Book Review – Brief History of the Dead

Book: The Brief History of the Dead – Author: Kevin Brockmeier

Genre: Supernatural

Description from Amazon:

The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out. Kevin Brockmeier alternates these two storylines to create a lyrical and haunting story about love, loss and the power of memory.

My Review:

I really wanted to like this book. The concept sounded so interesting! “What if there were a middle world, between living and fully dead, where you exist until you are forgotten?” There were so many directions that the author could have gone with a book like that! I loved the first few chapters. It was really interesting to see the middle world set up and the writing was so well done that all the characters and places seemed very real. It made me want to know more.

The characters themselves were fairly interesting. They were very well written and you were curious about what would happen to them. I liked the way that the author changed perspectives in the middle world chapters, though I would have liked it even better if he had chosen just a few of the characters and stayed with them for the whole book, rather than having a completely new person for each chapter. The other chapters, which only focus on Laura, had a nice, flowing story to them, whereas the middle world chapters got pretty choppy.

The real problem with the book, though, is that is goes nowhere. I finished and my first thought was “Wait, that’s it? What was the point of that?” The book does give you a new concept of afterlife to play with, but that’s pretty much it. There’s not really any excitement or real interest besides trying to figure out what happened in the living world to cause everyone to start disappearing from the middle world, but even that you figure out pretty early on.

And as for the ending…well, there IS no ending. Which may actually have been on purpose. It does harken back to the original question: What happens after we die? Or in this case, after we are forgotten. I guess it’s poetic, but it just ended up feeling unfinished to me. Even if the author had just included a brief glimpse of the next world, it would have at least given the book a sense of closure.

It does leave you with one question, though. If you knew what happens in the afterlife, would you still be willing to try so hard to avoid it? During the Laura chapters, I did catch myself a few times willing her to just give up, which I would normally never do when reading a book (and definitely would never do in real life). So the book does a good job at making you think about how you would live your life if you truly knew what would happen after it was over.

All in all, this is not a bad book. It’s very well written and the idea behind it is certainly interesting, but it could have been fleshed out a bit better and could use an ending. I’d recommend it if you are curious, just don’t expect too much.

Similar Books:

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read a book like this before, so I don’t know what to suggest here. Try this Goodreads list!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/similar/836000-the-brief-history-of-the-dead

Book Review – Hyperbole and a Half

Book: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened – Author: Allie Brosh

Genre: Humor

Description from Amazon:

From the Publisher: Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices. This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, “The God of Cake,” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving,” and her astonishing, “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written. Brosh’s debut marks the launch of a major new American humorist who will surely make even the biggest scrooge or snob laugh. We dare you not to.

My Review:

I stumbled upon the blog Hyperbole and a Half several years ago and fell in love with it. Allie Brosh seems to be able to bring humor to anything. I mean, how many people can make you laugh about depression (and not make you feel despicable for doing so)? Her comics have a unique insight and an accessibility to them that can be hard to find now a days. They are easy to read/follow and allow you to see the funny side to situations you may be dealing with yourself, which, on really bad days, may be the very thing you need to keep going.

Also, her drawings make me laugh just by themselves. They look like anyone could draw them and I think that is part of what endears me to them – they look like something I might have drawn myself if I were at all witty. 😉 This not only adds to the hilarity of the comic, it also draws the reader more into the story. We’re not reading the tales of some random genius author, we are reading the tales of someone who is just like us, the friend we’ve never met.

I especially love her dog comics. As you know if you’ve read my blog, I have a Yorkie named Gobo. Overall, he is awesome, but Brosh’s dog comics hit the nail right on the head: a dog is a creature that you love in spite of its flaws. There’s a point where you just have to laugh at their antics or risk having an aneurysm. I love my dog, but there are times when I was on the verge of tears reading this book because I was laughing so hard, nodding knowingly because I’ve had to deal with the exact same doggy craziness.

And, omg, the goose story!!!

I could write about this book all day, but I don’t want to give away all the funny bits. I will just say, I would highly recommend this book to any one who already reads Hyperbole and a Half or anyone who just wants a funny, easy read.

Similar Book (though not a comic):

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

Hello again!

I just realized last night that it has been almost 2 months since my last post! I’ve been so caught up in work and various projects, that I completely forgot that I even had a blog. Oops! So here are a few updates to catch you all up on what I’ve been doing.

I have received 2 letters and 2 postcards so far from my penpal in Australia! Her name is Melanie and we seem to have a lot of interests in common. I’m really enjoying learning about Australia and how different (and similar) things are from where I live. It’s currently my turn to write, so I need to get my butt in gear! If you’ve ever been interested in having a pen pal, I highly recommend the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club. They match you with geeky girls & guys that like the same sort of things as you and all geeky enjoyments are welcome! 🙂

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My first letter from my penpal!

I also participated in a Paint Nite with some of my friends from work. It was a ton of fun! I haven’t had the chance to paint since high school and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Everyone’s paintings came out so unique; it was really neat to see everyone’s interpretations of the sample painting. I will admit to throwing a small nod to my geology background into mine by turning one of my mountains into a tiny volcano. 😉

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My crew and our paintings.

I’m coming along well with my Reading Challenge. I am on my 35th & 36th books for the challenge.

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I’m currently reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for my “500+ page book”. It’s pretty interesting so far. I saw that they started a mini-series on BBC America this past weekend and I’m curious how well the book is represented. I’ll have to watch it when they do a rerun after I’ve finished the book. I’m also reading Frankenstein for my “book you were supposed to read in school, but didn’t”. I was never actually assigned this book in school, but since I couldn’t remember a book I WAS assigned that I didn’t read, I picked a book that the AP English class got to read. I remember being so annoyed that they got to read Frankenstein while I was stuck with The Crucible, lol. It’s interesting so far too. I’m letting myself do the audio book for this one, since I have so much trouble reading Victorian Era books. I don’t know what it is about them that I find difficult, I’ve just never been able to get more than one chapter into any Victorian Era book that I’ve tried to read. ::shrugs::

Speaking of audio books, have you all heard about Librivox.org? They have tons of free public domain audio books. You can download them or listen directly from the website! Since they are all read by volunteers, some of the recordings aren’t as good as others, but I’ve already listened to The Secret Garden and A Study In Scarlet as well as Frankenstein and I have enjoyed every minute of it! 😀

Well, that’s all for me for now. I’ll try to get some Book Reviews up soon!

Book Review – The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Mystery, Supernatural

Description from Barnes & Noble:

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

My Review:

I like to describe this book as a mixture of Steven King and Tuck Everlasting. (Trust me, that will make total sense once you read the book.)

As I recall, the narrator in this book is never named, so I will call him simply “Boy-hero”. 😉 I thought Boy-hero was very well written. He is definitely a seven-year old who comes across as a seven-year old. However, he’s also smart and observant and a character that you truly come to appreciate. Side note: Yes, the main protagonist is a child, but this is NOT a children’s book. Don’t give this to your kids unless you want them to have nightmares.

His friend, Lettie, and her family are fascinating. Their lifestyle and mindset are so intriguing and different. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that I would love to see more stories featuring the Hempstock family.

The villain in this book was very well done. It was difficult to tell exactly who was being affected by it and what would happen to our poor Boy-hero next. It did get a tad over the top towards the end, but that only enhanced my excitement. It also got a bit confusing towards the end, because we were seeing it through the eyes of Boy-hero and…well, this is a no spoilers blog, so we’ll just say it gets a little jumbley.

The main problem I had with this book was that it was short. The version I read was only around 180 pages. This makes sense, since the author originally wrote it as a short story. But I REALLY wanted to know what happened to Lettie and would have LOVED this book to be longer.

Overall, this was a very good book. Though the story-line with Boy-hero is pretty much covered in this book, I would love to see some sort of “sequel/prequel” thing that talks about the Hempstock family. Get too it , Mr. Gaiman! 🙂

Similar Books:

Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbit

The Talisman – Stephen King & Peter Straub

Book Review – Blood Royal

Book: Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris – Author: Eric Jager

Description from Amazon:

On a chilly November night in 1407, Louis of Orleans was murdered by a band of masked men. The crime stunned and paralyzed France since Louis had often ruled in place of his brother King Charles, who had gone mad. As panic seized Paris, an investigation began. In charge was the Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville, the city’s chief law enforcement officer–and one of history’s first detectives. As de Tignonville began to investigate, he realized that his hunt for the truth was much more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

My Review:

Though I am an avid fan of fiction, I do occasionally like to pick up a non-fiction book; and with my current fascination with mysteries, this seemed like a good contender.

Eric Jager did a magnificent job taking bits and pieces from historical documents and weaving them together to make a comprehensive story. His attention to detail was great, from describing Medieval Paris to giving exact details of the murder to explaining the court system, all of it was very well-rounded and interesting. And it was fascinating to see the details pulled directly from real documents from Guillaume de Tigonville, including statements from eye-witnesses and actual notes taken by the investigators!

I will admit, though, the title is a bit misleading. There are really only a few chapters that deal with the crime and investigation. The rest has to deal with the aftermath. But what an aftermath it was! It’s amazing how one person’s death can lead to so much tragedy. Wars, starvation, pillaging, destruction of entire cities…just because one man decided he wanted revenge on another. (I don’t want to give away too much information on the story, so I won’t say too much more. You’ll have to read it yourself for more details. 😉 )

Some reviewers on other sites say that this story is so interesting and well-written that it reads like a novel. This is not true. Though it IS very well-written, it definitely read for me more like a documentary than a work of fiction. But that is good in my opinion. It kept it real in my mind, reminded me that this really happened to these people. And it didn’t make the story dry, like some other non-fiction, it just made the story more robust.

If you like learning about history, especially Medieval France, this is a good book for you to pick up.

Similar Books:

The Johnstown Flood – David McCullough

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water – Marc Reisner

Pen Pal Received!

Just a quickie update to let you all know that I was paired with my first pen pal this weekend! She is from Australia and we seem to have quite a lot in common. I’m very excited! She’s going to be sending me a letter first, so I’ll be sure to let you all know when it has arrived!

If you would like to try for a pen pal of your very own, I’ve found a couple of websites that seem good (I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I stumbled across when I was searching out my own pen pal):

International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club (http://geekgirlpenpals.com/) – The title is a bit misleading; this one is for both gals AND guys. Basically anyone who wants to chat about things they are passionate about, like their favorite fandoms, hobbies, etc. The website also has forums and activities, so you can hang out with the crew online as well. 🙂

The Postal Society (http://thepostalsociety.com/) – Are you passionate about mail itself? This website is for people who enjoy the actual act of putting together mail and sending their creations out into the world. Some of the items they’ve posted pictures of are amazing! If you are super into pen palling, this is probably the spot for you. 🙂

Have fun and Happy Pen Palling!

…Is that a word? I’m totally making that a word. 😉

2015 Reading Challenge List

I just realized I never actually posted a list of the books I plan to read for my Reading Challenge! (Suggestions for the unmarked categories would be greatly appreciated!)

Bold = Completed (* = reviewed on this blog), Italics = Not Completed

1) A book with more than 500 pages: The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova)

2) A classic romance: Rebecca* (Daphne Du Maurier)

3) A book that became a movie: Princess Bride (William Goldman)

4) A book published this year: The Darkest Part of the Forest* (Holly Black)

5) A book with a number in the title: Life of Pi* (Yann Martel)

6) A book written by someone under 30: Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Allyse Near)

7) A book with non human characters: Redwall* (Brian Jaques)

8) A funny book: Good Omens* (Neil Gaiman)

9) A book by a female author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Cat Winters)

10) A mystery or thriller: The Yard (Alex Grecian)

11) A book with a one word title: Hunters (Aoife Sheridan)

12) A book of short stories: Geektastic (Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci)

13) A book set in a different country: Full Dark House (Christopher Fowler)

14) A nonfiction book: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Randall Munroe)

15) A popular author’s first book: The Silver Pigs (Lindsey Davis)  

16) A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: The Reluctant Assassin (Eoin Colfer)

17) A book a friend recommended:

18) A Pulitzer Prize winning book: A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)

19) A book based on a true story: Blood Royal (Eric Jager)

20) A book at the bottom of your to-read list: The Magicians (Lev Grossman)

21) A book your mom (or dad) loves: The Moonspinners (Mary Stewart)

22) A book that scares you: Asylum (Madeleine Roux)  

23) A book more than 100 years old:

24) A book chosen based entirely on it’s cover: Astray (Emma Donoghue)

25) A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t:

26) A memoir: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson)

27) A book you can finish in a day: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)

28) A book with antonyms in the title: Seriously…I’m Kidding (Ellen Degenres)

29) A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: A Clockwork Scarab (Colleen Gleason)

30) A book that came out the year you were born: Fevre Dream (George RR Martin)

31) A book with bad reviews:

32) A trilogy: Everlost, Everwild, Everfound (Skinjacker Series) – Finished #1 (Neil Shusterman)

33) A book from your childhood: A Wrinkle In Time (Madeline L’Engle)

34) A book with a love triangle: The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater)

35) A book set in the future: Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

36) A book set in high school: Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)

37) A book with a color in the title: Black Ice (Andrew Lane)

38) A book that made you cry: Looking For Alaska (John Green)

39) A book with magic: The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett)

40) A graphic novel: Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (Neil Gaiman)

41) A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Buntline Special (Mike Resnick)

42) A book you own but haven’t read yet: House of Dark Shadows (Robert Liparulo)

43) A book that takes place in your hometown (or surrounding area): Night of the Hunter (Davis Grubb)

44) A book that was originally written in a different language:

45) A book set during Christmas: The Twelve Deaths of Christmas (Marion Babson)

46) A book by an author with your same initials: Dead End in Norvelt (Jack Gantos)

47) A play:

48) A banned book: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (Fannie Flagg)

49) A book based on or turned into a TV show: Rememberance of the Daleks (Ben Aaronovitch)

50) A book you started but never finished: Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps (Kelly Williams Brown)

I’ve completed 24 out of 52 so far; not too shabby. I’m currently reading A Confederacy of Dunces for the Pulitzer Prize category. Wish me luck! 🙂