Friday, November 30, 2012

Some people, Abraham, are just too interesting to kill

After reading Joyce Carol Oates's Zombie I needed something that wouldn't make me sad I was reading it.* I wanted something I would enjoy. A story I could get lost in and wouldn't regret getting lost in it. I was planning on finding a funny book but I decided to go towards the absurd and picked up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Because it's not laugh out loud funny. It's not even small smirk funny. But I was a fan of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies so it seemed like a good idea to give this one a try.

With P&P&Z, Austen's romance is really the backbone of the story. The zombies are there, sure, but the main point is Lizzie and Darcy. This time Lincoln's story is the backbone. The book could stand without vampires, but it couldn't stand without Lincoln. The story is a parody, sure, but it takes itself seriously. And because it takes itself seriously, you do too.

The book is a collection of Licoln's secret diary entries, started when he was a young boy. We follow him as he vows to kill as many vampires as he can, usually with his trusty ax. Don't worry, the vampires aren't all bad (and NONE SPARKLE) and he does make make friends with a vampire named Henry Sturges who helps teach him about vampires and find the evil ones.

So yes, the description of the story is ridiculous. But look at the title, you knew that was going to be the case. What I was surprised by was how important the non-vampire elements were. There's Lincoln's first love, his friends, his family, and what seemed like the constant loss he had to deal with. I know there's that chain lettery thing that goes around talking about all of the failures Lincoln dealt with before becoming president, but damn, to see them happen one after another and the toll it can take on a person is hard.

The writing is also surprisingly good. Well not surprising if you've already read P&P&Z but better than you'd expect this to be. I can't speak for the non-Grahame-Smith mash-up books but the SGS ones are pretty great. I mean seriously, I heart this quote
"Living men are bound by time," [Henry Sturges] said. "Thus, their lives have an urgency. This gives them ambition. Makes them choose those things that are most important; cling more tightly to that which they hold dear. Their lives have seasons, and rites of passage, and consequences. And ultimately, an end. But what of a life with no urgency? What then of ambition? What then of love?"
So yeah, it's an easy read but a good one. One I can see myself revisiting. If you've seen the movie, let me know how it is. Cos I can see this being a good one.

*Not like because the book is sad, but sad cos no, please, I don't want those images in my head anymore. (Thanks Brie for reminding me that I forgot to include the footnote.)

Title quote from page 74, location 964

Grahame-Smith, Seth. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Grand Central Publishing, 2010. Kindle edition.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving and all my excuses for not being around

Heeeeeey everyone. Long time not talk to. Or "write at" I guess is more accurate. So, where have I been?

First up, there was Thanksgiving! I had/have extra vacation days that I failed to use, so I took some extra time off to spend the time with my Dad down in South Carolina. I was down there last Thanksgiving as well because, again, screw cold weather and YAY for lots of pets. The numbers have reversed and now my Dad has 3 cats and 6 dogs, and since I like dogs better anyway, that was pretty sweet. Like last year though, I don't really have internet access down there, save what I can get on my phone. Which means I had no easy way to post, and instead I decided to focus on reading and eating and playing with the dogs.
UPDATED to include those puppy pics that I tried to give you earlier.

I didn't actually get THAT much reading done while I was down there. Or rather I finished Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter not long into my journey down south and decided I should give this Game of Thrones thing a try and that book is a zillion and 1 pages long. Oh also AMC played Gone with the Wind on Wednesday and then The Godfather and The Godfather Part II on Thursday, so that distracted me as well.

I was thinking I'd get a post out once I got back from the airport but that didn't so much happen. I didn't realize it but I was landing at the airport right at rush hour and taking the LIRR with luggage during peak times is NOT FUN. On top of that, Hurricane Sandy messed up one of the train tunnels, which means there are still cancelled trains, so the trains are even more crowded. AND THEN the train I got one was running 2 less cars than normal because the LIRR wanted to welcome me back and remind me what I had missed. By the time I got home, this was all I wanted:
I started to catch up on The Walking Dead but I failed at that because Boyfriend+ came home bearing Chinese food, so I agreed to turn off the zombies. I DID win at eating Chinese food so there you go.

So yeah, I'll get working on a review soon. I'll also get around to reading all those blog posts that backed up on my Google Reader. It will take some time but I'm working on it. And I'll have a wedding update on Sunday that's actually about stuff from two Sundays ago, but I am bad at doing anything in a timely manner.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A true ZOMBIE would be mine forever

You know those books that you wish you didn't read? Not because it was a bad book or you felt like you wasted your time, but you wish you didn't have those images in your head? Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates is one of those books. It's well-written, it's a griping story, and it made me uncomfortable.

I decided to read Zombie because it was on sale on the Kindle and it's a JCO book. I've been wanting to read something of hers and didn't know where to start. Something on sale seemed like a good choice.

I knew going into this it wasn't going to be a zombie story. I mean, I know it's titled Zombie but it's not that kind of zombie. Instead of the walking dead coming back and feeding on the living as they try to survive and make sense of this new world, it's about a guy that is trying to make sex zombies a la Jeffrey Dahmer. So, you know, way worse.

It's not the "create a sex zombie via transorbital lobotomy done with rusty tools" that made me not like this book. OK, well not the only thing. Quentin is the protagonist and it's a first person story. Which means you spend the whole book hanging out in the mind of this deranged serial killer. I do not like hanging out in Quentin's mind. I don't want to know what he's thinking, I don't want to follow him around as he plans and justifies his murders. There was never a moment I felt sympathy for Quentin. I mostly kept hoping he'd set on fire. Not that it would have made sense for the plot but still.

It takes a little while to get used to the writing style. Quentin switches back and forth between referring to himself in the first person, or referring to himself as Q__ P__. He refers to his victims by nicknames like RAISINEYES and SQUIRREL. He has no empathy whatsoever. He manipulates his family that is truly too good for him. It wouldn't have been surprising if the story focused on why Quentin did the things he does, maybe how his family messed him up. But no, you don't get that. There's no explanation for why he does the things he does. Which is both what elevates the story and makes it so hard to read. Awful things happen to innocent people and it's not fair.

One of the ways I decide that I really like a book is if I want to read it again. I do not want to read this one again. I don't (entirely) regret reading this, but it is not one I can see myself revisiting. I spent some time in this lunatic's head and I'm good now. All set. Zombie can join American Psycho in books that are well-written and I'm happy to never pick up again. Amazon also groups these two together in the Frequently Bought Together section.

The plus side, this counts towards the Smooth Criminals challenge! Now I'm in no way going to finish the this challenge, but I'll keep trying till the end of the year. And by trying I mean unintentionally reading a book that fits the criteria for one of the categories. In this case "Book with a psychopath protagonist".
Title quote from page 49, location 493

Oates, Joyce Carol. Zombie. Harper Collins, 2009. Originally published 1995

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Deserted Island books

So after the Book Riot top 50 books list, I mentioned something about how that list was completely different for whatever list I would put together. And then Brenna suggested I list out my top books. It just so happen to work out that today's Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday is about your top 10 Deserted Island books. Now while these won't be EXACTLY the same list, there will probably be some overlap. But at least this is pushing me towards creating that other list.
1. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore because THE BEST

2. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde because I will need some sort of fantasy to forget I'm stranded. Also this means I get a bunch of books and can keep it as one item

3. World War Z by Max Brooks because then I can think "At least this island doesn't have zombies on it." If the island does, I would like to change this book...

4. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson because I will need something that makes me laugh until I'm crying while I slowly starve to death.

5. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare because those stories are timeless and maybe while I have nothing else to do I'll make it through the plays I've yet to tackle. Also when someone eventually finds my body they'll see this and think I was smart.

6.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard because we may as well keep the Shakespeare together. And besides, I think I'd enjoy watching someone else's existential demise while dealing with my own.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because come on, it's a great story.

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark because you should have a chunkster with you while you have all this uninterrupted reading time.

9. Kindred by Octavia Butler because ending up in a terrible predicament means you should read about someone that was way worse. It's like literary schadenfreude.

10. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen because it is seeming like this is the ONLY way I will actually get around to reading this one.

So what are your deserted island books?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Couldn't plant nothing here but corpses anyway

It was almost the end of October and I realized I hadn't read a single Halloween worthy book. The Grapes of Wrath readalong (which was super fun) took up a lot of time, as well as the book Ad Nomad, which I'm still working my way through. Anyway, I decided I needed to fix that so I picked up Stephen King's Pet Sematary. And then a couple days later we got slammed by Hurricane Sandy and we lost power. I mentioned before, I COULD have stopped reading Pet Sematary and gone with something else. Something better to read when you have no power and are trying to balance a flashlight. But I'm stubborn so I kept going. I'm very happy our power came back before I finished this.

There are some King books I'll recommend to people who aren't horror fans. Pet Sematary is not one of them. Go into this one knowing you will be getting a horror story. King even says that this is the book that scares him. But it's so much more than just a simple scary story.

I first read this book in college for my Horror Fiction class. I'm glad I did because there's something about the basic plot synopsis that doesn't interest me. The Creed family (husband Louis, wife Rachel, daughter Ellie, son Gage) move to an idyllic home in Maine (of course), but there's an evil lurking in the woods behind their house. Sure, there's the Pet Sematary, a place where the neighborhood kids bury their passed pets, and that's sorta creepy. But there's something beyond the cemetery, down the dead fall where something ominous resides. And the family will learn that sometimes dead is better.

See that's creepy but nothing to really grab my attention. However, that's not really what the story is about. I mean, that's what happens but it's really about death. It's about dealing with the very real experience of death, something everyone will face. It's about coming to terms with the inevitability, not only for yourself but for your loved ones. And it's what happens when you refused to come to terms with it.

What really got me interested in the story was King's introduction. Or rather the story about his own daughter that inspired the story and even featured in the book. King lived in a home similar to the Creeds that  was also on a very busy street. And like Ellie, King's young daughter had a cat. And like Ellie's cat Church, King's daughter's cat got run over by a truck. King and his wife tell his daughter what happened and they bury her cat in the pet sematary down the street from them, and all seemed fine. Until that night when he heard his daughter jumping up and down on bubble wrap screaming "I want my cat back! God can get his OWN cat!" I don't know what it is exactly but I love that scene, in both King's retelling of his daughter and Ellie's reaction at the thought of Church getting hurt.

This is a deeply upsetting book. It's scary, absolutely. It's scary and unsettling. But more than that, it's upsetting. It's a book that made me cry, where Grapes never did. It's a book that makes you WANT to jump up and down on  bubble wrap and curse God because sometimes unfair things happen. And I always love a book where I spend the whole time hoping things will turn out differently this time, even though I know exactly how things are going to go.

I know I haven't really said much about the story, but I don't want to give away too much. Just know that this is one of King's best, at least out of the ones I've read. If you like horror, or at least if you are willing to try horror, read this one. Oh and avoid the movie. Just ignore that one.

Title quote from page 46

King, Stephen. Pet Sematary. Pocket Books, 2001. Originally published 1983.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Rioters Fav Books and also I love lists

 So Book Riot compiled a list of Rioters favorite books and then listed them out and asked you to tell them how many of these favorites you've read. Because I LOVE LISTS, I'm going to not only record that number over at Book Riot (which I already did) but also share the list here and tell you which of the books I've read.

Now, none of my favorite books is on here (Lamb, The Eyre Affair/Thursday Next series, WHERE ARE YOU?) but there are some pretty good ones.

I've read 21 1/2 (19 if you required to have finished the entire series to count and also if you don't want to count an abridged version). Bolded are the ones I've read. What's your number?

1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (126 votes)
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6 . The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien I read the first 2 and part of the 3rd before quitting. I put in my time. This counts.
7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
17. The Stand by Stephen King
18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
31. 1984 by George Orwell
32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams Again, read the first one, still counts.
38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
40. Ulysses by James Joyce
41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
46. Dune by Frank Herbert
47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I've decided to 1/2 count this one. I read an abridged version
49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (13 votes)

Monday, November 5, 2012

October Reading Wrap Up

We got our power back! Huzzah. Having heat and electricity again is so nice. Now we just need to make a grocery trip to restock our fridge. Of course there's a nor'eastern supposed to hit us later this week so maybe we should hold off on getting a lot of perishable foods. I hope they're able to restore power to those who still don't have it before this other storm hits. Or even better, Mother Nature, if you could just send that nor'eastern somewhere else, that'd be nifty.

This was a bad reading month for me. I mean, it was good because we I took part in the super fun Grapes of Wrath readalong. But whenever I do a readalong I seem to get no other reading done. Which happened this month where I finished all of 2 books. Granted, I spent a good chunk of the month reading another book that I never finished because I needed to put it down for awhile. Le sigh.

Here are those stats.

Number of books
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of ebooks

Books written by decade
1930s - 50%
2010s - 50%

Look at that. Not even any Halloween books. I did start reading Pet Semetary and was hoping to finish it by the end of the month, but I'm going to go ahead and blame Sandy for that. Also me for not doing the reading but still. Sandy, you suck.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reading by flashlight

Do you have a lot of fond memories of sneaking a book and flashlight under your covers and reading?
What about taking a book and flashlight camping with you and reading in the wilderness (or your backyard)?

How do you people have fond memories of this? Or the better question is, how do you hold a stupid flashlight AND comfortably hold a book without having to reposition yourself 4,000 times before you give up and just stare at nothing because at least that doesn't require coordination.

As I mentioned before, Hurricane Sandy knocked out our power. Which is, at the time of writing, still out. When the power first went out on Monday I figured I'd at least have lots of uninterrupted reading time. How great will that be? And then there was the realization of "I need light to read" and "boy it sure gets dark during a hurricane". I tried to use this lantern thing, which says it provides "room filling light". It is a liar. If I had been able to build a contraption to suspend it right above where I was reading, maybe it would have worked. I tried to use a flashlight but couldn't figure out how to position it. For a while I held the book in one hand and the flashlight in another. But eventually both my flashlight arm and my book thumb were getting sore. Then I tried holding it under my chin but trying to get it to stay where you need so it's neither blindingly bright nor too shadowy to read proved a challenge.

There has to be a trick to this. Cos I was starting to think that those miner helmets with the lights on them aren't such a bad idea.

I did get some reading done. But it was mostly uncomfortable and distracted.

I wish I hadn't started my book right before the storm. I was all set to reread Pet Semetary, which I have as a dead-tree book. Had I not started it, I would have been fine reading a book on my Kindle. Before the storm I saw a few tweets from people who were very clear that they were stocking up on non-e-books. Which makes sense because ebooks must be read on a reader that must be charged by electricity, and the threats were there would be none. However, I can't help but think the people who made these proclamations (as opposed to those who just said they were stocking up books) don't actually own an ereader.

I can't speak for all of the options out there, but I have a Kindle. My Kindle has like a month's worth of battery on a single charge. So I made sure it was charged before the storm, which means I'm not really in danger here of running out of reading material. I also have a case with a built in light, which means I don't have to juggle the flashlight or sit dangerously close to candles in order to see.

Now, I only read a little of the book on my, but that's because I'm stubborn and had just started Pet Semetary and didn't want to change. I'm not saying an ereader is better in this situation or normal books. I'm just saying, could you quit being tools about ereader vs normal books. They both have advantages and disadvantages so can't we just enjoy all of them?
Didn't really mean for this to turn into a rant. This is what happens when you take away someone's heat for long periods of time and make them throw out all of the food in their fridge, even though some of those condiments were BARELY USED and it's going to cost a fortune to restock.