Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Somewhere deep inside I was praying that voice would someday give me an order, too

Every time I read Ogawa, I think of The Housekeeper and the Professor which was such a quiet and sweet story. But then I read something like Hotel Iris which has the same feel and tone but maaaaaaaan the topic is not the same. It is crazy impressive that she can write something that is clearly her and yet so different.

So, what is Hotel Iris about? Teenage Mari works at the family hotel, this falling-apart place in a seaside town. Mari doesn't go to school, since her mother makes her work. She doesn't have any friends. That would take her away from work.

One day there's an altercation with a couple of the guests. A prostitute is yelling at the man in the hotel room, waking up the other guests. When Mari's mother goes to deal with it (meaning, kick people out and figure out who is going to pay for the room) the man yells something and Mari is drawn to his voice.

Turns out he's this older man, an otherwise quiet and unassuming translator who lives on a nearby island. There are some rumors that he killed his wife. But none of that matters. All that matters to Mari is that voice. And probably getting out from under her mother's thumb. Of course, what is she getting into.

So Mari reaches out to the man. And thus their meetings begin and to say anymore is to get into spoiler territory so I'll just say there's "an illicit affair" and "a dark realm of both pain and pleasure" (both quotes from the back of the book). So yeah, things get a little 50 Shades-ish. Let's say it goes in a VERY different direction than Housekeeper and Professor. I could see it fitting in Revenge.

The story is quiet but in an off-tempo way. Like something is askew but you haven't quite figured out what. Not even when things get weird. I mean, you know the direction the story is going, but that same background feeling still lingers. The story draws you in, even when you'd rather look away.

Gif rating:
But also some of this
Ogawa, Yoko. Hotel Iris. Random House, 1996.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

I'm sorry did, you think I was going to say I didn't love this book? Because that is ridiculous.

I am so far behind on reviews. So far behind. I probably should have thought about reviewing this closer to when I finished it and when the internet was freaking out about it. But that would have required some planning and forethought and hahaha, that's not going to happen.

For those that don't yet know (and you probably do, because of all the time that has passed since it came out), the Hamiltome (aka Hamilton The Revolution) is about the making of the show as well as annotated lyrics. And lots of pictures, from the show, behind the scenes (including Daveed and Oak in their underwear getting ready for the show, which is swell), during the creation. Just lots of pictures.

Are you already in love with Hamilton? Excellent, then you should read this, it is great.

Do you not love Hamilton? Then this is probably not going to be all that exciting for you.

If I had a criticism to make, it's that the book makes no criticism of itself. It gets a bit self-congratulatory at times. Everything is great, everyone is a genius, everyone is beautiful. It doesn't necessarily come off as bragging, or at least I kept thinking of LMM and he is SO DAMN POSITIVE so yes, let's say that is why.

A second criticism would be that the book is definitely a tome, but that is a fake criticism and I make it because I just dropped the book on my leg and the corner cut me, so I'm looking for something to blame that isn't clumsy me.

But really, I thought this book was not going to be nearly as large or complete as it was. I thought it would be something small, or maybe just annotated lyrics. Something that would make me go "Yeah, I'm gonna buy this, but I prob can just get these annotations online or something like that." But that would assume that LMM would half-ass something, which does not appear to be something he is capable of. And really, the book is beautiful. Don't believe me?

Yeah, it's pretty great.

Gif rating:
Miranda, Lin-Manuel and Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton the Revolution: Being the Complete Libretto of the Broadway Musical with a True Account of Its Creation, and Concise Remarks on Hip-Hop, the Power of Stories, and the New America. Grand Central Publishing. 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

No summer is endless

You know who I haven't read in awhile? Stephen King. Well, I guess I actually re-read one of his books last year (Misery), but I've read that one a few times over the years it feels like it's been even longer. But anyway, so it's been awhile since I've read King and Joyland was on sale one day so I decided why not. King's another go-to author (along with Bill Bryson, Mary Roach, Jasper Fforde, Chuck Wendig) where I'm confident I'm going to like what they write so I don't worry too much about details like "What is this about?" I saw the cover and it looked pulp-y (as in fiction, not tree mash) and there was an amusement park and you know what? Good enough for me.

I brought this book with me on a long weekend up to Boston. I didn't really think I'd have much time to read while up there since we spent pretty much every moment visiting friends still up there and eating all the food we've missed since moving (oh and seeing my friend get married! hence the trip) and yet somehow, any moment I had free, I was pulling the book out to just get a few more pages in.

Joyland isn't horror, which I was sort of confused about at first cos, you know, King. It is a "mystery, crime novel" according to Wikipedia but even that doesn't entirely seem accurate.

It feels like most of the novel is setting. A lot of the time is about the main character Devin, who's having girl problems back home, spend his summer working at a carnival back in the '70s. This is one of those rickety seaside amusement parks, very different from the Disneys or Six Flags of today. Devin learns the ropes and the lingo and the ins-and-outs of this world. And Devin finds himself fitting in here, with a special gift for entertaining the kids while "wearing the fur" (dressed up in one of those fursuits).

This is King, so of course there's a murder. Or rather, there's the ghost of a woman who, years ago, was murdered in the haunted house ride. The murder was never solved, so Devin and a few other people in his group decide they want to try to solve the murder.

And there's ALSO a strange little boy in a wheelchair that Devin sees on his way to and from Joyland, sitting outside a big house with his mother and dog. The boy is friendly but the mother seems standoffish. Devin seems drawn to this trio.

The book seems to meander, and even the whole murder mystery doesn't come up into we're well into the story. But that's fine. The fact that there isn't really much of a plot for a lot of the book is sort of the point. Or is at least intentional. It was a world I wanted to come back to. It's a light, quick read, it gets suspenseful towards the end, overall entertaining even if it doesn't stick with you.

Gif rating:
Title quote from location 2498

King, Stephen. Joyland. Hard Case Crime, 2014. Kindle

Monday, July 11, 2016

All Firemen are wedded to cinders, in the end

It's been so long since I've done a for reals review post so let's see if I remember what I'm doing. But I really need to make a dent because I am 11 books behind on reviewing. Whooooops
Anyway, The Fireman by Joe Hill, which I got courtesy of NetGalley. Joe Hill has become another one of my go-to authors who I'm willing to read his stuff without first seeing what it's about because that's what happens when you build up a lot of goodwill (NOS4A2 responsible for a good chunk of it). I was trying to describe the book to someone and I fear I wasn't doing the best job, so let me give it another try.

There's some strange disease (or really a fungus) going around that causes people to spontaneously combust. The country is a mess with people terrified of going up in flames (rightly so) and the country literally being on fire, since a lot of the country (woods, houses, etc.) is pretty flammable and there are loads of human torches going off at a moments notice.

The plague, called Dragonscale, causes black and gold tattoos to cover the victim's body so once you catch it you're literally marked. Not great during a panic so I'm sure you can imagine what frightened people are doing to try and stay safe. Harper is a nurse, at the front line dealing with the patients, taking all the precautions, but as I'm sure you can guess, it's not enough and she wakes up to find the tell-tale markings. Oh, and she just found out she's pregnant so GREAT TIMING. She's discovered and secreted away to a refugee camp for infected people who claim to be able to live with the disease.

Most of the book takes place at this camp where there are lots of characters and who can you trust and there seems to be some weird cultish vibes going on and is there really a cure for the condition and what is it really and so on and so forth.

Harper is the main character and most of the time I liked her but sometimes, man, could she be annoying. And inconsistent. She looooooooves Mary Poppins and quotes her often and seems to have this quality of being very proper. Except she curses a fair amount, in part to piss off this guy who hates cursing, which could be funny if she didn't talk about how little she curses. She could also be stubborn and since you're seeing the story from her point of view she seems to feel righteous in her stand where from a different perspective it felt more childish. But I suppose overall there are worse characters to follow around when the world is ending.

Then there's the titular Fireman, who is part of the camp, but also stays separate from it. He seems to know more about the Dragonscale than the others and yet isn't entirely trusted. He was interesting and funny, when he showed up, which wasn't that often. Though I wonder if he would have been as entertaining if you saw him as consistently as Harper.

The book is long and while NOS4A2 was also, this felt like it rambled a lot more. Maybe that's because comparatively there are so many more characters to deal with and keep track of. That said, I moved through the book quickly because in the end, I did want to know what was going to happen next. Hill does a good job of keeping up the suspense. And there were a lot of lines I highlighted, so why don't I share a few of those to wrap this thing up?
There's something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out.
"I told you" had to be some kind of karmic opposite to the words "I love you."
"What part of the end of the world is funny to you?""All of it. Especially the arrogant notion that the world will end just because humans might not make it through this century.
"They're not bad people, most of them. All they want is to be safe.""Isn't that always a permission slip for ugliness and cruelty?"
 Gif rating:
Title quote from location 3180

Hill, Joe. The Fireman. William Morrow, 2016. NetGalley

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Q2 Reading Stats Infographic

I realized another quarter is finished, so I thought I'd do another fancy-shmancy infographic

In case you feel like checking out my past infographics
Q1 2016 Reading Stats
2015 Reading Stats

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

June Reading Wrap up

June is over, which is especially sad because June was vacation time and I want to go back to there instead of hanging out in this lame reality place. Let's just jump right into the stats, shall we.
Total books read
$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Eden and H. Luke Shaefer
My Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
Dietland by Sarai Walker

Total pages read


Female authors

White authors
US authors

Book format
ebook: 80%
paperback: 20%

Where'd I get the book
Indie bookstore: 20%
Kindle: 60%
Netgally: 20%


Review books

Readalong/Book Club

Blogger reco


Books by decade
2000s: 20%
2010s: 80%

Books by genre
Horror: 20%
Memoir: 20%
Satire: 40%
Sociology: 20%

Resolution books
Juuuuuuust made it, but the point is I made it. Blackass is both by a POC author AND by a non-US author (he's Nigerian). 

So there we go. Not bad. Now I'm going to pretend I'm still on the beach.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why must I be back in the real world??

I have been silent around the interwebs but I have a good reason
Now instead of making my way through my inbox or catching up on my feedly or anything else I probably should be doing, Imma write a blog post about my vacation and how much I wish I was back on it.

First stop, San Juan. We took a cruise leaving out of San Juan so step one was getting to San Juan which was uneventful, my fav type of travel. We thought we'd drop our stuff at the boat and then hang out in Old San Juan but the boat didn't dock at the main port and instead was closer to the airport so no hanging out prior. Instead we wandered around the boat, getting our bearings. Pretty lowkey day.

Day 2, St. Maarten
We had been here on our last cruise and decided instead of doing any excursions we would head straight to Maho Beach. For those of you not familiar, this is the draw of Maho Beach
Yes, that is a plane landing directly behind the beach, to the point where people's hats and whatnot are being blown off*. The bar next to the beach has a board with all of the flight times, so you know when the big planes are coming. It used to be people would hold onto the fence around the airport when a plane was taking off, but they have put extra precautions in place since I was there last time to keep people from doing that. You'd think a JET ENGINE TO THE FACE would be enough of a deterrent to keep people from doing that, but it is not. I don't know why, cos again, even if everything goes exactly as you planned, you end up with a JET ENGINE TO THE FACE. Stop it people.

Day 3, day at sea
Not too much to share here. We spent the day at sea, which are pretty great cos they are super relaxing and you can sleep in. Or you can be SUPER PRODUCTIVE (at least early on with your cruise) and go to the gym and whatnot. 

Day 4, Bonaire
The first of the ABC islands (made up of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) we visited, next stop was Bonaire. Most of the excursions for Caribbean ports are snorkeling or diving related. I do neither of those things, but we found stuff. In this case we took a tour on this boat that had not a glass bottom but a whole glass submarine type thing at the bottom so we could sail along the reef and see fish and turtles and whatnot. Then we did anchor and there was the option to snorkel. Or you could do as Tom and I did and just swim in the water, which was super tiring because currents and winds but very fun. And they gave us rum punch when we got back on the boat. A fellow tourer only wanted a very small splash of rum, so I graciously offered to take what rum she did not want and the guide did not disappoint. So it was a fun trip back.

Day 5, Aruba
We decided we had too many relaxing days, riding in bikes and swimming in the sea and thought we'd try a mountain bike tour. Through the desert. However, the cruise line didn't have a bike tour so we found one ourselves. It was a little creepy at first, since the instructions to meet up were "Go to gas station across from dock, get in van." But don't worry, there was no kidnapping. There were however only 2 other people doing the mountain biking tour and they were WAY more into it than us. Like the guy brought his own bike pump (why???) into it. They also talked about how they had a jeep back home and how it's not a car, it's really a lifestyle. The guide did a good job of giving them hard trails to try while Tom and I stuck to the easier ones, though easy here is relative because I kinda wanted to die by the end. Mostly because I never fully appreciated how uncomfortable bike seats could be until I rode one over rough terrain for 12 miles. But overall it was beautiful and super glad we did it. Even if it meant that we spent the rest of the day recovering next to the pool.

Day 6, Curaçao
After our day in Aruba, I was very happy we decided to keep things easy in Curaçao. A bus tour (I was afraid at first we went with a hike but phew) that included a stop at a distillery and a beach. Everything was beautiful, the beach was relaxing, the distillery gave out samples, all was good. We then walked around town a bit (did you know the whole town has wifi? That was cool, especially since I wasn't going to be paying the $13/day to get internet on the boat), I got a mortar & pestle for making mofongo. Good times.

Day 7, back on the boat
Last day on the boat before heading back to San Juan. It was a sad day but we made the most of it by eating all the food and sitting by the pool and playing things like Michael Jackson trivia.

Days 8 & 9, San Juan
Vacation not over yet! We included a couple extra days after the cruise to hang out in San Juan. I've been a couple times, but only as part of cruises. Tom used to go every year growing up but hadn't been back for awhile because work gets in the way. A family friend picked us up from the dock and we headed to El Yunque Rainforest which was SO BEAUTIFUL despite the rain. Rain in the rainforest, who knew. Then we went to this restaurant La Parilla and ate roughly ALL THE FOOD. We started simply enough, with some tostones stuffed with lobster and a sampler plate. Then we decided we should just split a lobster instead of everyone getting their own plate. I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back the waiter was holding up a huge lobster (turned out to be over 5lbs) which they proceeded to grill and then stuff with another 2lbs of seafood. ALSO it came with sides like rice & beans, salad, more tostones, and these other plantain things that I can't remember the name of but it's fried plantains that were extra crispy so can't be bad. 

We then checked into our hotel and just out around there (it has a pool, a bunch of restaurants and shops, beach access), finally sleeping in a bed that did not feel like a wooden plank. The next morning we went to the beach and then the pool before heading into Old San Juan to visit Castillo San Cristóbal (since we have been to visit the other fort, El Morro, every other time we've visited), which was beautiful, aaaaaaand to get MOFONGO (fried plantains or yuca, mashed with garlic and chicharron, and topped with something like seafood or steak) which was delicious. Then we wandered around town some more before heading back to the hotel. Also while I managed to avoid sunburn the rest of the trip, this day was my downfall and despite 100+ SPF, my shoulders and arms took a beating so I mostly wanted to lay around with cool clothes draped over my burns. Also it was nap time because we had to leave for the airport around 1am so there would be no sleeping later. 

And now I'm home, writing this and wishing I was back on the beach (sunburn be damned). But instead I suppose I should get to catching up on blogging instead (hard life, I know).

*Also hey look, I made a gif. Though I guess Tom should get most of the credit since he took the video. And most of the pictures. But I googled gif converters. So. Yeah.