January’s Books Read

So, I really liked that format of book blogging I did in my last post. A list of books I read recently and a quick paragraph describing my thoughts on them. Without further ado, here’s the list of books I finished in January:

Nutshell by Ian MacEwan–This was a pretty buzzy book for me, by which I mean, it was mentioned on two podcasts I listen to and one online listicle. Mostly notable for its fetus narrator and its homage to “Hamlet.” I thought it was okay. Obviously I was interested in seeing what a story told by a fetus would be like, but I didn’t really care for the whole “fetus who talks like a middle-aged man who hates identity politics for some reason” thing. I was fascinated, though, by the narrator’s perspective. He’s inextricably tied to his mother’s fate, no matter what happens. And the fact that the narrator cares much more about his mother than his mother seems to even think about him, is kind of sad. I really cared more about what happened and what the fetus does than all the weird waxing poetic he does.

The Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice by John Beckett–I’ll tell you what, I haven’t thought as much about my own religious path so deeply as when I was reading this. Unlike other pagan books which talk about how to practice a path, Beckett gives us a book on how to build or think about our philosophy/world view/values, upon which we can discover or create our pagan path. Very valuable book in my opinion, and I like Beckett’s writing a lot. Fun fact, my proto-grove leader (before it dissolved) had to “well, actually” Beckett on one of his posts about hard polytheism, and it got Beckett to change his mind.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay–I listened to this on audio, and that’s pretty much the only way I want to read memoirs from now on. This book will be hard for a lot of people, because of the trauma Gay suffered, but it’s a worthwhile read. I have very little experience reading about what it’s like to navigate a skinny world as a fat person, and it taught me a lot about things I hadn’t thought of. Like chairs with arms.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black–The newest book from my favorite author. This book inspired me to cook more, I kid you not. Black has always been good at describing fairy food, and now that the only way I can cook things is on a stove/oven, it’s time to start learning to cook. Why not cook like the Folk do? I really liked Jude, and how different she struck me from Black’s other protagonists. Jude strikes me as more vulnerable, more feminine, and having different values from, say, Val, Kaye, or Tana. Jude’s in a position of blatantly wanting to fit in, and then realizing she fits in more than she ever could have imagined. Loved it. All the cameos, however, I’m not sure what to think of yet.

Valiant by Holly Black–This was a re-read because while reading The Cruel Prince, it got me nostalgic for the Modern Faerie tale series. I mentioned on Twitter that this time reading, I pictured Val as very different from the way I did as a teenager. She had a softer face, freckles, and was much younger-seeming this time, but when I was younger, Val was all sharp edges and my idea of what cool girls looked like. Makes sense. I also realized how much I’d missed reading it the first few times (I used to re-read so much more often back then). Like significant plot points or settings. I appreciated the book so much more this time around. Having read this right after The Cruel Prince, it was interesting to notice how Black’s writing has evolved over time.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead–Listened to this on audio, which I think may have been a mistake since the story has a lot of flashbacks and if I’m not paying attention I miss when we’re no longer in the present, and I get very confused. That being said, this was a really good book. It’s not my favorite, and I was considering giving it only three stars on Goodreads, but the ending was fantastic. It’s a zombie apocalypse story, which aren’t really my thing, but it was the only Whitehead available immediately on Overdrive. I ended up really enjoying it. I liked Gary, and I liked how Connecticut was never just Connecticut–always Vile Connecticut or Abhorrent Connecticut, you get the picture. Again, the ending was really good, how it tied Mark Spitz’s story up. Technically very well written, though I got a little tired of yet another author making wry commentary on modern living. I was also a little put off by how Whitehead refused to mention a single intellectual property. An odd little tick. But the writing is very very good. I’m glad I stuck with it.

Advertisements

Books I Read On Vacation

Every year, I take a winter trip. This year, I went up to Northern Michigan to visit my grandparents. This was my first time going up there without the rest of my family, and also the first time I’ve flown up there. It was a pretty low-key week, since my grandparents don’t do much with their days now except read. I, of course, was more than happy to join them, and I managed to round out my 2017 with a lot of books finished.

In the past week, I read:

The Boy Who Reversed Himself by William Sleator, a book I read once in 4th grade and decided to read again. It was one of those books that I could remember flashes of, but didn’t remember the title or author, so I did some quick Googling, and found it. I remember being enchanted by the descriptions of the 4-space, especially having come right from reading A Wrinkle in Time for the first time. I didn’t realize Omar figured so very little into the main action of the story, which was too bad. But I guess that would have given away a lot of the mystery. But Ramoom and Gigigi are just as creepy to me now as they were then.

The Unrest Cure and Other Stories by Saki, which I bought at Politics & Prose on a whim. I had always thought Saki was a Japanese poet, until Fyodor Pavlov shared a piece he was working on, based on the works of Saki, and he’s much more like P.G. Wodehouse. Needless to say, I loved this book. I found myself getting a little too enthusiastic whenever Clovis showed up, wondering what nonsense he’d whip up this time. The stories are mostly satires of the aristocratic class, but that’s exactly what I love reading.

The People of Fire by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, a book my grandfather (the one I was visiting) handed to me last time I was up there. I’ve been trying to relate to him, have more to talk to him about, and I discovered that he (and Grandmother) read an awful lot. Grandpa really likes westerns and prehistoric novels about Native Americans. This book, while technically a sequel, can be read as a standalone, and is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. While I found myself glossing over some of the mysticism–mostly because I have a hard time picturing that kind of thing–the story was pretty engaging, and surprisingly egalitarian in how both its male and female characters were portrayed. Except for Sage Root’s description. Someone got really horny writing her, I’d reckon. I also have to wonder, even though the authors are archaeologists, how much of the culture of the different tribes was just made up. I don’t want to support that kind of thinking that delegates Native Americans to the distant past. One of the major characters, Two Smokes, is a berdache, which I loved, and who was treated with respect by the authors.

Wormwood: A Collection of Short Stories by Poppy Z. Brite. I could have sworn I had read this book before when I bought it in New Orleans, but I’m happy to have found out I hadn’t. I love Brite’s writing to chopped up little pieces, and this one did not disappoint. I love his descriptions of goth kids, back when he was into that, and I love the sensuousness of his writing. I noticed it back when I read Liquor in early college, and it’s really a highlight of his work, besides the general messed-up nature of it all. This book finally convinced me to dye my hair black again for the first time in years.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, but I always got the sense (and Coates confirmed this in a tweet) that more white people were reading it than black people, who are the book’s target audience, so I kind of wanted to hold off on reading the book until more people had read it. I don’t know if that was unnecessary. But given that my grandfather somehow thinks racism isn’t a thing anymore, I felt this was the right time to read it. A small rebellion, that probably didn’t even do anything, except affirm to myself that I’m not just parroting things off the liberal internet.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. I got this book for my birthday this past year, and reading the back of the book to my friends, said “This has so many of my buzzwords.” And I ended up loving this book. Valente really does a good job, in my opinion, of revealing information about Severin Unck’s disappearance at a good pace. I liked the format of newspaper clippings, films, and interviews that the story takes. The reveal at the end was amazing. I was captivated by the world, and I actually want to write some fanfiction that takes place on her Pluto.

So overall, I’m really happy with the note I ended 2017 on. Stay tuned for an analysis of everything I read this year compared to last year in terms of diversity.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

I read this book for Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, and I’m very glad I did. I first heard about the book on Twitter (I think), and after reading the summary I immediately added it to my Goodreads TBR list. It’s a YA fantasy about a young Bavarian woman who goes underground and gets into a deal with the Goblin King.

I absolutely loved this book, even if I did find the wink-wink nudge-nudge references to the movie Labyrinth a little too on the nose. There was also this great sentence where not one, but two Evanescence songs are referenced:

My Immortal and Bring Me To Life. Yegads.

Music plays a large part in this book, as both Liesl and her brother are musicians. Liesl is also a composer in her own right, even if it takes her most of the book to figure out. Music is what ties her and the Goblin King together. There are references to actual pieces of music, music that I can only imagine since it doesn’t exist in the real world (though I was hoping the author had commissioned a work from a modern composer to go with the book!), and then the Goblin King was also referred to as the Erlkonig, which is an earworm by Schubert. The book demanded I make a playlist of it, though I didn’t, since I had other books to read before the 24 hours were up.

My heart was aching by the time the book comes to a close. There’s something I love about a doomed romance that the parties try to stoke from ember to a small flame, but it ends up sputtering out regardless. I loved the atmosphere of the Underground, I loved the twins (I’m sorry, I’m completely blanking on the names of everyone right now), who reminded me of the white-faced women in Netflix’s version of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I loved the references to Rossetti’s “The Goblin Market.”

Overall I just loved it. Even if “Der Erlkonig” will not get out of my head.

 

 

I also found this post on the author’s blog about the origins of the story. I haven’t read it yet, but I really should.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon #2 Masterpost

It’s that time again! Tomorrow I’ll be participating in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, and I couldn’t be more excited…well, I’m about as excited as I’d be for anything else, but given my default state of ennui, that’s pretty impressive. Back in April, during the last readathon, I was able to make progress on an audiobook and finish one physical book. I’m hoping maybe I can stay up the entire 24 hours and finish two books, even. This time, I won’t have a Pathfinder game to GM in the morning, nor will I have housemates to distract me (apart from Cecil), so I’m ready to go straight into this.

My plans are to read Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones and My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix, with interludes of Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older on audiobook. This is the post where I’ll be updating with pictures and thoughts, but I’ll also be updating on Twitter @maisondedemence

Watch this space! This is where I’ll be posting my challenge entries as well as general thoughts.

DMqP3OiX4AA4wJX

Hour 0 Opening Survey

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Washington D.C.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? My Best Friend’s Exorcism since I don’t read enough horror (even though it’s my favorite)
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Like last time, I have so much Goldfish. And tea.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m settling in to my first apartment by myself and having the best time decorating.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’m going to try and read for the full 24 hours. And finish more than one book.

Book and Beverage Challenge for The Book Monsters!

20171021_101238

Reading Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones and finishing up my first cup of coffee!

Hour 8. 

Well, I finally finished reading Wintersong. I loved that book and I’m so glad I was able to read it all in one go. I’ll write a longer review tomorrow, hopefully (and it’s been a while since I’ve written a review, isn’t it?). Onto the next one. In the meantime, here’s some more photos from other challenges!

The Reading Women’s #ReadMoreWomen challenge: I posted a picture of books I enjoyed by women of color.

20171021_133624

My rendition of Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker for Outlandish Lit’s #CoverFromMemory Halloween Edition challenge

Hour 12  Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
2. How many books have you read so far?
One
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
It’s gonna be a surprise since I didn’t plan this far.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Not too many interruptions. Just to get food and check Twitter. Or making sure Cecil’s not eating anything he shouldn’t be.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
I feel like I have the hang of it now. It’s so much easier now that I’m living by myself with fewer distractions. TweetDeck has been helping me keep track of everything, as well.

Just One More Thing’s  Decades of Reading Mini-Challenge I decided to list three books (for my three decades I’ve been around) that have essentially changed my life. Well, except the 90s because the literal act of learning to read changed my life.

1990s My First Little House Picture Book series (Not going to lie, I had to call my mother to remember that…) http://www.kidsbookseries.com/my-first-little-house-picture-books/?more=1

51lNdO1ouBL

2000s Tithe by Holly Black

46777

2010s Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

452244

Hour 21

Oh man, I think I might actually make it the whole 24 hours! I’m finishing up I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert, hopefully in the next half hour, and then I’ll be doing something easy. I want to mix it up a little, since two of the books I’ve read for this event have been music-related. Or drugs-related. When 8am comes around, I’m going to have the nicest sleep ever.

Hour 24 Closing Survey!
1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Honestly, Hour 23 was pretty rough. I kept realizing my eyes were closed.
2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read! Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones; My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix; I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert; Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (not done yet)
3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners? All of them! I enjoyed them each in their own way.
4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you smile? Video checkins maybe?
5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep? I’m definitely going to do this again. I don’t know if I can volunteer yet, but maybe one day.

Leigh Bardugo Signing @ Politics & Prose

20170928_183630.jpg

I went to Politics & Prose tonight for Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns signing. This book is a collection of fairy and folk tales from her fictional world, from Ravka and beyond. It’s illustrated by Sara Kipin, and from the glimpses I’ve gotten from the inside–I want the illustrations to be a surprise–they’re very beautiful. Have I mentioned on this blog how special Ms Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy is to me? Well, it is, and she’s one of my two favorite YA authors.

I got there around 45min before the event started to get some of the Grisha-themed food they had at The Den, which is Politics & Prose’s cafe. I had the Through the Woods sangria and the Karina’s Orange Blossom Cake. Both were delicious. While I loved that there were themed alcoholic drinks, the biggest audience was underage, and they only had one non-alcoholic themed drink. They ran out.

There were so many people there, which was actually kind of fun, if not sweaty. Even getting there with plenty of time to spare, the seating was already taken up, and I was kind of toward the back. That was okay though, since I’ve been to a signing with Ms. Bardugo before, and I could hear just fine with the microphones. I think there were some bitter feelings though from others, which I totally get.

I was really happy to see so many teenagers there, since most of the time I only see adult YA fans. Of course, my cynical heart had to eyeroll at a couple of people, but I’ll keep the reasons why to myself. I chatted a little bit with some women around me, and felt good to talk about the characters in the books. Like asking, “Wait, isn’t that where Jesper’s dad is from?” and people knowing who I was talking about was a fairly unique experience. I rarely get to talk books with people because all my reader friends and I read different things.

The talk was really good, and so were a lot of the audience questions. I don’t remember a lot of what was talked about, though. I enjoyed it a lot, though. Although I think I just narrowly missed some spoilers for Crooked Kingdom, which I’m in the middle of reading right now.

20170928_184228

Afterwards was the signing. Pre-orders of the book came with tickets for getting the book signed, and I was in the second group.

So I had a really great time. Really enjoyed myself, and now I’m going to see how mad my cat is at me for not being home to feed him AT SIX.

Baltimore Book Festival

20170923_134626So on Saturday, I went up to Baltimore to check out the Baltimore Book Festival. I hadn’t planned on going until Friday night, I saw that Lara Elena Donnelly was going to be there. She wrote Amberlough, which I bought the day it was published but haven’t touched it since, even though it checks all my boxes. I scribbled out a quick plan that night and went today!

The weather was hotter than usual, and the sun made an unwelcome appearance, but I guess that’s my fault for expecting the weather to cooperate with the seasons. It was in the Inner Harbor this year. I don’t know when it moved there since the last time I went was in 2010, and it was at…someplace a bit more north of that.

20170923_135239

The first place I hit up was the Radical Bookfair Pavilion where there was a panel about transgender issues. I actually caught the very tail end of the presentation, so I don’t know what was discussed. I picked up the presenter’s book though, You’re In the Wrong Bathroom: And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions about Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People by Laura Erickson-Schroth and Laura A. Jacobs. Ms Erickson-Schroth and I had a nice conversation as well while she was signing the book for me. That tent had a bunch of really cool-sounding panels about social justice and race and things like that. Probably because it was hosted by Red Emma’s, Baltimore’s anarchy/communist bookstore.

I got some crepes for sustenance (ha!) and they were delicious. Then, I stopped by the Maryland Romance Writers tent because there were some interesting sounding “craft of writing” panels, but when I got there, the discussion wasn’t really holding my attention.

20170923_145518

Then, I went to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America tent. I sat in on a panel about creating “secondary worlds,” which I learned is the term for worlds that aren’t our own that we make up. Pretty entertaining. I asked a question about discerning just how much of your world-building legwork you should share with the readers before it gets distracting. The general consensus was that any fact about the world should perform double duty. Not only should it say something about the world, but also about either the character or the plot. I thought that was pretty good advice, actually. Oh, and there was this really annoying man who kept interrupting the panel by walking past the tent with his big speaking screaming about Jesus.

After that, I got Amberlough signed, and Ms Donnelly and I chatted a little bit. It was really nice. At both signings, I got complements on my green velvet blazer, which was a pain to wear, but at least I looked really good.

20170923_211703

Not pictured, the beer I knocked over with my foot while taking this picture. 

I didn’t stay too long because of the heat, and I really wasn’t in the mood for browsing around. I even only bought one book. There were also a lot of Jehovah’s Witness tents set up, which was a little off-putting. There was also a good number of tents set up by people with self-published books, which always depress me for probably classist reasons, but also compassionate ones. I feel for them.

I’m glad I went though. There was mead for sale.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Oh look, another Katherine author! I think I heard about this book watching one of Simon Savidge’s YouTube videos, and he was talking about how it was based on Russian fairy tales. While I don’t really care much for fairy tales at the moment (for the same reason I don’t care much for Harry Potter at the moment), I am absolutely in a Russia phase. I love reading stuff about old Imperial Russia and even modern Soviet Russia. As I’ve mentioned, I ran a Pathfinder campaign in a St. Petersburg-esque city-state called Aleksony.

This book does nothing terribly unique in terms of plot, but I found it incredibly engaging. I liked how Arden handled the passage of time, and the fact that I haven’t read too many Russian-based fantasy stories, aside from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. I liked Vasya, the main character, even though she doesn’t seem to be much different from any other plucky headstrong young woman. But that didn’t really bother me. I liked how even though there is a kiss, there’s not much of a romance. There’s a bit of Frollo-Esmeralda-ness going on with Father Konstantin, but I loved how that was done. He wasn’t rewarded, and I’m still not convinced he’s a villain. I really appreciated Vasya’s relationship with her brother Alyosha and her half-sister Irina. Arden also makes Anna, who is described on the blurb as a kind of wicked stepmother, sympathetic. She’s not evil–she has the sight and is frightened.

The only thing I was really annoyed by in this book was 1) the usage of the word “wet” as a noun. Mostly because I never use wet as a noun. It’s either wetness or dampness or even damp if pressed. And 2) there was a little editing mistake where the narrator mentions a character by name even though Vasya hasn’t learned his name yet. Oops!

Really excellent, enjoyable read.