I am neglecting my blogging duties…

Well, it is official, the summer has ended. It really ended for me last week, as there was inservice and new teacher orientation to be attended to, but this week it is truly over as today was day two in school for kiddos.

Gone is the ability to read for hours and do nothing while soaking up the sunshine. Instead I have to start planning lessons and finding ways to get kids a little bit excited about literacy. Let’s face it, sometimes that is a tall order. Because of this, I have not been reading as much lately, and I definitely have not been thinking of writing blog entries either. So these will be short, and sweet, and very vague as my brain capacity seems to have shrunk this week. Really, it’s amazing I am even awake at this point, regardless of the fact that it is only 6 pm. This is what the first week of teaching does to you.


The Infernals by John Connolly
2011, 309 pages

Sadly, The Infernals is just not quite as good as The Gates. My theory is that the first one was so well done that there was just nowhere for the second book to go. In this version, instead of the demons coming back to Earth, it somehow ends up that some Earthlings, mostly characters from the first book, find themselves in Hell. Naturally, it is a depressing place. And the story is a little depressing too.

All in all, read the first one, skip the second one. While there are some interesting parts, there just isn’t enough to save it from being mediocre at best.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles


Free Range Chickens by Simon Rich
2008, 176 pages

This book is described as a series of jokes. And some of them are jokes, while others are more like short stories. Either way, they were all hilarious. I was going to include my favorite bits, but I think you should just read the book and find them for yourselves. It’s less than 200 pages, you can do this, reader!

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles


New York by Edward Rutherfurd
2009, 862 pages

This is the book that has been sucking up all of my spare time. And I totally skimmed the last couple of chapters. But the book is a freaking doorstop! It’s sooooo long. If you remember, I reviewed Paris, which is similar to this one in that it explores the history of the city through a select number of families, with all of them crossing paths at one point or another.

New York does this as well, but the majority focuses on the Master family, descended from one of the original Dutch families that settled New Amsterdam and which later became New York. It includes quite a few chapters before we even get to the American Revolution, which I thought was interesting just because I had no idea.

Anyway, it goes up through 2008. Yes, there is a chapter on 9/11. And lots and lots of other stuff. It was interesting. But long. And my attention span can’t handle that much longness.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5 bedazzles

Books I Read While Camping

Ahhh camping

Ahhh camping

Camping: the time to sleep outdoors, on the ground, with a giant Snuffleupagus waiting until dark to sniff around and look for tasty treats. (It was actually a raccoon, but it was very loud, and snorted, and sounded enormous) Also, the time to kayak on a lake, in the sun, and chase a loon across the water. Cocktail hour, game time, and lots and lots of time to read. These are the things that happen when camping. With that in mind, here are the books that I finished while camping.

Let’s start off with the bad.


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
2013, 181 pages

I enjoy Neil Gaiman, I really do. And the reason I didn’t like this one may just be that I was not in the proper mood to actually read it and enjoy it. My friend Alyisha told me I would like it because there are talking cats….but I never got that far. I made it through the prologue and then the first two incidents in the first chapter: the boy has a seventh birthday party that nobody comes to and he gets a cat, which is then run over. That was all I needed to be done. A birthday party with no one coming is just too SAD to even get past.

I’m sure it picks up afterwards, but those were my reasons for not continuing. I will maybe pick it back up in the future, when I’m in a different frame of mind, and it will be okay then.

Rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles

The mediocre:


Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler
2013, 352 pages

The story is interesting, how Zelda Sayre, Alabama debutante, became Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Parties, drinks, flitting around the world, Fitzgerald himself, who’s a bit of an ass, and her stints in mental hospitals are all included. Yet for all that this could be truly fascinating, it was just okay.

I’m not sure if it is the use of the pronoun “I” that bugged me, maybe I wanted it to be in the third-person? Maybe that while it was clearly passing quickly through the twenty or so years of her marriage to Fitzgerald, there were no dates, nothing to ground it to. I feel that historical fiction needs to help you figure out when it is happening. Here, there was mostly nothing.

I do have a biography of her on my Kindle, one of those 99 cent deals that they do, and maybe that will help make me like the book more.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

The Good


The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
2013, 368 pages

Why do all of the books that I actually enjoyed have magic and demons in them? This is probably Alyisha’s fault, for recommending them as that seems to be much of what she reads. 🙂 Or I am just sick of reality at the moment? Anyway, this is neither here nor there.

The book starts out with Zoe trying to find a job. She has recently relocated after a disastrous affair with her boss at a publishing house in the South, and has moved to New York City. She’s at the end of her money and needs a job. Lo and behold, she comes across an ad for Underground Publishing, who are looking to hire a publisher to make travel guides for New York City. Zoe immediately applies, because it’s right up her alley. However, the owner and others don’t seem to think that it’s a good idea. Why would that be? Well, they’re demons of course.

Zoe does eventually get the job, and has to learn the ropes of working with the coterie, basically demons/monsters/supernatural beings. Zoe works with a water sprite, goddess of the night, incubus, succubus, vampire, and zombies. While she’s figuring all of this out, the reader does too.

It’s humorous, well written, imaginative (I assume, it was for me) and a quick read. All of the things that you look for while camping.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles


The Gates by John Connolly
2009, 296 pages

This one was by far my favorite. It’s as if Douglas Adams wrote it, but made things a bit creepier. It’s full of footnotes, which are surprisingly not annoying, and very entertaining.

The story is that Samuel Johnson and his dog Boswell see the Abernathys, their neighbors, summon the Great Malevolence, or the Devil, open a door between worlds. The GM’s right hand demon, Ba’al, comes through and tries to take over the world, while masquerading as Mrs. Abernathy.

This one I actually started before vacation, so I have some favorite quote bits for you.

First, these are demons: O’Dear, the Demon of People Who Look in Mirrors and Think They’re Overweight and his twin, O’Really, the Demon of People Who Look in Mirrors and Think They’re Slim When They’re Not.

“Nurd gave himself the title of “Scourge of Five Deities.” He “had been something of a bother to five different demonic entities…Schwell, the Demon of Uncomfortable Shoes; Ick, the Demon of Unpleasant Things Discovered in Plug Holes During Cleaning; Graham, the Demon of Stale Biscuits and Crackers; Mavis, the Demon of Inappropriate Names for Men; and last, and quite possibly least, Erics’, the Demon of Bad Punctuation.”

I think the Demon of Bad Punctuation is clearly my favorite.

So it’s funny, entertaining, and all around awesome. There’s a second one, The Infernals, which I will hopefully be finishing this afternoon. Hurray! Read it, I say!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Paris


Paris By Edward Rutherfurd
2013, 809 pages

This book is not for the faint of heart. At 809 pages, it is a time commitment. And a shoulder commitment, if you plan on hauling it around in paper form.

I believe I have mentioned, in the past, that I enjoy my books to be linear. I like point A to point B, and in a timely manner. Paris, on the other hand, does not follow such conventions. It spans Paris’ history from 1261 up to 1968. Why would I still read this, you ask? Well, I’m a little bit Paris obsessed.

I studied French for 9 years, studied abroad in France for 3 months of college, and have been to Paris twice. It is my favorite place ever. I still remember seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, it was pretty great.

DSC00891

Anywho, one of the reasons that bouncing around in history doesn’t bother me is that I have taken enough courses on French history to have a bit of background about what is happening during the time. Naturally, there are the usual characters. The merchant, the artist, the Jewish banker, the noble, the working class, the eccentric aunt, the revolutionary. Each of them has their own part to play. Essentially the story that is told, through all these centuries, is told through 6 families. They interact, marry each other in the different centuries, and shows how interwoven lives can be.

Highlights:

Gustave Eiffel appears and the building of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower are involved.

Other historical figures that I know about appearing and interacting. I enjoy these things. Monet, famous writers, etc. I enjoy it all.

“He knew his duty…if he married the girl, he’d certainly be doing that. But the family motto also came into his mind. ‘According to God’s will.’ He would be guided by it. If God sent him a sign—if, for instance, his bride should die before their wedding day—that would be a clear signal that God did not want the marriage.” (244) Well, I suppose that would be one way to look at it…funny.

“He bowed and smiled, thought he had still not comprehended that [when the flowers were delivered], neatly tied to the stem of one of the roses was a little packet of cocaine…for cordials containing cocaine were even then being enjoyed, and publicly recommended, by such worth persons as Thomas Edison and Queen Victoria in Britain.” (272) This particular scene happens in 1897. I believe I have already mentioned how crazy I find it that cocaine was just out and about during this time. But I do, and so to find it mentioned is just crazy.

Not So Good:

Medieval times just doesn’t do it for me. So, essentially, all chapters that took place before the 1600s, you know, before Louis XIV and all the Belle Epoque and such, felt like something I had to slog through. Not that it was bad, I still learned things, but I definitely have certain periods that I like to read about and medieval France was not one of them.

It was very long. I enjoyed it, but seriously. There were soooo many pages!

So, the author has also written New York and London. I picked up New York for vacation. Camping next week will be spent sitting and reading, reading, reading! I can’t wait!

Long story short, rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles