Jan 25 - Jan 27, 2013
The House of Gentle Men
Deep in the woods lies a house where men and women go to ease their pain and bask in comfort; where men atone for their sins and women forget those committed against them. But for one couple, the sin between them may be too great to bear...
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by this book. Reason number one was that for some reason I thought this was a post-apocalyptic thriller/love story. I just have to assume I was high on bath salts when I came up with this theory.
The House of Gentle Men is actually a historical fiction piece, so my bad. The other reason I was bummed was because I LOVED Hepinstall's two other books. LOVED. And this was nothing like them. I definitely didn't get what I expected. It was definitely an interesting premise: dudes comforting ladies to make up for the wrongs they'd done. But there was a whole slew of unbelievable shit going on as well, from magic angel babies to what ended up happening with our protagonists. Let me tell you, THAT was some fucked up shit. And parents worry Twilight sets a bad example for their kids. Yeah, I had some problems with our main characters, but the secondaries were all cool as shit and deliciously twisted. So that was a saving grace. The writing style was a little different; totally readable, yes. I dig whizzing through a book (not on one, though). But it was a little frou-frou fancy for my taste and a little flat on the dramatic stuff. Still doable, though. Definitely not bad. The House of Gentle Men was a good way to pass the time, but I much prefer her other books. If you can find them, The Absence of Nectar and The Prince of Lost Places will blow your socks off. Just read them indoors, so you can easily recover said socks.
Jan 6 - Jan 9, '13
One moment, life is dull, monotonous, and all those wonderful things we take for granted. And in the next moment, a child is gone - in the arms of a man who loves her obsessively, and his unwitting girlfriend. While the child's mother fights to keep hope for her daughter's safe return, the child's abductor is fighting a battle of his own...
I have mixed feelings about this book. I can't tell if I like it because it ends so unexpectedly, or if I think the ending wasn't as realistic as I thought it should have been. But here's the thing:
A) I may be a little (a lot) jaded and possibly assumed the worst would happen, and
B) Because it was unexpected, maybe the ending was MORE realistic.
I can't say I know what a dude who passes notes like these:
To little girls (and then kidnaps them) would do as par for the course. Who am I to say his actions were unrealistic? Maybe they were just anti-climatic. Pfft.
But really, that's my only beef. The writing was above par - ridiculously readable. I whizzed through this at lightning speed. The multiple POV's definitely kept things moving along, as well as added unusual perspective to an otherwise black and white situation.
Out of all the characters, I found Ron (our delightfully deranged abductor) the most believable and interesting. He was just a supremely fucked up dude trying to do the right thing. Even while doing some really wrong things. Like, REALLY wrong. Ugh. There's almost never a situation where drugging and abducting a kid is appropriate. Unless you're getting that kid out of Scientology. But now that I think about it, the ending just made me... kind of like Ron. Normally, a man like him is a monster, but this was the first time I'd seen a dude of his predilection try so hard to rebel against his... urges, and to see the possible thought processes behind such a thing. If you want something coming waaaaay outta left field, just wait 'til you get to the end. I mean, I can do without mass amounts of schmaltz and weepy emotion just for the sake of a few cheap tears, but this wasn't too bad for what it was.
Otherwise, the read was peopled with your usual (albeit expertly drawn) characters. Any single one of them was someone you could have met on the street (if your street was made of paper and held together by cost effective bindings).
Although not as graphic as some of the things I've read (hoo boy) there were some truly disturbing scenes that still give me a solid case of the willies. Getting inside the head of a pedophile is a nightmare inducing event. Almost as bad as this:
Helpless wasn't anywhere near as horrifying as I expected it to be; it was almost like a fairy tale version of child abduction. Well, except for all the really fucked up, inappropriate, disturbing, monstrous shit. It was definitely unique.
Just like our antagonist. Our sweet, sweet, mentally unsound antagonist.
Jun 6 - Jun 14, 2012
The Last Unicorn
Peter S. Beagle
A unicorn, having spent many years alone, begins to believe she is the last of her kind. Taking on an epic quest to find others like herself, or at least discover what became of them all, she finds herself besotted by danger in many forms. Whether hunted by friend or foe, human or creature, magic or love, she must eventually confront a choice no unicorn was ever meant to make...
One of the most beautiful books ever written, The Last Unicorn contains everything a great fantasy story should; mystical creatures, bumbling magicians, cursed towns and towers, and heartbreaking love. This is one of very few books that make my cynical, black, gore-loving heart pound in my very chest:
I've probably read this book more than half a dozen times since I got it as an adolescent (read: stole it from my mom who stole it from my aunt who stole it from a lodge in Campbell River) and I've always ALWAYS loved it. Loved it as a little girl, loved it as a grown woman - few books can make the leap from children to adult audiences with as much grace. But then again, who doesn't want to believe there are still unicorns and talking cats, drunk skulls:
And butterflies (who I suspect my indulge in LSD on occasion):
And cursed towns and castles? This book is an opportunity to go somewhere beautiful, if only for a short time, and get away from all the ridiculousness that we call everyday life. Though The Last Unicorn is filled with fantastic creatures and impossible quests, the real magic lies in the writing. Beagle has such a way with words - I cried to myself at work (seriously, if you come into my work there's a chance that you'll find me crying over a book) and re-read passages for the sheer cleverness. It put me in a mind to recall Nabokov in his more whimsical moods. The whole story had a dreamy, otherworldly sort of air, without resorting to confusion and names with never ending consonants
(I'm looking at you, every other Fantasy book ever written). Really, I can't drive home enough how beautiful I found this book. Now, you know me. Normally I'm not a sap. You know nothing pleases me more than horror and adrenaline and sheer racing terror. And also copious amounts of sex helps. But when a book is amazing, wonderful, enchanting, fantastic... well, you just can't argue with good reading. ...Well, you could, but then you would be arguing with, at best, a concept (and at worst, a verb) which is even more difficult than arguing with an inanimate object. At least if the inanimate object is reflective, you can see yourself yelling and it kind of looks like someone is yelling back. And then you get dragged to the looney bin, and EVERYONE is yelling:
But I digress.
The Last Unicorn is a wonderful life-changing book. Read it. Love it. And then hunt for unicorns.
Feb 11 - Feb 19, 2012
Published Nov 2011
Jacob Epping is a regular dude dealing with his regular problems in his regular life; that is, until he is shown the "Rabbit Hole" - a time portal that leads to a sunny afternoon in 1958. Then he becomes Jacob Epping AKA George Amberson, the man charged with saving JFK from being assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, and thus, the man charged with changing the course of history.
I love Stephen King. I do. And his evolution as an author hasn't throw me off his bandwagon - not by a long shot. Hell, I'll ride Stephen King's bandwagon like a drunk college student on a mechanical bull trying to win free beer.
Except I'd never fall off the bandwagon. Just sayin'. Although Stephen King no longer seems to write 'straight horror' (or even bisexual horror, for that matter) he still had me at, "Hello, is that a presidential assassination
plan in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" The thing is, King is an incredible writer; he holds you absolutely spellbound from page one, all the way though to the bitter (but beautiful) end, when you're crying like a bitch at 2AM on a work night, wiping your tears on the stuffed Rabbit you still sleep with. Ahem. King is at the top of his game with 11/22/63, and I couldn't help but notice that while it wasn't a horror novel per se, it contained all the cringe-worthy, nail biting, anxiety in your belly feelings that a regular horror novel produces. You see, while our protagonist isn't exactly dealing with boogeymen (though Pennywise the Dancing Clown makes a behind the scenes cameo) he does have to deal with some all too human monsters and some utterly horrific situations that bring tears to your eyes and make the flesh crawl all up and down your hackles. Ugh. But the all encompassing, far reaching, genre bending nature of this book has to be its greatest appeal - it's horror, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, historical, political... and it even has pictures. As always, King has peopled his story with some mighty entertaining characters. Jake AKA George is my definite favorite. You can empathize
with him one minute, and hate him the next; understand his actions but wholeheartedly wish he's reconsider. He's a man who's one of us. On the other hand, I found Sadie to be a little too perfect - so loving, so understanding, so heroic; she's almost unbelievable in my understanding of your average, everyday woman. I also understand, though, that she's NOT an everyday woman... at least not from my day. Hell, maybe chicks were different back then, and I can excuse some of her naivety and almost blind devotion to a dude who comes across as a little cray-cray. But really, I actually chalk it up to the fact that we see Sadie through our protagonist's adoring eyes, and because of that, she comes out as a little too good to be true. Jacob AKA George is the human mess I prefer to get behind. And I must say, I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the assholes and the sweethearts of the late 50's/early 60's - the ruthless bookies, the sweet Russian immigrants, the dried up old judgmental cows in position of power, and the earnest students trying to be the best that they can be. When it comes to the plot, I was hooked from the word go. Time travel alone is such a neat ass concept, and when you throw in the butterfly effect and actually being capable of seeing the changes the character is enabling... holy fuck. There's a scene early on where Jake says to his friend (and I'm paraphrasing here because I lost that particular bookmark) "What if you went back and killed your own grandfather?" and the friend replies, "Why the fuck would you want to do that?" Honestly, that's the best solution to the grandfather paradox I've heard yet. And that's just one of the reasons I liked the story so much. I mean, there's so little that I can tell you about the plot without giving anything really important away... that, and my clumsy fingers would do a shit ass job in comparison to actually reading the words of the master writer himself in the actual book. But what it all really comes down to is the writing. King IS a master of the written word (at least, in my opinion). I made note of a few of my favorite bits: "I felt an absurd urge to ask,
Can you sell me a nice summer hat, or should I just go fuck myself?" "On the gray street, with the smell of industrial smokes in the airand the afternoon bleeding away to evening, downtown Derry looked only marginally more charming than a dead hooker in a church pew." "I pointed out more Denholm educators (many already leaving Sobriety City on the Alcohol Express)." "[It would] almost certainly [matter] to the tens of thousands of young Americans who were now in high school and who would, if nothing changed the course of history, be invited to put on uniforms, fly to the other side of the world, spread their nether cheeks, and sit on the big green dildo that was Vietnam." And just in case you think I'm only in it for the swears and sex talk, I also wanted to share this, because it's so poignant, simple, and above all, true: "That's the curse of the reading class. We can be seduced by a good story even at the least opportune moments." Amen, brother. Amen. Honestly, if you're looking for a good long read, pick this up. It doesn't matter what you're preferred genre is, if you studied Canadian history instead of American (King actually gives a shout out to us Canucks
) or the fact that you don't have a stuffed rabbit to wipe your tears on when you lose your shit at one of the most devastatingly legit endings I've read all year.
You can wipe those tears on just about anything. And for all you Stephen King/sci-fi nerds out there, here's a LINK to King's interview with WIRED magazine regarding his Rules For Time Travel. Just read the article AFTER you read the book, because some pretty key plot points are given away here. That's just like a magazine, ruining books for us so we'll turn to their embrace of bite sized bits of information and advertisements for nice cologne.
Jan 14 - Jan 18, 2012
77 Shadow Street
The Pendleton is a stately old mansion that has been converted into luxury apartments for the wealthy elite. It boasts Oriental rugs, a full swimming pool, and a horrific past dredged in bloodshed and insanity. But don't be deceived, because 77 Shadow Street is no mere haunted house, and the current residents are about to be thrust into a world overseen by something far more terrifying than ghosts...
I LIKE this book.
It's totally bizarre and unpredictable, it dragged ass on occasion, and had too many characters; but I don't give a fuck. I like it.
I think the overwhelming reason why I have such affection for 77 Shadow Street is because I stepped into this thinking, "I haven't read a good haunted house story since twenty-ought-six. This will seem new and exciting, therefore I'm down." and I plunged in like there were no fucks to be given.
Swiftly I began to realize that this was no haunted house story in the traditional sense (no more than Epic Meal Time
is a cooking show) but more of a super fucked up "This kitchen could really use a woman's touch." a la The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror kind of house.
And then I really got reading and realized I had NO IDEA what I had gotten myself into when I cracked this sucker.
I'll admit, I had kind of an inkling where things were headed four fifths of the way through, and was right in the broad sense. But as far as specifics? I'm STILL not quite sure exactly what happened and I don't think I got the license plate of that truck that hit me.I have to be honest; I was kind of waffling on whether I really liked all that much, or if I just thought it was OK. Like I said, there was such a profusion of characters that sometimes, when I was going through a particular set of circumstances or experiences a half dozen or a dozen times, I sort of wanted to shoot myself in the face.
Anyways, couple those wee irritations with a final course of schmaltz, and you get a mighty waffling Kat. But you know what did it for me? What tipped me over the edge of "Pretty Good' into straight-up "DAMN! This is fine Reading!' with an extra helping of awesome? The fact that A) Koontz gives a contact address so you can write him (He's not too good for us little peoples!) and B) He mentions his dog in the dedication, who he also wrote a book about. And yes, I know you all assumed Wikipedia was the most accurate place to score all your info:
OK, mildly melodramatic, but I was growing less than amused at some points. Also, Koontz occasionally repeats himself. Though I can live with that, as I live in a mini-enclave of stoners, and we are notorious for telling the same story over and over and over again. Hey, to be fair, it's hard to keep track of who you have and haven't told the amusing anecdote about the time...
But Koontz is the guy
, not the dog
. Anyways, Trixie (his dog) passed away, but Dean hasn't forgotten her, and is keeping her name alive via dedications, books, and her own spot on his website.
Hell, he's even got a spot on there so you can donate
to the organization that Trixie came from, as Trixie was a retired companion animal. Shiz, you guys. I'm tearing up a little right now. Don't judge me. So to sum it up, Dean Koontz writes scary weird, lets his fans send him locks of their hair, and loves his passed away dog. And on this day, my Grinch heart grew three sizes, and I found just a little more love for this book. Or I just might be ovulating. But I'd like to think it's love. And just so you don't think I got too sappy, I'll leave you with some of my favorite Eic Meal Time videos (I made a version of the cake with girlfriends once... wait, did I already tell you that story?)
And the first one I ever saw (and my all time favorite):
Feb 22 - Feb 25, 2011
Jamie McDonald euthanizes his terminally ill wife via a pillow over her face; Cam McDonald euthanizes his terminally average marriage via a love affair with a mysterious nomad. Judgment ensues.
It's not often my book comes with an official "Reader's Club Guide" to help me evaluate my reading experiance. Let's go through these Q's and explore our A's, shall we?
1. To what degree is the title a metaphor for this novel?
Mercy is not a motherfudgin' metaphor for this book. It is a legitimate feeling/action that occurs in this book over and over again. Theme? Yes, definitely. Metaphor though? Not in the least. Fuck you, Reader's Club Guide, for starting off like a pseudo-pretentious asshole, right out of the gate.
2. Are Jamie's actions justified? What about Cam's? Allie's?
Jamie's actions, I feel, were justified. I've had to put down a beloved pet before, and animals inspire a lot more feeling in me than most people do. I think I could put down a dying loved one if they were begging for it. I'd make them sign a goddamn contract, though. Cam, however, is an asshat, and a pansy to boot. Philandering is a quality that will put you in my bad book, and hiding it so as to have your cake and have sex with it too? So despicable. Not in the least bit justified. And Allie? What did she do; try to help someone and find evidence that true love does exist? She's a woman. We're programmed to eat that shit up for breakfast. Justified due to gender.
3. Who is the author of the "notes"between the chapters? Who are these snippets addressing? Did you believe this throughout the book?
I have to assume it's some sort of mystical time-traveling robot that has nothing to do with this story, because those segments were confusing as hell. If I had to guess though, I'd say Cam. Which makes me dislike him even more, because they seem to be written from a "down the line" perspective, which means he's still griping about the one that got away.
4. Jamie says, "You know it's never fifty-fifty in a marriage. It's always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride."Do you agree?
Truer words have never been spoken, but the best relationships are the ones that have an ever changing balance to keep things fair.
5. In what ways does Mia's memory of her parents' love influence her relationship with Cam?
I think Mia is just outright fucked, and EVERYTHING she does is influenced by her parent's relationship.
6. Who is the most selfish character? The most selfless?
The most selfish? Maggie. Duh. She was DYING, and she asked her heart-broken husband to suffocate her to death because she wasn't willing to do the job herself. Selfless? Jamie. He KILLED a broad. And consequences be damned! Most (?) of us aren't capable of that. Well, 9 out of 10 of us, anyways.
7. In what ways are Cam and Jamie similar?
They were both brought us with traditional values, but participated in non-traditional acts. And they're both Scottish gingers. Ugh.
8. How is Cameron MacDonald like his namesake ancestor? How is he different? To what extent does the Scottish history of this clan affect his decisions?
I think all that was just thrown in to fluff the reading experience up and give Cam a false sense of morality and heroism so as to make his downfall all the more shocking.
9. What is the significance of the moments in MERCY that are magical or somewhat unreal?
To be honest, that shit confused the hell out of me, and I promptly disregarded it.
10. There is a catch-22 in Mia and Cam's relationship… they have each fallen in love with a person who would no longer exist if they were to run off together. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, and why?
I agree, because nothing is ever as perfect it seems to be, and while the relationship was incredible for them at the time, they knew, once it became real, it would be weighted down will all the trappings of a normal relationship. Or maybe I disagree, because they were both cowards, and that was just the excuse they used so as not to take full responsibility for their actions. If it was really true love, they would have been together, no matter who they disappointed, and consequences be damned!
11. Is there a hero in this book?
Why, the first Cam McDonald, of course! He had a sword!
12. What attracts Allie to Jamie? To Cam? What attracts Mia to Cam, and Cam to Mia? Do you believe that we try to find parts of our personalities that are lacking in the people we love?
Allie is attracted to Jamie because, to her, he represents what she's been seeking; true unadulterated love. Allie is attracted to Cam because of his strength and stolidity. And his gun, I assume. Weapons make babes hot! Mia's attraction to Cam is based on her desperation, insecurity, and parental related issues. And possibly true love. And Cam's attraction to Mia is based on her mystery, and his yearning for adventure. And that love thing. And I think we are attracted to people different than ourselves, because we all want to feel complete.
13. At the end of chapter 17, Cam "wondered how he had so quickly gone from holding everything he wanted in the palm of his hand to having absolutely nothing at all. He wondered how he could have been so blinded by something shiny and new and elusive that he couldn't at least give equal credit for the strength of something stable, and strong, and his." Do you think his feelings are heartfelt? Do you agree?
I think Cam is just a red-headed redneck that gets WAY too much credit. His feelings are only heartfelt insomuch that he's probably emo. And I don't agree. If you really love a person, you're not going to be blinded by shiny shit. Close you eyes, for Christ's sake! There's a reason why our parents told us not to look at the sun!
14. Why did Picoult choose to make Jamie a pioneer in virtual reality?
So he can be more perceptive to Maggie's ghost?
15. How has Jamie changed by the end of the book?
He begins to take a healthy interest in his own welfare. When he killed Maggie, he didn't give a fuck. When the final decision to his fate is being handed down, he definitely gives a fuck. Also, in the end, he sees dead people, which was never mentioned before. If it was continually happening, it probably would have been brought up.
16. What will happen to Cam and Allie? To Mia? To Jamie?
Do I look like Jodi Picoult to you? I don't have the foggiest. If it was my book, Cam and Allie would go through a messy divorce and he would be cowardly-slut-shamed out of town while she engaged in introspection, pottery classes, and a lesbian fling with Cam's mom. Mia would find herself in a sticky situation or two, slowly growing older and more desperate for love, until she's murdered by an angry wife with a double barrel. Jamie would grow crazier and crazier, until he kills himself. And that's why I don't write other people's books. I would ruin them. You'd hate to see my "Hop on Pop - Part 2".
17. Is this novel about love, or loyalty? Are they the same thing?
Love is what binds you to your soulmate, no matter the cost. Loyalty is what keeps you at a crappy job you hate until you die of ulcers at 40, or eat a pube sandwich at your favorite restaurant.
The whole time I read this book, I was agitated as shit. Cam's infidelity seemed to have no real reason behind it, other than a need to escape his responsibilities under a thin veneer of "love". Hell, Mia even admitted that it wasn't Cam she wanted, but Allie's life! And for all their talk of LOVE, they didn't even own up to their actions by BEING TOGETHER! So NO ONE is happy! They took all those stupid risks, and hurt Allie for pretty much no good reason. And was there some magical subtheme I was missing? And WTF happened to Mia? I found myself wondering about so many loose ends, and I don't know if that was a good thing, or a bad thing... it means I want more from this book.
Also, by the last 20 or 30 pages, I was gearing myself up for the big BANG signature of Jodi Picoult's books. When it didn't come, I was disappointed (where's the twist?) but relieved (no sappy ass predictable cry fest).
It was a stirring book, no doubt. It mostly stirred my rage.