Monday, October 20, 2014

Pain has a way of wakin' you up. Of remindin' you who you are

I meant to write this review last weekend, but last weekend also included a work trip down to DC. I thought about trying to get it written while I was down there, but that would have required me to bring both an extra book (on top of Misery and my Kindle) AND an extra computer (my personal one with all my gifs as well as my work one). So yeah, I am not a pack mule and that did not happen.

I'm pretty sure I spent about an hour at my local bookstore wandering around not sure of what I felt like reading. I ended up in the horror section and scanned through the Joe Hill titles because hey NOS4A2 and Horns were pretty great. Let's give him another try. And thus I picked up his first book Heart-Shaped Box.

Heart-Shaped Box is a ghost story. Judas Coyne is a retired death-metal rock star with an interest in the macabre. That makes sense, right? What else would you expect a retired death-metal star to do but collect stuff like a hangman's noose or a snuff film? His hobby is well-known enough that fans send him these things, so when someone reaches out to tell him they have a heart-shaped box that contains an old man's suit and the restless spirit of said old man, well sure, he jumps on that. He doesn't really believe in the supernatural so he's not particularly worried about this ghost. Which is too bad for him. And for his sort-of girlfriend/chick a fraction of his age that he's been having sex with, Georgia. Georgia isn't her actual name, but instead the state she's from because that's how he names these ladies. 

See, it wasn't a coincidence someone reached out to him about this box and suit and spirit. It's from the family of a former lover, Florida, who killed herself not too long after he kicked her to the curb. Florida's sister sent the spirit of their father after Jude for what he did. And it doesn't matter if Jude doesn't believe in ghosts because the ghost can still do plenty of damage to him and everyone in his life.

I liked this story. It was scary and violent and kept me wondering what was going to happen next. What could Jude and Georgia do to get away from this ghost? Other than let the ghost win, which means Jude is dead. Not a great option. So if scary and violent is not your thing, skip this one.

It's also not my favorite Hill (that would be NOS4A2) but it was still a good one and it certainly creeped me out. Those ghost eye scribbles...

Anyway, gif rating:

Title quote from page 152

Hill, Joe. Heart-Shaped Box. Harper, 2007.

Monday, October 13, 2014

HEY LOOK! Another bookish survey

Yes, I did just do one of these. What do you mean, I'm only doing this to procrastinate on writing an actual review? How dare you accurately state my intentions

So yeah, I know I just did a survey but work has also been insanely busy and the next few weeks aren't looking like they're going to let up so a post like that is a nice way for me to still be able to get a post out even when my brain is mush. Thank you, Sarah (and Kayleigh), for posting another one of these and away we go!

1. Favorite childhood book:
There was this book about a giant chicken that terrorized an Eastern European village and then the people of the town killed and ate it. I have NO idea what the book was called but I looooved it. Not enough to remember the title, however. Just enough to make a diorama of it in kindergarten? First grade? But if you want a favorite book I DO remember the title of, let's go with The Golden Book of Sharks and Whales. I still have random passages from that memorized. Because that's what my brain chose to hold on to in place of loved ones birthdays.

2. What are you reading right now?
Misery by Stephen King for the upteenth (or like 4th) time.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I have none. I don't even have a library card. ::hangs head in shame::

4. Bad book habit:
Reading too quickly and missing key details. I never really noticed how often I did this until I started doing readalongs and everyone would point out really cool stuff and I'd have no idea what they were talking about, despite having read the exact same thing as them.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Gonna continue to mock me about this, huh?

6. Do you have an e-reader?
I do. And have for awhile now.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I usually only read one at a time but I'm not opposed to having a few going.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
How I read has mostly stayed the same, although I find myself composing blog posts while I'm reading. I promptly forget those compositions as I'm usually "writing" them while I have no way of actually recording anything. And besides, at this point I end up reviewing something about a month after reading it and there is no way I'd remember anything that long. I have found "what" I read has changed a decent amount. It's more diverse than before, which is sad when you consider how not-diverse it is right now. And I definitely have a better idea of new books coming out, something I never kept up with before.

9. Least favorite book you read this year:
::Looks over 2014 book spreadsheet because yes, I have one of those:: Hey, I've read a LOT of good books this year. Good job, me. But they can't all be winners and so far I'd have to say Zombie, Inc. is at the bottom of the pile.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year:
This is way harder. Is it The Martian by Andy Weir? The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion? The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore? Another book that doesn't start with "The"? I can't decided.

11. How often do you read outside of your comfort zone?
Not often enough?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
I feel like these questions would have made more sense in the other order. Anyway, something contemporary and funny.

13. Can you read on the bus?
"The bus" sounds very specific, like you have a particular bus in mind. I do not often ride "the bus" or "a bus". I will say no, though I do read a LOT on the train and subway. But I can't read in cars and buses are big cars so I'll assume no.

14. Favorite place to read:
I want to say somewhere really picturesque and quaint, like in a sun-dappled park or something like that but I pretty much never read in those places. Not even cos I'm not normally in these locations, but because I'm easily distracted when I do get a chance to read in a park or something like that. I tend to do well on the train, so I guess I'll say there?

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I do not do it often. And when I do it's only with certain people. Though to be honest, not many people ask me to borrow books.

16. Do you dog-ear your books?
I do not. 

17. Do you write notes on the margins of your books?
Only with my Kindle, and then it's just sarcastic comment.s

18. Do you break/crack the spines?
I try not to. I legitimately have books that look like they've never been opened despite the fact that I have read them multiple times. Because I'm a crazy person.

19. What is your favorite language to read?
Ahahaha, you think I'm way smarter than I am. I actually have read a book in French but that was Le Petit Prince and it was over the course of like 4 months in class and also that's a children's book so probably shouldn't have taken that long. I have a copy of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in Italian because why not? But yeah, English is pretty much my only option.

20. What makes you love a book?
If I can connect with it. Whether I'm connecting with the characters or the premise or the language, there needs to be something that gets under my skin, that my mind keeps going back to.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If it's a book I love love love, I will try to shove it down everyone's throat, because I care like that. Otherwise if someone happens to mention either a particular book I've read or if they mention something I think would be up their alley I'll recommend it. Pretty much I love recommending books and if someone off-handedly mentions they're looking for a book I will attack them with book recommendations. 

22. Favorite genre:
Funny? Yes. That'll do.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did):
Classics. While I love love love my funny books, I should read something that challenges me more.

24. Favorite biography:
I have not read many of these, so...Bill Bryson's Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid? Does that count? Or what about memoirs? I guess those don't really count either. Sorry, I got nothing here. The only biography coming to mind was one on Anne Boleyn that I read in the second grade, and I don't actually remember anything about it. I just remember having to dress up like the character for class and my parents really missed a golden opportunity to make me a headless costume.

25. Have you read a self-help book (and was it helpful)?
Probably but I can't think of any now (I am SO GOOD at these surveys). I know I read a little bit of He's Just Not That Into You that a former roommate had. That was all kinds of not good.

26. Favorite cook book:
I get most of my recipes from the internet as I think "Man, I want to try to make X". Or from my mom sending me magazines where she's already cut out all of the recipes she wants. I have some Rachel Ray cookbooks from a long time ago.

27. The most inspirational book you’ve read this year:
I don't know that I would categorize any of the books as inspirational. Dammit, another non-answer.

28. Favorite reading snack:
I am not coordinated enough to eat and read at the same time. I'd just make a mess. Or the food would be way over THERE and I'd be over HERE and I just wouldn't eat it.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience:
The River of No Return? Sorry, everyone who really loved this one. I did not and I thought I really, really would.

30. How often do you agree with the critics about a book?
Sometimes. I tend to only read critics of books I've already read.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Fine with it. I mean, I feel a little bad cos I don't want to shit all over something that someone tried really hard at. But if I didn't like the book, I'm not going to lie about it.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which would it be?
No idea. Sadly I don't read that much translated lit to say "Man, I wish I could read X language." Maybe Japanese? Not that I read much Japanese lit but I'd say more than others.

33. Most intimidating book I’ve ever read:
I read Hunchback of Notre Dame in like middle school. I had no idea what was going on (there is a LOT of Latin in that book...) I blame Disney.

34. Most intimidating book I’m to nervous to begin:
So many. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, East of Eden by Steinbeck. Pretty much anything that I'm afraid will be too complicated for me.

35. Favorite Poet:
Shel Silverstein? I have not read a lot of poetry.

36. How many books do you generally have checked out of the library at a given time?

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?
Just being mean now

38. Favorite fictional character:
Wow. How do you even narrow this down? Thursday Next, Sirius Black, Bernadette, Lizzie Bennet, Biff, I could keep going.

39. Favorite fictional villain:
Umbridge? Although I hate her the most but maaaaaan, she was a good villain.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation:
Like specific titles? I don't change the books I'm reading for vacation. It's the same stuff I'd pick if I were just home.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading:
A week or so?

42. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Anything. I'm super easily distracted. TV, the internets, if I'm trying to read in that idyllic park from earlier swans (there are swans and geese at this park near me and they are hilariously mean and I never get any reading done cos I just watch them terrorize small children/each other).

43. Name a book you could not finish:
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father She Ate Me Ugh just, not good.

44. Favorite film adaption of a novel:
Princess Bride. SO GOOD. I also love love love the '99 adaptation of Midsummer with Kevin Kline and Stanley Tucci. And of course the Lord of the Ring movies but it seems wrong to include them here cos I did not care for those books. So...

45. The most disappointing film adaptation:
How The Grinch Stole Christmas the Jim Carrey one. Just, sorry there wasn't enough material there for you and you had to pad it out. But you did it wrong. I'll assume The Cat in the Hat was terrible as well.

46. Most money I’ve ever spent in a bookstore at one time:
Like $50? Maybe? I tend to only buy one or two books and then at least one of them tends to be on discount so I don't spend much at one time. Now, over the course of a month the total can be fairly high. See my earlier answers about not having a library card.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Not very often. I probably should do it more.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through it?
If it's so terrible it's not even worth it to me to write a negative review about it (I try to only review books I've read all the way through) OR it's good but I'm not feeling it at the moment. I tend to finish whatever book I'm reading though.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
If by "organized" you mean "mostly on bookshelves" then yes.

50. Do you prefer to keep your books when done, or give them away?
Keep. I need to do a purge though.

51. Are there any books that you’ve been avoiding?
Yeah, those I am intimidated by. Because of the intimidation.

52. Name a book that made you angry:
The Last Girlfriend on Earth. Just...grrrr

53. A book I didn’t expect to like but did:
Octavia Butler? When I first read Dawn I did it because college made me and at first it was too weird for me. But as I went through it I realized this is INCREDIBLE.

54. A book I expected to like but didn’t:
The River of No Return. I am still bummed I didn't love that one.

55. Favorite guilt-free guilty-pleasure reading:
How can it be a guilt-free guilty-pleasure? Then it's just pleasure reading. I tend to read for pleasure so this is now back to my favorite type of books and those are humor.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

To die, it's easy. But you have to struggle for life!

It seems that graphic novels are a thing now* and I like things and trends and whatnot and wanted to play. I'd only ever read one before, Fun Home, and thought it was time to give some more a try. I was limping** around The Strand and I found their graphic novel/comic book section and decided today is the day I try this graphic novel thing again. And thus I picked up Maus A Survivor's Tale and Kill Shakespeare.

I decided to start with Maus because I wanted to depress myself. Well, that's only one of the reasons. It's also one I've been meaning to read because I've heard nothing but great things about it. And it's closer in style to Fun Home which I enjoyed.

For those that don't know, (so like 4 of you? probably) Maus is about the Holocaust. Or I guess technically the first book, which is the one I read, is about the time leading up to the Holocaust.
Art Spiegelman tells his father's story of his time living in Poland leading up to being sent to a concentration camp. Jews are mice, nazis are cats, Polish non-Jews & non-Nazis are pigs and I think those are all the animals.

The idea of animals instead of people can make the story seem somewhat...happy? Not, not happy. It's still the Holocaust. Whimsical? For children? I mean, American Tale is about Jewish mice chased out of their home when their village is Russia is burned to the ground and the escape to the tenements of NYC. This is pretty much just that, right? No, but until just now I didn't think of the fact that there was another piece of media that used the mice as Jews thing.

I remember reading somewhere (and I really wish I could remember where) saying that a lot of Holocaust literature has some sort of frame story or element to add a layer between the reader and what happened (Death as narrator for The Book Thief for example).
The horror of the events are a lot to handle without some device that lets your guard down. If that was Spiegelman's intention it works well. The fact that the characters are mice in no way makes you care about them less. It also doesn't downplay the seriousness of the story or make things any less painful to read.

The story jumps back and forth between the present when Art is visiting his father and his step-mother (his mother committed suicide years earlier) to hear his father tell his story. His father never comes off as a saint. Or even a particularly present person to be around. Which if anything further humanizes his father, mouse or no mouse.

This was excellent. It was amazing and moving and terrifying and depressing and of course it made me cry. I wish I had picked up Maus II so I could pick it up immediately after. You should read it. Everyone should read it. If you don't think you like graphic novels, read it anyway.

Gif rating:

*OK, by "now" I mean I have recently heard non-graphic novel/comics people talking about them and starting to read them.
**I had, it turned out, sprained my ankle not long before getting to the bookstore because I was comparing how pale I am (very) against Tom (not pale at all) (this is not a surprise or anything. It's not like a new fact that he's much darker than me) and I messed up stepping off a curb because I am AMAZINGLY GRACEFUL. If you're wondering if it still hurts, yes, a little bit. So that's fun.

Title quote from page 122

Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor's Tale I: My Father Bleeds History. Pantheon Books, 1980

Monday, October 6, 2014

Iiliad: How it started

Remember back in August when I wrote that summary post about Oedipus? I thought it was about time for another one of those, this time about The Iiliad. Well, not the actual Homer poem, but the stuff that lead up to that war. I don't mean to keep focusing on Greek myths except for two facts: one of my favorite books when I was little was D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths so I've read them a ton of time and also they are MESSED UP. Anyway, how'd that whole war dealy get started?

It all starts with a lady. Not Helen of Troy, we'll get to her. This starts with Atalanta, which is sort of like the beta version of Artemis, except not a goddess. She was born to a king who was so pissed she didn't have a penis that he abandoned her in the woods as a newborn because if there's a lesson you should take from Greek myths it's that old-timey royals were assholes.
A continuing issue
Instead of being found by a shepherd, she was found by a she-bear and while that should have meant she ended up as a tasty snack, the bear raised her and she grew up to be super fast, as that is the main thing bears are know for? I suppose she was limited in the amount of mauling she could effectively do, having inferior claws and teeth.
Even less effective than this
Some dude sees her running in the woods and decides to trap her because why not? He teaches her to act like a human, but also enters her in a bunch of races, because what's the point if you can't make money off of your found lady-pet? Her birth-dad hears about this girl winning all of these races and somehow realizes it's the same person he abandoned as an infant and decides that NOW it's OK she doesn't have a penis. Kind of OK, because he also decides it's ridiculous that she isn't married yet and decides to get right on fixing things.

She doesn't want to get married, but instead of that being that, she has to come up with some scheme to keep from getting hitched. So she says she'll only marry someone who is faster than her and also anyone who loses a race to her has to die. She figures that no one is going to take that bet cos you know, WHY but she's hot and apparently that's all it takes for a bunch of guys to try (and fail) to beat her.

Then this one guy shows up and he figures out a way to win. He knows he can't run faster than her, but he apparently also knows she cannot resist shiny things. He somehow was able to procure a bunch of golden apples so while they're running the race he throws them first near her and then further away and she CANNOT help but stop and pick them up. Because in addition to a she-bear, she also had a packrat as a best friend and Disney, how have you not made this a movie yet?

Anyway, this guy wins the race and gets to marry the girl who I guess is fine being married but mostly likes those golden apples. They forget to properly honor Zeus (see royals being dicks) and he "punishes" them by turning them into lions. Zeus must have got drunk and mixed up his punishment and his reward bags that day. Lions have no need for golden apples and somehow they ended up in the hands of the gods. One goddess in particular, Eris goddess of discord.

Awhile later one of the Argonauts, Peleus (Achilles's dad), wins a wife from Zeus (ladies get NO SAY in these matters...) and for the wedding he invites all the gods. Except somehow Eris's invite got lost in the mail, probably because who wants the goddess of discord hanging out at their wedding? Though I suppose if they invited Hades and other less-fun gods it's just rude to leave this lady out.

Eris shows up Maleficent-style but instead of cursing someone to the ultimate nap, she throws one of the golden apples into the crowd of (vain) goddesses and tells them that it belongs to the most beautiful one. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each run for it because of course they're the most beautiful. Then they totally ruin the wedding by getting in a giant fight over who deserves the apple and say what you will about Eris but she is good at what she does.

Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite continue fighting back up on Olympus but none of the other gods are touching this battle. Really, do you want to be the one to judge this beauty pageant? Zeus is staring out the window, trying to ignore the fight going on behind him, when he has an idea. The only way this is going to stop is if someone names one of the goddesses the most beautiful, but none of the gods are willing to deal with the two loser goddesses so the answer is to get someone else to judge. Maybe one of those mortals cos really, fuck those guys.

Zeus decides this super hot guy Paris can be the judge and Paris seems pretty OK with this because HEY get to judge a goddess beauty pageant, and also he has not thought ahead to the fact that whoever loses is probably not going to take it well because, again, the gods are pretty terrible.

The three goddesses decide to bribe the judge because of course they do. Hera, queen of the gods and of marriage (...), promises Paris power and that he'll get to rule all of Asia. Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare, promises to make Paris the smartest man in the world. Aphrodite, goddess of love, promises him sex. Not with her but with the most beautiful woman on earth. GUESS WHO PARIS PICKS!

Aphrodite surprisingly stays true to her word and promises Paris that he can have Helen (told you we'd get back to her), the most beautiful woman in the world. There is one tiny snag; Helen is already married to King Menelaus. No matter. Aphrodite has her son Eros shoot one of his arrows into her heart and she is totally ready to elope with Paris and start a ten-year war. Then you know the rest.

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: A Sea of Troubles 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.