Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

     Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
     Published June 10th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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     First Line: Lisa is pregnant.


Hold on a sec.


Have you read this? It's a story with a familiar premise involving a giant meteor colliding with a neighboring celestial body, namely our moon. It was to be quite the show, nothing major but an event that would light up the sky and create a lasting once-in-a-lifetime memory. The world watched and waited, oohs and aahs on the tips of countless tongues like spectators gazing at fireworks on the 4th of July. Only, the meteor didn't just hit the moon.

It moved it.

The world erupted in a fury of storms, earthquakes, tidal waves and mayhem. In a matter of months all light from the sun was eclipsed by a blanket of volcanic ash and the summer gave way to dismal, piercing cold. No order, no protection, no comforts and no food.

Miranda and her family prepared for disaster better than some but there are several mouths to feed and an ever dwindling supply of food. Held captive in their suburban home enough miles from town to render any aid, even if it were available, useless, Miranda records the day to day survival of her family in her journal, detailing her family's every worsening conditions as cold, sickness and starvation bring them closer to death and desperation.

I grabbed this because it was dystopian and I've heard nothing but good things about it but given the premise I was prepared to be underwhelmed. They've made this concept into a movie several times over in the past few years. But those movies have never scared me, worried me, or distressed me the way this book did. There were no silly special effects, just a simple straight forward account of a time of absolute terror. I was so scared while I read it! I was cold and lost and I had to make myself put the book down from time to time just to get back to reality. I'd put the book down and look around amazed that I had electricity. I can admit to going into the kitchen and counting canned goods. This story is a million times better than any horror story because Miranda's narration made it so painfully real. I loved that there was no big heroic, climatic event. Had Miranda saved an infant falling into an earthquake crack or the government swooped in and picked them up in a helicoptor and sprinted them away to paradise I would probably have thrown it, but none of that happened. What happened was a normal family, just as yours or mine, who was so dependant on the comforts that their life had afforded them, suddenly found themselves with nothing, with an entire world so changed by catastrophe that they may never have anything again. Wonderful.

     For a moment I thought about all the people throughout history who saw Halley's Comet and didn't know what it was, just that it was there and frightening and awe inspiring. For the briefest flick of a second, I could have been a 16-year-old in the Middle Ages looking up at the sky, marveling at its mysteries or an Aztec or an Apache. For that tiny instant, I was every 16-year-old in history, not knowing what the skies foretold about my future.

There are two other books in this Last Survivor series, the next being The Dead and the Gone which is another account of the devastation following the meteor crash, this time from New York. I cheated on my book buying diet and bought it already. I know it will not disappoint.

When this book was over, I was reminded of a time back at the end of August 2005. It was two-three days after Katrina and we were celebrating my dad's birthday. It was hotter than I ever thought possible (always is after a hurricane) and we were sitting in our old house, two blocks from the beach, where we stayed for the storm. It was a ridiculously stupid thing to do. The day of the storm and the days following Katrina were some of the scariest of my life. First the storm itself, which we all know how that went and after. No lights, the inescapable heat, strangers walking around at all hours, trying to open the doors, me and my mother there all day by ourselves because my dad had to go help FEMA.....and well, it was awful. But anyway, this is not a poor me Katrina story because SO VERY MUCH WORSE CAN AND HAS HAPPENED THROUGHOUT HISTORY, it was his birthday and we had runny scrambled eggs and the last of the bacon by candle light. Outside of our house, nothing about the coast was the same. Nothing. Still isn't. But inside, for a minute, I forgot that I was panicking and we had a birthday party. Like normal. I think that's what I love about Miranda's voice and her storytelling. She tells you about the normal that still exists, even when your world comes to an end.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

     High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
     Published October 4th 2005 by Riverhead Trade
     First published 1995
     More at:

     First Line: "My desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups, in chronological order:
                                             1. Alison Ashworth
                                             2. Penny Hardwick
                                             3. Jackie Allen
                                             4. Charlie Nicholson
                                             5. Sarah Kendrew."

Being unceremoniously dumped isn't something new to Rob; women have been leaving him for years. His most recent, live in girlfriend Laura has just left him for the guy in the flat above him prompting a bout of self exploration and self pity that leads him to confront the women of his relationship past. What he discovers is not only is he a bit of a run of the mill, self absorbed commitment-phobe, he's also apparently a really unhappy, thirty something, wallower whose life didn't really turn out in any way like he expected.

What is possibly most horribly depressing is just how relevant Rob's story is. Rob runs a failing record shop that might go days on end without any buyers. All of his friends have moved on with their lives and Rob has found himself the victim of having very little personal human interaction outside of his relationships with women. A good long look at his past relationships, and his actions or rather inactions that have landed him in the state he's in have him firmly convinced that if his younger self could see him now, he'd probably dump him too. Rob has some very spot on insights into human nature, and how we act in relationships that could possibly make him likable if he'd get out of his own way. His problem was the same problem we all suffer from in that he could see and recognize these traits, he just couldn't apply them to his own life.

Rob and I didn't get on well at all. Quite possibly because Rob wouldn't get on with it. The entire book was riddled with Rob's own sense that he was living a rather meandering existence and yet even at the end I didn't get the feel that he was going to do anything else other than just flounder. I never witnessed any life changing affirmations or statements of intent to move on with his life. The events that could be construed as progress weren't even brought about by him, they were Laura's doing and he continued to be reliant on a relationship. Meh.

Excellent writing. Very witty, and Rob's brooding can be rather endearing if you can stomach all the poor me. I still prefer the movie because well...John Cusack.

Nick Hornby also wrote About A Boy, another movie I really enjoyed and I think I'll read it.

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

     The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
     Published December 7th 2010 by HarperTeen
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     First Line: "I woke up in a dingy claw-foot bathtub in an      unfamiliar pink-tiled bathroom."

Emma and Sutton are identical twins who live totally different, separate lives, neither knowing about the other's existence. Sutton Mercer was adopted by a loving family of means and given the life every little girl dreams of. She's popular, pretty, rich, spoiled and completely unrestrained. She's also dead. Her sister, Emma Paxton grew up in the foster care system, constantly passed from new house to new house, never once finding a place to call home. But at least she's alive. When Emma happens upon a YouTube video of what appears to be her own death, her attempts to solve the mystery lead her to the sister she never knew she had, and now she'll never know. Emma finds herself caught in the middle of Sutton's twisted life, pretending to be her dead twin, not only to find her sister's murderer, but to keep herself alive.

Ok ok, it sounds a little Lifetime movie-ish, but I like Lifetime movies and admit it- so do you. It only took a handful of pages for me to be completely hooked. It was fast paced, suspenseful and at some points, actually very scary. I felt dark the whole time I was reading it. Sutton's life is so twisted and messed up there was no way to know to what extent. It made Emma's life as the poor unwanted foster kid seem like the winning scenario. Sutton and her "friends" were involved in a secret little clique, playing what they called The Lying Game. It basically consisted of doing really awful things not only to innocent people, but to each other. Some of these things were just pranks pulled by some seriously unfeeling little snots and some of it was just plain evil. Loved it wouldn't want to be anywhere near these chicks. I liked that Emma's story wasn't steeped in "poor me, poor girl". It was there. It was mentioned and then she got on with it. I can only handle so much self-pity and thankfully the author left that out. Good stuff this......

But then, for reasons that I can't even begin to fathom, the book ended without any climatic point, segue, cliffhanger or well, sense. It was random, hastily thrown together SUCK. We're moving along at a brisk pace, we're getting somewhere, something is about to happen and then...well...did anything really happen? And it wasn't that it ended on a high note, leaving the who-done-it for the next book, it just didn't. Hmph. So I won't read the sequel. It didn't really give me a reason to. I get what happened, it was ok. It was just boring and well, I don't really care about what does or doesn't happen in the next book. Why was this a series? Confusion. Sara Shepard has written other books. Are they any better? This one was 96% goodness and 4% blah so she can tell a story.

This was an ARC. It's been read but has a few more lives left in it and I want it to find some love. I'll happily pass it on to a book blogger, residing in the US or Canada who is over age 13. Ends January 31st at Midnight CST.

North & South

I needed a good, lazy, at home day. And an escape. Mostly an escape. I've been reading the buzz about North & South for awhile now, and Angie mentions it affectionately every few sentences so it must be something. It just so happened to be available for instant play on Netflix and I had the house to myself. It was as if the story gods had planned it all out for me alone and I curled up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and pressed play.

Four hours later, I've lost count of the number of times I've cried, laughed, fumed, wrung my hands, and breathlessly sighed "Oh how wonderful!" It was uncommonly good. A sad, complicated story, full of that politely restrained English passion that my dear friend Jane first made me fall in love with. I love this period in history, in literature, where so much feeling is bubbling under the surface but decorum and class dictate that you squash it, and let is silently simmer and suffer for it! I am such a sucker for a brooding, tortured, tall dark and handsome Englishman. I love that there is never any stupid chase, no frilly, silly courting, just immediate, and all encompassing, soulwrenching TORTURED LOVE. Quietly contained, conveyed only in smoldering glances and scowls. No one says anything! They just sit there and ooze passion and feeling! It's marvelous!

"Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections?" -Sense and Sensibility

Yes Marianne, you twit, he can. Which you too learned. What is the fun in "I like you a lot can we go out?" when he can silently pine and long for you!

The story is about a Miss Margaret Hale, daughter of an ex-minister of the church who moves his family to the northern part of England to become a teacher. Their new surroundings differ drastically from their slow, leisurely, sunny life in the south. The new town, Milton, is cold and harsh, with a fast-paced, money driven society. At the heart of it are the cotton mills. One of Mr. Hale's new pupils is the master of one of the city's more prosperous mills, Mr. Thornton, whom Margaret instantly can't stand. And well you know what THAT MEANS. True love. Never doubted it for a second.

You must go and watch this! As soon as it was finished I ordered my own copy and I anxiously await its arrival because I want to force it upon other people. I've also put the book North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell on my to-read list.

I informed Beloved of his failure to be like the heros of my English historical fiction and told him he needed to start being made pitiful by love for me. He politely informed me that he suffers every day because of his love for me, and that in fact he was suffering right now as he was having to cook dinner. So he is indeed, tortured, all be it not to the extent of Mr. Thornton, but with our busy schedule, it's just enough to suit me.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

     Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
     Published January 26th 2010 by Dial
     (first published May 3rd 2007)

     More at:

     First Line: "Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the      stone slabs of the transitway."

They said it was paradise. A self-contained, delicately crafted, and thoughtfully detailed Utopia where the misguided degenerates from above were sent to be given a second chance at life, a place of reformation and of transcendence. The finest minds and scholars were called upon to enter the prison and guide it's inmates on their experimental journey to reclamation. Once inside, scholar's and inmates alike were forever closed off from the world they knew, leaving only the bright, remarkable, yet undiscovered future that awaits them within Incarceron.

For one hundred and fifty years Incarceron has remained closed, confident that the experiment was successful and those within lead new lives unencumbered by the outside world. For one hundred and fifty years...they have lied.

Incarceron is no mere holding cell, it has morphed into a living, breathing thing, its inhabitants becoming part of its make up, of its very being, their lives changing with each new warped, twisted metamorphosis the prison makes. It is dark. It is evil. It is forever and inescapable. Few of the scholars remain, their hold over the Prison severed long ago, and their understanding of how Incarceron operates, lost.

But there are whispers. Whispers that live within the very walls of the prison itself. Whispers Incarceron knows to be true. Once, someone got out and once...someone new was put in. Outside, people start to to question the truth of Incarceron's story, and inside, the prisoners...have found a way out.

     The decay was gradual and we were slow to recognize it. Then, one day, I had been talking with the Prison, and as I left the room, I heard it laugh. A low, mocking chuckle.
     The sound turned me cold. I stood in the corridor and the thought came to me of an ancient image I had once seen in a fragmented manuscript, of the enormous mouth of Hell devouring sinners.
     It was then I knew we had created a demon that would destroy us.
     -Lord Calliston's Diary

Finn is a prisoner who was born and bred within Incarceron, but has memories of another world, and an unexplainable recollection of what the stars look like in the night sky. The inmates know he is different. He knows he is different, but no one would ever believe it possible that he came from the outside. No one enters the prison.

Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, the man appointed by the royal family to safeguard the prison and it's prisoners. It is his duty to preserve the mystery of the prison and conceal it's only means of entrance. Claudia has been raised and molded to be Queen. Her father's position and the necessity to keep the prison's secret have made her into a powerful tool of the kingdom. She is soon to wed the royal family's second son, a dimwitted, cruel boy who is a distant second to the heir that was lost some years ago. Claudia doesn't trust her father one bit, and the very idea of being forced to marry the Prince has made her reckless. When she steals an odd crystal key hidden away in her father's study, she hears Finn's voice from deep within it, a voice she knows she has heard before.

I made myself sick reading this book. I mean that in the best way possible, in that I didn't eat, move, answer the phone, sleep, or remember to breathe. I love the mad rush that comes with not being able to focus on anything else until you KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Suspenseful and disturbingly imaginative, I didn't dare stop reading for fear that this ever changing story would continue to evolve without me.

Claudia lives in a world so under the control of the Queen and the Warden that it is just as oppressive as any prison. The late king had commanded that the people maintain a sort of theme, act out a past era and they live in a make believe world of castles and poofy skirts and deceit. All the technology and intelligence their civilization has uncovered must be carefully masked under the king's ordered facade, where as in contrast the prison is a jumble of mutation and robotics. It made it impossible to comfortably place the story in any set time period. I could have been reading historical fantasy or science fiction or neither. When first introduced to Incarceron I immediately pictured the prison as being something underground, inescapable yes but just under foot and very real. I was just a bit, dead wrong.

The story is told both within and out of the prison, each existence unfathomable to the other and both not knowing just how close they really are. Incarceron is a horrible place, but I'm not so sure the world that Fisher has created outside is any better. I don't know what I want to happen! Finn is our hero (or so we think), but these are prisoners, most of them were locked up for a reason. Do I want there to be a way out of Incarceron?

Sapphique, the sequel was released December 28, 2010 and a book fairy was kind enough to lend it to me. Holiday goings on have limited reading time and I know I want to have a clear schedule before I pick it up and get book lost. Have you read this? What do you want to happen?

2011 Reading Goals

For two years in a row, I have failed the 100 Books Reading Challenge. In 2009, I failed miserably with a pitiful 51 books read, and this year I still fell remarkably short with a measly 68. I really thought it would be a lot easier but when you factor in work, pets, house, family, sleep, time spent just not wanting to read and work (work counts twice because it holds the majority of life's suck) it turned out not to be. Still, this is something I really want to do. So I'm going to try again.

Being a rather OCD person, I thrive on lists. If I can put something into a nice, neat check list, it settles the little mess monster who resides in a state of unrest within me. I love a good list. I also like goals that have a definite start and end time, and are attainable enough to dole out a periodic sense of achievement.

I have 125 books on my To Read shelf. That's physically on the shelf, staring at me, accusingly, wondering why I purchased them with so much intent and love and then abandoned them for the next shiny new cover. But as much as I would like to say that I am only going to read my hundred out of the 125 that I already own, you and I both know that as book lovers, that would not only be quite impossible, but an act of unthinkable torture. I must buy books, and I must read the ones I already have.

So here's my plan:

1.) I'm going to make a list of ten titles to read for each month. I will start with ten and allow for substitutions in the case of review copies or abandoned books, and for unforseen circumstances that may pop up to limit my reading one month. This way I'm not stuck reading something just for the sake of the list and I don't neglect books that people were kind enough to send me to read and I don't get too far behind.

2.) I'm going to, and here is the hard part....not buy as many books. What's the point if they just join the others on the shelves and not get read. For each month that I read my ten, I can have one off my wishlist as a reward. That book will go on the next month's ten- because the month after I bought it, I owned it prior to the list and it doesn't break the read books I own rule :)*

"Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."
- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

3.) This all makes perfect sense to me as I have already put it on a spreadsheet.

January 2011's OCD 100 Books Reading Challenge List (in no particular order)

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Wide Window- A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
The Lying Game by Sarah Shepard
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

There it is. And if I finish ten, I can have:

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Published: January 11th 2011 by Razorbill

*I reserve the right to cheat by borrowing books and/or visiting the library.

Angelfire ARC Winner!

And the winner is: Miz Orchid of The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia! Congrats!

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. There was a really good turn out! Be on the look out for Angelfire this February!

Book Thoughts 2010

84, Charing Cross Road
Anna and the French Kiss
Because I Am Furniture
Briar Rose
A Certain Slant of Light
A Christmas Carol
Dead Beautiful
The Dead-Tossed Waves
Devil in Winter
Dracula in Love
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Green Angel
Halfway to the Grave
The Help
Hex Hall
How I Live Now
It Happened One Autumn
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Keturah and Lord Death
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Line
Mistress of the Revolution
Nine Rules to Break...
The Pleasure Palace
Plum Lucky
Princess of the Midnight Ball
The Replacement
Restoring Harmony
Scandal in Spring
The Season
Secrets of a Summer Night
Sh*t My Dad Says
The Siren
Sizzling Sixteen
Such a Pretty Girl
Ten Ways to Be Adored...

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Laura @ A Jane of All Reads
I read excessively and hoard books like a greedy dragon. Theoretically, I also plan to use them to barricade myself against the forthcoming zombie apocalypse.

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