Monthly Archives: November 2014

#11. The Giver by Lois Lowry

giverI have to begin this post by expressing my satisfaction with Overdrive, a library lending app that allows you to borrow eBooks and Audiobooks from your local library right to your devices. It is wonderful. I am actually a bit disappointed that I have not used it until now, but I intend on utilizing it quite a bit from now on.

I used to listen to Audiobooks quite a bit when I was living in Iowa City. I walked, biked, or took the bus wherever I needed to go, and I had ample time to listen to stories on my 20 minute walks to work, or on a solo bus ride to Coralville. One summer I listened to probably 10 full novels, since I had picked up hours working at the library removing old RFID tags from our entire collection of media. Well, this past month I have taken up walking and running once or twice a week, and remembered how much I used to enjoy Audiobooks. Browsing Overdrive, I saw that The Giver was available. A beloved elementary school classic, it was a title I had often seen but never picked up for myself.

The Giver is a science fiction tale of Sameness. In the Community where Jonas has grown up, all the dwellings are the same. All the people are ultimately the same, a certain number of each young age group with the same tunics and hairstyles and bicycles. But to Jonas and his friends, it is a secure world. It is very safe and ordered in the Community, with simple family units expressing their feelings each evening and doing their Community-assigned jobs. There is no pain in his world, no confusion. But Jonas feels a little different than the other children in his Age 11 group. He can see things in ordinary objects that other people cannot, perceive small changes in things like apples or strands of hair. He doesn’t understand these odd visions until he receives his job assignment and meets The Giver. Through him, Jonas learns to question the rules and order of his Community, and even the people he cares for the most. And after he has received what The Giver has shared with him, he knows he can never go back to living the way he did before.

This is an excellent dystopian novel, and although it was written as a children’s book, its deceptively simple language and dark themes make it just as compelling for adult reading.

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#10. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

darkly-dreaming-dexter-12Sometime between June and August, I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter and forgot to write about it. This past summer was a blur of road trips, celebrations, and humidity. I remember reading it after introducing Joe to the first season of Dexter, but before loading up the UHaul with all our earthly possessions. In any event, I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter, and I must confess that it was hard to get into at first. This is one of those peculiar circumstances where the set-up chapters (who’s who, and why, and where, and is that a dead body in the dumpster?) are actually so similar to the pilot episode of the show, I was quite bored.

As a side note, when it comes to adapted work, I never quite know whether to read the book first, or watch the movie/show first, or just stick to one or the other. It’s a tricky thing to revisit a story, or in this case a character, that you feel you already know so intimately. Surprisingly I have read books that are not as good as the movie, and less surprisingly, I have seen screen work that does not hold up as well as the novels they are based on. I am sure most fiction fans face that problem, though; especially right now, with so many comic and YA series becoming films.

Anyway, about 1/3 of the way through, the book and the show diverged a bit, and once I was reading new information and insights, I found it very enjoyable. The main focus of Darkly Dreaming Dexter is of course the titular character, Dexter Morgan. He’s a brother, a son, a forensic analyst for Miami PD, a boating enthusiast, and a serial killer. He’s just so lovable, though, the oblivious, non-malicious, and non-cannibalistic version of Hannibal Lecter. He grew up without the capacity to feel, or to see humans as valuable individuals. This seems to be only something he holds onto from his past, however, as he expresses great affection — and possibly even love — for his late adoptive parents and his sister Debra. Despite his apparent sociopathy, he has a wicked sense of humor and a keen ability to read people, giving many passages of this dark story some fun levity.

In this first book of the Dexter series, A new serial killer has popped up in Miami. He leaves his victims bloodless and clean somehow, which intrigues Dexter to no end. After a very short while, it becomes obvious this rival killer is leaving the bodies specifically for Dexter to find. But why? Is it dangerous? Or is it an invitation to play?

This is ultimately a fun read, especially if it is your first foray into the world of Dexter Morgan. If you have seen the show and haven’t read the novels, I’ll be honest with you: you just have to stick with it. Some of the characters and twists are very different from the show, and by the end you might be as shocked as I was that it concludes on a very different note than the end of the first season.

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#9. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

hyperbole and a halfHyperbole and a Half  is a published collection from Allie Brosh’s webcomic series of the same name. It deals with memories of cake, forests, adopting incredibly stupid dogs, and battling evil geese, but also delves into headier subjects such as identity reflection and living with depression. Her simple, hilarious drawings lead you into her life and the processes she goes through as she attempts to make herself a better person amidst a flurry of what she refers to as “shitty thoughts.”

This is a fun, insightful read. And I cannot more strongly urge you to go read The God of Cake right now on her website.

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