Tag Archives: Book Review

The Books Are Here!

They’re here! They’re here!

Well, some of them. With more to come!

What in the name of Ray Bradbury am I talking about? Two months ago my boyfriend and I packed up our lives in Portland, Oregon and moved to Tucson, Arizona. When we were planning the move we decided that the most cost-effective way to do it would be to just take the car and anything we could fit into it. With the two of us and our 95 pound dog, there wasn’t much room left over.

To be honest, I am amazed at how much we were able to fit. And it felt good to whittle down our lives to only that which was really important. For me, 95% of that was books. But pre-move, my book collection was pretty huge. I sorted through my three shelves (cried more than once) and ended up selling or giving away 305 books. I kept about fifty.

It was a sad, sad day.

But along the way I had a stroke of genius. What if, instead of just donating all of my beloved books to Goodwill (or to my literary friends) what if I sold them to a bookstore that would allow me to shop online?

Powell’s Books is an absolute wonder. If you live anywhere near the Northwest, you’ve probably heard of it and if you haven’t, they’re worth the trip from wherever you are. Their flagship store is a three story wonderland that takes up an entire city block. They have an unparalleled sci-fi/ fantasy collection and every department has a mix of new and used copies.

Not to mention that they will buy used books and if you take payment in store credit (which can be spent online) instead of cash, they’ll give you 50% more. They bought about 100 of my books and I walked out with almost $300 on a gift card.

My intentions were to make it last. To use the card to buy books as I needed or wanted them. That did not happen.

Over the course of the last week I spent the entire thing. And you know what? I am damn happy about it. I didn’t end up re-ordering a single book that I had before but I did get an eclectic mix of science fiction, literature, classics, non-fiction, reference and inspirational books. I have been anxiously awaiting the crazed knocking of my cross-eyed mailman for days and today, the first box arrived.

Its contents were as follows:

The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi

On Writing- Stephen King

2013 Writer’s Market (Yes!!! So incredibly excited about this one)

A Short History of Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson

What If? Exercises for Fiction Writers- Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

The War of Art- Steven Pressfield

The Eye of the World- Robert Jordan

Letters to a Young Poet- Rainer Maria Rilke

And folks, that’s not all. I have four more shipments coming. This is better than Christmas, I kid you not. And I’m not the only one who gets to enjoy them! Each and every one of these books will be getting reviewed on the RedInkling. I know it’s a little strange to review books that have been out for years but I’m doing it anyway. And I’m calling it The Ravenous Reader Reviews, so when they start to come up you’ll be able to check out all of the reviews by just clicking that category in the side bar.

I am so excited! And I am psyched to share my Ravenous Reading experiences with you. I’ll keep you posted as my collection grows and if you want to chat about any of the books I’m reading, drop me a line. My second favorite thing after reading books is talking about reading books. Happy reading Ravenous Readers!

A review that I wish was about The Ocean at the End of the Lane but instead is about Mister Gaiman in general.

I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan since I first picked up a battered copy of Stardust for twenty five cents at a garage sale in 2001. I read it over and over again for years before I met anyone who had ever heard of him. I didn’t even think to look for any other books by him, although I’m not sure why. Maybe I thought that since no one knew about Mister Gaiman, the rest of his books couldn’t be any good. This idea really doesn’t stand up because I knew from the first magical sentence that Stardust was brilliant.  Honestly, I think I imagined that the book was written a long time ago, and that I had the last remaining copy. My love for that book was so personal that it became difficult to imagine anyone else reading it.

Of course that’s ridiculous and I eventually met a wonderful girl who came to be my best friend and she had read all of Mister Gaiman’s books. She loaned me one, (I think it was Anansi Boys) and I devoured it. I read American Gods and Fragile Things and Good Omens. Then I took a break to try out Terry Pratchett and read The Colour of Magic. That was a mistake.

I read Neverwhere and watched the television show series. I read Coraline and Smoke and Mirrors and The Graveyard Book. Every book of his that I could find. I watched the video version of The Blueberry Girl, and found myself beautifully inspired by the gentle poem read in Neil’s encouaging voice. Brilliant.

And then last year he and his lovely wife Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls, a personal obsession in high school) came to Portland on their tour, An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. I didn’t find out about the show until a week or so before-hand, but I managed to score tickets from a nice girl on craigslist. It was a magical evening.

He strode onstage with wild black hair, looking not just a little like Professor Snape. He was funny and charming from the start. Ms. Palmer and Mister Gaiman alternated, with he reading a couple of stories or poems and then Ms. Palmer singing a song or two. The stage was arranged like a living room; a tumble of instruments around plush armchairs and mannequins and microphones adorned with bicycle gears. As one of them performed, the other sat and watched adoringly. The love between these two was apparent and equal parts heartwarming and disgusting. Seriously, just look at this guy’s face.

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Nothing proved this more than Neil’s willingness to sing with Ms. Palmer. Now, I adore this man and hold his work in high esteem. But he cannot sing. Not a bit. But that didn’t even matter because he belted it out, head held high, eyes glowing with love as Amanda plucked away on her ukulele. It was terrible and beautiful and I felt honored to be a part of it.

That tour was perfect for a fan like me because of all of Mister Gaiman’s magnificent works, I love the short stories and poems best. His short stories crash over you like a bucket of ice water, immersing you briefly but intensely in a world that is more real than your own. Not only that but in the print version of the short story books (at least Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things), the front of the book is dedicated to a brief description of how and why each piece within the book was written. It feels, like the evening I spent “with” the dear Mister Gaiman, personal. Intimate. Neil Gaiman is a man with a mad, magical mind, and it thrills me that he invites us in at every opportunity.

This post exists because Neil Gaiman has written a new book. It comes out in June of this year and is titled The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I cannot wait. I am so impatient that despite what I had hoped, writing this has made me feel worse instead of better. But thank you for listening just the same.

Book Review: The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is the kind of book that makes the real world seem false; as though the only true reality is the one on the page. It is sharper and more laden with feeling than the real world.

The events of the story are laid out in such a way that it forces the reader to come to terms with the fragility of our version of Earth. I am reminded of Melancholia, the 2011 Lars von Trier movie. It gives me the same feeling of instability; like humanity is about to have the rug pulled from under us, just when we thought we had it all figured out.

The book begins on the day that the Earth’s rotation changes. The first day after the “slowing” is 25 hours long instead of 24. The next day is longer and the day after that, longer still. Eventually, the days are so long that time bears no relation to what it looks like outside, and a choice must be made. Some people choose to live on “real” time, waking with the sun and only sleeping when it is dark, sometimes for 20 or more hours at a time. Others stay on clock time, ignoring the comings and goings of the sun and going about their lives on a 24 hour schedule. This leads to some really interesting problems between the real timers and the clock timers.

Overall, this is an amazing book. From page one I was hooked. How hooked , you ask? Well I started The Age of Miracles the day before my birthday and, in spite of the really fun day I had planned, spent half of it curled up on the couch reading. Luckily, the book is a fast read so I had plenty of time left for birthday shenanigans after I finished. But I really couldn’t put it down.

Walker is incredibly successful in blending realistic literary writing with speculative themes. She explores ideas that would normally by found in a hard science fiction novel but her wonderful characterization of Julia makes it more than sci-fi. The story becomes real;  the slowing of the Earth becomes a possibility and the book will be taken more seriously as a result.

But I do have one problem with the book. It’s not huge, but it’s been rankling me ever since I finished reading the final chapter. If you haven’t read the book yet, just know that it is definitely worth reading, and stop reading here. Thanks for reading but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Seriously.

Ok, the final chapter. Julia is twenty three, and humanity sending out a spacecraft, a sort of time capsule full of human memorabilia. The hope is that some other species will find it and know that humans existed. This part, I loved. The uncertainty and the sadness was very real and it is not hard to imagine humanity coming to this point. This isn’t where I have the problem. The trouble arises because Julia is twenty three. Throughout the rest of the book, the world is rapidly disintegrating and populated by humans who are stumbling through the remains of a crumbling civilization. At the end of the previous chapter, I wouldn’t have given the Earth another year of survival based on Walker’s descriptions. And then suddenly, more than ten years have passed. It’s unfortunate, because this small detail was the only thing I didn’t like, but it kind of ruined the ending for me.

That being said, 99.99% of the book was amazing and I highly recommend it.