I won’t be doing much blogging for the next week (although I may poke my head on for a bit) and I doubt I’ll finish reading another novel within the next week so posting this now. Also, I wanted to wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year!
In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd I’ve never read any Jean Shepherd before this. I knew of him of course because of A Christmas Story (which is adapted from this book) but hadn’t read anything by him. And what a treat. He has an amazing conversational tone in this book. The movie takes a few stories from this and creates a wonderful narrative out of them (which isn’t what the book was actually doing) so some of the stories may be familiar but it’s not a direct translation. I have a few of his other books on my to read list.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris This book had been waiting for me for the past year or so to read but I wasn’t quite ready for a depressing book. And I was assuming that this book was going to be depressing. Very few books with Auschwitz in the title are going to be a lighthearted humorous romp. This book was no exception. I’m not a big fan of holocaust books at this point in my life. I feel like I have read enough now that they are more like looking at an accident as you pass by more than taking anything substantial in. This one was well written, you are sucked into the story of the protagonist, but not one I would fully recommend. It felt a little hollow to me at times. Or maybe I couldn’t get past the idea of looking at the accident as I drove by out of my head.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler I don’t understand why we aren’t reading more Octavia Butler at this point. Her books blow me away yet I haven’t really dived into her bibliography. I feel like the titles are offputting to me for some reason and I shy away. Parable of the Sower is one of those novels that I just didn’t realize what I was getting into. If I had read it 4 years ago, I would have thought of it as just a solid post-apocalyptic novel. But reading it in the days of Trump, where there is actually a leader in the book whose slogan is Make America Great Again, it comes off as a prophetic vision of things to come. (The book is set in 2024 in a decaying US). If you have never read Octavia Butler before though, please, get yourself a copy of Kindred as soon as possible. And you’re welcome.
I’ll see everyone in 2020! Be safe!
18 more days before we officially hit winter and we’ve already had our first snow day. And November was one of the coldest I can remember. Great. Gonna need more vitamin d and I’ve already been using my SAD lamp. This winter is going to be rough.
Anyway, November was pretty shitty and I wasn’t that much in a reading mood. So a short list.
The New Annotated Frankenstein by Mary Shelley I read Frankenstein a few years back and had no idea how different the monster was in the book from the movie version. I’m enjoying reading the annotated versions of classics because we miss so much of the references that are just littered about these books which are difficult to pick up during a contemporary reading.
The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs. The only reason why this was on my radar was because last month I finished the bio on Edward Gorey who had illustrated the cover to a few of Bellairs novels. I guess this would be considered a children’s or YA novel. And it was a fun little distraction to read during a shitty month.
The Terror by Dan Simmons. Damn. I always feel so stupid for stumbling across a masterpiece that was written years about but I just learned about. A historical fiction novel with an added horror element. This may be a contender for the best book I have read this year. I just started watching the tv series of it on Hulu which has an amazing cast but doesn’t seem to live up to the quality of Simmons’ writing style. (Although it’s probably more enjoyable if I hadn’t just finished reading the novel)
The Institute by Stephen King. What’s this? A novel by a local Maine author. Let’s give it a go. I mean, King always ropes you in with his style at this point. He’s amazing at building likable characters who you identify with immediately. This book was no different. The problem is that he has been so prolific and his body of work is so immense that it’s almost impossible for him to write a story now without drawing upon his own bibliography. I really enjoyed the beginning and then felt it get redundant during the middle. Halfway through I just wanted the book to be over already.
Thanks to everyone who left a comment on the last post. It really means a lot during a difficult time. I’m still a bit shocked to be honest. I keep going to message my friend or send her a silly link, and it takes a bit for my brain to catch up to reality. Janine was an amazing artist, a terrific writer, and a great friend. I miss her dearly.
Actually a bit of a slow month for some reason.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson I’m pretty sure I put this on my list because Obama had read it. It’s about a black female CIA agent and I was really looking forward to this. And, it makes a small mistake. It’s just boring. Completely boring. Not sure how you fuck up a spy novel but this one manages it. I gave up about halfway through.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman I read this when it first came out and decided it was a perfect pre-Halloween read again. And you know what. Still holds up. Extremely imaginative and hits all the right notes. Reminds me that I should reread Coraline also.
The Lovecraft Anthology, Volume 1 I was browsing a bookstore and came across a graphic novel version of some Lovecraft stories. The one I found in the bookstore was Volume 2 and I didn’t think it was worth spending $25 on. My library had Volume 1 so here we are. This volume has some of my favorite Lovecraft stories (Call of Cthulhu, Shadow over Innsmouth, Dunwich Horror, Rats in the Walls) so I was thrilled by the content. The art was well done but I felt like they cut way too much out of each story to make it easily digestible.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving This is more of a short story (maybe a novella? I dunno, read it on a kindle and forget how many pages it is) This is another reread except there have been so many adaptations that have expanded on the story that it’s difficult to remember how the original goes. I liked the simplicity and the ending which leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey Ok, I’m cheating with this one. I haven’t finished it yet. But I should finish it tonight. A good biography about Gorey. I have visited the Gorey House in Yarmouth, MA a few years ago which was filled with his work and amazing if not a bit on the small side. If you’re into his work, this book will be a treat for you.
And what have you been reading lately?
What are your favorite games to play on your phone?
I have a long commute. Sometimes, I’m too tired or not in the mood to read. So I’ve been looking for games to play that don’t involve popping bubbles. I started playing The Room which is a fun puzzle game. But also looking for other suggestions. So what are you playing on your phone?
September and October are for spooky/horror or any other autumn book you can find. So, expect a theme in my reading for the next month or two. Let’s get to it.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri. The only book that isn’t part of the fall theme. Jhumpa writes about her experience learning Italian. This book called out to me as someone who is learning other languages and the beginning was great. Jhumpa has an amazing way with words. Unfortunately, by the halfway mark it had grown redundant and I found the book a bit too self-indulgent. Meh.
The October Country, by Ray Bradbury. Ok, it’s September (or was when I was reading this) but close enough for me. I am fairly certain I have read this book long ago but didn’t recall. Like any short story collection, some of these are hits, others are misses. For some reason, Bradbury has never done it for me. Every single time I have sat down with one of his books, they leave me disappointed. Like I’m not getting the hype about him.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Another popular book which just wasn’t for me. I think the only book I have ever read by Straub was The Talisman which is coauthored by Stephen King. I’ll give him another go but I just couldn’t get into this book.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. A graphic novel set in a pumpkin patch between two work friends before they go off to college. There is nothing deep involved in this at all. It’s just pure brain cotton candy. But, cotton candy is delicious. And this is the perfect fall reading.
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. I loved the first half of this book. Really loved it. And then halfway through I got bored and confused and threw in the towel. You ever have an experience like that where you’re really enjoying a book and suddenly it feels like your copy was missing a chapter and you’re suddenly deep in the dark woods without a map or light? That was Lovecraft Country for me.
The Fisherman by John Langan. This was my favorite read of the month. It grabbed me by my shirt collar from the beginning and didn’t want to let go. The story is so simple. A widower starts fishing as a way to cope with his grief. Another colleague also loses his wife and they start fishing together. The hook is that the narrator is a damn good guy and you like spending time with him. Things get strange when the colleague wants to take him to this fishing spot where some weird shit happened a century ago. There’s a story within a story that happens which goes on a bit too long and the last half of the book feels a bit sloppy which is too bad because this could have been spectacular. But still a solid fall read.
We haven’t done one of these in a long time. Let’s give it a go to escape from the news.
What’s something you have given up in the last year?
Eating mammals. Last August, I decided to start cutting my meat intake. I figured I would start with beef and pork products. I was a huge meat eater for the majority of my life. When I would go out to eat, burgers and steaks were what I looked for first on the menu. I thought I would just try to give it up for a month. I’ve been reading more about factory farming, and I was wondering if I would still eat animals if I actually had to be the one to kill them. I don’t think I could kill a pig. And definitely not a cow. So I went a month choosing either the fish or vegetable dish. Sometimes chicken. And that month went longer. It’s been over a year now since I have eaten a mammal. (There may have been some pork products I unknowingly ate since a lot of restaurants use pork in soups as flavor. New England clam chowder, I’m looking at you.)
Do I miss it? No. I don’t really crave a burger or bacon. It’s a little more tricky when looking at a menu but I’m still eating fish and chicken so ordering is not a problem. I think I would like to start limiting my chicken intake, and I have to an extent. I’m not actively trying to become a vegetarian, but as I get older I seem to be drifting that way.