Abigail Barnette, AKA Jennifer Armintrout, AKA Jenny Trout, whose blogging I’ve previously enjoyed for her thoughtful/frustrated readthrough of 50 Shades of Grey, has released the first chapter of her “free contemporary erotic romance serial novel” The Boss a day early! Go read it, I’m serious. Part of her purpose in writing it is to create an entry in the same genre as the 50 Shades series that doesn’t include the abusive and misogynistic behavior of said series–what a novel idea, right? (I do have a question about the ticket-stealing thing, though, which I’ve asked on her blog–hopefully I’ll get an answer back! Edit: My question has been answered, and it was just a case of my misreading things! Which just goes to show, make sure you’re actually paying attention before making assumptions. Stay in school, kids.)
Mia and Jessica, checking in, heroically waking up at 5:30 am.
1)Where are you reading from today? Last time Mia came to my house, so this time I came to Mia’s.
2)Three random facts about me… 1) The last time I awoke at 5:30 in the morn was… honestly, I don’t even know. 2) I love Mia’s three-legged cat, Flat Tire. 3) I am…tired.
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I’ve got 10 books to choose from: one picture book, one middle grade, three young adult, three adult SF&F, one graphic novel, and one nonfiction book. And, of course, Rain.
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? I think we’re both going for as close to 24 hours as we can.
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Don’t be afraid to put something down and pick something new up. Even if you’re the type to only read one thing at a time, the read-a-thon is not a time to be book-monogamous.
1)Where are you reading from today? My new house! How peachy.
2)Three random facts about me… 1. I do not like peppermint tea. 2. That is why I’m drinking chocolate chai instead. 3. I am very tired as well.
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? Nine. Two short story collections, two graphic novels, three SF&F, one YA, and, as Jessica said, Rain. The interminable Rain.
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? We! Could! Go! All! The! Way!
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Fortify yourself with food and drink, and never give up, never surrender.
I know, I know, I haven’t been around here lately. You-all (our threes and fours of readers) have Mary and Jessica to thank for keeping this site fresh and full of wonderful poetry lately! I love poetry, but as a scholar of prose, poetry is still very mysterious to me. Good poetry is like a herd of ethereal and dainty unicorns, and all I understand are Nubian goats. That’s right, I just compared my literature degree to raising goats. AND I’M NOT SORRY.
Um, anyhow. As Jessica mentioned, I was gone last week in order to say goodbye to one of the people I was closest to in the world. I’m glad I could be with her family, and it was a very fitting farewell, but it’s left me with little energy for my usual hobbies. To wit: I’ve been reading, but haven’t been able to form a coherent thought when it comes time to REVIEW the books I’ve read. So I thought I would try to ease back into things by doing some short reports on what I’ve picked up (and put down again) in the past couple of weeks.
–Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock:
I LOVE YOU, D.J. SCHWENK. Okay, folks, if you’re at all a fan of YA, please go pick this up and read it. D.J. is a small-town Wisconsin girl who has been tasked with basically running her parents’ farm while her dad is out of commission. Tough stuff. Family politics and a growing sense of unhappiness with her lot in life don’t make it any easier. But, you guys–D.J. is so charming! Her voice is so honest and fresh and funny. I often feel dissatisfied with a lot of the YA I read because, while the side characters have gobs and gobs of personality, the narrator sometimes tends to be a little bit bland. Maybe so the reader can identify with her more? D.J. doesn’t suffer from Bland Hero Disorder, though; I felt that I got a very clear feeling of who she is, and who she’s trying to become through the course of the novel. And the person that she is, I want her to be my GOOD BUDDY FOR LIFE.
Bonus material (and SPOILERS, so cover your eyes if you haven’t read the novel!): I looked up Dairy Queen on Wikipedia because I cannot remember Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s name to save my life for some reason, and the summary of the novel has this AMAZING line of information:
Then Amber reveals, “You’re with me. You’re not with him. It’s the two of us. Don’t you see that?” It then occurs to D.J. that Amber is in love with her (Which is how you know that Amber is a lesbian.)
I love whichever fifteen-year-old wrote that. “Which is how you know” indeed.
(Okay, you can stop covering your eyes now.)
– The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie: I’m still boarding the YA train, so I haven’t had the chance to read many of the titles that have been raised on high as being The Young Adult Novels To Read. To that end, I picked this one up at the library, since it seems to turn lead to gold wherever it goes. Sadly, though, I can’t tell you whether I liked it or not, and I don’t think I will be able to for a long time: I read the first twenty pages, came across the part that has detailed descriptions of a dog getting sick and having to be put down, and was absolutely DESTROYED. It more or less turned me into a useless ball of sadness for the rest of the evening. I know it sounds silly, but there are boundaries I recognize in myself for what I can and cannot read at the moment, and that sort of thing is definitely not on the list to get into the club. This isn’t the fault of the book or the author, but I think I’ll be returning this unread and pick it up some other time.
– Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld: Another DNF, although not for the same reasons. I just…I was bored, you guys! I don’t know, I just wasn’t compelled by the world or the story that is being told. I’d say it’s because I’m tired of dystopia in my reading material, but I recently read The Giver for the first time and was completely blown away by it, and Riddley Walker (which EVERYONE SHOULD READ STARTING RIGHT NOW. I’M SERIOUS. READY STEADY GO!) is still one of my favorite novels of all time, so, who knows? I put it down when I realized that I just didn’t care. While I can appreciate the message of loving yourself the way you are and not, you know, submitting teenagers to compulsory plastic surgery, I didn’t feel like it brought anything particularly new or interesting to the table.
– The Old Kingdom Trilogy, by Garth Nix:
Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. How did I not read these before? I want to go back in time and give these to twelve-year-old Mia so that she can spend less time idealizing vampires (yeah, that’s right, I was ahead of the trend by ten years, bitches!) and more time idealizing CRAZY AWESOME NECROMANCERS. Sabriel and Lirael are two of the bad-assin’-est main characters I’ve read about in years! And that’s saying something, because I recently read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in two consecutive days. Forget Katniss, give me the Abhorsen! Although I have to admit that, at the beginning of her titular novel, Lirael was cracking me the heck up with her mopey-teenager-turned-up-to-11 behavior. NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME, NOBODY LIKES ME, I’M GOING TO THROW MYSELF OFF OF THIS GLACIER. Um, Lirael, if you talked to people and opened yourself up a little bit, maybe it wouldn’t matter so much that you don’t have the Sight like the other Clayr? Then again, maybe she’s a teeny bit justified since she spent her entire life around people who can see the future when she couldn’t. I’m sure if I were a clairvoyant precognative I’d spend most of my waking hours talking about how awesome it was, too. Anyway: it’s got dead spirits, good and evil necromancy, amazing and thorough worldbuilding, a pseudo-England of the WWII era right across the wall from a magic-and-mayhem world, and the Disreputable Dog (oh my god do I love the Disreputable Dog). Good, good stuff. And all the titles have beautifully illustrated covers that capture well the feeling of the Old Kingdom.
What do y’all think? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Do you have any quick-fire capital-”O” Opinions on books you’ve read lately? Speak up!
Reading It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry feels a little bit like someone’s exposing himself or herself to you at the park or on the train. Except maybe you paid them to do it, but you really didn’t know what you were getting into, so you feel embarrassed but kind of like it anyway?
Something like that.
I’ve been a dedicated fan of Joey Comeau’s work since I started reading his and Emily Horne’s three-panel webcomic A Softer World during my freshman year of college. Two or three sentences, each word precisely right (or precisely, perfectly wrong), makes a whole story bloom in my head. This one in particular breaks my heart a little bit every time I read it.
I’ve read many of the stories in It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry in bits and pieces, online or in randomly picking it up for a few minutes at a time. I remember rushing to read “Red Delicious” when I got home; it was the first story I read online and my favorite. When I picked it up during the recent Dewey’s Read-a-Thon, though, was the first time I read all the stories in one sitting, and it was from this that a pattern emerged. Many of the stories are about discomfort and exposure–intentional exposure, the characters pulling their chests open in front of one another in a way that is honest and a little obscene. It’s difficult to read this, sometimes. I want to help the character close up their exposure because seeing someone that exposed makes me feel exposed too. We avoid embarrassment, awkwardness, too-much-information moments that make us feel like we’re imposing upon other people with the truth of ourselves. Whether it’s right or wrong to do this, I can’t say, but it’s both frightening and refreshing to read about this indecent exposure and imagine being honest like that, not just with one person but with everyone. Talking about imaginary third testicles and two pee holes. Exhausting, but liberating.
I guess I should actually talk about the stories themselves: they’re generally rather short, averaging at maybe 7 or 8 pages. The first few make up what I think of as “the sexy arc”: desire and nakedness and, again, exposure. People putting themselves out there at the risk that the gesture, the feeling isn’t returned. It’s hard for me to summarize them individually, both due to my hatred of summarizing and because I don’t think I could do them justice. “Patricia” is more than just a story about some guy who travels through time to have sex with geniuses. “Historians and Degenerates” is more than a story about a man whose historian fugitive wife writes a memoir about all of his sordid sexual acts. (You can read “Historians and Degenerates” online here, by the way. I was going to link to “Red Delicious” but couldn’t find it anymore. “Historians and Degenerates” is good too, though.)
After the sexy arc comes a pair of sneaking, subtle horror stories that made me cringe in the way horror stories should. As with his other stories, it’s the precise and evocative wording, at least in part, that makes them so effective.
The last three are hard for me to categorize–and really, so are the others, but I did it anyway, for some reason. “Where Are You Off Too Now?” is another one I read online, and since it was around 4 a.m. during the Read-a-Thon I took the time to read it aloud to Jessica. Yelling “HARLOT HARLOT HARLOT” was quite cathartic, although I hope in retrospect that I didn’t wake anyone else in the house. The last story, “Cry Me A River,” is a story of death and confusion and regret. A slight feeling of regret tinges many of the other stories in the collection–all you need to do is refer to the title. I am usually drawn to books with long or strange titles, and It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry is no exception. It really stands for the whole collection of stories. There are missteps and moments that are worthy of regret, but there is also a defiant sense of refusing to regret, of doing something impulsively and it being over before you can be sorry for it.
When I had the opportunity to buy the first printed collection of A Softer World, along with Joey’s works It’s Too Late To Say I’m Sorry; Overqualified; and Lockpick Pornography at Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco in 2009, I was, to put it lightly, excited. Joey looked like he’d had a bit of a rough night, but he (and Emily Horne) kindly signed my entire stack of books anyway while I fidgeted and got embarrassed for not being able to hide my enthusiasm. I feel naked in front of people I admire, like I’m burdening them with my admiration. Maybe next time I’ll just pull my shirt open and then run away. Not likely, but it’s a thought. Then again, simply feeling naked in front of someone and actually being escorted out of a public venue by the police are two different things entirely.
Reading It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry reminded me that Joey Comeau has at least two more books I haven’t read, so I purchased Bible Camp Bloodbath (horror story) and The Girl Who Couldn’t Come (sexy stories) for my Kindle. The prices on Amazon are really quite low, and based on the quality of the rest of his work, they will be more than worth it. Perhaps I’ll review them in a sexy/scary double feature at some point. Suffice it to say that I highly recommend any of his works or collaborations, including and especially this one. It made a good companion read alongside Sweet Valley High: Mystery Date, I can say that much.
The typo above is brought to you by the official announcement. That’s right! Goodbye Jon Scieszka, whose Polish name I love though I’ve only read a couple of his books (marvelous books, I might add), and hello Katherine Paterson, whose most famous book scarred me for frickin’ life.
I have to say though, her platform theme looks promising: “Read for Your Life”. So many people emphasize reading to their young kids, but don’t keep it up as they get older. We should be fostering a love of reading, not just teaching kids how to read. That’s why my heart was a little broken to read the reason behind the cancellation of Reading Rainbow.
Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.
Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.
Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”
I’ve added a couple of books to my “favorites” list. In case you are that lazy and don’t want to click on through, here’s what I added:
19. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman – This is a beautiful little book about dreams and time and people (as a whole, not as individuals). There is a sense of fairy tale in each dreaming, where the people of this other world are strange but familiar, where life is lovely and cruel, and where the flow of time might not be a flow at all, but a waterfall or a block of ice or flames.
20. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino – In some ways this is a similar book to Einstein’s Dreams, but where Lightman explores time, Calvino explores landscape. Both books take my breath away with the beauty of their prose and the depth of their imagination. They both make me wish our world was a little less uniform, with more pockets of utterly delightful weirdness.
I read two romance-y books yesterday, in what seems to be a developing pattern of genre rotation, but I digress.
The first was Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. This one can’t be properly called a romance, as the emphasis was on Becca’s growth as a character and not her relationship with a certain man. I liked the book. While I am almost nothing like Becca and many of her quirks annoyed the heck out of me, I still sympathized with her and was cheering at the end as she came to her own. On the other hand, I was happy enough with the ending that I don’t want to read any of the other books. I know that Becca must, in the later books, revert to her old self in order to create interesting tension and I just don’t want to read it! Because this is a shortie review, I’ll give it a rating: 3.5/5
The second was a real romance, The Courtesan’s Daughter by Claudia Dain. This is not Jane Austen’s Regency England. Lady Sophia Dalby, an ex-courtesan, is trying to get her daughter, Lady Caroline Dalby, married. And she does it through an intense, and I mean intense, amount of manipulation. There was so much set-up for the rest of the books in the series, so many extra characters, so many viewpoints that I think it took away from the romantic plotline. Which I’m not that upset about, cause I wasn’t very fond of the hero and I’m undecided on the heroine. I will probably be reading more from this series with the hopes that I will like the other pairings better than this one! I have those high hopes because the writing was clever and the characters interesting. And the plots insane! 3/5