Thursday, September 29, 2016

She remembers when the word "friend" could draw blood

Hendrix has this ability to write a book that you think is going to be funny. Sure, it says it's going to be scary. But then it has a sort of ridiculous premise (it's a haunted knock-off Ikea! It's '80s nostalgia!) and you're like "whatever scary elements you add, they won't really be that scary because of said ridiculous setting". And that's when he goes "Oh you're right. None of this will ever be scary. You should probably just let your guard down." And then YOU DO and you are hit in the face with some legitimately scary stuff and way to play right into his hands.

But outside of being an actually scary*, it's an excellent story about female friendship. By a dude, I know, but it's OK. Hendrix does a good job here, writing a friendship that feels like a real friendship and doesn't fall into weird stereotypes. The friendship is really the central part of the story. It's not just anyone's exorcism. It's her best friend's. Right there in the title.

Abby and Gretchen have been friends since elementary school, despite Abby coming from the wrong side of town. But then something happens. The girls are out on the lake with a couple friends when Gretchen goes missing. When they finally find her she's different. She stops caring about schoolwork, hygiene. She can't sleep. She won't eat. And she won't say exactly what's wrong or what happened to her that night. But clearly something has happened and things just go from bad to worse.

I won't say more but there is teen drama and betrayals and of course, the titular exorcism. There's even a strongman exorcist cos sure, why not. But most of the story, until like the last 100 pages or so, is buildup and a lot of it feels like it could be a teen coming-of-age story with no horror in sight.

There's lots of '80s pop culture and camp and this would probably make a super fun movie.

I liked the premise of Horrorstor but thought it started stronger than it ended (though the false doors in Ikea still creep me out). But I feel like Hendrix was able to (for the most part) avoid that problem here. Some of the ending seemed a bit rushed at points, but there were also moments in it I really liked, so other problems were forgiven. This was one of the most fun books I've read so far this year.

Thank you, Sarah, for a copy of this book. And for the kick ass unicorn sticker.

Gif rating:
*For those of you not into horror stuff, it's not on the same level as say a King. It's just more than you might expect.

Title quote from page 10

Hendrix, Grady. My Best Friend's Exorcism. Quirk Books, 2016.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The joy of seeing yourself in another is not just pertinent to stand-up comedy, but to being alive

I got a copy of Phoebe Robinson's You Can't Touch My Hair from NetGalley and I was pretty excited cos just look at that cover. Hilarious women are my thing and this book has not the top spot on that list but an impressive position.

The book is a series of essays about what it's like to be black and/or female. she takes some very serious topics and manages to tackle them in a hilarious way without playing down how important these discussions are. Some of the chapters are focused on events in her life, while others are a much more general take on the topic. Most are somewhere in between.

If you can't guess from the title, she has multiple chapters about black hair, including her relationship to her hair, black hair icons through the years, and America's relationship to black hair.
The fear of black hair has been an ever-present part of America's social history. The tumultuous relationship between black hair and America can best be explained this way: If black hair is the hardwood floor in a Broadway theater, then America is Savion Glover, just soft shoeing all over the floor during a production of Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.
She talks about good hair and bad hair and the treatment she gets when wearing different styles (she's called angry much more often when sporting an afro than when her hair is straight).

Robinson has a distinct writing style that involves a LOT of pop culture references and things like "" which I was worried was going to get old real quick. Somehow she managed to juuuuuuuuuust teeter on the edge where I found it funny the whole time, while worrying at some point it was going to fall over and things were going get eye-rolly. Perhaps it's the fact that she's discussing serious and upsetting topics so this style manages to balance things out so you can still hear the anger while also laughing with her. Like when she went on Last Comic Standing (or something similar) and after her set the judges spent their time critiquing her headshot and telling her she came off sounding too smart and she should watch out so she can be more likable. So listen, you need some pop culture and ridiculousness thrown in there.
I mean, I have taken a nap during a pregnancy scare because I was like, "Eh, it can wait."...My fallopian tubes got all Gandolf-y and said, "You Shall not pass," and shut it down. 
Now I think there should be a pregnancy test that tells you your results in Ian McKellen's voice.

She also talks about things like her guilty pleasures (including ranking the guys in U2, which she loooooooooves), things that need to do better (hello, NFL and your treatment of women), and has a series of letters for her young niece Olivia. And I legitimately found myself laughing out loud at points, so that's always fun.

I'm going to need to check out her podcasts, 2 Dope Queens (with Jessica Williams who wrote the foreward to this book) and Sooooo Many White Guys because if they are anything like what we have here, I am FOR IT.

Gif rating:
Title quote from location 2550

Robinson, Phoebe. You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain. Plume, 2016. NetGalley

Thursday, September 22, 2016

He's still more good than bad...It just goes to show how much of both a person can be

Oh hey, did you guys know I am a FAN of Rainbow Rowell? Both as an author and also she seems like just the best person (with some confirmation from friends who have actually got to meet her and like have coffee with her and stuff) so OF COURSE I wanted to read Carry On, even if the topic itself (Drarry fanfic) isn't totally my thing. But I know I will be in capable hands with Rowell

This had been on my to-read list for awhile (pretty much since she announced it was a thing she was prob working on) so it got picked for book club and excellent now I have an excuse to buy it RIGHT NOW.

So for those that don't know, Carry On is a spin-off of Fangirl and as I mentioned, is basically Drarry fanfic. Except it's not really Hogwarts (cos you know, that would cost a lot in licensing). Instead this is Watford, and it's not Harry and Draco but instead Simon Snow and Basilton Pitch (Baz).

And look, it actually IS different enough from Harry Potter that while the characters and the school are clearly inspired by and stand-ins for these things, things are tweaked just enough that it can stand as its own story. Rowell's take on magical boarding school, with a focus on the relationships between the characters, which is really where Rowell shines. There's very little in the way of world-building that makes up so much of HP's fun, but then again, this is supposed to be the final book in the "Simon Snow" series, so there would be no reason to get into that at this point.

Simon and Baz have been roomates since the not-sorting-hat put them together their first year. Simon is convinced Baz is out to get him and frankly he seems pretty obsessed with him. As Simon's friend Penelope says
I really, really hate to talk to Simon about Baz. It's like talking to the Mad Hatter about tea. I hate to encourage him. 
I mean, sure he has reason to believe he's out to get him. You'd think Simon would be preoccupied with his work to get rid of the Insidious Humdrum who is sucking all of the magic out of the world. But instead he's hyper focused on why Baz hasn't shown up for the first day of school, nor the following days.

The story jumps back and forth between different characters which I luuuuuuurve. And Rowell is probably my favorite author when it comes to writing relationships, which she does superbly here, for relationships that succeed and those that those that don't. And since I already said it was Drarry fanfic, I think you already know the relationship between Snow and Baz is going to happen.

I love Rowell's dialogue. It's always the best part of her stuff. Her characters' conversations are more clever than normal people's but just enough that it feels like it could be something real people said.
"Ebb," I insist, "[Baz] tried to kill me." 
"Not successfully." She shrugs. "Not recently." 
"He's tried to kill me three times! That I know of! It doesn't actually matter whether it worked." 
"It matters a bit," she says. "'Sides, how old was he the first time, eleven? Twelve? That hardly counts."
But that said, this is prob my least favorite Rowell book. The relationship stuff is awesome, but the rest of it is sort Not super my thing. Which didn't surprise me cos the Simon Snow chapters were my least favorite part of Fangirl. But in the end, it's still Rowell and I'm still down for it. Even if I like her realistic (or more realistic, anyway) stuff better.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 393, location 5309

Rowell, Rainbow. Carry On. alfaguara juvenil, 2016. Kindle

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Curmudgeon

In case it wasn't clear, I love books. I love reading. I love talking about books. I like hanging out with people who like reading. Reading is my jam. BUT there is one thing that it seems I would like. Should like. And that's books and stories and memes ABOUT reading and books and all of that stuff that I honestly do love.
But for whatever reason, they annoy me to no end. And I'm trying to work out what my problem is. Here's what I've got along with an exception (though I'm sure there are many more exceptions to these rules because while I say I hate these things, I am an annoying ball of contradictions.)

Books about bookish people
This can just be lazy short hand for "Look how much better this person is than everyone else because they read." And then it feels masturbatory. Mostly it comes down to a lot of times this is just lazy writing. I'm not going to instantly love a character cos you made them read. This one bugs me more than any of the others.

Exception: Hermione. She's bookish, of course, but there's more to her than that and the fact that she's bookish isn't tauted as the reason she's better than everyone. She's better than everyone for so many reasons (so smart, pragmatic, S.P.E.W. [even if she's not the best ally], etc.)
Books about books
I think this one bothers me when it becomes more about books as objects instead of about the stories. I like giant libraries and would very much love if I could have a room in my house that had bookshelves with a ladder (and also a door hidden behind a bookshelf) but if too much time is spent waxing poetic about books themselves or how great books are and how people who don't understand that the smell of old books is the best thing ever, I eye roll hard.

Exception: The whole Thursday Next series cos yeah, there's stuff about books themselves and people jumping in and out of books.
Bookish memes
"Other people want a boyfriend. I just want a big library and time alone to read." "I judge people who say they don't read." Some of this is just volume. at one point one of my social feeds was blowing up with bookish memes and at first I laughed, then lightly chuckled, then wanted to be like "OMG WE GET IT, YOU LIKE BOOKS." Though I realized the thing that started to bug me is any meme that was about "Other people do A and book people do B" or "I judge you if you don't like the thing I like". Why do we have to do that? Why can't you just like your thing without talking about how people who don't like your thing are worse? You like your thing, let other people like their thing.

Exception: Memes that aren't so judgmental.
So there you go. Should I just get over it? (Probably.) Anyone have their own "this is bookish and I should prob love it but I don't" thing?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Diversity Reading

For the last couple years I've had a personal reading resolution to expand my horizons beyond white US writers.* Typically I have to make an effort which is FINE. I mean the goal is to get to the point where I don't have to make such an effort, it just happens but hey, till then, I'll try to make a conscious effort.

Because I also track my stats each month,
Still trying for that high-five
when I do get books that fit the resolution criteria I try to spread the reading of them out. Basically, I don't trust that I'm going to read more than 1 resolution book in a given month, so if I get a couple books by say POC authors, I better not read them all this month or else next month my resolution reads will be pathetic.

As I mentioned, I recently went on a book buying binge. I added a couple more books, including Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and was just approved for Don't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson. So I was thinking out of my newest acquisitions, what should I read next? Right now I'm reading Second Hand Souls by Christopher Moore, which meets zero of the criteria so I wanted to make sure whatever I read next will count towards my goals. And then I realized something: every book I recently acquired does.
Almost all of the latest books, China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich, and the two I listed above are all by POC authors. The only other recent addition is The Cuckoo's Calling, which while not a POC author technically does count since the author isn't from the US.
Obviously this doesn't mean I'm done focusing on my resolution reads or that I can stop making a conscious effort about what I'm picking up. But it does mean that I'm moving in the right direction.

*Those are the primary criteria, though there's also books that are translation (which is along the same lines, focusing on diversification) and books published before 2000 (which really just seems like something that should be easy and I fail at it constantly. I also make less of an effort to hit it but really, shouldn't be this hard).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pain takes up a lot of space

After Blackass I decided to pick up Dietland since it was on sale and hey, let's keep going with the satire, yes? Besides, I'd heard some good things about it and hey
The story follows Plum, a woman who has been battling her weight since forever, trying every fad diet that's come out, including spending awhile as a member Waist Watchers, with their packaged meals and support meetings. But nothing has worked. At this point Plum spends most of her time alone, either in her apartment or else at a local coffee shop. She works from home for a teen girl's magazine, answering letters to the editor "Kitty". She's scheduled gastric bypass surgery and is now just waiting for her real life to begin.

Then one day, Plum notices a girl seems to be following her around. And she meets the daughter of the women who founded Waist Watchers and joins a group of women at a place called Calliope House who are working on their own projects to break away from the societal pressures put on women to look or act a certain way.

There's also a feminist terrorist organization called Jennifer, though really they consider what they're doing counter-terrorism to all of the expectations and rules and violence perpetrated against women. As these two story-lines begin to come together there's a tonal shift I did not anticipate, though that may be my fault since I only ever seem to get a vague gist of what a book will be like before I pick it up. I thought this would be a satire of diet culture and obsession with weight and appearance and policing women's bodies and yes, it is that, BUT ALSO it's about a terrorist organization that's killing rapists and kidnapping people and making demands on magazines that they have to feature mostly naked men instead of women.

These were two interesting premises that sort of got muddled when they were brought together. I feel like things would have been better if the focus had been on one or the other. Or maybe even if one was a spin-off of the other. I liked the idea of both of them, and the beginning of the book I was 100% there for but as it went on, I went down to like 70% there. And then...

So if it's on sale or maybe you can get it from the library, check it out.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 196, Location 2833

Walker, Sarai. Dietland. Mariner Books, 2015. Kindle

Thursday, September 8, 2016

To the elements be free

I was browsing NetGalley for some new titles when I saw a new book by Margaret Atwood. So naturally I clicked on it to get so more information and what do you know? The very first line in the description is "William Shakespeare's The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed".
Naturally I had to request it and I felt pretty lucky when I was approved. And it's pretty great.

The story is both a re-telling of The Tempest as well as the story of a disgraced director putting on a production of The Tempest.

Felix was the Art Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival taking an avant garde approach to Shakespeare. (A Winter's Tale but Hermione is a vampire! Macbeth with chainsaws! Pericles in space!*) And now his latest creation would be The Tempest and he's been putting his heart and soul into this production moreso than others due to his own personal demons. His wife died in childbirth and his daughter, Miranda, died when she was three. This would be a tribute to them and his opportunity to protect Miranda on stage the way he couldn't in real life.
What to do with such a sorrow? It was like an enormous black cloud boiling up over the horizon. No: it was like a blizzard. No: it was like nothing he could put into language. He couldn't face it head-on. He had to transform it, or at the very least enclose it.
But everything is taken from him by his business partner Tony who has been working behind the scenes to get Felix removed from his position. The Festival wants more popular, mainstream plays. And musicals.

Felix is fired and disgraced. Humiliated. He pushes himself into exile, spending years thinking about revenge and imagining his Miranda is alive again. Eventually he decides he has to get out there and, under the name Mr. Duke, he takes up position at a correctional facility, helping to create an arts program. Naturally they put on Shakespeare plays, with the class being a surprise hit among the inmates, despite some people who are less than thrilled with the program.
Prisons are for incarceration and punishment, not for spurious attempts to educate those who cannot, by their very natures, be educated.
If you're familiar with The Tempest, you can probably guess where the story goes, though there are still some tense moments. If you don't know it, well don't worry cos Atwood provides a summary. Though really, even if you aren't familiar with the story, it's still an entertaining read. And of course it's Atwood so the writing is beautiful.

This was great and if you like Atwood or Shakespeare, you should pick it up. Even if you don't, check it out anyway.

Gif rating:
*Though that probably would have made more sense than an A.R.T. production of Pericles I saw awhile back. At one point it included a woman dressed in a beigh body suit, pink sarong, and gorilla mask dancing across the stage. I'm sure there was some meaning behind it. I just never figured it out.

Title quote from location 3844

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed. Crown Publishing, 2016. NetGalley. Pub Date Oct 11, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cheap books, you know I love you

So I wrote recently about how I bought some new books, cos that's always fun. And then I was thinking about how I could write a review (Hag Seed review up next!) instead I could write about, which lets you set up alerts when ebooks reach a certain price point. So that's pretty swell and while I don't get the emails too often (probably cos I set the alert prices really low) it's a nice surprise when I get an email telling me about some book I had completely forgotten about is now on sale.
My and Tom's reactions to me buying more books
I've tried other sites like BookBub but that one just sends you an email with currently discounted titles and most of them...they are not my thing. And really a lot of the ones I can find browsing through BookSliced are in a similar "not my thing" group. That is also probably why the alerts are sporadic.

The one complaint I do have with BookSliced is OMG THE TEXT SEARCH IS SO BAD. I can't figure out exactly how the text search is working but searching for titles or authors is really hit or miss. It doesn't seem to recognize quotes or some other basic Boolean operators and almost regardless of what I type in, I tend to get a lot of self-help and romance titles that don't seem to contain any of the words I searched for.

So yeah, search takes some work but hey, discounted books, that's super fun.

Alright, fine. I'll get working on reviews.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

August Reading Wrap Up

Oh man, summer. She's pretty much over now, isn't she? Not that I guess it means that much without school being a thing, but still, it's sad when summer is over. Even though I don't do summery things like "go to the beach" or "be in the sun in general". August was not too much different than July but I did take a mini-staycation. And by staycation I mean extended mental health break cos of July and mid-August was just the first point I could take the time. And I still ended up doing some work because hahaha of course. But my reading was an improvement over July and I even managed to squeak some resolution books in there, so win.
So hey, stat time!

Total books read
The Luckiest Girl by Jessica Knoll (3 stars)
The Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler (4 stars)
The Wander Society by Keri Smith (3 stars)
A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan (3 stars)
Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood (4 stars)

Total pages


Female authors
White authors

US authors

Book format
ebook - 40%
hardback - 20%
paperback - 40%

Where'd I get the book
gift - 20%
Just the Right Book - 40%
Kindle - 20%
Netgalley - 20%


Review books


Blogger reco


Books by decade
1990s - 20%
2010s - 80%

Books by genre
Creativity - 20%
Dystopia - 20%
Lit Fic - 20%
Thriller - 40%

Resolution books
60% - NOT NONE!
The Parable of the Talents was published before 2000 and is by a person of color. 
A Pleasure and a Calling and Hag Seed are both by non-US authors (UK and Canada, respectively).

Here's to fall and pumpkin spiced things.