We’re taking Donald’s Beehive Book Club and shaking it up a bit. Since we have several book lovers on staff here and we have wildly varying tastes, we thought we’d jump on his bandwagon and share some of our recent notable reads too. And we want to hear about what you’re reading, so feel free to tell us in the comments section.
SW Parra: “NOS4A2,” by Joe Hill.
The word “Christmasland” doesn’t generally evoke displeasure, but since reading Joe Hill’s book, “NOS4A2″ (which came out in spring) — a creepy, supernatural thrill ride fueled by the disturbed — I’m not looking forward to the seasonal holiday standards like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘”Jingle Bells.”
Those tunes haunt in the background, and Hill uses them with irritating splendor. There is a dark side of humor and inside jokes (just read the book title to yourself and you’ll catch the personalized license plate meaning). It’s a clue to the fact that this tale involves a car — a vintage Rolls Royce Wraith- – that, like a hearse, is a symbol for death. The owner is the creepy bad guy Charles Talent Manx.
Unlike the silent horror film star in “Nosferatu,” Manx is not a traditional blood-sucking vampire. Instead he relishes on the youthful souls of children, prowling around in the Wraith and preying on those kids on the fringe or merely left unattended. He collects and harbors them at his “Christmasland” property where they exist as ghoulish beings trapped inside tree ornaments.
Manx is assisted by the mentally imbalanced Bing Partridge, who reveres Manx as superhero and savior. Bing is frightening all on his own — a patricidal maniac, his crimes of horror are perhaps the most chilling.
I should note that Hill is also the son of author Stephen King. Scary, right?
Fortunately, Hill provides us with a heroine. We meet Victoria McQueen when she’s just a tween and quickly learn of her gift to cross through time and space while riding her Raleigh bicycle through a dilapidated covered bridge. She uses the bridge to find lost things. We ride that bike with her and fast forward to her adulthood as a mother, established author, graphic artist and motorcycle maven.
The setup between Victoria, also known as “The Brat,” is established early when during one of her cross-through journeys she lands in the proximity of Manx, his devilish Wraith and one of his creepy children. Vic battles her way out of a deadly hide-andn-seek situation, making a harrowing escape, and for this Charlie Manx is left ever wanting. Years pass but his desire for revenge is so great that not even a coma or death can prevent him.
Hey, it makes for a scary ‘Christmas’ present.
Kathy: “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth.
This novel is the sequel to Veronica Roth’s wonderful dystopian YA book “Divergent.” Set in Chicago, the story follows Tris and Four/Tobias, teens who are dealing with a future in which people are split into factions and deal with lots of scary stuff like mind control.
Like I’ve found with many second books in a series, “Insurgent” didn’t hit me as powerfully as the first book. But it is really good. In the first book, the reader discovers this new world and its conflicts and gets to experience a budding romance. The second book moves the story along in terms of understanding the conflict and what’s at stake, but it puts the romance through some tough challenges. What is really strong about the book is its look at human nature and the effects of guilt, grief and mistrust. In many ways, Tris’s personal journey shows the deep impact of loss and the necessity of self discovery. That, and trusting your own instincts.
There were times during “Insurgent” where I got really mad at the main characters, but in the end I loved them as much as I did in the first book and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I purposefully waited until now to read “Insurgent” so that I would be ready for the third book “Allegiant,” which comes out Oct. 22. I’m glad I waited, otherwise I would have gone mad thinking about how it might end. I suggest power reading both Roth books in time for book 3. Plus, you’ll be ready for the “Divergent” movie.
I am late to the game on this one, seeing as a friend was raving about this book when it came out. Seven years ago! The adapted movie (which I haven’t seen) is already four years old. But better late than never, I say.
“The Road,” is an end-of-times novel about a father and his son and their journey to … no where, actually. They’re not going anywhere, because the world is ruined and there is no where left to go. This is a story about forward movement for the sake of sanity. It’s a post-apocalyptic world full of cannibals with bad teeth and if you stop, you die. And get eaten and left as a pile of skin and entrails.
Make no mistake. You’re going to die anyway. The movement gives you the illusion of control of something.
If you’re not careful, if you let your mind wonder some, this book will leave you utterly despondent and questioning your entire worthless existence. Which is probably why the book got such critical acclaim. I’ll never look at someone pushing a shopping cart the same way again.
One of the best reads this past year came to me via my hubs, who heard about the book from Entertainment Weekly’s recommended books list. “Feed” is the first novel in the Newsflesh trilogy, exploring a post-zombie-apocalyptic world through the guise of a presidential race.
The rundown: A collision of two man-made viruses (one a cure for cancer and the other for the common cold), both airborne, infect the entire populace of the planet. The result: the Rising. Upon death, the virus amplifies and mammals over 40 lbs. become zombies. Hippos, horses, large dogs, cows, humans — that’s a lot of scary zombies.
The story takes place 20-years after the Rising and follows an embedded news team covering a candidate’s presidential campaign — providing insights into, and the struggles of, life in this world.
A well-crafted story with complex and interesting characters and a highly-developed setting, this book is smart and savvy — and unpredictable. And due to the author’s intense research into virology and technology, the storyline actually feels plausible. I’d say it’s a must-read for sci-fi and tech geeks alike.
Bethany: “Lover Eternal,” by J.R. Ward.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but yes, I read sexy vampire books. “Lover Eternal” is the second in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. These are popcorn books — quick, easy reads that you pick up after wading through a 1,000-page book, or something with cancer in it. They’re kinda like the “Entertainment Tonight” of the TV World — mindless, but fun.
Vampires in these books aren’t made but born, and the brotherhood is an elite group of purebred vampires who protect all the other vampires from the people who hunt them. They have ridiculous names like Wrath, Rhage and Zhadist. I’ve only read two (and cannot pronounce the first, “Dark Lover,” without saying it with a snobby British accent, “Dahk Lovah”). The books are a tad formulaic: Good girl falls in love with bad boy, and must overcome her shock at learning he’s a vampire. Bad boy doesn’t feel he’s worthy of such a special person and good girl must help him learn to love again. Oh, and there’s lots and lots of sex. Vampire sex.
They’ve got the kinds of covers that I don’t want to be seen with in public (yea for e-readers). But despite all that, the writing and the plot are solid. They’re good entertainment, pure and simple. I could not put them down and read them both in about three days each. So if you need a break after the book Donald recommends below, this is a good choice.
Donald: “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America,” by George Packer.
Once in a while a title comes along that twists around your idea of what a book can be – whether it’s in outlook, style or structure. “The Unwinding” makes its mark in terms of structure. New Yorker writer George Packer takes a simple premise — talk to a bunch of different people about the new economy in the United States and how it affects them – and weaves those stories together with mini-profiles of public figures that had an impact. He then throws in an almost stream-of-consciousness series of unconnected news headlines. In the wrong hands, it could have been a mess. But Packer is like a painter: a dab of a story here, a dab of history there, dabs of scene-setting and character vignettes to add complexity. The result is a fierce and poignant view of an economy marked by the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots — and a Wall Street that just seems to get richer even as its excesses cause so much havoc.
Packer’s literary technique might sound artsy, but the issues are serious. We meet a family, supported by a minimum-wage paycheck from Walmart, that just hangs on. We look at the city of Tampa, ground zero for the real estate bubble, which sprawls forever. We follow an entrepreneur who wants to fuel cars with cooking oil. We chart the upward climb of a woman who loses her job on a car assembly line and reinvents herself as a community activist. We witness the author skewering Sam Walton, the man that he feels more than any other brought this new economy, with its lingering almost-underclass, upon us. We get a taste of politics, watching as a mid-level grunt for Joe Biden switches over to lobbying, makes a mint, then quits the whole terrible industry in disgust.
There really isn’t a sense of new ground being broken here – no new insights on the growing gap between rich and poor, no dirt unearthed about who caused the mortgage crisis. But Packer manages something that seems even more momentous: His book feels like a tone poem. After reading this book, I think of America in the new economy and get a feeling in my gut – not a simple feeling, really, but something more complex, and hard to put into words. I just wish that feeling was more pleasant.