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  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2017/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: a quick bite, , bloodsuckers, , ha!, immortals after dark, interview with a vampire, , lords of the underworld, , , , the vampire diaries, , vampire academy,   

    How to Survive a Vampiric Society 

    So, you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a (blood) bind: you’re surrounded by vampires. Be cool, stay calm, because I’ve got your trust guidebook right here for how to survive (or, succumb to, if that’s your thing) a society of vampires:

    1. Blend in with a troubled past.
    You’ll notice a trend right away, especially with societies like J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. With names like Wrath, Rhage, Rehvenge, Torhment and equally dangerous and devious pasts to match, you have to blend in with a troubled past. Are you cursed and possessed by a beast? Can you see the future but never change it? Are you on a quest for vengeance? Were you held hostage by the enemy? Whatever your past is, it can’t be sunshine and roses, because you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

    2. Be innocent in contrast to their worldliness
    Vampires have seen the world. Odds are, you haven’t. So if a vampire like Lestat or Louis from Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice is in your midst, definitely don’t suggest that “actually Pizza wasn’t invented in Italy because they didn’t have tomatoes until the 1500’s” because they will come right back at you with the knowledge that they were there in 997 AD in Gaeta, central Italy, where it was invented, and that pizza is even referenced in the Aeneid. Instead, be charmed by their knowledge of what it was like in Ancient Rome, the Harlem Renaissance, or the Disco Age. That is, if you expect to get out with your neck intact.

    3. Are you cool with being blood-bait?
    This is a big one, and you better decide quick: are you okay with being a walking bloodbag? If not, I refer you to number 1, in which case you better come up with a reason why your blood is toxic to vamps. If you’re cool with it, though, it could actually prove handy, like it does in Vampire Academy and The Vampire Diaries, where it heals wounds and even increases the bond between two people. (And odds are if you’re in a Vampiric society, you’re going to get injured now and again.)

    4. Pick a vampire type and don’t stray.
    It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are two types of vampires: those who want to be good, and those who love being bad. To survive in a world of bloodsuckers, you have to decide where your allegiance lies…and do your best not to stray, because that just complicates things, and increases your chances of NOT surviving by a solid 60%. Learn from Sookie Stackhouse from The Southern Vampire Series, people: choosing the bad guy halfway through the journey is a recipe for disaster.

    5. Be really good at keeping secrets.
    When you join a world of vampires, your old world gets left behind. Be prepared to mourn and wrestle with whether you made the right choice in the first place, but under no circumstances should you reveal the truth to anyone around you. Even if you’re in a modern world of Vampires, threats still abound. Bella did not do a great job of keeping a low profile in Twilight, and look what happened to her! (I mean, unless you want to become a vampire with an immortal vampire baby, in which case, blab all you want, just be careful the Volturi don’t come for you.)

    6. People are going to try and kill you. Accept it.
    Speaking of the Volturi, another important piece of info: you’re a target now. Hanging out with vampires, willingly or not, makes you one. Werewolves, witches, other vampires, demons; every creature under the sun is going to want you deader-than-undead, so don’t be stupid and think you can beat them all yourself. You’ve no doubt made allies among the vampires by now (if not lovers, like in A Discovery of Witches), so as long as you’re human yourself, use them as shields. Trust me, with pecs and abs like theirs, they can take it.

    7. Sometimes, you gotta be willing to die in order to survive.
    But while all of the above is going on, you have to think of two really important things: are you willing to die for them? If you’re anything like the humans in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, you’re willing to sacrifice everything you’ve got—including your life and soul—in order to save them, knowing you might not come back. If that doesn’t appeal to you, I refer you back to #1: blend in until you can find a moment to escape, or an ally who wants to help you, and then, run.

    8. Be willing to become one yourself.
    And the second question is, of course: do you want to be a vampire yourself? Come to think of it, how did you end up in this pickle in the first place? Was it a curiosity about the mysteries of life you couldn’t explain, like in Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld? Was it a hunger for passion that your human existence could never provide, like in A Quick Bite, by Lynsay Sands? Have you actually wanted this all along and this survival guide has just been a waste of your time? Well, in that case, just find your vampire soul-mate and join the party.

    We’ve been waiting for you.

    The post How to Survive a Vampiric Society appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2017/06/01 Permalink
    Tags: , ha!, lovecraft country, matt ruff, ,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Being in Love With a Book 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.  

    Nine days out of 10, I’m inclined to agree with Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hell is other people.” On those days when the rest of the species disappoints you, it’s so natural, so easy to rely on your No. 1 coping mechanism: a good book.

    This is why I believe it is entirely possible to be in love with a book. You see, books fill a void often left by interactions in this world. Sure, what you’re reading can often tear your heart out, stomp on it, and shove it back into your chest. But it doesn’t discourage you or fill you with regret. A book’s challenges and heartbreak only make you love it more.

    Better yet, a book doesn’t discourage you from loving again. A healthy relationship with a book isn’t monogamous at all.

    I’m happy to announce I myself am in a new book relationship with the unexpected and haunting Lovecraft Country, the one-two punch of otherworldly and Jim Crow horrors you never knew you needed. Right now, I’m in the phase of the relationship where I sing its praises to everyone I meet. I want to shout from the rooftops about my undying affection for this book.

    What other phases of book love are there? Oh, I reckon you’re familiar with them, on the off chance you’ve ever loved another—homo sapien or hardback.


    You see it, in the center display, among the new releases. Its striking cover catches your eye. The typography seduces you. You come closer, because you must. Once that book in is in your hands, you know it’s coming home with you, and every sentence of its backside blurb confirms for you the rightness of the situation.

    You have more errands to run once you leave the bookstore, and it drives you crazy that you can’t tear open its page right now. But you pull it out of the shopping bag and place it, regally, on the passenger seat. You want it to understand your interest.

    Casual Dating

    When you finally do get a chance to dive into your new reading relationship, the infatuation only grows. You find any and all excuses to sneak some time with your book of choice. You take up recreational bathroom breaks at work, and you upsize the clutches you take out to dinner with you so you can squeeze in some reading between courses.

    This is the stage of book love that has you sharing favorite passages on Snapchat, and your Instagram is nothing but various shots of the book in different locations: perched on your lap by the pool, swirled artistically in a blanket on the couch, peeking out from beneath your cat, etc.

    Long-Term Relationship

    You’d think that once you finish a book, your relationship with it would mostly end. Instead, it’s just the beginning of a much more serious commitment. Now you must proselytize. You must persuade the rest of the world not only of your love but of the belief that they too much love this book. You work the title into conversations entirely unrelated. You compare real-life situations to key plot points (without revealing too much, of course). You shoehorn it in as your book club’s next selection just so you can re-read it.

    Till Death Do Us Part

    There are some books you know are destined to be bequeathed in your will someday. Your grandchildren, once they have proven their merit through a series of challenges, will inherit this precious tome one day—once they pry it from your cold, dead hands.

    These are the books that inspire you to tattoo yourself with their quotations. These are the books that survive countless moves and a number of real-life relationships. These are the books whose covers are falling off because of the number of times you’ve re-read them—and the number of times the dog has yanked them off the nightstand. These are the books who understand the meaning of well-loved.

    What books have you in it for the long haul?

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to Being in Love With a Book appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Brian Boone 3:17 pm on 2017/03/17 Permalink
    Tags: ha!, too funny   

    5 Recent Comic Novels That Are Hilariously Reviving the Form 

    The comic novel is not a genre as popular as it once was. This form, generally expressed in the format of a sane narrator slowly unraveling at the slowly-building chaos around them, or responding to a bunch of crazy characters or situations, had its big cultural moment in the middle of the 20th century, and were often very dry and semi-intellectual, set in semi-intellectual places like colleges, because it takes brains to have a sense of humor. But still, there are a lot of recent novels that pick up the gauntlet thrown down long ago by Kingsley Amis, Tom Robbins, and John Kennedy Toole.

    The Stench of Honolulu, by Jack Handey
    One could make an argument that Jack Handey is the greatest jokesmith of all time. He wrote for Saturday Night Live for years, most notably the recurring segment that bore his name: “Deep Thoughts.” A book of these goofy, ridiculous, and absurd pronouncements was published in the ’90s, establishing Handey’s distinct voice. (A favorite “Deep Thought”: “If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong, though. It’s Hambone.”) Handey doesn’t write for the screen much anymore, choosing instead to write comic essays (collected in What I’d Say to the Martians) and novels, such as the delightful The Stench of Honolulu. An unreliable narrator is one thing, but the first-person narrator at the center of this novel, accurately reports what’s happening, but he’s completely unaware of how incredibly stupid and destructive he is. Handey’s rhythm, which is somewhat important to comedy, is impeccable—almost every paragraph ends with a joke.

    The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
    One place where the comic novel is alive and well is in the youth market. As comic novels point out the absurdity of life, life is even more absurd if you’re very young and haven’t seen much of it to form a frame of reference. So, more often than not, middle-grade novels include a robust through-line of the weird. Those huge-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are surprisingly dark—all the adults are buffoons and the narrator, Greg, is lazy, awful, and entitled. Publishers have been eager to find the next Wimpy Kid, and it just might be Mac Barnett and Jory John’s The Terrible Two series. The premise is familiar and engrossing: new kid moves to town, principal is a bad guy—but it goes in an amusingly anarchic direction, as the new kid and the narrator play elaborate, impossible to notice pranks against one other before deciding to team up and combine their powers to generate mischief of the highest order. After all, friendship is merely nihilism with high fives.

    Contemptible Blue, by Lucas Gardner
    Another kind of comic novel is the one that makes fun of other novels, and that turns literary conventions on their heads, providing at least two or three levels of comedy. It’s dizzying when done well, like in Contemptible Blue. It’s about a lame, boring guy who is very sad about being lame and boring and winds up reading Moby Dick. Well, he skims it, absorbing just enough information to re-brand himself “Captain Fortnight” and set a course for a life of adventure as a whaling boat commander. His white whale is actually blue, the one of the title, who is at least 500 years old and possibly immortal. The premise is funny, and the jokes are non-stop.

    Skunks Dance, by St. John Karp
    A good comic novel has to have that bit of ongoing madness at its core, but it also needs quirk and uniqueness from which it can derive humor and jokes. There’s a ton of this in Skunks Dance. One timeline involves Gold Rush-era California, and the timeless story of how one man done another man wrong by robbing a bank with his identity and then making him wear a tutu in a one-man play. The other timeline is about present-day teenagers trying to find the treasure left behind in the first timeline. If you love books with Western themes, clever teens, and crime fiction involving bizarre explosions, this should suit you just fine, pardner.

    Sweetness #9, by Stephan Eirik Clark
    This book doesn’t contain the kind of humor that one would call “ha-ha” humor or “laugh out loud comedy.” It’s more funny in the existential meaning of the word, in that life is meaningless and absurd, and whether you try or don’t try, you’re ultimately doomed. LOL. Clark’s Sweetness #9 is about a very well-meaning guy who, decades ago, helped invent food additives and sweeteners that in the 1970s seemed like godsends but ultimately turned out to be at least mildly toxic. What transpires is a darkly comic novel about cosmic guilt.

    What are your favorite comic novels?

    The post 5 Recent Comic Novels That Are Hilariously Reviving the Form appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Brian Boone 4:54 pm on 2017/03/15 Permalink
    Tags: , ha!, random larks   

    5 Famous Authors Who Switched Genres 

    Authors are just like any other creative professional in that they tend to find something they’re good at, stick with it, and keep going as long as they can. Some authors do spy novels, for example, or romance novels, or horror novels. But then they some of them get restless, or feel the great call of Art, and want to stretch their writing muscles a bit, or just try another kind of genre because it’s fun. The results vary, of course, but the fact that these authors saw them through to the end is commendable, and even if these books’ entire existence is utterly baffling and hard to reconcile to our brains, every one of them is still worth a read.

    Ian Fleming, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
    Fleming wrote about 10 billion spy novels: After all, he’s the creator of James Bond. He laid out the template for the modern, frothy spy novel, combining international espionage with sex, martinis, and ski chases. He died in 1964, but other writers have just kept writing James Bond novels, because there was a lot of 007 demand to be filled and further 007 movies to be made. But toward the end of his life, Fleming tried branching out from spy novels with a book that is the polar opposite of what he was known for, and yet also remaining cinematic and irresistible. Yes, Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the classic kids’ book about a magical flying car.

    Douglas Coupland, Worst. Person. Ever.
    Is there a more “’90s” author than Douglas Coupland? He literally helped define a generation. No, really, his almost plotless first novel, Generation X, about three aimless friends in their 20s, gave that generation of Americans its name. He followed it up with more quiet, thoughtful, and zeitgeist-defining novels throughout the decade that spoke to the rootlessness, disconnect, and emptiness felt by those born in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Microserfs and Girlfriend in a Coma. But time marched on, and as Gen X took their spots atop the world, Coupland had to move on to explore more current cultural matters. He also got wacky. In 2013, he published Worst. Person. Ever. It’s a farce about a terrible guy named Raymond Gunt (really), a reality show cameraman upon whom one bad thing after another happens.

    Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald
    A childhood without access to Roald Dahl books is a sad childhood. Few authors can speak to children or understand them the way Dahl did, addressing their anxieties about the bigness, cruelty, and nonwhimsicalness of the adult world in classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, and The Witches. Dahl also wrote a book for adults. My Uncle Oswald is a comic erotic novel with the very adult plot of a woman who seduces men, steals their semen, and then sells it to single women who want to get pregnant.

    Thomas Harris, Black Sunday
    Harris is one of the most successful horror and crime writers of all time, even though he’s only published four books in the genre. But they were a big four: the series of novels about super-genius cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter that have been turned into Oscar-winning box office smashes and the acclaimed NBC series Hannibal. Harris published the first book in the series, Red Dragon, in 1981, and has never looked back. But we did, and we found that the only book in his bibliography that isn’t a gory look into the mind and practices of serial killers is his 1975 debut novel, Black Sunday. Playing like an episode of a ’70s cop drama or an ’80s cop movie, Black Sunday is also about bad people doing bad things, but it’s about a rogue blimp pilot who plans to blow up the Super Bowl.

    T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
    It’s the thing that Eliot did as a spot of fun for which he is probably best known. Okay, well, maybe not—he’s best known for his Modernism-defining masterworks of poetry such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land.  But the thing that came out of Eliot’s remarkable brain with which the average person would be most familiar is Cats. The cheesy musical about singin’, dancin’ purrin’, and dyin’ cats, many of whom are quite jellicle, is based on Eliot’s non-narrative poetry collection, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. A lot of the characters and ideas are there (poem titles include “The Rum Tum Tugger” and “Mr. Mistoffelees”), but it is not something that Eliot took entirely seriously. At all. He wrote the poems off and on in the ’30s, and included them in letters to the children of friends and his godchildren, attributing them to an imaginary figure named “Old Possum.” Andrew Lloyd Webber loved the book so much, he found a way to make an extremely successful musical out of it.

    What other famous authors have written books in other genres?

    The post 5 Famous Authors Who Switched Genres appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 4:13 pm on 2017/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: , ha!, ,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Spring Break 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.

    Personally, I’ve never been much of a spring break person. Sure, a week’s vacation is great—at any time of the year. But spring break , as it has been billed, manifests as many of the things I hate in this world: big crowds, the sun, various forms of cheap vodka, bikinis, delinquent youths.

    But, as with most things, now that I no longer get a spring break , I covet it something awful. The idea of doffing a perfectly enormous sun hat to a horde of inebriated college students as I stay secure in the shady sanctuary of a poolside cabana appeals to me, as is my right as someone who owns sundry nonfiction works about the Romanovs.

    For those of you who do intend to indulge, however, let me outline in great detail what I think the perfect spring break would be, for those of the book nerd persuasion.

    Location, location, location

    If I’m going to endure the rigors of this nation’s airports, I need a destination worth the effort, something appropriately scenic but with a character that will promote my true aim: working through my to-read stack. Somewhere like Key West would do. I could plow through Where’d You Go, Bernadette while heaps of six-toed cats slunk between my feet, which is exactly how I think Hemingway would have wanted it. (Yes, I haven’t yet gotten to Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I understand the depths of my depravity.)

    ‘Drink Me’

    If I’m going to embrace the fresh emotion of Lincoln in the Bardo (“Pietà meets Lincoln Memorial,” by its author’s description), you can bet I’ll need a good glass of wine, or as I like to call it, Mama’s Little Fizzy Lifting Drink. I mean, cabernet sauvignon is no keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon, but I find it settles the mind more for lengthy reading stretches. And it’s difficult to turn the pages when you’re doing a keg stand—I guess the kids must be big into audiobooks.

    An Inkling

    Now, after all the wine and reading and cats and wine, there’s one more spring break tradition to consider: the ill-advised tattoo. Look, there’s no law that says what you ink on yourself after an all-nighter has to be a rose or a butterfly or a tribal band. If you’re going to make a difficult-to-reverse decision, it should be one that aligns with your interests. If not now, when will you ever get the lower-back “So it goes” tattoo you’ve just now started to consider? When else will you ever take the leap and get a portrait of Maya Angelou emblazoned along your rib cage?

    Maybe all of this is a regular Tuesday to you. Maybe I lead a dull and boring life. But to me, a book nerd’s spring break is the time for taking chances. But not too many chances; I’d pack eight paperbacks in case one is damaged or lost, and two in my purse in case my luggage is somehow jettisoned from the plane. You can never be too careful, particularly when you’re watching your tattoo artist transcribe the full text of “The Jabberwocky” down your torso.

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to Spring Break appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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