Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reviewing Delays

Question for fellow book bloggers: is there a point where it's been too long to review something?

Basically, I want to review everything that I read. Not just like I feel like I should or stuff like that, but that I actually want to. But as is probably obvious, I have not kept up a rapid pace when it comes to reviewing.
Me for the last couple months
I've kept on top of ARC reviews but stuff that I just read for funsies is...yeah.

I have a running list of all of the books I have read (as you may know from all of my reading stat posts) and I keep track of which books I still have to review. The oldest one is Grotesque which I read back in July. JULY. That is like 8 months ago.

Is there a point where you move on? Or no, should I press on and get around to reviewing all those older books (even though I'm clearly not reviewing it right now and am instead writing this).

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to be very productive. And by that I mean watch Criminal Minds reruns and play sudoku

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Anatomy of a Miracle: What does one do after experiencing a miracle?

After reading Emily's (aka As the Crowe Flies and Reads) review of Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles, I immediately hopped over to NetGalley to see if I could get my hands on a copy and lo and behold, I was successful. In exchange for an honest review, I got the book and was not disappointed.

Had it not been for Emily's review, I probably would have passed over this without looking at it too closely. I mean, with that title, it seems like it would be a religious, feel-good type Hallmark-style story and while there's nothing wrong with those, they aren't typically my cup o' tea. Luckily for me (and I suppose unluckily for anyone looking for that sort of story) that isn't the case here. Oh it is about miracles and the military, sure but there's so much more going on.

Presented as a true account (with an asterisk that hahaha, no, this is actually fiction), Miles tells the story of Cameron Harris, paralyzed four years prior in Afghanistan, suddenly and for no discernible reason, is able to walk again. He's waiting for his sister Tanya outside a local convenience store in their small Mississippi town when he stands up.

And from here, the story takes off. Was it a miracle? Many seem to think so and the Biz-E-Bee store becomes something of a spectacle for pilgrims passing through and the proprietors understandably making the best of the situation ("like someone opened a Cracker Barrel at Lourdes"). The Catholic Church also seems to think it's possible and investigators are dispatched to look into the claims, including an actual devil's advocate (advocatus diaboli) because of course the Catholic Church would have that.

Of course Cameron's doctor has a very different view. That doesn't mean she knows what the cause of his sudden healing is, only that as a woman of science, miracles don't count for much.

And naturally, as the story is set in modern times, there's a reality TV show.

At the center of all of this is Cameron and his sister trying to make sense of what happened, how it happened, and what do they do now?

The reason the story works as well as it does is the characters. Everyone, from the major to the minor, are fleshed out characters. They are interesting, they are complex, they feel real. At no point did a character feel like their actions were only there to advance the plot. And I loved and cared about so many of them.

Some of the descriptions were wonderful
His eyes, however, cast a different spell: They're wide and large like his sister's, with a peculiar boyishness to them, as though his eyes retired their development at puberty while the rest of his features forged ahead. 
And sometimes they could become a little much. Though once I got familiar with his writing style, I enjoyed it more.

As I mentioned, the story is presented as if it is a journalistic nonfiction account of events and while I enjoyed having such a wide purview, I didn't really think this was a necessary conceit. That said, I don't think it hurt the story either, so whatever, go forth.

Overall a book I'm very happy to have read and one I would recommend to anyone looking for some literary fiction in a way I haven't quite seen before.

Gif rating:
Title quote from location 562

Miles, Jonathan. Anatomy of a Miracle. Hogarth, 2018. NetGalley

Monday, March 5, 2018

February Reading Wrap Up

Only 2 posts in all of February. I know, that is terrible. I didn't mean for that to happen, but here we are. It was a rough month in terms of reading as well. At least in amount read. In quality read, it was pretty good. (I know I'm way late to this party, but if you haven't read The Hate U Give you should stop what you're doing and go read it because it was so so so so so good.) I still have excuses which I won't get into here but just know that a) I'm fine and b) they're good excuses. I'll get to them eventually.

For now know that I am trying to get better with posting and commenting.

With that, let's get to the stats

Number of books read
The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

Total pages read


POC authors

Female authors

US authors
Book formats
ebook: 100%

Where'd I get the book
Kindle/audible: 33%
Netgalley: 67%

Review books

Books by decade
2010s: 100%

Resolution books
The Hate U Give by a POC author

Here's to March being more successful in amount reading, in posting, in commenting. All around, more success.

*If you are curious about this stat when compared to the books read list, Mallory Ortberg, according to this article, is in the process of transitioning and this says will be using male pronouns and male name. While the name on the book is still Mallory I left that as is rather than listing him as Mal.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Merry Spinster: Beauty is never private

Alice, aka Reading Rambo, put together a distilled list of the best books coming out in 2018 and among those was the book The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg. Given this recommendation and the fact that I follow the author on Twitter and she's pretty swell there, I hopped over to Netgalley to see if I could get a copy. And lo and behold, the request was granted and here we are.

The book is a collection of retellings of fairy tales. And since I think fairy tales are pretty swell and own a number of books about them: Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, a number of Maria Tartar's annotated fairy tales and academic essays about fairy tales, because what's more fun than adding academia to something?
Anyway, stories based on Children's Stories Made Horrific, this seems like exactly the thing for me. Even though I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to retellings. Sometimes they work out well and I'm a big fan; but very often things don't quite work out. And some of the stories most definitely were. And others...less so. But isn't that the way with short story collections?

The stories aren't really scary stories. There more unsettling, but hey, aren't all all fairy tales, particularly those of the Grimm bros variety?

It's always difficult to review collections of short stories. I never really know how to tackle this, even though I've done it a bunch so you'd think I'd figure it out. But nope, not learning from the past is a thing I'm pretty good at so let's muddle through this.

Top 3 
The first story, "The Daughter Cells", a retelling of "The Little Mermaid" was a great way to start the collection and one of the stories I really enjoyed. You have the story you know (mermaid gets legs and tries to get a human to marry her without the use of her voice) but there's a lot less of the infatuation you get in either the original or Disney versions, with a little mermaid that has a lot more agency than other telling seem to give her.

"The Six-Boy Coffins" is based on the fairy tale "The Wild Swans" (sons changed into swans and a sister has to weave nettle shirts for them to turn them back into people) and was probably my favorite of the collection. It's very similar to the original story but wicked stepmothers are replaced with evil fathers (because why do women always have to be evil in these things?) and the ending is disturbing but pretty great.

"Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters" isn't from a single story I recognized but does feature a siren, like of the Odyssey variety. A man who falls in love and the way his mother deals with this news. It is very messed up, but in a good way.

Not so much
"Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad" is the story of some abusing and gaslighting woodland creatures. Maybe because I'm not super familiar with the Mr. Toad stories, this one didn't really do it for me.

"The Wedding Party" felt like the most modern story, with a couple discussing their upcoming wedding. I knew what was happening in the moment but never really understood what the point was? Perhaps someone can read and explain it to me and it will all make sense.

There were a few other stories that fell in the middle. Overall there were more stories I enjoyed than didn't so that's a positive balance.

If you like Ortberg's humor, if you like slightly disturbing stories and if you like fairy tales, definitely something to check out.

Gif rating:
Title quote from location 2032

Ortberg, Mallory. The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror. Henry Hold and Co, 2018. Netgalley

Monday, February 5, 2018

January Reading Wrap Up

I'm so behind on posting this. I don't have an excuse. It's not even like a review which take some time and effort and thought to put together. These roundups are wonderful because 1) I heart stats and 2) they are easy. And yet I still failed to put it up last week DESPITE having plenty of time. I have excuses. I won't go into them here but damn good excuses. Just trust me. (They are also excuses why things have been slow posting here. And reading all of your lovely posts and def leaving comments even when I do read. I hope that improves but I am holding back on making promises.)

ANYWAY. January. That was a thing that happened. Some things continue to be terrible*, some things are pretty great, there's a lot that just is. Reading was pretty good. I think this might be a year of re-reads. Not that it will ALL be re-reads. Besides, I just got a bunch of Netgalleys I am quite excited about. And while there are a ton of new books I absolutely want to read, in the spirit of "Hey, these are things I love" I want to go back to those. This isn't necessarily to go back and challenge old favorites, though that might happen. This is more "These were things that brought me joy. I like joy. Let's get some of that."

Now to the stats

Number of books read
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The Girls by Emma Cline
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Total pages read

I thought to myself, "Wow, it's been a while since I read all fiction. I wonder how long." And then I remember, you know, I keep those stats and can just look. It was April of last year.

POC authors

Female authors
US authors

Book formats
ebook: 60%
paperback: 40%

Where'd I get the book
borrow: 20%
indie: 20%
Kindle/Audio: 40%
Netgalley: 20%


Review books

Books by decade
1930s: 20%
1960s: 20%
2000s: 20%
2010s: 40%

Resolution continues to be read more POC, more people from outside the US, more translations, books published before 2000.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - published before 2000, author from UK
Where The Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward - POC author
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard - published before 2000, author from UK

*Please, those of you in the US, keep reaching out to your representatives. Don't get tired, don't get discouraged, don't let up.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Where the Line Bleeds: Yes, they conformed to character, but these two traded skins like any set of twins

What is this? A review? An actual review? I know, it's been a while.

After reading Jesmyn Ward's latest book, Sing, Unburied, Sing I had an opportunity to receive a copy of one of her earlier works in exchange for an honest review.
The story is a character study of the twins Christoph and Joshua, from a rural town on the Mississippi Gulf coast. Raised by their grandmother Ma-Mee after their mother went to Atlanta and their father slipped further into drugs. The book opens with the boys graduating from high school, hoping to get some sort of job to support their grandmother. Their ambitions are modest, shaped by the world they know. They apply all around town, at fast food joints and the dock, with never a thought that they won't be working together. But Joshua gets a job while Christoph isn't so lucky, causing a rift between the two that goes mostly unspoken. Though really much of their communication goes without words, so it makes sense that their argument would be silent as well.

Ma-Mee senses the distance and hurt from the boys but all she can wish is the boys were younger.

Christoph goes more and more despondent as the days go by and the phone stays quiet, as he goes another day without a job, without contributing to the house. Eventually he takes up his cousin's offer to start dealing pot, a secret he keeps from Joshua.

The jacket description says something about a confrontation with their father Sandman either saving or damning the twins. I won't tell you what happens but I will tell you this happens in roughly the last 5-10% of the book. Most of it is the quiet day-to-day lives of the twins, flirting and getting their hair braided and getting high and playing basketball.

Understand this is not a complaint about the book, just a warning that if you're looking for action you should go elsewhere. That isn't to say that I wasn't sucked in; I wanted to know what was going to happen, even when what was happening was mostly a slow burn. Ward has a lyrical quality to her writing, though I unfortunately didn't highlight too many passages to use as examples. But I do have at least one and it's pretty good so enjoy
The sun would not leave them: even after it set, it left a residue of heat in the evening. Christoph, stone-drunk under the barebulb lights strung between the trees at Felicia's party later that night, thought the blanketing heat was a vestigial presence, something made even more present by its absence.
I may like Sing, Unburied, Sing better but this was still an excellent read one I was happy to be able to read. It was a book outside my comfort zone, populated by characters I don't read about often.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 4

Ward, Jesmyn. Where the Line Bleeds. Scribner, 2006. NetGalley