Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September Reading Wrap-Up

September is over and how it is HOLIDAY SEASON. First up, Halloween which I loooooooove even though I never do anything for Halloween beyond watch Nightmare Before Christmas. Although now that I typed that I realized last year I couldn't find my copy of Nightmare which is depressing. So I guess it will be more listening to the soundtrack while I watch Beetlejuice and try to figure out what the hell I did with my copy of that movie. Anyway.

I actually did pretty well in September with my reading. Which is surprising. I'm not really sure why or what about the season meant I made it through more books than I've been reading over the summer. But I did. Take that, past me.

Number of books read
Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Kill Shakespeare by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger
Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (review from the first time I read it)
I Wear The Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Total pages read

Percentage of fiction read
43% - whaaaaa? Could this be why I got through so many books?

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors
86% - BUT NOT 100%

Percentage of US authors
100% - ::hangs head about new disappointing stat::

Percentage of ebooks
14% - I thought it was way more than that

Percentage of rereads

Percentage of review books

Books written by decade
2000s - 29%
2010s - 71%

Books by genre
Horror - 14%
Essays - 29%
Graphic novels - 29%
Science - 14%
Love story - 14%

So I marginally improved my white-people stat. Even though it was accidental. As in, I didn't actively TRY to find a book by a POC and instead just stumbled upon one. Which is how I like these stats to improve because then it doesn't involve extra effort on my part. Hooray lazy.

I also didn't realize I ended up reading so much nonfiction last month. How'd that happen? I wonder if that's why I got so much more read. Or maybe correlation doesn't equal causation and I don't have enough other information to say if that's really why.

Also I'm juuuuuust about caught up with my August reviews so will I be able to finish reviewing the September books before October is out? Probably not! But you never know.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Armed personnel will be in attendance, and refreshments will be served

I decided to pick up Zombies Inc because it was on sale. I get the BookBub daily emails with discount ebooks and like 99% of them are books I have 0 interest in. One day I saw this book and I thought I'd give it a try. I looked on Goodreads and Amazon for reviews and saw it had a pretty good overall rating. Plus a lot of the reviews I skimmed (trying to avoid spoilers) said things like "different take on traditional zombie stories" and "very unique and humorous characters".
Mostly this
So how was the book? Whomp.

It has an interesting premise (don't they all...) where it's about 25 years* after a zombie apocalypse and a company, Zombie Inc., has cropped up as sort of a security company/pseudo-government to deal with the ever-dwindling problem of zombies. Each of the chapters starts off with a ridiculous (or sometimes scarily close to what corporate life is actually like) memo from the company about mandatory company outings and vacation time, and it even begins with the main character going to check on a zombie security system. I thought GREAT! This will be like The Office but with zombies. I can get into this.

Instead of it being that though, it's a very straight forward zombie and also corrupt-governing-body type story. Those memos at the beginning of each chapter don't really make a whole bunch of sense in this case. I guess it's to show how ridiculous and controlling things are? Maybe? But they don't really work that way. It's almost like they were left over from a different humorous/satire idea, and when the book went in a different direction those memos stayed on. A reminder of what could have been.

So I'm not getting my funny zombie story. Fine. They don't HAVE to be funny, although my disappointment at this shift could mean I am coming to the story with a tainted frame of mind. Or it could be that the story just didn't really do it for me. Cos it didn't. It was a fairly predictable story, with cliched moments of people talking about the loss that they experienced, and haunted characters that have to learn to trust other people, and people you THOUGHT could be trusted but actually nope.

If you just can't get enough of zombie stories, this might not be a bad one for you. I don't think it's going to be the BEST one for you, but if you've read all the others are still want more, you might enjoy this more than I did. Actually, you'll probably enjoy this more than me.

I went to my Kindle to look for the quotes that I highlighted to see what else I could say about the book, and I realized I wrote a LOT of notes and not that many quotes. Which usually means I either Looooooooooved the book or I did not. At all. I want to share with you the notes I took since these reactions I had were strong enough that I felt the need to stop what I was doing and try to balance on the subway long enough to type these out.

"Seems odd that after the plague we'd have the infrastructure for all of the electronics."
"But you JUST SAID it was odd that people would be having kids at all."
"It's been like 3 days, calm the fuck down"
"So, looking out windows is not a thing now?"
"OMG we fucking get it"
"Those are not the right descriptors..."
"Thanks for spelling it out."
"Because she's Jason Bourne?"
"OH DO YOU? Because that wasn't clear"

Gif rating:

*Timing and people's ages kept shifting slightly or else just wouldn't line up. The fact that I was more interested in pulling up a calculator on the subway and figuring out the discrepancies rather than, you know, just going with it and enjoying the story, didn't really bode well.

Title quote from page 135, location 1952

Dougherty, Chris. Zombie, Inc. Dougherty Books, 2013.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reading fates or diversifying my reading is on me

In my August wrap-up post I said "Let's see what September and autumn brings. Hopefully more non-white people. I like how I say that like I don't have control over what I read." Someone (who is very nice and an awesome fellow book blogger and this is in no way meant to be mean to them or call them out) left a comment about how what you read is up to the Fates and it's whatever calls to you. And I've thought about this both before reading that comment and certainly a lot after and I figured I could make a post out of this.

On the one hand, I do sort of see my reading choices as left up to the fates. Meaning that I don't usually have a syllabus planned out ahead of time and I just sort of figure out what I'm going to read next as I go. I have thought about how what I pick is sort of up to fate. I'm pretty sure I even wrote that originally in that August post.

The reason my post doesn't say how it's up to the fates, or rather that I made the comment about me having control, is because what I read isn't completely random. It's not even a little random.

I may not plan my reading ahead of time and I may be picking what I read next on a whim, but I'm the one picking my TBR pile. I'm the one deciding what books I want to read, even if I'm not choosing exactly when to red them. And if one of my goals is to diversify my reading (and it's not to say that everyone needs to have or should have this goal) then I can't blame anyone but myself if I don't meet that goal.

Are most of the books I'm naturally drawn to written by people like me? I should look into why that is and make an effort to read someone who is not like me. That's the beauty of fiction: I can step into someone else's life.
Is it hard to find books written by non-white people? So look harder. The books may not fall into my outstretched hands but they're out there and the internet is a thing so it's not THAT hard for me to find them.

If I want to diversify my reading and I don't do that, the only person I have to blame is myself.

Does this mean my reading has significantly diversified this month? Not really. Which is on me.

Monday, September 22, 2014

He's a little bit dodgy in the same way that rats are a little bit covered in fur

I've been suspicious of Gaiman ever since reading American Gods. Probably because it was the first novel of his I read and first impressions are hard to shake. Because see, I did not care of American Gods despite the fact that it seemed like a book I would like. And he seemed like an author I would like. Since that time I've read 1 and 1/2 more of his books (Coraline and Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett) which I really enjoyed. At yet, I'm still skeptical that things are going to be good. I should probably get over it by now, considering I've now read another Gaiman book I enjoyed.

This time around it was Neverwhere. Way back in January (whaaa?) Kayleigh mentioned listening to the radio play and enjoying it, in large part because of the great cast (Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, Natalie Dormer, AND MORE) so it's sort of been in the back of my mind. I went to look for an audio copy and ugh, they always want so much for audiobooks. Which is probably fine since I've bought a few audiobooks but most of them are still in the plastic wrap. Whoops. But one day I saw an ecopy on sale and figured I'd pick it up. Then eventually I got around to reading it.

What is Neverwhere about?

Richard is a young man living in London. He has a good job, a future, and a fiancee (who is sort of a bitch and this seems to just be a simple way to show how lame is life and haha look how whipped he is and I'm not crazy about this part but whatever). Then one day, on the way to a dinner with his fiancee's boss, when they pass by a homeless girl who looks like she's been injured. Richard decides he has to help this girl (despite his fiancee's insistence they leave her and get to dinner, because back to that bitch comment above). He brings her back to his apartment, helps with her apparent stab wounds, and she rests up.

Two seemingly not-quite-human sketchy characters show up at Richard's looking for the girl, but she seems to have disappeared. When she returns she makes some comments about "London above" and seems to talk to pigeons and rats, and asks him to go meet up with someone called Marquis de Carabas to help out. He thinks he's done his part and can go back to his normal life, but since the book has just started obviously this won't be the case.

Richard realizes that it's like he's become invisible. No one seems to see him. Not just that, but it's like he never existed. Work already got rid of his desk, his apartment has been rented out to new people. He goes to find the girl (Door) and the Marquis to figure out what's going on and get his old life back. And this is when he's introduced to the London Below, a whole world separate from the London he's always known with creatures and characters and dangers.

Door's family had been murdered by someone and Door is trying to figure out who put out the hit and avenge her family. Richard is there so we have someone just as clueless about the world as we are.

I won't give away anything else, but you get the idea. It's an interesting story and I wish I knew London better(/at all) cos I'm sure I'd appreciate all of the little details that way. that's not to say I didn't enjoy the story. It's full of the strange and the weird and the scary. It's funny and off-beat and tense. There are a lot of great lines. Oh, would you like a couple examples? Sure, I suppose I could provide:
Inside the pub, Richard's friends continued to celebrate his forthcoming departure with an enthusiasm that, to Richard, was beginning to border on sinister. 
The boy had the towering arrogance only seen in the greatest of artists and all nine-year-old boys.
It wasn't my favorite Gaiman but it captured my attention and I will keep an eye out for that radio play with the all-star cast because I can imagine this working very well in that format.

Gif rating:

Title quote from page 173, location 2478

Gaiman, Neil. Neverwhere. WilliamMorrow, 2009. Kindle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Whatever else it was, it was one hell of a summer

Back in the beginning of July when Tom and I were in Seattle, we made our way to an indie bookstore (you know OBV) and I found out that Bill Bryson's latest book, One Summer: America 1927 was out in paperback. So I had to pick up a copy. I got around to finishing it by the end of July and now it's September and I'm finally reviewing it.  Whoops.

One Summer: America 1927 is about exactly what the title says. It's about the summer of 1927 in America where a bunch of stuff happened. Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. Babe Ruth was smashing homeruns and getting close to setting a record, the first talkie was released, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, lots of stuff going on. And more. And it's lots of stuff that, when listed out like that, I'm not especially interested. But, as I've said before, Bryson could write about paint drying and I'd be intrigued. This time was no exception.

I have never understood what was so great about Lindbergh flying across the Atlantic. That's not to say I don't appreciate the importance of what he did and what it meant for air travel, and it's not to say that what he did was easy in anyway. But man, the world went absolutely NUTS for the guy in a way that I can't imagine now. It's not to say that I know understand and think "Oh OF COURSE this was the world's reaction. It all makes sense now and I can't imagine them reacting any differently" but at least now I can go "Huh, would you look at that? I guess that is how people reacted. This poor guy."

I knew of Babe Ruth, of course, but didn't really know much about him outside of the fact that he played baseball. I knew the names Sacco and Vanzetti and that they were anarchists and that they were executed. I knew Calvin Coolidge was a president. I knew prohibition was a (stupid) thing. But I can't say I knew very much about any of these things or anything else that Bryson goes into before reading this.

Bryson has a way to not only bring the human element of stories to the forefront but also to put things into context so you understand what lead up to certain events. And all of this is done with his trademark humor.

One thing I noticed this book lacked more than his other books is Bryson himself. Obviously I didn't expect this book to feature him as prominently as his travelogues or semi-memoir, but even his books like Made in America about the English language in America and A Short History of Nearly Everything about science featured more of him, talking about the research he did and the people he talked to. This book still has his voice, but he's never quoted directly. I sort of missed that. I think I like Bryson so much cos I feel like I'm talking to a friend tell me about all these cool things he's learned.

It wasn't my favorite Bryson, but "not my favorite Bryson" still ranks really high up there in "excellent books I have read and will probably read again".

Gif rating

Also I tried to find the plaque for Lindbergh that's at the Roosevelt Field Mall (formally Roosevelt field where he made many famous take-offs and landings) but that mall is GIANT and I got distracted by shiny things. At some point I'll find it. Probably.

Title quote from page 428

Bryson, Bill. One Summer: America 1927. Anchor Books, 2013.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Soap Winners Announced

I was going to pair this with another post and then (as you can see) I decided not to do that. Instead this will be a quick post to announce who gets the soap I mentioned in my last wedding post. And guess what?


And not in a figurative way, like "Oh well you know me so OF COURSE you're a winner no matter what." But I figure you all rule and I have a bunch of soap so everyone who asked for it, YOU GET SOME SOAP!

Emily, Kayleigh, Alice, Nahree, and Laura email me your addresses (or wherever you want me to send the package [whatredread [at] gmail [dot] com]) and I will get you your soap! And then you can pretend that you were at the wedding as well!