What I’m Reading: Science Fiction and Lady Comic Books

I’m still working my slow, deliberate way through Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. I still think it’s a good novel, but it gets so dense, and there are such long parts of the novel without breaks, that I have a hard time reading it for long stretches. Plus, I keep falling asleep on the couch while I’m reading the book…

I also started reading Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. I bought the mass market at Barnes and Noble after reading the back and realizing it was a futuristic science fiction story, AND a detective murder mystery story. I really love it so far. Hamilton’s writing is accessible, and the super technological bits don’t make me go cross-eyed. I did almost roll my eyes right out of my head when he spent an entire paragraph describing how hot the main character’s wife is: “slimmer than anyone who’d had two children should reasonably expect”; “she was enticingly fit”; “the dark hair…still as lush”. Blarg. But I powered through it! And I still like the book.

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Comic Book Run: Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat and Zodiac Starforce

A trip to the comic store got me…some comics! I picked up the first four issues of Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat by Kate Leth, because I love Kate Leth and I’ve heard good things about it. I’ve read the first issue so far, and it’s super, super cute. I do wish that super hero comics had looked like this when I was a kid.

On top of that I grabbed some issues of Zodiac Starforce, which is colored like Steven Universe and sounds like Sailor Moon. So, really, probably for me, I figured! I read issue #2 (they didn’t have #1 at the store), and it turns out yes, I was right, this comic is my kind of deal. I’ll have to find the missing issues next time I’m in a comic shop.

What are you all reading? Anything nerdy? Anything smart?

Also, I think I’m going to frequent my comic shop more often (it is right next to the grocery store, after all). Any suggestions of what I should get?

 

 

What I’m Listening To: Podcasts

A little while ago, being someone who suddenly decided to get into podcasts but sick of not having an easy way to find them built into my listening device, a.k.a. phone, I dug up an Android app — Podcast Addict — and started digging around. What started with me just wanting an easy way to listen to This American Life and some random nerdy stuff turned into a whole page of subscriptions that keeps growing. Here are three of my favorite things to listen to, in order of how they show up on my list.

Dear Hank & John. Hank and John Green, whose videos got me into Youtube, started their own podcast shortly after I began devouring them. It can be funny, but mostly it’s deep or just interesting, and it’s fun to listen to them go back and forth rather than in their separate videos.

Enchanted Tiki Talk. Three dudes talk about Disney World. I started to get into this one more over WDW Radio because they seem like only slightly older versions of me and my friends, and as much as they love Disney World they tend to take a realistic look at everything, which I appreciate. Also they talk about the food a lot, so yaaaaaay.

Stuff Mom Never Told You. This funny and infinitely fascinating feminist podcast has taught me about transgender and bisexual people, female carpenters, OCD, and dad bods (a day on the internet I totally missed). I don’t listen to every new episode, but I’ve gone back over a year through their catalogue to find some really interesting stuff I didn’t even know about.

Do you listen to Podcasts? What are your favorites? Any suggestions for a nerdy feminist lady who loves cartoons, comics, and food? Let me know!

What I’m Reading: Art Books, Biographies, and Other Things That are Taking Forever

As per usual, I have a few books that I’m pawing through at the moment, a couple of which are, for some reason, taking me a real long time.

First, A Dance With Dragons. Yeah, I know, I mentioned reading that months ago, but I keep setting it aside to read other books. I’m not sure exactly why it’s been taking me so long, but I think it’s a collection of reasons: Martin’s over description of things like food and individual people who don’t matter, the slow pace (I swear, there were two chapters in a row where all I really learned was that it was snowing) and maybe because, despite a few problems, I’m starting to like the TV show better than the books (sorry). In any case, I’m almost done. Hopefully I’ll finish by the end of the month.

Also on the list are a few nonfiction books. Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo is a Christmas gift from the hubby, and I love it. Lots of insider information, gorgeous art, production drawings, and stories of how the show came together. I’m reading this slowly, a piece at a time. It’s a treat.

Brilliant by Jane Brox is the story of the development of light over the history of man. This one is sort of a research book, as I’m trying to pick up ideas and gain inspiration for the WIP I keep talking about. Like anything history I have a hard time not finding bits of it a little dry, but it’s well written, and there are some truly beautiful lines in there (which I thought I marked off, but didn’t. Aaah.).

I’ve also still got the Walt Disney biography unfinished. I will get back to that.

Finally, I haven’t started this yet but I plan on cracking into it later this morning: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve never read anything by her, but I’ve wanted to find a longer classic that I can actual get absorbed in for a little bit. The description sounds right up my alley, and I felt drawn in on the first couple of sentences, so home it came. Let’s see if I finish this one.

What are you reading?

What I’m Reading — Too Much

I’m at one of those unhelpful points in my reading where I’ve discovered I’ve started way too many books at once. Not that I lose track of what I’m reading (simultaneous stories is one of the few things I can actually compartmentalize in my brain) but it’s been taking me much longer than usual to get through each book. Here’s what I’m working through:

The Hundred Secret Senses. I’ve only read a couple other books by Amy Tan, but I’m  big fan of her very character-driven stories. I’m not liking this one as much as, say The Joy Luck Club, but still enjoy seeing how all these little plot lines overlap and twist together. Almost done with this one.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake. I’ve never read Sloane Crosely before, but count me a fan. This is a book of personal essays, a la David Sedaris, and while I think Sedaris is a little funnier (so far, I’ve only read two essays) Crosley’s really winning me over with her childhood memories and paranoid overthinking of what others will think of you when you tragically die. A fun read to help buffer the other stuff.

A Tale Dark and Grimm. Just started this one, but who would I be if I wasn’t reading a children’s book?

Rereading. Yeah, I’m still working on this one.

On top of that I’ve got the book I’m currently reading for review, and two more Jincy Willett books fresh from the library (did you know Amy Falls Down is a sequel? I didn’t know that, no one told me). Not to mention all the other books glaring at me from my shelves or breathing down my neck on my library wait list. I gotta get a move on.

What I’m Reading: New Loves

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I finally started reading the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson after getting the trilogy box set for Christmas. First, I’d forgotten the magic special feeling of holding a fantasy mass market paperback in my hands. There’s just something about the way it fits in my grip, along with the kind of story I’m reading, that transports me back to some good high school aged memories. Second, oh my goodness this series is good. It was published after I’d graduated high school, which is how I forgive myself for taking this long to read it, but it’s so wonderful: interesting, unique magic system, cool characters, and SURPRISE complicated female lead who winds up being the hero. Working on book 2 right now.

I’ve also been working on Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace for the past month now. I couldn’t easily tell you the plot, except that it’s about a weird family that runs a tennis academy and drug addicts, among other things. It’s a hard read, with the style changing from section to section (it will be pages of only dialogue, to a complex description of a game the tennis students play) and I have to read it slowly, oftentimes outloud, and with nothing else to distract me. So, even without the beastly size of it (over 1,000 pages) I wouldn’t be able to sneak reads of this at work. I think I like it, though it’s going to take me another month or two to reach the end.

Rereadings Edited by Anne Fadiman
Rereadings Edited by Anne Fadiman

For Christmas I got a book, Rereadings, a collection of essays on rereading books. I’m really enjoying it, even though most of the essays are about books I’ve never personally read. It’s not just your tastes that evolve and change how you look at a book, but also the way you perceive the world, like Anne Fadiman, who as an adult suddenly notices racist implications in The Horse and His Boy. It’s inspiring me to reread things I may not remember terribly well, and write about how they hold up and how I may interpret them differently now.

I also went to a used bookstore this weekend, so a couple more novels have been added to me “to read” pile. At least I know I’ll always have something on hand.

My Books in 2013

Looking back on my Good Reads list, this year was pretty big for new authors that I love

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenFirst and foremost is John Green, all of whose books I’ve now read, most notably of which is The Fault in Our Stars. I didn’t fall in love with all of this books, but TFiOS is now and forever more one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever come across. I can’t stop recommending it to (or buying it for) people, and I only wish I had figured out how great it was when it first came out so I could have jumped on the bandwagon sooner. As a direct result of that, too, I’ve become a fan of his brother Hank and their YouTube pages, which help me while away all sorts of time I should be spending writing.

Speaking of books I missed the first ship on: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I mean, Jesus. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read, but man I think this is THE best book I’ve ever come across.

Then there’s Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor and Park simultaneously broke and swelled my heart about as much as TFiOS, and Fangirl gave that wonderful, well, fangirl flutter in my gut that I don’t feel as often as I once did. I still haven’t read her adult book, but it’s certainly on my list.
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Also of note: this year, Sara Farizan, another Lesley graduate, published her first book, If You Could Be Mine, a wonderful love story. It makes me so proud to have been in the same program as her.

Not in the YA grouping: David Sedaris. How have I not read this man before? His nonfiction essays reveal a life that in most ways is very different from mine, but he still manages to write things that click and mesh with the way I see the world, that echo thoughts I’ve never said out loud because who else would possibly think that way? I’ve read almost everything he’s written, which is really depressing in its own way, since I could read his books forever. But luckily Sedaris is one of those magical readers that stand up to rereadings (or re-listenings, since I switch between his audio books and print books) so I can just go back to him again and again and again.

Boxers and Saints2013 was also a year where I started getting into different forms of reading. audiobooks became my go-to way to pass the time doing chores or driving, though I do find myself being very picky with what I listen to: it has to be something I can spend only about 80% of my brain on, and I can’t make myself listen to anything that equals more than 10 or so CDs. I’ve also discovered a new love of short stories, with Aimee Bender and George Saunders, and also J.D. Salinger and another new favorite book, Franny and Zooey.

Always there are new comics. This year I found a new favorite webcomic, Boumeries, which I’ve talked about before. I’ve also loved Gene Luen Yang’s new duet (duology? twosome?), Boxers & Saints about the Boxer Rebellion in China. Other good ones were Message to Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim, and Marbles, a memoir on bipolar disorder, by Ellen Forney.

Really, I could go on and on about the books I loved this year. There are plenty I didn’t name. But those are some of the things that stuck out for me. How about you?

What I’m Reading: The Long and the Short

Determined to finish my rereading of Harry Potter and not stop after the fourth book like I always do for some reason, I’ve been reading back through The Order of the Phoenix for the past week or so. What I love about rereading the Harry Potter books (aside from the fact that they’re simply wonderful) is that I can pick up on all the little details she threw in there that I never noticed the first time around, since you don’t realized their importance until a book or two later. Like, when Harry and the others are cleaning Sirius’s house and they throw away a locket, and I shout “Oh! The locket!” and get funny looks from my husband. Things like that.

The Coor Master by Aimee BenderI’ve also been finding myself writing more short stories lately, and that has inspired me to take out more short story collections from the library. I recently finished Aimee Benders The Color Master. A good portion of these stories fit into the fantasy/magical realism slot, which was helpful for the piece I’m currently working on, and overall was a super enjoyable read. I’ve recently taken out an older collection of hers, Willful Creatures, and also Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

After Phoenix I’d like to move on to the next Harry Potter book, but I’ve also got my copy of Infinite Jest waiting to be cracked open, so I might take a break and start that beast. I’m also on the look out for other short story collections; Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things is one I have in mind, but I’m not necessarily looking for fantastical stories, just ones that are good or unique that can show me what the form is really capable of.

What I’m Reading: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, I Was a Teenage Fairy

With a lot of my recent stress over and done with, I’ve actually been able to finish a book without losing my concentration and tossing it aside. I’ve felt a big need for something that I can just relax with and flow through in a couple of days, so a lot of my reading focus has been on children’s and young adult books.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is Jeanne Birdsall’s sequel to The Penderwicks. In this book, the four sisters are back home and deal with a major problem — their aunt wants their father to start dating again. While the main plot is the sisters trying to prevent a stepmother disaster, Birdsall manages to weave in a number of other subplots: the boy across the street keeps acting strange around Rosalind, Skye and Jane switch homework only to meet with disaster, and little Batty is certain there’s an evil “Bug Man” prowling their street. Rather than weigh the story down or make it too complicated, Birdsall fits everything in pretty seamlessly, broadening the characters and giving the story a lot of depth. A scene at the end when the girls stop a burglary is too farfetched for me (you think they’d be a little more terrified about a strange man in their neighbor’s house)  and the final epilogue gets a little cheesy. Still, it’s a well-written story with great characters. I see a little piece of me in each of the four sisters, and I love them all the more for it. I’ll be getting the next book the next time I go to the bookstore.

If guilt had a color–say, purple–the Penderwick sisters would have turned so purple that it dripped off them and spread its way through the house, turning everything purple, upstairs and down.

I’ve also found myself with a sudden obsession with Francesca Lia Block. I read The Hanged Man last year for a seminar, but recently I’ve taken from the library Weetzie Bat, Violet and Claire, and I Was a Teenage Fairy. I Was a Teenage Fairy was my most recent read. All of Block’s books have a magical quality to them, even if they aren’t technically fantasy. Teenage Fairy is the closest to fantasy, as Barbie Marks, child model, begins seeing a fairy named Mabs. Still, while eventually there are others that see Mabs it’s not entirely clear if this is all part of their imagination, seeing a sharp-tongued fairy right when they need some magic in their lives. Not being big on chapters, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into Block’s books for longer than you originally intended, but those lost hours are well worth it. It’s currently my mission to read every book she’s ever written.

Barbie wished Mab had come with her. But Mab never left the backyard. She said she was afraid of getting squashed. Barbie assumed that the fact that Mab never went anywhere with her was proof that Mab was probably real. Otherwise, Barbie would definitely have imagined her here now.

What I’m Reading: Fire, Orchards

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of teen novels, partly to catch up on series and partly just grabbing random things that look interesting.

One I recently finished is Fire by Kristin Cashore. Fire is a sort-of sequel to Graceling “sort-of” because it’s about a completely different set of characters, in a very different part of the country. In the Dells, there are monstrous versions of every creature which can control the minds of others — and that includes monster humans, like Fire. Her father used these powers badly, so Fire is afraid to use them, but as the Dells threaten to break into war it may become necessary.

While the main characters of Graceling don’t show up here, we see the origins of a villain, something which I found really fascinating. I didn’t have any of the pacing problems I found in Graceling as everything unfolded at a more even pace, though I still felt like the novel went off on little tangents sometimes. But the biggest draw was the main character, Fire. She’s not so physically tough as Katsa was in the other book, but she’s brave. She also deals a lot more with her own emotions, so I felt much closer to her as a character than I did with Katsa. What I really found interesting was that Fire deals with a lot of very feminine problems — she loves children but doesn’t want to bring a monster child into the world; monsters want to devour her and are attracted by her blood, making menstruation a hassle — and yet she doesn’t come across as a wimp, just as a person with a problem that she deals with. Fire makes femininity look strong, giving Cashore another point in the awesome lady heroines category. I definitely preferred this book over the first one, and would even recommend it first to others since not reading Graceling doesn’t lead to any confusion.

Another book, which I picked up on a whim from the library, is Orchards by Holly Thompson. This book follows a half Japanese, half Jewish middle school girl who is sent to stay with relatives in Japan after a girl teased by her group of friends commits suicide. The novel is told in free-verse poetry, a format I have come to adore recently: told so sparsely, everything is cut down to the barest, most important details. The narrow focus allows characters to be fully realized in just a few lines, and important thoughts and feelings have more of a punch. I think it’s a great way to tell a story like this, interior things like emotions are so key to the plot. Orchards shows Kana slowly growing as a person, acknowledging what mistakes she made and also what she couldn’t have altered, no matter what she did differently. The verse makes it a quick read, and it didn’t make me cry (like Love That Dog) or shake (like Crank) but it was still a very poignant story.