Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Meme Where I Talk About Myself

Kerry over at Entomology of a Bookworm tagged in a game of, well...tag.  (It's my way with words that keeps you coming back, isn't it?) I've been trying to avoid these type of memes recently but, what can I say, I like talking about myself.  It's the one topic I can discuss with full confidence.  But because I'm sure many of you don't actually care, I figured I'd post this over the weekend when most people aren't checking blogs.  Especially Halloween weekend.  Anyway, onto tag

So the rules say I need to link to the blogger who tagged me (done!), answer the questions honestly (we'll see. I won't outright lie anyway) and tag 4 other bloggers.  OK so this last step I won't do because what if there is someone that doesn't want to play but I tag them and then they feel like they have to or I'll stop following them (I know my approval rules most people's decisions)?  So instead I'll say, if you feel like it congrats! You've been tagged.  If you don't want to, that's cool too.  You're a less vain person than me.

Four Things in My Handbag
  1. iPod Touch and iPod Shuffle.  Why both? Cos clipping the little shuffle to my clothes is far easier on my commute than making sure my Touch doesn't fall to the bottom of my bag and rip my headphones out.
  2. Wallet, since my purse is essentially a vessel for holding this thing.  It's huge and heavy but pretty so I keep using it. 
  3. Keys. I'm always paranoid I'll forget these and get locked out so I have them on a huge lanyard from college that gets tangled in all the other things in my bag, but makes it really easy to find them.  It also has a New Jersey bottle opener on it so win.
  4. Book. Currently it's Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories.  The fact that I keep a book in my bag at (almost) all times is the reason I avoid hardbacks.  So if Fforde and Bryson would like to hurry up and push their latest pieces to paperback, I would be most appreciative.
 Four Favorite Things in My Bedroom
  1. Bed. As it stands my bedroom is very small so the bed takes up about 85% of it.  It's not that I think this bed is the best ever but I do love sleep.
  2. TV/DVD/VCR I like to fall asleep to something but I don't have cable hooked up in my room, so I've been watching DVDs.  I recently finished re-watching the entire Critic series and 1 disc from the Simpsons season 8 with my favorite episode "You Only Move Twice".  I'm now onto watching the Planet Earth series.
  3. Window AC. I don't know why it's been hot and humid in Boston recently, but my window AC at least makes sleeping possible.  I'm pretty sure that's how an army of mosquitoes has been getting in, but seeing as I have no where to store the AC if it's not in the window, it'll stay there and I'll just keep blasting the window with bug spray.
  4. My dresser I had some trouble coming up with the last item and this is essentially the only other thing in the room.  But I do appreciate that it holds some of my clothes. The rest are down the hall in a closet/room off the living room.  (By the way, there is a good chance this closet is larger than my room, but I don't want to depress myself by actually measuring and finding out that is true.) And keeps my TV at eye level.
 Four Things on My Desk
  1. My Computer The only desk I have is at work so I'm just naming stuff on there and surprise! It has a computer
  2. Drawings, doodles, cutouts. It looks like kindergarten art class projects have vomited all over my desk. When Co-Worker was here we would make drawings for one another so in between post-its with important phone numbers I have a drawing of a duck eating Sun Chips and a giraffe flying a WWII plane.
  3. Cheap Decorative fan I won it at this amazing place called Good Time Emporium that has since shut down to make way for an Ikea.  Now I love Ikea but I also love a place where I can play skee ball, laser tag, pool and drink all in one super sketchy location.
  4. Drink containers I currently have 1 reusable water bottle, one bottle of sparkling flavored water, 2 foam cups from Dunkin, 1 plastic cup from Dunkin (I need to throw out), an empty water bottle (also needs thrown out) and an over sized coffee mug that needs washed.  I am not a particularly neat person apparently.
Four Things I've Always Wanted to Do (but Haven't Yet)
  1. Move to Seattle This is actually a relatively new thing, but ever since I've visited I want to live there.  At least for a few years.
  2. Visit Australia/New Zealand   It looks so beautiful out there that I will get over the 25hour flight just to visit.  You know, and find the necessary funds to make the trip happen.
  3. Learn a foreign language fluently I took French for roughly 10,000 years from middle school through college but I still suck at it.  I'm far better at Italian but even that is barely passable now.  
  4. Figure out a long term career I change my mind a lot but maybe at some point I'll think of something I want to do for the long haul.  Owning a bookstore would be nice.
 Four Things I Enjoy Very Much at the Moment
  1. ABP's Pumpkin Soup Now if only the location over here would stop being lazy and start carrying it.  Fall's going to end soon people!
  2. Boots I have so many pairs but I still want more.  So pretty
  3. The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Rocky Horror Picture Show My two favorite Halloween time movies. I should probably splurge and buy a DVD copy of Nightmare.  The VHS is getting worn down.
  4. El Guapo burrito from El Pelon I'm not eating one now but I suddenly got a craving. Might be a quest for the weekend.
Four Songs I Can't Get Out of My Head
  1. Electric Avenue by some guy that made an annoying song I read something that referenced this song the other day and now it's stuck in there
  2. New York, New York by Sinatra   Must have come on my iPod at some point.  That's the fun thing about listening to music during my commute.  I don't usually pay all that much attention to what's playing but I'll suddenly find myself humming some song.
  3. Drunken Lullabies by Flogging Molly Also came on the Shmuffle recently
  4. Time Warp from Rocky Horror It's just a jump to the left...
 Four Things You Don't Know About Me
  1. I love punk, ska and Broadway musicals My music taste is a bit schizo but it makes me happy.  And the American Idiot Broadway soundtrack is the perfect storm of those things I love. 
  2. I keep my nails painted at all times or else I bite them I bite them even when they are painted, but it is more of a deterrent.  And I'm not a big fan of red/pink/french manicure nails.  Recently I've been keeping them green but currently they're black
  3. I love Tosh.0  The show just consists of tasteless jokes and gross internet videos and yet I love it.
  4. I get Ebert's newsletter emailed to me weekly yet I won't read the review until I've seen the movie.  And then once I have seen the movie, I'll look up reviews elsewhere and won't usually go back through my email to see if the review is there.  It seems pointless yet I like getting them anyway.
 If you've made it down this far, congrats! I probably would have quit.  TL,DNR.  Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Such ordinary things make me afraid

I was browsing around a bookstore one day when I came across the book Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories.  I loved Dahl as a child and I have a book of his short stories aimed at adults, so I was very excited when I found this book.  So excited in fact, that I didn't notice Dahl didn't actually write these stories.  He just compiled them.  Whoops.  I was disappointed when I found this out but the disappointment didn't last for long because Dahl picked out some great stories and he includes a number of short stories written by women.  In the intro he decides "women have an unusual flair for writing about the supernatural," (14) and I'm personally always happy to see a story written by a female writer that doesn't completely center on finding a man and/or shoe shopping.

I've gone through half of the book so far and the stories about children have been the ones that stood out to me. Most likely because children scare me.  Unsettling tiny people...Anyway here are my thoughts on the creepy children stories.

"Harry" by Rosemary Timperley
The post title actually comes from this story.  The main character begins the story talking about the ordinary things that frighten her: "Sunshine. Sharp shadows on grass. White roses. Children with red hair."*  (33) Mr. and Mrs. James have adopted a young girl who was the only member of her family to survive her father's attempted family murder/suicide, saved by her brother's sacrifice.  Christine has made an invisible friend that her mother cannot stand but the more Mrs. James rails against him, the more Christine retreats to the friend in the garden.

"Playmates" by A.M. Burrage
A creepy Victorian bachelor decides he would make an awesome parent so he takes on a ward whose father just died and no one else seems to want, so he see if teaching her the bare minimum (though giving her access to a full library so she can mostly teach herself) and keeping her from other children will make her the perfect person.  This results in the girl being well cared for physically but sullen; she never laughs, she never plays. The man, the little girl and the household servants move from the city to the country, where the little girl begins to play and smile and seems to have a group of invisible friends.

So the first thing you'll notice is kids who talk to invisible friends are actually talking to ghosts** so you'd better watch out. And kids are totally unafraid of ghosts because child ghosts apparently make fantastic playmates.  The creepiness comes from the fact that the children are interacting with something otherworldly in an entirely nonchalant way.  These companions make perfect sense and are preferred to real children around them.  The adults may try to deny a presence but their own reluctance shows how much they really believe in the friends are real and more than just an overactive imagination.  The stories aren't frightening so much as they are unsettling.  You won't scream while reading these stories but you will feel uneasy.  Dahl says in the intro the reason he compiled these stories was originally for a TV show.  It sounded like The Twilight Zone and any of the stories would fit into that sort of format.  Less sci-fi, more horror, all creepy.  It's too bad the show never got picked up; I'd love to have seen some of these stories made into short movie.

*Man, red heads just get picked on left and right.  For other examples see: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and South Park. One of my nicknames is "daywalker" though I do have the pale skin and very light freckles.  But I'm pretty sure non-redheads just can't tell gingers apart.
**I thought about saying "Spoilers" here but since I'm talking about a book of ghost stories, if the fact that ghosts are present surprises you, well, here's your spoiler alert. You're welcome.

Title quote from page 46

Burrage, A.M. "Playmates."  Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 1983.

Timperley, Rosemary. "Harry." Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 1983.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 10 Scariest Books

In honor of Halloween, this week's top 10 hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is the top scariest books.  I love Halloween so I actually think I might be able to make it to 10 this week but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
  1. Everything's Eventual by Stephen King This is a book of King's short stories and it has some of my favorite King stories, including my favorite short story "1408".  This story sincerely creeped me out and I immediately started it again.  It's not only unsettling but a truly great tale.  I wrote posts about "1408" and another great story from the collection "The Man in the Black Suit"
  2. The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collection by Alan Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell I loved these books when I was little but at the same time they gave me nightmares.  I'm pretty sure the illustrations were responsible for that.  Even now those drawings are pretty terrifying. 
  3. Misery by Stephen King King might come up a few more times on the list, so heads up.  This is one of the few King novels I've read that doesn't include the supernatural and I think that makes it that much more terrifying.  There are no ghosts or monsters, just a psychotic paranoid number one fan.
  4. Jaws by Peter Benchley My favorite book when I was little was The Golden Book of Sharks and Whales. And then many years later I read Jaws and a few other "terrors of the deep" books and no matter how many times Shark Week tries to tell me otherwise, I am terrified of deep water and things in the water attacking me.  I have trouble playing video game underwater levels (Damn you, BanjoKazooie).
  5. Dracula by Bram Stoker I took a Horror Fiction class in college and this was the basis we used for horror stories to come later.  It has some slow moments but it's the original and does have some great scenes.
  6. "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe The fact that the story is told from the PoV of the crazy narrator makes this story that much better.  You're made an accomplice to his crime but you never really understand his motivation.  You're with him and yet apart from him and there's something in that contradiction that makes the story so eerie.
  7. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis I love this movie so I read the book.  The movie is child's play compared to the novel, which is incredibly graphic.  Incredibly graphic. Rats get shoved places rats should not go.  But the movie is still one of my favorites so it stays on the list. Just don't say I didn't warn you about the book. Also if you really, really like the book, no matter what you say, I will think you have latent serial killer tendencies. Update! I found this list of 50 most hated literary characters and Patrick Bateman, the main character, is listed.  Here's what they have to say: "Only the most twisted of individuals would admire Patrick Bateman, a slick, priviledged executive who enjoys murder, rape, cannibalism, torture, necrophilia and other wholesome activities."
  8. World War Z by Max Brooks. I actually plan on re-reading this in the near future so be on the lookout for those posts but I'll tell you that while awake I'm not afraid of zombies but apparently my subconscious is terrified of them.  Every night while I was reading this book I dreamt of zombies and they were some strange dreams
And 2 horror stories I want to read but haven't yet...

9. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson I've had this book for years but still haven't gotten around to reading it.  I will, eventually.  I love the idea of a pure evil character as part of all of us. 
10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson I almost included "The Lottery" on this list but I decided to save the spot for this Jackson novel.  I've heard time and again that this is a horror must read.

Look at that, I made it to 10!  Amazing.  I even had to remove some book to keep it at 10.  I knew this had to happen eventually.  Just don't expect it to happen again in the near future. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

A talent for seeing patterns and understanding abstract reasoning where other people perceive only white noise.

*This may contain spoilers.  I'm not very good at judging what could be a spoiler and what isn't, other than the obvious things. I should probably put Spoiler Alert at the top of the blog somewhere*

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn't what I expected.  I assumed it would be a non-stop thrill ride.  I can't tell if the story was over-hyped and if I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't have these raised expectations.  The story was slower than I expected it to be and I never got to the point where I had to read "just one more page".  To be honest, I never really cared about the whole Wennerström plot and I found Blomkvist to be boring.  I thought Salander was the most interesting character and unfortunately the story didn't stick with her for long enough.  The title leads you to believe that Salander will a more prominent character than she is and I can't decide if the new title is false advertising. 

I wrote the other day how I understood the original title of the book was Men Who Hate Women.  The rape against Salander is violent and in my opinion unnecessary to her character development.  I don't think we learn too much more about her after this scene, other than she's capable of violence.  Violence I was totally behind because, well, I can only be so sympathetic to a rapist, but violence nonetheless.  I guess I see where Larsson was going with this scene, given the violence against other women described later in the book.  It isn't just a crazed serial killer that attacks women, it happens elsewhere.  But the rape is so violent that it isn't really making a statement about the general atmosphere of condoned violence against women, it's just another sadistic exaggeration.  That's not to say it doesn't happen, but it's not the norm and the extreme violence just makes the act all that much less believable.  

I'm going to read the next book in the series, because it's the next book for book club.  I hope that Salander plays a larger part in that book.  If she doesn't I don't think I would bother reading The Girl Who Played with Fire.  I guess that's s a compliment of the character Larsson did create.  The book may have a lot of violence against women, but the female characters are far more interesting and more well developed than the male ones.  

Overall I wouldn't really recommend the book.  It wasn't awful but it wasn't for me.  With the exception of the Salander scenes, which I did enjoy, I would have been fine putting the book down at any point and walking away from it.  

Title quote from page 552.

Larsson, Stieg.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Vintage Books, New York.  2008

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Blog Hop XIII

Another Friday, another Hop, hosted by Crazy-for-Books.  I've missed the last few hops due to friend's weddings and concerts and a desperate need for sleep, but I'm back this week!  I know, you missed me.

This week's question is: Where is your favorite place to read?  Curled up on the sofa? in bed? in the garden?

As I've mentioned a number of times, I do a large amount of my reading during my commute.  Not my ideal place to read but there you go.  However, when I read elsewhere I usually do it curled up on the couch.   I also enjoy wandering around the city and reading in a park somewhere.  Reading in Central Park is one of my favorite places to be in the spring.

What about you?  Where do you like read?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Book Review Page

I was feeling ambitious/bored yesterday and put together a Book Archive page.  I'm sure many of you* are dying to get a look at all of the books I've written about but using the search button is a pain and looking through the blog titles in the other archive isn't all that helpful.  So to help you (and me) out I put together this page to track all of the books I've written about and links to the articles.  I may even add images to this page but I got distracted last night (damn you Tosh.0) and didn't get around to it.  I hope if you actually did want to see all of the books I've talked about that this is helpful.  And if it's not let me know and I'll either fix it or tell you to go look up "sad trombone".

Oh Hey! More Archives.  Exciting

*By many of you I mean me.  I'm sure you aren't actually combing through old posts trying to see what other brilliant thoughts I've shared.  Also, I know Blogger has the "tagging" option but I thought this was easier.  Until I need to actually maintain this page.  Plus I have a lot of ridiculous tags.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Literary Crushes

The past top 10's I have been vaguely optimistic about finding 10 of whatever the day's category is but this week, I can't even pretend I'm going to come close.  But I love lists and this seems like a ridiculous topic that I couldn't pass up, so here we go!  I also just realized the topic just says fictional instead of literary but I'm going with book ones anyway.  Or at least characters that were originally literary. The Broke and the Bookish's Top 10 question: top 10 Fictional Crushes:
  1. Sirius Black from the Harry Potter series. Part of this probably stems from the "I wish I could make magic" desire, even though I'd waste it on things like getting me food from the kitchen without having to get up.  I also have a bit of a crush on Gary Oldman (loved him in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) so the movies helped with that.  He's impulsive and reckless but fairly well-adjusted considering crazy family growing up and then he was in torture prison for 13 years.  I think I've already set an odd tone for this list...
  2. Sodapop Curtis from The OutsidersThis is an old crush, since I read the book when I was in 7th grade and I mostly picture a 1983-era Rob Lowe in this role.  I know he is hardly in the book but HIS NAME IS SODAPOP.  Really, that's all it takes. 
  3. Thursday Next from the Thursday Next series.  I have a bit of a girl crush on Thursday.  This is one of my favorite book series and she is such a strong and quick-witted character.  What's not to love?
  4. Detective Inspector Jack Spratt from the Nursery Crime series. Thursday Next but a nursery rhyme character and male.  Absurd, satirical Sam Spade.

I really wanted to make it to 5 but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Maybe next week I'll complete the assignment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Boston Book Festival, Full Frontal Feminism and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It's a busy post so let's get started.

Bill Bryson at the Boston Book Festival
Saturday was the Boston Book Festival and who was there by Bill Bryson! I know, exciting.  I've mentioned before that he's one of my favorite authors and one of my go-to's if I want a quick read that I know I'll like. Earlier in the Spring I heard he had a new book coming out soon but it wasn't out just yet.  At Home is available now, though like Fforde's Shades of Grey I'm waiting for it to come out in paperback.  Bryson read a couple excerpts out of the book and talked about how little we know about the little things that are all around us.  Why is it "room & board", why is it salt & pepper that are always on the table?

I know Bryson is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and that he's lived in England for years but his accent still through me.  It's a mix of the two of them but after years of reading his book and not hearing what he sounds like I guess I made up my own version of what he sounds like.  He is a riot and he writes like he talks.  I was starving during the talk so roommate and I got linner instead of waiting around for book signing.  As I said I'd prefer the paperback version and while I like autographed copies of books I decided I didn't want to buy a hardback version and fight the crazy line while my stomach was crying for a sandwich.  But overall fun, windy times at the Boston Book Festival!

Update!: Both Brother and CurlyGeek04 pointed out that Bryson was on The Colbert Report so I found it on OnDemand.  If you're a fan of Bryson, or want to be, check this out.  It's pretty fantastic

Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti
I first heard of the book on The Broke and the Bookish blog, so this is the second case where I read a book I heard about on a book blog.  (The first book was This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.) I was going to use the quote "Keepers of the all-powerful hymen" (86) as the title of this post but because this is about more than just FFF so I went with my planned subtitle.  I laughed out loud when I read the quote, which was a little awkward seeing how I was sitting in a Texas airport at the time.  I read in public often so you'd think I'd be used to this by now but I still end up laughing and then fake-coughing.  It's pathetic, I know.  I was already getting odd looks from the guy across from me when he saw the cover so who know what he was thinking when I started laughing.

Anyway, this book is wonderful and I want to share it with everyone.  Feminism gets a bad rap when, as a past professor explained it, it really just means equality between the sexes.  It doesn't mean anger or that men are awful.  It's things that most people seem to agree with but the backlash against feminism prevents people from self-identifying as such. Valenti addresses stereotypes as well as problems within the feminist movement, goes into topics such as women in politics, beauty and media, reproductive rights and the "rape schedule".  There's nothing completely new and groundbreaking but the book serves as a wake-up call that things are better than they were but they aren't fixed and there is still more to do.  I want to reiterate that everyone, especially young women, should pick up this book.

My initial thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
*There may be some spoilers.  Not about the mystery in general but I will discuss certain plot points. So if you don't want to know them, I'll see ya next time! I'm on page 332, version details below*
I understand why the original title was Men Who Hate Women. That is a theme throughout obviously the Lisbeth Salander's encounters with her new guardian and even the stories of marriage in the Vanger family.  Parts 2 and 3 include statistics such as "Forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man" (139) and "Thirteen percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault outside of a sexual relationship" (299).  And I don't like rape scenes.  I can deal with ridiculous violence; I read American Psycho and while I disgusted by a lot of it (like the rat) I didn't want to throw the book down at any point.  But I don't like rape scenes, violent or otherwise.  On top of that I, so far anyway, don't care about the mystery.  I don't feel like the character of Mikael Blomkvist is well developed and I don't actually care about the mysterious disappearance of a women over forty years prior to the story.  I heard the story is slow in the first 100-150 pages, but that it really picks up after that.  It's not a hard read and I'm making it through but I'm hoping it picks up and I start to care soon.

Larsson, Stieg.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Vintage Books, New York.  2008.

Valenti, Jessica.  Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Seal Press, Berkeley. 2007

Friday, October 15, 2010

Can a song prompt you to read a book?

This post has the possibility of becoming another so-tired-I'm-delirious post, so apologizes ahead of time.

I went to see Jimmy Eat World last night in NYC.  You may be asking yourself "But Alley, you live in Boston and they're coming to your town tonight.  No need to make the trip all the way to NYC" to which I respond "Not only are you correct but I originally had tickets for the show right here in Boston.  And chose to go to the NYC show instead."  Not to go into details but the decision was made based on work schedules for myself and Boyfriend as well as a healthy dose of insanity.  I only went down for the night and I actually checked into my return flight to Boston while I was still in Boston.  Fun how that works out. So my tiredness is due to not sleeping much last night after the show and having to get up bright and early today to make it back to Boston.  And probably some stress because for a good hour Boyfriend and I didn't think we'd make it to the show due to traffic.  As it was we missed the first 30-45 minutes and were almost ready to throw in the towel but A) that was a lot of travel and B) we already had the tickets.  Even one song is better than none.  And Boyfriend and I have seen Jimmy Eat World a stupid number of times so I already pretty much knew how things would go.  I've been a fan of the band since I was about 15 so I've had lots of time to see them perform.

This is a book blog however and as much as I do just want to gush about how much I like seeing these guys and go to stupid lengths to do so, I can keep this about books.  See, Jimmy Eat World has this song called "Goodbye Sky Harbor" off of their Clarity album and this song is based on the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.  Now I didn't know this when the album first came out.  I just knew this was the 16 minute song that closed off the album and that I used to fall asleep to.  It wasn't until years later when I met Boyfriend, also a Jimmy Eat World fan, that he got me the book as a gift before I went to Italy. He knew I wanted some English language books for while I was there and he knew I loved Jimmy Eat World so this seemed perfect. I enjoyed the book, although not enough that I plan on re-reading it anytime soon.

I know plenty of people (myself included) have read books based on movies or maybe even a TV show but I believe this is the first time I've read a book based on a song.  Have any of you ever read a book because of a song you've heard?  Would you read a book if you learned a song you liked was based on it? Are there other songs about books?  I know Zeppelin had some LotR referenced songs but are there any others?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Helpless lust and unreasoning anxiety were just part of growing up

Here we are at the third and final book of Butler's Lilith's Brood/Xenogenesis series.  I originally typed down that I liked this one best, but I don't know if that's the case.  The first book, Dawn is probably my favorite.  It not only provoked the most emotion from me, but I was surprised by it.  It never went the way I anticipated, I connected with Lilith more than I thought and overall it was a nice surprise.  Imago wasn't as good as Dawn but by this point I had connected with the characters and become more familiar with the alien Oankali that I found myself missing them when I finished the book.

Just as the point of view changed in Adulthood Rites, so it changes again in Imago.  The Oankali aliens are made up of 3 sexes: male, female and ooloi, which has no sex.  Butler says ooloi does not directly translate into English but can mean: "'Treasured stranger.' 'Bridge.' 'Life trader.' 'Weaver.' 'Magnet.'" (526).  Males and females cannot mate without an ooloi.  When new Oankali or construct (part Oankali, part human) children are born until they mature they don't have a sex and can become any of the 3 sexes.  Normally I try to avoid plot details in reviews because really, you can read those anywhere.  In this case understanding of what ooloi is is necessary to understand the main character Jodahs, who becomes a construct ooloi.  This is the first book that takes place in the first person, although I commented in my review of Dawn that I kept forgetting that it wasn't actually from Lilith's PoV. 

The aliens in the first two novels remain completely alien.  Even in the second novel, when Akin, the Oankali male construct is the main character, they were still separate.  By having Jodahs become the main character and to put the story in his point of view in the first person I was able to connect with the characters, to understand them in a way that I wasn't able to before.  I would say my lack of empathy with Akin from Adulthood Rites is a problem with Butler's writing but it's clear that this was her intention.  I learned more of Oankali via Akin but not enough to understand their motivations, for them to not seem so alien anymore. 

I mentioned above the different translations for the word ooloi and Lilith tells Jodahs that "magnet" is the definition she prefers.  "People are drawn to ooloi and can't escape...the chemical bonds of mating were as difficult to break as the habit of breathing," (526).  What you learn once you see the world for Jodahs point of view is the ooloi don't capture humans but are just as drawn to humans.  Ooloi literally cannot survive without their mates and something about this detail made them seem more relate-able.  Other ooloi would tell Lilith about the connection but it never seemed true.  They were always so seemingly disconnected from everything. 

I just realized I said that the ooloi would tell people about their attraction but that it didn't seem true, that it seemed like a lie.  But the Oankali do not lie.  They may not tell the truth but they don't lie.  Butler uses the Oankali to examine the human experience and I wonder if my disbelief about what the Oankali actually meant is based on my own experience is that people lie all the time and why should I believe this alien?  Even when Butler sets up the Oankali to be so completely different I still understand them based on my own experience and obviously (in case you thought I was from another planet) that is the human experience. 

I have enjoyed the Lilith's Brood trilogy and I would recommend it even if you aren't a sci fi fan.  I'm not typically.   The story is well written and doesn't expect you to be a sci fi fan to appreciate it.

Title quote from page 649

Butler, Octavia E. Imago. Lilith's Brood.  Warner Books, New York.  1989.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Books I'll Never Read

I was going to skip this Tuesday Top Ten meme hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish this week because I generally dislike blogs that only seem to post memes and nothing else and I feel like lately that's what I've done.  But I like this topic and their top ten lists always seem to generate interesting discussions so I'm going with it.  I don't think I'll make it to 10 but then again I hardly ever do so at least I'm consistent in my inconsistencies. 

So this week's topic is the top ten books I'll never read.  I'll probably mix up actual titles and types of novels because I don't think I'll be able to come up with many of either.  I also should say that I seem to prove myself wrong a lot so never really means "never but possibly if someone I trust strongly recommends it and they lend me a copy so I don't have to pay for it well then I might read it."  I would have said I'd never read the Twilight series but then I did so jokes on me.

  1. Political drivel. I've skimmed through a couple and even the ones whose point of view I agree with piss me off.  You'll not see me reading anything by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Al Fraken, etc or any of their ghostwriters
  2. Romance novels.  I don't need the bodice ripping Fabio anywhere near my novels 
  3. Jodi Piccolt or Nicholas Sparks.  I know Sparks claims he's high literature and that's cute and all but no.  Manipulative melodrama?  Yes.  I'd add The Lovely Bones in this section, but I have read it for a class so unfortunately I can't put it in the "never" category.
  4. Self-help books.  Unless they're sarcastic and then not really self-help.  For example, I have the book Today I Will Nourish My Inner Martyr and Other Affirmations for the Cynic. I accept self-help books like that.
  5. Ulysses  I know I should.  Perhaps I will.  I wouldn't be surprised if I don't.  
  6. Eat, Pray, Love and any other pretentious memoirs. I'm very happy you got a huge book advance to travel around and tell people how lost their lives are without doing the same.  Now go away.
  7. YA Lit. This is a general "never" as I've already mentioned above I've read the Twilight series as well as Harry Potter.  I'm glad the genre exists for the YA crowd.  I'm just not there anymore
  8. Anything by a Reality Star.  Snooki getting a book deal hurts my brain.

Oo made it to 8 this time.  There are a few more genres I don't tend to read but I either have in the past or could see myself doing in the future so I decided to leave them off.  What's on your list?

Monday, October 11, 2010

I think I have a blogging problem

I was going to write a post about how I'm sorry I haven't updated in awhile and I've been away and blah blah blah.  And then I realized I last posted on Thursday and it hasn't actually been that long and I don't actually need to post anything.  I closed the post and said "Alley, no one cares.  Just post when you finish up the Imago review" and I thought that was that.  Then I started going through my Google reader and it's currently telling me there are 361 unread posts.  Now granted, Google reader hates it when I try to unsubscribe from a blog and continues to add it back, so I'm sure a good number of those posts are ones that I really don't care about.  (If anyone knows how to get Google Reader to believe me when I say I want to unsubscribe, I'd be eternally grateful.) 

So I guess what I'm saying is I have 361 posts to go through so I feel like I need to contribute somehow.  And I want to brag about how awesome my friend's wedding was as she's the reason I've been missing and why I've had far too little sleep in the last 4 days.  I'm sure the lack of sleep is part of the reason for my post as well, as I babble more than usual when overtired.  Friend lives out in AZ so I saw Tucson for the first time ever and it is beautiful.  The heat is more than I think I'd ever be able to handle on a regular basis (I'm so pale) but this has pushed up my need to go see the Grand Canyon.  The wedding was at a dude ranch they'd rented out so it was all guests staying there and very laid back and just lots of fun.  I definitely left a sweater with her and hopefully my rain coat is there as well.  AZ may be far too hot for such clothes but coming back to Boston at 11 at night in just a t-shirt was less than fun.

I mentioned in my previous post that I couldn't decide what books to bring with me and I absolutely made the wrong choice and ended up buying a book at the airport.  BUT that also means I have 2 reviews I need to get down soon so I should have some new posts coming up soon.  I know, I know, try to contain your excitement.

ALSO! (I get easily excited when my overtired-ness passes over into deliriousness) it's the Boston Book Festival this weekend and I totally plan to go play at that, especially when I saw Bill Bryson will be there.  Lots in store and hopefully I'll be better rested and the post will be more coherent than this.  But I make no promises.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An eReader would come in handy right about now...

A couple months back (has it been that long already??) I wrote a post asking how can I choose what books to bring with me on my move and which to go down to Long Island?  This is a similar and only slightly less dramatic question: I'm going away for the weekend and how do I choose what books to bring?  Here's my conundrum

I have a couple long plane rides so I want a book (obviously).  I'm about 50 pages to the end of my current read,  which means I'll definitely need another book.  As you can see on my lil' bookshelf list on the left (assuming you're reading this when it's newly posted and not digging through the archives.  Pretty sure I don't need to worry about that...) I have 3 books on the list.  I'm almost done with Imago the 3rd book of the Lilith's Brood trilogy and then I have The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Full Frontal Feminism on the list.  I plan on reading GDT because it was picked for my book club.  Actually we're up to The Girl That Played with Fire , I just haven't read this one yet.  If it wasn't for book club, I don't know that I'd be reading this book. At least not right now.  The other book, FFF, I bought because I read a great review on a fellow book blog, one I promise to find and link to when I write its post.  It looks like it could be a quick read.  So do I:

1) Bring my current read and GDT, knowing I should read it for book club? 
2) Bring my current read and FFF, because FFF is the book I want to read next?
3) Bring GDT and FFF and just leave Lilith's Brood at home because I'm so close to the end it's silly to bring it with me?
4) Bring all 3 books, heavy suitcase be damned.

I know I'm asking you what I should do, but I guess I should say what would you do because I've already packed.  I went with #2 because I don't want to stop my book before finishing it and I want to read FFF and I thought it was silly to bring 3 books with me when I will be busy the majority of the weekend will likely not finish them all.  But what would you do in this situation?  Having an eReader right now would have really solved my problems.

Update!: I should have gone with option 4.  Those in the comments were right.  I ended up buying The Corrections by Frazen at the airport on my trip back.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Authors

Another Tuesday, another top 10 list, hosted by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is top 10 favorite authors.  I love this topic.  I guess it's a bit obvious and I know I personally have gone on and on about a couple authors, but I'm happy to go on some more.

  1. Christopher Moore - He is a recent addition to my favorites list but he quickly jumped to the top of the list.  I had a couple friends that kept telling me to check him out and for whatever reason I just said "yeah yeah yeah" and didn't get around to it.  I read You Suck, not realizing it was the second in a series and I liked it but wasn't running out to find more.  Then I read Lamb and it is my favorite book.  I can't help laughing out loud while I read it.  Gets me some interesting looks in public.  So far I've written about 1 of Moore's books, Fool on this blog (here and here).
  2. Jasper Fforde - Like Moore, I was introduced to Fforde by a family friend who read his book The Eyre Affair for a book club and thought I'd enjoy it.  I liked it but didn't really fall in love with his work until I read the next book in the Thursday Next series, Lost in a Good Book.  From that point I have devoured his other work.  I've read the whole of the Thursday Next series at least 5 times and I've read the 3 books in the Nursery Crime series at least 3 times.  I've been semi-patiently waiting for Shades of Grey to come out in paperback. (If you want to check out my Eyre Affair posts go here, here and here.)
  3. Bill Bryson - Oh look, another author I was introduced to by a friend.  I'm no good at stumbling on amazing authors on my own.  Anyway, an old roommate of mine was a big fan and I read his book Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe.  It's wonderful.  I love Bryson's sense of humor and he can make anything worth reading.  I've even read his science book A Short History of Nearly Everything a few times.  Bryson is one of my go-to authors when I can't think of something I want to read.  I've read his books a million times and I love it every time.
  4. Shakespeare - I love Shakespeare.  I had some great high school English teachers that did an excellent job introducing me to his work and I've loved it since then.  A Midsummer Night's Dream and Othello are among my favorite of his plays.  And it's not just the plays but all of the Shakespeare related works.  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company is my favorite play and I love Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.  Check out my post about Othello here.
  5. Kurt Vonnegut - My dad bought me Slaughterhouse Five one year for my birthday and I loved him since.  Breakfast of Champions is my favorite of his books.  Eliot Rosewater and Kilgore Trout are my favorite characters and I love that they show up over and over again.
Well crap.  Again I try to do this Top Ten and not only can I come up with 10 of my favorite authors but none of them are women.  It's not that I don't like female authors, it's just that I can't say any of them are my favorites. As for my favorites, I tried to come up with authors who have multiple works that I'm a big fan of.  And this is really the end of that list.  So once again, I fail the top ten.  But I'm posting it anyway because the 5 I do have are quality!

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Humans persecute their different ones, yet they need them to give themselves definition and status

    I recently finished the second book in Butler's Lilith's Brood/Xenogenisis trilogy.  Unlike in Dawn, Adulthood Rites is told from the point of view of Lilith's male construct son Akin.

    Quick background! In the first book, Lilith and other humans are saved from an Earth that has been destroyed due to nuclear war by a group of aliens called Oankali.  The aliens saved them because they want to "trade" with them, meaning essentially creating a new species that is neither Oankali nor human and that will have the best features of each.  Free will and control are examined in the first book, as most of the saved humans aren't too keen on this trade.  Now back on a newly constructed Earth jungle some humans, including Lilith, have agreed to the trade and those that haven't are sterilized.

    Like in Dawn, Adulthood Rites continues to examine the morality of the Oankali's decision to end the human race.  They make the argument that human's hierarchical tendencies coupled with their intelligence means the eventual destruction of humans at their own hands is inevitable again.  Humans cannot help but want to dominate each other, the land, other animals and the Oankali believe that giving them back Earth and allowing them to continue on is cruel.  It's like allowing animals to live together, even when you know that they will, in the end, hurt each other.  And so they give the humans long life and allow them to live on Earth but they cannot reproduce without the Oankali.  Butler makes a convincing argument for the aliens to not allow humans to destroy each other again; they are acting in the people's best interest.  But of course no one wants to become obsolete, which is exactly what the Oankali are doing to the human race.

    Akin is a human construct: born to a human woman (Lilith) but has characteristics of both human and Oankali. The humans who have refused to live with the Oankali are desperate for children and these "resister" groups kidnap Akin and bring him back to their village Phoenix.  Akin looks mostly human but at a few months old is able to speak and comprehend complex ideas and has the cold logic displayed by the full Oankali.  He sees firsthand the destruction and violence the human resisters are capable of but he also comes to understand their frustration and anger at not being able to have their own children.  Life becomes pointless and even though they know Akin won't be able to give them what they want he represents a ray of hope.

    The story tackles the human condition and the seeming inevitability of human violence and domination.  It never suggests that humans are able of overcoming these characteristics; even the humans seem to believe in this yet they want the chance to prove the Oankali wrong.  It also examines the Oankali acting in the people's best interest, yet they remove their choices.  Lilith talks about how the Oankali treat people the way humans treated animals.  The decisions made are for their own good, even if the people don't like it as they don't.

    As I said in my review of Dawn, I'm not a huge sci fi fan and it's not really the aliens and the sci fi part that interests me with this trilogy.  I've found, even though this story is told through Akin's eyes, that I still sympathize with the human characters.  I understand why the Oankali behave as they do but I can feel the human's anger.

    One more book in the trilogy (obviously) and then I'll be moving away from sci fi for awhile but for now I am enjoying this.  I feel like this review was difficult to write, which sometimes happens if I didn't really care about the book but honestly, I had trouble putting this down.  It slowed for me in the end but I went through this much quicker than I expected.  I hope Imago holds my interest in the same way.

    Title quote form page 329.

    Butler, Octavia E. Adulthood Rites. Lilith's Brood.  Warner Books, New York.  1989.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Book Blog Hop XII

    Another week gone by and another hop to join, hosted by Crazy-for-Books!  This week's hop question:

    How do you spread the word about your blog?

    Right when I first started blogging I joined Book Blogs Ning to get the word out about my blog and then I started joining in this hop, which has helped a great deal.  From both of these places I was able to find lots of fellow book bloggers I was interested in.  I comment on posts/blogs I like which has opened a great dialogue with a few bloggers out there I enjoy.  I do have Twitter and Facebook but I don't use either of them for the blog.

    What do you do to promote your blog?  What's worked (or not worked) for you?