The Monday Check-In ~ 10/23/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

In an otherwise busy week of work, I had two great brushes with cultural life. One, I went with my son to see a wonderful hula performance over the weekend. And two, I GOT TICKETS TO SEE HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD ON BROADWAY! Granted, the tickets are for June, so that’s a pretty long time from now, but I’m still super excited!

What did I read last week?

Guts: The Anatomy of the Walking Dead by Paul Vigna: Clearly, you have to be a fan to enjoy this one… but since I am, I did. My review is here.

Elsewhere on the blog:

Check out my post summing up the glory of listening to the His Dark Materials trilogy audiobooks.

Outlander !!

The print shop! It was the reunion of the (18th) century last night on Outlander! I’ll have my reaction post up later today or tomorrow.

The Walking Dead:

If I spend all day yawning today, blame the premier of The Walking Dead! Couldn’t stop thinking about it, therefore didn’t get much sleep, and I’m likely to spend the day looking like this:

Life is hell before my morning coffee…

Fresh Catch:

Another batch of my E-Bay Georgette Heyer purchases arrived this week:

I also treated myself to two books from the new Tor collection of mini-hardbacks:

I posed them here alongside my Funko Pops to give a sense of their size. They’re really adorable little hardcover books. Find out more about the collection here.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1) by Philip Pullman: I’m so excited to be started this! I’m only a few chapters in so far, but loving it.

Now playing via audiobook:

Indexing by Seanan McGuire: Fairy tales are real! This audiobook is lots of fun. Should be done by the end of the week.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.
  • Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a Lord John readalong — we’ll be reading all of the Lord John novels and stories in story chronology. Let me know if you’d like to participate! All are welcome.

Via Serial Reader:

  • I decided to finally dive in and start Great Expectations! I’m using the Serial Reader app, and really liking it so far.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: Guts: The Anatomy of the Walking Dead

In this first and only guide to AMC’s exceptional hit series The Walking Dead, the Wall Street Journal’s Walking Dead columnist celebrates the show, its storylines, characters, and development, and examines its popularity and cultural resonance.

From its first episode, The Walking Dead took fans in the United States and across the world by storm, becoming the highest-rated series in the history of cable television. After each episode airs, Paul Vigna writes a widely read column in which he breaks down the stories and considers what works and what doesn’t, and tries to discern the small details that will become larger plot points.

So how did a basic cable television show based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic comic series, set in an apocalyptic dog-eat-dog world filled with flesh-eating zombies and even scarier human beings, become a ratings juggernaut and cultural phenomenon? Why is the show such a massive hit? In this playful yet comprehensive guide, Vigna dissect every aspect of The Walking Dead to assess its extraordinary success.

In the vein of Seinfeldia,Vigna digs into the show’s guts, exploring its roots, storyline, relevance for fans and the wider popular culture, and more. He explores how the changing nature of television and media have contributed to the show’s success, and goes deep into the zombie genre, delineating why it’s different from vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. He considers why people have found in zombies a mirror for their own fears, and explains how this connection is important to the show’s popularity. He interviews the cast and crew, who share behind-the-scenes tales, and introduces a cross-section of its diverse and rabid viewership, from fantasy nerds to NFL stars. Guts is a must have for every Walking Dead fan.

 

I’ve only recently become a convert to the cult of The Walking Dead. After years of turning up my nose, I finally broke down and gave it a try this past spring, and immediately became completely hooked. I binge-watched the entire series to date within about 2 months (not bad for 99 episodes!), and read all of the graphic novels as well. So naturally, when I heard about Guts, I had to read it, and the timing couldn’t be better, as season 8 of The Walking Dead starts TOMORROW. *jumping up and down and hyperventilating with anticipation*

Guts is a truly fascinating book about the show, examining it from all angles and giving thoughtful consideration to its popularity and relevance in today’s world. The author includes recaps of the major events of each season so far, and covers the show’s history, the background of Robert Kirkman, who created the comic series and is an executive producer of the TV series, some anecdotes from behind the scenes, and the ups and downs of production, including the still-ongoing lawsuit by the first showrunner, Frank Darabont, against AMC.

The book also includes interactions with fans, including some observations from a day at Walker Stalker Con, a fan event at which fans interact with cast and crew. The description of the vibe at Walker Stalker shows the deep impact of The Walking Dead on its devoted fan base.

Most interestingly, author Paul Vigna goes deeper than the pop culture tidbits (such as fan favorites, iconic weaponry, and best episodes) to show the philosophical underpinnings of The Walking Dead, connecting the show’s impact to sociopolitical and economic climate of the era. He examines the religious themes that find their way into the show, as well as the political constructs of the various societies and the ways in which both Maslow’s hierarchy and Hobbesian views on the natural state of man can be discussed in relation to themes of community and family as shown in TWD.

Some random and various pieces from the book:

Hobbes argues that the natural state of man, as in a state without the collar of a central government, is one where every man is at war with every other man. There is no industry or security, no artistic pursuits, just the “continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” Hobbes writes… In Hobbes’s argument, people enter a social contract and surrender some of their personal freedoms in exchange for the kind of security and permanence that will release them from the terror of that brutish life in the wild.

Like giving up their endless wandering to join the community of Alexandria, right?

On political structures in TWD:

What seems to matter most is that a leader in the post-zombie apocalypse is decisive… Negan and the Governor are homicidal and suicidal, but they are also decisive. Negan may be as liable to throw you into an oven as feed you a spaghetti dinner, but in his decisiveness, he can bring some sense of comfort — so long as you don’t cross him.

Acknowledging that “Rick has made enough mistakes to fill a book,”, the author comments:

Now, I don’t have a problem with Rick making mistakes. It wouldn’t be realistic for him to make the right choice every single time. Rick’s greatest quality, apart from an uncanny survival instinct, is the ability to simply choose. In a world where life is measured in hours and days rather than decades, that is an essential quality to have.

Further thoughts:

The biggest key to survival, really, is how quickly you can shed your old morality and discover a new one.

And finally, a quote from the season 7 finale, spoken by Maggie, that sums up the essence of TWD. This is who the main characters are and what they do — and what makes us love them:

To sacrifice for each other, to suffer, to stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live, to fight for each other.

This is what Rick, Maggie, and all the other characters in Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom represent, and why we keep tuning in, season after season.

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and happen to be inclined to dig in and go beyond the blood and gore, definitely pick up a copy of Guts. It’s a quick, interesting read, with just the right mix of plot points and food for thought.

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The details:

Title: Guts: The Anatomy of the Walking Dead
Author: Paul Vigna
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Publication date: October 3, 2017
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Non-fiction/entertainment/pop culture
Source: Library

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Audiobook awesomeness: His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Over the last two months, I’ve had one of my most delightful experiences with audiobooks. I decided to revisit the world of the His Dark Materials trilogy, since (a) it’s been many, many years since I read the books, and (b) a new book is coming out this fall. (THIS WEEK! NOW!!!)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years (!!) since the publication of The Amber Spyglass, the 3rd book in the trilogy (following The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife). I remember being blown away by these books upon first read, but after all these years, I was fuzzy on the details.

Side note: I choose to disregard the existence of the Golden Compass movie, which utterly failed to capture the essence of the books and characters. But that’s an issue best left in the past…

So what was so special about these audiobooks?

For starters, they’re full-cast recordings. Oddly enough, full-cast audiobooks don’t usually appeal to me. When I’ve tried them before, I tend to feel removed from the story — maybe because it’s more like listening to a dramatization than like reading an actual book.

Whatever the reason, this time around, I just loved it. Philip Pullman takes the role of narrator, and he’s marvelous. His reading of his own work is nuanced and expressive, and he infuses his lines with wit, humor, and when needed, sorrow and intensity. Beyond Pullman himself, the rest of the cast is simply terrific. I don’t know who these voice actors are, but their talent is huge! The voice of Lyra was perfect — young, intense, brave, emotional — and Will was spot-on too, fierce, loving, worried, daring. Probably most magnificent was the voice of Iorek Byrnison — I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a deep, rumbly voice on an audiobook. If a polar bear could speak English and deigned to have a conversation with one of us puny humans, I bet that’s exactly what he’d sound like. Other stand-outs are the voices of Texas aeronaut Lee Scoresby and the often wicked but strangely sympathetic Mrs. Coulter.

Now, if you’ve read these books, you know that an important part of Pullman’s world building is the presence of daemons — a corporeal, animal being who represents each person’s true inner being. Every human in Lyra’s world has a daemon, and the shape they take is often quite representative of the nature of the person. Children’s daemon’s can change shape at will, until they child reaches puberty, at about which time the daemon settles into his or her final shape. Worth noting, too, is that a daemon is always the opposite gender of the person it’s attached to — so Lyra’s daemon Pantalaimon is male. On the audiobooks, the daemons who have speaking roles are voiced in ways completely appropriate to their personalities. The absolute best is Lee’s daemon Hester, a jackrabbit with a feminine Western twang.

As for the story, I’m kind of assuming that anyone bothering to read this post is already familiar with the amazing world of His Dark Materials. For those who aren’t familiar, here are the brief plot summaries from Goodreads:

Book 1 – The Golden Compass (also published under the title Northern Lights):

Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the alethiometer. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

Book 2 – The Subtle Knife:

Lost in a new world, Lyra finds Will—a boy on the run, a murderer—a worthy and welcome ally. For this is a world where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and witches share the skies with troops of angels.

Each is searching—Lyra for the meaning of Dark Matter, Will for his missing father—but what they find instead is a deadly secret, a knife of untold power. And neither Lyra nor Will suspects how tightly their lives, their loves, and their destinies are bound together… until they are split apart.

Book 3 – The Amber Spyglass:

The Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heart-stopping end, marking the final volume of His Dark Materials as the most powerful of the trilogy.

Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and Iorek Byrnison the armored bear, come a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spymaster to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. So, too, come startling revelations: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone’s amber spyglass, and the names of who will live–and who will die–for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that–in its shocking outcome–will uncover the secret of Dust. Philip Pullman deftly brings the cliff-hangers and mysteries of His Dark Materials to an earth-shattering conclusion–and confirms his fantasy trilogy as an undoubted and enduring classic.

It’s funny how certain things stick in your mind — or my mind, anyway. I absolutely remembered about Dust and daemons, about Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, the Mulefa, Metatron, and more. What I didn’t remember was the sheer power of this story. What starts out feeling mostly like a children’s book (albeit a children’s book with gifted-level vocabulary) by the end has transformed into an epic tale that shares universal truths about love, honesty, the nature of good and evil, devotion, betrayal, friendship, and freedom.

The emotional impact by the end is enormous. I clearly remembered being devastated by the end of the trilogy, and yet I was still pretty much hit over the head with an anvil all over again while listening by the intensity of the heart-ache the characters experience. It’s simply lovely and tragic and uplifting, all at the same time.

As an added bonus, Pullman later published two shorter works set in the same world: Lyra’s Oxford, which takes place two years after the conclusion of The Amber Spyglass, and Once Upon a Time in the North, which is set about 35 years earlier, showing the first eventful meeting of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison. Both of these novellas are available as audiobooks, and like the main trilogy, are highly enriched by the full-cast recording. (It’s definitely worth getting the hard copies as well, as the physical editions include wonderful woodcut illustrations and all sorts of bits and pieces of ephemera related to His Dark Materials — writing scraps, maps, ballooning guides, postcards, and even a board game.)

Finally, there’s a short story available either as an e-book or audiobook. The Collectors is very creepy, and I’d say listen to the audio version. Bill Nighy does a fabulous job with the narration, and it only takes about a half hour, but is definitely worth it.

I realize that this is by no means a comprehensive book review of His Dark Materials and the associated works. And it’s not meant to be. Really, I’ve just gotten completely swept away by these wonderful audiobooks, and I couldn’t keep it to myself a moment longer!

Especially for anyone thinking about reading the upcoming new release, La Belle Sauvage, going back to His Dark Materials via audiobook will be a huge treat, absolutely worth the time.

Needless to say, for anyone who hasn’t read these books at all yet, please do! His Dark Materials is one of those trilogies usually shelved with children’s fiction, but which truly transcends the age or genre labels. These books are just plain good fantasy literature; they transport us to multiple alternate worlds but never lose their human heart.

 

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Books in the series:
The Golden Compass (1995)
The Subtle Knife (1997)
The Amber Spyglass (2000)
Lyra’s Oxford (2003)
Once Upon a Time in the North (2008)
The Collectors (2014)
NEW: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, book 1) – to be released 10/19/2017

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Thursday Quotables: Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
A little programming note: While I’m mostly back to weekly postings, I find I’m not at 100% yet! I’ll continue to post Thursday Quotables most weeks. If I happen to skip a week when you have a post to share, feel free to link up to whichever TQ post here is most recent. Many thanks!
Onward with this week’s Thursday Quotable:
Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead by Paul Vigna
(published 2017)

I’m actually very late to the party when it comes to The Walking Dead and its fandom. I only started watching the series this past spring, but after some marathon binges, I’m all caught up and completely hooked. Naturally, I couldn’t resist this new release. Please excuse me for fangirling out over Guts!

For my Quotables this week, first, something I just thought was funny:

The Walking Dead’s zombies are mostly “live,” which means they are actors under makeup playing out their horror in real time, though for certain shots the crew will add computer-generated effects (they did not, for instance, cut the actress Melissa Cowan in half for her role as Bicycle Girl).

Sorry about the sick humor. This makes me laugh.

And here’s a paragraph that helps to explain why so many of us love this show so, so much:

That deeper level is something that comes after special effects, after jump scares and exploding bodies. It’s something that can be explored not through the dead, but only through the living. What makes The Walking Dead work is that it shows people who are broken, afraid, courageous, insane, upright, duplicitous, noble, foolhardy, and just plain hardy as all hell. In a word, it explores what’s in a person’s heart.

And finally, the author quotes a writer for a TWD fansite:

“A show like The Walking Dead tells us that no matter what happens, if you are loyal to the people you love, […] you can conquer anything.”

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Shelf Control #93: Great Expectations

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
Published: 1860
Length: 571 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

When Philip Pirrip–nicknamed Pip–is forced by an escaped convict to steal food and supplies from his meager home, he doesn’t know that this event will transform his life. One of Dickens’s most popular novels, Great Expectations follows the orphaned Pip as he grows from poverty into a gentleman, becoming entangled with the strange Miss Havisham and her beautiful but coldhearted ward, Estella, and coming into a fortune from an unknown benefactor. This engrossing work, which recently celebrated its 150th birthday, remains one of Dickens’s best.

How and when I got it:

I treated myself to this book, plus two others in the Classic Lines series from Splinter, in 2015.

Why I want to read it:

I feel like Great Expectations is one of those glaring holes in my reading career. I’ve only read one Dickens novel (A Tale of Two Cities), and have always intended to read more. A few years ago, while browsing in our local used book store, I saw the Classic Lines editions of Great Expectations, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice on the remainder table, and they were all just so pretty that I had to have them! Besides my hard copy of GE, I have a free Kindle edition, and I’ve also toyed with the idea of reading it via Serial Reader. So many options! Now I just have to buckle down and actually start.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten unique book titles (a week ahead of time!)

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***Right after posting, I realized that I’m a week ahead on TTT topics! Oh well, better early than never, right? Leaving this right here…***

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top Ten Unique Book Titles. I did a similar post back in 2013 (here), so I had to work pretty hard to come up with a new batch of awesome book titles.

Here are my top ten, in no particular order:

1) Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire: I love how the title so perfectly captures the spooky, ghoulish feel of the book.

2) Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day (review): Another by Seanan McGuire — I just really like the sound of all those “D” words in the title, and the way that the title signals that something unusual and otherworldly is about to happen.

3) Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello (review): Author Ausiello is a TV critic, and it’s just so perfect that he’s used TV jargon for the title of his very personal and sad memoir.

4) Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: You didn’t think I’d get through a whole top 10 list without mentioning Outlander, did you? Book #9 isn’t out yet, and doesn’t even have a release date… but it does have a title, and the title is pretty cool.

5) The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Shumer: Ha, I love her spin on the title. It’s perfect, really.

6) The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsburg: The book was okay, but the title really rocks.

7) My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (review): The title says it all!

8) William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher: This book was such a delicious surprise. The re-writing of Star Wars as Shakespearean verse is a must for literary-minded fangirls and fanboys. Here’s a little sample.

9) Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King: An awesome graphic novel about an alien invasion on a college campus. I loved that the title captures the feel of a required course.

10) You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (review): Geeks, unite! If Felicia Day says we’re never weird, then it must be true.

What book titles made your list this week? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/16/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Like everyone else in San Francisco, I’ve been focused all week on the terrible wildfires raging throughout the regions just north of us. So terribly upsetting, and it’s not over yet. We’re all looking for ways to donate, help, and offer support to those suffering, as well as the brave folks out there fighting the fires.

What did I read last week?

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King: I finished this last Sunday, and posted my thoughts a few days later. Check out my review, here.

LaRose by Louise Erdrich: My book group’s discussion book for October, finished just in the nick of time! My thoughts are here.

I also wrapped up my return visit to the world of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I finished the audiobook of The Amber Spyglass (so beautiful!), and re-read both Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North as well. I’m so excited for the new book, The Book of Dust, to arrive this week!

Outlander !!

Outlander is on break this week, with the next new episode (the print shop!!) coming October 22nd. Meanwhile, myy reaction post for the 5th episode is here. And in other Outlander news, there was an exciting casting announcement for season 4 — find out more here.

Other TV:

Check out my post about what I’m watching this fall, here.

Fresh Catch:

I mentioned last week that I went on an EBay spree and ordered a bunch of Georgette Heyer books. Five more arrived this week… whee!

And there are still a few more yet to come!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead by Paul Vigna: Don’t judge me! I just got this book from the library, and I’m VERY INTO IT.

Now playing via audiobook:

Indexing by Seanan McGuire: Just getting started, but it’s cute so far. I mean, c’mon — it’s by Seanan McGuire! It just has to be good, right?

Ongoing reads:

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.

Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a Lord John readalong — we’ll be reading all of the Lord John novels and stories in story chronology. Let me know if you’d like to participate! All are welcome.

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: LaRose by Louise Erdrich

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich, the bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize nominee The Plague of Doves wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.

North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.

The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.

LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a co-conspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.

But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.

Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.

My Thoughts:

A beautiful, complicated, stunning book by the masterful Louise Erdrich! What a powerful follow-up to her award-winning The Round House (review).

LaRose is a story about family, loss, retribution, and atonement. It shows the complex connections between parents and children, and the unusual ways in which new families can be formed and held together. LaRose also demonstrates the power of old wounds, never fully healed, to affect people’s actions and emotions years after the fact.

The author weaves in the story of earlier generations in the family, each with its own LaRose, showing the challenges of growing up in the reservation and boarding school systems, and the lasting impact of tradition on people being forced to assimilate.

The characters in LaRose are well-drawn and unforgettable. There’s Landreaux’s family, with his smart, loving daughters who take in Maggie and declare her their sister too. And there’s LaRose himself, a good, loving boy who is put in an impossible situation — and, impossibly, grows, thrives, and gives his two families what they need, while also forging his own strong connection to the spirit world. Myriad other characters flesh out the community and give life to the ties that bind the various characters together.

LaRose is unusual and beautifully written. Highly recommended.

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The details:

Title: LaRose
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication date: May 10, 2016
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: PurchasedSave

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TV Time: What’s Lisa watching?

It’s fall TV season! So much goodness. So much to watch. So few hours in the day.

I thought I’d do a quick round-up of what I’m loving right now:

Outlander. Obviously. In case you couldn’t guess from my approximately 5 billion previous mentions, I’m a fan, and I’m in heaven now that we’re “in season”. Except for the fact that there’s no new episode this week, but that will make next week’s super-sized episode even sweeter, right?

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is back! Season 3 started this past Friday night. If you ever need something to make you giggle in all sorts of slightly inappropriate ways, here’s a show for you. Here’s one of the two new musical numbers from this week’s episode:

 

In sadder news, one of the hidden gems of cable TV is saying good-bye this weekend after four hilarious, touching, and on-point seasons. Farewell, Survivor’s Remorse! A show that’s been consistently funny, often uncomfortable, with a mix of humor and food for thought that’s never lazy, and certainly never fails to entertain.

 

And then we have a show all about people riding horses fast along seaside cliffs. Kidding, kind of. Poldark! It’s season 3, and the story is still totally engrossing, and the scenery and people are as gorgeous as ever.

 

Can’t forget about my most recent obsession, the show that has me counting the days until season 8 premieres on October 22nd. The Walking Dead returns… and it’s time for All Out War.

 

And finally, there’s The Good Place, which is just consistently funny and surprising and utterly enjoyable. The 2nd season is off to a great start!

 

Yes, there are a bunch of other shows I have a more casual relationship with — I watch, I enjoy, but they don’t rule my waking thoughts the way my favorites do. Other stuff I’m enjoying right now:

  • Speechless
  • Will & Grace (kind of — fun so far, but verging on feeling a little tired)
  • Adam Ruins Everything — something to enjoy with my son (I wrote about it last year, here)
  • Blackish — I haven’t watched consistently from the beginning, so I’m working on catching up
  • Grace & Frankie — in my free moments, I’ve been trying to pick up episodes here and there. I like! Just haven’t had time to truly binge.

**Updated to add: As soon as I hit “publish”, I realized that I left out This Is Us, which I love and which continues to be excellent. My bad.**

What are you watching this fall? What are you most excited for?

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Thursday Quotables: Marine Biology

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
A little programming note: While I’m mostly back to weekly postings, I find I’m not at 100% yet! I’ll continue to post Thursday Quotables most weeks. If I happen to skip a week when you have a post to share, feel free to link up to whichever TQ post here is most recent. Many thanks!
Onward with this week’s Thursday Quotable:

 

Marine Biology by Gail Carriger
(published 2010)

When there’s too much seriousness in my life, I know I can reach for a Gail Carriger story to lift my spirits. I originally read Marine Biology when it came out, but as there’s now a related novel, The Sumage Solution, I figured this was a good time to read it again. Marine Biology is a cute, sweet, supernatural story — set in the modern world, not Carriger’s trademark steampunk Victorian society, but full of her wit and cleverness.

Here’s the opening paragraph, which makes more sense if you keep in mind that the main character is a gay werewolf scientist:

The problem, Alec thought gloomily, swishing a test-tube full of seawater, is that I’m unexpectedly alive. To be unexpectedly dead would be pleasingly simplistic. After all, he made up the statistic on the spot so that he would sound more learned in his own head, half of all deaths are unexpected. One is, to a certain degree, prepared to die unexpectedly. But when one expects to die at eighteen and instead finds oneself unexpectedly alive at twenty-four, there’s nothing for it but to be confused about everything.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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