Book: Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

Michael Rosen's "Sad Book"

We all have sad stuff – maybe you have some right now, as you read this. What makes Michael Rosen most sad is thinking about his son Eddie, who died. In this book he writes about his sadness, how it affects him and some of the things he does to try to cope with it. This is a very personal story that speaks to everyone; whether or not you have known what it’s like to feel really, deeply sad, its truth will surely touch you.

There is beauty in sadness. Especially when it’s in the form of a very well-made picture book.

In Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, we are invited into the psyche of the author as he tries to work out his grief over the loss of his son. But it’s not just this loss that makes him sad, and as he unravels his thoughts page by page, you’re drawn in to reflect on the things that make you sad too.

At least, that’s how it was for me.

I like to think I’m a happy person. I’m not always happy, but I make it a point not to be sad. A choice. And it is one that immediately gets addressed in the first page of this picture book. We do our best to be happy, to look happy, because other people won’t like us when we look sad. And we want people to like us. At least, like us enough that they would hang out with us. Because when we’re left alone, then our thoughts wander more. Then our thoughts would go back to the sadness.

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is simple, but it has a powerful punch. Especially when you’re open to the idea of embracing your sadness. Because, some times, it’s easier to be happy when you accept that you are sad.

Does that make sense?

Sadness permeates our very existence, but it doesn’t dictate our lives. It’s part of our lives, but it’s our choice not to be eaten up by it. Sadness is a condition. Happiness is a choice.

And that sounds way too much like a pep talk. So why don’t we saunter over to other book reviews to see what other people have to say about the book?
Books For Keeps
Little Parachutes
Publishers Weekly

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Book: On Mystic Lake

"On Mystic Lake"

Annie Colwater’s husband has just confessed that he’s in love with a younger woman. Devastated, Annie retreats to the small town where she grew up. There, she is reunited with her first love, Nick Delacroix, a recent widower who is unable to cope with his silent, emotionally scarred young daughter. Together, the three of them begin to heal. But just when Annie believes she’s been given a second chance at happiness, her world is turned upside down again, and she is forced to make a choice that no woman in love should ever have to make…

I’ve been meaning to reread this book for a good long while now. And when you’re speed reading through a book you’ve already read, and you still manage to tear up–you know that what you have in your hands is a great story about love.

Thing is, much as the write-up makes it sound like a love story, what really drew me to this novel the first time (and again, the second time around) was that it was Annie’s love story with herself.

The book doesn’t spend a long time setting things up. From the get go, we see Annie losing a hold of the life she had lead for the last twenty years. And then we get glimpses of who she used to be before those twenty years. And then, the changes happen.

I really like how Kristin Hannah weaves Annie’s story. You see, Annie is a door mat. She likes to take care of people, without letting them take care of her. Without demanding that she be taken care of. Without complaint. And for the entirety of the novel, this doesn’t change. It’s who she is.

And yet, as the novel develops, you can see the changes in Annie. The choices she make in taking care of herself even while taking care of people… On Mystic Lake is the story of how Annie rediscovers who she is–without changing who she fundamentally is.

Of course there is change. Of course, by the end of the novel, Annie makes a grand romantic gesture. But nothing feels out of place.

I’ve read a few Kristin Hannah novels, and she’s one of my favorite romance writers. (Yes, I’m a guy who can enjoy chic-lit.) And that’s because Kristin Hannah knows her characters. And characters, more than plot twists, are what makes a good story great.

Book: Flesh & Bone

"Flesh & Bone"

Benny Imura and his friends are reeling from the tragic events of Wawona and the second Gameland, but there’s no time to stop and mourn fallen comrades. Survival in the great Rot and Ruin requires movement, and so, with heavy hearts, Benny, Nix, Lilah, and Chong continue their quest to find the jet they saw in the skies months ago. If that jet exists, then humanity itself must have survived…somewhere. Finding it is their best hope for having a future and a life worth living.

But the Ruin is far more dangerous than any of them can imagine. The zoms seem to be mutating in terrifying ways that could change everything Benny and his friends know about surviving among the walking dead. And even worse, a death cult has arisen that is gathering new followers at a frightening rate and is devoted to sending every living person in the Rot and Ruin into the waiting arms of death.

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Which makes me happy after being dismayed by The Mark of Athena, which was supposed to be my happy read of the week. Thank goodness for Flesh & Bone then.

Jonathan Maberry is at it again with the third book from his Rot & Ruin series–the zombie story that doesn’t just scare you, but is also out to make you cry. And this book, while not as heartbreaking as the second book, will still make you… what’s the word? Feel like a friggin’ crybaby.

Now, I don’t know what it is about Maberry’s writing, but I love how he makes his readers feel the threat against all his characters. There is an actual fear for the characters you will most certainly love as you read on. As his characters confront death in different ways, you know that any which one of them is in actual danger of dying. Because Maberry doesn’t shy from killing off beloved characters.

Kinda like Joss Whedon.

But more than that, I think, it’s because Maberry was able to convince us readers of the actual dangers that the Rot and Ruin has in store for anyone and everyone.

I have to admit, compared to the first two books of the series, Flesh & Bone is the one with the least amount of character growth. Maybe it’s because the events of the book happen in a span of two days (less, actually), with a time jump at the end. Maybe it’s because we’ve already known the main characters we’re following for a couple of years now. Or it could be because most of the book is exposition, which set-ups the next book.

The intensity of the writing though, and the feel of imminent danger, completely makes up for it.

That’s not to say that Flesh & Bone is all action, all the time. It’s not. The theme of the book is actually grief, and the many ways people deal with this. But Maberry was able to infuse each chapter, each scene–each line of dialogue, with the foreboding sense of coming death that you don’t feel any lull in the action.

There’s a surge of adrenaline in every word you read. And I loved it.

It would be a disservice to the book though if I don’t mention how, even in the fast-paced events, Maberry doesn’t forget what makes his zombie stories special: the characters.

I already said that this book has the least amount of character growth. That’s not to say there’s none, because there is. Except, the previous books have already laid down the groundwork for these growths. Nothing comes out left of field, everything feels like they’re the natural progression of things.

My only gripe about the book is that it ended too soon.

And that there’s no release date for the next one yet. That the next one isn’t out yet.

I can’t wait for the next book–just like the following bloggers who loved the book as much as I did:
Christy’s Love of Books
Elitist Book Review
A Librarian’s Take

Book: A Monster Calls

"A Monster Calls"

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up A Monster Calls. A few friends recommended it to me, and I was a little ambivalent when I read the synopsis. It didn’t speak to me. But when I stumbled across the edition I found, this beautifully illustrated version by Walker Books, I knew I was buying the book. If only for the really beautiful illustrations.

But when I read the book, I fell in love with it.

Conor, the main character, is flawed. And that makes him, for me, a great character. He is a great character study on human beings. This is a child fashioned by the everyday life, shaped by external forces beyond his control, and choices that were his to make. Choices that, we find out as the story goes along, are colored by what he was taught–by the beliefs instilled in him.

Choices that the monster wants Conor to face.

Our main character doesn’t have an easy life. And I really like how author Patrick Ness doesn’t make Conor the typical flawed protagonists who has a naturally good heart. As I said before, Conor is flawed. And that’s what makes me relate more to him than other characters I’ve read, who are going through the same things he is in this book. And that’s what makes the book’s end all the more heartbreaking. Because by the time the book ends, we become Conor.

A Monster Calls tells the story of Conor, but more than that, it tells the story of us. Humans doing human things, feeling human emotions–being human. And being monsters.

This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read in 2012, and I’m very grateful for the friends who recommended this to me. Now, I shall be doing other friends favors by recommending this book to them.

Before I do that though, let us read a few reviews from book blogs across the ‘net:
There’s a Book
The Book Smugglers
Dog-Eared