I’m going to go in order of how much I liked them.
First off, the McGarry. It’s called Nowhere But Here and it’s about a girl whose biological father is a biker. She ends up falling for one of the teen bikers who want to join his “club” and discovers seeeecrets about her family. Did not finish (or DNF, among booklovers). I made it to around page 150. Yes, I’d like to know what the big deal is about Emily’s childhood, but not if it means reading page after page of men, teen and adult, not telling her things because We’re Manly Bikers with a Club; We Only Tell Things to Other Manly Bikers in Our Club. Seriously, it makes biker gangs look like a bunch of boys in a treehouse yelling at everyone below that they’re not included. Do Not Want. Also, can’t read the word “hot” one more time. It’s a Harlequin, in both publication and spirit. It’s only that the ages are younger. Meh.
Before you think Harlequin Teen is only putting out Teen Harlequins, let me present to you Adi Alsaid’s Never Sometimes Always. This poor young man, who I’ve met twice at BEA and found to be very nice, will suffer terribly from John Green comparisons, but I feel like that’s fair. This is a good book to read between Green publications. It’s about two besties, and the guy’s in love with the girl. They have a list of high school cliches they’ve decided to never ever do, and then senior year they decide to try all of them. And it changes them. Like Paper Towns, there’s a sense that you need to get a life to have a life, and that mooning for someone does you little favors. This was a quick, solid read that I’d recommend to any almost fan of realistic YA. Just not the ones who need dark, dark books to read all the time.
Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti have given us Zeroes, a book about a group of kids who have oddly similar superpowers, except when they don’t, and even then they feel kind of similar? What is it about Australian writers that I can’t bring myself to straight-up love? Zeroes is a really good book, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something missing it from it. I say that a lot when it comes to Australian writers. The book follows the Zeroes, a group of powered kids who all found each other and started training together like a superteam, but then had a falling out thanks to one kid’s shitty power of having a “voice” that somehow knows things about other people and always tries to give the kid what he wants, even if what he wants is stupid and destructive. The kid gets in trouble thanks to his power and they rally to help him even though they’re still pissed from that time his voice told them all off saying things that hurt them to the core. And there’s a girl who controls the emotions of groups, or the emotions control her, who knows. Some of the powers are a bit vague, but it goes with the “we have no idea what we’re doing” vibe of the book, and most of the time it works. Sometimes, we’re left following characters that are spinning their wheels, or having rather sudden life-changing epiphanies, and I think the book could’ve been cut down a little, but probably at the expense of one or more of the writers, so I can see why that didn’t happen. But it’s a good book. Did I mention it’s a good book? I feel like I’m criticizing it more than it deserves. Wait, did I mention it also sometimes feels like they just wrote down a gaming session? (Villains & Vigilantes or Champions, guys?) And the guy in charge never gels for me. But it was a good book! Like, really good! I immediately put it on my order list for the library! Flicker and Anon are awesome! Read this book!
Last but totally best is David Levithan’s Another Day. A companion book to Every Day, it’s the perfect example of why companion books don’t always suck and in fact sometimes absolutely shine. Another Day follows Rhiannon through her life during the period of Every Day, but the thing about Rhiannon is that she is her own person with her own decisions to make. It’s not just that we get to see her making those decisions, but that we really do get into her head and see the why. We see the difficulty of the situations: first, the relationship that isn’t quite bad enough to leave (very common with teenagers; very common with me when I was a teenager and even in my 20s), and then the relationship that readers might blow off as “*I* could handle it” until they see it from her perspective. This was a completely engrossing book, and could probably be read as a standalone. I mean, I wouldn’t. I’d read them in order. But I read almost everything in order.
Another immediate order for the library, and possibly one of the best books I’ll be reading all year.
This graphic novel is a good one to suggest for women who’ve never tried a graphic novel before. It’s a quick read, funny at times, sad at times, and a memoir to boot. (For those who have problems wrapping their heads around “comics aren’t just for kids.”)
Jennifer Hayden is like any other young girl past puberty: worried about how her body defines her. In her case, it’s a lack of breasts. A late bloomer, Jennifer takes a long time to come to terms with the beauty of her body, meanwhile living a life where she’s the only one letting breast size define her. Meanwhile, her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, her dad has a mistress, life always moves forward, and finally, at 43, she finds herself repeating history with a breast cancer diagnosis of her very own.
This book covers a huge chunk of Hayden’s life, from her teen years to middle age, and yet it moves smoothly along. There are times when her breasts take a backseat to life: that magical time in life where you’ve accepted your body as it is, only to have it continue to change on you and keep you forever off-balance. The art is consistent–not beautiful, not the best–and Hayden, like most memoir writers, is another privileged person obsessed with themselves and their past and their past enough for an eyeroll or two. There’s also religious epiphany at the end but I thought it was extra interesting because, unlike most American narratives, it’s not about Christianity.
The Story of My Tits is a good read, and I enjoyed it. As I get older, I’m looking for more narratives that include older women and women’s health experiences, so while this isn’t my usual teen-and/or-superhero fare, I’m glad I picked it up, both at BEA and once it was here in my home.
Disclosure: I received a free copy at this book at BookExpo America 2015. This has no bearing on the honesty of the review. See more about my feelings on ARCs and galleys on my About page.
The book came up three times in conversation and Facebook in a week period. I knew then that this was The Hot New Book, and we should order it at my library. So maybe I should check it out from a library that already had it. After all, I like cleaning and tidying and organizing–mostly that last thing–and I like methods of doing those things. When I clean, I usually clean to UnFuck Your Habitat’s 20/10 timer and I really like that, but it didn’t MOTIVATE me. So hey, I’d flip through the book and then return it fast, because it has a long hold list in the county.
I ended up reading every page of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and implementing its method immediately (even though I can’t do it fully yet as I’m in the middle of transitioning to a new place). After two hours, I had a bag and a half of trash and two bags of giveaways.
I feel great.
Ultimately, Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning boils down to this: care. Care about what you own. When you care about what you own, you take care of it, and when you’re surrounded by things that you care about, you care about yourself too. According to Kondo, she’s never had a client fall back into untidiness. I really do see why.
To some, Kondo’s method seems silly, especially in America. Touch everything you own. Does it bring you joy? If not, get rid of it. Thank it for its service, but move it along. For some of the people I’ve spoken to, it makes them feel silly. It’s not a far leap for me, because I talk to everything already. I name everything. My mouth guard thingy that’s supposed to keep me from grinding my teeth in my sleep is named Dwayne. I don’t know the name of the frog in Candy Crush, so I’ve named him Blorf. All my stuffed animals have names. If something doesn’t have a name, it gets called by what it is. “Let’s go, Pan. Time to make some [mock] pepper steak.”
But no, I’m still not going to thank every sock and pair of underwear I got rid of for its service. For one thing, I do not ascribe to the same religion as Kondo. Her Shinto beliefs dictate that everything has a spirit or energy. That’s why thanking things makes sense to her. It makes sense to me, but I’m not doing it one by one. I am thankful, though, and that is very close.
But back to the touching. It really is genius. It forces you to look at everything individually, to feel textures and give yourself time for memories. It’s one thing to look at your closet and say, “I’m getting rid of this, this, and this–this I was on the fence about anyway, this was a hand-me-down I didn’t really want, and this I haven’t worn in a year or two.” It’s another to separate each article of clothing and focus. Then you realize, there were a LOT of things you were on the fence about. That shirt doesn’t fit right even though it’s pretty. That thing is ugly and I keep it in case it’s laundry day and I haven’t done my laundry in like two weeks. I even tried some things on. I got rid of a suit that I kept because it’s beautiful. It was from my mom when she retired. But I’m a children’s librarian. There is literally no time I need to wear a suit. I’ve had it for five years. Why not give it to someone who’s going to wear it?
This was the LEAST amount of removal I’ve done so far, with the closet items. And the reason for that is that I just moved so I already got rid of a bunch of things. I wish I could show you some of the more dramatic changes, but I either didn’t record them or I’m not showing them to you (like my underwear drawer). My drawers all gained at last a quarter to a half of their space back, between the touching everything and figuring out whether it sparks joy, and Kondo’s suggestion that everything be folded.
She’s right about that too, by the way. Everything does have kind of a sweet spot of folding. I had a good time folding for the first time in ages. I don’t think I did it right every time, but I didn’t slog through, and that was a huge change as well.
The life-changing aspect of this is that at the end of the day, you feel really good and, more importantly, really decisive, about what makes you happy. After an hour of the KonMari method, I was skipping songs on Pandora left and right, and I finally, FINALLY started looking at my giant pile of books like something I could part with. Kondo gives you permission to let go of everything, no matter what it is. She said something that hit me hard: If you have a book you bought but you haven’t read it in years, the point of that book was to give you the joy of acquiring it. If you’re not reading it, it’s fulfilled its purpose. It’s done. Time to move it along.
That’s going to be a little more difficult with ARCs because I can’t just resell them, and many of them are signed to me, but I work at a library. I have a ton of book-reading friends. I have a blog where I can do book giveaways. This can happen.
Kondo believes you only have to do one big tidy in your life, and then everything will fall into place: you will have “enough.” This doesn’t mean you’ll never acquire anything else, but it does mean you’ll know exactly what you have and where things will go and what you have room for, and what you can make room for. A friend of mine questioned this belief. She cleans based on usage, buys based on usage. I told her, “You’d be surprised.” And you will be, if you use the KonMari method.
So, the Life-Changing Magic of Drinking the Kool-Aid, I know. I can’t shut up about this book. I apologize to anyone I’ve spoken to this week about it, because that’s like my ONE topic of conversation. But I’m sad I don’t have the long-term home where doing this will make sense (we’re moving soon again, I think, hopefully into a house of our own). In the meantime, I can keep piling up the giveaways.
And choosing joy.
I’m pushing forty. I’m not sure I like calling myself a “Book Girl” anymore, but “Book Woman” sounds so different to me, and not something I connect to. Bibliophilialana? Heh.
But the age thing has its perks. One is that I no longer feel like I have to finish every book I read. In fact, I’ve been really good this year and most of last at putting books down. Occasionally, I’ll have to read a short story or two for a book club (or, in the past, a class) and I’ve marked down the book as “unfinished” because I didn’t have time for the rest, but mostly if I have a book tagged “unfinished” on Goodreads, I didn’t like it.
There are exceptions. Sandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star seems like it might end up being an amazing book, but the language (primarily phonetic) makes it a difficult read. At another time in the year, I might have kept going. But I didn’t have the mental energy to continue. At this point in my life, I don’t see that changing.
“Unnecessarily arty” is another reason I might stop reading a book, aka “pretentious.” There are times when this works for me–Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven was a bit unnecessarily arty–but other times I can’t handle it. Laura van den Berg’s Find Me made me want to hit my head against a wall and I gave up on it quickly. The main character does not seem intelligent enough to carry the language of the book, and that’s a deal-breaker for me.
Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun seemed unnecessarily arty at a time I wasn’t in the mood for it, so I moved on.
Sometimes a book is so out of my wheelhouse I don’t bother. Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season might be a brilliant book, or it could be a hodge-podgey mess with awkward world building. I literally cannot tell you, but I felt like I wasn’t the target audience so I can’t figure it out. Sometimes it felt like both, or either, and sometimes neither. I gave up.
Lately, one of my “nevermind”s is traditional male-driven narratives. I’ve read a million of them, they’re most of what’s on TV, and I’m over it. I am also not interested in reading about men who feel like they own or are owed by women, where they treat women like something less. The “woman-child” trope from early sci fi does this a lot, which is why I didn’t make it far into Larry Niven’s Ringworld. This comes up a bit when we’re trying to go literary with my online book club. I did not finish The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk and Julian Barnes’s The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters for this reason. I can handle it from one of the main characters, but not all of them, and not when the author normalizes it.
Interestingly, I feel that Mort(e) by Robert Repino falls into this category. Even though it’s about a cat during the ant revolution, when you take away the animals from the story, it’s a Gary Stu guy who is the best at absolute everything trying to find a woman who may or may not care if he’s looking for her. Noooope.
Tryhards don’t make it very far, either. Chelsea Cain’s One Kick seems like it’s trying soooo hard to be “edgy” but it ends up not making a lick of sense. Why is this woman fighting naked with a guy, and why is he not telling her that he has a way into the place she’s breaking into? Because dudes Not Communicating is, like, I dunno, sexy or something? And because naked is sexy? It’s not sexy. It’s confusing and dumb. Sway by Kat Spears felt immediately like an inauthentic voice for a douchey teen boy, so it hit a bunch of my buttons. I gave that one up very quickly indeed.
The Joker: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder was a tryhard of the worst caliber: LOOK HOW GRITTY I AM SO GRITTY AND GRIM IS IT 1989 AGAIN GUYS GRIM GRIM GRITTY GRIM
God Hates Astronauts Volume 1 didn’t strike me either. I gave up on that pretty fast. It was too…goofy? I don’t even remember. I think it was just like “GROSS ON PURPOSE EVERYONE!!! SEE HOW GROSS!!!” Manhattan Projects Volume 1 was even more annoying to me. Ridiculous does nothing for me but there was something so…I don’t know…indulgent about it? Childish? EVIL TWINS AND STUFF GUYS
Sometimes it’s just that the writing doesn’t strike me. I was given a copy of a book called Transfixion by an author who contacted me on this blog. My review went like this: “I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I made it to page 120 and gave up. It’s not that it’s awful, because I would’ve given up sooner or maybe even hate-read it to completion. But I didn’t think it was good, either. I never connected with Kaylee–worse, I never thought there was enough of Kaylee to connect with. When she loses her ability to speak early on, I expected as a reader to find that connection in her innermost thoughts, but instead the author maintains his distance and the book suffers for it. Without either voice available to me, I lost my ability to understand her motivations, and ultimately lost interest in her. Being mute, she has the feel of one of those video game characters you’re forced to take with you on a mission, and it was too easy to become frustrated with her often sulky and clueless decision-making. I think I could’ve kept reading had the other characters been finding information at a rate faster than once every fifty to a hundred pages, but they weren’t exactly asking intelligent questions or making good decisions either, so at 120, that was it for me.”
David Almond’s The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas didn’t capture my attention either, although at this point I can’t remember why. I think it’s because it had the feel of a Roald Dahl dark comedy, but it didn’t have the stuff to back it up.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of reasons I don’t continue reading a book. The important thing, I think, is that I’m happier for it. I don’t feel like so much of my time has been wasted as I used to. I let them go. And knowing when to let go is an important skill for everyone.
One Day, The End.: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories by Rebecca Kai Dotleich is a charming book with adorable art by Fred Koehler. Although each story is only a few sentences each, the pictures tell a longer, more interesting story that would make for a WONDERFUL story-time book. I imagine letting the kids fill in the blanks. Could be good in the classroom for story prompts and to teach about how art tells its own story. Highly recommended.
Elephant & Piggie: I Will Take A Nap is another wonderful book from Mo Willems. Children who haven’t been introduced to Willems yet are missing out a man who is probably the Dr. Seuss of his generation. Both a talented artist and storyteller, Willems creates books that both children and parents look forward to reading. To say anything about this book would be to give away too much of the story, I think, except that Elephant is feeling a bit cranky and needs a nap. But you don’t need me to tell you anything about it to know you should buy it or check it out from the library. These are the books your children will cherish as adults as well.
Having recently finished a handful of Advanced Reader Copies (or ARCs) that I received at Book Expo America, I decided to seek out some advice on what to do with them. I wanted to be sure that I could not shelve them in my library.
I ran across this article, and I saw far, far too much of myself in it. Although I have never sent an angry email or felt like someone SHOULD have given me a book, I have felt entitled to the ARCs I receive just because I bought a ticket to BEA.
I get literally over one hundred ARCs per year, sometimes over 150. I don’t read all of them. Some sit on a shelf in my room as I take out library books and reread old favorites. I give many, if not most, of them to local libraries to use as prizes for summer reading programming, but then there will still be a handful that I swear I will read “someday.”
“Someday” will not help the publishing companies, and “someday” is not what they gave me that book in exchange for.
So today I’m going to start seriously reviewing the ARCs I’ve read thus far from BEA 2015.
The first book I began with was the one I said I was going to begin with: Ernest Cline’s Armada. Cline bowled me over with his book Ready Player One a few years ago, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t enjoy it. When I first finished Armada, this is what I posted to Goodreads: This is probably really a 3.5. Early pacing is uneven; it feels like a short story that needs editing or a bigger novel that didn’t quite happen. But it entertained me. It was exciting and interesting and fun. I now need a jacket for my Armada patch.
So, okay, technically I reviewed the book in exchange for an advanced copy. But that is the least I could have done. Let me discuss the book in a little more detail. There shouldn’t be any big spoilers here.
With Ready Player One, we are entrenched in ’80s nostalgia by way of plot: the whole world is on an ’80s themed scavenger hunt created by a man who grew up in the ’80s. In Armada, the main character is a teenager who grew up worshiping his father, who grew up close enough to the ’80s that the ’80s become a focus for the teenager as well. For some readers, this isn’t hitting as well, but I find that ridiculous. My generation is dumping ’80s nostalgia by the truckload on our children. My daughter saw Clue and Ghostbusters before she saw any non-animated movie from her own generation.
This teenager sees a spaceship from his favorite video game hovering in the air above his hometown, and then a whole lot of stuff happens from there, once you deal with a chapter or three of “here’s his life so far.” It feels like it was written backward–the reader can easily become bored with the drop-off in action–but it picks up after that and stays face-paced for most of the rest of the book. What has upset many readers is that the plot is similar to that of The Last Starfighter. That’s not a movie I watched over and over again (unlike Clue), so my memory of it is vague, but I know enough to know that’s not what Cline is going for here: Cline is asking instead, What if The Last Starfighter Knew About The Last Starfighter? Cline works well in a meta-world, and makes some really interesting, subtle points about the cynicism and optimism of the post-Gen X world.
And of course it also works as a big-budget movie. Because of course it would. It should!
Armada likely isn’t half the book Ready Player One was, but I’m okay with that. Until publishing companies understand that the reading public can wait longer than a year for a great author’s second book, we’re going to be getting these rush jobs. I’m not going to hold it against the authors. Armada needed a lot more work, but it’s still a fun, quick read, a good summer read, and I enjoyed it.
Side note: When I got this book signed by the author, he seemed surprised that my daughter had read the book and picked up on a lot of the references. He assumed that she would have an electronic device by her and look up the things she didn’t know, rather than that she’d already been introduced to most of it by me. This is extra-interesting because I feel like I’m part of a generation where we shove all our interests in our children’s faces all the time, especially the geeky parents. I’ve known quite a few little kids who can tell me all about R-rated movies and M-rated television shows because their parents want to share their interests with them (or because the parents don’t censor what their children watch). As someone who forgot exactly how raunchy Clerks was (“HOW?!?” my husband asked), I’ve been guilty of this myself but mostly by accident. But for the most part, many of the things we grew up with in the ’80s are kid-friendly with the occasional sex joke, so of course we’re going to share our favorites with our kids.
I didn’t, however, let my kid watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off until she was old enough to take a skip day. For reasons.
Next up: children’s books!
Well, I saw it. The first half was great: a solid adaptation of a mash-up Ultimate Fantastic Four and 616, if a little Ben-light. And then something happened. I don’t know what. When they step out into the Negative Zone, or Planet Zero as they call it here, everyone stops being able to act. It’s wooden and the dialog doesn’t help. Reed starts saying all these ill-fitting cliched lines. Then there are a few good, dark scenes about the trauma of going through these incredible physical changes, except Reed’s trying to get to Ben and Ben is calling out to him but Reed isn’t responding even though he’s getting closer and closer and Ben is flat-out panicking. What the hell? Then Reed runs away…and that’s it.
What the absolute fuck?
Then there’s a really odd time jump and we’re a year into the future, where Ben’s being used as a government killing machine and Johnny’s up next, and so Sue tracks down Reed and OH WAIT, I forgot the part where Sue doesn’t even GO despite being one of the original team. It’s only bros, drunk bros at that (which is clever but the lack of Sue is awful). Sue…calls Daddy and rats them out. Sigh. Then she gets hit by whatever and they’re trying REALLY hard to show why everyone got such different powers, except I’m not sure what happened to Reed then?
So Sue tracks down Reed and is like, “Your bestie’s being used by the government whatevs but THEY WANT TO USE MY BROTHER SO WE HAVE TO STOP THIS.”
The weird thing is, other than the murder count Ben’s been racking up, Johnny’s just trying to do something constructive instead of rebelling, and his dad’s telling him how wrong he is, which is some of the worst parenting I’ve seen in a movie since…the cluelessness of the parents in Inside Out. But, frankly, (HAHAHA oops) they were just clueless. Franklin Storm (…sounded weird every time) was flat-out wrong.
So with all this government stuff set up, then they find Doom, which is a whole other issue, on Planet Zero I guess driven mad by 365 days of isolation and possibly um combining with the planet’s energy source/life force thing, which um I think gave him tk, then he blows up heads when they try to bring him back to Earth and starts babbling about his world and destroying ours, which by the way was all Franklin Storm (…still weird) and his mindset so…great job again, Dr. Storm.
I don’t know who gets the worse end of the stick: Ben and his five pre-trip lines of dialog or Doom and his absolutely wonky, shoved-in storyline. Which is too bad. He’s an interesting character in the beginning: he’s dropped out of Dr. Storm’s think tank and he’s arrogant and in love with Sue or at least in love with the idea of being in love with Dr. Storm’s daughter.
Another weird thing was the ages. Miles Teller looks like a teenager. Michael B. Jordan looks like he could be a teenager. Kate Mara looks 25. Victor’s supposed to have been working on the project for ten years, which makes him seem to be about 25, but since Sue’s supposed to be around the same age as Johnny, either Victor’s EXTRA creepy, the ages are off somehow, or Sue’s creepy because she looks way older than Reed.
There’s no luuuurve story with Reed and Sue, just some friendshippy cuteness, which I liked. Victor sees it as flirting, which nah. Pre-flirting, maybe. For two awkward people. I liked how awkward Sue was. Mara’s portrayal of her is great. I just wish they’d aged the character up a bit. Or made Reed older–maybe putting some stuff in about a time skip between the time of the science fair and when he’s recruited?
Yeah. So it was a strong first half and then a muddled mess. The director says that was studio interference, but unless they’re so desperate to break even, they’re not going to let us see what should have been.
Which, they might be desperate to break even, since right now all they’ve done is continue a trend of lackluster FF movies and kept their rights to the characters for another chunk of time.
PS I wish they’d just let the adoption thing not be an issue. Never mention it. It’s an awkward thing for Reed to bring up and I wish Sue had called him on it.
I’ve seen trailers for the Fantastic Four movie twice in the theater now, and both times I’ve felt I was the only person in there that had a positive response to it. On the few websites where I read my news, being the spoilerphobe that I am, you’re lucky to see the occasional “I’m willing to withhold judgment till I see it”–a rare thing on the internet anyway. Mostly, it’s rant after rant on how the movie looks awful, and it’s going to tank, and blah blah blah.
The racism issue aside (although that is a Big Effin Deal and we should keep talking about it), I find this to be extremely hypocritical, given that the movie looks like a fairly faithful adaptation of the great Ultimate Fantastic Four run that started back in 2004. If the fanbase, or nerds if you will, were so thrilled to see the nods to the Ultimate universe first portrayed on the screen by Samuel L. Jackson (whose likeness was used in the comics when the movie was a twinkle in someone’s eye), why have they suddenly turned on UFF? Is it because most of them haven’t read it? Or, like many have posited, it’s just an excuse to bring out the racism?
A little from column A, a little from column B, I guess. Fans are not a monolith any more than any other group, of course, but the trailers are solid. Action, powers, some laughs, a dash of romance. The studio’s even changed the logo that fans hated so much, to a 4 tastefully behind the scenes, rather than up front, which led all of us to call the movie “Fanfourstick.” The posters still have the old logo, but both trailers I saw (I’m pretty sure they were different) had the modified logo, which looks a lot nicer.
I’m going. I’m taking my non-comics-reading friends with me. I will likely enjoy this movie, hopefully more than the bland by-the-numbers Alba/guy from Ringer version we got or its terrible cloud-villain sequel.
I realize it’s not the MCU and therefore the sun won’t shine out of its butt or whatever, but it’s Ultimate Fantastic Four on screen. That’s AWESOME that we’ve come to a place and time where making a straight-up alternate universe version of a superhero team is a legitimate thing that studios are willing to put a lot of money into. Haters gonna hate, but the average nerd should be giving this a chance. After all, if this does well, maybe we could have Red Son Superman or Golden Oldie May Parker.
My laptop has been a hot mess for over a year. If you breathe on it funny, the plug falls out and it dies. If you dare open two programs, it chugs. If you leave Facebook open and it goes to sleep, you have to reboot it–as soon as it finally stops giving you the spinning icon. So when I post, I usually start a draft on my tablet and take it to the laptop only when I need to do things that the tablet isn’t great for. It also means I’m not always looking at my goal lists and my to-do lists. This is probably a good thing, because otherwise I’d feel overwhelmed all the time.
My 2014 WIB list still has over 100 items on it. Let’s see how much I can get through with just a line or two. I’m starting to think I should just write real Goodreads reviews, since trying to write once a week means I get busy and my week is gone, and suddenly it’s a month later.
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah is the teen version of her book Falling Leaves. I meant to get Falling Leaves, but it had been years since I read another of her books and when I saw Chinese Cinderella, I assumed that was the right book and got it. I think she also did another version for even younger readers. It’s an important story to tell, about what it’s like to be an unloved child, and how some families do not blend well, but I think I would’ve preferred the older version. Good for teens, though.
There is a new translation of Albert Camus’s The Stranger, and I don’t like it. It’s meant to be more noir, a reflection of the author’s intent and influences, but the sentences are often so short that they come off as the narrator being simple-minded rather than terse. It made for a difficult read.
Alethea Kontis’s Enchanted, the beginning of the Woodcutter Sisters series, was not my thing, and I gave up on it pretty quickly. Part of the problem was insta-love; I forget the others by now but I think maybe an anachronistic feel? I gave away the other book I had in the series without even opening it.
Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things felt like more of the same and not quite enough from an author I usually really enjoy, if not flat-out love. A disappointment.
I was supposed to read Anthony Trollope’s The Warden for a book club, and while I thought I could read it no problem, I wasn’t in the mood and I didn’t care whether I finished it, so I didn’t. I’ll maybe get back to it one day but it’s not a high priority.
Anne Tyler and I are not what we once were. I used to love The Accidental Tourist, and now I’m not quite sure why. Muriel is incredibly irritating, whereas once she was one of my go-to Manic Pixie Dream Women. I had forgotten that a huge part of Macon’s life revolved around the grief of losing a child. Macon annoyed me; his family annoyed me; I wanted to punch almost everyone in this book. When I read another Tyler this year, I didn’t quite feel the same way, but close. Oh well. I guess I have little tolerance for “quirky” anymore.
I wish I hadn’t finished Becca Fitzpatrick’s Black Ice. It’s a mess of a book, a Harlequin romance mixed with a bad thriller to give us some sort of YA book, but not a good one.
I don’t get the hype over Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It might just be a harder sci fi than I prefer, or maybe it’s a great book and I don’t see it. But mostly I was confused–not by the gender stuff, but by the plot and the time jumps. It was like two books smooshed into one, when two would’ve been much better.
I also read Foxtrot Beyond a Doubt, Camp FoxTrot, and Wildly Foxtrot, things I do when my daughter leaves her books on the table and walks away. Of them all, Wildly Foxtrot was my least favorite (not that they aren’t all entertaining) but it’s also the oldest, so it seems like maybe Amend came into his own in the late ’90s.
I did some Clive Barker rereading and I’m still of the mind that while Weaveworld is pretty good, it’s a bit draggy and Imajica is the best book he’s ever written, possibly one of the best books ever. He’s a more visceral Neil Gaiman, and I mean that in the medical sense. Barker immerses himself in a world that has functional bodies: not just the blood-n-occasional-guts of horror, but spit, semen, sweat, and his characters and worlds are richer (if messier) for it. I really want to read his new one, but it’s a bit down the list right now, unfortunately.
I am really enjoying Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9, and last year I read the first three trades. I always go back and read again when I get a new one, and the latest one always seems not as good as the rest, and then the next one comes out and I see how it all fits together, and then I bump the previous trade from 4 to 5 stars.
I reread Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency for the first time since high school. I have never been a rabid Adams fan; I couldn’t really read dry sarcasm on the page when I was young so British humor was a problem for me with Hitchhiker’s Guide. I had to see a movie version before I realized how good it really was. The end of Dirk Gently is kind of muddled, and holy heck does Adams have an issue with writing women in his books. But other than that I was entertained. Not enough to read the other one again though.
I think Adams was at his best when he wrote Last Chance to See, a non-fiction book about his travels around the world seeking endangered animals. It’s a great book and I highly recommend everyone read it.
While I’m at it, other favorite first-time reads from the year:
Fairest: In All the Land – Bill Willingham can be great. He isn’t always, but he can be. I will miss Fables, despite some of its sexism issues.
Jim Butcher keeps knocking it out of the park in Skin Game, the latest Dresden Files book. This one reads like Butcher binge-watched Leverage, but it’s not loosely disguised fan fiction (KELLEY ARMSTRONG) so I’ll take it. It’s a heist book, woo! I love heists. I’m so excited for Ant-Man.
Jo Walton’s My Real Children is an amazing alternative history book about a woman who has Alzheimer’s and remembers two distinct sets of memories, with different partners and children. It’s the kind of book you can recommend to a wide range of people because it’s literary enough to draw in the literary readers, and spec fic enough to draw in the sf people. The only people you can’t really recommend it to are people who need high levels of action. I loved it. You should read it.
John Scalzi’s Lock In is a near-future thriller in w…
Sigh. The plug fell out.
John Scalzi’s Lock In is a near-future thriller where a portion of the population is completely paralyzed in body but not mind. Technology comes to the rescue, and people can have meaningful lives with manmade bodies or online existence. Chris, who primarily chose the former, is an FBI agent who is assigned to a murder case related to the illness that causes lock-in. Don’t read anything about this book ahead of time, then Google it and have your mind blown.
Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series ends with Dreams of Gods & Monsters, a satisfying conclusion, if a bit rushed at the end. Not my usual fare, this YA fantasy series is rich and beautiful, and I recommend it for contemporary fantasies readers.
Not every story in Margaret Atwood’s new collection, Stone Mattress, is five-star, but overall, the book itself is. Here she gives us her look into the minds of average people, artists, murders, victims, including the characters from one of my favorite of her books, The Robber Bride. Sequel-ish!
The first issue of Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction blew me away (no pun intended) and when I bought the first volume, I was even more impressed. I’ve never read anything so good at discussing and portraying sex the way real people discuss and think about sex.
I read Orange is the New Black and while I don’t love everything about Piper Kerman, that’s no different than how I feel about the show too. Seriously though, this might be a privileged look at women’s prisons, but it’s still a good one.
Rob Thomas (not THAT Rob Thomas) continues the world of Veronica Mars in two novels, the first of which is The Million Dollar Tan Line. It’s always great to see Veronica again, and the book does the show justice. Excited to read the second…one of these days.
Finally, my favorite book of the year was Rainbow Rowell’s Landline. A romance with a Twilight Zone twist, it’s the story of a woman who’s been working more than her family needs her to. When she chooses to work instead of leave with them for Christmas break, something very strange happens that causes her to reevaluate the relationships in her life. I loved this book so much I made my first decorated cake to celebrate it. It was a delicious but amateur-looking cake. But Rowell appreciated my willingness to embarrass myself for the Greater Book Good, and that’s what matters.
Whew, almost 30 books, right? Good for me. Maybe good for you too? Not just for reading but I hope you’ve found a rec in here somewhere.
(Jillian: My Real Children, it’s all you.)
Until next time…
I’m a spoilerphobe and that’s how it’s going to stay, but I do like early bits of news and teaser trailers. That means this weekend is the best for me, because at San Diego ComicCon everyone likes to give away just enough information for me to pretty much run around in circles all weekend screaming and crying.
Leaked footage is popping up and disappearing all over the internet, but here’s a few links to some of my favorite bits I’ve read and seen so far:
About 15 seconds of X-Men: Apocalypse has been leaked, and Storm’s hair is AMAZING.
I am pretty sure Deadpool said “Fuck Liefeld.” I guess we’re not worried about that R rating anymore.
Suicide Squad Harley impresses. I actually liked what little we got of Leto, too.
Batman V Superman or whatever it’s called does not look terrible in the trailer. Wonder Woman looks thin but mighty. I think the movie will seem coolish in the theater and be crappy on rewatch like Man of Steel, but we’ll see.
Merida from Brave is coming to Once Upon A Time, and of course she looks very insecure (sigh), but so is Dark Swan, who looks ridiculously intriguing. See both clips here.
And while Daredevil season 2’s Punisher looks great, the important thing is JESSICA JONES AND LUKE CAGE TOGETHER AT LAST PLEASE TO HAVE MAKEOUTS
Flash season 2 trailer just dropped, and you have to go through more than half of it to get to the “new” stuff, which is pretty much voiceover but worth it. Vibe! Jay Garrick!
What else? Oh, yeah, ASH VS EVIL DEAD which, frankly, looks FANTASTIC and I’m so excited for it even though I don’t have a huge love of Evil Dead. I enjoyed the 3rd one, covered my eyes at half the second one, and that’s about it. But I love the character, I love horror comedy, and I love Bruce Campbell.
There’s lots of other stuff going on too. The CW is picking up the live-action Archie show Riverdale, and Arrow’s getting a new costume and supposedly lightening up a bit (thank God), there’s an Orphan Black twerking video going around, as well as a blooper reel (which is not that funny, but it shows how Tatiana Maslany STAYS IN CHARACTER ALL THE TIME even between takes, which is amazing and makes perfect sense.
Ant-Man in, what? A week? And it’ll be another week before I see it, I think, unless my husband gives me the okay to see it without him, which I can sort of imagine him doing because he’s so nice, but I can’t imagine me going like I did with Man of Steel because it’s a Marvel movie and therefore going to actually be good. :P
LIVING THE DREAM