Permanent Collection

After adding my newest addition, Land Of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique, to my shelves last night, I realized just how many books I have signed and dedicated to my name. This is a double-edged sword, my friends, because in my pursuit of reading and book-buying, there are some books I simply cannot part with. It all comes down to the signature. I shy away from the word “collected” because I wouldn’t consider myself a collector of signatures, but I really have gathered a fair number already, simply by attending author events. Many are personally dedicated to me, which make the books incredibly special – I’m reminded that I have made a connection with the author in some way. This also solidifies the book’s place on my shelves. In light of my recent separation from several entries, these with signatures will never be resold or donated (unless to another family member, I suppose), making them permanently and steadfastly mine. I totally have Middle-Child-MINE-Syndrome.

Below is the list of books* I have signatures (sig) and dedications (ded) in:

  1. Witch Island – David Bernstein sig/ded
  2. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black sig/ded
  3. Fat Angie – e.E. Charlton-Trujillo sig/ded
  4. City of Bones – Cassandra Clare sig
  5. Emissary – Patricia Cori sig/ded
  6. The Search for WondLa – Tony DiTerlizzi sig/ded
  7. All I Know and Love – Judith Frank sig/ded
  8. Endgame – James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton sig
  9. Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman sig/ded
  10. Flying Shoes – Lisa Howorth sig/ded
  11. I Am Not Myself These Days – Josh Kilmer-Purcell sig/ded
  12. Evil Librarian – Michelle Knudsen sig/ded
  13. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart sig/ded
  14. Dorothy Must Die – Danielle Paige sig/ded
  15. Mort(e) – Robert Repino sig/ded
  16. Jackaby – William Ritter sig/ded
  17. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell sig
  18. Landline – Rainbow Rowell sig/ded
  19. A Sudden Light – Garth Stein sig/ded
  20. Land of Love and Drowning – Tiphanie Yanique sig/ded
  21. Briar Rose – Jane Yolen sig/ded

*A number of these books are ARCs from BEA ’14

A Hero’s Impact

Why didn’t I read this when I was younger? I had to go back through my old Amazon.com orders to remember when I purchased this book, and it turns out it was part of one of the last orders I ever made when I was still living in Richmond, Virginia. I ordered this book along with The Meaning of Matthew by Judy Shepard, the Enchanted DVD, and a Pokemon graphic novel — a pretty odd assortment, yet strangely appropriate.

hero perry moore

 

Of the sixteen books that survived my Gauntlet, this was actually one of the first I finished. (My hold for the audiobook version came in before some of the others, which was remarkably well done.) Also of the ones I’ve read from the list, this may be one of my favorites… and it is so bittersweet. I think I said bittersweet in one of my last reviews… it is so tragic.

Hero is about a teenage boy named Thom. His mother is presumed to be dead. His father is a smidge gruff  and stern, but still lovable.  They live in a world where Superheroes exist. !n fact, his father is a Super, but has become estranged from The League. Like many teenaged boys, Thom is trying to live up to his father’s expectations… but also hide some pretty big secrets: 1) he has superpowers and 2) he is gay. Throughout the book, Thom struggles with acceptance, fitting in, dating, discovering who he really is… which is all quite typical in my opinion. So what makes this book so appealing?

First, superheroes are awesome. The cast of characters in this novel are incredibly memorable. Thom has to go through an initiation of sorts at The League’s headquarters and is assigned to a team of similarly skilled budding new Supers, including Typhoid Larry (walking CDC nightmare), Scarlett (flying, fireball-throwing pizza delivery girl), and Ruth (chain-smoking, future-seeing old crone).  Oh, Thom’s power is being able to heal things. The team is sent out on little missions and things, and start to uncover conspiracies within The League… all really solid elements. Good good good.

Second, and I point this out second because it’s not the main part of the story, Thom’s sexuality, accepting himself for not only being a Super, but for also being gay, and discovering a bit of romance. There is a tenderness to Thom that makes him so likable. He is also self-deprecating in an endearing sort of way. (Because what teen isn’t a little self-deprecating?) There are so many wonderful passages in Hero… the prose is not only elegant, but also witty. I want to paste oh, so many of them here… but instead I’ll tell you to go read the book.

As for the tragedy: Perry Moore died of an accidental drug overdose in 2011. He was the executive producer of The Chronicles of Narnia film series (2005 – 2010). He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, he graduated from Norfolk Academy, interned at the Virginia Film Fest… And I knew none of this at the time I purchased the book. Moore was working on a sequel to Hero sometime before he died. Thankfully, I don’t think a sequel would be necessary, but it would at least satisfy everyone’s questions of “what next?” Hero was wrapped up pretty well. There were a few surprises that spurred on some tears, but I attribute that to the impact of the audiobook.

And so, Hero entered my life some four years ago in a rag-tag Amazon order, in the author’s hometown (that I will always fondly think of as another home,) and made the journey with me to forge a new life, where I “became more and more of who I really was, and less of this person I thought wanted to be.”

“Once in a while, life gives you a chance to measure your worth. Sometimes you’re called upon to make a split-second decision to do the right thing, defining which way your life will go. These are the decisions that make you who you are.”

Thanks, Perry Moore – your Hero made quite an impact on this reader.

 

Look Out Pinterest

That’s right —

BookSick is now on Pinterest! There you’ll find (awesome) bookshelves, (neat) little quotations, and (inspiring) literary tattoos… And much more as I settle in continue developing and pinning like a fiend.

booksick pinterest

I’m going to take some time to go through my old posts and pin those entries on a special Blog Posts board too, but that’s several years of entries in the past, so it may take some time! Rest assured, I am fervently reading several books at the moment and reviews will be coming soon… Not just on THIS blog, but I’ll be making a guest appearance on another blog in the near future! Stay tuned!

The Luminaries

“Never underestimate how extraordinarily difficult it is to understand a situation from another person’s point of view.”

A review by Miriam Huxley

Luminaries

I want to start out by saying that I really wanted to love this book.  But…I’ll preface that set of ellipses by saying that Catton’s novel is an achievement regardless of my overall conclusions.  Her dedication to her content and the quality of her research is immediately apparent.  There wasn’t a single moment when I felt anything was anachronistic to the time period or setting.  The integration of historical details was spot-on: never did it feel like information was being given simply for the sake of reminding the reader that this was a historical piece.

That being said, the novel was a tough read.  Granted, an 832-page novel is going to fluctuate in pace, but like the book itself, the prose started to feel both heavy and cumbersome.  By about page 700, the main mysteries had been solved and yet 132 pages remained.  I remember getting to that point and thinking “What next?”  Unfortunately, those 132 pages did a disservice to the (sometimes brilliant) prose in the first 700 pages.  I found myself reading right to the end simply because I wanted to say that I’d finished the book.  Within these pages, Catton goes into greater detail about the past experiences of the central characters, and though the content is interesting, it just didn’t contribute to the plot.  It was as if Catton felt the need to over-explain to a reader who couldn’t quite figure things out.  I’m not sure if the inclusion of these “summaries” was a decision made in an effort to follow the style Catton was attempting to replicate, or if Catton lacked confidence in her reader.  Either way, the over-explaining didn’t add anything critical.  The novel could have ended 700 pages in and I would have been satisfied.

Another major issue with The Luminaries is something I’d also like to briefly applaud.  Catton creates an absolutely massive cast of characters.  She includes a “Character Chart” at the very beginning of the novel which was helpful because it was often difficult to keep track of each character and what role they played.  Similarly, some of the male characters were indistinguishable in passages of dialogue.  That being said, Anna Wetherall, Emery Staines, Lydia Wells, Francis Carver, and Crosbie Wells were compelling characters.  Their stories formed the crux of the plot.  However, much of the novel was told from perspectives other than these aforementioned characters.  The novel begins with a long-winded section from Walter Moody—a compelling character himself who unfortunately doesn’t play much of a role later on in the book.  Other characters including Te Rau Tauwhare, Alistair Lauderback, Quee Long, and George Shephard have plotlines intertwined with the central characters, but their purpose gets slightly muddled as the novel progresses.  I think this novel would have been successful with a cast of characters half as long.

Other elements at work in The Luminaries are the zodiac signs and star charts throughout the novel.  Each character is assigned a sign and that sign is used to ascribe character traits.  The zodiac signs are also used to link characters and their plot lines.  But…it didn’t work for me.  I don’t have any particular knowledge of how zodiac signs or star charts work (and I don’t know that the average reader does either), but it didn’t add to the plot.  The star charts themselves were visually appealing, but I began to skip them as I progressed through the novel.

While The Luminaries begins as a murder mystery, it ultimately becomes a love story.  The last portion of the novel explains the love between Anna Wetherall and Emery Staines, both of whom are new in Hokitika and new to their respective trades (whoring and mining).  But I didn’t find their love story particularly compelling.  As the story unfolds, we learn that Anna has some kind of psychic connection to Staines (Lydia Wells says, “You may have an astral soul-mate, whose path through life perfectly mirrors your own” (716)), and is able to convincingly forge his signature despite the fact that she doesn’t know how to read or write.  I remain unconvinced.  The love story almost felt like an after thought, and, more importantly, it downplayed the importance of the murder mystery element (which was much more interesting).

Overall, I thought The Luminaries was commendable merely due to the amount of research that went into the development of the characters, the plot, and the setting.  I was completely immersed in 1865-6 New Zealand, fascinated as the frontier town grew throughout the course of the novel.  That being said, the prose became difficult to read, too much time was spent explaining things that didn’t need to be explained, and characters I connected to vanished before the conclusion of the novel.


 

Miriam Huxley

Miriam Huxley was born and raised in the wilds of British Columbia, but currently resides in Edinburgh, where she is completing a Master’s in Creative Writing.  She also has an expensive piece of paper that says she has a BA in English, History, and Honours in Creative Writing.  When she’s not writing witty prose, Miriam enjoys reading and critiquing books, experimental cooking, walking and running slowly, yoga, talking through movies, and listening to music of most genres (the good ones).

You can find Miriam at miriamhuxley.blogspot.co.uk and Instagram @miriamhuxley.

 

 

The Lovely Dog Bones

Sometimes my attitude towards the books I review end up sounding sarcastic, but I want to shed that for this entry. (Except for one little joke, but that’s for later.) Calling a novel poetic isn’t something I say often, but for The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst — I cannot think of a single better word.

dogs of babel carolyn parkhurst

I first picked up this title from Better World Books in a bargain bin sale. Quick side note: Better World Books acquires mostly from libraries, but also from bookstore partners and individuals. With every purchase from their site, they donate to help literacy funds around the world. It’s an awesome site, filled with awesome people, and awesome books, doing awesome things for the world. It’s awesome. Did I say that enough? Okay, let’s continue.

Admittedly, the cover caught my eye first, followed by the description, and for a few bucks, I figured I’d take a chance. That was years ago, and I can’t believe I waited this long to read it. It’s on the verge of being one of those books I would read again – shocking! – it’s the kind of book that stays with you. Haunting, but not in a bad way. Other people call this book The Lovely Dog Bones, since it came out around the same time as The Lovely Bones. I liked this one better than Alice Sebold’s book though… Sorry!

The narrative follows Paul, a linguistics professor, as he copes with the grief of losing his wife Lexy. After she is found at the base of an apple tree, it’s unclear to everyone whether she died by accident, or if she killed herself. The only witness to Lexy’s demise was their Rhodesian ridgeback Lorelei. After copious amounts of research about dogs and speech, Paul embarks (ha! I didn’t mean to do that) on a new project to teach Lorelei to talk, hoping to gain the closure he desperately wants from his wife’s untimely death.

Now, my hesitation to read this book was because I read a little blip somewhere that it contained a bit of animal cruelty. As someone who has had many dogs, I didn’t think I could stomach that; however, I was able to get through it. I thought for sure, it would be Paul beating his dog Lorelei out of frustration since, hello, dogs can’t talk — but I was wrong. Paul has nothing but love for Lorelei, the last remaining piece of his late wife’s existence. For those concerned, the abuse comes in the form of a whack-job scientist Paul discovers through his research. This guy performed experiments on his animals to alter their throats to try to give them what nature hadn’t: the power of speech. The news articles and testimonies from this case fuels Paul’s study into canine linguistics. There is a messed up, creepy culmination of all of this, but I don’t want to spoil it. All I’ll say, is that it makes sense in the narrative. It’s a little gruesome, but not unbearable. (Then again, I read a lot of Stephen King.)

In chapters alternating from the present are vignettes of Paul and Lexy’s life together, which illustrate not only their relationship, but also Lexy’s complex personality. That’s something I don’t want to spoil either. Honestly, I usually don’t mind spilling the beans, but since this is a book I plan on recommending to several people, I’m restraining myself. Lexy is one of those characters that I find so incredibly interesting, and from Parkhurst’s story-telling, I yearn to know more – like Paul in many ways.  The reason I call this book poetic is based largely on Lexy. She is creative, enigmatic, talented, but also sad and damaged. There’s a lot of feelings that spawn while reading about her. Some may think she’s a pretentious artist, and though that’s part of it, Lexy’s pairing with her polar opposite, Paul, makes them such a wonderful couple, making it that much harder to accept their fates. Though I’ve put a lot of focus on Lexy, I wouldn’t call this a character study. I wouldn’t say her character is more important than the plot, I’ve just put a larger emphasis on her here.

Something I greatly appreciated about this novel is the acceptance that life and relationships are not perfect, and that’s what love is. Love is so often portrayed as sunny and flawless and romantic, but there are the darker parts of the lives you share with your significant others that make up what love is, too. One of the final passages from the book reads: “I remember, always  I remember, that she brought solace to my life as well as grief. That for every dark moment we shared between us, there was a moment of such brightness I almost count not bear to look at it head-on.” — And that’s okay. How many of us reflect on our loves from the past, and in our sentimental-soaked memories, glorify everything? The darkness of love is ignored and Parkhurst forces us to recognize our denial. That’s reality. That makes an impact.

Oh, the joke I was going to make: I couldn’t help but think of Bush’s Baked Beans, and the dog that always wants to give away the family recipe but his owner keeps silencing him. Especially since the dog on the cover looks just like the dog from the commercial. “Roll that beautiful bean footage!” Okay, so it’s not really a joke… just a funny reversal of roles. But you know what I’m talking about.

Now go read that book.

Be My Guest

Hello Readers!

A recent proposition has come to my attention, and since it has been something knocking around in my brain for a while, I’ve decided it’s a sign to take further action.

This is an open invitation to anyone interested in being a guest author for BookSick.

This can be a one-time post, or possibly more. You can be a current blogger, or someone who would just like to talk a bit about a particular book-related topic. At this early stage, I’d say I’m pretty flexible.

 

For any and all those interested, please contact me here or at booksickblog@gmail.com

I look forward to hearing from you! ❤