#ShelfLove 2016 February Discussion: Book Best Friends

This challenge’s discussion question for this month is: 

Who is your book boyfriend or girlfriend or best friend? What qualities does this character have that makes him/her the best?

A tricky question! I chose strong female characters for “book friends.” I picked: Elizabeth Bennet, Hermoine Granger, and Katniss Everdeen. 

Picture from: Hollywood.com

For a challenge update, I spent January finishing library books, which doesn’t count. But right now,  I’m enjoying a book of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short stories for the challenge. 

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Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brian

Z for Zachariah

by Robert C. O’Brian

Source: Public library

Hardcover

2007 (1974)

Simon & Schuster Pulse

 

After a nuclear war, sixteen-year-old Ann has survived on her family’s farm, in a valley that has its own weather system. She misses her parents and brothers, who left and never returned. She has a cow for milk and chickens for eggs. The general store in town has supplies of canned goods and men’s clothing for her to use. She also works on her garden. One of the two streams in the valley stayed fresh. One day a man arrives in an anti-radiation suit. He’s John Loomis, a scientist from Cornell University in New York. He created the suit shortly before the war, then went out in search of survivors. Even with his Geiger counter, he bathes in the irradiated stream and gets radiation sickness, so Ann has to nurse him back to health.

John wants the world as it was–except with him in control of civilization.  He’s very practical for a post-apocalyptic person. Ann asks if she could take the suit to get books from the town’s library, like Shakespeare and Dickens. He refuses, because textbooks and technical manuals have “more use.” He thinks she’s stupid because she’s young, and forces her to work for him. She has to fight and escape him. It turned into a good thriller once that happened! I liked Ann as a protagonist.
I had difficulty knowing where this was set, even with the long descriptive passages of the valley, hills, and town. I thought since New York was “very far away,” Ann must have lived in the Southeast, like Kentucky or Virginia.

The “About the Author” page at the end of the book said Robert C. O’Brian left notes for this after his death in 1973, so it was finished by his wife and daughter. That only bothered me a little because the tone and writing stayed the same throughout the book.

 

Weird Wednesday: Welcome to Night Vale the novel

WeirdWednesdayButton

Weird Wednesday is a monthly feature about “weird” fiction, which is a combination of science fiction/fantasy and horror, or sometimes pure surrealism. 

NightValecover

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel (Night Vale #1)

by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Hardcover

HarperCollins

2015

Source: Personal copy

As a fan of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, I thought this book would be difficult to review at first, as I wondered if I could be objective. To me the podcast is like connected short stories, so this was like a novel based in the world of the short stories.

Night Vale is a small town somewhere in the desert of the American southwest. It has a community radio station run by friendly Cecil Palmer, a pawnshop, an all-night diner, a Secret Police force, and various “vague yet menacing government agencies” who watch the citizens’ every move. Only the very brave enter the library because the monstrous librarians have been known to eat people. Religious arguments erupt over whether mountains exist. Jackie Fierro owns the pawnshop. For as long as she can remember, she’s always owned the pawnshop, and has always been nineteen. One day, a mysterious man in a tan jacket carrying a deerskin suitcase gives her a paper that says “KING CITY” on it. She tries to destroy the paper, but it always reappears in her hand. The only other person to notice this is Diane Crayton, as she was also given a paper by the same man. Diane worries about her teenage son Josh–he’s started asking questions about his absent father. He can also shape shift into different animals, or his favorite combinations of animals. In alternating chapters, Jackie and Diane eventually decide to go to King City and find some answers.  Where exactly is King City? What does it mean to be “a good parent”? Do you decide to grow up, or do your experiences decide for you?

Events from podcast episodes were explained, so you don’t really have to listen to the podcast for this to make sense. Then again, after I finished the book, it seemed like the opposite. It seemed like Star Trek books or Star Wars and so on, where you have to know the characters and the setting to know what’s happening. In the case of Night Vale, you’d also have to like a podcast that’s been described by its’ creators as “Twin Peaks meets NPR” or have to like surrealism.

Themes of family and coming-of-age intertwined with the surrealism. Fink and Cranor turned Cecil’s point of view from the podcast into third-person omniscient for the novel, which worked very well. I liked learning more about minor characters from the podcast stories, especially the Man in the Tan Jacket. Even with my mixed reaction, I liked this book overall. I  want to listen to the audiobook version, too, read by the narrator of the podcast. I’m looking forward to the next Night Vale book!

 

 

A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh

Cover of A Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh: A woman in a pink Regency dress holds a finger to her lips.

A Counterfeit Betrothal

Mary Balogh

2013 (1992)

Dell

Mass market paperback

Source: Personal copy
Lady Sophia Bryant wants to get her estranged parents back together. Her solution is to pretend to be engaged to her childhood friend, Lord Francis Sutton. Her parents, Olivia and Marcus, have to help prepare for the wedding. In turn, they pretend to still be in love for Sophia’s sake. Alternating points of view  of the four of them showed how they miscommunicated with each other.
This was well written, though a little repetitive. (In an early chapter, it said twice on the same page that her parents had been separated for fourteen years!) The characters all had depth and clear motivation. There were a few times I thought, “Why doesn’t she just ask him if he loves her? Well no, then the book would be over too soon.” The plot was mostly the miscommunications, but I liked this book overall. As a reprint of an earlier novel, I see Balogh’s strengths lie in characterization more than plot. Now I’m interested in reading more recent Mary Balogh books, like her Survivor’s Club series.

Blog Goals Mid-2015

I realized recently my goal for this blog was “Post a review every week.” That was much too ambitious for me to try to do. I found myself trying to read 5 books at once, which I’ve never been good at.
Then I couldn’t concentrate on any one book in order to analyze it. Looking at the reviews I’ve already posted, I thought “That’s not long enough” and “Well, what about that character I only briefly mentioned?” I need to take better notes! ( I use Overdrive for ebooks, but it doesn’t have a notes feature and/or highlighting. Any suggestions for another library ebook app?)

My goals going forward are:

  • Bimonthly reviews, on Fridays.
  • Monthly-ish feature: Book and a Movie, inspired by John and Hank Green’s Read It First. This is a review of a book that became a movie. That includes classic movies, like Rebecca
    for example, as well as recent and upcoming movies. If I’ve seen the movie, I’ll compare the two. This still uses the genres from my About page.
  • Fitness feature: I want to track my fitness goals for #FitReaders or Readers’ Workouts. Both are weekly.
  • A weekly feature/meme for another weekday. I’ve been going through lists of blogging memes to find one I want to do. Right now the ones I like are: Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish or Booking Through Thursday. Tuesday seems like a good meme day to me.

Two to three reviews per month should give me more time to analyze the book and have more thorough reviews. Then I have to organize and plan reviews and the midweek meme in advance, basic blogging things. Thanks to Bloggiesta and Parajunkee for the blogging tips!

Welcome!

Hi, I’m Heather! I love reading and learning new things through books. In this blog, I want to write about the books I read. The main genres I like are:

  • Science fiction and fantasy
  • Historical fiction (mysteries, fantasy, romance)
  • Classic fiction
  • Nonfiction, mainly about science and history with some biographies thrown in.
  • Health and fitness
  • YA, and sometimes children’s books

I’m a beginning runner, so you might see me write about that on here, too. I like to listen to podcasts while I run, especially audio magazines like Escape Pod and PodCastle. I also use the app Zombies, Run! which is like a gamified audiobook. I would recommend it if you like books about the zombie apocalypse, gamification, or need motivation to exercise!

So that’s my outline for my blog. I’m excited to share my love of books with you!