Posts Tagged ‘books’

April Book List

This month I knocked off 11 books from my list, so I’m now 41% done with this project! Exciting!

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Title: All the Truth That’s in Me
Author: Julie Berry
Rating: 5/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.01/5
When it was added to my list: 12/2/2013
Why was it on my list?: I’m sure I read a good review

This historical fiction/mystery is amazing. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the main character and her best friend disappeared from their village for two years… and then only Judith came back. With her tongue cut out. HOW? WHY? WHO? Can she salvage some kind of life for herself and her family? The answers are not what you think–I tried to guess the mystery behind this book, and was completely wrong multiple times. Surprises are the best!

Paris Out of Hand by Karen Elizabeth Gordon

Paris Out of Hand by Karen Elizabeth Gordon

Title: Paris Out of Hand
Author: Karen Elizabeth Gordon
Amount Read: All
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.88/5
When it was added to my list: 1/8/2013
Why was it on my list?: I have no idea

This book was beautiful and adorable. It’s a travel guide to Paris featuring surreal, entirely made up hotels, restaurants, and attractions. A hotel run by children, another where the sheets are printed with the day’s newspaper so guests can keep up with the news, a restaurant whose strange meals are prepared by blindfolded chefs. The pages are also beautifully laid out and artistic.

Fat: The Owner's Manual by Ragen Chastain

Fat: The Owner’s Manual by Ragen Chastain

Title: Fat: The Owner’s Manual
Author: Ragen Chastain
Amount Read: All
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.53/5
When it was added to my list: 7/7/2013
Why was it on my list?: I’m a big fan of Ragen’s blog

I’m glad I bought this book because I’m happy to support Ragen Chastain’s work, although I was mostly familiar with everything it contained from reading her blog. Size acceptance and body image issues are two things that have affected my life deeply, and reading Ragen’s work has really helped me focus on my health instead of my appearance. Last year I was working out better and more consistently than any other time in my life and didn’t lose any weight at all. A lot of people might see that as some failure on my part, but I was demonstrably healthier in all real measures of health: strength, stamina, cholesterol, blood pressure, quality of life. This year I’ve lost 50 pounds, and I’ve never felt worse. You can’t know anything about a person’s habits or health just from their appearance, and everyone deserves respect and the right to happiness no matter their size.

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Title: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia
Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez
Amount Read: All
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.85/5
When it was added to my list: 12/2/2013
Why was it on my list?: A list of best books of 2013

As a senior in high school, Frenchie has a wild night of adventure with the boy she’s had a crush on for years but never really talked to. Then he kills himself the next day. Now it’s the summer after graduation and she has to deal with her own feelings of guilt, anger, depression, and love. Frenchie was a pretty cool main character, but I didn’t find myself caring enough about her emotional struggles to rate this book higher. I like that she had imaginary conversations with Emily Dickinson, though. I think that fact was the reason I marked this one as To Read in the first place.

360 Degrees Longitude by John Higham

360 Degrees Longitude by John Higham

Title: 360 Degrees Longitude
Author: John Higham
Amount Read: About a third
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.95/5
When it was added to my list: 10/29/2013
Why was it on my list?: Recommended to me by GoodReads because I liked One Year Off

Ironically, I stopped reading this book because it was too similar to One Year Off but, I felt, not as good. The author seems kind of smug about a lot of his choices–bragging about how his kids will be cosmopolitan citizens of the world and how they’re biking across Europe instead of taking the train. I don’t know, that was just my impression. I’ve been in kind of a weird mood lately, so I could be wrong.

The Ones I Decided Not To Read:

Title: The Storyteller
Author: Antonia Michaelis
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.14
When it was added to my list: 1/2/2013
Why was it on my list?: It got completely stellar reviews
Why I’m not reading it: All those reviews also say that it is utterly heartbreaking. I don’t really need that right now.

Title: Palace of Stone
Author: Shannon Hale
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.92/5
When it was added to my list: 11/16/2012
Why was it on my list?: I liked the first one, Princess Academy
Why I’m not reading it: I felt like the first one wrapped things up pretty well, and didn’t care about the characters enough to start the sequel.

Title: The Last Dragonslayer
Author: Jasper Fforde
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.82
When it was added to my list: 1/2/2013
Why was it on my list?: I’ve liked some of Fforde’s other books
Why I’m not reading it: Jasper Fforde is a tricky writer because I really like his ideas, but I hardly ever care for his writing style. I usually find his main characters unlikable and hard to connect with. Sometimes the cleverness of the world he’s built overrides that concern, but I just couldn’t get in to this one.

Title: Al Capone Does my Homework and Al Capone Shines my Shoes
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.02 and 3.96
When they were added to my list: 6/5/2013
Why were they on my list?: I liked the first one
Why I’m not reading them: I didn’t like the first one enough

Title: Renegade Magic
Author: Stephanie Burgis
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.06
When it was added to my list: 12/17/2012
Why was it on my list?: I liked the first one
Why I’m not reading it: I didn’t like it enough

March Book List

This month I read only 5 books from my list. A little less than usual, but that’s okay. I took a break and read some other great things that weren’t part of my goal. I’m about 29% of the way there so far.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Amount Read: All
Rating: 5/5
Why was it on my list? That cover!

This book was awesome! I immediately looked to see if there was a sequel (and there is!! Though about different characters). It takes place in historical Brittany, where Ismae escapes from a terrible arranged marriage to an island abbey where the nuns serve Death. As assassins. There’s a little bit of magic, a lot of complex intrigue, and the perfect amount of ~romance~ with the added drama of whom can you really trust??. Love it.

More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Title: More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Amount Read: All
Rating: 4/5
Why was it on my list? A list of good YA novels from last year

The novel opens with Seth drowning. He hits his head on a rock and dies. Then he wakes up, in the dusty remains of the house his family moved away from 8 years ago. Everything is abandoned and the entire town seems empty except for him. He must come to terms with the fact that he’s in some kind of hell…. or is he? I really liked the mystery involved, trying to figure out along with Seth what the hell is going on, and also the flashbacks to his life before drowning. There are multiple mysteries in this book, and I liked the way they twisted around each other. Only the ending was kind of unsatisfying, but maybe it’s a sequel set up. I’d be cool with seeing how this story continues.

Scorch by Gina Damico

Scorch by Gina Damico

Title: Scorch
Author: Gina Damico
Amount Read: All
Rating: 2/5
Why was it on my list? I enjoyed the first book in the series, Croak

True confession: I was not in the best state when I read this book, so maybe I would have liked it more at another time. The plot seemed unfocused, and the writing style and language kind of gimmicky. It ended on a cliffhanger, but I probably won’t read the third one.

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

Title: Ash
Author: Malinda Lo
Amount Read: All
Rating: 2/5
Why was it on my list? A list of fairy tale re-imaginings

This book was sold to me as “lesbian Cinderella” and I am all about that concept. Unfortunately, the execution wasn’t as exciting. Lo is very skilled at creating tone and mood, but all of her characters were somewhat two-dimensional and lacked personality. I didn’t really care about any of them, so of course none of them had any chemistry together and the romance portions seemed boring and awkward. I liked the world this lackluster story is built on top of, trembling between magic and modernity and full of myths and huntresses, and I wish the main characters had lived up to it.

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

Title: Penpal
Author: Dathan Auerbach
Amount Read: All
Rating: 1/5
Why was it on my list? A list of horror books from around last Halloween

This book started as a series of Reddit posts, and that’s pretty much all you need to know. It didn’t even creep me out, and I am the world’s biggest wuss. Each lengthy chapter is its own short story, with a classic-style “THE CALL WAS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!” urban legend gotcha line at the end. The writing style was overly pompous, especially when the main character is mostly a child. Most of the characters act or speak in ways that aren’t appropriate for their age or situation (Mom is totally cool with letting her 5-year-old wander around the woods by himself! 11-year-olds analyze their friendships and admit when they are being distant and at fault!). Also, I had to buy this one (e-book), the first book I’ve bought for this project, so perhaps I was even more disappointed than usual.

The Ones I Decided Not To Read

Title: The Night Climbers
Author: Ivo Stourton
Why was it on my list? I have no idea. It’s been more than 4 years
Why I’m not reading it: This book only has a 2.95 star rating on Goodreads. All the reviewers basically just said it was a rip-off of The Secret History and not to bother. Since I would have to ILL it, and I already have enough to keep my library’s ILL department busy, I’m going to take their advice.

Title: Glamour in Glass
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Why was it on my list? It’s the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey
Why I’m not reading it: The reviews made it sound like, though I enjoyed the first one, I wouldn’t like this one. I am still all about regency romance/historical fiction+now there’s magic! though

Previously: February
Next: April

2014 Book List: February

I got through books this month from my 2014 booklist, which means 22% of my goal is complete! Here they are, in order of me enjoying them:

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity

Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Amount Read: All
Rating: 4/5
Why was this on my list?: I think I already had it on my list because of a review I read, but then it won just all the awards

The best thing about this book is the point of view. It starts off as the “confession” being written on scraps of paper by a Scottish spy in a Nazi interrogation headquarters in occupied France. Things get intense, as you can imagine. I also really enjoyed a look inside women’s lives during World War II: female wireless operators, female pilots, female spies, female special ops. It’s not a part of wartime life that gets a lot of press (did you even know there were lady pilots being badass back then?) and Wein deals with the issue with such humanity that it hardly feels like history. Her characters feel very real, which is part of why this book is so crushing because, yeah, they are in the middle of a brutal war, so most of it is also terrifying.

Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye

Title: Letters from Skye
Author: Jessica Brockmole
Amount Read: All
Rating: 4/5
Why was this on my list?: I read a review of it, and I love epistolary novels.

This novel is a series of letters telling one love story that spans 2 world wars. It begins when a cocky college boy sends a fan letter to his favorite poet, a semi-recluse who lives in the beautifully remote Isle of Sky, Scotland. Make anything an epistolary novel, and I will automatically like it more. It also kind of made me miss the rugged beauty of Scotland, and all those sheep fields and hills-not-mountains I used to tramp around.

Who Could That Be At This Hour?

Who Could That Be At This Hour?

Title: Who Could That Be At This Hour?
Author: Lemony Snicket
Amount Read: All
Rating: 3/5
Why was this on my list?: Leeeemoooooonyyyyy Sniiiiiickeeettttt

The Series of Unfortunate Events dragged on too much for me, but I’ve always enjoyed Lemony Snicket’s writing style (in manageable doses), and some of Daniel Handler’s adult novels are really enjoyable and well-written (particularly The Basic Eight, a mystery, and Adverbs, a confused fever dream). This first book in a new series takes place in the same universe as A Series of Unfortunate Events, just some years earlier. It has the usual Snicket kind of things: an ex-island (now mountain) that mines ink from terrified underground octopi, sneaky note passing through library book request cards, and a grim, Edward Gorey-like pall hanging over everything. Basically exactly what you’d expect, and sometimes that’s comforting.

Delusions of Gender

Delusions of Gender

Title: Delusions of Gender
Author: Cordelia Fine
Amount Read: All
Rating: 3/5
Why was this on my list?: A review I read, probably on one of the blogs I follow about gender issues

This book was intensely interesting, and, of course, all about a subject I’m already very invested in. Cordelia Fine gives an overview of the various studies surrounding the “neuroscience of sexism,” the belief that there are two kinds of brains in the world and, say, the lady ones are somehow inherently bad at math and the guy ones just can’t grasp the concept of emotion unless it’s about bacon. Which you know is total bullshit, and it’s nice to have a more thorough understanding about some of the studies that supposedly back this up, and all of the ones that disprove it.

Gifts

Gifts

Title: Gifts
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Amount Read: All
Rating: 3/5
Why was this on my list?: A book list about interesting kinds of magical systems in fantasy

This book was very atmospheric and odd, but unmistakably well-written, at least from a language standpoint. I got to the end and really felt like I knew the place she was writing about–I just wished more had happened there. It’s one of those slow-moving, world-building type of books, but at least the world is an interesting one. The poor hill clans each have magical “gifts” that help them survive, at least when bloodlines run true. The main character’s family birthright, just like his father’s, is to be able to unmake things with a glance and a gesture, at least it would be, if it would show up already. Sometimes waiting for puberty to turn you into a killing machine is such a drag.

The False Prince

The False Prince

Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Amount Read: All
Rating: 3/5
Why was this on my list?: It was nominated for a Goodreads award

I feel like I would have been all about this book when I was like ten (except for the lack of badass ladies–ten-year-old me had standards), but unlike other children/YA books, it was harder to get into as an adult. The main character and a few other boys are being groomed to impersonate the crown prince of their fantasy-medieval country, which may be treason or may be Their Civic Duty. Also, the ones that don’t get picked get murdered, so it’s good motivation to study hard.

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

Title: A Queer and Pleasant Danger
Author: Kate Bornstein
Amount Read: All
Rating: 3/5
Why was this on my list?: It’s full title is A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today

The best thing about this book is that on the first page there are a list of “Also By This Author” and the first thing my eye saw was Nearly Roadkill: An Infobahn Erotic Adventure. I was immediately thrown back in time to the single greatest thing I ever found while wandering the undisturbed stacks in Fondren. This book was insane. It was written entirely in chatroom transcripts, at a time when “Infobahn” was totally a word people thought would be used to describe the Internet in the future. I think I gave James Fox a copy for his birthday and reaching similar levels of ridiculousness is our yearly goal for Script Frenzy (alas, never achieved). I was BEYOND psyched to read its author’s memoir. Although looking back, that expectation set my sights a little too high. This book was crazy, but real-world crazy that was often just sad.

The Wedding Planner's Daughter

The Wedding Planner’s Daughter

Title: The Wedding Planner’s Daughter
Author: Coleen Paratore
Amount Read: All
Rating: 3/5
Why was this on my list?: I have no idea

This book was… okay. I can picture a certain kind of 8-year-old girl really liking it, although not 8-year-old me. It’s less about pretty dresses than you might suppose, but it’s more about everyday life drama of dealing with loss and moving on and making friends. Nothing all that exciting happens, although I enjoyed a lot of the descriptions of Cape Cod.

Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures

Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures

Title: Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures
Author: Amber Dusick
Amount Read: All except one chapter
Rating: 2/5
Why was this on my list?: Recommended on Goodreads because I liked the Hyperbole and a Half book

I didn’t like this book for two reasons, neither of which were its fault. The first is that, because of the style and the way it was recommended to me, I was comparing it to Hyperbole and a Half, which is a comparison no one can win. Allie Brosh is amazing in every way (writing style, comedic timing, explaining something that is so true and sad somehow in a funny way) and it’s unfair to hold anyone else to that standard. The second is that it’s about parenting (duh), but mostly the really gross unappealing parts. Which is like all of them, when you’re me. I was already feeling sick when I read this, so I ended up skipping the chapter about being sick since the other ones had still been too much about bodily fluids for my liking.

Every Day

Every Day

Title: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Amount Read: All
Rating: 1/5
Why was this on my list?: I think it was nominated for an award or something?

The idea for this book is interesting–the main character is a new person everyday, wearing their body and accessing their memories until midnight when he moves on to some other random body (always the same age as him and within a close proximity). This premise raises a lot of interesting issues, almost none of which are explored. Towards the end, almost off-handedly, the protagonist discovers there are more people like him, and that they can learn to control what they do. But he dismisses finding out anymore about that because, whatever it’s not boring enough or something. The bulk of the plot is about his creepy relationship with the girlfriend of one of the people he possesses. Maybe it’s just because I really hate the love at first sight trope, but their relationship struck me as superficial bullshit. “He looks at her and only he can see her secret sadness” uggggggggh no. You can’t use that as a shortcut to establishing a believable connection between two characters. Plus, the ethical implications of dragging your host body around, wrecking its life because it’s your vehicle for the day are only kind of acknowledged. We’re supposed to realize that his stalker-Nice Guy(TM) love trumps all those concerns, I guess. Also, he hops into a lot of different teen-problem-novel-esque situations that we’re supposed to Learn A Very Important Lesson about, even though these people are portrayed as strange cardboard cut-out minorities with almost no humanity of their own. Except the one fat guy he possesses, who is described as “the societal equivalent of a burp.” The protagonist makes a big show of how non-judgmental he is, except of the fat guy, because since you did this to yourself, you deserve society’s scorn. A GIANT NOPE TO BOTH THOSE ASSUMPTIONS, David Levithan. Ew.

Goblin Secrets

Goblin Secrets

Title: Goblin Secrets
Author: William Alexander
Amount Read: One and a half chapters
Rating: ???
Why was this on my list?: It won some awards

I wanted to like this book! I love Baba Yaga, and people with clockwork robot legs, and fish that swim in dust. But somehow the beginning and the main character both failed to grab me, and I found myself really unenthused about reading anymore. Maybe it’s the higher level of commitment you have to make to a fantasy novel, all the time it takes to understand the world it’s set in. I’m not willing to make the effort for just anyone! Maybe that makes me lazy, or picky, or something. I guess I have pretty high standards. But there’re too many books I want to read, so no sense wasting time on something that doesn’t excite you.

Previously: January

2014 Book List: January

One of my goals for 2014 was to clear out my To-Read list on Goodreads. I’m happy to report that I’m already on my way, although my library only owns about 60% of them, so things might slow down once I’m stuck waiting for inter-library loan or (GASP) spending money on books I haven’t read. J/k, you know I wouldn’t do that unless things got pretty dire. It’s against my principles as a cheapskate and a bibliophile. You want a coveted place on my bookshelf, you have to prove you’re up to it.

Anyway, I’ve gotten through 10 books so far, which is about 10% of the way towards my goal (there are 96 in all). Here they are:

The Ones I Read

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Title: Clan of the Cave Bear
Author: Jean M. Auel
Amount Read: All
Rating: 5/5
Why was this on my list?: A list of books with good heroines

A teacher recommended this novel to me in the 7th grade during a unit about prehistoric man, but I only read the first 10 pages before giving up. The book was intimidatingly huge, and the characters barely had any dialog. This time around I loved it so much and can’t wait to read the rest in the series. Ayla is amazing, and this time I found Auel’s depiction of prehistoric neanderthal society really interesting. Plus, badass lady hunter! So yeah, I’m all about this.

Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh

Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh

Title: Rapture Ready
Author: Daniel Radosh
Amount Read: All
Rating: 5/5
Why was this on my list?: Recommended by GoodReads because I liked The Unlikely Disciple

This book is an exploration of the strange parallel world of Christian pop culture in its many facets. Of course, I vaguely know about the Left Behind series and that Christian pop music exists, but I didn’t know about things like Christian electronica (What makes it Christian without lyrics? “the heart of the composer”), “break dancing as worship,” Bibleman superhero show, and Christian pro wrestling. I immediately contacted Rachel when I read the pro wrestling chapter telling her to give up her pursuit of a divinity degree and immediately start training. All that was left was to think of names. Since she is three months away from being a Master of Divinity, she came up with “Jezebellicose.” My only contribution was “Mary Magdapunch.”

Other People's Love Letter's

Other People’s Love Letter’s

Title: Other People’s Love Letters
Edited by: Bill Shapiro
Amount Read: All
Rating: 4/5
Why was this on my list?: Recommended by Goodreads because I liked Found and Postsecret

Initially I thought this book was a collection of love letters from famous people, probably in like the 17th century or whatever. I would have been down with that, but the reality was even better! It’s random love notes, drawings, texts, email messages, and, yes, even some real letters, all from normal people, all presented in a similar format to Found/Postsecret. The result is artistic and sweet in its simplicity. There was also an epilogue of sorts at the back that explained the background behind some of them and if the couples stayed together or not.

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

Title: The Weight of Water
Author: Anita Shreve
Amount Read: All
Rating: 4/5
Why was this on my list?: I’m thinking a book list of unusual narrative construction? I’m just guessing, I don’t remember.

This novel is two stories entwined around each other: one, a gruesome historical murder mystery that really happened in the 1870s, the other a modern-day drama about a marriage falling apart. I was interested in the outcome of both stories, but the real draw was the weirdness of the setting. The Isles of Shoals are a small island group 6 miles off the coast of New Hampshire, and living there–especially in the 1800s–sounds desolate and terrible.

Where Children Sleep by James Mollison

Where Children Sleep by James Mollison

Title: Where Children Sleep
Author: James Mollison
Amount Read: All
Rating: 2/5
Why was this on my list?: Recommended by Goodreads because I really liked the photo essays by Peter Manzel and Faith D’Aluisio (Hungry Planet, What I Eat, Material World, Women in the Material World)

I was pretty excited for this book, because I love everything Peter Menzel and/or Faith D’Aluisio have ever done, like photographing different people around the world with a typical day’s worth of food surrounding them followed by a short essay about their lives. I really think this kind of personal, themed display is a more powerful tool for understanding modern society globally than the normal statistics and news reports. Mollison’s book has a similar theme: photographing children’s bedrooms–well, where they sleep, they don’t all have bedrooms–with short paragraphs about their lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t find Mollison’s work to be as engaging. He didn’t visit as diverse a population as the other books I referenced (for instance, there were at least 4 or 5 in the US, but almost all in New York or New Jersey), and a single picture per subject often didn’t capture as much detail as I would have liked.

The Ones I Sort Of Read

I still gave these a rating even though it’s maybe unfair to judge them after only reading half or a third or a few pages. I’m willing to be convinced that they got better after I gave up, but I shouldn’t have to force myself to get into a book, so I’m not really apologetic about the giving up part.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Amount Read: Half
Rating: 2/5
Why was this on my list?: A list of books with unusual narrators

I remember when this book was a big deal, the Life of Pi or Girl with a Dragon Tattoo of its day. Like those other books, I found it difficult to muster the enthusiasm necessary to read it, and found it didn’t live up to the hype once I did (sometimes things do live up to their hype–I was similarly reluctant to read The Hunger Games and you know how that turned out). Steven tells me I’m too hard to impress because I read too much, and maybe that’s true, because I found this book uncomfortably gimmicky. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be able to guess the truth behind the narrator’s family drama in the first chapter or what, but it made the subsequent revelations boring. I decided I would power through to the end to see if my supposition about who killed the neighbor’s dog was correct, but then my prime suspect confessed about halfway through. I immediately thought, “Oh, well… thank you. Now I don’t have to bother.”

Carter Finally Gets It

Carter Finally Gets It

Title: Carter Finally Gets It
Author: Brent Crawford
Amount Read: A third
Rating: 2/5
Why was this on my list?: I have no idea. Was it banned somewhere? It’s possible, the narrator is very preoccupied by breasts

This book is fine, really, if you’re interested in the inner-workings of the mind of a 14-year-old boy. I’m not so much, and it was around the chapter about burrito farts ruining a first date that I decided I didn’t really need to read further. I’m obviously not one of those people that thinks just because something is shelved in YA it’s going to be a teen problem novel of no interest to adults (because, come on, Abhorsen, True Meaning of Smekday, MOSCA MOTHERFUCKING MYE). I think there are the books that get shelved in YA just because they happen to be about someone who isn’t an adult, and the books people write with the actual purpose of being put there. It’s a big difference, in terms of scope, and sometimes quality, and I wish so many of my favorites didn’t get stigmatized by association with the Carter Finally Gets Its of the library. It’s okay–some people would like this book and probably think it is hilarious–but not me.

The Night Strangers

The Night Strangers

Title: The Night Strangers
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Amount Read: 5 pages
Rating: 1/5
Why was this on my list?: A “best ghost stories” book list that came out around Halloween

This book started out describing a creepy house with a creepy cellar sporting a creepy door that’s been nailed shut with a vengeance. Cool, I’m with you so far, prologue. Until the main narration starts, and it’s in second person. NOPE! SO DONE! That is only appropriate in Choose Your Own Adventure Novels, and even then it can get annoying. What’s the point of making the main character “you,” a regional airline pilot and father of two? I’m NOT any of those things, and trying to convince me I am is distracting and terrible. If that’s the only way you can think of to make your scary story seem more immediate for the reader, maybe you shouldn’t be writing horror. Anyway, I read some reviews to see what I was missing, and it seems to be a botany-related immortality cult. So yeah, I’m good.

The Ones I Decided Not To Read

Title: Found II
Author: Davy Rothbart
Why was this on my list?: I liked the first one
Why I’m not reading it: I liked the first one, but I didn’t like it enough to wait for it through inter-library loan, especially since I have so many other books to inter-library loan this year.

Title: Carrion Comfort
Author: Dan Simmons
Why was this on my list?: A list of good scary stories from Halloween
Why I’m not reading it: I read the description, and it doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. Secret alien societies are not really my thing, and since my library doesn’t own it, it doesn’t seem worth the effort.

2013 Books: The Ugly

I don’t know what happened with the Ugly list this year. Usually it’s my favorite part of the year end book review, but I guess I picked out my literature based more on cover art in 2013 or something, because I looked through all 200+ books and only found these for you:

The Key by Lynsay Sands

The Key by Lynsay Sands

Even this is about what you’d expect from a romance novel

Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl

Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl

This book was actually really interesting, but something about that bird’s face staring at me from my desk… I don’t know

Wifey by Judy Blume

Wifey by Judy Blume

Okay, I don’t know how much of this opinion is colored by my hatred of the word “wifey,” but this cover kind of freaks me out. Does it not look like she’s hanging herself? Maybe she’s supposed to be jumping on the bed? Levitating? It’s confusing and a little disturbing

Not Love But Delicious Foods by Fumi Yoshinaga

Not Love But Delicious Food by Fumi Yoshinaga

Kind of a non-fiction managa review of different Tokyo restaurants? Which is kind of a weird thing for my library to own, but I checked it out for the sentiment of Foods Before Dudes, because yes. Then her kind of creepy goblin face stared at me for a week. I don’t know if I love it or hate it. Her expression says she might eat me if I’m not complimentary.

Keeping a Journal You Love by Sheila Bender

Keeping a Journal You Love by Sheila Bender

I don’t really get what’s happening here or what it has to do with journals

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

I can’t wait for Twilight-style covers to die

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson

You probably remember this one from The Good list, but it took me so long to read because the cover is really unappealing. I actually thought it was some kind of revolutionary war-era Man in the Iron Mask retelling. I was glad to be proven wrong.

I Was Told There'd Be cake by Sloane Crosley

I Was Told There’d Be cake by Sloane Crosley

Just blah. And speaking of just blah…

The Cemetery Book by Tom Weil

The Cemetery Book by Tom Weil

Not a gravestone or a creepy angel or anything? Just… okay. Nice try, Cemetery Book.

2013: The Good
2013: The Bad
Bonus: The Pretty

2013 Books: The Bad

Christmas!!!! I’m speaking to you from two weeks ago woooooo spoooooky

As always, I determined this list by looking at what books I’d rated 1 star on Goodreads. There are fewer of them than there have been in years past, especially considering I read about twice as many books this year. I guess I’m doing a better job of picking them! Well, except for these:

Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan

Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan

I hated this book. I hated this book so much I actually bothered to write why in a Goodreads review, something I almost never do, so that I could remember why I hated it for all time.

I don’t know why goodreads recommended this to me–I feel dirty. “If you sit down to pee you’ll like Pride and Prejudice”?? I couldn’t get past the juvenile writing style, casual gender stereotypes, and obsession with sex. The author’s choice for the “50 Greatest” books of all time often seems random, and, of course, dominated by white dudes. Plus, the author seems to have only a very basic understanding of the books he’s chosen to include, to the point where I’m not even sure if he finished reading some of them, let alone really getting what they’re about or placing them within a historical context.

It was like a perfect storm of things that piss me off: 1) Gender stereotypes, 2) Narrow-minded Only Dead White Dudes view of literature, 3) Enforcing the stereotype that “the classics” are boring, 4) Pompously explaining something you obviously know fuck-all about–especially if it’s a subject I know a lot about. Even thinking about this book again to write this made me angry. At least it inspired this blog post.

Five People Who Died During Sex by Karl Shaw

Five People Who Died During Sex by Karl Shaw

I thought this book would be like the literary equivalent of a Cracked article, but was disappointed to find that it doesn’t live up to Cracked’s research standards (which… is not really a phrase I’m typing seriously, but at the same time is 100% true here). I’m not a history expert, but even I caught multiple errors and historical urban legends being passed off as fact.

Tender the Storm by Elizabeth Thornton

Tender the Storm by Elizabeth Thornton

I mean, I had to rate this 1 star, but it was actually kind of hilarious. Dude helps hot young aristocrat out of revolutionary France, but can’t see past her disguise as a 12-year-old, even when she reveals her true age is “Totally Doable.” Then he gets to England and decides he has no choice but to marry her… for her own protection. Pages and pages of angst about I WANT HER BUT SHE’S TOO DELICATE AND INNOCENT ensue.

On the Prowl by Christine Warren

On the Prowl by Christine Warren

Oh my god, how can you write a romance novel about were-tigers and then only have them change into tigers one time???? Also a group of were-tigers is called a streak lol

The Diary by Eileen Goudge

The Diary by Eileen Goudge

Two sisters find their dead mom’s diary which tells the story of her first love. But it’s not their dad??? J/k it is, dramatic reveal at the end, he used to go by a nickname. Thanks for that Shyamalan twist, Eileen Goudge.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

Amanda, listen up. If you write a book called “Mr. Darcy, Vampyre”, I had BETTER get to read about him tearing someone’s throat out in the first 100 pages. Instead, Elizabeth spends the entire book not knowing he’s a vampire, and it turns out he’s some kind of boring good vampire anyway, and then some handy villagers tell them how to cure vampirism because everything has to be boring forever, I guess

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

I’m almost positive this book was pitched as “Like… Lost but with reincarnation and everything’s really mysterious and WOOOOOOOOO *mysterious hand gestures instead of plot*” There, I saved you the trouble of reading it.

VIII by H.M. Castor

VIII by H.M. Castor

Hey, you bill something as “sexy, young Henry VIII” and I will read it. You turn it into a bland summary of Henry VIII’s whole life as you might find in any biographical dictionary, and I will rate it 1 star on goodreads and then go back to watching The Tudors.

American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent

American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent

This isn’t a history of nerd culture, it’s kind of a weird rant about one guy’s childhood and how he’s still bitter.

Final Descent by Rick Yancey

Final Descent by Rick Yancey

chosenone

Basically, this book betrayed me. I gave my copy away to the library because I couldn’t take how much of an inexplicable departure it was from everything that made this series great. Let us never speak of this again.

2013 The Good
2013 The Ugly
Bonus: 2013 The Pretty

2013 Books: The Good

It’s that time of year again!! Time to give you The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of everything I’ve read in 2013! You’d think this list would be dramatically longer since I accomplished my goal of reading 200 books, but most things fell somewhere in the middle.

As always, I determined The Good by looking at everything I rated 5 stars when I added it to Goodreads. Here are the winners:

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

I think this one was my favorite, but it was a tough call. It’s a graphic novel about a boy who accidentally gets sent into death and the Ghostbusting team who follow to rescue him. It was a really fun version of the afterlife with beautiful illustrations. A quick read, but a good one.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I feel like this book was written specifically for me. It’s about a fanfiction writer and her sometimes-awkward start to college. The excerpts from her so-not-harry-potter-fanfic are amazing.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

AHHHHHHHH I was so excited for this book to come out!!! Allie Brosh’s comics/essays are amazing, and the book had a perfect mix of hilarity and truth.

The rest: Read the rest of this entry »

5 Things You Should Know About Pride and Prejudice

Guys, I have read Pride and Prejudice for like 4 different classes, because apparently that’s what the Rice English Department felt would most prepare me for my life. It’s like they assumed the purpose of my life was going to be ruining people’s good time. Maybe they were right, because anytime someone starts fangirling out on P&P in front of me, I’m like:

stoptalking

I’m not saying don’t have fun, I just think you should think a little about what you’re saying before you do. I like Pride and Prejudice too, because it’s interesting and Jane Austen is a good writer, but I think there are some things you probably aren’t considering if you’re going to gush about ~how roooooooomantic~ everything is, because it’s not. Let me crush your joy in a moment, but first a plot summary.

The Deal
The Bennets are an upper-middle class regency family who don’t have to work for a living. They have 5 daughters, which is a bummer because it means when Mr. Bennet dies, his gross cousin will inherit the house and land, so it’s really important for some or all of the girls to make good marriage matches. Which is tough when you got no cash, but luckily they have some assets.

There's Jane Bennet, the hot one

There’s Jane Bennet, the hot one


She’s terminally nice, and falls in love with a rich terminally nice neighbor, whose sister and friends are trying to keep them apart.

Lizzy, the smart one

Lizzy, the smart one


Lizzy will say whatever to whoever. It’s what brings her to the attention of the rude-but-rich Mr. Darcy, who eventually is like “Well, I guess I want to marry you, even though most things about you physically repel me because ew poor people.” Of course when she’s like “Get away from me, freak” it only makes him want her more, because men love a girl with spirit. Or something. Eventually he wins her affections by doing nice things for her family involving rescuing this troublemaker:

Lydia, the fun one

Lydia, the fun one


Also known as “Lydia the slutty one,” I say you do whatever you need to, girlfriend, although props if it doesn’t involve bringing shame upon your house or whatever.

Also there's these two no one cares about

Also there’s these two no one cares about

And that’s pretty much it. Jane Austen is great at writing minor characters who are funny and a little ridiculous, and Lizzy, her heroine, is just the right amount of fiesty and mannerly to intrigue without ruffling regency era feathers. People love this book/movie/tv adaption/web series/spin off about zombies.

I read a really terrible book recently that purported to summarize great works of literature to give you a fun overview, and the guy billed Pride and Prejudice as the original soppy rom-com that only “people who sit down to pee” will like. That quote should really be on the cover, because the phrase “people who sit down to pee” tells me everything I need to know about a writer. Anyway, Pride and Prejudice is a soppy rom-com if you’ve seen the movies or only read a summary like this one. There are some other things you need to consider:

1. Darcy is not that smart or witty
OMG OMG OMG HE IS SO HOT AND SWEET AND NICE AND RICH AND COLIN FIRTH

Guy can rock a cravat, I'll give you that

Guy can rock a cravat, I’ll give you that

I’ll even give you all the above (except maybe the sweet and nice–dude starts the book as a major jerk), but what I will not give you ever is that this is a relationship based on intellectual equals. Dude couldn’t keep up with Elizabeth Bennet if he wanted to. A lot of people cite their “witty repartee” as the highlight of the book, but, as pointed out by one of the best English professors I had at Rice, “Elizabeth is the witty one–he just laughs at what she says.” Check it:

“However he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.”
“And so ended his affection,” said Elizabeth impatiently. “There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!”
“I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,” said Darcy.
“Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.”
Darcy only smiled.

Darcy is basically Elizabeth’s straight man, and when he gets a chance to show off his own brain-muscles in dialogue with someone else, it’s usually to deliver stuffy judgey lines to make them feel bad:

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”

He’s the kind of guy that comes to a party and sits glowering in the corner. You don’t have to talk to him, but everything still gets more fun after he leaves. So why would the charming and clever Elizabeth Bennet marry this guy?

2. Elizabeth Bennet is a gold digger

Since we're talking a regency-era gold digger, I thought Joseph Ducreux was appropriate

Since we’re talking a regency-era gold digger, I thought Joseph Ducreux was appropriate

I’m not being judgey–this was definitely not a bad thing to be in regency era England when your only source of income disappears with your aging father. Elizabeth is a woman, so marriage is literally the only option open to her. Girl can’t get a job or join the army or the church or whatever dudes without land could do back then. It was either get married to some guy who’ll support you, or hope one of your sisters does and that your new brother-in-law will be enough of a pushover that you can just continue to hang around. Lizzy’s smart, and finding a rich guy to marry is the smartest thing she can do in her situation.

Hopefully not this guy, though

Hopefully not this guy, though

And she’s not completely shameless about it. Again, she’s smart, so she doesn’t just saddle herself with someone she’ll hate, re: her gross cousin (pictured above) or Mr. Darcy the first time he asks, before he proves himself not terrible. Girl’s not desperate yet and thinking long term strategy, which pays off in a big way, because Darcy is by far the richest guy in the book. She gets to tour his gigantic mansion and grounds and is blown away. She even admits to her sister later that this is the main source of her affections:

“My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”
“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

In the movies, whenever they include this line, they then have Elizabeth and Jane kind of laugh to each other like “Hahaha, j/k of course I don’t care about money.” But really, in the time this was written, you’d be an idiot not to.

3. Mr. Bennet is the worst

I know, it’s hard to hear.

Guy's got that cheeky, long-suffering Ben Franklin look

Guy’s got that cheeky, long-suffering Ben Franklin look

But it’s true. Some of the best lines in this book are from Mr. Bennet, who manfully puts up with all the silliness of his wife and daughters and hides in his library whenever he can. His abject neglect and hatred of his lot in life would be really funny, if it didn’t have serious consequences. Dude, your wife and daughters are going to be destitute and homeless when you die, and you don’t even care? Seriously, while Mrs. Bennet frantically tries to plan marriages to save her family from ruin, Mr. Bennet makes fun of her for it, and then ignores the problem completely. Because, hey, I guess he’ll be dead so what does he care? What a loving father and husband.

Then, when tragedy and drama strike, and his youngest daughter Lydia (see “the fun one” above) elopes with a sketchy soldier, he heaves a great sigh and says “Fine, world. I guess I’ll get off my ass to do something for my family for once if I have to, god.” But j/k Mrs. Bennet’s brother and Mr. Darcy tag-team it to save the day, find the couple, and get them properly married before there’s a scandal. Way to sit at home and grumble like a boss, guy! No wonder your wife’s insane. Which brings me to:

4. Mrs. Bennet is a victim of emotional abuse

I’m not saying she’s not kind of annoying most of the time

She basically makes this face for the full 6 hours of the BBC miniseries

She basically makes this face for the full 6 hours of the BBC miniseries

But she is the only person in this family who is worried about what’s going to happen to them all in the future. Whenever she freaks out about them all being homeless, Mr. Bennet rolls his eyes at his silly wife, but, really, she’s got a point. Unlike her snarky, layabout husband, she’s also got the drive to try to do something about it, and her plan is getting everyone married. In the movie adaptions it always seems hella annoying, like the family members who start hassling you about “finding someone” and “settling down” when you’re 30 and god it’s none of your business why I can’t get a date, Aunt Muriel. But, remember, this isn’t your family reunion, this is regency England, where marrying your way out of your problems is basically her daughters’ only option. So I can’t fault her plan, just her shrill, often-inappropriate execution.

But why does Mrs. Bennet act that way all the time? She’s always making vaguely inappropriate remarks, over-reacting for no reason, and weeping copiously at the slightest bad news. Is she just being a wacky minor character for you to laugh at? No, she’s acting out the after effects of decades of emotional abuse.

It's hysterical, right?

It’s hysterical, right?

Ladies are essentially property with very little control over their own lives in this world, so you can see why anyone prone to nervousness might start flipping out with worry and panic attacks when faced with an uncertain future. On top of that, Mrs. Bennet has to deal with a husband who is actively mocking her all the time, admits he hates being married to her, and just generally treats her like shit. In most of the movies, they pass her off as too stupid to understand he’s mocking her, but you don’t live with that for years without feeling the disdain. Even if I buy that she’s not quick enough to get his snide little remarks, she understands that tone and his behavior only too well. How would you feel if you had to live and raise a family with someone who hated you and wasn’t afraid to show it? Who refuses to participate in any attempt to save the family, and treats you like an imbecile for even caring? You’d probably drink a little too much at the Lucas’ dinner party too.

5. All these soldiers are around because there’s a GD war on
Where does Lydia’s sketchy soldier lover come from? Why are there so many redcoats just hanging out in town? Does the British government employ them as eye candy?

Laaaaaaaaaadies

Laaaaaaaaaadies

No, they’re totally training to fight Napoleon. This novel was published in 1813, just after Napoleon’s botched Russian campaign and like ten years of him tooling around the continent pissing on things and claiming them in his name. Things like Italy. The novel is set in an undetermined year around the turn of the 19th century, so this is very much relevant to the story. Or… should be? For some reason, Jane Austen never really mentions it, besides that there are tons of soldiers all over the place. A lot of people think Austen couldn’t write about or even mention more than that, because, as a lady, she was only expected to write about girly things like getting married. So, yeah, Jane Austen was “obsessed with marriage,” another great quote from peeing-sitting-down guy, but this was olden times and she was a lady and therefore didn’t really have a choice. She got handed a boring writing assignment (“Only marriage! And lady topics!”) and then decided to be great at it anyway.

But you do have to realize that, for the majority of people alive at the time, Elizabeth Bennet’s problems seem like a paradise compared to their daily lives. Everyone pictures “living in Austen’s world” and being a star-crossed lover in an empire waist gown, but really you’d probably just be a dirt farmer or gunned down by Napoleon or whatever things non-kinda-rich-white-ladies were doing with their time. Historical context, fools.

English major out.

dealwithitbubblegum

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