AndreaBlythe's 12 in 12

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AndreaBlythe's 12 in 12

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Edited: Aug 17, 2012, 4:42pm

Beginning Jan 1.

Due to my time constraints, some categories will require more books to read than others with a total of 100 books to read in 2012.

1. Hello, I Love You (2/6)
I've read one book by an author and loved it. Now I want to read at least one more by the same author.

2. Oh, How I've Missed You (2/6)
Books by an authors I once loved, but haven't read in a long time. OR, rereads of favorite books.

3. It's a Smoldering World After All (3/7)
Apocalyptic and Post Apocalyptic books, as well as some dystopian novels.

4. Unicorns from Space! -- Science Fiction (5/10)

5. Unicorns from Space! -- Fantasy (7/10)

6. I Don't Wanna Grow Up (5/9)
Books for children and young adults.

7. Bam! Pow! Wham! (6/9)
Graphic novels and comics.

8. Just the Facts, Ma'am (5/8)

9. The Universe in Verse (6/9)

10. From my Bookshelf (2/8)
I have a tendency to jump at the new and shiny in bookstores and the library, rather than reading the stacks already on my shelves. This is meant to rectify that.

11. From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books (5/10)
There are actually about 200 books, since there is also the publicly voted list (with some overlaps). I'm working off the list from 2009, which is posted on my blog.

12. Miscellany (4/8)
The catch-all category for whatever doesn't fit in the above.

Edited: Aug 16, 2012, 2:10pm

Hello, I Love You

Books Completed: 2/6
1. Howard's End, by E.M. Forster (****)
2. Skin Folk, by Nalo Hopkinson (*****)
3. Habibi (graphic novel), by Craig Thompson (****)

Possible Candidates:
Michael Ende - Mirror in the Mirror
Nicholas Kauffmann
Malinda Lo
Naomi Clark
Laurie Colwin
Kelly Link
Karen Finneyfrock
Richard Matheson
Cormac McCarthy
John Steinbeck
Connie Willis
Samuel R Delany

Edited: Jun 12, 2012, 4:56pm

Oh, How I Missed You

Books Completed: 2/6
1. Paradise, by Toni Morrison (*****)
2. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury (*****)

Possible Candidates:
Neil Gaiman
Stephen King
The Poisonwood Bible or some other Barbara Kingsolver
Her, Second Edition, by Cherry Muhanji

Edited: Jul 24, 2012, 12:26pm

It's a Smoldering World After All

Books Completed: 3/7
1. Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J.M. Lassen (****)
2. After the Apocalypse, by Maureen F. McHugh (****1/2)
3. The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham (****1/2)

Possible Candidates:
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Postman, by David Brin

Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 3:19pm

Unicorns from Space! – Science Fiction

Books Completed: 4/10
1. Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day, Ben Loory (****1/2)
2. Great Classic Science Fiction (unabridged audio book) (****)
3. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov (****)
4. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein (****)
5. China Mountain Zhang, by Maureen F. McHugh (*****)

Possible Candidates:
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente
Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham
Contact, by Carl Sagan
The Wind-Up Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Edited: Jul 25, 2012, 2:02pm

Unicorns from Space! -- Fantasy

Books Completed: 6/10
1. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (audio book), by Steve Earle (*****)
2. A Rope of Thorns, by Gemma Files (****)
3. Born Wicked, by Jessica Spotswood (****)
4. Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson (****1/2)
5. Ganymede, by Cherie Priest (****1/2)
6. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (*****)
7. The Waking Moon (published on wattpad), by T.J. McGuinn (*****)

Possible Candidates:
God Stalk, by P.C. Hodgell

Edited: Aug 16, 2012, 2:09pm

6. I Don't Wanna Grow Up

Books Completed: 5/9
1. Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma (*****)
2. The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder (*****)
3. I am J, by Cris Beam (*****)
4. Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen (***1/2)
5. Valiant, by Holly Black (****)

Possible Candidates:
Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater
The Diamond of Darkhold: The Fourth Book of Ember , by Jeanne DuPrau
Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot
Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

Edited: Aug 20, 2012, 5:04pm

7. Bam! Pow! Wham!

Books Completed: 4/9
1. Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi (*****)
2. Daytripper, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (****)
3. Rasl, Vol. 1: The Drift, by Jeff Smith (****)
4. Dead West, written by Rick Spears, illustrated by Rob G. (***)
5. Teenagers from Mars, written by Rick Spears, illustrated by Rob G. (***)

Possible Candidates:
Nylon Road: A Graphic Memoir of Coming of Age in Iran, by Parsua Bashi
Cathedral Child, by Lea Hernandez

Edited: Aug 3, 2012, 2:24pm

The Universe in Verse

Books Completed: 4/9
1. Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse, by David Perez (*****)
2. No Surrender: Poems, by Ai (*****)
3. The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You, by Caits Meissner and Tishon (****)
4. The Black Unicorn: Poems, by Audre Lorde (****1/2)
5. Lessness, by Brian Henry (***1/2)
6. Poems of Stephen Crane, by Stephen Crane, selected by Gerald D. McDonald (****)

Possible Candidates:
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
Dear Anais: My Life in Poems For You, by Diana M. Raab
A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, Fourth Edition, by Tom Philips
Come All You Ghosts, by Matthew Zaapruder
The Realm of Possibility, by David Levithan
Crank, by Ellen Hopkins

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 12:24pm

From my Bookshelf

Books Completed: 2/8
1. The Yo-Yo Prophet, by Karen Krossing (****)
2. Mumbai Noir, edited by Altaf Tyrewala (****)

Possible Candidates:

Edited: Jul 16, 2012, 12:33pm

From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

Books Completed: 5/10
1. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron (DNF)
2. Anthem, by Ayn Rand (***)
3. An American Tragedy (audio book), by Theodore Dreiser (***)
4. Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (****)
5. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (*****)

Possible Candidates:
Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham
The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

Edited: Jul 27, 2012, 12:34pm


Books Completed: 3/8
1. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (****)
2. Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman (***1/2)
3. The Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri (****)
4. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin (****)

Possible Candidates:
As my mood takes me.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, by Jacques Tardi

Edited: Nov 28, 2011, 6:12pm

Dystopia, Sci-Fi, YA and a Michael Ende book I haven't read. Yes, I think I'll be stopping by frequently. Welcome to the Challenge!

Nov 28, 2011, 6:57pm

Thanks, Victoria! :)

Nov 28, 2011, 7:12pm

Plenty here to follow over the year ahead. Nice pics too! Good luck with your challenge!

Nov 28, 2011, 7:24pm

There you are. I was wondering if you were going to continue the challenge reading in 2012. Great to see you here!

Nov 28, 2011, 8:29pm

We have lots of similar categories so I will definitely be following along.

Nov 29, 2011, 1:37pm

Consider yourself starred! :)

Nov 29, 2011, 1:47pm

Thanks, guys! I look forward to discussing with all of you in 2012.

Nov 29, 2011, 2:03pm

Enjoyed your categories and pics. Look forward to watching this thread.

Dec 4, 2011, 1:18am

There's my favorite, A Canticle for Leibowitz

Edited: Dec 5, 2011, 12:18pm

@ 22,
A Canticle for Leibowitz was great! Have you read the sequel. Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman? I may read it this year.

Dec 16, 2011, 5:58pm

I just recommended Crank on another thread. I recently read Fallout which is the third book of a trilogy. It focuses on three of the girl's children. After I read Glass, the second of the series, I read that the series was based on Hopkins' own daughter.

Dec 16, 2011, 6:10pm

Hi, mamzel. I've been meaning to read Crank for a while, so I may have to finally get around to reading it this year.

Dec 19, 2011, 1:52pm

Mirror in the mirror (my favorite book in my late teens!), Valente, Wyndham and loads of exciting stuff I don't even know about... Yep, a definite starred thread!

Dec 19, 2011, 2:17pm

>26 GingerbreadMan:
Ooooh. I'm glad to hear Mirror in the Mirror is good. :)

Dec 25, 2011, 5:12am

Also adding my star, plenty of interest here :-)

Jan 3, 2012, 1:51pm

Happy New Year, everyone! (^_^)

I'm currently reading Howard's End by EM Forster, The Yo-Yo Prophet by Karen Krossing, and Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse (poetry) by David Perez. Enjoying them all at the moment.

Jan 9, 2012, 7:20pm

1. Howards End, by E.M. Forster (****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: A Room with a View

Howards End is a tale that expresses the circularity of life, how things thought lost come around again in unexpected ways. It begins with one Schlegel sister falling rapidly in love and then out of love with the youngest Wilcox son while visiting at Howards End. This scandal in minuscule goes away, but manages to tie a knot between these two families, so that their lives become interconnected in unexpected ways as time goes on.

I didn't love this novel quite as much as I loved A Room with a View, but it was still a lovely story about how some people deliberately misunderstand each other, while others make similar efforts at understanding (which becomes in and of a conflict), how people make mistakes and are forgiven, and how life can come around to happiness if only you have a good home to take root in.

Jan 9, 2012, 11:30pm

Damn.... I can't remember which one of Forester's books (A Room With A View or Howard's End) I have already read.... might have to read/re-read both at some point.

Jan 10, 2012, 12:16am

@ 30 -- Oh, I love A Room with a View -- one of my favorite books!

Jan 10, 2012, 7:13am

Have you seen the film versions of both room with a view and howards end ? I seem to remember enjoying the room with a view adaptation but howards end was like watching paint dry

I enjoyed reading room with a view in Tuscany last year on holiday but it didn't inspire me to seek out more of his work for some reason...

Jan 10, 2012, 12:29pm

>31 lkernagh:
Both are quite good. :)

>32 christina_reads:
It was so lovely! It made my list of favorite reads in 2011, and it will be one of the rare books that I actually reread from time to time.

>33 psutto:
I haven't seen either. (I have seen Remains of the Day, which I had originally confused for Howards End for some reason and have since realized was not written by Forster at all. Oh, the mind does funny things. lol.) I definitely want to see A Room with a View, which I heard was a wonderful movie.

Jan 10, 2012, 2:55pm

2. Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse (poetry), by David Perez (*****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse is a collection of poems that approaches the ways things fall apart and how we hold ourselves together, about how intimate connections get screwed up and how people connecting to people is the way we salvage hope with each everyday apocalypse.

His poems drift through a science fiction wonderland, while being anchored in a reality that is as haunting and brutal as any fantastic story that would appear in a movie. He writes of his love affair with Sarah Connor (of The Terminator movies series), and it reveals what loving has the potential to be when everything else is falling apart. "The Time I Caught My Parents Doing the Viennese Oyster" is a funny and eerie rendering of a child accidentally stumbling upon his parents having sex. Meanwhile, "Tickle Me Elmo on Black Friday," written from the point of view of Elmo, is one of the most disturbing things I've read, the images lingering with me even now as I continue to think about it.

I loved the collection, and I'm thrilled that I own it, so that I can continue to return to it whenever the mood strikes me.

Jan 10, 2012, 4:54pm

I'm another Forster fan. I've been meaning to reread Howard's End, and your review is inspiring me to push it higher up on the TBR list.

Jan 10, 2012, 5:25pm

>36 mathgirl40:,
I am a recent fan. Just discovered his writing in the last few months and now I want to read ALL his books. :)

Jan 10, 2012, 5:58pm

The Merchant-Ivory film of Room with a View is absolutely beautiful! I haven't read Howard's End, but it's good to know that the film is skippable. :)

Jan 10, 2012, 6:03pm

>35 andreablythe: Damn, you fnd some interesting books, Andrea!

Jan 10, 2012, 6:37pm

>39 GingerbreadMan:,
Heh. Thanks. :)

Jan 10, 2012, 7:15pm

3. The Yo-Yo Prophet, by Karen Krossing (****)
Category: From My Bookshelf
PS. This was an ER book.

Yo-Yoing is a much needed balm and relaxing hobby in Calvin's life. Abandoned by his father after his mom died, he lives with his grandmother, who is growing ill and a little senile. On top of that he is puny and the target for Rozelle and her tough girl gang. But it's yo-yoing where Calvin finds peace, or at least it was until he tests out street performing and finds himself caught up by Rozelle, who insists on being his manager.

This was a light, engaging read, which had a clean weave of subplots. Calvin is an interesting character, a genuine nice guy and average high school kid with a variety of frustrations that he has to face. There's no big revelations here, no mad, high tension adventures, no overwrought romance, merely a kid dealing with real problems and overcoming them.

Jan 10, 2012, 7:26pm

@ 35
Dang, but you've sold me on Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse. Sounds brilliant.

Jan 10, 2012, 7:33pm

>35 andreablythe: I'm such a picky poetry fan that I don't even usually admit to reading it, but Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse sounds like my kind of poetry! I can't wait to get a copy! Thanks for the review!

Jan 11, 2012, 10:47am

I love watching people yo-yo. Tommy Smothers was the champ. I wish it would come back again.

Jan 11, 2012, 12:45pm

>42 pammab:,
I hope you love the book as much as I did. :)

>43 _debbie_:,
I've read some really bad poetry before, so I know what you mean. I usually won't bother with a poetry book unless I've read and liked a few poems by the poet. That way I know there's a chance that I'll like the collection.

>44 mamzel:
I have seen a truly awesome yo-yo-er, but after reading the book, I totally want to do a youtube video search. So, I'll definitely check out Tommy Smothers.

Jan 19, 2012, 7:09pm

4. Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day, Ben Loory (****1/2)
Unicorns from Space! – Science Fiction

Ben Loory presents a strange and wonderful assortment of short stories. Each one offers simple and clean prose reads like a classic fable or fairy tale, many of them merely a few pages long. There are almost no names in the entire collection, it's always the man, the woman, a girl, a boy, so that it could by any woman or any boy. It could be you; it could be me. A man who meets his shadow, a octopus who lives in an apartment in New York, strange malevolent creatures live at the bottom of swimming pools, a fish magically appears in a teapot, and a TV reveals all the possible lives a man could have lived. I read through this collection quickly and eagerly, joyfully engaging in the odd worlds Loory created.

Jan 19, 2012, 7:18pm

I'm a huge fan of flash fiction and anything surreal is always worth a try, so that's an easy add to the wishlist!

Jan 20, 2012, 12:27pm

Flash fiction is great. If you know of any other books that feature flash fiction, please let me know. :)

Jan 20, 2012, 12:54pm

For flash fiction, my hands-down favorite is Etgar Keret! You really can't go wrong with any of his collections, but the one that's rated highest on LT (with a small margin) is The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God.

Jan 20, 2012, 1:00pm

Awesome! Thanks. (^_^)

Jan 20, 2012, 1:04pm

De-lurking to recommend Last Drink Bird Head in which loads of authors (about 80)r write a flash fiction story based on the title. I thought it was great fun and since it's for charity you got authors such as Gene Wolfe, Hal Duncan & Stephen R. Donaldson.

Jan 20, 2012, 3:12pm

Thank you, clifisha. That looks fantastic. :)

Edited: Jan 24, 2012, 7:14pm

5. Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma (*****)
Category: I Don't Wanna Grow Up

From the inside flap: "Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood."

Reading Imaginary Girls is like walking through the halls of a haunted house. Everything on the outside is normal, but strange things happen from time to time and you can't be sure whether the ghosts are real or if its just your imagination. Events in the book are subtly strange in this way, and the surreal tone of the tale is entirely appropriate, because hauntings abound. The lost town Olive haunts the bottom of the reservoir, Chloe is haunted by the memory of the dead girl, Ruby is haunted by the secrets she tries to hide.

The title is also wonderfully appropriate, as the uncertainty of what is imagined and what isn't unfolds throughout the story. Not to mention, what makes a girl imaginary? Is Chloe imaginary because she isn't entirely her own, because she's possessed by Ruby, and willingly so, as she offers her devotion wholeheartedly to her sister? Is Ruby imaginary, because how can that kind of girl, the kind of girl that gets everything and anything she wants really exist? Or is the imaginary part of Ruby based on how Chloe sees her, how Chloe idolizes her and in a way shapes her with that idolatry that no person can live up to? And London? Oh, there are many, many ways that London could be imaginary, if she exists at all.

Imaginary Girls is a book that is multidimensional and achingly beautiful, one that leaves questions to sit with on rainy Sunday while outside the water swirls. It's a book I want to hold in the hollows of my heart and never, ever let go.

Jan 24, 2012, 8:05pm

I decided against Imaginary Girls a while ago (for various reasons), but that cover is so enticing so I keep wanting to want to read it. :)

Jan 24, 2012, 9:07pm

I definitely recommend it. The beauty of the cover reflected the greater beauty of the book inside (for me). (^_^)

Jan 24, 2012, 9:53pm

I'm convinced - back on the wishlist it goes!

Jan 25, 2012, 11:57am

On my blog, I also talked about how I would adapt Imaginary Girls into a movie (if I could).

Jan 25, 2012, 1:25pm

That makes it sound even more interesting - and, yes, I'm agreeing it should be an Indie-production in order to work.

Jan 25, 2012, 2:38pm

I love the idea of directing a movie, despite the challenges and despite how flustered I can get when trying to communicate properly. I would love to start some small short film projects and build up some skills in that area, so that someday when a book comes along that I want to see made into the kind of movie I'd want to see, then I'd just do it.

Ah, an ideal world (or maybe and ideal me, is more precise).

Jan 25, 2012, 2:48pm

My best friend is a TV-producer but she's done some Indie-films in her past and I've been roped in to help on most of them. It is a very fun experience, but you need a huge shedload of passion and drive to succeed and my "real me" and my "ideal me" differ quite a lot in that area. :)

Jan 25, 2012, 3:20pm

What fun! Though you're right about the shedload of passion. Movie making is a ridiculous amount of work and is definitely not for the feint of heart. :)

Jan 26, 2012, 3:21pm

A little catching up can be very dangerous. Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day sounds wonderful and I second Eva's rooting for Keret. Last drink bird head looks very good too. I tend to trust the VanderMeers in putting anthologies together - even if the name Hal Duncan is winning no prizes in my corner right now (bored to tears with Vellum).

And finally Imaginary girls sounds like something Shirley Jackson could write. Which is as good a thing as it gets in by book :)

Edited: Jan 26, 2012, 7:43pm

->46 andreablythe:
I wasn't aware he was a fellow Angeleno, but I found it on the "Local Writers"-shelf at the bookstore and I now have a copy! No idea when I'll get to it, though... :)

Jan 26, 2012, 9:21pm

>62 GingerbreadMan:
I'm definitely going to have to read some Keret then. :)

>63 -Eva-:
Hah. I had to look up Angeleno (I notice you've added to the TBR list though, hehe). I hope you enjoy the read when you have time.

Jan 26, 2012, 10:20pm

The Universe was clearly speaking when it placed it right in front of my eyes. Who am I to argue with the Universe? :)

Jan 30, 2012, 5:39pm

6. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (audio book), by Steve Earle (*****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! -- Fantasy

Doc is a screw up, a heroine addict haunted by the crooning, grumbling ghost of Hank Williams. He's resigned to his existence as a peddler of cut-rate health care and illegal abortions in the back room of an old boarding house. Until he meets Graciela, a young Mexican woman, abandoned by her lover in Doc's hospital room. After incurring a cut on her wrist that won't stop bleeding, miracles begin to happen. Doc begins to find peace in his life and Ol' Hank ain't happy it.

A gritty tale set in 1963 underworld of San Antonio, Texas, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is lyrical in its descriptions of dope hustlers and prostitutes living down on their luck, just trying to get by. People are people in this book, and allowed to be both good and evil all in the same day. Doc is a straightforward, no nonsense kind of guy, who believes he's going to hell and has decided to not be too much worried by it. He's a man swallowed up by the lonesome of living in the world, which is in part why Hank haunts him, as they share that in common.

I think I'm rather in love with this book, and even more so for listing to Steve Earle read his own story. He has that kind of gravely, down home, singing lonesome voice that makes your heart ache, which is no surprise, as Earle is also a Grammy award-winning folk singer.

Jan 30, 2012, 8:17pm

I have yet to read any of Steve Earle's literary works but I do agree with you about Earle's down home, singing lonesome voice in his songs!

Jan 31, 2012, 1:07pm

I need to get one of his albums. I'm dying to hear some of his music now.

Feb 1, 2012, 12:20pm

Question, dear friends -- So, I know this is off topic, but every once in a while I get poems published. Would you all be interested in knowing when that happens and maybe seeing links, if they're online?

Feb 1, 2012, 6:13pm

How's that off topic? Course we would want to know! (as long as you don't quiz us on them or something :P )

Feb 2, 2012, 4:54am

yep definitely of interest

Edited: Feb 2, 2012, 12:12pm

Okay! (I guess I thought since it wasn't a "book review" and was personal it was off topic. But I guess not.) And no Quizzes, I promise!

Anyway, my poems:
"An Ifrit in San Francisco" was published in Scheherezade’s Bequest
"Comfort at Last" was published in Z-composition


Opps. Edited to add the links.

Edited: Feb 2, 2012, 1:52pm

7. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (****)

Young Esperanza shares her life as she grew up on Mango Street, sharing stories of her family and neighbors around her in a series short vignettes. There's no straightforward, chronological storyline, rather the novel is formed as a series of snapshots from a child's memories. Some are sweet and funny, others are sad, but an overall portrait of the street can be discovered by the time the story is done. And while there is no coherent overarching storyline, there is the thread of Esperanza's point of view and personal growth that holds the vignette's together. The 25th anniversary edition also has the bonus of an introduction by Cisneros, which tells how she came to write Mango Street and how she managed to eek out a personal space for herself, despite her Hispanic parents and heritage that tends to be protective of its women. The introduction, too, is written in the clean and sparse, and poetic style that offers an easy an enjoyable read.

Feb 2, 2012, 4:18pm

I'm not a great reader of poetry, but I thought that "An Ifrit in San Francisco" piece was very evocative.

I started The House on Mango Street once but it didn't grab me, probably because of the episodic nature you mention, and then I returned it to the library so I never finished. Sounds like it's worth it, though, so I'll put it back on the list.

Feb 2, 2012, 5:05pm

Thanks, dear. I'm glad you enjoyed my poem. (^_^)

I wouldn't say Mango Street is for everyone. I can definitely see how the episodic, disconnected nature of it might turn someone off.

Feb 2, 2012, 7:15pm

Just now starting to read on the threads as January was an unusually busy month for me... Found and starred your thread! Great categories and great books, I look forward to reading Windup Girl with you :)

Feb 2, 2012, 7:17pm

>76 Bcteagirl:,
Thanks! I'm looking forward to reading Windup Girl, too. Are you a big fan of steampunk?

Feb 2, 2012, 7:24pm

Actually this will be my *first ever* steampunk so I am kind of excited. I do enjoy dystopian novels. How about you?

Feb 2, 2012, 8:35pm

I love both steampunk and dystopian novels, and I've read quite a few of both. :)

Feb 2, 2012, 8:57pm

Lovely poetry! I really liked "Comfort at Last"

Feb 3, 2012, 6:10pm

Read and enjoyed both your poems. I liked the image of us trespassing into the land of the dead with gifts. Thanks so much for sharing them with us!

Feb 3, 2012, 6:38pm

Thank you both for reading and enjoying them! (^_^)

Feb 4, 2012, 5:21am

Thanks for the links, enjoyed em both

Feb 4, 2012, 7:44am

Nice Poems! I especially like the first. :)

Feb 4, 2012, 11:33am

Getting caught up here. I really enjoyed reading your poems Andrea. Thanks for posting the links!

Feb 6, 2012, 11:47am

Thank you, all! (^_^)

Feb 13, 2012, 1:29am

8. Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi (*****)
Category: Bam! Pow! Wham! (comics)

This book has been recommended to me several times, but I hadn't had a chance to go seek it out yet. However, it just so happened that my local Los Gatos Library was having a grand opening today and I stopped in (the new building is rather fantastic, btw). Upstairs, I found a presentation going on in which Kasu Kibushi created sketches of his fantastic world and talked about how he made his work.

Technology is rather awesome. We got to see the sketches go up on the big screen as he drafted them out on his computer tablet. Made me wish I was a better artist and that I could just throw stuff out like that. Anyway, I bought Book One of Amulet and got it signed. He included a cute little sketch of one of the characters, too (see below).

Of course, I had to read it right when I got home. I was hooked right away and breezed straight through. After facing a tragedy in which their father dies, Emily and Navin and their mom move to the families old home in a small town to build a new life for themselves. But there is something mysterious about the basement, and a tentacled creature appears, grabbing their mother and dragging her away into a strange world. Emily and Navin set chase to rescue her.

Book One is the set up for the series, so there isn't room for complete character development yet. Hints are there, though, and the three family members are sweet and loving and rather likable.

There's some really great ambiguity going on, too. It's not entirely clear. The potential ally my be a dangerous threat, and the supposed enemy may not be all that evil. I really like that depth, which will allow a larger more complex story to potentially unfold.

The art is gorgeous -- bright and colorful sometimes and shadowy and mysterious, all depending on the mood. The only frustrating thing is that I now have to go out and buy the other four or five books in the series. I'm that hooked.

Feb 13, 2012, 2:02am

"a tentacled creature appears, grabbing their mother and dragging her away into a strange world"
And that's when it goes on my wishlist. :)

Feb 13, 2012, 11:58am

lol. Yeah, seeing the tentacles wrapping out of the door on the cover is definitely what attracted me to it, too. :)

Edited: Feb 28, 2012, 4:42pm

9. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron

So, I think Sophie's Choice (audio book) is DNF for now. It's due back at the library tomorrow and as I have ten discs left to listen to, there's no way I'm going to finish it. It doesn't help that despite some great scenes here and there, I'm kinda bored by this one. I just don't love it enough to be willing to pay the late-fee fines. I may come back to it at some point (I haven't gotten to the choosing part of Sophie's Choice and I am curious about it), but then again maybe not.

Feb 13, 2012, 12:20pm

I tried to read Sophie's Choice way back when, but gave up as well and watched the film instead (*I'm admitting this a bit shamefully, but not completely*), which was good and the book then never reappeared on my to-read list.

Feb 14, 2012, 1:20pm

The hardest thing about not finishing a book is that because I can't include in my list of "read" books, I feel like I've wasted time reading the first half of a book, when I could have been reading something else

Feb 14, 2012, 2:33pm

After slogging through half a book and find myself sighing when picking it up, I remind myself that there are loads of other books waiting for me. If I take a bite of a grape that is too sour, I spit it out and switch to a banana. There's just too little time and too many books!

Feb 14, 2012, 3:14pm

Very, very good point, mamzel! (^_^)

Feb 19, 2012, 6:04am

>92 andreablythe: Totally relate to that. Actually, that's the worst part of keeping a reader's journal or doing challenges on LT - sometimes you don't read to read, but to have read.

Feb 19, 2012, 6:12am

95 I have the opposite reaction; sometimes I dislike a book so much I never want to mention it again, not even on LT! it was that bad I want pretend it doesn't exist :)

Feb 19, 2012, 5:37pm

>95 GingerbreadMan:
Yeah, that the feeling exactly.

>96 clfisha:
I think the only time I wanted to pretend a book didn't exist was when I tried read the novelization of Stargate, which I threw across the room.

Feb 19, 2012, 5:52pm

I'm with clifsha - even bad press is press. Too bad about Sophie's Choice but good that you dropped it. I had to read The Confessions of Nat Turner when I was in college, and remember it having beautiful passages but being a slog to read. Let's just call Styron an "acquired taste." & hey, if you read more than 200 pages, I'd count it. Especially since it looks like you're going for a pretty high book count.

Feb 20, 2012, 11:33am

Sometimes though reviews of books you've hated are the most entertaining to read but yes some books need warnings and others should just be quietly forgotten...

Feb 20, 2012, 1:38pm

>98 cammykitty:, That's a good point about the page count. Maybe I will count it...

>99 psutto:, Bad reviews can be great fun to read. It's easier to be creative about what you don't like than what you do. Perhaps because it's easier to know and describe what you don't like about something.

Edited: Feb 28, 2012, 4:42pm

10. Great Classic Science Fiction (unabridged audio book) (****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! – Science Fiction

Just as the title says, this audio book included eight unabridged science fiction stories, all of which were rather fantastic. In "The Door in the Wall" by H. G. Wells, a gentleman relates the story of his friend, who wandered through a strange door in a wall as a child and discovered a magical garden and he spent the rest of his life desiring to go back. Not really scifi, but it was an enjoyable story.

"All Cats Are Gray" by Andre Norton, is about a woman known for always having the inside scoop. She tells a spacer at a bar one evening that she knows where a spaceship, thought to be haunted or cursed, is going to be. The two go to investigate. This story was by far my favorite in the set. I loved the tone and the main character, who is very catlike in manner herself, is rather awesome.

"Victory" by Lester del Rey presents a disturbing look at interplanetary war, showing just how ugly and how brutal war can be. It's very dark with not much light at the end of the tunnel. Even so, the way the story was told and the way the characters evolved in such a small space put this at the top of my list, too.

"A Martian Odyssey" by Stanley G. Weinbaum is about a spacer's adventures in the martian landscape after his ship crashes. The aliens in this are very alien to the point of being incomprehensible, and I like that the language barriers are an integral part of the story.

"The Moon Is Green" by Fritz Leiber is a strange and haunting tale about a post-apocalyptic world. A woman is trapped behind lead shutters with the rest of humanity, due to the radioactive fallout from nuclear war. I loved it, even though I hated the voice of the actress who read the story, who would go from talking very soft (forcing me to turn up the volume), to suddenly being very loud (and thus blowing out my ears).

"The Winds of Time" by James H. Schmitz is an adventure about a spaceship that is knocked out of regular space into the time stream. Lots of stereotypes abound -- mad scientist, strange and plucky and clever hero, woman who is only there to have someone for the hero to save and explain things to -- so not a great story, but was fun enough to keep me entertained.

In "The Defenders" by Philip K. Dick, the people of earth are stuck beneath the surface, hiding from the radiation as their robotic servants work above ground to continue the war. Still a good story about the harmful nature of war, despite the more obvious moralizing tone.

"Missing Link" by Frank Herbert was my least favorite of the collection. It involves the discovery of an alien race and how the humans approach them and tried to pull them into their federation. It annoyed me in the way humans come off as superior and how everyone interacts and all that. Only shrug-worthy.

Feb 24, 2012, 8:28pm

101 Sounds like a good collection. It hit a lot of the "classic" SF authors without including the stories we've all read. I've never heard of Weinbaum. I should keep my eyes open for his stories. I wonder if it was a psuedonym. Oh wikipedia?

Feb 28, 2012, 12:20pm

>102 cammykitty: I really enjoyed it. I didn't know most of the authors except, Wells, Dick, and Herbert. The rest of them were new discoveries for me, and gives me some hints of new SciFi authors to try.

Edited: Feb 28, 2012, 4:42pm

11. The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder (*****)
Category: I Don't Wanna Grow Up

When the bad news comes down that there is nothing more the doctors can do for Cam's cancer, her mom insists its not over and drags her daughter up to Promise, Maine, a mysterious town that is supposed to be capable of granting miracles. Though Cam is an avid disbeliever, certain that everything has a scientific explanation, she can't help but admit that strange things -- a field of purple daisies, flamingos well outside their natural ecosystem, a boy who seems to magically appear to help at the exact perfect moment -- do happen in Promise.

I love Cam. She has a snarky tone and always throws out random science facts, which was fun. She was sympathetic and had her down moment, but she's not a complainer or much of a moper. She's simply matter of fact about her situation and her reality.

I also really loved the mom, who was presented as a mom should be, very loving of her daughter and practical where practicality is needed. It's refreshing to see a parent in a YA novel not be absent or a complete idiot. She's a part of the story and a part of Cam. So is Cam's sister, who is cheerful and girly and wonderfully surprising at times.

I loved the mixture of miraculous and scientific in this book, which allows you to choose for yourself whether you believe the events can all be explained or if there is some mystical influence taking place. It's a wonderful, joyful, heartbreaking story, that will definitely go on my list of favorites.

Feb 28, 2012, 5:46pm

12. Daytripper, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (****)
Category: Bam! Pow! Wham! - Comics

Brás de Oliva Domingos lives in the shadow a famous and renowned author in Brazil. He tries to find his own voice as a writer, as he works at the local paper writing obituaries. This graphic novel is a touching journey of one man's life, jumping back and forth from adulthood to childhood and back again.

One of the things I love about this book, in addition to the quiet tone and gorgeous art, is that each chapter ends with Brás's death along with his obituary as it would have read if his life ended at the moment. You get a sense of what he learned and what he would never learn, never get to do at that moment. It made me think of how life is like that sometimes, full of endings, everyday finalities, which allow us to open the door to new beginnings.

Feb 28, 2012, 9:49pm

Parents who are something more than caricatures in YA lit is something I look for as well. It is really surprisingly rare, and all the more disturbing for that. I could only name one YA or kids' series with supportive parents,and even there, one of them dies partway through the series. It is all orphans, single parents, or abusive/distant parents (which I -honestly suspect is probably detrimental to teens' ability to relate to their parents).....

Glad you had such an enjoyable book!

Feb 29, 2012, 10:21am

@105 I must admit you have intrigued me, that obit idea is a good one.

Feb 29, 2012, 12:05pm

>106 pammab:
I don't mind single parents that much, as long as they are made to be well rounded. But, yeah, lots of orphans and distant parents, which is not great. I kind of get why they do it in these stories, because it's kind of hard for a kid to go off and have an adventure if the parents are doing like they should and making sure they are home at a decent hour.

Another books with parents I like is the Inkheart trilogy. I thought each of the parents behaved reasonably under the extreme circumstances.

>105 andreablythe:
It's very cool. I hope you read and enjoy it. :)

Edited: Feb 29, 2012, 7:09pm

13. A Rope of Thorns, by Gemma Files (****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: A Book of Tongues

A Rope of Thorns is book two in a trilogy, so if you don't want any spoilers, I suggest you stop reading and go devour A Book of Tongues first.

Book two has Reverend Rook and his Lady Ixchel constructing "Hex City," built on blood and carnage, but also the only place where hexes can live in peace with one another. Meanwhile, Chess, the red-headed little man of grit and violence, barely in control of his new abilities, seeks his revenge against his former lover, Rook, while avoiding the attacks of angry hexes, Pinkerton agents, and other darker creatures, with Ed Morrow along for the ride.

As the middle book in the trilogy, A Rope of Thorns widens the the scope of the story, interweaving new characters and plotlines into Gemma Files' vision of a blood soaked west.

As always, violence follows Chess wherever he goes, as well as a strange new red weed that is spreading through the desert in the wake of his footsteps. But Chess has changed. He still laughs at the world and it's brutal misery, but his laughter is more bitter and without glee. The unfolding of Chess's character that began in the first book, continues in the second. His layers are stripped away and the profoundly human that lays at his core is unveiled. I'd be madly in love with him, if it weren't for the fact that he is fictional, gay, and unlikely to take my affection kindly.

The addition of Yancey Colder into the story is wonderfully refreshing. She's a spiritualist with her own unique power and is drawn into Chess's circle of violence. She's a strong female character, one who knows how to act quickly and smartly in the face of threat, and who manages not to be crushed under the weight of disaster that transpires.

Morrow, too. I find I'm even more fond of him in this book, because for all that happens, he stays loyal and true to his friend, Chess. He's a good brave man, who knows that justice isn't always what's written down in legislature books.

Most every one is given a wider breadth in this one, though the Gods that are playing board games with the world remain somewhat one-dimensional. Though, as they are far from human, I suppose that's to be expected.

Like the first book, there's plenty of sex and gore in gripping, graphic detail, and the story moves along at a fast pace. I'm looking forward to reading the final book, A Tree of Bones. Based on the ending of book two, I can't even imagine the carnage that's going to take place then.

Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 3:27am

Have added a book of tongues To th WL based on your review so avoiding the review above...

Mar 1, 2012, 4:18am

>105 andreablythe: I thought the obit idea was very cool too. Will check that out!

>108 andreablythe: I'm a playwright, and have written quite a few plays for teen audiences, and share your feelings about how parents are often portrayed. I wrote a "hopeless in the eyes of his teenage daughter, but trying hard, and in the end making a small sort of difference" dad for a play that was much talked about just because of that. It's been a bit of a defining role for some of the actors who have played it over the years. Why it's easy to fall into the absent/abusive cliché, I think, has to do with the fact that there's a very present tension field in the imbalance of power between young people and adults. An automatic difference in status, so to speak, that's probably tempting to exploit. I try to think about that when I write, not to step into any easy solutions that tend to be traps.

>109 andreablythe: I went to look at your review for A book of tongues instead, and added it to my list. Thanks!

Mar 1, 2012, 12:25pm

>110 psutto: & 111
I hope you both enjoy A Book of Tongues! :)

>111 GingerbreadMan:
A playwrite! How awesome. Is there anyway to read or see any of your plays? Are they available?

Mar 1, 2012, 12:57pm

Daytripper absolutely goes on my wishlist! I've seen it at the library, but the cover made me think it was one of the books in the Unwritten series, which I haven't started yet, so I never looked closer.

Mar 1, 2012, 2:25pm

>113 -Eva-:
Gah! Book bullet! *falls dead*
Unwritten looks like a really cool series. :)

Mar 1, 2012, 2:42pm

Sorry, or rather "mwhahaha!" Nice to be able to bookbullet on other people's threads too! :) I think Claire is the one that brought it to my attention - I haven't read it yet, but it looks like it'll be brilliant!

Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 5:26pm

..rushes on to pimp The Unwritten.. It is one of the best comic series out there, cool plot, great literary riffs, playful meta fiction, a lovely blend genres and beautiful art

Mar 1, 2012, 7:06pm

>115 -Eva-:
lol. Um, thanks. (That'll be THANKS once I read the books and love them. ^_^)

>116 clfisha:
I'm definitely going to pick them up, no matter if my TBR list is too long already!

Edited: Mar 2, 2012, 1:51pm

So, I just discovered today is World Book Day! Yay!
Here's a meme I found on a friends blog, because it's fun! Yay!

The book I'm reading: I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, which is enjoyable, but very old fashioned in tone and sentiment. I'm also reading The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You, a lovely book of poetry by Caits Messner and Tishon that I got through their kickstarter project, as well as Z: Zombie Stories, a young adult story full of exactly what the title says.

Books I'm writing: I'm inching along with the Untitled Werewolf Novel, and the way things are going with my Fay Fairburn stories, I may just end up with a novel out of that.

The book I love the most. There are so, so many books I love, but a couple of new favorites are Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma, and The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder.

The last book I received as a gift: I think it was a cookbook of simple, low-cost recipes that I never actually use.

The last book I gave as a gift: I bought The Last Days of Dead Celebrities, by Mitchell Fink, from the $2 bin at B&N for my sister, cause she likes that sort of thing, but I haven't given it to her yet.

The nearest book: I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, which is currently sitting in my purse, along with an issue of NANO Fiction.

The book I want someone else to please write for me: Oh, goodness, I don't know.

Mar 4, 2012, 12:25am

LOL, on LT the meme should definitely start with "The Book(s) I'm Reading." Very few of us read one at a time. Cool meme.

Mar 4, 2012, 4:13pm

>111 GingerbreadMan: Two of my plays have been translated into english for readings, but I'm yet to be staged in England or USA. So no, not really available to an anglophone I wouldn't say :)

Mar 5, 2012, 12:27pm

>119 cammykitty:
Lol. Yeah, it's so true. :)

>111 GingerbreadMan:
Ahhhh. That's too bad. Guess I'm going to have to take a trip if I want to see them then. :)

Mar 7, 2012, 5:57pm

14. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov (****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! – Science Fiction

I, Robot is the classic science fiction novel that sets down the Three Laws of Robotics: "1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws."

The novel is an episodic historical account, as told by robopsyschologist Dr. Susan Calvin, of the development of robotics and how it affected the development of the human world. Each chapter is story told by Calvin about robots interacting with humans, most of which have a problem with robots, which is either caused by some conflict within the three laws or solved by enacting one of the laws. As such, while each story was interesting on its own, there was a bit of redundancy in structure that began to get old after a while. My favorite stories was the first in which a young girl loves her robot playmate and the final two in which the Stephen Byerley character appears.

I was less attached to the humans in this book, who came off as rather one dimensional and cold. Rather it was the robots I liked and cared about, many of whom showed more emotional depth than the people. This also creates an interesting quandary for me. While the people in the book insist the robots are just machines and therefore believe it's okay to treat them as slaves, I can't help but feel that the moral compass is more confused due to the fact that robots feel. If a robot is sentient and has emotions, then it could be considered alive even though it's been constructed, in which case it could demand rights. There is certainly an interesting discussion point there, which I'm sure someone has brought up before (I may have to do a search for essays on the topic).

On top of that, there's the fact that the book is a bit old fashioned in terms of how it depicts women. Sure, Dr. Calvin is a genius and considered at the top of her game throughout the book, but Asimov also felt the need to write a story proving she's a woman because she falls for a man, dresses womanly, and acts vindictive. I'm not against love stories or women falling in love or whatever, but this one annoyed me because her actions seem out of character.

At any rate, despite some flaws, this is an entertaining set of robot stories and definitely worth a read.

Mar 7, 2012, 8:58pm

I was less attached to the humans in this book, who came off as rather one dimensional and cold. Rather it was the robots I liked and cared about, many of whom showed more emotional depth than the people. You just put your finger on one of the things that bugs me about Asimov's writing. I can't fully describe it, but it is almost as though he relied on stereotypes for most of his humans, but took great care with the robots. If he can put himself inside the heads of the robots, you'd think he could do better with the people too.

Mar 8, 2012, 9:29am

>123 cammykitty: I haven't read most of Asimov's works yet, so I can only base my opinion on I, Robot. But I was under the impression that Asimov made his Robots more human than the humans for a reason. I thought he was trying to emphasize the awry moral compass. But I could be wrong since I'm not that well read in Asimovian literature.

Edited: Mar 8, 2012, 1:43pm

>123 cammykitty:
It's possible that robots were just easier for him to "get" and portray than people, though The_Hibernator makes a really interesting argument for the robots being the moral compass of the story, while the humans are more corrupt.

>124 The_Hibernator:
I haven't read any other Asimov either, but that is a totally valid reading of I, Robot, and something I hadn't considered. It would make sense, and regardless of whether Asimov intended to emphasis the lacking moral compass in humans, it can still be interpreted that way, because many of the machines certainly seem to have a higher morality than the people. In fact, Dr. Calvin on a couple of occasions states that she thinks that robots are superior than humans and that she thinks humanity is able to be better merely because the robots take charge of many matters.

Mar 16, 2012, 3:20pm

My trip to Orlando, FL was great and I finished reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, Anthem by Ayn Rand, and Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood. Reviews will come soon, I promise.

In the meantime, I shall be attending my first SciFi/Fantasy con EVER! and not only shall I be attending, but I shall be doing a reading and be on panels! (This is where I tell myself not to panic O.O)

Anyway, if any of you will be at FOGcon in Walnut Creek, California, I would be down to do a meet up, and these are the programming events I'll be doing:

Saturday, March 31
9-10:15 a.m. – I shall be doing a reading with Alyc Helms and Norm Sperling. (Have no idea what I’m going to read yet, though.)

4:30-5:45 p.m. – Panel: You Are Not Your Rejection Slips
Sacramento Room
Learn techniques for coping with the inevitable ups and downs of a writing career. How can you maintain a sense of self-worth after a hundred rejection slips? How do you handle the feelings of being simultaneously the most brilliant writer ever and the biggest pile of s*** in the field?

Moderator: Cassie Alexander
Panelists: Andrea Blythe, Gabrielle Harbowy, John Joseph Adams, Christie Yant

Sunday, April 1
9-10:15 a.m. – Panel: Loving Something Problematic
Salon B/C
Most of us have at least a few books, movies, or TV shows that we love that are also problematic in their depiction of race, gender, class, or something else. How can we be fans of these things while still acknowledging their flaws? How can we discuss the flaws in these works without incurring the wrath of devoted fans?

Moderator: Liz Argall
Panelists: M. Christian, Andrea Blythe, Carolyn Cooper, Nalo Hopkinson

Happy Friday, everyone! (^_^)

Mar 16, 2012, 9:22pm

Have fun at the SciFi/Fantasy con!

Mar 17, 2012, 7:33pm

"not only shall I be attending, but I shall be doing a reading and be on panels"

Exciting!!! Hope it goes well!

Mar 18, 2012, 7:53am

Hope you have a great convention! That second panel you're going to be in sounds especially interesting. Please let us know how it went!

Mar 19, 2012, 12:20pm

Thanks, guys! I'll let you know how it goes. :D

Mar 20, 2012, 5:38pm

15. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein (****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! – Science Fiction

The lunar colony has been treated like a dumping ground for criminals and delinquents by the people of Earth for decades, overlooked by a "Warden" who mostly sticks to his home. There are no laws on Luna, and yet the conflux of prisoners, miners, and free borns from many nationalities and backgrounds has created a sort of ordered anarchy in which all "rules" are simple, unspoken and enforced by the populace who must take responsibility for their own actions.

Manny is an apolitical type and a mechanic, who works to repair the main computer that runs the entire systems of the lunar colony. Only, Manny has discovered that the computer, known as Mike, has developed a personality and fond of good practical jokes.

When Manny witnesses a riot during a revolutionist political rally, he quickly gets wrapped up in helping Wyoh, a political activist, and the Professor, an anarchist with a desire for revolution. The three of them, together with Mike the computer, end up setting out on a complex plot to enact revolution and earn Luna her freedom.

The novel unfolds over the entire course of the revolution, which includes thousands of people making up the plot and spans several years. Thus at times, the narration becomes distanced from the personal as Manny relates events as he remembers them, kind of like a historical account.

The characters are great, though sometimes they do get lost in the epic sweep of the revolutionary narrative. I also loved how Heinlein developed a slang unique to Luna, a kind of mishmash of abbreviations and words from many languages. The lingo is easy enough to follow and fun to read, while being entirely plausible sounding. Great book.

Mar 20, 2012, 5:44pm

That was a very exciting review. I've yet to read Heinlein (in fact I've read very little classic Sci-Fi besides Dick), but you make it sound great. Thumbing!

Edited: Mar 21, 2012, 5:42pm

16. Anthem, by Ayn Rand (**1/2)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books (Reader Voted List)

Told from the point of view of Equality{insert string of numbers}, the novel looks at a future society in which everyone is equal because all personal identity has been erased. The only purpose of a person's life is to serve the group and society is terrified and hateful of anything new or original.

It was easy enough to read, but I wasn't stoked on this one. While I like the use of "we" to replace the first person narrative in order to show the group mentality, I didn't understand the {-point-} {+point+} of other aspects of the weird writing style, for example. I assume Rand intended it to serve a purpose, but I have no freaking idea what it is. There isn't much scene description either, no painting this world and making it a whole.

Because what would be the point of that. The world presented here isn't meant to be complex beyond the simple moralizing fable Rand tells. The entire purpose of the unfolding story is clearly meant to teach that group-based societies and mentality are evil (reference to communism much?) and should never ever be put above the drive of the individual and of the ego.

It's too black and white, too clear cut for me. The world is full of gray and multitudinous color. There is good and bad in everything. It's layered and complex. Anthem doesn't even sport the dumbed down simplistic fun and spectacle of an action story. It's just simplistic and readable, but ultimately dull.

Mar 20, 2012, 6:15pm

Good review! Ayn Rand's work is long since on my "Rather dead in a ditch" list, based on her politics.

Mar 20, 2012, 7:04pm

Yeah, I've been avoiding Rand's work for the same reason, but it's on the "Reader Voted" section of the Modern Library's 100 Best Books (her other two famous ones are at the top), and since I'm trying to read all the books on the list...

... well, at least Anthem was short. I'm definitely note looking to read anything else by here, even if it means I must leave the list incomplete.

Mar 20, 2012, 7:05pm

>132 GingerbreadMan:
I've read a couple of Heinlein books, and Stranger in a Strange Land is on my list of favorites. He's not a perfect writer (no one is), but he is very interesting to read.

Mar 20, 2012, 7:31pm

I think that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my favourite of Heinlein's works that I've read. That one and Friday were probably my go to books for him when I used to just re-read what I had in my collection (pre-LT).

Mar 21, 2012, 12:14pm

>137 AHS-Wolfy:,
Oooh. I'll have to read Friday then.

Mar 21, 2012, 1:20pm

I found Anthem really dull, too. As far as dystopias go, it didn't bring anything new to the table. I've tried reading The Fountainhead and had to give up. I'm not a huge fan of her preachy philosophy. Unfortunately, my friends LOVE Ayn Rand and can't understand what my problem is. :)

Mar 21, 2012, 5:43pm

>139 The_Hibernator:,
A lot of people seem to love Rand (she is at the top of the Reader Voted section of Modern Library's 100 Best Books list), but I can't quite figure out why. Perhaps its an American thing? Hurray capitalism and all that? I just don't know.

Mar 22, 2012, 6:21am

From what I remember, the modern library was created by votes and there was a controversy about Scientologists and Rand fanatics "stuffing" the ballot box.

Mar 22, 2012, 1:45pm

Well, there's two sections to the Modern Library list. The first seems to have been chosen by Modern Library members and looks more focused on "important works". The second was voted on by Readers.

I hadn't known about the controversy, but now that you mention it, it totally makes sense in regards to how the Reader voted list is assembled.

Mar 23, 2012, 8:38am

>140 andreablythe: I'm an All-American girl and I think Rand takes capitalism a little too far. :) I always assumed it was an intellectualism thing. Most of the little packs of people I meet who LOVE Ayn Rand are led by a "snobby" intellectual. (And I mean "snobby" in the most loving way since I'm talking about one of my best friends here--she admits she's a snob!)

Mar 23, 2012, 12:08pm

>140 andreablythe:,
Yeah, I'm proud to be American, too, but that there is a certain kind of American-ness which is uber-proud of itself and "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" and so forth that ignores lots of problems in the nation and world, while claiming to be intellectually sound.

It's funny, cause I wouldn't think of Rand's work being particularly intellectual (there are plenty of professors and academics I know, who scoff at Rand's books), but I suppose like many things, there are many different shades or kinds of intellectuals in the world, who associate themselves with varying types of intellectuality.

Mar 23, 2012, 12:53pm

:) Yes, there are many breeds of intellectual! I'm pretty sure Rand considered herself quite the intellectual. She bragged that her books were originally rejected because they were too "intellectual and ahead of their time."

Mar 23, 2012, 1:34pm

She bragged that her books were originally rejected because they were too "intellectual and ahead of their time."

Oh, goodness gracious. *headdesk*

Mar 29, 2012, 3:26pm

17. Born Wicked, by Jessica Spotswood (****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! - Fantasy

This is an ER book.

Set in an alternative history, one in which witches were the leaders of the Americas until a religious group, called the Brotherhood took power and persecuted all witches, this novel follows the lives of Cahill sisters. All three sisters are forced to hide the fact that they are witches or risk being sent to an asylum, a prison ship, or death.

Cate Cahill is almost to her 17th birthday, when she will be forced to make a choice, either declare her intent of marriage, join the Sisterhood (rather like nuns), or have the Brotherhood choose a husband for her. She thinks she has her decision figured out, but she discovers her mother's diary and the secret of a prophecy that could change everything and puts both her and her sisters in danger.

Cate is the narrator of the story, and is a typical older sister, feeling that she must protect her sisters. She's taken on the mother role, trying to maintain discipline and keep her sisters safe in a dangerous world. There's a strength in her, more than just her rather remarkable power, but strength in how she chooses to face the world and take on what burdens she must. Her choices each have positive and negative, giving them proper weight. It's right that she weighs them so carefully and I never felt she was being stupid for considering and reconsidering in each case. It was always appropriate.

I rather like her love interests, too, especially the slightly nerdy one. I'm smiling just thinking about how sweet he is. In general, I think Spotswood did a good job with all the characters in the book, offering up surprises here and there that seem logical as you look back on them.

The secrets and the intrigue that propels the plot is also fun. I'm very interested to see what happens in upcoming books, whether the sisters can face the prophecy and whether they can get our of the tangled web of a mess their in. I kind of hope that Spotswood shifts to another sister's point of view in the next novel, not because I didn't like Cate (her character was great), but because all three sister are interesting enough to carry their own story.

Mar 29, 2012, 6:43pm

18. Rasl, Vol. 1: The Drift, by Jeff Smith (****)
Category: Bam! Pow! Wham! - Comics

I was, and still am, madly in love with Jeff Smith's Bone series, so when I saw a new graphic novel volume sitting on the library shelf, I had to read it right away. Smith steps away from the mystical and into straight science fiction with Rasl.

Rasl is an outcast, a former scientist, not art thief, who accomplishes his crimes by jumping back and forth between alternate worlds. A strange ape/lizard-like man is tailing him through the worlds, however, a man who works for the Compound and wants something Rasl has taken.

Being book one, there is a lot of introduction and explanation to get out of the way, but Smith expertly weaves it into the action of the story. Already he's brought several characters into life that are interesting, ones that I can't wait to know more about, and I'm sure they will all grow to be more complex and interesting as the story continues. I kinda wish I had some to this with story complete, because now I've got to impatiently wait for the next compilation.

Mar 30, 2012, 2:54pm

19. Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J.M. Lassen (****)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

This anthology is a compilation "young adult" stories of the undead. There are many kinds of stories here -- some apocalyptic, some not. There are several stories about survivors against the horde, and several about young people who either by choice or accident join the horde (there's an interesting theme of community in such stories, of loneliness and the need to be part of a group, even if the group is the dead). And many varieties of story in between. Here are a few that stuck with me:

This is the third (or fourth) time I've read "The Wrong Grave," by Kelly Link, in which a young man digs up his girlfriend's grave to get back his poetry, only to find he's dug up the wrong one. It's just as creepy and fun to read the third (or fourth) as it was the first.

Marie Atkins' "Seven Brains, Ten Minutes" has to be the most viscerally horrifying of the lot. In it a young man goes to desperate (and disturbing) extremes to rescue and impress a girl he likes, leading to an ending that is terribly and delightfully unsettling.

Like most of Catherine Valente's stories, "The Day's of Flaming Motorcycle," is hard to sum up, but it's certain intellectually fascinating in the way it approaches the zombie. The story of a girl living in a town full of zombies -- without much hassle -- is entertaining, but there's also an underlining sense that this story should be analyzed in more detail, because it means something.

Then there's "The Human Race," by Scott Edelman, which is so, so heart-wrenching. About a girl whose family dies in a terrorist explosion while traveling in London. While she's traveling there to identify and collect her family's remains, a worldwide zombie outbreak occurs. I won't say more than that, because it's really a beautiful story that deserves to be taken on its own merits.

and finally - SPOILER - Johnathan Mayberry's story, "Family Business," is interesting to me from a conceptual point of view. I like the idea of respect for the dead, even if the dead are trying to kill you. In it a boy learns the "hunting" business from his brother, who leads him beyond the fences of the community to hunt the undead. But it's shown to be more complicated than just killing zombs, as there is an emotional reality that lies behind the dead walking.

It reminds me of a scene in Walking Dead, where the survivors say, "We bury our own, and burn the rest," which is to say, we take a moment to respect those who meant something to us and give them proper burial. Mayberry's story makes it clear that every zombie belongs to someone (is someone's father, mother, brother, sister) and therefore deserves a respectful burial.

However, I'm not sure I'm in love with the execution of the story, as ever step of the hunting trip leads the character to this ultimate understanding. The problem is that I could feel the straight line of the argument that was being mounted (not just for the character, but for the reader, too), and so the effect came off preachy. So..., not my favorite of the stories, but still very, very interesting.

Apr 1, 2012, 5:31pm

@147 - Got to love nerdy love interests! If it weren't part of a trilogy, I'd be interested in it from what you said.

Apr 1, 2012, 6:08pm

>149 andreablythe: Sounds good! I need to read more Valente, too.

Apr 2, 2012, 11:53am

>150 cammykitty:
Yeah, so many books are part of series that it's hard to want to get into them, because they make the TBR list grow instead of decrease.

Apr 2, 2012, 11:55am

>151 GingerbreadMan:
I've read a couple of her short stories and they've definitely been good, though tend toward more intellectual complexity -- not a bad thing. I have Palimpsest on my bookshelf at home, but haven't read it yet, as I've heard it's very complex and at least one friend suggested I should start with one of her other works first.

Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:19am

That's the only book of hers I've read, and I really enjoyed it. The language is quite a bit more flowery than I usually enjoy, which made it a little slow, but I enjyed it a lot. And apart from the style I didn't find it hard at all.

Managed to use enjoy/ed three times in two sentences there - misspelling it once. Oh, dear.

Apr 2, 2012, 10:03pm

Oooohhhh.... do we really get to nudge Andrea towards a book, and not the other way around as usual?!?!?! Valente's The Palimpsest is a fascinating story..... something you want to sit down and read when you have lots of uninterrupted time on your hands.

Apr 3, 2012, 6:41am

Also a vote from me for palimpsest which was the first Valente I read - also consider The Orphan's tales duology which is a very different reading experience

Apr 3, 2012, 12:55pm

LOL! You guys have sold me. I'll jump Palimpsest to the top of the list! :D

Apr 6, 2012, 1:47pm

Took me a couple of days to recover from the wonderfulness that was Fogcon, one of those delightful events that left me exhausted and, honestly, a little drained.

It started out Saturday with my reading (well, technically it started Friday, but I didn't feel like dealing with traffic). My reading went well, though there were only a handful of people or so in the room, so very small, but that's fine. I read a bunch of my poems, and got a good response from those present. I also got to hear Alyc Helms read from her unpublished novel, The Adventures of Mr. Mystic and the Dragons of Heaven, which seems like it will be a rather fun urban fantasy/superhero novel when it's published (she's shopping it at the moment).

About midday I went to Nalo Hopkinson's presentation on everyday culture. So many people tell her they don't have any culture, and she asserts that they certainly do. As a way of presenting that, she had the group play ring games, hand clapping games, and other yard school games, which filled the morning with rhyme, rhythm, and laughter. It was very joyful.

I also saw here do a reading of her new book, a YA novel called, The Chaos, which I had to immediately go our and buy. She signed it for me with a smile. I'm eagerly looking forward to reading it, as I recently read her book Brown Girl in the Ring (which was wonderful and I'll review later).

The first panel I was on was called "You Are Not Your Rejection Slips," in which a couple of editors and my fellow authors and I discussed how to handle rejection. It was a good panel, I think. It's a hard subject for me to feel that any new insights to discover, because rejection is just so normal for a writer; there's no getting around it. It's hard for me to judge, because I was one of the speakers and I was rather nervous. At one point, I opened my mouth to speak and then froze up entirely, but I think I finished well.

That night, I attended a panel about Body Image and it was absolutely amazing. It didn't deal so much with body weight, but rather delved into more difficult topics, such as how gender (male, female, transgender), race, disability, or many other factors in a person's life can contribute to how people see themselves and how they are seen by other people.

One of the things discussed that sticks with me is the concept of "helpfullness," and how it can actually be very injuring or harmful, especially if the help is unasked for. It can be things like telling someone a new diet for them to try out, telling a transgender man that if he cut his hair he would look more masculine, or telling someone with a health issue about this great new thing that might fix it. The problem with helpfulness like this is that it assumes that the person being addressed hasn't had the presence of mind to think of this "great new idea" before. But even more so, the panel said, it stems from a place of discomfort and fear, because the underlining message is, "Who you are makes me uncomfortable, so here are some things you can do that will make you fit how I think you should be, so I can be more comfortable."

Much, much more was covered and discussed. The entire discussion was very respectful of each opinion throughout, and the result was incredibly powerful.

That night, mslorelei also gave a rather awesome (and x-rated) reading a story she wrote. The story is (I believe) a part of a new ebook of hers that just came out (called On Display), which is very cool. I really liked how the story was about two people holding on to love, as well as being rather sexy. :)

On Sunday morning, bright and early, I was on a panel called "Loving Something Problematic," which discussed how you balance loving a book, movie, game, etc., when that thing you love clearly has some elements that are troubling, such as racism, sexism, or other isms, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt.

Again, I was very nervous about being on this panel, especially as it was a more challenging subject. I kind of approached the discussion from the point of view that I was new (within the last couple of years) to the concept of white privilege and issues of racism, transmisogyny, ablism, and other new isms that I had been recently learning.

My fellow panelists, Nalo Hopkinson, M. Christian, and Carolyn Cooper, were great, and Liz Argall was fabulous as the moderator. I started to shrink into my shell at the beginning, and at a well timed point, Liz addressed a question directly at me. As soon as I started speaking, I started to relax into a little bit more and was able to better insert myself into the conversation.

I wish I could present you with some of the great things my fellow panelists said, but I was so busy trying not to dissolve under my nervousness and trying to be present enough to communicate that I don't exactly remember the details all that well. I'm told the panel went well though, and before we knew it the time was up and we had to let another panel come in. Pretty much everyone there wished the discussion could have gone on longer, so that's a really good sign.

So those were the main highlights of the con for me, though there was a ton more that went on and several times I wished I could time travel or duplicate myself so I could go to more than one panel at a time. I can't wait for next year, and I'm eager to try out some larger cons.

For the future, I will definitely be getting a hotel room, rather than drive back and forth from the con. The late night and early morning drives was torture, and contributed to my state of absolute exhaustion. It was worth it, though. SO much fun. (^_^)

Apr 6, 2012, 1:54pm

Sounds like you had a fantastic time! Congrats on the bravery - not sure I could have done it. :)

Apr 6, 2012, 3:21pm

20. Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space! -- Fantasy

Following economic collapse, Toronto dissolves into such chaos that the central city, known as "the burn", is abandoned by Canadian government. Those who live there do so without proper infrastructure, no electricity or plumbing, no hospitals, no police, etc. Yet, these people manage to create lives in the slums, small businesses built in what ways they can (one person fixes shoes by replaces the soles with old tires), and doing what they can to avoid the dangerous gangs that proliferate.

Ti-Jeanne is a woman who feels trapped by the burden of her baby son, while wanting to end her relationship with her drug-addicted boyfriend Tony and dealing with her gruff, overbearing grandmother. On top of that, Ti-Jeanne begins having frightening visions, which means she's inherited some of her grandmother's gifts. Ti-Jeanne can't seem to escape her attraction to Tony, especially after he gets in trouble with the gangs and seeks her help.

Nalo Hopkinson draws on her Caribbean roots to infuse this novel with such folk creatures as Jap-Jabs and duppies and other strange spirits. It's a richly textured novel with a well-realized sense of place and community.

Ti-Jeanne is a strong character, a woman who may not always be sure of herself, but has the strength to act when action is required. And as a whole, the characters in this book are complicated and interesting, with the main villain Rudy being truly terrible and terrifying. A really great book that has me wanting read a lot more of Hopkinson's work.

As I mentioned, one of the presentations at FOGcon was by Nalo Hopkinson, in which she played ring games, one of which was the "Brown Girl in the Ring" game (here's a link to the words and here's a video of a disco star singing it is in 1978), which is quoted several times throughout the book. I didn't understand the quote when I read it the first time, but seeing Hopkinson in a group, singing the rhymes and showing how the game is played (one person stands in the center, while other stand in a circle around her singing, then the girl in the center makes a body movement, which the circle repeats, at which point someone else is chosen to be in the center), added a whole new element to the reading of the book. It makes me want to go back and read the book again and see how that new understanding of the game may change how I perceive the text.

Apr 6, 2012, 5:17pm

Thanks, Eva, it was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to my next con. :)

Apr 7, 2012, 4:25am

Thanks for that interesting report on Fogcon! Sounds like you had a great time, and that your panels went really well.

I read Brown girl in the ring a few years ago. I wasn't quite as thrilled as you (gave it a 3,5, I think), bit I liked it and have vivid memories of it. I think her very natural post-colonial perspective was the book's strongest point.

Apr 7, 2012, 6:36am

Congrats on getting through the con so well. Sounds like a lot of hard work but I'm pleased you had an enjoyable time too.

Apr 9, 2012, 11:47am

Thanks, guys! :)

Apr 11, 2012, 2:44pm

21. No Surrender: Poems, by Ai (*****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

A gorgeous collection of poetry, which presents narrative style monologues from the point of view of a variety of people, men and women of different stations. One series of poems looks at the lives of Irish settlers, and others look at the lives Japanese or other heritages. Almost all are underscored with subtle subversive discussion, while being vivid and detailed portrayals. Most of these poems are fairly easy reads (while still being intelligent and evocative) and I would recommend them for those who don't often read poetry.


22. Dead West, written by Rick Spears, illustrated by Rob G. (**1/2)
Category: Bam! Pow! Wham! -

In the wild west, a group of white settlers bring their claim to the land and order the local natives to leave, only to slaughter them when they don't. The sole survivor of the tribe comes back to the settled town years later, and performs a ritual to raise the dead, thus unleashing his vengeance upon the townfolk.

First, if we look past the issue of how native americans are portrayed -- on the one hand, simple victims, and on the other hand, perpetrators of of mystical and evil power -- the story still doesn't have much going for it other than action and bloodshed.

The art is okay, very scratchy and gritty in style, which actually works for the story, but there is zero character development for anyone in the book and I'm not sure why I should care if any of the townfolk or the cowboy who comes to their rescue should live or die. Overall, I wish Sparks had put more thought into the story, at lease in an effort to make the people likable and interesting, but as he didn't I'm afraid it all just falls short.

Edited: Apr 27, 2012, 6:47pm

24. An American Tragedy (audio book), by Theodore Dreiser (***)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

An epically long look at the life of Clyde Griffiths, an ambitious young man who wants to escape the poverty of his youth and replace it with wealthy, prestige, and social status. Along the way, he becomes entangles in the "dark side of the American Dream."

I am starting to loose faith in the Modern Library's ability to choose so-called "great" books. While I think a truly great book goes beyond just entertainment to where it makes the reader think or expands their point of view, I don't see why so many "classics of great literature" have to insist on a kind of dark drudgery. Dreiser, for example, rehashes scenes, dialog, events multiple times, and maybe that's necessary in a book that involves a trial and thus requires multiple interpretations of the same events. However, I really think this book could have done with an editor to hack away all the superfluous repetition that beleaguers the point at every turn. (I almost gave up at a couple of points, but each time figured, welp, I got this far. I may as well see it through.)

And yet, I didn't out right hate the book, because even though Clyde is greedy, selfish, and in all rights rather unlikeable, I found it interesting that even as I came to realize just how awful a human being he is, I also found myself siding with him against the law and society that also wasn't all that likable (though for entirely different reasons). So there are definitely some interesting complexities there.

I suppose the only "good" character in the whole book is Clyde's mother, an unordained preacher whose entire faith lies with God, which isn't surprising as Dreiser's message seems to be that people need to give up the selfish and destructive pursuit of things and seek a simpler more godly life.

Definitely not a favorite.

Apr 29, 2012, 10:15pm

Oooo - I respect you for slogging all the way through An American Tragedy. It sounds like it may be a classic because it is a type of book - a backlash to the American dream stories where orphan boy grows into robber baron.

Apr 30, 2012, 11:48am

Maybe not a favorite, but a very good review. Thanks for sharing.

Apr 30, 2012, 11:59am

>167 cammykitty:,
Yeah, I think that's it, more or less. There's a whole bunch of books, I think, in which the writing is only good, but they become classics because they are "saying something." *shrug*

>168 pammab:,
Heh. Thank you. :)

Edited: May 2, 2012, 4:54pm

24. I am J, by Cris Beam (*****)
Category: I Don't Wanna Grow Up

From the book flap: "J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was; a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost."

This is a rather sweet and moving story of a young trans man claiming the right to be himself. J is an interesting character faced with a difficult reality. He is who he is, but the world doesn't see him that way. Declaring his existence, even at the risk of losing all the people in his life whom he loves, is vital to his survival. Besides any thing else, for J, would be a lie.

People are complicated, and this books respects that fact. Family and friends surprise, and strangers alike (some of whom are also trans), all end up surprising (in both good and bad ways) J at various points. Sometimes funny and often touching, this story brought me to tears several times. It's a great book, which I encourage many, many people to read.

May 8, 2012, 1:17pm

25. The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (poetry), by Caits Meissner and Tishon (****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

This Kickstarted funded book, published by Well&Often Press, presented a first collection of poetry by two New York poets. The book is presented in thematic groups that portray the rawness of youth and friendship and love and hurt, with a backdrop of pop culture and the urban world. Both poets have a clear and distinct styles, and their work is highlighted well within this book.

I'd like to do a longer more in depth, text-based review later on (but I keep running out of time), so for now I'll just say that this is a fantastic collection with deep and resonant work.

Edited: Jul 4, 2012, 12:46pm

26. Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror, by Jason Zinoman (****1/2)
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am

I'm a huge fan of horror movies and I love seeing behind the scenes of how movies are made, so it's no surprise that I would totally dig Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror, by Jason Zinoman. The book presents a history of how filmmakers, such as Wes Craven, Roman Polanski, George Romero and others, took the old schlocky stories (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) to the next level, with stories that push the boundaries of politics and social commentary, as well as gore.

Zinoman didn't go into deep analysis of the film (I'm sure there are plenty of other books that do), but explored the lives of the directors and writers that became known as auteurs in the industry (whether or not it was truth), revealing how they came to develop the movie that are now classics of horror. Keeping in mind that I did not live in the era and have not seen several of these movies (though I have heard and know about all of them), I can't judge whether the author's point of view accurately reflects the movies or the time in which they were made, but I can say that it worked for me. I was thoroughly fascinated and entertained, so much so that I plowed through the book in under two days. It was a great, fun read, and I now need to do a marathon and see all the movies that I have not seen.

The one flaw, for me at least as I have a deep love (read: obsession) of lists, is that the author did note compile of filmography of movies mentioned in the book. How else am I supposed to easily quantify which movies I have and have not seen?

So lacking a proper filmography, I skimmed through the book and made my own list of all the movies discussed or mentioned, and posted it on my blog.

May 22, 2012, 12:04pm

I was able to see the solar eclipse yesterday. I made my own pinhole camera, but it was very cool to see the trees acting as natural pinhole cameras as they cast crescent shaped light on the walls of the building.

May 22, 2012, 2:40pm

A student showed me a picture she took of her garage door with the same pattern. Cool! I had completely forgotten about it or I would have pulled out my sextant with a telescope and strong filters.

May 22, 2012, 2:58pm

It was a lot of fun. I met more of my neighbors on Sunday than I did in the entire three years or so before.

PS. I had to look up what a "sextant" was on the assumption it probably had to do with astronomy and not what it sounded like. Lol. :)

May 22, 2012, 5:40pm

I have a decent one from my shipboard days. One of the nice things is that you can use it to bring the image of the sun down with the mirrors; you don't have to get a crink in your neck looking up! I've even been able to see sun spots on the surface of the sun with it. (The first time I saw that I thought there was something wrong with the sextant. When I figured out that it was only visible on the sun's surface I realized I had a pretty good instrument.)

May 22, 2012, 6:29pm

Wow! That's really cool! I have a fascination with astronomy, but have never pursued it, though I do read books on the subject some times. :)

Edited: May 29, 2012, 5:52pm

27. Paradise, by Toni Morrison (*****)
Category: Oh, How I Missed You

"They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time." These powerful first lines set up this beautifully written and complex novel that explores what utopia means and the cost required to maintain it.

Ruby is a small town, founded by black families who persevered through the roughest of times to make a home for themselves away from the threat of whites and the shame of being rejected by other blacks. Built 90 miles from anywhere, Ruby has been able to preserve and protect itself from the influence of the outside world, in addition to creating a complex mythology around its founding that sustains it. The families live in peace without threat of violence, drugs, television, or the miscreant behavior of mistreated children.

Meanwhile, far on the outskirts of this small town is the Convent, once the home of nuns aiming to plant a seed of culture in young native girls, is now a last refuge for lost women, who have been shattered by their lives. Each reach the Convent, one way or another, by accident, and intending to stay only a few days, end up staying years.

The novel interweaves the history of Ruby and its founding families and the lives of these women, and true to Morrison's style, nothing is simple, not people, or towns, or history, or stories.

One of the things I remember from when I first read it in class was the question of who the "white girl" was. Race is an important question in the book, or I should say, it's an important question and focus for the townsfolk of Ruby, who pride themselves on being dark-skinned blacks, as opposed to the light skinned blacks who rejected them, not to mention the whites they were trying to escape and avoid. However, among the women who live at the Convent, the story is different. Race is less of an issue, and Morisson never makes it clear who the "white girl" is, and though we spent a lot of time in class trying to debating it, in the end, I think perhaps it doesn't matter, because these women (after a long false start), began to create a kind of paradise for themselves that was not at all built on race, but on something else entirely.

Paradise is a rich, complex book with rich, complex write that you could pick up 50 times and come away with something new each time. It requires a certain amount of focus, of paying attention to get through, but it is absolutely worth the effort, and is a beautiful read.

May 29, 2012, 10:47pm

Very cool photo!!! & Shock Value sounds fun, but you're right. What's a book on movies without a list of films!

May 30, 2012, 1:57pm

Thanks, cammy!

The list of films mentioned turned out to be surprisingly long, because a lot were only mentioned in brief. Though I'm fine with having made the list myself, I wish the author would have hand selected the horror movies he thought important (though the main few are clear), so the list would be more focused.

May 30, 2012, 2:16pm

Fantastic review of Paradise! I've not yet read that book by Morrison but she's one of my favorite authors and I hope to get to all of her novels at some point. You just moved Paradise up that list!

May 30, 2012, 2:46pm

Love the solar eclipse photo!

I know what a sextant looks like - I learned that at an early age from the Tintin comics, but I have no idea what it actually does. It's to do with navigation, yes? :)

May 30, 2012, 6:03pm

>181 japaul22:
Thanks, japaul. :)
I've only read Morrison's Paradise and Beloved, but I've read both multiple times, because the writing is just that good. I need to get to reading some of her other books, though.

>182 -Eva-:
The eclipse was great fun.
When I looked it up, the sextant was noted to have to do with both navigation and astronomy, as it's a device used to measure the distance between the horizon and the objects in the sky.

May 30, 2012, 6:07pm

That makes sense! I giggled at the word when I was little, because "tant" means "lady" in Swedish, so Captain Haddock would use a "sex-lady" for navigation. :)

May 30, 2012, 6:11pm

Hah! That's awesome.

(though I admit I giggled at it as an adult, because the name is silly sounding even non knowing "tant" means "lady")

May 30, 2012, 8:00pm

>183 andreablythe: I'd highly recommend Song of Solomon. I think it's my favorite of the ones I've read.

May 31, 2012, 4:57pm

I've been eying Song of Solomon for a while, so I'll have jump it up my list.

May 31, 2012, 5:13pm

28. The Black Unicorn: Poems, by Audre Lorde (****1/2)
Category: The Universe in Verse

African folklore collides with the modern world in this provocative collection of poetry. Lorde explores darkness here, the beauty of black and the deep abyss of sorrow. A common style in these poems is to have one thought collide with the next, a line of text in the middle rubbing against both of the lines above and below it, so that it becomes torn between two different meanings.

Many of these poems are laced with anger and many lovingly paying homage to people either real and mythical. It's a beautiful and brutal collection that lingers, leaving one with a sense of uncertainty to the places they've just been.

May 31, 2012, 6:57pm

29. Tender is the Night (audio book), by F. Scott Fitzgerald (****)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

From the book description: "Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise."

Tender is the Night is about loving as an act of faith, the kind of long term loving that involves taking in all the flaws of your lover and absorbing them until two people merge into a gentle and vulnerable intimacy. Apparently, the story is grew from Fitzgerald's own experiences with loving Zelda, which can definitely be seen in the tender, bruised way the story is approached.

I never appreciated Fitzgerald's writing while reading Gatsby in school, but his style is crisp and clean, the kind of writing that bring physical and emotional vividness without belaboring the point (so, I'm definitely going to have to try Gatsby again). Though sorrowful, there's a sweetness to this book as well, the way one nostalgically looks back on a rough and hurtful memory with a smile.

May 31, 2012, 7:51pm

I've always wanted to know more about Zelda. I've been meaning to give Fitzgerald another try but can never agree on which book. Thanks for the review.

Jun 1, 2012, 4:27pm

Hi, guys! I'm pleased to announce that two of my poems, "Annie Taylor, Niagara Falls, 1901" and "Red Riding Hood Remembers," has been published in Issue One of the new Linden Avenue Literary Journal, edited by Athena Dixon. Woo!

I'm thrilled to be included in this issue with so many clearly talented writers. I loved C.L. McFadyen's evocative poem, "The Bottom of a Circle," and Val Dering Rojas' "Things That Are Still Broken" made me deliriously happy. And then, there's the flash story, "I Would Rather Death by Chocolate," by Elizabeth Akin Stelling, which is a lovely exploration of sweetness, along with so many more great works.

Jun 1, 2012, 4:28pm

>190 VictoriaPL:,
Yes! I didn't know much of anything about Fitzgerald or Zelda until I watched the highly stylized versions of them in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Now I'm very curious about them both, and may even pick up a biography or two.

Jun 1, 2012, 4:30pm

Congratulations - that's very cool!!!!!

Jun 1, 2012, 5:56pm

Thanks! :)

Jun 1, 2012, 7:07pm


Jun 1, 2012, 9:36pm

The smell of water, oak, and lingering pickle

I like that.

Jun 1, 2012, 10:26pm

Congrats on getting your poems published!!!!

I haven't read Audre Lorde recently. You're making me think I should pick up some of her poems again.

& I'd love to see your list of horror movies.

As for Morrison, I saw a display of her books at B&N under new releases. Most of them clearly weren't new, but there was one title I'd never heard before. I think she has something new out!!! Group read anyone??? When it finally comes out in paperback?

Jun 2, 2012, 8:47am


Jun 2, 2012, 1:46pm

Congrats on the publication of your poems!

Jun 3, 2012, 3:17pm

Congratulations on your publication! Loved the image of Red Riding Hood deliberately climbing into the wolf as an erotic act, and your capturing of going over the edge of Niagara Falls!

Paradise was the last book of Morrison's I read before "letting her go", so to speak. I kept slipping on it while reading, and remember virtually nothing. Perhaps I should try a re-read?

Jun 4, 2012, 12:35pm

Thank you for all the warm congratulations, everyone! :D

>197 cammykitty:,
Lorde's book was a great read, but also kind of brutal. She's good at emotionally gut-checking the reader.

The list of horror (and other movies mentioned in Shock Value movies is here:

And yes! Morrison does have a new book out, called Home. I'd be down to do a group read. Would be fun! :)


>200 GingerbreadMan:
"Slipping on it" sounds like a great description of what could happen while reading; she packs a lot of information into a single paragraph or a single sentence.

I'd say go for a reread, if the writer or story draws you enough to try it, but as not all great writing works for everyone, you certainly don't have to. Just because I love her work, doesn't mean you will. I, for one, can't stand Crime and Punishment, despite all the people who love it so and tell me I should love it, too. I've tried to read it several times, but at a certain point, I gave up on it in favor of books I did connect with.

Jun 4, 2012, 3:49pm

>201 andreablythe: But I had read everything by her up to that point, and really liked most of it. I guess for me, with Paradise I felt she was going in a more abstract direction and I was looking for other things. There are a few writers like that. I loved Jeanette Winterson's early works, for instance, but her later stuff leaves me completely cold. So what I'm now thinking about when it comes to Morrison is if it was just a case of bad timing for me - or if there's a rift in her work for me as a reader.

Jun 4, 2012, 4:28pm

>202 GingerbreadMan:
Oh, okay. That is different, and I've had that happen with writers before, too. Maybe instead of trying to reread Paradise, you might want to try one of her other new books, like the one she just published, Home.

Jun 4, 2012, 6:51pm

30. Skin Folk, by Nalo Hopkinson (*****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: Brown Girl in the Ring

Hopkinson's eerie and haunting collection of short stories influenced by her life and roots, both her Caribbean cultural heritage and her experiences living in Canada. With powerful, vivid prose, Hopkinson unveils strange, unsettling worlds in which an ordinary eggs give birth to strange, deformed monsters, glass storms cut up everything in their path, and trees take flight. Many of these stories explore darkness. "Snake" is an absolutely terrifying tale from the point of view of a child molester and killer, "Tan Tan and Dry Bone" tells the story of a girl weighed down and burdened by not only her own guilt, but by a horrible creature bent on sucking out the last of her happiness, while my favorite, "The Glass Bottle Trick" is a Caribbean spin on the bloody Bluebeard folktale. But no matter how unsettling or terrifying, the stories are bolstered by beautiful imagery and prose that slips between the surreal and the realistic. A fabulous collection.

Jun 14, 2012, 7:14pm

31. China Mountain Zhang, by Maureen F. McHugh (*****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! – Science Fiction

China has become the dominant in the world, and after the Cleansing Winds campaign in the U.S., socialism is the norm. The U.S. is not quite a third world country, but it is close, and many people living there hope to find their way to China, where there exists the most advanced technology and the best, most respected Universities.

Zhang, sometimes called Rafael, has strikes against him in this world. As an ABC ( American Born Chinese) he's at the top of the chain for being a foreigner, however the fact that he is only half Chinese (his mother is Latina) and is bent (homosexual) means that his prospects in the world are somewhat limited. The first could keep him from getting and keeping a descent job, the second could get him a trip to a prison camp or a bullet to the back of the head.

One of the things I loved about this book, along with the clean writing style, is how McHugh shapes a complex world, when she could have easily fallen back on socialism cliches. Instead she looks at the world from many levels and from many cultural points of view, while showing the intricate and subtle ways the dominate culture infiltrates everyday life. (I especially like that "Marx", "Lennon", and "Mao" are used as curse words, the way "Jesus Christ" is now.)

Part of how she accomplishes this is through the presentation of a variety of characters, who are all complex and interesting. Though Zhang is the main character and his quest to define himself is the main arc of the novel, in every other McHugh switches to a short story from the point of view of a different character. Each of these characters' lives intersects with Zhang's in some small way (a great, simple way to keep the story coherent), but their stories are their own and each, like Zhang, is trying to find a way to define themselves, to pursue their own passion and possibly achieve some measure of contentment and peace, if not outright happiness.

This is a beautiful book, one that's been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, but that I am so thrilled to own, because it's definitely a favorite.

Jun 14, 2012, 7:51pm

I'm so glad you liked China Mountain Zhang! LT has been recommending it to me an awful lot recently, and your review may be the real person reaction that pushes me into reading it much sooner rather than later.

Jun 15, 2012, 11:51am

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :)

Jun 15, 2012, 1:38pm

32. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury (*****)
Category: Oh, How I Missed You

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories that have been strung together into a novel, which presents earth's colonization of Mars. The first expeditions meet with challenges from the Martian natives, who are an advanced race in their own right. In one such story, "The Earth Men," the company lands hoping to receive acknowledgement and fanfare in this first interaction with an alien race, only to find the Martians to be bored and annoyed by their presence.

As the colonization continues and more and more humans come to Mars, we see new kinds of stories, stories of people reshaping a stranger world, of strange people finding peace in solitude away from the red tape of Earth, of people fighting back once Earth tries to bring it's red tape to Mars. Some stories are better than others of course -- and certainly, being written in the '50s, there's not much space for women who are little more than background -- but on the whole they are stories with interesting characters, stories that analyze humanity and society by situating it on an alien world.

I actually picked up the book to reread just a few days before Ray Bradbury passed away, the coincidence of which added a new level of poignancy to the reading. I remember being immediately smitten with the book when I first read it in school. "There Will Come Soft Rains" remains one of my favorite shorts stories, and in rereading it again now, I'm still amazed by the way he spun the story and how it still both moves me and gives me chills. Really a fantastic book -- just one piece of evidence showing how amazing Bradbury was, and I'm already looking forward to reading it again someday.

Jun 17, 2012, 8:44pm

There are, obviously, a lot of people reading Bradbury now - I have Fahrenheit on Mt. TBR, but I've never read it or anything else by him. This sounds like a good alternative, though, even though I'm not a huge short story reader.

Jun 18, 2012, 12:30pm

Fahrenheit 451 is also excellent, so if you're not as into the short story format, you might want to start there.

While I've read so many of his books, there are so many more that I haven't. I really need to pick up more of his work.

Jun 20, 2012, 1:04pm

33. Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman (****)
Category: Miscellany

What begins with young girl trying to remember her deceased father by planting beans in an abandoned, trash-filled lot outside her apartment building, turns into a community project that brings light and peace to people who were once strangers. This is a sweet and simple tale. Each chapter is a piece of flash fiction told from the point of view of various people who witness and participate in the plots of flowers, fruits, vegitables that grow the reclaimed lot. You don't get deep into the lives of each person, rather you see the growth of a community and how people can come together over small joys.

Jun 22, 2012, 2:18pm

34. Ganymede, by Cherie Priest (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

In this his fourth installment of Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series air pirate Adan Cly is called by his old flame Josephine Early to come to Texian occupied New Orleans to assist her with a strange piloting job, one that involves a lot more challenges than it first seems. This book features airships, steam-powered vehicles, zombis, strong women, rebels hidden in the bayou, and other delightful oddities.

Rather than write straight sequels, Priest tells new stories with new characters that integrate old ones. I love the way she continues to unveil more and more of her Clockwork Century world in this by introducing new characters in new locals, while interweaving old characters we know and love. Because of this, you don't have to read the books in order (each stands on its own), but it's fun to do so, as cameos of characters we loved we loved in previous books are present (and some questions are answered). This, combined with the awesomeness of Josephine and other new characters and the fun action-packed new storyline, fills me with glee. This is probably my favorite book series, one that continually keeps me entertained.

Jun 22, 2012, 2:29pm

"each stands on its own"
That's good to know! I haven't started the series yet, but it's on the wishlist. Is this is the series thats printed in brown ink? I hesitated when I saw it at the bookstore because it felt like it would be hard on the eyes, but now I can't remember if it's this series or another one. Safest to put it on the ereader wishlist, maybe. :)

Jun 22, 2012, 2:49pm

Yeah, it is the one with the brown ink, but I didn't have any eye strain while reading. There was enough of a contrast for me. However, using an ereader would be a definite option if that bothers you. :)

Jun 22, 2012, 2:56pm

Very good, yes, I do think I'll do the e-version. I actually think it was the hue of brown I didn't like... :)

Jun 22, 2012, 2:59pm

lol. Too cute. :)

Jun 22, 2012, 8:57pm

"each stands on its own"

Well, that is good to know! I read Boneshaker last year.... overall a good read for me, and I just haven't gotten around to continuing with the series.

Jun 24, 2012, 5:43am

I have been wondering about trying the next in the series, Boneshaker seemed such a great standalone book. Think I have more confidence now that it will be worth it.

Jun 25, 2012, 12:42pm

Yeah, the fact that the books each stand on their own is definitely a bonus for me. I like ongoing series, but I prefer book series that have mostly new characters set in the same world.

Another example are the books in Ursula K. LeGuin's Annals of the Western Shore, Gifts, Voices, and Powers, which each have a different lead character each time, but tie into the old stories in subtle ways.

Jun 25, 2012, 2:01pm

35. Mumbai Noir, edited by Altaf Tyrewala (****)
Category: From my Bookshelf
(This is an ARC from the EarlyReviewers Program.)

I don't read much noir, so I don't have many expectations as to what it's supposed to be or not supposed to be. My understanding is of a dark, seedy underworld kind of story, usually with a detective lead into a dangerous, possibly deadly, situation by a beautiful and dangerous woman.

There are a certainly a few detectives and a handful of dangerous women in this collection of noir stories set in Mumbai, but the range of seedy underworld stories stretches beyond that trope, many presenting plots and story lines that seem to be unique to India. There are stories about conflict between Muslims and Hindus, of terrorism, of the many layers of justice, of independent women, and much more. I was especially interested in the two hijra (transgender) stories, each with a different take on what it means to be transgender in India.

The stories are entertaining overall, making it a fascinating and readable collection that rarely offers hope or happiness, which is, I suppose, fitting for the dark realm of noir.

Jun 25, 2012, 4:37pm

I've read a few in the Noir-series and although not all the stories in each would actually qualify and proper noir, they've done a decent job. I assume that pure noir-writers may not be abundant in all parts of the world. This installment sounds good - it goes on the wishlist.

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 4:48pm

36. Lessness (poetry), by Brian Henry (***1/2)
Category: The Universe in Verse

The poetry here is of a more post-modern cerebral variety, not so much providing emotional oomph, but rather more of an intellectually isn't that neat. Absence, what is unsaid, blankness, erasure, as the title implies is as important as the visible words on the page. Many of Henry's poems drift across the page in jagged lines, leaving visual white space abounds, while many other poems have words and phrases blacked out, omitted, and still others feature lines crossed out by still visible. What is said, what isn't said? What's more important?

I'm not sure there's an answer, and Henry doesn't give you one, purposefully not connecting the dots, but rather colliding phrases in ways that makes you sure something is missing and then leaves it to the reader to determine if and what it is.

I think this kind of poetry is perfectly fine, and I'm certain there are a number of readers who would be jazzed by the intellectual spirals this kind of work could create, however, it doesn't resonate for me on anything more than a "that's neat" level. I read through the book fairly quickly, and with the exception of one or two poems, found not much that lingered after I put the book down -- another form of "lessness", I suppose.

Jun 27, 2012, 2:19pm

37. Teenagers from Mars, written by Rick Spears, illustrated by Rob G. (***)
Category: Bam! Pow! Wham! (comics)

Teenagers from Mars enters a strange meta world. In the city of Mars comic books are reviled by adults and loved by the youth, who act in direct rebellious opposition. The main character is a young comic artist, who falls for a girl and in order to empress her performs an act of vandalism, which quickly spirals out of control.

The book isn't meant to be real life and it certainly riffs off real situations (the comic book scare of the fifties with its panicked parents and burning of books), but it exaggerates it, bringing it to the point of satire. The line between youth and adulthood is perfectly clear. Adults (with a few exceptions of drug addled hippies) are suit-wearing fascists, who blow things out of proportion and hate comics. Adults, the book declares, have something missing, and this is made clear by the fact that several of the most dangerous antagonists are literally missing body parts.

Meanwhile, the teens and the kids are the epitome of cool. They rob graves, go to parties and get painted up as zombies (both of which make me now note the theme of death and dirt as further separate from the sterile environs of the adults), and they have a devil-may-care/rebel-without-a-cause fatalistic attitude. And in a way, they are cool (sometimes I really want to have the ability to just not give a sh*t), and the kids do relate to each other in ways that are meaningful.

Similar to many superhero comic stories, and perhaps inspired by them, the clear duality of good and evil sets the plot up to follows the tropes of a hero creation myth. How do our wayward teens strike out against the fascism of the adults, how do they fight back?

Overall like both the art and the story better here than I did reading Rick Spears and Rob G.'s other book Dead West, though even here the quality of the drawings fluctuates and some panels seem to have been handled more lazily than others, which is rather annoying when it happens during a full page dramatic scene. I'm not really sure where I stand on Teenagers from Mars. I kind of want to like it, but in the end I kind of don't. So, I guess I'll just sit in the middle somewhere and see what others think.

Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 12:38pm

38. Fast, Cheap and Under Control: Lessons from the Greatest Low-Budget Movies of All Time, by John Gaspard (****)
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am

I love film making, I love the process, and I love books that tell stories about the process. and books about film making and and filmmakers allows me to live vicariously through the creation process and learn about how it all comes together. Fast, Cheap and Under Control looks at the experiences behind some great low-budget movies to offer advice to potential future film makers, but the stores told are often entertaining enough to be of interest to non-film makers, too. One of the main lessons in this book is if you really want to make a movie, just get out there and do it. Persistence is the key to getting a movie made, not necessarily money. Though the chapters on each movie were short (and I kind of wished for more stories about some of them), I really enjoyed this glimpse into the process.

Jul 4, 2012, 5:29pm

>212 andreablythe: I wasn't totally convinced by Boneshaker (the ending mostly), but just a few weeks ago I picked up Dreadnought. Your review makes me happy I did! I also like the different cast, same world type of series. Miéville's Bas Lag books are another good example. Qustion: I haven't read Clementine. Will that take away any of my reading pleasure reading Dreadnought?

>222 andreablythe: an intellectually isn't that neat - great way of putting it!

Jul 4, 2012, 5:51pm

I haven't read Clementine either, and I enjoyed Dreadnought just fine. :)

Jul 4, 2012, 6:14pm

Because it fits today and I was just talking about my love of filmmaking, I guess I'll point out that “Firecracker” is a Fourth of July holiday film I co-wrote w/ Jordan Rosa as part of Team Zombie. It was made in 48 hours and was lots of fun, despite the "conflict" that happened during filmmaking (the director and cinematographer wanted it to go a different direction than what we the screenwriters originally put down on the page. *shrugs* I'm still happy how it turned out. :)


Jul 5, 2012, 12:07am

Thanks for the list of horror movies! Interesting. & I second the recommendation for Fahrenheit 451. That's one of my all time favorite books, and I'm not usually a Bradbury fan.

Good review on Skin Folk. That's on my Mount TBR.

Jul 5, 2012, 12:01pm

You're welcome and thanks, cammy. :)

Jul 5, 2012, 1:10pm

What a fun project! Is it possible to be involved in any creative process without conflict, I wonder? Sometimes good conflict, sometimes bad - hope the result wasn't too worse for it!

Jul 5, 2012, 1:15pm

Thanks, Eva!
Yeah, I'm sure always some conflict comes up when there are lots of voices to be heard. One thing is learning not to get too attached to how you think it's going to go, unless you're the director and thus make the final decision.

I think the movie works as it is, though. The ending is not what I would have done, but I can't say whether it would have been better or worse to do it my way. Probably it would have been just different. :)

Jul 5, 2012, 2:32pm

Especially as a writer, it's very easy to get attached to a scene you envisioned one way in your head, but the director and DP may have a completely different vision and your ending just won't work. Flexibility galore is what's needed! :) Great job in any case!

Jul 5, 2012, 4:08pm

Thanks! :D

Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 12:39pm

39. After the Apocalypse, by Maureen F. McHugh (****1/2)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All
(I could have also put this in my "Hello, I Love You" category, because she wrote the fabulous China Mountain Zhang.)

In this collection of stories McHugh explores the ways life goes on after or in the face of catastrophes big and small. "The Naturalist" looks at the days of a criminal, who is banished to the zombie-infested outskirts of the world and expected to die—instead he becomes fascinated with the dead.

Set in China after a bird flu epidemic has killed thousands, "Special Economics" is about a woman who finds herself trapped within the economic system of a large corporation.

In "Useless Things" an artist, who creates true-to-life baby dolls, home has become a stopping point for immigrants and vagrants expecting a little kindness in the desert.

"Going to France" is the story of a migration of people who have literally learned to take flight, and a mother and her unwanted daughter make their way across the dilapidated landscape of the U.S. in collapse in "After the Apocalypse."

Those are just a few of the stories that stuck out most in my mind. McHugh touches on the human side of disaster, which comes to be in her stories, ultimately mundane. Life goes one, hearts get broken, we close ourselves off, or open up to new possibilities. I enjoyed each of these stories in turn, with "The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large" being the only one I didn't quite connect with. A fantastic collection of stories, which I would recommend even if you don't often read science fiction or apocalypse stories.

Jul 13, 2012, 10:22pm

I need to check out McHugh. LT has been recommending her to me for years now, and your reviews keep catching my eye too. Glad to hear you enjoyed!

Jul 14, 2012, 12:41am

I haven't really heard much about McHugh. Your review makes me think I should watch out for her though, and that she should already be on my radar. Oops!

Jul 14, 2012, 6:21pm

I've been meaning to read more short stories and, since I am also very interested in this subject matter, I will be on the lookout for After the Apocalypse.

Jul 16, 2012, 12:22pm

She's definitely worth reading, so I hope you all get the change and enjoy her work as much as I did. :)

Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 12:39pm

I've been doing quite a lot of reading lately (woohoo!), so here are a few short reviews as I try to play catch-up.

40. The Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri (****)
Category: Miscellany

Jhumpa Lahiri's collection of stories explore the ways we either connect, or, more often than not, fail to connect to the people in our lives. Her stories are on the long side, more novellas or novlettes than short stories, which has given her space to more fully explore the daily space of the familial (and occasionally friend) relationships she is presenting. The stories are pondering, almost slow, and often melancholy, but each one is beautifully written.

41. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (*****)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

A young boy has lived on his grandfather's tales of grand escapes from monsters and of the peculiar children who live in an orphanage on an island in Wales. Having believed his grandfather as a kid, he feels betrayed as he grows up to find the stories unbelievable and the photographs presented as evidence as most likely fake. But when a terrible tragedy occurs, he decides to journey to Wales to find out the truth.

This book, which is already very well written and quite captivating, is made all the more so by the insertion of strange and eerie photographs of kids doing apparently strange and eerie things. It allows a suspension of disbelieve that wouldn't be nearly as complete without them, especially as the photos are real, found photos that for the most part have not been doctored by the author. This was a lot of fun to read, and I sure hope there is a sequel.

42. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (*****)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

I remember being completely confounded by this book in high school. It was required reading, after all, about which we were forced to discuss the symbolism of the green dock light and the rain and many other things, all of which felt like work and was entirely uninteresting to me at the time. Not to mention that my reading interests were less focused on the poetry of language than the entertainment of the plot (Stephen King was a big hit with me at the time).

Reading it again now, I am struck with how profoundly beautiful this book is. The writing is clean, simple, and gorgeous, and while many of the characters in the book are not easily likeable, they are certainly fascinating. The Great Gatsby has now been added to my list of favorites.

Jul 20, 2012, 4:34pm

Every time someone mentions The Great Gatsby, I feel compelled to mention this:

Apparently there is also a new film version coming out soon. Baz Luhrmann is directing, so at least you know it will be pretty!

Jul 20, 2012, 5:03pm

OMG, those comics are genius! I love her work, but I don't check into her website nearly enough.

And, yes! I have heard of the movie! I am so excited I must use all the exclamations!! Because I love Luhrmann movies and it looks sooooo pretty!!

A'hem, actually knowing that the movie was coming out, combined with my recent read of Tender is the Night (also great), is why I decided to pick up Gatsby again. (^_^)

Jul 20, 2012, 6:53pm

I have Unaccustomed Earth on Mt. TBR, but haven't gotten to it yet. I have a bit of trouble with short stories, so it's good to hear that these are on the longer side. How many stories in the book approx?

The photos in Miss Peregrine's are fantastic, aren't they. I must admit, I thought the story a bit thin in comparison. Last I heard, the sequel was scheduled for Spring of 2013, but I'm not sure that's still the case.

Jul 21, 2012, 7:58pm

>234 andreablythe: Classic Andrea book bullet right there: sounds like just my thing, and I've never even heard of the author. You're dangerous.

Jul 23, 2012, 1:07pm

Hey, everyone! I would like to announce that my reading and reviewing my slow down for a bit, because my sister just gave birth to baby Sienna and I am officially an Autie!!!!!!!

>243 GingerbreadMan:
Eva, there are 7 stories in Unaccustomed Earth, but the last 3 are interconnected, making them more like 3 chapters of a longer story.

The photos are so awesome, they have the potential to outshine the story, for sure. I think the story would have been good without them, but it amazing with them. It's the way they work together that makes the entire thing great. :)

>243 GingerbreadMan:,
lol. Danke.

Jul 23, 2012, 1:13pm

: D You're so excited you're even mis-typing auntie! Congratulations!!!

Jul 23, 2012, 1:14pm

Congratulations on your auntie-hood!! It's great to be an auntie - you get to spoil them absolutely rotten without taking too much of the responsibility! :)

Jul 23, 2012, 3:53pm


Jul 23, 2012, 9:08pm

Congrats!!! You can always add a baby-book category. ;) Have fun with your new niece.

Jul 24, 2012, 1:12am

congrats on becoming an Auntie!

Jul 24, 2012, 4:06am


Jul 24, 2012, 12:20pm

Thanks, everyone! I am absolutely thrilled. :D

A baby book category is a great idea, though probably for next year. :)

Jul 24, 2012, 12:42pm

Congratulations, Auntie! And it's never too early to read to them.

Jul 24, 2012, 2:34pm

Ah, good point, mamzel. :)

Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 12:41pm

43. The Waking Moon (published on wattpad), by T.J. McGuinn (*****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! -- Fantasy

So, I found out via twitter that Margaret Atwood has joined and has been promoting this site called wattpad. Essentially, its a way for writers to post stories online and connect with readers. Normally I wouldn't look twice at this kind of site, in part, because its a self publishing venue in which there is no way to earn money (it's completely free all around), but I figured since Margaret Atwood and has posted some of her poems, it lends the site some credibility and so I would check it out.

As to be expected, since there is no filter system (no editor selecting what appears and what needs more work), you get a lot of writing on the site that is not great (in fact a portion of it is really bad). You kind of having to skim through first pages and opening lines until you find something that's worth reading. There are recommended stories and poems, which I tend to go to first, and various ways of searching to come up with unique reads, but there's a ton of content on there to sort through to find something you like.

Despite that, I did find The Waking Moon, by TJ McGuinn. The book description: "Paulette’s life is in shambles. Her sister is dead, her mother is a drunk, and she’s been forced to transfer into a chaotic public school full of bullies. Things go from bad to worse when, one night while driving them home from dinner, her intoxicated mother hits and kills a teenage boy and is sent to jail. Now Paulette is truly alone. But when the teenage boy mysteriously comes back from the dead looking for Paulette, she finds herself face to face with the purest love on earth."

McGuinn presents a story with clean, crisp prose. I say this not just in comparison to the work on wattpad, but in comparison work published in general. It's good clean writing that draws you into the story from sentence one. Paulette is an interesting character, who is understandably downcast, based on the various problems she has to face. Life is rough, but she's not so despondent as to be depressing or boring. I was definitely on her side.

The character I absolutely fell in love with, though, was the one friend she made in high school, Rhodes. He's quirky and fun, and sticks up for Paulie. He's kind to Paulie and though he's fallen for her, he doesn't push her too hard. He does make mistakes (at one point, jealousy rears its head), but he's quick to back off and apologize for him. He even manages to respectfully help her out of her clothes, when she's injured, which is tough thing to do when it's someone you're crushing on. He's a character that I wish was real, cause I would love to have him be my friend in real life.

The super-haught dead boy (whose name I can't remember) is rather generic and bland in comparison to Rhodes, who has so much personality. In fact, I didn't quite get why she falls for him, except that there is an immediate emotional connection based on common tragedy.

The story overall held my interest the entire way through, and I found myself crying by the end. Definitely worth reading, and I hope I get to read more work by McGuinn in the future.

Finding other works on wattpad that I liked as much is slow going. I have found some "good" stuff, and lots of "okay" stuff, but not much that falls into the "great" category. There is definitely some of that in there, though.

My Thoughts on Wattpad as a Writer

Writers post stories (either short stories or novels in serialized format or snippets or poetry), which readers can vote or comment on, and they can "fan" their favorite authors to find out when something new is posted.  According to the website, it has millions of readers every month. It also has an associated phone app and the option to promote your story on other sites (such as GoogleBooks, Sony eBookstore, and Scribd). All of which, suggests that there is an opportunity to connect with readers. You still have to find ways to promote your work on the site by chatting with readers and commenting on other works, and so forth, which is a lot of work in itself.

Though, I'm aiming to be professionally published, I can certainly see the appeal of instant gratification provided by self publishing your work (in any format). So, though I initially intended to join the site simply to read Margaret Atwood's poems and to explore, I couldn't help but post something of my own. The Poetry Project, as I'm calling it, will be a place where wattpad readers can suggest prompts that I will respond to with an original poem. I do have two poems completed ("Dreaming of Water on These Hot Sunny Days" and "The Butterfly Effect"), both of which you can read without being a member of wattpad. And I'm considering posting some of my Fay Fairburn stories on there, since I've already posted them on my blog, anyway.

I can already see that it's a lot of work to get attention and move up in the stats (really based on popularity), which is fine — but it is something I also recognize as a distraction from doing the work to prepare and submit manuscripts for professional paid publishing, which is not so fine. I've been holding off on doing the final work to edit and submit some of the short stories I've written — there's  fear involved of the I'm-not-good-enough variety — and I really need to make sure that happens. So, I'll keep with wattpad for a while as a side project to see how it goes, but only under the provision that it doesn't keep me from my main goals.

Jul 25, 2012, 2:09pm

It so great when you find gems like that where you didn't expect it. I just have a hard time justifying digging through when Mt. TBR is so huge that any free time should be spent reducing it.

Jul 25, 2012, 2:13pm

So, true. Part of my willingness to dig through is because of my curiousity as a writer. I want to see what other writers have done and how they have made the system work for them.

Jul 25, 2012, 2:31pm

The community aspect seems great - lots of good networking to be done. Hope it works!!

Jul 25, 2012, 2:42pm

Thanks! :)

Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 12:43pm

44. The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham (****1/2)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

One of the reasons I enjoy reading post-apoc books is the aspect of how one survives in a world that has fallen apart. Triffids provided this and more. The book follows a John, a man fortunate to miss out on a great cosmic display of lights due to an injury and thus in one of the rare few who does not go blind. This is the primary disaster, which is quickly followed by the threat of the triffids, over-grown genetically modified walking (yes, you read that right, walking) plants cultivated for economic reasons. John wades through the disaster and meets various groups surviving in its wake along the way.

What makes this book more than just a story about the apocalypse is the philosophical bent throughout, as the characters not only survive, but choose how to shape their own survival in a way they can live with. How much should you sacrifice to save others, if you can? Is it better to focus on saving as many people as possible, or only the few who are truly valuable? How do you cultivate hope for the future when there seems to be none? What shape should a new formed society take after a disaster of such epic proportions? What myths do we tell the children who grow up after?

Though the triffids at first glance seem ridiculous, exaggerated, Wyndham puts just enough science into their back story to make them probable in society focused on economic gain, and though the date of the book means that some of the portrayals of women are a bit antiquated, Triffids overall is a fascinating and entertaining read.


Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 12:44pm

45. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (audio book), by Mary Roach (*****)
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am

Mary Roach takes a look at the on-the-ground research performed to simulate the realities and dangers of space. The greatest challenge by the space program was and continues to be manned flights with all the unique complications of keeping a human body functioning and safe. The research — the effects of zero-gravity on bone loss (via volunteers who lay in bed for weeks on end), the psychological issues in dealing with enclosed spaces (locking astronauts into enclosed chambers for weeks to months), nutrition (from sandwich cubes to free floating sandwich mishaps), the disposal of feces and urine (don't ask, but the term "fecal bag" was used), and more — she describes with both respect and humor, which she backs up with stories from those who have actually visited space.

While most of the book describes what has already taken place in the field, she notes that every step, beginning with sending up chimps or dong to first orbit to landing on the moon, is all leading the one more step in space exploration — the next big leap being a manned mission to mars.

Mary Roach loves the strange underbellies of science, the less glamorous aspects no one tends to talk about. Like her, rather than being repulsed by the knowledge of astronaut nausea or fecal bags or the absence of bathing in zero-g or any of the other repulsive things they have to endure, I find that I have more and more respect for those who venture into space and push the boundaries of what is possible.

Jul 28, 2012, 4:53am

Two great reviews. I like both Wyndham's dystopias and Roach's non fiction, you could never accuse Roach of being dry :)

Jul 29, 2012, 6:06pm

Yep, two lovely reviews. Luckily, both Wyndham and Roach are secured on my lists since forever, so no new book bullets this time!

Jul 29, 2012, 7:03pm

I loved Packing for Mars too - I'm always fascinated how she comes up with answers for questions I didn't knew I had. And her deadpan humor is great!

Jul 31, 2012, 3:20pm

>261 clfisha:
Nope, never dry. In fact she's one of my favorite writers at the moment, fiction or nonfiction.

>262 GingerbreadMan:
I guess, I'll have to work on a good bullet for next time. ;)

>263 -Eva-:
I know! I can't wait to see what in the world of science she explores next. :D

Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 12:45pm

46. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin (****)
Category: Miscellany

A married woman has an awakening of spirit after falling in love with a young man on a vacation by the seaside, which leads her to new social and spiritual freedoms. It's interesting that despite her husband's insistence that his wife must be ill to behave this way, many of her friends and allies (and some strangers/acquaintances) remain true and support her. Told with sparse prose, this story is considered a strong feminist tale, and considering the period in which it was written, it certainly is. Though it's old fashioned by today's standards, it's still a beautiful, touching story.

Aug 1, 2012, 1:06pm

I love The Awakening. It is incredibly beautifully written, and so hated by the critics that it shut her writing down.

Aug 1, 2012, 1:36pm

>266 cammykitty:
Really? Wow. I didn't know that.
It's amazing to me how such beautifully written stories can be so knocked down. It's one of those things that makes me suspect that if she had been a many, she wouldn't have been so slammed.

Aug 2, 2012, 5:44am

reminds me that I ought to get bonk and spook

Aug 2, 2012, 12:08pm

Bonk is hilarious, and I liked Spook, too, though I was a little annoyed with that one, but that's more because I want to believe in the supernatural and she's a hardcore skeptic. Still a great book, though.

Edited: Sep 4, 2012, 1:55pm

47. Poems of Stephen Crane, by Stephen Crane, selected by Gerald D. McDonald (****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

Stephen Crane wrote one of my all-time favorite poems, which I discovered because Stephen King quoted it in Four Past Midnight. The untitled poem goes:
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

It's a brutal and evocative poem, grim and incredibly appropriate for the beginning of a collection of Stephen King horror stories. This poem can be found in this collection.

Many of Crane's poems explore similar themes. They allegorically present lonely wanderers trudging forward to face strange encounters in an hostile world, and yet, there is a light too, for though god as presented in these poems is often uncaring or cruel, also "the voice of God whispers in the head / so softly / that the soul pauses."

It's interesting that in the forward the editor Gerald D. McDonald notes that in its original editions Crane's poetry was presented in all capital letters, whereas McDonald choose to remove this in this collection. In Crane's originals the word "GOD" would have been all caps like all the rest of the text, and therefore did not afford any special importance to the word. Whereas, McDonald's choice to upper and lowercase the text (into more proper grammatical format) means "God" is now capitalized as religion dictates it should be, which certainly changes the effect.

I wouldn't call it beautiful. Crane's poetry is terse, straightforward, and blunt rather than lyrical, and often delves into dark unpleasant realms, but it's poetry that lingers, squatting in peripheral of the mind.

Aug 4, 2012, 2:59pm

Wonderful review!

Aug 6, 2012, 12:57pm

Thanks! :)

Aug 10, 2012, 2:47am

@267 I'm sure they would've been much more careful criticizing a man. They called The Awakening immoral.

Love the Crane poem. I had a friend who would recite the whole thing often, and deliciously.

Aug 10, 2012, 1:26pm

48. Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen (***1/2)
Category: I Don't Wanna Grow Up

I love the Robin Hood myth, the Merry men, Maid Marian, all of it. So, when I saw Scarlet (with its really gorgeous cover) in the library and learned that it was a retelling of the myth with Will Scarlet -- thief, knife expert, and sneak -- as a girl, I was stoked. I love retellings, and I especially love retellings in which typical male roles are presented to women. They fill me with joy.

Unfortunately, I built up a lot of expectations in my mind before reading, and the book went contrary to my expectations. There are things I liked and things I didn't like with the end result being that I really want to like the book as a whole, but can't quite love it.

First, what I liked. I love Scarlet. I love that wears boys clothes and tucks her hair up under a hat, that she could chop it off, but chooses not too, because it something that's hers, her own personal secret. I loved that she's tough, she's slick with knives, clever with plans, and is one of only ones of the group that can sneak in an out of Nottingham castle through secret passageways. The men turn to her in working out plans, trusting her skills in dire situations. And I like that she's though she'll stay silent and hidden, but when she wants to speak, she's smart mouthed and opinionated (in fact her voice throughout the book is consistent and very well done). She would give up her food to someone less fortunate even if it meant she had to go hungry. She's also guilt-ridden and dark humored, which is hard sometimes hard to read, but you get the sense that hard living has led her to be that way and she doesn't wallow all the time. Often she desires to run away from the situation, the boys, everything, but she sticks around despite the risks and makes sh*t happen.

I also love Much, one of Robin's crew, who only has one hand, but still keeps up with the rest of the group. He's good with the villagers and is kind in a true and honest way. He's also the only one who shows and receives kindness from Scarlet without expecting something sexual to come of it.

Then there's the stuff I didn't like as much..., which I can't really talk about without throwing in a few spoilers, so fair warning:


Robin Hood was not the hero I was expecting. He's handsome (stormy eyed) and smart and uses the bow, but Scarlet outshines him with her agency that he seems pale in comparison. Yes, he's young and inexperienced (and very moody) in this version, but Scarlet keeps telling the reader what a hero he is, what a great leader he is, but we never really see either of those things acted out with the exception of him occasionally barking orders and helping a villager out. There's only one scene with Robin using his bow, and all the planning comes from Scarlet. Since this is supposed to be a team and Scarlet is supposed to be such a lone wolf, I would have liked to see Robin have a little more cleverness and agency of his own so that he wasn't quite out shadowed.

But that's a small concern for me compared to his continual jealousy because of Little John (which I will get to in a bit), and his turning into a complete ass-shat when he learns her true identity. His explanation for all this bad behavior was "I hurt you to hurt myself," which is such BS and I can't believe Scarlet would accept that as an excuse. I do think the characters work well together as a couple, because of they are both wounded people trying to find some redemption for themselves, but I'm still annoyed with the instant turn around at the end.

There's a general sense and belief among the men that a women, even Scarlet, MUST belong to a man. A general belief in ownership is involved, which fits the time period, but is still very annoying, especially when it comes to Little John and his pursuit of Scarlet after he sees her in a dress. He starts flirting with her and toying with her, and no matter how many times Scarlet says, "No, John, I'm not interested in you as a mate," John says the equivalent of "You don't know your own mind" or "You know you want to," which makes me very uncomfortable. There are some confused emotions for Scarlet, because she sees him as a teammate and a brother, and when she's at her most low, John shows her kindness, which she accepts because she's so desperately in need of kindness. But every time John takes this acceptance of a kindness as a tease, a sign that she really MUST be attracted to him, even though she says she's not.

What makes it worse is that compiled on top of John's inability to accept her "No" is that Robin doesn't believe her "No" either. Because John likes her, she must be with John, thinks and speaks Robin. Scarlet even shouts at them all, saying that they don't take her feelings into account, and they absolutely do not, which is an awful situation, especially if they are supposed to trust each other. The only one who gets her feelings is Much, and he's not given much say.

This feeling of ownership by her companions is especially disheartening in the face of the main villain, who is another man treating her like an object, wishing to possess her. Though the boys are not as extreme in their sense of ownership, it still rings ugly to me.

Then there is Scarlet's SECRET IDENTITY, which I pretty much figured out as soon as she blushed when Robin glanced her way. She's Maid Marian. I get why the author made this choice. Gaughen loved the myths, but never liked Marian, because she always thought of her as weak (which is pretty much how I feel about Buttercup in the Princess Bride). So, she changed things up and made Marian a thief and knife thrower. Cool.

I don't mind too much that Scarlet and Marian are the same . . ., except when I picked up the book, I kind of hoped and expected to have Scarlet be a different character. For all the times Marian has to be rescued, I never thought of her as weak. She had a different kind of strength from the men, an ability to stand tall and help the cause as a lady from a different front. She had to smile in the face of her enemies while secretly helping Robin. She was clever in her own right. But she was always the only woman in the stories, the only women among all the men, so I kind of feel that by melding the two characters together, Gaughen lost the opportunity to have not one, but two strong women become part of the Robin Hood myths -- one who stood tall as a lady, and one who was a thief and knife thrower. I would have liked to see that.

She made another choice, and that's fine. Scarlet is a great character. But I can't help but be a bit disappointed nevertheless.

So..., look. There are things I really love about this book, and there are things that really annoy me, too. That leaves me with mixed feelings. Will I read more books by Gaughen in the future? Most definitely, yes, because I do think she's a great writer even if this book was contrary to my expectations.

Aug 10, 2012, 1:29pm

>273 cammykitty:
Oooh, I love that. I want people to quote delicious poetry to me.

Aug 10, 2012, 8:50pm

There are other poems that wouldn't be quite so disturbing, read deliciously. ;)

Aug 11, 2012, 6:10pm

->274 andreablythe:
Lots of lovely potential - I do enjoy retellings as well. I did read the spoiler bit and I think I'd have almost exactly the same objections. :)

Edited: Aug 14, 2012, 3:37pm

@ 274 -- Nice review of Scarlet! I read the book earlier this year and would probably give it a similar rating. Have you ever read The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley? In my opinion, it's an absolutely phenomenal retelling of Robin Hood -- and there is more than one strong woman in it, for sure!

Aug 14, 2012, 5:18pm

>277 -Eva-:,
It did have lovely potential, I just wish that potential had panned out more to my liking.

>278 christina_reads:,
No, I haven't read that one yet. (I was going to say I haven't read anything by Robin McKinley, but after double checking, I realize I have read Deerskin.) I'm definitely going to add it to my list. I think Robin Hood retellings may be my next reading obsession.

Aug 14, 2012, 9:25pm

Scarlet, as well as The Outlaws of Sherwood have potential for next year's reading - I am thinking of a 'fables retold' category - so on the list they goes!

Aug 15, 2012, 12:01pm

Great category. I had a FairyTales category in 2010, so I'd also recommend Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen
Transformations (poetry), by Anne Sexton
Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce
and Ash, by Malinda Lo
for your Fables retold category. :)

Aug 15, 2012, 2:07pm

Love the names of your categories!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aug 15, 2012, 2:10pm

>282 ALWINN:,
(^_^) Thanks!

Aug 15, 2012, 4:25pm

Another very well done reworked fairy tale is Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It's set in a dystopian Beijing and Cinderella is a cyborg.

Aug 15, 2012, 4:40pm

>284 RidgewayGirl:,
I've been curious about Cinder. Keep meaning to pick it up. Glad to hear it's good.

Aug 16, 2012, 12:31am

> 281 - Thanks! Any other suggestions are always greatly appreciated.

Aug 16, 2012, 12:05pm

I'll recommend Fables if you're in the mood for graphic novels and haven't already read them, of course.

Edited: Aug 16, 2012, 5:28pm

^Seconded. Fables is an excellent series.

* * *

49. Habibi (graphic novel), by Craig Thompson (****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: Blankets

Habibi is a beautiful book. I mean that, first and foremost, in the literal sense. The hardcover edition is physically gorgeous with an maroon embossed cover and a heft and weight that reminds me of a spiritual tome, like a Bible.

(All photos of the book taken by Parka81 on flickr.)

Open it up and the beauty continues. Craig Thompson blew me away with the art he produced for Blankets and his ability to capture emotion and soul in his art. His skills have, if anything, improved since then. Habibi is visually rich, interweaving Arabic script with detailed patterns and characters that come alive on the page. If I could do nothing other than flip through the pages and immerse myself in the art, this book would still be worth reading.

Beyond the art the story is beautiful, too. As the website notes, "Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling."

While being sold as a slave, Dodola saves Zam from death and after they escape into the desert (where they live in an abandoned boat stretched across a dune), she begins to raise him as though he were her brother/son. They're love and friendship grows more complex as they grow older and as life confronts them with its brutality and tears them apart. Through all the uncertainties and fears, poverty and despair, there is always a thread of hope, as Dodola and Zam and each turns to scripture and stories to sustain them.

That said, there are definitely problematic issues of Orientalism and cultural appropriation. For more information on that, I turn you to this article, "Can the Subaltern Draw?: The Spectre of Orientalism in Craig Thompson’s Habibi," by Nadim Damluji. While I was certainly immersed in the story, I was also wondering about the stereotypes he was using to tell the tale. I certainly recognized a few (the sex-obsessed sultan, for example), but I was there were others that I was less certain about. It's a great analysis of Orientalism in Tompson's book and I highly recommend reading it, if you're interested.

I'll end with saying that despite the few reservations I mentioned, I rather loved this book and its beautiful art.

Edited: Sep 4, 2012, 1:57pm

50. Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie, by Holly Black (****)
Category: I Don't Wanna Grow Up

This is a follow up book to Tithe. Though set in the same world, Valiant follows a new set of characters. When Val catches her boyfriend and her kissing on the couch, she runs away from home and lands in New York City. She creates a new identity with herself and meets new friends, other teenagers living in the NY subway system. Through them she discovers the world of faerie and the many folk who live in the city despite the great amount of iron that could do them harm.

I love Val. She a great character, on the one hand noble and giving, willing to sacrifice herself for her friends, and on the other hand throwing herself into action (a way to combat prior complacency) to such an extent that she makes terrible and terrific mistakes. I like her, even when she's screwing up, even when she's stupid or mean, because it's clear that for all her self destruction there is a chance she could pull herself free of the rut she's dug for herself, and that underneath it all she has the will and good heart to do it.

At its core, Valiant is about figuring out and making sense of who you are as a person. It's about Val growing up and taking ownership of her life, but it's also about friendship and love and loyalty and the willingness to take risks in the name of what's right, in other words, being Valiant.

Though Val is a complex character, the plot itself isn't especially complex. But that's okay, because it's a fun, quick read, and altogether thoroughly enjoyable.

Edited to fix grammar mix up.

Aug 17, 2012, 2:44pm

So, wait, does she catch her mother macking with her mother's own boyfriend, or hers? One would just be kinda awkward, but the second would be an excellent reason to run away.

Great review of Habibi. You've reminded me that I really do need to read Blankets.

Aug 17, 2012, 3:13pm

>290 RidgewayGirl:,
Whoops! LOL. A grammar mix up. Val's boyfriend is kissing her mother.

And Blankets really is rather lovely.

Edited: Sep 4, 2012, 1:58pm

51. Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost between the Pages, by Michael Popek (****)
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am

Michael Popek has been involved with his parents used book store for most of his life. Over the years, he's found a multitude of bookmarks left behind in the used books sold to his store, from old photographs to letters, receipts, gift cards, and advertisements to razor blades. He describes the experience of finding these things as leaving him with "a lingering wonder, a sense of misplaced nostalgia, a touch of the voyeuristic thrill that comes from peeping into someone else's life."

Popek has shared this experience by publishing photographs and scans of a few of his bookmark finds along with photos of the books in which they were found. It's fascinating to see what's left behind inside what books, so much so that I read through the entire book in a matter of hours (okay, it's not so hard since it's mostly photographs). Sometimes the pairing of found bookmark is perfect (like an old baseball card found inside a book about baseball) sometimes the finds are ironic or contradictory (I can't remember an example at the moment, sorry). But it's definitely a fun glimpse into the strange worlds of other's lives.

Of course, I had to leave my own "forgotten" book mark between the pages when I returned it to the library. Just the receipt for the books I checked out with this one. I'm curious what the person will think of my contribution, though I'll never know as I didn't leave any identifying contact information. Hehe. (^_^)

If you want instant gratification, you can check out his blog, which also host his daily finds of forgotten bookmarks.

Aug 18, 2012, 11:21pm

I love Holly Black's YA stuff. Real world nasty, with faeries added on top. Habibi looks gorgeous!

Aug 19, 2012, 6:28pm

Great review of Scarlet (it held me rapt), great review of Habibi (I will be adding this to my 2012 possibilities). Thank you also for the link to the article "Can the Subaltern Draw?" -- it's very good and I'll have to come back and re-read it once I read Habibi.

Aug 19, 2012, 9:11pm

I have Habibi on the wishlist, but the issue with the stereotypes had me a bit wary. I enjoyed Blankets, though, so I'll give it a shot, keeping that article in mind when I do.

Aug 20, 2012, 4:43am

@49 oo I keep picking up Habibi and toying with the idea of buying it :-) I think you just pushed into actually doing so!

and adding @50 to my wishlist, I collect bookmarks so I know I will find that fascinating

Aug 20, 2012, 6:00am

I once found a postcard from Jerusalem from the 1970's in a used book, I wondered if that meant the book hadn't been read since the 70's? the postcard was blank though...

Aug 20, 2012, 12:17pm

>293 cammykitty:,
I love Black's faeries, too. Nasty and fascinating and capable of having heart, too. She creates such a complex faerie world. I just love it. :)

>294 pammab:,
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the article, too.

>295 -Eva-:,
It's definitely worth a shot. Also, though some of the portrayals of people in the main storyline are stereotypical, what the book certainly does well is look at the Qu'ran as a comparison to the Bible and Jewish scripture, noting the simularities in all three religious texts in terms of the old testament.

>296 clfisha:,
The bookmarks were definitely fascinating. I hope you have fun with it.

>298 andreablythe:,
That's so cool! It's hard to tell in terms of the found bookmark just how long ago it was last opened -- maybe the last person who read it just happened to have the old postcard on hand. Regardless, it's still a great find. :D

Edited: Aug 20, 2012, 3:38pm

I just added Habibi to my shopping list for my library. Thanks.

p.s. New thread, perhaps?

Aug 20, 2012, 3:46pm

Yeah, I probably should do a new thread. I just get lazy about that sort of thing. *sigh*

Aug 20, 2012, 5:08pm

Okay, guys, because this thread has gotten a bit unwieldy, I've started a new thread for my reading challenge. Click here to view.

Aug 21, 2012, 2:01pm

Not to be annoying in hindsight and all that, but that "Continue this topic in another topic" link below is the best way to continue your thread since starred topics etc. carry over. Next time...! :)

Aug 21, 2012, 3:24pm



It seriously took me SEVERAL minutes to figure out what you were talking about. I had NO idea that link was there! lol.

(And yes, I'm being all dramatic like with the capitals.)

Aug 21, 2012, 4:11pm

Too funny! :)

Aug 29, 2012, 7:12pm

Just a reminder that my new thread is here:

(Because I'm a dunce and didn't use the link below.)