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Venneh

What You've Read 2017

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Venneh   

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, edited by Hope Nicholson: An anthology about dating, romance, sexuality, and love by a bunch of geek women. The range is spectacular; old and young, straight, bi, lesbian, trans, ace, you name it, it's probably covered. It's also in various forms; prose, comics, illustrated stories. Lots of people you'll know, and some people you might not know just yet, but will want to after you read their pieces. Worth a read.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Helen Phillips: One of the blurbs on the back describes this as Borges meets Brooklyn, and it's entirely accurate. Just over 150 pages, read in an evening, and an eerie blend of banal and bizarre. Found this remaindered, definitely worth the cheaper price.

The Interior Landscape: Classical Tamil Love Poems, AK Ramanujan: A short collection of a sequence of classical Tamil love poems. There's a section at the end that explains a lot of the imagery in here that likely would've been way more useful at the beginning of the volume. Regardless, some absolutely gorgeous imagery, and a neatly unfolding arc throughout the poems and the people talking in them. Also, very quick read; finished this in one leg of my commute. 

Books read: 25

Edited by Venneh

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Rjoyadet   

The Disaster Artist: My life inside The Room, by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero - This was much different than I was expecting, which is wonderful. Greg shares his thoughts, fears and frustrations working with a mysterious of a person as Tommy Wiseau. I love how Greg and Tom are able to show that Tommy had a love for classic cinema, specifically Marlon Brando and James Dean. In the end I felt that Greg admires Tommy and wants him to achieve his dreams. I am hesitant to watch it (the movie of the Disaster Artist) even though the man playing Wiseau is said to look a lot like James Dean.

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Edited by Rjoyadet
the disaster artist, not the room.

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Dread   

Words uttered early in Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair (the Osten Ard trilogy of which it is the first is long touted by GRRM as an influence on GoT): "all men must die."

 

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Venneh   

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins: Warning up front: if you've ever been gaslighted/abused, take care of yourself while reading this book. A murder mystery about an alcoholic, the woman she sees every day from the train she takes to pretend she's going to work, and her ex husband's new wife, and how they all end up tying together, and gaslighting and lies. I ended up mainlining the back half of the book tonight. Very well written, and unsettling. Found this at the free little library by my train stop, glad I picked it up 

Books read: 26

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Rjoyadet   

The Evolution of Physics: The Growth of Ideas from Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta  by Leopold Infeld and Albert Einstein. 

A look at Physics from the earliest of understanding to the cutting edge theories of the time of its publication in 1938. At first it appeared to be a book written for the every person but the authors dropped the work of scientists that the every day person may not remember like James Clerk Maxwell or Schrodinger and Heisenberg. I appreciate how they not only state a fact but explore how it was discovered. Certainly inspired thought. 

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Venneh   

Dusk or Dawn or Dawn or Day, Seanan McGuire: Solid, quick, compelling novella about ghosts, witches, the mechanics of each, and a mystery forming around the disappearance of Manhattan's ghosts. 

Books read: 27

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Venneh   

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu: These tend to be either hit it out of the park good, or so eyerollingly cliche that you want to throw it at a wall. You can also see the structure of his stories kind of become samey as the collection goes on (and he also reuses names a lot, which becomes super noticeable bc the reused names are his wife and kids' names) which is mildly awkward. Also the silkpunk is a 50-50 shot of actually landing in a given story. I like him best as a translator and a short story writer I think. Standouts from this collection: title story, The Regular, and The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary. 

American Gods (Authors Preferred Text), Neil Gaiman: Okay. So. I've read this book front to back several times over (used to reread it once a year). Haven't read it in a few years, the show coming up made me want to do a read of the authors preferred version, and my opinions on Gaiman in the intervening years have changed a bit. Still a solid novel, if a bit weirdly structured. But what I notice now is how much the women in this novel either serve as people for Shadow to fuck, to get dead, to have an emotion at, to help him as a plot point, or sometimes all of the above. This compounded with some really tasteless stuff that Gaiman adds back (notably: trans joke with Bilquis) in this edition leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Still gonna watch the tv series at some point and hope Fuller gets to improve the material. Also fun: Death cameo from Sandman, seeing Karen Berger and Kelly Sue DeConnick in the reader credits. 

Books read: 29

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Venneh   

The Bear, Chrissy Williams: A friend's first poetry collection. It's a very true reflection of her voice, and I liked a lot of the poems. It comes out Stateside in September, would recommend.

books read: 30

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Venneh   

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly: Nonfiction book about the black female computers at Langeley and how they eventually were an instrumental part of landing men on the moon for the first time. Great read of a part of history that isn't focused on as much.

Chalk, Paul Cornell: A story of bullying in Thatcher era England, and one boy's desire for revenge, and what that awakes in the countryside. Relies heavily on knowledge of 80s in England, has good mounting horror (bit of gore, if you don't like that, maybe watch out), a touch of music magic, and an end that feels like it has to wrap up the magical bit to get to the real ending in the epilogue. The supernatural bit doesn't quite meld with the rest. 

Your Name, Makoto Shinkai: A novelization of the movie of the same name. Not too much different than the end product, but still a fun read

The Honey Month, Amal El-Mohtar: Twenty eight honey tastings paired with poems and stories written immediately after tasting them. I love the idea and the stories that resulted from this.

The Kingdom, Fuminori Nakamura: This is... I'm not sure how I feel about this book. One the one hand, it's pretty tightly, if vaguely, plotted, and keeps up a pretty quick pace through all 200ish pages. On the other, the author kind of seems to get off on some of the sadomasochism experienced by the protagonist and other women in this book, and the number of times that she probably could've stabbed the main monologuer in this book stretches the imagination. Not sure if I'd read more by him, but a good quick noir.

Books read: 35

Edited by Venneh

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Venneh   

Penance, Kanae Minato: Another quick, 200ish page novel that i finished in the space of a few hours of downtime at the con. Four young girls are accidentally party to their friends death, and the mother threatens them that if they don't either find her murderer or do penance in a way she finds sufficient in 15 years (the statute of limitations on murder at time in Japan), she'll make their lives hell. The chapters are essentially short stories that unfold from each girl's pov, and a final surprise pov that ties little hints left throughout the novel together. Yes, it's fucked up on several levels, but in a way that I don't feel like the author is getting off on it. Would recommend this if you find it cheap. Might try to find her other translated novel.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates: Mr. Coates' three part letter to his son about the world he will grow up in as a black boy. It's gorgeously written, and a quick read, and worth your time and then some. This book was not written for me, and it's good for me to recognize that - Mr. Coates did a speaking engagement at the university we're adjacent with, and mentioned he's a bit perturbed by how a book that sprung out of one of his best friends being killed by the cops has become coopted by white people using it as a white guilt moment of "oh, I didn't know it was like this"! So I want to be careful about how I engage with this.

Books read: 37

Edited by Venneh

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Venneh   

The Starlit Wood, edited by Navah Wolfe and Dominek Parisen: An anthology of spins and updates and riffs of fairy tales. The hit to miss ratio on this is amazing; a full four fifths of this is absolutely amazing, and even the ones that don't quite hit are very well written. A lot of award nominees have come out of this, and I would highly recommend picking it up. Favorites include: Seasons of Glass and Iron, Amal El-Montar; The Briar and the Rose, Marjorie Liu; Giants in the Sky, Max Gladstone, off the top of my head.

books read: 38

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Venneh   

The Refrigerator Monologues, Catherynne Valente: The Vagina Monologues done in the style of the women of comics and superhero stories who usually end up crazy, dead, raped, etc for the development of their men. Valente's done a great job in taking well known big 2 heroines (see who you can spot) and canting them just to the side so that she can't get sued, but still get her point across. Would actually lend itself very well to being performed live, I think. Also,the Annie Wu illustrations are great.

Books read: 39

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Rjoyadet   

Gosnell: The Untold story of America's most prolific serial killer by Ann McElhinny and Phelim McAleer - A difficult read. I remember hearing on NPR about a Pennsylvania abortionist who was responsible for the death of his patient, but nothing more for years. Reading the account, I now know that the clinic was dirty, the people he hired were unqualified and under-trained, equipment was recycled and reused. There were testimonies of Gosnell not taking off his gloves between eating and abortions, there were even some that said he would eat during the procedure. That is, the women whose anesthetic wore off in the middle of the procedure. Karnamaya Mongar, the immigrant from Bhutan, whom the staff dubbed "The Indian Woman" was given too many drugs which led to her death. Aside from this death, the charges that put Gosnell in prison were of babies that were above the legal Pennsylvania period. 

Ann and Phelim subvert the expectations many pro life readers may have by pointing out that it was not a conservative movement or campaign that brought his activities to light but the D.E.A. tracking down his pill mill operation. I also realized that Gosnell did not give the women choice. The paperwork was set up to go through as quickly as possible so that a woman who may have been forced, would not have time to reconsider. Even in some cases, women who decided to keep the baby were tricked into believing their baby was dead and needed him to extract the body. 

The authors pointed out that Gosnell violated Pennsylvania law that said that women needed time and counseling from first coming in before making their decision . Although later chapters showed that this option was given to white women, they were also the only ones who were in clean rooms as opposed to the blood stained ones that smelled of cat feces, for the others.  The part of the book that was especially difficult for me to get my mind around was the discovery of over forty fetuses that Gosnell kept in his freezers. As well as keeping cut milk and juice jugs that were used to keep his personal trophies of severed feet. 

Your stance on abortion may be different than mine, but I think we can agree that Dr. Gosnell was very dangerous. 

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Rjoyadet   

Bad Clowns, Benjamin Radford - Skeptical paranormal investigator takes a look at the fear of clowns. Ben looks at places I would have never thought about like Italian poetry about Harlequin, or how Ronald McDonald is now seen as the face of corporate greed. This book was published right as clown sightings began. He only talks about a few which start with "The Northampton Clown" in 2013. Being a paranormal investigator he talks about "phantom clowns" a monster I have never heard of. 

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Venneh   

Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire: Second in the Every Heart series, focusing on the antagonist and one of our main characters friends from the last book, and their portal story that led to the school. It's about gender roles and coming into yourself and just wonderfully structured as both a fairy tale and a story in general. Highly recommended, if only for this exchange between one of the sisters and her girlfriend:

"They’d be able to give me children. That’s what Mother says.” 

"I could give you children,” said Jack, sounding faintly affronted. “You’d have to tell me how many heads you wanted them to have, and what species you’d like them to be, but what’s the point of having all these graveyards if I can’t give you children when you ask for them?”

Books read: 40

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Rjoyadet   

Seeking Allah, finding Jesus: A devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi  Nabeel goes in a direction that is the opposite of almost every convert, or apostate I have come across. Instead of looking back with anger, Nabeel talks about his life as a Muslim with much joy and it is clear that he loves his family very much. This gave me a much better understanding of the thoughts that go through a young Muslim man in every day life. For example instead of a right - wrong mentality there is more of a pride - shame mentality. The books conclusion was difficult when he tells his parents that he is a Christian despite knowing the fact that they will be heartbroken. I was a little heartbroken when he mentions that his parents did not attend his wedding.

The Death of WCW, by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez Anyone who has read my previous posts (good heavens! 980 already!?!) know that I have very limited experience with professional wrestling. So when people say that this is a book that even people who don't like wrestling can enjoy, they aren't kidding. The book chronicles the purchase of WCW by Ted Turner, the creation of the N.W.O., and a lot of the bad ideas that led to the titular death of World Championship Wrestling. Most reprints come with a afterword or an additional chapter. This book does one better by peppering the book with "lesson not learned" anecdotes. Bryan Alvarez narration of the book was amazing due to the fact that he knew when to be sarcastic and serious. like once he says "lesson not learned, no wait.... lesson learned!" Also the beginning and end teases a sequel focusing on TNA.

All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein  Never judge a book by its cover. I thought All You Zombies was going to feature zombies. Instead there was a story about identity involving time travel paradoxes, seducing yourself, kidnapping your younger self and reassignment surgery. I can see how David Gerrold used this concept for his novel "The Man Who Folded Himself" but I was happy to find that it did not end with the main character becoming obsessed with the day and place he would eventually die.

Cracking the Millionaire code by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen Quite bland and generic. At times I could not tell whether I was listening to a self help book or a parody of a self help book.

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Venneh   

Hunger, Roxane Gay: Essentially Roxane's memoir about being fat, and living in her body. Short chapters, medium text, and I tore through it in most of an evening. There's parts of this that I painfully resonate with. Definitely worth your time.

A Doll's Alphabet, Camilla Grudova: A weird collection of short stories. Went through these very quick, not sure if I would've liked them expanded more than they were. Got through this in the space of a few hours. 

The Topless Tower, Silvina Ocampo: A wonderful, weird, short little story about a child, the Devil, and paintings come to life that ends remarkably happily, all things considered. 

Books read: 43

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Rjoyadet   

The Mind of Terror, Tass Saada : The book begins in late 2001 where a neighbor tells the FBI that the Palestinian immigrant knows Osama Bin Laden. When he is questioned he explains that he does not know Osama Bin Laden, only that they met once years ago. He then talks about living life as a Muslim and what someone who would grow up to be a sniper for Yasser Arafat would be raised to believe. He gives advice on how to politely talk to Muslims in order to grow friendship and understanding.  A good part of the book is a sales pitch to help fund his interfaith school. Although I have not given any money, I enjoyed the stories. One that especially stuck in my mind was when the faculty had a spa day and came across a recently widowed woman who shared that she spent years imprisoned in her household and this was her first step of freedom.

The Stainless Steel Rat, Harry Harrison A super criminal in space. Some parts are clearly dated but that does not detract from the overall timeless charm of a theif who ends up helping the everyman, much to the detriment of the royalty and/or the obscenely wealthy . I have only read the prequel so I do not know if the rats version of Irene Adler, Angelina, ever comes back. If there was ever a movie, there could only be one song that comes to mind.

Books read: fewer than Hannah.

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Venneh   

The Twenty Days of Turin, Giorgio de Maria (translated by Ramon Glazov): This is... Im really not sure how I feel about this, immediately after finishing it. I got this on the recommendation of a favorite author of mine. My gut reaction is that I like one of the appendix stories (Phenomonology of the Screamer) more than I do the actual story. This is packaged as Borges and Lovecraft and House of the Leaves and with that marketing hype, there's no way the actual novel could live up to it. I agree with the Borgesian dread, but it feels like it falls short and ends just as it's beginning. I didn't read the intro until after i finished the novel and appendixes, which I'm kind of glad of, as it feels like an attempt to explain everything and give you the interpretation that the translator wants, and no others. Straight up rolled my eyes when it said that this was the precursor of Facebook and cyberpunk tbh. There also seems to be something I'm missing, either in the Italian history this is based out of, or my knowledge of Turin in general. I compared it to someone's college final in a translating class that somehow got a book deal. I wouldn't buy this at the hardcover price (it was v cheap on Amazon), but maybe remaindered. Would love to hear others feelings on this.

Final Girls, Mira Grant: A Subterranean novella about a skeptic placed into a vr scenario with drugs used to promote psychological healing with the doctor who invented the therapy, and the corporate spy who tries to make it all go wrong. Interesting plot, wrapped up a bit too quick for my liking (constraint of the size), would love to see this expanded into a full novel like Rolling in the Deep is going to be.

Everfair, Nisi Shawl: Nominated for the Hugo, thought I should give it a look before then. This is a real good alt history and steampunk story - looking at what might've happened if socialists and missionaries had been able to set up an independent state in Africa as a safe haven, and all the fraught politics therein. The main issue I have with this is that the cast is about twenty people too big - the story will shift from person to person chapter by chapter, and it keeps us from being able to get their inner life and thoughts. Shawl could've still gotten the sprawl and enormity that she wanted but kept the narrative focus a bit more narrowed. Still worth your time.

Books read: 46

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jim   

Twenty Days Of Turin-Giorgio de Maria (translated by Ramon Glazov) Did not click. A couple cool moments, but a wait, this is what y'all made a fuss over? Maybe you had to be there.

The Topless Tower-Silvina Ocampo My understanding of Silvina Ocampo from 2/3 or 3/4 of her NYRB collection is that she's like Borges, but more cruel. She apparently wrote a lot of children's stuff, and this I think is one of them. Maybe it's a fable about growing up and seeing the fullness of a human life while maybe the Devil watches? I didn't expect it to end so sweet.

The Honey Month-Amal El-Mohtar Bought at WisCon on a gamble. I echo Hannah's thoughts.

Recyclopedia-Henryette Mullen Hyper language gamey poetry. It skated a thin line dexterously.

Bear-Chrissy WIlliams Skated that thin line less well. A little too precious (that can't be the word) for my tastes.

Currently working through The Invention Of Morel by Adolofo Bioy Casares, the husband and lover of Silvina Ocampo. Interesting note: There's a character in Topless Tower and a character in The Invention Of Morel with the same name. I choose to believe it's the same person, written by wife and then husband.

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Venneh   

When the Moon Was Ours, Anna Marie McLemore: This won the Tiptree at the WisCon J and I were at, and I decided to pick it up not too long after we got back because the excerpts we heard were gorgeous. It takes a while to get going, plot wise, but when it does, it builds like a wave. It's about a girl who grows roses in her wrists, a boy who is learning who he is, and lies and the power of admitting the truth. Occupies this weird unexplained magical realism, but it really comes off well. And again, McLemore's language is flowing and gorgeous and worth your time. Read this.

Books read: 47

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Venneh   

Confessions, Kanae Minato: You thought Penance went in hard? It doesn't have shit on this. A four year old daughter of a teacher drowns in a pool at school, and the fallout ripples out over several years and several points of view. I mainlined most of this today and spent most of this evening just yelling in shock at all the twists and turns in this. Definitely read this if you have the chance. Just be sure you're ready for it, it goes in hard and does not let up for most of the 200ish pages. 

Books read: 48

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