So, as you can see from my tabs above I’m attempting the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010) challenge. I’m not reviewing every book, but when I get low on other things to talk about they make for some good backlist discussion. I have three recent reads turned mini reviews for you.
Zorba the Greek by: Nikos Kazantzakis – #573
Short Synopsis: Two men travel to Crete together. The narrator opens a lignite mine and Zorba talks a lot.
Itty Bitty Review: This book was definitely not my cuppa. I know it was originally published in 1946 but I found Zorba’s attitudes towards and about women to be nearly offensive. The meandering conversations between the narrator and Zorba feel absolutely dated and dull. Maybe something was lost in translation, but this book didn’t work at all for me. 2/5 stars.
Neuromancer by: William Gibson – #233
Short Synopsis: Gritty sci-fi, dystopian future where data thieves and hackers are major players in the criminal underworld and one hacker has to take on an AI for a mysterious employer.
Itty Bitty Review: This book was almost too gritty for me. I have to disagree with comparisons to 1984 and Brave New World, those are way better than Neuromancer. By no means is this book bad, I read it in a matter of days, but it was kind of ‘meh’ for me. I think that people who really enjoy this genre will really enjoy this book. 3/5 stars.
Underworld by: Don DeLillo – #71
Short Synopsis: … I can’t even. Here’s Goodreads:
While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the Cold War and American culture, compelling that “swerve from evenness” in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying.
Itty Bitty Review: I know… what? Which is pretty much my reaction to the whole book. Anyone who cares to explain this book to me I would greatly appreciate it. For real. I missed something deep AND important with this book and I love DeLillo’s White Noise. I can’t even rate it because I don’t know what the hell it’s about.
Read any big classic or modern classic novels lately, Reader?Does anyone understand Underworld?
Reading // Go Set a Watchman, it’s slow going – mostly because I’m so tired after commute and family time that I go straight to bed listening to audio books instead of reading, so it’s taking me way longer than it should to complete it. But maybe today?
Listening // Unsurprisingly, to a bunch of stuff! I finished up Vanity Fair, which was surprisingly enjoyable. I also finished listening to Wizard and Glass, which probably accounts for my fourth or fifth ‘reading’ of it. I’m on to Wolves of Calla, which will only be my second ‘reading’ of it. I’m looking forward to book seven, which I remember when finishing it I wanted to go start the entire series all over again.
Also, finally catching up with the cool kids and listening to ‘Serial’ from NPR on my commute. It’s interesting and thought provoking as a lawyer. I’m interested to see what comes of it. Maybe I’ll finally download some episodes of Literary Disco to see what all the buzz is about. Also, I could catch up on Annasaurus Rex’s podcast Type O-Maha.
Watching // Went to see Minions this weekend with hubs and The Girl. Fun.
Feeling // Tired. Naturally. I’ll leave you with a Beatles song to inspire you.
With Margaret Atwood due out with a new novel in September, it seems like a good time to bring out the fabulous Positron serials. Her new novel, entitled The Heart Goes Last, to my understanding is a full rewrite of the first four episodes of the Positron serials and the thrilling conclusion that was never published by the now defunct Byliner Publishing.
Incidentally, the cover to the new book reminds me of Orange is the New Black.
But onto the review of the serials!
I adored the first four installments of this series. Charmaine and Stan are taking part in a social experiment.. oh hell, I’ve never been any good at writing a synopsis, here’s what Goodreads has to say:
Stan understands the Faustian deal he and his wife, Charmaine, have made. In exchange for a house, food, and what the online brochure hails as “A Meaningful Life,” they’ve chosen to become guinea pigs in this new social order. The couple know that to break the rules is dangerous; but, driven by unrelenting boredom and lust, they do it anyway and betray each other and the system.
These four little barely-novellas are delightful and terrifying. Delightful because Atwood is the expert near future dystopia world builder, terrifying because it’s incredibly easy to see that people might agree to this type of set up one day. ‘Positron’ has a bit of a Handmaid’s Tale vibe, which you know made me love it more. I’m not sure that these serials are still available for purchase in eBook format (they were only ever published in eBook format), but if they are, I must highly recommend them.
I’ve not read it yet, but are you psyched about the new Atwood book? Have you read the Positron serials?
This Week // Started my new job. I think it’s going to be a great fit, outside of the commute. I love prosecuting – largely because it doesn’t require me to bill hours or bring in new clients. Oh, and the whole justice for all thing being in my hands is fulfilling as well. Yesterday Mr. SFR and I went to look at houses closer to the job site, but since he works in the opposite direction the whole thing is going to be tricky. Especially with Atlanta traffic.
My big girl, fancy pants office that I’m quite pleased with.
Now // I brought some case files home that I need to work on a bit to get ahead for next week. I don’t anticipate every weekend being this way, but since I inherited a ton of files – well, it’s catchup time.
Needing // Time and inclination to write and schedule a ton of reviews in advance! My poor comrades at The Socratic Salon are always waiting on my to make my menial contributions to our discussions. Obviously the blog is in the pits as well.
Reading // Okay… well listening… I’ve been making some serious headway into Vanity Fair during my commute and while that time period is definitely far from my favorite — I’m kind of loving it. It’s smart, sassy, and I don’t care what people say about Becky Sharpe, she’s one smart cookie. Amelia makes me want to barf. Before I go to sleep at night I’m listening to Wizard and Glass still. I get home and I’m just so tired that audio is really working well for me all the way around.
Though, I have read the first fifty pages of the new Matthew Quick novel, Love May Fail, and it’s pretty arresting too. Hopefully it won’t take me a decade to finish it.
Happenings // Just got back from Nashville for a weekend with the family. It’s left me exhausted. On the way up I discovered (probably to my professional and blogging detriment) Periscope. It gave me some amusement on the drive up to Nashville.
We went to see The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson and I basically learned he was a pretty big dick. Who okayed putting his face on the twenty dollar bill? Endorsed slavery? Expanded the role of the presidency? TRAIL OF TEARS? I THINK WE CAN FIND SOMEONE BETTER TO PUT ON OUR MOST USED PIECE OF PAPER CURRENCY. Ahem. Just saying.
Tomorrow is the first day of a new job with a considerable commute. I’m going to get to listen to so many audio books. I don’t know what this commute might mean for the blog – but – I’m not making any decisions yet. Naturally I’ll still be active over at The Socratic Salon. But let’s just wait and see.
Reading // Still working my way through the audio of Wizard and Glass.
Watched //Jurassic World, by far it’s the best Jurassic Park film since the original but – and I’m gonna get some haters here – outside of Parks and Rec, Chris Pratt couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag.
Okay Readers! How was your week? What do you anticipate for next week?
So last Friday the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5-4 opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges which ultimately made marriage equality the law of the land in the United States. The decision with four separate dissents totaled 103 pages. While I found the majority decision, written by Justice Kennedy to be as eloquent as Supreme Court decisions come – the real gem in this piece was Justice Scalia’s dissent. He’s furious and it completely shows in his dissent. With all respect due to a Justice of the Supreme Court, I present to you a dramatic reading of Justice Scalia’s dissent in Obergefell. Enjoy. I know it’s no Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles, but I still had fun. Justice Scalia’s opinions are not my own, I’m just reading what’s been written.
If you want to read the full text of the opinion and the other dissents it can be found here.
A further resource for all things SCOTUS is SCOTUSblog.com, for their analysis and all the info on Obergefell go here.
Leave me a message about my performance, or just your thoughts, Reader.
It’s that time of year y’all! If you were here ’round this time last year, you know that I don’t do my best of list until the end of June, mostly because everyone is so sick of best of lists in December that they want to throw up. So, here’s my best twelve books of 2014 list while you’re fresh and ready!
The Word Exchange by: Alena Graedon – Mostly this list is in no particular order, but The Word Exchange blew my socks off so early in the year that very little else came close to me. I love dystopia, I especially love a near future dystopia where words are at stake. I loved this book.
Pro by: Katha Pollitt – This might have been the most important book published in 2014. It’s a call to stop shaming women who choose abortion and how access to abortion for all is not only something that women should never feel guilty about — it’s actually a morally righteous decision. Anyone who is on the fence about abortion or who thinks that exceptions for abortion are okay in rape and incest situations need to read this book.
The Magician’s Trilogy by: Lev Grossman – Okay, so only The Magician’s Land was actually published in 2014, but I gobbled up the whole 1,200 page trilogy in a matter of two weeks. I hate that I had the opportunity to see Lev Grossman speak (and did!) at The Decatur Book Festival last year but did not secure myself a signed copy of The Magician’s Land. Hailed as a ‘grown up Harry Potter’, I absolutely must agree. Except maybe it’s all the best parts of Harry Potter and all the best parts of the Narnia series. Go forth, read them all. Immediately.
Revival by: Stephen King – I loved the slow burn of this novel and the feeling of creepiness slowly coming up on you, along with the balls to the walls scareded-ness that come at the end. Yes. Absolutely a must read for Stephen King fans young and old.
Bellweather Rhapsody by: Kate Racculia – If you’re a band nerd, former or current, or if you love some crazy, quirky, mysteries this is a fabulous book for you. There was so much about this book that rang true to me — from being a former band nerd to the fact that it had almost a Stephen King-eqsue feel with the hotel (The Shining is what I’m thinking of) this book is unique and wonderful.
Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher – Are you sick of the rash of epistolatory novels? DON’T BE! Dear Committee Members is delightful and laugh out loud funny at times. Anyone who has worked in an office setting or especially in higher education in an underfunded department will find plenty of delight and fabulousness in this novel.
Station Eleven by: Emily St. John Mandel – Won the Rooster in this year’s Tournament of Books. It was a fantastic and beautiful literary dystopian novel that was absolutely enchanting.
How to Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran – The most important coming-of-age novel since Judy Blume. I adored this novel. I laughed, I teared up, I was always team Johanna.
An Untamed State by: Roxane Gay – I was completely entrenched into this novel, the most important part of it wasn’t, for me, the rape of a woman of color, but it was dealing with the aftermath of that rape and finding hope and understanding in the most unlikely places. A fabulous debut novel by Gay.
Yes Please by: Amy Poehler – YES PLEASE! A fabulous feminist manifesto full of positivity and laughter. Poehler’s memoir was everything I wanted to to be, and more.
All the Birds, Singing by: Evie Wyld – Another book that I read thanks to the Tournament of Books. I found this book to be so beautifully complex and such a great puzzle. So much for discussion in a book club, so much symbolism and such great writing.
So, Reader, what were your favorite books of 2014?
Watching // Somehow I’ve gotten sucked into a Naked and Afraid marathon on The Discovery Channel. It’s like a train wreck that I can’t look away from.
Reading // I’m looking. I finished The Beautiful Bureaucrat this week and I’m looking for something as satisfying and readable as that.
Celebrating // The inevitable Supreme Court decision that makes marriage equality the law of the land in The States. The best summary of the 103 page opinion and dissents can be found in Haiku format at McSweeney’s. I also love what Twitter did with the love wins hashtag.
The fact that SCOTUS left the ACA in tact is also a decision that shouldn’t be overlooked. I won’t say my faith in SCOTUS was restored, but I’m feeling better about them.
I’m also starting a new job, the bad part is that it’s going to be a fifty mile commute – and getting outside of Atlanta is going to be a bitch, but the good part is that it’s going to give me plenty of time to listen to audiobooks, oh, and more money.
Listening // I’ve started on the fourth volume of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower on audio. It’s a re-read, so far so good. I’m less familiar with the fifth through the seventh books so if things are going to be challenging that’s where the challenge is going to be.
Waxing // The gouda! Instead of waxing it in a wheel I cut it into fourths and learned why this isn’t traditionally done, it takes three times as much wax and twice as much time. But at the same time I found with my last batch that once I cut into the wheel it started to turn fairly quickly. The wheels are about five and a half inches in diameter and 3 inches thick, so it’s a lot of cheese.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for consideration of an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Spring House, New Orleans: a plantation manor of money and influence. But something sinister lurks beneath the glamour of the old estate, awoken by blood and looking for revenge . . . After Caitlin Chaisson tries to take her own life in her mansion's cherished gazebo, it becomes apparent that Spring House's malevolent history won't stay hidden for long. By morning her husband has vanished without a trace and his mistress has gone mad. Nova, daughter to the groundskeeper, is determined to get to the bottom of the horrors. But she soon realises that the vengeance enacted by this sinister and otherworldly force comes at a terrible price. Some secrets are better left sleeping soundly . . .
Soooo… Anne Rice’s son. Perhaps it was reading this book right in the wake of the Charleston massacre that made it so distasteful to me, but I found the appropriation of slavery to use as a plot point (a big one, no doubt) to be a bit offensive.
The writing in The Vines is mediocre, at best. None of the characters are fully fleshed out and the supernatural elements are less than fully explored. Perhaps I could have overlooked the angry black slave woman being cast in the role of the voodoo queen had the writing been a little better. As it was, this is strictly a genre book with no themes or anything deeper mooring it to the world of serious literature… which would be fine, except that pesky little use of racial stereotypes out of Louisiana and the use of slavery. Skip it.
What about you, Reader? Can the use of an offensive theme ruin an otherwise perfectly average genre novel for you?
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for consideration of an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Two people are abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive.It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Helen Grace has ever seen. If she hadn’t spoken with the shattered survivors herself, she almost wouldn’t believe them.Helen is familiar with the dark sides of human nature, including her own, but this case—with its seemingly random victims—has her baffled. But as more people go missing, nothing will be more terrifying than when it all starts making sense....
So, this book isn’t good, it’s not bad, it just kind of is. I suppose that Eeny Meeny is a pretty decent airplane read. A little bit gory, a little bit suspenseful, but mostly just good grisly fun. Don’t go into it expecting to find anything deep and important, or any insight, or needed to analyze anything and you’ll probably have a good time (if suspense/horror is your genre of choice).
I liked the lead character, Detective Inspector Helen Grace, she’s strong but flawed. Also like most of the characters in this novel, not terribly developed, but maybe just enough. One thing that took me by surprise about Eeny Meeny was the depth of feeling I had for the characters at the end. As I just said the characters weren’t terribly well developed, but Arlidge somehow still made me feel for them at the end.
Like I said, you could do worse on an airplane.
What about you, Reader? What’s your genre of choice? Tell me about your ‘light’ reading.