Bites
June 10, 2017

Really late getting to this. Sorry about that. I went to my company’s Pennsylvania office for a couple of days and then I extended my trip and went up to New York City for the weekend to see my parents and go to BEA. Yup. That post will be coming, probably for June’s book haul which I’ll post in a far more timely manner. I got back last Sunday evening and immediately got sick. I’m still trying to kick it, but it’s proving rather resilient to my foot.

No eBooks last month, but my husband did get me a gift certificate to Changing Hands and that went really well.

THE LESSER DEAD is actually from Paperback Swap. Everything else is Changing Hands. THE WALLS AROUND US, WINTERSONG, and EMPIRE OF DECEPTION are all books I’ve already read. Usually when I go into bookstores I’ll look for books I want to add to my library first because I’ve already read them. I’m not compounding my massive TBR any. But then I go and branch out and add to my little problem anyway. SHADOWCASTER and CATACOMB are the second and third books, respectively, in two awesome series and BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP was just an impulse. I love her comics and I wanted something fun. So why not?

Published: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Square Fish
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city’s most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she’s to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight–at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family. (goodreads.com)

I’m . . . underwhelmed by ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. I was expecting more. More tension, more drama, higher stakes. Instead I got a vague world that doesn’t really carry any relevance to its own existence, characters that are a bit stilted, and a ho-hum plot that left me wondering when something was going to happen.

This felt like Zevin wanted to write about someone associated with organized crime without having to do any research for it, which would have been required if writing about something inspired by a current or past crime family. Instead she fasts forwards the timeline a few dozen years, makes chocolate illegal, and builds a “crime family” around a rather lazy idea spawned from watching The Godfather. Except a really light version of The Godfather. It’s very superficial and just skims the surface of organized crime which, I’m sure, would be excused away because it’s told from Anya’s perspective, who really wasn’t involved in much.

But then you have the world. There isn’t any real reason why the world is the way it is. Just that it got bad. Chocolate is illegal because it’s a stimulant? Maybe? Coffee is illegal too because I guess it hops kids up and people do crazy things when on coffee? It’s all very . . . nice try, but no. It’s all just very weak, a poorly developed futuristic New York that felt less like any kind of New York I know and more like this blurry watercolor painting of New York painted by someone who only has some vague idea of what New York, and world building, is actually like. I was disappointed.

And then you have Anya, who isn’t much her own character because she lives her life based on quotes her Daddy gave her. And it always annoys me when an author doesn’t use contractions, whether in dialogue or within a character’s head. I don’t know too many people who don’t use them and to have characters that constantly use words like ‘it is’ instead of ‘it’s’ really bugs me. It just comes off very stilted and unnatural and makes the characters seem stiff.

At the same time I can appreciate Anya’s logical approach to life. It’s a very emotionless approach, and doesn’t necessarily translate well onto the page, but I can appreciate it and I can definitely relate. She also had good interactions with people like Scarlet and Win and even Gable. The way she felt for her brother Leo and how she watched out for Natty were endearing. Her interactions with other characters were good, but her emotionless approach to comprehension and problem-solving proved to be a barrier.

The world was the biggest disappointment for me with ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. Because of that everything else just crumpled around it. It was just fuel for a lazy fire and it’s all underwhelming, at best. I won’t be reading on in the series as a result.

3

Published: March 29, 2011
Publisher: Chafie Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In 1692, when witch trials gripped the community of Salem, Massachusetts, twenty-six children were accused as witches, exiled, and left for dead. Fourteen of them survived.

The Survivors is the first installment of the tantalizing tales of the fourteen ill-fated Survivors and their descendants, who have been content in hiding for over three centuries. Isolated on a Montana mountainside, only Sadie, the rogue daughter, dares to abandon the family’s sacred hiding place. But no matter how far Sadie runs, something always pulls her back.

On a muggy summer night in Tennessee, she witnesses a shocking scene that will change her life forever. It is the first in a sequence of events that will drag her from the human world she’s sought to belong to for over a century and send her back to her Puritanical family and into an uncertain future filled with cunning witches, mysterious nosferatu shape-shifters, dangerous eretica and vieczy vampires, millennia-old mythology, and the search for her own mortality. After all…

HOW DO YOU KILL A SURVIVOR?

The Survivors will steal your heart and invade your mind. Fall into the pages of Sadie’s life, a world so frighteningly similar to your own, you’ll find yourself wanting to go to the Montana mountains to find the Survivors for yourself.

And it is only the beginning. (goodreads.com)

I’m not sure what I was expecting from THE SURVIVORS, but it certainly wasn’t this. There’s very little plot, next to no forward momentum and character motivation, next to no character growth. I felt like I was reading story fodder that had no business being published because it was the author working out the kinks in her story and finding out where the real story was. I mean I guess you could say it’s a character-based story, but there’s hardly any character development. The only character development that happens is Sadie devolving into a love-sick muppet when she meets Everett.

Sadie as a character is kind of crappy. She’s not relatable, she comes off as wooden, and she’s overly concerned with high fashion. I know more about designer fashion than anything else from this book. I mean there was so much fashion name dropping I half-expected to find Hansel and Gretel strutting the runway at the end of that crumb trail. It was just so much. And of course Sadie basically looks like a supermodel, but she doesn’t like all eyes on her, but of course she’s super modest because of her upbringing. She’s not an endearing character and to watch her go from T1000 for all the personality she had to a simpering pile of love-struck goo was just annoying.

The nanosecond of antagonistic tension in the story is dissipated within pages as we find out Mark isn’t a threat and he’s part of this larger family that oMG LOVES SADIE BE OUR SISTER SADIE. Gag me it’s TWILIGHT all over again. I mean the author even references TWILIGHT a couple of times in her book. Sadie turns out to be a total Sue, especially when she meets the Winter family and she falls in obsession with Everett, one of the brothers in this family of collected misfits who are all trying to control their bloodlust and blend in with humans. Plus Sadie’s super special with her purple eyes and her powers and she’s fantastic at everything. I honestly couldn’t help but think of the crappy special effects in the Twilight movies when the vampires were running every time Sadie and Everett went for runs as a means of traveling. C’mon.

I just feel like THE SURVIVORS is trying so hard to be something it’s not. I think the underlying concept of the book is interesting (otherwise I wouldn’t have picked it up) and I don’t mind all this mixing of supernatural elements. But this book was not a story. It was TWILIGHT and Glamour smashed together. There’s no motivation, there’s little to no tension, there’s little to no character growth, and at the end I don’t have many more answers than when I started. I feel duped. Instead of tension or thrills or mystery or even just a hint of something interesting I get a meandering expose told in a stilted voice about a woman who thinks rather highly of herself but in a clinical way falling unhealthily in love with someone she just met and by the end of the book you might have a hint of a story there. Might. I’m not sticking around to find out.

1.5

Published: January 17, 2012
Publisher: It Books (HarperCollins)
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Lying is like 95% of what I do. But believe me: in this book, I’ll let you know exactly how to become a master spy just like me. Obviously, you won’t be as good at it as I am, but that’s because you’re you, and I’m Sterling Archer.

I know, I know, it sucks not being me.

But don’t beat yourself up about it, because I’m going to show you all the good stuff—what to wear; what to drink; how to seduce women (and, when necessary, men); how to beat up men (and, when necessary, women); how to tell the difference between call girls and hookers (hint: when they’re dead, they’re just hookers) and everything about weapons, secret devices, lying ex-girlfriends, and turtlenecks. In a word? How to Archer. (goodreads.com)

I laughed my face off reading HOW TO ARCHER. I could hear H Jon Benjamin’s voice the entire time I was reading and the style was just spot on. If you’re going into this thinking it’s going to be anything other than Archer masturbating to the sound of his own voice (or his own typing), then you don’t know the character. You will not get any fantastic insight into who Sterling Archer is (you don’t need insight; none exists). You’re not going to get any backstory (he actually gives plenty and it involves a lot of hookers and booze). You’re barely going to get a cohesive book (you can thank his editrix for the little you do get).

HOW TO ARCHER is exactly what you would expect when you put Archer and reading together. In fact I’m surprised there were complete sentences in here (although Archer does know how to talk and even under the heaviest of alcoholic influences can talk without slurring). The book is Archer made of words. I don’t know what else to say or how else to describe it. If you like the show you’ll like the book. It’s spot on and it’s like watching the show but, you know. Reading.

5

Published: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Insight Editions
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History is the definitive thirtieth-anniversary exploration of the beloved Jim Henson classic, featuring rare artwork, interviews, and on-set photos.

Journey back to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth in this visually stunning celebration of the enchanting fantasy classic.

Three decades after its release, Labyrinth, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, continues to enthrall audiences with its winning mixture of fairy-tale magic, fantastical creatures, and unforgettable music. Filled with a wealth of rare and unseen behind-the-scenes imagery, this book explores the creation of the film as seen through the eyes of the artists, costume designers, and creature creators who gave Labyrinth its distinctive look. Featuring in-depth commentary from the talented crew and cast—including exclusive new interviews with Jennifer Connelly, Brian Henson, Brian Froud, and George Lucas—this deluxe book brings together a wealth of rare sketches, concept art, and candid set photography to form and incredible treasure trove for Labyrinth fans. With stunning visuals and unparalleled insight into the creation of a true modern classic, Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History is the perfect companion piece to one of the best-loved fantasy films of all time. (goodreads.com)

OMG talk about an excellent find at Changing Hands. And I was totally meant to find it too. I was in a section of the store I NEVER go in (the TV/movies section, it’s just never on my radar) and this beautiful book is just sitting there, all wrapped in plastic and waiting for me to grab it. At first I’m all like, wait, what? Labyrinth? THAT Labyrinth? I grab it, see what I’m holding, and don’t put it down until I’ve paid for it. I vaguely knew the book existed, but I certainly didn’t expect to find it on the shelf at my local bookstore. Surprise! Early birthday present for me!

And it’s glorious. Just absolutely glorious. All the drawings and the photos and the behind-the-scenes information. I love seeing everything it took to create Labyrinth, the sheer amount of time it took just to get the story together. There’s this one sketch of the Sarah character lying on a bed and the caption indicates that it’s in Jareth’s room in his castle. MIND BLOWN. I always know that David Bowie’s codpiece and the tight pants and the “is it sexual/is it not” vibe going on in the movie was very much intended. I just didn’t realize HOW intended. (very, very intended) Jim Henson took great pains to delicately approach this because he knew that it wouldn’t take much to push it over the edge into inappropriate.

And the number of people who auditioned for Sarah. Marissa Tomei, Alley Sheedy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Laura Dern, and then some. Can you imagine??? And the men who were considered for Jareth? Mick Jagger, David Lee Roth, Ted Nugent, among others. I can’t even. I really can’t.

Plus the fact that the Creature Shop worked on the puppets for literally YEARS before the movie even went into principle photography. They basically had ideas and started putting things together and melded those creations with the movie practically seamlessly. It’s amazing. And watching the story itself evolve from this high fantasy epic to what it is today. The number of incarnations it went through is mind-blowing.

LABYRINTH: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL HISTORY is a must-have for any Labyrinth fan. If Jim Henson was as big of a part of your life growing up as he was mine, you’ll adore his behind-the-scenes notes, you’ll smile when you read about what he was like on set, and how much he believed in Labyrinth and how sad it was that he didn’t live to see it grow into the beloved film it is today. Luckily there are plenty of people still left to keep the love alive.

5