Author Archives: theblogwasbetter

Review – Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies

Reader beware: here there be spoilers. This is a discussion, NOT a review. We (the glorious and fearsomely beautiful powers that be) shall be reviewing the book, yes, but we do so to open a discussion based upon intimate details in the plot. Please do not read further unless you’re either taking part in the discussion or you don’t care about being spoiled.

If you do and you are, don’t come crying to us.

You’ve been warned.

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Hello, dear friends, Meghan here! I know, I know, we’ve been missing for quite some time, but this past month has redefined the meaning of “March Madness” for myself and the lovely Diana.  However, we have returned and I have a great many thoughts on Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies.  

Edit by Diana: Yes, crazy indeed! I now commute two hours each way to work everyday. This leaves time on the way home to read, but not much time to blog or be online (my commute to work is spent napping; I’m on a train, I can do that). So hopefully we’ll settle into a better schedule and you’ll be getting more content from both Meghan and I. We know you’ve missed us, lovely subscribers…oh, wait, that’s right. NO ONE’S SUBSCRIBED TO THE BLOG YET! Seriously people, get off your butts! You want to find out when we post something? To get involved with the reviews? To have a chance at winning this month’s participation prize? Subscribe! We don’t care about numbers, but we DO care about people taking part in these book discussions and knowing is half the battle in that respect.

Oh, and by the by, this month’s participation prize is a copy of Cassie J. Sneider’s Fine Fine Music. Say “pretty please” and I may even get it signed by her 😉

I have to admit, I haven’t read a huge amount of zombie fiction – it only really started to ping on my radar this past year and I haven’t had enough time to really get into the genre yet, although what I have read of the genre has made me insatiable for more.  With that in mind, let me just say that I liked Warm Bodies a great deal.

I was wary, at first, because I’d seen the commercials for the movie and I got the feeling that they’d… tweaked the book a bit so they could make into a zombie Twilight-esque rom-com for the masses.  Which, no.  Ew, no.  I was also relieved it wasn’t as Romeo and Juliet-esque as its marketing had made it out to be, because you guys, I’m sorry if I’m the first one to break this to you, but – Romeo and Juliet were stupid.  Plus, I really hate reading about lovers dying in a giant tragic ending of martyrdom.  (I’m a happy ending kind of girl, which you will learn about me eventually, I am sure.)  There were many small details that made you aware that this was someone taking Romeo and Juliet and turning it on its head, but you could also read it and not feel as though you were constantly reminded of this fact.

Despite my misgivings, once I started the book, I was hooked.  First confession: I have a great deal of affection for books where readers are just dropped right into the story, without a whole chapter of ridiculous back story.  Don’t TELL me what kind of world this story takes place in, who these characters are, what they’ve been up to – SHOW ME.  When it’s done right, you just feel like you’ve sunk into a really comfortable bath.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Either way, it took me about halfway through the first chapter, but I was able to sink right into this world once I got over the cynical half of my brain that was convinced I would hate this book and it would be a horrible waste of my time.

From the first page, readers see this new world through the mind of R, a young man of indeterminate age who also happens to be a zombie – and it’s definitely an interesting perspective.  R can’t remember who he was, where he came from, or anything else about his life before he became a zombie, but R still isn’t exactly your normal zombie.  Sure, he stumbles around groaning with the rest of the zombie herd he lives with at an abandoned airport somewhere in what used to be North America.  However, he also listens to Frank Sinatra on vinyl and wishes he could remember his name.  Although he doesn’t want to, R must eat living not only to keep existing, but also because consuming a living brain is the only time when R gets vivid, effervescent flashes of human emotion and life.  It is on a hunting trip for food (re: brains) that R consumes the brain of a human boy and effectively changes the world as they know it.  (Side note: how much do I wish I could change the world just by eating a burger? A LOT, THAT’S HOW MUCH.)

I really loved R as a character, which I was not expecting.  I loved the way that his quiet mind was so eloquent, but all those words were trapped inside a body that could barely get complete sentences out most of the time.  I loved the way he observed the world around him with such yearning, such aching to feel alive again, and yet such detachment from the actual world.  Perry’s memories were a nice part of the story as well.  The way that they interacted with R’s awakening and his relationship with Julie was well done, I thought.  I liked how they gradually built up from R simply experience parts of Perry’s life to R actually conversing with Perry in this memory/dream-like moments.  It would have been jarring had the audience not been gradually introduced to the idea that Perry was involved somehow in what was going on.  Also, the way Marion described the rest of the zombies and their interactions, hierarchy and routines was both interesting and hilarious.

Marion was actually quite good at that, I thought, weaving together the darkness of this world that crumbled and descended into chaos and zombies and death and then also the funny, whimsical world that hummed inside R’s mind and then with Julie and Nora as well.  One of my favorite images was that of Julie’s house with her father, with its blank, white, lifeless walls – until you arrived at Julie’s room, where you had walls painted every color and covered in stolen Salvador Dalí paintings, flooding the room with enough life to almost make up for the blankness of the rest of the house.  Life and death.  A blank, white void and an explosion of color and personality.  I really liked the juxtaposition.

Seriously, don’t believe the movie trailers.  This is not some ridiculous romantic love story like Twilight except funnier and with zombies.  It’s actually a story that was thoughtful and subtle (until the end, at least), and a love story that deserves NOT to be linked with Twilight for the rest of its life, jeez.  As I hinted at before, the end might be a bit heavy-handed, in my opinion, but I honestly didn’t think it detracted from the quality of the story.

All in all, it probably won’t go down as one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, but I still enjoyed it a great deal and I still definitely recommend checking it out.  It was well-written with excellent pacing and fascinating world-building, I thought.  I found R’s inner thoughts to be the most compelling character of the story, with their combination of vague sadness and wistfulness and yet also a bright curiosity and hope.  Now, onward to find more brains – er, zombie stories – to consume!

PS – Did anybody else imagine Julie Taylor from “Friday Night Lights” the whole way throughout this book? No? Just me? Sigh.  I always see her face now whenever I see anyone named Julie.  Plus, I always get the urge to chant “Clear eyes, full hearts – can’t lose!” at the television whenever there’s a football game on.  Damn you, FNL, for infecting me with any kind of feeling about football!

PPS – Do any of you other lovely readers think the inclusion of Dalí was intentional?

PPPS – Did anyone else picture the show “Revolution” while reading this, and feel a bit bitter over the fact that it isn’t anywhere near as awesome as this book? Seriously, I had such hope when I heard about the premise for that show, and then they took those hopes and crushed them with terrible writing, inconsistent characters, and implausible plot-lines.

Okay, seriously, I’m done with my thoughts now.  What did y’all think?

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January 2013 Discussion – Good Omens

Reader beware: here there be spoilers. This is a discussion, NOT a review. We (the glorious and fearsomely beautiful powers that be) shall be reviewing the book, yes, but we do so to open a discussion based upon intimate details in the plot. Please do not read further unless you’re either taking part in the discussion or you don’t care about being spoiled.

If you do and you are, don’t come crying to us.

You’ve been warned.

_________________________________________________________________

The Book Club commences! Remember to let us know if you posted a review on your own blog. As we’re gracious overlords, we’ll even include a link.

Before we get into this, a few ground rules. To discuss this book we’re going to have to (at some point) discuss religion. Be respectful. Thus far I know we’ll have a few flavors of Christian, Wiccan, atheist, and a few of a more spiritual persuasion. We have no compunction against deleting any intolerant comments. So play nice.

We also promised a giveaway, didn’t we? So, take part in the discussion and we shall be randomly selecting someone to win a chapbook of Colin Gilbert’s poetry! It’s good stuff, it is, and this particular chapbook is suitable for school children as well. The more you take part, the better your chances of winning. Just don’t be a jerk and post things just to post. We’re quick on the uptake and will delete your nonsense quicker than Meghan finishes off an apple pie.*

*note: that is, very quickly indeed.

That being said, let’s get onto it!

Review

I have a 2007 Harper Collins edition of the book, which also comes with a 2-page forward and two other extras: one 4-page story called “Terry Pratchett on Neil Gaiman” and one 5-page story called “Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett”. The forward discusses the current cult-like status of the book while the latter two bits tell each author’s rendition of how they met, how they wrote the book, and their thoughts on the other man. Honestly, if you can get your hands on these I’d highly suggest them.

Speaking of “the current cult-like status of the book”, I warn you now: this book will go through more damage than any book you’ve ever known. It’s something about the very nature of the book and I don’t quite understand it. I’m on my second copy (which is a really good track record, actually). The first I lent out and it was never returned. That happens a lot with Good Omens. So does lending it out and getting it back slightly more destroyed than before.* And you’ll destroy it to. Drop it in a bathtub, have it held together with celo-tape. You name it, it will happen to this book.

(*What is it with people borrowing books and giving them back in bad condition? I HATE this. If I lend you one of my precious books, I expect it returned in the same condition [which is pristine, unless it’s Good Omens]. I think I should get book plates that read, “If you break this spine then I will break yours.”)

The story is about the Apocalypse. It’s time for the Anti-Christ to come into his powers and bring about the end of days. Problem is, Hell seems to have misplaced him (the Anti-Christ), and Heaven isn’t too sure where he is, either. To top is off, certain emissaries of both Heaven and Hell kinda don’t want the world to end. Cue hilarity. What results is a rather deep and poignant discourse on free will, predestination, and God’s ineffable plan. Deep issues like this are best explored through comedy. Aristotle stated that tragedies concentrate on the virtuous, while comedies concentrate on the less-than-virtuous. So it is here. I mean, the main characters in Good Omens are the Anti-Christ and an angel and a demon who don’t actually want (what they think is) God’s plan to come to fruition. They don’t play the roles they’re supposed to, whether that be good or bad. In fact, everything and everyone in Good Omens is a shade of grey. (This is, arguably, a discourse on human nature, but more on that later.) The point is, when you think about it, this is a story that best be told through comedy.

The style and tone are very Pratchett-esque. I think this has something to do with Gaiman deferring to Pratchett’s writing when they were collaborating; at that point, Pratchett was far more published than Gaiman. This isn’t a Pratchett novel, though; there are definite differences between the voice in Good Omens and the voice in Pratchett’s other works. Gaiman and Pratchett’s voices meld together and become a third entity. And it works. It’s seamless; it doesn’t feel like two people writing one book at all, if feels like one. And can we please talk about the footnotes? I’d totally forgotten about them (I think I always forget about them until I’m rereading the novel). They add so much to the novel, both in humor and back story. I feel like this might be an idea born from Pratchett, but I’m not entirely certain. I wonder which author came up with the idea of the footnotes first?

I think the central theme is the question of human nature. Adam is the Anti-Christ, but he’s raised as a regular human with no influence from either Heaven or Hell. What results is Adam as a representation of humankind as a whole. Is he evil because he’s born evil? Is he good? Are humans a blank slate?

I also enjoy that we as readers don’t find out precisely how Adam turns out in the end. The ending really isn’t an ending, but it’s not necessarily ambiguous either. The conflict is resolved (the Apocalypse doesn’t happen as everyone supposed it was going to), but we don’t know how it will turn out later, whether Adam will succumb to his evil nature (if he is evil by nature) and bring about the end of the world later on. Instead, we’re struck by God’s Great Punchline – we just don’t know what will happen, and no other being (besides, perhaps, God, although even that’s not a given) knows how it’s going to end, or if it will. It’s a situation that’s mirrored by Anathema Device throwing away the second part of Agnes Nutter’s prophecies. The rest is left for us to find out as it happens, not to read in a book. There’s even a line at the beginning of the Eleven Years Ago section:

“This proves two things:

Firstly, that God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players,* to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

(*i.e., everybody)

All of this, of course, was foreshadowed in the beginning. When Crowley and Aziraphale are discussing the fall of Adam and Eve they go back and forth over their own natures. Aziraphale states that he’s not sure it’s possible for Crowley to do good, and Crowley later (sarcastically) quips that he’s not sure Aziraphale can do evil. This is, of course, because they’re both worried that they had. As Crowley states:

“‘Funny thing is,’ said Crawly, ‘I keep wondering whether the apple thing wasn’t the right thing to do, as well. A demon can get into real trouble, doing the right thing.’ He nudged the angel. ‘funny if we both got it wrong, eh? Funny if I did the good thing and you did the bad one, eh?'”

And of course, who’s to say what’s right or wrong in this case? And who’s to say that what we think is the way things are isn’t actually completely wrong and ludicrous?

Question

Ok! Onto some questions. Feel free to pose your own, answer any and all of these, and to comment on what others have said.

  1. What do you think is the main idea behind the novel? Do you think it works?
  2. How does the humor work with the subject matter?
  3. Do you think that in the world of the novel there’s a divine plan? Were the events in the book part of some larger plan unknown by any other character, or is there no plan at all? Explain.
  4. Do you think Adam would have ended up differently had he not been lost? How?
  5. Do you think that Aziraphale and Crowley are distinctly either good or evil? For that matter, do you think any character is either good or evil? Why or why not?
  6. How do you think humanity is portrayed as juxtaposed with the angels and demons?
  7. How do you think this novel treats Christianity? Is it more or less favorable, more in line with different views, etc? [Again, this is all based on the novel; no arguing about your own beliefs unless you’re somehow applying it to how it relates to the novel.]

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New Years (Literary) Resolutions

We here at The Blog Was Better are looking forward to the New Year. 2012 was rather amazing: living in Dublin, finishing our degrees, the creation of the inseparable duo consisting of our fabulous selves. But 2013 holds much promise, and perhaps more excitingly (for us, at least) many good books. And so, we have decided to make New Years resolutions regarding books, as we know we stand a good chance of keeping these promises.

Being that we are fabulous and horribly interesting, you will of course wish to be privy to such things. As we are benevolent as well as frighteningly amazing, we shall list these resolutions below.

Diana:

  • I resolve to read at least one book per month for pure pleasure; nothing associated with the blog or other reviews, nothing I in any way feel obligated to read.
  • I also resolve to catch up on the (far too many) series that I have fallen behind in due to lack of time. There is no excuse for this; if there is time to sleep, there is time to read. (I say this now, but I will fall asleep randomly in a highly-narcoleptic fashion.)
  • This one is a bit overwhelming, and I’m including it here only as an aspiration: I want to read through all the books I own. I have SO MANY that I’ve bought and want to read, but just haven’t had the time (or another book gets in the way). This is the year I finally read Jonathan Strange and Mr. NorellAmerican Gods, as well as the last two books in the Dresden Files series. For shame I have not read these yet. I’ve owned them for a good while, though, so does that make it better or worse?
  • Finally, I resolve to keep up with this blog. I need an outlet for all the cool things I read, and others need to be more aware of my keen insights.

Meghan:

  • My first resolution involves my work at a library (that counts as a reading resolution, doesn’t it?). That is, it involves me resolving to STOP TAKING HOME LARGE STACKS OF BOOKS EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  My brain is a strange and wondrous place, but it can only read so much. Willpower will be key here, my friends.  The library is a beautiful place, full of shiny and wonderful treasures – i.e. all the books I ever wanted to read ever.  
  • As Diana has, I also resolve to keep up with this blog – obviously, for the sake of the millions of readers who count on my every thought and word. Not at all because I am a sick addict who would love to talk about books 24/7. Nope.
  • Lastly, I resolve to try and get through the rather large stack of books I have sitting on my shelf before buying any new books, with everything from poetry and YA and fantasy to horror and memoirs and non-fiction.  (I am very doubtful regarding this last resolution.  Book stores are my crack, people.) My only caveat is that I am going to force myself to read at least one book this year that I might not otherwise pick up.  Sometimes books can surprise you – thank goodness, for wouldn’t the world be dull if they didn’t? – and I think I’d enjoy a pleasant literary surprise this year.

Have any resolutions of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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News – Upcoming Reading Event

ANNOUNCEMENT!

This spring we shall be reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Why does this warrant an advance notice? BECAUSE OF THIS!

That’s right, folks: come spring there shall be a radio version of Neverwhere! We are very excited. Stay tuned for more information 😉

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Book Choice – January 2013

Ready to get this started? First book up is:

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett!

Good Omens

Good Omens

From Goodreads:

According to “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter,” “Witch” (the world’s only “completely” accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon–both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle–are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

If you’ve never read this book, you must. It’s hilarious. If you have read this book then you won’t complain about reading it again 🙂 We shall convene back here on 1st February for the discussion!

“But Diana and Meghan,” you say, “how will I live for over a month without reading your profound thoughts and astounding insights into literature? What will I do with myself?” FEAR NOT!!! We, your benevolent blogesses, will bestow upon you book reviews and random (yet pertinent) posts. Rejoice!

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Coming Soon!

Coming 2 January 2013, a virtual book club! More details to follow. Follow us to keep posted!

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