Monday, July 29, 2013

I have been places!

Heeeeey everyone. I'm sorry I've been MIA this past week. Assuming you noticed.That's a little egotistical of me, thinking OF COURSE you've noticed my absence. Actually some of you may realize I was missing as I'm just now getting around to reading blogs and thus you're getting comments on things from last week. ANYWAY, I have been places that are not home, and thus I was not here.

Boyfriend+ and I went down to South Carolina last week to visit my dad and see Charleston. I typically only make it down there for Thanksgiving and Boyfriend+ had never been since he's normally working during the holiday because sports, sports, sports. It was nice to get to show him the house AND we got to use the pool. We ate lots of good food which is always fun and the main reason I vacation. The weather was nice but hot and other than some glitches getting down there, it was a good time.

Those glitches getting down there though. That sucked. Enough that Boyfriend+ put together an infographic because nerd. Would you like to see? Even if you don't want to, my blog
If you're flying out of JFK, assume that every single person in the tri-state area will also be traveling at the same time, and also they've never flown before so the whole security process will be a new and exciting experience for them.

To explain the pilot outing us thing. So we were supposed to have a 2 hour layover. Except with all of those delays, we were going to be landing about 2 minutes AFTER our connecting flight, which does not do us much good. We asked the flight attendant for our options since the pilot was still doing pilot stuff and we didn't know when we'd actually be leaving. She told us we could get off and try to find a different flight from JFK so we asked to do that. I don't know how many other people asked the attendant the same thing, but not long after that the pilot got on and made an announcement about how we were ready to push off but someone now wanted to get off the plane so we're going to be delayed even further. So then lots of people around us started grumbling and THANKS A LOT, JERK. There was extra grumbling when we got up, but a BUNCH of people also got off with us since people were missing meetings connections so at least we weren't the only ones.

Before any of the mechanical problems and missed connections happened, JB told us they were going to be sending our bags right to our final destination, which was PERFECT. Except then they didn't do that at all and instead sent it to our connecting city. The one where we didn't go there cos we were going to miss the connection. Our bags missed the connection. THEN because my dad lives in the middle of no where, South Carolina, they were outside of the bag delivery area and told us they'd normally FedEx them overnight, which means out of our 4 1/2 day trip, we'd be without our bags for 2 days. There were some sad looks and they agreed to make an exception. And then the dogs swarmed the car when it came to deliver the bags and I bet they won't deliver out there again, even though the dogs are SUPER FRIENDLY AND THEY JUST WANTED TO SAY HI. Of course, I'm hoping that my bags don't get lost again, so hopefully this won't be an issue.

So I also didn't get a chance to do the minireadathon that was yesterday (except I'm writing this on Sunday, so today. But I'm going to post this on Monday, so yesterday. Time travel is confusing.) I was sort of around but we had to do all of the I've-been-away-and-need-to-get-back-to-reality-even-though-reality-is-lame and do things like buy food and do the mountains of laundry that have been accumulating. But I am going through and reading everyone's mini-readathon posts and please know, I am very jealous of your good times.

I will be around more this week and will hopefully have reviews to post and maybe I'll even finish Native Son (I will not).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

She looked liked art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something

I don't know why I waited so long to read Elearnor & Park. I have no excuse, no reason. I knew I would love it. Or I assumed I would given how much I looooved Attachments. And pretty much all of my blogging buddies loved the book. I had so many reasons to read the book immediately and none to put it off. But I did. For months. For seriously no reason whatsoever. Maybe I was saving it for a time I thought I'd need it.

I was (and still am) in the middle of Richard Wright's Native Son which is very good but also very intense. I needed a break but didn't know what to go with and thought this would be the perfect time to pick up a book that I would love. Something I could power through. And I finally picked up Eleanor & Park. And I loved it. Loooooooooooooooved it. I'll try to keep the gushing to a minimum.

Eleanor & Park is a YA (blah) love story (double blah) but it's so good. I'd say it's unlike any other YA love story, except see those "blahs" above, so I don't really have a good baseline comparison. That said, I'll go ahead and say that this is unlike other YA love stories. Eleanor and Park (and Park's parents, and Eleanor's siblings) feel so real and they dance on cliches without ever falling into them.

It's a romance between two people from different worlds, but no one in Park's world is keeping him from Eleanor. And those in Eleanor's world are keeping her from everyone, not just Park. And by "those" I mean, her asshole alcoholic abusive asshole stepfather. Asshole.

Before I read the book I pretty much just knew that Eleanor is a big red-head (the kids call her Big Red) and poor and no on likes her, and Park is half-Korean, but managed to be popular. It takes place in Omaha in 1986 and involves good music and comic books. I knew it was about teenage love but it's more than that. It's about first love and the intensity in every touch and every look.

I don't really know what else to say that isn't going to devolve into just "OMG THIS IS SO GOOD ARE YOU READING IT YET WHY AREN'T YOU READING IT READ IT" But if you need some other reasons to read this (as if me yelling it at you wasn't enough reason) then enjoy these quotes. And know it took me forever to figure out which quotes to include because I highlighted so many
All [Eleanor's mother's] bones seemed more purposeful than other people's. Like they weren't just there to hold her up; they were there to make a point.
[Romeo & Juliet] was 'Oh my God, he's so cute' at first sight. If Shakespeare wanted you to believe they were in love, he wouldn't tell you in almost the very first scene that Romeo was hung up on Rosaline....It's Shakespeare making fun of love," [Eleanor] said.
"Then why has it survived?"...
"Because..." [Park] said quietly, looking at his desk, "because people want to remember what it's like to be young? And in love?"
"Nobody gets enough," [Park's mom] said. "Nobody gets what they need. When you're always hungry, you get hungry in your head." She tapped her forehead. "You know?"
Park wasn't sure what to say.
"You don't know," she said, shaking her head. "I don't want you to know...I'm sorry."

Please also know that I took 2 notes while reading:
"OMG I fucking love Eleanor
"Aaand now I love Park."

Also, I was excited for a red-headed lead. I didn't realize I'd be so excited to learn that she also has brown eyes. But I was. Enough to bug Rowell on Twitter with lots of exclamation points that she made a red-headed, brown-eyed character because SERIOUSLY, NOT ALL RED HEADS HAVE GREEN OR BLUE EYES. (Oh are you wondering if my eyes are dark brown? Maaaaaaybe.)

I loved this book. And warning, it made me cry, or at least tear up. On the subway. But it was so good it was OK.

Title quote from page 165, location 2427

Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. St. Martin's Griffin, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

I'm dead, but it's not so bad. I've learned to live with it.

When I first saw the trailers for Warm Bodies I thought "So what you're saying is the Z is for Zombie, Twilight-esque love story that Nick from New Girl wrote is...real? That's a thing? That sarcastic monster love story joke is an actual movie? And John Malkovich is in it? I don't really know what to make of this." But then the movie actually got good reviews. Whoda thunk? Then I started seeing reviews of the book and they were also good. So when I was on my just-browsing-but-definitely-not-buying-anything trip to the local bookstore I picked up a copy. I was listening to the World War Z audiobook so I was on a zombie kick.

With Warm Bodies you have to forget everything you know about zombies. Not like in a "This will challenge you in new ways!" type thinking, but because pretty much every basic detail about zombies (they are unthinking, the change is permanent, they don't remember anything of their former life) is disregarde.  At first it was sort of hard for me to accept this. I kept thinking "But wait? How can they talk? They're not people anymore" and had to stop and realize this is a different story. And come on, it's not like this is more or less realistic than any other zombie story because zombies aren't real so shut up already.

Warm Bodies is indeed a zombie love story. Our main character is R. He can't remember his full name, but the fact that he can remember anything is pretty good for the walking dead. He lives at the airport with a bunch of other zombies. They wander around, ride the escalators, teach their "children" how to eat brains, and go on hunts. They can even talk...kinda. Already these aren't the mindless zombies from other stories. But they're still zombies and they still eat brains and you'd think that right there would make it pretty hard to set up a love story between a Dead and a Living.

When a zombie eats a persons brain they temporarily experience that person's life. They see their memories and for a moment they get a glimpse of what it was like to be alive. When R eats the brain of a man named Perry he sees Julie and something changes. Instead of attacking her he saves her. He smears blood on her to hide her from the others and she brings her back to the hive. Sure, she's a prisoner at first but there's something going on there.

It seems dangerous to make a zombie the main character because how much depth can a zombie have? But R works wonderful to lead us through his world. He wants to remember what happened to him. He wants to remember his name and the names of the others. He wants to remember to talk and laugh and live.

And of course then there's Julie. There is something about her the causes this shift in his being. But she's not this up-on-a-pedestal too-good-to-be-true-and-ultimately-really-boring woman. She has flaws and she's tough and she's scared and she's brave. This isn't a story about a woman's love ultimately saving a guy. There's something in the bond between the two of them that they don't understand that causes things to veer off course.

I really enjoyed this one. It was funny and touching and there was a surprising depth to the characters, given it is a zombie love story. That said, I'm still confused why there's a blurb from Audrey Niffenegger (she of The Time Traveler's Wife) on the cover of my copy. It doesn't seem to that their audiences would necessarily have a lot of overlap. But what do I know?

Now I just need to see the movie...

Title quote from page 3

Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies. Emily Bestler Books, 2011.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I've never been able to justify tossing away something millions of people were murdered for

I was going to start this off apologizing for taking so long from the time I got the email about this book to the time I'm actually writing this review. Which granted, it's been a few months but in my world that's lightning speed. So apparently I've decided to start this post by almost apologizing and taking it back at the last second. I'm sorry about that. (Not for taking so long but for taking back my apology. But I ended up making one in the end so I think we're good.)

Back in May I got an email asking me if I wanted to read David Michael Slater's new book Fun & Games. The authors other books are mostly kid's books so I can't say I was familiar with him (and Goodreads didn't even list this book until I was just about done reading it, which I thought was odd) but the email said it was for fans of David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson and it takes place in the '80s. Impossible to turn down such a pitch.

Fun & Games is the story of Jon Schwartz and his more-messed-up-than-it-initially-seems family life. We follow Jon from the evening before he's to be bar mitzvahed until he's in hanging out with Foucauldians in college. His grandparents are Holocaust survivors. His grandfather copes by hiding food everywhere and his grandmother by telling offensive Jewish jokes. His mother writes ad copy and his dad is a famous author who hates religion and values logic to an illogical point. His eldest sister Nadia flunked out of high school but appears to be a manipulative genius and his other sister Olivia sees herself as a virginal sex object.

Really with all of that, you almost don't need a plot. There is one, don't worry. Or rather, there's more events put into motion when Jon's grandmother comes to his Hebrew class and tells some of her jokes. Or rather, Jon tries to stop her from telling her jokes, which gets him in trouble. From there a Rabbi's ankle is broken, Olivia gets into some strange (and illegal given her age) sex things, Nadia goes off to college which is odd for someone who never graduated high school, Jon and his friends learn to shot gun beer (there's a lot of practice involved) and things start to fall more and more apart.

Overall I liked the book. Up to the ending, but I'll get to that in a bit. I found myself laughing at the antics Jon and his friends and family get into, although I don't know that I would say this books is first and foremost a funny one. Which I know, is confusing given the comparison to Lawson & Sedaris, and even my description above. It has it's funny moments, but the book is a lot more serious and a lot darker than it appears at first. I really liked the characters. I do wish the focus had been more on the family instead of the friends, but I could also relate better to his two sister than I could to the pack of adolescent boys, so go figure.

I did LOVE the scenes when Jon was at college taking a Literary Theory class, though that is mostly because of nostalgia. Either every professor teaches the deconstructionalists the same way or we had the same professor because all of the tuff about cat and cap and bat and words being meaningless, I could feel my brain melting. I honestly don't know how I passed Lit Crit (at least the fundamentalists and deconstructionalists and other Russian-ists that made my brain hurt. I was on sturdier ground with Gender Theory) but I know that I am apparently an excellent bullshitter as I managed to do pretty well in the class while never understanding a single thing. I used to come out of class babbling nonsense, which my friend told me was amusing so there's that too. Things Lit Crit gave me.

This book felt like the prequel to one of the "middle class white guy problem" books in the vein of Jonathan Tropper or Matthew Norman. It's like the "before they were middle aged, see what their messed up teen years were like". Considering I've made a Goodreads list for this MCWGP category, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Well, I guess it could be a bad thing if you don't like that category.

Now. The ending. The book takes a serious left turn in the last few chapters that made me think the author was writing the same story with two entirely different tones, and then accidentally mixed up the endings in the final draft. There are hints that things are a lot darker than they initially seem, even early on. One night early in the book Nadia convinces Olivia that they should learn to make guys get off super fast, before anyone is out of their clothes, to essentially avoid being raped on prom night. And that...that is super messed up. So I guess given that right in the beginning I should have been prepared for the ending. But honestly, each of those hints (there weren't many) felt jarring when it happened. Like it didn't fit with the rest of the story. And then that ending. So I can't tell you the ending without giving away...well the ending (obviously) but it didn't work for me. It didn't fit with the tone, it was so much darker than the rest of the story suggested, no. Want to know what happened? OK

The story, which until this point was fairly light hearted (save for a few of those hints) ends with a beat down, a gang rape, a double homicide and a suicide. And this is how it ends. This is what you're left with. I didn't take too many notes while reading but my comment for this part was "What the holy fuck" because I didn't expect any of this. I felt like I picked up a different book, except all the characters had the same names.
*spoilers ovah*

So, most of the book I enjoyed. It was funny and serious and ridiculous while being just this side of believable. the ending however. No thank you.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Title quote from page 202

Slater, David Michael. Fun & Games. Literary Tales Publishing, Inc. 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

World War Z: The listening

Way back when my blog was just a baby, I read and reviewed Max Brooks's World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Actually, that was the second time I had read the book. I'd read it once before I started this blog but I loved it SO MUCH that I wanted to read it again so I could talk about it on here.

Oh, would you like to read those early days posts? Sure, why not.

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

Over the years I have read some positive things about the WWZ audiobook. Because the book is made up of a series of interviews, they got a series of authors to read for the different characters. Henry Rollins, Nathan Fillion, Alan Alda, Common all took a character. At this point I wasn't super into audiobooks but this sounded like something I should try. Alas my "I should try this" basically means "if this falls into my outstretched hands, I will give it a listen."

A few years go by and I do no WWZ listening.

Then this year I took part in that super kick ass Harry Potter readalong and I ended up doing about 3/4 of that readalong on audiobook (listen along?) which worked out very nicely for me. One, I had all the books on audio (or rather, my mother did and she lent them to me). Two, I would just put the chapters I was supposed to read on my iPod. It really helps when you want to continue on with the story but you CAN'T because you don't actually have the rest of the story with you. Three, I would listen to HP during the subway portion of my commute. Because it's the subway, there's not always space for me to stand and hold a book. Listening to an audiobook was much easier. Sure, it took me longer to listen to the books than it would take me to read them, but that's fine. 

I found that I really liked listening to audiobooks and went on the hunt for some more. Boyfriend+ and I were at B&N when I saw the WWZ audiobook and on sale. Happiness and joy. I was about to bring it up to the register when I remembered my mom's advice and checked the fine print. I was disappointed to read the work "Abridged". Bastard. What kind of BS is this?

Disheartened, I put the audiobook back and do some Googling when I get home to see if an unabridged version exists. Sadly it does not. But what's this? An update on Max Brooks's website that, due to the movie coming out this summer (perhaps you'd heard of it) they're releasing a NEW UNABRIDGED VERSION of the audiobook. They were getting actors back who had to read follow bits and it would be released sometime in the summer. Happiness! Except, the site hadn't been updated in awhile. And there were no pre-orders to be found. Whomp

Sometime in April Kerry over at Entomology of a Bookworm mentioned she was listening to an unabridged copy of WWZ and I did a Scooby Doo double take
Or a Paul Rudd DT
I asked her where-oh-where she procured such a copy. It was going to be available in May so I shot an email over to Brother (he who lent me his book copy of WWZ) that said "Hey, did you ever buy me a b-day gift? Cos if not, buy me this." He answered that he did not, and I would be getting the audiobook as soon as it was available.

I realize this has been a lot of post without once mentioning anything about the audiobook. If you clicked on the other WWZ links, you'll notice that apparently that is a theme with these posts. Anyway the audiobook, how was it?

It kicked ass. I couldn't wait to start listening to it. I listened to it on my commute. I shunned watching Daria in place of listening to it while riding our exercise bike. It was a different experience from reading the book.

First up, the voice actors are great. I did spend a lot of time trying to guess who each person was. Some were obvious (Carl Reiner as the elderly Israeli man) some less obvious (Simon Pegg a Texan politician shoveling manure), but I liked them all. Martin Scorsese as the guy who created the fake vaccine was THE BEST. When I saw his name on the list of actors? readers? I thought/hoped he would read that story. Not that I mean to say the character Breck reminds me of Scorsese, just that I thought he would do a great job with that character. And he did so I was right. I've read complaints that a lot of the characters in the book sound the same. The mere fact of having different people read for each character helped this tremendously. Sure, there are still similarities, but it didn't bother me.*

I also noticed while listening to the audiobook is how infrequently the zombies actually make an appearance. When I've read the book, I would constantly think about the zombies. I had loads of zombie nightmares. But while listening I was more focused on the characters and how shitty things had gotten for them. There are a couple brief instances where the characters relate actually fighting a zombie but for the most part the book deals with how the world is coping with this global disaster. The zombies aren't the focus a lot of the time. They're just the catalyst for things being so so shitty. Which is sorta why I like the book so much. Zombies are a part of the book, but there is so much more to the story than them.

I loved this audibook. I will be listening to it again, probably before the year is out, because I don't have that many audiobooks and also THIS WAS SO GOOD. Just, if you're going to listen make sure you pick up the unabridged version. I haven't listened to the abridged one but why would you do that one when an unabridged one exists? Exactly.

*I'm also not bothered by the fact that every character in an Aaron Sorkin show sounds exactly the same. As long as I'm entertained, I can let a lot of things slide.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Goodreads, you have confused me

Goodreads was bought by Amazon, right? There was lots of anger and kerfuffle and interest around this deal. Wikipedia lists them as an owner and you know, if it's on the internet it must be true.

When I opened my email this morning, I saw this.

OK, so one of the books on my TBR has just been released and it's letting me know. Who cares?

Hold on, that may be a bit hard to read. Let me blow up the important part

Again, so Amazon is part owner of Goodreads so why isn't Amazon featured here? Or at the very least listed. I checked and the book is available on Amazon so it's not that.

I'm not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing that Amazon isn't listed here as a Goodreads suggestion where I should buy my copy of This is Paradise. I'm just saying, why wouldn't they be there?

Though this sorta makes me rethink all of the fears people shared when the Amazon buy first happened.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How many grains of sand are there in the world? A lot. Case closed.

I haven't posted in awhile. It was 'Merica's birthday last week which meant the days leading up to the 4th were very busy, and then the 4th and onwards were busy while I ate grilled food and got sunburned. So you know, I celebrated it the traditional way. Anyway, review time.

I finally, finally, finally got around to reading some David Sedaris. I don't know why I put him off for so long. He always seemed like someone I would enjoy. I'd gotten multiple recommendations to check him out. And yet, much like other books I'm positive I'll love (Eleanor & Park...) I just keep putting them off. I don't know the reason. Maybe I'm worried that I won't love it and then what?

Someone (and if it was you, please let me know because I know it was from some book blog) had recently read a Sedaris book. I'm not sure which one. But anyway, they recommended starting with Me Talk Pretty. And what do you know? I found a copy of Me Talk Pretty on sale. Stars aligning and whatnot.

Sedaris is funny and he' writes like he knows it, but that's fine. He's funny enough that he gets away with it. He writes about his past drug use (but in a very light hearted way), his life in France, and his family, whom I assume are cool with his sharing. He talks about his dad's strange jazz obsession and insistence on eating rotten food. He talks about trying and failing to learn French and spending most of his time in Paris going to see American movies. My favorite stories involved his sister Amy and if he could just write an entire collection about her, that would be terrific. But really, when he talks about how she wore the bottom half of a fat suit to Christmas dinner (I think that was the holiday) one year, how can you not love her?

Overall I didn't feel that the stories don't build upon themselves on some greater theme. Really, it's just a bunch of hilarious things that happened to him, usually because he caused the ridiculousness that falls upon him. He was a performance artist on meth so really, it was either ridiculousness or tragedy that was going to befall him.

It only took me about 2 days to get through this book, and I was so sad when it was over. I read some reviews* that talked about how some of the experiences were embellished or just flat out made up. I don't know how true that is, though I wouldn't be surprised. That said, I don't really care all that much. The essays are entertaining, and I prefer that to sticking to the strict (and possibly boring) truth.I also read reviews where people said he was pretentious. Maybe a little but how pretentious can you be when you're talking about going to the movies (any movies, not just art house ones) is just as cerebral as reading because everyone is lazy and have decided to collectively lower the bar? Perhaps Sedaris's audience is pretentious, but his essays were never insufferable. He seems like he could be, but his writing was fun.

And now, if I may share my favorite story which actually takes place within one of my favorite essays "Picka Pocketoni"
I'd been riding the Chicago el with my sister Amy, who was getting off three or four stops ahead of me. The doors opened, and as she stepped out of the crowded car, she turned around to yell, "So long, David. Good luck beating that rape charge." Everyone onboard had turned to stare at me. Some seemed curious, some seemed frightened, but the overwhelming majority appeared to hate me with a passion I had never before encountered. "That's my sister," I'd said. "She likes to joke around." I laughed and smiled, but it did no good. Every gesture made me appear more guilty, and I ended up getting off at the next stop rather than continue riding alongside people who thought of me as a rapist.
See why I like the Amy stories the best?

I want to read more Sedaris, though I worry that his other books may not live up to this one. But, I'm willing to risk it. If anyone has a Sedaris to try next, I'm all ears.

*I recommend reading some of the Goodreads reviews of this almost as much as I recommend the book itself. At least the ones with 3 or less stars because the amount of visceral hate this book caused is incredible. And confusing.

Title quote page 37

Sedaris, David. Me Talk Pretty One Day. Hachette Book Group, 2000.

Monday, July 1, 2013

June Reading Wrap-Up

Another month gone. And this month marked the end of the 6 month (!!) Harry Potter readalong. In the beginning I couldn't imagine sticking with the readalong the whole way through and now I'm so bummed that my Friday posts are my own again. Le sigh. Now I fear I'm going to have to actually try to read non-US female authored books. Rowling was so good for my stats.

Now without further ado, the June stats

Number of books read
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

(I was listening to World War Z on audio and thought I finished it but that it had a more abrupt ending than I remembered. Then I realized tracks didn't get transferred over because my iPod was full. I'm very observant.)

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction
67% - oh hey look, I got some non-fiction read!

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors
100% - whoops

Percentage of US authors
33% - the Brits are winning this month

Percentage of eBooks
33% - just American Gods. Because of sales. Deathly Hallows was half audiobook. I wonder if I should start tracking that as well

Books written by decade
2000 - 100% I have a comfort decade, apparently

So there you go. I have some work to do. As I always do. But that's good. I wouldn't want to complete all of my goals all at once. What would I have to worry about reading wise then?