pyrajane’s #17: The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

TalismanOur protagonist is Jack Sawyer.  It’s 1981 and he’s on the cusp of turning 13.  His father is dead, his mother is dying and she has scooped him up and fled to New Hampshire, and he doesn’t know why.  She won’t admit she’s dying, or even that she’s sick, and Jack is angry and scared at everything she’s keeping from him.

His father’s business partner is relentlessly pursuing them both and this ads to Jack’s confusion.  Uncle Morgan (not really his uncle) has been bullying his mother about something.  It has to do with Jack’s father and it is clear that his mother wants nothing to do with Morgan’s plans.  The more she resists, the angrier Morgan gets and Jack begins to wonder exactly what his father’s business was.

He also begins to remember when he was a little boy and would Daydream.  His mother was quick to tell him to forget them, although lately he’s begun to see things he knows aren’t real.  Humans don’t have eyes that turn to yellow and hands that turn to claws.  Seagulls don’t rip oysters apart while staring at you, making it clear that they’d rather the oyster was your heart.  The sand beneath your feet doesn’t spin and speak to you about your beloved and trusted Uncle Tommy’s sudden death.  Tommy, the only person would could have protected your mother from Morgan.

The Talisman follows traditional folklore motifs which almost always makes me happy.  Sometimes an author uses this structure and fails and it’s horrible, but in the gifted hands of King-Straub, it’s amazing.  Jack follows the Hero’s Journey, finding a guide and friends to lead him on his path.  Morgan and other enemies are constantly at his back, and Jack knows little about what his quest even is.  He knows he needs to save his mother and now he knows there is another world.

Interested?  Read more on my blog.

pyrajane’s review #16: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

MiddlesexBy the end of the very first paragraph we know that Cal, born Calliope, is a hermaphrodite.  She lives her life as a girl from 1960 – 1974, and then everything changes and she is born again as a teenage boy.

Middlesex is Calliope and Cal’s story.  Cal wants to get his version down before anything changes again, and he thinks something might be starting.

The book is told through three different timelines, although some might argue with me that there are only two.  Cal traces her genetic makeup back to her grandparents, then moves through to her parents and then on to everyone’s realization of that she is a hermaphrodite.  Cal is telling this story when he is in his 40′s, so these two timelines are eventually going to catch up.  However, I felt there was a third – the story of Calliope becoming Cal.  After all, that’s the story we want to know, right?  Yes, Cal wants us to understand the full story how he came to be, but deep down we just want the details of how and when Cal was born.  Who cares about the grandparents and parents?  Get to the good stuff.  At some point you know that 40-something year old Cal is going to get to the part where he is born and for me, this is the third timeline.

Read the rest of my review over on my blog.  This one was a great read.

pyrajane’s review #15: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Digital Fortress by Dan BrownMy book group chose this book and I will never forgive them.

I’ve never read anything by Dan Brown.  He doesn’t write my type of fiction, so while I was aware that he’s a huge success, I never bothered to pick any of his books up because I knew I wouldn’t be interested.

What I didn’t know is how much of a shit writer he is.

I’m sure he cries into a giant pile of money every single time someone tells him that.

To read the rest of my review and get started on the Dan Brown Drinking Game, head on over to my blog.

pyrajane’s review #14: Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius, MD

BuddhasBrainMECH.inddWhen I’m not being judgmental, cold, cynical, sarcastic, fatalistic, angry, or hopeless, I try to be a better person.  Have a positive attitude, practice active kindness, find beauty and good in the world and all that crap.

Buddha’s Brain is an incredible resource.  It starts with the neuroscience of what happens in our bodies when we react to situations.  Without being textbook boring, Hanson looks at current (2009) advances in neuroscience and what science is continually learning about the brain.  It’s fascinating and helped me understand how biological reactions immediately become emotional responses.

You should read it.  I wrote a gigantic review over on my blog with my own practices and arguments with my brain.  If your brain seems to stay in panic mode or you have thoughts constantly stacking up and you just want to be calm for a moment and enjoy what’s happening, this book can really help.

pyrajane writes a Bonus Review! Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, Illustrated by Andrea Dezso

This one is too short to count towards my 52, but I really liked it and want to share the love.  If you enjoy folklore and fairy tales and like when the tales are retold, you should grab this one.  It’s a super quick read and worth your time.

lies-knives-girls-in-red-dressesThere are twenty two stories here, including Rapunzel, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, Hansel and Gretel, the Ugly Duckling, Rumpelstiltskin, Red Riding Hood, and the Princess with that damned pea.

The tales are told as short poems without much introduction.  We know who Cinderella is, so when we hear the aftermath from the stepsisters’ point of view, we don’t need to hear all that crap about the ball again.

To make these stories all the more sweet is the amazing mix between Once Upon and Time and Modern Time.

Cinderella’s stepsisters have surgery instead of their mother hacking off their toes.

Rapunzel’s mother talks about her three times a week therapy appointments.  The prince meets other princes in rehab while he waits for his eyes to heal.

The Little Match Girl is selling her CDs on the corner.  The cops find her dead, but what are you going to do?

Read the rest of my review over on my blog, where I gush about the illustrator as well as the writing.

pyrajane’s #13: The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan into the Future by Fawzia Koofi

Favored DaughterI picked up The Favored Daughter after seeing an interview with Koofi on The Daily Show.  She was promoting her book, speaking about her plans to continue in Afghanistan’s government, and the importance of fighting for her country.  She was calm and serious and you could tell that she lives her life with clear purpose.  She doesn’t have time to waste time, especially knowing that people want to kill her.  She plans to run for president and knows her life will continue to be in danger.  John Stewart was clearly in awe of her and his sincerity and respect for her story made me want to get her book.

I wanted to know why she is willing to die for her country.

Read more about this amazing woman and what I thought of her story and how I know nothing about her country.

pyrajane’s review #12: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

SeraphinaI was in love with this book a few sentences in.  By the end of the five page prologue I realized I was going to stay up all night reading it cover to cover, but it was a work night, so I forced myself to stop before 2:00am.  I was not happy about this.

Seraphina lives in the kingdom of Goredd.  There has been an uneasy truce between the humans and dragonkind for four decades.  The humans distrust the dragons living in Goredd, even though they remain in their human shape all year, except for the anniversary of treaty day.  Although time has passed, many in the kingdom still hate the dragons and wish to return to war so they may completely wipe them from existence.  A few hours into their cups and they seem to forget that the dragons are bigger and more dangerous than any one man.

Read more over on my blog, if you are so inclined.

pyrajane’s review #8: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

A Land More Kind

Small North Carolina town.

Religion with fire, snakes, and poison.

Faith healing.

Helpless and desperate mother begging for a miracle.

Shyster preacher?  Of course.

The story is told in three voices: Adelaide, eighty-one years old and the town’s midwife; Clem, the town’s sheriff with a heartbreaking story of his own; and Jess, a nine year old boy with a mute eleven year old brother.

It’s sad, but with a few drops of hope.  I liked it.  Read the rest of my review on my heathen blog.

pyrajane’s review #7: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

mr-penumbras-24-hour-bookstoreHey, has anyone read or reviewed this book yet???

It’s on a lot of Read This!!! lists for a reason.  It’s a book about books for people who like books.

If for some reason you have yet to read any reviews, feel free to read mine.  But that’s a lot of pressure.  What if you don’t like the way I write and judge the book based on that?  You should read other reviews too.  There are a lot.  Go forth and read reviews!