As soon as I found out that Maria Semple — author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and writer for TV shows including Arrested Development — had a new book coming out, I was overcome with a need to read it as soon as possible. It might have edged its way into obsession territory. Edelweiss to the rescue! As soon as my copy came through, I dove right in.

And Today Will Be Different did not disappoint. Semple’s clear eye for detail and sharp wit carry through this book delightfully. There are some similarities to Where’d You Go, Bernadette in that it’s another great observational critique of this one kind of community, but in many ways this is a horse of another color. Today Will Be Different is not as charming as Where’d You Go Bernadette. Eleanor Flood, our protagonist, is frustrating, if funny, and she is quirky, but not always as endearing. In some ways I think this book is more relatable. The (seemingly) promises one makes to oneself — I will shower and get dressed, I will make an effort with people, I will try — ring very true to my ears.

The struggles Eleanor face bring extra depth and dimension to a refreshing and funny read. There is history and feeling and art and connection in this book and I really enjoyed it.

Today Will Be Different comes out October 4 and you should read it if you like fun, funny books full of heart and hilarity.

I finished reading Mat Johnson’s Loving Day way back in the beginning of June, but I’ve held off on writing about it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

The writing is superb, that’s not the issue. The characters are complex and interesting. And infuriating and discomfiting.

I am bi-racial. I am the product of an interracial, interfaith marriage. This is how I have always identified and I wouldn’t know how to claim any other identity.

The assertion that by claiming my bi-racial identity I am denying a part of myself or my history (or cultural history) offends me.

And so reading some of the ideas expressed by characters in this book seriously got under my skin. Yet the characters embracing their combined heritage also irked me. They seemed blinded by their rhetoric, unrealistically idealistic, and downright cultish. Basically, all of the characters said and/or did things that I found wrongheaded and upsetting.

And ultimately, that’s why I think that I might have liked the book. The reading experience was uncomfortable and sometimes difficult; it’s hard to hear unflattering opinions about a group with which you identify, but reading those things helped me think about the various kinds of racial identity in a different way. I haven’t changed my mind about how I identify myself, but I appreciate the glimpse into a different perspective.

 

A Peculiar Giveaway

June 20, 2016

Hey there bookfans!

Remember Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Think back to the awesomeness. It’s fine, I’ll wait…

Good? Good.

It turns out that the first installment of this delightfully creepy and fun and peculiar series was published FIVE YEARS ago.

To celebrate this momentous anniversary as well as the upcoming movie (coming to a theatre near you in September. Mark your calendars!), our friends over at Quirk Books are having a photo contest. They’ve commissioned a limited edition poster featuring fan art and photographs.

This is where you come in — you post your fan art, Peculiar-inspired costumes and photos, etc. on social media and tag it #5PeculiarYears, or go to quirkbooks.com/5PeculiarYears and submit it via the widget there. In addition to contributing to this fun, limited edition poster, there are also prizes! It’s also a great opportunity to show your creativity and your love and appreciation for the series.

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Check out this “My Peculiarity Is” tote. You know you want one…

Since Quirk is so awesome and completely embraces the peculiar, they sent me one of their glorious “My Peculiarity Is” tote bags (super on-brand for me, repping the peculiar and whatnot) AND another one to give away to my followers. So! Comment below or on my Instagram post with your peculiarity and I’ll pick a winner this Friday (June 24) and send you your lovely tote!

And don’t forget to send your fan art to Quirk! They want to see your creativity and peculiarity at work. Also tag me (@poindextrix on all the things) so that I can bask in your awesome, bookish peculiarity.

Summer might finally be upon us and with humid, sticky weather and cold beverages come my desire to compile another reading list. Beach reads, patio reads, sitting-on-my-couch-in-the-air-conditioning-reads… They’re all fabulous and I’m here for all of it.

Since I don’t really follow the rules or the seasons when I read, this list is pretty damn random. I kind of just feel like reading these books, so why not read them this summer? (Note: a couple of these may look kind of familiar because I’m repeating them from my unemployment reading list. I am now marginally more employed {but still looking for a full-time gig if you’re in the market for an archivist!} and didn’t get all the way through it, but I still want to read the books!)

All the Single Ladies. I need my feminist non-fiction. It’s like a glass of restorative water for me. And we all know hydration is important in these scorching summer months. Also, Beyoncé reference.

A Darker Shade of Magic. If summer isn’t for magic and whimsy, what, pray tell, is it for?

The Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector. Awesome short stories by awesome lady writer. Here for it. I might read this in dribs and drabs throughout the summer. There are a lot of them.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. I lusted after this a couple of BEAs ago and finally got my hands on it and haven’t read it yet. It’s historical fiction and has “ice cream” in the title. I feel like it might actually be my perfect summer book.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. Helen Oyeyemi. Need I say more?

I Capture the Castle. Somehow I haven’t read this. I got a copy from the Apparating Library at Book Riot Live in November, so I have no excuse. Clearly it is time to fix this problem.

Do What You Love and Other Lies About Success and Happiness. Sort of self-help-y, but also humor and sociology and such. Might help me with life, but also make me feel better about life? That’s good for summer, right?

So that’s my list. You can see I’ve really thought these through [insert all the sarcasm marks]. Apparently summer is time for my lazy, meandering reading. I’m OK with that.

What are you reading? Do you follow conventions and read certain kinds of books during the summer? Are there other things you think I should read this summer? What’s the rationale?

Readathon? Readathon!

April 22, 2016

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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!

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.

I’ve been meaning to write about Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night for a while, but I kept getting distracted. If the title sounds familiar, it’s possible that you’re a Book Riot fan and heard Liberty proclaim that she would eat James Patterson if this book doesn’t do well.

Well, I’m a lucky duck with *connections* and I managed to get my hands on an advance copy.

Guys, I think James Patterson is safe.

The Queen of the Night is so good. So. Good.

I love historical fiction and I love sort of epic, sprawling tales that follow characters through radically different stages in life. This book scratches all of those itches for me. I love how the protagonist is able to shift and adapt to new situations — she’s a strong, if somewhat selfish character. She is complicated and intense and I really liked seeing her story unfold. I also enjoyed how opera plays an ongoing role in the book. It added an extra sense of depth to the story. That being said, I don’t think that an interest in/knowledge of opera is necessary to enjoy The Queen of the Night.

I don’t want to say any more about it at this point (other than it’s fantastic and you should read it) because I want you to really be able to take it all in fresh when you read it.

It comes out in February 2016. Plan accordingly. Once you start reading it, you might not want to stop and it’s a hefty-ish book. But yeah, read it. Make sure James Patterson is safe.

Readathon In Review

October 14, 2015

I’m a bit delayed in this, but I’m finally sitting down to recount my Popepocalypse Readathon experience. I think it ended up going really well. It was nice to have a few days in which I decided to just devote the time to reading and relaxing. Also, the weather was great, so I spent a ton of time out on my balcony (did I mention my new apartment has a balcony? It’s fantastic and I’m kind of obsessed with it) and at the local coffee shop’s outdoor seating just enjoying the lovely weather with tea and books.

Yeah, yeah, I get it. I should stop blathering on about the weather and tell you about the books.

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First up was Woman Rebel by Peter Bagge. It’s a graphic … biography? (like graphic novel, but a biography. Can I just call it a graphic novel even though it’s a true story?) about Margaret Sanger, who is generally regarded as the mother of birth control. She’s was a bit of a complicated woman and remains a polarizing figure since she wasn’t super intersectional in her feminism, but I think that this was book was a fair representation of her. The art style of this wasn’t my absolute favorite, but I think that’s just personal preference.

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After that, I moved on to Peter Pan. I mean, it’s a classic. I don’t even have much to say about it beyond that. It’s a good deal darker and a kind of more bizarre than all the Disney-fied versions that we see these days.

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The next book I read was Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy. I honestly recommend that everyone read this because it is touching and inspiring and hilarious and so many other things that I don’t even have words for. But careful reading it in public because after a while it becomes really difficult to stifle all the laughter.

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Then I moved on to Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older. This had been on my list for a while and I realized that this readathon was the perfect time to dive in. You guys, this book was so good and so much fun. So. Much. Fun. It’s part of the Bone Street Rumba series and I’m excited to read the other books that take place in this world.

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The book I closed out the readathon with was Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Again. So good. This is one that I think I want to read again even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since I finished it.

I had so much fun doing this readathon and sharing pictures of what I was reading and my progress on social media (and if you’re not following me on Instagram, why not? You’re missing out on some awesome bookish pics. And random shots of food and my cat for variety). Can I just have a three-day weekend to do this every couple of months? That would be spectacular.

A couple of weeks ago, I got home from a packed weekend and took the following Monday off to sleep, rest my incredibly unhappy back, and read my copy of Go Set A Watchman. I finished it in a single day, but I haven’t written much about it until now (partly because I’ve been busy and lazy, but partly because I had a lot of thoughts and it has taken me a while to sort them out).

OK. So, initial thoughts: I kind of liked it. I liked seeing this older Scout and I think that even though much of this was rough, Harper Lee’s talent for creating complex characters is evident.   There were scenes in Watchman that really shined. Atticus is a complex man and this version of him is harder to love, but I think Lee makes him that way for a reason (though that hedging toward the end made me uncomfortable).

Watchman feels incomplete. Because it is. This was an early draft before an editor got involved and steered Lee in a new direction. The pacing is off and while there are great scenes, there are cringeworthy ones as well.

This does not detract from To Kill a Mockingbird for me. I don’t think it mars Harper Lee’s legacy, though I do think that the publisher has done her a disservice in publishing Watchman without a disclaimer of some sort indicating the circumstances of its publication (i.e. early draft, little-to-no editing, etc.).

I think that there are many interesting papers/books that can (and probably will) be written about the evolution of the treatment of race in these two books. Even though Scout is horrified by Atticus’s segregationist ideals, she’s got some of her own issues that rub me the wrong way.

All in all, this isn’t a great book. It probably isn’t even a good book, but the novelty of it and looking at it through the scope of TKAM has brought it up a little bit up in my eyes.

 

I know that book nerd-dom comes in many varieties, but I’ve always felt that going to book events (assuming they’re available) was a good book nerd behavior. And so it’s embarrassing to admit that even though I’ve lived in Philadelphia for over a year, I haven’t gone to a single book/author event. Until tonight. 

Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be A Woman and How To Build A Girl, as well as comedian, columnist, TV/film writer and all-around awesome human being was at the Free Library of Philadelphia tonight. She was honest and raunchy and absolutely hilarious. It was a fantastic event.

After the talk/reading and Q & A she signed books upstairs. The line moved a little bit slowly, but that was just because she actually spoke to every single person, giving them hugs and taking pictures. When it was my turn I was a little star-struck, but she was just so lovely —thanking me for coming and saying all of these amazing things that I want to cherish forever — that I kind of just felt like I was talking to a friend. A friend who is hilarious and spectacular and makes me feel better about myself and the world.

Caitlin Moran comes across like a hella-awesome lady in her writing, and she really, really is. Her books are amazing, she’s amazing, my night was amazing.

And because I am that kind of book nerd, here are my pictures from the night:

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

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Reading from How To Build A Girl

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Close-up of Caitlin Moran reading from How To Build A Girl

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Seriously, she’s so nice and enthusiastic.

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We just had a little chat before she signed my book.

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Also, she’s super silly, and it’s fantastic.

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Love her!

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My signed copy. It has such a great memory to go along with an already fantastic book.