Tuesday
Mar032015

Random Tuesday: Meet The Local Strangers (And Some Other Stuff, But Mostly The Local Strangers)

It's been a dreary, rainy, foggy, Cloud City like day here, except without any visits from cool people like Han Solo or Lando Calrissian. I'm really not in a blogging mood, but I did want to share with you guys that today is a special day.

Today is the release date for Take What You Can Carry, the newest album by The Local Strangers. It's a 2 disc album where one disc is with a full band and the other is a stripped down acoustic version of all the same songs. I've first met Matt years and years ago when he was in a different band, and I met Aubrey the last time the pair were in Austin. These guys are the real amazing deal and you really should listen to some of there songs.

Here's a video for their song "Gasoline".

And you can learn more about Take What You Can Carry over at their Bandcamp page here.

 

How's that for random? We don't dive too much into music around here, though it's long been a passion right along with books and food. Here's a few more random things to peruse.

io9 has a great recap of all the Easter Eggs in Agent Carter now that the season is over. Hopefully we'll be getting a season 2 next year.

It's pilot season and I'm obsessed. EW has a list of all the currrent pilots in development at the usual network stations. Could your next favorite television show be on this list?

And if your TBR pile can take it, here's a list of many science fiction and fantasy titles coming out in March. My bookshelves are trembling in fear.

 

Now to curl back up on the couch and be a lump of unproductivity while listening to The Local Strangers.

Thursday
Feb262015

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker
Cherie Priest

Tor Books
Released September 29, 2009
416 pages
Steampunk / Sci Fi

Find it on Goodread

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

This is going to be one of those reviews that are the hardest for me to write. Writing reviews for books I loved or hated are easy. Word spill out like water and I tend to have to hold myself back so I don’t end up with five pages of ranting. It’s the books that, once finished and the final pages are turned, I say to myself, “Huh. That was fine.”

Boneshaker is fine. It often suffers from Fellowship of the Rings syndrome, where the characters spend more time walking the landscape than actually doing something, but the steampunk Seattle is an interesting place to explore. There just wasn’t a whole lot for me to grab onto and love, so that I was left feeling like I might be reading this book out of duty towards the steampunk genre I love instead of because the narrative made me want to finish it.

Briar Wilkes has had a hard life. She is a tough woman raising a son after her scientist of a husband destroyed Seattle and started a zombie plague. Now 15-years-old and questioning the world, her son Ezekiel gets the brilliant idea to go into the zombie-filled city to prove that his father wasn’t the scheming criminal the entire world thinks he was. Of course Briar has to follow him in because she’s a good mother with a rifle and a gas mask.

I really like Briar. She fits into the western-esque nature of this world with a lot of grit and gumption. She is not afraid to do what needs to be done and won’t take nonsense from anyone just because she’s a woman. The underground world of zombie-Seattle is very much a Wild, Wild West sort of place with saloons and maniacal gang leaders and shoot outs and an illegal drug ring. There just happens to be a bunch of dead people trying to eat you at the same time.

Ezekiel is a teenage boy who thinks he knows enough about the world to understand how it works when he really doesn’t. Priest stays true to that nature and Zeke regularly messes things up and gets into plenty of danger. While I’m not a fan of him per se, I can respect the character she created because he’s very much true to what a 15-year-old boy would be like.

The steampunk elements are spread out pretty evenly and, outside the premise of the Boneshaker machine, are relegated to airships and weapons. There aren’t many out-there gadgets. Like I said, it feels more Wild West just with a few weapon mods. I could have used a little less gas mask description though.

But mostly the book suffers from walkabout syndrome with both Briar and Ezekiel’s stories mainly being about walking through plague-ridden Seattle trying to find what they’re looking for. The action sequences are all about running through tunnels, finding staircases, dealing with sealed doors and those sorts of things. Other than a mystery surrounding the true identity of the evil Professor Minnericht, the plot is regulated to “Will Briar find Ezekiel before they both get eaten by zombies?”

I guess I wanted more from this book. The cover is super cool and Boneshaker has become kind of a modern steampunk touch point, so I expected more excitement, more plotting, more something. I don’t think I’ll dive much further into this series when I have others that could entertain me more.

Wednesday
Feb252015

February Loot Crate - The Unboxing of the Play Box

So I've been a Loot Crate subscriber for about six months now, and I really love the idea of Loot Crate, but the execution hasn't completely blown me away. Every month there's one or two things I really like, which keeps me on the hook because next month could be the month where things get AWESOME, right?

Last night we pulled this really cold little guy out of the mailbox.

February's theme was PLAY and Fernando thinks this is his favorite box so far. So what was inside.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb242015

Random Tuesday: How Do You Choose Your Next Book?

Normally this is where I would put together a list of links and art and awesome random things for you since it's Tuesday. For some reason Tuesdays feel like the best days for random, but not this Tuesday. This Tuesday I just have a random question. How do you figure out what your going to read next?

If you're hanging around here, you probably have TBR list that has long since turned into a pile that morphed into a mountain that's threatening to overtake your home. Or is that just me? I have a TBR room that has spilled into other parts of the house and that's not counting the hundreds (and oh, do I mean hundreds) of unread books on my Kindle and the dozens of unread shorts, novellas and such I have bookmarked online. There is SO. MUCH. STUFF. And I want to read it all. So what is a good way to choose?

This year I made a promise to myself because I found I kept buying books I wanted to read, but pushing them aside for books I felt obligated to read, either because a publisher sent them to me or I'd got them from the library or it was a cultural zeitgeist moment I wanted to take part in. This year I've decided to give myself a 1-for-2 rule. I get to read 1 book I own for every 2 "supposed to read" or review books I read. So right now I'm reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, which has had a home on my bookshelf for years and years yet left untouched. That's because I finished two books sent to me by publishers.

But then! How do I figure out what that one book should be? And why do I keep requesting e-ARCs only to ignore my Kindle completely (besides the fact that I'm not big on the whole e-reader thing)? How do I balance that with my bookmarks and Tor's weekly shorts?

You got me. I haven't the faintest idea, but I am making a tiny dent in the shelves and shelves of books I've bought but haven't read with this 1-for-2 thing, so I think I'll stick to it.

 

How do you choose what your next read is or what format it will take? Are you a mood reader or do you schedule your reading so you always know what book is on deck? Help me figure out a manageable system in the comments.

Monday
Feb232015

Review: Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Bones and All
Camille DeAngelis

St. Martin's Press
I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Releases March 10, 2015
304 pages
YA / Cannibals / Coming of Age

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them.

Since she was a baby, Maren has had what you might call "an issue" with affection. Anytime someone cares for her too much, she can’t seem to stop herself from eating them. Abandoned by her mother at the age of 16, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, but finds more than she bargained for along the way.

Faced with love, fellow eaters, and enemies for the first time in her life, Maren realizes she isn’t just looking for her father, she is looking for herself. The real question is, will she like the girl she finds?

Have you read something so unexpectedly horrifying that you found yourself laughing hysterically with tears streaming out of your eyes? Something so absurd in how far it goes that you can’t help but put the book down until you regain control of yourself? That’s the first paragraph of Bones and All for me. It was just so unexpectedly horrifying that I found myself laughing hysterically. I had to read the paragraph to Fernando, who also started laughing. In retrospect it was probably so I wouldn’t spend too much time visualizing the scene that Camille DeAngelis uses to open up her “cannibals in love” novel because I probably wouldn’t have eaten for a week. Or at least I would have started keeping my distance from babies.

Camille DeAngelis is not kidding around with her cannibals. While most of the gory moments are simply implied or explained with a simple sentence or two, the ideas are so well implied that this was a book that put me off my lunch a time or two. DeAngelis is so good at implying the dark moments that she doesn’t have to describe them to create horrifying images.

Bones and All is bout 16-year-old Maren, who wakes up one morning to find that her mother has abandoned her after years of sudden middle-of-the-night moves out of town when Maren’s predilection for eating boys who express interest in her would strike. Suddenly on her own, she goes on a cross-country trek to find her father, who she has never known, but she hopes might have answers for her odd eating habits.

If I put my English major hat on, I could analyze this book for days. It’s a highly entertaining book with unusual characters and even more unusual circumstances, but it’s clearly a metaphor for one thing or another. Maren’s habit of eating boys often happens after the boy shows some sort of sexualize feelings towards her, whether it’s the innocuous dreams of a 7-year-old planning his future with her or the more abrupt advances of a random Walmart employee who feels she “owes” him because he gave her food. It’s probably the worst sort of sexual hang up a teenager could have.

It could also be a metaphor for dysfunctional relationships and obsessions with food. Or stemming from the author’s own veganism, it could be seen as a satirical look at the ethical implications of eating meat. Seriously, if I put my English major hat on, we could be here all day.

Instead I’ll leave the hat deep in my closet and say that Bones and All is a unique piece of YA literature. Hidden beneath the metaphors, this is a bizarre literary novel about growing up and finding your place in a hostile world that seems to having traps waiting around every corner to lead you to failure. Maren coming-of-age story reflects the emotional journey of most teenagers at one point or another, feeling alone in a cruel world where everyone could turn out to be out to get you. She just happens to have a predilection to eating people.

I’m not entire sure why this is taking place in the mid-90s except to explain a lack of cell phones and internet usage. It might have been a bit harder to set this exact same story in a world with more surveillance, but it also seemed a bit odd to me that only the occasional reference to outside events made it obvious that this wasn’t taking place in modern day. DeAngelis focuses on creating an insular narrative about Maren’s emotional and physical journey, so it’s weird that placing it at a particular time was even necessary.

Bones and All is a uniquely quirky coming-of-age story that has moments that aren’t for the weak of stomach. What it lacks in gore, it makes up for in implications and innuendo that my overactive imagination probably turned into something worse than if Maren’s eating habits were described in more detail. It’s an intriguing take on growing up with a literary bent that most wouldn’t expect in a story about teenage cannibals. This is definitely worth checking out, mostly to see if that first paragraph cracks you up or if it turns out I’m just seriously demented.

 

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. I'm part of the Bones & All street team, but the opinions are my own.