Between the Bookends: February 2015

Bookends © Sophie Brown
Bookends © Sophie Brown

This month’s Between the Bookends sees the GeekMoms reading about talking cows, dystopian future entertainment, a steampunked wild west, a wall of Trudd, and some big changes for Harry Dresden.

Holy Cow © Headline
Holy Cow © Headline

Sophie‘s 2015 resolution to read more has started off well as she is currently on her seventh book of the year. She really enjoyed David Duchovny’s debut novel Holy Cow, a somewhat surreal book told in the first person by a cow named Elsie. Elsie learns about meat farms and decides to escape her home and fly to India where she will be worshiped as a goddess. Along for the ride are a Jewish pig named Shalom and Tom the turkey who is starving himself to avoid ending up on a plate come Thanksgiving. The book is highly irreverent but also includes a deeper moral message.

She has also been reading some non-fiction behind-the-scenes books about television. Wrapped in Plastic looks at the importance of Twin Peaks twenty-five years on from its initial broadcast. Whether you love the show or hate it, its impact on modern television cannot be understated. Showrunners examines the rise of the showrunner in the last two decades, the person with overall responsibility for a television show from writing to finance. It suffered from a lack of depth caused by trying to cover too many ideas with input from too many people but still managed to convey a sense of what the role is all about.

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Sophie is currently reading Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey with her bookclub. The story is set in a dystopian future where social class is determined by which colors a person can perceive and how strongly. It’s a very strange book so far with a strong sense of Douglas Adams-style whimsy although she hopes the pace will pick up soon as she is finding it becoming a little repetitive.

Changes © jimbutcher.net
Changes © jimbutcher.net

Ariane finished reading Changes, book 12 of the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. She had been warned to expect big changes for wizard Harry Dresden in this book, made obvious with a title like Changes. In fact, Ariane had been told that there was going to be so many changes that she’d be left begging for the changes to stop. With a warning like that, she braced herself through the whole book for the imminent changes to blow her mind, and she found herself disappointed that said changes didn’t actually really happen until the last ten pages. At least in the end, the very, very end, changes did happen and did blow her mind. Thank goodness it’s not the last book available in the series, because Changes ended on quite the cliffhanger. Ariane had to go start the next book right away to find out what happened next.

 

 

Karen Memory © Tor Books
Karen Memory © Tor Books

Fran read Karen Memory again—the steampunk/wild west story about an gold-rush era “sewing club” (ahem) and the amazing women who run it was so much fun to read the first time, she gave in to temptation and read it again (you can read Fran’s interview with author Elizabeth Bear at SF Signal). She also read V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic—Multiple Londons! Amazing Sartorial Feats! MAGIC!—and the non-fiction The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. The latter is filled with the history of coroner’s science as well as poisons. Okay. A Darker Shade of Magic‘s got some poison and pointy sharp things too. She’s now reading Jodi Meadows’ YA The Orphan Queen, and Ken Liu’s upcoming Dandelion Dynasty book: The Grace of Kings.

 

Station 11 © Knopf
Station 11 © Knopf

 

 

Laura normally avoids dystopian novels but she loved Station Eleven. The author, Emily St. John Mandel, writes tenderly about the current world we take for granted. A world where small rectangles hold the power to connect us with people around the world, where metal cylinders transport passengers across the sky, where warm air flows at the touch of a button, and something magical called the Internet answers every question. In Station Eleven, this time has passed although it can be remembered through artifacts on display at the Museum of Civilization. This novel describes a future where 99% of the population has been killed by a horrific plaque. As expected, there are many dangers including the threat of survivalist gangs and cults. There’s also a troupe of artists who travel from settlement to settlement playing Beethoven and performing Shakespeare. Their motto is lifted from Star Trek: “Survival is insufficient.” Through storylines that stretch across decades, the reader comes to know all sorts of characters whose lives intersect in unexpectedly compelling ways.

Being a book nerd, Laura promptly read two earlier novels by Emily St. John Mandel. The Singer’s Gun centers on a man who was raised by a family of thieves but tries to live more conventionally, even though his job and his love life hinge on deceit. The story takes us from art theft to espionage to an island in Italy where secrets aren’t what they seem.

In The Lola Quartet, the author gives us another disgraced character, this time a promising journalist whose professional lapses force him to move back to his hometown. When he’s shown a picture of a child who may be his daughter, he’s caught up in a dangerous swirl of vengeance he didn’t anticipate. Emily St. John Mandel is an excellent writer. Her novels showcase her many fascinations, from weather to music to comic books to the nuances of personal responsibility. Any of her books are worthy reads. Station Eleven is a new pinnacle, don’t miss it!

Akiko & The Great Wall of Trudd © Yearling Books
Akiko & The Great Wall of Trudd © Yearling Books

Rebecca Angel has been reading the Mark Crilley Akiko series to her nieces. Currently they are on Akiko and the Great Wall of Trudd. Akiko is a human girl who is contacted by very nice aliens to come with them and help their king on the planet Smoo. Akiko decides to go, and sets off with the knowledgeable Mr. Beeba, brave Spuckler, helpful robot Gax, and the sweet but mysterious Poog. It’s a great series with humor, adventure, and learning about courage and leadership. Independent readers will enjoy it, but it makes a fantastic read-aloud!

GeekMom received some of these items for review purposes.

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