Friday, August 30, 2013

I've moved to a state the neighbors Idaho. And any life that might still be left in me kind of goes poof

Have you read Where'd You Go, Bernadette? yet? Because please, don't make the same mistake I did and just skip over this book. I don't know why. I mostly remember skimming blog posts when I saw they were talking about this book. Nothing against this book in particular. I skim past a lot of blog posts if the book isn't one I recognize or doesn't include something that catches my eye. I think it was also the Franzen blurb on the cover that made me shy away from it. So not only did I not pick up the book but I didn't really know anything about it. Then Alice mentioned something about it taking place in Seattle and hey, I like Seattle. Plus I realized the whole I-don't-actually-know-anything-about-this-book bit and thought I'd look into it. And did you know the book is amazing? Because it is.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? is an epistolary novel for the most part. There are sections of straight narrative but for the most part the story unfolds through a series of emails and letters and magazine articles and invoices for a guy that does blackberry abatement. Sometimes I like this style. Other times I wonder why the person writing the letter would spell out a bunch of stuff that the recipient OBVIOUSLY knows and would never actually put in a letter. This falls into the successful bucket because Maria Semple knows what she's doing. Plus I love that we get to see the story, or at least specific events, unfold from lots of different perspectives. Not just what do different characters see, but also how are they telling their audience? A private email between two people is much different than a blast email going to all of the parents of Galer Street School. And Semple manages to make the characters sound different. I wouldn't mistake an email from Bernadette for a note from Ollie-O or a memo from Soo-Lin.

So, the plot. Bernadette is mother to Bee, wife to Elgie, and that-crazy-lady to most of Seattle. She hates people and spends most of her time in the house, or better yet, in an airstream in the yard. She'd much rather have her virtual assistant*, Manjula located in India, do all of the basic day-to-day stuff. Since Bernadette and Elgie promised Bee she'd get whatever she wanted for her 8th grade graduation if she got straight A's (or straight S's for Surpasses Excellence because Galer St doesn't do traditional grades. I guess it's better than a crocodile for spelling.) she could have whatever she wanted. And she wants a trip to Antarctica. Bernadette may be dreading the trip with every inch of herself but she promised this to Bee, and Bernadette is nothing if not a devoted parent.

But of course we have the title of the book so you probably realized things don't go as they were intended and Bernadette disappears. Again. I don't want to say too much. I don't want to spoil anything. I went into the book pretty much knowing it's told through letters and takes place in Seattle and that's it. I don't know if it would have made a difference to know more but I know I loved every new plot point. I don't think I could have anticipated a single one.**

Did I mention the book is funny? Because it's hilarious. I guess it helps that Semple was a writer for Mad About You and Arrested Development and, OK, the fact that she wrote for AD helped convince me that I should really pick this up. I started the book while I was at a beach house with some friends and I kept making them read a line here or there because Bernadette is the best. Even when she is railing on how much she HATES Seattle and Canadians. Her rambling emails to Manjula were some of my favorites.

I can't say enough good things about this book. As soon as I finished it I wanted to start it again. I may read it again soon. You should read it. Now. Right now. Are you reading it yet?

*These are totally a real thing. I would have laughed at the idea and assumed it was something made up because it's too ridiculous except I read about them in My Life as an Experiment by A. J. Jacobs. So yeah. It's a thing.
**I tend NOT to guess things that are going to happen in a book/movie/tv show so take this with a grain of salt.

Title quote from page 127
I had another quote I wanted to use and I went back and forth about it but it's sooorta maybe spoilery so I left it out. I'm telling you this cos about 60% of my time spent writing this post was figuring out a title quote. I really need to start writing these down as I'm reading

Semple, Maria. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Back Bay Books, 2012

Monday, August 26, 2013

A to Z Bookish Survey

I feel like I've been falling behind on blog posts these lasts...well a lot of this year. I used to go for 3 a week, preferably more. Now I'm lucky if I get two done. Some of that is because my laptop is on its last legs which means I tend to use Boyfriend+'s desktop (which I'm on right now) but I'd prefer to lay on the couch and write stuff so I do less random writing. Also he sometimes wants to actually use his computer. Rude. Also I'm lazy and after a long day if the options are A) write a blog post or B) sit on the couch and watch more Shark Week* while playing Amateur Surgeon, guess which one wins.

Is this post about me buckling down and getting back to 3+ posts a week? Ahahaha no. But it is about me doing a bookish survey I found over at Sarah's blog (who in turn got it from The Perpetual Page Turner) because I will hopefully get one review written this week and then I'll also have this to post and look at me go!

Authors you've read the most books from: Wait, I have to get up? Ugh FINE. *runs upstairs to count books* Christopher Moore wins with 13 but Bryson was a close second with 12. So no surprises here.

Best sequel ever: Does a sequel only mean the second book? What about a third in a series? Wikipedia wasn't that helpful in answering this question but it DID teach me the term interquel so win some/lose some. Anyway I extra heart The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde, so even though it's the third in the series I don't care and that's my answer. TAKE THAT, SURVEY

Currently reading: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I like this question cos it required a minimum amount of work to answer.

Drink of choice while reading: Anything? I do a lot of reading on the train or subway so I'm not normally drinking anything because I'm not that talented. I guess if I'm reading at home...water? That's boring. How about a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat? Yes, that'll do.

Ereader or physical book: It really doesn't matter. If it's a book I think I'll extra super special like, I try to get a physical copy. Or at least I did in the beginning. Considering I have both Attachments and Eleanor & Park in ebooks I've given up that rule.

Fictional character that you probably would have dated in high school: Sirius? Can I say Sirius even though that would have been a bit statuary. I don't think I read enough YA to give a non-illegal answer.

Glad you gave this book a chance: Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple which for reasons I don't understand I was ready to pass on. Then Alice mentioned something about it taking place in Seattle and I thought I GUESS I'll give this a chance AND THEN I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. Review coming and it will involve a lot of internet yelling.

Hidden gem book: Fforde's Nursery Crime series because I feel like not enough of you realize how hilarious these books are. Or else Octavia Butler's Kindred. READ THEM ALL

Important moment in your reading life: Starting this blog. It's been so wonderful and I've met so many great people and I am incredibly happy to have this little space.

Just finished: Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and I kinda wanted to start it over again when I finished it because it's SO GOOD.

Kind of books you won't read: text books? Not anymore anyway. There are genres I stay away from (romance...) but never say never

Longest book you read: It's gotta be some Stephen King. IT was...well I was going to exaggerate and say 1000 pages but that exaggeration isn't great enough since I think it was closer to 1200 pages. Either IT or 11/22/63 since both of those books went on and on.

Major book hangover because of: I'm blanking on a title. Probably because I was so traumatized. Let's go with Harry Potter, especially the end of this year's readalong.

Number of bookcases you own: 9 and we need more. But some of those are small because Boyfriend+ was in denial of how many books I have and would acquire and we didn't just go with the full size ones to start with

One book you've read multiple times: any of the Bryson books. I don't even know how many times I've re-read them

Preferred place to read: might actually be the train, because it's good uninterrupted reading time. I love laying on my couch and reading but I'm easily distracted and my living room offers up many distractions.

Quote that inspires you: I got nothing...

Reading regret: That I get easily distracted and thus don't get more reading done. This isn't something I can blame on work or whatever. I mean, I could (I WILL) but really, a lot of the time I have some time to read and I end up doing something else, a lot of which is watch stupid TV.

Series you started and need to finish: I don't read that many series so I dunno. I think there are some more books in the Thursday Next series but I haven't seen them in paperback yet. I'm still making my way through Game of Thrones but doing it slowly

Three of your all-time favorite books: Lamb by Christopher Moore, The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare abridged by the Reduced Shakespeare Company

Unapologetic fangirl for: It's probably obvious by now but Fforde, Moore, Bryson. And also Rainbow Rowell. And some Caitlin Moran

Very excited for this release: Ummm. Even though most of my reading is contemporary, I feel like I'm never anticipating a new title. They just sort of happen.

Worst bookish habit: Feeling the need to finish a book even if I'm not liking it. I need to learn to let go

X marks the spot! start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: You're saying I have to get up again? Which shelf? I went over before there are 9 of them. Fine, I'll just pick one. *gets up again* *grumble/counts* The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I didn't try to pick a shelf that had fancy/impressive books. For example, another book on that shelf is Why Do Men Have Nipples? Also, there isn't too much logic to the organization of the books...

Your last bookish purchase: Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Oh man, I feel like I'm talking this book up (even though this one is just asking which bookish thing did I most recently spend money on) my review better be worth it

Zzz-snatcher. Which book kept you up way late?: I do very little reading late a night, instead spending my time watching TV or playing online. I have however spent a lot of time staying up late reading Jenny Trout's 50 Shades of Grey recaps and they're hilarious.

On a completely unrelated note, do you guys know the YouTube channel PBS Ideal Channel? My brother introduced it to me this weekend. He showed it to be Sunday afternoon and I proceeded to watch it for the rest of the day because screw productivity. To make this connect to books, my brother introduced it to me by way of the How Did Sherlock Holmes Pave the Way for 50 Shades? So see, books. Anyway, you should watch it right now. Or if you're at work...well, just discreetly watch it. Or fine, wait till you have some free time.

*Did you know Netflix has the past seasons? BECAUSE IT DOES!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In so many ways, his family's life feels like a string of accidents, unforeseen, unintended, one incident begetting another

Look at me, making an effort to make my reading less white. First Native Son and now Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. Don't worry, I've got all of the back-patting taken care of over here.

But seriously, I am trying expand my reading horizons. And I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Namesake from Jennifer over at Soy Chai Bookshelf awhile ago* and figured now was a good time to give it a try. I'd read Unaccustomed Earth a few years ago for my book/wine club and I'm like 90% sure I'd read an excerpt from Namesake in my American Lit II survey classes (cos the name Gogol rings a bell and yeah, bit of a unique name). So why not give the whole thing a try? It was excellent.

There's no real plot to The Namesake. Gogol's parents have an arranged marriage and they come from Calcutta to Cambridge. They have Gogol and his younger sister Sonia and Gogol grows up and has some girlfriends and gets married and, seriously plot-wise, nothing happens. But that's cool because plot is not the point here. It's a character study, and I was sucked in.

It's the story about being caught between two worlds, between too cultures and trying to fit in. It's about parents and children and families. It's about names.

Tradition says that one of the family elders will name the children, in this case Gogol's maternal great-grandmother is given the task. When it's time to leave the hospital and Ashima's grandmother's letter has yet to arrive, the Ganguli's are forced to put something on their son's birth certificate. His father Ashoke picks Gogol, after his favorite author Nikolai Gogol. This name is never meant to be permanent. It's just his pet name, the name his family will call him. The plan is once the letter from Ashima's grandmother comes they will make the necessary updates and Gogol will have his "good name", the name he'll use outside the family. But the letter never arrives and come the first day of school Gogol won't answer to the good name his parents picked, Nikhil, and the school uses the name Gogol for all of his records.

Gogol is obviously the main character here, but the story is not just about him. It's about his parents, before they came to America. It's about them clinging to old customs while at the same time embracing traditions of their new home. I loved the descriptions of the parties Ashima and Ashoke would throw, all of the food that they would make, their friends and their friends' families, other Bengali immigrants, everyone joined together by a common culture.

I was surprised when I finished the book how much I enjoyed it. Especially now as I try to put it into words because there isn't much that happens, I can't say I particularly related to the characters, or even that I'd want to hang out with them. I always wanted to see what would happen next. I never found myself reading the same paragraph again and again because my mind kept wandering away from the story. When I realized I only had a few pages left I was sad to see it end. I don't know that it's a book I will return to again and again, but I enjoyed this journey through it.

One thing I wanted to mention that really has less to do with this book than it does with literary fiction in general is whyyy can't there be a relationship where the two people dating/married actually like each other? They are in love and sincerely want to be together. There are no affairs, there's no grand disappointment when the honeymoon period wears off and they realized they've made a mistake. This isn't to fault Namesake for having this happen, it's just when the affair did happen I couldn't be too surprised. Because no relationship can be happy in lit fic.
*end spoilers and my rant*

*Did I tell you I got the book? Because if I didn't, sorry about that. I got the book.

Title quote from page 286

Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Mariner Books, 2003

Monday, August 19, 2013

It began with a single lie

Have I mentioned before how much I like whimsy? At least when it's whimsy mixed with something strange. Christopher Moore said his first book was the result of someone telling him that you couldn't mix horror and whimsy, and he said "Well, fuck that noise" and wrote Practical Demonkeeping. Or like Pushing Daisies which is bursting at the seams with whimsy, but there's also lots of strange stuff like a guy that can temporarily bring back the dead. So I guess I'm saying I don't like pure whimsy but instead whimsy cut with something dark. Can I tell you how much I liked the whimsy in Daniel Wallace's The Kings and Queens of Roam? Because it's a lot.

In one way the story is about the McCallister sisters Helen and Rachel. The great-granddaughters of Elijah McCallister, founder of the city of Roam, Helen is the older homely sister, while Rachel is the beautiful but blind younger sister. The two sisters are never apart. Rachel relies on Helen for everything, which Helen simultaneously resets and requires. It began when they were small children and Helen switched faces with Rachel. Not literally, that would be a little too dark and not enough whimsy. Helen told Rachel that Helen was the great beauty of the family and it was Rachel who was ugly. People would tell her she was beautiful to make her feel better, because it's bad enough she's blind. This lie lead to a lifetimes of stories about how scary and dangerous the world is. When their parents die the sisters only have each other. Until that's not enough.

But the story isn't just about the sisters. It's really about the dying city of Roam. It was once a prosperous city, a major manufacturer of silk. There's Elijah McCallister and his best friend/kidnap victim (SEE whimsy + something dark) Ming Kai. There's a lumberjack and his dog pack, the very-short-but-not-actually-a-midget bartender Digsby, the well-meaning but slow mechanic, Ming Kai's (great?) grandson Markus, and the town ghosts. It's about pasts, the stories we tell ourselves and others, about forgiveness and redemption. And did I mention the whimsy? I keep seeing people describe it as magical realism, but I really don't know much about that genre to say for sure if it is. It seems like it and these other people saying it seem smart, so let's go with that. This is magical realism.

I've only ever read one other Daniel Wallace book, Big Fish. And I read that only after I saw the movie which I LOOOOOVED by the way. This is still the only movie I've seen where when it came time for the movie to end I got mad because I wanted more. I have been doing myself a disservice not reading more of his stuff, assuming it all has this whimsical quality. Because I really loved The Kings and Queens of Roam. It's sad and it's funny and I hated some characters but then I realized that the characters are too complex to just hate because there's so much more there. If any of those keywords I spouted out above (whimsy, magical realism, Big Fish, Pushing Daisies, loved, etc) connected with you, you should read this. Because it's so so good.

Separate from the story, but I love the cover. Most of the time I honestly could care less about the book cover. Sometimes they draw me in but most of the time they really don't make a difference to me either way.* This cover though I love. I love the colors, I love the font, I love the silhouette, just the whole thing. I was going to say I don't know who did that but then I bothered to look at the fine print and read that it was Matt Curtius and while that name means nothing to me cos I don't know anything about book covers (see my comment about not normally caring) I feel like he should be pointed out cos this is so pretty.

I also want to again point out how awesome Emma Dickey from Regal Literary is because I got a review request from her that pretty much prompted my post about how to ask for reviews. Hers did everything right AND it turned out the book kicked ass, which is really just a bonus for me. So yeah, in case it wasn't clear, I accepted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

*There are obviously exceptions, and not just this one. I also loved the cover to Blackbirds and hated the cover of another book that I accepted in exchange for a review, and since I didn't really love that book (and especially hated the cover) I won't mention it/link to it here. Because it would feel a big dead horse floggy.

Title quote from page 275

Wallace, Daniel. The Kings and Queens of Roam. Touchstone, 2013.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

He rested his tired head against the steel bars and wondered how was it possible for this man to know so much about him and yet be so bitterly against him

I bought Native Son awhile ago when it was on sale at the local bookstore. I can't remember exactly why it is I had this on my TBR list. I should really start making To Read bookshelves on Goodreads to keep track of this stuff. Anyway, I bought the book and then got intimidated by it so it now sat on my shelves. But then my shame at having a super white reading list finally pushed me to give this one a try. And it is intense.

Native Son tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a black man living in 1930s Chicago. It's the story of racism and poverty, of feeling hopeless and trapped because that's the only way you've ever been allowed to feel. Of terrible, brutal, things that lead to other terrible, brutal things. And then there are lines like this:
He lay again on the bed, his mind whirling, with images born of a multitude of impulses. He could run away; he could remain; he could even go down and confess what he had done. The mere thought that these avenues of action were open to him made him feel free, that his life was his, that he held his future in his hands.
And this
He would have gladly admitted his guilt if he had thought that in doing so he could have also given in the same breath a sense of the deep, choking hate that had been his life, a hate that he had not wanted to have, but could not help having.
Like I said above, the book is intense. The treatment Bigger receives is horrible. Bigger's treatment of others is horrible. Everyone is horrible all over. There are moments of lightness, of happiness, but they come because of a death, of a graphic murder. (Which I thought about putting behind a spoiler warning before I realized it's on the summary on the back of my copy so blame Harper if you're mad at that.) I needed to take a couple breaks for Eleanor & Park and People Who Eat Darkness because I needed something happy and something straightforward. This book is all shades of grey. And I wasn't expecting that.

I was expecting Bigger to be this innocent guy, caught up in a world that hates him. But he's not innocent. That would be too simple, too much of a melodrama. Of course this also means that I would find myself rooting for Bigger, hoping that he wouldn't have to face the consequences of his actions. Then I would get angry at myself for hoping this, which was usually around the time I needed to put the book down for awhile.

There's a scene near the end of the book that is basically Wright's essay about Bigger's life and all of the things in the world that kept him and other black men and women down, and why under the current system, in the current world there is no hope for justice. This essay took me out of the story a bit but it's so good and makes so many good points that I sort of don't care.

I'm glad I read this one. I don't see this being a book I re-read, but I'm glad I read it. I'm also glad I took breaks from it. I can't imagine what the reaction to this book was like when it was released in 1940.

Title quote from page 308

Wright, Richard. Native Son. Harper Perennial, 2005. Originally published 1940

Monday, August 12, 2013

Annoying thing that's actually really awesome for books

I learned this little tidbit from a Cracked list (where I seem to get most of my knowledge) 500 years ago* and then thought I would share it here. Because when I shared it with Boyfriend+ he just laughed and shook his head. He does not appreciate the little (nerdy) things.

So you know those Captcha programs? Those almost-impossible-to-read words/letters/symbols that you have to type in to prove you're not a robot?
You know, this guy

Did you know the program reCaptcha is taking that annoyingness and making some good come out of it? Cos when you type in the words there, you're helping to translate old documents and newspapers onto computers who can't read the old text that's all slanty and smudged.

Believe it or not, people ARE smarter than computers. I mean, most of them anyway. So the website makes sure you're not a robot and you get to help digitize a bunch of books. HOW COOL IS THAT?

...Don't worry, I'll have a review post up soon. Native Son and The Kings and Queens of Roam are both on my radar.

*Internet time. Real world it was 2 years ago

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reviews and how to ask for them

Or to give a more detailed title: "Reviews and how to ask for them in a way that makes me want to actually read your book."

I go through phases where I tend to get a decent amount of review requests. Which is nice and I'm glad I'm thought of, even if it's in a very non-personal way, as someone who could read your book and actually influence other people to pick it up. Thank you for that. However, I tend not to read a lot of these books. Mostly because they don't sound like something I would be into and also because I have a zillion other books already on my TBR pile. I should go through and see how many of the review request I respond to versus the ones I actually receive, but I know so far this year I've only accepted 3 (I'm in the middle of reading one right now AND IT'S GREAT but I'll get to that later).

That said, I think I have some advice for those who want to ask bloggers to read their book in a way that will annoy them the least. Or me. A way to annoy me the least.

1. Get to know the blog - I know, you don't really have time for this. There are hundreds of thousands of book blogs out there, and it's unrealistic to read through all of their posts and really learn what that blog and blogger are like. But some top-line skimming would be nice. Something that indicates that you actually think this blogger would want to read your book, and that their audience would also like to read your book. Sending a paranormal romance to someone that only reads 19th century English novels is going to be a waste of everyone's time. If you can reference a specific review (even if that is the only post you read) that at least shows me you looked at SOMETHING on my blog.

2. Avoid the email blasts - Or at least make them less obvious. This sort of goes with the first point of getting to know the blog. But seriously, when I see things that start "Dear Blogger" I zone out. I still skim the email cos there could be something interesting in there but most of the time, I just don't care. I know, email blasts are time-savers and LOTS of people use them. But at the very least, maybe use a program that can swap out the Blogger with the person's name (and I promise you, there are programs out there that do this).

3. Use the blogger's name - Again, building on the point above, but when you start the email with my name instead of Blogger, I'm more apt to pay attention. I don't even care too much if you use Red instead of my actual name, though for those I've gotten that DO use my actual name, you guys get all sorts of bonus points. My name (it's Alley by the way) isn't hidden but it's also not obvious, so Red is fine. This doesn't mean I'll read your book, but it least makes me look more closely at your email.

4. Check out if the blogger has a review page - This is a great way to see if the blogger is accepting books for review, if so what kind, if they want to do interviews, blog tours, all that fun stuff. Not everyone has them, but a lot do so check that out. My book review policy page isn't the most obvious (it's on the left side of the screen) but it's there. The majority of requests I get fall into the Deal Breaker list, which isn't helpful for anyone.

5. Please no third person -  If you, the author, are emailing me directly, please don't write your email like you're someone else. This isn't a big deal, but I hate seeing "This author blah blah blah" and then the email is from the author. Just say "I"

6. Yes, you have to give me a copy of your book - This one is actually part of the reason I wanted to write this list. I got a review request that ended with "If necessary, I can send you a copy of my book." If what now? Yes, this is a necessary step. It's part of the agreement. I'll review your book and in exchange I get a copy of your book. You get a review, I get a free book. You might not get a review you like, but I may waste my time reading a book I don't like. That's how this goes.

Now let me tell you about the best book review request I got. I sort of want to hug it, except it's an email. First up, she addressed it to me directly. My name even. So bonus points already. Then there is a quick description about the book and the author. I don't need 6 paragraphs describing the book. Tell me enough to get me interested. THEN (and this is the best part) she answered a question I asked in one of my reviews. Actually it wasn't even really a question. Sort of a random musing. Not only did the person skim through my blog but they read it closely enough to go "Oh yeah, she sort of asked a question here, and I have the answer so LET ME SHARE".* And now I'm not only reading The Kings and Queens of Roam but I was all excited to read it because of an excellent request exchange. (Also the book is good, so that is helping a lot.)

Now granted someone can write a really kick ass request, and demonstrate that they've actually read my blog and still ask me to read a book I don't think will be my jam, but that's OK. Because the odds are we won't get to that point because the person will have a reasonable expectation of what I will like and thus will only send the request if it looks like it will be worth their time. 

Any review request advice I missed?

*If you're curious, the question I had asked came from my Warm Bodies review about why there was an Audrey Niffenegger blurb on the cover. Turns out they're both represented by the same company so BOOM! Question answered.

Monday, August 5, 2013

At first the story was a puzzle, which developed over time into a profound mystery

One of the things I like about Goodreads is I can create my own bookshelves. There can be YA or non-fiction or fantasy, sure. But they can also be whatever I'd like to call them, which means I can make very niche shelves as I noticed certain reading trends. For example "White guy problems" or more specifically "middle aged, middle class white guys having middle aged, middle class white guy problems". Who knew that would be a theme for me? Now I've found another one: "Tokyo true crime stories about the sex industry told by foreign news correspondents". If you have any pithy name suggestions, let me know. Last time it was Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein and this time it's People Who Eat Darkness:The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo - And the Evil that Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry.*

I first heard about this book sometime last year when Brenna from Literary Musings read it and had good things to see. Then Ben from Dead End Follies reviewed it, and again said all good things. So when I saw it was part of the Kindle daily deal I NATURALLY had to get it. I was not disappointed.

People Who Eat Darkness is, as I mentioned above, a true crime book. That crazy sub-title pretty much sums up what happens. Lucie Blackman, a young woman from England, travels to Tokyo in the hopes of finding work as a hostess, and disappears. Nine months later her body is found in a cave. (I'm not ruining anything for you. The description of the book tells you Lucie's fate.) Richard Lloyd Parry was a British journalist living and working in Tokyo at the time of Lucie's disappearance and something about the case draws him in. He spends ten years going over the details of the case, interviewing Lucie's family and friends, and other hostesses, eventually putting together this book.

I powered through this book, especially the first half. It's fascinating. Much more than just watching a horrific crime unfold, you're entering into a different world. I mentioned above Lucie goes to Tokyo in hopes of finding work as a hostess in the Roppongi district, essentially Tokyo's red light district. But Lucie wasn't a prostitute, she never had sex with her clients and was never expected to. A hostess's job was to talk to men, light their cigarettes, pour their drinks, flatter them. That was it. Sure, the men could ask graphic sexual questions and yes, the work could be degrading, but it was never about having sex.

Then there's the Japanese police force and court system, which is both very similar and very different from what we have in the states. Parry says a few times that Japan has very little crime, but that the low crime rates have more to do with a law abiding population and less to do with skilled police work. Not to say that the police are not trained or dedicated to their work, but that when you don't have much serious crime you don't have much experience investigating and prosecuting serious crime.

 I wouldn't compare this book to In Cold Blood. You don't feel like you're reading a novel and that the people in it are characters. But that's fine. I spent a lot of the time reading In Cold Blood thinking about how so much of it is made up. I mean, sure, Capote had done a lot of research, had spend a lot of time interviewing people in the town, but that doesn't mean he knows exactly what happened in those last moments. People Who Eat Darkness sticks more to a "just the facts, ma'am" style.

The book was excellent. It was heartbreaking to watch Lucie's family try desperately to find their daughter and deal with the bureaucracy that is the Japanese police force. It was fascinating to learn about Roppongi and the hostess culture. It was frustrating to hear about the police and what they couldn't do. And then there's the man accused of Lucie's disappearance. I can't say I've read a lot of true crime novels to compare this to, but that won't stop me from saying, this is better than typical true crime books and you should check this one out.

*If you'd also like to work in something but insanely long sub-titles, I think that works as well. OR I could make that a separate shelf just for that. Yes, that'll do.

Title quote from location 285

Parry, Richard Lloyd. People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo - And the Evil that Swallowed Her Up. Macmillan, 2012.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

July Reading Wrap Up

Holy shit, summer's almost over. That is not fun. I don't remember agreeing to this. I guess it doesn't make that much of a difference since I'm not in school so summer doesn't mean vacation (necessarily) just that it's hot out. I mean, I did go on vacation. Hence that last post. But just that it suddenly becoming fall doesn't mean a change in much for me other than the weather. And yet, I'm still sad that summer is nearing the end. Of course my reading always seems to taper off during the summer so perhaps colder weather means I'll get more done. Or you know, not.

Anyway STATS

Number of books read/listened to
World War Z by Max Brooks (audiobook)
Fun & Games by David Michael Slater
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo - And the Evil that Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction

Percentage of female authors
20% - only Rowell, but it kicked so much ass that it's cool.

Percentage of white authors
100% -dammit. And I was SO CLOSE because I've almost finished Native Son, but alas, the month has ended before I've actually finished that one. But at least I've got it for next month

Percentage of US authors
80% plus 1 British guy living in Tokyo

Percentage of eBooks
60% - I like using my Kindle during vacation so that helped

Percentage of review copies
20% - I decided to start tracking this. This is only the second review book I've read this year. I would have assumed more. Go figure.

Books written by decade
2000s - 20%
2010s - 80%
If I hadn't been keeping these stats I don't think I would have ever noticed how much of what I read is contemporary. I would have assumed a lot of it but not pretty much all of it. And this is why I like keeping these stats.

I know I will have at least 1 non-white, written-before-I-was-born book for next month. But otherwise, who knows.