Annihilation (The Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

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“That’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.”

People have been kind of going crazy for this Southern Reach trilogy, haven’t they? Or at least it seemed that way, and I admit the pretty cover had me curious, but then I heard other bloggers and Book Riot people talking it up, and it was only $2.99 on the Kindle, and I finally gave it a go.

So. Annihilation. A group of specialists are recruited for the 12th expedition to Area X – not much detail is given about Area X, except that it has been cut off from society for a loooooong time. Multiple expeditions have been sent in, with conflicting results – some expeditions reported a perfect wilderness, some expeditions ended in mass suiciude, some ended in the complete disappearance of the members sent. Our narrator is the biologist in the 12th expedition, and she is accompanied by a psychologist, surveyor, and anthropologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, take detailed notes, and stay out of danger. We never learn their names. They go into Area X not quite knowing what to expect, but finding a massive structure never previously noted in the journals of past expeditions was a shock. Also surprising is the strange, impossible organism that seems to be growing inside of it.

Annihilation was a short read (I believe it’s a little more than 200 pages in print form), and an interesting one. At first, the number of mysteries and unanswered questions was a little frustrating, but as the book progresses I was more interested in just finding out WHY. The biologist is an odd narrator – she’s a woman I can kind of sympathize with, but she’s also an unreliable narrator, which makes for an fun dynamic. There’s a fun literary element to one of the surprises in the book, that I only mention because I know fellow book bloggers enjoy books that are about books and writing. While reading, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a series that I want to continue on with, but by the end I had already created BookSliced alerts for the next two books. The second book, Authority, apparently takes places in the government office that manages these Area X expeditions, and I REALLY want to get that side of it.

So yeah, worth the try. I’m hoping the next two books are equally good, and I’m sure I’ll fly through them.

 

Sarah Says: 3.5 stars

Book Memory Challenge Meme Thingy

Jo at Beyond Strange New Words tagged me in this! Sounds about right for a Tuesday morning.

 

The rules: answer the questions without searching the Internet or looking at your bookshelves and tag five bloggers.

memory challenge

 

1. A book written by an author called Michael: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton…. it’s Michael Crichton, right? Or am I just making up his first name?

2. A book with a dragon on the cover: Eragon! And whatever, that’s a great series.

3. A book about a character called George: Feed by Mira Grant. Ha, and you thought I was going to say Curious George, didn’t you? Almost, my friends, almost…

4. A book written by an author by the surname Smith: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Graeme-Smith. Do hyphenated ones count?

5. A book set in Australia: The Rosie Project! The audiobook narrator does an Australian accent, which was my first clue (or maybe is Australian…? IDK).

6. A book with a name of a month in a title: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio.

7. A book with a knife in the cover: Crap… ummmmmm… I don’t even know.

8. A book with the word “one” in the title: Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie. Yeah I’m stretching now….

9. A book with an eponymous title: Emma by Jane Austen. That’s what that means, right?

10. A book turned into a movie: The Hunger Games. (Come on, this one is SUPER easy these day.)

 

I wouldn’t mind this thing being a bit longer. I am FOREVER double-checking things online, so it sucked not to do that… I started second-guessing everything.

“Is that really this name?”

“Is that really the title?”

“Am I just imaging that character’s name???”

I’m not going to bother tagging anyone, because lazy like that… but by all means, please grab it if you’re bored and want to test your book memory skills ;-)

~Sarah

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

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I’ve never been to an Ikea. I always kind of wanted to go to one, if they ever expanded and came to my area. But now… I don’t know.

Horrostor is a fun, gimmicky horror-esque novel. Basically, employees work in this Ikea-like store called Orsk somewhere in Ohio and they start noticing damage occurring overnight while the store is closed- broken dishes, knocked over furniture, defiled sofas, etc. The store manager selects two other people to pull an overnight shift with him in order to catch the vandals. But the vandals might not be human. Dun dun DUNNNNNNN.

As far as Halloween-reading goes, this was a good pick. It’s quick, it’s entertaining, and it’s creepy as all hell. The actual book is laid out kind of like a store catalog, which is just fun and quirky. I mean, I don’t really have anything to other than that it was a fun read, so if you’re still looking for a Halloween book to fit in this week – here you go.

 

 

Also, I pictured Basil, the store manager, as Moss from The I.T. Crowd. I don’t know why, but it possibly made it even more fun. I like Moss.

 

Sarah Says: 3.5 stars

Sarah Sunday!

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Fuck, is it Sunday already??

So I didn’t do a Sarah Sunday post last week, because it was the readathon on Saturday and then I watched my nephew all day on Sunday and I was SO TIRED. But it’s been a pretty good two weeks. I had a couple days off last week, which was amazing and magical and christ I can’t wait to not work. This week was busy and tiring. The next couple weeks will probably be the same. Hooray.

I had date night with the honeyman on Thursday and we just went to dinner and then walked around the mall, and even though that sounds boring it’s actually kind of perfect, especially when I’m working so much and we don’t get to hang out as much. We eat delicious food and look at things and TALK and it’s the best. I love that even after 7 years talking to him is still like the best thing ever. (Sorry I’m sappy, but in three months he’ll be at basic and ahhh I’ll miss him a lot then.) Also, I can talk to him about books that I’m reading or have finished and he actually listens, and in a weird way it’s actually super helpful – it helps organize my thoughts and attempt to talk about a book in a way that will sound interesting, I guess? I suck at telling people about books (and movies, and tv shows, and games….). Even when I used to work in a bookstore. Even trying to talk to friends about them. Even after years of blogging.

cant say stuff good

 

I’m starting to finally realize what the hell is wrong with me. When I start to tell a person about a book, I immediately start to stress about getting the gist of the book out quickly so I’m not boring said person to death, and then because I’m rushing it sounds all jumbled and makes no sense, and then I worry about trying to tell just enough to sound interesting and fun without giving too many spoilers, and for fuck’s sake… it’s ridiculous. I’m going to go ahead and blame this on the fact that I have like two people who read in my life, and they both tend to not like the same kind of books as me anyways. My reviews are SLIGHTLY better, but not much. And I know they’ve gotten worse in the last year, because with this job I just don’t have as much time to spend thinking about my books and writing and re-writing reviews until they sound half-way decent. So… sorry for that, but thank goodness for the honeyman for listening to me be excited about the things I’m reading, or my reviews would be even worse.

I had a girl’s night at a friend’s house last night, which was fun. I go to maybe two of these a year, in which my friend has a ton of girls over and everyone drinks and plays games and chats, and it’s a good time and pretty much the only time I socialize with other women that aren’t family or co-workers. It doesn’t mean I actively like most of them – at these girl’s nights, there’s usually only one or two other ladies there besides my friend that I actually enjoy talking to – but it’s still nice to go out and do once in a while.

What else… BookRiot’s sister site about comics, Panels, finally released their first podcast and I’m SO excited about that. In the first episode they mention something about going to an X-Men burlesque show in NYC.

 

And speaking of comics, if any of you lovely readers live in the Rochester area, next Sunday 11/2 there is a big comics sale happening! 1st Print Comics is hosting it – see the flyer at the top right of my blog for details. All comics are going to be $1, and half of the proceeds go to the Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western NY. I can’t wait to check it out and stock up on some things. Let me know on Twitter if you’re going to stop by!

And now I have a nice day of working out, laundry, and hopefully reading ahead of me. And then it’s back to work tomorrow. Le sigh.

How’s your weekend going?

~Sarah

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

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I found my way to this book in a really meandering way. I heard about a book called Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson mentioned on the BookRiot podcast, and then they mentioned that Thompson had been a guest on this other podcast called You Are Not So Smart, and I listened to that episode and it was really interesting and entertaining. And then somehow this came up as a suggestion on Audible, and I recognized the name, and here we are.

You Are Not So Smart (the book) is about all of the little ways we kind of lie to ourselves and are influenced constantly by outside factors. As McRaney says in the introduction:

“You will soon realize you are not so smart, and thanks to plethora or cognitive biases, faulty heuristics, and common fallacies of thought, you are probably deluding yourself minute by minute just so copy with reality. Don’t fret. This will be fun.”

And you know what – it was fun! Each chapter is centered around one idea, which is discussed and given background information on studies and scientific research to prove it’s validity. It was disturbing to learn about such small things can influence your behavior; for instance, something as simple as a briefcase being in the room might make you behave more competitively and greedily, without you noticing. But mostly, it was fun to learn about all of these bizarre little things. The chapters on fallacies were my favorite – the illogical assumptions and arguments we routinely make and try to use. I absolutely recognized some of my own behavior in this book.

The great things about this book though is that it never makes you feel dumb. Some of the ways we delude ourselves are a result of evolution and were an asset that helped humanity get to where it is now. Also – pop psychology isn’t usually my jam. I tend to take all of this with a grain of salt, or at least with the notion that there were always exceptions to every rule. I appreciated that there seemed to be a lot of data behind the information in this book, and the paper edition has a nice bibliography listed in the back.

If you’re interested in the audiobook, I recommend it. I’ll probably buy myself a paper copy eventually to peruse and refer to, but the audio was engaging. As always, my least favorite thing about audiobooks is the inability to take notes in margins or highlight passages. The narrator, Don Hagen, has a great, cool-sounding voice and he sounded like he had a firm understanding of the book.

Sarah Says: 4 stars

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

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What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund has been getting a lot of buzz around the blogosphere, mainly because hey! A book about reading! We like reading! I was actually super excited when this showed in my the fourth BookRiot Quarterly box.

The premise is a good one – what exactly is happening when we read? When a character or scene is described, how are we picturing it? The authors often given incomplete descriptions, so how are we creating these images in our heads? Are we just filling in the blanks? Are we imagining outlines rather than full-colored characters and objects? How is this mental process different from when we consume TV or comics? I definitely found myself sitting there in between chapters kind of mulling things over, thinking about what my mind is doing when I read, what I notice and imagine.

So why am I rating this kind of low? Because I would’ve enjoyed more science. In all fairness, that’s not really the author’s background. Peter Mendelsund is a book cover designer. But the nerd in me would’ve loved more solid data about the actual mental processes and biological happenings that occur when we read. A lot of this book is Mendelsund’s own musings on things that classical authors have already said about how words form mental images. It seemed like there was an abundance of speculation or curiosity without much actual scientific research or insight. Also, this book is VERY visual. The 400 pages or so fly by because there’s probably just as much imagery as there are words. Sometimes the images and graphics added value to what Mendelsund was saying – sometimes it seemed distracting and just kind of inserted for the hell of it.

No matter what, if you love reading then this is probably a book you’ll want to pick-up. It’s a beautiful ode to the act of reading and devouring language, and would make a fantastic gift for any book-lover. I’m happy to have it on my shelf.

Sarah Says: 3.5 stars

#Readathon – The End!

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Here we are! The end of the readathon. I’m sad it’s over :( Since my last update…

  • Started Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach
  • Finished the second volume of Locke & Key
  • Took another nap…
  • Woke up again at 6 am
  • Read more, showered, started laundry, read some more

End of Event Meme:

Which hour was most daunting for you? Ummm… Whatever hour 3 AM was? Hour 19, I think?
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? So the Locke & Key comics are AWESOME, and will totally keep you interested. And Horrorstor was a good quick read.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Not at all! It was a good time :)
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? In particular, everything seemed to work really smoothly. I know the Goodreads Group was a new thing this year, but I never got around to checking it out. Oops.
How many books did you read? What were the names of the books you read?

  •  Finished three – Horrorstor, and the first two volumes of Locke & Key
  • Read three single issue comics (Nailbiter # 3, 4, & 5)
  • Got about halfway through volume 1 of Classic Deadpool
  • Read about a hundred pages in Honor’s Knight

Which book did you enjoy most? Hmmm… basically all the comics.
Which did you enjoy least? Horrostor, but I still enjoyed it. It was creepy, but probably not one of those books that will stick with me.
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I’ll definitely be a reader during the next readathon… anything other than that, we’ll have to wait and see! I’d love to be more involved if my schedule allows it.

 

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If only I could devour books like this… I’d get SO much more reading done…

 

 

I had a blast! And taking naps was probably smart. I’m watching my nephew today, I have laundry to do, and I still want to do more reading! I’m sad the readathon is over… I had so much fun prepping for it and now it’s already over! Ah well. Till next time.

~Sarah

#Readathon – 16 hours in!

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I can’t believe it’s midnight already! Only 8 more hours left!

  • I read more Classic Deadpool.
  • Was about to start Honor’s Knight earlier, but then the honeyman called and said he was on the way home, so I shredded the chicken in the crockpot for dinner.
  • When said honeyman got home, we chatted and then we ate and watched The Big Bang Theory and hung out for a bit.
  • I read the first volume of Locke & Key. HOLY CRAP you guys. SO GOOD.
  • Made cookies. Well, “made” in that I put the pre-formed cookie dough on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. Yummm.
  • Got partway through the second volume of Locke & Key, but had to break to take another hour-or-so long nap.
  • And here we are!

Also, I missed the mid-event meme earlier so I’m going to do it now:

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Locke & Key, volume 2
2. How many books have you read so far? Finished two.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Hmmm… I don’t even know anymore. Maybe Annihilation, on my Kindle?
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Well, the honeyman came home earlier so that required a bit of a break from readathon-ing.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? HOW FAST IT’S GOING. Seriously you guys, there’s only 8 hours left and I haven’t even started most of the books that I wanted to start. Ahh!

Looking back on it, I was so warm and cozy while reading I was bound to get drowsy. Shawls are PERFECT for keeping warm while reading, but I guess they also tend to induce naps. Oh well.

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I love my shawls and ponchos. I am basically a 70-year old woman.

 

 

These next hours are going to be sketchy. I am going to do my damnedest to stay awake. I have a new energy drink, and tons of books to go. Knowing that I am going to be baby-sitting my nephew in 8 hours is not exactly encouraging though… so another nap may happen. We’ll see. I’m going to set alarms on my phone for every other 2 hours, just in case.

Who’s still with me? How are you holding up?

~Sarah

#Readathon – 8 hours in!

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Time for another update!

  • Went to the comic book store & picked up my copy of Classic Deadpool, Volume 1!
  • Came home and threw the chicken in the crockpot for the chicken tacos later. Mmmmmm. The honeyman is at his first drill today, and I know he’s going to be happy to come home to chicken tacos.
  • Snacked on jalepeno popps and fresh green peppers.
  • Started reading Classic Deadpool, which is fantastic so far, even if I don’t know who all of the other characters are here and there. I’m piecing them together as I go.
  • I was right, I love Deadpool. I knew I would.
  • Exhaustion from not-great sleep last night and happiness of reading, food, and Gabby cuddles finally overcame me and I took an hour or so nap. Ah well. I’ll take tiny naps here and there from now on to get through the ‘thon. But seriously, Gabby has been SO sweet and cuddle-y today, how could I resist???

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So, back to reading! I’m going to pause in Classic Deadpool soon to read other things from my pile. I’m really excited about Honor’s Knight, and I still have all those Locke & Key volumes from the library to dig in to!

How is everyone else holding up?

~Sarah

#Readathon – 4 hours in!

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My reading helper. She is too cute, I can’t even.

 

Checking in! How is everyone doing?

So let’s see… so far I’ve read Horrostor by Grady Hendrix – only a little more than 200 pages, but still – first book complete. Yes!

Because I didn’t sleep well last night, I’m already feeling drowsy – despite the help of coffee and Dr. Pepper Ten. Already dipped into my little cup of Nutter Butter cookies too. Sooooo I’m going to spend a bit online blog hopping and tweeting, and then I’m running to the comic book store real quick to get my copy of Deadpool that came in. And then… who knows!

How are you guys doing?

 

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Seriously Gabby, this is only making me want to sleep even more.

 

~Sarah