13
Jan
17

Two stars for the memoir. Five stars for the moth joke. CBR9 review 4.

unknownNorm Macdonald isn’t for everyone. His laconic speech, his super-dry delivery, and his constant exclamations of “holy crow” are very much of a love or hate variety. I happen to love Norm and was very much looking forward to reading his fake memoir.

And I want to be able to tell you that I loved it.

But I didn’t. And I’m sad about it.

Bunnybean gave this book to Mr Scoots for Christmas and he loved it. HE LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. We heard him laughing all over the house at all hours. I couldn’t wait to read it. I figured I was in for a few laughs.

Sadly, the only parts of this book that made me laugh were the jokes, many of which I had heard a million times. The jokes never get old for me, and I could listen to Norm tell them over and over and not get tired of them.

But the book was more than jokes. It was a fake story filled with fake memories and a pretend race to get the book published so Norm’s gambling debts can be settled without him having to commit suicide.

Oh, did I mention that this book is actually quite dark? Because it is. And while the tone might have worked if I had decided to listen to Norm tell me the story on Audible, it just didn’t work as written.

The story goes a little something like this:
Norm needs money because of his terrible gambling addiction (which, as far as I can tell, is accurate). He signs a book deal and immediately takes off for Vegas with his trusty sidekick, Adam Eget (his trusty sidekick from Norm Macdonald Live) and they get into a slew of trouble. Norm is constantly high on morphine, unable to make logical decisions, constantly about to die. The chapters alternate between this faux reality and Norm’s best “memories” for the book.

Yes, we get to hear about Norm working with his heroes, like Rodney Dangerfield, Lorne Michaels, and Don Rickles, but the way that Norm tells the stories just isn’t funny. I wish it had been a little bit more truthful and a little less fictionalized. I sort of get what Norm was going for here, and that most celebrity memoirs are full of crap anyways, so why not make this one 100% full of crap…I just wanted it to be funnier, or at least filled with something resembling real life.

I didn’t hate the book. It made me smile a few times. It was filled with Norm’s classic non-sequiters, like when he talked about our judicial system and said, “If I’d learned anything from watching Matlock, it was this: Juries hate Hitler” or when he talked about his love for Archie comics and said, “That Jughead is a dirty, thieving sonofabitch, but he sure does make me laugh.”

There is also an entire chapter that is solely a list of Norm’s greatest Weekend Update jokes, and a chapter about the infamous Moth Joke.

 

I still love Norm, and I would read another book by him if he chose to write one. Until then, I’ll continue to watch Norm Macdonald Live or his clips on youtube.

 

09
Jan
17

“There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out.” CBR9 Review 3.

unknownI have to wonder how long it would have taken the general public to figure out that Joe Hill was, in fact, Joe King, if the news hadn’t come out on its own. I feel like — and this is not necessarily a bad thing — Joe Hill exists as the world’s greatest Stephen King impersonator.

Hill shares many literary strengths with his old man. They are both great at creating a community of real characters, and bringing small, New England towns to life. They both thrive when putting the mundane, everyday details of life down on the page. They give you real people to root for in a dire situation, and they break your heart when sometimes these real people don’t survive until the end of the story. They both love Bruce Springsteen. Especially Jungleland.

Unfortunately, junior King also shares some of his dad’s weaknesses. Sex scenes are not comfortable to read. Dialogue is often clunky. And for some reason, both of these guys have trouble sticking the landing. Their endings are often clumsy and confusing.

But the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. I’m not going to stop reading Hill — and there’s no way in hell I’m going to stop reading his dad. The stories are just too good.

The Fireman tells the epic tale of the end of humanity as we know it. A plague has come to end life on earth — a spore of unknown origin is causing people to break out in a dragon scale pattern on their skin, which eventually causes them to smoke, catch fire, and combust, taking down everything around it: other people, buildings, trees, everything.

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a young school nurse named Harper Grayson sees a man burn to death on the playground outside her window, and her world changes forever. Schools close, society breaks down, and the world quickly divides itself into the healthy and the sick. Harper volunteers at the local hospital, where hundreds of dragon scale victims are quarantined, with no hope of ever being released back into the world.

Harper and her (HORRIBLE) husband, Jakob, talk about ending their lives before letting the plague take them. But when Harper realizes that she’s pregnant and infected, she changes her mind, and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive.

Meanwhile, things between Harper and Jakob go from bad to worse. The morals of the town are quickly deteriorating. Ordinary people are killing their infected former friends and neighbors. And a strange entity known as The Fireman is going out of his way to help the infected, including Harper, find safety.

Eventually, Harper discovers a secret group of infected folks, hiding out at the local summer camp. And these folks just may have found out how to manage — but not cure — this disease. So far, so good. Exciting, dystopian story with engaging characters.

And suddenly, the book switches gears. And I’m not sure I liked this part as well. Now its a story about life in a cult…how leaders and followers are made and how group thinking is never a great idea. I didn’t dislike any of this part, and realize that it was necessary to the plot, but it went on for hundreds of pages, and was definitely the weak link for me.

Here’s what I did love about this book. I loved that Harper was a strong woman who was willing to do whatever it took to bring her child into the world, even if that meant she couldn’t be the child’s caretaker because she had the dragon scale.

I loved the supporting cast of characters. Renee, Nick, Allie, Don, and Gil were folks you wanted to root for, and were nervous that something might happen to them. Because this is a Joe Hill book, you pretty much assume that not all of your favorites are going to make it to the last page, and you grieve them when they’re gone.

I really liked the disease. This was the second book I’ve read in the past few months in which the end of civilization is brought about by a spore (the other book is The Girl with All the Gifts), and its evolution was fascinating.

And I liked the random use of Martha Quinn as the ultimate savior of humanity, playing fun 80s music while she saves us all.

Here’s what I didn’t love.

I didn’t love The Fireman. I wanted to like John Rookwood, but he simply fell flat as a character to me. I never bought that he and Harper were in love, or even really liked each other. He was really just kind of an obnoxious ass who could do some cool things.

I didn’t really get Harper’s obsession with Mary Poppins. It was honestly just kind of weird.

I hated Jakob and his band of murdering brothers. I hated Jakob the minute we first met him, on the phone and saying crap about the disease, and couldn’t wait for him to die. I know that’s horrible to say, but HE WAS THE WORST. And The Marlboro Man? Awful. I know we needed some bad guys, especially some who represent the new Trump America, but I hated every single second that these guys were on the page.

And here’s what I’m on the fence about: the constant references Joe puts in his books to the universe of books created by his dad.

In this book alone, we had quotes from Jungleland (just like The Stand). That’s fine.

We had a deaf character named Nick. OK. Fine.

We had a horribly fat, awful, sexist creep named HAROLD CROSS. This is almost too much for me to deal with.

But Harper and her friends found a case of Nozz-a-la cola, and that worked for me just fine. Because that meant that this story took place far away, on another level of the Tower.

I’ll leave you with Springsteen’s Jungleland. Because if one song can be partially responsible for both The Fireman and The Stand, it must be pretty good.

 

 

 

 

06
Jan
17

They were close to the end of the beginning…CBR9 Review 2.

unknownI know, I should shut up already about how many times I’ve read this Stephen King book or that Stephen King book. But really, I’ve read this book a lot. I think even more than The Stand.

I read it when it was a standalone book (and I had to brave crossing the floor of the Newton Highlands public library — from the children’s section to the adult section), and this was before Uncle Stevie tinkered with it to make it fit better into the world of the Dark Tower. (NB: If I can remember correctly, that first book was a crazy, weird mess. This book is much better.)

I read it again when The Drawing of the Three came out. And then when The Wastelands came out, I read the first two again.

And so on. And so on.

And then I started a re-read of the whole damn Dark Tower universe (including It, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman/Black House, and all of the weird comics). I’ve even reviewed this exact book before for an early (my first ever!) cannonball…**

**OK, this cracks me up. I was looking for a link of my old review and came across my review on a book review site, similar to Rotten Tomatoes, that provides “Book reviews from the world’s greatest critics!”. So there’s that.

Which brings me back to the beginning, with The Gunslinger. Again. I guess Ka really is like a wheel.

This time, I listened to it. And I found it was a completely different experience. Especially if you know where the story is going.

One of the first things I noticed this time around was that the name Roland is never even uttered or mentioned until about halfway through the story. He’s just the gunslinger. This fascinates me. In the later books, he’s pretty much only Roland, which I suppose means that his Ka-Tet (#teameddie) really does humanize him.

The other thing that really got me this time was Roland’s treatment of Jake, and how quickly he morphed from Roland, the father figure, back to the gunslinger when he knew he needed to choose between the boy and the quest. That pissed me off, and made me a little mad about how quickly these two reconcile in later books.

The narrator did a great job bringing this crazy world to life. I could imagine Roland and the weird farmer dude named Brown sitting around and talking while the weird bird Zoltan  hovers about. I could see the desolation in the town of Tull and the beauty in the kingdom of Gilead-that-was.

And the narrator really holds your hand to help you notice important clues to the rest of the story.

SPOILERS FOR A BOOK THAT WAS FIRST WRITTEN IN 1978.

Here are a few things that the narrator helps to make abundantly clear when listening, that I might have missed while reading.

Roland has definitely met that piano player before. And that he is not forgiven for simply letting “the girl” burn.

Cuthbert died in battle on Jericho Hill while blowing that damned Horn of Eld that Roland forgot to pick up.

Walter is Marten is Flagg is Farson.

Ka is a wheel. Ka is a wheel. Ka is a wheel.

END OF 40 YEAR OLD SPOILERS.

I love these books and this Constant Reader will probably continue on this journey for the tower for a long time to come. And yes, even if the movie is a complete and total clusterfuck with little or nothing to do with the books, I’ll see it. I mean, look at this:

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That’s worth my $12 right there.

 

03
Jan
17

Forget about the title and the sort of weird ending. Everything else works pretty much perfectly. CBR9 review 1.

51ibsije9ol-_sy346_I’ve learned a lot about my reading habits since I started cannonballing.

For instance, I know that I like Stephen King and Rainbow Rowell above all other writers, and that a sub-par book from them is still going to get at least 4 stars from me.

I know that I’m still on the fence with fantasy — but thanks to suggestions from other reviewers like narfna and Malin, I’m making some headway there.

I’ve also learned (mostly through trial and error) that I like a contemporary romance better than a period one.

I’ve tried. I read the Brothers Sinister books and thought they were pretty good. But they just weren’t as interesting to me as some of the more modern stories by writers like Sarina Bowen, Lucy Parker, and Sally Thorne.

And all of this leads me to Kulti.

All of the glowing reviews for this book in CBR8 weren’t wrong. I honestly couldn’t put this book down. I had shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, and all sorts of other holiday items on my to-do list, but my kids found me more than once just standing in the kitchen reading this book on my phone. Everything in my life took a backseat to Kulti.**

Sal (not short for Sally, but for Salome) is a professional women’s soccer player on a top-tier team in Houston. She comes from a close-knot family: her father is a Mexican immigrant who has worked hard to get Sal and her brother, Eric (also a pro Soccer star in Europe), to the level that they are at. Her mother is from Argentina, and secretly the daughter of soccer royalty. And her little sister is a grumpy teen who hates soccer.

Sal works hard both on and off the field — she runs a landscaping company with her best friend and she keeps herself in good shape by keeping to a strict routine. Nothing in her life varies too wildly, and that’s just how Sal likes it.

Until Kulti.

Reiner Kulti was the greatest soccer player of his generation, and one of the most famous athletes on the planet. He was known for his temper, his passion, his skill, and for Sal, his good looks. From the moment Sal saw him on TV when she was little, she knew two things: that she wanted to play soccer like Kulti, and that someday she would marry him.

Sal, Eric, and her dad all worshipped Kulti. Until one day, shortly before his retirement, Kulti and Eric played against each other and Kulti broke Eric’s leg. When Kulti joins Sal’s team as an assistant coach, everything in her life turns upside down.

While still incredibly handsome, the real-life Kulti is nothing like Sal had hoped. He’s rude, obnoxious, conceited, and even worse, he’s a terrible coach and role model for the women on the team. He simply ignores them all, unless he takes a second to yell at them and debase them in front of their teammates.

Now, of course, since this is a “romance”, we all know that Kulti is secretly a good guy, and that somehow he and Sal will fall in love and live happily ever after.

But what makes this story so much fun is the journey that Sal and Kulti take to get there. Softball games, tattoo parlors, trips to the mall, and time spent lounging on the couch and watching reality tv were all fun to read, as they were such normal things. Kulti’s celebrity gave all of this normality an interesting perspective — Kulti couldn’t just walk into a mall or go to the park and play pick-up softball without a crowd of people surrounding him.

I was really impressed with the writing and the characters here. Every single character had a real personality, with both good traits and bad. I thought it was hilarious that Sal’s dad couldn’t keep himself together around Kulti. It was nice that Sal had a strong support system of friends — both male and female — that stood by her while everything in her life changes. I liked that neither Sal nor Kulti ever changed anything about their personalities for the other, they just worked harder to understand each other and communicate with each other. And I loved that Sal had a tendency to swear.

Was there anything that didn’t work for me? Sure.

I didn’t love the strange way that Sal’s crush on Kulti was wrapped up. I really didn’t like Kulti’s weird obsession with Sal’s letters from years ago. And I despise the title of the book. Yes, I get that Kulti is a totally credible name for a German soccer star, but is that really what you want to name your breakout novel? Hmm.

I had never heard of Mariana Zapata before, but I’ll keep an eye out for some of her future work. (Yes, I did search the CBR database and saw that a few of her other books had been reviewed with a bit less enthusiasm. That’s OK. I’ll wait for a good one.)

**So, wait. If I was so obsessed with this book, why did it take me so long to finally finish it and review it?

Well.

Once I got to the point where I knew Kulti and Sal were about to have THE moment, the moment from which there is no turning back, I put it down and let myself enjoy the holidays. I enjoyed visits from family, delicious meals (not cooked by me!), and lovely gifts, including a new, spiffy Kindle with three glorious Liane Moriarty books on it (reviews to follow). And then we got hit by a horrible virus and I spent several days either taking care of sick kids or lying in bed wanting to die. And that’s when I picked it up again.

11
Nov
16

What the world needs now is the Super Happy Magic Forest. CBR8 Review 53.

unknownAfter a crazy week, there’s nothing like an amazingly clever and funny children’s book to put a smile on your face.

My seven year old brought this one home from the library yesterday, and its a new favorite.

Here’s what she has to say about it:

“Everyone lives in the Super Happy Magic Forest where everything is great.

2

There are some warriors who were sent to find the missing Magic Crystals of Life that were stolen. They went on a big quest through DANGER.

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4

First, they went to the icy regions and battled penguin warriors.

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Next, they went through the creepiest and worst forest of evil.

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Then they went through a dungeon that had a cupcake trap!

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Then they stopped for a picnic and were attacked by bees.

It was the worst journey but they kept going. They had to do rock climbing, go in caves, cross deserts, and then they got a handy eagle ride.

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Finally, they arrived at the evil goblin tower, where the great king of goblins welcomed them to a tea party. So, where were the magic crystals?

Then Dennis the Butterfly finds the warriors to tell them that the evil has been at home all along, before he bravely dies.

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The warriors arrive back home to find that the old oak tree was evil and was hoarding the crystals so that he could buy a speedboat.

The warriors sent the old oak to the creepy forest and then they partied and were happy.”

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Who should read this book? Kids. People with kids. People who know kids. People who have heard of kids. Anyone. Everyone. I guess there’s a sequel about a slug, so I know what I’ll be looking for at the library next week.

1

 

27
Oct
16

Come on down and meet your maker. Come on down and make the stand. CBR8 Review 52.

unknown-10When I was in the seventh grade, I went to summer camp and discovered books I had never heard of or seen before. Other girls brought books like Flowers in the Attic and Forever, stolen from their older sisters. We all borrowed them and couldn’t get enough of these adult-seeming books.

And then one girl showed us The Shining. I had no idea what it was, but she told me it was scary.

And Constant Reader, it was scary. But not scary enough.

I devoured The Shining, then picked up Carrie. And after that, I got The Stand out of the library before my family went away for a long August weekend.

We went to a friends summer house up in Maine. We’d been there hundreds of times — a beautiful, rustic home in the woods, just outside of town, and close enough to the ocean to smell the salt water. That house was in Ogunquit, home to Fran Goldsmith and Harold Lauder. And once I realized that part of this apocalyptic story was taking place in the very town I was in at that actual moment, I freaked out. I put the book down and was afraid to read it for about another year or more.

Fast forward to a visit to my cousins in Cape Cod and a rainy night at the beach. Looking though the bedrooms for a book to read, I came across a battered copy of The Stand — I guess all five of my cousins and all of their friends had read it and they told me it was THE BEST BOOK EVER.

So I tried again. And that was it. I was all in with this book. Scared beyond belief, but in love with the characters and the writing. I think I still have this dog-eared copy somewhere — it has no cover, and it’s expanded to about twice its size from being out at the beach so long, and half of the pages are falling out. But to me, it’s beautiful.

I’ve now read The Stand more than any other book. I’ve read the original and the expanded version several times over. When I’m sick, I put in the DVD of the miniseries. It’s my go-to comfort watch (Why? I have no idea. Doesn’t make a lick of sense.). And this year, when a bunch of other people posted their reviews of The Stand, I realized it had been about 10 years since my last read. So I ran over to Audible and snatched it up.

Here are some of my thoughts on the expanded audio version…

**********

This was the first time I’ve re-read the book since having kids of my own, and I’m curious as to how motherhood may have changed some of my opinions. First of all, the first third of the book really affected me this time. The details of the superflu — how it spread and killed everyone in its path — upset and scared me to a much greater level this time. Not since my first attempt at The Stand did the death and sickness bother me this much. I thought of parents losing their children, and of children losing their families, and was pretty much upset for the first 8 hours of listening.

And the added scenes in this extended version, detailing the first round of survivors who ended up dying from other, non-flu related causes, depressed me too. The catholic father who jogged himself to death after his wife and 8 children died. The little boy who fell in a well while out eating berries in a field. The man who died of appendicitis while Stu Redman tried to operate on him in the middle of a field. These scenes bummed me out.

I didn’t hate Frannie as much this time, as I understood just how scared she must have been to be bringing a child into that new, bleak world. I still thought she and Stu were a completely boring couple that I didn’t particularly care about, this photo of Stu notwithstanding:

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And strangely, I didn’t love Larry Underwood as much as I always did. Since I was 12 years old, Larry was my favorite character. I thought he was such a cool guy, and was always so impressed by his transformation into the “nice guy” he always wanted to be.

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This time, he pretty much infuriated me. His idiocy out in Malibu before the flu outbreak, his strained relationship with his mother, the way he treated Rita and Lucy — Larry really bugged me. I still like the man he became by the end, and I’m sorry that poor Lucy never really got to know that man.

This time, I much preferred Nick and Tom Cullen.

No, not this nick:

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But the Nick who was such a strong, brave young man. His kindness to the people he met in Arkansas and his love for Tom really spoke to me, and I can’t believe I never noticed how central he was to the story before. I used to get so annoyed that Mother Abigail would single Nick out as the leader of the Free Zone, but now I kind of get it.

And Tom Cullen is just the best. M-O-O-N, that spells the best. When Tom and Stu celebrated Christmas on their way home to Boulder, I definitely got a bit teary-eyed. Laws, yes.

Lastly, a quick shout-out to Ralph Brentner, who never gets the respect that he deserves as an important character. I wish we had gotten more of his backstory and learned how such a relatively simple man so quickly became one of Mother Abigail’s confidents and favored subjects.

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**********

Now that I’ve been actively re-reading all of the books in the Dark Tower “universe”, I’m starting to wonder about good old Randall Flagg. Yes, he’s scary, but he’s also so much more unhinged in this book than I remember from earlier readings.

Maybe it’s because I recently revisited the last Dark Tower book, in which

SPOILER…

NO, REALLY, MASSIVE MASSIVE SPOILER…

Baby Mordred kills an absolutely insane Flagg. A Flagg so crazy, he’s wearing a tinfoil hat and simply rambling nonsense for his entire last scene.

The Flagg is the second half of The Stand is that crazy guy.
This guy:

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But the Flagg we see in other books, like The Gunslinger or The Eyes of the Dragon? He’s a quieter kind of scary. Less insane, and more like this guy:

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I’m wondering which one is the real Flagg. I’m hoping it’s the latter, as the crazy one is more like a petulant little kid than an evil stand-in for Satan.

**********

I have now realized that I much prefer the mini series versions of a few of the minor characters.

Lloyd mostly just annoys me in the book. But in the movie? Come on. Miguel Ferrer makes Lloyd worth watching. And if you have hours and hours to spare, he is a damn delight on the audio commentary, regaling with tales of how his cousin George Clooney would come to Vegas while they were filming and they hit up tons of strip clubs.

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In the book, I mostly found Glen to be annoying and boorish. But movie Glen is Ray Walston, and he’s just so good, you can’t help but agree with all of his crazy, societal outlooks. And his amazing dog doesn’t hurt, either.

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SPOILER, YET AGAIN

I had 100% forgotten that Glen decided to leave Kojak alone back in New Hampshire, and that sucked. I was so mad at Glen and Stu and Fran for letting that happen. Why couldn’t they find some way for Kojak to ride with them? A sidecar? That would have worked, right? I felt so bad for that dog as he made his way across the country, terrorized by wolves and other creatures under Flagg’s control. Screw you, Glen.

Harold Emery Lauder sucks both in the book and movie. I’ll give the slight edge to the movie, simply because Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.

images

**********

Here’s a few things that really bugged me this time.

Glen and Judge Farris are REALLY OLD MEN, yet Glen is in his 50’s and the judge is maybe 70. They have arthritis and heart problems and can barely exist, and yet, Glen is only IN HIS 50s. He isn’t Mother Abigail, he’s a middle aged man. God, I guess I should sign up for AARP and get myself fitted for a walker.

There’s an uncomfortable amount of rape in the uncut version — some jokes about it, sometimes discussed or threatened, and some actually executed. Trash Can Man is raped by The Kid and his gun. Dana and Susan and their entire crew are held captive and raped repeatedly until rescued by Stu and Frannie. The woman who was so sure she would be raped the minute she stepped outside that she ended up blowing her own head off accidentally. Way too much.

There’s also a lot more sexism (are women smart enough to work in factories?) and racism (the all African-American platoon murdering soldiers on tv in Maine) in this uncut version. Maybe Uncle Stevie should have left it alone. Bigger isn’t always better.

**********

Please note that I’ve literally said nothing at all about Mother Abigail, Nadine, or Trashcan Man. I just don’t care.

**********

My main reason for the reread was because of my recent obsession with The Dark Tower. I wanted to see how this book fits in with the DT universe, not just because of good old Randy Flagg, who you may also know as Russell Faraday, Walter O’Dim, Marten Broadcloak, or Richard Fannin.

I remember being shocked (seriously) when I read The Wastelands, and discovered that the world of The Stand was not even our world, but a totally different level of the Tower, where people drank Nozz-o-la and drove Takuro Spirits. So this time through, I tried to pay attention to details that might clue me in as to what level of the Tower was being described…I still think it was originally written as our world. Enough people were drinking Coke and Coors and driving Fords and Chevys.

But check out the very last page, where I think we find the most telling link to the Tower , in which the Walking Dude is reborn and thinks the following:

“Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round at the same place again.”

How’s that for ka?

**********

So there you have it, my disjointed thoughts on The Stand, the book I’ve read more than any other. But its my Cannonball and I’ll do whatever the hell I want.

 

 

 

 

13
Oct
16

I’m not a huge fan of The Zeppo, but I liked this a whole lot. CBR8 Reviews 50 & 51.

 

unknown-2Strange that I read these two books back-to-back. I didn’t intend to. I borrowed The Rest of Us Just Live Here from a friend, and picked up Geektastic at the library on a whim — the covers looked so similar, I just couldn’t resist. I’m glad I read Geektastic first, because I was so disappointed in it, that Patrick Ness couldn’t help but make me feel better.

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd should be amazing.

Its a collection of short stories from authors I like — Libba Bray, John Green, Scott Westerfeld, David Levithan, Kelly Link, and lots of others — all about life as a modern-day geek. But none of these stories particularly impressed me. Some were cute, but ultimately forgettable.

Jedi falls for Klingon at a convention. Cheerleader asks nerds in the AV Club to help her learn about geek stuff in order to make her boyfriend happy. Girl obsessed with dinosaurs is embarrassed by cool kids at school. Boy confused about his feelings for another kid on the Quiz Bowl team acts like a jerk. These are all fine, but really didn’t make an impression on me.

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Some of the stories I really didn’t care for at all: Teenager in a blended family realizes she’s the Dawn of her Scooby group. A weird audition monologue for a school play about what it means to work behind the scenes, invisible to everyone else. And in my least favorite story, Kelly Link writes a crazy, nonsensical tale that couldn’t possibly take place in our world, with people I hate and actions that don’t make any sense.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about this book. If you are a John Green or David Levithan completist, by all means, pick it up. It isn’t terrible. It just isn’t all that good. Like the publisher was just taking these popular names in the “Nerd Herd” world and throwing their work together.

And then I read The Rest of Us Just Live Here. This was a modern-day geek story that I could really get into.

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Remember the Buffy episode, The Zeppo? Where Xander has a huge adventure all on his own while the rest of the Scoobies go off fighting their own apocalypse? That’s what this reminded me of. But it didn’t have annoying Faith telling me everything was 5×5, so I liked this a lot better.

Mikey is part of a group of friends about to graduate from High School in a  small, anonymous town in Washington. Weird things happen in their town all the time that nobody ever talks about — vampires attacking, Gods and Goddesses attempting to take over, fighting against the living dead, etc. — they just accept that their high school blew up again and move on.

There is a group of kids that always seem to be involved when these supernatural events occur — The Indie Kids. Kids with names like Satchel and Finn and Dylan who dress all in black and still use the card catalog to do research.

But everyone else just tries to get on with being a teenager and dealing with normal life.

Mikey feels like the least important member of his group. The Zeppo, if you will. His friends know that he sees himself this way, and call him out on his ridiculousness. But at some point, doesn’t every kid feel that way?

Here’s what’s important, Mike…What’s important is that I know how much you worry about shit. And what’s also important is that I know a big part of that worry is that, no matter what group of friends you’re in, no matter how long you’ve known them, you always assume you’re the least-wanted person there. The one everyone else could do without.

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He doesn’t think he’s interesting, like his sister Mel. He isn’t beautiful like Henna. And he isn’t part God, like the amazing Jared. He’s just Mikey. Filled with anxiety and OCD. And I really enjoyed reading about his life while the world fell apart around him.

I loved Mikey’s dedication to his sisters and his unwavering love for them. I loved his acceptance of his friends — flaws and all — through good times and bad. His worries about college and the future were so realistic, they were thoughts I had a million years ago when I was actually a senior in high school. Mikey felt real to me, and I have Patrick Ness to thank for that.

I’ve only read one book by Ness before — The Knife of Never Letting Go. I liked it but didn’t love it. I think now I’ll go back and revisit some of his other books, since this one felt so right to me.

I liked it much better than The Zeppo. But The Zeppo will always have a special place in my heart because of Giles’ donut meltdown.

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I’m not sure Patrick Ness can compete with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 




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