Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I wasn't more than two pages into this book before I knew I was going to love it. And it wasn't because of the plot line, not yet at least. There is just something about the way Carrie Ryan writes that suites me. Her book is introspective, but not too intellectual; smoothly written, but not rushed.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the first in a trilogy of zombie novels. At some point in time was the Event, in which people were infected with a virus that killed them, and then turned them into zombies. But Mary's village was created with a fence that separated the healthy from the sick. The zombies live on one side, in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, while the people live on the other side. The village is run by the Sisterhood, women who know secrets about the Event, the Zombies, and the creation of the village. But they run the village tight lipped about these things, and espouse a strange brand of religion that involves traditional beliefs in God but also new customs created by the Sisterhood.

Despite these extraordinary circumstances, Mary struggles with normal things like who she is going to marry, and what she is going to do with her life. And like the rest of her town, she also lives with the threat of a breach of the fence hanging over her head. One day, when the town alarm is raised, Mary realizes this is no drill. The zombies have entered the town and she and her friends must now run away, into the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Having learned her whole life that there is nothing beyond the fence, Mary travels with her companions to discover what lies beyond her village and beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

For me, this book was a cross between Suzanne Collin's "The Hunger Games" and M. Night Shymalan's "The Village" with the romanticism of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" mixed in there. It can be a quick read; with a library deadline on the horizon, I read it in two days (and had vivid dreams both of those nights!). I wouldn't describe the book as scary, but Ryan's imagery can be dark and chilling. And she explores subjects like religion, evil, indoctination, and death in a fascinating way. She really makes you think about reality and how much of it is created by life events and what you've been taught. She makes you wonder, how much of my life is like Mary's? And even without the zombies in that equation, the answer to that can be what's truly scary about this book.

Reviewed by Cathy

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Close your eyes for a moment, okay, don't, since you're reading this. But puh-tend (as my 5 year old niece would say) and see what comes to mind when you think of things like "economic theory" and "regression analysis." Are you getting sleepy? Is your brain glazing over? Do you want to stab yourself in the throat with a spoon? Well, Freakonomics takes these things and actually makes them interesting.

Have you ever wondered why drug dealers live with their parents if they make so much money? Or if the name you give your child will affect his outcome in life? This book explores those topics and other ones like whether or not sumo wrestlers cheat and how the KKK runs its organization.

And to raise the ante, Levitt and Dubner aren't very politically correct about it. Don't get me wrong, they're not racist or vulgar but their ideas are provocative and require an open mind. They make it clear that if morals describe an ideal world, then economics describe a realistic world. So prepare yourself to delve into topics like abortion, race, and parenting. Maybe you'll learn a thing or two to keep that kid on the right path in his life (and out of your home once he's an adult!).

Reviewed by Cathy

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Bedwetter, Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

If you know anything about Sarah Silverman, it's that she loves to joke about farts, penises, and vaginas. But if you don't categorize her comedy as TMI, feel free to pick up her book and learn a buttload more about this young comidenne.

Surprisingly, the book starts off on a somewhat depressing tone, as Silverman talks about her tortured childhood. Teased, insecure, and depressed, Silverman as a child is more tragedy than comedy. But if you can get past the first 75 pages or so, the book picks up with Silverman talking about moving to New York and how she started doing open mics at comedy clubs. She works into her singular season at SNL in the early 90's and progresses to her move to LA where she works on her own show, The Sarah Silverman Program.

Is there inspiration in this book? Perhaps (I DID use the word "vagina" on my facebook page the day I finished reading it...) The fact that her life intersects with a lot of great comedians and writers before any of them really became successful is interesting. And her reflections on her childhood are relatable. But I'm not sure there are any real life lessons to be learned from this book, but it's a good read if you just want something easy and entertaining. And yeah, the crotch humor is a plus.

The Hubs' take: "I don't really care for her humor." Crotch humor? Really? Who doesn't like crotch humor?

Reviewed by Cathy