Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Herding Cats: ...I just want to enjoy being alive

I got a copy of Sarah Andersen's Herding Cats from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It took me some time to actually download it because it wouldn't work on the Kindle so required downloading something new and, if you can tell from my recent reviewing schedule, doing things that require extra work is not something I've managed to accomplish much of recently.

But I did get it downloaded and then I devoured it. If you aren't already familiar with Andersen's comics, get with it. Sorry, that was a bit aggressive. But really, her stuff is adorable and relatable (assuming you are socially awkward) and you should just do yourself a favor.

She draws comics about her anxiety, about body hair, about being a comic, about her love of dogs and cats, about her reaction to the news these days (see "about her anxiety"), all good things.
The comics are short (at most 6 panels) and are each stand-alone. Unlike something like Hyperbole and a Half, while the work is about Sarah, it never really goes the extra step to being a memoir. I can't say I that I know more about her (or feel like I know more about her) than surface level things, despite the end of the book being made up of actual text and Sarah talking about being an artist, dealing with criticism and the advice to "Go make stuff". Good things, don't get me wrong, but it's just not as touching or intimate as Ali Brosh's stuff. Though I didn't really mean to compare the two artists and that is unfair and this isn't to say one is better or one is worse. They are different and both entertaining for their own reasons. But don't go into Andersen, expecting Brosh (or vice versa, really).
I realize this is short but I'm not sure what else to say. She's funny and relatable, and yeah, I had probably seen most of these comics online before reading them in the book so there's also that if you want to check out her stuff, even though I feel like I should encourage you to buy her stuff. I say, having received a free copy, so don't listen to me too closely, I guess. But yeah, check out her stuff. It's swell.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 27

Andersen, Sarah. Herding Cats. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018. NetGalley

Monday, March 26, 2018

Number One Chinese Restaurant: I only hold grudges when they benefit me

Normally when I'm browsing through NetGalley, I request books I've heard of, usually from fellow bloggers, or else it's an author I'm familiar with. But every once in a while something will catch my eye and I figure I'll give it an whirl. And thus did I come across Number One Chinese Restaurant. I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Let's see the piece that made me think, "Yeah I should check this out." I mean besides the "Chinese Restaurant" bit, because honestly, that definitely played a part.
"Generous in spirit, unaffected in its intelligence, multi-voiced, poignant, and darkly funny, Number One Chinese Restaurant looks beyond red tablecloths and silkscreen murals to share an unforgettable story about youth and aging, parents and children, and all the ways that our families destroy us while also keeping us grounded and alive."
 Multi-voices AND darkly funny? Those are things I like so let's do this.

So, what's it about?

The Han family has run a Chinese restaurant for years and since the passing of their father, sons Jimmy and Johnny run the place. Well, these days mostly the younger son Jimmy taking care of the day-to-day business, though he resents the restaurant his father built and dreams of something more upscale. Also he's an asshole. Really a self-centered, short-tempered asshole. Not an entertaining one either.

Jimmy decides not only is he going to open a new restaurant that doesn't deign to the things The Duck House does, but he's going to get out from under the thumb of Uncle Pang, who's sort of like the godfather, though he seems to operate independently of a larger mob. You'd think this might make Jimmy sympathetic. You would be wrong.

The brother Johnny has been away in Hong Kong so he hasn't been involved with the restaurant for a few months and doesn't really know what's going on back at home.

There are two other main characters we get POVs from, Jack and Nan, two long-time employees of The Duck House. Nan worked her way up to managing the waitstaff while Ah-Jack is a longtime waiter. Nan and Jack met when Nan first made her way to the US. There's a connection between the two but the age difference (she's 3+ decades younger) and Jack's marriage meant they remained close friends for years.

Certain events take place involving those mentioned above, plus Johnny's daughter and Nan's son leading to familial squabbles and the stress of opening a new restaurant.

Overall this had the makings of something that I think could have been right up my alley but this didn't do it for me. I don't need the characters to be likable but if they're going to be unlikable they should be interesting and for the most part these weren't. There were glimpses where I thought something really good was going to happen, or I was going to start really getting into the story, but unfortunately it never really happened.

The writing is fine and I liked bits and pieces, like
"Many Chinese women spoke with voices so melodious and bright that the language sounded like a gentle, teasing song; his mother was not one of those women. She emphasized every word as others might slap a table. When she was allowed to talk without interruption, the effect was like waiting out a rainstorm under a tin roof."
See, that's great. But the story didn't do it for me. Also, I need to stop believing publishers and book jackets that describe a book as "funny" because I feel like very rarely is it the case. I don't know if I can blame this book for that though, since this is a regular problem and I need to remember this.

Not terrible, but not great either.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 13, location 2276

Li, Lillian. Number One Chinese Restaurant. Henry Holt & Co., 2018. NetGalley.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reviewing Delays

Question for fellow book bloggers: is there a point where it's been too long to review something?

Basically, I want to review everything that I read. Not just like I feel like I should or stuff like that, but that I actually want to. But as is probably obvious, I have not kept up a rapid pace when it comes to reviewing.
Me for the last couple months
I've kept on top of ARC reviews but stuff that I just read for funsies is...yeah.

I have a running list of all of the books I have read (as you may know from all of my reading stat posts) and I keep track of which books I still have to review. The oldest one is Grotesque which I read back in July. JULY. That is like 8 months ago.

Is there a point where you move on? Or no, should I press on and get around to reviewing all those older books (even though I'm clearly not reviewing it right now and am instead writing this).

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to be very productive. And by that I mean watch Criminal Minds reruns and play sudoku

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Anatomy of a Miracle: What does one do after experiencing a miracle?

After reading Emily's (aka As the Crowe Flies and Reads) review of Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles, I immediately hopped over to NetGalley to see if I could get my hands on a copy and lo and behold, I was successful. In exchange for an honest review, I got the book and was not disappointed.

Had it not been for Emily's review, I probably would have passed over this without looking at it too closely. I mean, with that title, it seems like it would be a religious, feel-good type Hallmark-style story and while there's nothing wrong with those, they aren't typically my cup o' tea. Luckily for me (and I suppose unluckily for anyone looking for that sort of story) that isn't the case here. Oh it is about miracles and the military, sure but there's so much more going on.

Presented as a true account (with an asterisk that hahaha, no, this is actually fiction), Miles tells the story of Cameron Harris, paralyzed four years prior in Afghanistan, suddenly and for no discernible reason, is able to walk again. He's waiting for his sister Tanya outside a local convenience store in their small Mississippi town when he stands up.

And from here, the story takes off. Was it a miracle? Many seem to think so and the Biz-E-Bee store becomes something of a spectacle for pilgrims passing through and the proprietors understandably making the best of the situation ("like someone opened a Cracker Barrel at Lourdes"). The Catholic Church also seems to think it's possible and investigators are dispatched to look into the claims, including an actual devil's advocate (advocatus diaboli) because of course the Catholic Church would have that.

Of course Cameron's doctor has a very different view. That doesn't mean she knows what the cause of his sudden healing is, only that as a woman of science, miracles don't count for much.

And naturally, as the story is set in modern times, there's a reality TV show.

At the center of all of this is Cameron and his sister trying to make sense of what happened, how it happened, and what do they do now?

The reason the story works as well as it does is the characters. Everyone, from the major to the minor, are fleshed out characters. They are interesting, they are complex, they feel real. At no point did a character feel like their actions were only there to advance the plot. And I loved and cared about so many of them.

Some of the descriptions were wonderful
His eyes, however, cast a different spell: They're wide and large like his sister's, with a peculiar boyishness to them, as though his eyes retired their development at puberty while the rest of his features forged ahead. 
And sometimes they could become a little much. Though once I got familiar with his writing style, I enjoyed it more.

As I mentioned, the story is presented as if it is a journalistic nonfiction account of events and while I enjoyed having such a wide purview, I didn't really think this was a necessary conceit. That said, I don't think it hurt the story either, so whatever, go forth.

Overall a book I'm very happy to have read and one I would recommend to anyone looking for some literary fiction in a way I haven't quite seen before.

Gif rating:
Title quote from location 562

Miles, Jonathan. Anatomy of a Miracle. Hogarth, 2018. NetGalley

Monday, March 5, 2018

February Reading Wrap Up

Only 2 posts in all of February. I know, that is terrible. I didn't mean for that to happen, but here we are. It was a rough month in terms of reading as well. At least in amount read. In quality read, it was pretty good. (I know I'm way late to this party, but if you haven't read The Hate U Give you should stop what you're doing and go read it because it was so so so so so good.) I still have excuses which I won't get into here but just know that a) I'm fine and b) they're good excuses. I'll get to them eventually.

For now know that I am trying to get better with posting and commenting.

With that, let's get to the stats

Number of books read
The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

Total pages read


POC authors

Female authors

US authors
Book formats
ebook: 100%

Where'd I get the book
Kindle/audible: 33%
Netgalley: 67%

Review books

Books by decade
2010s: 100%

Resolution books
The Hate U Give by a POC author

Here's to March being more successful in amount reading, in posting, in commenting. All around, more success.

*If you are curious about this stat when compared to the books read list, Mallory Ortberg, according to this article, is in the process of transitioning and this says will be using male pronouns and male name. While the name on the book is still Mallory I left that as is rather than listing him as Mal.