Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A (Somewhat) Leisurely Neighborhood Book Walk

This past weekend my townhouse/condo complex hosted the first (of what I hope will be a regular event) book walk. Which not only resulted in fun times but also gave me something to write about.

A  book walk, at least as we did it, involved everyone who lives in this complex* taking any books they don't want any more and putting them on their front stoop or some in one of the communal squares. Then you walk around, see what people put out and pick up some new books. A few neighbors also put out some (individually packaged and wrapped) treats.

This was quite convenient for me because I had a big box of books for donation that I had been slowly bringing to our local library (they have a limit as to how many you could drop off at a given time) before COVID shut that down. So this gave me the chance to get rid of the box of books that were just cluttering things. And of course maybe I could pick up a couple books and start cluttering the space with new things. What fun.

So I got rid of about 20 books and only brought 6 new ones home. That's a pretty good ratio. Admittedly, I'm sure the number would have been much higher had it not been for the fact that Matthew does not appreciate leisurely browsing of books. He preferred the method of run-around-in-circles and stack-random-books-up and wait-are-those-cookies-over-there?? Really helped me make quick decisions about books, since I had to grab a book fast before I had to take off after him. But I managed to get some what I hope are good ones and even Matthew got something.

So let's see what I got:
  • Circe by Madeline Miller - I've heard good things about this. I think. I've definitely heard stuff about it and I like what little I know of Circe the character from the Odyssey 
  • Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman - I've only read 2 parenting books since having Matthew: Emily Oster's Cribsheets and Toddlers Are Assholes by Bunmi Laditan. And perhaps the second book isn't a parenting book, per se. I have been a bit skeptical of this book but honestly, I took it because while I was considering it, Matthew took off in an effort, I assume, to find more treats across the street and I didn't have time to waffle on it while I chased him. Besides, I figured his running off was indicative that I could perhaps benefit from at least hearing what she had to say.
  • My Treasury of Stories and Rhymes - While I was looking at the books on one neighbor's deck, she came out to hang some lights and of course saw Matthew there. He was standing there calmly because he was eating a brownie at this time, and thus had what he wanted. When she saw him she brought out this book. I guess since there are maybe 3 young kids that live in our complex (it seems to be largely made up of retirees) she didn't expect anyone would want this one. So Matthew's luck. He loves red.
  • The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (An Adoption Story) by Dan Savage - While I haven't read the column in a while, I used to enjoy Savage Love and figured this would be fun and funny.
  • All Adults Here by Emma Straub - Honestly, I don't know anything about this book. But the author's name sounds familiar (I have not been nearly active enough in the book world) and Matthew liked the yellow cover so he kept grabbing it. My one regret is I grabbed a hardback version and later saw at another stoop in paperback. So I dunno, maybe it isn't the best book if 2 houses were giving it away. But we'll see.
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt - I read my dad's copy of this book several years ago over Thanksgiving and loved it. But it seemed silly to buy a copy. A free copy, however, that's fine. 

* It was going on all day so people could be spaced out and everyone who lives here is good about adhering to social distancing guidelines, so people were masked and everyone was giving people their space. And of course the whole thing was outside. Man I had having to make these caveats but also PEOPLE, please take this seriously

Monday, November 2, 2020

October Reading Wrap Up

Another month over. I had meant to read some horror books in October. Ya know, tis the season and whatnot. But I didn't manage it because honestly, I didn't try all that hard. I'll probably end up reading a bunch of horror in December when that is also not the season. Because time means nothing.

I'm trying to think of something else to say before getting into stats. Anyone see Ted Lasso? I mean, it's on Apple TV so I would understand if not but it's real good and between this and Central Park we may actually need to sign up or figure out a way to get another trial. But anyway, Ted Lasso is about an American college football coach moving to England to coach a Premier League team despite knowing nothing about soccer. But don't worry, cos he is SO optimistic and positive and also he is played by Jason Sudeikis who is quite charming. I know little about sports in general and Premier League in particular but the show is so funny and sweet. And right now, I need a show that is just funny and sweet and I can only watch reruns of Great British Bake Off so many times (that number is 100 times, give or take).

Before the stats, here's the monthly goblin photo. Here he is enjoying his reading tent.

Number of books read
3
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
Andrea Vernon and the Superhero Industrial Complex by Alexander C. Kane
Shit Actually: The 100% Definitive Guide to Modern Cinema by Lindy West

Number of pages read
1,125

Fiction
33%

POC authors
0%

Female authors
67%

US authors
100%

Book formats
audiobook: 67%
hardback: 33%

Where'd I get the books
Indie: 33%
Kindle/Audible: 67%

Decades published
2010s: 33%
2020s: 67%

Resolution books
0%
Not so great. I want to feel worse about this but honestly I'm too tired to feel bad about these at the moment. I'm sure the shame will catch up with me next month, and hopefully then I do better.

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Supernatural Workplace Comedy I have been waiting for

At some point a few years ago, I came across a book called Zombie Inc about (ostensibly) this company that handled zombie removal, similar to the way you'd hire an exterminator to deal with a rat problem. And at that point I realized what I really want is a funny book that takes place in an office setting but instead of the business dealing with something boring, it's in the business of something ridiculous and supernatural. Like zombie removal. The key is the crazy is mundane, at least to the characters in the story.

Now that I type this out, I realize that this might go further back from that first book, to the first time I listened to Welcome to Night Vale. Or I suppose before that listening to PBS Idea Channel describe the podcast as"borrowing Lovecraft's (as in H.P.) spirit" but with "paralytic terror replaced with drab mundanity", taking "unspeakable abomination and turning it into unremarkable absurdity,"and YES GIVE THAT TO ME PLEASE.

But it has been a journey to find something that really fits what I want. Not The Regional Office Is Under Attack!. Not The Intern's Handbook. Not even the Night Vale book, though it came the closest, except it's not really about these mundane office politics SO it's not totally fair to group it in. 

Most of the books that I thought would be what I wanted started that way, but then quickly focused on ACTION of jumping into these crazy worlds and NO, you guys. That's not what I want. I don't want Max from accounting to be the unlikely hero who can actually kick lots of ass when he's pulled into the fray. I want to know who is still making the coffee and what sort of expense reports do you file if you're an assassin for hire

Now I know, as I type this, what I am looking for sounds super boring. I'm not looking for a boring a story, I'm looking for a ridiculous one. A few times I thought do I need to write this story I want to read and then realized that that was probably not going to happen. And so, my search carried on, though with perhaps less optimism than before.

Lucky for me, Alexander C. Kane also has this same desire and wrote a couple books called Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection and Andrea Vernon and the Superhero-Industrial Complex and hopefully more. This is exactly what I was looking for. Andrea Vernon is the administrative assistant to Ms. Persephone Oh, VP of a corporation that manages superheroes. Because in this world, there are tons of superheroes and super villains, so a number of private businesses have been established to handle things. She is not a superhero. She does not have secret superhero abilities. Unless it's being a super awesome administrative assistant, cos she's good at that, especially in a job where one of the rules is no asking questions. This can be troublesome when say, trying to figure out what type of coffee Ms. Oh wants but she figures it out. Spreadsheets are involved.
The stories leans into the ridiculous. There are scenes where she's trying to get the superheroes (or Supes) to learn the company database and make sure they're filling out the appropriate paperwork and passing on memos from marketing about the importance of branding. There's also the supes themselves: 
  • King Tiger - half man, half tiger, originally from Mumbai. Somewhat leader of the supes
  • The Big Axe - really big guy with a really big axe. Always include the "The" when referring to him (e.g., how's it going, The Big Axe?)
  • Senora Fuego - proud Latina from the Bronx, controls fire, loves gossip
  • Lightning Hwang - originally from China, now owns a hardware store in Chinatown NYC, can turn into a bolt of lightning. Prouder of the store than his powers
  • Inspector Well Actually - super-genius but powers are only activated when correcting people, not well liked, his fedora glows when his powers are in full swing
There are more and they're all great and of varying levels of usefulness. Sure there is danger and there is action (in the first book, a giant mysterious space egg appears over Yankee Stadium) but the scenes of people fighting the egg have equal weight to the sales team trying to add a new region to the registrar. And that's the fun.

The super villains are pretty great too. Never More is part woman, part raven and knows everyone's greatest regret. Deinonychus is half-woman, half-deinonychus and is VERY angry that the velociraptors in Jurassic Park were actually closer to deinonychus but they didn't get the credit and 10 year old me made this SAME ARGUMENT. Kane, you get me.
Plus the cast in these books is diverse. I named some above, and there's also Andrea who is Haitian-American and Ms. Oh who is Korean-American from Georgia with the thick accent and Southern similes to go with it. AND MORE. It was nice to have a superhero story not just filled with white people. 

The books are so much fun and several times I had to interrupt Tom to tell him some great moment that just happened and Kane gets me and what I've been looking for. Which is nice. And now I just need so many more in this series.

I didn't start this with the intention of writing a review, which I guess this kinda turned into. I really just wanted to write something and moreso, want to tell many people about these silly books. The only downside is, as far as I can tell, these are only available as audiobooks and only through Audible, which is a bummer, especially with indie bookstores hurting right now. But still, these books are great.

Friday, October 2, 2020

September Reading Wrap Up

Alright, so I didn't manage a second post in September. Just the August reading wrap up. The intention was there. Maybe after...I dunno November? Maybe then I'll be able to manage a bit more. Assuming everything won't happen so much everyday. I don't know why I'd assume that, considering that's basically how every day has been and of course look at the latest news. (Fun how this sentence is applicable regardless of when you read this. And by fun, I mean gives me stress headaches.) But let's focus on the happy stuff, aka reading.

I found a good strategy for reading this month: Put a bunch of books on hold from the library roughly 12 years ago. Forget about them. Have them all come in this month a few days apart. Even though I wasn't expecting them, realize if I don't want to wait until 12 years for them to become available again, I better get listening. Neglect other responsibilities (like perhaps, updating this blog more than once a month). Still don't manage to hit the most pages you've read so far this year but it's at least top 5. Realize it's top 5 out of only 9 months. That's not actually that impressive, is it? Further realize getting ANY reading done is cause for celebration. Get tired of this writing style. 

Moving on. Before I get into the reading stats for the month, here's a picture of the little monster in what he'll use as one of his modeling shots because WHAT is this pose? His hair looks like this because we shan't be visiting a kids haircutting place for a while. Even I haven't gone and I know I can be trusted to keep my mask on and not spend the whole time violently shaking my head back and forth. The same cannot be said for the small one. But anyway, the look is growing on me. I love those curls. So even when we can/do go get it cut, I'm all for keeping the mop.
But right, the stats.

Number of books read
5
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Way to Cure Everything by Lydia King & Nate Pederson
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Number of pages read
1,559

Fiction
40%

POC authors
20%

Female authors
100%
(Technically one of the authors is a guy but my stat tracking cannot account for multiple authors on a single book and I could try to figure it out but I'm not going to. So. All ladies.)

US authors
60%

Book formats
audiobooks: 80%
paperback: 20%

Where'd I get the book
Indie: 20%
Library: 80%

Bookclub
20%

Rereads
20%

Decades published
1920s: 20%
1930s: 20%
2000s: 20%
2010s: 40%

Resolution Books
60%
The two Christie books were each published before 2000 (ya know, cos she died in the '70s) and also she's a non-US author
Quackery is written, or at least partially written, by Lydia King, an Asian-American writer. Again, I'm not sure how to account for a book with two writers without doing lots of math to separate the % from the book total to the author total and I really don't feel like rebuilding spreadsheets. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

August Reading Wrap Up

Another month over, another month where I wrote and read way less than I hoped. Blah Blah Blah at this point, right? Today was a long day with a lot happening all at once and I am just looking forward to a long weekend with zero plans because really, what am I going to be doing?

But hey, when he's not drawing on the couch, look how cute the goblin is
Anyway, let's look at those stats

Number of books read
3
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

Number of pages read
1,006
Juuuuust barely managed to pass the 1,000 mark. I also listened to about half of the book Less but at some point was not feeling it and then I realized I had a book to read for bookclub that I forgot about and then I had a library hold come in and here we are.

Fiction
67%

POC authors
67%

Female authors
67%

US authors
67%

Book formats
100% audiobooks

Where'd I get the book
Kindle/Audible: 33%
Library: 67%

Bookclub
33%

Reread
33%

Decades published
2010s: 67%
2020s: 33%

Resolution Books
67%
Crazy Rich Asians is by a POC author from Singapore 
The Vanishing Half is also by a POC author

Friday, August 7, 2020

Help Save USPS and Get a Book - What's Not to Love?

Perhaps you've heard that things in the US are, in general, garbage. Among all of the garbage things, because there is so much, is the threat to the United States Postal Service. I won't go into what's going on or why because all I'd be doing is quoting people far smarter than me who have already written about it, but instead here are some links

Save the Postal Service - The Atlantic
And if you'd rather listen, here's a podcast from Secretly Incredibly Fascinating about US Post Offices

I'm trying to think what I can do, in my small way, to help. I've reached out to my elected officials (and will probably reach out again a few more times). We have stamps. Then I saw my box of books to donate to the local library. While I would hate to deny my library books that they can sell to help fund the library they a) aren't taking any right now because of the pandemic and b) I've already donated about half my books to them in the before-times. So I figure, what if I offered some of these books to people who want them and I can use USPS to get them to you.

Here you go. If you want any of these books below, leave me a comment and we can connect via email to get addresses and whatnot. I do want to caveat that I can't promise how quickly I will get to the post office (because of pandemic and having a small one in the house ALL THE TIME because of pandemic) but I will do my best and I will make sure to keep you up to date. Anyway, here are the books I have that I don't want to have anymore but you might want to have. So have at it.