Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon

This was one of the books that my boss got me from ALA last year. I wasn’t actually expecting him to get me anything. I just asked in passing whether he could get me some horror books because I was jealous–one of these days I’ll get to go–but I didn’t expect him to send me five! But I came into work one day and there was this big old package on my desk. I duly wrote him a thank-you note.

Henry Franks is a YA horror novel, and one I really really liked. I loved the background of the oppressive Georgia summers, and I loved the secrecy and the way the author let slip that all was Not Right. Henry, the main character, has amnesia, which makes life really confusing and lonely for him. He’s also plagued by reoccurring dreams in which he has a daughter. And what the heck is up with his dad? His only real friend is his next door neighbor Justine.

So, I kind of got a good idea of what was going on when I realized that most of the characters had names of characters in Frankenstein. But that didn’t spoil anything because it made me want to read on and figure out just how Frankenstein plays into all this. I was not disappointed. I won’t say more than that, probably.

I enjoyed his relationship with Justine. He takes notice of her bare skin and her bra strap, but it doesn’t feel unsafe, you know? Henry never acts like a gross teenage boy, and Justine has a life and presence outside of her relationship and friendship with Henry. And that’s the thing too–they were willing to be friends. Justine’s parents didn’t want her dating anyone, so even after they share a kiss, they agree that they can be friends with one another, too. I also like how Justine gets along with everyone. Bobby the football player talks with her, and she’s relatively popular. It just really isn’t an issue though that she’s hanging out with Henry. But really, school isn’t even that much of a focus point in this story.

I had Lana del Rey’s “Summer Bummer” going through my head when I started this book, and that really set a good stage for the rest of the story. Just in case you wanna give it a try.


Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

I’ve been slowly reading more science fiction as the years go. I took a Women in Science Fiction class with Jane Donawerth at UMD the summer between freshman and sophomore year, and that opened my eyes to some really excellent fiction. Then, beyond reading Frankenstein every year until I knew it backwards and forwards (not really), I didn’t really read much sci-fi until the year I worked at the used book warehouse. That was a terrible job, but I did find a lot of fascinating obscure books. I found a copy of David Weber’s A Beautiful Friendship, with its cover depicting a cute teenage girl and an even cuter cat-like alien. Fantastic book. Since then, I’ve been giving sci-fi more of a chance, especially because I’ve found that sci-fi is the perfect setting to play with social norms. No matter what the Sad Puppies may say (I had the pleasure of explaining to my old housemate why Chuck Tingle was Hugo-nominated).

At first blush, Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi is everything a social commentary science fiction space opera should be. The majority of the characters are black or brown, the main character, Alana, has dreadlocks and an auto-immune disease, I’m pretty sure everyone is at least bisexual in this universe (nice!), and the story itself very polyamory-friendly. The future the liberals want, you might snobbishly call it, if you wanted to ignore the fact that these kinds of people actually exist! In real life! Whenever I read a story like this, the only way I can describe it is “refreshing.”

Anyway, so the main point is I really liked this book, though I wish there had been more action. I actually just wish the book had been longer. The romance felt a little lackluster. Either not developed enough or not enough chemistry, either way, I think that could have been written better. I also just don’t jive with polyamory (tried it once, just not for me). Though the philosophy is incredibly lovely. I liked the idea of the Transliminal folks, and how they go through different realities and colonizing them. Would have liked more of that. I think a more thorough exploration of spirit guides would have been nice as well. But the characters are awesome.

Some comparisons could be made to Firefly I guess, but I certainly won’t be making them.

Asunder by David Gaider

Let me tell y’all about Dragon Age and how I’m obsessed with those games. For better or for worse. I have played hundreds of hours on each of the three games, I love the characters, I’m a downright nerd about the lore, the culture, the geography. I solely write Dragon Age fanfiction. Need I go on?

Asunder is the third tie-in novel for the Dragon Age games, taking place between the events of Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. And if you don’t know anything about mage-templar politics and Thedas, I can’t really help you there. But anyway, it’s about Rhys, Evangeline, and Cole–a mage, a templar, and a ???–and the discovery that they make that the Rite of Tranquility, a ritual that severs a mage’s connection to the Fade, therefore rendering them dreamless and emotionless and desireless, can be reversed. This discovery is something the Seekers of Truth don’t want being common knowledge because it would further rile up the mages who are already riled up from the Kirkwall Chantry explosion.

So, this book was really fun. According to my housemate, these books are relatively unique in that the writers of the games actually write the books. David Gaider was the head writer for the Dragon Age games, and therefore his books fit really well into the canon. As opposed to, say, the Mass Effect novels, which I hear are dreadful. Gaider writes pretty well, and I loved how he described places and seeing how they differed in my head from in the game. I could hear Wynne’s and Shale’s voices in my heads as they spoke, and I of course loved the politics and finding out the context behind events and characters in Inquisition. Especially the vote for mages’ independence. I am staunchly pro-mage.

I think the books do a better job of exploring the facets of each gray issue than the games do. In Asunder, for instance, the Libertarians, the Aequitarians, and the Loyalists are all given a voice, and it doesn’t feel like the book is trying to tell you who you should side with. Too much, anyway. I feel like it acknowledges the abuses the templars can inflict on the mages a lot more clearly and sympathetically than the games can. Especially in Dragon Age 2, since there’s so much flavor text that you may not even stumble upon, therefore understand that yes, it really is that bad. By the end of the book, I actually found myself sympathetic toward Evangeline, simply because she was the only templar who seemed reasonable in the book. Will wonders never cease?

I think I wanted it to be darker, though.

New Books

I did a bad thing. And by bad, I mean, excitingly excessive. I spent something like $80 on books this past Saturday. The first batch was from Books-a-Million at the mall, and the second was from Second Edition Books in Columbia where I was visiting some friends. The trip to Second Edition was especially fun since I went over to the horror section and found a ton of Merry Gentry novels by Laurell K. Hamilton (I swear I’ll talk about another author one of these days) and grabbed, oh I don’t know, the first six? Except I could have sworn I already owned A Kiss of Shadows, only to find once I got home that I don’t. Oh well.

But I also found a lot of cool other things, which you can see below:


Let’s see…okay, I’m finally going to read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, since for some reason I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I also re-bought Anno Dracula by Kim Newman, which I lent to a friend a few years ago…. And then I also re-bought Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, since I had just recently watched the movie and was feeling in the mood for some purple angst. Maryland Legends was in the regional section of Books-a-Million, and I was really excited to find that it was published recently enough to include the Testudo Shrine Fire of 2013 at UMD.

Fun fact about that fire, I was working at the Welcome Desk in McKeldin Library the night it caught fire, which spawned this genius tweet as I watched:

Anyway…can’t wait to read these. I just wish I hadn’t spent so much, because afterwards we stopped at the one place within an hour of me that sells bottles of absinthe and by that point, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to spend any more money. Drat.

New Shelving!

20170708_185349Summertime for me and my peers means it’s time to find new housing! Y’know because school schedules and all that. Not that any of my housemates or I are still in school, but that schedule seems pretty hard to kill. Anyway, because both my housemates have moved out early, they’re deciding what they don’t want to bring with them, which means that I get a bunch of their stuff (what’s up, new Britta pitcher?). One of those things was a book case in our dining room that had mostly been holding Random Crap and my collection of loose teas.


And we all know that I’m a book hoarder right? Well, now you do. My bookshelves have long since been filled, and the landing outside my bedroom has been having to make do in the meantime. But now…


Ta-da! That’s actually not too many books. I guess it seems like more when it’s literally obstructing my path. So, when it comes to shelving, I arrange by author, and I usually separate fiction and non-fiction. That separation isn’t the case here because there’s actually not too many non-fiction up there. Just some housekeeping and literary theory books. Also, Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden isn’t in the right place alphabetically because it WOULDN’T. FIT. It actually bothers me a lot.

I also have a dedicated shelf to books that Aren’t Mine. Like library books and books other people lent to me. Those, I don’t organize at all. Because they aren’t going to be there long enough (in theory).

Speaking of shelves, I did my first organized-by-color shelf today. We moved my housemate out this morning, and I told him in no uncertain terms that I really wanted to shelve his books. He doesn’t have that many books, so it’s not the most stunning thing, but I’m pretty happy with it. I separated normal-sized and over-sized books, and I figured out a nice way to cope with the black and white spines by focusing on the text color. So a black spine with red letters goes in the red section, for example.


Sue me, I went to library school!

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector & So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors

These two books are translations I read for my Read Broader challenge. The Lispector was originally in Portuguese and the Nors was in Danish. I got both from my library. Now, the reason I have these paired together is because 1) they’re very similar in all but story, and 2) I don’t really have much to say about them.

These books were fine. I loved the narrator in The Hour of the Star, his personality and his turn of phrase. The sentences were pretty difficult to make sense of though, and through reading the afterword by Colm Toibin, I learned that that’s actually Lispector’s style, messing around with what a sentence is.

In So Much For That Winter, I could relate to both narrators’ (two novellas in one) depression and ennui with life. I also really appreciated the glimpse into two Danish lives. Each of these novellas was written in a format similar to poetry, though in the second one (the name of which escapes me) it’s more like a list of fourteen items.

So, like, they were neat, but they didn’t blow my mind or anything. I’m finding that I don’t really care much for short novels/novellas. I read a lot of them because they’re short, but I never find them impacting me in any noticeable way. In an earlier draft of this post, I thought I had nothing to say about these books until I actually thought back to how I felt when I was reading them, and realized maybe I did have some thoughts.

All this is just to teach me to stop taking shortcuts on my Goodreads challenge, right?

The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe

(By the way, I’ve started my very first salaried position!!)

I spent the weekend reading The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe, which should have been a quick read, but it wasn’t because I was surrounded by people all weekend. But by Jove, I finished it!

This book was recommended to me by a couple I was staying with in Philadelphia last year. I was in town for the Philly PodFest to see Overdue’s live show, and that got me and my hosts discussing books we liked. They suggested The Woman in the Dunes, as well as Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee, and I think they also recommended The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem.

So, I didn’t really care for this book too much. I mean, on the surface it was surreal, which I appreciated, but I’m not really here for existentialism. I loved the village the Man found himself stuck in. This village is located on the dunes of a beach, and is pretty much a bunch of deep pits with houses at the bottom to keep the sand from…destroying the town on the surface? Again, I was really distracted by everything else this weekend, but I think that was the jist of it. People living in pits essentially as slaves to keep a small population safe.

I liked the man’s interest in insects and his fascination with sand. I would have liked to know more about the insects the Man was studying. Sand really is one of the main characters in this book alongside the titular Woman. I could complain how the Woman wasn’t really characterized as well as I’d like, but I’m starting to think that’s just a feature of surrealism–that everyone outside the POV character’s head is just a figment. Not that the Woman didn’t have personality. She wanted a radio. She was hyper-polite. She was complacent.

I also liked the ending, where a lot of the action and character growth takes place. Kind of reminded me of the ending of 1984, which might be a spoiler in itself.

I’m glad I read it, but it just wasn’t for me.