Monday, December 29, 2014

It's not just a job. It's the rest of your life

My last post was about Christmas, so naturally I'm going to review a horror book I read back in October. Perhaps a resolution for next year should be "speed it up with the reviews".*

I finished Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix in early October. It made an excellent Halloween read. Excellent for me as it's got a bit of satire in it and a LOT of horror.

At an Ikea knock-off store called Orsk, strange things seem to be happening at night. Employees arrive in the morning to see the faux-Swedish furniture smashed and foul smelling substances smeared on the sofas. But the security cameras haven't caught anything. Corporate is getting concerned. The manager, Basil, recruits two associates, Amy and Ruth Anne, to stay up and see if they can catch who is damaging the store before corporate's consultants show up the next morning.

Amy is having money trouble. She agrees to stay no only because it means double time, but Basil has promised to help push her transfer request through. Ruth Anne is loyal to the company she she agrees to stay. Trinity believes ghosts are behind the whole thing and wants to perform a seance and capture the whole thing on tap so she can be the next "real-ghost busters" and get a reality TV show. Matt goes along with Trinity cos he's sleeping with her and also has the camera equipment.

And thus we have the set up for a seriously creepy haunted house/furniture superstore tale. There are these strange texts coming from unknown numbers that just say "help". There's a figure that seems to be darting in and out of the maze of fake home scenes. And some of those furniture pieces really do look like torture devices.

I won't go anymore into the plot, lest I spoil anything. I have to say this was a lot scarier than I assumed it would be. It has it's funny parts, with the whole fake Ikea, but that almost works to let your defenses down so when things start going wrong, you don't expect them to go quite SO wrong. As soon as I finished with this book, I simultaneously wanted to run to an Ikea and alternatively never step food in an Ikea again. The thought of those "false" closet doors creeps me out now.

I wanted to pick up a physical copy of this book, since it does have some things like a map of the store and descriptions of some of the Orsk furniture. Overall though, I don't know that it makes a difference whether you get a physical or ecopy of the book. Especially where the physical copy is larger than a trade paperback, and thus is a little more awkward to hold on the subway. However, I did finish the book in about a day, so at least you're not dealing with it's larger size for very long.

GIF rating

*Not only would this be good cos then my reviews could somewhat fit the season, and I'd actually be talking about a book when it's still fresh in my mind, BUT I wouldn't have to dig through my book suitcase.
As I recently mentioned, we're going to be moving. Which means we need to sell our place. Which means we need it to look neat and not cluttered. And APPARENTLY bookshelves that are double and triple stacked don't look neat. I am also aware that keep books in a suitcase like this is bad for the books. Which is why unless the house is being shown, the suitcase remains out like this. And hopefully we'll be able to store some of this stuff at my mom's while we try to sell this place/buy a new one and they won't have to be in here at all.

Title quote form page 35

Hendrix, Grady. Horrorstor. Quirk Books, 2014.

Friday, December 26, 2014


Merry day-after-Christmas, for those of you that celebrate. For those that don't Happy Friday and I hope you get to take some extra time off without any of the Christmas obligations.
Tom and I spend the last couple days running around. Christmas Eve was spent at my mom's, hanging out with her and my brother. Well, also cooking. We stopped in the city to pick up lots of fresh seafood for paella that night. But other than that, mostly hanging out with the family, watching things like A Muppet Christmas Carol (aka the best Christmas movie EVER, don't even bother trying to tell me A Christmas Story is the best one because you've all been brainwashed by the fact that's literally on for 24 hours. That movie is terrible.) and having make drinks. We opened gifts and had tiramisu and good times.

The next morning was French toast before heading into the city to spend Christmas day with Tom's family. Lots of people hanging out, bad movies watched (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is actually worse than I assumed, which I suppose is an impressive feat and WTF, why aren't you playing Christmas movies on Christmas day?) and food eaten. Tom and I didn't have a huge amount since it was essentially Christmas lunch and we had just had all that French toast. But don't worry, I have lots of pernil leftovers for today. On our way back home we realized that we would probably be hungry later and there wasn't much food at home so naturally we stopped for Chinese takeout.

I realize I just talked about the food we had because, you know, priorities.
But there were also some bookish gifts, and why not point those out?

Julie is an excellent Secret Santa and she sent over hazelnut & coffee chocolate, these caramel wafers that are THE BEST, an adorable dino ornament, wine stoppers (important bookish accouterment), and 2 books (Coronado by Dennis Lehane and Beirut Blues by Hanan al-Shaykh).

Mom got me a Barnes & Nobel gift card so additional new books will be forthcoming! I haven't decided which ones yet. But picking up out is half the fun. And, while not actually a book, Tom got me the entire collection of Harry Potter movies.
A million years ago (or 2007), after the 5th movie came out, Tom was going to get me the set of HP movies for Christmas but decided against it, since not all of the movies were out yet. I commended him on this choice, as having a 1/2 complete set would drive me nuts when the other movies came out and nothing matched up. At that point he promised he would get me the set of movies once they were all out. When I told him how long that would be (and I didn't even know they'd be splitting the last book into 2 movies) he made a comment about how we'd better be married by THAT point. The fact that we got married this summer and he got me the movies this Christmas is somewhat coincidental, as he had been waiting for a movie set that had all of the bonus stuff and not JUST the movies. But it worked out nicely that all promises were kept. And now I can say I married him to get the full set of Harry Potter movies.

I have a couple days off so I plan on spending them watching ALL the movies, catching up on blogging, maybe getting some reading done. And of course eating.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Armageddon is kind of a lot to lay on a six-year-old

Last year Alice introduced me to Sarah Vowell's stuff by sending me a copy of The Wordy Shipmates. That was nice of her. Later that year I saw a copy of Assassination Vacation on sale so I picked that up. Then earlier this year I was looking for some other book. I don't remember this one because I am WAY behind on reviews. But I know I was looking in the humor section and the book I wanted wasn't there. But another discounted Sarah Vowell book was! This time I read Take The Cannoli: Stories from the New World

Unlike the other 2 books, the focus of Take The Cannoli isn't historical. At least, not entirely, though of course there is a little of that. This is a collection of autobiographical essays where she covers things like her obsession with The Godfather when she was in college, or when she tried to look more intimidating and decided to get a goth makeover, or when she talks about her vacation following the trail of tears (because there's gotta be some history).

There isn't really a unifying theme to the essays. Other than they are about her in one way or another. Which doesn't bother me because I have a short attention span and that little bit of unification is all I need. And besides that, the essays are funny. Vowell is funny and while I can't say I learned anything, like I did with her other two books, I can say I enjoyed this one a lot. What can I say, I like self-deprecation, like when she talks about she and classmate used to each write music, though of very different styles. And qualities. Her philosophy behind her pieces was "Why not just have every instrument in an ensemble play every kind of note grouping simultaneously? That way, you could make even the sappiest string section sound almost as good as a hair dryer." Meanwhile, her musical nemesis used to write pop-friendly tunes to the delight of the female students. Except for Sarah, of course.
Pishposh, I thought, alone in my two-by-three soundproof practice module that was more than roomy enough to accommodate my admirers. I was convinced that real artists were the kind that nobody understood, much less liked, which was pretty reassuring since nobody liked me. Or my music.
See, teenage pain is hilarious.

She talks, in bits and pieces, about her love of America, while still being upset with it. She talks about hearing the Rodney King verdict while studying abroad in Holland and trying to defend herself and the US to her friend (a local) who said to her "Of course you're not going back there." As I mentioned above, she talks about traveling the trail of tears with her sister, which is not exactly a barrel of laughs (A historical tragedy and five fourteen-hour days behind the wheel? Who could pass that up?)

If you like Vowell, you should read this one. If you haven't tried Vowell, this isn't a bad place to start. It's easier to get into than, say Wordy Shipmates (WHICH IS STILL VERY GOOD, ALICE, but let's face it, if the puritans aren't your jam, might be a bit slow at times) and gives you a good sense of her style, while being entertaining, if a bit light. I can't say a lot of these essays stuck with me. Except maybe the goth one, where I have actually quoted that the rule that you have to stay out at the club at least as long as it took you to get ready. IMPORTANT LESSONS.

Gif rating:

Title quote from page 37

Vowell, Sarah. Take The Cannoli: Stories from the New World. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2000.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another survey instead of a review!

I know, I know. I'm doing a LOT of surveys. But here's the thing, they're easier to do than reviews. I still like writing reviews but they take more effort and time, which are harder to come by. Like right now, I need to run to catch a train in a bit so I don't want to start a review and have to stop in the middle and blah blah excuses blah.

Not only has work been busy just...all year practically. But NOW we have additional work/stress. For you see Tom just got a new job (yay!!!) that is in another state (yay?) which means we have to sell our place (booo) and move somewhere else (uuuggghhh).
So all the emotions
I am looking forward to the move, assuming we end up where we'd like cos it could mean cutting my commute in half AND right now his commute is about 2 and 1/2 hours each way so of course he would like to change that. BUT I also really like our current place and why can't I just pick this up and put it over there? That would be ideal. But apparently that's not an option. Thanks, naysayers.

ANYWAY, Sarah recently did a short survey, so of course I'm snagging it for myself. Thanks, Sarah! And I will try to get at least one review written for this week.

1. Why did you start blogging?
I was probably complaining about how I wasn't doing anything with my English degree, and Tom got tired of the complaining and said "Why not start a blog about books?" He has good ideas. Sometimes.

2. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
Yeah, Tom came up with that too. He's responsible for a lot of this blog. Red because my hair is red and various people over the years have called me "Red". And then the blog is about What I Read, so, you know.

3. How many designs have you been through since you started blogging?
One. How sad is that? I've had this blog for almost 5 years and I've pretty much never changed it. HOWEVER, my dear friend has been working on a new blog design for me. ANOTHER HOWEVER, it's been at like the 90% done stage for over a year now, so I'm not exactly sure when it will actually go live.* But it will be SUPER exciting when it does because I love love love what it looks like.

4. Have you ever switched blog platforms?
See answer above. I haven't even changed colors, you think I've bothered to change platforms?

5. How long does it take you to write a post? What is your process like?
Reviews are usually an hour plus. They'd probably take less if I wasn't usually watching TV while writing them. But that doesn't happen. I sometimes have thoughts and thus write out notes while I'm writing. Other times when I start a review I'm working with a blank page, which is intimidating. I also want to catch up on my reviews so I'm not writing about books I read 2+ months ago.

6. Have you ever been super nervous about a post?
Not many. I am pretty bad at anticipating which posts are going to get the most activity. The ones I assume will be nothing get a bunch of comments, while the ones I think "Ah yes, people will like THIS ONE" get almost nothing.

7. Do you have a blogging schedule?
Ugh, I wish. If I had more time perhaps I'd come up with one. As it is I typically do my writing on Sunday for the week and hope to get something else written at some point after work. That typically doesn't work.

8. Do you tell people in-real-life about your blog? What are their reactions?
Not many. I mean, I don't not tell people about it. But I tend not to bring it up. A few people at work know about it but for the most part IRL people don't know too much about it.

9. Top ten blogs you read/comment on the most:
In no particular order:

Alright I went slightly over the 10 BUT IT WAS NECESSARY.

10. If you could change/improve things about your blog, what would they be?
I would like to repeat Sarah here and say "I want to write better, and more often."

I would also like the new blog design to go out sometime in 2015.

*NOT THAT I AM COMPLAINING because my friend is doing this because he said "Hey I want to make a site and your blog is awesome and I'll make you a new site!" so it's totally something he's doing cos he's awesome. He also recently moved to the other side of the world (China) which complicates things some more. Plus I already sort of made him (and my other good friend) slightly alter their China plans, because they were originally going to move right before my wedding. I maaaay have said "Listen, I'm certainly not going to stop you from moving to the other side of the world for my party. BUT I will be super bummed if you don't make it to my party so...enjoy that guilt." And because they are awesome people and such good friends, they actually did change up their plans a bit and leave out of NYC instead of Boston so they could come to the wedding. I am grateful for my friends. They are good people.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thanksgiving and OH HEY dog pictures

I promised you puppy pictures, and I am here to provide puppy pictures!

As with every Thanksgiving for the past 10+ years I've gone down to South Carolina to visit my dad/play with his various pets. Over the years there have been:

A pheasant. It came with the house. I don't know if it ever had a name.

A watch goose. Geese make WAY better watch animals than dogs. At least this one did. Plus it acted as a body guard for some of the other animals because seriously, nothing will mess with a goose.

Ducks! I think there were 4 at one point. they knew to stay near the goose and thus were safe from the dogs. But once the goose died, the ducks didn't stand a chance (because someone felt that the ducks shouldn't be caged up and should instead be free. In this case that means "free to be eaten by the dogs")

4 chickens. Or I guess 3 chickens and a rooster and guess what? Roosters are assholes. At least this one was. As to their fate, see "freedom" above.

10 goats? I think there were probably about 10 in the end. Did you know goats eat everything? Because they seriously eat EVERYTHING. Also baby goats are the most adorable thing and will use the roof of an old shed as a slide. ADORABLY.

An emu. This was another stray that wandered onto the property and hung out for awhile before moving on. No one knows where it came from. It is another world down there.

20+ Cats. Not all at once but there were a bunch of wild cats that lived in the barn and honestly, 20 is probably a low number for them. I didn't see most of them cos of the whole wild thing. Except for glowing eyes showing up under various bushes. Right now there are 3 house cats. I have no pictures of them, however, because they stay in my dad's bedroom and aren't big fans of people that aren't my dad or step-mom.

20 dogs. Probably. Again, not all at once but over the years. The house came with 2 basset hounds because that's apparently a thing that sometimes happens down south. Some stray dogs wandered onto the property, a neighbor has puppies, some other puppies were born, you know how it goes. Right now there are 3 dogs: Clyde, Lucy, and Puccini. AND HERE ARE THEIR PICTURES

"Sleeping in fields" is sort of the big dogs' specialty. It also puts them in a great position for tummy rubs. The little dog stays on a leash because he cannot be trusted to not annoy the other dogs and get his ass kicked. But they do hang out with him sometimes.

AND now it's Christmas season. I am a pain in the ass pre-Thanksgiving when it comes to Christmas music and decorations, but once Thanksgiving is over I AM FOR IT! And here is my tree. You can't really see the tinsel on it but it is all over.

What are your holiday plans, whatever you may celebrate??

Monday, December 8, 2014

The laboratory study of sex has never been an easy, safe, or well-paid undertaking

I've decided to take a break from throwing tinsel around the house to actually write a book review. I really need to get on these considering I'm still working on reviewing books I read in September. Whoops.

Anyway, to the review. Over the years my friends and I have managed to very far from each other, because we're dumb. Also jobs. Whatever. The point is, we decided we wanted to do more stuff despite differences in timezones and thus set up a virtual book club and our first book was Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.

I've wanted to read one of Roach's book since I heard someone describe her as sort of Bill Bryson-esque, taking on topics like the digestive system, cadavers, and sex. So hell yes I am down with that. And I'm happy to say that Bonk lived up to my expectations.

Bonk is not only a book about sex, but specifically the intersection of sex and science (you know, if you didn't get that from the subtitle); about sex as studied in laboratories. As she says
It wasn't until the past half century that lab-based science embraced the pursuit of better, more satisfying sex...This book is a tribute to the men and women who dared. Who, to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery. Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best.
She talks  about some of the big names like Alfred Kinsey and Masters & Johnson,* but also about Princess Marie Bonaparte (Napoleon's great-grand-niece) and her quest to figure out the optimal distance from clit to vaginal canal for orgasm during intercourse, or Dr. Geng-Long Hsu, a Taiwanese surgeon who performs operations (which are described in great detail, or at least more detail than perhaps I needed) to fix erectile disfunction issues or Dr. Ahmed Shafik, an Egyptian doctor who studied the effects of polyester on sexual activity by studying a bunch of rats in pants. Roach covers the history of sexual science, where it has come from and where it's going and all of the problems it's run into. Problems like male gynecologists not being allowed to look at female genitalia, which is a pretty big fucking problem.

The book isn't in chronological order, but instead hops around to different topics like "The Testical Pushers: If Two Are Good, Would Three Be Better?" and "The Prescription-Strength Vibrator: Masturbating for Health." It's funny without making fun of those that havedevoted their lives to studying sex. Roach takes the work these people are doing seriously, while admitting all of the ridiculous stuff that you might encounter (see above: rats in pants).

If any of the stuff I've said so far interests you, I absolutely recommend you check out this book. I like Roach's style (so much so I just picked up another of her books, Stiff) and as for the topic really, who doesn't want to learn something more about sex? And it was a hit with the book club.

Gif rating:

*SIDE NOTE, have any of you watched Masters of Sex? Because you probably should. It's sort of like Mad Men, in that it's a drama that takes place in roughly the same time period. And it has Lizzy Caplan, Alison Janney, and Sarah Silverman in it.

Title quote from page 303

Roach, Mary. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Norton, 2008.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November Reading Wrap-Up

OH HEY everyone. I'm back from my food coma. It was pretty great and also warm. ALSO PUPPIES! I will have a post with puppy pictures soon though I'm going to apologize right now at the small number of puppy pictures. Apparently I have used up ALL the space on my phone and I spent some time deleting songs (no, but I NEED all 1500 of these songs on me at all times because what if I need the Grease soundtrack at a moment's notice, HOW CAN YOU MAKE ME CHOOSE?) to get more space but yeah, there are limited pictures. Perhaps I can convince the family to send up some additional ones.

ANYWAY November reading. I did better than I thought, but that's only because I thought I did really really badly. So, hooray for low expectations?

Number of books read

Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs (audiobook)
The Collector by John Fowles
What The Dinosaurs Did Last Night by Refe and Susan Tuma

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors
16% cos the Dino one is written (or really more accurately photographed) by a husband & wife team.

Percentage of white authors
100% - sigh. Again.

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of ebooks

Percentage of rereads

Percentage of review books

Books written by decade
1960s - 20%
2010s - 80%

Books by genre
Humor - 40%
Health - 20%
Horror/Suspense - 20%
Children's - 20%

So I read more pages than I assumed by that variety is pretty pathetic. Ugh. I don't know how much better December will be since I'm currently making my way through the third Game of Thrones book*, A Storm of Swords and that book is roughly eleventy-billion pages and while they go relatively quickly, that's still a lot of Martin-land. Maybe January will be better.

*Yes, I KNOW it's really A Song of Ice and Fire series but since that name is stupid and everyone knows GoT, that's what I'm going with.