Readathon? Readathon!

April 22, 2016

DEWEYsReadathon

I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately and so I didn’t even realize that Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon was happening this weekend until I got the Twitter notification that a bunch of people were talking about it. But I’m always down for a bookish party, so I quickly registered and am now throwing together my readathon stack o’ books.

As luck (or, you know, my predictable browsing habit) would have it, I just picked up three books from the library that I’ve been dying to read. They’re all a fairly manageable length and super interesting. It also helps that they’re all different genres (and one is a collection of short stories), so I’ll have a book for every mood.

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth, Scary Old Sex, Pandemic

Woo! Library books!

 

 

 

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth: A Memoir of Place, Solitude, and Friendship by Katherine Towler

Scary Old Sex by Arlene Heyman

 

 

 

To round things out and be my usual over-ambitious self, I’m also going to keep Uprooted by Naomi Novik and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi nearby (also because I’ve been meaning to read Uprooted for ages and I love everything Helen Oyeyemi writes).

And in case that wasn’t enough, I’ve got a few e-books as well. I’m currently in the middle of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion and I have Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance and Loving Day by Mat Johnson sitting on my kindle app.

Given that I am lacking in both a time-turner and superpowers, I don’t actually expect to finish even a fraction of this stack. Since I didn’t remember that the Readathon was happening, much of this weekend is double booked (see what I did there). I don’t really mind though. I’ll get through what I get through and that will likely be more than it would otherwise be. Also, it’s always fun when the bookish community gets to rally and pour all our enthusiasm into an event like this, so seeing everyone else’s posts will also be great.

If you want in on the action, it’s not too late! You can sign up here and also follow the progress of the Readathon through the 24 hours.

To follow any progress that I do make, you can check my Instagram and Twitter feeds (I’m @poindextrix on everything) as that’s probably where I’ll be updating. Also on Litsy, because that is my new obsession. It’s like a mix of Instagram and Goodreads, so how could I not love it?

So who else is participating? What are you reading? Inquiring (bookish) minds want to know!

The project I’ve been working on for the past two years is over at the end of this month. It has been an amazing experience and over all, I’ve really enjoyed it. Now that the project is coming to an end, I’m mostly panicking, but there is a teeny tiny part of me that is relishing the idea of having a bunch of “free” time in which to read more. Obviously I’ll be applying for every archival job under the sun and hopefully going on interviews, and maybe doing other kinds of work to pay the bills, but I imagine there will be more reading time ahead.

And so, I have devised this reading list for myself, if only to have a bright spot in the gloom of uncertainty. And if you happen to be in the market for an archivist or special collections librarian, call me (I’m kidding {I’m not kidding}).

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace — I have started this, only to abandon it for other (shorter) books on multiple occasions, and more time = more progress, right? When I came up with this idea, this book was the first that came to mind, but as I’ve added to the list I think it might end up bumped down a few spots.

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown — I bought this book back when I lived in New York and then, predictably, got distracted. Since I still feel like I’m mostly just doing an impersonation of a functional human being, I think I could really benefit from reading it right now. And maybe I’ll learn some helpful tips to apply to my job search and living more frugally/successfully while looking for a job.

Negroland by Margo Jefferson — A book that’s about the past, but also about the present and something that our society continues to grapple with. I feel like I will learn a lot when I read this.

Mentors, Muses, and Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives — I find a lot of mentor-mentee relationships fascinating, as well as the everyday lives of writers (“they’re just like us!”), so I expect this to be like candy. And, there are probably tons of great pieces of advice, so I’m going to try to absorb the knowledge and wisdom of these people third or fourth-hand.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi — This is sort of a cheat since I technically started it earlier this month on a really shitty evening during a really shitty week. The details aren’t important, but reading about how literature is, and what it can teach us about ourselves and other people and life just might be.

The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector — An awesome woman being awesome and writing amazing, feminist works throughout her life? I’m here for it. I’ve been wanting to read more in translation and more short stories, and I’m always down for more feminist writing. This ticks all the boxes.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab — Because 1) I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and 2) I need a little magic in my life.

So there you have it. My Unemployment Reading List. Is there anything else you think that I absolutely need to add to this list? Hopefully I won’t be unemployed long enough to finish it, but as Scar says:

Be Prepared!

Sorcerer to the Crown Review

February 26, 2016

I kept hearing about this book. I kept meaning to read it. I finally got around to it. Now I get it.

Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is the magical feminist fantasy novel I’ve been waiting for. It’s funny and fun and smart. Every time I thought there was something that was going to make me groan unhappily, it got flipped on its head. My only complaint is the continued use of “female” as a noun, and I think that might just be a pet peeve of mine.

The characters are strong and relatable and, occasionally, ridiculous. The plot is engaging and the writing is great. I wanted to keep reading — not only to find out what would happen next, but because it was an enjoyable experience.

Seriously, this book is delightful. It has something for everyone. I whole-heatedly recommend it. It’s the first in a trilogy and I don’t even care that I have to wait (OK, I care a little bit). I’m all in.

So first things first, I have a confession to make: I haven’t yet read A Dance with Dragons (the fifth book in the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire series). At first I was waiting until it came out in paperback. Then, with no paperback release in sight, I caved and bought the hardcover. And now it’s just been sitting on my shelf. I think I’ve put off reading it because   I know that once I read it, I’ll be like all the rest of you schmucks waiting in agony for the new one. Also, have you seen this? It’s old, but it never ceases to amuse me.

All of this to get to my actual point: I’m still putting off reading A Dance with Dragons (though my resolve is weakening), but I wanted to read some sort of crazy fantasy. Enter Tuf Voyaging.

Originally published in 1986, Tuf Voyaging is a collection of linked stories by George R. R. Martin following the exploits of Haviland Tuf —trader turned ecological engineer— and his cats. Really, I think all you need to know about this book is that there’s a dude (who kind of reminds me of good ole’ GRRM) who flies around in space with cats. I could tell you more, but I kind of don’t want to. These stories are attention-grabbing, hilarious, and so much fun, with little bits of social commentary sprinkled throughout.

Each story chronicles a different one of Tuf’s adventures, so they can certainly be read in pieces, but I tore through this. It was such a treat and I just wanted to see everything that he got up to.

So yeah, if you’ve run out of A Song of Ice and Fire books, or if you just feel like it’s time for some other sci-fi/fantasy, definitely pick this one up.

As some of you may recall, I read Garth Nix’s Sabriel, and while I really enjoyed it, I initially decided that I wasn’t going to continue reading the series. And then there was so much buzz about Clariel and the other two books (Lirael  and Abhorsen) were right there at the library and… yeah.

I enjoyed Clariel, but if I’m being honest, not as much as the other books in the series. I liked the concept behind the book and how it took a different direction than the other books, but somehow it didn’t all mesh the way I wanted it to. Some people were disappointed with Clariel  because they found the character to be unlikable in whatever way. I can see how she is not the most likable person, but I think much of it is a fair representation of a certain type of teenager — somewhat selfish and wrapped up in her own interests, but fiercely devoted to her family, despite any disagreements. Clariel reads like a hard-headed teenager for a lot of the book. That doesn’t necessarily make her actions any less infuriating though.

Even though Clariel takes place in the same world, it feels like such a departure from the rest of the series because of the tone and the way the story progresses in a different direction. I certainly would not discourage a fan of the other books from reading this, but they should be prepared for something a bit different.

Remember how I read Lev Grossman’s The Magician King and only realized that it was a sequel after I was 3/4 of the way through the book?

Remember how I then went back and read The Magicians, the first book, and promised that review would be forthcoming? I’m finally making good on that promise. Better late than never, I say.

Given my unorthodox sequence of reading, The Magicians filled in a lot of gaps for me. It helped me understand some of the characters and settings much better and put a lot of things into perspective. That being said, it also undermined and confused a lot of my perceptions.

There are some things I simply cannot reconcile now that I’ve read both books, and I’d be curious to see how others who read them in order feel about them.

Exhibit A: In The Magician King, Janet is snide and smug. Maybe not the most likeable character of the group, but decidedly part of it. In The Magicians, she is that and so much more. She is manipulative and conniving, and her actions nearly have some very dire consequences. How do things go from so bad to hunky-dory?

I said in my review of The Magician King that some parts just felt — for lack of a better word — improbable, and that observation carries through to The Magicians as well. The background, with the introduction of the school and the big players, as well as more of the back-story helped to some degree, but some aspects were lacking.

There’s a gap between the end of The Magicians and the beginning of The Magician King, and that could be a contributing factor to my lack of satisfaction and feeling of unease. They leave Fillory in shambles and The Magician King picks up with it as an idyllic fairy-land. Grossman needs to fill in the gaps.

Despite my whining, I really did like The Magicians, though I think I enjoyed the sequel more. If I could do it all over again, I’d probably read the books in order and maybe I’d be less confused/disillusioned? I suppose we’ll never know. Grossman managed to build a great premise though, and it kept me reading. I think the pros far outweigh my nitpicky cons.

Review — The Magician King

September 2, 2012

I read The Magician King by Lev Grossman pretty quickly. I’d picked it up in the bookstore portion of the Center for Fiction when a customer was asking for recommendations. I remembered hearing about it so I glanced at the cover copy to refresh my memory and see if it was something in the vein of what she was looking for. The customer wrote down a few of my recommendations (but didn’t buy anything), but I ended up totally wanting to read this book. It was only in hardcover though, and I am too poor for that right now. Then I found it in the circulating collection, so all bets were off.

So fun fact: as I was reading this I didn’t feel particularly lost, but there were a lot of references to things that happened before in the past/before the point where this book starts. I found that kind of bizarre and kept wondering why Grossman hadn’t written a book about all of this since it sounded like there was a lot of action(!) and drama(!) involved. And then I found out that he had in fact written a book about all of that (The Magicians) and I was reading the sequel. I’m a truly impressive creature, I know. Anyway, I was more than 3/4 of the way through The Magician King before I realized this, so I finished it and am now reading The Magicians.

I’m almost done with The Magicians, so I thought about just waiting and then giving you the reviews in order, but what’s the fun in that?

I really enjoyed The Magician King, and I think that the fact that I was able to get so far into it without realizing that I was reading a sequel speaks volumes about Grossman’s ability to draw the reader into the story. As I said, I wondered why Grossman hadn’t written about the previous events. I was curious, but I was never confused.

As a writer Grossman doesn’t take himself too seriously, which can be refreshing and funny at times, but starts to get old and seem amateurish if used too often.

I also found parts of the plot…improbable? That’s probably not the right word to use given that this is a fantasy novel, but I’m sticking with it for lack of a better phrase. After the near-disastrous results of rushing through the first door opened with a magic key, wouldn’t Quentin be a bit more careful the second time around? I get that Grossman needs these characters who are all in different places to talk to one another, but getting stranded gets old fast. And the ending! In a game of lowly bureaucrat vs. royalty, shouldn’t royalty have the upper hand there? Why is there any talk of punishment coming from them?

The ending is unsatisfying for other reasons, but I do admit that had everyone gone back to Castle Whitespire to live happily ever after with everything all nice and tidy, that would have been unsatisfying and anticlimactic as well. Maybe I’m just difficult to please.

This makes it sounds like I have a lot of complaints, but over all, I really liked The Magician King. It had just the right amount of mystery and magic, with some humor and plenty of adventure thrown in. Yes, there are blurbs on the cover that mention Harry Potter. No, I will not make a comparison.

On an almost entirely separate note, am I the only one who wishes that the Fillory novels mentioned in the book were real? I want to read them. They sound like fun, sort of like the Magic Treehouse books, of which there are probably 60 by now.