Frank Herbert: Dune

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family;and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

I thought I would read so many books on the cruise–I took five! Unfortunately, I started with Dune, and got stuck on it for the entirety of the trip. We voted this into April’s AdultBooklr readathon unanimously–but I’m terribly disappointed.

I was immediately struck by how terrible the writing is. It’s such a famous book–I was expecting something spectacular. Instead, the writing is lazy in the basics with way over complicated structure. And I bet Frank Herbert’s Thesaurus is well-thumbed. There’s nothing wrong with using unique or creative vocabulary–but he was reaching all over the place.

It’s obvious that Herbert drew inspiration from many sources all over the world for his characters and settings. If done properly, that could have been really cool. Instead, it was just a mess of cultural appropriation and awful tropes. And I do mean MESS–I don’t even know where to start with explaining them because everything was so entwined and the plot so complicated. (This was absolutely the wrong book to read when I couldn’t take detailed notes.)

I finished because of the readathon, but it was hard to keep my attention on Dune. I had intended to spend much more time reading on the ship, but never wanted to pick up in this tattered brown catastrophe.

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Margaret Atwood: Hag-Seed

When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?

Opens mouth.

Shuts mouth.

Opens mouth.

Shuts again.

That was…an experience? I have so many mixed up thoughts, which I suppose is not completely unexpected, as this IS Shakespeare retold. I’ve mentioned before that I am not a huge fan of Shakespeare to begin with–it takes me time to come to terms with his plays. But, because this was Margaret Atwood, I wasn’t going to miss it, right?

I was immediately confused by some of the language. Granted, Felix is a snooty theater person, so his speech is “high elitist,” but it is still a little over the top. And the prisoners are just the opposite…is there such a thing as under the top?

And then there’s this sentence:

“Should that happen, his humiliation would be total; at the thought of it, even his lungs blush.”

 

Felix also really took care to describe the races of the prisoners. And I say that with my tongue all the way in my cheek because when he was first introducing us to the men, he would point them out as yellow, red, brown…you get the picture. It was extremely cringeworthy.

I’m sure a case could be made that Felix is an unreliable narrator and this is not actually how the author feels or would refer to people in real life. But I still don’t think it’s at all appropriate or called for. Just because a person is of color does not mean we actually need to refer to them BY that color, especially when in history those colors have had such negative connotations.

While the language really bothered me, I did appreciate the breakdown of the play itself. It was certainly an interesting interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I read through the text before beginning this book, and didn’t quite grasp what happened–Felix’s class broke it down so much better! This is what I wish I would have had more of growing up–legitimate discussion of literature. We didn’t read many classics in school, so I missed this. I would have understood Shakespeare better had it been broken down this way, perhaps. I wish I could go back and take lit classes for fun now. It’s why I write this blog–analysis and discussion.

I’m sure all of this is completely unlikely. I know there are classes held in prisons, but full scale theater productions, with props and blackout performances? I can’t see that happening–especially where ministry dignitaries would be allowed unescorted by security. I will say it was an engaging book, but I cannot rate it very highly due to the racial disregard shown. We must do better.

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I won a copy of this book from Hogarth Books in their Read It Forward newsletter. This post contains affiliate links.

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VE Schwab: A Gathering of Shadows

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Can I just say FU VE SCHWAB! HOLY CLIFFHANGER!

It took me a while to get into this second book in her Shades of Magic series. I loved ADSOM, and was really looking forward to AGOS and the continuation of Kell and Lila’s adventures. However, this definitely has second book syndrome–at least at the start. It’s sluggish to begin.

There’s three stories going on, Kell, Lila, and a third that I won’t spoil for you. All are fun and interesting, but until they start to merge it almost feels like they are being held back. When that happens, though, the book feels like one of my favorite movies–A Knight’s Tale–only instead of Heath Ledger being the only one hiding his identity, Shannyn Sossamon (Jocelyn) also joins him in the game. It’s great fun and very adventurous.

I’m not going to rate this as high as I did the first book, but it definitely left me excited for the third installment! And it was nice to read something not so serious after a streak of BIG books lately. It was greatly needed, since I’ve got more of those coming.

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Banned Books Week 2016

Yesterday kicked off Banned Books Week. From the ALA website:

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country.

I have some great books and posts lined up to review this week (and it’ll probably bleed into next), so keep your eyes peeled for that. We’re starting with Huck Finn today.

This week couldn’t have come at a better time. With the controversies that have happened in the book community lately:  #ISupportDiversity, #DiverseAThon, and the absolute MESS that was the VOYA explosion from Bisexuality Visibility Week last week–we SO need some positive light to shine on diverse and controversial books.

So join the Adult Booklr photo challenge, or just read and review your favorites. Post them to your instagram, your blogs, your twitter. Come back here and share your links so I know what you are sharing. I’d love to see them! Or @ me on Twitter so I can retweet them on #TuesdayBookBlog and #FridayReads.

How are you celebrating Banned Books Week? Get involved!

Review: The Shadow of the Wind

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

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This book reminds me of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, in that it feels a lot older than it actually is. It was written in 2005, but as I was reading it, I thought it was actually written decades ago. Of course, it makes sense later, when the epilogue skips to 1960–but the text reads like much older literature than this millennium for sure.

The story itself is extremely complicated, with layers upon layers that build until the climax at the end. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail because there is just too much to discover here on your own, but it’s definitely one of those stories you have to focus on. It doesn’t hurt to take notes either. You never know when something insignificant might come back up again!

These historical fiction mysteries are always good for a brain workout. Goodreads has this listed as Fantasy too, but I don’t see how that is an applicable genre for this book. Definitely interesting, though, and one to pick up if you’re looking for something dark and thrilling, without being gory or overly scary.

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Review: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1

KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel) and EMMA RÍOS (Dr. Strange, Osborn) present the collected opening arc of their surprise-hit series that marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher. Death’s daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

I don’t always read our Adult Booklr graphic novel pick, but when I do, it’s because it has kick ass female authors. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios both have big names under their belt, so it’s pretty much no question that their work is always going to be worth reading.

The story here is fantastic, and with DeConnick behind it, that’s really no surprise. I wasn’t a huge fan of Bitch Planet‘s plot, but the writing was great, and this old school western legend is way more my style.

First thing you have to understand–the narrator here is a bunny-skeleton to a butterfly. Weird, I know–but this IS a book about the underworld. The whole thing is about Death, his daughter, and the people in His grasp. There’s a lot to take in–so much that I may read it again this weekend just because.

But even more than the creative storyline is the ART. There is so much going on at times that I almost forgot to even read the story because I just wanted to stare at every intricate detail. The pages aren’t laid out in normal comic panels. A page might be one full page drawing, with a few squares of smaller detail. Sometimes you would get a few long panels stacked on top of each other, when there was a lot of dialogue in a scene. The art overall is dark, sometimes bloody (but excepting the very first couple of pages, not exceedingly gory), and just exceptionally varied. Everything is striking. EVERYTHING.

HOW IS ANYONE ON EARTH THIS TALENTED I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

I should probably tell you that there is full on nudity, both male and female. This is definitely an adult comic, and for more than just that reason.

But you guys. YOU GUYS. It’s so beautiful.

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The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov’s devastating satire of Soviet life was written during the darkest period of Stalin’s regime. Combining two distinct yet interwoven parts—one set in ancient Jerusalem, one in contemporary Moscow—the novel veers from moods of wild theatricality with violent storms, vampire attacks, and a Satanic ball; to such somber scenes as the meeting of Pilate and Yeshua, and the murder of Judas in the moonlit garden of Gethsemane; to the substanceless, circus-like reality of Moscow. Its central characters, Woland (Satan) and his retinue—including the vodka-drinking black cat, Behemoth; the poet, Ivan Homeless; Pontius Pilate; and a writer known only as The Master, and his passionate companion, Margarita—exist in a world that blends fantasy and chilling realism, an artful collage of grotesqueries, dark comedy, and timeless ethical questions.

I can’t do it, you guys. I can’t. I have absolutely zero idea what is happening in this book. And I have TRIED to figure it out. I wanted to show myself that I could read ONE RUSSIAN LITERATURE without failing. This one isn’t that long, right? Surely I could do it.

NOPE.

My one thought while reading this was this:  “This feels like the book that the Bohemians from Moulin Rouge would have written while high (drunk?) on absinthe.”

I’m pretty sure I saw a green fairy once or twice while trying to read it. I got a little more than halfway, but nothing made sense. There were references to Jesus and Pilate, the devil, someone got their head cut off by a street car. One of the men was schizophrenic, and maybe it was all just in his head somewhere.

Blah! I don’t know! Another Russian Lit bites the dust. This was both our AdultBooklr pick of the month AND a Boxall read, so it’s doubly frustrating. It is what it is. On to the next one.

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Fulfills Boxall #111. This post contains affiliate links.

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Dark Matter

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

You’ve probably seen this book posted everywhere–it’s been on Goodreads, NetGalley, Blogging for Books. I haven’t seen it in the Tumblrspace yet, but it’s coming, I promise. One of the Goodreads ads has a quote from Lee Childs:  ” I think Blake Crouch just invented something new.” He’s not wrong. I keep trying to come up with something to compare it to, and I really can’t. When I told Nicole at Pure Geekery to pick this up, all I could tell her was it was sciencey, and kind of a thriller about a physicist? How else do I describe it?!

Really the only thing I can think to tell you is that it’s like a choose your own adventure in real life. Only Jason didn’t really get to pick his adventures.They just happened. And they certainly weren’t super cool and awesome–mostly just terrifying, like every anxiety-ridden stress dream I’ve ever had.

I can’t go into any further detail than that without spoiling the book for you. And I really don’t want to do that because it’s awesome. Remember back when I said I didn’t like Sci-Fi? Who was that person? I think I just wasn’t reading the right Sci-Fi. Clearly.

Fans of Peter Clines and Ernest Cline are going to love this. (Which, by the way, are they related? Probably not, but same name, similar genre…something fishy there.) Anyone who loves TRUE sci-fi, like the kind where you actually take a deep dive into scientific principles, like physics–you are going to love this. If you love mind twisters–you’re going to love this. Can I stress any more that YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS?! It comes out today. Click any of the links in this post and go buy it immediately.

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NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases July 26. All links are affiliate links.

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Go Set a Watchman

THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS IN MY ANALYSIS. I GO PRETTY DEEP, SO IT CAN’T BE HELPED THIS TIME. I WILL WARN YOU FIRST.

From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

First off, let me tell you–because I know how controversial this book is–I was extremely torn on whether to read GSAW. Do I read it, knowing that Harper Lee held off on publishing the book for her entire life–and it only came to surface when the capacity of her mental functions were being questioned? Do we actually know if she wanted this sent out in the world? We do not. In some ways, it feels like a betrayal to read this. In others, now that it is out there, it feels wrong not to read such a historically significant work from one of the greatest authors of our lifetime. In the end, I chose the latter, as part of our AdultBooklr readathon of To Kill a Mockingbird

I can definitely understand, though, why Harper Lee would not have published this. She wrote GSAW first, but decided she wanted to explore Jean Louise’s (Scout) youth more in depth–so this acts as a sequel to the book she wrote second, To Kill a Mockingbird. There are some overlap in her words, like descriptions of Aunty Alexandria for example. But really the characters are just DIFFERENT here. At first, I thought I was bored, that they needed more development and that’s why she moved on to TKAM. I even reached to our AdultBooklr chat to see if anyone else felt the same way.

The more I read, though, the more I realized that the characters were developing very quickly, in that Harper Lee fashion–just not the way I expected them to. GSAW felt almost as if it “undid” everything that TKAM had done. White privilege and that kind of indirect racism run rampant through this book (I say indirect in contrast to the direct violence that we saw in TKAM. More of a shunning and segregation than prison and guns. I don’t mean it to be less harmful, just different).

It was uncomfortable. I didn’t like it. I just kept thinking over and over, “This is why she didn’t publish it, it ruins TKAM. Her characters don’t match up.”

****SPOILERS AHEAD.****

But then, almost at the very end, there is a conversation about segregation and racial barriers. Atticus and Scout are completely flipped from TKAM and it finally hit me.

Was anything ever “done” in TKAM? Sure, Atticus fought against prejudice in one court case. He taught Scout some great lessons about humanity. Some of the town murmured their agreement, but in the end, he lost. The black man was still killed. Nothing changed. TKAM was a well-written book about the struggle to overcome racial prejudice, but nothing was “done.”

Just like nothing is over today. We are still fighting those exact same battles. And that is one of the points of Go Set a Watchman. Prejudice doesn’t go away overnight. This is a war. There are many battles, not just one. Love is love is love is love is love, but also change begets change begets change begets change begets change….and maybe that second one is harder.

The second point of Go Set a Watchman is that you can’t ever go home again. Not really. Once you learn the truth about something, once you see who you really are and who your people are, you cannot go back. Scout learned what white privilege is, and she was NOT happy about it. She tried to fight within her town and her family was ridiculously patronized.

I’m not sure how I feel about the way this ended. I know I feel way different about the book from when I started–it is not a secondary book to TKAM. It isn’t boring. I wish I would have paid more attention to the first half now. I’ll be adding this to my reread pile, and next time I will read it as a separate entity from TKAM. I do know that GSAW is incredibly poignant to our country right now. Harper Lee, you may not have meant for this book to be out in the world, but we very much needed it.

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I’ll Give You the Sun

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

I’m pretty sure all of Booklr has been trying to get me to read this book since the day it came out. Especially Christa in particular–it’s her favorite thing ever…if you ask her, she will tell you. I’m amazed it’s taken us this long to read it for AdultBooklr!

Jandy Nelson’s writing is spectacular.She uses split narration–13 yo Noel, and flash forward 16 yo Jude. They are twins, so you get a before and after look which gives a very unique perspective.

I almost felt like I could read this with my eyes closed. I’ll Give You the Sun is all about sensory overload–Nelson makes you want to swim in the colors and textures of the art she creates in the page. I swear if someone would have handed me a brush and palatte I would have painted Noah’s portraits. It’s a completely ridiculous notion, since I am a terrible painter, but the imagery is so vivid that I CRAVED them. Surely someone on Tumblr has done a fanart collection. I should go look for it.

I was bothered by the age difference between Oscar and Jude. Throughout most of the book, we don’t know exactly how old he is, only that he’s in college and she is 16. It’s clear he doesn’t know quite how young she is, but it’s still just a little skeevy, especially after he asks her to pose nude for him. This does get addressed toward the end of the book, but it’s just something that made me a little uncomfortable throughout.

I’ll Give You the Sun is a coming of age story in two parts. The two perspectives allows us to see multiple facets of a teenage life, without the awkward friend circle drama we get in a lot of YA trying to show the same thing. Nelson brilliantly gives us a look into sexual discovery–both heterosexual and homosexual, coming out, divorce, grief, puberty, and a few other things, wrapped up in a beautiful, moving book.

This actually reminds me a LOT of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, if it were written from Dante’s perspective. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but if you loved that book, you’ll love this one. I am super disappointed now that I only bought this in ebook form. I NEED THIS ON MY SHELF. It’ll be a regular reread for sure.

Oh and Christa, you owe me Patrick Rothfuss.

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