Friday, December 23, 2011

Weekend Reading & Jane Austen Head Spin

And a merry holiday to you too.

Right now I am plowing through Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. I feel like Rob Sheffield is a version of my future self that I can only hope to be.
Teenage boys love to argue about things. It doesn't even matter about what--we would argue about baseball, books, politics, whether Scarface was the greatest movie of all time or whether that honor belonged to Vice Squad.
It's nice to know that some things are a universal constant. And Scarface won because I've never even heard of Vice Squad. DON'T EVEN ARGUE WITH ME ABOUT IT.

At least Duran Duran is getting the 80s references and history and homages right, whereas another book (Ready Player One) failed.* Sheffield's observations on the music that defined him and the girls that defined him are--to borrow an 80s phrase--bangin'.

Reading Sheffield's book has reminded me of the girls and movies and literature that have form who I am. It got me thinking about Star Wars. Naturally my next thought was "If Jane Austen wrote the Trilogy what would it have been like?" Because Solo and Leia are totally Darcy and Elizabeth a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

So I am planning something for next month. I'm calling it Jane Austen Head Spin.** I've read two of her six books but I'd like to read them all. Doing it in one go seems like it'd be more fun. I'm laying out my plan of attack this weekend. A Jane Austen month is not something one just jumps into.

Until then, have a happy holiday.

*It's the last 50 pages of the book that did it for me. I don't know shit about Japanese shows that aired during the 80s; it's a failure on my part, not Ernest Cline's.
**I am starting a band and calling it Jane Austen Head Spin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - a review (kind of)

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares -  Rachel Cohn & David Levithan - 272 pages

It's a Christmas time read! And it must be a Christmas time read because this 272 page book took me a week and a half to finish. Between the holiday parties, the shopping I haven't finished, and work; I have been everywhere. But that's alright. I took Dash and Lily with me everywhere too just so I could finish it.

I'm going to boil this down to basic observations in an easy to read list since I'm pressed for time:

Basic Observations:

  • Dash and Lily--like all Christmas time people--spend a week running around New York City. The two dare one another into certain locations with a red notebook. It's a notebook Lily leaves in her favorite bookstore, which Dash finds, and they communicate through.
  • Dash is a word enthusiast and puts me to shame. Lily is a huge nerd and puts all nerd girls to shame. But both are still believable characters.
  • Dash and Lily never enter into a love triangle. Lily does not have two guys to choose between. It's a relief to read a young adult novel where there is no third guy, and no real third girl.
  • The dares are kind of lame: go to a rock concert, go to a department store, go to a Build-a-Bear. I was hoping the Fear Factor guy would pop out and tell one of them to eat cow brains.
  • I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if Dash's best friend Boomer had a mental handicap as all of his lines were followed by exclamation points. Was he always excited because of ADD? Or was he always excited because he's got the mental capacity of a four-year-old?
  • Dash is a smug asshole at some points. 
  • Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have got a good thing going on. Rachel writes the girl chapters, David writes the guy chapters, and the two never know where the plot is going (or so I hear). It works.
  • I really enjoyed this one. I wish I could've sat down and read it all the way through in one go.
  • I hope Hallmark never makes a movie out of this. It would suck as the word play, the notebook entries, and Dash's smug attitude would all be lost.
And that's it. I hope everyone has a happy holiday and that you get all the books (because what else could you want) for Christmas.

Note: Recommended by the amazing Lynsey Newton of NarrativelySpeaking.com.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekend Reading & Other Stuff

This weekend I might find the time to finish Dash & Lily's Book of DaresOf course, I'm a last minute Christmas shopper so who knows what might happen.* Dash is not helping me get into the holiday spirit. But neither is Lily. Both teenagers seem to have funky ideas about Christmas.

Right now my non-young adult reading is The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders. I read it years ago when it first came out but for some odd reason I decided to give it a second go around the other day.**

From ReignOfPhil.com:
“I’ll tell you something else about which I’ve been lately thinking!” he bellowed in a suddenly stentorian voice. “I’ve been thinking about our beautiful country! Who gave it to us? I’ve been thinking about how God the Almighty gave us this beautiful sprawling land, as a reward for how wonderful we are. We’re big, we’re energetic, we’re generous, which is reflected in all our myths, which are so very populated with large high-energy folks who give away all they have! If we have a National Virtue, it is that we are generous, and if we have a National Defect, it is that we are too generous! Is it our fault that these little jerks have such a small crappy land? I think not! God Almighty gave them that small crappy land for reasons of His own. It is not my place to start cross-examining God Almighty, asking why He gave them such a small crappy land, my place is to simply enjoy and protect the big bountiful land God Almighty gave us!”
Suddenly Phil didn’t seem like quite so much of a nobody to the other Outer Hornerites. What kind of nobody was so vehement, and used so many confusing phrases with so much certainty? What kind of nobody was so completely accurate about how wonderful and generous and under appreciated they were?
That makes me proud to be an American.

I am also taking the time this morning to read Date them or Hate them: Girls Who Read (brought to my attention by Asheley from IntoTheHallofBooks).
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries.
That being true you haven't gone over which books to give her. That is an entirely different story. I wouldn't give a girl I dated a copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. She'd hate me. Or break up with me.***

Also I will probably hit up Talking to Girls about Duran Duran. It looks short so maybe it'll be my Sunday reading.

*I will probably be stabbed for the last pair of faux leather gloves in a Macy's.
**I am not reading it because of the republican debates.
***There is in no way a story here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Everybody Sees the Ants -- a review

Everybody Sees the Ants - A.S. King - 288 pages


Just like Neo in The Matrix I made an audible "Whoa!" at the end of this book. Just like Neo in The Matrix I was downloaded into someone else's reality and forced to live in their world. Seeing the world through Lucky Linderman's eyes reminded me of being a teenager; the pressure, the bullies, and the constant bullshit.

Except that Lucky is nothing like Neo; all that Lucky can do is dream about his grandfather who went missing during the Vietnam War. Lucky has no evil machines to fight; just a bully named Nadar McMillan who is a special kind of sociopath.

Grandpa's world is the only place that Lucky can escape to. There's no real bullshit there and Lucky serves a purpose: rescue grandfather at all costs. Are the dreams real? Or is Lucky experiencing Dr. House-like hallucinations?

Eventually Lucky's mother tires of the bullying and takes him to his Uncle's. And as always adventures do ensue. And as always there's a girl there for Lucky. And as always this is where things take an interesting turn.

We realize that Lucky does have a few problems; he's not a reliable narrator, and who the hell sends out suicide questionnaires as a social studies project? Who the hell doesn't stick up for themselves? What kind of a father just ignores his teenage son's problems? What kind of mother spends all day swimming away her issues?
"Good luck with that. Escaping assholes is about as easy as escaping oxygen."
The line between my life, Lucky's life, and Lucky's dreams blurred for me at one point. All that social pressure came back. The bully-e and the bully-er. The feeling that adults just. Don't. Get. It. That rush of a first kiss and the nervous realization that--as a guy--you will have to deal with vaginas for the rest of your life.

This is one young adult novel that gets it right in a way that John Green* and others can't; the amount of cursing, the amount of sexual tension, the amount of grit, and the occasional boner are all in here.** Many authors shy away from strong language for obvious reason; but this is how our children talk when we aren't around, this is what they think and this is how they feel these days.

This book produced a few sobs, a few what the fuck moments of anger, and one big WHOA at the end. And yeah, I giggled at the boner jokes.


Note: There is a song called Sleeping Sickness by a band called City & Colour. It fits the tone of this book perfectly.
*I love John Green. I am in no way knocking him. 
**The right level of cuteness for a young adult novel is still retained, however.
End Note: Boner. Hehehehe.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why I Don't Want to Join Your Shitty Book Club

I found myself at a party this weekend in which Margaret Atwood was discussed torn apart for her writing style. I bashed Atwood a little for being hit-or-miss and watched others listen to me; the Persistent Reader speaks! and he uses words like eloquent and superfluous! They were discussing their book club read The Handmaid's Tale. No one liked it or had really discussed it past the point of "not liking it".

What I do when you mention your book club.
I always get invited to join book clubs. I hate them, though. My excuse has always been to tell people that I don't have time for their club. This is clearly a lie: I can find time to read two books a week but not time to join your club? Thankfully no one has caught onto this.

I've had the experience that a vast majority of book clubs are a self-help group sort of people who want to read more but can't find the motivation or time. So they think one book a month will change their life and turn them into the reader they've always claimed to be. I find those groups to be, well, snotty.

I once had a club--without telling me before I signed on--that they would read celebrity autobiographies and biographies only. I gave it a shot and bought and read a Chelsea Handler book. I didn't think it would be that bad. But we ended up talking about celebrity gossip (which I know nothing about) for a majority of the time. I ended up getting drunk on vodka because we held the meeting at a bar. It was their first meeting; they never had another.

The most enjoyable non-bookish experience I had with a book club was with a group of coworkers. We spent our entire meeting discussing who was screwing who at work and who we hated. We did this in the work cafeteria. We just kept the books on the lunch table and whenever people approached us we would tell them to go away: work book club meeting. The point? Don't start a book club with your coworkers. You won't talk about books. And you will get in trouble.

Outside of Gossip Clubs and Bar Book Clubs and Celebrity Book Clubs; I've had the unfortunate fortune of seeing the insides of houses that should never be seen. I don't want to join your shitty book club because your house reeks of old cheese and your children are running around screaming. This person should have watched an episode of Hoarders and asked themselves a few hard questions.

It's not that reading a book a month is a bad thing. It's claiming to be in a book club that's a bad thing. It's claiming that you read so, so, so much but you only read one book last month. Being in a book club shouldn't be a title or a badge of honor; it's you and your friends reading the same shit and talking about it. That's all. And reading one book a month does not make you an avid reader. It makes you an average American and the average American is not an avid reader.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Reading & a Very H.P. Lovecraft Christmas

It's a Christmas classic.
Maybe it's because the book is set in Antarctica but I've been reading At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft to get into the Christmas spirit. It's insanity! It's madness! It's damn it Danforth, don't look out the window of the plane at that ancient city you will lose your mind.

It's got me running around the supermarket whispering "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" to myself while I look at Lord of the Rings Pez dispensers. I am at my own Mountains of Madness these days; they're called retail stores. There are no six foot tall blind penguins but there are screaming children, adults rushing to and fro, and it's cold.

The Great Old Ones would have a field day at a retail store. I could only walk through the stores and imagine people being gobbled up by Cthulhu because they kept getting in my way. I was standing in the middle of Macy's when the floor opened up and a great fog poured out. Tentacles came up from inside the hole and snatched up shoppers and pulled them under. It ate the woman that had been standing awkwardly in the middle of the aisle and blocking my way.

Then I snapped back to reality and realized I was shopping. Again. Damn it, Danforth, don't look out the display windows; you will go mad.

Am I mad because of the retail stores? Or am I mad because of Lovecraft's visions? My fantastic copy of his novella also comes with his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature which might contain an answer:
Creative minds are uneven, and the best of fabrics have their dull spots.
That's really just a fancy way of saying "I'm crazy but it's because I'm a genius and I've been putting Jell-O in my pants again." He's only putting Jell-O in his pants to research what being eaten by a Shoggoth would be like.

Maybe I'm Danforth these days and I'm looking out the window of my car at a shopping mall instead of an ancient city and laughing at how insane we all must look to the Great Old Ones. We've all gone mad in their eyes. Merry Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) - a review (kind of)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling - 240 pages


Warning: This book should not be read in public as it will cause you to look like a tweaked-out meth head as you burst with laughter. 

Side-splitting laughter. Awww I can sympathize with that laughter. I'm slightly offended laughter. More men should read this book laughter. And guys, we have to start reading books for women: they put all of their secrets in them.

Things I Learned From Reading Mindy's Book:
  1. Women love chest hair.
  2. Women like guys who wear nice shoes.
  3. Own a nice fitted pea coat and not a cheap one from Forever 21.
  4. Forever 21 is a store, not a saying.
Mindy's book has been compared to Tina Fey's Bossypants and any number of Chelsea Handler's books. I don't know who either of those people are* but Mindy Kaling will never again be known to me as That Indian Chick on The Office. Now she's The Divine Mindy Kaling. Queen Kaling. Empress Kaling. Super Kaling. Kaling is going to become a new way of saying fucking cool.

"She is so kaling." 

The best parts of Mindy's book aren't even Office related; the woman is insanely witty and observant. Her hobby is to research fad diets. She talks about how romantic comedies are the best genre of film and compares them to science fiction movies (my heart was throbbing at this point). And that Diet Coke is awesome. And that Steve Carrell is scary smart and scary funny. And that Rainn Wilson really is a douche.

There's a lot of substance in this book. Far more than I thought there would be for a celebrity autobiography. I love her for it. Even though I didn't know who she was until last week. She's so off-the-radar and doesn't give a fuck about being a celebrity that it makes me appreciate her semi-obscurity even more.

Five stars, Mindy. Five stars.

*I do. I just don't want to lose my street cred.**
**I just lost my street cred by using the phrase street cred.
Note: I read this on my Kindle. You try being a guy carrying around a mostly pink book in rural Kentucky. 
Extra Note: I call this a "kind of" review because I've already talked about it at length. I probably won't shut up about it until the end of 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I made a nifty chart.





Note: I have found that even if the person is not a reader and not interested in books at all; they will still ask all of these questions. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Future of Us - a review

The Future of Us - Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler - 356 pages


Excuse me while I go update my Facebook status about my general disliking of The Future of Us. It's nothing against the writing, it's nothing against the plot, and I've got nothing against Facebook in general. Although, The Future of Us does tend to read like an anti-Facebook manifesto at times:

"Why does it say she has three hundred and twenty friends?" Josh asks. "Who has that many friends?"

"Why would anyone say this stuff about themselves on the Internet? It's crazy!"

It is, honestly, the character of Emma that bothered me the entire book. Let me give some background information first: Josh and Emma are two teens living in the year 1996. They were best friends forever until Josh told Emma he liked her. This caused Emma to freak out and say "But Josh is Josh!" and run off. Emma one day gets a guilt gift from her father in the form of a computer (she never fully thanks him for it, by the way) and when they plug in the computer WA LA LA LA; they can see their Facebook status sixteen years into the future.

With great Internet access comes great responsibility. Right? Right!?

Nooooooppppppeeee. Not if your main character is Emma. What does Emma do with this awesome power before her? I'm glad you asked. She does not prevent 9/11. She does not invest in Google. She does not try to save any lives. She sits around and frets about who she's going to marry.


I felt like this cat the entire book.


Emma changes the future depending on who she is listed to as married . In order to do this she has to mess with the past. Go home. The end of the world was in 1996 and it was caused by a chick named Emma. She probably caused a time paradox* which lead to the Iraq War or something (yeah, I'm blaming this on you, Emma). Emma causes problems in the past so she can change her future; because that's what friends do, right? She even erases her best friend's future children from the timeline (the movie Time Cop has taught me this is a crime).

The story alternates between Josh and Emma and their point of view of what's happening around them. Mostly Josh is longing for Emma, and Emma is ignoring Josh, and it's just adorable how jealous Emma gets of Josh's crush on the Really Pretty Really Smart Really Rich Girl (there's always one and her calves and hair are fucking perfect).

The plot does go in the direction that these things typically do and it ends like how you expect. The cute little predictable ending made my reading of the book worth it. It actually produced an "Awwww!" from me. Which is rare, because I'm a really manly guy who can do, like, 100 push-ups in a row. It also made me think about deleting my Facebook profile. But then again I'm not a terrible Facebook friend**. So, take that Future of Us.

*The time paradox did not happen. I was hoping it would go in the direction of Donnie Darko with Emma getting hit by a car like how Jake Gyllenhaal's girlfriend did in the movie, but it never happened. 
**Emma is the worst kind of Facebook friend. She posts about two things: her dinner and her marital problems. I don't need to know what your husband did wrong, Emma. You need to sit down and talk to him about it. Maybe he hasn't come home because you've called him a douche in front of all of his friends and family? He's not a bad husband; you're a snotty wife. If I were friends with Emma I would hide her friend feed, delete her, or block her. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Literary Crush of the Week #3 (and a Kindle-ish rant)

I'm going to go ahead and declare it Mindy Kaling week. I'm still reading her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) in which she dispenses the best advice:
For heaven's sake, if you don't know someone's name, just pretend you do. Do that thing everyone else does, where you vaguely say, "Nice to see you!" and make weak eye contact.
But why am I still reading your book, Mindy? You said it would only take two days. It's taken four. Something ain't right here.

Oh right. I didn't want to go through a line or get weird looks at a library for buying a mostly pink book ("The freak!"). So I downloaded it for the Kindle I have.

The Kindle is not the issue. One of my coworkers is the issue. This very annoying coworker did not know that he was being a very annoying coworker (which is the most annoying kind of coworker). He would not go away and continued to talk to me every time I got the Kindle out (because anyone reading a book clearly needs to have a conversation about it right away with the nearest person--no, screw you, I need to know what your book is about right now even though I can clearly see that you're only a quarter of the way into it).

The Conversations Went Something Like This:
Coworker: What is that?
Me: It's a Kindle.
Coworker: Are those new?
Me: No... they have been out for a few years now.
Coworker: What does it do?
Me: You read on it...
Coworker: Oh. (he actually produced a gasp at this point) Where did you buy that?
Me: WE SELL THEM.*

The Conversations Went Something Like This II:
Coworker: You readin' on it again?
Me: Yes. 
Coworker: What are you reading about?
Me: Davy Crockett.
Coworker: You like that kind of stuff?
Me: Yeah, I am totally not reading a book written by a chick for chicks about them all being chicks right now.

I think this is a good excuse for having to take four days to read a book that should take two. I'm just going to start reading Blood Red Road again. No one approached me to ask about that one.

And yeah, Mindy is awesome. I'm Team Mindy now. Congrats Mindy. I love you. Blah blah blah.

*Seriously. We do.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Weekend Reading & Other Stuff

I'm only three pages into Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) but I already love it:
In this book I write a lot about romance, female friendships, unfair situations that now seem funny in retrospect, unfair situations that I still don't think are funny, Hollywood, heartache, and my childhood. Just that really hard-core, masculine stuff men love to read about.
I take that as a personal challenge to be a complete dude and read this book. I might even snort coffee this morning and say to my coworkers "Bro, this chick is so funny, but she's got frenemies."
This book will take you two days to read. Did you even see the cover? It's mostly pink. If you're reading this book every night for months, something is not right.
I love this woman.

-----------
I had no idea that Blood Red Road was optioned as a movie already. This is what happens when you don't read the news, watch TV, or go to the movies, or care for Ridley Scott at all.

----------
I finished The Future of Us last night and will write about it tonight while I get my weekend wine-buzz going. I started reading it because I thought the premise was neat but read this line of dialogue:
"Do you like your new computer?" she asks. "Are you two surfing the World Wide Web with all those free hours?"
Of course, this is a character's mom from 1996 talking, and she is referring to AOL, so maybe she's suppose to talk like that? I don't know.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blood Red Road - a review

Blood Red Road - Moira Young - 464 pages


There is something about BLOOD RED ROAD that makes me want to write it in all caps. It's probably because whenever asked what I was reading I would practically shout (in a deep gravely voice) "BLOOD RED ROAD!"

"What's it about?" They would ask. And I would tell them: "It's about a girl named Saba that lives in a Mad Max-ish type post-apocalyptic wasteland who has a pet crow called Nero and a fraternal twin brother named Lugh who has been kidnapped by these bad guys called the Tonton on behalf of the King who controls everyone with a substance called chaal." Their eyes would then roll into the back of their heads from information overload. Their minds would take a second to reboot and they would start talking about how great The Hunger Games are.

"The Hunger Games?" I would ask. "Do the hunger games have two girls locked in a cage with a main character ruthlessly sending them to their deaths without question? With very little remorse? Did Katniss Everdeen ever get all her hair shaved off like Natalie Portman in that one movie? No. She didn't. Did Katniss Everdeen spend all her time thinking about boys and how neat they are? Yeah. She did. Weak!"

Not to say that Saba doesn't fret over boys. Oh, she does, but it's a side point. She'll beat and kick anyone that gets in her way and that includes the guy she wants to tussle about in the sand with.

Saba's search for her brother takes her all over the wastelands where she encounters thieves, giant mutant worms, a crazy king, kidnappers, murderers, drug pushers, drug users, lunatics, Al Gore*, and the love of her life (this is a young adult novel about a teenage girl; you cannot escape boys).

And yeah, Saba talks in a Deliverance you-got-a-purdy-mouth way:
He's dead. They've killed my pa.**
The voice given to Saba by Moira Young does inspire mental images of banjos and mullets and rusted pickup trucks; it is really backwoods-y, but it's pretty freakin' unique and brings something different to the YA dystopian offering table. And Saba's pure badassery proves that she's not just another Walmart shopper.***

On a scale of one to I spent my weekend reading this book on my couch I would rate it I told my Saturday night plans to screw off and stayed in. For the next novel (as all young adult novels set in a future dystopian society are part of a series these days) I will read it on a Wednesday night as to not disappoint my friends. Maybe.

*I could only imagine him jumping out from behind a sand dune and yelling "Global warming! Yarg bleh blah!"
**A three-legged dog walks into a bar. He says "I'm lookin' fer the man that shot my paw."
***The kind that wear trucker hats and talk in a you-got-a-purdy-mouth way for real.
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