Month: January 2015

2015 Book #6: Still Life with Woodpecker

stilllifeI should have stopped reading Still Life with Woodpecker at the first mention of the “half-shellfish half-peach that occupied the warm, watery bowl of [Princess Leigh-Cheri’s] lower regions.” This is a (mostly) family-friendly blog, so I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about exactly what that means. My conclusion? YUCK.

Anyway. Still Life with Woodpecker has been on my TBR list for at least a couple of years now. It was toward the top of my failed TBR Pile Challenge last year, but I didn’t get around to it then. I’m not sure how I first discovered it, though it might have been Goodreads’s recommendation engine, which is usually pretty reliable. This time, it made it to the top of my list because of a recommendation from Book Riot: they seem to think that if you’re a Twin Peaks fan, you’ll like Still Life with Woodpecker.


That peach business shows up around the 10% mark in a very short book, and that’s when I figured out that it’s Not My Kind of Book. I’m not a prude, but I don’t like a bunch of sex in my books. One or two tasteful scenes is tolerable, but Still Life with Woodpecker goes way overboard. Even her dad calls her a sexpot. Meh. That, and I just don’t like Tom Robbins‘s version of humor. It wasn’t funny to me: it was stupid. If it wasn’t so short and hadn’t been on my list for so long, I would have stopped.

So what’s this book about, anyway? you ask. Well, there’s a family that had been royalty of a nonexistent country, and they’ve been deposed by rebels. They’ve been given political asylum in the US and live near Seattle. Princess Leigh-Cheri is the daughter of the deposed king and queen, and she’s always in trouble, mostly for hijinks involving sex. She ends up going to Hawaii for a hippie-type conference and falling in love with a man who tries to blow it up. Things continue to happen.

Sounds exciting, right? I guess it is. Still Life with Woodpecker has good reviews on Goodreads. My issues with this book are personal, and in this case, I don’t claim any sort of objectivity: I just didn’t like it, and I’ll probably avoid Tom Robbins in the future just because I don’t like his style.

Featured photo credit: frankieleon

2015 Book #5: The Stand

thestandSo I finally read The Stand. It had a firm place on my TBR list for at least ten years, possibly since I saw the TV miniseries several years ago. Okay, so I’ve seen said miniseries more than once. Probably at least five times. Don’t judge.

Until fairly recently, most of my exposure to Stephen King was made-for-TV movies like The Stand, IT, and The Langoliers, all of which I love. I’d only read The Shining and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, one of which is good and one of which is in my top five Worst Books Ever. I’ll let you guess which one is which. Then, of course, the Dark Tower series happened, and all hell broke loose.

I can’t get enough of Stephen King.

I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t either read The Stand or seen the miniseries, so I’ll only give the vaguest of synopses: A horrible plague decimates society, leaving two camps of immune people: one drawn to a nice old lady in Nebraska and another drawn to an evil Walkin Dude in Las Vegas. They divide into their various camps and Things Happen.

See what I did there? Two sentences to explain a 1200-page book. Easy.

I think I would have liked it more if I hadn’t seen the miniseries so many times. I couldn’t help but compare them. You aren’t missing anything super-important if you haven’t read the book. The main differences involve horror and sex that couldn’t be put on TV. Maybe it’s worth it for the real story on the dog named Kojak, but otherwise, you aren’t missing too much. (One amusing bit, though, involves Harold Lauder: he’s nothing like the actor. Imagine a young George R.R. Martin. Yep. That’s Harold.)


What I did find interesting were the numerous references to The Dark Tower. First of all, there’s Randall Flagg, who is a character in the Dark Tower series. There are also mentions of ka, the unfound door, and gunslingers. Fascinating stuff! Otherwise, The Stand is okay. I don’t regret reading it, though I probably won’t do it again. That said, I still can’t stop reading Stephen King. I think IT is next, though I’m going to stick with smaller books in the short term, as The Stand took quite a while and I have a quota to hit.


Featured photo credit: Kevin Schraer

2015 Book #4: The Rithmatist

rithmatistHere’s another book I chose almost solely based on its immediate availability on OverDrive. I’d just finished listening to 10% Happier (and was somewhere around half-through The Stand), and I was in the middle of a massive scanning project at work, which required some sort of audio entertainment since scanning is so monotonous. The Rithmatist‘s blurb looked interesting enough and Goodreads thought I’d like it, so I downloaded it, not really knowing what I was getting myself into – especially since it’s YA.

And I really enjoyed it!

The Rithmatist is about a 16-year-old kid named Joel who goes to an exclusive school because his mom works there and his dad did before he died. Joel’s grades are by no means spectacular. He’s obsessed with rithmatics, a type of magic involving chalk drawings, though he’s not a rithmatist. Rithmatists are chosen in a special religious ceremony at age eight, and Joel didn’t make the cut, so he goes to the regular part of the school but spends as much time as he can on the rithmatics side of campus. While delivering a note to a teacher in a rithmatics classroom, Joel witnesses a duel that ends with that professor’s losing his place and being replaced by the younger professor winning his position. Joel immediately dislikes the younger professor and wonders what he’s up to, especially when rithmatic students start disappearing. What follows is a steampunky magical mystery with various twists and so on.

While I enjoyed this book, it’s really not that great. Brandon Sanderson writes a lot of books, and it seems like he wrote this one pretty quickly. It follows the usual Harry Pottery story arc, and while it’s not exactly predictable, I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Which is fine when the outcome isn’t annoying, as it is here. It seems like Sanderson spent the bulk of his time coming up with the magic system, which is innovative. I enjoyed that part. Basic rithmatics looks almost like a game played on the ground with chalk, circles and lines for defenses and mythical creatures for offenses.


The book is, for obvious reasons, illustrated, and I missed that part since I listened to it, but judging from my Google Images results, I sure wasn’t missing much. These illustrations look more like they’re for a kids’ book than YA. Anyway.

Again, I enjoyed it. It’s fun, easy YA and was a nice break from The Stand. It passed the time during my Massive Scanning Project. Sanderson has a sequel queued up for 2017, but that’s so far away that I’m sure I’ll have forgotten all about The Rithmatist. I guess that’s my main problem with Sanderson: he’s working on too many series at once, and it seems like this one might be an afterthought, like he’s just churning out books as fast as he can for the money. Not releasing the next book in a series for four years is a bit excessive (though I guess that if Mr. Stephenking can do it, Sanderson thinks he can too).

Friday Things: 1/23/2015

So I’m not very good at posting Things every week. I’m not sure whether I want to make myself be better about it or give up the venture entirely. We’ll see what happens. This week, anyway, you’re in luck!

If you haven’t guessed, the featured image is one of Dalí’s paintings. If you can name it, I’ll give you a cookie.

Non-Book Update Time (of course it’s mostly about the dog)