Sneaking a Peek

My mother stumbled upon this young adult series called The Rule of 3 by Eric Walters. It’s an apocalyptic story beginning with a global electrical and digital blackout.  I read the first book last year.  It was good and really action packed. It had me on edge, and while it’s a gripping tale, it’s hard to read at times. It gives a very realistic portrayal of how evil and terrible people can be when civilization’s modern conveniences cease to exist.

Thus, while I liked the first book, I took my sweet time getting to the second book.  A few weeks ago, I felt up to the challenge and dove in to the second.  Both characteristics of the first book: action and the cruelty of people were ever present and in many ways were amplified.

I tore through it, but I knew that I would need another break before taking on the final book.  Then the ending happened.

Just as a heads up, this is sort of spoiler part.  I won’t name names, but someone dies.  I couldn’t believe it.  Or rather I didn’t want to believe it.  But it was one of those maybe he didn’t die deaths, the only way to find out is to read the next book.

However, I wasn’t ready to read the next book.  I had finished the second book at work.  I was upset to be left on a cliff.  When I got home that night, I committed one of the ultimate sins.

I looked.

I had to know.  I flipped it open and saw [character name] said.  I leapt for joy.  I don’t know how death was cheated, so I have that to look forward to, and to see if everybody including that character survives all the way through to the end.

I know there will be people that judge me for looking.  I’m pretty sure my husband did, but on this particular event I’m taking the Harry Burns attitude from When Harry Met Sally. He reads the end in all the books first just in case he dies before he finishes it.

So that’s my excuse.  I can happily go about my life until I’m ready to take on the final phase of this series knowing a bit of happy news.

Okay, admit it how many of you have done this?


Book Stickage

When I was a kid my mom and I came up with the term “song stickage”. It referred to how easily songs got stuck in our heads.  “Beauty School Drop Out” from the soundtrack in Grease was so “sticky” that we skipped the song almost every time we played the CD because neither one of us wanted to sing it for the next week.

There are quite a few songs that easily lodge themselves in my brain; however, I can’t necessarily say the same about books.  Other bloggers have mentioned that they can say they’ve read a book.  They can even say they thought it was great, but they can’t remember anything about it.

I figure, at least, I’m in good company, but this can be problematic especially with book series.  I don’t generally binge read series. I need breaks in between each book.  There are a few fancy series, I really need a break from since all the books are thousand plus page tomes.  The books are great, but they can be literally and metaphorically heavy. The breaks I take can be lengthy, a year plus.  I don’t always want them to be this long, but they can be for a variety of reasons.

Then of course, when I get back to a series, I run the risk of being confused for the first third of the next book as my brain struggles to re-call what the hell happened in the last book.

However, there are some books that do stick. Given that this is rare for me, these are the books I tend to view with a bit of awe.  For instance, I read Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings approximately ten months ago, and when I began the second book just a few weeks ago, I was shock at how much I remembered of the first.

My husband listened to these books, so we talked about them, but I talk about a lot of books and don’t normally remember much.  Perhaps it’s because he constantly asked me what was happening in the book.  I would then give a brief update on all the characters, maybe this is what cemented them in my memory.  I had to constantly recall them to give a summary report over dinner? Or it could be Sanderson writing style? I honestly don’t know.

Now the trick is to remember the 1300 page of Word of Radiance until late this year or early next year, when I will read the next book in the series. My husband and I talked a lot about this book as well so perhaps I can test my theory about nightly quizzes being the key to remembering.

In the past, the books with the most stickage were books I actually didn’t like, and I wished I could forget.  This kind of bad stickage is really annoying and thus while I can give some kudos to catchy songs that get suck in my head even if they aren’t works of musical genius, I can’t say the same for books.

Does this happen to you?  Do the books you didn’t like stick around in your head while the ones you loved leave?

The Great and Powerful…Meh

My mother and aunt stumbled upon a used bookshop that has a fun section called Blind Date with a Book.  All the books were wrapped in white paper with a brief and catchy description of said book.  This is all you have to go on when selecting your “date.”

The idea struck their fancy, so they purchased “a date.” My aunt’s turn out to be The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  It’s a great book but neither one of them had read it.  My mother’s turned out to be Naked Once More by Elizabeth Peters.  When my mother started reading it, she seemed a bit…“meh.”

In fact, she seemed pretty “meh” about the whole experience. However, she liked it enough to put it in my pile to take back with me when I visited for Christmas.  Naturally, this response didn’t lead me to be super excited about it, but about a while ago I had finished The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and needed a new book.  I was feeling a bit indecisive, so I grabbed a few off the shelf and threw them on the couch and asked my husband to pick for me. He glanced through the titles and saw the word “naked” and immediately grinned and said, “I pick this one!”  I laughed and agreed that it would be my next read.

So, on my way home from work the next day, I started Naked Once More, and I found it really interesting.  I would not describe my feeling as “meh.”  And I wondered if my mom’s lackluster reaction had lowered my expectations and thus it easily exceed them?

She didn’t tell me anything about the book prior to my reading other than the title and that is was alright. (Yeah, I know she really sold me.) My mother normally isn’t a shoulder shrugger when it comes to books.  The reviews are normally glowing of greatness or raving of horribleness.  Indifferent is an unusual state of being for her and probably in a way piqued my curiosity which is why I threw it on the couch at Scott when asking him to choose.

I feel like this book is a pretty good representation of how our expectations and knowledge prior really affect our view of the story.  What’s funny is when I finished it, and I told my mother that I actually really enjoyed it she said, “Yeah, it was good wasn’t it?”  I was immediately confused. I questioned, “You liked it?”  Then she was confused, “Yeah of course I liked it.”

I wonder now if I had known her true feelings if my expectations would have been different and if I would have reacted to it differently.  I don’t purposely find fault with the books I’m recommended, but I think they get held to a certain subconscious standard that for this book I didn’t have. I spent most of the book trying to figure out what my mother thought it lacked. Obviously, we had mis-communicated, but I think that lead to some interesting results and deduction. I admit I would be interested in potentially reading more “shoulder shruggers” to see how I feel about them.

How do your expectations affect the books you read?


Feeling the Color of Books

Odd question:  Did a book you read ever give you a feeling that you translated into a color?

I inquire because my friend Kelsey and I were discussing The Magicians book series by Lev Grossman.  She is currently reading the final book in the series, while I’m still feeling a little scarred from the second book.  She has informed me that this book may be the road to redemption. She’s going to keep me posted.

I admitted that I would probably read it at some point in the future regardless.  Obviously, if she thinks it’s good, I’ll get around to it sooner rather than later.  But I told her, even if it’s fantastic I won’t read it until this spring because the book series gives me a remarkably gray feeling.  I don’t like the idea of reading a gray book during the already gray winter weather.  We then discussed that we both completely understood the gray-ness these books seem to give off. We agreed that when we think of the books the gray-ness is ever present.

This got me thinking about whether I feel and see any other books as specific colors.  I was a bit shocked to find that yes, I do.  Particularly darker books, for instance Wuthering Heights, I see as a deep, dark indigo blue color.  Rebecca, I see in grayish-sepia tones.

It’s not that I see the plot played out in these colors; it’s that this is the color that I “feel” when I think about the book.  I guess you could say it’s the color of the book’s aura.

The first Magicians book was gray.  The second was darker.  It exuded the blackness of rot; dark and demented. This black was cracked, bubbling, with an oozing yellow hue. Oddly enough, a book I loved, The Night Circus also gives me a black feeling, but this black is polished and smooth; classy and elegant. It has stark white contrasts similar to that of a checkerboard.  It has a mysterious air that is exciting instead of scary.

Does any of this make sense?

I admit that I am probably influenced by the colors on the books’ covers, but perhaps publishers and cover designers have just done a proper job of capturing the essence of a book. I don’t have this color feeling with all books, but it’s powerful when I do.  However, it cannot simply be described as the hallmark of a good book, because I see/feel colors with books I’ve disliked and not seen colors with books I’ve loved.

I loved The Stand and A Man Called Ove, but I don’t tend to see or feel colors associated with these reads.  I’m honestly not sure what causes the color feeling. Perhaps some books evoke many colors and thus one doesn’t stick out.

Does anyone else have a book that they think of as a certain color?


A Recommended Dud

How do you tell a friend or family member that the book they excitedly recommended and adored is…well… a dud?

This is a difficult question to answer.  I know that they didn’t write it. I know that people have difference of opinions, but when someone is so excited about something, and they are excited for you to also be excited… How do you let them down gently?

This is like trying to answer: how do you slowly let air out of a tied balloon? Seriously, have you attempted to untie an inflated balloon…it’s not easy.  It really borders on impossible.

So, does the above question. Yes, you could lie, but that’s wrong too.  The best I’ve come up with is when asked what I thought of said dud. I default to, “It wasn’t what I expected.” This is a nice vague statement that could lead in either direction.  And it’s a true statement given the fact that I expected to love it and be just as excited as the recommender and found that I was not.  I normally follow this phrase with asking what they liked most.

I find that people latch on to some interesting things in stories that I gloss over or they downplay things that I really noticed.  For instance, I loved the book The Little Paris Bookshop. My aunt didn’t finish reading it because the main character leaves a stray cat behind (and she loves cats, so this is blasphemous to her).  When she told me this, my first thought was, “There was a cat?”

The point is if you can find out what the person loved about said book, it might at least make you understand why they are so stoked about it.  You might even agree that a certain aspect of the book was good.  My mother was recommended a book that had a dud ending.  This didn’t seem to bother the person that recommended it, but it’s what made it a dud for my mom.

Unfortunately, this scant advice probably won’t completely save you from bursting their bubble of anticipation and excitement.  But maybe you can learn to look at something in a new way and honestly so can they. Just try to leave your super harsh critical tone and language at home.  There is no reason to shred a book in front of someone who told you it was good.  It can make them feel as if they have inferior book taste. And well it’s, frankly, rude and unnecessary.

But don’t let a difference of opinions get in the way of friendship or recommending books to each other, even if you start to realize you don’t have the same taste.  It could lead to some great and lively discussions. One of my best bookish friends and I tend to have very different book tastes.  She loves Margaret Atwood, and I’m the opposite of a fan. She vainly attempts to sway me, and I rib her for her fawning love. But we still recommend books to each other and have acquired an understanding of what makes the other tick in books. She has still recommended awesome books and certainly stretched my book horizons.

A recommended dud can lead to beautiful friendships. Happy reading!!


The Shark Jump

There are two kinds of book series.  There is the series that has a pre-determined number of volumes such as a trilogy or epics that run for six or seven volumes.  These types of series are the most common.  The other type of series is a series that acts more like a television show.  The author just keeps adding to the series indefinitely.

Both types of series can suffer from “jump the shark” syndrome; however, I find this to be more common in continuous episodic book series.  And the rub is, that if you keep going this will inevitably happen.

The latest victim of this inevitable disease would be the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.  This brings me great sadness to say because I loved these books, and the series remained remarkably strong for about the first 12 novels.  It then started to slightly diminish, but was still a good light-hearted read until number 23.

This is where I can definitively diagnose “jump the shark” syndrome.  The most current novel Hardcore Twenty-Four does nothing to cure the ails of 23 as I had hoped.

In the 23rd book, the main character Stephanie Plum took a moral turn and for the worse. The turn wasn’t for character development it more or less showed Evanovich’s unwillingness to commit to a new story line direction.

Here’s the deal (please note there are a couple of general spoilers in this next section).  Stephanie has two romantic interest in the series.  One is her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Joe Morelli.  The other is a former work colleague of sorts, Ranger.  Now up until book 23, Ms. Plum while obviously attracted to both did not double up.

If she was with Mr. Morelli, she kept sexually clear of Ranger.  If she and Morelli were on the outs, she and Ranger occasionally had amorous relations, but the distinct vibe was that Plum had a morale code of no two-timing.  And while Ranger had a looser moral code, but keeping his hands off a taken lady was ever present.

All of this goes out the window in book 23. Instead of creating a new development of Plum and Morelli getting hitched or having Plum once and for all part ways with Morelli leaving her open to Ranger, Evanovich has copped out and just made it an anything goes kind of show.

Hardcore Twenty-Four doesn’t help character development or remedy Plum’s moral code with any come to Jesus moments, in fact if anything she’s just become more of a sex fiend with a third man entering the scene.

This series needs something other than Stephanie being sexually attracted and “doing” stuff with three different men.  This isn’t character development because nothing has happened to make this new attitude reasonable or understandable.

I don’t think the series has to be over, but something has to change.  We can’t keep having same shit, different title.  Stephanie needs to make a decision about men, and it has to be something with more substance than she’s horny and attractive men seem to always be around.

Once a decision is made, the story could really take an interesting and humorous turn, but we can’t keep going on book after book the same way.  Readers need something more to sink their teeth into in order for this series to not become completely outrageous and disappointing.


A Booked Christmas

Going to my parents’ house is like going to the library, but better.  There are no late fees or “check out limits” and once a year I get to keep all the books I’m given.  This Christmas was no exception. I was not only graced once again with my yearly box o’ books, but also borrowed another stack from my mother.

On Christmas Eve, I found eight lovely tomes in my yearly box o’ books:

  •             The Rithmatist by: Brandon Sanderson. I’ve actually already finished this!
  •             Sense & Sensibility by: Jane Austen
  •             Brave New World by: Aldous Huxley
  •             Killer of the Flower Moon by: David Grann
  •             Caesar’s Last Breath by: Sam Kean. (And I’ve finished this one too!)
  •             Words of Radiance by: Brandon Sanderson
  •             Rebecca by: Daphne du Maurier
  •             Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by: Phaedra Patrick

As you can see, I hit the books right away because I’ve already finished two of them.  They were both terrific!

I was also able to pilfer (with permission) an additional seven books:

  •             Naked Once More by: Elizabeth Peters
  •             A Column of Fire by: Ken Follett
  •             Hardcore Twenty-Four by: Janet Evanovich (currently reading)
  •             The Cuban Affair by: Nelson DeMille
  •             Origins by: Dan Brown
  •             Z by: Therese Anne Fowler
  •             Lovers of the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by: Francine Prose

My mother-in-law also added to my reading list with a memoir of a Scottish nurse because my husband and I are planning a trip to Scotland later this year. It sounds interesting, and I’m really looking forward to it.

It was a very bookish Christmas and I loved it! It’s going to be an exciting year of reading, and I’m off to a good start. Luckily, while I’m already two books down, the Editor and a friend of hers have plenty of reading material to keep me busy once I get low, but I should be good for a couple more months.

Is there any that I should move to the top of my list?

Until next time, happy reading!