have more information and can follow the setting better.  So far the cities have served only as an interesting setting but I'm hoping the schism will be examined and will end up being more than just a trick.

Title quote from page 113

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top Ten Villains, Criminals and Degenerates

Another Tuesday, another Top Ten hosted by the good folks at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten villains, criminals and degenerates.  The villains are usually more interesting than the heroes so I'm hoping to make it to 10.  Let's see...
  1. Acheron Hades from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde Acheron is the primary villain of The Eyre Affair, the first book in the Thursday Next series.  He can "lie in thought, deed, action, and appearance", is incredibly strong and more than anything else, he is incredibly intelligent and completely immoral.  His only purpose is to be evil, "committing loathsome and detestable acts...purely for their own sake". What more can you ask for in a villain?
  2. Aornis Hades from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde Aornis is Acheron's little sister.  She may not have all of Acheron's powers but she has her own tricks up her sleeve and she's just as evil.  She is a mnemonomorph (trying saying that three times fast.  Or, you know, once.  I can't.) meaning she can alter memories.  She is not quite as intelligent as her brother but she is by no means dumb and she causes plenty of damage.
  3. Iago from Shakespeare's Othello I love Shakespeare and Iago is one of my favorite characters.  He embodies the Machiavellian archetype; he uses what's around him, can think on his feet and is extremely smart and manipulative.  He doesn't seem to have a motive.  Sometimes he says he hates Othello because he promoted Cassio over him.  Other times he claims Othello slept with his wife Emilia.  Then other times he says he's in love with Desdemona and I've read read interpretations where he was actually in love with Othello.  He is remorseless and refuses to explain his actions.
  4. The zombies in World War Z by Max Brooks These guys go a different route from the other 3 I've mentioned: they aren't intelligent, they don't really have any special "powers" (unless you consider being able to exist in general a power) and they aren't even evil.  But I just finished reading World War Z and I don't want to go up against them. I won't make it.
  5. Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris Back to the crazy smart villains! Crazy smart and crazy, smart describe Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter. Harris gets you to root for him without ever really trying to make you sympathize with him.  And Hannibal is a scarier villain than Buffalo Bill, who is making a lady suit out of real lady skins.  The fact that he can outshine that says more than I could describe.
  6. Annie Wilkes from Misery by Stephen King Oh Annie Wilkes, Paul Sheldon's number one fan. She has so much power over Paul and very little grasp of reality, a dangerous combination. And she's pretty good at wielding that electric knife...
  7. Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling There are lots of villains in the HP universe but Umbridge is the one I hate the most.  Her punishments are sadistic and every time she did her little passive aggressive cough thing I wanted someone to punch her.  I know that wouldn't have actually fit in the story, it just would have been nice.  
  8. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis Considering how often I've said how much I dislike this book, I seem to talk about it a lot.  Bateman is a sociopath who engages in "murder, rape, cannibalism, torture, necrophilia and other wholesome activities."  He describes his horrendous acts in the same tone he describes the outfit of every single person around him (I hated when he went to parties) or detailing the history of the band Genesis.  The movie is great though, especially the business card scene.  
Well I made it to 8.  That's not so bad.  What are some of your top villains?

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Temporary re-reading hiatus

    I re-read books a lot.  It comes down to a couple reasons.  One of the top ones is that I'm cheap.  The library is an option I suppose, but it's not one I usually use.  I prefer to have my own copies.  I don't write in them, which would be a reasonable excuse for wanting my own copies.  I just like having my own.  Logic doesn't always come into play with my reasons.

    I also like re-reading because I like the books I'm reading again.  If I like a movie, I can watch it over and over again (see: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Dogma, Zombieland).  Books are the same way for me.  Some are short and sweet stories that I use as a literary palate cleanser, like The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).  I know that play well enough I can mostly recite it.  I know there are a lot of books out there but I am hardly planning on reading everything out there so I may as well enjoy what I am reading.

    And then of course there are books I read awhile ago that I liked and want to talk about on this blog.  World War Z falls into that category.  I don't know what I would have re-read it quite so quickly if I didn't have this blog but I wanted to write about it, so I re-read it.

    Both Brother and Friend have lent me a few books, so I will be reading some all new stuff.  In addition to World War Z, Brother lent me Doctor No by Ian Flemming.  I've mentioned Brother isn't a big reader, but he is a Bond fan and he enjoyed this one so I thought I'd check it out.  Then Friend sent a package, c/o Agent Thursday Next (my friend and I are geeky), containing a copy of Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut I'd lent him a while back as well as 2 new (to me) books: The City & The City by China Mieville and Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.

    The Mieville book is actually another Friend's book, he who recommended Kitchen Confidential to me.  A while back we were sitting at dinner and he was telling me about this amazing book and how it's kind of odd and I had to check it out because odd is kind of up my alley.  I was going to take it home with me and I, of course, forgot because I have the same memory as a goldfish.  My forgetfulness was in my other friend's favor, as he got to borrow the book first.  He also said it was a good read so I'm looking forward to it.

    The Pessl book makes me a bit nervous, because "physics" is in the title.  I know some people find physics amazingly interesting, like my friend who had an except from a Richard Feynman lecture read at her wedding.  I am not part of that group.  I also know (hope!) this isn't actually about straight physics.  I trust my friend wouldn't steer me wrong.

    So that's on my book reading schedule.  Of course I tend to pick what book I'll read next by my mood, so all "upcoming reads" items are subject to change at a moments notice.  And of course I have a Bryson re-read thrown in there as well.  Just can't get away, what can I say.

    Friday, November 12, 2010


    I know the amount of followers you have isn't really important and some people (I'm sure a good portion of those people) are following me without really reading and lots of other excuses as to why I shouldn't be excited BUT I hit 100 followers today.

    To those that follow me I want to say a big THANK YOU!  You have all made my Friday. 

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Literary Blog Hop: A difficult literary read

    In the past when I've participated in blog hops I've taken part of the welcome-to-anyone hop hosted by Crazy-for-Books.  I have found some great reads over there but the majority of the blogs are not my style.  As such I'm happy those over at The Blue Bookcase have started their own literary blog hop.  Not every book I read and talk about on this site is a literary masterpiece, but this is far more my thing.  I missed the hop last week as I had already posted for the other hop when I saw this one going around so I decided to wait around until this week to join in.  I also would have probably held off on my final World War Z post until tomorrow had I realized this hop started today.  I'm not good at the small details or planning in general so I suppose doing it this way is more my style anyway.

    Sorry for the rambling and now onto the question: What's the most difficult literary work you've ever read?  What made it so difficult?

    When I saw this question Toni Morrison's Beloved instantly came to mind.  There is so much to take in, so many themes and devices and it can be difficult to follow what's going on, not because the book is poorly written but because it is so rich there are so many different ways to see each scene, particularly the character Beloved.  And the subject matter itself is heartbreaking.  The experiences the characters have gone through are hard to read and hard to believe that while the characters themselves are fictional the abuse they went through was true for so many. I've mentioned in a previous post how other novels by Morrison deal with such heavy topics but Beloved is at the top of that list.  It's hard not to emotionally start to shut down while reading it.  But having said this, it is worth it.

    Couldn't just one restart the plague all over again?

    Between finishing up World War Z and watching The Walking Dead series I have learned a couple things about myself.

    1. I will not survive a zombie apocalypse.
    I have no chance.  I mentioned in my first WWZ post that my zombie contingency plan mostly resembles the second option on the What's Your Zombie Contingency Plan page (The "I Will Miss You Dearly" stratagem).  But let's assume for a second I'm not quite that helpless, then my second plan probably follows the first option the "I Had A Good Plan But Then I Tripped," especially the tripping part.  Here's the "con" to this plan, which is the part I would probably follow most closely: "I once ran face-first into a sliding glass door.  I am not competent enough to do any of this [plan]. I would probably trip over my own feet and stumble slap-stick style into an undead group hug."  My mom sometimes says I'm about as graceful as a cow on ice (which is what her dad used to tell her cos walking into walls is a family tradition) and after reading World War Z and seeing how many intelligent, prepared, non-clumsy people couldn't make it out, I know I would stand no chance.

    2. Before inevitably being eaten by the zombies, I will probably take down a lot of innocent, non-zombified people.
    If you were to watch The Walking Dead with me, something I wouldn't recommend unless you've already seen the episode, you'll notice I yell at the screen.  A lot.  And most often what I yell is "Ah, it's moving!  Shoot it!  Shoot it!"*  Please notice I didn't say "a zombie is moving" just "it" and this is because I am not distinguishing between an actual threat and a healthy person who just happens to be moving. Anytime anything around me moves, I would shoot at it.  This means not only am I probably hitting innocent people, I'm also wasting ammo.  If I don't get eaten by zombies I should probably be put down by whoever I'm with to keep from making the situation worse.  Or be left for zombie bait.

    One of the scariest things about World War Z is the hopelessness of the situation.  People panic, weapons fail, governments collapse and the zombies keep coming.  One of the scariest things pointed out (that probably should have been obvious) is the fact that the human army keeps dwindling but the zombie population rises.  Not every person lost becomes a zombie but a lot of them do, which means you can keep fighting but the enemies numbers just keep growing.  The story takes place just over 10 years after the zombie war is over, but all this means is the human race hasn't been completely wiped out by zombies.  Zacks still control a large portion of the land so even when I say the war is over that just means the all out constant fighting is mostly over.  Civilization still needs to be rebuilt and once things are calm and stable people will need to come to terms with what has happened.
    I've heard it said that the Holocaust has no survivors, that even those who managed to remain technically alive were so irreparably damaged, that their spirit, their soul, the person that they were supposed to be, was gone forever.  I'd like to think that's not true.  But if it is, then no on on Earth survived this war. (340)
    But, while things seem hopeless, there is a small sliver of hope.  Humanity did survive and the all out fighting did end.  Things haven't been easy and won't be easy but there is a chance.

    For those that haven't heard, there is a strong possibility of a World War Z movie with Brad Pitt confirmed to play the lead.  I know, it's exciting.  I know I say "possibility" and "confirmed" but even though he's confirmed I'm going to go ahead and say until ads start running, there is the possibility the movie won't get made.  I'd rather be pleasantly surprised over let down.

    *I had the same reaction to every alien in District 9.  I know you're supposed to learn that people are the ugly ones and the aliens don't mean any harm but no amount of Disney eyes on the little one or red vests on the adult made me like them. I'm sorry. I'm a bad person.

    Title quote from page 266

    Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.  Three Rivers Press, New York.  2006.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    A Couple More Book Bloggers You Should Check Out

    I haven't done a post about bloggers you should know in awhile so I was planning on doing a post this week.  Normally on Tuesday I would take part in the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish but this week's topic is Top Ten Characters with Awful Names and while I usually don't make it to 10, this week I couldn't make it past one.  Rather than embarrass myself* I figured I'd skip the top ten and instead get around to listing other blogs that I think you should take a peek at.

    Pens with Cojones - First and foremost, don't you just love that blog name?  Makes you jealous you didn't think of it first, doesn't it?  Mayowa is a literary writer that focuses on the literary world.  Every once in awhile he has a post reviewing a book but mostly the posts are about the writing industry.  The Case for Censorship and Literary Protectionism? and Writing Social Commentary: Do Words Still Have Power? are 2 of my favorite posts.

    Entomology of a Bookworm - This is a book lovers blog.  There are some book reviews, some great book accessoriesfunny book-ish comics and web images, and general book topics. The site has a little bit of everything, which is great if you have blog ADD. (I have totally self-diagnosed myself so I have no idea if this is actually a better site if you do have ADD.  But really, only one way to know...)

    *I embarrass myself all the time, so why stop now.  The only character name I could come up with is Renesmee which means, yes I have read the Twilight series.  (Stop judging me.) Meyers seems to have known that this was a stupid name since she has pretty much every character make fun of it.  

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Who in his right mind could have been ready for this?

    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks is a seriously scary book.  As I mentioned in my previous post, World War Z takes place more than a decade after the zombie war has finished, although the infected still have control of certain parts of the world.  It's not a single narrative but instead of collection of interviews and stories from survivors of the war as they look back on "the plague years".  And because this is a history that both the tellers and the presumed audience is already familiar with, the details aren't always spelled out and you, the actual reader, has to fill in the holes. Which means you spend lots of time filling in those uncertainties with your own scenarios and personally, I shouldn't let my mind wander like that.
    As the book goes on you do get more and more details about the outbreak but the first two chapters, Warnings and Blame, are so unsettling.  There are few moments when something jumps out at you and they aren't the most gory scenes; these are the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night chapters.  And what's especially frightening is the realism.  The book takes place on the global scale, complete with the prejudices and fighting between countries. Early on Israel figures out what's going on and the country goes into voluntary quarantine, offering asylum to certain people, including "any Palestinian living in the formerly occupied territories, and any Palestinian whose family had once lived within the borders of Israel" (37).  Obviously there has been some Israeli-Palestinian disagreements for the last few millenia, so it's interesting to read the story from the point of view of a Palestinian man whose family goes to Israel for protection.  Anger and suspicion and fear fill his narrative; it's easy to see how the problem could grow so long without a global reaction.

    This book is scary not just because of the zombies (although they aren't exactly pleasant)  but also because of how people react in a crisis; those who panic, those who help and those who look after self-interest only. There are all sorts that provide their voice to this "oral history", and many of the people cause just as much harm as the zombies.  Or at least they allow the problem to grow out of control.  There are stories from people on the organ black market, that sold infected organs and helped spread the disease across the globe, there are people who created placebo vaccines that did absolutely nothing to stop the virus but made the inventors lots of money.  This isn't to say the book paints a picture where everyone is evil and corrupt.  One character describes the awful things people did to one another and his description of the good vs. bad people exemplifies the tone of the book, so far anyway: "I'm just highlighting the most extreme negative examples, you understand.  For every one profiteer, or repulsive psychopath, there were ten good and decent people whose karma was still untainted" (72).  And the zombies are pretty terrifying as well.

    I really want to check out the audio book version of this novel, but I'm also a little afraid to actually listen to it.  There's a story told by the point of view of a woman who lives in a rehab home for feral children.  She has the mind of a four year old and hearing a zombie attack from a child's point of view is terrifying, especially because she imitates not only the voices of the other people during the attack but of the zombie moaning, the pounding on the doors, the gun fire, the screams.  I fill in enough details in my head for this scene, I don't know how I'd react actually hearing it. 

    Title quote from page 21

    Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.  Three Rivers Press, New York.  2006.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Book Blog Hop XIV*

    Another Friday (almost anyway), another blog hop, hosted by Crazy-For-Books.  The questions this week are: What are your feelings on losing followers? Have you ever stopped following a blog?

    I'm sad when I lose followers.  There are questions asked: Wasn't I good enough for you?  What do you want from me?? But then I realized I'd rather have followers that actually want to read what I write instead of someone that started following me solely in the hopes that I would follow them back.  I know my blog isn't for everyone and that's fine.  

    To answer the second question: yes I stop following blogs.  As I just said, I want people to follow me if they want to actually read what I write.  Keeping with that line of thinking, I only follow blogs if I like to read them.  When I first started blogging I would follow anyone that followed me.  Eventually my blog list was huge and I realized I wasn't really reading the majority of them.  Since then I only follow blogs if I like what I see, but sometimes I still end up with blogs that I'm not really engaged with.  So every once in awhile I'll go through the list and do some purging.  That doesn't mean the blogs I stop following are bad; it just means they aren't for me.  It's not you it's me, I'm setting you free, you'd be better with somebody else.**

    Do you stop following blogs?  How do you decide what blogs to follow?

    *Once I don't know the roman numerals anymore I'll switch to some new blog title for these.  
    **There's a song called "Welcome to Dumpsville, Populate You" by the band Caustic Soda and it's now stuck in my head

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    It goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague"

    If you were to ask me a year ago if I was a zombie fan I would have said no.  I suppose in reality if you ask me now I'll still say no.  Perhaps I'll elaborate and say I like zombies in the same way that I like pirates and ninjas.  The internet has decided these things are funny and they show up everywhere and eventually you get worn down and agree that yes, zombies, pirates and ninjas are awesome.  But even knowing the internet's power, the amount of zombie media I have consumed still confuses me.  Pirates can be pinned on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and as a child I grew up with the Ninja Turtles, so I at least have some background with these topics.  Completely fake, pop culture based backgrounds, but backgrounds nonetheless.  I've been trying to figure out how zombies got added to my own mix and here's a timeline I've come up with.

    Pre-2004 - Zombie stuff happens but I don't care yet

    2004 - Shaun of the Dead comes out

    2006 - I actually get around to seeing this movie.  I think it's funny enough to eventually see Hot Fuzz but don't think too much more about it

    2008 - during a job interview I'm conducting I get bored with the string of typical answers to typical questions and ask the interviewee "Zombies are attacking the city.  What's your first move?"  I decide the question elicites funny responses, either in the form of great answers or just confused looks, and I start using the question in other interviews and when meeting friends' significant others for the first time.  I find it's a good way to weed out people without a sense of humor.

    2009 - Zombieland and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies both come out. Boyfriend and I decide to see Zombieland, most likely because there was nothing else we wanted to see.  I love it!  Boyfriend is (rightly) baffled by this.  A few months later I'm in my neighborhood bookstore and a women is buying a bunch of zombie books because the local theater is having a screening of Night of the Living Dead followed by a zombie expert answering questions and she's picking up door prizes. (Side note, I love both the local bookstore and the local theater.) She decides against P&P&Z and I ask the cashier to throw it on my pile.  The book is hilarious and the book title is exactly right.  It is primarily the text of Pride and Prejudice but anytime the story starts to have one too many dances, meals or carriage rides BAM zombies attack.  I have lots of conversations with people while reading the book in public.  The cover draws lots of interest.

    2010 - Zombieland comes out on DVD and I buy it on release day.  Around this time Brother is looking for a book to read.  He's not exactly what you would call a reader, so I'm surprised to hear he's actually looking for something to read by choice.  He's looking for World War Z and says it's about zombies.  I tell him about my new found zombie appreciation and he lends it to me after he's read it.  Brother fails to mention World War Z is not a funny book.  Laughs at me when I tell him I didn't know it would be serious.  Brother can be a bit of a jerk.

    So here I am now.  I've actually read WWZ once before I started this blog but I enjoyed it enough, and wanted to write about it enough, to start reading it again.  This book has shown me that my conscious and my subconscious really can't agree on anything.  My conscious isn't afraid of zombies.  When I'm awake I think they're funny because they're slow (usually) and stupid and not very scary.  Especially if you read the Cracked article about how a zombie apocalypse would fail.  But the first time I read this I had zombie nightmares many nights.  They wake me up, which really only serves to annoy me.  Unlike normal nightmares where you still feel the residual fear, even when you know there's nothing to be afraid of, I wake up from these dreams just annoyed that I'm awake.  I know I was just dreaming about zombies; when I close my eyes I can see them again.  But I don't have any of that fear.  Instead all I think is "It's 3 in the morning, I have to get up in a few hours, and I don't want these zombies waking me up anymore.  This is annoying."  Not only do I now have zombie nightmares while reading the book, but now that I've read WWZ, other zombie things give me the same unscary zombie nightmares.  My subconscious needs to get it together so I can enjoy my zombies but still get a full night's sleep.

    I swear my next post will actually discuss the book. In the meantime, check out this list of zombie contingency plans from  Mine most closely resembles the second one.  I will not survive a zombie apocalypse.  (I should get some credit or something from Cracked, seeing how I've mentioned them twice in this article alone.  They have a lot of zombie related articles.)

    Title quote from page 1

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Top 10 Books That Made Me Cry

    Another Tuesday, another top 10 list hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Last week it was books that make you scream and this week it's books that make you cry.  I don't think I'll make it to 10 because I like to think I'm tough but I'm such baby I am a step above crying at long distance phone commercials.  So with that in mind here are the top however-many-I-make-it-to books that make me cry.  (Keep in mind that most of the time if a book made me cry it was something at the end that did it.  So there will probably be spoilers.)

    1. Lamb by Christopher Moore. This is in my top 5 favorite books but the ending to it is so sad.  And it's not like I didn't know what was going to happen (spoiler: Josh gets crucified) but the book is so funny throughout the first half of it that the emotion in the second half of the book is surprising. 
    2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. I'm so glad I read the end of this book while I was at home instead of on the T because I'm pretty sure I would have caused a scene and then I would have had to make up some story about a severe allergic reaction or something to cover up the fact that a kids book made me cry.  Notable mentions in this category: Order of the Phoenix.  I didn't want to include multiple HP's on this list and I didn't bawl as much with this one, but that ending depressed me.  Especially after I'd gotten so attached.
    3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is such a powerful, tragic story. It is so sad with only a very small silver lining.  The story is fiction but so many real women live the hell that Mariam and Laila go through.  The book was hard to read and I probably won't be re-reading this one, but I'm glad I read it the first time.
    4.  The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Morrison's work is so heavy but this was the first of her books I read and because of that it's the one that hits me the hardest.  Incestual child rape: fun for the whole family.  (I know that was awful and tasteless and I actually wrote it at first without realizing how bad it was but it also made me laugh out loud so it stays.  I have a 10 year old boys taste in humor.)
    I tried to come up with more.  I even looked through my mostly-complete list of books I have and this is still all I could come up with.  I didn't want to go with books that made me just tear up a little bit; nothing I could explain away by saying I have dust in my eye.  If you decide to read any of these, fair warning. 

    What books made you cry?

    Update!: I realized I forgot The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and normally I'd just leave it off the list but since this book made me cry in public (dammit) I need to add it. Holocaust books will do that to you.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    They faced each other through a fraction of eternity

    I finished (well finished again) Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, a collection of ghost stories compiled by Dahl.  I didn't actually read all of the stories in the second half.  There were a couple I tried to read and just kept putting the book down.  And then I remembered if I don't want to read it I don't have to so I moved onto the next one.  For the most part, Dahl picked out some great, creepy stories but we can't all have the same taste.  And there were a couple great ones in the second half such as the 3 stories below. 

    "Ringing the Changes" by Robert Aikman
    This is one of the longer stories in the collection and that time is taken to set the scene.  This is probably the most unsettling story because for the majority of the story you and the main characters, know something is wrong but you can't tell why.  People are behaving strangely but when you try to figure out what exactly is so strange you can easily come up with plausible, non-threatening explanations.  And the bells that are constantly ringing, so loudly the characters can hardly hear anything else.  The tension and the eerie feeling builds and builds until it finally comes to a scary culmination.  

    The other thing I liked about this story is the fact that it's a turn of the century zombie story.  I though zombies were a more modern creation, at least in terms of making it into horror stories that don't take place in Haiti (thank you NatGeo Zombie Documentary).  These aren't the same brain-eating zombies but "the dead are awake" (139, emphasis mine).
    **End Spoilers**

    "The Ghost of a Hand" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
    This is the story to read late at night while you're alone.  There's a disembodied hand that is constantly knocking on doors, tapping on window panes, running its hand along the wall, perhaps to find a point of entrance.  The ghostly presence is more often heard than seen, which means every little sound made me jump.  I expected to see a fat white hand up against the window.  I think the best horror stories are the ones where you are so completely pulled into the story that you start to see it around you.  

    "The Sweeper" by A.M. Burrage
    Death takes on so many different forms throughout literature but the purpose is always the same.  I wish we could have seen more of the woman death was waiting for, Miss Ludgate.  She's a wealthy old woman described as "rich enough to be indifferent, but old enough to be crotchety" (162).  I wish we could have seen more of her but the story is told from a young woman who joins the household, mostly to keep Miss Ludgate company and to help with all of the beggars that stop by the property.  Miss Ludgate may be stingy with her money when it comes to the monthly bills, but she never turns away a beggar looking for a handout.  The story isn't particularly scary like the other 2 I mentioned.  Instead it's just a good story with interesting characters, told well.

    The title quote comes from this story and I enjoy Burrage's style. This is the same author that wrote my favorite story from this collection, "Playmates", which I mentioned in myprevious post.

    I feel like I started the whole reading-Halloween stories late, so I'll probably stick to this genre for a few more books. Especially if I happen to pick up The Haunting of Hill House sometime soon. And of course I think I'll re-read World War Z soon because I decided I've been sleeping too well recently and should probably break up the night with some ridiculous not-scary-when-I'm-awake nightmares.

    Title quote from page 175.

    Aikman, Robert. "Ringing the Changes." Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York. 1983.

    Burrage, A. M. "The Sweeper." Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York. 1983.

    Sheridan Le Fanu, J. "The Ghost of a Hand." Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York. 1983.