Tuesday Thingers -Reco Me This, and Reco Me That

Today’s topic: Recommendations. Do you use LT’s recommendations feature? Have you found any good books by using it? Do you use the anti-recommendations, or the “special sauce” recommendations? How do you find out about books you want to read?
I have looked at the recommendations feature on LibraryThing, but I’ve never went by it.  And the anti-recommender is the anti-Christ when it comes to telling my what I won’t like… I wrote a post about that a few weeks back called Does A Christian Have a Brain?  if read more on that.  The special sauce is interesting but, again, I don’t use it.
Actually, the three ways I find out about the books I’d like to read is:
1.  BookMooch Recommendations -though I’m not entirely sure if it just throws out a bunch of books or if it’s really guessing at what I’d like.  The thing suggests books I’ve mooched and posted, so I don’t know if it has a brain.  At least LT’s algorithm sorta-kinda makes some sense.
2.  ARC sources such as Shelf Awareness, publishers’ and authors’ emails offering me books, and other “free” book places.  Hey, of course I’m gonna take free books!
3.  From my fellow LT’ers and bloggers.  I take your recommendations over an automated guesser any day!  At least you have a soul.  At least you have emotions.  At least you have some sense of aesthetics.  What’s the bot going to tell me?  Because I have Nietzche I won’t like The Purpose Driven Life… which I actually do have in my library?  Yeah…. whatever. (that goes back to the unsuggester is the anti-Christ.)
4.  Jan and Obie at my Waldenbooks… they know me so well! And Jan’s only been wrong once.  She suggested Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral, but I thought it was just mneh.
5.  My momma.  Though, lately her taster is running on the off-side for me.  Lately she’s been reading about some retired old ladies running a B&B and solving crimes or something… I don’t know, maybe they are killing the guests.  I forget.  Maybe I watch too much Law & Order and read too much Stephen King.
6.  Then, of course, there’s just little me, touching-feeling-looking at the actual book on the shelf and reading the back cover.  However, with Mt. TBR and Mt. TBarc at capacity, I can’t even go to the mall for fear I’ll be drawn into Waldens and won’t be able to resist the lovely books… they want to come home with me…. they jump on the counter and make me buy them….
Okay, that’s enough silliness.
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The Sunday Salon -Book Overload!

The Sunday Salon.com

This last week has been a busy book-week. My middle daughter went to her dad’s the week before, leaving me with just my 15-year-old. She’s in summer school and can’t go to her dad’s until next weekend after S.S. is over. Then I’ll have about a week alone (since June 29th is my birthday, this will be a wonderful present!)

July 5th will see the return of my youngest, Photobucket who starts summer school on the 8th (High school and elementary take their SS at different times).
I’m kind of starting to miss the little bug. (Her nickname when she was younger was “Lady Bug”)

I finished four books this past week: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, Skeleton Crew by Stephen King, Two For the Dough by Janet Evanovich, and Cell by Stephen King. Six is the most I’ve ever read in one week, and Skeleton Crew was only the last third, but it’s still a lot of reading.

I’ve also been working on writing my novel. So much of the process is in figuring out how everything works together, not just the fapping the keys and filling the screen with words. It also seems my writing is having some sort of breakdown, incurring the red wrath of Bic more and more. Don’t care.. edit later… write now. I may have a title for it, also. Mirror Image maybe, but that is subject to change.

Last week I also learned never to underestimate the Mooch. In trying to scrape together the point to mooch a book I wanted, I added Skeleton Crew (I was only 2/3 the way through) and Two For the Dough (which I hadn’t even started). I figured since there was plenty of those available, mine would be safe and I could finish at leisure. WRONG! My Skeleton Crew wasn’t even the best copy available, but it was mooched from me. Go figure. So now I won’t post until I’m done (or at least certain I’ll be done in a day or so.)

For this week, I’ve already started reading Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge. It’s a heart-breaking memoir of a boy who went into the foster system in Los Angeles county at the age of seven. He’d been living with his grandma in Chicago and was loved, cared for, and secure. But when his mom got out of prison in California, she demands her mother (Andy’s Grandma Kate) to send him to her. There he’s beaten by her boyfriend, used in a burglary by his mother and her girlfriend, and ignored often. The book just makes me want to cry.

After Hope’s Boy, I want to read all my Austen’s in chronological order. I have wanted to do a Jane-a-thon for a couple months, but haven’t been able to. The week alone (hopefully!) will give me the chance to just read-read-read straight through. 😀

Booking Through Thursday -Flavor

btt button

Think about your favorite authors, your favorite books . . . what is it about them that makes you love them above all the other authors you’ve read? The stories? The characters? The way they appear to relish the taste of words on the tongue? The way they’re unafraid to show the nitty-gritty of life? How they sweep you off to a new, distant place? What is it about those books and authors that makes them resonate with you in ways that other, perfectly good books and authors do not?

What sets an author apart for me is the style and imagitnation with which they write.  Whether it’s King or Evanovich, the author’s ability to convey the books events in a unique, verbally savory way makes or breaks my pleasure of the books I read.   What’s more, an author’s ability to paint word pictures on the back of my mind will always make me come back for more. 

Here are a few of my favorites and why I like them:

Stephen King   If you look at my LibraryThing catalog you’ll find I have 14 Stephen King books, making him my top author.  King is probably one of the most successful and prolific authors of our time, perhaps ever.  He is second only to J.K. Rowling on LibraryThing’s most popular author by number of copies found on Zeitgeist. (In fairness to King, she has only written 9 books, all relating to a single series.)  What I love about King is he is highly imagintative, writes on the edge of the accepted norm, and challenges people’s perception of what is real and “normal”.  His concepts are usually things I relate to as I mentioned  in my review of Lisey’s Story.  I particularly love the suprenatural flavor of most of his books.  I’m not very fond, however, of his books-to-movies.  Because so much of King takes place in the minds of his characters, the stories do not translate well to the film.  My 5 favorite King books are: Lisey’s Story (you guessed that, I’m sure),  Dead Zone, Hearts in Atlantis (probably THE worst film version of any King book), The Shining, and Pet Cemetary.

Bentley Little  I’ve actually only read one book of his so far, BUT he is one of Stephen King’s favorite authors, and what’s good for Sir Stevie is good for me!  The Store was a bizarre and terrifying story of Wal-mart’s effect on small towns… Oh, no… wait, it wasn’t called Wal-mart… it was just called “The Store”. In my very brief LT review I said this about it: “Think: Scientology-run Wal-mart from Hell owned by Howard Hughes and Satan’s love child! and Bentley Little reads like a mixture of Orwell, Bradbury, King and Brothers Grimm!” How can you not love an author like that?!

Janet Evanovich I am new to the Stephanie Plum novels, having started with Plum Lucky. I was an instant fan of Evanovich somewhere between Lula’s boob falling out on top and her thong disappearing out of sight into the dark crevice below while she bent over to pick up her spilled bucket of nickels, and the “Leprechaun” believing if he stripped naked he’d be invisible (The rottweiller told him so!). It is an absolutely crazy/fun/impossible/hilarious series, and I’m dying to read more! My favorite characters are: Grandma Mazur (When she shoots a chicken in the gumpy with Stephanie’s gun in book one, you know you’re in for a hilarious treat. I want a Grandma Mazur!), Lula (retired prostitute, files papers in Vincent’s office and is the Cagney to Stephanie’s Lacey… or the Lacey to her Cagney, did they ever solve that argument?) and Diesel (y’all can have Ranger, I’ll take Diesel).

Harlan Coben How could I not include Coben as one of my favorite authors? If it wasn’t for The Woods I’d still only be reading the classics, terrified to try anything contemporary. I’ve read three of his books so far, and have 5 others on Mt. TBR right now (more on the way from BookMooch). Hold Tight, his newest and best book so far, is a harrowing book for any parent to read. The thought of not being able to find your child, fearing his involvement in something dangerous and bad, was gut-wrenching for me. Coben’s writing is fluff-free, without the need to show off with an overload of details, and his language is easy to read and understand. He makes pop-culture references, I.E. McMansions, use of the word “ginormous”, and others, makes him a pleasure to read. He has a great balance of schtick and levity, which makes for a great coaster-ride of reading.

Other favorites include: Jane Austen (she made being a woman author a little more acceptable), William Shakespeare (one of the biggest Booya Moon pool drinkers), Lois Lowry (she made my kids think, and brought our family around the table to read The Giver) and so many more. 

Cell by Stephen King

Cell cover art

Title: Cell
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Pocket Books (division of Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: December 2006
ISBN: 1416524517

The phone-crazies own the days; when the stars come out, that’s us.  We’re like vampires.  We;ve been banished to the night.  Up close we know each other because we can still talk; at a little distance we can be pretty sure of each other by the packs we wear and the guns more and more of us carry; but at a distance, the one sure sign is the waving flashlight beam.  Three days ago we not only ruled the earth, we had survivor’s guil about all the other species we’d wiped out on our climb to the nirvana of round-the-clock cable news and microwave popcorn.  Now we’re the Flashlight People.

          -Page 161 of Cell by Stephen King 

The apocalypse doesn’t begin with the deafening boom of war, but with the quiet ring of a cell phone.

 According to GEARlog, as of Nov. 2007 82% of United States citizens have cell phones, a number of  1/4 billion.  In fact, the United States is second only to China in number their number.  With that number in mind, imagine what would happen if some tech-terrorist broadcasted a virus, relaying it through the cell towers,  and anyone using a cell phone had the hard drive of their brains stripped to the core programming of violent, animalistic survival.  Those on their cells when The Pulse, as it’s called in the book, is activated and they become raging, psychotic, murdeous beasts ripping the throats out of those around them with their teeth and tearing the limbs off people with their bare hands.  If you were witnessing this, your first instict would be to grab your cell phone and call someone, getting an earful of the mind-scrambling Pulse and going mad because of it.

This is what happens to Clayton Riddell on the afternoon of his life, after he’s sold his graphic novel series and has achieved sudden weath.  As he sits on a park bench reflecting on his turn of luck and enjoying a beautiful October afternoon in Boston, he observes a man in a business suit biting a dog’s ear and ripping it off the side of the screaming animal’s head.

Clay is able to survive the initial event and hook up with a few other “normies” and head north to Maine, where Clay’s estranged wife and his 11-year-old son John live.  Reuniting with John is the only thing on Clay’s mind.  Two things plague Riddell, though: One, the ever-present fear John had been on his own cell phone when it happened, and Two,  the “phoners” are evolving, gaining new and unusual powers.

When Clayton’s band of survivors kill a flock of the phoners, they find themselves public enemy number one and are driven to the place of their intended doom by The Raggedy Man, spokesman for the new world.  Can they survive?  Will Clayton find his son?  if he does, What will he find left of the boy?

Stephen King’s Cell is remeniscent of several dystopic/apocalyptic books and stories, including King’s Mist and Stand.  In Cell we find Mrs. Carmody reincarnated in “Bible Thumping Bertha” as they make the exodus out of Boston, and we see a version of Randall Flagg in The Raggedy Man.  I was also reminded of McCarthy’s The Roadby the interactions and relationships of the survivors.  The visciousness of the phoners (they are very much like zombies) made me think of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.  Though not a dystopic, The way the book ends reminds me of The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini.  Even with the similarities, and perhaps because of them, Cell is is a gripping page turner that you won’t be able to put down!

Does A Christian Have a Brain?

I’ve just read an interesting Sunday Salon post from Death by Novel. In it, he talks about the fascinating feature on LibraryThing known as the “unsuggester”, an algorithm that determines which books you would least like based on your library.

As I had never heard of this feature, I had to run right over and check out what my least likely to like books are.

Here is a random list of 10 books LT thinks I won’t like:

The number one book I will hate with a passion: Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar by William D. Mounce
You know, I could say this book would be Greek to me, but I might get boo-ed off the net for bad jokes. But the truths it I would definately have to agree with this one. The closest I want to know about biblical Greek grammar is my Strong’s Concordance.

Second on the list is The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. Considering I have no intention of becoming a preacher, I’ll agree with LT on this. The thing that bothers me, though. is when I clicked ‘why?” it list several of my 1001 books, as well as The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Godfather (okay, I’ll give it to them on the last one). Is the Unsuggester suggesting if I have a brain and read thought provoking books, I couldn’t possible want to be a preacher? This puzzles me…

The third of my would-be most-hated books is The New ‘Mayflower’ by Alan Villiers. Given the fact it’s only owned by one other LTer (who gave it 2 stars, I might add), and the tags suggest it is a book for avid sailors, I’d say this one should be on most people’s unsuggested list.

The fourth dead fish in my net is Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem. I ACTUALLY HAD THIS ONE! and I gave it away on BookMooch… I had barely cracked the binding! It was like a technical manual (“like reading stereo instructions!” as Beetlejuice might say).

The fifth ill-fated fare is The Bible History Old Testament In Two Volumes, Complete and Unabridged by Alfred Edersheim. Okay, now I like history and I like biblial history… but the “Two Volumes, Complete and Unabridged” part says “Library dungeon geek” to me.

The sixth stinker is The Ramabai Reader: Selections from “The High Caste Hindu Woman”, “Testimony”, Letters, “Stree Dharma Neeti” and Other Hindu Women by Pandita Ramabai Saraswati. The title’s so long it doesn’t even fit on the book page. I don’t know why it says I won’t like this, I have The Namesake, and I’m going to get Interpreter of Maladies next week at Waldenbooks (I made this book and Dreams of My Father a promise I’d be back to save them from the cold, lonely shelf). Is LT telling me I wouldn’t like Indian Women’s Lit?

The seventh awful offering is Brothers, we are not professionals : a plea to pastors for radical ministry by John Piper. A second book I should never read from John Piper. Again, I have no interest in the pastoral arts.

The eighth rotten egg is Who Made God? : And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith by Ravi Zacharias. Actually, this one sounds interesting. I think I’ll rebel on this one and mooch it.

The Ninth nixer is Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism by Herman Cappelen…… HUH?????… Is this random words strung together? or does this title actually make sense?

And to round things off, number ten to turn away is The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die by John Piper. Hey, haven’t I seen his name before?

Now, I haven’t put all my books in LibraryThing library. All of my Christian books are in the shelf next to me, but I’ve just never gotten around to them. Some of them are from college (I have a Bachelor’s in Christian Ministry, are you surprised?) Four years of reading text books and non-fiction, and all the years before when I only read classics, have now given me a serious thirst for contemporary fiction. But is LibraryThing’s unsuggesting algorithm saying I can’t be a Christian AND have a brain? Hmmm….

I’ll just leave you with my number eleven “don’t ever read this, you’ll hate it” unsuggestion: The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman. What reason does it give? Because I have Christian books! I’ve got The Purpose Driven Life, Purpose Driven Church, Purpose Driven Youth, Darwin’s Black Box, The Darwin Conspiracy. I’ve got Bentley Little, Harlan Coben, and conservative books like Black Rednecks and White Liberals. BUT wait, LT Al! I also have Stardust and Neverwhere, both by Gaiman. I also have several Palahniuk’s, Steven King’s and Mieville’s.

Am I schizophrenic? or is the Unsuggester the Anti-Christ?

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

Skeleton Crew cover artTitle: Skeleton Crew

Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet
ISBN:0451168615

Publication Date: 1986

Skeleton Crew is a collection of 22 stories.  Most are short stories, with the exception of 2 poems and the novella, “The Mist.”  Like most collections, some of the book’s stories are better than others, two of which have been translated to film.

Aside from the Introduction, the book begins with “The Mist“.  This novella is the whole reason I picked up this book.  It has been recently made into a movie, also titled “The Mist.”  In my opinion, with the exception a few other entries, this is the only story that is worth reading in this book.  Since the movie’s release, “The Mist” is now in print as a stand alone novel. 

This story begins in the aftermath of a hundred-year storm that has left residents without power and a hefty chore of cleaning up.  Steff Drayton asks her husband, David, to run into town to get a few items on her grocery list.  David takes his son, Billy, with him along with his neighbor, Brent Norton, with whom he had had a recent court case that left both men with hard feelings toward one another.  As he gets ready to take off, Drayton takes one last look out on the lake where a bizarre mist has been rolling in from the direction of a nearby military base.

In town, the three enter the Federal Foods Supermarket.  But before they can get their shopping done, all Hell breaks loose… literally.  Stuck inside the store with several area residents and summer tourists, Drayton fights to keep his son and fellow shoppers calm and safe while huge tentacled beasts, ginormous flying bugs and spiders, and pteradactyl-type monsters loom on the other side of the Federal Food’s plate glass windows. 

While beasties troll outside, the breakdown of society occurs inside when Mrs. Carmody, area mystic and resident crackpot, begins spewing Apocalyptic references and claims only the human sacrifice of little, innocent Billy will keep them safe.  Drayton and a handful of others realize it’s no more safe inside than out, and decide to make a daring escape.  But is there any world left out there to go to?

The Monkey is another worthy-to-read story.  It is about a small boy finding a toy monkey that claps the cymbals permanently attatched to his simean paws when wound.  But when he winds it, he discovers it doesn’t work.  Later, when it spontaneously claps and chirps to life, young Hal is frightened.  But when he finds out that, at the exact moment it began to play, his babysitter died, he becomes terrified and throws it back in the closet.  But the monkey likes Hal.  He wants to stay with Hal.  The monkey refuses to stay gone, even after he’s given to the junk man and later thrown down a well, all the while clapping his symbols and taking lives, just to return, once more, to the boy he stalks.   I will never buy one of these monkies after reading this… never ever ever!

The second story that was turned into movie magic is The Raft; it was one of the segment stories  in the second Creepshow movie.  I still remember, to this day, this one scared the bejesus out of me.  I went to summer camp, which had the wooden deck floating in the middle of the pond, just like in the story.  I was so excited when I came across the written story in this book.  Basically, it’s the story of 2 couples, over-sexed college students, who decide to take a forbidden swim in the lakem which is closed for the season.  As their swimming out to the anchored deck, what appears to be an oil slick begins to float towards them.  It is no oil slick… it is some bizarre carnivorous floating monster, stalking the lovers like prey.

Other stories worth honorable mention are: Mrs. Todd’s Shorcut (her obsession with finding the fastest shortcut would stymie Einstein), The Jaunt (you can teleport to Mars, just don’t do it conscious).

Paranoid:  A Chant is actually a poem, but I thought it was pretty cool.  So I will end this review with a quote from it:

“Last night a dark man with no face crawled through nine miles

of sewer to surface in my toilet, listening

For phone calls through the cheep wood with

chrome ears.I tell you, man, I hear.”

Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Lisey\'s Story cover

Lisey’s Story is a love story, King-style.  It is a love story on many levels: Lisey’s love for her husband, Scott’s love for his brother, first, and later his wife, the sister thing of the Debusher girls, Scott’s love of writing, and people’s love of storytelling.

It is the story of fictional author, Scott Landon, and his surviving wife, Lisey (rhymes with “CeeCee”).  Even though Scott has passed, he will still have his say, and directs Lisey on his final “bool”, or a treasure hunt.  Through the process of discovering each clue, she is guided by Scott behind the purple curtain to the memories too dificult to be remembered.  It is through this process that the nature and origin of Scott’s writing genius is revealed, and the connection Scott had had with Lisey’s manic-depressive sister Amanda Debusher who has a penchant for self mutilation and slipping into periods of catatonia.

While I don’t believe this is one of King’s best, it is, however, my favorite.  There is so much in Lisey’s Story that resonates with my own life experiences and writing process. 

First of all, as a recovering cutter, the explanations of why Scott’s dad, Scott himself, and Amanda do it are true to the emotions and reasoning that go on in the mind of a cutter.  The cocept it is a way to “get the bad-gunky out” is one that crossed my mind often before doing it; I had to relieve the pressure valve.  That Manda covers hers because they are her treasures and not for others to see is another truth, as they serve as medals and trophies to my enduring life, trials and suffering.  Cutting is a flight-or-fight response gone sideways, as shown by Scott’s gift of a blood bool to Lisey when they were dating.  You are forced into a spot where you can’t run becuase where can you go to escape yourself? and you can’t fight back against the person who’s confronting you.  The tension must go somewhere, and it is allowed to bleed out.  That Amanda felt no pain and only ecstacy when doing it is spot on, as it releases the brain’s natural opiates.

Second, I have often pondered and been amazed at how different people in different places from different background come up with the same thoughts, stories and discoveries.  Jung called this “collective consciousness”.  King describes this mystery as “the language-pool, the myth-pool, where we all go down to drink” and cast our nets, where the bravest, the Austens, Tolstoys and Doskievskys sail out into the deepest waters to catch the biggest fish.

Third, it is this “pool” that is the centerpiece of “Boo-Ya Moon,” Scott’s version of the parallel dimensional place that we retreat to when life becomes more than we can handle.  King proposes that each person’s place is different and specific to them, but is the same thing.  It is to this place many of the “gorks” in the psych ward have slipped away.  It is in Amanda’s place, the dock by the S.S. Hollyhocks, that Lisey has to go to retrieve her “big sissa Manda bunny.”

The book is woven throughout in the Stephen King fashion with a monster sighted in reflections, a crazed lunatic hell-bent-for-leather to torture Lisey, and a dead cat in a mailbox.  It is a journey into an abusive past with a psuchotic father, the survival and victory over a monster, the acceptance of the death of the love of her life, and collecting the prize at the end of the bool, for all treasure hunts end with the discovery of something precious.