Saturday, June 23, 2018

Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women by Mary Rechner

I normally really like short stories, when I'm ready for short stories. Usually after an epic novel that weighs more than my car. At that time, carrying around a slim volume of short stories, and reading in chunks, is a delight (and my arms get a rest!).

I dove into into volume and immediately was unsure if I wanted to continue. The writing was good, the perspective was great, the voice changed with each story and it was interesting. So, what's your problem, Amanda?? I couldn't relate. Every story was wife/mother/husband/kids. As a never-married, no-children woman, I had no one to side with or to understand. I was left thinking, "Do women really get that resentful in their marriage? With their children?"

THEN I got it. Some of it. Being a woman is a complicated way to live. I somewhat feel for men trying to understand us when, frankly, we can confuse and perplex ourselves. I am the woman in the dentist chair running a billion worries through her mind, all in the span of one visit. My worries may not include husbands or kids, but they are worries. Going alone into this world is just as difficult sometimes.

I get resentful of people in my life, for reasons I've actually never understood. The feeling goes away pretty quick but it happens. Relationships are complicated, friendships are hard, testing the waters to try something completely new to you is just terrifying at times.

I do think a woman who is/was a wife/mother would get a bit more from this than I did but I appreciated the writing and am curious to check out more of Rechner's work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

This was a pretty good IRL book club book. It brought a lot of people to the club and caused A LOT of good discussion.

Junger outlines essentially why we need our tribes. You can't go through this world alone, no matter what you think, and the way America is set up now, we no longer have community. I'll be the first to admit that after 18 years of living in my neighborhood, I only have talked to 3 neighbors. That's insanity when you think about it.

We delve into the past, where white people ran away to the Indian tribes (but never vice versa) and we move into soldiers returning from war who say that war time is their best time. They have brotherhood, mission, and their tribe. Peace time, home time, doesn't give them that. They get a "Thank you for your service" and people move on. Let's not even talk about how few people even realize there's still a war going on and soldiers are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan.

One of the most interesting facts regarded school shootings. There are no incidences of mass shootings in schools in urban ghetto areas. Only in white, affluent, "safe" areas. This is proof that tribes mean something. The suburban sprawl has caused kids to be more alone than ever and they lash out. Poverty, however terrible it is (and it is), creates the tribe feeling for urban kids.

Tribe is defined basically as would you lay down your life for your community? I don't mean your neighbors...I mean, your tribe. Your people. After reading this book, I thought hard about who is in my tribe, who I would die for (hopefully it won't come to that). Who is my tribe?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Head On by John Scalzi

Guess what, folks? I started on book #2 for this series. Do I have a knack for this or what?? Thankfully, it's pretty much a standalone so I don't think I missed anything but now I really need to hunt down book #1 (Lock In).

This introduces us (me) to Haden, a disease caused by a virus that permanently shuts down a person's body but leaves their mind intact. This sounds absolutely horrifying but Haden's made it work. They have neural networks implanted in their brains that allow them to visit a digital world, where they create their own personal homes. They also walk around in threeps, robotic suits they can use just like regular bodies, while their physical body remains elsewhere.

We meet Chris Shane, a Haden who is also an FBI Agent and his partner, Agent Leslie Vann, a non-Haden. They get immediately thrown into a case of a Haden who dies while playing Hilketa. Threeps are on the playing field while the Haden controls their movements. One threep is the Goat in each play and the goal is to rip the head of the goat and get it across the line. Sounds....violent.  It's unheard of for a Haden to die during a game since it's really the threep out there being pummeled, but die Duane Chapman does.  Even more fishy? His vital data is pulled the instant he dies and scrubbed from the data feed.

I'm somewhat new to sci-fi and Scalzi is just pulling me in, kicking and not-screaming. While the premise sounds a little out there, this still had the makings of a big-body-count-buildings-destroyed-with-a-cat-named-Donut action book. I was personally rooting for Donut.

You, too, can read these books out of order like I did. It won't dampen your enjoyment of the story at all!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This book blew my mind, melted my brain, made me crazy. All in the best possible way.

I've never encountered a book that was this twisted in on itself. I actually felt like I needed a whiteboard to work out what was happening and by whom.

We start off in the woods, in the mind of someone who only knows the name Anna. This is Dr. Sebastian Bell, a guest at Blackheath, a guest of the Hardcastles. He has no idea who he is but he sees Anna getting murdered in the woods. Racing away, for we learn that he's really a coward, he comes across Blackheath manor and, inside, the other guests know him and take him in.

Our protagonist is not really Dr. Bell. Our protagonist is the person inside Dr. Bell, who is the person inside the butler, inside Davies, inside Derby. He is jumping bodies every time he falls asleep or is knocked out. But why? To stop Evelyn Hardcastle from being murdered. He lives 8 lives in 8 days and must solve the murder before it happens each day. If he doesn't, he starts back over with day one in Dr. Bell. This sounds easy enough, yes? Except he's being pursued by a killer footman and has other rivals in the house who need to solve the murder before him. The person who solves the murder goes free.

But it's really not what you think and it's STILL not that simple. Mind. Blown.

I refuse to hand out spoilers for this book because it was such a crazy "Are you KIDDING me?" ride to the end. The author does a fantastic job at revealing what is happening to us and the protagonist. He's learning who he is and where he is right along with us and, truly, I think we all get equally confused at points.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Transformer by Ezra Furman

I'm a casual fan of music. I'm glad music exists and I have bad/good/odd taste in it. Music isn't something I'm passionate about but reading about music, well, I can get on board with that. Ezra Furman wrote a 33 1/3 book about Lou Reed's Transformer and since I really love Ezra's music and Lou Reed confuses me, I gave the book a try.

I still love Ezra but I question the hero worship of a guy who is racist/abusive but...I get Ezra's point about paying attention to the other pieces. Still, I have trouble overlooking the negative pieces. And Lou Reed still confuses me a bit but it seems like I'm not alone in that.

33 1/3 books by Bloomsbury are small little books that go in-depth into albums, track by track, taking apart the artist behind the music. There are over 100 books ranging from Dusty Springfield and Johnny Cash to...New Kids on the Block? Hmm... ok.

Ezra starts out trying to piece together the personas of Reed: Lou the Queer, Lou the Failure, Lou and Bowie. The he dives in, one track at a time, and gives his ideas on what it all means. I had no idea that Transformer was so out there. On first listen, without knowing much else, it doesn't sound unusual. After understanding some backstory, the next several listens strike me as odd.

This little book is well worth reading, even if you aren't a huge Lou Reed fan. It took me some time to read because, after each track dissection, I listened to the track a few times. I might just learn to appreciate music as something other than sound in the background.

Full Transformer Playlist

Ezra Furman's new album. I put this here because it's amazing and so is Ezra

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

This has been on my TBR list for a bit and I was a little surprised that it felt difficult to get through. I wasn't sure why, I just knew I wasn't picking it up as often to get it finished.

The writing is great, I had no issues with that. I felt every piece of Africa with the author through her words. There were really no slow parts, no bad characters, or whatnot. I think my main problem was....this felt like a rough life and a rough childhood and THAT made it hard to read.

Alexandra Fuller's family moved to Africa when she was just a wee baby. She had an older sister, Vanessa, a mom and a dad. They went on a work permit and were tending farms for a living. Often poor, often hungry, they seemed to always have the bad luck to land in the middle of war-torn, landmine-encrusted areas. Nicola, the mom, gave birth to 5 children but only 2 lived. The life they chose was a harsh one.

Fuller doesn't shy away from the brutalities, the day to day normalcy to them (carrying an Uzi wherever you go) seem horrible to others. The racial bias and descriptions on how whites (like the Fullers) are treated vs their black neighbors is pretty terrible as well. And Fuller recognizes that.

All in all, a very good book that is worth the read. I realize that I really don't know much about Africa, it's history or it's culture. Thankfully, Fuller recommends books at the end to help bridge that gap of knowledge.

And honestly, this has to be my favorite cover of all time

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster

I grabbed this off of Audible, hoping for something to make me laugh. It did, some, but not what I was hoping for. On the flip side, it was still a good memoir about Lancaster's quest to not lose her feet to diabetes.

Lancaster is a narcissist. It's right there in the subtitle, so don't take that the wrong way. I think every woman SHOULD look into the mirror and think "Damn gurl! You fine!" regardless of their size. And that's exactly how Lancaster viewed herself up until her doctor gave her the death speech. Lancaster was about to turn 40 and was more overweight than even she thought.

As a pitch for a new book, Lancaster decides to lose 50 lbs and write about it. The book is picked up, therefore she must lose the weight. For as narcissistic as she makes herself out to be,  I have to admire what she did to lose the weight safely. Extra time at the gym with a trainer, weight watchers and lap swimming at the local pool. Although, I rolled my eyes a bit because she is a writer. That's her job. So taking the time to lose weight in that fashion, well, it was probably a bit easier than for folks who work outside the home.

Not a bad book. I will probably pick up some of her others to read because I enjoyed the writing.