January 12, 2016

Here are the books I read in 2015

Let’s store this here for posterity. I didn’t do as much reading last year, but hey, I read some real good stuff! If you want to see my short opinions on things, please take a look.

January (1)

    Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

(Another random thing I grabbed in a sale, I think? The story it tells is just mind-boggling. Everything that happened, so much poor judgement, so much misplaced pride… it’s just quite a tale. A fine read if the subject is interesting to you.)

February (3)

    Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

(An amazingly true study on otherness of all sorts, perhaps by accident, but very powerful, emotional, and fun. I see so much of the trans experience in Phina. I wonder what you would see. There is no doubt that this book is excellent, though. Please read it.)

    The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

(The first book was a nice enough romp. This book was the same. Fun, with a cool world. I do worry about the lead’s thought process sometimes, though. Ceony is interesting, but… made a few decisions that felt more plot-motivated than her motivated in this one. Well, in my opinion anyway. Oh well. It was fun.)

    Eight Skilled Gentlemen by Barry Hughart

(Another fun ride. I felt a little less understanding of what was going on than the other two books. But the characters are still a blast. It’s a really fun book. Read this whole series. Thanks.)

March (3)

    The Dead Key by D. M. Pulley

(Oh my goodness this book was SO FRUSTRATING. So many good ideas done SO BADLY. I constantly wanted to slap one of the two protagonists and the author for squandering cool stuff! I can’t really recommend it unless you have a lot of forgiveness in your heart.)

    Prudence by Gail Carriger

(You know already that I loved this, but oh my goodness, already I am in love with many of these new characters just as before. Carriger’s mastery of characterization is just… inspiring. It’s the best. If you haven’t read everything she’s ever written, you are doing it wrong.)

    Shadow Scale: A Companion to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

(Sometimes the benefit of finding a wonderful book late is that the sequel comes out a month later. Like Seraphina, this book is fantastic. It’s a YA book that brings up such concepts as picking your own pronouns like it’s nothing. The characters are wonderful, the story is sound… it’s just… damn. Read these books, please. Rachel Hartman is easily one of my favorite all time authors at this point.)

April (2)

    The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

(I liked this book. It was small and self-contained and hinted at a wide wide world but was almost completely about character interaction and romance, despite being an adventure of sorts. The resolution of the romance angle was a little abrupt, but telegraphed enough I forgave it.)

    Bible Adventures by Gabe Durham

(Another Boss Fight book. This is one of the better ones. This blends information and personal reflection way, way, way better than some other books in the series. It’s really more about Wisdom Tree than just Bible Adventures, but it was a nice enough read.)

Months Of No Reading Because I Was Writing, Mostly

September (2)

    The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

(It was fun! It’s fun. The whole series is fun. It’s not the best? If I wanted to be mean to it, I could. But it’s cute, the world is very interesting, and despite how she’s written I like the lead quite a lot. There’s some cute smooching. It’s a nice little popcorn series.)

    Metal Gear Solid by Ashly and Anthony Burch

(A fun, lighthearted discussion of the many flaws and successes of the original game. It really pulls no punches on what was great and what was awful. They do a good job with having two authors by offering different reads on various elements, from a “as a guy/girl, this says” perspective, as well as just different readings. One of the good Boss Fight entries. Give it a read.)

October (2)

    Baldur’s Gate II by Matt Bell

(The author says this book was an attempt to make him less embarrassed about liking DnD. Good for him, I guess, but I wanted a book about Baldur’s Gate II that actually discussed the game instead of talked about how he writes DnD books? So, you know. I don’t recommend this one. A unfortunate Boss Fight entry.)

    The Chess Queen Enigma: A Stoker and Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason

(I was pleased that this one didn’t waste as much time re-setting up everything as the last novel did. These continue to be a lot of fun: not particularly deep or groundbreaking, but completely enjoyable. The whole series so far is for sure a recommended read.)

November (1)

    Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger

(You know this is good, so just go read it. That being said, I felt some of the romance stuff ended up a LITTLE rushed. I agreed with a lot of it but felt it needed more time to percolate. Another post-school adventure would have let that go long enough! But eh, that’s a little thing. It’s all very nice. I very much enjoyed it.)

January 2, 2015

Here Are The Books I Read In 2014

Hey, here again are the books I read last year, along with some short descriptions of what I thought. If you are one to think I have even a vague good taste, maybe this’ll be good to look at? WHO KNOWS. Anyway, 31 books in a year! I guess that’s a thing I did! Whee!

January (2)

    Sorcery and Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede

(I started the year out with just a fantastic and fun novel. Some great, strong characters, and a just plain fun story. The whole thing is told through letters, and while that could be a really horrible gimmick, the book really makes it work. Apparently they wrote the novel actually sending letters to each other, with each of them roleplaying one main character, which kinda rules. But yeah, just a lot of fun. Don’t be shocked when the next two books on the list are the other two in the series.)

    The Grand Tour: or the Purloined Coronation Regalia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

(A fitting and enjoyable sequel. They had to get rid of the whole letter gimmick, in a way, but it was actually nicer to see the two main characters interact much more directly, so I minded not at all. Just a fun little story, seriously.)

February (4)

    The Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years Later by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

(Another wonderful book! And now the series is over. Aww. Apparently it seems this one was written second even though it takes place last in chronological order? And the ebooks I bought were ordered chronologically but I guess that was not how they were written. Eh, it worked either way. Anyway, this is a great series, with super-fantastic characters, and you should read it. That is all.)

    Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

(A book about James Bond’s fight against misandry and the idea that a woman might not be attracted to him. But luckily, Fleming has his back, and Bond gets to fuck the super cool lesbian gang leader anyway, because Bond has to get everything he wants, because he’s a man, right? Right. Uh, anyway, another Bond book, basically.)

    Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino

(This book is the best book. I wrote about why it is over here. But yeah, man, I would overwhelmingly recommend this to anyone. So fantastic.)

    Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson

(I think I bought this at some point because it was a dollar? I dunno. I would not call this book good. But it was kinda pointless fun popcorn fare and I wanted to read something meaningless in a fun way. I didn’t hate it. I wouldn’t recommend it. It just kinda stops at a place that makes no sense and says “BUY ANOTHER BOOK!” but the other books are not a dollar! So. Guess I’ll never know what happens! (Spoilers: probably sex with a cat))

March (4)

    Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

(Hey, look, it’s the other series by my new favorite author! This one is more YA, so it’s less steamy, and it’s a lot more fun times and less drama, but it’s still a fantastic read, and has some of the best-executed fanservice-y cameo type deals I have ever seen, so that’s pretty awesome.)

    Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

(Even more fun! I rather like Sophronia. Carriger is so damn good at this stuff. So much fun, for serious. It’s definitely got more of a YA bent than the Parasol Protectorate, but it continues to be fantastic.)

    Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick – Double D Double Cross by Christa Faust

(Oh man. Boyfriend linked me this and said “just read the sample, trust me” and before I knew it I had bought it and read it and it is just so much fun. Over the top from beginning to end. Just serious fun.)

    Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show by John Hench with Peggy Van Pelt

(Yeah, I’m still obsessed with this stuff. Basically a kind of “Imagineering Philosophy” book. Most of it I had learned about in bits and pieces elsewhere, but it’s kinda cool to have it all there, in one document. Really makes me think about the stumbles and successes of the parks throughout the years, and how most of them could be considered refusals to use these ideas, or at least the misapplication of them. But I dunno, I think way too much about this stuff in general.)

April (1)

    The Story of the Stone by Barry Hughart

(Another wonderful book. Silly, exciting, and extremely enjoyable to read. One more to go, but if the last book is as fun at the first two, I expect myself to be very entertained when I get around to it.)

May (2)

    Chrono Trigger by Michael P. Williams

(The first of the Boss Fight Books thing, Earthbound, was this horrible disappointment to me that barely talked about the game at all and used such quality sources as TV Tropes when it did. So I was worried I’d hate this one too. But no, this one actually did some analysis and stuff! I could imagine a version of the book that was better, and perhaps deeper, but it was an interesting read, and I certainly learned things I didn’t know, and thought about the game in new ways. That’s all I can ask for.)

    The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely

(I think I bought this for a dollar in a Kindle sale at some point. It was pretty interestingly put together. Very approachable. Gives you some stuff to think about. Not really a “self help” book but more a book sharing some interesting social science stuff. Almost all the examples seemed to be about a man dealing with a woman, though, which eventually got tiring when it got to a damsel in distress scenario and I’m like “Come on now, book. At least pretend to mix things up.” But yeah, can’t complain that much. Not a must read, but I enjoyed it.)

June (3)

    Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

(Mary Roach is the best nonfiction author. I love her to death. She’s willing to ask all the questions people want to ask but are too embarrassed to. She’s always a joy to read, even if she’s making you a bit squeamish. Another extremely engaging book by her. I need to get around to reading all her stuff.)

    ZZT by Anna Anthropy

(Another Bossfightbook, this one is very well put together. It’s a strange portrait of a game I knew nothing about and the people wrapped around that game. It’s a dive into an old internet community. I enjoyed it. I think it hit the “personal experience” side way better than Earthbound, which felt masturbatory, whereas her personal experiences helped shed light on why this thing was so important. Then again, I clearly connect with her past a bit more, so maybe that’s all it was.)

    Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers

(Another part of a pointless reading quest I’ve embarked on. Someday I will complete all my reading quests and wonder why I started them at all. Anyway, it’s more Mary Poppins, only now I know she is literally so powerful that the planets themselves bow down to her and the seasons don’t change without her. She is literally a god. All hail Mary Poppins, lest she smite you down with her bird umbrella!)

July (0)

August (5)

    Shadow Magic by Patricia C. Wrede

(Checking up on the books that my literary hero when I was real small wrote. This book is alright? I don’t read a lot of pure fantasy, and I felt a bit overwhelmed by seeing fantasy jargon again, but I feel that’s my problem, not the book’s. The romance seemed a bit forced, too. But eh, it was fun enough.)

    “The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar” by Gail Carriger

(This isn’t a novel, just a short story, so I’m not going to count it, but I wanted to talk about it, so there. If I were to create a dream story starring Sandy, there would be way more smooching in it, but this is a fun look into his life for fans and will mean absolutely nothing to anyone else.)

    Galaga by Michael Kimball

(Well, this book is terrible. It has this horrible format with a ton of little one paragraph chapters that just jump about. Many chapters lie to you. Many chapters are lists of things the author saw on Google Images. It just… no, don’t read this.)

    The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

(I’m just kind of impressed that he keeps making sequels to books that don’t need sequels. I feel like a lot of this was a LITTLE forced. There was a bit of retcon feeling in there. But dammit, I love these characters so much it didn’t really matter and I really enjoyed it nonetheless. If you’ve read the last two, you’ll love it like I did.)

    Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones

(I think I got this in a random sale? I don’t know. In any case, a fun read. Very different from the film that I saw like a long time ago. I don’t know if I have a lot to say about it, though. It kind of just flowed over me, for better or worse.)

    The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

(Some things sort of rushed, some things kind of forced, but a really fun little read with some really fun ideas about how magic works in that world. A good time.)

September (4)

    Shotguns v Cthulhu edited by Robin D Laws

(I feel like I’m not much of a horror person, and so some of these stories fell flat for me. There was a lot of really fun stories in here though, and pretty well all of them were really well written. It’s probably worth your time if you like more action-oriented horror writing.)

    Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf

(Really, really fun time all around. Quite different from the movie in a way that almost makes the whodunit way way better. A lot of weird race issue sorta things in here though that I didn’t know what to make of. Probably part of trying to ape a style and a time, but man, it was REALLY going for it. I dunno.)

    Jagged Alliance 2 by Darius Kazemi

(Fantastic criticism from an historical perspective. The best Boss Fight Book yet, or at least tied with ZZT. Didn’t appreciate his pointless jab at Killing is Harmless and Reader-Response Crit, though. Reader-Response is my jam. But a fantastic book regardless.)

    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

(At first, the book is overwrought. It feels like a very fun idea given too much intensity, treated as something much more important than it is. But by the end, none of that matters. You are wrapped up, and it is lovely. I’m sure, once the moment of the end has past, I’ll pick at it. But it’s a lovely book, and a lovely read, and I am extremely happy to have read it. Thanks to shivam for suggesting it a long time ago.)

October (0)

November (6)

    For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming

(I feel like Bond short stories are worse than the novels because it has all the stuff I rant about being frustrated by, like how he complains constantly about his extremely affluent lifestyle and his feelings about women, front and center in every intro, and there’s little other stuff to make up for it.)

    The Clockwork Scarab: A Stoker & Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason

(I think I’m training Amazon pretty well, because it keeps suggesting interesting things. The general conceit of the novel could have fallen flat on its face, as a gimmick, and at first it feels that way, but as the story progresses the characters find life, and I was pretty hooked. I especially liked how the book treated men as sexualized figures for the leads in a realistic way, especially in a YA context like this. Was nice to see. Will certainly read the sequel.)

    Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

(I care about these characters and this world SO MUCH. SO MUCH. SO, SO MUCH. SO MUCH IT HURTS. The fact that this ends in the middle of things is frustrating because of this. But it’s a wonderful read.)

    The Spiritglass Charade: A Stoker and Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason

(Goodness, did it really have to retread things very clearly established in the first book? Was I really expected to have forgotten like… every single thing that happened in book one? I mean, come on. It is quite fun, though. I enjoyed it.)

    Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

(I saw a lot of a past me in this narrator. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It does that wonderful thing I envy where the book is about very little as far as plot is concerned, but is really about a lot. It feels significant, but if prompted to explain where the action comes from, it’s hard to explain. This is a book you should read.)

    Super Mario Bros. 2 by Jon Irwin

(The final Boss Fight Book of season one. It was alright. Certainly some interesting info gained from some interviews, though it lost focus near the end. But all that doesn’t matter. The author disrespected Birdetta by misgendering her, so I hate the book. (It’s honestly fine, but that was annoying.))

December (0)

Here’s to another year of me devouring books whenever I’m nervous yaaaaaaaay.

December 31, 2013

Here Are The Books I Read In 2013

Over on Talking Time, I did something I hadn’t really done before: I kept track of everything I read, and wrote little blurbs about what I thought every time I finished one. I figured I’d transfer it over here for safekeeping. So here’s all 46 books I read in 2013, and a little something about what I thought about them. Enjoy.

January (1)

    Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

(A… comedy? It was a strange little story. I stayed engaged the whole way through, but it didn’t totally rock my world.)

February (2)

    Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws

(A gift from the boyfriend, it’s a really interesting look at Tabletop roleplaying through an actor’s eyes, using acting-based analysis to offer tips on proper DMing.)

    A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

(I had like 5 students write about Lemony Snicket last semester, so I felt I needed to investigate. I would have loved these as a kid, if this is any indication. If they were cheaper to grab on my kindle, I’d probably devour the whole series. Just simple fun children’s lit, with a really strong female lead, which I appreciate.)

March (2)

    The Yoga Stripper: A Las Vegas Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Namaste by Laila Lucent

(I read a snippet on a website, and I love a good naughty memoir, but the writing teacher in me ruined a lot of this. I hated how it was laid out and jumped around constantly. But it wasn’t bad, perse. Just… rough.)

    Here’s Looking At Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math by Alex Bellos

(Completely amazing. Math written about by a dual major Math/English dude, it explains Math in a way that will get you excited about it, especially if you still have some math knowledge lingering.)

April (10)

    Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

(I love Fleming. He is so amazingly sexist and racist. I laughed the whole way through Casino Royale, and I did even harder in this one. It’s just amazing that someone once thought it was okay to write this way. How times have changed.)

    Needle in the Groove by Jeff Noon

(Jeff Noon is one of my literary heroes. In this book, he’s writing a novel, but it’s kinda poetry, but it’s kinda song lyrics? I thought it was a failure, in the beginning, but by the end, I was totally into his experimentation here. If you like his work, a must read. If you’re interested in him, start with Vurt.)

    The Key to the Kingdom by Jeff Dixon

(So terrible. So bad. And in such an unbelievable way. The book forgets its own plot points, has the dumbest hero I have ever experienced, and the “dramatic ending” is just so fucking off the rails I could barely breathe from laughing. It’s amazing to me that this book is like… well reviewed. Wow.)

    Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith

(Like, the entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was becoming more anxious sort of sympathetically? I know how it feels to be really nervous and crazy, and this captures a lot of that perfectly. Wasn’t so much humorous as the descriptions claim, though. It was alright. No complaints.)

    Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

(It’s sort of attempting to be a murder mystery with a strange perspective, one of a character with dementia, but really it ends up just being kinda depressing. What draws you in is trying to understand the characters, less than the mystery aspect. They are some well-made characters.)

    Moonraker by Ian Fleming

(I want to give Fleming an award for “Most Improved Over Previous Novel.” Casino Royale was ridiculous because Bond did nothing but eat fancy food and get lovesick. Live and Let Die was ridiculous because AMAZING CONSTANT RACISM. This was… an alright little book. Not great, but a fine read. Good job, Fleming! I look forward to seeing if you go off the rails again.)

    How To Succeed At Aging Without Really Dying by Lyla Blake Ward

(Man, I picked this up as it seemed like an interesting little book of essays, but it was so weird. The first part was like… something such as “Have you noticed bubble packaging is hard to open?” for 4 pages, and then would end with a really painfully not good pun, and this coming from someone who likes most puns. Later, the essays got more essay-like, and were better, but overall, I wouldn’t recommend this.)

    Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc. by David Sedaris

(I love David Sedaris, and his new book is completely fantastic, as expected. It gets more political at times than he has in the past, and as usual, his fiction, this time in the form of several monologues by characters sprinkled throughout the book, didn’t do much for me, but damn. The man knows how to write a funny essay!)

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Randomly inspired to investigate these classic books. Was a quick read, and fun enough. It was interesting to see how it deviated from what I knew of the story. We’ll see how completely strange the rest of the novels get, as I’m sure I’ll slowly work my way through them, knowing me.)

    The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Man, the end of this book. Man, what? I had peeked at a plot summary before I read it, so I knew what was coming, but it was still kind of insane whiplash. Who allows their name and gender to be changed and just goes along with it, even though it wasn’t their will? Glinda, is it really “good” to change someone back who doesn’t wish it? Man, what. Such a strange look at gender politics in this book. I’m betting Ozma of Oz won’t deal with anything I’m having issues with, either. Ozma will probably be a totally different character. Lame!)

May (9)

    Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Well, Ozma wasn’t a different character from Tip, perse, but seriously, no adjustment, no anything is seen, which just saddens me. What she went through at the end of the last book would really mess a person up! Outside of my personal holdups, though, this is more of the same, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, really. This book certainly has some very creepy moments, though. Enjoyable, to be sure.)

    Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line by Brendan Keogh

(I want more long form close readings of games like this, and I want more games to aspire to be worthy of long form close readings like Spec Ops: The Line attempted to do.)

    Escape by Perihan Magden

(Really repetitive, but on purpose. The entire book is clearly supposed to make you feel on edge. And it did! I can’t say I enjoyed it, perse, but I’m glad I read it. It succeeded at putting me in the head of some really messed up people and drowning me in their world.)

    Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum

(The amount of overwhelming in-your-face retconning that happens in this book just feels insulting and stupid. I understand Baum says Oz and such is a “fairy land” and thus he can do whatever he wants, but that doesn’t involve rewriting the past stated in your own books! I lost a lot of respect for him as a writer with this one, basically.)

    Pixel Juice by Jeff Noon

(Collection of short stories. A few in, I realized I had read this before and totally forgot! A few of the best stories stuck in my head, but there were plenty that had totally slipped out. Still, with so many stories tying in to his other novels, this isn’t a place to start for people who haven’t read his stuff.)

    Storm Front by Jim Butcher

(Now everyone can stop telling me to read this book! I always resisted due to connections to exes of various sorts, and it certainly didn’t blow me away [IGN.com] but I understand why the series has fans, to be sure. The book felt very… over-inflated though. Like it needed to ratchet the danger up EVEN HIGHER constantly, which left it feeling a bit silly to me. But I bet that’s something that’s fixed as the book is no longer a one-off but a series.)

    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

(I have used Mary Roach’s essays in my classes often, and think she’s awesome, but never dove into her books before this. This book is fantastic, entertaining, and really interesting. I also had to take breaks and was really uncomfortable reading it, not because she did a bad job, but just because of the subject matter! She makes the subject matter interesting and sometimes funny, but it’s still kinda tough to read about some of these things. Still, if you can handle the topic, highly recommended.)

    Naked Came The Stranger by Penelope Ashe

(Oh man. Oh man. This book. Oh man. Written to mock and make fun of horrible, churned out “big money” writing full of terrible sex. A huge number of reporters wrote this in a week, each taking one chapter. It makes no sense, it’s offensive, it’s terribly written, and it was apparently a huge hit. Read this and despair… but in an entertaining way.)

    Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming

(My Bond exploration continues with another nice book! I really wonder what happened between Live and Let Die and Moonraker, as that book, and this one, almost seem like they are written by different people. Suspense, actually action… Bond fired his gun for the first time in this one! The action cut away when non-relevant things were going on! Fleming is learning! It’s neat to see.)

June (3)

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

(You all were talking about it in the “Whatcha’ reading” and I realized I had never read it, and tried it, and HOLY FUCK WHAT A BOOK. What a hilarious and incredibly affecting and gut-wrenching novel. If you were like me and haven’t read this, you HAVE to. You just have to.)

    Air Force Gator by Dan Ryckert

(See, you gotta follow up something so literary and classic with something completely fucking stupid. It’s the only way, clearly.)

    [Citation Needed] 2: The Needening: More of The Best of Wikipedia’s Worst Writing by Josh Fruhlinger and Conor Lastowka

(A cheap, quick look at some really terrible writing and I was once again very entertained. Who wouldn’t be?)

July (2)

    The Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

(A title so long my Kindle cannot properly display it. This book starts out really slow, if you know your high school chemistry, but then quickly blossoms into awesome stories of scientists and interesting facts about the elements that I certainly didn’t know and found captivating.)

    Falling Out of Cars by Jeff Noon

(Was not expecting a weird post-apocalypse sort of scenario when I started the book, but that’s what I got. I thought the ending was weak, but I’m still in love with Noon’s writing. The narrator, Marlene, really connected with me. I’ve felt lost like that, with nothing to hold onto but words, and those too fading away…)

August (4)

    From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

(Man, the beginning of this book is bonkers. Like over a third of it is just pointless backstory about people in SMERSH! It’s crazy. Overall, the actually story itself is not TOO bad? Not up to the improvement Fleming’s been having though. Also, dunno what’s up with the CLIFFHANGER ENDING.)

    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

(Here’s a classic that’s been around my peripheral vision that I got gently pushed into trying, and it was quite nice! This was a weird deluxe edition with a little novella at the end and all kinds of extra material… it was a nice way to experience this story for the first time. Light, breezy, and fun. A good book, though I could poke at it if I really wanted to nitpick. Also, random thought, it’s kinda silly how much past me would think all the extra material (interviews and such) in this book was stupid, and how much current me enjoys it. Times change, I guess.)

    To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North

(I’m sure I’ve missed a couple endings, but I’ve given it a thorough read, and it is quite a fun little book, and I am 100% glad I backed it. The end.)

    B^F: The Novelization of the Feature Film by Ryan North

(This came with the previous book! I had started reading that blog but lost track of it! So this was a good reason to just read the whole gosh-darned thing, and it was lovely, and hilarious, and [warm and] wonderful.)

September (6)

    Dr. No by Ian Fleming

(More Bond! It was… alright. This book is clearly where the concept of the crazy Bond supervillian with the evil deathtrap lair comes from. Bond, of course, had horrible sexist thoughts throughout, but the book omitted the scene from the film where Bond basically rapes a lady and laughs about it, so that’s nice.)

    Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

(A friend of mine told me this was his favorite book ever, and I should read it, so I did, and it was cute, and funny, and fun, and lovely, and I would recommend it to basically anybody who likes to read a book.)

    It’s Kind of a Cute Story by Rolly Crump and Jeff Heimbuch

(Yeah, more Disney stuff. I’m still obsessed. Still, it was a pretty neat look behind the curtain of a lot of stuff I love, so I really can’t complain!)

    Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

(Man, this was weird. I really don’t know what to think about it. At the very least, it seemed to have very little thematic connection between the weird little stories that led up to anything. Glad I looked into it, but yeah… huh.)

    Soulless by Gail Carriger

(Oh man, shivam was so right about this book and me. Oh man. I have not read a book this fun and this sexy and this smart in a long time, and I am shocked and VERY pleased that they were somehow all in the same book. So good.)

    Changeless by Gail Carriger

(Yep, more of the same. I am pleased. Ending makes me annoyed in “I love the characters and am invested way” but not in the “I am someone who studies literature and this is not well done” way which I think is about the best way for something like that to be, even if annoyed. I feel for all these characters. That’s awesome.)

October (1)

    Blameless by Gail Carriger

(More fun. More awesome. I have not cared about characters, even fairly minor background characters, this much in a long time. They are fun to read about, and I care when things happen. These books are just completely awesome.)

November (2)

    Heartless by Gail Carriger

(The series continues to be lovely, though less sexy than before! Heh, though for good reason. Onward to the last one.)

    Timeless by Gail Carriger

(And now I’m out of this series, which is bittersweet. I can respect ending when things are done, and it feels pretty done! But I was having so much fun and want more. Oh well, so it goes. Heh. READ THIS SERIES, SERIOUSLY.)

December (4)

    Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Gay Talese

(What a strange book. While sometimes the tone of how it describes sex gets unquestionably hilarious, this is an extremely interesting and person book of history about the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, and I’m very glad I read it. It’s dense and long, but good.)

    Felidae by Akif Pirincci

(That weird German cartoon you may have seen on Youtube is now a book! Well, uh, it’s the book that film was based on. It has an interesting tone in the narration, but wasn’t as divergent from the movie as I expected. I look forward to reading Felidae On The Road sometime.)

    Earthbound by Ken Baumann

(Baumann obviously should have written a memoir instead of trying to force all his memories into video game criticism. The amount this book is not about Earthbound, given it’s title, is ridiculous, and it’s kind of oddly organized besides. In no way recommended, especially if you want to, say, read a book of criticism about Earthbound that approaches that game’s text with any sort of insight or usefulness. I really hope the rest of the Boss Fight Books stuff is like… much much different than this.)

    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien

(I had always meant to read this book, especially after I saw the movie after some prodding and had many issues with it. As expected, those were totally addressed and not issues in the book, and man, Mrs. Frisby is such a wonderful protagonist. A heroic mother in a realistic way. It’s such a fun book, and I would have loved it as a kid.)

September 30, 2011

I’m Serious. It’s Not A Gimmick.

Matthew Essner often will tell me that I should read or watch certain things, and often I don’t, even when he forces stuff on me! But in his latest push, to read Cowboy Ninja Viking, I decided I was actually going to try, by taking the books to work and reading them during break. Slowly, I read both trades, and I have to say, it’s a damn good comic.

Here’s the thing. You read the title, Cowboy Ninja Viking, and you think “This is a comic that’s silly and meme-driven. It might be entertaining, but it’s probably a very surface entertainment you’ll just throw away when you’re done.” Not so. While there are some silly, humorous things about the very concept, the comic plays it very seriously, and shockingly enough, it works.

The idea is that there was a secret government project to create “triplets.” These people with three multiple personalities, through various therapies, would be trained so that their alternate personas actually had all the skills of those personas, which the main personality could tap into at any time. Duncan, the main character, got pretty lucky with the personalities he got: a Cowboy, a Ninja, and a Viking. Needless to say, this makes him a pretty damn effective assassin. Of course, he still has to deal with the fact that he has multiple personalities who all have their own motivations and such as well.

Each of Duncan’s other personalities is a personality, and the book does interesting stuff with word balloons to make it clear who is talking. So if the Ninja is talking, the outline of the word balloon has a katana in it, and so on. They also sometimes talk in Duncan’s head via running commentary beneath what’s going on. It’s just really effective. The personalities aren’t stereotypes too. They are a cowboy, a ninja, and a viking, but they make the sort of pop culture references that Duncan would know, and are knowledgeable about how the world today works, which really makes it feel less gimmicky, if that makes sense.

There are, of course, a whole world of other triplets out there for Duncan to fight, or be friends with, or whatever, such as his ex-girlfriend, a martial artist sniper chef, and other people like an army officer, demolitions expert, and Amish man. There tend to be a bit more jokes with these characters, but never in an unbelievable way, given the world. They just tend to be combinations that have an odd man out and clash a lot more than the three combat-focused personalities Duncan has.

The book is actually really wordy, in a good way. I actually got kind of lost in the second trade, but that was mostly because I was reading for only 15 minutes a day over a period of like 2 weeks. It’s got character drama, but it doesn’t let that get in the way of the fun of the concept either. It’s just really well-balanced, and I really think anyone who likes comics should give it a try. I don’t even read comics, really, and I really enjoyed it.

August 6, 2011

A Book So Good, I Actually Read It.

Matthew Essner, in his infinite wisdom, told me that I should listen to The Magicians by Lev Grossman as I drove up to meet Brer.
I, in my infinite wisdom, did not. Because I am stupid.
He got on to me when I got back, so I gave in, and started listening to the audiobook I had prepped for the trip.

Then I couldn’t put it down.

If J.K. Rowling could write (by which I mean create realistic characters and fully realized worlds) she might hope to write something as fantastic as The Magicians. On the surface, it’s a story that “steals” from Harry Potter, but that’s not really the case. The world of The Magicians is real. It’s something that could exist, instead of something that only exists when you ignore massive plot holes. It’s filled with real people with real flaws who make real mistakes. Yes, these mistakes sometimes involve fucking, or drinking too much, because that is what people of the age of the students in the book would do. I also agree with Essner that the fact that you get to see what happens when you graduate from crazy magic school is just fantastic. Once again, it’s so realistic that they’d be lost, having trouble finding something worthwhile to do, even though they can do the impossible. It’s how actual people act. I barely read anymore, but it surprised me how nice it felt to see people, acting like people, in a fantasy world.

I’m not going to spoil much of it. I don’t know. I so truly enjoyed the novel that I didn’t do my English major thing to it, that I normally do to entertain myself even when things are going well. It was just lovely. I do have two things I want to talk about, though, so I will!

The book is willing to make references to Harry Potter. I like this. If I were to go to a magic school in this day and age, I WOULD be making Harry Potter jokes. It’s in the public consciousness, and I’m glad it was willing to go there. However, a lot of the book revolves around a series of books called Fillory and Further. This book series is a completely direct analog to the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s Narnia, with some things slightly changed so that it is its own thing. That’s fine, but why does nobody in the book compare it to Narnia, then? It just seems odd to me that that’s the one thing that’s not the same in this world’s general consciousness. Why not recognize that comparison, too? When you’re willing to compare your magical schools to other magical schools, and it works, I don’t know why you’d be so afraid of making that comparison as well.

The other thing is the ending. Essner was kind of eh on it. I can see why. There’s a climax, and then the book continues, and then there’s another smaller climax, and it’s all depressing and downhill from there until the end. The bit of “good news” at the end of the book almost seems tacked on, something too good to be true, since this is a realistic world where stuff just doesn’t always work out well. At the same time, though, I don’t feel like it’s unearned. Quentin had atoned for his sins with his quest, really. Well, I felt he did. He deserved to have his life back, and an event like that was about the only way it was going to happen. Sure, putting Julia in there seemed… odd. But otherwise, I was down with it. It certainly didn’t ruin the book in any way for me.

Anyway, go read the fucking book if you haven’t. It’s awesome. Apparently there’s a sequel coming out? I have no idea how you’d make a sequel from the book, but I loved it so much I will give Mr. Grossman the benefit of the doubt, to be sure. I’ll probably even read it. Me, who never reads.

August 1, 2011

Also, the Archive Was, Like, In No Way Important At All.

When I visited Brer, I had, surprisingly, a lot of time to listen to things in the car. This gave me a chance to do a little of something I rarely do anymore: read. Or, well, be read to. Brer forced a book on me called The Atrocity Archive, so I gave it a go. I listened to that book. Well, okay, I guess the book in question actually had a novella attached at the end but I did not listen to that part. Just the novel part.

It was alright.

There were a lot of really good ideas in the book, at the very least. The idea of magic being a government-controlled thing, and thus being under the influence of things like being ISO 9000 compliant and under oversight by many committees and whatnot is just a damn good idea. Damn good. It’s funny, and sadly, you can really understand how it would get to that point. If there were a real Ministry of Magic, it would be like that in this modern world. It really works as a framework for magical hijinks and adventure, certainly. I enjoyed that.

However, there really seemed to be plot holes. Wikipedia, source of all human knowledge, tells me that the book was originally serialized, and now that I know that, it really makes perfect sense. He was throwing in plot hooks and elements without really knowing where he was going, to meet deadlines for serialization. The first half of the book is really just a collection of random ideas based on a really cool theme, with Bob trying to figure out what he’s going to do and shit happens to him and then that’s over, next issue there’s a new problem he’s dealing with, and so on. Eventually, the author went “Oh shit, I best bring all this together” and ends up with an interesting setpiece and interesting situation, but the reason they’re there is not well-explained. Why is love interest involved at all at this point? The series of events that the book claims is going on as reasons why is just kind of crazy. Would this evil being really bet their life on all this ridiculous bullshit? If his energy is as scarce as is being claimed, it seems like there has to be a more surefire way to get things to happen than what did happen.

It also just really struck me as a book that Brer would love because the main character loves to over-explain things for no reason. He will often just go off and explain a bunch of metaphyiscal whatevers just because he can’t help but blurt out information no matter what is going on. Much like Brer! (Love you!) It’s nice that the magic in the world has been at least somewhat thought out and planned, certainly, but those infodumps just seemed kind of out of place in a lot of situations. I’m not saying it doesn’t fit the character, because it does. It just struck a cord as being so like him, so of course he likes the story. Heh.

I think it’s extremely likely that I have no actual knowledge of genre fiction anymore, and what in it is good. This may really kind of stand out more than I think it does, but I’m not sure. The Atrocity Archive was certainly not a bad book, and if he stopped with the serialization thing from then on in the series, and applied more planning, I think it could really go places. Again, the general world concept is fantastic, and I was enjoying it enough to see it through to the end, even though the narrator of the audiobook was kind of bad. (He delivered jokes in a way that made it painfully clear he had no idea it was a joke, for instance.) But I’m probably not going to break my general not-readingness to continue on with the series or anything. I am the worst holder of a Masters Degree in English, I swear, with all this not-reading I do.

March 10, 2011

Why are some so obvious, and some so hidden?

I just finished a book called Riding the Trail of Tears. It was a fairly enjoyable experience!

It also has passages like this one. BILLIONS??

But okay, so out of context, that passage seems really, really silly, at the very least. That’s kind of why I took the picture. But if I had to pick one reason why I really enjoyed the book, it’s scenes like that which really sold it to me.

You see, the book is incredibly stream-of-consciousness. Tallulah’s thoughts are just rolling across the page with very little editing. They’re just thrown out there, and you really get inside this character’s head, even more so than usual. Tallulah isn’t telling the story, so she’s not deciding what to leave out for the readers. We’re just right there, all the time, even for the most stupid little thoughts. So when she looks at some of these extremely hormonal college students, it makes sense that, on some level, her mind would go to sex. I find it very endearing that there’s no “editing” of her internal thoughts, and we see her wondering if the two college boys fuck, and how one would feel having to be the bottom. It’s, at times, inappropriate, but thoughts like that fill a person’s workday. It makes it clear she’s a character with flaws, and also a character who enjoys thinking about other people fucking, apparently. Maybe I’m weird, but I find that highly relatable.

There’s plenty of problems with the book. It has a weird premise for a narrator that goes absolutely nowhere, for instance, and a ton of stuff happens that seems to have absolutely no significance. But man, I enjoyed it all the way through, and I enjoyed it because Tallulah was such a strong character. She was very realistic, and easy to love, even as she attempted to picture her clients naked. I liked that about her. I’d recommend it to people who aren’t immediately turned off by the weird premise or that passage up there. It is, indeed, an entertaining read.

August 17, 2010

Trade Up To A More Capable Protagonist Today!

While browsing internet, I came across a link to this website in the discussion of some comics. I rather liked the guy and his little impressionistic reviews. I spent an entire evening reading up on them. While I was reading through them, I stumbled upon this review of a comic called Miss Don’t Touch Me. I clicked on the link to Amazon, assuming it would be some expensive hardcover thing. But it wasn’t. I snapped it up for 10 dollars and gave it a read.

Basically, the story does some very interesting things, as alluded to in the review, if you read it. It starts out as a story about Blanche ending up going undercover, almost by accident, to attempt to solve the mystery of her sister’s murder. However, as the story progresses, it’s obvious that Blanche is not up to the job. She’s become high-profile in a bad way, and is too impulsive and emotional to deal with this problem. However, Miss Jo, a prostitute of questionable gender (Jo certainly seem much happier in the female role, as she never leaves it, but she could just be a crossdresser. It’s never completely explained, though everyone treats her like a woman, for the most part.) soon figures out what Blanche is up to and has the disconnect from the subject matter and the connections to make the investigation come together. It’s this switch of protagonists that’s so shocking. The story is, almost completely, from Blanche’s perspective, but suddenly, Jo steals the show, and becomes the focus of what’s going on while we wonder what might have happened to Blanche. It is in some ways a break of the general trust of the reader/author relationship, but at the same time, it makes perfect sense. Following Blanche would no longer have given us anything useful. Someone else had to step up before she made a horrible mistake, and so someone does.

The characters in the story are fairly well fleshed-out. Most of Blanche’s nature is completely believable, being so uncomfortable in her new role as well as completely excellent at it. She’s funneling a hatred towards men and her sister’s murder into her dominatrixing, and it makes perfect sense and works out well. Similarly, Annette’s submissive, loving attitude and Jo’s sisterly devotion and willingness to use her importance to get things done is completely believable as well. They all feel like real people, and that is certainly nice.

At the same time, I can’t call the book a must read. It’s… missing something. I don’t know what it is. It leaves you with a feeling of melancholy, like something just didn’t click quite right. It could be the situation of the main characters at the end of the story, but I don’t really think that’s the case. There’s always a little something off in the tale, and I could never pin down exactly what it is. Still, it’s a good enough time, and solid storytelling. I don’t regret my purchase one bit. But I’d say, borrow it from me if you can, instead of buying a copy of your own? It may not be the sort of story worth owning, but it’s worth reading.

July 24, 2010

Not as Fine as Advertised.

After reading Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, I found myself constantly thinking up scenarios that would have been more fulfilling and a more fitting end to the series than what I had just read. In the end, though, this kind of thought process is really useless. The series ended the way it did, and it ended… with a disappointment. And now I’m going to ramble about it a bit.

A majority of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is a fight with Gideon. This is a fight that, for the most part, didn’t need to be in the story. It had basically been written out by the end of book 5. The reason I’ve always loved Scott Pilgrim is that it is, in some ways, a musical. The fights come in places of emotional intensity, and they represent emotion. For the most part, the characters don’t seem to react to the fights as real things. Not only is there very little emotional intensity involved in fighting Gideon, it’s the first fight that really gets treated like an actual fight, which just draws a lot of things into question, like “Has Scott Murdered 7 People?”

In an attempt to make this fight with Gideon relevant, many, many completely stupid things are retconned into the plot, like Gideon somehow having some kind of memory altering ability and having created subspace and all kinds of shit that I don’t really feel make much sense. It just helps to emphasize the fact that, for the most part, the fight served no purpose.

All of the big character moments in this book are Ramona’s. Scott gets nothing out of any of the events in the book, except, I guess, a girlfriend again. He doesn’t really grow as a person. Only Ramona does that. The problem is, she’s such a non-entity in the story for a lot of it, that giving the climax of the story to her just seems… completely stupid. There’s no reason for it, and it just leaves Scott having changed not at all, and us having complete proof of that in the end. I’m not saying Scott has to be fundamentally not Scott in the end. But there’s literally nothing about him that’s changed, besides the fact that he’s employed now, I suppose. It tries to not be a story about him at the very end, where it’s inescapably a story about him.

This book had a lot of awesome to live up to, and while I wasn’t expecting it to be super amazing perfect, I was expecting something better than this. It is a disappointment, to be sure. Thankfully, it hasn’t ruined my enthusiasm for the movie or game, so I’m sure I’ll still get plenty of awesome Pilgrim in the near future. Just wish it would have been good enough. Oh well.

February 24, 2010

For me, always / the delight is the surprise.

Keeping the poetry hits rolling! I read The Wild Iris, by Louise Gluck. This one won a Pulitzer prize!

I didn’t get much out of it.

Okay, that’s not completely true? There were three poems that really, really spoke to me. I stuck pieces of paper in the book to save them for later, for rereading and re-thinking. The title is the final lines of one of those poems, which seriously was like a big explosion “woah!” kind of moment when I read it, and I had to go back and re-read the entire thing, knowing what I now knew. Those sorts of poems in the book were fantastic. The rest, the vast majority, were… okay? But also very confusing. Mostly because of the use of the word “You.”

One thing I tried really hard in my book to do is to make sure that the reader always knows who “you” is referring to at any time. In the first half of the book, it is always the Deleter. In the second half, it is always the Repeater. The idea is that this builds up the idea of dialog I am going for, and also keeps from confusing the story.
There’s none of that in this book. I kept being very confused. Was “you” the gardener? The gardener’s wife? God? The flowers? It changed from poem to poem. Every one used “you” and the “you” seemed very different in each one. That’s not depth to me. That’s just confusion for no reason. There is a plot arc of sorts going through the poems. I know it’s there. I can feel inklings of it. But it simply isn’t clear, because I just don’t know who is being spoken to at any time.

This is only compounded by the fact that I also don’t know who is speaking at any time. Many poems have the exact same title. I deduced at some point that these were less titles so much as the names of the speakers in the poems. This would work, except that there are other poems that seem to be by other speakers than who is named. I’ll read a poem, and think it has to be by the wife, but it’s not titled with the wife’s name. I’m just confused even more.

I must also admit that, since this is a very nature-oriented book of poetry, I also got lost in the nature imagery quite a bit. That just isn’t my bag. I am all about humanity, fabrication, and artificiality. I am not one that walks out and enjoys the splendidness of nature. Those images just don’t move me as much as the true, human sort of conversation like I saw in Enough Said.

I feel like I can take something away from this book, but it’s mostly a list of things about how not to set up my narrative. I don’t want my work to be this obtuse. I’m sure it’s a great book, and as I said, there were some amazing poems in there. But this just isn’t for me, and I don’t want my own work to turn out this way.