Monday, October 31, 2011

It's time for a Halloween Clip Show!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays and scary/creepy/weird lit is some of my favorite reading. I figured for this Halloween, as I've done for past holiday posts, I'll include a bunch of links to some past Halloween-y posts. That way I get a Halloween related post plus I send you to a bunch of older posts I've done. And if the clip show is good enough for The Simpsons, then it's good enough for me!

Tuesday Top 10 Lists
Top 10 Halloween Reads
Top 10 Scariest Books

Everything's Eventual by Stephen King
The nine-year-old boy I was had done nothing for which he might legitimately fear the devil either...and yet the Devil came
Mr. Maybe They Will vs. Mr. Even If I Do
It was the human mind's final great parlor-trick: the perception of eternity in the place where you'd always expected to spend it

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
In short, he wished to know why there was no more magic done in England
As everybody knows, no one with red hair can ever truly be said to be handsome
I believe Mr Strange will do very well in the war, sir. He has already out-manoeuvred you
"I am sure you are a very different sort of magician from Mr Norrell," [Stephen] said. "I hope I am," said Mr Segundus, seriously
Think of me with my nose in a book

World War Z by Max Brooks
It goes by many names: "The Crisis", "The Dark Years", "The Walking Plague"
Who in his right mind could have been ready for this?
Couldn't just one restart the plague all over again?

Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories edited by Roald Dahl
Such ordinary things make me afraid

A Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
Survival is the key word to remember

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
It was as if vampirism carried with it a crampless case of rattlesnake PMS

You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
You shouldn't just kill a guy without asking. It's inconsiderate

Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
Saying "rawr" is not a vampyre thing

"The Adjustment Team" by Philip K. Dick
No, you're not dead. You're...visiting

Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
His first reaction to the unplanned and unexpected wasn't a frown but a smile
Duddits is their dreamcatcher

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore
Are you saying...that the human race was created to irritate Satan?

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
How quickly one accepts the incredible if only one sees it enough!

Horrorscape edited by Gary Goshgarian

Friday, October 28, 2011

Shakespeare and Fitness

I'm not a huge exercise fan, mostly because I'm very lazy. So I kind of need to trick myself into exercising. Luckily, I'm fairly easy to fool. A few years ago I got a Wii and the next year I got EA Active, one of those workout games. I'm embarrassed to say how much a video game, even if it is an exercise one, kicks my ass.

One of the exercises that always destroyed me was squat holds. You have to hold a squat for 40 seconds, all while the "trainer" in the game keeps repeating "hold your squat" and you really just want to throw things at her, but then you remember if you do that you'll just damage your own TV. So it's all very frustrating and I've never been able to actually hold it for the full time. Until the other day when I figured the key to this was ignoring the timer and blocking the trainer lady out.

Normally it's very easy for me to get lost in my own thoughts, but apparently I can only do that if I'm supposed to be paying attention to something. If I'm trying to block something out I suddenly get super focused on whatever I'm trying to ignore. I was trying to think of something I could focus on but nothing was coming to me. I was at a loss for anything and then, right as the countdown began, I started reciting (in my head) the final soliloquy from Midsummer. ("If we shadows have offended,/Think but this; and all is mended..."). Apparently this takes me 40 seconds to recite and it also marked the only time I've been able to actually complete this squat hold. Take that annoying trainer lady, who seems really smug normally when you stand up before you're supposed to and she has to tell you to squat again.

So first I've got Harry Potter audiobooks and running (which is going, although still fairly sporadic) and now I have squats and Shakespeare. And that phrase might be my favorite thing I have written on this blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top Halloween Reads

This week's Tuesday Top 10, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish,  is right up my alley (haha) so I'm excited to list out my top "however many I can make it up to" favorite Halloween reads.

1. World War Z by Max Brooks - I've been in a zombie groove and I know lots of people are getting sick of them and by all accounts I should to but I haven't yet. While I may get freaked out while watching The Walking Dead, Brooks's book is the one that gives me nightmares. It's a realistic portrayal of what the world would be like, what the international ties would be like, what the military would be like, what general civilization would be like, if the world was overtaken by zombies.

2. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson - I actually just wrote about this one so it's still fresh in my mind. It's such a creepy story that starts out so innocently.

3. Everything's Eventual by Stephen King - I included this around last Halloween when I listed out the top 10 scariest books but I have to put it on here again because I love the story "1408". When you look at it, it's a very simple story (haunted hotel room) but it's told so well and there is so much build up and atmosphere. I remember reading this story, finishing the last page, letting out a big breath (I'd been holding it near the end) and then immediately started the story over again.

4. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris - It's hard to read this book without thinking of Hopkins as Lecter but the story still stands up to the movie. I mean there are not one but two serial killers! And not your everyday "kill a lot of people" killers with no imagination but "wear you like a lady suit" and "eat your liver" type of serial killers. I think I may have a problem.

5. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe - You really can't have a list of great Halloween stories without including some Poe on here and currently I'm loving this story. There are so many good ones it's hard to choose and this one doesn't have the violence that makes up so many of his other stories, nor does it have the crazy untrustworthy narrator. Similar to King's "1408" this is all about atmosphere and being unable to escape your horrors. Beautiful language and imagry.

8. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare - The gore alone in this story makes it a good Halloween read, especially if you're looking for something that will impress people at dinner parties. Assuming those people aren't really all that familiar with Shakespeare and don't realize that this play is, as the Reduced Shakespeare Company referred to it, Shakespeare's "Quentin Tarantino phase". There limbs keep getting hacked off, tongues cut out, ladies (OK, just one lady) ravaged, madness, and the whole thing is bookended with cannibalism. Plus it has some of the best one liners ("Villain, I have done thy mother.") so really, what's not to love?

7. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore - I figured I'll now veer into some of the not-so-scary but still good Halloween reads and Moore's A Dirty Job is a good place to start. I mean it has a beta male who finds out he's death (with a little "d" which is different from Death, the big guy) and there are Hell Hounds (they're great with kids) and little creatures roaming the sewers watching everything and a vampire makes a cameo and my favorite, the emperor of San Francisco. All this with Moore's humor.

8. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith - I know I've written about this one ad nauseam but it's so much fun. The literary (and there's a lot of Austen in here, so you better like her stuff) and the ridiculous (zombies. It's right there in the title) mash up so any time there are one too many long balls or carriage rides the monsters bust in and shake things up a bit. Also there are ninjas.

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell - I included this on my last Halloween list as well but it is that good. Honestly, it's scarier than numbers 7 and 8 but it is meant for kids. I still love these books but the stories aren't super scary like I remember them. However, those Gammell illustrations are still terrifying today. Who let that guy illustrate something for children? Actually, my outrage is completely feigned as I saw somewhere there was a new version of the books with different, cuddlier illustrations and that was blasphemy.

10. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - Historical fiction plus wizards. It's not a horror story but there are creepy characters and hidden histories that make this a wonderful but not terrifying October read.

Oh hey, look! I made it to 10. So what are your favorite Halloween reads?

Monday, October 24, 2011

There is no delight the equal of dread

Now I'm onto part 2 of Horrorscapes called The Horror We Do. Sometimes horror is caused by the supernatural and sometimes it's just people who suck. I guess that's the simplified way of describing it but I am here to simplify.  The horror that we do  is, in general, my preferred type of horror fiction. I may get freaked out watching the supernatural stuff* as well, but it's the horrors coming from the mundane, the realistic stuff,  that keeps me awake at night.

So I figured I do 2 quick mini-reviews of the stories in this part because I can't pick just one to talk about. So here we go:

The Horror We Do
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Dread by Clive Barker
Something About Camilla by Juleen Brantingham

First up, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. Have you read this one yet? If not, just stop reading this and go read it. *This is absolutely going to contain spoilers. Really the fact that I'm writing about it as a horror story is already kind of a spoiler so I apologize for that. If you had just read it already, we wouldn't be in this mess*
This is a messed up story that makes me repeat "WTF people?" when I finish it. Seriously, every time I have that reaction, even when I know what's coming. According to the intro before the story, when this was first published in The New Yorker many people were "disturbed to the point of cancelling their subscriptions," which is awesome. I want to get that powerful of a reaction out of people. Granted I just picture people with monocles and top hats reading this and then crying "Good heavens!" or "What the devil?!" when they get to the end, so it may not be the most difficult group to shock, but still. It starts out so innocently, with a small town and everyone taking part in this lottery that at first sounds kind of like a game. Then slowly you get these feeling that something is off but you can't figure out what. And then it ends with a lady being stoned to death by her friends and family and how can you finish this and not be like WTF? and have your monocle go flying off? It's so scary because these seem like normal people. There's nothing sinister about them or the town; they're just doing what they've always done. And that is the scary part. They're doing it because they've always done it and how many things can you think of people do just because it's always been done that way?
*Spoilers are contained, but seriously, just read the story.*

Now I need to mention Clive Barker's "Dread" because it also makes you go WTF people, but you don't have the same innocence that is part of "The Lottery". It's also much more violent, much more graphic, than anything else in the book so far. The character Quaid is looking to study and understand dread. And isn't that, on some level, what anyone reading horror fiction is doing? You want to be scared from a safe distance. Goshgarian says in the intro to Horrorscapes
What horror fiction does is allow us to partake in horror and terror at a distance. It's a safe way of giving into primitive pleasure, of speculating about unseen powers, impossible creatures, and a dark nature. It's a way of getting scared without being scared.
Quaid doesn't want to be scared, but he wants to experience and understand other people's dread. Which means the other people must be scared. He argues the concept as a philosophical notion and he can riddle prettily, but he's interested in more than just the academic side of things. I suppose it's the difference between reading something in a book and learning about it first hand. It's just messed up when other people's dread is what you're most interested in.

I'm trying to keep this one spoiler free, so you don't have to actually read all of these stories in order to read the post. So again I'll just repeat how my professor described Barker: "[The] stories are powerful and raw. The violence is extreme, the sex explicit, and the horror exquisite." Enjoy.

"Something About Camilla" is a good story and if it wasn't up against these other two I would definitely enjoy it more. But these are two powerful stories and it's hard to compete with them.

Title quote from page 55, from the story "Dread" by Clive Barker.

Goshgarian, Gary ed. Horrorscape. Kendall Press, 1993.

*Seriously, don't watch The Walking Dead with me. I am normally a very passive TV/movie viewer but that show seems to require me to spend half the time screaming and the other half yelling instructions to the characters. Like "in the brain, you moron!" when characters seem to spend time hacking at other parts and that is a total waste of time and quit using your gun, you know the noise only draws more of them to you!

Friday, October 21, 2011

It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself

For my next Halloween-worthy read I decided to scan my own bookshelves in an attempt to save some money, and I stumbled on a packet I had for one of my college classes. Specifically for my Horror Fiction class. And if that doesn't indicate some good Halloweeny reads, I don't know what is.

The packet is a selection of short horror fiction stories pulled together by my professor and has an intro to horror fiction overall as well as brief information about each of the stories. I loved this class (and ended up taking 2 more of the professors courses: the modern bestseller and science fiction) but haven't revisited most of these stories since I first read them and figured now is a perfect opportunity.

The packet/book/whatever is split into 4 parts: Dark Roots; The Horror We Do; Belief and The Supernatural; and Avenging Angels and Faustian Devils. I feel like it's difficult to write about a collection of short stories*. Do you write about the collection overall? (If so, how cos I have no idea how to even go about that.) Do you write about all of the stories? Just a couple? How do you pick which ones? To solve this problem I decided to split up my posts based on the different sections and select one (or two if I can't help myself) of the stories from each parts. Excited? I bet you are. Here we go!

Part 1: Dark Roots
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe
Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs

The first part is clearly Poe heavy, but obviously Poe is one of the grandfather's of the genre, so expect to see the guy there. Personally out of these stories, my favorite is the Jacob's contribution with "The Monkey's Paw". Since I'm sure everyone is familiar with Poe (and if you aren't, fix that!) and also because this is my blog, I'm gonna talk about the ape appendage.

Simpson's covered the story so I'm going to assume that means there is no need for spoiler warnings. Or I guess this counts as your spoiler warning. Also if you haven't read it yet, go do that. Here's a link to make this easy for you.

"The Monkey's Paw" is a story I can read again and again. It's short (all of 9 pages), but it's full of such a creepy atmosphere.  And I love a creepy atmosphere. It starts out with such a sweet domestic scene, father and son playing chess next to the fire while mom sits nearby knitting. Doesn't get too much more Norman Rockwell-ier than that. And then things get all messed up by this "old friend" and his mysterious monkey paw. I put "old friend" in quotes because he may have warned them against using the paw but he certainly talked it up and made it sound like something you had to see. And of course in the end he did give it to them, after a half-hearted attempt to destroy it by throwing it into the fire. You know, after bringing it up in the first place. So this paw will grant you wishes, but it will make it just seem like it's a coincidence so you can never really be sure the paw did anything. And of course this wouldn't be a horror story if the coincidence/wish didn't mean something terrible for the family, which is all the more cruel because this is an innocent family. The father even says at one point he can't think of a thing he'd wish for because he already has everything he could ever want (Awwww). Then a simple wish of two hundred pounds brings the death of the son and so much misery. You can't help but feel heartbroken right along with the family.

No matter how many times I've read the story, no matter that I already know how it ends, I always wish things to be different while knowing they're going to end unhappily. It is a good reminder not to mess with fate.

*I ran into the problem of writing about a collection of short stories last October when I wrote about Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories. We'll see if this way works better.

Title quote from Poe's story "The Black Cat", page 11

Goshgarian, Gary ed. Horrorscape. Kendall Press, 1993.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How quickly one accepts the incredible if only one sees it enough!

I've wanted to check out the book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson for awhile now. Well at least since the movie came out and I heard not only what the original ending was but the typical refrains of "The book is soooo much better." I was happy then, to see that an ecopy of this book was on sale through Amazon. Plus it fits in nicely with the horror theme of the month, so there's another win.

The premise is what intrigued me to both see the movie and read the book. The main character, Robert Neville, is the seemingly last man on Earth. A pandemic has swept the nation turning all those that are infected into these vampire/zombie hybrid things and for whatever reason Neville is immune. His days are spent on survival: repairing any damage to his home/fortress, stocking up on supplies, making stakes, peeling garlic, killing the vampires and looking for any signs of uninfected life. He is tormented by the vampires each night as they surround his house, taunting him to come out. He's in a deep depression, pretty understandably so, and has no joy, not even in disposing of the infected bodies, both those that are completely taken over by the disease, and those who are somewhat still alive but will succumb eventually.
*This part is a bit spoiler-y. Though I knew it before hand and I don't think it ruined anything. But decide for yourself*
After years of this solitary vampire slayer life he learns that those who are infected but still alive have figured out a way to live with the disease and they view him as a threat because he keeps spending his days killing everyone. That's when he realizes that he's actually the anomaly and he is the legend of their nightmares (hence the story's title).  So really, the spoiler is kind of right there in the title.
*Spoilers contained*

 Here's the thing, I wish the book was written by someone else. I love the idea of the book, I think it's a great story. I just hated the execution of it. You don't get a lot of insight into the characters. I suppose it makes sense you don't get too much about the vampires, including Ben Corman, Neville's old friend. But it would have been nice if Neville was a fully rounded out character. And then there's all the pseudo-science thrown in that does nothing to explain anything going on. It mostly felt like Matheson had come across a medical encyclopedia and decided to thrown lots of terms at his story. I can accept a lot of "realities" from a story, including one where zombie/vampires take of the world. But when you try to throw some jargon at me and explain that Neville is immune because a vampire bat bite him when he was in Panama, I loudly yell "bullshit" and start laughing. I don't mind pseudo-science in my horror/sci-fi stories. I expect there to be some. I just don't expect it to be so obviously bad.

Also Neville is constantly drinking. I don't have a problem with this, nor does it seem unusual that a very depressed person who is the last living man on earth, would spend a good amount of his time drunk. Or actually, he ends up drinking very little because he spends most of the time spilling it onto the floor or pouring it into a glass, only to then throw the glass at a wall. Somewhere in this desolate world is an unending supply of whiskey and bar glasses. I think the drinking was a shortcut to try to show depth of the character but unfortunately it didn't work. It could have worked, maybe with a different author.

There is one scene that worked. Or at least worked better than the others. One day Neville sees a dog wandering about during the daylight and over the next few weeks he slowly gains the dog's trust. It's so simple but you can feel Neville's desperation to connect with any living thing.

So there you go: interesting premise that I wish I could have seen a different author take on.

Title quote from location 910

Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. RossettaBooks, 2011. Kindle copy. Originally published 1954.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top Ten Most Successful Book Titles/Covers

It's another Tuesday which means another Top Ten list, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week they ask what are the top 10 book covers or book titles that made you want to pick up that book?

I make a lot of my reading selections based on a good cover or an intriguing cover. It's my favorite part of going to a bookstore and it's the part that shopping online can't replace. I've never been able to browse books online like I can at a bookstore. These are books either I've read or want to read largely based on their cover and/or title. I put all the titles at the bottom of the post because trying to get it to format nicely in text was making me want to throw things.

1. Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg - I actually have the other 2 books in, what I guess you could call a series, Why Do Mean Fall Asleep After Sex and Let's Play Doctor but those don't have the same intrigue as that first book. And if you're curious, guys have nipples cos they start out as ladies while in the womb.

2. Shakespeare and Modern Culture by Marjorie Garber - Shakespeare in the title and bright colors. How could I not be drawn in?

3. An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton - It's a "classic collection of collective nouns" with things like "a gaggle of geese," "a rash of dermatologists," or maybe "a panic of paranoids".  And it's by James "Inside the Actors Studio" Lipton.

4. Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti - I'm amazingly immature so seeing "full frontal" makes me giggle. And then "feminism" makes me want to pick it up.

5. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - Ultimately I read this because of some great reviews but it had been on my radar because that cover just stands out.

6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith - This is a book title and cover that makes you pause. It worked for me. I picked it up when the person in front of me in line decided last minute she didn't want it. Her loss, my gain.

7. You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore - Now I'm a big fan of the guy but before I had read any of his stuff I saw this book sitting on one of the tables. The bright cover and the title got me to check him out and I'm so happy that I did.

8. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen - Before I knew anything about Franzen this book caught my eye. I actually think if I never ended up finding out more about the guy I would have read this by now. I will get to it. Eventually.

9. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - Omnivores are having a dilemma? But I am an omnivore. And bam, just like that, I am now interested in a book despite the fact that the cover is one I'd normally walk right by.

10. How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely - It's such a simple cover, but it stands out. It's the type of book I would normally pick up off of those tables they have scattered about a bookstore. I haven't picked this one up yet, but I plan on it.

*Fair warning, I'm writing this while watching the Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead. So if I inexplicably start typing "shoot it in the face, shootitintheface!!!!" it's because I'm so sucked into the show that I've starting typing what I'm yelling and also that I forgot how the backspace button works.*

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bookish Accessories or I heart these earrings

So obviously I love books, if this blog wasn't clear. Inspired by Lit Musing Brenna's Book Fetish posts on BookRiot I decided to finally write about a bookish gift I was given. Granted I was given the gift months ago, but seeing how I am no good at doing anything in a reasonable amount of time, only a few months after the fact seems pretty good.

Check out these book earrings. Adorable, no? The best part, they're actual little journals. Now I could never write anything in them because I can't write nor read something that small, but the fact that they are actual little leather journals with actual pages inside makes me happy.
Normally earrings shaped like objects aren't really my thing, but these I love. I love them cos they're bookish, I love them because they came from a dear friend and I love them because they're from a place I loved and miss. Which does mean it may be slightly difficult (though not impossible) if you wanted to pick up a pair. I've mentioned this a few times on here, but my friend and I studied for a semester in Italy. My friend was back that way and she picked these up for me because she's pretty awesome. So if you happen to find yourself in Perugia, Italy* you should make sure you wander around the stands they have selling little items cos you might find something like this.

*Luckily I was there before the whole Amanda Knox fiasco happened. I'm very happy I didn't have to deal with that circus and I can remember the place as a super awesome Italian college town instead of that place where that murder happened.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If you're going to have an anti-Stratfordian movie, can't it at least include spies?

Image: Scientific American
Have you seen the trailer for the new movie Anonymous? It's about how Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford is actually the author of Shakespeare's works. See aristocrats shouldn't be messing around with the theater. That's for trashy people. But Edward just had to dance write. So he wrote the stuff but got this poor player William Shakespeare to be his front man.

I don't plan on seeing this movie. Not because "how dare they" or anything but more because there are a bunch of other movies I'd like to see but I'm lazy and don't make it to the movies that often. Also cheap. So I guess I'm saying if it's someday on TV and there's nothing else on or the remote is really far away I might watch it. I believe Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare (kooky idea, right?) but I like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person. But really, if you're going to make an anti-Stratfordian movie, let's at least go all out.

By that I mean, if you're going to make a movie that says Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare, why not go with Marlowe as the actual writer? I don't believe it anymore than I believe de Vere or Bacon or any of the other 70+ candidates for Shakespearian authorship. It's just that at least it makes a good story. Here are the basics

Marlowe is a successful dramatist, with his plays The Jew of Malta and Doctor Faustus bringing in all the groundlings. But he's also a spy! (Dun dun duuunn) He was a spy for the Queen, who got him out of a couple tight situations, so it seems he had some powerful friends. But powerful friends can only help you so much when blasphemy is on the line and your roommate Kyd sells you out. Marlowe is reputed to be an atheist so even the Queen is having trouble making this thing go away. What to do? Oh, a faked death you say? Perfect!  Marlowe gets in a bar fight over a bill and is stabbed in the eye and killed. Just days before he's supposed to go on trial for heresy. They probably went with the eye-stabbing because you can't cut the breaks on a horse. Now he hangs out in Italy for awhile and let's things back in London blow over. But he also must dance write. So he gets an old contemporary of his to take his works and claim them as his own. And that is how you do an anti-Stratfordian conspiracy theory

See how much better that story is? Spies! Atheists! Faked death! Also there's a chance Marlowe might have been gay, so there's that to. So what would you rather: a guy who was too fancy to write or an Elizabethan James Bond for whom even faked death couldn't stop his need to write? Exactly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

But there was no way to turn back gracefully now.

Choke On Your Lies is an interesting premise. When the story starts out it seems like something out of a The White Male Fuck-Up Novel (thanks BookRiot!): guy's wife has just told him she wants a divorce and the house and guy finds out wife has been cheating on him. And the guy Mick is pretty pathetic. No, I'm sorry, painfully pathetic. If I wasn't already familiar with Anthony Neil Smith's work like Hogdoggin' I'd assume this is going to be something along the lines of Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You. But no no, Smith has something else in mind. And that something else is Octavia.

Octavia is an awful person that you start rooting for against all better judgement. She's not even a misunderstood person, a bitch with a heart of gold. She does have some people she's close to and she's very loyal to them. She's far from kind to them, just loyal.  But otherwise she is spiteful and snobbish and a genius who has no problem manipulating people for her own needs. Actually it's not just that she has no problem, it's that she enjoys manipulating people. It's her hobby. She's a big girl and she uses that weight to make her living by suing big name companies for discriminating against her. Now she's decided to throw her weight* behind Mick and help him with his impending divorce to "punish the bitch". Mick knows this is a mistake but when his soon-to-be ex-wife tries to steal the house from him with a forged document it's enough for him to accept Octavia's help.
I just hoped I wasn't opening her Pandora's box, for I was sure there was no hope to be found at the bottom.
So of course what starts with such a simple premise turns so dark with a crazy dinner party, drug busts, a few murders, some blackmail and a swingers club. See what happens when you let Octavia loose? I don't mean to suggest she orchestrated all this stuff but you certainly get the feeling that this could have been an almost amicable divorce if she hadn't gotten involved. And that is what makes it such an engaging story; to know the characters make a small decision and then they have to deal with the consequences of that moment for the rest of the story.

Side note, the strange relationship between Jennings and Octavia provided some of my favorite moments that made me both like and hate Octavia that much more.

*Pun! I'm hilarious

Title quote from location 3356

Smith, Anthony Neil. Choke On Your Lies. 2011. Kindle edition.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'm hopeless as a logical thinker

People should confront their irrational fears, whether it's fear of being dragged into deep water by crazy sharks or if it's fear of an author that you've never checked out before but seems like it could be really difficult and all these smart people like him so if you don't like him you're probably wrong or you're missing something. I'm still working on that shark fear thing* but I finally tackled Murakami. And I loved it. What was I so worried about?

Granted I went with what I believe is one of the easier, more linear stories and I picked up Norwegian Wood. At least other bloggers told me it was a good one to start with. I can't say yet, but I do plan on picking up some more Murakami's stuff. So if you have any recommendations, please let me know.

It's sort of a love story but it's not sickeningly romantic. It deals with a lot of suicide and death, and loss but it's not melodramatic or heart-string-tugging. There's a love triangle but you don't spend the whole time going "of course the main character is going to pick person A because the other person is a major douche face and the fact that douche face is even a consideration makes me hate the main character". The characters are wonderful and vulnerable and I loved reading about them. I don't think this is going to be a very effective review to convince those to read it who haven't before. I'm not sure what to say because all I want to do is gush about 2 of the characters and the gushing will really only make sense if you already know the characters. So for those of you that know the book, enjoy. For those that don't, you should read it. And then come back and read this.

1. I love Midori. I loved her. Even when she was being a bit of a bitch I still loved her. I read this on my Kindle so I marked down a bunch of quotes I liked and most of them were from her. She's outgoing and direct and kind of ridiculous and just wonderful. It would have been easy to make her annoying and obnoxious and unfeeling but Murakami is better than that.

2. I love Reiko too. Probably because she reminds me of Midori only it's a Midori you could go to for advice. And she plays the guitar. A musical Midori. OK, I guess it's unfair to only think of her as a version of another character but she's another very strong, outgoing and direct character. Plus I was completely drawn into her story within the larger story.

So to sum up: I got over my fear of reading Murakami and plan on checking out more of his stuff, but I'm still irrationally afraid of sharks. I love Midori and Reiko and would rather gush about them than write a useful review. You should read this book.

I'm actually listening to the song "Norwegian Wood" while writing this. I didn't plan it that way but I was Googling the book so I could make sure I was spelling Murakami correctly and the first link that popped up was a YouTube clip for the song. I probably would have ignored it but the top comment was "This song gives me wood" and I started giggling because I'm immature, so I decided to listen.

*No, seriously, I have this major problem with deep water and stuff living in there. I know logically it's a stupid fear and I loved sharks when I was little so I don't know where this fear came from. I do know it's enough that I have trouble completing water levels in video games. Damn you, giant metal whale from Banjo Kazooie.

Title quote from location 1411

Murakami, Haruki. Norwegian Wood. Random House, 1987. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Top Ten Book Endings That Made Me Say "Whaaaa?"

It's Tuesday again so here's another Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic is top ten book endings that left me with my mouth hanging open, maybe because of a cliffhanger when dammit, this story was supposed to give me some resolution jerks. Maybe because that was so amazing . Maybe because it was so awful I can't believe the author screwed me like that, coping out as they did.

This is going to be spoilery because I'm going to be talking about endings. That should be obvious but in case it wasn't, here's your warning.

1. Hogdoggin' by Anthony Neil Smith - I specifically mentioned the ending in my review. I loved it because it just happens. Normally if an author has an ending just jump out at you you're pissed. But that's only if the author just does that cos they don't know where to go. Smith knows what he's doing and things drop out right when the tension was high and it was fantastic.

2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - This was a case where I felt like the author did just drop the the ending on me. There is so much build up to what happened and what will Melinda do and will she speak again? And then there's the confrontation and about 6 pages later the book is over and she's healing and we're done. It was overall a good book but the ending let me down.

3. Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix by J.K. Rowling - Yeah there are surprises and shock and whatnot in the other HP books, but this is the one that got me. Because I loved Sirius and this was before Rowling started killing people off left and right in all of the books so I wasn't expecting this major character to be bumped off. I had started re-reading the series sometime before I started this blog but I stopped after I got a few pages into the 5th book because I didn't want to get to the ending.

4. Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane - Even thought I knew the ending of this book going in, that doesn't make it less powerful. Both endings, where you find out what's happened to Amanda and where you see what Helene is up to at the end, just leave you shocked and angry. And angry. Not at Lehane but at Helene cos what the hell?

5. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - The book is 800 some odd pages long*, and not all pages that fly by, and yet when it ended I wasn't quite ready yet. Probably because it ends on a cliffhanger and you want to know what else is going to happen because apparently 800+ pages wasn't enough. You're both happy with the ending and ready for some more.

I'm sure there are more great/terrifying/shocking/awful endings that I've read but I'm coming up blank right now. I'm going to blame this on a food coma brought on by pumpkin pecan cheesecake which was amazing. See I told you I was going to start getting to all of those great pumpkin foods in October.

So what are your top book endings that left you with your mouth hanging open?

*I would give a more specific page number except my copy of the book is upstairs. And I am downstairs**. And I'm lazy.
 **Actually I wrote this last night but now I'm sitting in the room right next to where the book is. And I'm still not checking because I haven't had enough coffee yet. Just, it's a lot of pages.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September Reader Wrap-Up

September got away from me. I really don't know how it happened. All of a sudden September is gone and it's already October. I wish I could say I was doing lots of super, awesome, amazing things this month and that's why the month has gotten away from me and I've gotten so little reading done. But that's not the case. Or I did a lot of awesome stuff and then hit my head and I have very odd amnesia. This is all an intro to say I haven't done much reading this month and I don't have a reason why. So really, this intro is a big waste of time. You're welcome.

Number of books read
Tracks by Louise Erdrich
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Racism: A Short History by George M. Fredrickson

Total pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of eBooks

Percentage of rereads
50% - I'm counting the Racism book as one I sorta read before. I at least skimmed it.

Books written by decade
1980s - 33%
2000s - 33%
2010s - 33%

So I guess my goal for October is to just read more. Normally I'm not too worried about how much I actually read but this is just so low. I also think I'll try to read some horror stuff because October is the time for those things. That and pumpkin flavored treats.