Andrea's 2013 Challenge - Part II
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Classic books so big you can use 'em to hold the door open
2. The Once and Future King (1/4)
Traditional Aurthurian romances (not modern retellings)
3. Hatchlings (4/6)
Books first published in 2013
4. Just the Facts, Ma'am (5/8)
5. Oh, the Horror! (4/10)
Tales of terror, monsters, ghosts, and the apocalypse.
Science fiction and fantasy.
7. Unicorns from Space! (Part II) (2/10)
Science fiction and fantasy
8. Youth Relived (8/10)
9. Auntie Time (6/10)
Picture books read to my baby niece
10. Panel by Panel (8/10)
Comics and graphic novels
11. The Universe in Verse (8/10)
12. 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.
13. Miscellany (5/10)
The catch-all category for whatever doesn't fit in the above.
* * *
1. Door Stoppers
Books Completed: (2/2) -- DONE!
1. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy (***1/2)
2. The Count of Monte Christo, by Alexandre Dumas (****)
Possible Candidates for Next Year:
1001 Arabian Nights
The Three Musketeers
Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray
2. The Once and Future King
Books Completed: (1/4)
1. Arthurian Romances, by Chrétien de Troyes (****)
Currently Reading: Le Mort d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, author unknown, translated by Simon Armitage
Books Completed: (4/6)
1. The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, by Karen Finneyfrock (****)
2. 17 & Gone, by Nova Ren Suma (*****)
3. Paper Valentine, by Brenna Yovanoff (****)
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman (*****)
Dracomachia, by Rachel Hartman – comes in 2014
This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death
Dying is My Business, by Nicolas Kaufmann
4. Just the Facts, Ma'am
Books Completed: (5/8)
1. The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, Volume 2: 2000–2010, by Peter Dendle (****)
2. Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan (****)
3. The Orchid Theif: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (audio book), by Susan Orlean (****)
4. The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir by Wenguang Huang (****)
5. Wave (audio book), by Sonali Deraniyagala (*****)
Currently Reading: In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road, by Allan Weisbecker
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, by Geraldine Brooks
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait, by Frida Kahlo
Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain, by Lori Tharps
Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . ., by Phillip Plait
From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey, by Pascal Khoo Thwe
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality, by Manjit Kumar
Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America And American in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni
The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, by Che Guevera
Saved by Beauty: Adventures of an American Romantic in Iran by Roger Housden
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
(this is me as a zombie, chewing on A Blackbird Sings)
5. Oh, the Horror!
Books Completed: (4/10)
1. The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub (***1/2)
2. Rosemary's Baby, by Ira Levin (*****)
3. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson (****1/2)
4. Horns, by Joe Hill (****)
Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lidqvist
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Postman, by David Brin
Hell House, by Richard Matheson
A Stir of Echoes, by Richard Matheson
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
Zone One, by Colson Whitehead
Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess
6. Unicorns from Space! (Part I) — DONE!
Books Completed: (10/10)
1. Demon Hunts, by C.E. Murphy (****)
2. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem (****)
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (***1/2)
4. Scheherazade's Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation, edited by Michael M. Jones (****1/2)
5. Pilgrim of the Sky, by Natania Barron (****)
6. The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke (***)
7. Baba Yaga's Daughter and Other Stories of the Old Races, by C.E. Murphy (****)
8. Hands of Flame, by C.E. Murphy (****)
9. Late Eclipses, by Seanan McGuire (****)
10. Unnatural Creatures, edited by Neil Gaiman (*****)
7. Unicorns from Space! (Part II)
Books Completed: (1/10)
1. Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E Butler (*****)
2. Parable of the Talents, by Octavia E Butler (****)
Contact, by Carl Sagan
God Stalk, by P.C. Hodgell
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, by Jacques Tardi
American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
8. Youth Relived
Books Completed: (8/10)
1. Blood Magic, by Tessa Gratton (****)
2. The Fairy Ring, or Elsie and Frances Fool the World, by Mary Losure (***1/2)
3. The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff (*****)
4. The Atlantis Complex, be Eoin Colfer (****)
5. The Space Between, by Brenna Yovanoff (****)
6. The Last Guardian, by Eion Colfer (***1/2)
7. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray (****)
8. The Outcast Oracle, by Laury A Egan (****)
Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot
9. Auntie Time
Books Completed: (7/10)
1. Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion (*****)
2. The Foot Book, by Dr. Suess (****)
3. On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman (*****)
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carl (*****)
5. Dr. Suess's ABC An Amazing Alphabet Book!, by Dr. Suess (****)
6. No Roses for Harry! by Gene Zion (*****)
7. Shadow by Suzy Lee (*****)
TBA, based on my niece's mood
10. Panel by Panel
Books Completed: (7/10)
1. Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, by Alison Bechdel (****)
2. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel (*****)
3. Tank Girl 1 (Remastered Edition) (Bk. 1), by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin (***1/2)
4. Preacher: Gone to Texas, written by Garth Enis, illustrated by Steve Dillon (***)
5. Preacher: Until the End of the World, written by Garth Enis, illustrated by Steve Dillon (****)
6. Anya's Ghost, by Vera Brosgol (*****)
7. Emiko Superstar, written by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Steve Rolston (***1/2)
8. Burnout, written by Rebecca Donner, illustrated by Inaki Miranda (**1/2)
Currently Reading/Up Next: Burnout by Rebecca Donner and .
Nylon Road: A Graphic Memoir of Coming of Age in Iran, by Parsua Bashi
Cathedral Child, by Lea Hernandez
11. The Universe in Verse
Books Completed: (8/10)
1. The Game of Boxes, by Catherine Barnett (****)
2. Cedar Toothpick: The Tomboy Dioramas, poetry by Stefan Lorenzutti and art by Laurent Le Deunff (*****)
3. my name on his tongue: poems, by Laila Halaby (****1/2)
4. The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, edited by Rose Lemberg (*****)
5. Park Songs: A Poem/Play, by David Budbill (***1/2)
6. Searching for a Pulse: poems, by Nazifa Islam (***1/2)
7. A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems, edited Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita Thompson (****)
8. Sister Slam and the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip, by Linda Oatman High (***1/2)
Two Mini-Chapooks: 8th Grade Hippie Chic by Marisa Crawford (*****) and No Experiences: Poems by Erin J. Watson (****)
Will also start working on Park Songs: A Poem/Play, by David Budbill
12. From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books
Books Completed: (5/10)
1. Light in August (audio book), by William Faulkner (***)
2. The House of Mirth (audio book), by Edith Wharton (*****) read by Eleanor Bron
3. Kim, by Ruyard Kipling (***1/2)
4. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton (****)
5. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (audio book), by Muriel Spark (**1/2)
Currently Reading/Up Next:
Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham ~556 pages
Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin ~303 pages/~7 discs
A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster ~368 pages/~10 discs
Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov ~315 pages
Point Counter Point, by Aldous Huxley ~432 pages
Native Son, by Richard Right ~359 pages/~15 discs
A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh ~308 pages
A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS, by V.S. Naipaul ~481 pages
A BEND IN THE RIVER, by V.S. Naipaul ~278 pages/~9 discs
THE DEATH OF THE HEART, by Elizabeth Bowen ~418 pages
THE MAGUS by John Fowles ~656 pages
THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles ~318 pages
Books Completed: (5/10)
1. Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell (***1/2)
2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson (****)
3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (audio book), by Lisa See (***1/2)
4. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling (****)
5. Memento Mori, by Murial Spark (****)
As my mood grabs me
Category: Youth Relived
The seventh book in the Artemis Fowl series has our young mastermind facing off against his worst enemy yet — his own mind. After years of scheming, wicked deeds, and messing around with fairy magic, Artemis has developed a disease that afflicts guilt-ridden fairies, called the Atlantis Complex. Symptoms include obsessive compulsive disorder, paranoia, and multiple personalities. All this coming at a time when his friends desperately need his help the most.
It was such a wonderful relief to revisit characters I love after such a long time. Holly and Butler still kickass and Mulch Diggums is repulsively hilarious. Artemis is the only one who doesn't fall back into his role as genius mastermind, because of his disease, though he still manages to be clever despite that.
With all the stress I've been going through lately, this was the perfect action adventure with fairies for me to read right now. Great, light fun.
I didn't like the second Artemis Fowl book as much as I did the first, just FYI, but the third through fifth are great, especially since you get to see the characters grow and change. But honestly, not every book is for everyone, so as much as i love it, if the first book didn't work for you, the rest might not work.
Hah! Thanks. Me, too. I found it by accident. :)
Oh, I hope you live it even half as much as I did. :D
Lol. I'm very curious to see what you think if Solaris, as its such an interesting book. The author clearly loved inventing his truly alien creature and its world and the love shows.
I currently have the movie (the original) coming from Netflix and I'm curious to see how the story was handled. (I suspect the newer George Clooney version is more Hollywood-ized, eliminating all or most of the complexity.)
Category: Youth Relived
Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. She lives in Pandemonium, a city of steel and heat, where she coddles little treasures from the human world brought to her by her brother, Obie. Life for her is dull, slow, and unchanging, until one day her brother vanishes. Determined to find him, Daphne travels to Earth, where everything is colder and dirtier, and time flashes by far too quickly.
With the help of Truman, a lost and self destructive boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne begins to unveil clues to her brother's whereabouts. As the back of the book says, "she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be."
After finishing The Replacement, which is currently one of my top reads for 2013, I immediately had to pick up another Yovanoff book. I didn't quite enjoy The Space Between as much as I enjoyed The Replacement. The beginning was a bit hard to get into and it was hard to get a sense for Daphne, who seems to emotionless. However, once Daphne finally got herself to earth things picked up and became very interesting.
As Daphne is presented with the reality of Earth, she's forced to really choose who she wants to be. She can be like her sisters, the Lilim, who feed on humanities desires and despairs, or she can be something else — even if she doesn't know what that is yet. Yovanoff does a great job of portraying Daphne's confusion and naivete. She doesn't know much of anything about Earth other than what she's seen in TV shows and much of what she knows is terribly outdated. She is both vulnerable and yet strong, because while she doesn't know how things work, she carries with her a deeper wisdom stemmed from her life growing up in the eternal timelessness of Hell.
Then there's Truman, who's pain is so raw, you can practically feel it peeling off the page in shreds. Somehow, these two people manage to work together, build trust, and grow from friendship into something more and it's kind of beautiful.
I'm also a huge fan of moral ambiguity, and this novel which has a demon as its central character is wrought with it. Not only Daphne is likeable but other demons, too, are multi-dimentional, complex, engaging. Even the ones you might not like so much turn out to have layers, facets and raw edges you didn't expect to find.
There's also a touch of the horrifying, a few chills along your spin here, a little blood splatter there — another thing I love to see.
Overall, this turned out to be a great read. I may just have to pick up Yovanoff's next book Paper Valentine.
Category: Youth Relived
Opal Koboi rears her evil head with the most dramatic and violent prison break in history, putting Artemis Fowl and his friends right in the center of it. Artemis, still shaken from his experiences in the previous books, doubts his own ability to plot out a solution to Koboi's plan, which could change the face of the entire planet.
Being the last book in the series, it's natural for Colfer to want to go out with bang. He does just that in terms of consequences for his characters and the world in which they live.
I can't say I enjoyed this one as much as I did several of the others. It was fun and clever, but didn't draw me in as much as I'd hoped. The beginning was a bit clunky in terms o how it handled backstory and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the ending. It's a good read, but I don't know that it was an entirely satisfying ending to the series. But at a certain point your boy genius is going to grow up and become just a man, and that's not really what this series is about.
25. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy (***1/2)
Category: Door Stoppers
"All happy families resemble one another, each un happy family is unhappy in its own way." A fantastic opening line for a book about the complexities of people and relationships and all the ways they are joyful and miserable at the same time.
Anna is an interesting character, not necessarily a good person, but someone with whom I can sympathize due to her position as a woman in that world. In many ways she was trapped by her situation without and easily way out, though perhaps if she had a different temperament, she might have made better peace with it.
Levin was interesting, too, in the way he tries so hard to be good and do good. He's an easily distracted personality, who changes his opinion as he tries to figure out what the truth of the world is. He's moved by his love for Kitty and is astounded by the momentousness of marriage and children, while being heartily confused by politics and the intrigues of city life.
Several times I was fascinated by the way Tolstoy presented the complexities of his characters and their relationships with each other, as well as the hypocrisies of life (which seemed to have been one of the major themes of the book).
This is one of those books that I enjoy in an intellectual way, without much of an emotional connection to the story and characters. There were parts that I plowed through quickly, not wanting to put the book down, and parts that dragged along slowly. It was enjoyable, but didn't quite inspire love.
Now that I've finished this one, I can move on to my next big book, The Count of Monte Christo. Fortunately, I'm already about halfway through, since I've been reading it on my phone for a while now. Been having trouble focusing on the story and many characters, so I'm hoping grabbing a print version will work better for me.
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part I)
Following a war with alien creatures, nicknamed "buggers," government agencies select certain gifted children to train to be soldiers and leaders when the buggers attack again. One of these children in Ender, a very young (he's only six when we first meet him) and very intelligent boy, who is expected to be the ultimate commander who will save the world with his ability to strategically plan attacks.
It's easy to feel empathy for Ender, after all he's just a little kid with a hell of a lot of pressure on his shoulders. And yet, none of these kids act very much like kids; they have been bred and trained to be soldiers from a very young age and so they act accordingly. It's kind of an odd thing, because sometimes you forget that these are kids and it's a bot jarring every time you remember they're only seven, nine, ten years old. The result was that while I felt empathy for Ender, I also felt a bit distanced from him.
A lot of the tension in the book is created by the conversations different teachers and military leaders have with each other at the beginning of each chapter. With no descriptions, just dialog, these people are faceless menaces actively manipulating and cruelly driving Ender forward toward their goal. Even as they express compassion for the boy, they still push him and throw him into nasty situations and offer no salvation, no way out.
In fact, the manipulation and threat from the teachers and fellow students is far more intense than the supposed threat from the buggers. The buggers are just a distant enemy, light years away, and sometimes it seems they are so distant, it's as though they don't even exist. However, the teachers and the bullies are very real and very present.
While Ender's Game is a fast read, easy and full of tense action, there's not much to sink your teeth into intellectually. The twist ending might have been surprising, if I haven't heard Ender's Game talked about a million times over, and the denouement was a bit too much of a neatly wrapped little bow, so tidy and clean (especially coming after war and knowing what we know about Ender's vicious brother). In fact, the denouement was so neat and clean, I'm amazed Card was able to continue the story line.
So final summation? Very enjoyable, but doesn't make me want to eagerly run off and grab the next book in the series.
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books
Kim is an orphaned Irish boy, who has grown up under the care of an Indian woman. He's lived in the streets all his life, running amok just as the other Indian boys do, with little knowledge or care that he is white. When he meets a holy man, a lama on a quest to achieve enlightenment by bathing in a certain river, he is fascinated and decides to become the lama's apprentice. Together, as they walk the roads of India and meet many people, Kim also gets himself wrapped up in British espionage.
This was a fun little romp that very much reminded me of the many adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, except on the roads of India instead of the riverside of the South.
I don't know nearly enough about the intricate nature of India's many cultures to know where Kipling got it right and where he screwed it. Since Kipling grew up in India himself, it makes sense that he drew on his own experiences while writing. I'm sure there's a certain amount of Orientalizing and stereotyping going on, but not how much.
In his favor though, Kipling seems to present most of the characters in multiple layers and to treat much of the events as entirely normal, while most Westerners would consider them strange. In some cases, he also flips to show how Indians and the lama are perceived through the white man's lens. For example, the lama, who is seen as a holy man to all the native peoples around him, is seen as just another dirty beggar to the white men.
However, the fact remains that the British are clearly the good guys and colonialism is presented as, if not a good thing, then at least not a problem. Also, whenever "magic" came into play within the story, I kind of cringed a bit as it seemed to be the greatest indication of stereotyping the "mysterious and magical East".
There are also some spiritual aspects to the book, as presented through the lama and his peaceful quest. He teaches Kim about the wheel of life and how everyone is tied to the wheel, how the body is illusion and he wishes to escape from illusion. This is mixed with the assemblage of Hindu and Muslim people and customs they meet along the road, all of which is very interesting (though again, I can't properly judge how much is accurate).
On the whole, I enjoyed it quite a bit from an adventure story standpoint with some reservations in regards to other aspects.
Edited to add: Oh! I almost forgot the blackfacing (or yellowface). On a couple of occasions, Kim darkens his skin to appear native, which is so problematic from a modern point of view.
I'm vaguely curious about what happens in the next book, and I think I might actually own Xenocide, so I may go ahead with the series, but I'm not itching to right now.
Thanks, Tina! Yeah, it was definitely a bit of work in some sections (found myself drawn to want to read the fun books instead), though there were enough interesting moments to get me through.
• • •
28. The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, edited by Rose Lemberg (*****)
"I want to go moonwalking
on it or under it I don't care
I just want to go moonwalking
— from "Werewomen" by Ursula K Le Guin
The Moment of Change assembles speculative poetry that addresses feminism in a variety of ways and from a multitude of cultural points of view. As such, many of these poems address not only feminism, but colonialism, race, culture, and broader gender issues in moving, lyrical and vivid portrayals.
"The world is wrong and I am wrung,
a bell of cloth dripping salt
into an earth too broken for roots."
— from "Pieces" by Amal El-Mohtar
Most of the poetry is myth-based, delving into fantasy and folk lore, with only a few poems that focus on science fiction themes. I don't know if this is because poets tend to be drawn to myth more than science fiction, or if perhaps it is more that Lemberg, as editor, is particularly interested in these kinds of stories. Regardless, Lemberg has done an excellent job of selecting and arranging the works within this anthology.
"Perfection is frictionless —
I need to stub my soul on yours,
I need to lick the slivers in your wounds."
— from "In Defiance of Sleek-Armed Androids" by Lisa Bradley
You could, perhaps, have a discussion as to whether all of these poems are truly speculative or feminist; some poems seem to be only peripherally so. I could easily see this book or selections therefrom be included in college courses on literature and/or women's studies. I'd like to read each poem again and then sit and think about them more, maybe break a few of them down and analyze them line-by-line. These poems leave plenty of room for reflection.
"She makes no magic. Although the stories won't tell you,
witches are magic."
— from "The Witch" by Theodora Goss
But even without such deeper analysis, the quality of the poems is excellent throughout the anthology and there is something to be said for the pleasure of the experience alone. I've certainly enjoyed reading these words, and many poems I've gone back to read twice, or more than twice. I'll be picking this book up off my shelf and enjoying the poetry within for years to come. Highly recommended.
"This is a story,
and it is true of all stories
that the sound when they slam shut
is like a key turning."
— from "The Girl with Two Skins" by Catherynne M. Valente
The oldest poem seems to be from 1990, but most are from 2000-2012, so all very recent.
If by "pure" poet you mean someone who writes only poetry, I think considering how modern the poets, chances are that few of the are. I believe most have written novels and/or stories as well. Though I don't think writing prose as well as poetry makes one any less of a true poet. ;)
At any rate, while the majority of the poetry is free verse with a few prose poems, I would say all of the poems are true poetry. They are not (as far as I would judge) just prose broken up into lines. Many are rich with imagery and challenging to "get" on the first (or even second) reading. All of them will make you think about the world or tales it tells in a different way.
Hard to say. I think it might appeal, the fairy tale retellings and speculative elements are fun. I think I would have picked this up as a teenager, though some of the poems would have been over my head in terms if difficulty, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Some of the poems also contain mature content, one in particular involves masturbation in a bathroom stall. However, the vast majority of the poems are not explicit.
I wouldn't think so either, but you never know. Some people get uptight about that sort of thing.
Category: Panel by Panel
This "remastered" version presents the Tank Girl series in its original black and white and in chronological order of when they first appeared.
Tank Girl is the mutated child of Madonna and GI Joe, living in an apocalyptic Aussie outback with a few teenage mutant punk rock kangaroos thrown in. While the author and artist claim to have created this comic in rebellion against the pathos of MTV, the truth is Tank Girl could only have come out of that generation (late 80s, early 90s). It's short episodic pieces, laced with pop culture and zany antics would have been right at home with the other animated shows appearing on that channel an others during that time period. It's all about spectacle and objectification an wackadoodle encounters. Many of the stories only barely make sense, if they even bother with sense at all, and there is little to no character development. Event flashes to event like a series of quick paced music videos (though there seems to be a tiny bit more cohesion toward the end of the book and you can see how the creators gained skill). The art is frantic and detailed, sometimes with so much going on its hard to know where to look, but it's fun to look at.
Tank Girl is a representation of Girl Power as much as Spice Girls was (though more punk rock than pop rock), half sexist exploitation even as she presents power. Nameless, Tank Girl is only Tank Girl. She, like all the characters within the comic, is entirely one dimensional. Never growing or changing (except in appearance and clothing), she is exactly as advertised, a tank driving, chain smoking, kangaroo kissing crazy woman wearing little more than a black bra and a devil-may-care smile. Absolutely fearless and with no ambition, she faces each bizarre challenge with a grin on her face. Half the time she's so busy doing here own thing, she's oblivious to the threats around her and gets out of sticky situations as much by luck as by any apparent skill (which other than her fearlessness and recklessness, I'm not sure she has).
In a sense, I love Tank Girl, because she allows me to live vicariously. I always wanted to be that person, with crazy dyed and wacky cut hair, adorned with chains and safety pins and vibrant colors, and sporting an I-don't-give-a-flying-f*ck-what-you think attitude. But I never had the courage and I still don't.
She's fun and free of cares, which unfortunately means she leaves a slew of damage and death in her wake. There are never any consequences for this; Tank Girl lives in blissful chaos.
That and the sexism are only minor concerns compared to how the black and aboriginal characters are handled. They are presented as caricatures, all with dreadlocks and big lips and often with tribal paint; one such character is a voodoo priest (even though that's not part of Australian Aboriginal culture as far as I'm aware), who actually says, "Ooga, ooga, ooga," while in the act of performing "magic." And it's just so racist. It doesn't happen often, but every time one of these caricatures appeared I cringed.
I like the idea of Tank Girl (and I even like the ridiculous movie adaptation), but I have a hell of a lot of reservations about aspects of it.
>50 andreablythe: More than enough of this in the classics. Daunting when you encounter it in contemporarish culture too. Then again, we've come a long way since 1990.
In terms of the anthology, it's kind of hard to say. I think I can point to many that would introduce themselves as authors (as in novelists), though skimming the bios a few might identify as poets. But there are lots that its hard to tell just from the bios.
An yeah, I think we have come a long way from even the nineties, and yet, in some senses we haven't come a long way at all. *sigh*
Interesting to see a discussion of Speculative Poetry here. Bryann Thao Worra is a spec poet & friend of mine. He's moved from town, but when he was here, we always had at least one panel on Spec Poetry at Diversicon. Now we don't talk about it so much, but always have a reading by "The Lady Poetesses from Hell" who are actually much better poets and writers than there performance name would suggest. Rez is the one male of the group, but he "channels" poems from a Victorian Lady who has passed on. His poems are practically guaranteed to make the audience weep with laughter, but not all the poems are funny.
There's actually a spec poetry novel Sharp Teeth. Yep, weredoggies.
Category: The Universe in Verse
Park Songs presents the comings and goings, the loneliness and interactions of the various denizens of a city park. It's and interesting book, because it's not quite poetry and it's not quite a play. It's made up of a multitude of short scenes that present interlaced dialog or monologues, most of which are set off on their own as one to three page long pieces, or poems. There are a few actual poems with line breaks and rhyme, as well, which are described as traditional blues songs.
Reading is straight through, there is rhythm to the scenes and the way bits of dialog punctuate each other that's enjoyable. Though I didn't get much of a feel for any of the characters. I do like day-in-the-life kinds of stories, but I want to connect to something greater on some level -- either a oneness with a character, or a feeling of some wider message, or even just a cleverness of style or portrayal -- and I don't feel I really got that. But at least it was very readable.
For me, Budbill is at his best when he plays with words, even if such scenes might be slightly less realistic. For example, my favorite piece was the longest, the 19 page mini-play, "Fred and Judy: Let's Talk." One such word play goes like this:
Judy: You have trouble hearing, don't you?
Fred: No. I have trouble understanding.
J: Where was I?
F: Where you were.
F: You were where you are.
J: What are you talking about?
F: Did you leave?
F: Then you are where you were
and you were where you are.
F: Right here! Right here!"
The scene presents a playful scenes with lots of word fun that also reveals two lonely people wanting to connect somehow. I still didn't really connect with the characters, but I had fun reading it.
Even though I didn't resonate with the scenes as they were presented on the page, I would be interested in seeing them performed. Budbill, in his afterword, describes this book as raw material that could be adapted for the stage in a number of ways. A great director and amazing actors could bring life to these words, making them resonate through collaborative creativity. And I was especially interested in Budbill's suggestion of playing the "Let's Talk" scene three times in an evening, first with a male/female pairing, then with two women, and then with two men. Sounds like a fascinating experiment, and one that I would be interested to see.
Sounds like I need to read more Theodora Goss!
The Lady Poetesses from Hell sounds awesome and a lot of fun. I'm a huge an of Spec Poetry and always enjoy reading it when I can. you probably already know this, but there are several online journals that present Spec Poetry. If you're interested, you might try Goblin Fruit, Stone Telling, or Strange Horizons, among others, to fill up on Spec Poetry on a regular basis.
Also, I read and loved Sharp Teeth!! Such a fantastic novel in poems!
To confuse things further, there are also prose poems, poetry written without line breaks, so sometimes the line between the two is very thin.
Like the flash fiction author you mentioned, sometimes it is just what you call it.
and Flash Fiction day sounds fun!
Book Read: Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy (my review)
Movie: Anna Karenina (2012), staring Keira Knightley as the titular character. (**)
Anna Karenina is visually beautiful, especially the costumes, and very stylistic. Unfortunately, a lot was sacrificed in the name of style, most notably coherency. My first thought when the movie opened in the format of a stage play with Oblonsky on stage getting a dramaticly performed shave was: "Oh, this is cool."
But as the movie went on and character after character was introduced it got to be very confusing as to both location and who was who. In fact, if I hadn't read the book, I probably wouldn't have known what the hell was happening. My sister and I ended up pausing the movie several times for just that reason as I sat there and explained to her what was going on with whom and that things are actually happening in an entirely different location and several months after the last scene.
The acting throughout was fine, but neither Knightley, nor Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who played Vronsky) made me buy into the romance much. And I was so confused in general that I couldn't become emotionally invested in anyone.
I did rather like the IDEA of the stage play styling, as it could have fit well with the story thematically. But it wasn't pulled off well, sometimes just thrown in for the sake of having it there and sometimes not present at all. Really, it should have been used throughout or eliminated entirely. And if you are going to use it, then it needs to be used in such a way that scene transitions are clear and time lapses are noted. Had this been done, it could have been fantastic, but ultimately the movie disappointed.
. . .
Book Read: Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem (my review)
Solyaris (1972, in Russian) (***1/2)
This adaptation of the book ran almost three hours in length with scenes lingering on plants undulating in clear pools of water and swirling colloidal looking images of the Ocean on the planet Solaris. Combine that with quiet moments and still camera work, and what you have is understated science fiction movie.
On the whole the movie is very well done, delving as much as possible into the psychological ramifications of this kind of alien life without going too much into the technological gobbly-gook of how the Ocean functions (as it appears in the book). It takes its own route to get there, too, and really brings life the "wife" character, giving her something of a voice. I also liked the addition of scenes from the main character's life on earth and how they worked in certain complicated elements of the back story, all of which aided the development and weirdness of the events once the story shifts to space.
The one choice I didn't get was the shift of scenes from color to black and white and then back again. I'm sure there was some sort of symbolism there, but I'm not sure what it was.
When the characters were interacting, the movie was quite interesting, but when they weren't, then it dragged and felt deathly slow. I think I might have loved this movie, if they had cut at least a half hour from the length.
. . .
I have Rosemary's Baby coming to me soon from Netflix and The Great Gatsby still to see, so you may have some more book-related movie reviews coming your way.
Category: Oh, the Horror!
"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within."
Dr. Montague is an occult scholar determined to prove the supernatural exists and has sought and found Hill House, where he believes he might be able to do just that. Answering his call for assistants, Eleanor (a friendless young woman) and Theodora a lighthearted, carefree artist) join him for one summer of studying the supernatural, along with Luke, the future heir of Hill House.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, which shows the characters bonding together against the terrors of Hill House in such a way that the experience almost becomes a joy. Life seems so much more valuable after the frights of the night and the characters experience a kind of horrified euphoria and a disconnection from the outside world. It seems to be the kind of experience and friendship that is only capable of existing in that place and time. The bond only begins to strain when Hill House begins to single out one of the characters.
I wasn't exactly frightened by the events that unfolded, but I enjoyed the relationships and how the characters reacted to what happened at the house, and how the house reacted to them. Great book.
* * * *
32. Scheherazade's Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation, edited by Michael M. Jones (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part I)
As the title suggests, this anthology features fantasy stories with characters that exist outside the gender binary. Various characters in these stories shift genders at whim, have secret selves of the opposite gender, cross dress to hide their identity, are transgender, or perform other acts of gender bending. Through the book, the stories are consistently good with strong writing, interesting multi-dimensional characters, and fascinating worlds. Here are a few of my favorites:
"The Daemons of Tairdean Town," by CS MacCath — A scarred woman drifts into a small town, singing to plants along the way, breathing life into them and the world with her tunes. She brings with her a secret self, who connects with the secret selves of others and helps them to heal.
"Kambal Kulam" by Paolo V Chikiamco — As a kambal kulam, Erikson gets hired to protect his clients from evil curses. He does this by transforming himself into his clients and taking on the burden of the curse. He gets more that he's bargained for, however, when a woman hires him for protection. This one was a lot of fun.
"Keeping the World on Course," by Tanith Lee — The fantastical elements of this story are slim, allowing it to rely more on delightful humor, word play, and situational irony. It's hard to describe this story without ruining it, but it begins with two people who loathe each other.
"A Bitter Taste," by Aliette de Bodard — This compelling story about a goddess who abandons her companions in order to try to prevent war is full of bloodshed and regret. It's beautifully done.
"Going Dark," by Lyn C.A. Gardner — Such a beautiful tale of loneliness, love, and grief, at once eerie and moving, about a genderless (or both gendered) child that unintentionally steals the life force of others and finds comfort in the confines of a photography darkroom.
"How to Dance While Drowning," by Shanna Germain — Dancers cling to their beauty in a world where mermaids have been discovered and are exploited for their scales and faces (which can be surgically grafted onto humans). A bit dark and grim, but I loved this story.
"Treasure and Maidens," by Sarah Rees Brennan — Sexy dragon!
"Lady Marmalade's Special Place in Hell," by David Sklar — A transgender woman gets sent to hell for just being herself and completely takes control of the situation, along the way she manages to find forgiveness for herself and others.
That comment alone would sell me on The Haunting of Hill House if it wasn't already on my future reading list!
Hope you like the book. :)
* * * *
33. Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan (****)
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am
This was an ARC from LibraryThing's Early Reader program.
Jennifer Finney Boylan previously talked about her experiences transitioning from male to female in her book She's Not There (which I have not read). In this subsequent book she looks at fathering and mothering and how this transition affected and yet did not affect her kids and her role as a parent, as well as her experience of her own parents.
The author has a simple, clean style to her writing that allows her to express feelings and moments in time without judging them too overtly or trying to grasp for sympathy. She just tells how she remembers it and lets the memories stand for themselves, and I really liked that.
I also enjoyed the fact that she highlights the many kinds of parents and parenting with interviews with fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, and wayward souls. This inclusion of other voices really added to the whole experience (the story of the father who adopted an autistic son had me weeping), and made the book an exploration of what it means to be a parent and to be mothered or fathered as much as it was a look into one parent's life. A really great book.
That's what I hear. I'm really looking forward to it. :)
I feel that way about evokes sometimes, because I'm not likely to throw my tablet across the room, if I hate the book. ;)
* * * *
34. The Count of Monte Christo, by Alexandre Dumas (****)
Category: Door Stoppers--Category Finished!!
The classic revenge story. Edmond Dantes is happy, progressing in his career and to be married to the woman he loves, but he is betrayed and sent to prison. After meeting a fellow prisoner, who claims to have a secret treasure, Dantes escapes and rises as the powerful and enigmatic Count of Monte Christo.
I started reading this on my phone, at sporadic points of waiting that occurred over several months, then at about the halfway point, I switched to a brick-heavy paperback -- all of which taught me how the format affects my reading experience. While reading on my phone, I had a hard time keeping up with characters and the book seemed like a struggle to get through. Once I switched to paperback and (I assume) a different translation, the story clicked for me and I loved it.
Monte Christo isn't really a like able character. I certainly had sympathy for him in the beginning, when Dantes was struck down and made to suffer, but as the count, the goodness in him dissolved. He became a man so focused on his goal of revenge that it mattered little what effect his plans had on anyone else, even his friends or the innocent. I even felt sorry for the people who wronged him at a certain point. Even as he tries to make reparations for his actions, I'm a little discomfited by how he handled Mercedes and her son, Maximilian, and Hadee.
Ultimately, this did turn out to be a fun adventure yarn (once I switched to print). it was cool to see how all his elaborate plans unfurled and cane to fruition. I'm looking forward to trying The Three Musketeers at some point.
The Three Musketeers is great! more of a fun romp than the darker brooding feel of The Count. I am planning on re-reading Musketeers as some point because I want the read the other books in what is considered the d'Artagnon series.
Lol. I was joking with my family that reading this book builds upper body strength.
A bigger screen might have helped, like a kindle or an iPad, which might have made it more book like.
The only other d'Artangnon book I know of is The Man in the Iron Mask. Is there a third?
I'm down for that! :D
LOL! Me too - I'm putting it back on as well.
There's a movie version??? Ridiculous or not, I'll be checking that out!
So happy you ended up loving it! It was a very enjoyable read for me, especially since I figured out what a fast read it was despite the page-number. :) I'll be in for a Three Musketeers-read as well!
That is a bit of a mind blow.....;-)
Hah! I love that too.
I especially love the Tinker tailor Soldier Spy description. :)
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part I)
This book was an ARC provided by the LibraryThing ER program.
Maddie Angler is trying to leave her old life behind in an attempt to get over the death of her fiancee, Alvin Roth. But when she learns that Alvin might be alive, she finds herself on an inter-world journey to find him and will discover secrets about the Eight Worlds and herself that she would never have imagined.
I wasn't drawn to this story at first, but as the story progressed past the first chapter, things began to get very interesting and by the middle it was easy, fun reading. The characters have a range of likability, and it's hard to tell who Maddie should trust, but as she grows in confidence, she learns through trial and error who to rely on. I enjoyed seeing how Maddie learned about the other worlds and the grandeur that world presents, as well as seeing the twists and turns in the storyline, which had a few entertaining surprises.
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am
The Orchid Thief is kind of a strange book. On the one hand, it's about John Laroche, a plant dealer and outcast, who was arrested in 1994 with a group three Seminole Indians for stealing rare orchids from a southern Florida swamp. This is where Susan Orlean began with the story after seeing a tiny blurb in a small, local newspaper. The book grows far beyond that source material, however, and sort of meanders through the orchid world, revealing the beauty of the plants and the obsession people have about collecting them.
But Laroche's is only one part of the story. Over the course of the book, Orlean looks at the biology of the orchids (noting that there are over 100,000 species), goes in the history of orchid hunting and the mania of collectors when the plants were first discovered, meets various collectors at functions and explores their history as collectors, points out orchid grower rivalries, shares the history of the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve and describes it in lovingly detail, goes into the history of the Seminole Indians in the area and their local heroes, among other little tidbits of facts and history and science, all while weaving in her own experiences in Florida and her obsession with discovering why people are so obsessed with these flowers with Laroche cropping up every once in a while like an odd, lanky swamp bird. Thus, the book is an unusual mixture of crime story, character sketch, historical account, biology lesson, and travel memoir, one that is far from objective and deeply fascinating to read.
For those who may not be aware, The Orchid Thief is the basis for the 2002 movie Adaptation, staring Nicolas cage. And reading it now, I can certainly see why Charlie Kaufman had such trouble adapting the book into a movie. There is no way to do a straight adaptation, as the kind of meandering quality wouldn't work on the screen and the ending in the book (while a perfect declaration of the incomplete quality of everyday life just going on) wouldn't work for a movie format. In a sense, Kaufman's adaptation of the book is perfect, because just as Susan Orlean took a story meant to be about Laroche and his adventures and controversies and she interjected herself into the story, making it as much about her own experience as about Laroche, Kaufman took her book and made a movie script that was just as much about himself (or an idea of himself) as it was about the story — which is kind of a cool parallel.
Category: Panel by Panel
Volume One introduces Reverend Jesse Custer (a small town minister who has merged with a half demon, half angel being called Genesis), Tulip (Jesse's gun toting ex-girlfriend), and Cassidy (a drunken Irish vampire). After a disaster in Texas, the three find themselves on the run from both the redneck police and a ruthless immortal called the Saint of Killers.
I was a bit torn on this one, because while I liked the concept and ideas and the plot, most of the character were unlikeable (lots of Texans spouting vile racism and sexism) and extreme brutality (some of which didn't seem to serve a purpose other than shocking the reader). Even the main characters I had a hard time liking and only began to find interest in what happened to them toward the end. The art I liked fine (and it suits the tone of the story well), but the structure at the beginning rang artificial. I think that if I didn't happen to already have Volume Two sitting in front of me, I might not have bothered with continuing.
38. Preacher: Until the End of the World, written by Garth Enis, illustrated by Steve Dillon (****)
Category: Panel by Panel
The first half of Volume Two of the Preacher series has Jesse return home at the behest of his grandmother, and it's not a happy go lucky return either. No, no, this is a violence laced reunion of the sort one should expect from these books. The second half has the introduction of a new enemy in the form of a secret society with its own corrupt agenda.
I enjoyed Volume Two so much more than Volume One. It's still full of an assortment of vile characters, but I was able to get a feel for Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy finally, which allowed me to care about what happened to them. The structure is cleaner and the art still fits nicely. A much more solid book, in my opinion and it has me wanting to pick up Volume Three just so I can find out what happens next.
I think Preacher is partly about the shock throughout the series but it does have some great stories & ideas too. I do wonder if appealed to the younger me much more than it would do now.
Yeah, I have a feeling I would have loved Preacher more if I read it in high school (which was about the time I was devouring handfuls Stephen King books).
I'm curious about where the series is going and I love the spin on God in the books. So, I'll definitely keep reading, though slowly.
39. Dr. Suess's ABC An Amazing Alphabet Book!, by Dr. Suess (****)
My Review: Suess's classic drawing style makes for a fun alphabet book, which is not so much focused on rhyme, but is till playful. For the most part he focuses on real world words, which help with learning, but adds in some nonsense characters, always a
My Niece's Review: She's a little fuss bucket today, because she's teething. But the book helped to calm her down and kept her interest while we were reading it.
She was also a lot more interactive with this one than she has been with other books. She gurgled and mimicked the sounds as I spoke them and pointed at the images, tracing the pictures and babbling, as well as helping me turn pages. So, I'm pretty sure she liked it.
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part I)
This novel tells the story of engineer Vannevar Morgan's quest to build a space elevator on Earth. Along the way he is confronted with a variety of challenges, including coming up against a group of monks whose temple exists on the mountain he needs to make the elevator work.
I don't have many thoughts on this one. I wasn't particularly excited by the as I was reading, but it was very readable. The story isn't so much about the people as its about the science and human-kind's accomplishment; while I didn't particularly care much about any of the characters, this didn't annoy me as it usually does, because it fits. There was no major threat to the main plot, just some smaller challenges, but there's no doubt that success will be achieved by the end. So, a decently told story, but nothing I'd rave about.
1. I think I can safely skip the Anna Karenina movie based on your comments & others I've seen. Thanks for "taking one for the team"! Haha
2. I too thoroughly enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House. I can't recall the 90's movie well enough to comment, but I just read the book a few years ago and really found it fun. Not scary, but unsettling is a great way to describe the feel. If you ever get to see the earlier movie version, I'd be interested in your thoughts.
3. I have a copy of She's Not There sitting on a book shelf at home... Really need to read it, but it's just one of many books waiting patiently for me to get there...
4. Reading pictures are too cute!!!!
Shew, I think that's all the comments I have. ;)
Hey, Tina! Thanks for stopping by.
1. Definitely skip-able and you're welcome. ;)
2. Yeah, very unsettling and very cool. I have the DVD for the 60s version from Netflix right now. I just need to get around to watching it, so I'll be sharing my thoughts on that soon.
3. I believe you meant to link to She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders the memoir, not She's Not There the thriller novel, right? At any rate, I need to read the memoir, too. Based on my reading of Stuck in the Middle with You, it should be great.
4. Yay! I love her so much. She's the little light of my life and growing so fast!!! (^_^)
Category: The Universe in Verse
This was an ARC provided by the publishers via the Early Reviewer program.
This chapbook contains a series of interconnected poems about Rosemary, a women trapped in a state of suicidal depression. As the story unfolds with each poem, you learn about the people in her life who try to help her, but can't keep up with the brunt force of her sorrow.
Most of these poems are presented in smooth, plain language with moments of poetic beauty that caught my attention and resonated well. The words are full of raw edges and hurt, and I could feel for Rosemary's sorrow and her friend's inability to connect with her.
Ultimately, though the message and story is bleak with little hope or redemption. So, it's not for everyone.
Duke, a doctor of journalism, and his attorney Dr. Gonzo journey to Vegas in search of the American Dream, though they are there on the pretense of covering a dirt bike race. Their manic search involves a drug soaked frenzy (I swear they do every drug on the market), along with all the inherent madness and muttering and bizarre hallucinations.
I don't know that there's much of a plot here, just a slender thread of cause and effect that leads to ever more freaky and strange events, most of which involve terrifying tourists and the local population. They only manage to save themselves by spinning wild and highly fictionalized tales of epic proportions.
Sometimes when reading books filled with unsympathetic, drug addled, and amoral characters, I find myself going cold, left with only a sense of being disturbed. However, this book was delightfully depraved, and perhaps this was possible due to the undercurrent of humor that kept things light and fun. Also, Duke and Dr. Gonzo's manic chaotic rambling has a strange kind of hopeful edge that makes you want them to lock onto something, learn something, maybe even find the American Dream they're looking for. (There's also the autobiographical aspects – and I have no idea how much is true and how much is fictionalization – which leaves me stunned, because I can't believe anyone could do these things or even half of this amount of drugs and live.) On the whole, thoroughly enjoyable.
I haven't seen the film yet, much to my sister's dismay, but I'm definitely going to see it now.
I rather disliked On the Road, which kind of dull to me. Well, maybe not so much disliked as was bored by. I guess they are a bit similar in the lack of a plot, but Thompson is much more manic than Kerouac, who is more contemplative in how he presents his meandering journey. There's definitely a huge difference in tone between the two, even if there are structural similarities.
You might read both, just to see the difference and how two very different voices approach drug culture and disenfranchisement, but you certainly don't have to.
I recommend it. Fear and Loathing is infinitely more fun.
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part I)
Janxx and Eliseo Daisani are two of the most interesting Old Race characters in Murphy's Negotiator series. One a dragon and one a vampire, they are not good guys, being cagey tricksters and criminals caught in a centuries long rivalry. But this rivalry has evolved into friendship, an intimacy that binds them together, so that even as they compete against one another, they can't really live without each other. Each of them is as likely to do they right thing for wicked reasons as they are to do evil deeds for good reasons. Ultimately, they are just a lot of fun.
This collection of stories brings Janxx and Eliseo to the forefront by weaving together a series of stories in chronological order, and filling in some of the bast stories from the trilogy. Many of them are told from the point of view of other characters, mostly women who either serve as the focus of their rivalry, most especially Baba Yaga's Daughter, who is also a key part of these stories. Though the women tend to be the "prize" that both Eliseo and Janxx hope to win, it should not be thought that these women are merely objects to be obtained. They have their own stories and their own strengths and don't fall for Janxx and Eliseo's games.
The writing is consistently good, though as with most short story collections, there were some I liked more than others. Most of them I thoroughly enjoyed. "The Knight's Tale," about how Rebecca Knight met Eliseo Daisani and was presented with an offer that could change her life, was by far my favorite. There was a bitter sweet tone to it that I adored, and the ending was lovely.
As to whether you need to read the Negotiator trilogy before reading these stories, I'd say it was kind of a toss up. I think reading the trilogy first might add to one's enjoyment, but the collection progresses to reveal a nearly complete story, almost a novel in its own right. So, I think you could read this collection and still enjoy it.
Total Books Read – 21
Fiction – 13
Nonfiction – 2
Comics/Graphic Novels – 3
Picture Books for My Niece - 1
Poetry – 3
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, edited by Rose Lemberg
Least Favorite Reads:
I didn't have any that I outright disliked, but I felt so-so about The Fountains of Paradise, Park Songs: A Poem/Play, and Tank Girl 1 (Remastered Edition) (Bk. 1)
Categories Completed - 1!
I'm currently reading:
Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes, which is slow going, and I'm also reading the last book of the Negotiator series Hands of Flame.
I've also got Neil Gaiman's anthology Unnatural Creatures on the list, too.
No seriously, this is going to take some getting used to.
But it really took me by surprise.
Category: Unicorns from Space! Part I
Reading Baba Yaga's Daughter and Other Stories of the Old Races reminded me that I had yet to read the last book of the Negotiator trilogy.
Book three is has Margrit Knight still neck deep in the conflicts between the Old Races with her life and the freedom of her loved Alban (a gargoyle) on the line. The action comes quick and fast and Margrit faces it with all the grit and grace in her repertoire, fighting for peace and tearing down the injustices of a flaw system of rules, even if it means risking her own life. This is a fun urban fantasy series with a great and unusual mix of supernatural characters, and this book works as a great conclusion, even if every plot threw isn't wrapped up neatly.
Never heard of Murphy's series, but it surely sounds interesting!
Murphy's series is fun and I recommend it if you like urban fantasy.
* * * *
45 . 17 & Gone, by Nova Ren Suma (*****)
“Girls go missing every day. They slip out bedroom windows and into strange cars. They leave good bye notes or they don’t get a chance to tell anyone. They cross borders. They hitch rides, squeezing themselves into overcrowded backseats, sitting on willing laps. They curl up and crouch down, or they shove their bodies out of sunroofs and give off victory shouts. Girls make plans to go, but they also vanish without meaning to, and sometimes people confuse one for the other. Some girls go kicking and screaming and clawing out the eyes of whoever won’t let them stay. And then there are the girls who never reach where they are going. Who disappear. Their ends are ends are endless, their stories unknown."
I adored Nova Ren Suma's previous book Imaginary Girls (and even mapped out how I would approach making the movie, if I could), which was a wonderfully surreal and creepy tale of two sisters and their loyalty to one another. So, 17 & Gone was a must read for me. It hooked me from page one, and by page three I had chills and was smiling from ear to ear.
When Lauren finds a missing poster for Abby, she begins to be haunted. Abby appears to her, tangled and lost, a seventeen-year-old girl gone missing, a girl who wants something from Lauren. But Abby isn't alone and following behind her are other girls, all seventeen years old, all missing without a trace, all wanting their stories heard, all wanting to be remembered. As the visions of these girls multiply, Lauren begins to loose the tether to her own life and, seventeen herself, she begins to wonder, if maybe she'll be the next girl to vanish.
Lauren's self becomes submerged beneath beneath the stories of the girls and we get to see bits and pieces of her personal life like we're coming up for air. In a sense this makes it a little hard to get to know her as the main character, but her story unfolds as the novel goes on and this erasure works as she looses herself under the tide of girls and their stories. It fits with the storyline and the discoveries at the conclusion.
Her writing is rich and vivid, and it's really impressive how Nova Ren is able to layer the stories of the girls with Lauren's thoughts and personal life, creating a complex web of narratives that is nevertheless easy to follow. She makes it look easy, though I know it couldn't possibly have been.
As a side note, I suggest that you do not read the Author's Note at the end of the book (as I did) before you finish, as it will spoil the ending. But even with the ending twist spoiled, I still loved this book, wholeheartedly.
My ultimate sadness is that Nova Ren only has one other book out, her first book Dani Noir (which was later republished under the title Fade Out). After I devour that one, I'll have to patiently (or not-so-patiently) wait until 2015 for her next book, The Walls Around Us to be released.
Category: The Once and Future King
The verse written by 12th century poet Chrétien de Troyes represents the earliest of the Arturian romances as we recognize them today. These poems have been widely popular and have influenced the shape of every King Arthur and his Knights tales that came after. This translation of these five tales puts the verse into prose format.
"Erec and Enide" follows the story of the two title characters, starting with Erec's adventures and eventual winning of Enide's hand, followed by Erec and Enide riding off to wander the land in search of quests together.
"Cligés" is a more meandering tale, which begins with Alexandre of Greece's journey to King Arthur's court in order to win renown, and then his son Cliges' adventures and romance with his uncle's wife.
"The Knight of the Cart" is Lancelot's tale, in which the queen Guinevere is taken away by an evil knight. Lancelot pursues her and fights many adventure in his great love for her. It's an interesting one, because Lancelot is made to look foolish more than once in his love for her.
"The Knight with the Lion" is Yvain's tale and follows a similar format as the other in that a knight goes off to meet a great adventure. Along the way he wins the love of a maiden, who then casts him off when he fails to return when he's told to. He goes temporarily insane and has to fight many adventures before he can win her back.
"The Story of the Grail" is Perceval's quest, though it also includes much of Gawain's adventures. Perceval starts out as an idiotic ass, leaving a wake of damage on his way to becoming a knight. The grail has less of the Christian affiliations in this version and has to do with the Fisher King (not Arthur), who suffers from wounds that will not heal. There's a lance that bleeds from its tip, as well as the grail in association with the Fisher King. This tale was not finished by Troyes, but the translator gives a nice round up of the various continuations written by other poets of the time period, which begin to bring in the more heavy handed Christian elements.
Some random thoughts, in no particular order:
1. The storytelling skill gets better with each subsequent story, which makes me think that "Eric and Enide" was written first and Troyes skill improved with each story he told (though I can't be sure of that). The last three tales are the best in the book, and "The Knight with the Lion" is probably my favorite.
2. There's a lot of redundancy. Characters will say one thing, repeat it in a slightly different order, then repeat it a third time, just to make sure you really know that they mean what they say. Also, the plot lines repeat fairly often and by the end of the book it's easy to tell exactly how each battle will turn out with the knights on equal footing, landing many great blows, and the blood flowing and so on. This repetition can make things kind of tedious.
3. The people in this era apparently believed that a fight could prove guilt or innocence. If you're accused of treason or a crime, welp, facts don't matter as long you have the best knight to fight for you. The winner is proved right, because God would only let the right one win. Uh-huh.
4. People were also rather obsessed with beauty. Beauty = good. Ugliness = evil. All the heroes are the most handsome of knights and draw the eye of every spectator to them. All the good maidens are beautiful and fair.
5. Arthur is kind of a fool. The most obvious demonstration of this is in "Eric and Enide," in which it essentially goes:
Arthur: I want to do this thing, because it would be sooooo coool.
Gawain: That's a very bad idea, because something bad will happen.
Arthur: You're right, but I'm going to do the thing anyway, because I'm the king and the king should do whatever he wants.
*does the thing*
Gawain: I told you if you did the thing something bad would happen.
Arthur: I know. Now tell me how to fix it.
6. Kay is interesting in that he starts out noble and well loved in "Eric and Enide" but gradually becomes more of an ass by the time "The Story of the Grail" rolls around, when he's called evil tongued and rude and worse and yet they still love him. I would have booted him to the curb.
7. As much as maidens and women are almost never given names and act as objects for the knights to win, they also have a surprising amount of autonomy and strength. Women are often found hanging out alone in the woods and it's not uncommon for a girl to take up a horse and ride over hill and dale in search of a knight to help her, essentially having her own form adventure. Many of the women also own their own lands and rule their own castles. However, when women have power over men, their demands tend to be rather arbitrary and often have to do with keep the man by her side. In the end, the demands seem not to be so much about her as they seem to be about setting up an adventure for some guy.
8. Morgan le Fay, sister to Arthur and always a favorite of mine, appears only in passing in these stories. But when she does, she is presented in a positive light, as a powerful healer and known for creating the best tinctures and good potions. Apparently, it's not until later versions that she begins to play the part of the evil traitor.
9. The people are ridiculously prone to emotion. When saddened, they pull their hair, scratch their faces, threatened suicide, faint from sorrow and boredom, but all that can turn around in an instant to beaming dancing joy. A knight leaving darkens the skies and is an end to all good feeling; his return that very night is a cause for feasting and celebration. I'm surprised everyone survived these massive shifts and fits of emotion without keeling over.
10. Oh, I have lots more thoughts about this and that, but this list is already long, so I'll just leave off here.
ETA: Congrats on the Hot Review!
I know it's been a while, but I've been off traveling in Mexico City. The trip was for work (I went to a conference), but it allowed me time to travel around a bit. I really love the city and its culture and history. There are so many layers of it all and its fascinating.
I have a couple of books to add to my reading list, but I need to get to compiling some blog posts about my traveling, which I'll link to, if you want.
In the meantime, here are a couple of the few pics I've posted so far.
This is the view of the city from my hotel room.
This is the view of Teotihuacan from where I had lunch after climbing the pyramid.
Hah!! Yes, indeed time travel would be quite the adventure! Go DeLorean!
Mexico City is wonderful, full of layers and layers of history (though much of that history is violent). The buildings are beautiful, though many of the oldest ones are sinking, because the city was built on five lakes. The ground is soft and the old marble too heavy. Some buildings are even clearly tilted, because one side is on bedrock and the other isn't.
First, I started reading The Witching Hour by Anne Rice while I was in Mexico. It was a mass market paperback, which was kind of a brick in and of itself. I was about 75 pages in, when I managed to leave the book at the airport (during my frustrating attempt to leave the country).
At any rate, I was forced to pick up a copy at the library instead, a HUGE, massive, ginormous hardback version that ways a pound shy of a ton. While I was enjoying the book, I'm not so in love with it that I'm willing to risk the integrity of my wrists. So, I'll just leave this at DNF for now (not counting toward my goal), and move on to a book I'm much more interested in reading.
* * * *
47. Late Eclipses, by Seanan McGuire (****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part I)
The fourth book in the October Daye series begins with sad tidings and has Toby once again thrown into a much bigger battle than she's prepared for with old enemies returning and new enemies arriving. What make Toby make it through these (and other) impossible circumstances is not just her bravery and skills with knives, but the love and trust her allies have in her and their willingness to help. Actually, watching her friendships grow change and develop is one of the great things about this series.
Like most of the October Daye books, there's a kind of zig-zag pattern to the plot with Toby going from here to there and back again in a kind of manic trying to figure things out. Sometimes it's a little too much action, action, action without much retrospection.
But that's a minor quibble, because this series is so much fun and I can't wait to read the next book.
* * * *
48. Anya's Ghost, by Vera Brosgol (*****)
Category: Panel by Panel
When a teenage girl falls down an old well, the last thing she expects to find is a pile of bones and a ghost to follow her home. The ghost seems to be the perfect friend, until she learns that the ghost has a secret of her own.
Anya is a rather typical teenager, feeling awkward and fat and ugly (been there), while wanting desperately to fit in and get the attention of the hot boy in school (been there, too). In order to achieve this, she rejects her Russian heritage and avoid the other Russian kid in school. She's not a perfect kid, not always sweet or good, but she's likeable and relateable and she makes up for her mistakes, so it's easy to be on her side.
The artwork lovely, clean and sharp. The images mostly bright and yet just creepy enough when the ghost is around. The story unfolds with neatly with just the right amount of humor and chills. A fantastic book, which I read cover to cover in just over an hour, then proceeded to flip through again for the enjoyment of it.
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books
The Age of Innocence follows Newland Archer, who is about to marry May Welland, both from New York's upper class families. Everything seems superbly perfect to Newland, until the Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after fleeing her husband in Europe. After several stops and starts and subtle inflections of politeness, Newland discovers that he and Ellen are in love. But the wedding with May goes on, leaving them both caught between following their heart and following the norms of society.
The Age of Innocence garnered Edith Wharton the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, the first time it was awarded to a woman. Though apparently there was some frustration for her about this, because her book was chosen over another author's merely because it was the "safer" choice. In her view, the book is far from safe, as it satirizes the standards of marriage and criticizes the edicts that society holds dear.
I personally found The Age of Innocence to be readable and enjoyable with much subtly of personalities, contradictory natures, and wonderful rendering of the upper class culture and its hypocrisies. This book didn't have nearly the emotional punch in the gut that the fantastic House of Mirth had, but it was still wonderful in its own right.
* * * *
5. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (audio book), by Muriel Spark (**1/2)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books
I tend to be fond of stories that involve women who challenge the system and its norms and inspire younger women to do the same, but unfortunately this one left me cold.
Miss Jean Brodie is a school teacher, who has captivated a set of girls within the school with her charm and wit and willingness to talk about her love affairs during class. Over and over again, it's mentioned that Brodie is in her prime, though it's never clear what's meant by that phrase. I suppose she's meant to be intelligent, but mostly she just comes off as vapid and superficial. I'm not sure she actually teaches her students anything other than about her personal love affairs and her journey's around the world, so I'm not sure how her set manages to become the most intelligent girls in school, as they all seems to be vapid and superficial, too.
At no point was I able to find a character I could get a handle on and have interest in, as each of these thin, vapid characters is described in a superficial way and it's impossible to really understand their motivations or why any of the girls is so smitten with Miss Jean Brodie in the first place. On top of that the plot (if you can call it that) loops back and forth through time in such a way that it's hard to understand the narrative thread or what the overall conflict is supposed to be.
When the conclusion rolled around, the first question that formed on my lips was, "What was the point?" I'm not sure there was any.
The understated, wispy, somewhat cold style is one Spark's trademarks. If that itself was a dealbreaker for you, I think you probably won't like any of her books. A shame! :)
Thanks for twigging my memory of the story, Anders! That is what I remember. They were not likeable girls/women by any means, that is for sure.
Sparks has such a great sardonic wit to her storytelling. All of the stories I have read so far have had that biting edge to it.
Ah, I suppose that makes sense, in terms of the unlikable aspects to the character being the point. And I can see how the only escape for the one girl is betrayal. Though I don't really seen her as having escaped, since she chooses the life of a convent, which she leaves her clinging (literally grabbing the bars) to the outside world). Maybe if I could have connected with her (this girl who "escaped"), I could have connected with the book better. But such is the reading life. Sometimes books connect, sometimes they don't.
Her style of writing didn't bother me, and it actually kept me going, especially at first, so I would be interested in reading something else by Spark. Any suggestions?
I read Momento Mori earlier this year and loved it. It was my first Muriel Spark but I certainly plan on reading more.
Thanks! Ima very lucky to have the job I have. Very, very lucky.
It was definitely on the warm side, but not terribly hot fortunately. Summer is the rainy season, so clouds would come and go. That's also why it so green. Last time I was there it was brown and dry.
Looking forward to trying Momento Mori. :)
I'm not big on the beachy/resort/partying Mexico experience either. I'm not opposed to hanging out on the beach for a day, but its not the first thing i think of doing. I like the history and the culture and the art, and Mexico has some amazing aspects of each.
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am
This was a compelling tale about a grandmother's request for a traditional burial. Seems simple enough, but at the time in China, the cultural revolution of the communist party was trying to eradicate old traditions considered bourgeois. Burials were outlawed and cremation without ceremony was mandated. Having a traditional burial could mean ruin for an entire family. But in the face of this risk, Huang's father attempts to appease his mother's wishes.
This book is fascinating and well written; the complex issues of tradition and family and devotion to politics are expressed brilliantly. Huang reveals the contradictory nature of people, revealing the humanity (capable of making mistakes) of his family in a spectacular way. Great book.
Category: Oh, the Horror!
To hunt a monster do you have to become a monster?
After Iggy's girlfriend and true love is raped and murdered everybody assumes he did it, though no charges were made against him. He lives for a year in his own lonely purgatory. One night he goes on a bender and wakes with no memory of what happened and a set of horns growing out of his forehead.
I'd say the first part of the book is the hardest to read, because it shows a certain baseness of humanity as he tries to figure out why horns are growing out of his head, because with the horns comes the ability to influence people. And every person he meets suddenly feels compelled to tell him their worst fantasies and most grotesque desires, and ask him for permission to act on them. It's very disturbing to read, especially with how little we know the characters in the beginning.
But this is where Hill's skill comes into play as he adds layers and layers to the story and the characters. He develops Iggy and Merrin's relationship beautifully, making what happens to them matter. And even as he's unearthing ugliness and raw hurt, he's also revealing the humanity beyond that, the compassion and love and forgiveness and bravery.
This novel is morally ambiguous, a book in which the devil can be kind. It's sometimes funny, often disturbing, and well wrought. This isn't horror that focuses on chills up your spine, but it will make you squirm.
I would recommend it, but with warnings. Some of the ugliness is hard to read and there is the rape, while not graphic (Hill leaves out much of it, instead of reveling, and what little he leaves in is purposeful and important for the story), is still disturbing. So keep that in mind before reading.
Love the Mexican photos btw ;)
I just saw that he had NOS4R2 out and it sounds good. It's definitely at the top of my TBR list. :)
Edited to Add: "I admit I get a bit fed of a women existing to be raped so the hero can get his thing on. Why not just murdered? "
Yeah, I get sick of that, too. I don't know if I can excuse it here. At least it doesn't feel like it was written in just for cheep thrills and Merrin is fully expressed as a character, which is nice. But if that puts you off, then I highly recommend Heart Shaped Box as an alternative.
Yeah, its all a part of the "rape culture" problem. Seanan McGuire got an email in which a reader asked when in her urban fantasy series the main character Toby Daye was going to be raped. Like it was inevitable. She wrote a great response on her blog on things she would not do to her characters.
Rape is too complicated of an issue to be dropped in to a story without well thought out and careful treatment.
Hannah is haunted. Her best friend, Lilian, self destructed and died six months ago. Lilian lingers, and only Hannah can see her. As Hannah struggles to find out where she fits in the world and tries not to think about the surprisingly kind delinquent Finney Boone, a string of murders begin to occur, with each girl linked only by a paper valentine. At Lilian's urging, she begins to look into the murders and put together the pieces in the hopes of stopping him before it happens again.
As with her other books, Yovanoff presents complex and interesting characters. The plot isn't so much about hunting a killer as it is about navigating life after a loss and being unable to let go of someone you love. Hannah manages to be sad, while putting on a brave face, tries to be a good daughter and sister and friend, tries to pretend things are what they were, while the reality is that they can never be the same. Another great book from Yovanoff.
Huh. I hadn't thought of Veronica Mars, but now that you mention it I can see the similarities. I don't think Hannah is any where near as sassy as Veronica is, though, but then who is?
Category: Youth Relived
A plane crashes on a deserted island, leaving over a dozen of the surviving beauty queens to fend for themselves. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but what unfolds is a fun, charming story about girls coming together and discovering their own sense of self. It's also a satire on the corporate perception of women and body image that had me snort with laughter more than once.
After the plane crashes, the first beauty queen we are introduced to is Adina, news reporter and feminist with an agenda. One might assume as I did that Adina was going to be a the voice of reason amid the group, the knowledgeable one who teaches the dumb, superficial beauties about how to be stronger more intelligent women. But Libba Bray doesn't fall into this trope, and instead gives each girl a heart and a bit of soul, and lets them discover that they have their own voice as they climb out of the box the world wants to put them in. It's shown that while Adina represents one form of female empowerment, it's not the only form.
There are some genuine and wonderful moments in this book and Libba balances the satire with the character development well. The most heavy handed moments are perhaps the "commercial breaks" and "footnote" and such that come for our loving sponsor, The Corporation, each of which sketches out TV commercials and reality shows movie plots and products, drawing out the normal to the extreme for humor. It's clear we're meant to see the real world reflected and to take note and question much of the media that many accept as normal. I wouldn't say this book is very deep. It's a bit too fluffy to be deep, sometimes satirizing what seems the obvious (though perhaps some of it might represent new realizations for a teenage girl).
But fluffy or deep, and whatever flaws, this was a fast and brilliantly fun read.
Lisa See presents a vivid portrayal of intimate friendship between two girls, Lily and Snow Flower. Each girl is destined for a very different life from other, but throughout the misfortunes and sorrows, they stay side by side and even find forgiveness in the face of terrible mistakes.
The language is quite vivid and See brings to life a culture and a time that is rather different from the one in which I live. It's not presented as strange, just as the normal instances of life, which is what it was for girls in China in the 1800s. I think one of the most difficult things to have described in the book is the foot binding the girls must endure to become women, with the toes curling back and the bones eventually breaking (I did a lot of cringing).
I don't know that I fully resonated with this book; it's hard to see characters you love make terrible mistakes and hurting those they love. But life is like that sometimes and sometimes you have to live with the errors and make what small restitution you can. A beautiful story nonetheless.
So vastly different, but both wonderful.
I always remember books that make me cry vividly, too. I think it's something about how they touch that tender spot inside and elicit true emotion.
Category: The Universe in Verse
Note: This anthology contains my poem, "Bird Collides with Window," so take this review with as big of a grain of salt as you want.
A small stone is a short piece of writing that vividly captures a moment or reveals something beautiful in an everyday event. This anthology is a compilation of such small stones from the editor's e-zine, A Handful of Stones.
Divided into three sections, the first section is an essay that presents a theoretical look at what small stones are and gives insight into how the editors selected the poems that appear in this book. Kasipalita explains that in each small stone, they were looking for Truth, Beauty, Love, and Freshness and explains how they define these generalized terms. It was an interesting essay, which I rather enjoyed reading and works well as an introduction.
The second section is made up of the poems in a variety of forms, from a single line capturing a moment to haiku to bits of evocative prose. The tone ranges from tend to humorous to wistful and everything in between. While I didn't connect with every poem, many showed just how just a few of the right words can vividly evoke an encounter or make you look at an everyday object in a whole new way — a plastic bag in the wind, water in a dirty gutter, an insect — and see them as beautiful.
The final section of the book is a brief introduction to writing small stones over the course of seven days. It has some good ideas in there, but was perhaps too brief and might have benefited from a bit more development. I suppose it would be useful to those new to form, however.
Overall, I'd say this is a wonderful little book, one of which I am pleased and proud to be a part.
I'm glad you enjoyed Beauty Queens. I cracked up when Miss Texas wanted to practice the opening number first thing. Her transformation was the most dramatic, I thought.
Beauty Queens was soooooooo fun. Miss Texas did go through quite the transformation and yet somehow she was still wholly herself, which is a neat trick to pull off as a writer.
I'm finding I rather love Libba Bray's writing in general, especially her wack-a-doodle sense of humor. I'm very interested to read The Diviners next.
I live the cover. I'd even consider putting the art on my wall.
I agree. I like both kinds of poems, but super long and dense poems can be daunting. Sometimes I have trouble holding the overall poem in mind while deciphering a specific line. Short poems can, like you said, have a lingering powerful effect that is sometimes more difficult to attain with a longer poem.
Category: Auntie Time
My Review: No Roses for Harry! is a childhood favorite of mine. When Harry the white dog with black spots receives a knitted sweater from Grandma with roses on it, he plots to get rid of it if he can. The art is fun an playful and the story that unfolds is adorable with a wonderful surprise at the end.
My Niece's Review: This was one of her birthday gifts when she turned one year old and she loved it! She kept pointing at Harry and squeeled as I told the story. Toward the end she was a bit antsy (because she's one) and wanted to hold the book herself, which I was happy to let her do, so she could look at the pages like a big girl.
Hehe! I'm hoping to infuse a love of books in here, while she's young. :D
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part I) — DONE!
This anthology of stories, edited by Neil Gaiman, features an array of strange creatures, from mermaids and griffins to creatures that bear no name. This is a fantastic collection with a diverse set of authors representing a wide array of styles and stories. I can't think of a single story in the collection that I didn't like, as they were all enjoyable to some degree. A few of my favorites are listed below.
Gahan Wilson's story (which has an image for a title and it therefore both unspellable and unpronounceable) is a delightful creepy tale about a spot that appear on the dinning room table one day, a spot that mysteriously grows and moves when you're not looking.
E. Lily Yu's "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" presents great world building, showing the complex governmental systems of the bees and wasps. Though the creatures are small, the tale is epic in scope.
In "Ozioma the Wicked" by Nnedi Okorafor, Ozioma is a young girl who has the ability to speak to snakes, which makes her an outcast in her village. At least until the day when her gift become very useful.
"Moveable Beast" by Maria Dahvana Headley — Angela lives in a town with with a forest in the center that houses a beast. Everything is fine, at least until a beast collector shows up in town to complicate things. Great story.
Larry Niven's "The Flight of the Horse" mixed time travel and mythology. Woohoo! Lots of fun and had me laughing.
"The Manticore, the Mermaid and Me" by Megan Kurashige offers the reader assembled creatures. I have chills just thinking about how it all turned out. Loved it.
Spies, Nazis, and werewolves, "The Compleat Werewolf" by Anthony Boucher felt like a '40s noir novel and was a lot of fun.
"Or All the Seas with Oysters" by Avram Davidson — The creatures in this one were most unusual. Who knew a harmless looking bicycle shop could be such a frightening place?
Category: Panel by Panel
Emily is a lonely geek, who discovered the Freak Factory, a dumpy, garbage strewn hangout, where people come to perform and let their weirdness shine. Enamored by the dancer Poppy, Emily finds courage to take the stage and become Emiko the superstar, even if only for a short while.
This is definitely a young adult comic/graphic novel with a simple, uplifting storyline. It's not deep and there is no sense of complexity. But it's a well put together story and Emily is likeable. And like Emily, I could fall in love with Poppy and her sense of freedom, too. The art style also supports it well and I like that a variety of body types are shown.
Category: Just the Facts, Ma'am
"On the morning of December 26,2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived."
This memoir is a heartbreaking and brave account of her grief following this tragic event, from the first years of nearly incompacitated shock through slow painful healing into a place where she can live the memory of this she loved and lost. Frank and lyrically told, this story was tragic to read, but also beautifully wrought and loving. Not and easy thing to read about, but really fantastic.
There are a couple of better known writers in there -- Samuel R Delany, Diana Wynne Jones, Peter S Beagle -- and there stories were also great, just not my favorite.
That sounds like a tough one to read. What was the reader like? Good? Or go for the printed version?
The reader was Hannah Curtis and she did a great job, drawing on the lyrical quality of the writing.
I have to respect Rowling for choosing to write whatever she wants to write; other authors might have been compelled to stick with fantasy and/or young adult, because that's what worked for them before. But Rowling decided to stretch herself.
This novel of small town politics and lives is about as far from the magical realm of Harry Potter that you can get. It offers an omniscient narrator that jumps in and out of the lives of about a dozen main characters, each of them in some way wrapped up in the ongoing debate about the Fields, a low income section of town.
A lot of reviews have described the characters in this book as unlikeable, and for the most part, that's true. As Rowling looks into the lives of these characters, their fears and depravities are revealed. Some I felt just neutral about, some I actively hated an wished the worst for. I think the only two characters I rooted for and hoped something good would come to were Sukhvinder Jawanda and Krystal Wheedon.
There's a lot of pain and ill humor and ugliness in the underbelly of the characters portrayed, and they do mean, horrible things to each other. But the novel is buoyed by Rowlings skill as an author and her ability to make these characters round and full, almost real human beings. I was captivated while reading and completely drawn in.
I can't say that things end happily or with a renewed sense of hope, but old bonds are shattered and new ones are made, and life goes on. For all the shadowy side of people shown and some of the terrible things that go down, I really, really enjoyed this book.
It is! And I think that's the main reason too, and I think there are a lot of Harry Potter fans who are not into literary styles at all.
Category: Panel by Panel
Danni and her mom move to a small logging town in Oregon, where they move in with her mom's alcoholic boyfriend and Danni begins to crush on her soon-to-be stepbrother. She gets wrapped up in his hardcore environmentalism, which begins to branch into levels of ecoterrorism.
This is another young adult graphic novel (like Emiko Superstar) from the publication company Minx. I liked this one less than Emiko Superstar, as it didn't quite come together for me. There was an intro scene that set up its own conflict as a result of the central story, but the into scene was never resolved. I didn't really care much about Danni or any of the characters and I didn't get why she fell for her would-be stepbrother, except that he was really cute. So, this was okay, but not great.
Category: Youth Relived
Description: "Set in 1959 on the shores of New York’s Lake Ontario, fourteen-year-old Charlene Beth Whitestone has been deserted by her parents, leaving her in the custody of her grandfather, C.B. Although he loves Charlie, he is a charming con artist, moonshiner, and religious fraud who inducts her into his various enterprises yet also encourages her dreams of becoming a writer. When C.B. suddenly dies, Charlie is left alone and must use her wits and resourcefulness to take charge of her life, all the while wrestling with the morality of continuing her grandfather’s schemes. When a handsome cowboy-stranger, Blake, arrives, he insinuates himself into C.B.’s religion business and into Charlie’s heart. Despite her resistance, Blake mounts a lucrative PR campaign, touting Charlie as an “oracle” and arranging for her to perform miracles."
This literary young adult novel is more focused on character than plot. We see Charlie develop as a person as she tries to find herself in between all the scheming of those around her, as well as her own scheming in order to both fit in and survive. She's a fourteen year old girl, who has to grow up far too quickly and Laury A. Egan does a fantastic job giving Charlie a voice. I could almost hear her speaking to me. Charlie and all the characters feel vivid and alive.
The writing is clean, precise, and image strong without being unnecessary flowery. Great book.
PS. It would be great if adding books to one's library on LT wasn't so difficult sometimes, like The Outcast Oracle, which I had to add manually. *sigh*
* * *
Currently Reading: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a long favorite of mine. I've read almost all of his bibliography, so I was thrilled to learn this novel was coming out.
The story revolves around a man who returns to where he grew up and begins to remember a series of terrifying events when he was a child. As a seven year old, he made friends with Lettie, the youngest member of the Hempstocks who live at the end of the lane. When a border within his home commits suicide, it sets of a series of strange events and unleashes frightening creatures.
This story didn't disappoint me one bit. It's interesting that this has been described as an adult novel, since its so clearly from the young boy's POV and Gaiman captures that youth, wonder, and fear perfectly. The boy is fully realized and made me remember my own youth. I saw one reviewer describe the sex scene as awkward, but it wasn't. It was sex from a child's perspective, which makes it seem strange and undefinable at the same time. The scene was well executed and showed the character's youth even more as the rent seemed unimportant to him.
I especially loved the Hempstocks and how they are portrayed. The three women are so clearly more than what they appear and have latent power. They are loving and warm and fascinating characters. I would love to see them turn up in more stories.
Gaiman also has a way of making magic seem matter of fact, just another part of the natural order, which I LOVE. It's one of my favorite things about his writing in general. That, along with his invention of creepy creatures that are dark and terrifying and yet somehow sympathetic, too. Ursula was evil and wicked and cruel and yet I pitied her in the end.
Fantastic book. I really, really enjoyed it.
Category: The Universe in Verse
The poeticly inclined diva, Laura Crapper,
otherwise known as Sister Slam,
is a curvy, loud-mouthed, boot-stomping,
flame-haired graduate from the realm
of high school hell. Together
with her fellow word warrior
and best friend, Twig, hit the road
with a squealing of gravel spitting tires
and begin their Poetic Motormouth Road Trip
to the enchanted land of New Jersey,
where they plan to stand
in the circular spotlight glow
and slam words into the microphone.
Along the yellow divided road, they
discover real world realities
in the form of cops and fender benders,
lost wallets and luggage,
along with divine new possibilities,
like applause and recognition
for notebook bound phrases
spun into spoken work, and perchance,
even a bit of romance in the form
of a green-eyed Jake.
This novel, broken
into lines and rhymes,
is a fast paced read full
of fun and good times.
Though the rhythm perhaps
lacks the flow of natural dialog
and the condensed nature
of scenes and events unfolding
rapidly, from line to line
and page to page,
means the level of depth
is somewhat shallow, there remains
growth and coming
into adulthood by remembering home
and accepting the raw hurt
of loss. The result is imperfect,
but playful and joyful and a book
While I was not fond of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, several people recommended I read another Murial Spark book and the most recommended was Memento Mori. For which I'm grateful, because I enjoyed it quite a bit.
The story revolves around a group of the elder, each of whom exists in various states of mental and physical health. I think young people (being anyone under 70, I suppose, including myself) can tend to forget that grandparents and elders have lives and dramas, mysteries and betrayals, friendships and affairs. Maybe this is because we are too wrapped up in our own dramas and assume that live gets quieter as one gets older. But this book is certainly a reminder that just because one gets old doesn't mean life gets simpler.
Throughout the book, too, is the interesting mystery of the caller, who rings up various people in the book (if they are over 70) and tells them, "Remember you must die." Eerie and yet poignant, because young or old, we all must die, and each character reacts to this reminder quite differently. As the book went on, I think I was more fond those who were calm about this message than those who attempted to rail against it.
This book looked a quite a lot of fascinating themes and Spark's sparse, abrupt style worked well. While I didn't necessarily love any of the characters, I liked them in general and found them interesting. Overall a quick and enjoyable read, which leaves me wanting to pick up more of Spark's work.
Footnote: After finishing this book, I can't help but think again about how format impacts the reading of a book (at least for me). For example, Miss Jean Brodie was an audio book and Memento Mori was in hardback. It may be that Spark's style works better on the page than when read. I don't know, but I run into this from time to time, and now I'm wondering if I might not have enjoyed Miss Jean Brodie if I had read it in print.
I'll be leaving on a jet plane today, off to visit an industrial plant in Foley, Alabama, then to spend a couple of days by the water in Pensacola, Florida, assuming thunderstorms don't drive me off the beach.
My books are already packed and I will be reading Parable of the Sower and its sequel, Parable of the Talents, both by Octavia E. Butler.
Glad that you enjoyed Momento Mori which I read and loved earlier this year. I think there are definitely authors whose work comes across better on the page than in audio. I am planning on reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at some point, and will go with an actual print book.
I'll be interested to see your thoughts on Miss Jean Brodie. It may end up prompting me to do a reread, especially since I enjoyed Memento Mori so much.
Interesting observation. I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and overall enjoyed it - enough to give it 4 stars - and I listened to Memento Mori, narrated by Nadia May, and enjoyed it as well. For audiobooks, I found the narrator is hugely important and I have abandoned many audiobooks because of the narrator.
Enjoy your trip!
Yeah, the narrator can have a big influence on how well the audio book works for me. But it's also a matter of focus, because with audio books my mind will sometimes drift away from the words, no matter how focused I try to be. So, sometimes with books that jump around in time or have a certain tone or are too literary, I have a harder time following along — although sometimes the opposite happens and a particularly literary or dense book will seem easier to follow in audio format, if the narration is particularly good.
Usually, I like to test this with audio books I really liked or really disliked by reading sometime else by the author in print format to see if their style carries over.
* * * *
67. Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E Butler (*****)
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part II)
I loved this book when I first read it and I have to say thoroughly enjoyed it on the second go around, too. A trigger warning should go out to those uncomfortable with violence and rape, both of which appear in this book.
Parable of the Sower is a bit of a bleak book, with the U.S. having dissolved into chaos with poverty levels extremely high and a vast majority of the population living on the streets. Many are homeless and jobless and some have taken to living as squatters in shanty towns, while earning as much as a living as they can. Some become scavengers and thieves. Some become predators, preying on the weak, kidnappers, murderers, rapists, and slave traders. (One of the things that's terrifying about this book is just how real a world like this could be, with desperate people drawn to desperate measures.)
Lauren Olamina lives in Robledo, California in a small community, which is protected from the outside chaos by a wall. While many in the community believe this wall makes them safe, Lauren is less certain and begins to make plans to handle the storm she knows is coming. In the midst of this she also works to hide her psychological disorder, a kind of hyper-empathy that makes her feel the pain of others. She also begins to work on her discovery of a new belief system that she dubs Earthseed, one that is perhaps less comforting than the one her father preaches, but more practical for the world in which she lives. "God is Change," she writes in one of the verses that appear at the beginning of each chapter, and, "The only lasting truth is change."
When the walls finally fall, Lauren and two other survivors from the town begin to make a long slow journey North with hordes of other refugees that may or may not be trusted. Along the way they gather allies and followers, people she hopes to convert and one day build a community with — that is, if they can survive the dangers on the roads and the hordes of drug addicts that thrive on setting fires.
The hope in all this chaos and horror lies in the ways people are able to come together and offer help, aid, respect, and trust to one another, how they are able to cling to their humanity even in desperation, and how they are willing to work toward hope by building something new with each other.
In addition to Butlers skillful storytelling and collection of interesting characters, the religion proposed by Lauren Olamina is fascinating. The concept of a practical religion, not focused on the rewards or punishments that come after death, but on the rewards or sufferings that one can achieve through hard work in life is rather fascinating. I remember reading it the first time and being kind of taken in by it, even if this is fiction, because even fiction can house truths. And even now, I find this fictional religion captivating and I'm curious what would happen if people in this world were more focused on how they can shape their own lives while doing as little harm as possible.
At any rate, this is a fantastic book, grim at times, but hopeful at others, and one in which I find myself rooting for these people to conquer and achieve the life they hope to shape for themselves.
Now, I'm also currently halfway through the sequel Parable of the Talents, which I haven't read before. So far it is equally bleak and compelling as the first.
Category: Unicorns from Space! (Part II)
Several years after the events of the first novel, Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina and her fellow survivors of the chaos of the Pox have welcomed others and began to build a home for themselves in Northern California. Acorn is a community of over 60 people, most of whom are followers of Olamina's religion, known as Earthseed. While there are still many dangers and poverty is still rife, things in California have quieted some and there is less overt violence on the roads. But a new fear is growing in the form of a fanatical Christian group, controlled by a powerful presidential nominee, that wants to return to an archaic and false ideal of the past, and this group could erase Acorn and Earthseed from the world.
The book opens with the voice of Olamina's daughter Asha, and Asha's anger with her mother is clear. Asha has compiled pages from her mother's and father Bankole's journals in an attempt to understand them and to understand herself. It's clear from the start that while she can find sympathy for the father she never met, she has little sympathy for her mother.
As the book unfolds, we still are presented with Olamina's voice the most in the form of her journal entries, and she is fascinating as ever in her persistent pursuit of making the Earthseed religion a reality. She's powerful, brave, driven, and almost blinded by her drive, but she is also loving and caring toward her family and friends.
Through the words of Asha, Olamina, and Bankole, we see how Earthseed grows from a few words written in a notebook into a full community and cult, which is nearly wiped out. The journey is fascinating and it's compelling to see an imagining of how a religion (or cult, depending on your point of view) can be born and grow followers.
Like with Parable of the Sower, a trigger warning should go out to those uncomfortable with violence and rape, both of which appear in abundance within the book. Violence appears many times in this book, but again, there is hope in the way people come together and find ways to preserve their humanity in horrifying situations.
But also, like Sower, Butler writing and storytelling offer a grim, and occasionally bleak, but ultimately hopeful tale that might have failed in less skilled hands. While I didn't love it as much as the first, it is a fantastic book and one I also recommend.
The only pity is that Butler never had a chance to continue with this series, which I have heard would have continued Earthseed's journey by having its followers attain their goal of populating the stars. It would have been fascinating to see how these people carried this religion into new worlds, and how their society changed and grew as generations build communities on new worlds. I suppose, since it was never written, that I will just have to imagine what might have been.
And now, once again, I'll be off for the weekend. Flying out to Washington, DC tomorrow, where I'll get to check out the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Apparently, there's a book fair going on, so I'll have to exercise a lot of strength not to bring home a bag of books to heavy to lift into the overhead compartment.
I guess that gives me permission to go a bit helter skelter at the fair then! ;)
Looks terribly boring and dull. :)
My trip to DC was great fun, and I'll have photos of what I saw and book stack photos soon, but for the moment I'm still catching back up on missed work and sleep. (^_^)
Here are photos I took of the Lincoln Monument, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and the Exorcist stairs in Georgetown (and yes, that's me trying to do the back bend on them, like in the movie).
While we walked by the book fair several times, we didn't actually spend much time there. We overheard authors speaking as we walked by and I'm sure it would have been great to spend more time to actually sit and listen, but we were busy checking out the sights.
We did eventually make it to the book sale tent, which was smaller than I thought it would be – and more expensive. So I only picked up six books, four for myself and two for my niece.
Question: If I bought books for my niece as well as myself, do they all count toward the 8 books I'm traditionally meant to buy for my Thingaversary?
Books for Me:
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay
Domestic Work: Poems, by Natasha Trethewey
Bellocq's Ophelia: Poems, by Natasha Trethewey
Eleanor & Park isn't the kind of book I would normally pick up for myself, but due to the censorship issue that has come up in relationship to it, I was curious about the book and figured I'd pick it up in support.
I also didn't mean to buy two poetry books by the same author. But as I look at poetry books, I will often not even look at the poet's name and just flip through the book, reading lines of poetry to see if they grab me. Both of these books did. :)
Books for My Neice:
Shadow, by Suzy Lee, which she's a bit young for in the sens that she'd destroy it in a heartbeat, but it was too beautiful to pass up.
And 1 2 3 Washington D.C., by Puck, a cardboard counting book that she can beat up as much as she wants.
Speaking of my niece,
Last night, I went over to my sister's house to deliver the new books to my niece and .... For the first time ever, my niece toddled over to me with a book, handed it to me, then crawled into my lap to have me read to her!
I just about died. In fact, I almost couldn't read the words for the sake of my grin.
I read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle.
Then she had me read Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and kept repeating "Daw! Daw!" while I read (her attempt to say "dog").
My niece is the most adorable little person in the world.
She brought me a book and wanted me to read to her.
I am so full of squee-ful joy right now. I can't even contain it.
For my reading challenge:
69. Shadow, by Suzy Lee (*****)
Category: Auntie Time
Last night I also flipped through Shadow, by Suzy Lee, with my niece. I didn't exactly read it to her, as there were no words to read. But it was fun to see my niece point at the images and oooh and aaah.
For being wordless, Shadow is an amazingly fun book. It begins with a young girl clicking on the garage light, which casts dark shadows on the floor. As she plays, watching the shadows, her imagination makes the shadows come alive — until they begin to take on a life of their own. Suzy Lee's art is beautiful and she manages to tell a complete, delightful story with only images and the results are wonderful.
I remember loving these kinds of wordless books when I was a kid. I would flip through them regularly, loving the art and enjoying the story all over again. And I think my niece will love this one, too, when she's a bit older and can appreciate it.
Suzy Lee also has a book called Mirror, which has the same character and same story set up, which looks wonderful. I'm going to have to buy more books by her, because they're great.
Oh, and her books don't count. Treat yourself to more.
Good to know about the books. I'll check my local library and see if I can find four more in their used books section. That would fit in my price range nicely.
Hah! Thanks, Eva. That was a lot of fun. :D
Thanks, guys! It's just so amazing to have this little person around and see them change and learn and grow into their own personality.
It amazed me what people will kick up a fuss about. I'm glad to hear the book is good, though, and I'm looking forward to reading it. :)
I've completed my Thingaversary purchases! With the four I bought for myself in DC and five more bought at the library book sale last night, leaving me with a total of nine new books (so two to grow on) and not enough bookshelf space for them. lol.
The latest books:
Brida, by Pailo Coelho
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger
Lost Boy, Lost Girl, by Peter Straub
In the Night Room, by Peter Straub
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
PS. I know this thread is starting to get long, so I will be switching over at the end of the month.
Total Books Read in 2013 - 69
Total Books Read Third Quarter – 27
Fiction – 18
Nonfiction – 2
Comics/Graphic Novels – 3
Picture Books for My Niece - 2
Poetry – 2
Of these, 3 were audio books.
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler
Unnatural Creatures, edited by Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Least Favorite Reads:
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Burnout, written by Rebecca Donner, illustrated by Inaki Miranda
Categories Completed - 1
I'm currently reading:
Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko and Le Mort d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory