Thursday, September 18, 2014

Books for RIP except I don't quite remember what RIP is

I am informally MAYBE participating in RIP. I don't even remember who hosts it. Or if it's hosted anymore. BASICALLY, these're the September/October, kind-of-scary-I-guess books I'm hoping to get through. Because themes are the best and I love them.

NUMBER 1. Is Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix, which I have already begun and it looks like an IKEA catalogue and is an enjoyable experience. I'm 100 pages in and waiting for it to get scary, though. So in that respect it feels like Night Film, and HOPEFULLY THINGS WILL CHANGE.

NUMBER 2. Eat Your Heart Out by Dayna Ingram. Someone posted the back of this book on Tumblr and I said I would read it, because lesbians fighting zombies. It's a novella, and I will finish it by Halloween.

NUMBER 3. No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale. I LOVE KATHLEEN HALE SO HARD. She's super-weird, which I appreciate, and she wrote that defense of YA that was hilarious and wonderful. This is about the murder of a girl in a small town in Wisconsin, but it's...kind of light-hearted? And unsurprisingly, YA.

NUMBER 4. Poisoned by Steve Shukis. "A gripping tale of murder, sorcery, and criminal justice in turn-of-the-century Chicago," and it is NON-fiction, which is the best. Turn of the century Chicago/1880s-1890s Chicago is the best Chicago. Everything happened then. Except the Fire. That happened in 1871. I guess that was kind of important. BUT ANYWAY, basically a whole family dies due to poisoning and it's all "Who did this! Was it this charismatic family doctor? But WHY" and I am muchly enjoying it.

I can't read for-real scary books because then I will be terrified for forever. I can't even watch scary X-Files episodes by myself (i.e. most of them) and X-Files is my JAM. It's a complicated situation. By which I mean I watch for character development, kissing, and the occasional Flukeman because I'm not scared of him.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Survey That People I Esteem Have Done

1. What is your favourite fictional food or drink?
C.S. Lewis made Turkish delight sound so badass and then you get some for real and it's gross and you're like "Is this because there was a war on and no access to actually good candy?" And I guess it's not fictional food anyway, it's just IN fiction. Ummmmmmmmm. Omg I'm gonna be terrible and cliched and say butterbeer.

Awesome picture taken from here

2. How long did it take you to finish your last book?
I finished Their Eyes Were Watching God on the Metra to Kenosha, WI and I think it took at leeeeast three weeks? Because it was on Oyster and I don't binge-read on there. But. Amazing. Amazing book. Obvs. Will review soon.

3. How many times do you stare at your books or bookshelves each day?
Most are in one of the apartment's front rooms, which has no working lights in it right now because #lifepriorities, so...maybe a few times a week? I'm usually reading other stuff. It's only when I'm running somewhere and need a book and somehow don't have one floating around in one of my bags that I scan my overloaded shelves of books I'll probably never finish I AM DEPRESSING MYSELF.

4. How many Goodreads friends and books do you have?
Don't care about Goodreads friends. I think I'm the only person who comments on people's statuses on goodreads, so FORGET ALL Y'ALL. But books...I'm slightly worried because my already-read pile is at...*checks* 390 and my TBR is at 363. I REALLY DON'T WANT TBR TO SURPASS THE ALREADY-READ PILE.

5. Do you ever quote books in public?
I'm the kind of douchey where sometimes when I see a dead bird I -- IN MY HEAD -- go "I was the shadow of the waxwing slain/By the false azure in the windowpane." And sometimes I quote my favorite Pickwick Papers exchange, which is "Sir, you're a fellow!" "Sir, you're another!" And soooometimes I quote Jane Eyre's "Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation," because the SECOND I am tempted by something, laws and principles don't count for squat. But I try to remind myself anyway.

6. Do you ever re-read books?
As with almost everyone who has a book blog, no, not really. THERE IS SO MUCH TO READ. I used to re-read Gone-Away Lake every so often, and there are sections of Jane Eyre I used to have memorized, because 16 years old.

7. Do you judge a book by its cover?
YES I was in a Facebook group back in the day called "I judge books by their covers." Also their typesetting. I read The Monsters of Templeton solely because it has a badass cover.

aw, yeah

8. Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr?
I talk to the most people on Twitter, but TUMBLR I LOVE YOU SO.

Tumblr gives unto the people things like this

9. Which genres take you the longest to read?
Gonna echo Laura here and say classics. I've been working on Barnaby Rudge for yeeeears. But it is not good. So it is just gonna take forever. But I WILL FINISH IT, because Dickens completism. 

10. Who are your favourite BookTubers (or Book Bloggers)?
Who wrote this? BookTube comes first? I don't watch NOTHIN' on BookTube, because I am a grownass lady. My favorite book bloggers are in my sidebar. I love them. May they book blog now and forevermore, amen.

11. How often do you pre-order books?
Ok, so I have hundreds of unread books at my apartment. And because I rarely get actual-excited about new books coming out, I either wait for them at the library, or get an ARC. Pretty sure I'll pre-order Amy Poehler's new book though, because ARCs of that are probably going to be immmmpossible to get unless you're Emily.

12. Are you a shopaholic?

13. How many times have you re-read your favourite book?
BEING KINDA REPETITIVE, SURVEY. Don't know, don't care.

14. Do you own a lot of books?
I own too many books and get mad whenever someone says "Oh, you can NEVER own too many books." Really? Really. Because I feel like when you keep buying books with no probable intention of ever reading them, that's when you own too many books. Also your bookshelves are full and just look messy instead of cool and omg just give some away, just do it.

15. Do you take pictures of your books before you read them?
Before I read them? Uh. Is that a thing? I mean, sometimes when I get them in the mail. If they're pretty. This question has made me so paranoid WHY WOULD I TAKE PICTURES BEFORE I READ THEM.

16. Do you read every day?
Oh of course not, because I'm someone who loves being BORED. Yes, I read every day.

Also this

17. How do you choose a new book?
I choose a new book to read by scanning Oyster or going to my shelves and standing there indecisively until I vaguely remember the reason I got a certain book in the first place, then I pick it up, read 15 pages and don't touch it again for months.

18. Do you always have a book with you?
Yes. Today it is The Cuckoo's Calling by Secretly J.K. Rowling and Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris that I took while catsitting for my friend.

19. What are your biggest distractions from reading?
Is anyone's answer to this "Life" instead of Netflix? Because my answer's Netflix. 

20. What is your favourite place to buy books?
HOKAY, so, if you're in Chicago, we've got a number of places. First off, obviously, Open Books. It's the best. Otherly, there's Powell's in Hyde Park, which has an awesome selection and is pretty big and fun to walk around in. And then I just went to Ravenswood Used Books in (surprise) Ravenswood, which is small but SO LABYRINTHINE. So they can fit a lot in there. It's cool going there with someone else, then parting ways and trying to find each other again. 

OK THEN SURVEY, you weren't the best ever, but you totally weren't the worst. Good times, my friend.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Criminal Minds, Currently Reading, and It's Getting Cold

You know, I've been watching Criminal Minds on Netflix, and I don't know how the later seasons are, but season 1 seems...weird. Weird in that no one aside from the profilers seems to know these incredibly violent crimes are happening.


There was one case where all these upper middle class women were being murdered DURING THE DAY in their nice suburban homes, and it was something ridiculous like six in a five mile radius and women were STILL LEAVING THEIR PORCH DOORS OPEN. I'm sorry. A guy tried to break into my apartment ONCE, did not even succeed or murder anyone, and I still wouldn't let my roommate put the air conditioner in the window all summer. (love you, roomie)

In another one, whole families were being murdered and the news was seemingly just NOT AROUND FOR IT. Yeah, I guess that's kind of boring. People probably shouldn't be told. I'm seriously worried about the world in which Criminal Minds takes place. You guys have to stay on the alert or I'm pretty sure that eventually everyone except the CM profilers is going to be murdered. Nine seasons? How is anyone left. It's gonna end up being an And Then There Were None situation.

THIS WEEK I have been reading The Paying Guests (reviewed yesterday), Their Eyes Were Watching God on Oyster (SO GOOD), The Cuckoo's Calling (ALSO SO GOOD, but in a different way), and endless tweets about Swan Queen drama. Did you all know that some people vastly prefer the chemistryless and patently forced pairing of Robin Hood and Regina to the relationship that's been carefully cultivated and developed throughout three seasons of television? BUT NO, GOOD CHOICE, OUTLAW QUEEN SHIPPERS.


Wisconsin this weekend, because why would you go south when it gets cold? That's apparently ridiculous. On the plus side, all those winter clothes I just proactively packed away I can now get out again. MIDWEST PRIDE.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters: Do Lesbians and Good Writing Outweigh Anxiety? (maybe)

Sarah Waters is The Lesbian Author to Read. Other than Michelle Tea. And maybe Alice Walker. When you consider the number of people in this world and then the number of authors and then the number of GOOD authors, think how much smaller that last number is going to be for particular subgroups. Sarah Waters gets extra points because she usually sets her novels in the 19th century and also wrote an entire book about different types of lesbian relationships in Victorian England (see: Tipping the Velvet, which you should read yesterday).

And then they made movies of them!

Her newest book, The Paying Guests -- which I stalked my way into getting at Book Expo America -- is set in London in the 1920s. An upper middle class woman and her mother have to take in lodgers to get out of debt, and when a married couple moves in, romantic shenanigans ensue. AS WELL THEY SHOULD. Then a crisis of course arises (someone gets straight-up murdered sort of) and the rest of the book concerns said crisis.

I was SO INTO THIS at its beginning, and then it made me anxious. Oh, so anxious. 

There's a reason I don't watch horror or suspense movies. when I see a person open a refrigerator door, I immediately start panicking and going "THE OTHER PERSON'S GOING TO BE THERE WHEN YOU CLOSE IT AGAIN WHY DID YOU OPEN THAT DOOR CONSTANT VIGILANCE." This book was more the sort of unease you get, though, when the girl in the horror movie's walking through the house and it's completely quiet except for some creaking floorboards and you're SO ON EDGE because at any moment someone's going to jump out and chase her.

Despite my general interest in life ending around 1913, I do like when authors try to cover post-WWI England. So much had changed! People had all these feelings! Disillusionment! So I was strangely proud of Sarah Waters for tackling this along with her romantic storyline. 

Did I like it as much as The Night Watch? Noooo. But they're different sorts of books. Even though both are set after world wars. But no, Night Watch followed multiple storylines and The Paying Guests sticks with Upper Middle Class Woman (Frances) and her inner journey, which is interesting in and of itself, but I think my order of preference for Waters books as of now would go:

Tipping the Velvet
The Night Watch
The Paying Guests

And then I didn't read The Little Stranger because no lesbians and people who read it said it was meh anyway.

Basically, with The Paying Guests, you get anxiety but you also get good writing and an interesting view of London in the 1920s and you come away feeling like you've learned something. Also you should probably read it because then we can talk about how you felt about Frances/Person She Gets Involved With, because I have CONFLICTING EMOTIONS in that regard.

yes, exactly.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First 50 Pages: Look, these're all good

Due to my subscription to Oyster, I have all new ways of starting books and not finishing them. EXCITING. But here's the deal on some books I have begun:

The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith (hahaha we know who you are, Robert). I have avoided this book for so long! I don't know why I'm always so suspicious of J.K. Rowling's books that are not Harry Potter, because I have never (read: the one other time) started and then hated them. But I kept expecting not to like this. And then -- AND THEN -- I am liking it so much. Sooo much. I am slowly realizing I'm totally a fan of the mystery/thriller genre and I just always dismissed it as Not Literary Enough. Boo, Alice, boo. This has the unkempt private detective Cormoran Strike as a main character and WHO DOESN'T WANT TO READ ABOUT THAT GUY nobody that's who.

Adam, Ariel Schrag. I got a review copy of this and then they also put it on Oyster. Tumblr is PISSED about it, which probably means I need to just suck it up and read the whole thing so I can see whether Tumblr is doing that thing it occasionally does where it gets all social justice vigilante when it doesn't need to. So far I like it fine. It's about a teenage boy who realizes a girl thinks he's either a gay lady or a trans boy and he does not correct her because he is a teenage boy and WHATEVER IT TAKES amirite.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston. I'm basically furious that my high school didn't have us read this, but there's kissing in it and everything, so that's probably why. This is one of those books that's objectively good, like To Kill a Mockingbird. You can't reeeeally look at it critically, because who are you! Who are you to be criticizing Their Eyes Were Watching God! Yeah, so. This is pretty ok.

Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, Rousseau. Ahahahahahahaha yeah I'm THAT guy. Fuckin' readin' Rousseau in French. And you know what? It is SURPRISINGLY NOT THAT EASY. But I will get through it and my knowledge of the passé simple will be strengthened, meaning everybody wins. So far: Rousseau has sucked up to Geneva a whole lot in a pages-long dedication, and the preface is like "Man, we gotta figure ourselves out for. reals." Also check out how super-handsome Rousseau was:

I'm also VERY SLOWLY getting through The Lives of the Great Composers, meaning I've read about Monteverdi and Bach and am now on Handel, which is only early 18th century and I have to get up to the 1980s. So. Few more people to go.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Neverhome by Laird Hunt: Lady Soldiers and All the Stoicism You Could Want

Little, Brown sent me Neverhome on a whim, probably because it's about a lady dressing up as a Union soldier and going off to fight. Yeah, that sounds like it's in my wheelhouse. I honestly didn't have high expectations for it, because I've never been THAT into the women-disguising-themselves-as-men thing, but when I started it I basically couldn't put it down.

Think The Sisters Brothers and True Grit, but set during the Civil War. Those types of narrators are my favorite. Calm, unruffled, just there to tell you their deal and be done with it.

So like the opposite of this

"Gallant Ash," as she becomes known, fights in battle after battle and makes the Civil War much more real than it's usually portrayed, as here it's seen from the point of view of a soldier instead of one of the now near-mythic generals and their overarching plans for the war. It's not "[Massive number of people] died at Bull Run," it's someone who's in the middle and it's chaotic and people are dying and you no longer know where you are but you know you can't run because that's desertion.

The prose is simple but with the sort of detail that makes it seem real.

I gave my name as Ash Thompson down out of Darke County. “Where in Darke County?” they asked me, and I told them, even though I could see straight off they weren’t listening, that where was in the northwest corner of that fine county on my Daddy’s farm. After they had cracked on my teeth and whistled at my thick fingers and had me scrape my thumb calluses across the wood tabletop, they gave me my blues. A week later, when they saw I didn’t mind work and hadn’t run off, they handed me my firearm. It was a Model 1861 muzzle-loading Springfield rifle with flip-up sights and percussion lock, and they said you could use it to kill a man a quarter mile away.

 I'd definitely have some questions for Mr Hunt about the ending (WON'T TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENS IT'S A SURPRISE), but I was genuinely delighted by the overall prose style and setting. Brief encounters Ash has throughout the book give a more complete view of the war and the way it impacted a variety of people than one would think possible in so few pages. And again, it's done simply, which I love. Give me five minutes of two people talking on the side of a road; I don't need them to go on a cross-country adventure of 700 pages so the lesson from their relationship can be taught (*cough* kind of looking at you, Donna Tartt, no matter how overall magnificent your novel might be). 

+10 points for being set in the 19th century and +5 for a lady protagonist.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: Plains of the Dead, paper servants and other fun things

So the HarperCollins imprint William Morrow gave me some options for books to review and I said THE GHOST BRIDE, because an 1890s Malaysian woman having to marry a ghost because of Chinese custom sounded damn interesting. And it was. Except for the main character.

Ok, so it's the 1890s in Malaysia ("Malacca" at the time) and Li Lan's family has fallen from their wealthy merchant status to barely hanging on to respectability because her father smokes opium all the time due to sadness about his wife's death like 15 years ago. Li Lan's 18, which means damn, she needs to get married. Her nurse/nanny/similar role is pushing for this, but then she gets an offer from this wealthy family to marry their dead son. WHAT. Yeah, apparently even then it was a weirdass thing to ask, so they're like "Thanks, but no." THEN Li Lan meets the dead son in a dream where he's all like "So I guess we'll be getting married hehehehehe" and she's like

But he won't leave her alone. The rest of the book is Li Lan dealing with the Chinese/Malaysian spirit world and that part is BADASS. Yes, please tell me more of your culture's ideas about the afterlife, because my school failed me in this regard. Her interactions with ghosts and paper servants are super-cool and if I didn't dislike her a fair amount, I'd give this 4/5 instead of 3. It's worth it just to see stuff like paper hell money getting burned and then in the spirit world she HAS MONEY because that's how you get it. By burning it for people to use. So cool.

Li Lan starts out fine but becomes annoying as shit once she meets this guy Tian Bai and falls in love after talking to him ONCE for like five minutes. Boo. Boo. Boo. I am done with this trope unless you're Princess Aurora and the guy you meet is clearly handsome and awesome and sings in a fine piercing tenor.

Not that I'm talking about anyone in particular

The romance part of the plot is annoyingly predictable, but you can skim those parts (there's a lot about dudes' flat muscular stomachs if you're into that sort of thing) and then be like "AW SWEET THE PLAINS OF THE DEAD."

Speaking of the Plains of the Dead, can we talk about how irritating it is when Li Lan is all like "Oh, I thought they'd be like caverns and stuff, not a bunch of grass and fields." So what you're saying is you don't actually know what plains are. Ok.

But they're still cool and there're mediums and spirit papers and minor government officials of hell. Also the cover's shiny.

OTHER PLUS for this book is it made me want to learn more about Chinese myth and folklore. And about how Chinese culture impacted Malaysia. So what I'm saying is I recommend it, but only if you skim whenever the main character talks about dudes she's in love with, because she is an 18-year-old idiot. Just read about ox-headed demons and how ghosts eat.