Friday, 1 December 2017

Things I Read In November

IT IS DECEMBER AKA THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (I'm a little bit into Christmas, can you tell?) Before delving into December and Christmas wonder though, let's talk about November! November was a mixture of a whole load of hard work, very very necessarily lazy weekends and then a much needed holiday spent basically sitting and knitting and buying Christmas things. The last two days of the month, however, I've been off work sick because URGH stuffed up head and sore throat and I just cannot. I haven't been reading much because urgh head but I have watched a whole load of Gilmore Girls and I'm finally watching The OA (IT IS SO COULD, how have I not watched this earlier, I love Brit Marling!)

Anyway. It hasn't been a super eventful month, and evidently not much blogging has happened, but that's ok, I was just preparing myself for CHRISTMAS MONTH. Let's see what I read in the meantime.

Fat Is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach
I went into this expecting a feminist text, and instead I got... Not that. I don't really know how to feel about this book, because it seems like in the 70s/80s, it was probably revolutionary to people that emotions affect your eating (the book mostly looks at solving compulsive eating) but now it really just... isn't. This book also suffers from age, in the sense that self acceptance is such a thing now that the feminist issue IS this book, rather than the way the book approaches the topic. I also only read the first part of the book, as the second part is more of a self help guide to overeaters, which I didn't really feel the need for, personally. For me, fat absolutely is a feminist issue, but not in the way Orbach identifies it, and dammit I want to read the ACTUAL way in which fat is a feminist issue. Someone write THAT book, please.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
This book is not A Visit From The Goon Squad, nor, I think, should it be expected to be. This book is, however, the only Egan book other than Goon Squad that I could actually see myself reading again at some point. This is very strange because it's a work of historical fiction (!!!) but it is also the story of a young woman who becomes the first female diver during WWII as well as so many other interlinking, awesome things. I was so enthusiastic about this 400+ page hardback that I carried it around with me and actually missed a bus stop once because I was so busy being absorbed by the world of the story. That is pretty much the reason I read, so yeah, you could say that I liked this book.

Bright Lights Big City by Jay McInerney
This book has a great title, but unfortunately that's pretty much the best thing about it. Firstly, it's written in the second person (EYEROLL). Secondly, the 'you' that you're supposed to be is a whiny, entitled (I assume) white man who has a pretty good job that he just can't get his shit together to actually do. I found it really hard to empathise with his self-pitying, self-sabotaging bullshit, and even though there's a pretext for all of his behaviour that you discover at the end, it was too little too late for me to actually care.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
I was surprised by The Universe Versus Alex Woods, because I wasn't that into it until about 60% through when things took a turn for the assisted suicide and I remembered how much I support that and how emotional old men make me and yeah, it's kind of good, I guess. It's narrated by the titular Alex Woods, who I didn't really like as a character (he's described at some point as being older than his years in intelligence and younger emotionally/in life skills which is pretty much it but I found it annoying because... why?) but I enjoyed his friendships and relationships and generally being in his world. It's not a book I'm going to keep and cherish forever, but I liked it a whole bunch.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I have had Maya Angelou's 6 part biography for the longest time, but have only ever read this, the first book of the collection. I started reading this because, after starting My Struggle by Karl Ove Knaussgard, I feel as though I shouldn't be reading the 'struggles' of a middle class white man before I read about the actual struggles of an African-American woman. Maya has too much grit and class to describe her life as a struggle, though, and even though her childhood was filled with the unimaginable, there is always a sense of positivity to her writing that probably buoyed her through her life. This is one of the last books I read before starting blogging, and it's just as good as I remember- so honest and heartbreaking and the writing is just so good. It's in required reading territory, so if you haven't read it yet, I don't know what you're waiting for.

Gather Together In My Name by Maya Angelou
And so, for reals, I have a goal to finish all 6 parts of Angelou's life story before the end of the year. This is the second part of her life story, and it feels unflinchingly honest, even when it doesn't show Maya in the best possible light. She technically runs a whorehouse, and becomes a prostitute herself to 'save her man' (ick), so you see what I mean by unflinchingly honest. The only thing that is maybe surprising about this book is that Angelou doesn't really ascribe any judgment to some of her more questionable choices, but I guess it's not so surprising when you think of one of her most famous quotations: "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.' Maybe judging her past seems pointless when it involves a teenager's decisions, and it's interesting to me in a sense that maybe we shouldn't judge ourselves and our pasts at all, but in fact we should all just 'do better'.

And that was November. I've been working pretty hard at trying to finish Little Women, but that's going to have to be a thing I read in December, along with, I hope, the rest of Angelou's biography. Other than that, I hope that Book Riot are going to have a brand new literary advent calendar for me to enjoy this year, and if not, I shall just have to read A Christmas Carol and watch Elf a whole load of times. What are your December plans, reading or otherwise?

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Things I Read In October

IT IS NOVEMBER how did this happen? I know, I know, time passes and life happens and yadayadayada. My October was bookended by the loveliness of seeing Les Mis with my best friend of 10 years (yes we had a friendiversary, what of it?) and going on the Harry Potter Studio Tour with my most excellent friend and most ardent Harry Potter admirer yesterday. The in-between parts have been mixed at best- I've felt a lot of work stress since I've lost half of my team but have the same amount of work, and my living situation has been confusing and mildly upsetting since I've been waiting for my boyfriend to properly move in which finally, finally happened this weekend.

So November is looking up! I finally have my honey here and I'm learning to treat work as the (underpaid) job it is and not as the end of the world. I have no winter reading plans yet which feels weeeeird, but I'm assuming at the moment that it'll involve the library books that I've paid money to reserve but obviously have not read yet (I'm a monster). My October reading, however, did involve a great deal of library books, so that's a contribution, right?! Right. See?
Bookies! Yay. Let's talk.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
So for reals, I never pre-order books because I feel too guilty about all of the books I still haven't read that live in my flat. I made a very clear exception for Rupi Kaur because Milk and Honey, her previous collection, was literally my everything when I read it in February. This was no different- I felt the feels and still have all the admiration for Kaur's writing. I can't get enough, and completely did not stop reading this until there wasn't a poem left. Read ittttttttt.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
I can't really remember what motivated me to re-read Norwegian Wood, other than the desire to see exactly what it was about it that I loved so much. It's probably still a little indefinable, but I know that I still love and admire it, and how it captures both hopeless and hopeful love.

Black Hole by Charles Burns
I... Didn't like this so much. I got it out of the library because comics! Yay! but it turned out not to be as interesting as I wanted it to be. It's essentially the story of a (sexually transmitted) virus affecting teens that turns them into mutants, but less interesting than that sounds. I felt as though too much time was dedicated to telling the teens (kinda dull) individual stories, rather than talking about the virus as a larger and more widespread issue. Maybe I'm too old, or maybe it just wasn't that good, but for me there was definitely something missing from this.

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson
Hey, I already reviewed this! But if full reviews are a bit too TL;DR for you then just rest assured that I LOVED this collection of short stories- I couldn't get enough of them, even more than the normal way I can't get enough of Jackson. THESE ARE SO GOOD AND HORRIBLE, ya know?

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I enjoyed this book a lot, and would have reviewed it for RIP had I not run out of time (and totally read too many books for it already). It's about a woman who, for the past 24 years, has been living with the hellscape of the knowledge that her brother murdered her mother and two sisters. when this is thrown into doubt though, she really starts living, and examining what happened that night and whether or not her brother is actually innocent. I enjoyed this in a lot of ways- I love the tension that Flynn brings to her novels and with this being told in the past and present, it presented a lot of opportunities to guess what had happened which is always exciting. I also loved that our narrator and survivor of mass murder isn't entirely relatable or loveable- she's sharp and mean and very selfish, and it's refreshing that she's not presented as someone deserving of all our sympathy just because she's been through something terrible. It's very good stuff, and I think it might actually be my favourite of Flynn's (so far).

From Hell by Alan Moore
Oh hey, I've reviewed this too! This is genuinely amazing, and I had expected nothing less from Moore because I always find his work exceptional. It's SO MUCH BETTER than the film, and considering Johnny Depp's face isn't in it, that's saying something.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
I picked this up because I mistakenly believed it was a scary book, but this turned out to be one of the non-scary Water's books. It also turned out to be really good- it's told backwards which is really interesting, and it covers women's stories during WWII which is an area that I have pretty much read nothing about but am of course incredibly interested in. There's really everything in this book- lesbian relationships (of course), women risking their lives as paramedics during bombings, dangerous abortions, a gay man in prison... What isn't there?! Overall, though, the characters are so engaging and interesting and everything about this book was really just excellent.

Paper Girls Vol 1 by Brian Vaughan
I really didn't know very much about Paper Girls before getting it from the library, but that is the luxury of just grabbing free books. This turned out to be great though- it's literally about a group of paper girls who get dragged into a conflict they don't understand and that I didn't really understand except that I know I liked it? VERY engaging stuff, and I read it during the readathon which was perfect.

Paper Girls Vol 2 by Brian Vaughan
Not so surprisingly, I read the second volume straight away. Surprise! It was just as good as volume 1, if not better. There is time travel involved in these comics, and this is something I enjoy A LOT about a comic, so I am all over these really. Can someone get me volume 3, please?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
I have mixed feelings about Mindy Kaling in that I usually think she's funny enough but sometimes I'm not too into it? This is why I haven't seen that much of the Mindy Project, and it's why I liked but didn't LOVE her other books. Nonetheless, I got this from the really out of the way library near my work (a nightmare because it's open for 3 days a week and I can never remember when they are/be bothered to take it back). THE POINT anyway is that I enjoyed this for the most part, and I can sidestep the parts I didn't because yeah, Mindy is pretty funny, I'm into it.

Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey! I love Jeffrey! I feel like I knew a really long time ago that Eugenides' next book was going to be short stories, but I managed to forget it and thought I was getting a novel. I'm not sure if I was excited or disappointed when I realised I was actually getting short stories (because, for reals, I loooove short stories) but I can tell you that I wasn't disappointed by the stories themselves. I mean, what can I say? Eugenides can write and I don't even know how to be critical of him really because I love him too much. I found all of the stories in this book so well written and covering all sorts of different areas of life and the world (although a lot were from a white male perspective but whatcanyoudo?) Basically, you should obviously read this because Eugenides the end.

Um, so yeah. I read quite a lot this month, huh? Readathons and, still, lots of bus time will do that for you! Here's to some more excellent November reading.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

RIP Bonus Read: From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

I think (and hope) that we've all seen the Johnny Depp movie version of From Hell. The first of Alan Moore's comic books to be taken to the movies, it involves Johnny Depp as a opium addict widower Fred Abberline, hanging out with Mary Kelly herself and generally being rather handsome and detective-y. Oh, and Jack the Ripper is sort of there too. I guess. Alan Moore hates it (as he hates all adaptations of his work, I understand) and now that I've read the comic book, I kind of hate it too.

This comic, man. It's just so much... More. More than the movie, but also just more than most comic books*, which is really what I've come to expect from Alan Moore's work. This version of the Jack the Ripper story, if you're unfamiliar, involves a disturbing plot between a doctor and the crown, secrets and blackmail and a crochety old detective who is married and not addicted to opium, and who is definitely not Johnny Depp. But, you know what? That only makes it better.

I've picked up From Hell in bookshops about a bazillion times, but after the price, the main thing that has put me off from buying it was the drawing style. I found it a bit... I don't want to say scribbly, but yes I do. Having actually read it (I got it from the library, I'm not a millionaire) I now see that it's actually the perfect art style for the story. The pictures dissolve as the murders become more frenzied, and it's dark as hell but, you know, Jack the Ripper. It's supposed to be dark, or you don't really understand what happened.

It's just so comprehensive. All angles are covered, and even though nobody knows who Jack the Ripper was (obviously) I remain fully convinced that the version of events From Hell presents is the correct one. You're going to have to read it to find out exactly what that is, but I am so behind this theory I can't even. My excitement for this book was so intense that I found myself wanting to drop everything for it, leave work early and cancel all social engagements just so that I could read the damn amazing thing. All angles are covered, all tragedies explored, and there's even a glimpse of the future, for the man who brought the world into the twentieth century.

And yet. As much as I loved the book itself, I loved the extra part of this comic, right at the back, even more. This is probably just because I'm a bit of a history nerd, but this extra comic explores the history of Jack the Ripper theories. It talks about, and debunks, quite a few of the theories of who Jack was, about why Moore chose this one specifically (VERY CONVINCING) and in general, about how pointless it is to believe you can actually solve the mystery, but how very tempting it is to try. I'm pretty happy that Moore tried, and you will be too if you give this comic a read.


*Or just books, really!

Friday, 27 October 2017

RIP XII Book the Fourth: Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

I loved this book so much I want to bounce a whole lot just at the thought of it. I think I've practically read a Shirley Jackson book a year since RIP became a thing in my life, and whilst I've had some mixed results (in summary- her short stories > her longer works) I still loooove her more than almost anyone. I didn't think I could love her even more but THEN I read this book.

THIS. BOOK. As the title suggests, this is a short story collection of, you know, dark tales and MY GOD are they dark (and quite literally perfect). My best best best thing about Shirley Jackson is that she finds the darkness in the everyday, or rather takes the everyday and makes it, well, terrifying. So, with this book, you have the woman who is just hanging out with her husband one evening when she has the sudden and irresistible urge to smash him over the head with an ashtray. I won't tell you how that one ends, but Jackson brings settings that we could all easily see ourselves in, and adds thoughts or ideas that we don't want to think we're capable of, but that we probably are.

That's maybe why it's so unsettling.

This book is really all killer and no filler though. I mean for reals, I don't think I've ever ever read a short story collection where I loved every story, but Jackson has finally won that prize. Whilst I don't think that any of the stories have beaten The Lottery as my favourite (THE LOTTERY IS SO GOOD)  it's a collection that The Lottery could easily slot into because they're all so equally... nasty. But nasty in the FABULOUS sense, in that their characters are us, and they are nasty because, you know, humanity.

It's been a few weeks now since I finished the book, so whilst I can't remember all the stories exactly (me, a fine and respected blogger, take notes? What is this madness you speak of?!) I CAN remember more than I would if the collection had only been half as good. Jackson's stories tend to linger, making you feel uncomfortable and uncertain for longer than you care to admit. There is a very short story about a woman, just a normal woman, who one night has the urge to smash her husband's head in with an ashtray, and one about a 'respected townswoman' who is stirring up trouble in all of the townspeople's lives with her poisonous letters. There's one about a mysterious honeymooning couple, and one about a girl who runs away, only to find out that she really can't go home again. It's a very specific kind of horror, very rarely supernatural, but scarier than that because you know that this could really happen. Hell, it already has.

With this book, Jackson has just really surpassed everything else I've read by her. I know I have quite a limited amount of her work left to read which makes me really sad, but I'm also so happy to have discovered her, too. I read The Lottery every year (at least once a year, tbh) in the autumn, and I think this book might have to join it too. IT IS JUST SO GOOD YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

RIP XII Book the Third: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Firstly, as always, a quick and teensy history of me and these authors. I have never ever read a Terry Pratchett book (I know), and whilst I love The Sandman beyond all measure, I have struggled to finish a Neil Gaiman novel. I have told people this a lot, and you know what they always say? 'Read Good Omens! You'll love it! It's a good introduction to both! You'll be able to finish that!'

Well, godfuckingdammit, you all were right. I hate it when that happens.

Good Omens, for the uninformed, is an epic battle between good and evil, only in a super English way. I spent the first, I'm not even kidding, about 300 pages, believing that the movie Dogma was based on this book until I realised it almost definitely wasn't and actually looked it up. It isn't! And from that moment I could actually read this book for itself and stop trying to work out why it wasn't following the plot of Dogma properly (where tf was Alan Rickman, you dig?)

Anyway! Digressions aside, Good Omens is really actually very good. There's a good angel and a bad angel, only sometimes its difficult to tell the difference, and I'd tell you they were the main characters only there's a giant cast of other characters who are all equally as excellent and so freaking eccentric I can't even. There's a descendent of a prophetess, a witch hunter, the four horsemen of the apocalypse (for reals), and ok it's been a long time now since I read it so I can't remember but let's just say- all the characters are so good.

And so English! Like I almost can't believe this book even sells in other countries because there are so many injokes and so many things that I think of as quintessentially English. I feel like this would normally annoy me (maybe it's why I can't read Gaiman books!) but, once I'd gotten into the story (which, I will admit, took me longer than usual, but once I was there, I was really there, you know?) I was all about identifying with this INSANE cast of characters because, for all their eccentricities, they're also my fellow countryfolk, and I just kind of get them. It felt pretty good.

And so. Believe the hype! Good Omens is a gateway drug into Pratchett and Gaiman (I may even read my first Pratchett soon!) and it's one that I'm pretty sure I'm going to read again in the not too distant future, because hey, I know what's going on in the first bit now! Huzzah! You're totally allowed to read it too, just so you know.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon!!!!!!!!!!!

Greetings, intrepid readathoners! It's today, it's today, it's today! I first readathoned 6 (!!!) years ago which makes me a partial veteran but nowhere near as much as some of todays participants. That readathon was my best effort (I think I got maybe 4 hours sleep?) and won't be beaten by today, but I do plan to spend The. Whole. Day. (from 1pm) reading which, honestly, is good enough for me!

I'll update on this post for ease of life, and, well, let's begin!

THE STACK!

Hour One

OPENING MEME!

1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Surrey, England. I used to be able to say London but I moved in September and I'm really sad about having to say I live in Surrey again (but, that's the only part of my living situation that makes me sad, which is good!)

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
It's probably Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides even though it's one of the bigger books in my stack... Because, NEW EUGENIDES WHAT EVEN IS THIS LIFE?!

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Ok so I never have good snacks, but today I am actually prepared so I have ALL THE PARTY FOOD. I am maybe most looking forward to Quality Street because Christmas feels, but also there are veggie sausage rolls so it's all good. 

4. Tell us a little something about yourself.
Ummm, let's see. I'm a feminist, vegetarian reading nightmare and also super awesome and cool? Or something like that, I don't know I'm pretty tired already.

5. If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do different today?
Not the last readathon, but previous ones, and I think I've already mentioned it- BETTER AND MORE SNACKKKKKS!

I'm off now to (finish) reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, brb YAY READATHON

Hour 6

Oh heyyyyy I'm here and I am not dead! Yes! I've been reading but maybe not as much as I had anticipated cause my boyfriend has the weekend off which almost never happens so obviously he needs like... 20% of my attention? Maybe less, if he's being annoying.

ANYWAY. I haven't finished a book yet but I've had fun spending the majority of my afternoon reading, so what more can I ask for? Exactly.

Books Finished: 0
Pages Read: 182 (SHOCKING I KNOW)
Snacks consumed: I ate a lot of crisps, basically for my lunch, but my favourite snack has been a cupcake THAT MY BOYFRIEND MADE UNSUPERVISED. I'm pretty proud, I can't lie.
Communication: Basically none with the internet... Sadface. I think I'm having a bit of a quiet readathon this time, chicks and dudes.

Hour 9

I FINISHED A BOOK and then two more because comic books are magical and I have had Paper Girls 1 & 2 out of the library for too long. I have decided to do the 10 books in 10 years thingy, not just because the prize is excellent, but just because it's fun choosing books and stuff. I basically never read books in the year they are published, so it will be genuinely interesting to me to see what books go with each year (relying heavily on google for this) and which one from each year I like the best! So:

2007: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
2008: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
2009: Columbine by Dave Cullen
2010: A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2011: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
2012: Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carla Rifka Brunt (honourable mention to Wild THIS WAS A GOOD YEAR)
2013: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
2014: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
2015: Finders Keepers by Stephen King
2016: The Fireman by Joe Hill
2017: Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Ok so fully half of this list was formed of the King family, but what can I say, they write good books? Also as I suspected, there were years where I struggled to find a book I had actually read (and I didn't want to go through the ENTIRE Goodreads list...) so ehhhh what can you do? Also, this was fun! Now howsabout some stats?

Books Finished: 3! What a turnaround!
Pages Read: 504
Snacks consumed: veggie sausage rolls, southern fried 'chicken' bites, mozzarella sticks and really nasty mini onion rings. There is nothing like health going on in my flat today.
Communication: I did two instagram posts and I posted my last update on twitter. That counts as communicating, right?

Hour 10

What is this? Two updates in two hours? As far as I'm concerned, that can only mean one thing- I'm going to beddddddd! No longer the hardcore readathoner, I do actually get all the sleeps now during the readathon, but since I've just started reading Jeffrey! Eugenides! Short! Stories! I will for sure be back in the morning. All the UK people reading through the night- shine on you crazy diamonds, and all you Americans/Canadians/South Americans etc for whom it is now daytime, damn you are lucky, and keep keep going! I'll catch you in 8 hours (loljk I don't sleep that long basically ever)

Books Finished: 3
Pages Read: 540
Snacks consumed: Nah, it's just too late. Or too near bedtime, I should say.
Communication: Nah, and even my fella's asleep now. Definitely time to sleep, ya know?

Friday, 20 October 2017

RIP XII Book The Second: The Fireman by Joe Hill


Ah, Joe Hill. I've been enjoying his books for quite a while now, but I feel like for the very first time, The Fireman has made me stop thinking of Joe Hill as 'Stephen King's son', and just as Joe Hill. I don't think I've been unfair in such a judgement, but whereas in his other books I've been casually looking out for Stephen King similarities, The Fireman is so good that I was too busy being excited about it to care even the tiniest bit about its author, or, I guess, its author's familial relationships.

This book though. OMG. Full disclosure: I started this book ages and ages and ages ago (honestly its so long ago I can't even remember when) and, because I have it on kindle and am an idiot, I stopped reading and just didn't start again. This, as I'm sure you can tell, was a big mistake, but also means that I only have the vaguest memories of the very early chapters of the book so don't ask me any questions please. Let's all pretend I am the fountain of all knowledge here, yeah?

So. The Fireman is sort of an end of the world book, except that it's more of an 'the end of the world doesn't have to be the end of the world' book. A disturbing disease called Dragonscale is running wild, and people are bursting into flames all over the (country? World? I think world) and it's all very upsetting. Our very very very excellent heroine is Harper, a former school nurse who is now a special Dragonscale nurse who finds out she is both pregnant and infected with Dragonscale at about the same time (like I say, very hazy beginnings...) We basically follow Harper through this scared new world and into a disturbing and AMAZING and tense story and omg it's so good.

As always, I never know how much to share and how much information turns interesting stuff into spoilers. Here's what I do know:

  • There are set pieces in this book that are too perfect for words. I'm talking setting up scenes and tension, executing plans, things going wrong and weird and bad but sometimes good, but also keeping the thread of what's happening better than this sentence is. There's a part where Hill practically apologises because the following description isn't going to be adequate enough, and the following description turns out to be so much more than adequate. This kid's got talent, ya know?
  • HARPER IS THE BEST. There's some really interesting stuff between Harper and her husband and kind of dormant violence against women and what that can turn into when given the opportunity, but Harper by herself is strong and capable and *whispers* exactly the kind of heroine that King is sometimes lacking. I LOVE HER and yes.
  • The ending! It was so unexpected (to me, anyway) and obviously I'm not going to tell you about it but OMG that ending. I just... Yes. Yes. So much yes.
And look! A whole review where I've revealed literally nothing about the book. As always. There's almost nothing I didn't like about the book, except for a romantic storyline that did pretty much nothing for me, but hey, I still wanted it to be there? Regardless, this book is incredibly thrilling, shocking, and so well crafted that I can't even with it. I give you my full and complete permission to read it, do it, do it nowwwww!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Things I Read In September


Oh man. Let me tell you, everyone, moving to somewhere you have to get the bus both ways to work does actual wonders for your reading levels. I feel like I've hardly read at home (this is not entirely true) but I still managed to read a hefty 10 books in September- more than any other month this year, and not one of them was a comic book!*

That being said, I'm still going to try and keep this monthly reads post short because MANY of the books were RIP reads and I'm trying to review them... Since this is me, we'll see how well that goes. But still here are the books (mostly- hey guess who read a couple of digital books this month!):


Here's what they were like:

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
In the interests of full disclosure, I read most of White Teeth in August, but it's still the first book I finished in my new home! It was interesting- there's a lot in it about race and British society and all sorts of twin things (I like twin things...) but for me it didn't quite come together as nicely as it should have, although it does come full circle rather exquisitely. I didn't hate it at all, I just wasn't in love with it as much as with, say, On Beauty.

End of Watch by Stephen King
As you may have seen, I'm all up to date with Stephen King reviews! (this is both a yay, and a boo). You can find the review of this one here, but let's just say that this is just an excellent detective story and I really couldn't get enough of this trilogy. I mean, you gotta read them all, but this one was especially excellent because you get some supernatural King as well as the thriller-y stuff.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Oh hey, another book I've reviewed already! THIS WAS SO GOOD, you have my infinite recommendation and you can talk with me for hours about how intricate and also just fucking thrilling it is, ya know?

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick Dewitt
Patrick Dewitt is, of course, the genius behind The Sisters Brothers, so it is frankly shocking that it has taken me so long to read Undermajordomo Minor. A couple of things put me off- in a minor (haha) way the title did cause wtf does that mean, but if I'm being honest, it's mainly that it was trapped in my Kindle app and can I read digital books? I cannot. HOWEVER. I took my iPad on a train with me with the intention of reading The Fireman but it wasn't downloaded and no wifi and yadayadayada. I hadn't bought another book with me to literally force myself to read on my iPad, and so this is the book I chose.

TL;DR, Undermajordomo Minor is great. It's like a really fucked up fairytale where places are left purposely vague and where very strange things are happening. Thieves are kind of heroes and Dukes are crazy and Undermajordomo is a made up title for Mr Minor's job and that is where the title of the book comes from. I say it's a fucked up fairytale, and it's kind of part that, and partly a drawn out version of The Aristocrats (the joke, not the disney film with cats). I liked it a lot and it got me through a train journey and its return so what more can you ask for, really?

The Fireman by Joe Hill
I finally did download The Fireman onto my iPad (I did have one terrible and dark day where the battery died and I had to read it on my phone though) and it is SO FUCKING GOOD. I started reading it ages and ages ago but stopped because iPad (are you sensing a theme here?) but it is so fabulous I can't even. I want to fully review this because RIP read, but there is so much drama and terror and end of the world stuff and even the ending is so amazing and I just can't even. I could barely stop reading it to get off the bus and get to work, and not just because I hate my job at the moment.

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Hey, I already reviewed this too! I really can't recommend it enough- it's a teensy story but contains so much, and it turned out to be so different from how I imagined it to be. A++

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto 
I love Banana Yoshimoto so much. Amrita is, I believe, her only full length novel (and in the afterword she implies that she'll probably never write another) and even though it's good and I liked it, you can definitely tell that it's one of her earlier works. What I mean by this is that, it has many of the hallmarks of her earlier work, with its dreamlike qualities (and actual weird dreams) and mystical things happening alongside everyday events, but it feels in parts too drawn out, and almost like it should have ended already. Had each of the ideas she goes with in the novel been presented in a different short story, it probably would have been a better book, but at the same time, I'm never really bored or disappointed reading her work because the writing is just too good. So, an inconclusive shrug, I guess, but I still lean towards liking it rather than not.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Ah, so many books to review, so little time. THIS IS PRETTY AWESOME, just like everyone's been telling me for years. It's just such a British look at the end of the world and I liked it a lot and I'm also going to try and write a full review of it so watch this space.

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Hey, this is that horror story about Ikea that everyone read about three years ago, look at me I just read it! (in case you're counting, this is easily my fourth RIP read, but I'm probably not going to review this one fully so does it count? Of course!) I feel like most people were underwhelmed by this but I actually really enjoyed it- it creeped me out just enough to feel sort of uneasy on the bus, and I liked the underlying horror and the backstory to the reason for the horror. I liked just about all of it, actually, and the end just leaves me free to imagine well, of sorts of different possible endings, all more grisly than the rest. It's pretty good, and if you're one of the few people who still hasn't read it, I am totally giving you permission to.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Maaaaan, this book. This fucking book. This fucking book deserves its very own review but I doubt I'll have time to write one, so let me try to be awed but brief. This book was written in the 80s but is equally, but probably more relevant now. It's depressing that this is the case, but there you go. Wolf writes about how women are made to feel bad because of how they look, and constantly told that they are less than, that they are defective in some way, that they need surgical correction, and they need to be thinner and they need to do all sorts of things to make them acceptable to the world. Wolf suggests that all of this, all of this pernicious and horrible propaganda is all manufactured so that women are kept distracted by their appearance, are kept poorer to maintain their appearance, are left weakened and tired and hungry by trying to reach an 'acceptable' weight, and this is all a trick and a way of keeping us distracted and too tired to deal with the real problems at hand (you know, men) (ok, fine, the patriarchy).

I feel like I'm probably one of the people who least needed to read this book (I'm pretty chubby and I don't wear makeup and I still think I'm a divine creature) but SO MANY PEOPLE DO, and not just women, to be honest. Basically, embrace yourselves ladies, you are already beautiful and divine and you deserve to be whatever you want to be. And if you don't believe me, read this book.

BOOM that wasn't really short, was it? Many sorries. But hey, I read a lot of books and basically all of them were good so yay reading! Who knows what joy there is to come in October...

*Not that comic books are bad, OF COURSE, just that they don't take long to read**, you know how it is.
**Except Watchmen. Hey, you should read Watchmen.

Monday, 25 September 2017

RIP XII: Book The First: The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Ughhhhhhh. This book was SO GOOD, you don't even know, but Imma try and explain it to you. First, a little background- it's been so long that I can't even remember when I bought this book, but I know for a fact it's been on my RIP pile for the last 5 years. FIVE. YEARS. I feel like I left it on there quite a while because I have a vague memory of seeing the Matt Damon film and not especially liking it (Gwyneth Paltrow is in it, which explains a lot... but not why I bought the book anyway) and who is going to read a book under such circumstances?

I WAS A FOOL.

The absolute number one strength of this book is the way it gets you to sympathise with a literal murderer. The titular Mr Ripley (Tom) is in a certain amount of trouble in the US when he stumbles across the father of an old acquaintance of his. Said acquaintance has been abroad in Italy for quite some time, and his father basically just wants him to come home. Tom volunteers himself to talk to Dickie (the son) and gets sent to Italy for free with $500 worth of travellers cheques and basically the promise of a gay old time. After he locates Dickie, it becomes clear that Tom isn't the most natural charmer (unlike Dickie) and it is this which starts of his endearing sympathetic nature to the reader that doesn't really abate even after he murders Dickie and steals his identity (ok, spoilers, but it's really the entire point of the book, so yeah).

It's honestly so masterful that I still can't work out how Highsmith has done it. Tom should essentially be repugnant to the reader, but he's so matter of fact about the things that he does and has enough reasoning that you almost feel yourself agreeing with him- of course that's what he did, how could he have done anything else? He's a conman in the book, but maybe more excitingly, he's a conman to the reader, convincing us that above all else, he's really a good guy. I genuinely felt stressed out any time he might get caught, which doesn't make any sense because HE IS LITERALLY A MURDERER.

And yet. A super sympathetic one.What can you do?

Although not one of the exciting parts of the book, one of the most interesting parts for me was the question of Tom's sexuality. He's clearly more interested in men than women in a general sense, and there are so many hints that he feels something more than friendship for Dickie that I just assumed he fully was gay for him. However, wikipedia (I know) tells me that Highsmith sees him as straight in that, in the sequels to this book (THERE ARE SEQUELS! 4 OF THEM!) he is married (to a woman) and she's quoted as saying something like 'oh he's not much good with women, but he can sex them, he's married is he not?' Regardless, I think we all know that the author is dead*, and so my opinion, and I'm fairly sure the opinions of most people reading this book, stands. BOOM, take that Patricia.

Anyway, the point is that this book is so exciting and thrillery that I could barely cope with it, but here I still am, alive to tell the tale that this book is amazing and so worth your time and attention. I am pretty into the idea of reading the sequels if I can find them anywhere, but something tells me they'll be sort of lacking compared to this masterpiece of thrillerness and fucked up men.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Happy Birthday, Mr King

Today is Stephen King's 70th Birthday. It's also my weirdly self imposed deadline for finishing ALL THE STEPHEN KING, and I made it, 5 days early. I don't even know how to feel about having read all the Stephen King there is (pretty fine, since there's a new one out in 5 days), or about being able to read his books as they are released now, or about finally finishing the epic (and terrifying) journey I started 6 and a half years ago.

I started reading all the Stephen King for two wildly different reasons- firstly because I kept buying his books at charity shops where they are extremely prevalent, but basically just kept re-reading It and Bag of Bones, and because I was struggling with being depressed and really, really needed a project to occupy myself with. So, I did it. I started with Carrie, made my way through some books I'd read and some books I hadn't, through three jobs and a Masters, through a certain number of boys, and from my parent's house, to my London house, to my first home with my boyfriend. It's not that I put any of this down to Stephen King, but it's sort of amazing to me that his books have quite literally been the backdrop to my twenties- sometimes it felt like the one thing that had any sort of clear and sane progression in my whole life.

Although I didn't have a time limit for reading all the King, I think it's safe to say that I didn't think that it would take 6 and a half years to read, what was then 58 books. Whilst I never intended it to be all I read, I still didn't think it would take too long, especially when, after about 2 and a half years, I was about 2/3 of the way though. WHAT HAPPENED, I hear you cry! Well. Well. Life would be the thing that happened. Life in the form of, firstly, some grief, and then a whole shit-ton of Shakespeare, and then also like a weirdly active (weirdly for me) social life that meant I read less but lived a whole lot more. I guess it's really this year that I've recommitted to this Stephen King thing, and I've gotten to read all of the books that I've sadly watched coming out over the years that I couldn't read because of my commitment to reading all of the Stephen Kings in order.

So now I know. I know whether the sequel to The Shining is any good (it is). I know whether anyone should read The Tommyknockers, ever (no). I know now, for sure, that It is still my favourite King (there may be better ones, and other people may totally have other favourites, but It is mine for always). I do know that, although there are a few stinkers and a few duds mixed in there, Stephen King has quite an extraordinary body of work that is so, so worth discovering. I don't know how he manages to write so much, or (mostly) so well, but I sure wish I could steal just a little of that magic. Juuuust a teensy bit... Please.

And so. Happy Birthday, Mr King. I've enjoyed adventuring with you so much, even the (very very many) times you scared me. Please live for about another 70 more years and write as many books as you already have so that I can stay entertained forever (or at least for another 6 1/2 years). You've been the backdrop to my reading life for a really long time now, and I will continue to be excited every time you release a new book, but until then, rereads will have to sustain me.

p.s. I love you. Don't ever change.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Devouring Stephen King (and Richard Chizmar): Gwendy's Button Box

This is Stephen King's latest book, and latest collaboration, and it is a tiny gem of a book. I say tiny because, although it has 170 pages, I whipped through them in probably about an hour, an hour and a half at the most. I enjoyed myself intensely in that time though, and for me, this was basically a perfect little novella.

Let's discuss.

Gwendy is a good kid who is spending her summer trying to lose weight before middle school, keen to avoid being 'the fat girl' once again. At the top of the suicide steps in Castle Rock (sound familiar?)  she finds a mysterious man dressed in black with the initials RF (this seems to me to be a mash up of two King villains, but this guy is in an ambiguous moral sphere if you ask me). The man tells Gwendy that she's special, and because she's special he gives her a button box to look after- This box dispenses magical chocolates (seriously magical chocolates) and valuable old coins, but also has a number of buttons- one for each continent, a scary black one, and a red one that isn't explained but is the only one which can be pressed more than once.

The man disappears and Gwendy goes on her merry way and gets on with her life. I don't know how much I can tell you about her life without revealing too much about the story (it's really really short), but her life becomes excellent, but with terrible terrible moments. The box is related to all of these things, but, I think the book wants to say, it also kind of isn't. We make our own luck and our own lives, and just because someone has a magical, terrible box, doesn't mean that they are any different.

Except that Gwendy is, but she was different to start with, anyway.

really can't say much more without giving away vital events of the story, but I really can't praise this book enough. It's short and simple, but that's pretty much what makes it so excellent. There are no extraneous storylines to distract us, so Gwendy and her tale really shine through, and the point/s this book wants to make manage to get themselves across so beautifully. IT IS JUST SO GOOD, and I'm so glad I sneaked it in before my (mostly imaginary) Stephen King deadline.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Devouring Stephen King: End of Watch

I had quite a lot of feels reading this book, because for me it really sort of is the end of watch. My Stephen King journey ends here*, and whilst the great prolific writer is obviously still going, I still am having major Feelings about this being over (which I shall awe and amaze you with on the 21st, get excited). And so, the end of my watch was with End of Watch, and what a book it was.

So this is the third book in a trilogy and basically everything I have to say about it will be a spoiler. I think that in order to say anything at all, I think I'm going to have to tell you to turn away now if you haven't read these books, although I'm not going to say anything too outrageously revealing, I will essentially be giving away the end of Mr Mercedes, so. Yes.

End of Watch starts with Bill Hodges skipping out on a Doctor's appointment to get to the site of an apparent murder-suicide where everything looks a bit fishy. Of course, this being the trilogy that it is, the victims of the murder suicide are a woman who was left quadriplegic in the mercedes massacre of the first book, and her mother and carer. Everything about this seems fairly straightforward (I can't even begin to imagine the life of a quadriplegic, and especially the life of caring for someone who needs assistance with basically everything) except for the fact that their housekeeper says they were pretty happy with life, and Hodges and Holly find an outdated computer game device thing (yep, all of those words), also seen in the now vegetable-like Brady Hartsfield's hospital room.

As they begin to investigate, they notice a spate of suicides that all have links to Hartsfield, all of which seems impossible because, y'know, dude's been in hospital for YEARS, without proper brain function and all of those useful things. What's so great about this book is that all the little details you didn't really notice in the previous book when Hodges kept visiting Brady, all become super relevant and parts of the main story in this book. It not only follows the main action of the investigations, but also goes into the innermost workings of Brady's mind, and all that it's been through since we last had access to it in Mr Mercedes. It's still no pleasure to be in, but so many things are revealed and tied up, just like a good trilogy should do.

And this really is such a good trilogy. It's not something King has done a lot (and I would know!) and I like the fact that it has a lot of realism and just thriller-y elements that many of his other books lack. There are some supernatural elements of this last book, but even those are explained away by the characters using pseudo-science, and aren't really treated as unexplained. This leaves the way clear for good old fashioned thriller/detective work- chasing leads, working out what's going on, chasing down the criminal... It's all good, old fashioned fun, and I love it.

And I have loved this. I have loved reading these books, and not just this trilogy. I feel so weird knowing that I don't have this giant backlog of Stephen King books anymore, and knowing that I'm actually going to have to wait to read a new one, but it also feels pretty nice to have such an achievement under my belt. This trilogy though- I really can't recommend it enough, or really, you know, any Stephen King book apart from the bad ones (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE). Go forth, my pretties, and read read read.



*I'm ignoring his co-authored book released this year because I can, unless I can sneak it in before 21st September (aka King's 70th Birthday) which I would be pretty proud of but I'm not sure it's going to happen and thus I shall read it as a regular citizen rather than one who is challenging herself

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers is the second in King's three part detective trilogy, starring the lovable retired cop Bill Hodges and his team of intrepid detectives. I say this BUT possibly the thing I loved best about this book was that it kind of wasn't about Hodges and his team, who pretty much took a backseat in the story, and let other events have their say. And SUCH events they are!

But let me back up a few hundred yards. So. At the end of Mr Mercedes, the first book in the trilogy, we leave everything where it is (vagaries so that we avoid spoilers... Although I don't know how I'm going to do that for End of Watch...) and Finders Keepers starts with a whole new story, and a whole new crime. A well respected author gets robbed, and in the process, his smart mouth ends up getting him murdered. The murderer ends up hiding the money and notebooks stolen from the author (his favourite, as it turns out) and in a series of unfortunate events ends up in jail and unable to retrieve them. Abouuuut 30 years later, a teenage boy finds them, who just happens to be the son of one of the people injured in the Mr Mercedes massacre of the first book. He uses the money to help his floundering family, and falls in love with the notebooks which contain two unpublished novels by the aforementioned murdered author.

It's probably clear that this doesn't go so well for the boy when the thief (and, lest we forget, murderer) is released from jail and everything gets very tense and thrilling, just like in Mr Mercedes. So, from the tenuous link of son-of-victim-of-massacre, we actually get a really great story- it's not just that it's tense and thrilling, it's also that it is very much its own story- it doesn't need the previous book to exist, but the fact that the connections are there make it that much more compelling. Hodges and his team don't come into it until about a third of the way through the book, and even when they do, it very much takes a backseat to the events of the main plot, and I really love that about the book. I also enjoy the little things- that Finders Keepers refers not only to the detective agency set up by Hodges and Holly since the end of the last book, but also that it refers to the attitude of the boy to finding all of these riches in a wood.

I think maybe what I loved best about the book is the way it signals to the love of books. For both the boy and the thief (is it clear by now that I can't remember their names..?), the main thing that motivates them isn't the money (although it's handy) it's the notebooks- not because they're technically worth more than money, but because they have a deep love for this writer and his works. Just imagining finding a couple of new Steinbeck novels, for example, sets my heart aflutter, so I get it. I totally get it. And also UGH it's just so good.

Finders Keepers DOES have some connections to the previous book, and having read End of Watch before writing this review, I can confirm that it also has connections to the final book in the trilogy, too. It is, in fact, the perfect bridging book, in that it doesn't let you forget the overriding story and main driving force of the trilogy,  but it also tells its own story without being overshadowed. Having read all three, I can't at all decide on my favourite, but this one may well be it.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Devouring Stephen King: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

It should come as a surprise to literally nobody that, having read this book 2 months ago, I have absolutely no recollection of anything inside it. Nothing. I got nothing. Whilst this may be considered a reflection of its quality, it is in fact NOT because the one thing I DO remember about it is that it was excellent, and also that I felt like all the stories are good which basically never happens in a short story collection. (EDIT- I just looked at the Wikipedia page and there's this one story about baseball that I found SO BORING. But that's just me)

Because I have no memory (in my defence, a lot of Big Life Things have been happening since July) but I do have an internet connection, and, you know, wikipedia, Imma just go through the stories extremely briefly and rapidly and then you'll be convinced you need to read this, right? Right.

Mile 81: Violent car eats people at a deserted rest stop. I'm into it, I like when King does scary cars and there's a whole undertone of boy-learning-to-be-a-man that was also pretty good.

Premium Harmony: This is a nasty little story where a man's wife dies suddenly and unexpectedly in a shop whilst he's waiting in the car, and he just... doesn't... seem to care too much. One of my favourite King things is the everyday nastiness of regular people, and this story is basically that. Good stuff.

Batman and Robin have an Altercation: Essentially this is a story about road rage, but it's actually about watching one's parents age and all the sadness that goes along with that. The end is AWESOME.

The Dune: You know those stories that explain about a spooky thing, and you think for sure you know what the spooky thing has done this time but then it turns out you were wrong because you were supposed to be? (You probably don't because I've explained that horribly) BUT ANYWAY that is what this story is. So sue me, I like the cheap thrill of a twist ending.

Bad Little Kid: This story was HORRIBLE, but in a good way- the way in which you are as frustrated as the main character when a small child is doing evil deeds, because you know there's nothing you can do to stop this evil. I was so gripped, as well as so horrified. Also there's a good twist ending so you know you want to stick around for that.

A Death: This story was fun in the sense that it was a completely different style to King's usual work. It's essentially a Western, set in 1889, and involves the arrest, trial and execution (spoilers I guess, but it's fairly clearly going that way the whole story) of a man who constantly proclaims his innocence. There are tiny glimmers of The Green Mile in that sense, but mainly its just its own excellent thing.

The Bone Church: Poem. Utter crap. Next.

Morality: Now THIS was good. A couple struggling with financial difficulties have to consider whether the wife should take her very wealthy employer's offer of a lot of money to do a very bad thing. As readers, we don't know what the bad thing is (it's pretty bad) (but maybe not as bad as you think) but it asks a lot of questions about people's limits and the lines they will cross to get what they want. It's been said that everyone has their price, and this story definitely takes that idea and runs with it.

Afterlife: Remember when I read Sum and loved it? (Probably not but let's go with this) This story is basically like King's contribution to that book. It's another among many versions of the afterlife, and it's also a reflection on the stubbornness of people even when they're being told the exact opposite of what they want to do.

Ur: I had very *side eye* feelings about Ur when I first heard about it because, you know, it's basically an advert for kindles, right? Well. Sort of. The word Kindle (which is, of course, a brand name) IS used an obnoxious number of times in this story, but it's still so substantial that I didn't really care? It has a kindle that can see into the future! And many heroics! And Dark Tower references! And yeah, basically I want to get me one of these Ur Kindles so that I can read everything Stephen King has written in all possible universes, is that ok?

Herman Wouk is Still Alive: The Wikipedia article for this story is annoyingly vague so I don't remember it too well... I just remember the vaguely depressing Thelma and Louise undertones (but like, waaaay more depressing than Thelma and Louise) and I can't even remember if it ends the way I think it does. Yay, I'm a good blogger!

Under the Weather: This story is the bessssssst. It's perfect and simple and perfect in its simplicity. I would say that you don't know what's going on until at least 3/4 of the way through (or maybe that's just me) but as soon as you do it's such an OH MY GOD moment and everything makes sense and it's horrible. I LOVE it.

Blockade Billy: Boring boring baseball, boring boring someone did something IDK let's just move on with our lives now.

Mister Yummy: Mister Yummy isn't super substantial, but it mainly left me with the idea that Death takes the form of the thing that most sexually aroused you in life. I'm weirdly kind of into this idea, and when I'm super super super old, I'm sure I'll see a Biscoff Krispy Kreme stalking me and waiting for the big moment.

Tommy: Another poem. God, please make it STOP.

The Little Green God of Agony: An unpleasant man has many pain, his physio doesn't believe it can hurt THAT much, is proved wrong. This story made me feel very uncomfortable in places, and believe me, you don't want to come across a little green god of agony. Just... No.

That Bus Is Another World: A teeny weeny story about the things we tell ourselves to go on with our lives. Pretty good.

Obits: Imagine you write mean obituaries and one day you write one for a real person and they die. TERRIFYING POWER that basically nobody wants- and you especially don't want anyone to find out about it lest they make you harness it for their own uses. Sounds intriguing? So was this story. I liked it a lot.

Drunken Fireworks: This story was interesting in the sense that it's literally about a fireworks arms race (ooh! Aah!) but (BUT) it's also mainly descriptions of various fireworks which are reallllly more of a visual thing. It was fine though, and all good, clean, upsetting fun.

Summer Thunder: The perfect story to end the collection with (yes, it's nearly the end, I'm sorry), Summer Thunder is maybe the only end of the world short story I've ever read, and it's so damn wholesome. A man and his dog and his one remaining friend. It's ordinary life, but without anyone else to live it with. It's sad and moving and also just really good short story telling.

Thus concludeth this review. I am so sorry it was the longest thing ever, I'd forgotten how many stories there actually were in the thing (along with everything else about it, obviously!) I've said it before,  and I'll say it again- I really love King as a short story writer. He can get so bloated and losing the plot-ish with some of his longer works, but his short stories really just sustain an idea for a short amount of time and they're so TIGHT. As of now, I have no new King short stories to read, and doesn't it break your heart for me? It should!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP (Which One Are We On Now... OK, yes XII)

As I think we should all be aware by now, RIP is my very most favourite reading event of the year. It's about the only one I participate in any more too, so that's a thing, but seriously, I can't even imagine an autumn now without reading books that make my heart race and make me want to hide under the covers. It's being hosted by Andi and Heather this year and I belieeeeeve you can sign up on either blog.

I will be going for Peril The First (as always) which is reading 4 books that are thriller/mystery/crime/horror-y. FULL DISCLOSURE: As it is the 9th day of RIP already (I am so late, I realise, but hey I only just got internet, leave me alone) I have already read two books that fulfil the requirements for this challenge, so who knows, I may have read 44 by the end of October (loljk I can't read that many books cause I have a job).

I am so into this challenge that I made a pile of books, carefully selected from the crates of books still sitting in my new flat (bookcases are arriving imminently) and took a photo even though I knew I wouldn't have internet for daysssss. This is the face of true dedication to feeling a bit scared. Look, books!

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Other than The Sandman and Coraline, I still haven't managed to finish a Gaiman book, and I haven't even picked up a Pratchett one (I know, I know, I must be stoned to death). Maybe a combination of the two will kickstart me into reading their entire back catalogues. Maybe.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
I started this a looooong time ago and never finished it. It might be time to restart it and actually finish the bloody thing this time. Honestly, me.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
I have already read this (9 days!) and it is amaaaaazing. I loved it so much and the only reason I didn't read it in like a day was because I physically couldn't stay awake for that long (old age). I shall review most soonest. (ALSO: I have had this book on my pile almost every year since I started the RIP challenge 6 years ago [!] It feels goooood to have finally read it)

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto
I always need more Yoshimoto in my life and whilst I know basically nothing about this book, it says something about mystery in the blurb so there you go.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury! Shakespeare! Many exclamations to cover for the fact I don't know much about this book but it's gotta be good!

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson
Apart from Stephen King, Shirley is my GIRL for bringing the shocks and deep deep feelings of uneasiness. All over this.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
I also have no idea what this is about but there's bound to be lesbians. I thought it was the ghost one but Wikipedia tells me no, so... let us see!

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
I have had this book for SO LONG that I really just have to read it to get it the hell away from me. Or... In less harsh words, let's see if it's any good and go from there! It's so big thoughhhh...

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Murder! Jane Eyre! Some other stuff probably! What could possibly go wrong?

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
It's that horror story set in Ikea and in the style of an Ikea catalogue that I think everyone's already read. My turn!

That's my pile! I also, in an attempt to treat digital books like real books, need to finish The Fireman by Joe Hill and American Gods (also Gaiman) which are trapped, sadly ignored, in my iPad, and I have the strongest urge to reread It but don't really want to do it while I'm living alone for many evenings (it's complex, I'll tell you about it some time). I also haven't really been through ALL my books, so there are probably many more candidates hidden away that I'll find when I unpack them properly. It's all really quite exciting, to be honest.

Onwards! To fear!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Things I Read In August

Well heydilly ho, little bloggerinos! Another month, another... certain number of books. Plus some added extra whatnots. I haven't had all that much time to read this month because I AM MOVING, and yes that requires all caps because it has been monumentally stressful and I am only just about prepared for it. It's happening TODAY did I mention that OH MY FRICKING FRACKING GOD. 

But anyway. All of the packing and sorting and getting more and more annoyed with endless emails from my current landlord has not left me the most time for reading, but hey, I've done my best. I have also, for the majority of the month, had most of my books packed away in crates and boxes *tear* and that actually won't change for a while because I won't have bookcases delivered for another week, I KNOW WHAT EVEN IS MY LIFE. I also don't even have a nice stack of books to show you this week because once read, immediately packed, is not at all a motto but has been my way of life this month. You'll just have to imagine the covers this month, I know you can do it.

BOOKS. I READ THEM. THEY ARE THESE ONES:

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
I wanted something to take the bad Atwood taste out of my mouth after Surfacing and Moral Disorder really did that. I don't want to admit that I had forgotten all about this book until I looked up my readings for this month, BUT I do now remember that this was excellent- sort of heartwarming and interesting and very human, sort of short stories and sort of all part of one bigger thing. I enjoyed it a lot and it's one of the first Atwood books I've read for a while that I actually want to keep and read again another day. Very fine work.

Relish by Lucy Knisley
This was a re-read to try and keep me sane throughout the month (spoiler! It didn't really work) but I also wanted to read it again because it's about the only one of her books that I've only read once. It's still great- so much food and so many recipes that I actually want to try. I really and truly wish that all comic books could be like Knisley's, and also that she had some kind of superhuman capacity to write about 12 a year.

Finders Keepers by Stephen King
Yay, Stephen King! This is the penultimate book of his I have to read, and I'm only holding back on the last one so that I can have read Stephen King books in all the houses of my twenties (apart from the University years, but to be honest I probably read Stephen King in those houses too). This was pretty great, although remember that I will have to review it more fully cause Stephen King, but it was a good example of how a book can be part of a series without the series itself intruding too fully. It is also SUCH a quick read and so thrillery OMG I can't even. But you'll see. You will.

A Dance With Dragons II: After the Feast by George RR Martin
A Game of Thrones! So I've not only finished the TV series (for now), I've also finished the books (for now). This has more of the same as the last book- more characters who don't really exist, more pointless tangental storylines, more THINGS THAT AREN'T THE TV SHOW (sorry, book purists). I felt quite a lot of the time that I was just reading it for the sake of it, but it also passed through my brain pretty quickly so I guess there's that. It also fell out of my brain pretty quickly so that's also a consideration. Overall book verdict: Meh.

My Struggle I: A Death in the Family by Karl One Knaussgard
I've had this on my shelf for a while and I'm pretty sure I just bought it because it was described as a modern Proust (which... I have not read). This is probably more accessible than Proust and I enjoyed it quite a lot- essentially an autobiography told in the style of fiction (totally learnt a new term whilst wikipedia-ing this book- 'autofiction', so that's a thing apparently) and Knausgaard really goes for it. No holds are barred while he talks about his dad's alcoholism, his grandmother's dementia, his childhood follies and fears, and so many other things. I was really into it, because his struggles are really all of our struggles, no matter what form they take- they can be the tiny things or the bigger things, and at the end of it, they're not really struggles so much as our lives. Yeah, I liked it a lot, and hey! There are 5 more to read so I. Am. On it.

So yeah, August. I actually read more than I thought I had, so go me! Now I must face the trauma of having no internet for the next 6 days (!) (ok 5, it arrives on the 6th) which I guess will give me time to finish my last Stephen King IN TIME FOR HIS BIRTHDAY which was my goal and wish. ALSO is RIP happening this year what do we know, because I find my damn scary books for the best reading event of the year, don't think that I won't!!! I hope you have all had excellent Augusts, and are ready for spooky af Septembers (aw yeahhh)

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Revival


Blarrrrgh, I did not enjoy this book at all. I haven't said that for a LONG time about Stephen King, so I trust that you'll allow me to just not like this one. I'm not ok with it, and it's not an ok book. Is it as bad as, say, The Tommyknockers, or Dreamcatcher, or... (OK there must be some other bad ones, isn't there a stretch of bad 80s books?) Anyway, the point is, I don't really know the answer to that question, but the point is that I really didn't enjoy it, and it was kind of a bummer to get through.

But wait, I hear you cry. Don't you always find some good in Stephen King books, Laura? Well, maybe (except The Tommyknockers which is SO BAD you guys, don't even touch it, I swear- I've read it for you and that should be enough). I will say for Revival that it's consistent, it follows its main point through to the end, and the end itself, like when the book finally gets down to what it has to say (the main message being, 'Stephen King is afraid of death, or more specifically what the afterlife could be like') is wonderfully chilling and terrifying and omg please no. But also yes, can you go back and rewrite the book and make it more like this?!

Let's get a little more specific. The book starts with a promising sort of passage that suggests that sometimes the people who are important to your life are there the whole time, whereas other times they drop in and out of your life, sometimes at the most inopportune moments. This book describes the latter of these relationships where the main character* meets a priest at age 5 or 6, who then becomes integral to many parts of his life (and also, maybe a tiny spoiler, not a priest anymore). All of that is fine, and actually I pretty much liked the parts that involved the priest. These parts were all actiony, and you know they're building up to something, but just what that is is pretty obscure until the novel gets right down to it in the last, like, 50 pages or so.

So that's fine, but the problem is ALL OF THE REST OF THE BOOK. As I say, the whole point is that these meetings are infrequent but important, and that's how they feel in the narrative too. All of the rest of it is the story of the main character's life, and omg it is so boring. It's not that his life is boring necessarily, but it's more like 'so I grew up and discovered guitar and had sex with a woman and then was in some bands and then INTERESTING BIT and then I worked in the music business and played more guitar and ANOTHER INTERESTING BIT' and do you see what I mean? The actual action seems to happen way less frequently than all the bits in between, and although I normally like those bits (I really do!) I just really wasn't interested about them in this book. GIVE ME A BETTER NARRATOR NEXT TIME, KING!

So yeah, not one of his finest IMHO. I found it interesting to see where his mind was at (death death death is scary) and how (I think) it relates pretty much just to him aging, but other than that I can't see it being one I would ever want to read again. The fact that I haven't been able to say that for a long time I think reveals how excellent his work has been lately, so I'm willing to let him off with a warning for this slip up. D-, must do better.

*of course I can't remember his name

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Things I Read In July

July! You went so fast, and I shall miss you. This month I had to adjust to my fella's new working schedule which has essentially been working all the time, so I've been trying to squeeze in time with him whenever I can. Even though I've had a lot more time to read on the weekends I haven't so much done that, but I have done more traveling than usual which is optimum reading time. I have also been trying to get into some kind of exercise routine, by which I mean that I have a diary that I put a little yoga calendar in, and if I don't do yoga on any given day I have to put a cross in the box which is supposed to make me feel bad (it works like 2%, so not really at all). More importantly I have played tennis (I know!) which I am really bad at but which is also just really fun and good and I like it a lot so there.

But anyway, who cares about my health? We are all here for BOOKS, and oh my there were plenty this month. Behold!

Such a beautiful group of creatures, oh my.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
I started my month with one of my favourite reads of the year so far, and a book that I liked so much that I've even reviewed it already (I know!) Just read the review if you'd like to know more about it, but I found it very funny and annoying-in-a-good-way and just very insightful and excellent. I must read more of this Zadie Smith person, is she like famous or something *sarcasm font*

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
I don't know if I've said this before or not, but I really feel like King's short stories of late have really started to surpass themselves (and they've always been good). There were almost no stories in this book that I didn't think were excellent, but you'll have to wait for my whole review to find out which ones were actually terrible (spoiler: it was the poems)

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
This is a really early Atwood, and I just... ehhhhh, I don't know. I had a problem with it to begin with because it's written in the first person present tense (please, just don't) but it doesn't help that there isn't really a story to it (other than, some friends go to stay in the woods and one essentially has a really wordy and literary nervous breakdown [it's maybe only a nervous breakdown in my opinion]). I thought some of the sentences were beautiful and at a base language level it's a very good book- this just, for me, wasn't reflected at the story level. I can see how this would probably be some people's favourite book, but for me it was too much language masking too little story.

What I Loved by Siri Hudsvedt
I wanted to love this book so much. I can't really tell you why I thought I would, except for the tiny fact that Siri Hudsvedt is Paul Auster's partner (wife?) and shit I love Paul Auster and obviously the woman associated with him must be very interesting and also must write exactly like him because women are just extensions of men, right? Right. That much is obvious. 
Ahem. But for reals. I got a bit impatient with this book almost from the start because books that describe fictitious works of art in great detail kind of get on my nerves a bit. This is saved quite a lot by the story in general (to start) but as it goes on, it gets to a really frustrating point where all the grown ups seem to act like morons rather than like actual people (intellectuals, amiright?!) There's sort of a mystery plot, but that bit's rubbish, and the book is only really good when it's dealing with life and human experiences and when it doesn't get, to my mind, a bit silly. I didn't really care about anyone towards the end, and it's only now as I'm writing this that I realise I actually liked this book even less than I thought I did... who knew?!

A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ah, Ishiguro. This book made me realise the thing that all of his other stories (that I've read) have in common- What he really does, is tell the story around the main story and forces you to fill in the gaps and decide what the actual story really was. I can't even tell if this is a technique I like or not, but I certainly didn't hate reading this book, even if it wasn't the story I wanted to hear. The story is of a Japanese woman who moved to England many years ago, but she is reminiscing about her time in Japan and about a particular woman who was a pretty terrible mother, leaving her child to roam wild and placing her affection for an American man above the wellbeing of her child. The ACTUAL story of this book is of the narrator's daughter's suicide, and what the events could have been that led to it, but I guess her reminiscings are related- she remembers the woman who was a terrible mother because she feels that she too must have been a terrible mother for her daughter to want to die.
In the end, I always feel as though Ishiguro is a better writer to study than to casually read for funsies, but I like to flex my literary brain muscles every once in a while and this book gave me a good opportunity to do that. Thanks, Ishiguro!

Oracle Night by Paul Auster
I feel like in the back of my mind I have always compared Murakami to Auster, but the whole time I was reading this book I thought 'this is very Murakami-esque', which it is, but it's also quintessentially Auster, too. This teensy novel has it all- mixed and mixing narratives, a weird shop that disappears and then reappears again in a different location, imagined indiscretions and probably real ones too, and oh man. It was just so good (for me. I can imagine other people reading it and thinking it was a mess). When I started reading it, I was rolling my eyes at the footnotes (footnotes. In a novel. That are part of the novel. Kind of annoying, yeah), but they were actually super informative and even though I feel like they could have been slotted into the narrative, they didn't feel out of place as footnotes, if that makes sense. The only thing I didn't LOVE about this book was the ending which felt a little rushed and sort of random, but I think that was kind of the point- you can pontificate and write fiction all you like, but in the end, real life will find you and bite you in the ass. Or at least, that's the message I got from it, anyway.

Emerald City and Other Stories by Jennifer Egan
I don't think I've been consciously saving this book for any reason, but I do know that as soon as I read there was a new Jennifer Egan book out this year, I chose to read this one. Although I love A Visit from the Goon Squad, I never thought any of her other novels reached the heights of that, and I think I now know the reason- Egan is a short story writer, not a novelist. A Visit from the Goon Squad, I know, is a novel, but it's a novel where short stories interlink rather than following a strict narrative. This collection of short stories is excellent- tense and interesting and intriguing and filled with so much human nature that it's almost too much. It's super telling to me that this is the only one of her books, apart from Goon Squad, that I am choosing to keep for always, and yeah, you know what, it's just pretty great.

A Dance With Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin
I snuck this one in right at the end of the month because honestly I just want to get the Game of Thrones books away from me now- they're damn heavy, ok?! This was pretty engaging and thrilling, and I think I've finally reached the point where the books are really quite different to the TV series, which would be ok except that I go 'but... that's not what happens' rather than 'oh yeah, that makes sense' because as I believe I have made clear already, THAT TV SHOW IS KING, OK?! Still, the book was fun and exciting as always, and I'm onto the second part of it already, so... I guess I can't hate them that badly.

Books! Huzzah! Quite a big reading month even though I felt, as always, that I didn't really have much time to read. In August the trains are all going to be baaaaad for most of the month, which will involve me getting the bus in the mornings as well as the evenings which should give me many extra reading times but who knows if that will actually be the case!


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Mr Mercedes

I had a lot of fun reading Mr Mercedes. Even though I (naturally) relate King to alllll of the supernatural goodness that he brings to us all, when he writes a 'straight' novel (with the teeniest hint of a slightly above average intuition) he still kills it. Mr Mercedes is more along the lines of his True Crime books, in that it is about, well, a true crime, only it's fictional... Ok I'm rambling.

HERE'S HOW IT GOES: The story begins with a horrifying crime when a Mercedes plows into a group of people who have (wait for the heartbreak) been waiting outside all night for the possibility of getting jobs. Many people are killed and the killer gets away scot free. Flash forward a few years later (don't ask me how many because I read this quite a while ago now) and the detective who worked on the case is retired and watches a lot of tv and is getting a little too friendly with his father's gun, if you know what I mean. He gets sucked out of his retirement blues by receiving a letter from the Mercedes killer, which drags him back onto a case and out of retirement, which is really exactly what he needed.

Here's a thing that I think is special about this book- we, the reader, knows who the killer is almost from the beginning. This is not a whodunnit, there's no straining the brain to try and figure out which minor character is a big murderer, because we already know that. The question with this book is really, 'what is he going to do next'? I really enjoyed this, because firstly, I find it really stressful to try and work out whodunnit, and it really makes me question my, like, intelligence skills, and secondly, doing it this way meant that we got to see into the fucked up brain of someone who murders for no reason. It was really a wild ride though the head of the murderer (I'm not being coy, I just genuinely can't remember his name...) and although the novel provides some tentative evidence for the growth of his psychopathy, it also doesn't use those reasons to let him off the hook, which I enjoy.

Let's also talk about the detective because he was pretty great. I'm sure the novel says how old he is, but I totally can't remember, so let's say... 60? And for a 60 year old, let me tell you, he's pretty foxy in my head. I'm not sure how, cause the book also says that he's totally gotten fat, but I guess his seeking out of justice just makes me super into him. Attractiveness aside, he's just a pretty good character- reckless and impulsive but generally good meaning, and with a couple of mismatched sidekicks who end up being very excellent. I think the novel holds back on explaining too much about any of the main three 'good' characters because- wait for it- there are two more books in this little series and I am VERY EXCITED about that (especially cause my next two King reads are those too books and yes I am behind in reviewing and yes those are basically the last two books omg I know right?)

But anyway. Yes. Mr Mercedes gets two thumbs up, I am a fan. I totally give you my permission to read it, and it'll even work for you if you get scared by horror, just not if you're scared of being senselessly and randomly murdered one day... And if you're not, then WHY not?! A topic for another time, I guess.