Tag: personal favorite


Year in Review: Bookish Stats and Other Miscellanea

Posted 31 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings


Let’s start with the relevant fun stuff, bookish stats! I’m not trying to toot my own horn but:

Goodreads Challenge:
  • Goal set 1 Jan 2014: 100 books and 25,000 pages.
    • Actually read: 120 books and 36,391 pages (the page count excludes audiobooks)
The Breakdown:
  • 4 audiobooks totaling 5.11 days of listening (not including DeLillo’s damnable Underworld which I’m still listening to.)
  • 62 books written by men and 57 by women.
  • 107 different authors read with 91 being new to me authors.
  • 7 graphic novels
  • 15 YA novels
  • 31 non-fiction books
  • 42 physical books and 75 e-books
  • Average rating was 3.5 stars
Sources:
  • 19 books from the library *sad face*
  • 33 books from NetGalley
  • 6 books that were gifts
  • 5 books from new book stores other than Amazon
  • 26 books from Amazon
  • 4 books from Edelweiss 
  • 23 books from publishers (other than from Netgalley/Edelweiss)
  • 3 books from Project Gutenberg
  • Money spent on books (just books that I actually read this year… not all the others): $337.54
Not so ‘tootable’ stats:
  • I only read 6 of the 10 books that I pledged off my 1001 Books to Read list
  • I failed miserably at reading chunksters this year. I’m not sure, but I think the only chunksters that I ‘read’ this year were on audio.
I don’t create my ‘best of lists’ until June, for two reasons: one, you’ve been over inundated at this point with best of lists and two, it gives me six more months to read the 2014 titles. Here’s my 2013 list. What I will tell you is the best book that I read (and was published) in 2014. I’m pretty confident that it’s going to stay there. You must remember. You must know. *drumroll*
I just loved this book so much. Review here.

New Years Eve: What are your plans? Our tradition is to sit on the couch and watch Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN in Times Square. It’s better when AnnaSaurus Rex is here, but hey you can’t have family around all the time.
How was your reading year? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Friday Flowchart: Get your Stephen King on!

Posted 19 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in writers

If you’ve been around for any length of time you know I have a fairly serious… um, obsession? with Stephen King. I thought that it was time to go ahead and share my wealth of knowledge with those that are uninitiated or less initiated. So in the spirit of Book Riot’s Margaret Atwood Reading Pathway, I decided to make you, dear Reader, a flowchart.

Note: There are two stories (novellas, really) that I recommend in Different Seasons for those not wanting the night terrors, they are ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Body’.

Edit: I noticed I don’t have fear ratings on Mr. Mercedes or Joyland… I think both of those are probably just a little spooky.

Enjoy!

Do you have favorite Stephen King books, Reader? I’ve left off a few of my favorites, but the chart was getting too complicated too quickly.

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Four Books for Four Different Palates

Posted 1 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Bellweather Rhapsody by: Kate Racculia
Genre: Suspense/Coming of age

Why I picked it up? Rory’s at Fourth Street Review review.

Quick synopsis: (Goodreads!) A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from a hotel room that was the site of a famous murder/suicide fifteen years earlier, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with the dark and giddy pop culture pleasures of The Shining, Agatha Christie, and Glee.

Thoughts: I found this book to be utterly delightful. Partially because I was one of those All-State band kids all four years of high-school, partially because I love haunted house stories. But do not fret my scaredy cat friends! While this book is suspenseful (and I know referencing The Shining is scaring you away) there’s lots of humor, mystery, and a beautiful coming of age novel that takes Bellweather Rhapsody out of the ‘horror’ genre and makes it something else entirely. Definitely worth the read for everyone, but people who grew up in and around the music all-state scene will find it especially nostalgic. 

Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher
Genre: Epistolary fiction

Why I picked it up?  Recommended by a <gasp!> non-blogging friend.

Quick Synopsis: A curmudgeonly, yet lovable English professor at a second rate school tries to save his department as demonstrated through a series of letters of recommendations.

Thoughts: This book is funny, witty, and sharp and while Professor Jason Fitger can come off as bit of a passive aggressive ass, I found him to be lovable. There are moments of laugh out loud absurdity in this novel such as when Fitger battles technology to give letters of recommendation in e-format that won’t allow him to use his usual style of meandering on and off the topic of the person he is actually recommending. I also particularly enjoyed the letters on non-recommendation that he sent out. This is an epistolary novel that flew far too far underneath the radar this year and probably should have its own review. Again, everyone can enjoy this novel, but those working in college academia or in a position where they are called upon to provide endless references or letters of recommendation absolutely must read it.  

The Hundred Year House by: Rebecca Makkai
Genre: Literary fiction

Why I picked it up?  I heard Makkai speak on a panel at The Decatur Book festival (so I had to get a signed copy) and it came highly recommended by Shannon at River City Reading (among others).

Quick Synopsis: A generational saga, told in reverse that covers the lives of the Devorhs. Zee of the current generation (set in the nineties) living in the carriage house of a huge estate owned by her mother, Gracie, to the house being an in residence artist’s colony and  finally the story of her great-grandmother, Viola, who was rumored to have met some sort of untimely end.

Thoughts: An absolutely brilliant book. The format at the style make it something that is completely unique and worth reading. Makkai uses this backwards format skillfully and in the hands of a lesser author the book would have been a train wreck. Instead the device pushes the momentum forward (or backwards, if you prefer) leaving the reader desiring to uncover just one more secret before she puts it down. While the characters in the novel never get the whole story, you, lucky reader do – and it’s phenomenal. Read it.

Lock In by: John Scalzi
Genre: Near-future speculative fiction

Why I picked it up: Again, I heard Scalzi speak on a panel at The Decatur Book Festival and Michelle at Reader’s Respite told me I’d be totally missing out if I didn’t see him speak. She was right.

Quick Synopsis: A virus has swept the globe, leaving 1% of the population ‘locked in’ to their own bodies, awake and aware but unable to move, speak, or respond to stimulus. But then two new technologies emerge, a virtual-reality environment in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not, and the invention of ‘threeps’ robots that can be controlled by those ‘locked in’ to interact and participate in the outside world. Plus. A murder.

Thoughts: This book sounded like a fluffy speculative fiction murder mystery when I picked it up, which admittedly is right up my alley. But Scalzi does more with this book than just that. He explores what it means to be human, the deeper prejudices that we harbor and why. I totally enjoyed every part of this book, the world building was well fleshed out and believable enough. The characters were interesting and complex enough to keep up with the higher ideals that Scalzi seemed to be aiming for. Plus. Murder mystery is always fun. It should also be said that this is my first Scalzi novel, which I have heard is quite different from the rest of his body of work. I intend to read Redshirts next. People who enjoy speculative fiction are going to enjoy this most, but I think there’s something for everyone here.

All of these books were purchased by me for the express purpose of free-range reading.

Annabel asked me last time I used the ‘Must Read Monday’ title if this was new meme. It’s not really, but what the hell. If you have a book that you need to share your feelings about with the world, go ahead and link it up! We’ll see how it goes (and probably watch our TBRs grow exponentially).

Anything here look tempting, Reader? Have you read any of these? Do you have any must – reads for me? Link them up! 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Terrific Tuesday: How to Build a Girl

Posted 7 October, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Terrific Tuesday: How to Build a GirlHow to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
Published by Harper Collins on September 23rd 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Humorous, Literary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn't enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.It's 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there's no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës—but without the dying-young bit.By sixteen, she's smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She's writing pornographic letters to rock stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.But what happens when Johanna realizes she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks enough to build a girl after all?

I read this book as part of a read-along with a number of other bloggers a few months back. I adored it. This book is going to piss some people off, lots of people are going to be put off by the opening scene, fourteen year old Johanna Morrigan masturbating in bed.
But what’s great about How to Build a Girl is, for the most part it’s an incredibly real book. It’s a book that finally gives a narrative voice to teenage girls about growing up as teenage girls. Sex, drugs, poverty, and welfare are all explored by Moran in such an expert way that I have half of the book highlighted. Moran shies away from none of these things. There is no misty lighting when describing Johanna’s sexual experiences – it’s done very matter-of-factly, there is nothing titillating or pornographic about it. I would love to see this book in high school libraries. I’d love to see it taught to high school students (but it’s never ever going to happen). There’s plenty of laughter and places to feel the feels.
I know other readers are bothered by some tense shifting within the novel. Most of the time we’re hearing the voice of 14 – 17 year old Johanna, but every now and then the tense shifts and the words seem to be coming from an older, wiser narrator. This didn’t bother me in the least, but there are plenty of readers I know who it drove crazy. Which is a bit weird to me, because I’ve read plenty of books since (which some of these same bloggers have also read) that had the same tense shifting and no one said boo about it…
Moran has written a novel here, that, for the first time since Judy Blume, has given teenage girls a voice. But for all the good it could do for teenagers to read this book, it’s not really a YA novel. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it’s a highly relatable coming of age novel that women and girls have needed for a long time now. I applaud Moran for writing this and her publishers for not shying away from the hard topics.
How to Build a Girl is the perfect balance of levity, heart-break, and reality. I highly recommend this to well… everyone. But those most likely to enjoy it will be people with an open mind and understanding of feminism who are willing to stretch just a tiny bit outside of what they perceive their comfort zone to be. It’s worth it.
What do you think, Reader? Could you venture just a little (or a lot) outside of your comfort zone to read this revolutionary book? Or does this sound completely out of bounds for you? I can’t help but shout it from the rooftops. It’s so good.

 

 

 

P.S. If you’ve already read the book, or have no intentions of reading it I might highly recommend my read-along posts:
Part One
Chapters 5 – 10
Chapters 11 – 15
Chapters 16 – 20
Endings

I’m excited to be participating in the tour for Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl, be sure to check out the entire tour schedule here, it runs through 22 October. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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How to Build a Girl: Endings (Read Along)

Posted 11 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran
Read Along! Part Three.

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.

If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.


Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.


Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.


In case you missed it!

How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 11 – 15
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 16 – 20

Part Three

Well. I just have to say, I don’t know if this has been Mr. Toad’s Wild 
Ride for anyone else, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.

So at the end of Part Two I thought that Johanna was realizing that her behavior tearing down bands was kind of douchey – but then she continues to act douchey early in chapter twenty one. It’s just not very nice to get people drunk, off the record, and then make fun of their sexual fantasies that they’ve trusted you with. Don’t be a douche, Johanna.



Well, Johanna’s been a douche, so she gets a drink thrown in her face and seems oddly surprised about it. It’s a lesson. Words matter. You know who else is a douche? Kenny. Taking a seventeen year old girl into the bathroom and giving her speed? What the fuck is wrong with these people. But Kenny justifies their douche-baggery and Johanna feels better. Boo, Kenny. Booooo!

I did actually laugh out loud after Johanna blows her nose – thus blowing out her drugs and then asks, “Should I … eat it?” (p. 256)



Johanna becomes the M in the S&M sex with Tony Rich. Who researches S&M at the library? I love Johanna so much. Only tangentially related, I first heard the word ‘masturbation’ on a Roseanne episode and when I asked my parents what it was, I got a very unsatisfactory answer – so I looked it up in the dictionary. So I guess had I wanted to be a lady sex adventurer, I might have gone to the library to research S&M too. Damnit, April.


But, basically we’re back where we were last week – And so we’re back to Johanna not having sex for her own pleasure – but to for the pleasure of the man. Just reference the whole of page 260.


Finally Moran writes in a reminder that Johanna IS seventeen and for all her Lady Sex Adventures – she’s struggling with her feelings for Tony Rich. All the other men seem to be in the periphery, one night stands, but she keeps going back to Rich. In this section much more than the last one, we see Johanna confusing sex with love. Previously – she was using men to gain experience – even if she didn’t understand she should have been enjoying the act as well, she knew she was having casual sex – and she was okay with it. Here, not so much.



Yep. She’s seventeen alright and she has no sense of self … and I don’t think it has anything to do with the lack of mirrors in the house.

Then Krissi tells her how it is. Johanna goes to Krissi, in crisis trying to figure out whether or not Tony Rich is her boyfriend. Krissy: “He’s your smashing posh pedo not-boyfriend.” (p. 263)



Can we stop and talk about the age of consent? It’s really slippery subject that’s a necessary evil to legislate, but I contend that it’s truly different for every person. I’m not sure that 17 to 23 makes Tony Rich a pedophile – but I don’t like him and it has nothing to do with his age.

Before we move on, I want to go back to the scene where Johanna plays her co-workers Dadda’s demo.


I found this scene to be oddly tragic – I think it’s representative of that time in our lives where we finally realize that our parents are just people – they aren’t the all knowing gods and giants that we’ve held them up to be.


Tony Rich’s Parents House – Where Poverty Meets Middle Class.


The whole conversation at the dinner table with Rich’s parents is yet another brilliant commentary showing the juxtaposition between Johanna’s world, where the family barely has enough money to subsist, and upper middle class – where people can sip champagne and laugh at the antics of their black sheep son who chose not to be a lawyer. Similar things happen with Rich’s friends and Johanna’s inner dialogue tells us about her insecurity on the matter. Fabulous commentary.

Okay. Let’s get to the sexy parts.

Johanna’s conversation with Emilia. The subsequent humiliation and the poor poor decision making that the best way to save her pride is to get off with Emilia. She ends up, again confusing her own pleasure with that of someone else. She does what a lot of girls in college did/do – she puts on a show.


In my book – in big capital letters I wrote: this makes no sense!

OF COURSE Rich is into it.
God, he’s such a douche! But Johanna comes back from reapplying her makeup “I am like a dirty goth bride, preparing for her bisexual wedding night.” (p. 274) to find Rich and Emilia have already started. “And suddenly – for the first time in years – I get angry.” (p. 276)



At first I was cheering Johanna on here – because finally! She allows herself to get angry with Tony motherfuckin’ Rich, but then she starts crying and I realize that all this huffing and puffing is a standard teenage heartbreak response – she doesn’t really believe what she’s saying. She still feels less than Tony.


 

Chapter Twenty Three – The Next Day.


I love this realization because it’s the exact opposite of what society teaches girls and women.


Naturally, after coming to terms with the fact that she does indeed have control over her own destiny, she runs to John Kite. …and promptly bursts into tears.

 
YAY JOHANNA!
 


Kite gives her a great pep talk.



Good God. That’s hard cold truth right there. I’ve been biting and scratching my way up, professionally, academically, personally and way too often I tie my self-esteem to my accomplishments, and my self esteem always comes up short. I should emulate Johanna here and put that quote on my mirror.

Kite and Johanna proceed to get incredibly drunk and the last thing we’re treated to before Johanna passes out is her spilling her guts to Kite on how she feels about him. Fade to black. Johanna wakes up the next morning in Kite’s hotel room, it was his turn to sleep in the bath. (p. 285)


Still drunk, with no idea how the night ended, Johanna feels strangely mortified and leaves Kite’s room to (finally) head home. On the bus she picks up a copy of D&ME and reads her own writing.



Johanna has devolved from a blogger before there were bloggers to being a troll before there were trolls. Complete with Godwin’s law.

Upon arriving home, Johanna falls into what can only be described as a deep, black depression. She turns to self harm, and, par for the course, Moran gives us such a great description on why people cut.


Full stop here.

Teenage girls generally don’t just cut once and stop. Just like most people aren’t cured from depression after being lifted from one episode. I felt that this part was just a little off and kind of skimpy on the severity of what it means when kids cut. But I suppose you can’t tackle every teenage issue in one novel.

I did love the bonding time with Krissi – how he cleans her up and takes care of her. Now I’m worried about him, it was astute of Johanna to question whether he’s addicted to Dadda’s pain pills.



Chapter Twenty Four is the culmination of Moran’s manifesto here. Basically, you could skip everything else in the book – read this chapter – and get the essence of the book.

Chapter Twenty Five – I liked – Johanna has reinvented Dolly to be more like herself, a music enthusiast, not a cynic. She’s changed her friends and decided what to keep and what not to keep. These lists have a bit too much clarity from what I’d expect from a teenage girl – but I’m glad she decided to keep having lots of sex with as many people as possible and reject cynicism. Though personally, I’d have gotten rid of the top hat as well.


I loved the heart to heart with mom – glad that the post-partum seems to have lifted and the acceptance and recognition of anti-depressants. In 1993 – that would have been a big fucking deal.


I think that Ali’s part in this book was to be a contrast for what the typical teen experience was versus the experience that Johanna had – it’s a clever device.


Then then then…. the twist we’d all been waiting for. (But kind of knew was coming) the benefits hadn’t been cut because Violet narced on the family – no they were cut because Johanna had decided to leave school, a weird stroke of irony that in her effort to save the family – Johanna caused their downfall.



JOHN KITE FTW. I can’t say much more here, but Ms. Moran, you made me very happy with the ending in regards to John Kite.


It’s still unclear if Johanna knows that Krissi is gay in the epilogue, where he’s coming to London with her for a few weeks – like most seventeen year olds she makes it about herself. “I know what he’s really coming down for: to take me to my first ever gay club, so I can finally make a gay best friend!” (p. 314) No sweetie, he’s looking for a man. I suspect she knows he’s gay – I would have liked to see the conversation – but maybe it was just a close sibling understanding.


That’s all she wrote, Readers! I have so much love for this book. If World Book Night US would have saved itself, I would have handed this out on street corners. Much love to all my fellow #moranalongers. I would have loved this book regardless, but it’s been much more fun with you ladies. How does everyone feel?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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How to Build a Girl: Chapters 16 – 20 (Read Along)

Posted 4 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran 
Read Along! Chapters 16 – 20.

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.

If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.

Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.

Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.

In case you missed it!
How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10
How to Build a Girl  – Ch. 11 – 15

Mmm. I think that we all knew shit was going to get real this week. And it does. I don’t know if I’m having a harder time with this post because I’m in post-bar decompression mode, but don’t misunderstand that I’m still incredibly excited about this book. Plus, all the Star Wars references in this section made me unreasonably happy.

There are two big themes in these chapters. Feminism and cynicism. Let’s get to it.

Dolly is fully fleshed out now and yes, she is trouble.



Oh, sweetie! Dadda has troubles, addiction troubles. I don’t want that for Johanna – who shares a body with this troublesome persona she has created for herself.  But even at the beginning of chapter 16, where Johanna feels most definitely ‘incontrovertibly real’ – she’s still faking it when it comes to that one thing that teenage girls are taught to obsess over – her virginity.



Not So Side Note: I’m not sure which part of society is worse – the conservative side that treats girls as irredeemable whores for sex outside of marriage or that part that makes them feel unlovable and un-liked because they haven’t had sex yet. It’s also worth nothing that both those sides pull on girls – and it’s total bullshit both ways. There’s no way to win. Back to the story.



Lord. Seventeen, booze, music, and a writing job – and Johanna is still incredibly innocent. I laughed pretty hard at the ensuing discussion on Neil Young owning all the buffalo, Mike Nesmith’s mum inventing Wite-Out (is that true?) and how to get high on office supplies. It made me remember how weird gossip and facts were exchanged before you could just pull up all that shit on Google. “I had no idea. Basically, the WH Smith in the Mander Centre is Wolverhampton’s version of Studio 54. It’s a narcotic goldmine. I’ve only ever used it to buy staples.” (p. 194)


So Johanna procures her first kiss from The Kisser – who’s name she doesn’t know. “He’s a man slag.” (p.193) After nine minutes of kissing – he wanders off – no hard feelings and Johanna feels super about it. Good for her!

Getting home Johanna’s sent out to talk to Dadda in the garden, there’s an incredible feeling of love and bonding that goes on here. Dadda’s recounting of his own childhood and the horrors of post war Britain.


Hit the nail on the head again Moran. I often feel this way about the not so distant past. Women’s suffrage, contraception, World War II. For sure, things aren’t perfect now. But I can’t think of another time in history I would ever want to be a woman.

Drunk and full of family love and feeling Dadda asks the question we’ve all been waiting for: “You’ve got to get me in there, kid. Get me a break. Get me in that paper. And we’ll be millionaires by Christmas.” (p. 200)

Never drunkenly agree to nepotism.

Chapter Seventeen has some levity and I was glad to see Krissi and Johanna make up after “Satanwank-gate” and we get the first peek into a heavy truth that is going to laid upon Johanna by the end of this section. (We’ll get there.) 

Chapter Eighteen we all had our eye on John Kite for the douchebag – but we were wrong! Tony Rich. I’d like to say that Moran has written the best description of sexual tension that I’ve ever read.


So, Tony Rich takes her virginity. Like many girls, Johanna isn’t surprised by the sex itself.
“Here’s the amazing thing about sex: you get a whole person to yourself, for the first time since you were a baby.” (p. 209)

These thoughts and feelings are still incredibly innocent and naive. Yes, at it’s best, that is what sex is, but Tony Rich isn’t having that kind of sex with Johanna. I love Johanna for her innocence, so much. But please, for the love of all things holy. Don’t get pregnant. Also, AIDS – this is the early nineties – AIDS is still a death sentence. Please don’t get AIDS Johanna. I’m so worried.

Okay. So. Aside from the mom-like worrying we have to have: 

Feminist Stop #1
I’m going to take things out of order because I want to highlight just how much importance Johanna is placing on feeling useful during sex and how little she values her own pleasure.

Yes, I’m really happy that Johanna is enjoying herself and seems to be gaining confidence. However, this section is brilliant commentary on what’s societally expected with women and sex, what we (read: me) somehow believe and still struggle to overcome.  She talks again and again about wanting to be useful, she wants to help these men… Often at the sacrifice of her own enjoyment of the act.  This rang so true for me. I can’t say it better than Caitlin Moran, so get ready for the best of: (the bold is all mine)

  • “…I still didn’t come, but when he came, I felt enormously … useful. Men need to come – and I made it happen. I had a simple purpose.” (p. 210)
  • (Blow jobs) “Like sucking your thumb, but whilst making someone else very, very happy.” (p. 221)
  • “Keep on pretending you’re Al. Think about how amazing it must be for him to have sex with you! […] Yes – this is a good day for Al. Lucky, happy Al.” (p. 229)
  • “I am being a generous lover!” (p.228)
  • “And also, no one yet has made me come. I am still the greatest lover of me. I’m still the best I ever had.” (p. 223) 
  • “How long should you take to come? Do I take too long? Should you not even ask it of a man if you take more than, say, four minutes? Is that simply unreasonable? I don’t want to be a difficult case…” (p. 223)

Look me in the eye (or right into your webcam) ladies, and tell me you’ve never worried about being a ‘difficult case’. If you can, I think I hate you a little. In the nicest possible way. Moran points out that there are no examples of female orgasm at this time outside of When Harry Met Sally, and let’s face it, even today we’re sadly lacking in realistic discussions on female pleasure, at least in mainstream media. Especially when you stop to consider all the examples of male pleasure we have. 


Shit man. You can’t sit in front of the television for fifteen seconds without a Viagra or Cialis commercial coming up, but when Trojan ran a relatively discreet commercial – late at night, might I add – for a vibrator – the whole frickin’ internet was up in arms. Nope. Even in 2014, the idea of women getting pleasure from sex is somehow weird and shameful and should be hidden in the back of your dresser.

In case you’re curious here it is: 



Racy, huh? 


Big Cock Al. More variations on the theme. She takes it like a champ, he then falls asleep and what does she do? She cleans his flat. To be useful. Again, this resonated with me. I’ve actually done this.



So despite poor Johanna’s aggravated cystitis, “I need codeine and cranberry juice, please.” I say. “These are the medicines of cystitis.” (p. 235) I still found this section to be pretty hilarious. On how to deal with an unfeasibly large penis, I think my favorite was number four “Think of Han Solo.”


I thought that the party at Big Cock Al’s with Johanna sitting in the bathtub, tending to her lady parts was an interesting juxtaposition with the last time Johanna found herself in a bath with rockstars in the room – with John Kite. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m pretty sure it’s deep and important.


Feminist Stop #2 


Yep. Right there y’all. Remember earlier when I was talking about which part of society was worse? It’s all bullshit because it comes around from the ridiculous idea that a woman is nothing more than her virginity or her sexuality. Fuck that noise. Preach on Sister Moran.


Before we get to the cynicism I need to talk about how Johanna describes her deflowering to Krissi.

Did anyone else dissolve into giggles when Johanna decides to describe her deflowering to Krissi using different names? “”Why don’t we give the protagonists different names?” I suggest, “Not me and Tony Rich. Say, Peter Venkmann and Dana Barrett?”” (p. 213)


Cynicism
So, Krissi lays it on Johanna in Chapter Seventeen that he likes music, so he doesn’t read her work, because all she ever does is tear bands apart. She doesn’t seem to get it at first – but by the end of Chapter Twenty she starts to. I basically have the entirety of pages 244 – 246 underlined, I hate playing favorites – but I’ll only make you suffer through two short quotes that don’t need any explanation. 


And then we’re left with another cliffhanger. Please don’t make it be AIDS. But the title to Part Three “Rip it Up and Start Again” gives me hope.

That’s a wrap this week, Readers. How are we feeling? Anxious? Scared? Like Caitlin Moran is an AMAZING FEMINIST WUNDERAUTHOR? And yes… Pats is my favorite character in Ab Fab. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Women’s Rights Wednesday: Silk Armor

Posted 30 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Women’s Rights Wednesday: Silk ArmorSilk Armor by Claire Sydenham
Published by Old Harbour Press on April 30th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 318
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Her name is Didem, a young Turkish university student. Though she has left her veil behind in the provincial village she grew up in, she is still watched over closely by her father and certain friends. But when she meets Victor, an American instructor at the university, and they fall in love, Didem is propelled into an entirely new and dangerous future. The obstacles and threats they face lead Didem and Victor into plans of escape, an escape Didem must keep secret. SILK ARMOR follows her adventure through her battles with her community, her culture, her traditions and conscience, leading to her realization that though these battles may be lost her war can still be won.

This book is so much more than that synopsis. It sounds a little like chick-lit, a forbidden, cross-cultural romance. All I can say to that is no. ABSOLUTELY NO. Romance in an element in this book, true – but it’s also a necessary device that is expertly used to explore the cultural significance behind the veil in modern Turkey. This is a story about the struggle of being a woman, even in a nation as secular as Turkey is.


Silk Armor is a cultural exploration of what it means to be veiled and what it means to eschew not only that tradition in Turkey, but tradition in general. Girls like Didem and Sevgi aren’t meant to go to school. This is a compelling and beautifully written piece of literary fiction about tradition, feminism, and that place where east meets west. 

Highly recommended. Had this book been picked up by a larger press it would have been on best of lists last year. It is very very good. 

Negative: That cover is awful. Even though the publisher sent me a copy, it took me ages to open up the book just because I found the cover so unappealing. Don’t let that put you off. Go read this. Now.

A better review can be found over at Guiltless Reading, where I first discovered this gem.

What do you think, Reader? Do cross-cultural books interest you? Do you have an opinion on the controversy surrounding the veil? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Best Books of 2013

Posted 30 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

Remember back in December when everyone else was doing their ‘best of’ posts? Remember how I told you that there was too much of that going around so I was going to hold off until June? Okay. Well, maybe I didn’t actually tell anyone you that but I definitely thought it. So, here we are. There are some sleepers here and also some unsung heroes. I decided on eight because… why not eight? Without further ado, in no particular order, here’s my list of the best books (that I read) published in 2013.

  • MaddAddam by: Margaret Atwood – Admittedly this book probably makes the list because it was the thrilling conclusion to quite possibly one of the finest dystopian trilogies ever crafted. MaddAddam doesn’t quite hold up to Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood but it’s still extraordinary storytelling and a fitting end.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by: Neil Gaiman – I think that I hailed this book as an ‘instant classic’. I notice that this book is getting some love from TLC Tours and my question is, what took so long?! 
  • Guns** by: Stephen King – This is a short essay by King written in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. No matter what side of the gun debate that you fall on, there’s something for everyone here.
  • Pastrix by: Nadia Bolz-Weber – A spiritual memoir from an unlikely source and an unlikely book to end up on my ‘best of’ list. But it does! This memoir is beautifully written, compelling, and absolutely touches the heart.
  • The Dinner by: Herman Koch (first published in English in 2013) – I’m a new convert to the Dutch writer Herman Koch. I love his delightfully unlikable characters, the slow burn of his narrative style and most every other technique that he uses.
  • Silk Armor by: Claire Sydenham – I first heard of this book over on Guiltless Reading and the concept struck me immediately. When the publisher sent me a copy I knew that I had to read it. I’m a little ashamed to say that it took me awhile to pick it up because, well, I hate that cover. But it’s a fantastic book detailing what it means to be a woman, veiled or unveiled in modern Turkey. Well written, fascinating characters and a great read overall. I’m going to write a review soon.
  • Hyperbole and a Half by: Allie Brosh – Laugh like a maniac funny, Allie Brosh has a rare talent to be able to speak of the struggles of depression in a way that is authentic, meaningful, and also hysterical. 
  • Deer Hunting in Paris by: Paula Young Lee – Another memoir. There were a lot of good ones that I ran across this year. This book is beautifully written. It’s smart, funny, and importantly different than many other memoirs on the market these days.
**Somewhere in my addled brain I missed the fact that Guns was published in 2012. This is a last minute edit and I’m too lazy it’s too late to change the graphic, so enjoy seven of the best books of 2013 and one fantastic essay from 2012.
So there it is Readers. What were your best books of 2013? Best books so far of 2014? I’ll have that list for you next June. (Spoiler: Go ahead and assume that The Word Exchange is going to be on there.) 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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200th Post Giveaway Extravaganza!

Posted 21 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

I don’t have any significant blogging milestones coming up soon enough to make excuses for a giveaway, but I’ve been itching to share some of my favorite titles that have come to me through blogging with you guys.

So!

Three lucky Readers will each receive a copy of Solomon the Peacemaker and either Pastrix or The Word Exchange.

This giveaway is open internationally. The books will be awarded in Kindle format.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Wednesday Wasteland: The Road

Posted 4 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Wednesday Wasteland: The RoadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on March 20th 2007
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 245
Goodreads
five-stars

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.


AH-MAZE-ING. 

Depressing. 

A few weeks ago I shared my review of  Alas, Babylon which I also highly recommend. The Road seems to be the flip side to that book. 

Alas, Babylon is about a community in Florida that overcomes the horrors of nuclear war, whereas The Road is definitely about those who are not so lucky. 

It is as poignant as it is depressing, probably the most depressing novel that I have read in a long time, if not ever. Father and son travel across a desolate and wasted landscape ravaged by the horrors of nuclear war. They seek food and shelter and the reader keeps questioning why the continue on and constantly wonder about the futility of their struggle to get to the West Coast. 

I’ve read quite a few reviews that describe this book as too depressing, but I prefer to see it as a cautionary tale on what we as humans have the ability to do to both our environment and each other. 

It’s a brilliantly written book that completely drew me in and made me feel, it may not be for everyone, but if you have a love of apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic novels, this is a must read. 

I believe McCarthy’s two other successful novels (Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men) are on the ‘1001 Books to Read Before You Die’ list, but I haven’t tried them yet as the descriptions seem to suggest western-style novels. Have you read them? How did you find them? How did you find The Road?

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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