Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer

Southern Reach Trilogy

First Impressions
I love a good dystopian story, and that’s what drew me to the Southern Reach (Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance) trilogy initially. The writing is unlike any I’ve read before. Extremely descriptive, but intentionally void of any solid information – I found myself drawn in to a story that made no sense but that had wormed its way into my head and couldn’t be purged.

Drive-by Summary
Confusion, chaos, and collapse abound in this series about the exploration of “Area X”. No one knows exactly what’s happened within the boundaries of Area X, a lush tropical jungle filled with strange (imaginary?) flora and fauna. And though numerous expeditions have been sent across the border year after year to observe and record, very little information returns with the survivors who make it back out. It’s a strange tale of some sort of unidentified weirdness. Alien invasion; chemical leak and subsequent mutation; mass hallucination? It’s a dream/nightmare world of hallucinatory images and ideas, place history and geography, human behavior, creeping horror, superstition, religion and linguistics. Has everyone in this story gone insane?

My Favorite Character
The biologist. The way she relates to the natural world more easily than the human one resonates with me. She’s simultaneously a very curious person and a very guarded one. Intelligent, observant, and yet lonely and disconnected. Does this give her an advantage in Area X?

Words to Live By
“But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan.”

Recommended For
Anyone who can’t wait to fall asleep at night to dream and to wander the weird alleyways of the mind. Interested in human behavior, science, conspiracy theory, and religion as seen through a psychedelic lens? This book is for you!

Final Say
I can easily see the fantastic imagery of this series reinterpreted as a graphic novel. Reading it, I found myself under a strange spell, compelled to continue with the journey while growing exceedingly frustrated by the bizarre lack of information. What does it all mean? I don’t know, but the fact that I couldn’t put it down is a tribute to Jeff Vandermeer’s writing style and perhaps a little of my own relentless curiosity. In the end, I’m left wondering if a few spores from Area X might taint the pages of these books, as I’ve never found myself so strangely drawn to a story that provides so few answers about anything or anyone in it. It shifts, slides and slips away and leaves you finally with more questions than answers. If you make it through to the other side, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the adventure!

You can find all three books in the Southern Reach Trilogy at the Bellingham Public Library.

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Summer Reading Reviews, Week 3

Here are some more great reviews from our Summer Reading for Adults program:

Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea HandlerBook Cover
2 Stars
I chose this book due to the front cover with Chelsea dressed in a high-end, floor length gown and an elephant alongside her. The book is a long, tongue-in-cheek dictionary of Chelsea’s safari adventures; it turns out she and five friends were the safari, the animals were a ploy in this tedious tale. Chelsea Handler says whatever she wants and will go that extra mile to raise a few eyebrows. Not as funny as I first thought. Bordering on clumsy and offensive.

Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie HuangFresh Off the Boat
4 Stars
This lively memoir explores identity, race and hip-hop from the perspective of a Taiwanese American chef. Laugh out loud funny, this brash book talks about aspiration and assimilation in a no holds barred style with insight and verve.

 

Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinBook Cover
4 Stars
I loved-hated this book, would read and get mad, put it down, then couldn’t resist picking it up again. The characters are amazing and I am easily caught up in this world.

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle ZevinThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
5 Stars
Not my usual cup of tea bookwise, but I devoured this book in an afternoon. Do read it.

 

 

Would you like to see your review here?  Review a book, using this form, and turn it in at any Bellingham Public Library location for a chance to get your review featured on Read More! and to earn a prize.

#WBN2014

World Book Night logoIt’s World Book Night!  As we told you back in November, eager librarians and community members will be handing out free books tonight in an effort to spread the joy of reading.  You have a chance of getting a book on the bus, at your gym, while you are getting coffee … the possibilities are endless.

Awesome, right?!  But wait, it gets better…

Five of your favorite Bellingham Public Library employees will be handing out books this evening at the Grand Avenue Ale House around 5:30 p.m.  So stop by, grab a beer and a bite, and enjoy some free literature courtesy of World Book Night.

And if you don’t get a free book tonight, you can always check them out (for free!) at the Bellingham Public Library.  We even have a handy list of the 2014 World Book Night Picks for you to choose from:

World Book Night 2014, pt. 1

World Book Night 2014, pt. 2

Getting Graphic @ Your Library

Watchmen Book CoverGraphic novels, or novels in comic-strip format, have become increasingly popular with adults in the last ten years or so.  This is not surprising considering graphic novels cover all genres, topics, and issues with a lot of skill and great art.  But, with all the available graphic novels out there, where do you get started?  Thankfully, Bellingham Public Library has your back with this handy list: Getting Started on Graphic Novels.  This is a list of essential reads from the best writers and artists in the industry.  Here are some highlights:

Watchmen by Alan Moore 

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

 

There is something on this list for every reader – so check out a graphic novel today!

If you liked Gone Girl

If you loved Gone Girl as much as we here at BPL did and are counting down the days to the movie release day, then we have the perfect reading list for you!  This list, If You Liked Gone Girl, is chock-full of great reads that will satisfy your hunger for dark, psychological fiction.  Here are some highlights:

Cover of Snow by Jenny MilchmanCover of Snow
Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide.

 

Dark Places by Gillian FlinnDark Places Book Cover
When Libby Day’s mother and two older sisters were slaughtered in the family’s Kansas farmhouse, it was seven-year-old Libby’s testimony that sent her 15-year-old brother, Ben, to prison for life. Desperate for cash 24 years later, Libby reluctantly agrees to meet members of the Kill Club, true crime enthusiasts who bicker over famous cases. She’s shocked to learn most of them believe Ben is innocent and the real killer is still on the loose.

Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob book cover
Andy Barber has been an ADA in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than 20 years. He is respected in his community and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But after a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His 14-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

 

Heartbroken by Lisa UngerHeartbroken book cover
While Kate pens an evocative historical novel based on family journals, her neighbor, Emily, flees a volatile relationship to an island in the Adirondacks where she, Kate, and Kate’s mother, Birdie, face the consequences of their pasts.

 

Never Look Away by Linwood BarclayNever Look Away book cover
A warm summer Saturday. An amusement park. David Harwood is glad to be spending some quality time with his wife, Jan, and their four-year-old son. But what begins as a pleasant family outing turns into a nightmare after an inexplicable disappearance. A frantic search only leads to an even more shocking and harrowing turn of events.

Gone Girl Heads to the Silver Screen

Entertainment Weekly Cover

Anyone that has read  and enjoyed the twisty dark novel, Gone Girl, will rejoice at the news that it is being adapted into a motion picture.  (And if you haven’t read the book, check out our review and book trailer!)  The movie, which is being release this fall, is being directed by David Fincher (The Social Network, Zodiac, Fight Club) and stars Rosamund Pike as the devious Amy Dunne and Ben Affleck as the not-so-easily-duped Nick Dunne.

But the best news?  Author Gillian Flynn, who adapted the screenplay for her best-selling book, has completely changed the ending for movie-going audiences:

“There was something thrilling about taking this piece of work that I’d spent about two years painstakingly putting together with all its eight million Lego pieces and take a hammer to it and bash it apart and reassemble it into a movie,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

I think Gone Girl just became my most highly-anticipated movie of 2014.

At Last by Edward St. Aubyn

At Last Book CoverFirst Impressions
The fifth and final installment in the Patrick Melrose novels, I opened this book bracing myself for the thrust of a saber of cutting wit, denouncing the glamor of the silver spoon set.  What black comedy would befall that languorous, drug-addled victim of abuse, Patrick Melrose, this time – and could it possibly include a chance of redemption?

Drive-by Summary
At Last opens at the funeral service for Eleanor Melrose, former socialite-turned philanthropist, and neglectful mother to Patrick.  Having allowed her tyrannical husband David to fritter away most of her fortune, Eleanor has bequeathed the last dregs of her estate to Seamus, a spiritual leader of dubious motives, disappointing her son once again.  Many of the characters are lost in their own fantasies and fixations, and At Last fixates on the psychological transformation of Patrick Melrose as he tries to move on after the death of his parents.

My Favorite Character
These novels drew me in with their first offering Never Mind, which largely tells the story from Patrick’s point of view as a child.  It is tempting to say that his son Robert is my favorite character in this book – his precociousness detects that the grown-ups who surround him are not quite all they pretend to be, and he isn’t afraid to say so.  However, it is in Patrick that our hopes lie – his excessive and prolonged coping mechanisms (drug abuse, alcoholism, adultery) make him an unlikable protagonist, yet he isn’t above hard work (slogging through law school when it dawns upon him that the well of his inheritance runneth dry) and staggers toward self-improvement, whether weaning himself off of hard drugs, or simply spending time with his children.  Will he at last fully live his life, or simply keep reacting to it?

Words to Live By
“One day he would live without superstition, but not yet.  He reached out and touched the head of the toad.  He felt some of the same awe he had felt as a child, but the resurgence of what he was about to lose gave the feeling a self-cancelling intensity.  The mad fusion of mythologies created an excess of meaning that might at any moment flip into a world with no meaning at all.  He drew away and, like someone returning to the familiar compromises of his city flat after a long exotic journey, recognized that he was a middle-aged man, sitting eccentrically in his muddy driveway in the middle of a thunderstorm, trying to communicate with a toad.  He got up stiffly and slouched back to the house, feeling realistically miserable, but still kicking the puddles in defiance of his useless maturity.”

Recommended For
Those who have ever grappled with the notion that parental units simply cannot comprehend.  

Final Say
St. Aubyn paints a searing picture of English old money.  Rife with sarcasm that even his most cruel dinner-party-characters would snicker at, there are enough moments of tenderness, justice and absurdity to ensure this is a page turner and a gripping piece of modern English literature.

You can find At Last and the rest of the series at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Nicky

Final Summer Reading Reviews

Bellingham Public Library’s Summer Reading for adults ended a little over a month ago.  And, sadly, today we will be featuring our last batch of featured reviews from program participants.

We have enjoyed reading all of the reviews we received this summer so please join us for Summer Reading again next year!

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de RosnaySarah's Key book cover
I recently read Sarah’s Key.  It’s about a family in France during the Nazi regime who was part of the round up of Jewish families by French police who were then sent to concentration camps.  I must say that once I started I could not stop.  I read this book in two days, spending nearly an entire Saturday on my porch reading.  The chapters are split between a present day journalist doing an article on the roundup and the young girl, Sarah, and her experience.  It was a great book, graphic at times, but I was able to completely lose myself in the story.  I would highly recommend for anyone interested in historical fiction!

Freakonomics by Steven J. Levitt and Stephen J. DubnerFreakonomics book cover
A study in statistics that effect unanticipated social changes, Freakonomics gives us the reasons behind why crack dealers still live with their mothers, why crime dropped 30 years after abortion became “legal” and why parents’ success at shaping their children’s futures is already pretty much determined before the kid is born.  Interesting and eye-opening even if the likes of boozer Bill Bennett take issue with some of the findings.

Summer Reading Reviews, Week 8

Whitey Bulger book coverWhitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice
By Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy
By the middle of the book Whitey has admitted to killing 26 people; this is the mid-seventies. He only got bumped from law enforcement’s cross-hairs by 9-11. When Bin Laden was eliminated (remember Osama?), Whitey once again became Public Enemy Number One.

What I can’t quite figure out is why this rabid killer seems so sympathetic in this masterful biography spanning his childhood through final incarceration.

Rabid killer is putting it mildly. On the other hand he was a guy who was so tuned into the ethos of family he insisted on sitting down to dinner with his (girlfriend’s) family every night for a quaint, traditional meal. He gave advice to young people on right living, like loyalty and thrift and the value of education. He was terribly good at what he did for a living, describing himself as a “good bad guy.” Except he meant good as in “virtuous, right, commendable.”

The authors are to be credited with crafting a story about a persona whose actions are usually associated with madness or psychopathy; yet, the picture of Whitey’s life painted in prose is of a regular guy, intelligent, health conscious, well-read (a redeeming virtue in itself) and “successful.”

Whitey is no Jekyll and Hyde, however. He is something else. Literally.

11 Birthdays cover11 Birthdays
By Wendy Mass
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, is a very cute story that I enjoyed reading. It reminded me of the movie Groundhog’s Day except 11 Birthdays deals with the lives of two 11 year olds, who share the same birthday, who must discover why time has stopped and their 11th birthday continues to repeat itself. They learn more about each other, their friendship, their family history, and love and appreciation for life. It was a very heart-warming short story with a pure, simple message.

 

 

Summer Reading Reviews, Week 7

World War Z by Max BrooksWorld War Z book cover
I just finished reading World War Z written by Max Brooks. I was introduced to this book when I saw the trailer for the new movie and I found the concept to be very interesting. I was excited to begin reading but by the end I actually found the book to be a bit boring. It wasn’t how I imagined it and thinking to the new movie trailer, it looks like Hollywood has played it up a great deal. I was disappointed that the book didn’t fill my curiosity when it comes to the idea of a zombie apocalypse but I’m still going to watch the movie to see if they did a decent job portraying it.

Still Alice book coverStill Alice by Lisa Genova
Still Alice by Lisa Genova: I was introduced to this book at the Bellingham Public Library’s monthly book club. It centers around a prominent Harvard professor’s descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease and how it affects her career, family life, and identity.  It was extremely well written, a fast read, not overly emotional, and provided insight on how the individual with the disease initially reacts to/denies and subsequently deals with the diagnosis.  It shed a new light on how difficult the transition is, not only for caregivers and family, but the ‘victims’ of the disease themselves. The author has a great background in neuroscience and psychology that lends a credibility to the account. I would recommend this book to anyone affected by the disease personally or professionally.