Sunday, September 30, 2012

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  A zombie who yearns for a better life ends up falling in love—with a human—in this astonishingly original debut novel.

"R is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He doesn’t enjoy killing people; he enjoys riding escalators and listening to Frank Sinatra. He is a little different from his fellow Dead. Not just another zombie novel,Warm Bodies is funny, scary, and deeply moving.

And here's what I thought:   I don't usually seek out zombie books, but I had seen a review of this one that made me think it went beyond the usual zombie-horror-coming after you to eat your brains kind of book .... and I was right.    As you can see from the summary, R is a zombie, but he's not mindless --- and what he thinks about, and his comments on his "life," are pretty thought-provoking at times.

The whole question of what makes a human a human, as far as conscious thought goes, is something considered in this story.   R isn't alive, but he has a life of sorts, where he hangs out and socializes with other zombies.   He does have a drive for nourishment, and yes, does munch on brains, but here's an interesting twist -- when he eats a brain, he gets flashes of that person's memories and personalities.   When he eats the brain of a young man, and then sees that guy's girlfriend, the whole story changes --- and nothing will ever be the same, not for R, or for the humans in this world that Isaac Marion has created.

I don't want to say too much, because I don't like to have spoilers in my reviews.   What I did like was that Marion gives us a world in which there has been some kind of huge catastrophe, and there is a population of humans, and a growing population of zombies ---- but the zombies have their own society, and their own rules of how they "live."   Marion injects some humor into R's situation,  and how he relates to some of the other zombies, as well.    So, it's not so much as a horror story, but a re-examination of how life can be defined in this world (the one in the story).   So, if you're looking for a different take on the whole zombie idea, maybe check this one out from your local library.   I won't say it was my favorite book, but it was something different from what I usually read, which was refreshing.

First lines:   I am dead, but it's not so bad.  I've learned to live with it.  I'm sorry I can't properly introduce myself, but I don't have a name anymore.  Hardly any of us do.  W lose them like car keys, forget them like anniversaries.  Mine might have started with an "R," but that's all I have now.  It's funny because back when I was alive, I was always forgetting other people's names.  My friend "M" says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can't smile, because your lips have rotted off.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend --- audiobook sample!!

Last week, I posted my review of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks, which was a wonderful read.   Macmillan Audio contacted me with information about the audio version, and very generously provided me with a link to a sample of the audiobook.

Click HERE to listen to a sample of the audiobook.

I've asked my library to order the audiobook because I think this book would be really interesting to listen to (and hopefully, should have it in my hands in a week or two).  You can visit Macmillan's page to learn more about the book, the author, and the audiobook, which is read by Matthew Brown.  

Thanks very much to Macmillan Audio for providing me with the sample!

Book Blogger Confession --- Blogger relations

Twice a month, Karen at For What It's Worth and Midnyte Reader host a meme called Book Blogger Confessions.  It's a good opportunity to have some thought-provoking conversations, which I always appreciate.

This week's question is: Blogger relations:  Are there blogs you  visit and comment on because you like their style, voice, etc. (maybe you even converse with the blogger on Twitter and Facebook) but those comments are never reciprocated on your blog?  Do you get a bit offended or do you understand that they may be busy?  Or do you comment just because you like a post not expecting anything in return?

My commenting style is this:  when I read a post, or see a photograph, that I really like, or that makes me think, I leave a comment.   I don't expect a comment in return, especially since I just assume that a lot of bloggers are busy and do their blogging in their spare time.  I mean, that's how it is for me, so I don't take it personally if someone doesn't visit me back and comment on one of my posts.  When I do get a comment back, it's always nice ---- but I comment mainly because I want to ..... meaning, I want to let someone know that I liked their post, or their photo, or because I'm joining in a conversation (like the one in this meme).  Recently, I will admit that I haven't been leaving comments as often as I'd like ---- because I've been a bit busy, so I'm whipping through my Google Reader sometimes and just quickly reading.   Now that things have settled back down, I'll be commenting more.

That being said, I do like it when people leave comments on my posts --- and I'm seriously trying to get better about responding back to comments (I cannot for the life of me get Blogger to make the "reply" action work, so I now just leave a fresh comment).   I think I feel like a lot of bloggers do about comments --- they make me feel like someone's actually reading my blog (which makes me feel less like I'm just writing and throwing my posts into the vast winds of the Internet).

I'm curious to know what other bloggers have to say, so I'll be visiting around the other blogs that are participating this time  .... and leaving comments!!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

City of Women by David R. Gillham

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Whom do you trust, whom do you love, and who can be saved?  

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War—and Berlin has essentially become a city of women.
Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime. But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.

But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets. 

A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit.  A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions.  And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.

Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two. 
In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.

And here's what I thought:  This was a beautifully written book, with a main character who at turns was both fascinating and frustrating.  The author does such a great job with the setting, and with Sigrid, that it's easy to get caught up in the story (at least, I found I got caught up in it).   

I've been reading some nonfiction books lately about World War II, and so maybe that's part of why I really liked this.  Reading a book where the main character is an average German woman in that time period is interesting --- it's like getting a window into what the average person there would have experienced.  I think a lot of us tend to think "World War II" and then associate that with "Nazis," or "Hitler," etc.   However, there were a lot of people who just had to try to go about their everyday business, and just get through --- and there were Germans who didn't agree with the Nazi Party's policies, and who tried to help Jews, and other people, who were in danger.    That whole conflict about whether to mind her own business or get involved with helping people is fascinating here --- that Sigrid has to make some difficult choices, and then decide if she will follow through on those decisions.

I think this would be a great book club choice, because I think it lends itself to a lot of good discussion, both about Sigrid, and being a woman in Germany at this time, as well as some discussion of what happened in Germany during World War II.

First lines:  The blind man taps his cane rhythmically.  Three taps, three taps, three taps to gain the attention of passing Berliners.  He is a cadaverous sentry with a shaved pate under an old soldier's cap, selling pencils from a canister strung about his neck.

I received this book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers -- thank you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):    After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

And here's what I thought:   I really enjoyed this book and actually devoured in it a sitting (it was a Sunday morning, I had my coffee and a cinnamon roll, and I wound up just sitting and reading and reading ......  in all fairness, my husband was also mowing through his book).    I know the plot doesn't sound like this would be a thrilling, page-turner of a read ----- but I got really caught up in the characters, and in their stories, and I just kept reading because I wanted to know what was going to happen.

I liked how the author writes the characters; not only do we see their development through the book, but we see their interactions with each other, and how those interactions begin to drive the story.   At first, we just have Tom, who has been keeping the lighthouse, and the girl he meets and marries, Isabel.  Isabel is younger than Tom, and she's a good balance to his quiet, steadfast character.  That's not to say that she chafes against life on the island ---- but she's a bit more outspoken and high spirited than Tom.  They seem to have a good marriage, but when the boat washes ashore, and they decide to keep the baby as their own, cracks appear in their relationship.

At the same time we're spending a lot of the story with Tom and Isabel and the baby, other characters are introduced ..... and this is where the cracks in Tom and Isabel's marriage really start to become larger.   I don't want to have any spoilers here, so I can't say too much more ---- but suffice to say, their decision to keep the baby as raise her as their own seems like a good decision at first, but then some serious repercussions happen later.

As I said, I got caught up with these characters, and their lives.  I found myself wondering if I would have made the same decision as Isabel did, or what I would have done if I were Tom.   I thought about how it would be to live on an island, where you didn't see people from the mainland very often, and how that would impact your personal privacy.   I felt the author did a nice job of really developing the main characters, so that you understand their motivations --- and their emotions.   Needless to say, this is a somewhat emotional story, where the secrets kept for the best-meant intentions can cause a lot of fissures between people (and not just the two people in a marriage).   I did also like the setting, with the island and the lighthouse (and I learned a lot about what goes into the upkeep of a lighthouse, which was interesting).

First lines:  On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.  A single fat cloud sailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below.  Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted.

I received this book courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers --- thank you!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Budo is Max's imaginary friend. But though only Max can see him, he is real. He and the other imaginary friends watch over their children until the day comes that the child stops imagining them. And then they're gone. Budo has lasted a lot longer than most imaginary friends - four years - because Max needs him more. His parents argue about sending him to a special school. But Max is perfectly happy if everything is just kept the way it is, and nothing out of the ordinary happens. Unfortunately, something out of the ordinary is going to happen - and then he'll need Budo more than ever...

And here's what I thought:  When I first read a review of this book, I thought it sounded interesting; a story written from the perspective of an imaginary friend would be different, and it sounded a bit fun.   I had no idea that this book would make me smile, but it would also completely break my heart a couple of times when I was reading it.   After finishing this book, I wanted to find the author and hug him ... and then punch him on the arm for making me cry when I was reading.

As you can see from the summary above, the story is told from the perspective of Budo, the imaginary friend of a young boy named Max.  Budo's got an unusual and compelling viewpoint --- both on Max, and on the world around him.  We get to know Max through Budo's descriptions, and it quickly becomes clear that Max is somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum, so he's a little boy who has a few more challenges at school than other kids (especially when it comes to dealing with some of the other kids).   Budo knows that Max is different from other children that he observes at school, and he has some thoughtful comments not only on Max, but on Max's teachers and his parents.

Budo's observations can be a bit amusing at times, especially when he's commenting on Max's teachers, or some of the kids at school.  Because he doesn't sleep, he stays up after Max has gone to bed, and watches television with Max's parents (who, of course, are completely unaware of him), and he also sometimes goes out walking in the neighborhood.  He's pretty mature, and he's pretty smart ..... but he can't manifest as a physical presence --- and this is a big deal when something really bad happens to Max.  No, I'm not telling what that is, because it'd be a spoiler.

When Budo is placed in the position of having to try to save Max, he has to really be creative and think of what he can do, since he can't physically manifest.   He does know of other imaginary friends he can ask for help, like the ones at the Children's Hospital.   However, the other huge challenge that Budo faces is the possibility that when he saves Max, that Max might find at some point that he doesn't need Budo .... and Budo will disappear.

Matthew Dicks does a wonderful job of making Budo not only a sympathetic character, but also a character whose observations make you think.   I believe many of us had an invisible friend at some point when we were little, but how many of us remember them?  Or ever thought about what would happen to them when we didn't need them any more?   When Budo visits the children's hospital, and says how these children really need their imaginary friends (see the part below), I got completely choked up.   I found myself thinking about how for these kids, an imaginary friend would be the one who comforts them in the night, when no one else is around.   But I also got a lump in my throat when Budo talked about imaginary friends disappearing ---- "It's very strange to be an imaginary friend.  You can't suffocate and you can't get sick, and you can't fall and break your head, and you can't catch pneumonia.  The only thing that can kill you is a person not believing in you.  That happens more than all the suffocating and bumps and pneumonia combined."  (p 140).  The part in the story where one of Budo's other imaginary friends begins to disappear is heartbreaking.

This is an unusual story, and I never imagined that reading it would have the effect on me that it did.  I think the author does an outstanding job with both the storyline and the characters, and some of the observations made in this book really made me think about children, and being a child, and what life would be like if your existence depended on whether or not someone else believed in you.   

First lines:  I am lucky as imaginary friends go.   I have been alive for a lot longer than most.  I once knew an imaginary friend named Philippe.  He was the imaginary friend of one of Max's classmates in preschool.  He lasted less than a week.  One day he popped int the world, looking pretty human except for his lack of ears (lots of imaginary friends lack ears), and then a few days later, he was gone.

And more writing that I liked:  Some of the kids are pale and skinny and have no hair, and some wake up in the middle of the night crying softly so no one will hear them and worry about them.  Sick kids know that they are sick, and really sick kids know they are really sick, and all of them are scared.  So lots of them need imaginary friends to keep them company when their parents go home and they are left with the beeping machines and flashing lights.  (p 140 .... which takes place in a children's hospital)

Wordless Wednesday -- sea lion

See more WW here!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back on track .....

Just a short post to say that I'll be posting on my regular Monday/Wednesday/Friday kind of schedule, beginning this week.    I spent several days this past week at Worldcon (which was awesome and a bit overwhelming at times), then admittedly spent some time indulging in some reading (just sitting for a while and reading, uninterrupted, feels so luxurious......).

Today, am rooting through my emails and my Reader ..... which is a bit overwhelming, but at least it means I can spend time listening to the Birthday Massacre CD I got from the library recently.

So, anyway, will be posting book reviews this week.   I hope everyone had a lovely long weekend.

It's all about perspective.  This poppet is only 2 inches tall...

Having a stretch ... and making a change

The other day, when I was taking photos at Woodlawn Cemetery, I started thinking about how I've really made cemetery photography into a bit of a hobby, and how many photos I've now accumulated as a result.

So, I'm stretching my creative muscles and am going to try something different ---- a photo blog.   This blog, Fluidity of Time, will stay as it is ---- but I'm not going to post cemetery photos on Wordless Wednesday.  I've begun a new Wordpress blog to focus on cemetery photography (and history):  Marble Towns.   I think separating this into it's own space will be interesting, and hopefully, other people will find the content interesting, as well.

Mausoleum angels 1
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