Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeer

Area X. Engulfing an ill-defined swath of land, sea and sky in the southern U.S., it appeared suddenly, cutting off all connections – human, animal and otherwise – from the rest of the world. The government sends team after team – scientific and military – into Area X. Some disappear without a trace, others return badly damaged and still others return seemingly unharmed, only to die weeks or months later. Most communication and recording instruments are rendered useless once the border is crossed, the footage that does survive only deepens the mystery – and the growing horror – of Area X. Still, the agency that oversees each of these doomed expeditions – The Southern Reach – prepares a twelfth  expedition.

Authority_(Southern_Reach_Trilogy)_by_Jeff_VanderMeerVanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy opens with Annihilation (February 2014) as four women – an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist and a biologist – are sent into Area X. Neither the author nor the narrator (the biologist) use names, instead the characters are defined only by their professions, lending a clinical and dispassionate air to the narrative. Even though we observe the others and Area X through the biologists’ eyes, even she remains somewhat removed from us and from her team. But instead of alienating the reader from the narrator, it lends an odd kind of intimacy that continues throughout the trilogy. The second book, Authority (May 2014) is told from the point of view of a man called only Control, who has been put in charge of The Southern Reach soon after end of the twelfth expedition –  and the investigation into its fate – as Area X appears to infiltrate (or contaminate, depending on your perspective) the world outside its borders. The third book, Acceptance (September 2014) returns us to Area X and the similarly inscrutable organization attempting to oversee, explain and control it.

Acceptance_by_Jeff_VanderMeerThe language VanderMeer uses is  deeply atmospheric and complex, at times, maddeningly so*, although here in Area X it is entirely appropriate. Area X itself defies explanation and even description, as if our view of it through the eyes of our semi-anonymous characters was obscured, with unseen or unknowable dimensions hovering right at the edge of our perception. This dawning horror of the unknown creates and maintains a nearly intolerable level of suspense as layer after layer  is peeled back – at times reluctantly – exposing and obscuring Area X and the people drawn into its influence.

This series is one of those that you’ll want (or in my case, need) to read more than once and even then, it stays with you. It reminds me of Stephen King’s short story Crouch End, or anything by Lovecraft. Even the cover art on the paperback editions is worth studying – and then hiding safely away, lest Area X escapes.

~ Allison

* In the middle of reading Authority, I came across this word and had to share it.

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to kill a mockingbirdOn February 3, 2015, the literary world was shocked to learn that Harper Lee would no longer be a One Hit Wonder. In July 2015, her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, is scheduled to be released.

Go Set a Watchman is the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird and is set twenty years later.  An adult Scout Finch lives in New York and is back visiting her father, Atticus Finch, in Maycomb, Alabama. According to the publisher, Scout “is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

While Harper Lee may be leaving the One Hit Wonder Club, that still leaves other authors that will remain in the One Hit Wonder Club forever.

 

wuthering heights Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights was published in London in 1847 by Ellis Bell.  The passion and violence in the book led people to believe that a man wrote Wuthering Heights.  Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848 at the age of thirty without knowing how popular her novel would become.

 

Black Beauty Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

It took Anna six years to write Black Beauty.  She was so sick while she wrote it that she dictated a lot of it to her mother.  Considered a children’s classic, Sewell wrote the book for people that worked with horses.  Sewell died on April 27, 1878 five months after her book had been published.

 

gwtw Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

It took Margaret Mitchell three years to write her famous novel and it took an additional six years before she showed  it to anybody.  In 1936, Gone With the Wind was published making Mitchell famous.  The movie release in 1939  only heightened her fame. Mitchell did not care for the spotlight which may be the reason she never wrote  a sequel.  In 1949, she was hit by a car and died five days later.

 

bell jar

 Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath was a published poet when she wrote her semi-autobiographical novel about mental illness.  In January 1963, The Bell Jar was published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.   Plath died less than a month later on February 11, 1963.

 

catcher in the rye J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger had published several short stories but The Catcher in The Rye made him famous in 1951. The attention made him reclusive and he published his short stories and novellas less frequently. Salinger died of natural causes on January 27, 2010.

 

novel livingIn this digital age, the fate of physical books remains in question. Even the concept of curling up with a good book conjures new images. But there remains a sensory thrill to physical books–to seeing and feeling them, to turning their pages – that makes many of us value them even more as digital reading grows in popularity.

In Novel Living, artist Lisa Occhipinti celebrates her love for physical books by presenting us with her unique ideas for collecting and displaying them, for conserving and preserving them, and for crafting with them. Guided by Occhipinti’s artful eye, you’ll be inspired to build and display collections based on your personal passions and to use books for crafting, either by deconstructing or by copying favorite elements. Amazingly, most of the projects – ranging from easy shelving to a headboard constructed of book spines to napkins composed of scans of favorite text passages from books–require no special skills or supplies. (description from publisher)

why i readIn Why I Read , Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing one of the most distinguished literary magazines in the country, The Threepenny Review, to describe her love of literature. As Lesser writes in her prologue, “Reading can result in boredom or transcendence, rage or enthusiasm, depression or hilarity, empathy or contempt, depending on who you are and what the book is and how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it.”

Here the reader will discover a definition of literature that is as broad as it is broad-minded. In addition to novels and stories, Lesser explores plays, poems, and essays along with mysteries, science fiction, and memoirs. As she examines these works from such perspectives as “Character and Plot,” “Novelty,” “Grandeur and Intimacy,” and “Authority,” Why I Read sparks an overwhelming desire to put aside quotidian tasks in favor of reading. Lesser’s passion for this pursuit resonates on every page, whether she is discussing the book as a physical object or a particular work’s influence. “Reading literature is a way of reaching back to something bigger and older and different,” she writes. “It can give you the feeling that you belong to the past as well as the present, and it can help you realize that your present will someday be someone else’s past. This may be disheartening, but it can also be strangely consoling at times.”

A book in the spirit of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel and Elizabeth Hardwick’s A View of My Own , Why I Read is iconoclastic, conversational, and full of insight. It will delight those who are already avid readers as well as neophytes in search of sheer literary fun. (description from publisher)

storied lifeA. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island – from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J. s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J. s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.

As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love. (description from publisher)

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is also available for check out as a free ebook through the RiverShare Digital Library.

stacks of booksHere’s a beautiful quote, reminding us of the importance of nature. Do you know which book it comes from?

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 

Did we stump you? Find the answer here.

stacks of booksWhoa – last week’s quote was a bit of a downer. Did you recognize which complicated Russian novel it was from? Let’s lighten things up a bit – after all, spring starts this week! – and go with something fun.

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink”.

Now how could you not want to read this book after an opening line like that? If you’re not sure of the title and want to track it down you can find the answer here.

stacks of booksHow did you do with last week’s quote? Did we stump you or are you a fan of classic horror and recognized it right away? Here’s an easy one that we’ve all heard. Do you know which famous book it’s from?

“Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.

Check here to see if you were right.

stacks of booksHow are you doing with our Favorite Quotes? Having fun with them, or getting frustrated? Here’s the last line from a classic we all know, but may not have read….

“He was soon borne away by waves and lost in darkness and distance”.

For those of us unfamiliar with this one, the answer is here.