The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower book coverI have been meaning to read Octavia Butler for some time. She is an author who I have heard about from several sources and I finally got around to reading one of her books. I started with The Parable of the Sower. I had no idea what it was really about, and I’m sure if I had known, I would probably not have read it at this time. Though I really did enjoy the book despite my reasons for saying I would have put it off a bit longer.

The Parable of the Sower is basically a pre-apocalyptic novel. The events of the story show a fairly realistic degradation of society into the fairly popular apocalyptic scenarios we see today with such shows as The Walking Dead or Mad Max (they did make a new one) or what have you. I honestly envisioned the events of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road taking place a decade or two after this story. But this book isn’t all doom and gloom. It definitely doesn’t shy away from darker material, but uses it only in a realistic way. It doesn’t contain anything simply for shock value and it is overall a compelling read that is excellently written. I kept picking it up despite the need to decompress at times.

This book is part one of a duology titled The Books of Earthseed. Though we see the world slide into chaos through young Lauren’s eyes, we see a resilient character build a community around her beliefs that may shape the future of humanity. The story begins in 2024 and spans about 4 years. This book was published in 1993 when 2024 seemed a long way off. Now, here at the start of 2021, we are close enough that the events of the book seem near impossible (but not entirely, unfortunately). Though the dates within the book began as a solemn foretelling of a potential future, it will soon become a (hopefully) alternate timeline story of what may have been. A future I hope we all avoid. Except, of course, for the part where we have settlements on the moon and Mars.

The second book is titled The Parable of the Talents. I will not be reading the sequel right away for two reasons. The first is that this first book wraps up well and can be read as a standalone novel. The second is that I hope to read something a bit more uplifting before returning to this story. Again, I really did enjoy this book despite the subject matter. I don’t often read end-of-the-world type books though I have read a few and enjoyed them. This one was no exception. If anything, it has encouraged me to read more by Octavia Butler. Her novel Kindred is more well-known and I may try it some time this year.

If you are a fan of these types of books, such as Wanderers by Chuck Wendig or Stephen King’s The Stand, then you will likely enjoy this book as well. If you have never read Octavia Butler, like I had not until now, I suggest trying her books even if you don’t choose to start with this one. I look forward to reading more by her myself.

Happy Reading.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue book coverThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is V.E. Schwab’s latest novel. I dare say it may well be her masterpiece, though of course I hope, as I do for all artists, that the best is still to come. Perhaps this will be only one of her masterpieces. It is beautifully written and intriguing through the final page.

Addie LaRue makes a deal with a god. The result is that she will seemingly live forever. The cost being that no one remembers her, while she remembers everything. They don’t simply forget her as time goes by, they forget her shortly after she is out of sight. Thus her journey, the parts we get to see, spans over 300 years. We get a plethora of events through parallel stories. One semi-recent, the other spanning Addie’s three centuries to bring her to the end of this story.

One of the aspects that drew me to this book was that of time. I love stories that manipulate time or change it in some way. This one doesn’t manipulate time, but it does amazing things with it. We see Addie’s tragedies and triumphs as she defiantly refuses to give in to her twisted consequence of her deal. No one may remember her, but she lives and explores and watches the years go by reveling in what tomorrow may bring. She has an unending fascination that repels the evils of the world.

Another aspect I found incredible was how time is used to examine the way we build relationships. Also, how memories fade or change, or simply disappear. How memory can impact our relationships with our friends, family, and loved ones. Living forever may mean losing everyone you know eventually, but living forever without being able to build any real relationships is something else entirely. Another reason her ability to enjoy every moment is admirable. We see Addie’s life and wonder what will happen within the confines of her curse, and we see the many relationships and encounters only she can remember.

I love stories that stay with you, and I believe this one does. The conceptual circumstances of Addie alone were compelling for me and I’m sure they will fascinate many. Though the story may mean something different for each reader. We bring our own histories with us when we read a story. We view the pages through a lens unique to only us. But I dare to call this story timeless (pun intended). There is a foundation within it where anyone can find ground to bring parts of their own lives along. To build alongside and weave throughout the pages. When there is room for growth or reflection within characters such as Addie, it is nearly impossible to forget her.

Happy Reading.

My Favorite Books This Year (2020)

2020 has been a wild, scary year, but as always, books remain a great way to escape, learn, grow, and find enjoyment. I decided to put a quick “year in review” together of what I read and enjoyed. A few of these items I’m glad to say were on my list of series to read at the beginning of the year. There is just under 3 weeks left of the year, which is plenty of time to read a few more (which I will be doing), but I figured I had plenty to put into a list.

Murderbot Series

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
I started the year off going through the first several installments of The Murderbot Diaries. The newest released in May this year, Network Effect, and the next comes out this coming April titled Fugitive Telemetry. This series is simply fantastic and I am glad I now have it on my shelf.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew QuickThe Silver Linings Playbook book cover
One of my more recent reads, I really enjoyed this one and go into detail about my thoughts on book versus movie on my post about the book.

Talking to StrangersTalking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell’s newest book delves into how we perceive those we do not know and how a few recent events escalated the way they did. Touching on some dark material while illuminating on how we interact to others subconsciously, this book is a great insight into how we move through society and, unfortunately, how we fall into situations of miscommunication.

The Inheritance GamesThe Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The great start to a mystery I happily compare to Knives Out, one of my favorite films of yesteryear. Filled with intrigue and questionable family dynamics, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De ZoetThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
This was one that has been on my shelf for some time. I picked it up after enjoying Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas novel and wanted to read more of his work. I was surprised with this one, but pleasantly so. The story was much different than expected though the prose was beautiful and enticing.

Every Tool's A HammerEvery Tool’s A Hammer by Adam Savage
An enlightening look into the life of a main Mythbuster, this book was a great insight into building and what goes into creating some of the iconic films we all know and many love. I learned a lot about craft and making things and I really enjoyed Adam’s passion for what he does (even when things don’t turn out quite like he wanted). It was great to get to know more about him.

All The Light We Cannot SeeAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book came as a recommendation and it was a beautiful book to read. The story was interesting as it covered some of the magical, invisible experiences of our world while centered around young characters trying to make it through World War II.

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
A series on my list and an author I had yet to read. This series opened me to Wolfe’s work and I am a fan. I enjoyed this four book series and am about to finish a collection of short stories. I wish I would have read him sooner, but I am glad to have found his work regardless. His prose is not for everyone and I liken many of his stories to a veil with an entire universe hiding beneath. I intend to read more, and I will not be surprised if he becomes one of my favorite authors.

Books of the New Sun

Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook book coverI finally got around to reading The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I had seen the movie a long time ago when it first came out in 2012 and put the book on my TBR. Now, roughly eight years later, I have gotten around to reading it. The book is a quick read at 289 well-spaced pages, and I read it over the span of a few days while fitting in homework, family holidays, and video game time.

All of these may make me sound like I am in high school or college, but I am well beyond those years (except the homework is for another degree so technically I am in college again I guess). I kind of wish I had read this book in high school because it probably would have helped me since I dealt with major mental health issues back then, primarily depression. This book came out in 2008 when I would have been a junior in high school. I really wish I read it when it came out, but you can’t change the past.

Perhaps I am drawn to this story because of my past, or because this book, like all good books, has a human element that captures you when you are reading it. The story is about a man in his early to mid-thirties who is recently taken out of, not technically released, from a mental health facility. His only goal is to get back together with his wife, and we as readers go along for his journey through therapy, family struggles, Eagles football, and his new friendship with a woman who is also struggling with her own mental issues after the death of her husband. I promise the story is not all down in the dumps. It is rather upbeat and hopeful despite all the conflict, mental and otherwise. It is called the “silver linings” playbook after all.

I first saw the movie and I have to say that I think I like the movie a little better than the book. Blasphemy, you say, but hear me out. The book is still good which is why I am recommending it. I like the movie because it does have a stellar cast with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert de Niro. The movie adaptation did change a few things from the book but I think they were good changes that made the story stronger, but I also think they were changes needed for the different medium. The book is told in first person so we see everything through Pat’s eyes, the main character. We get to read his thoughts and how he sees everything and why he reacts the way he does. You don’t get thoughts in movies very well even with voice overs. There is also a lot more family dynamic in the book, which I appreciated because it really expounded on Pat’s issues and showed how many “normal” people also have issues related to mental health even if they aren’t diagnosed or treated. The different perspective caused by the medium of film made some of the changes necessary though they kept the overall story the same, but I liked the changes.

I am recommending this book for a few reasons. It is a good story. It is a great look into mental illness and how it impacts peoples lives. It is a bit inspiring because Pat is always looking for his silver lining through the all the turmoil and he is really working on himself, and I think we all need to take time to work on ourselves sometimes. I hate to say many people probably don’t know how to work on themselves, which is another reason I liked the book. It gives a perspective on how to do so.

I am very glad I finally got around to reading this one. As I tell my wife, I am going to read all of my books eventually, it is just going to take time (while I accumulate even more books (sorry dear, I love you)).

If you have ever struggled with mental issues, or knows someone who has, or are interested in the subject, or simply want to give this book a shot because it is a good book, or liked the movie and are interested in the book, then I encourage you to read it.

Happy Reading.

The Neil Gaiman Reader

Neil GaimanI am doing something I thought I would never do. Today, I am recommending a book I have not yet read. This sounds counter-intuitive and perhaps a bit wrong, but I actually have several reasons to recommend it. The book is The Neil Gaiman Reader by, as you may guess, Neil Gaiman.

I’ve read a decent amount of Neil Gaiman’s work and this book is a collection of 52 stories. A handful are excerpts from a few of his books. I have read several of his books and a few collections of short stories, so technically I have read a good amount of what is in this book from previous collections.

The four excerpts are from Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I have read all but Neverwhere and Anansi Boys and they are both on my list of books to read (both books are on my shelf and just a few of many that I have yet to get to).

This book was released just recently, which is one reason I have yet to read it, but it is an excellent volume that is great for anyone who has never read Neil’s work and wants to try it out. It is also an essential for any diehard Gaiman fans.

Since this book is ideal for those who have never read him before, I figured it was okay for me to recommend it for that reason. Of course, those who are already fans don’t need any recommendations of his work from me. They already know what they like. I know what works of his I like, having read several already, and I know which ones I want to check out next when I get to them. In fact, I’ve been considering reading Coraline soon as I haven’t read it yet and it is that time of year for spooky reads. It is also a shorter work that fits into my currently busy schedule.

So, if you have ever been interested in trying Neil Gaiman’s work, perhaps this is the prime opportunity for you to do so. You can always check your local library if you don’t want to make a purchase, or you can perhaps borrow a copy from that friend who has been bugging you to try anything by Neil Gaiman.

Happy Reading.