Saturday, October 31, 2015

Slade House

Really, the only thing I know about David Mitchell is that he wrote a book called Cloud Atlas and it became a movie wherein actors portrayed people of a race not their own, which is supremely messed up, especially since this is the twenty-first century.  Then again, celebrities are bound to show up in brownface, blackface, and yellowface for Halloween this year.

Now more than ever, I'm beginning to understand hermits.

However, it's not David Mitchell's fault that they decided to make actors be made up as different races in the movie.  I believe the concept of Cloud Atlas has to do with souls moving through time but in different bodies.  Mitchell seems quite enamored of this concept of the soul, and it forms a central part in his new novel, Slade House.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ginger Pye: or, Was the Newbery Committee Actually Alive That Year?

Yesterday, I was describing the agony of reading Ginger Pye to one of my coworkers, and she asked, me, "Why did you torture yourself and keep reading it?"  I told her, "So that I can write a cranky review at the end of it, and save others from unintentionally picking it up."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This looks a lot worse than it actually is because one of these is an audiobook, and one is an "I-quit-the-audiobook-so-it's-in-transition-mode" book.  Onward!

Slade House by David Mitchell.  I've not read any of Mitchell's other work (it's big and scary and seems very "Modern Literature" to me which is inexpressibly frightening), but this is really good so far.  Other readers mentioned that some of the characters in Slade House appear in his other books, which is a fiendishly good way to make me want to read them.

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch.  Netgalley had this out for free to promo the latest in this series.  I love a good British historical mystery.

Two Graves by Preston & Child.  I did make a dent in this one night, then had difficulty sleeping.  I can't believe I forgot how engrossing these books are.

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.  The audiobook of this is more and more delightful as it goes on.  I think I shall have to do all of them on audiobook and I will never know what music is trending.  Oh well!

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey.  So, when I checked the book, those hours of torturous audio only got me through half the book!  I am determined to finish this because I also have his Fifth Wave series to read and arhghgghhgh!

Les Mis is a given, but highly entertaining so far.

Still Waters (Sandhamm Murders #1)

It's not often that my Amazon First Reads pick for the Kindle is a book that I actually finish, let alone really, really, really enjoy.  I am dancing with impatience for someone to finish translating the rest of the series.  I need this in my life.  Curse you, free books!

First off, you need to know that although this takes place in Sweden, this is not The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It's not super edgy and it doesn't need trigger warnings.  But make no mistake: something is rotten in the Stockholm Archipelago.  We've got bodies galore here.

Oddly enough, I desperately now want to go to Sweden.  I want to see these islands.  If Vivica Sten didn't already clearly have a good thing going with these novels, she could totally write travel books. I didn't even know that Sweden had a vacation archipelago.  Sweden, why are you so awesome?  I mean, except for the Nazi thing and the no daylight in the winter thing.

On the quiet island of Sandhamn, a man walks his dog in the weak dawn light.  There, on the beach, is an object that does not belong.  Everything on Sandhamn has a place: the houses are all painted the proper and attractive Falu red.  People boat and fish and picnic together.  Mysterious and foul-smelling masses on the beach are not protocol for a Sandhamn summer.  Especially when it turns out that this isn't just a know of seaweed, but a body entangled in a fishing net, its flesh eaten away and dissolved in the sea.

The policeman heading the investigation, Thomas Andreasson, suspects foul play, but cannot immediately prove it.  The deceased, Krister Bergmann, was a bachelor, with only a cousin for family.  His job, however, working for a company that provided and stored alcoholic beverages, made him suspect.  Evidently, alcohol smuggling and black-market sales are a thing in Sweden (I mean, they could be everywhere, but I live in Wisconsin, when you can buy booze pretty much whenever you please and wherever you like), so it's possible that Krister was killed by some sort of Baltic Sea mafia for not holding up his end of the deal.  But it could all be speculation, right?

Until his cousin, Kikki, shows up dead on Sandhamn as well, even though she lives and works as a croupier in Stockholm.  Her body is battered, but there no evidence of a killing blow.  Toxicology reports that Kikki had ingested rat poison.

This stumps the police.  Who kills with rat poison anymore, anyway?  Wouldn't the person notice if they were drinking or eating rat poison?  Who beat Kikki to death?

But this is a murder mystery that's rather light on the investigation aspect.  Instead, Sten focuses mostly on the Linde family, who has a summer house on Sandhamm and vacations there every year.  Nora, a lawyer, care for the two young boys while her husband, Henrik, ditches them to race yachts and do stuck-up stuff.  She's expected to cook, clean, care for the kids, and be the perfect wife.  But Nora is smart and opinionated and she's been offered a promotion that would free her from the tyranny of her idiotic man-child boss.  She's also Thomas' best friend and has been there for him through the tragic loss of his infant daughter and subsequent divorce.  I shipped them--I cannot deny it--but I like how Sten handled the dysfunctional relationships.

Sten paced her novel extremely well, and I really enjoyed the ending after thinking about it.  It's not a typical ending, but it is a believable, realistic one.

Extremely enjoyable.  I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jennifer Lynn Barnes writes ridiculously fun books.  They're also extremely intelligent and (as far as I can tell, since I am as far removed as being a Washington mover and shaker as the two poles of an ion) really well-researched.  I love The Naturals and can't wait for the third book to come out ... and now, what is this?  ANOTHER awesome teen thriller for me to devour?  NOM NOM NOM.  *belches politely*

Monday, October 26, 2015

Another Storify: Profession + Female

Green Mansions

As I've mentioned numerous times, I really, really like lists.  I adore the satisfaction from crossing something off of a list.  I hang out on List Challenges because I want to see myself in the top percentile of book readers (yes, I was a competitive student, too).  Naturally, I really love those 1,001 books to read lists that are redone every few years.  Many years ago (okay, like 10), before sites like List Challenges existed, I copied out all 1,001 books and printed them so I could physically cross out the ones I'd read.

Did I use this just to get Jeremy Renner's face in my review?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

On numbers in books and body image

Warning: This post isn't really about books, but about my crazy mind.  Feel free to skip.  Also, there are some weight numbers quotes in here if you're sensitive to that.

I am upset.

I can't even come up with a coherent title for this post.  It's been growing inside me for a long time, a bit like a pearl grows inside a bivalve.  I wouldn't dream of saying that this post has pearl-like qualities!  However, it was caused by an irritant.  This irritant got into my brain and my heart and because it hurt, I started pouring feelings over it to try and dull the pain.  Feelings like shame and self-loathing.  Like worthlessness and melancholy.  I swathed this irritant in horrible, bilious emotions.  And now here it is: a gobbet of word vomit, reflecting the ugliness of my disordered mind.

Whenever an author includes a character's weight or numeric clothing size, I'm instantly put off.  It's entirely unnecessary.  Numbers don't create a complex character.  You should never shorthand someone into the "fat and nice" stereotype by giving a clothing size (which, if you have ever tried on clothing, which I suspect the vast majority of you have--barring perpetual nudists--you know varies wildly from one brand to the next.  It's even more fun when it varies within the brand!).  Or do the whole "I'm-too-skinny-and-gorgeous-but-I-don't-see-it" teen girl thing.  This one drives me mad.  Literally everyone else in the book knows that the girl is hot, but she's usually like, "Ooh, I hate being so bony.  I have to buy tiny pants.  Boys will never love meeeee."  Sizes and shapes are used to "other" characters, with the intent of rounding out their character or ... something like that.

And now you're like, "Hold up, lady.  Those are actual body types."  Ding ding ding!  Yes, yes they are, Virginia!  There are a multitude of body types, but the point is this: NONE OF THEM ARE WRONG.  You cannot have the "wrong" body.  I mean, unless you are a human who has been turned into an octopus with some sort of mad scientist's ray gun, in which case you are probably hallucinating and should get yourself to the hospital.  Bodies are bodies are bodies.  They are.  Just are.  They have nothing to do with a person's character.  And the numbers used to measure those bodies don't need to be bandied about in a narrative.

We need to write about people with all sorts of bodies.  People want to see themselves in literature.  But how do you think a fat guy feels when he's reading a book and a character with his weight is described as a lazy slob?  Or how do you think a girl who's genetically just going to be thin and small feels when she reads about how girls think that body type is "gross"?  Yeah, they're going to feel like crap.  Please do not use those numbers to "add character."

For people with disordered eating tendencies, eating disorders, or those in recover, it's generally a bad idea to talk about numbers.  I generally don't know what I weigh, because I know the numbers would send me back into throwing up my food and eating practically nothing to start with.  I freaked out (and am still freaking out, but more quietly, I suppose) because I took a medicine that made me gain weight, and there was nothing I could do about it.  So now my pants don't fit and I have to buy a bigger size.  Even though I know, intellectually, that the number is really meaningless, my illness tells me that it makes me worthless and lazy and powerless.

And yet, I feel healthier than I have for many years.  My back is finally cooperating.  My celiac is under control.  I can do pull-ups.  My quads are poppin'.  So what is it about the number?  It always comes back to numbers for me.  For other people, it's different things.

For the past few months, I've been overflowing with self-loathing and wrapping it around a number in my head--one that I feel is "ideal."  I'm not that number now, nor, really, should I be.  I've read about other readers feeling uncomfortable being the same weight as someone described as "obese" in a book.  I'm tired of it.  I'm so tired.

Oysters keep their pearls inside until someone hacks them open and pries them out.  I'm no oyster (also, I have a really unpleasant mollusk intolerance, so that just wouldn't work out) and I don't make lovely, rare things, and I'll tell you about what's been irking me.  It just takes something to kick me into gear.

I was at the gym this evening, and even though I had a book with me for my bike intervals, I grabbed a magazine instead.  It wasn't a good choice.  Health magazine, which is nice for the workout gear and utterly pants for everything else.  I try not to read "fitness" magazines, because they portray an unrealistic view of weight and health.  Tonight, though, I was tired and I wanted mindless brain junk food to distract me while the bike pretended I was climbing twelve hills (ugh interval training).  Everything was pretty fluffy, and I had a good laugh at Tracy Anderson's "workout," but then I started reading the cover celeb's interview.  It was Victoria Justice, about whom I know two things: 1) she was on a t.v. show on Nickelodeon and 2) I keep thinking she's Nina Dobrev.

Victoria was talking about her diagnosis with Hashimoto's, an autoimmune thyroid disorder, and how she took thyroid medication to regulate her hormones.  "At first, I was losing a lot of weight, then I went on tour and I started gaining weight, and it was the most I'd ever gained in my life. I was, like, 115 pounds. Then when I filmed a movie last summer, I actually went under 100 pounds. It was crazy, but things have leveled out, and I'm back to normal."

Mostly I just skim-read while I'm exercising, so I misread the first bit.  I thought she said "I was losing a lot of weight ... like 115 pounds," and I was like whoa, that's not possible.  Then I reread it and just felt angry.  And sad.  But mostly angry.  Seriously: "I was, like, 115 pounds" is the most you've ever weighed and it was some sort of Greek tragedy?  Then, cue the faux-concerned humblebrag about how much she lost.  Girl, I get it.  My weight ups and downs have been caused by hormones, too.  It's awesome that she talked about having Hashimoto's and being treated for it (although following a diet by a "Korean acupuncturist" doesn't seem super legit to me) and how it affected her body.  Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder at a young age is really scary.  I was 20 when I found out I had celiac.  I felt like I would be missing out on the rest of my life.  Such drama!  But she didn't have to give out numbers and seem so horrified that she ended up weighing (wait, get me my fainting couch) 115 pounds.

Thankfully, I had hit the interview portion as my intervals ended, but when I got off the bike I wanted to punch something.  If that's the worst thing that's happened to you, then you're really ... lucky?  Sheltered?  I don't know.

I realize that I am mentioning numbers here, but as illustrative quotes only.  I'd never talk about my own numbers, because it's nobody's business and also ... I don't really know them, for the sake of my sanity.

And just that one sentence in a short interview in a pretty brainless magazine had a huge impact on me.  I was angry, but I also immediately compared my weight to hers, her height to mine.  I caught the spiral before it became uncontrollable, and I funneled everything into writing.

I have a long way to go before I feel like my brain is close to healthy.  But every time I read something like this it's like when someone wet-coughs in your face and you get a horrid cold.  Wait, is that just me as a public librarian?  Anyway.  It was my poor decision to choose to read that, and I accept that.  I shouldn't have done something potentially triggering.  But when I pick up a book, I don't expect to see the main character's weight marching across the page.  I want a story, not a tabloid rundown of the character's body type.

So, I'm not quite sure how to end this.  So, um, the end.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Giver: A Reread

I first read The Giver in fifth grade.  It made me angry and it made me sad and it frustrated me.  To this day, I don't know why they had us read it then.  I was too young to understand it.  Or maybe, in a deep-down place, I did understand it, and that understanding frightened me, so I buried it with sadness and anger and confusion.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: North and South

Yay, another Throwback Thursday!  These pre-blog reviews get their moment on #TT!  Today I'm resurrecting my super-cranky review of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  I do have a sneaking suspicion that were I to reread this, I would enjoy it.  I guess I wasn't so enamored of the unlikeable protagonist a few years ago.

Note for everyone who will be clutching their pearls/loosening their stays/employing fainting couches after reading my rant: I have not seen the BBC adaptation but I completely intend on watching it and adoring it because I love everything the BBC does.  Onward!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Hi, my name is Pam, and I have a book addiction.  Specifically, an addiction to reading far too many books at once and not actually finishing them.  So what's clogging up my brain this week?

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey.  Somewhat miraculously, I made it through 6 of the 12 discs of the audiobook before I decided that I couldn't do it any longer.  The narrator's creepy "lady voices" and inability to pronounce things sent me over the edge.  I'll be finishing it in print format because dear lord, it is genius.  I have #allthefeels with this one.

However, I am just sick and tired of music (although I admit to a late-night purchase of the new Pentatonix album) so I started the other audiobook I checked out, which is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, and it is dee-light-ful!  When a prim-and-proper-sounding British lady interrupts herself by howling and woofing, you know it's going to be good.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  Um, I got through like three more pages?  Yay!

Two Graves by Preston & Child.  This one is glaring at me.  I AM SORRY.  But I received an ARC of the latest Pendergast, which has lit a fire under me to catch up so I can read the new one.

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes.  This was available on Overdrive and I thought, "Why not?" and now I'm just thinking "Why???"  I have a feeling that quite often, the Newbery is awarded by people who have never met a child.  They themselves sprung fully-formed from their parents' heads à la Athena.

Dead Wake: Now Featuring 1000% More Tangents!

Erik Larson is one of the very few authors whose books I will read as they come out, no matter how long I have to wait.  He really is just that good at what he does.  It's even more extraordinary considering I really only read two types of nonfiction: cookbooks and true crime.  Sometimes the cookbook is also a comedic memoir, like You Deserve A Drink, but in general, I am not a nonfiction person.  Thankfully, Twitter has consoled me that other librarians have the same proclivities in nonfiction, so I don't look like the only cannibal mass-murdering librarian around.  (I am not one, by the way).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

This is my second stab at this book.  At first, I thought we were getting along really well.  As soon as the author started describing the new library, I was drooling.

A lot of people think that librarians still only wear orthotic shoes and buns and glasses.  That we shush.  That--oh horror of horrors!--we do not use Technology.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mini DNF Review: This Is Where The World Ends

I've not read Zhang's first novel, Falling into Place, but I remember it being praised.  So it was a no-brainer for me to request an ARC of her sophomore novel on Edelweiss.  And almost from the very beginning, it made me ... angry.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Whatever, Friday

I just realized that my book review I wanted to finish is going to take me forever due to the fact that we really need to talk about Kevin (no, sorry!).  We need to talk about why a twelve-year-old would know the name of an actor from the original Hawaii Five-O from casual rerun watching on the weekends.  We need to talk about the author's inability to talk about technology and social media in a relevant way.  We need to talk about how "Twitter" is not a verb.

So enjoy your Friday.  Sip your post-work (or just plain work, depending on the type of day you're having and your willingness to get caught) libations.  Cozy up with a good book or shut up and dance--it's up to you.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mini-Review: Tomboy by Liz Prince

It's another case of the I-really-wanted-to-love-this-but-it-was-just-okay book doldrums.

Am I being overdramatic?  Is the sun hot?  This graphic memoir by Liz Prince was well-done, and did a bang-up job of examining gender norms, but still left me wanting more.  More of what?  I'm not exactly sure.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Let's assume that until you hear otherwise, Les Miserables is going to be on my reading shelf.

Other than that!  Here are this week's books!

Still chugging along with Dead Wake by Erik Larson.  I actually had to stop reading one night because I felt so anxious.  This may have been due to the impending doom facing the ship, or my horrible recollections of Leo-mania when Titanic first came out.

Two Graves by Preston and Child.  I'm ashamed to say that I haven't picked this one up since I read the first third of it last week.  It was a really nice weekend, you guys!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  Finally getting around to this one and I'm already fascinated, just a few chapters in.

Green Mansions by W. Henry Hudson.  This is a book I've had on my reading list since high school and I recently found it on Overdrive.  Yes, it's already ridiculously racist.  Ugh.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.  I WANT A LIBRARY LIKE THIS.  Ahem.

You Deserve A Drink (Don't Mind If I Do!)

I am not in any way, shape, or form similar to Mamrie Hart.  We are like polar opposite personalities. She did and does things that I would never, ever, ever, ever do.

I think that's why I loved this book so much.  It was vicarious living.  Reading about the hilarious drunken routs but suffering no ill side effects myself!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hansel and Gretel--the TOON/Neil Gaiman version

I'm seeing a lot of "I'M SO DISAPPOINTED" reviews for this, and even "UGH GROSS I HATE THIS."  That's fine.  That's a valid opinion.

I loved this.  Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.  You know what else?  I love that song (really uncomfortable with the video, though).

I'll just wait here while the majority of you close this review and unfollow me for being uncool and basic and whatever else you want to throw in there.

*twiddles thumbs*

Monday, October 12, 2015

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

I have never found an anthology of stories that I love entirely; that is, I love all of the stories in the collection.  It's never happened, and I don't think it ever will.  That's kind of the beauty of anthologies: there's something for everyone, which also means there's something everyone won't like.  I've had really mixed reactions to anthologies in the past--the best one I read was Unnatural Creatures, mostly because it was a) edited by Neil Gaiman and b) had a story by Neil Gaiman.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys pretty much blows everything else out of the water.  There was only one story that made me uncomfortable, and two others that were fine, but not awesome.

I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Leaves of Grass

I hated most of Leaves of Grass.

Now, everyone (okay, all the English majors and the hipsters) is probably puffed up with rage right now.  They might even look something like this:

And that's fine.  I stand by my opinion, but seeing that the majority of humans who have read this book enjoyed it (dogs, cats, and other creatures--I know not what they think), it's a bit strange to be all alone over here on the concrete jungle side of the fence.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

To my extreme embarrassment, I'm still reading The Fixer (the Jennifer Lynn Barnes one, not the Malamud one, which I've also read, but which isn't nearly as fun).  I keep leaving my Kindle at home, so I'm not reading on my lunch breaks like I should be.  It's got a super-quick double-time pace, though, so hopefully I'll have it finished by next week's WIRW.

I'm also still meandering my way through Dead Wake by Erik Larson, but that's a book that you need to take your time with.  Larson is so particular about setting everything up just so that you have to really pay attention.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  This is extremely large but also extremely readable.  Also Hugo goes off on tangents, they are interesting tangents, so there's that.  Although I don't know if I can handle the musical soundtrack being on continual loop in my head while I read.  I love Les Mis, but considering the length of this book, I may go mad.

Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  I used to be a Preston & Child überfan, and then I started working full-time and lost track of the Pendergast books.  I'm trying to remedy that.

Still Waters by Viveca Sten.  This was the Kindle First for September, and I'm just now getting around to it.  It seems quite well-written, and now I really, really, really want to go to Sweden.  This seems to be as much of a character study as a procedural/murder mystery, and that's a nice balance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


A book doesn't need fancy vocabulary or intricate sentence structure or overarching metaphors to be beautiful.  George by Alex Gino is one of the most moving books that I've read this year.  It's gentle, thoughtful, painful, and thoroughly human.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Black Mountain (Alex Hunter #4)

Now that James Rollins has started writing more military action thrillers with a marked decrease in Strange Monsters, I have to go somewhere else for my killer xenobiology fix.  Greig Beck has been one of my favorite choice, particularly because the main character, Alex Hunter, is a genetically-modified super soldier who does REALLY AWESOME FIGHTING THINGS.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mini-Review: Roller Girl

Evidently, I had a bit of a binge on graphic novels recently.

Hooray!  Book binging is the best kind!

I was really looking forward to Roller Girl, and while it was quite good, it wasn't exactly the descending-from-heaven-MG-title I was looking for while Raina Telgemeier writes her next one (please, she is writing another, correct?).  I can't quite decide whether my newborn desire to take up roller derby is fortunate or unfortunate.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Throwback Thursday: L'immoraliste

I wish I had been able to read this in the original French, but alas! I had to settle* for the English translation available at my library. I felt it was quite well done, but I could only think of how lovely it probably was in French.