& Review: The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy. Fiction. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing.

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy. Fiction. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing.

The Book Itself: Actually a really great cover. Ominous, creepy, foreboding, but strong. The title is overgrown and wild, while the author line is separate, to-the-point. It’s a book I would take off the shelf just because I liked the cover (which is what you’re looking for in a cover!) if I hadn’t heard about it from so many different sources before its release!

My Review: In Benjamin Percy’s new thriller, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.

Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.

Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.

I can picture Benjamin Percy coming up with the idea for this. He’s tipsy, ruminating on life as one does. He reads the title of something on TV or a piece of paper involving Lewis and Clark and goes: I know. A futuristic Lewis and Clark! Or he’s really into this Lewis and Clark biography a friend recommended. And he thinks: dystopia! 

Either way, it’s the nerdy-cool combination that sci-fi writers drool over. Of course, I read this on the heels of Ex-Heroes (superheroes and zombies, man!), so my nerdy-cool mash-up meter is pretty trippy. But regardless: this one is pretty good.

It follows pretty darn closely the real Lewis and Clark story. So if you’re a history buff (I will admit, I am not), the plot is going to be pretty predictable. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to read! You’ve got post-apocalyptic stuff in place of the real world obstacles. No grizzly bears or mosquitos here. Instead, there are eerily intelligent wolves. Vultures that respond to human thought. Radioactive mutations of everyday animals. And tribes of survivors that don’t like to be disturbed.

The book tries to keep two halves of the story moving along. One side follows those left behind in the Sanctuary, and the second side follows our intrepid explorers in the wild. It’s hard to really round out one of the storylines and not let the other one suffer. Not enough time is spent on one of them, and both of them suffer from plot twists introduced too late in the game: neither of them get enough time to develop falling action, so they end where they should really start picking up.

There are some really beautifully done scenes. The plot is heavy on description of the world gone wild and overgrown. The beasts are just as, if not more frightening than the people trekking through their territory. I mean…there are giant spiders. Just saying.

Some characters are better developed than others, and the ending’s a bit shaky on both ends of the story. But it’s very well written, and one heckuva ride.

My Grade: C

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& Fridays: Extreme Makeover Bookshelf Edition

I, like many bookworms before me, have what some people might call “too many books.”

And I’m perfectly okay with that. The real issue? The space. I simply do not have the shelves for all my wonderful books. The to-be-reads and have-read-but-must-keeps and the-classics-that-I-feel-I-need-to-own. I’ve had these modular shelving units from Target that I kept my knickknacks on since I was a kid.

My old, kiddy bookcase. Short, stuffed, overflowing with books and animals. And my to-reads aren't even on here!

My old, kiddy bookcase. Short, stuffed, overflowing with books and animals. And my to-reads aren’t even on here!

In other words, they were a mess.

I mean, look at that. And I had to keep all the books I had yet to read on a different bookshelf my mom lent me.

The horror!

I jest, of course, but I was getting pretty sick of them.

Enter IKEA.

Oh IKEA. You feel so original walking into IKEA. You look at the room models and you look at your living room/bedroom/office full of freshly assembled Scandinavian furniture and think yes…this is so clean…so nice…so originalThen you go to a party at a friend’s place and see the same bookcase…and desk…and end table.

Ah well, I went there anyway with my two best friends (one outfitting a new apartment, the other coming along for “emotional support,” but still managing to walk away with a yellow bag full of knickknacks). And I picked me out some bookcases.

And dude. Why is putting IKEA furniture together so hard?? Look at a bookcase: a back, a side, a top and bottom, adjust the shelves as needed, easy! Nope. Definitely not. I messed up on one, and gave up after the second one. Luckily I have a significant other who snuck into my house when I was away for a couple of days and assembled the third one. What a keeper 🙂

Ooooh, shiny!

Ooooh, shiny!

Anyhoo, the new bookcases!

They’re still full to bursting…but everything is on there now! Select knickknacks, my magazines (all filed into boxes, neatly labeled and everything!), my to-reads, classics, and coffee table books!

It’s kind of like an I Spy game…can you find….the ampersand? Grumpy cat? Where I screwed up when assembling one of the bookcases? How about my two collections of Harry Potter (international and domestic)? My grandmother’s wedding cake topper?

And also, good luck, because this photo was taken on my phone 😉

See if you can spot some books I’ve reviewed, too! Any home improvement projects you’ve done recently? Thoughts on IKEA?

& Review: When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord. Fiction. Publisher: Mulholland Books

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord. Fiction. Publisher: Mulholland Books

The Book Itself: The phases of the moon are, of course, integral to the story. The font is skinny and somewhat menacing. I wish it were a little more exciting, but it certainly sets you up for the ambiance the novel brings.

My Review: A small, quiet Midwestern town, which is unremarkable save for one fact: when the teenagers reach a certain age, they run wild.

When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she wouldn’t have guessed she would become a kind suburban wife, a devoted mother. In fact, she never thought she would escape her small and peculiar hometown. When We Were Animals is Lumen’s confessional: as a well-behaved and over-achieving teenager, she fell beneath the sway of her community’s darkest, strangest secret. For one year, beginning at puberty, every resident “breaches” during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path.

Lumen resists. Promising her father she will never breach, she investigates the mystery of her community’s traditions and the stories erased from the town record. But the more we learn about the town’s past, the more we realize that Lumen’s memories are harboring secrets of their own.

A gothic coming-of-age tale for modern times, When We Were Animals is a dark, provocative journey into the American heartland.

Reading the events of this novel, I kept thinking: wait, is this all just a big metaphor for puberty?

Because essentially, it is. Once a month, teenagers run wild and the adults let them because its what teenagers have done in this town since the beginning of time. Yes, even when those teenagers injure and sexually harass/harm other people. Even when people die. Multiple people. Important people.

But you know, those crazy kids. Lumen is an outcast, teased relentlessly for being small, for being the last in her class to breach, and for her complicated mommy issues. She goes through typical coming-of-age trials: liking a boy, liking a different boy (a bad boy), questioning the past her father feeds her, trying to get to know the mother she never really knew, and lusting for sex and danger every time a full moon comes around.

I wanted to hear more from Lumen as an adult. You can tell she’s deeply affected by what she went through as a child, but I wanted to really know how much. How on earth do you get past something that happened to you that was beyond your control, that you knew was coming and you were helpless to contain yourself or others. And it happened every singly month for years. At what times in her daily routine does this all hit home? Especially considering the last scenes (bit more on that later), how does she function?!

I also wish the logistics were hammered out more. I kept thinking if everyone in the town does this, why don’t they all just LEAVE THE TOWN. They do sort of kind of address this. But not really. They cite a single source of a young woman who left the town and it…didn’t go well. I needed more (again, I want to justify the weird…heavy handed metaphors don’t sit really well with me). The people here aren’t proactive enough! Isn’t the property and psychological damage enough to take some action here?! I know, I know, the whole breaching thing is symbolic. But it bugged me.

The book is well-written. Beautiful in parts, and certainly haunting. The last few scenes left me staggered. The book closes horrifically and doesn’t leave you with much falling action to catch your breath. It weirdly worked, considering the abrupt nature of the book’s subject. But boy, does it sucker punch you.

This book is really well-liked on the reviews I’ve seen. But it just didn’t jive with this reader. I couldn’t buy in to it’s particular shade of weird.

My Grade: C-

& Fridays: Bookworms have hobbies too…

So what if those hobbies also involve books? 😛

I LOVE to bake. Not cook. Bake. I am much more confident whipping up a cake, some cookies, or cupcakes, rather than cooking a whole chicken, grilling steaks, or making soup from scratch. Plus, I have a sweet tooth, so it’s more fun to sample my baking experiments.

I love bringing my concoctions into work, making something for a special family meal, and overall seeing the happy looks on people’s faces when they bite into something that tastes delicious.

Cupcakes!: From the Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Byrn. Baking. Publisher: Workman Publishing Company.

Cupcakes!: From the Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Byrn. Baking. Publisher: Workman Publishing Company.

I can pinpoint the exact book that started all this.

It’s a cake mix manipulation cookbook, so as a young, maybe-I-want-to-bake-something kid in a bookstore, this looked promising.

I proceeded to bake about 20 different recipes from the book, and still use the Red Velvet Cupcake recipe today.

“That’s cheating!” you might say. Yeah, yeah, using a boxed mix instead of churning your own butter by hand or using real vanilla beans that you strip yourself and that you grow in your own backyard might seem like cheating to some people. But come on, it’s simple, and you’re transforming the flavors of a simple mix with extra moisture (extra eggs or putting pudding mix with the boxed mix to add depth), and mix-ins (my favorite Red Velvet one has mini chocolate chips – divine!).

I found I LOVED baking. I loved using Mom’s Kitchenaid mixer, I loved the smell of stuff baking in the oven, I loved tasting the final product, I loved giving them as gifts (relatively cheap, too!)

Fast forward a few years, and I still adore doing it. I have SHELVES of cookbooks. Probably a shelf per baked good. I have some dedicated to just cookies, some to cupcakes, some for just cakes, even doughnut books! And of course, Pinterest is invaluable. I type in “cookie recipes,” and a few dozen possibilities, complete with drool-worthy photos pop up. Some of my favorite recipes come from trusty Pinterest.

 

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal. Baking. Publisher: Ten Speed Press.

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal. Baking. Publisher: Ten Speed Press.

I’m currently working through some recipes from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal. Look at that cover, first of all. YUM.

I made the “Barter Brownies” recipe – a homemade, fudgy brownie recipe with chocolate crisped rice cereal topping on top. Holy. Moley. I brought it into work at the bookstore and people FLIPPED. I got a text from my coworker that said: “Your brownies have changed my life. I’ve never been this moved by food ever.”

I mean, wow. And that was just the first recipe I tried! I can’t imagine what the other cookies and treats will be like.

The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook. Publisher: Countryman Press.

The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook. Publisher: Countryman Press.

King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion houses my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Before that, when I made the classic treat, they looked lovely coming out of the oven, and promptly flattened after about fifteen minutes cooling. Even after I chilled the dough before baking!

Cake My Day! by Karen Tack, Alan Richardson. Baking. Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflen Harcourt.

Cake My Day! by Karen Tack, Alan Richardson. Baking. Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflen Harcourt.

And I adore the line of Hello, Cupcake! baking books. They feature clever, adorable cakes and cupcakes made with simple tools. They even recommend that you use cake mixes. One recipe even has you buy a pound cake straight from the store! Some are a little odd – I don’t know when you’ll need an Abominable Snowman cake, or cupcakes that look like a TV dinner, complete with corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. But I’ve made the duck cupcakes for a bake sale in college (our mascot was the duck), and they sold like hotcakes. My friend has two dachshunds, so I might make her a cake that resembles one. The cute possibilities are basically endless!

What is a passion of yours? Are you one of those lucky people who can look at the contents of a spare fridge and throw together a gourmet meal? Do you appreciate a good cookie now and then?

 

& Coffee Table Corner: Steampunk

It is about time that I did a steampunk style Coffee Table post. Or a steampunk style post in general. It’s such a huge style and genre movement these days. I can’t turn my head on the Internet without seeing steampunk costumes, jewelry, novels, artwork.

It’s a happy medium between history buffs – Victorian England style, those big dresses, corsets, elaborate hair. And sci-fi buffs – clockwork engineering, antique-looking laser guns (wait…is that a steampunk thing?), enormous dirigibles and zeppelins.

The Tragedy Series: Secret Lobster Claws and Other Misfortunes by Benjamin Dewey. Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin.

The Tragedy Series: Secret Lobster Claws and Other Misfortunes by Benjamin Dewey. Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin.

So…what steampunk books should you display in your steampunk living room?

I saw a Tragedy series comic a couple years ago and loved the style. It was Tragedy #236: “Soulmates, each engrossed in same tome, never meet.” And it depicted two well-dressed, unknowing soulmates, reading books and walking in opposite directions.

It appealed to me as a book lover, plus I loved the way it was drawn. It was part of a tumblr series which has since expanded and been made into a book!

It’s all in sepia tones, each page with three funny, steampunk style tragedies. Some of them have basis in cliches or folk sayings, and some of them make no sense. But they’re guffaw-worthy, and look great on a coffee table for guests to pick up and giggle at.

Coloring with Your Octopus by Brian Kesinger. Publisher: Baby Tattoo Books

Coloring with Your Octopus by Brian Kesinger. Publisher: Baby Tattoo Books

But wait…there’s more!

Because apparently I can’t get through a post without including a coloring book these days, check out this steampunk coloring book with charming scenes of a girl (“Victoria Psismall”), and her magically-able-to-breath-on-land octopus (“Otto”).

Snake-charming, carousel-riding…color it all and then display your artwork on the walls of the same living room where this steampunk coloring book used to lie.

Mayfair's Signature Design by Ashley Coffee Table. Found here.

Mayfair’s Signature Design by Ashley Coffee Table. Found here.

There are lots of clockwork or machinery-themed coffee tables Unfortunately, a lot of them look deadly.

Like, I’d be afraid of “Death by Coffee Table” being put on my tombstone. Because I’m clumsy. And I would trip and gouge my face on a coffee table. That is something I would do.

But these two, by Mayfair and Restoration Hardware, are subtle enough that I think I might just get a bruise on my head.

Glass Top Furniture Factory Cart by Restoration Hardware. Found here.

Glass Top Furniture Factory Cart by Restoration Hardware. Found here.

They’re a nice compromise between old school wood coffee table and new school hardware. Plus, they’re on cool looking wheels. I’d probably spend whole afternoons just scooting them around the room for fun.

Hey, I’m easily amused.

What are your favorite steampunk titles, coffee table or otherwise?

& Review: Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Harper

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Harper

The Book Itself: Honestly, I liked the cover of the first installment, The Queen of the Tearling better. It was ominous, fantastical. This sequel has similar filigree around the edges of the cover, but the silhouette of the girl and the pastel landscape beyond her….it’s okay. It feels less ominous and dark, while the story is quite a bit darker than its predecessor.

My Review: With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

I prepared for this one. I picked up the ARC at work one day and re-read The Queen of the Tearling before I began the sequel, so I wouldn’t be lost with the character names or events leading into this one. I settled in with this book and read it in a couple of days.

The verdict? It’s doing something not a lot of dystopians or fantasies are doing, but it’s also making some shaky choices as far as character go.

The odds are stacking decidedly against Kelsea as this book opens. She saved an unauthorized shipment of slaves to Mortmesne, but the Red Queen still builds an army against her. Kelsea’s rule as queen is still predicted to be a short one. And also, for some reason, the people are pressuring her to somehow find a mate and produce a kid in the week between finding out an army is coming to destroy the city and that army actually showing up…so that’s a drag (seriously, how does anyone have time to worry about an heir and a spare when facing certain death?!)

Add to that the fact that she starts having vivid visions about a woman pre-Apocalypse (aka pre-“Crossing,” as it is called in the world the Tearling is set in), whose incredibly abusive situation has historical parallels to Kelsea’s timeline. Kelsea seems A-OK about getting these distracting visions, even holing herself up on the evening before the Mort’s projected invasion to ride one out. Ummm…hello, your kingdom is being invaded? Maybe spend some time figuring out that mess before getting in the midst of someone else’s.

But I digress. On that front, I’m a little confused as to why Johansen chose to include Lily’s storyline. And I shouldn’t be confused. Because when I reviewed the first book, I had questions about why this needed to be a dystopian. And here is the author, trying to give me a reason why the world needs to be a dystopian. But. But I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced. Lily’s story is horrific, that’s for sure (if you’re sensitive to graphic abuse scenarios, be warned that they’re abundant in this one). And she provides some nice coloring in of the background of Kelsea’s world. But it doesn’t show me why this needs to be dystopian. It becomes jarring, going from “modern day” (Lily’s world), to medieval battle (Kelsea’s). And it draws crucial focus away from Kelsea’s dire situation. A situation that I find more compelling and better outlined.

In that same thought, I’m a little uncomfortable with the way this sequel handles violence. It’s too flippant. Johansen deals with themes of self harm, domestic abuse, even rape. And it’s all done in a tone of “well, what can you do?” For many of the characters, this violence is glorified. And while Lily is made stronger from having to put up with her husband, while Kelsea is under a great deal of pressure during her rule, this violence is casual, and not dealt with well.

Then there’s the deus ex machina, as it were, of Kelsea’s sapphires. They save her from pretty much any situation. It was a little bit of an issue for me in the first book, and it gets worse in this one. It gets to where I don’t worry for Kelsea and her people because she’s got these necklaces that protect from all harm. They’re magic. And this magic is a little too all-powerful. Johansen could make it interesting: how do mere mortals handle magic that powerful? Is Kelsea tempted by that all-consuming power? Does it affect her leadership methods? But there are a few too many things in this sequel distracting from that idea to make it a good one.

So I have issues with it. It’s still a good ride. It ends on a cliffhanger and I’ll be moving on to the third when it comes out. But I still take issue with some of the characters and plot choices. Hopefully the third installment will tie up some loose ends and concentrate on well-developed characters.

My Grade: C

& Fridays: Change is Good!

Change is good. It might not seem like it at the time the change occurs, but often I look back on what I thought were bad changes in my life — a particularly difficult break up, a rejection from a prestigious college, losing touch with friends or family — and I can see that I’ve at least learned from the change. And more often than not, the change was for the better. That break up? It lead me to meet someone way kinder, funnier, better for me. The college rejection? My college years were some of the best of my life. I have lifelong friendships from my time at a public state college, and irreplaceable memories from my years there. Losing touch with friends/family? In hindsight, that friendship was kind of toxic. When I do see that family member again, it’s all that much more special to see them. It’s a joy to catch up on each other’s lives.

And then, there are changes that you know are good right off the bat.

I got a new job. And while it takes me away from a group of people I truly loved to work with at the bookstore, and a subject matter I was passionate for (good books. The discount on reading material didn’t hurt either), it will allow me to pursue another passion, and meet more people to build friendships with.

I am currently in my second week of training for being a world wide travel agent. I have loved travel for as long as I have been able to board a plane, get in a car for a road trip, look at a map and say I want to go there! In the short amount of time I’ve spent with the company I’m with, I have planned half a dozen trips in my mind, and I’m itching to help other people explore the world, experience things, and make connections that they’ll never forget!

So now that I’ve bored you with gushing about my new job, let’s get to some books, shall we?

Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell. Travel Writing. Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books.

Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell. Travel Writing. Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books.

Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell sits on my bedside table. It details one man’s conviction to travel to every single country in the world – 195, a number that sometimes changed as he was planning his travels – in his lifetime.

It doesn’t go chronologically. Instead, Podell picks the best stories. The moments that hit him most, emotionally, humorously, most interestingly. There’s not a lot of Paris, London, Australia…the most common “I want to go there!” places that people choose.

It’s facing flat tires in the middle of the Saharan desert. Fearing death by militia, death by deadly ocean animals, death by language misunderstanding in Africa, Asia, South America. It’s the places you don’t hear about in popular travel books. And it’s quite funny. I’m about halfway through it now, and each story is crazier than the next.

Travels by Michael Crichton. Travel Writing. Publisher: Vintage.

Travels by Michael Crichton. Travel Writing. Publisher: Vintage.

I read Jurassic Park before going to see the new movie that recently came out. Lemme tell you: the book is way different than the 90’s movie made based on it.

But anyway. Crichton’s Travels is on my to-read shelf. You can tell Crichton is a travel nerd. Post-Jurassic Park fame, he wanted to set off and see the world.

So he did. I read a couple snippets before I bought it. And if the hilarious misunderstandings due to language and customs that I read through are an indication of the rest of the book, it’s sure to be a fun read.

So there you have it! I will still be returning to my favorite bookstore. There are always more books to buy! But I am beyond excited to start this new journey!

(And the blog will continue as usual, of course. I’m still reading, and I’m still behind on posts! Bear with me!)

& Review: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: Crown Publishing Group.

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: Crown Publishing Group.

The Book Itself: Is it weird that I like the titles for this series? Half block letters, half scrawl, very vigilante-esque. I like having a visual of the superheroes, as well. It’s hard to picture what some of them look like (except for Stealth. They like to mention how sexy Stealth looks every chance they get…)

My Review: Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.
 
Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Billions died, civilization fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland. 
 
Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions protect a last few thousand survivors in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. Scarred and traumatized by the horrors they’ve endured, the heroes fight the armies of ravenous ex-humans at their citadel’s gates, lead teams out to scavenge for supplies—and struggle to be the symbols of strength and hope the survivors so desperately need.
 
But the hungry ex-humans aren’t the only threats the heroes face. Former allies, their powers and psyches hideously twisted, lurk in the city’s ruins. And just a few miles away, another group is slowly amassing power . . . led by an enemy with the most terrifying ability of all. 

Zombies and superheroes. Is there a more awesome combo?!

This book only has a couple of slow spots (tactical meetings, backstory for some but not all of our undead-fighting pals), and the rest is action, action, action. In a way, it reads like an action packed TV show. It’s very “baddie of the week” (although in this case, it turns out to be the same couple of baddies).

I liked the variety of powers, and the fact that it felt like not all of the superheroes were invincible. In fact, only the Mighty Dragon/St. George (took me a little bit to realize both names were in reference to the same hero) can wade into a horde of zombies and not be bitten because they physically cannot bite through his flesh. Their emotional wounds are also present, as you might expect in a world where loved ones have turned dead and ravenous for your own flesh.

There are a couple of points where you feel as if all hope is lost (as all good action-based stories go – there have to be stakes that feel real in order for the whole thing to pay off), and our heroes pull ahead (spoiler alert?). So it definitely keeps things spicy and keeps you turning the pages.

I’m looking forward to the next installments fleshing (ha! Pun unintended…) out the rest of the hero characters. In this first book, everyone’s tragedies are just briefly touched upon. You get the most out of St. George, but you get a taste of some pretty tragic stuff from a couple of the others.

Overall, it’s well-paced and the characters interesting…so far. There are a lot of them, and I’m nervous for how that will be handled in the next book or two. Could be hard to juggle all of that backstory and still give readers characters to root for and feel empathetic for.

My Grade: B

& Coffee Table Corner: Grown Up Where’s Waldo

Like, seriously, what twisted individual came up with this scene in Where's Waldo??

Like, seriously, what twisted individual came up with this scene in Where’s Waldo??

Remember the Where’s Waldo books in those big, hardcover editions? The ones where you wore out the spine because you had to lay them flat to peer at the complex scenes? The ones in the doctor’s office, the ones your babysitter brought over? Anybody go nuts once or twice because you swear, they’re playing a joke on you and Waldo can’t actually be there?!

Yeah, we’ve all been there, I think. There have even been analyses on how to find our striped friend! A fellow named Randal S. Olson actually came up with an optimal search strategy here, in his post about being snowed in one weekend, analyzing kernel densities of where Waldo appears in all his books. And Slate ran a similar article, giving you graphed patterns for where Waldo emerges across the series.

So, you know, if you want to ruin your childhood a little or trounce your friends at a Where’s Waldo? party (can that be a thing? Where everyone comes dressed as Waldo?!), use those patterns.

Find Momo by Andrew Knapp. Publisher: Quirk Books.

Find Momo by Andrew Knapp. Publisher: Quirk Books.

Find Momo Coast to Coast by Andrew Knapp. Publisher: Quirk Books

Find Momo Coast to Coast by Andrew Knapp. Publisher: Quirk Books

But how about some easier, coffee table versions to display in your living room?

In Find Momo and Find Momo Coast to Coast, photographer Andrew Knapp has either taught his dog a rather strange but awesome trick, or his dog is just plain sneaky.

In both books, Momo the border collie hides behind national monuments, in grassy plains where you have to hunt to find his furry black head popping out from a corner, and my personal favorite, one in which he’s peering over the shoulder of a girl reading on some building steps. Some scenes are more difficult than others, and none of them are Where’s Waldo? hard, but I mean, come on…how stinking cute is that?

Where in the World is Koneko Cat? by Asuka Satow. Publisher: Andrews McNeel Publishing

Where in the World is Koneko Cat? by Asuka Satow. Publisher: Andrews McNeel Publishing

Speaking of cute, how about a coloring book and find-the-cute-cat-emoji-character, all in one??

Where in the World is Koneko Cat? is just that: complex coloring pages (get your fine-tipped markers ready for this one, folks), and tiny, adorable cats packed into each page.

You can play it Where’s Waldo? style and leave it at that, of course, but the color your own adventure style just seems fun 🙂

So what’s the perfect Waldo themed coffee table? One with a hidden compartment, of course!

This Magnussen Darien Coffee Table looks like a regular old brown coffee table. Some cool magazine slots in the sides, nice little drawers…but oh wait, the top is a secret compartment!

Plain old coffee table...

Plain old coffee table…

Secret coffee table!

Secret coffee table! Found here at Wayfair.

Whaaaaaat?

Just imagine the possibilities: snacks…favorite books…gifts you need to hide from family or friends coming over. Heck, keep your knitting in there!

Have you come across any cool Waldo style books? Do you still have your original copies of those tall hardcovers? What was your favorite/least favorite scene?