Reading For The Heck Of It

Gosh, I love books. I love the way they feel in my hand, the way they smell, the way they look piling up all around me as I drown amongst their pages...I really, REALLY like books.

 

Favorite genres: nonfiction (especially science), sci-fi/fantasy, classics, and children's literature.

 

Unread/unloved genres: romance and seafaring odysseys.

It would be hard to sit in a chair if your legs faced backwards

Only Human - Sylvain Neuvel

Believe it or not, this is my second time writing this particular post. The first one which was ready for publishing was accidentally deleted in its entirety by yours truly. Well, I guess after this many years I was due a massively huge screw up. IT WAS SUCH A LONG POST, GUYS. I'm afraid this is going to be missing some essential points as a consequence but I'll do my best to recreate what I hardly recall writing (even though it was earlier this week).

 

Today I'm going to be reviewing Only Human which is the third and final book in The Themis Files trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel. If you've forgotten (or never knew in the first place) this series began with Dr. Rose Franklin who found a giant robot hand when she was a little girl and from that moment a series of events led to a giant robot (definitely of alien origins) being pieced together. Things spiraled out of control pretty quickly after that especially once other governments outside of the U.S. discovered that this behemoth could be piloted and used as a weapon. Moreover, raising this robot from the depths of the earth alerted the alien race which left it here and prompted their return to reclaim their property with mass genocide being the result. Cut to Only Human which opens years after the conclusion of Waking Gods with 2 pilots inside huge robots killing civilians in a war being waged between the U.S. and Russia while thousands of others are being held in interment camps because of impure bloodlines (sound familiar?). (This is where the dystopian tag on this post comes in by the way.) Meanwhile on a distant planet called Ekt, Rose and her team (Vincent, Eva, & the General) are trying to acclimate/come up with an escape plan back to earth. They are essentially refugees on this world which is wildly different from anything they've ever known. The parts where Neuvel focused on describing the planet, its people, and their customs were by far my favorites of this book, ya'll. So original and engrossing. The most distinguishing factor of the Ekt (besides their backwards facing legs) is that they have a strict policy of governmental non-interference which forbids them from any further action against or for the people of planet earth (even though they were the cause of its current state of awful). This is sci-fi political angst at its finest. 

 

If I had to rank the books in this series it would be 1, 3, and then 2. A lot of the magic from the first book came from the total originality of the plotline and Neuvel's descriptive capabilities. A lot of that was lost in the second book which in my opinion was super dry. He got a lot of that oomph back with this book though. Taken as a whole, it's an excellent series and I wouldn't say no to checking out more of his work in the future. 7/10 for Only Human.

 

[A/N: To catch up with the first two books check out my posts on Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods.] 

 

What's Up Next: Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Batman is how old?!

The Science of Superheroes - Robert E. Weinberg, Lois H. Gresh

What an absolutely FUN read The Science of Superheroes turned out to be! Lois H. Gresh & Robert E. Weinberg took several big name superheroes like Superman, Batman, The Flash, Ant Man, Aquaman, and the X-Men (just to name a few) and discussed in-depth their powers, origin stories, narrative continuity, and whether there was any basis in scientific fact for their superpowers. There were great recommendations both throughout the book and in the footnotes (ya'll know I love a book with excellent footnotes). They also went to great lengths to give a detailed, thorough history of comics in general which made this an altogether well-rounded and researched book. (I've read some so-called 'scientific' nonfiction that couldn't hold a candle to the amount of work that Gresh & Weinberg obviously put in for this book.) Another huge bonus was the extensive appendix which also included biographies and q&a responses with several popular 'current' writers of comics. (Am I gushing? I can't help it that I love a good set of biographical facts organized in an orderly fashion.) At any rate, whether you're a pop culture fan, comic aficionado, superhero movie nerd, or really into researched footnotes this is sure to fit the bill and be an excellent choice for a cozy autumn evening. 10/10

 

PS I had made a note after reading this that I hoped they made one for comic book villains...and they did! If you're interested the title is The Science of Supervillains. XD

 

What's Up Next: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans & Ronald Searle

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

The argument for palliative care

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End - Atul Gawande

"...our decision making in medicine has failed so spectacularly that we have reached the point of actively inflicting harm on patients rather than confronting the subject of mortality. ...you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer." - pg 178

 

I wanted to start with that quote from today's book because it struck me as being so shocking in its simplicity and yet it completely blindsided me with its poignancy. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande is at heart a discussion of the ups and downs of treating the elderly through a variety of means whether that means aggressive medicine, nursing homes, assisted living, or hospice. It's obvious that the author has a great admiration for palliative care and a belief that all doctors/clinicians should be trained and proactive to deliver the best care for their patients. In essence, asking practical questions about what trade-offs patients are willing to make for ensuring good days ahead are key to excellent palliative care (for any age). He stresses that instead of simply giving all the options for care at the outset of a diagnosis doctors should instead ask a set of pertinent questions to get at what their patient really wants to have a good quality of life. This is relevant (and necessary) for patients whether they be elderly, terminally ill, or disabled. Gawande clearly knows his stuff (he is a doctor after all) and he was thorough in his research for this book as he interviewed across many disciplines to see what is being done by various agencies in the care of the elderly and dying. Apparently there is no one accepted method of care except to ask, listen, and respect the wishes of patients. According to Gawande, there is "...a still unresolved argument about what the function of medicine really is - what, in other words, we should and should not be paying for doctors to do." (pg 187) Hospice is not just an option for those who are looking for end of life help or to speed up death but is an excellent choice to make good days out of one's remaining life. My verdict: Very informative book that I kept picking up with great alacrity and I will definitely read more of his writing. 10/10

 

I'll leave you with this final quote to chew over:

 

"At root, the debate is about what we fear most - the mistake of prolonging suffering or the mistake of shortening valued life. All the same, I fear what happens when we expand the terrain of medical practice to include actively assisting people with speeding their death." - pg 244  

 

What's Up Next: The Science of Superheroes by Lois H. Gresh & Robert E. Weinberg

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Raw, unfiltered, and achingly honest

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a posthumous memoir/biography from a man who was both in the prime of his life and the beginning of what promised to be an illustrious career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. The terminal lung cancer which was already making its way through his spinal column wasn't part of the plan...and yet Paul chose to meet this challenge head-on as a way to understand and learn how the inevitability of death can be explored by those shepherding the way. How does the mind and brain (seen as two separate entities here) play a role in this? He first approached this topic through the lens of literature which he had always been interested in (hence the beginning of the book which would eventually be published after his death) but he then moved on to his direct experience as a doctor and then as a patient. Paul was interested in the bigger picture of what exactly death means and he kept trying to parse it out by asking, "Where did biology, morality, literature, and philosophy intersect?" (pg 41). He didn't shy away from the ugly underbelly of cancer treatment and how it's seen from both a medical professional's standpoint (best practices, proven remedies, etc) and the one receiving the care (uncertainty, despair, anger, and frustration to name a few). Facing mortality and asking the tough questions are the overarching themes of When Breath Becomes Air but this is also a quiet story about a man coming to terms with the fact his life was about to end. I don't want to give away all of the details because I really think you should read this one if you never read another book about death (although why stop here?). I didn't know if I'd be able to continue it at several points (there were tears) because it mirrors so much of what my dear friend, Jessica, went through during her battle with cancer. But I am happy that I persevered. 10/10

 

This quote blew my mind because I feel I'm constantly justifying to people why I do the work that I do even though some of it doesn't compensate me at all (the blog) and the one that does is probably never going to make me financially solvent (children's librarian). Looking at the bigger picture is hard if you are cutting out the crucial bits like death which comes for us all.

Indeed, this is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work, environment, house. But that's the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job - not a calling. - pg 68-69

If I remember correctly this was a quote from Paul's wife and I think it perfectly encapsulates why this is such an important book. It's why I've read and reviewed so many books around this topic over the past year. 

Paul confronted death - examined it, wrestled with it, accepted it - as a physician and a patient. He wanted to help people understand death and face their mortality. Paul's decision not to avert his eyes from death epitomizes a fortitude we don't celebrate enough in our death-avoidant culture. - pg 215

Side note of interest (at least to me): Lucy, Paul's widow, found love again with a recently widowed father of two...who's spouse also wrote a book about her journey of dying. That book is The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs and yes it's totally going on my TRL.

 

What's Up Next: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

To stoke your wanderlust

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies - Alastair Bonnett

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett is essentially a sociological and philosophical study of what 'place' really means to each of us. The author explores 47 different locales around the globe (usually with GPS coordinates included) and divides them by type (floating cities, underground bunkers, and places without borders to name a few). He examines the dichotomy in wanting a place which is set in stone and also desiring to be itinerant travelers like our ancestors. Until I read this I had never really thought about the significance that we as humans associate with place. The historical and geographical facts Bonnett detailed were especially fascinating (examples include: pumice rafts, Sealand (they have their own passports!), and the enclaves of Belgium). The pacing was just right and the material kept me engaged throughout (which by this point in the year is a challenge).  I really like to learn about places that are far removed from the everyday and Bonnett delivered on that in spades. For those with wanderlust in their heart or a desire to learn about phenomenally odd and/or out of the way locales then this is a great little book. I bet it would make an excellent travel companion on any vacation! 10/10

 

What's Up Next: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek: Destiny #3: Lost Souls by David Mack (yes, I'm still reading this)

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Not the same, I promise

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath - Leslie Jamison

The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison at first glance is remarkably similar to my last post and in retrospect I probably shouldn't have read them back-to-back. (If for no other reason, than my own mental health.) In my defense, my library holds always seem to come all at once so this was just coincidental. This book. however, is more memoir than anything else…although I'd also lump it into the literary commentary category. The author takes an almost journalistic look at addiction and recovery. While Jamison does discuss the 12 Steps, she emphasizes that most need more than the 12 Steps which promotes complete abstinence in order to recover. Medication and counseling in combination with a recovery program that advises group meetings is essential to long-term sobriety. She talks in-depth about her own recovery journey and how it doesn't always end neatly with full sobriety or even one linear line to sobriety as relapses will and do occur. The first part, in truth, focuses quite heavily on "drunk writers" using alcohol as a creative crutch and how Jamison herself felt that without booze she would not be interesting enough or creative enough to write. Along with that was her preoccupation with love helped along by an addict's natural self-centeredness. It is this inflated self-centered attitude which Jamison believes is the fuel for an addict. The addiction narrative is unchanging and that's the point. It doesn't need to be new and interesting (not necessary or even possible really) because it's the sharing with others that makes all the difference when all anyone wants is to not feel alone. Maybe because I read this on the heels of Russell's book or maybe because it didn't necessarily reveal anything new to me but this was only an okay book in my opinion. If this was the very first book someone had read on this subject then I believe it would be deemed excellent but for anyone who has read extensively in this vein it didn't really cover any new ground. 5/10


That isn't to say there weren't some interesting quotes. Here are two that jumped out at me:

 

Most addicts don't live in barren white cages - though some do once they've been incarcerated - but many live in worlds defined by stress of all kinds, financial and social and structural: the burdens of institutional racism and economic inequality, the absence of a living wage. - pg 154

Most addicts describe drinking or using as filling a lack…you drunk to fill the lack, but the drinking only deepens it. - pg 155

What's Up Next: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek: Destiny #3: Lost Souls by David Mack

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Essential Reading

Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions - Russell Brand

Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand is the 4th book of his that I've read and possibly the one that's hit the closest to home. This book outlines the 12 Step Program from Russell's perspective with personal accounts from each step of his journey towards recovery. It is an excellent book for those struggling with addiction (of any kind) or those who have witnessed that struggle in others.

 

The emphasis made throughout the book is that you must

  • seek a Higher Power
  • attend meetings to have a community of help
  • work the program every single day
  • seek help at times when stressed or apt to relapse from a mentor who has worked the program

 

These excellent quotes from the book do a far better job of recommending it than anything I could say:

But in your life you've faced obstacles, inner and outer, that have prevented you from becoming the person you were 'meant to be' or 'are capable of being' and that is what we are going to recover. That's why we call this process Recovery, we recover the 'you' that you were meant to be. - pg 42

This program helps me to change my perspective when what I would do unabated is justify my perspective staying the same - 'if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got', if you want change, you have to change. You have to make amends. - pg 133

...'you can't think your way into acting better but you can act your way into thinking better.' - pg 160

The literature upon which these movements are founded describe it not as a 'cure' but as a 'daily reprieve'; the disease, the condition, is still there, you will feel it move through you, in fear and rage and irritation, beckoning you back into previous behavior - pg 212 

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Recovery. If you or anyone you love has ever struggled through addiction and the subsequent difficulties on the long road towards recovery then this is essential reading. 10/10 highly recommend 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

What a gal!

Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me - Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me covers her childhood in segregated Birmingham, her close-knit family life, education, and rise through professional, educational, and political worlds. I went into this knowing almost nothing about Condoleezza beyond her serving in the White House under President Bush but by the end of this book I felt that I knew her as one knows a friend. I think what I found most surprising is that she still teaches classes (Managing Global Political Risk if you're curious) at Stanford University. This book runs chronologically as most autobiographies do but two of the biggest focuses are her relationship to her parents (she is an only child) and her professional life as an academic and political scientist. She is an accomplished, intelligent, and ultimately fearlessly ambitious woman. She has never married but seems genuinely happy with her single life (sounds familiar). She makes no bones about her many achievements which include but are not limited to being a proficient pianist and fluent Russian speaker. I also appreciated that she included photographs, a chronology of her career, and a glossary of historic events and people during her lifetime. I'd say that this book would be good for anyone looking to learn more about women in politics and/or what it was like for this particular woman who was raised during segregation in the tumultuous city of Birmingham...and still make it to the upper echelons of government. Good for history buffs and political junkies.  

 

What's Up Next: Recovery: Freedom From our Addictions by Russell Brand

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals by David Mack

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Who runs the world?

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World - Palmieri,  Jennifer

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri is an empowering voice for women. It's written as a letter to the future female President of the United States (if you couldn't figure that out from the title). To give some background, Palmieri served as the White House Director of Communications under President Obama and then afterwards as the Director of Communications for the Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Therefore, the reader will not be surprised that a large chunk of this book is devoted to behind the scenes of that campaign and its aftermath on herself and the country (from her point-of-view). From this standpoint alone, the book is interesting as we are seeing an event through the eyes of someone who actually experienced it from the inside. The overarching purpose of this book is to give advice and encouragement to women in any and every type of environment. Palmieri seeks to embolden women to allow for vulnerability and use the strengths that have historically been seen as weaknesses to launch yourself to the top. She emphasizes the importance of sticking up for yourself so that your voice is heard especially when yours is the only female voice in the room. (Did I mention this is quite a pro-female book? It is and I love that.) Remember: We cannot play by the same rules as men and we shouldn't have to. Personally, despite its shortness I think this is a necessary book for all peoples to read regardless of gender (but ladies ya'll should really try to seek this one out). I especially liked the book recommendations scattered throughout. :-D A solid 8/10 for me.

 

What's Up Next: Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #2: Mere Mortals by David Mack

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

CATS. IN. SPACE. 2 of 2

CatStronauts: Robot Rescue - Drew Brockington

And so I picked up Robot Rescue which is the 4th book in the series and revolves around a secret mission to rescue their friend Cat-Stro-Bot after he is stranded on a planet during a mission that went horribly awry. As they are not authorized to actually be on this mission, they have to leave replacements back on earth to fool their superiors into thinking they never left...and what better solution than building lookalike robots?! For the kids (or adults with childlike wonder) that like quick, funny graphic novels and/or cats and space this is the perfect series. For myself, this is the best "book filler" I've come across in ages to help to combat my book fatigue. 

 

What's Up Next: Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #1: Gods of Night by David Mack

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

CATS. IN. SPACE. 1 of 2

CatStronauts: Space Station Situation - Drew Brockington

I started with book 3 of the CatStronauts series titled Space Station Situation which follows a team of cats in space. CATS. IN. SPACE. Is it any wonder that I started this series?! Picture a world where the entire population is made up of cats EVEN THE PRESIDENT (who is only concerned with his reelection I might add). In this installment, a meteor is headed toward earth and in order to track its progress and hopefully stop it our intrepid heroes must fix the Hubba Bubba Telescope. However, one of their crewmates has abandoned his post after a traumatizing solo flight around the earth in a spacesuit and the mission is sure to fail without him. (His name is Waffles by the way because of course all of the cats have names much like the cats we are familiar with in this reality.) The book is rife with funny puns and asides as well as excellent illustrations. I wouldn't class this as the best graphic novel I've ever read but I liked it well enough to give another book in the series a shot.

 

 

I think this is from an earlier book in the series but I don't care cause LOOK. [Source: nerdophiles]

 

What's Up Next: CatStronauts: Robot Rescue by Drew Brockington

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Star Trek Destiny #1: Gods of Night by David Mack

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Booster Pack: Book Edition

Comics Squad: Recess! - Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dan Santat

Last year around this same time I fell into a bit of a reading slump (yes, it happens to everyone) and I picked up a little comics selection called Comics Squad: Detention hoping that it would revive me. I'm happy to say that it did the trick. Thinking lightning might strike twice, I delved into Comics Squad: Recess! by Jennifer L. Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dan Santat, & Raina Telgemeier which is another book from this collection. This book explores the theme of recess with the authors/illustrators charged with coming up with stories which somehow incorporated this theme. (Some accomplished this feat more successfully than others as a few barely mentioned recess at all.) I especially enjoyed the last 2 stories both visually and from a narrative standpoint. (If you're curious, the two stories are "300 Words" by Dan Santat which was a love story and "The Rainy Day Monitor" by Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman which was about a RPG kickball game.) I like recommending this series to burgeoning graphic novel/comics fans since it contains a variety of storytelling and art styles to give them a better idea of what they might like. This is a great idea for anyone, regardless of age, who might be interested in sampling different writers and illustrators. 8/10 overall and certainly wouldn't say no to reading more from this series (or from the two artists mentioned).

 

From Dan Santat's "300 Words" [Source: Santat's Twitter]

 

From "The Rainy Day Monitor" [Source: Graphic Novel Resources]

 

 

What's Up Next: CatStronauts: Space Station Situation CatStronauts: Robot Rescue by Drew Brockington

 

What I'm Currently Reading: El Deafo by Cece Bell

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

The examination of others that leads to the self

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is another title from the list of 100 books compiled for the Great American Read. (Have you voted today?) I feel somewhat chagrined that I had never heard of this classic until I checked out this list. The reader follows a nameless narrator who tells the story of his days in college while living in the South to his move to New York City. As this is set in 1930-40 the racial/social divide is still quite stark even in the North and the author doesn't pull any punches in that regard (i.e. expect violence). The beginning starts out with our narrator underground and in hiding although we have no idea why. In explanation, he weaves a story full of brutality, bigotry, backstabbing, and political machinations. He leaves college and goes to NYC where he is recruited into the Brotherhood which purports to strive for equality among all men regardless of race. Events unfold quickly and he fully believes and embraces the cause. The fomenting of racial riots are underway in Harlem (his district) and at this pivotal moment he is pulled out of his district and sent on another assignment downtown. The reader is kept on their toes and always wondering (as the narrator is) just which side is the "right" side and what is truly motivating the men he has come to trust in this (to him) foreign city. What is the "true" self and how does one embrace it? Invisible Man chews this question over while telling a story of one man coming to terms with the racism (both overt and covert) of society which is told so convincingly that you'll forget it's a work of fiction at times. This is a dense book and took me far longer to read than I expected. Several interesting points were made and quite a few powerful passages but overall it doesn't rate higher than a 6/10 for me.

 

A compelling and thought provoking point:

"For history records the patterns of men's lives, they say: Who slept with whom and with what results; who fought and who won and who lived to lie about it afterwards. ...only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, these lies his keepers keep their power by." - pg 439

 

There are quite a few covers but I like this one best.[Source: National Book Foundation]

 

 

What's Up Next: Comics Squad: Recess! by Jennifer L. Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dan Santat, & Raina Telgemeier

 

What I'm Currently Reading: ???

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Teaching responsibility

One Step at a Time - Aharon,  Sara Y., Bryn Pennetti

The following book was kindly sent to me by the author, Sara Y. Aharon, who requested a review. This book will be published on September 1, 2018 and you can check out the author's website or Amazon for more information on purchasing the book.

 

One Step at a Time by Sara Y. Aharon is a picture book which teaches children the value of perseverance and personal growth. Emma is a little girl who loves butterflies so it's lucky that her classroom has one for a pet. However, Emma gets so excited about playing with Belle the Butterfly that she accidentally sets her free. What should she do? Can she ever face her teacher and classmates again?  One Step at a Time demonstrates the advantages of accepting responsibility even when it's uncomfortable (especially then) and how being brave doesn't necessarily mean that you are totally confident that things will go your way. It's a gentle way to visually display the significance of doing the right thing even when you may be afraid. As this is self-published, I think there are a few things that could be done to set it apart and give it a chance against some of its mainstream contemporaries. Adding questions to test comprehension at the back of the book (nothing too daunting) would give the message that this would be a great teaching supplement. Perhaps including a link back to the author's website where additional information about metamorphosis and free downloadable butterfly coloring sheets are available would sweeten the pot even further. [A/N: I give these suggestions based on my own experience reading children's books and recommending them to the parents and teachers in my community. These are definitely hot ticket additions to any book and would make a great selling point. ;-)] It's a cute little story that has a good message. 7/10

 

What's Up Next: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice by Katherine J. Chen

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Formulaic, problematic

The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring - John Bellairs, Richard Egielski

And then there was The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring which focused almost entirely on Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmerman's adventures over the summer while Lewis was at Boy Scout Camp. (So why then is this often referred to as The Lewis Barnavelt Series?) Rose Rita is a full-fledged tomboy and is dissatisfied with being a girl. She wants a chance to prove herself and she gets the perfect opportunity when Mrs. Zimmerman becomes afflicted by dark magic and then mysteriously vanishes. [A/N: Richard Egielski is the illustrator of this volume and has a much different style.] If you haven't picked up on this by now it seems as if Bellairs sticks to the same narrative with only slight variations which is the main reason why this series got so stale by the second book. I don't have a lot of hope for the fourth but maybe with a different author at the helm (books up until 2008 and they began in the early 70s) there will be an uptick in excitement and narrative diversity. 3/10

 

Source: John Bellairs Wiki

 

Compare the illustrative styles from the first two books. While all are enjoyable they evoke quite different feelings.[Source: Tumblr]

 

 

What's Up Next: One Step at a Time by Sara Y. Aharon

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Founding Mothers: The Women who Raised our Nation by Cokie Roberts

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Back at it again

The Figure In the Shadows (Lewis Barnavelt) - John Bellairs

I gobbled up The Figure in the Shadows in one sitting. This could lead you to believe that I thoroughly enjoyed it but really it was super short coming in at 160 pages with quite a few of Mercer Mayer's illustrations sprinkled throughout adding to that number. The plot of this installment revolves around an amulet which Lewis acquires and which seems to hold a 'spirit' of some kind which he has awakened and which turns out to be rather malevolent. (If you think this sounds similar to the first book you're not alone.) Once again, he keeps this a secret from his uncle and the witchy neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, next door. Instead he shares his discovery with his new friend, Rose Rita, who is virtually Lewis's opposite in every conceivable way. I will say that Lewis is a unique character in that he's not brave, overly intelligent (although a voracious reader), good looking, talented (described as quite fat), or particularly good-natured (in fact he's rather whiny and prone to childish fits of anger). He doesn't fit the prescribed parameters of a typical protagonist. He's bullied and anxious about the possibility of even being bullied or 'bawled out' by adults. (I was nervous about the latter through my adolescence as well so in that regard I can relate.) Magic + mystery + misadventure = the plot 5/10

 

Source: Amazon

 

Mercer Mayer's work (Edited as original post credited Edward Gorey.) [Source: Pinterest]

 

 

What's Up Next: One Step at a Time by Sara Y. Aharon

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Founding Mothers: The Women who Raised our Nation by Cokie Roberts

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Currently reading

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson
Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans, Ronald Searle
Elfquest Archives, Vol. 1 by Wendy Pini, Richard Pini
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel by Hank Green
Calypso by David Sedaris
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale by Francesco Francavilla, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
5 Worlds Book 2: The Cobalt Prince by Mark A. Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Boya Sun, Matt Rockefeller, Xanthe Bouma
The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese
Lost Souls by David Mack