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Something Different in YA

It’s been a crazy few weeks around here. School started this week, so first there were all the pre-school fuss with teacher visits, meet the teacher night, and making sure we had everything MB needed. Then there was the first day. Then there was parent orientation. And figuring out how the logistical stuff was going to work now that MB is closer to home, but farther from both of our workplaces. So that’s what’s been going on and why I haven’t been able to think much about blogging lately. I do have a few ideas, though, so stay tuned.

I’m still reading as much as ever, though, so today it’s about a book I read recently that is a little different from anything I’d read before, and it’s a YA book, too. It’s Liar by Justine Larbalestier.

Micah Wilkins is a liar. Since the story is told in first person, she is the most unreliable narrator you could wish for, despite her initial promise to tell us the truth. One thing does seem to be true is that her boyfriend, Zach, is dead, and no one is sure what exactly happened to him. Micah and his other friends, including his “real” girlfriend, are being questioned by the police, and Micah may be a suspect because of her illicit relationship with him.

The book is divided into three parts, “Telling the Truth,” “Telling the True Truth,” and “The Actual Real Truth.” Each begins with Micah’s confession of lies in the past and a resolution to now tell the real truth, complete with a confession that throws a whole new light on the story told in the previous part.

The story is intriguing. Personally, I just went with whatever Micah was saying at the time, expecting to be able to figure it all out in retrospect. When it was over, I still wasn’t sure exactly what the truth was, although I certainly understood more than I had before. And I had realized that Micah was so deep into her lies that she probably didn’t fully understand the truth, either.

Sorry if that’s a really cryptic description, but the book itself is as well. Despite (or more likely, because of) its weirdness, I really enjoyed this book. It kept me in suspense until the very end. Actually, beyond that. If you look at the reviews, it’s clear that people aren’t quite sure what to think of it. If you’re OK with having to stay on your toes and not having complete a complete resolution at the end (ie., if you are a fan of Lost), you will probably enjoy this book in the same way. If that kind of thing drives you crazy, stay away.

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What’s On My iPod

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So I’d thought I’d share some of the podcasts I’m currently listening to…

The Dave Ramsey Show
For a radio show about personal finance, this one is highly entertaining, and often informative as well. And with an hour-long episode released each weekday, there’s always a new episode available to listen to. (Actually, it’s about 40 minutes without all the radio commercials.)

Relevant Podcast
This one is associated with a Christian magazine of the same name dedicated to culture and social issues. The highlight of the show is usually the banter between the hosts. Now on the first listen, I kind of thought they were a bunch of hipsters. But after a few episodes I was getting all the in-jokes and felt like one of the gang. They also have interviews with musicians, authors, and Christian celebrities and play pretty good music, too.

Omega Tau
This is a podcast dedicated to science and technology. It explores a wide range of topics, from roller coaster design to the Mars rover. It’s almost always in interview format, with the host speaking with one or more experts on the topic of the day. This is produced in Germany, but the link is to the English episodes. You can do a search in iTunes to find the full feed if you speak German.

Popspotting
Previously a short, daily podcast, it’s on a hiatus right now while the married hosts are going through a health crisis in their family. Old episodes are well worth listening to, though, and fans are keeping the show alive by submitting listener edition podcasts.

Blessed and Broken

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My father and I only wanted to go and watch. Listen to the Rabbi. Perhaps see a miracle.

We had heard that He had come to our area trying to escape the crowds. We weren’t quite sure where He was, so we brought a bit of food just in case. It wasn’t much. Barely enough to share. Just a fish each and a little bread. I carried the basket.

He wasn’t hard to find, though. We just had to follow the crowd. They were all chattering and speculating about what He might say or do. By the time we had arrived, there were already people in the crowd saying that He had healed them. I didn’t know any of them, but my father said that he had seen one of them, a cripple, begging on the streets of a nearby village while he was trading there. The man was leaping and dancing at the edge of the crowd.

A hush fell over the crowd like a wave, starting with those closest to Him. The Rabbi was speaking. He said many strange things that I didn’t understand. I wanted to ask Father about them, but the crowd was nearly silent, straining to hear His words, and I didn’t dare.

The harsh afternoon sunshine had mellowed into a golden sunset, and the rustling noises of the crowd were increasing. My own stomach growled, and I began thinking about the bread and fish that I held in my lap.

There were men moving through the crowd. One of them saw my basket and said, “The Rabbi has asked us to find food. Have you brought some?” Without thinking, I nodded. “Will you bring it to Him?”

I thought about my empty stomach and the long walk home. I thought about all the people around us. Surely others had brought more food than we had. We only had enough for ourselves. And what we did have was hardly fit for the Rabbi. It was just our everyday simple, coarse bread. It wasn’t far to the nearest village, where He could buy as much bread as He needed for Himself and His followers. It would be far nicer than anything we could offer Him, even if He had come to our home.

Then I thought about how the Rabbi had come to this place to escape the crowds, yet the crowds – and my father and I – had followed Him. I thought about the man I had seen dancing on his newly strengthened legs. I thought about the Rabbi’s strange words about a new kind of kingdom. Without realizing that I had made a decision, I found myself getting to my feet and walking to the front of the crowd in the man’s wake. I threw a belated glance over my shoulder at my father, but he was following and gave me an approving nod as I approached the front of the crowd.

The other men were crowding around the Rabbi, telling Him that they had found no food, when the man I was following pulled me into the crowd. The Rabbi addressed the man, but His eyes were on mine, when He asked, “And you, Andrew? Have you found food for the crowd?”

I barely heard the man called Andrew reply as my eyes filled with tears. I had thought he just needed food for himself. Our little basket couldn’t possibly feed more than one or two people. The Rabbi couldn’t use what I had brought at all.

I heard Him exchange greetings with my father. Then He knelt down so He could look into my eyes. Embarrassed, I rubbed my hands across my cheeks to wipe away the tears that had fallen despite my efforts to hold onto them. He smiled at me. “You are the only one here who was willing to offer me food.”

Surprised, I looked into His eyes, which I had been avoiding. They were looking directly into mine, filled with kindness and humor, but a little sadness, too. “It’s not much,” I said.

“It is everything that you brought,” He replied. “That is much.”

I held the basket out to Him. “You are welcome to it, Rabbi.”

With another smile, He took the basket from my hand. He held the basket up, giving thanks to God, and He blessed it. Then He reached into the basket and pulled a loaf out. He broke it into several pieces and gave them to some of His followers. I expected them to eat what they had been given, but instead they passed it along to others in the crowd. What were they doing? Even if broken into bite-sized pieces, only a few people would get even a taste. The Rabbi did the same with one of the fish, then more bread and more fish were being passed around. Surely the basket must be nearly empty. The food kept coming, though.

I ended up sitting on the ground between Him and my father, eating what seemed like the same bread and fish that I had carried in the small basket. It couldn’t be the same, though. I was sure that I myself had eaten more than the basket had held, but every time the morsel in front of me disappeared, the Rabbi passed me another, or Father did, or one of His disciples, who were sitting nearby.

I leaned back, my stomach full to bursting with bread and fish. The Rabbi turned to me and said, “Thank you for letting Me use what you brought.” Then He turned to His followers. “Gather the leftover pieces and bring them here. This boy and his father should take them home.”

How could there be leftovers? It was a miracle that there was food for all. But the men started coming back with handfuls of bread and fragments of fish. They piled them into my little basket until it was overflowing. Someone must have found more baskets, or perhaps the Rabbi multiplied those like He had the food. When the men finally stopped going to and fro, there were a dozen baskets lined up in front of us, all filled to the brim with bread and fish. Laughing with joy and confusion after saying goodbye to the Rabbi, the man named Andrew, and the others, I carried my own basket home, while Father carried two larger ones, one under each arm.

© 2012 Marianne Giesecke

What’s on My Kindle – WWII Edition

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Well I didn’t plan it this way, but for some reason I’m reading a lot of World War II books on my Kindle right now.

I recently finished Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s actually a relatively short book. It was on my list because it’s often associated with Lost. With good reason, because it’s about a man who becomes “unstuck” in time. The effects aren’t the same as they were for Desmond, though.

Then, for some reason, I decided to start The Book Thief. Now this book is pretty popular and gets a lot of rave reviews, with good reason. But it’s also about a girl living in Germany during WWII and opens with the death of her brother, so it’s kind of a downer, too.

I then saw something online about a Kindle Single called Double-Edged Sword. It’s available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for Amazon Prime Members, so I decided to go ahead and borrow it for July. I further decided to preempt The Book Thief in favor of this one since it’s pretty short (clocking in at around 70 pages). It’s also much more light-hearted, about a Spanish double agent. So far it’s a pretty good read, so I’ll let you know how I like it overall after I’m done.

So that’s what’s on my Kindle right now. I’m going to make it a point to ensure that my next read is completely unrelated to World War II, though. How about you? What’s on your e-reader or nightstand?

The Kingkiller Chronicle

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This is another one that I’ve been meaning to write a post about for a while. I was first introduced to these books a couple of years ago. A Kindle message board I’m a member of has a monthly game where they pair people up to assign each other to read a book that may be a little outside their respective comfort zones. I decided to participate over the summer, and I was given The Name of the Wind as my assignment.

The book is a fantasy, a genre I certainly don’t have anything against, since there are a few on my all-time favorites list. Still, it’s a tricky genre for me. I feel like it’s a fine line to walk between having a fully-formed, believable world and too much unnecessary detail. I don’t typically seek out a fantasy book unless I’ve gotten a specific recommendation.

In this case I did have a recommendation, so I toodled off to Amazon to purchase the Kindle version. I started reading, and found it a bit hard to get into at first. It feels like we get dropped into the middle of some sort of political and/or metaphysical conflict that the characters understand somewhat but the reader does not. The characters are all sort of bland and stereotypical small village-type people. (That is, people living in a small village, not a short rock group.) A man named Chronicler is robbed on the road and then rescued from spider-shaped demons by Kote, the local innkeeper. After the ordeal is over, Chronicler recognizes Kote as Kvothe, an almost mythological figure in that land. Chronicler gets Kote to agree to tell his story so he can record it. Kote says it will take three days, and The Name of the Wind is the first day of the story.

This is where things started to get interesting. Once Kote/Kvothe took over the narrative, the book sprang to life for me, kind of like Dorothy stepping into a Technicolor Oz. The characters he talked about were real, flawed, beautiful people. I don’t want to spoil any of the story for you, but Kvothe goes through more situations in his early life than you would have thought possible. From traveling with his family of performers to learning what we would call magic (although they treat it very scientifically) at University, the thread that runs through the story is his desire to learn more about the Chandrian, some sort of evil beings, or spirits, that most people in his world believe to be fairy tales, especially at the University. When bad things happened to Kvothe, my own gut twisted with the unfairness of it all. When things worked out for him, I was elated. It was hard to put the book down.

The end of the book comes at the end of the day. Kote the innkeeper wraps up a few threads of the story, but we know that there is plenty more to come in the next two days. Somehow this all must connect to what is going on in the “present.” A late-night visit and request that Chronicler receives from Kote’s student (or at least that seems to be their relationship) only adds to the mystery.

Thankfully I didn’t have long to wait for the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, which came out later that year. I was anxious to spend more time with Kvothe, and I devoured this one, too. I have to admit that I didn’t find the second installment quite as compelling as the first. It seemed to drag a bit in the middle. (Frankly, part of the draginess was that Kvothe discovered sex.) The story did advance quite a bit, although we still haven’t learned why Kvothe was called “kingkiller” (despite his stint in the royal court during which no kings died, killed by Kvothe or otherwise) or much new information about what is going on in the “present,” except my growing conviction that it must have something to do with the Chandrian.

Now I’m stuck with all the rest of author Patrick Rothfuss’s fans waiting for book three, though, which isn’t even available for pre-order yet. (According to Goodreads.com it’s projected release date is May 1, 2013.) Sigh. At least that gives me plenty of time to re-read the first two books, the first of which weighs in at a hearty 676 pages, the second at just over 1000!

Bottom line, these books are excellent overall. Except for the knowledge that sex is being had, they are pretty tame and probably appropriate for the YA crowd. You should check them out. I’d love to know what you think about them!

Audible Love

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So I did buy the Outlander audio books – all seven of them – as I told you I thought I would. I’ve finished listening to Outlander, the first in the series. I’m catching up on some podcast listening before moving on to the next, but I am excited to start it.

The series is narrated by Davina Porter. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about her voice. It’s a bit low-pitched for a woman’s voice, and even a little rough. She has definitely grown on me, though. She does a wonderful job of providing different voices to the different characters, and her accents are amazing.

As for the story, well, you know how I feel about it. I love spending time with Claire, Jaime, and the rest. I loved them in print (well, on the Kindle), and I’m loving them again in audio.

One last thing to note is that I’m not typically an audio learner. That’s probably why I’ve been so reluctant to get into audio books thus far. I have really gotten into listening to podcasts in the last few years, though, especially while at work and in the car, so I thought maybe it was time to give audio books a go. All that to say that I think I’m particularly enjoying the experience because I had already read the books. I worry that if listening was my first experience with the books I wouldn’t catch as much as I did reading them. Maybe that will be my next audible adventure – listening to a new (at least to me) fiction book. It will be a while, though, since I have a couple hundred more hours of Outlander goodness to enjoy!

The Big Deal is Back!

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The Big Deal sale on Amazon Kindle books is back. But hurry because it ends tomorrow! (Sorry!) You want to know my picks this time? Here ya go – I aim to please!

I also picked up a few other cheap books today, all $2.99 Christian non-fiction recommended by Julie Clawson:

I’m not sure whether these are part of the Big Deal sale or not, so I’m not sure what the prices on these will do after tomorrow. (Heck, I don’t know what the prices will do on the others, either. Sometimes it’s more of a “highlight good, cheap books” thing rather than a temporary sale.)