I haven’t been neglecting this blog. The lack of updates might make you think so, but it’s not true. I also haven’t been neglecting to read. How is this possible, you are not asking yourself at all, that I read and yet don’t update and yet, have been updating regularly?
It’s because I’m reading The Song of Ice and Fire and Dragons and Wolves and Stuff series and after the end of the first book realized I couldn’t really post a review of it that wasn’t either simply the words “ZOMG! WTFBBQ!” (which ok, not actually words.) or a massive barrage of spoilers. So, I figured I’d finish the whole series and then write one review that would hopefully contain more than “And then that thing that I can’t talk about… but will allude to… but not actually say…” This series, in case you didn’t know, is five books long. Each book is assthousand pages. Give or take.
So, here I am. In the midst of book 3. Nothing but dragons on either side of me. And I’d really like a break. See, I don’t usually read fantasy. And it’s starting to grate on me. Not the dragons. Or the wolves. Or the giants. Or the alchemists. It’s the g-ddamn feudal society porn.
See, what I do read a lot of is historical fiction. I have an especial weakness for the Tudor period and will read just about anything if Anne Boleyn is slated to once again lose her head. So, I’m all too familiar with the clichés that keep sprouting up to remind us that LIFE WAS DIFFERENT, OK. I know that the author wants to remind us that no one was wearing jeans back in Tudor England, but it doesn’t feel sincere to have someone whining about her stomacher being laced up for the thousandth time. OK THEY WEAR STOMACHERS GREAT. The irony here though is that in Tudor England, a stomacher was as common as jeans are here and no one would be going ON about it for PAGES because it would just be “AND THEN I GOT DRESSED.”
I might have some unchecked aggression in Phillipa Gregory’s general direction.
Anyhow. The Ice the Fire the Swords the Blahblahblah.
If this is FANTASY, why is this necessary to adopt the whole medieval/early modern knights and Lords business? And ok, if we have to have that power structure for whatever reason, can we at least get new clichés? If have to read one more time about someone eating meat on a stick and the “juices dripped down his chin” I’m going to lose it. WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE PASS TYRION LANNISTER A FUCKING TACO, OK.
(See also: the phrase “he took his pleasure.” I’m sure he did. But let’s get new euphemisms. That one’s not really creative, sounds rape-y, and makes me sad in my angry place.)
The characters are brilliant. The plot keeps me up way later than my bedtime because George R.R. Martin is an evil genius in the art of the end-of-chapter-cliffhanger. BUT THE JUICES MUST BE STOPPED.
Please kindly recommend anything to me that does not discuss meat & mead, the milk of the poppy, juices dripping down any part of anyone’s person, or anyone’s finest cloaks. Thankyou.
Yes, readers, I caved after much encouragement from my dearest Sonika and her magical tales of being able to breastfeed while reading, I took the plunge and bought a Kindle. But I made an error in my first downloaded book, The Summer We Read Gatsby. I went for the easy beach read with the thought that I would be able to better process the story even on little sleep.
What I did not count on was the book making my head hurt with the uneven quality of writing- I was quite surprised, and much less forgiving, once I learned it was not a first novel. This has led to me yelling at the book on the Kindle- like players on a TV screen-“Show, don’t tell!” Certainly don’t end a chapter with things like, “I was falling in love with (insert name)” when the guy hasn’t even appeared for a chapter and a half. Ugh. And definitely don’t end it with that sentence when six chapters earlier you used the last sentence, “I was falling in love with my half-sister” when the only emotion I’ve picked up on is annoyance. Double ugh.
The author’s main problem, aside from apparently not getting any honest feedback from an editor, is that she didn’t know what she wanted the book to be and tried to do too many things. This same problem shows up in movies like The Break-Up and other books, such as Her Fearful Symmetry. The Summer We Read Gatsby tries to be a light summer romance but also family reconnection book while also throwing in some barely developed mystery and literary tributes to Fitzgerald. Ultimately it fails because while beach reads are supposed to be light, an utter lack of substance means the story won’t hold together from chapter to chapter- much like a season of Glee– and the reader has no motivation to care about any of the characters.
As I’ve said, I’ve not yet finished the book, although I am 86% done. I am also 57% unsatisfied. The other 29% of me is just annoyed I can’t take this book to the nearest used bookstore and turn it in. Nope, I’m just out my $9.99.
Next time, I’ll choose more wisely. You win this round, e-reader!
To say I was hesitant to invest in an e-reader is an understatement. I was loath to do so. Oh how I love the physicality of books. I love holding books. I love smelling books. My obsession with books doesn’t just verge on unhealthy, it crosses the line and keeps on running straight into insanity. Some of my favorite books I own in multiple editions and I will always, always spring for a hardcover just because they’re beautiful and sturdy.
My hesitation to abandon the once hailed destruction of literature that is the printing press for the newest destruction of literature that is the e-reader also had a practical element. I have a neurological disorder that is accompanied by severe photosensitivity. I get sick from such exciting things as “flash photography.” I can’t play 99% of video games and even some iPhone games make me seriously dizzy. I tried out the Kindle app on my husband’s iPad and got motion sick due to the combo of backlighting and my speed reading (seriously, faster than a speeding bullet am I).
Then came breastfeeding. Nothing like being trapped under a baby to make a person feel bored and braindead. I desperately wanted to read, even if I was just reading fluff, and found that holding a book wasn’t going to work out for me while also trying to snuggle an eel (seriously, this child and the squirming). I could manage Paulo one-handed, but I couldn’t also manage a book in the other hand. I had the brilliant idea that maybe, just maybe I could hold a Kindle… if only I could test drive one to see if this “e-ink” was as easy on the eyes as advertised.
As soon as I got this brilliant idea – when my son was approximately a week old – we hightailed it to Best Buy to see about investing in my sanity. I was going through book withdrawal. I tried out a Kindle and found that while I found the page-turning animation to be mildly irritating, it didn’t physically bother me. I bought the smaller size, as to hold in one hand with greater ease, and went home to binge on literature.
Actually, that’s not true. Due to the ability to just download books faster than anyone could read them, I have set very strict limits on myself that I can’t download anything unless I’m actively reading it. I must say, that I didn’t think about this feature too much before getting my Kindle, but the “read a sample” option is seriously the greatest thing ever. Sure, you *could* do that in a bookstore, but who ever does? Now, I totally read a chapter before deciding to buy a book. And ok, I almost always decide to buy it anyway, but I test drove it first! Also, being able to buy a book from my bedroom? Amazing.
I even subscribed to the New Yorker to be able to read it without piles of unread issues cluttering my living room! My husband was actually thrilled that I bought a Kindle due to the book… problem… in our home. I don’t even have half of my books in our house and my shelves overfloweth. Living with a minimalist who once tried to limit me to 50 books is trying indeed. He’s totally over the moon that I can continue getting my book fix without adding one more thing to make him twitch.
(Honestly, he’s so bad with stuff that when I got pregnant one of my close relatives asked me which one of the cats he was planning on getting rid of to trade off for the baby.)
(I’m sort of surprised we still have both cats, actually.)
I credit the Kindle with my getting a few books read while nursing my son. Though I will say that since it’s also so easy to delete books and I pay so much less for them than I do for physical copies that I’ve given up on almost as many as I’ve read. This is also one of the ways in being a parent has changed my priorities. If a book isn’t so good that I look forward to nursing to read another chapter, I’m not wasting my time on it.
If you know a new mama or mama-to-be and have $150 or so to drop on a swanky gift, seriously. The Kindle. Do it.
The Hunger Games had been on my list of “to reads” for awhile, and this summer my mom mailed me her box set of the trilogy. She teaches junior high English (heaven is not reward enough for this career), and her students had torn through the three books so quickly she could hardly keep track of who had which one. It took me about fifty pages, but I was absolutely hooked and stayed up reading WHILE THE BABY SLEPT as I could not put these books down. There is no higher praise from a new mom than to willingly give up sleep, and I gave it up in not just minutes but hours for Katniss and Peeta.
Not so much for Gale.
I won’t spend time recapping the story of kids being forced to duel to the death, but I will say these books are as dark as they sound, which has apparently caused some controversy. Oh, to have such time on my hands! I found myself agreeing with a column on NPR, “Seeing Teenagers As We Wish They Were: The Debate over YA Fiction,” as Linda Holmes notes, “… I’m more intrigued by the aspirational nature of the quaint but sad idea that teenagers, if you don’t give them The Hunger Games, can be effectively surrounded by images of joy and beauty.”
Word. I remember a bit too vividly for my own comfort what it is like to be a teenager, and there were not pillows made of cotton candy.
Holmes says: “Honestly, the kids who are reading the scary YA fiction — the dark stuff, the creepy stuff, the adventurous and weird and dirty stuff — are the same kids who, if YA fiction weren’t dark and creepy sometimes, would just read dark and creepy books for adults.”
It’s so true- and I would argue that perhaps more important than what any teenager reads is the fact that they’re reading. On a selfish note, however, I’m just glad there’s a young adult series out there in which one of the main characters is not repeatedly described as “glistening.”
In case anyone was wondering, there’s absolutely no way Bella Swan would survive The Hunger Games.
Over the past year, both Sonika and I have become pregnant, birthed baby boys, and survived the first newborn weeks. Now her son is more than three months old, and mine is 7 weeks old. During this time (the entire year), reading has been a challenge of varying proportions either due to morning sickness, fatigue, inability to concentrate, or having hands full of tiny humans. However being the voracious readers we are (and stellar parents), we have discovered it is possible to read while breastfeeding- especially with the help of a Kindle (this is only Sonika) or tricky maneuvering of paperbacks.
I am thrilled that I have finally finished several post-birth books, and wanted to bring back the blog to make time for myself to write, motivate myself to make time to both read and finish books, and remind myself I know monosyllabic words. I can’t promise length or coherency, but I’m sure that wasn’t what anyone was looking for from either of us anyway. And based on what I know about sleep deprivation from college and these past weeks, blunt statements have a habit of turning out to be more humorous than I had intended. Enjoy.
So many people hate Thomas Friedman, and so I would never tell them this, but I kind of like the guy’s books. Granted, his writing is not by any stretch of the imagination all people should read about foreign relations, but it’s a good start and hell, he’s not nearly as dry as some people. Or as humorless. Plus, controversies and criticisms keep us all entertained.
Therefore, whether you like Friedman may be irrelevant, and I think the truth of his thesis stands: Corporations are not going to move to energy efficient products/processes because it’s the right thing to do (though it is). It also has to be profitable for them. Secondly, if American corporations don’t start working on it big time, the Chinese will, and then we’ll be buying all of our energy efficient products from them. Now, there’s a zillion different ways to get from point A to point B, but it’s long past time to get started.
Friedman makes the excellent point that 16% of the healthcare budget goes into research, but less than 1% of the budget for energy goes toward research. Ramp that up and we could make the technology- which is already there- much more accessible by decreasing size and increasing production, both of which would bring down costs.
This book only served to reinforce my view that corporations aren’t individuals, and as much as we might want them to do something because “it’s the right thing to do,” if it’s actually going to happen, it needs to be profitable for them. Corporations are not in the business of helping people; they are in business to make money. This isn’t a judgment statement, but rather a full recognition on my part that the only way to truly begin handling climate change and sustainable living will involve at the very minimum regulation and incentives, and possibly the small reminder that sooner or later, all businesses have to evolve or risk going extinct.
I keep forgetting I haven’t posted on Faithful Place, even though it’s already in a box waiting to be sent to my dad to read. Let me take you back to the cooler days of July, dear readers, and tell you about my internal debate, which went something like this: “Self, you are broke and trying to save money for multiple vacations. Do you really think that this book will be worth buying in hardback on the day of its release?”
And it was. Matter of fact, Faithful Place might be my favorite of the three loosely-tied-together mysteries. I suddenly had a great deal of understanding for Frank, the main character, who was gruffy and kind of an ass in The Likeness, and even kind of liked him. I was sucked into the gritty side of small Irish town politics, and I tore through this book in less than two days and licked my chops afterward.
Tana French has a wonder quality as a mystery writer in which she’s able to balance character development as well as a quick and engaging plot, and yet, she’s never quite to be trusted in terms of narrator reliability. A writer whom you trust implicitly and yet keeps you on your toes is truly one worth savoring… if only you could stop turning the pages.
And that’s why there’s plenty of time to re-read this book, and why it was so worth the splurge.