Hey Nostradamus! By Douglas Coupland

hey1Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
244 Pages
2003
5/5

How have I gone this long without reading any Douglas Coupland? Ever feel like there’s a writer out there that’s just been waiting for you to discover him/her? That’s how I felt with this book. Absolutely amazing. Coupland’s writing is just amazing…beautiful, in fact. I instantly put everything he’s written on my wishlist after reading this one.

Hey Nostradamus! is the story of  a high school shooting and how it affects the lives of those immediately involved and the people surrounding them. The story is beautifully told from four points of view that span years. Coupland expertly tackles the concepts of death, religion, fate, violence and regret. To review this book, I’ve paired up with Nymeth. See, I read this as part of the “Try Something New Mini-Challenge” that Nymeth is hosting as part of the Dewey’s Books Reading Challenge. My “something new” is a new author to me, Douglas Coupland…but he won’t remain new for long…I can see him quickly becoming an old favorite.  She read What it Takes to Pull Me Through and you can read her thoughts on it here. Here are the questions she asked me about this book and my answers.

What did you think of Douglas Coupland’s use of different points of view?

I thought it was absolutely perfect for the story. I like the way that he not only used different points of view, but spread them out over years to show us the long term effects of the school shooting and how traumatic events effect people’s lives. The immediacy of Cheryl’s point of view during the school shooting was a little disturbing, but disturbing in a good way…a powerful way. I liked the way that each point of view was told differently as well…Cheryl’s point of view told after her death, Jason’s point of view told as a letter of sorts, Heather’s point of view told during the immediate events surrounding her, and Reg’s point of view told as a letter to his son. It was just perfect. I also liked following the progression of the characters through various eyes of the characters. Very effective!

Who was your favourite of the four narrators? Why?

Hmmm, this is a tough one, but I think it’s between Jason and Heather. Though I think I liked Reg’s language more than any of the others. I loved Cheryl’s narration, but I loved it in the way that it terrified me. I loved Reg’s narration too, but it had more of  a resolution type feeling since it was the end of the novel. Not much action, but it was very bittersweet. Jason and Heather both told a wonderful story though.  I found Jason’s narration to be constantly haunted by the school shootings of his childhood, but almost to the point of him not even noticing how much of an effect they had had on him. His section reminded me a lot of the book Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis which I love. Heather’s narration was haunting too as she chased the ghost of Jason after he has disappeard. That desperation and love for him shone through in everything that she said.

How do you feel about the way Coupland handled the theme of school shootings?

He handled it in what I would assume to be an honest manner. It was terrifying, earth-shattering, life changing, long lasting. The chapter in which the shootings actually happened had me near tears. He painted a picture that was so vivid that it was hard to continue reading at times. The shootings obviously affected Jason’s life strongly and I think that would hold true to anyone that experienced a traumatic event such as this.

What was your favourite thing about the book? Least favourite?

My absolute favorite thing about the book was the writing. I can’t say enough about this man’s writing style…it’s just exquisite. I also loved the honesty of the characters. We weren’t meant to love every character in this book, but we always loved reading about them (at least I did). Take Reg for example…he drove me nuts with his religious grandiosity and his stubbornness, but I always enjoyed the scenes that he was in.

I honestly can’t think of anything that I really disliked about this book…really, I can’t.


Share a favourite scene/moment from the book.

There were so many scenes that I loved in this book that it’s hard to even single one out. One that stands out though, is Heather putting all of Jason’s belongings in ziplock bags to preserve their scent and their essence after he’s disappeared. She puts his wallet, his shirt, his underwear…everything into a bag and spends time smelling them and disturbing as this may sound, it’s really not. I think Coupland captures here something we’ve all experienced. Doing anything we can to hold onto what we’ve lost..what we’ve loved. There are certain smells that bring me back to beloved memories to this day. And there are events in my life that I would preserve in a plastic bag if I could. I truly related to this scene.

There’s also a scene when Jason goes into his father, Reg’s, apartment to gather some of his belongings while his father is in the hospital. He sees a picture of his father with another woman and I think it showed for a second that Reg was human despite his strict religious beliefs that caused the estrangement between father and son.

I’ll leave you with the very first paragraph of the novel to show you how beautiful Coupland’s writing is. In a way, this fits into a favorite scene because it hooked me straight from the beginning:

I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world – spaghetti, binder paper, deep-sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley – is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.

Other Views and Opinions:

The Written World
Things Mean A Lot
Ace and Hoser Blook
Stray Talk

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Mailbox Monday and Bad Bloggers!

Er right…here we go:

Books that I bought this week:

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Books Brought Home From The Library This Week

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Books Bought For My Kindle on Iphone

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Audio Books Bought This Week

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Um…yeah…it really is that bad…but I have REASONS!

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1. Starfinder by John Marco – Nymeth wrote a review of this one and I added it to my wishlist immediately! Then I was contacted about doing a tour of it and got an autographed copy! Yes…point for Nymeth.

2. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – Can you believe that I still haven’t read anything other than short stories by Westerfeld? Point for Kailana for this one for finally talking me into reading it!

3. The Future Dictionary of America – The rest of the books that I bought come from a FANTASTIC sale that McSweeney’s had!! I can’t believe all of the great books I got for so cheap! This one is really cool…it’s a dictionary of “new words” I may make a weekly feature based on this one where I share some of the definitions with everyone and then try to use them in a sentence :p It comes with a great CD too! Oh…did I mention it was $1!

4. Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon – Nymeth reviewed this one and I knew I had to have it…yeah, got it for $5 at the sale and it’s incredible! The cover design is absolutely amazing and features multiple layers! Looks really good!

5. Im not even going to try to type out the tremendously long title of this one, but it looks cool too. It’s a collection of short stories that include the likes of Nick Hornby and Neil Gaiman!

6. Embryoyo by Dean Young – A fantastic looking book of poetry! I’ve been craving some poetry lately…

7. Shakespeare Wrote For Money by Nick Hornby – Yep, Nymeth’s fault…actually I could blame a lot of these on Nymeth because she’s the one who told me about this sale :p Another point for Nymeth.

8. A Bowl of Cherries by Millard Kaufman – Just looked really cool…and it was $1 too :p Really cool cover design!

9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I don’t even know who to blame this one on…I just wanted to read it.

10. 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson – This one is Becky’s fault! I figured it would be a good read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

11. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood – I’ve just been wanting to read this one for a long time and then I found out it was part of the Canongate Myth series that Matthew was talking about, so I’m going to blame Matthew for this one :p

12. Antediluvian Tales by Poppy Z. Brite – I’ve been a long time fan of Poppy so when I found this Subterranean Press edition at the library I had to have it! I’m going to read it for some short story weekends!

13. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice – I like Anne Rice a lot and haven’t read anything by her in a long time now. She’s one of my old favorite authors. Now she’s been “born again” and is writing Christian Fiction…so I figured I’d see what this is all about. I’ll let you know…

14. Wake by Lisa McMann – No one to blame for this one…just sounded cool.

15. Glass Houses by Rachel Case – Bart’s fault, Bart’s fault!

16. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – I’ve started listening to this one already and it’s fantastic! I love the reader’s Australian accent! It’s perfect for the story. Point to Becky for this one.

17. The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection – I just can’t get enough of Neil reading his stories.

18. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson – I heard an interview with Mary Pearson the other day and it was fantastic! So I had to finally check this out. And then they played a sample of the audiobook and I knew I had to have it.

19. Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander – It just sounds hilarious…I had to get it :p

20. Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me – This one sounds really good too! Short stories read by their authors…includes Nick Hornby and Stephen Colbert reading their own stories!

That’s enough, huh? What did you get this week and who are you blaming?? My fingers actually hurt now :p

Interview with Brandon Mull, Part Two!

I had the privilege of interviewing Brandon Mull for a second time after reading his new book, Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, book 4 of his Fablehaven series. Here’s what he had to say:

Chris Howard: This book certainly has some huge reveals and some of the most heart pounding moments to date! Have you known where the series was going from the beginning?

Brandon Mull: I daydream about my books until I see them like movies in my mind.  Sometimes I let the ideas stew and evolve for years.  I had a plan for the five Fablehaven books from the start.  I like having plans because then I can create webs of set-ups and pay-offs.  I love it when something in book four can throw new light back onto events in books 2 and 3.  Although I have fairly elaborate plans before I start writing, the stories inevitably continue to change as I make discoveries while bringing to life the individual scenes.

CH: The once complaint that I hear from some reviewers is that Seth bugs the daylights out of them with his getting into trouble! Personally, I enjoy it 😉 Seth seems to be growing up a little bit though here. Is that a natural progression or are you just pulling our leg a little bit and making us think he’s grown up?

BM: Seth is growing up and getting more mature with his decision making.  But he is still drawn to the forbidden, and he remains somewhat too daring for his own good.  I think many adults respond to Seth by wanting to strangle him because most adults have learned caution.  We hate to see needless heartache, and we fear for the children in our lives, not wanting them to bring unnecessary suffering upon themselves through careless choices.  But kids enjoy daring and adventure, so you might not be surprised to hear that among boys 10-13, Seth is often the favorite character.  If the adults want to spank him, and the kids enjoy and relate to him, I know I’ve written him correctly.

CH:  Dragons play a huge role in this novel! And all of your dragons are unique in their own way. How was the experience of creating them?

BM: To me, dragons are the most iconic fantasy creature.  I reserved them for later in the series so the books could have a feeling of crescendo. I wanted to do justice to the dragons, to write them as majestic and impressive as I have always imagined them. Part of my goal was to create a lot of variety among the dragons. I didn’t want species of dragons so much as a collection of unique individuals. As the writer of Fablehaven, a big part of my job is to take familiar creatures and put a new spin on them. I’m content with the dragons in book 4.

CH: Sadly, there’s only one book left in the Fablehaven series. What are the plans after that?

BM: Lots of plans. A three book series about a kid who crosses over into another world. This one has been cooking in my head for about ten years, and I think readers will really enjoy it. Fablehaven 5 should come out spring 2010, and then the new series should start spring 2011. I’m also toying with the idea of a sequel to The Candy Shop War. The sequel remains a few years away.

In general, I have lots of plans for future projects. I’ll never write all of my ideas. But hopefully I’ll get out one or two each year. Expect a book or two a year for a long time. I’m confident that the best is yet to come.

CH:  I loved Brandon Dorman’s art in this book and I see at the end of the book that the pair of you are teaming up for a picture book to be released in the Fall! Can you tell us a little about that?

BM: My first picture book comes out at the end of this summer. It is called Pingo, and deals with a kid whose imaginary friend becomes his imaginary enemy when he tries to stop believing in him. That may sound psycho, but it turned out fun and funny, a story about friendship and imagination. The art is done by Brandon Dorman, who has done all of my covers and interiors to date. I’ve seen it, and the art is amazingly fun.

CH: The question everybody has been dying to hear answered….what’s going on with the movie?!

BM: Movies either happen slow, or, occasionally, fast. Both Candy Shop War and Fablehaven are moving forward slowly. Both are still under option by major players, and I remain optimistic. I’ll post updates when I have news at Fablehaven.com

CH: Reviews of the Fablehaven books have been springing up more frequently in the blogging community. Do you think the blogging community has had any effect on your marketing/book sales?

BM: Word of mouth is the biggest factor in book sales, and blogging is the online embodiment of word of mouth. So yes, the blogs are helping. I’m a new author. My first novel, Fablehaven, was published in 2006. So my audience is disproportionate right now. In the areas where the books are known, word of mouth is huge and they are smoking hot. In some fairly large areas of the country Fablehaven is the book to read in schools and in constant library circulation with tons of holds. These areas account for my success on the bestseller lists. But in other areas of the country the books remain almost unknown. My books are up for young readers awards in many states, and in other states, the books are absent from many schools and community libraries. I see bloggers as a big way to help the books get discovered in new areas.

CH: Have you found that you’re gaining a larger adult audience for your books? Or is it still mostly children/teens?

BM: I have lots of teens and adults reading the books. I think this is largely because I’m trying to write books I would enjoy, and I am a 34-year-old man. Don’t get me wrong. I leave the books accessible to kids. These are not adult fantasy. But many adults have fun with them and eagerly come out to my book signings with or without kids.

CH: You had a huge Fablehaven celebration last year for the release of Book 3! Anything planned for the release of book 4? A tour maybe?

BM: I’ll be touring for book 4. We had another huge launch party in Salt Lake, and drew a crowd of 3,000. It was tons of fun. I tour a lot. Fablehaven.com has my schedule in my author section. And you can sign up for a newsletter at Fablehaven.com or BrandonMull.com.

CH: Finally, have you had any time to read anything yourself recently, and if so, what’s on your bookshelf?

BM: Recently I read the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix and Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov.


Other Fablehaven links at Stuff as Dreams are Made on:

Interview with Brandon Mull
Review of Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague
Review of Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star

Buy the Books:
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Not Book Related

Working at a psychiatric hospital can be very unrewarding at times. You have to deal with administration all day who want to “meet budget” who seemingly only care about money and not the patient, you have patients that really don’t want the help but are forced to seek help by family members/their jobs, you have patients that continually relapse and you think “why?! Oh why?!” And you have your people that just make you sad because their mental health seems to just never get better.

But there are days when counseling has to be the most rewarding profession out there. I had a lady today come in for an assessment and her assessment turned into a 2 hour long counseling session with me. She’s depressed…very depressed, and thinks she has nothing to live for. She’s lost her sense of self (though she doesn’t realize this…I pointed it out to her and she had one of “those moments” when she realized it). She was so sweet…and so sad. Our counseling session ended with a hug and I truly feel that I may have saved this woman’s life today. Not to sound conceited because I think anyone could’ve done it…she just needed someone to listen to her.

It’s days like this when I am so happy to be a counselor. In a profession where you see so much hurt, so much pain, so much anger and a sense of loss, it feels so good on that occasion when you see a person improve in just a few minutes. I truly can’t put that feeling into words.

It’s a beautiful day and work was good.

A Coupla Things

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I’m joining another challenge! I just can’t resist :p There’s this girl Renay and she’s uber cool and hosts a challenge called Herding Cats! Have you heard of it? Are you reading her blog? If not, you should! For the challenge, you have to recommend 5 books that you think everyone should read and it gets added to a master list. Then you pick some books from the list that you want to read! Awesome, neh? Here are my five books that I recommend:

1. The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie…..just read it, it’s awesome! A fantastic young adult book about a teenage boy and his brother struggling through some rough times.
2. The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling (seriously Renay, you’d love this one…it’s a gender identity disaster fantasy :P) One of my favorite fantasy books ever. Very unique…tackles the issue of gender identity in a fantasy series!
3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami….Simply an amazing book. Beautiful, heartbreaking, melancholic, and made me long for a time I never knew.
4. Dream Homes: From Cairo to Katrina, an Exile’s Journey by Joyce Zonana….amazing story (and a true one) of a Egyptian Jew growing up in New York and finding her place in the world. The writing is stunning.
5. Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest…wow…fantastic book! Another great fantasy, this one more of an urban fantasy/horror/southern gothic tale.

And here’s what I like from the list so far that I want to read:

1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
2. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
3. Marcello in the Real World by Francisco Stork
4. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
5. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
…..and yes the list will grow!

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Have you seen this yet?? The trailer for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are!!! It looks absolutely amazing and I love the song playing in the background..I think it’s The Arcade Fire…can anyone verify that and tell me the name of the song? The song is Wake Up and it is indeed by The Arcade Fire! The art direction of this movie reminds me a lot of Michael Gondry, one of my favorite directors. He did Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep among others. This promises to be a fantastic film by Jonze though…check it out:

Where The Wild Things Are

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A special thanks to Bart of Bart’s Bookshelf who has so kindly helped me in figuring out how to fix my store page so that you don’t have to scroll around to see everything! Thanks to him, the store looks good now….go buy stuff 😉

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And finally, don’t forget to join my giveaway if you haven’t already!! Guess my 5 favorite books of the year so far and win one of them! Has someone gotten all 5 yet? You’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out! Have a great Friday everyone!

Time To Giveaway A Book!

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I’m figuring it’s time for another giveaway! And I want to give away a REALLY good book! So here’s what we’re going to do…I’m stealing an idea from Nymeth sort of :p Last year, she gave away a book to someone who could tell her what her favorite books of the year were! So I’m going to do the same now, because I thought that was fun. The good news is, I’ve only read 25 books so far this year. Mainly, I’m doing this because I think someone else really needs to read The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine! That book is just amazing! So there you go…I gave you one answer :p You just need to come up with a few more now. 4 more to be exact.

Tell me what you think my 5 favorite books of the year have been so far. And yes, one of them is The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine, but you still have to include that in your answer :p I’m just hoping that if you write it, you’ll buy it. But what are my other three?? If you can name all 5 of the books, you’ll win any one of the four that you choose! If more than one person gets all 5, we’ll let random.org decide. If no one gets all 5, we’ll go with whoever has the most!

You can find a list of all 25 books that I’ve read by going under “2009 Books Read” under “Books Read” in the header. Good luck to everyone! The deadline for this one will be March 29th…this Sunday.

The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie

dylanThe Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine
224 Pages
2008
5/5

I’m finding that I have very few words to describe how I feel about this book. To put it shortly, it’s amazing! Do you ever go into a book expecting to like it, not really knowing much of what it’s about and then you start reading it and find that you absolutely love it? And you wonder where this book has been all your life? That’s how I feel about this one. Strangely, I’ve seen very little publicity about this book. I first heard about it on Becky’s blog and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since. And I’m so thrilled that I did! Seriously, I’d put it right up there with Looking for Alaska as far as Young Adult books go.

Dylan Fontaine is a teenager trying to hold his world together. When we meet Dylan, he’s being bailed out of jail for stealing two packs of underwear (tighty-whities to be exact) and possession of marijuana. The strange thing about this is that he comes from a family with money and doesn’t smoke marijuana. But his brother, Randy does and Dylan takes the blame for it when the blame should be on his brother. Dylan and Randy are having a hard time lately. Their mother, an artist, recently left their father, a gynecologist referred to as “the vagina head” because she was unhappy…and she’s now living with a fellow artist named Phillipe. Dylan and Randy take it hard as do their father.

Randy deals with his problems by smoking more pot, playing music with his band, The Dead Musicians (they do covers of songs by dead musicians), and just generally losing interest in everything that used to interest him. All while chasing his crush, Chloe, who sings a mean Janis Joplin. Dylan tries to cope by being the rock of the family. He starts doing the family shopping and grows an appreciation for labels on food as he avoids artificial preservatives and trans-fats. He’s there for his older brother when he needs to be and he kicks his ass when he needs to. He’s seemingly the glue that holds everything together and he worries about everything except his own issues.

Dylan’s chasing his own girl – his best friend Angie. Angie is a student at NYU’s film program and decides to make a film with Dylan as the main character. She follows him sometimes with a video camera just recording life as it happens and it’s through this lens that we see much of Dylan’s true thoughts on life…the troubles that he won’t address himself.

There’s so much more to this book and I could go on forever about it! I feel like I’m doing a horrible job of describing it, but it’s one you just have to read. I always feel very close to books about adolescents because I’ve always had a passion for helping them. It’s what I do now as a counselor. Books that examine how rough situations like Dylan and Randy’s affect the lives of those going through them really hit home with me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my own rough times during adolescents and that I couldn’t relate to Dylan more than I wanted to really. But I loved the fact that I could at the same time.

Lurie creates an amazing cast of characters in this novel…characters that I haven’t even talked about. Dylan was a truly cool kid and I loved reading his story. Lurie writes with an amazing voice. It’s everything I love in a book. It’s humorous, it’s fresh, it’s touching, it’s sad and it’s happy. And I just want to hug it.

Other Views and Opinions:
Becky’s Book Reviews (Looks like she had the same reaction as me!)
Becky’s Interview with April Lurie (It’s fantastic! Go check it out!)
Bookluver-Carol
Hope’s Bookshelf