Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why haven't you visited Night Vale yet?

I don't think enough of you have listened to my recommendations to listen to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. I could just assume that you've seen my recommendation and decided "Thanks, but no thanks. This isn't for me." I could assume that, but instead I'm choosing to assume that my other mentions were too subtle, or just obscured by puppy pictures. So now I'm going to bash you over the head with a recommendation to check out Night Vale.

I first heard about this show on PBS Idea Channel (another thing I'm going to keep bugging you guys about) in their show "How does Night Vale confront us with the unknown?" The show describes Night Vale 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 HOW HAVE YOU NOT STARTED LISTENING TO THIS YET?

I listen to it sometimes on my commute if I'm not feeling my book/reading in general and I constantly find I'm giggling to myself, which is fun cos sometimes that means people will slowly edge away and I get a bit more space.

Need more reason? How about 10 of my favorite quotes from the episodes I've listened to so far:

1. "There appear to be catastrophic earthquakes happening right here in Night Vale that absolutely no one can feel. Well, submit an insurance claim, anyway. See what you can get, right?"

2. "Wednesday has been cancelled due to a scheduling error."

3. "Hello, radio audience. I come to you live from under my desk, where I have dragged my microphone and am currently in the fetal position."

4. "Saturday, the public library will be unknowable. Citizens will forget the existence of the library from 6am Saturday morning until 11pm that night. The library will be under a sort of renovation. It is not important what kind of renovation."

5. "This just came across the wire! The secret police have issued a new statement shedding more light on last night’s PTA meeting incident. The noisy portal and subsequent dinosaur attack that brutally interrupted discussion of swing set repairs on the elementary school playground stayed open long after recreation center employees thought they had rounded up all of the ancestral avian beasts— and, authorities warn, there is still at least one more pteranodon on the loose.
Citizens should cover themselves with a low-SPF sunscreen and hide in a tiled bathroom."

6. "In light of the ever declining sales of newspapers and the rise of competition from digital media The Night Vale Daily Journal announced that it has developed a new business model. Publishing Editor, Leanne Hart, speaking to television and internet reporters outside the burned down shell of the The Journal’s distribution plant, said their new mission, as a newspaper, is to kill news bloggers with hatchets.
In this bold new initiative, a game changing strategy by one of the industry’s stalwarts, The Daily Journal plans to just go to bloggers homes and places of employment, with hatchets, and then chop them up, the bloggers. Until they, the bloggers, are dead."

7. "Exciting news about the abandoned mine shaft outside of town, where people who vote incorrectly are taken by the secret police: HBO On-Demand will be made available to prisoners during their indefinite detention!"

8. "I’m still not completely sold on there being more than one mountain. It’s possible that the mountain apologists built a single mountain in order to prove their skewed world view."

9. "The Night Vale medical board has issued a new study indicating that you have a spider somewhere on your body at all times, but especially now. The study said the further research would be needed to determine exactly where on your body the spider is and what its intentions are. Only that it is definitely there and is statistically likely to be one of the really ugly ones."

10. And of course, Night Vale City Council's motto, "If you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget."

So. Yeah. Bet you feel pretty silly you haven't already listened to this. You should probably get on that.

Oh and um, how to make this book related? Well, there's the whole Lovecraft thing. And the show is put together by Commonplace Books. There you go.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top 10 Characters I'd Never Want to Trade Places With

I haven't done the Broke and the Bookish's Tuesday Top Ten in awhile but I liked this week's prompt and also I don't have a book review ready. I also don't have a book read to review so yeah, it's going to be some time before I get to that point. In the meantime, here are the top ten characters I would never want to change places with.

1. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Because OBVIOUSLY. I'm pretty sure this won't be an original selection but also, do not want to play the Hunger Games kthxbai.

2. Dana Franklin from Kindred by Octavia Butler: Dana is a black woman that gets sent back to antebellum Maryland and could things be shittier than that? Not really. In this case I would need to become Dana, or at least a black lady, for the terribleness to be at max levels.

3. Eddie Russett from Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde: Anytime you're dealing with a dystopia you know it's not somewhere you want to be. This is a place I might be able to handle but all the Leapbacks, the strict social structure, the attack swans. No thank you.

4. Anyone from 1984 by George Orwell: Actually, I guess being Big Brother wouldn't be so bad, but anyone else NO THANK YOU. I haven't read this book since high school (which means I'm probably due for a re-read) but that book scarred me.

5. Offred from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: Another one that's probably on a lot of lists but yeah, dystopian (again) world where women have no rights. At all.

6. Jack's Ma from Room by Emma Donoghue: Woman kidnapped and raped for YEARS while trying to make a normal world for her son. Yeah, no.

7. Anyone in the Lamberts family from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen: Not a dystopia, but I think I'd rather take my chances in the Hunger Games. I don't even want to be a distant cousin of these guys.

8. Anyone in Dreamcatcher by Stephen King: Fart aliens. Do you need more? Sure there are lots of terrifying King worlds, but this one is scary and horrible.

9. Kathy H. from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: It's hard to talk about this one without spoilers so I'm just going to say...reasons.

10. Piggy from Lord of the Flies by William Golding: This book. This book about how terrible little English boys are, apparently. I don't like camping in good, non-murdery conditions.  So this would just be a double whammy.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wedding Update: Big decisions DONE!

I always forget how much time has passed since my last wedding update. Of course I also forget how much time has passed on this engagement (over a year) so I'm bad at keeping track of dates and time in general. I did mention in a comment to Emily that I had a wedding post coming up. And then I forgot to write one. I'm going to blame Tumblr since I have been spending way too much time on there this past week. But I'm sitting around procrastinating on some chores while watching that TLC show Four Weddings* and realized I should probably write that update.

ANYWAY, I think I now have all of the big wedding decisions done, which is pretty exciting. Update on the last post where I went over shit we had figured out.

Venue: Still figured out! I want to go see it again cos apparently they've done a lot of renovations to the room we're in. Everyone we've talked to says the changes are awesome and it still pretty much looks the same, only better. The venue includes food AND the wedding cake AND the ceremony space so BAM! So much finished right here.

Wedding dress: Also still figured out, and should be coming in soon. Which will be cool cos it's been over a year since I saw the thing. Apparently these things take 9 months to make if you order it. But if you're not getting married for like a year and a half from the time you order it they figure they have some time to make it. And they're right. It's way better that they take their time with it rather than putting it into my hands where there's a good chance something will go wrong. I even have the shoes already and I've been sporadically wearing them around the house to break them in.

Bridesmaids dresses: Done! And everyone ordered them. And one of the girls even got theirs already so that's fun.

Photographer: Done! Found a company we really really liked. They did a great job showing us their whole set up (they do all of the work in house) and I loved what they do. Fun story from one of the photographers we didn't go with.
The photographer showed us an album of their work. As we're flipping through the album we notice one of the big pictures where both the groom and a groomsman both had their eyes closed. When Boyfriend+ pointed this out the answer was "Well, we let you pick whatever photo you want, even if someone has their eyes closed." His response: "Yes, that's great. But you don't have to show ME this picture when trying to sell me on your service." A week or so later they called me to follow up. Now, I didn't have the number saved to my phone so when I saw this number come up I didn't recognize it. Apparently they weren't sure who they were calling since they responded to my "Hello?" with a "Hi, who am I speaking to?" I think I actually made a scoffing noise and said "Well, you called me. So who are you?" At which point Boyfriend+ started laughing, they sounded taken aback, and once they announced themselves I felt even better about going with someone else. I won't name names cos that'd be mean but yeah.

DJ: Done! This was a pretty hard choice cos we really liked everyone we talked to but I'm happy with who we decided to go with. Now I need to work on the list of "Must Play" and "Must Avoid" songs. We already figured out the first dance song but I guess I'm supposed to figure out a Father/Daughter dance (assuming my dad wants to do that). Maybe I should farm that out to him...

Florist: Done! My mom came out last weekend and we went to see three florists in one day. After the first place she was ready to sign on but I need to know I'm making the right choice. I was. We ended up going with the first place, which does the flowers for our venue anyway. The venue comes with ceremony flowers (win!) which this place provides. Normally you sort of take what they give you, but now that we signed with them for all the other stuff they said they'd work with us a bit more on the ceremony flowers.

Invitations: Ordered AND delivered. Which was insanely fast. I think it was 2 days. I assumed this would be weeks but yeah, that was pretty sweet. Plus it means if we need to order more (man, I hope not) then at least I know it's a quick turn around.

Honeymoon: Booked! And I (finally) send my passport out for renewal. Getting that photograph taken is a real hassle. Hopefully there won't be any problems. But really, I got all of the measurements and despite what guy at CVS said, I'm pretty sure I can do just as good of a job as he can. It's not like he's an expert passport-photo-taker. The second problem is my inability to go to the post office even when I walk by it several times a week. But ugh, I really need to psych myself up anytime I need to go there.

I think now we just have the details to figure out. Wedding favors have been decided, I just need to poke some people to make things happen. I'm still deciding if I want to do literary couples or fav books as the table names. I'm thinking literary couples and I sort of don't care if people at the wedding don't already know who Eleanor and Park are. THEY CAN LEARN. Boyfriend+ still needs to pick out a suit. We need to get the wedding bands. Oh, and we still need an officiant. You know, details.

But I think we're in a pretty good place with everything. And things haven't actually been that stressful which is amazing. Hopefully it stays that way right up to the wedding day.

*Apparently my mom saw some casting call asking for brides in my area getting married when I am if they want to be on the show. And I laughed and laughed and laughed cos oh GOD no. No. I don't need strangers, both in person and on TV, judging my wedding. Besides I'd probably be there as the clueless bride who is like "Our theme is...umm...well I liked this thing so yeah, I went with that. That's a theme right?" If your curious our theme is "wedding," and I think we are NAILING IT. Also the prize is a honeymoon, which is awesome cos I heart free vacations but we already have our honeymoon booked so yeah. This was a long ramble to say you won't be seeing me on TV.

Friday, January 24, 2014

You guys want to go see a dead body?

My reading slump from December is continuing into January. Well, not so much slump as slog? I'm reading, just slower than normal. No reason. I'm enjoying the books I'm reading, so it's not like I struggling through these books. I'm just easily distracted and there's a lot of Sherlock to watch (and then re-watch).

The minithon helped me a bit with the reading (and a lot with the eating-mini-things and coming-up-with-mini-justifications) and after finishing up with Bryson's In A Sunburned Country I picked up Different Seasons by Stephen King. Laura got it for me for Christmas and since it's a collection of King novellas, it counted as mini. I mean, sort of mini. By King standards. By other author standards it's a bunch of novels. Figure the book is over 600 pages and there's only 4 stories in here. Not long novels, but still, you could call them novels and people wouldn't call you a liar.

You probably already know 3 of the stories. They've been made into movies, and that's not to say you only know them cos of their movie-ness, but you know...if you know them, it's likely because MOVIES. I've seen 2 out of the 3 movies, and know of the third, so I'll just assume you're all in the same boat as me.

Right, maybe I should get to the stories. And since this is 4 short novels, I'll give you a brief review of each.

So the first one is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which was my favorite. The other stories are good but I almost wish this was the last story because it's hard for the other ones to compete. If you don't already know the story, how'd you manage that? Because I'm pretty sure that movie is playing on TV on some channel right now. Andy Dufresne is in Shawshank prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. Long-timer Red tells the story of Andy, who seems to confound the prisoners and guards alike. He has a confidence about him, even in these dark circumstances. There are no surprises going from the movie to the book. What you see on film is essentially what you get in the story, so good job, filmmakers. This isn't a horror story. There's nothing supernatural here, although there is some violence. I highly recommend this one. Probably one of King's bests.

I know I said that I wish this story came at the end because the other stories had a hell of an act to follow. But the other novellas did a good job. I mean, I still like Shawshank best, but the others are excellent in their own right.

The second story is Apt Pupil which is the second movie I saw and I can't even remember why I saw it. But I'm pretty sure I not only saw it but went out of my way to to rent it. Possibly on VHS. Unlike Shawshank and the other stories in this collection, this is the closest to a horror story in this collection. Again, there's nothing supernatural here but it's scary. Scary and disturbing and gave me stress headaches. Which I guess is sort of a good thing cos this is a story about Nazis so I think being deeply disturbed is the correct response. Thirteen year old Todd Bowden discovers there's a fugitive Nazi living in his neighborhood and decides to blackmail the guy into telling him everything he can about the concentration camps and the general shittery that was the Nazis. The Nazi Arthur Denker/Kurt Dussander at first doesn't want to reminisce but eventually something awakens in him. It's a messed up story that gets more and more violent and more and more hopeless. It was very well written, but not one I think I'll be re-reading anytime soon. Which is vaguely how I remember the movie so while I'm pretty sure the movie changed a lot, it did at least keep that spirit.

The third story is The Body, which was made into the film Stand By Me, which is the movie I haven't seen. Which is silly because I hear excellent things about it and I should probably fix that. ANYWAY, this is another story you probably already know the plot of, but I'll share anyway. Four twelve-year-olds find out there's a dead body and decide to go see it. OK, well that's the basic plot and what puts the story in motion. The story is a coming of age story about these four boys, Gordie (who is narrating the story as an adult), Chris, Vern, and Teddy. None of them are coming from great home lives. Gordie's parents have never really paid attention to him and the death of his older brother made things worse. Chris comes from a family of criminals and is branded a delinquent by the town. Teddy idolizes his father who has severe PTSD after coming home from Vietnam and caused permanent damage to the boy before being taken away. Everyone, including his family, picks on Vern (with possible beatings, but I kept mixing up Chris and Vern so it could be possible Vern didn't get beaten at home. Or they both did. I could try to skim through and see if I can find evidence one way or another but laaaaazy). The boys go on a journey to find this dead body, face down bullies, learn about themselves, all the things you expect from a coming of age story. Again, not a horror story but not exactly a happy story either. Very well done though.

The final story is movie-less. For now. And probably forever since I don't know if it would work on the screen. It's sort of a quiet story about a club where people tell stories. There's sort of something magical about this club, which on the surface seems like a stuffy, wood-paneled, old man's club. No one really explains what's going on, but there seem to be lots of books to read by authors that can't be found anywhere else, published by companies that don't seem to exist outside this home. And people tell stories. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're sad, sometimes they're scary. We hear little bits of a few of the stories but the main one we focus on is the Christmas story "The Breathing Method". Now, this isn't a story about Christmas, but the Thursday before Christmas is when people tell the tale. I won't go into it but to let you know that I really liked this story. The whole story (frame & main) have the same feeling and in the end nothing is really explained, which works for it.

Overall good times. If you want to try out King, I recommend his short works. And if you want something a bit longer than his short stories but aren't quite ready to commit to one of his full novels (which, I mean, can drag on) this is a great place to try. Really, if nothing else, try to find Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

Title quote from page 393

King, Stephen. Different Seasons. Hoddor, 1982.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New fangled reading

I think I need to start recording the random things I overhear when I'm on the train. Or I guess random things I overhear anywhere, but the train is where the crazy really shines.

If you follow me on Twitter you probably see me tweeting snippets of conversations happening around me. At least when the conversation makes me go "WTF is going on." I was on NJ Transit (lest you think all the crazy happens on the subway or LIRR) when the person behind me started a phone call that included a conspiracy between Hollywood and Wall St to control what museum galleries are allowed to show and that terrorist are going to try to take down the new WTC building because it's ugly. (Terrorists HATE ugly things. All about beauty, those guys.) One of the things she said that I felt needed to be shared was this:

Unfortunately she didn't elaborate on what these "new fangled reading styles" are. Not exactly. She started ranting about text message language and how if you're going to go on the internet you need to learn a whole new language. She just didn't address how this new language changed the whole "read a page, turn page, read next page" thing. I imagine she thinks people are now learning to read a sentence, skip ahead 30 pages, read a third of a paragraph, back to that first page to read only the LAST sentence, etc. You know, those new fangled styles. 

This clearly isn't a real post. This is more a "I really want to write some post but I'm not done with Different Seasons yet and I don't like the Tuesday Top Ten prompt so I'll just ramble about something else." This also gives you the opportunity to see what you're missing if you don't follow me on Twitter.

I also started a Tumblr because I give into peer pressure, even if it's really weak peer pressure. And really more pressure that people are having fun somewhere without me and I don't want to be left out. I wouldn't recommend following me on Tumblr because at the moment all I'm doing is reblogging random gif sets about Sherlock, Parks & Rec, and Pushing Daisies. Eventually I might figure out what I'm doing over there. Maybe.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

That is the thing about Australia, of course - that it is packed with unappreciated wonders

I went through a bit of a reading slump at the end of December/beginning of January. I'm not sure what it was. Probably the holidays coupled with the fact that I wasn't working (or at least I wasn't riding the train) just meant that instead of doing any reading I mostly watched stupid TV. (Also Sherlock. Lots of Sherlock.) So I picked up Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country to help get me out of the slump because 1) Bryson is great and his books are always a fun read 2) it was cold out and I wanted to read about somewhere warm 3) I had recently met up with Kayleigh and she's from Australia so hey, seems like a good choice.

Sunburned Country (or Down Under which is the British title) is about Bryson traveling around Australia, both the cities and the outback. There are a few topics he touches on again and again:

Australia is full of things, animals and environment, that are actively trying to kill you. At all times.
Australia is BIG.
Australia is far away and most of the rest of the world seems to forget it's there. Which is stupid of the rest of the world.

Bryson describes Australia as a fusion of American and British culture.
[Australia] had a casualness and vivacity - a lack of reserve, comfortableness with strangers - that felt distinctly American, but hung on a British framework. In their optimism and informality, Australians could pass for a glance as Americans, but they drove on the left, drank tea, played cricket, adorned their public places with statues of Queen Victoria, dressed their children in the sort of school uniform that only a Britannic people could wear without conspicuous regret.

Overall Bryson loves Australia. Even when he was almost murdered by some dogs in Canberra (or not since you never actually SEE the dogs) he still likes the place. He has nothing but nice things to say about the people, the cities, the deserts, sometimes even the animals. Well maybe not the ones that want him dead, but some of the others. He gets drunk at strange bars in the middle of no where on his way to see the outback, the part of Australia many Australians never even get to visit. He listens to a lot of cricket on the radio. And of course there are lots of historical anecdotes about people who have died horribly trying to cross the huge country. Really everything you'd expect from a Bryson book.

Oh and I feel I should point out that Bryson acknowledges that the (American) title of his book is taken from a poem, except it's changed from "sunburnt" to "sunburned". As he says, it should be called In a Sunburnt Country. But it isn't.

I can't say this is my favorite Bryson BUT this did make me want to visit Australia. Dammit, why are you so far away from me? Really though, you can't go wrong with Bryson. Now I just need to get my hands on his new book.

Title quote from page 288

Bryson, Bill. In a Sunburned Country. Broadway Books, 2001.

Monday, January 13, 2014

INTERNET! Forever...

Is it safe to assume you're familiar with Allie Brosh's blog Hyperbole and a Half? Because if you're not, you should probably go check that out right now. I'll wait. Or I mean, I won't just sit here while you're reading it, but my website won't self destruct or something if you leave it open in a different tab while you go read H&H.

Brosh wrote a book. Illustrated a book. Both. It's stories about her life, told mostly through her MS Paint drawings, which means they're both crude and AMAZING. Even if you're not already familiar with her work, if you've spent a significant amount of time on the internet I'm sure you've seen this

She shares stories about her childhood, her life with her (now) husband and their dogs, and her battles with depression. The stories are mostly ridiculous and absurd and had me crying laughing, even though I knew a fair amount of them already. Even her more serious stories are funny. Or at least have funny elements, while still being poignant.

A lot of the book is made up of stories that are on her blog. Which normally I'd think "Well, then I don't need to buy your book cos the content is free online." And honestly, if you decide to go that route it's understandable. But I've read her entire blog (which I recommend but she has posts going back to 2009 so it may take some time) so when I heard about her book I knew I would be getting it, even if there are only a couple new stories. And then it ended up that about half the book is made up of new stories so WIN. And a lot of the new stories are some of the best ones, so another good reasons to pick up the book.

There's no real theme to the book, other than they're stories about Brosh. They don't go in order, which is nice because I don't know that reading all of her childhood stories followed later by all of her depression stories would have been good choice. So you jump around from This Is Why I'll Never Be An Adult (my favorite, and has lines like "For a little while, I actually feel grown-up and responsible. I strut around with my head held high, looking the other responsible people in the eye with that knowing glance that says 'I understand. I'm responsible now too. Just look at my groceries.'"), The God of Cake, and Depression Part Two. It's a quick read too. I read most of it on the train ride coming home after I bought it and then finished it the next morning. Oh and her dedication page reads:

For Scott.
What now, fucker?

If you're a fan of Brosh, well, you probably already have her book.  But if you haven't picked it up yet, you should. And I would recommend a physical copy as opposed to an ecopy. I don't know how the images show up but they're important so big color illustrations are the way to go. If you're not sure about Brosh, check out her blog. The first post of hers I ever read was The Awkward Situation Survival Guide and while it's not the best story, it did hook me in enough to read ALL THE BLOG (see what I did there? meta). If you're not a fan of Brosh well, I don't know why you're reading a review for this book. You already know you don't want this. I'm not going to change your mind. Not matter how much I love it.

I realize this review is a mess. I'm sorry. You should probably read Kayleight @ Nylon Admiral and Laura @ Devouring Texts reviews. They're far more coherent.

Title quote from page 227

Brosh, Allie. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. Touchstone, 2013.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mini Readathon

It's Mini-Readathon Time!

Last year around this time Tika decided to host a readathon that wasn't quite as intimidating as that 24 hour readathon that some people (me) just don't have the attention span for. Thus was born the mini-readathon where we'll read/tweet for 8 hours and eat lots of snacks. And the theme is mini, but the more you can stretch that definition to fit what you are going to eat/read, the better.

Let's see what I have

I have three titles right now that may or may not be changed as the day goes on/I think of other mini excuses.

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson - mini because I'm juuuust about done with it.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa - mini because it's only 180 pages
Different Seasons by Stephen King - mini because they're short stories.

I was going to start with eggs (little chicken fetuses) but then I decided to make something both Boyfriend+ and I could enjoy, so I'm going with silver dollar (TINY) pancakes. Except he's not down yet so I don't have completed pancakes to show you. But the batter is in that blue bowl behind the books so I'm on my way.

I'll share my other snacks throughout the day/as I figure out what they'll be. Because I am terrible at planning but I'm pretty good at bullshitting so I should be able to come up with some more mini foods.


Here we are, about half way through this mini-readathon. How's everyone's reading/eating going?

I finished 1 book, except that book is the Sunburned Country one and I only had about 50 pages left. STILL COUNTS. Plus I've been reading it since before the holidays which is silly that it's taken me so long. I love Bryson. I love the book. The holidays just made me reading lazy. Hence why this readalong has come at such a great time.

I have been eating though, because priorities. First up, here are those pancakes in their finished form.
We also had some blueberry jam with them that my mom made. It counts towards this cos it's in a tiny mason jar. I put another mason jar with OJ in the picture for comparison.
THEN I also found a couple snacks. I was scrounging through our pantry and realized we bought a Costco sized thing of Welch's fruit snacks. While Costco is definitely not mini-sized, the bags themselves are. PLUS these are really snacks for children, a.k.a. mini-people, so COUNTS
Then I wanted some chocolate and we have this espresso bean dark chocolate bar, which is delicious. The chocolate breaks off into small pieces so mini. PLUS the profits from this candy bar go towards saving endangered animals. Which are endangered cos there are only a tiny amount of them left. BOOM, MINI AGAIN

I was about to start King's Different Seasons but then my mom called and we were discussing wedding centerpieces. It was still sort of bookish since I'm trying to figure a way to insert books/literary couples into the table numbers.

I hope everyone is eating lots of delicious mini things. Oh, and also reading. See you on Twitter!

Thoning update the second and final:
I'm about at the end of my minithon time. A friend's birthday celebration is this evening so Boyfriend+ and I will be heading out to celebrate and play some drinking bingo. I'm going to do a bit more reading now so I will still be following along on Twitter till the end.

I managed roughly another 50 pages in Different Seasons (starting with Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) and then got distracted by internet things. Like Alice live tweeting episodes of 19 Kids and Counting.

I did manage to eat more mini snacks! Or snack rather. I made a small plate of nachos. And since I'm at the bottom of the bag, pretty much all of the tortilla chips were tiny. AND shredded cheese is pretty much just really tiny slices of cheese SO THERE.
Tika, thank you for hosting this minithon which as been super fun, even if I have to cut out a bit early.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Prison is so much about the people who are missing from your life and who fill your imagination

I realize I haven't talked about my love for the Netflix show Orange is the New Black here, although if you follow me on Twitter you've probably seen some ALL CAPS declarations of love. Because it's an amazing show and if you haven't seen it yet, you should probably drop what you're doing and go binge watch. It's hilarious and touching and complicated and OMG I LOVE IT. So reading the book that inspired it seemed like a natural choice. Especially when said book was on sale.

The original Orange is the New Black is a memoir by Piper Kerman, as WASP from a good New England family who, in her early twenties Piper dated a woman who dealt heroin for some guy in West Africa. She didn't deal heroin in the "stand on a street corner" kind of way, but instead the way that let her jet set to exotic locations and have lots of disposable income. Piper laundered money for the operation one time and ten years later found herself serving a 15 month sentence at a minimum security prison. Piper's memoir details what she learned about herself, about the other women she was incarcerated with, and about the American prison system. Things about herself and other women: pretty good. The prison system:...yeah, not so much.

Laura pointed this out in her review that Kerman does an excellent job talking about all of the problems with the prison system without smacking you over the head with them. She's so right. Kerman points out things that are messed up in the prison system, be it conditions or who is predominantly being arrested, without preaching. And they're woven within the story itself so they never get eye-rolly. And some of the stuff is terrible and unfair
"A female prisoner who alleges sexual misconduct on the part of a guard is invariably locked in the SHU [solitary confinement] in 'protective custody,' losing her housing assignment, program activities (if there are any), work assignment, and a host of other prison privileges, not to mention the comfort of her routine and friends."

There are a lot of funny moments that come from the ridiculousness of the situation.
"Nice veins!" [the prison doctor] said with very genuine admiration. "No track marks!" Given his total lack of irony, I thanked him.

Reading this made me want to watch the show all over again. It's different enough that you shouldn't expect to read the same thing as the show, but there are enough moments and characters that are the same or at least similar enough to make me go "TAYSTEE I MISS YOU".

I know there are complaints that the book only focuses on Piper's experience so you're only seeing prison through the eyes of a white upper-middle-class woman. Those people are dumbasses. You've picked up a memoir by a white upper-middle-class woman. The hell did you think it was going to be about? I know the show branches out more and that is AWESOME and a big plus for the show. But really, why did you think Piper's memoir would also include memoirs from other ladies?

Piper does come off a bit like her shit smells like flowers, but not enough that I was mad at her for it. I mean I assume when it comes to memoirs most people are painting themselves with some pretty rose colored glasses. I would. Again, another way I appreciate that the TV show, since it's not Piper's memoirs, can branch out from this, but I really don't think it's something to hold against the book.

I really enjoyed the book. It's one I could see my re-reading. However, the show is still better. Just don't go into the book expecting to get the same experience as the show. Which is probably good advice in general when seeing a story in multiple media.

Title quote from page 107, location 1690

Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison. Spiegal & Grou, 2011. Kindle edition.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Protecting the hotel was his job. He was the caretaker.

While I was reading* Pride and Prejudice I decided I needed something to break up all of the balls and formal language and all of that fun stuff. So I decided to go with The Shining because apparently I want to make sure if I'm reading two things at once, they need to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Also I would like to read Doctor Sleep at some point and I'm pretty sure The Shining was on sale.

Last time I read this book I was around 14. I lent my book to someone else who never returned it, and I haven't re-read it since. Also if you're wondering why I'm all nervous lending books out, this. This is why.

I remembered the basic story, I remembered it was different than the movie, and I remembered that Joey from Friends would put the book in the freezer when he wasn't reading it.

For those of you that perhaps don't know the story, Jack Torrence has recently accepted a position as caretaker at the Overlook Hotel for the winter. The hotel is only open in the spring and summer because the winter weather makes the mountain passes...well, unpassable. And the phone lines go out as well. Someone needs to hang out at the TOTALLY ISOLATED hotel and make sure things are still in good condition come next spring, and in this case that someone is Jack, his wife Wendy and young son Danny.

Jack's had trouble with alcohol and his temper in the past, so this is a last chance to start his life fresh. He'll take the time to work on his play, his friend will see if he can smooth things over at the school he used to work at, and really, the family needs the money. But there's something not right about the hotel. Halloran, the hotel cook, recognizes Danny's ability to "shine," to read minds a bit and to be able to see events, sometimes in the future, sometimes in the past. He warns Danny that the hotel may show him things that are scary but they're just pictures. But what if they're something more?

The atmosphere at the Overlook is what's so great. It's so scary and tense, but it builds slowly. The family gets up to the hotel and things start to go wrong, but it's not enough to scare them away. Which is a thing I forgot about and makes everything so much worse. I forgot how much of the book takes place when the family could have left the hotel. They go up to the Overlook early in the book, but it's not like they immediately get snowed in. They regularly go into town and go to the library and the little shop. They had a chance to get away, all three of them, before the hotel takes control. And of course they don't. I hope that isn't a spoiler for you, but really, if they did get away before things got really bad then clearly there wouldn't be a story.

This is a seriously scary book. The tension slowly mounts until you (and the Torrence's) are about to snap. And then they do.

The book is so much more than just a haunted hotel story. The main story, the main conflict, is Jack against himself. The hotel may have its demons, but the ones within Jack are just as scary and just as much of a threat to the family. That's the part the movie missed. I still like the Kubrick movie, but the book is so much scarier. Which is too bad cos you'd think Kubrick would have made use of all of the really creepy things going on instead of just deciding Nicholson is crazy, that'll do. And while I heart his performance, it's not Jack Torrence. The whole thing with Jack is the change he goes through to become the monster he is by the end, the monster he'd been trying to keep under control. Nicholson's Jack was crazy from the beginning, and you never got the feeling that he was anything other than this murderous psychopath. He was jut playacting that he was something different. Really during that first interview they should have known how having him as caretaker was going to play out.

Even if you're not a King fan, you should read this book. If you're not a horror fan, you should probably stay away because Joey hiding the book in the freezer isn't a bad idea.

*My reviews are really far behind. I didn't realize just how backlogged I am until I started to write this one and realized I read this over Thanksgiving. So yeah. There you go. 

Title quote from page 332, location 5825

King, Stephen. The Shining. Originally published Doubleday, 1977. Kindle edition published Random House, 2008.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

December and 2013 Reading Wrap Up

2013 is done. SO LONG, YEAR. I'm looking forward to 2014. I mean, in general I look forward to the new year or the new month. Plus I'll be finally doing that wedding thing in 2014 so, that should be fun.

I've already done a 2013 survey post AND post about how I did with my 2013 resolutions so since I've already babbled on about the year, let's just get to the stats, shall we?

Number of books read
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Shining by Stephen King
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Total pages read

Percentage of fiction
50% if you consider Hyperbole and a Half is based on her real life

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors
100% whomp

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of ebooks
75% - it was a big month for ebooks

Books written by decade
1810s - 25%
1970s - 25%
2010s - 50%

Number of books read

Total pages read
Most pages read in January
Least pages read in December

Percentage of fiction

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of ebooks

Books written by decade
1810s - 2%
1940s - 2%
1950s - 2%
1960s - 2%
1970s - 2%
1990s - 12%
2000s - 40%
2010s - 38%

Past reading wrap ups here:

In addition to working on reading more non-white, non-US people I think I also need to spread out books by when they were written. I'm also thinking of tracking book genre for next year, beyond just fiction vs. non. Let's see what happens.

Also there should be some big changes happening at What Red Read soon. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Reading Goals: A follow up

Did you remember that I wrote a post about my 2013 reading goals back in the beginning of the year? Of course you don't remember. I didn't even remember I wrote that. I'm on top of things like that.

New Year, Same C&H
Let's see how I did, shall we?

1. Read more ladies - In 2012 31% of the books I read had a female author. This year...49%. I haven't been making a conscious effort to read more women, but look how nicely that worked out.

2. Read more non-white people - Last year 93% of the books I read were by white people. This year...93%. Dammit. Apparently that is my sweet spot. I need to work on this.

3. Read more non-US authors - Last year 69% of the authors were from the US. This year...73%. Whoops. Also the only other nationality I read was British. So. I failed here.

4. Go to more author signings - Didn't do this at all. Which is sad, but I can't say I came across any author signings that really got me excited. The local bookstore in town has lots of "author" signings and while I love the store itself, I put author in quotes for a reason, since most of these authors are actually reality stars that "wrote" books. I'm sure they have these people come because they draw bigger crowds but PLEASE throw an actual author in every once in a while.

5. Get my review of The Parable of the Sower just written already - Hey, I did this. I mean, it was sort of clear that was going to happen. Still proud.

6. Finish the Harry Potter readalong - Did this too, and it was AMAZING. I was actually going through some of the old HP posts when I found this goal one.

7. Do a better job answering review requests - Worse. I have gotten much much worse at this.

8. Read The Corrections - BAM! Completed. Take that, Franzy-pants.

9. Listen to more audiobooks - I did this, but not so much with the whole running dealy. But I did a lot of the HP readalong via audiobooks and I've listened to the World War Z audiobook at least twice this year. Because yes, it's that good. I've also started listening to Welcome To Night Vale and if you guys haven't started listening to this as well, you're doing it wrong. I haven't started the running part at all, BUT we did get a stationary bike that I have been awesome at *pats self on back*. So I completed both parts of this goal, just separately.

10. Do a better job reading the newspaper - Eh, I need to work on this one some more. I get the NYTimes on my iPad and iPhone in addition to getting it delivered every weekend, and yet I still usually focus on the magazine, real estate, and book reviews. I've gotten better at at least browsing through the other headlines.

So let's see. Overall I've done a worse job at reading more non-US people, going to more author signings, and answering review requests; stayed the same when it came to reading non-white people, listening to audiobooks, and reading the newspaper; got better at reading more ladies; managed to finish my Parable review, completed the HP readalong, AND read The Corrections, thanks to another readalong. Even though I failed or stayed the same at more than 1/2 of them, I'm not too upset. Probably because I'm (clearly) terrible at resolutions so I didn't really expect things to improve dramatically.

Should I bother coming up with more resolutions/goals for 2014? Sure, why not?

1. Keep reading female authors: I'm pretty happy with my stats from last year and I'll be happy to keep that up.

2. Read more non-white people: ...yeah

3. Read more non-US people: Again...yeah

4. Post more often: I'd like to aim for about 3 posts a week. I haven't bee doing a great job with that the last...well for a good amount of 2013. So let's get better at that.

4b. Not let so much time go by between reading and reviewing: Part of posting more would be not letting so much time (like a month+) go between reading and reviewing. Because while it's not a bad thing to let some time go between when I read and when I post to let the ideas stew, there's also the issue that I forget everything that happened in the book. Which makes for a pretty crappy review.

5. Meet up with more book bloggers: I got a chance to meet up with Alice, Rayna, Emily, Amanda, and Kayleigh M. this year, which was awesome. More of that would be excellent.

Do you have any bookish resolutions/goals for 2014?