Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Written in 1949, Earth Abides is a post-apocalyptic novel that explores what happens to civilization as we know it when a viral pandemic wipes out the vast majority of people. Isherwood "Ish" Williams, a solitary graduate student with an interest in ecology and in studying the relationship between man and nature, is one of the few survivors. His curiosity to see what will happen next is what helps keep him alive.
"In spite of the horror of the situation he felt a curious spectator's sense about it all, as if he were watching the last act of a great drama. This, he realized, was characteristic of his personality. He was a student, an incipient scholar, and such a one was necessarily oriented to observe, rather than to participate."
In Part I, Ish criss-crosses the country with his beagle, Princess, hoping to find a community of like-minded survivors he can join, but the few people he meets along the way are not people he wants to make a life with. So he returns to his home in California where he chances upon a woman named Em.
The strangeness! In the old world, it might well never have happened. Out of destruction had come, for him, love.
Part II begins 21 years later. The Tribe, made up of Ish and Em and their children and a few other families has survived, but they haven't really begun to create their own society; they still depend on scavenged items like matches and canned food (which would NOT still be good after 20+ years). And none of them seem too interested in perpetuating even the most basic skills like reading and math. Ish tries, but there is a lethargy to the others in his tribe that he is helpless to change. And at last he gives up.
His observation of what was happening kept him interested in life. At first, just after the Great Disaster, he had devoted himself to observing the changes in the world as the result of the disappearance of man. After twenty-one years, however, the world had fairly adjusted itself ... now, the problem of society--its adjustment and reconstruction--had moved to the fore and become his chief interest.
Still, the Tribe continues on, and Ish continues to observe them until the end of his life. Children are born. Others die. The rats from the city reach a population crisis and swarm. As do the ants, and the  wild cows. One stranger threatens their way of life. Typhoid strikes. There's a fire. And civilization as we know it dies out along with Ish, the last one who can remember it.

"Men go and come, but earth abides." --Ecclesiastes 1:4

This is a quiet, introspective novel, and a thoughtful look at what could happen if 98% of mankind was wiped out all at once. But for me it was a little disappointing. I kept waiting for what was happening to matter more to those involved...or for something more to happen. But the novel, like the members of Ish's tribe, just kept plodding along. Year after year, with little sense of urgency. I found it a little frustrating. There should be more drama when the world ends, shouldn't there? Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad read, and Stewart writes well, I just found it hard to care about any of his characters other than Ish, and Ish himself held back a lot and mostly thought about and observed what was happening without taking action to change any of it. Although, he did teach the children to make bows and arrows. And his Tribe does end up surviving. So there you go. But it all felt so removed from me that I wasn't that invested in any of it; mostly, I just didn't care.  Supposedly, this is the novel that inspired Stephen King's The Stand, but King's post-apocalyptic saga is a much more interesting and compelling read, with lots of characters that you can root for, at least in my opinion.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

July's Bookish Art...

Valentine Cameron Prinsep -- Lady Tennyson on Afton Downs
"...no one---but no one at all---can tell you what to read and when and how."
--Doris Lessing

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Bookish Suspense...

"Five women have disappeared from Gideon County, Texas, in the last six months. The latest was two nights ago. The victims have all vanished on Saturday night. And the period between abductions is diminishing. Commonalities between the abductions indicate that we're dealing with a single offender. Someone who's growing bolder, more confident."

Three FBI agents from the BAU--C.J. Emmerich, Brianne Rainey, and rookie Caitlin Hendrix--head to Texas to help chase down this escalating serial killer. Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner is a compelling cat-and-mouse game  between Caitlin and the killer. The suspense really picks up towards the end, making the last half unputdownable. I thought it read a lot like an episode of Criminal Minds, but without the overly graphic crime scenes. Caitlin, the main narrator, is very well developed. She has flaws and fears, grit and stick-to-itiveness, and a complicated past; I liked her a lot. The secondary characters were all good, too. And the killer is scarily manipulative, which made the book even better. And even though this is Gardiner's second UNSUB novel, you don't necessarily need to read the first one in order to enjoy this one. I didn't. Though I intend to go back and read it in the very near future. Gardiner's a great author. I'm excited to check out her many other novels.

Happy Reading!

Similar Read:  Blood Mist by Mark Roberts
                        The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen
                        Color Blind by ColbyMarshall

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Favorite Fictional Characters...

The other day, Chuckles the Scot did a fun post about her favorite things. Among many other topics, she listed her favorite book characters, which got me thinking about who my favorite literary heroes and heroines are. So I came up with my own list. Here are my favorite bookish characters:

Ladies first:  (All ten of whom are smart, stubborn, strong-willed, independent, and full of spunk...which is why I like them!)

  • Mercy Thompson  (Shapeshifter & car mechanic extraordinaire...who actually only has one tattoo:  a coyote paw.)
  • Kiera  (artist & amateur detective from Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby Series)
  • Raederle of An  (from Patricia A. McKillip's Riddle-Master of Hed series...my all-time favorite fantasy trilogy!)
  • Mina Harker (No one in Bram Stoker's Dracula is tougher than Mina!)
  • Lacey Flint (Sharon Bolton's complicated detective constable)
  • Menolly (daughter of Yanus Sea-Holder, apprentice harper, and owner of nine small dragons)
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (Who's both character and author.)
  • Kit Tyler (from Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond)
  • Lisbeth Salander (Probably the toughest girl of the bunch...and yet it was her vulnerability that really made me like her. Created by Stieg Larsson, of course.)
  • Nancy Drew (Need I say more?)

Now for my favorite leading men:

  • Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin (He tops my list!)
  • Gabriel Allon (Daniel Silva's complicated Israeli artist & assassin)
  • Morgan of Hed (Did I mention already that Patricia A. McKillip's Riddle-Master of Hed Series is my all-time favorite fantasy series?)
  • Harry Potter (Who needs no other introduction!)
  • John Charming & John Taylor (This is a tie for me between Elliott James' exiled Knight Templar and Simon R. Green's hero of the Nightside who can find just about anything. They're both awesome!)
  • Joe Harmon (from Nevil Shute's classic novel.)
  • Francisco D'Anconia (my favorite character from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, although Dagny is a close second and almost made my first list of favorite female characters)
  • Agent Aloysius Pendergast (Preston & Child's enigmatic and one-of-a-kind FBI agent)
  • Alex Verus (Benedict Jacka's mage who can see into the future)
  • Kaspar Krone (the only clown I've ever liked and hero of Peter Hoeg's The Quiet Girl)
Honorable mention:  All of Louis L'Amour's reluctant heroes...especially if their last name happens to be Sackett.

So, there you have it. My favorite fictional characters, male and female. It was hard narrowing it down to ten each, because there are a lot of great book characters out there, which means many characters that I love didn't make the list. But if I'd tried to list them all, this post would have been way too long.

Who are some of your all-time favorite book characters?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

From the G Shelf...

Author:  Camille Griep
Title:  Letters to Zell


Dearest Zell,
     What am I supposed to do without you? You and I didn't start out as royalty--me the little cinder girl and you Rapunzel, prisoner of the Tower. We complemented our eccentric princesses, the four of us a perfect team. Now we're like a three-legged goat.... The thing is, I had no idea that you wanted anything other than the life we're currently living. ....We've all lived beneath the weight of our Pages for so long that wanting something of our own volition feels dangerous. We aren't like the lucky ones waltzing around as they choose. You and I had to live out unpredictable stories penned by a capricious author. It's true we're free now, but I've never dreamed of admitting I still want more than what I already have ... 

We're all at risk of becoming imprisoned within our own mirrors. By our expectations of ourselves.

Happily Ever After isn't an ending, it's the journey we take from here.


Camille Griep takes the stories of four princesses--Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel--and weaves them all together in her own imaginative interpretation of what happens when each princess tries to make her own dream come true. It's humorous and unexpected, and written entirely in letters. Which is one of the reasons I checked it out. I really like epistolary novels! I also liked how Griep drew from the Grimm versions of these tales as the basis for hers--and the characters' reactions when they visited Disneyland and saw the skewed Disney versions of their stores was VERY funny. But what I didn't love was how Griep chose to portray these four well-known fairy tale characters. While they had spunk and were distinct from one another, they were also childish, self-absorbed (Cinderella), a little whiny, a little spineless (especially Briar Rose), and kind of irritating at times. And Bianca (Snow White) used the f-word WAY too much. One other small thing bugged me:  Rapunzel left Grimmland to go tend unicorns in Oz, only there aren't unicorns in Oz. There never were! And I have L. Frank Baum's fourteen Oz books to back me up on this! Still, Letters to Zell is a pretty fun read. Not perfect. But fun. And I did like how Griep wrapped things up at the end. All in all, I'd give it 3/5 stars.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Happy Fourth of July ...especially to everyone in America! I hope you all have a wonderful Independence Day!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Bookish dream...

Happy Reading!!

 P.S. I also love this inviting reading nook.
Oh, the happy hours I could spend here:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Haiku Reviews...

(Just don't count the syllables too closely!)

Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen

Charlotte Silver knows
"Life doesn't stop just because you're
being stalked by ghosts."

(YA .... Supernatural/Mystery .... 216 pages ..... 3.5/5 stars)

Megalodon in Paradise by Hunter Shea:

Win lottery. Buy 
island. Bring friends. But beware!
A monster lies in wait.

(Action/Horror .... 232 pages .... 3.5/5 stars)

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

Seeking rest in the
Caribbean, Miss Marple
finds murder instead.

(Mystery .... 220 pages ....  4/5 stars )

Happy Reading!