July 23, 2012

Books, and a Giveaway of One of Them

(photo from Amazon.com)

Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link. I didn't know until I went to the listing to get the picture for this post that this is a young adult book. It's a collection of scary and creepy and weird short stories. I liked them, though a couple were too scary/upsetting for me: young adults wouldn't be freaked by the parental point of view ("CHILDREN IN DANGER, OH THEIR POOR PARENTS!") the way I was.

My main complaint was the same as with almost all such books: I wanted the endings to be CLEARER. When endings are fuzzy or uncertain, I feel cheated and frustrated---and I also feel like the storyteller failed to complete the storytelling job. SOME uncertainty is fine: "And when they opened the door, a HOOK was dangling from the handle!!," for example, is fine and doesn't need to then explain the whole backstory of the bad guy. But if I finish a story and I don't even know if the main character is still alive or not, or if the monster was real or not, I get mad. OPEN THE BOX, SCHRODINGER.  This collection had some where you get an ending and some where the storyteller sits there smirking at you.


(photo from Amazon.com)

Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell. This was a sequel; I reviewed the first book, The Sparrow, in another post. I was very, very, very glad that several of you warned me that the sequel would undo one of the major plot events of the first book; if I'd encountered it unwarned, I would have been frustrated and angry, but because I was prepared I didn't mind much and was even glad.

The sequel continued the religion/society frustrations/insights of the first book. I also continued to be tired of the self-pitying main character, and of the method the author used for laughing at her own jokes (having her characters laugh hysterically at the jokes she wrote for them to say). There were a few things that didn't make sense to me still (the divided couple didn't even TRY to communicate with each other?), and there were a few boring sections, and there were a lot of sections where the author was clearly trying to Send A Message. I see reviewers on Amazon objecting to the supposedly miraculous ending, as I did: it seemed simplistic and silly (the equivalent of "Look, reading every twentieth letter of the holy book makes a SECRET CODE!!"), rather than giving me the awed reaction it seemed to think it would inspire.

But I was glad I read the sequel, and I liked reading it, and I liked getting more explanation about what happened in the first book, and about what happened to the characters and why. I'd continue to recommend both books, but I think it helps to go into it expecting some Issues.


(photo from Amazon.com)

The Taker, by Alma Katsu. This fits well into the "supernatural creatures being emotionally manipulative, physically cruel, and insatiably interested in sex" genre.


(photo from Amazon.com)

Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me!, by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D. The short version of this book would read: "Separate the bickering siblings as soon as they either start doing damage or start bothering you---but try to let it happen as much as you can stand it. Don't play judge/jury to sibling fights; refuse to listen to either side; say 'Stop it, you two,' not 'Elliot, stop bothering your sister.'" The long version explains why and gives examples.

I found it very persuasive and have started using some of the tips. But I felt like it only really works for TWO bickering siblings. There was a small section at the back that dealt with larger families, but it basically said, "You'll do the same thing, but more of it!" Except that's not true, because in larger families there are ganging-up issues and excluding issues. Still, I felt like I could apply what I read.


(photo from Amazon.com)

Uninvited Guests, by Sadie Jones. I could describe this as an early 1900s English countryside gothic romance novel, but if I'd seen it described that way I wouldn't have wanted to read it. Here's what it's more like: It starts out normal, with a family from the servants-and-horses era worried about losing their home and having some step-family adjustment issues. Then things start to get a little weird, but you're like, "...But IS it getting weird? or is this just a little creepy-SEEMING but there is a normal explanation?" And then a long time goes by and you STILL don't know. And then you start to know.

Meanwhile, it's FUNNY. There were quite a few parts where I laughed, audibly, not at a joke but at some dryly phrased sentence that just struck me as very, very funny, especially in the setting of all the creepiness and weirdness.

And it's ROMANTIC, in what seemed to me to be a deliberately predictable way: that is, we weren't supposed to be surprised, we were supposed to know exactly how it was going to end up---but we were nevertheless supposed to be pleased when it DID end up that way. (And I WAS pleased.)

********

It's continuing to be fun to give away a copy of one of the books mentioned in the post, so I'm going to do that again this time. For U.S. mailing addresses only, which is kind of sad and excluding, isn't it? If you're like me, you don't really even WANT to win until you find out you're not eligible and then it seems so brutally unfair. Oh, I'm not a member of YOUR SUPER-SPECIAL COUNTRY so I can't even ENTER? But if you, like, KNOW someone in the U.S., you could enter and then have me ship the book to them as a surprise present! ...Okay, that's weak consolation.

Anyway, it's the same as before: you can leave a comment without being automatically entered; if you DO want to enter, just say which book you'd like to win. I'll draw a name on Friday, July 27th.


[Update: Winner is Lippy!]

78 comments:

Portia said...

Well, I already like to read "early 1900s English countryside gothic romance novel[s]," and your description makes this one sound even better! So Uninvited Guests gets my vote.

meanliving said...

I'd like to give The Uninvited Guests a try too!

Maggie said...

I think I may need Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me...

Barb said...

The Uninvited
Guests sounds great!

Slim said...

Uninvited Guests!

I am tired of advice about kids unless it comes with a roll of duct tape or a bag of Sahale pecans.

Diary of Why said...

I'm going with the rest of the crowd and saying The Uninvited Guests sounds super intriguing.

Bethany said...

Obviously, your review kind of stacked the deck! Uninvited Guests looks like a fun read.

Diane said...

I'd also choose The Uninvited Guests, although that sibling bickering book is tempting. Maybe I'll check the library for that one. I will not allow the bickering to determine what I choose as a prize! You don't own me, bickering children!

Hi, it's good I didn't go off the rails at the end there or anything.

Bitts said...

Totally Uninvited Guests, Swistle! Of course!

Becs said...

haha guess I'm just like everyone else, I'm interested in The Uninvited Guests.

KP said...

The Uninvited Guests does indeed sound fabulous! You've sold it to the lot of us. :)

KP said...

Oh, sorry - indubitably DOT kate AT gmail DOT com.

marilyn c. cole said...

Pretty Monsters, Pretty Monsters! I love Kelly Link. Not sure if it'll be better to you or worse with the unresolved endings, but if you have any interest in more, definitely try Magic for Beginners. A bit creepy, not YA, but so beautifully written.

Christy said...

The Uninvited Guests! Although I may end up reading the Taker as well

Hairline Fracture said...

I probably SHOULD say the one about bickering siblings because my two are driving me crazy, but I already want to read The Uninvited Guests, so that's the one I'd want!

Melissa said...

The Uninvited Guests, please! It's been on my 'to read' list for a month or so now.

MomQueenBee said...

The Uninvited Guest. Of course.

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

The Uninvited Guests looks really good!

Swistle said...

marilyn c. cole- Thanks! I put it on the library request list!

el-e-e said...

Ooh, the Uninvited Guests sounds fabulous! Sign me up!

Katie said...

Oooo, The Uninvited Guest sounds fab.

LOVE your book reviews, as always.

Nowheymama said...

The Uninvited Guests, please!

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

"Open the box, Schrodinger!" Oh Swistle, I love you.

Courtney said...

Swistle, I just adore your book reviews. I've added several of these to my "To Read" list. I'd put The Uninvited Guests at the top of the list so that's what I'd pick i f I won the giveaway. Thanks!

chrissy said...

I love these reviews! I would love to read The Uninvited Guest, although the sibling one would be much more practical.

ccr in MA said...

Okay, I laughed out loud at least three times just reading this! (At "OPEN THE BOX, SCHRODINGER" in particular, but also the US-only mailing.)

I think that Uninvited Guests sounds intriguing, and if I don't win, I will be checking the library for that.

Christina said...

I too want to read Uninvited Guests now!

Matti said...

The Uninvited Guests. Please! As my "Library Map Does Not Allow That Hold." Too new :( And yet? Now? HOPE!

sagessa said...

I'd love to read The Uninvited Guests. I'm going to go put it on my Amazon Wishlist, so I can but it when I end up not winning. :)

Amy said...

I would pick The Uninvited Guests

Lippy said...

Uninvited Guests for me. I was thinking about the sibling fighting, but seriously, it is bad enough that they fight, I shouldn't have to read about it too.

Wendy said...

I'm putting my bid in for Uninvited Guests, too.

anne said...

i'd take the sibling rivalry one! and then I'd add it to the stack of helpful parenting books I never have time to read.

CherylAlanna said...

The Uninvited Guests sounds good!

Caitlin said...

i love scary stories so pretty monsters get my vote!

Heidi J said...

The Uninvited Guests

Doing My Best said...

Uninvited Guests =)!

Did the bickering book address what to do if one or more of the siblings has social skills issues?

Crafty Beth said...

Ooh! Ooh! I've had The Uninvited Guests on my "to read" list since reading a review a while back, and your review makes me even more excited to read it!

velocibadgergirl said...

1. I continue to be impressed by the number of books you read and love these short mass review posts.

2. I snorted out loud at "OPEN THE BOX, SHRODINGER."

3. I think I'd like Pretty Monsters best.

Swistle said...

Doing My Best- I don't THINK it did. It might have had a paragraph in the same section with "more than 2 children," but I didn't retain the information if it did.

Extraordinary_hope said...

I'd love to win a copy of Uninvited Guests!
I've just recently had some horrible eye surgery (not just lasers, which would be bad enough, but they actually CUT OPEN MY EYE AND SUCKED OUT ALL THE "EYE JELLY" among other traumas) all in an attempt to save my sight. All of this to say that I haven't been able to read in more than 6 MONTHS (first because my vision was so bad, then because I was recovering from the surgery), which has been killing me, so having something fun to read now that I'm finally able would be great!

Amanda said...

I have not read any of these books surprisingly.

I do feel less than enthused about the sibling bickering one as most mothers with any brain cells left after having kids in the first place know not to favor one over the other and to attempt to separate. I think what we want is to have them love each other and adore playing together and since that is clearly not possible ever ever why write a book about it?

missris said...

I'd love to read "uninvited guests"

Shelly said...

Oh, I'm glad you liked Children of God. Not as good the Sparrow, of course, but a pretty good end to the story.

And "Open the box, Schrodinger" made me laugh out loud.

Sophie said...

The Uninvited Guest

calloooo said...

I immediately knew I wanted to read The Uninvited Guests and then it looks like everyone else does, as well! So I feel in good company. But then again, I usually feel that way when I read your blog.

Jenski said...

The uninvited guests sounds interesting, so does the bickering book but to be honest I'm still a few years away from that stage and I'm not sure I want to think much about it until I get there.

Susan O'Bryant said...

I have to go with Uninvited Guests as well. I love the cover, and I'm a sucker for a nice cover. I know that's wrong, but I can't help it. ;)

Thanks for the giveaway!

Cayt said...

I'm not in the US but I know someone who would love Uninvited Guests!

Sarah said...

I just saw Uninvited Guests reviewed on NPR and am now doubly intrigued! Thanks Swistle!

G said...

I wanted Uninvited Guests and then I read all the other comments and now I feel like a bandwagon jumper.

Still want that one, though. :)

DawnA said...

Decisions....decisions - The Taker. And thank you so much for the giveaway.

Jennifer B said...

I should really choose the bickering siblings one, but I'd like Uninvited Guests instead.

Unknown said...

I would love to get the bickering siblings book!

Alexicographer said...

Uninvited guests sounds perfect! Thank you for the reviews!

Kathy said...

I hope this is not going to show up twice, it didn't seem like it went through the first time. I swear I'm not trying to get two chances to win Uninvited Guests.
Thanks for both the reviews and the givaway!

Magpie said...

Ooh, Uninvited Guests sounds right up my alley!

Maureen said...

I read Uninvited Guests over the weekend and loved it!! I had the exact same response you did-the "are things getting weird?" as I read on. I would love my own copy of this book, mine is from the library.

Leah B said...

I would love to read The Uninvited Guests. Thanks for sharing what you are reading ... I am always looking for new books.

Elisabeth said...

Uninvited Guests just happens to already be on my reading list, but my library doesn't have it. It's a small town library that focuses on children's programs. Awesome for my three-year-old, less so for me.

Misty said...

I love that you do this. *I* should do this. Especially with all the galleys I have hanging around.

The last one.

Happy Girl said...

I am really interested in the Uninvited Guests. I'm not really a turn of the century romance novel but, somehow, you've made it sound interesting and appealing. You should be a book reviewer!

swimmermom said...

I think I would like to read Uninvited Guests. Meanwhile, I adore your book reviews. You are so adept at explaining what you thought of a book without giving away the plot. Your style reminds me a bit of Roger Ebert's movie reviews -- I like to read them even if I have no intention of ever seeing the movie in question, he's just so entertaining.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Enter me please! Anything but the one with the unfinished endings. I HATE THAT TOO! I actually get all ranty and bitchy and really, I don't need to be any bitchier than I am already.

Jessica said...

I should probably start reading up on sibling rivalry (kill me now).

christina b said...

I too, vote Univited Guests. Sounds a bit like "The Others" but maybe not? Nonetheless, sounds good!

Lisa S. said...

I would like to enter for The Uninvited Guest, too! I already searched and my library doesn't carry it.

Laura said...

Definitely Uninvited Guests!

Anonymous said...

Pretty Monsters. And thank you for some good recommendations.

Dawn

Lynn said...

I just want to hear more of your insights on bickering/ganging up/exclusion issues with bigger families. We have three kids, aged 9, 7, and 5, and this is the first summer I'm really noticing that it's always 2-on-1, instead of one big happy family. It makes me sad - but do you think it's natural? Is this something to stop before it turns into bullying, or something for siblings to work out on their own?

Swistle said...

Lynn- I'm HOPING it's natural. What I've been doing is breaking it up when the picked-on one starts to get too upset. Like, I let it go on for a bit because if they CAN get out of it themselves it's good experience. But when it turns into anything that reminds me of prey animals and prey, I start separating them.

Ashley said...

Univited Guests counds good. I love the book give away thing!

Nikki B said...

I love your book reviews! Keep 'em coming.

I'd love to win a copy of Pretty Monsters - even though I feel the same way about short story endings.

Tara said...

The Uninvited Guests! :)

SallyG said...

I'd vote for "The Uninvited Guests". Love the book reviews as I am always in the market for something good to read!

Nicole said...

I'd love to try The Univited Guests. I'm always looking for suggestions on authors or genres that I normally wouldn't pick up, so I love to see the book review posts!

Alicia said...

Oh, the Uninvited Guests seems like just the sort of book I might enjoy! I'd love a chance to read it. :) Thanks for your reviews!

Heidi said...

Oh, it's almost midnight on the 27th, it's okay if I missed the cut off. I'm always glad to find new books to read.
If I can still enter, I'll say Pretty Monsters would be the one I'd like to read most. I'm not always a majority kind of reader.
Thanks