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Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant: Fuck. Yes. Seanan spun her novella into a full length sequel novel that lets you jump in without having read Rolling in the Deep, but rewards you if you do. And it’s a beautiful bloodbath. Only a handful of POV characters survive, and a few nonhuman POVs get thrown in there too. Seanan takes weird ass biology and science and mashes it together with a bloodbath and it fucking works. You want to read this, trust me.

Books read: 102

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The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, Jonathan Eig: Well written and thorough history of how the birth control pill came to be. Focuses on the women and men primarily involved equally, as well as the social climate at the time, and doesn’t flinch away from things like Sanger and her association with eugenicists. Definitely worth a read. (Found this remaindered.)

Books read: 103

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Naked Earth, Eileen Chang: A NYRB book that Jim got me for my birthday. He had no way of knowing this, but this is the author behind the novella behind a favorite movie of mine, Lust Caution. And after reading this, I want to find more of her stuff. She’s also the rare writer able to translate her work (like this one) into another language. 

The novel itself follows two (and a few others briefly later) young people, a man and a woman, under the early years of Mao, and what their day to day life and their falling in love looks like as all the various campaigns and the Korean War consume their lives, and the small compromises and massive despair that can make up a person’s life. It doesn’t flinch at depicting what actually happened under the Mao regime (false accusations and their consequences, brutality, careerism, corruption, etc), and even though it is important to keep in mind that the USIS commissioned it, it doesn’t make it any less affecting. The prose is gorgeous, the plot goes at its own pace but keeps you wanting to read, and is incredibly well done.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, that one penname JKR used for these crime novels: Jim read this last year and really liked this, and I’ve finally decided to start these. I tore through the first one tonight. Not zomg amazing, but a good read that’s genuinely fun to watch unfold. I called the twist earlier in the book, but good to see that I was in fact right. Interested to read the next one on the bus ride home tomorrow.

Books read: 105

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The Silkworm, JKR penname: A well done follow up; we get more character work for our mains, an incredibly interesting and detailed plot that unfolds, and a twist that I can see in retrospect but was not expecting. And you can tell she’s having fun, especially with the publishing angle of this book. The quotes that start the chapters are about as subtle as a hammer, though. Still worth your time.

Books read: 106

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Career of Evil, JKR penname: The cons: you are gonna be real fucking sick of Blue Oÿster Cult lyrics by the end of this book, and some of the developments at the end of the book, while in character, feel like they’re done for the drama’s sake/would be solved with some basic communication, and the attempt at the third POV doesn’t quite stick. The pros: some of the best character work yet for Cormoran and Robin, and a genuinely grisly winding plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. (If you have history with rape, abuse (emotional, physical, sexual including of children), gore, etc, be aware that there’s lots of this going in.)

Clockwork Boys, T Kingfisher: So an assassin, a misogynistic sheltered monk, a paladin who’s been cast out and possessed by a demon, and a ninja accountant walk into a suicide mission. This apparently has been gestating for 10 years, and the level of detail and care shows. Someone might dismiss this as “oh, she just wrote a D+D campaign”, but the more accurate description is Kingfisher’s Strong Feelings re: paladin portrayals and these other fuckers what came along for the ride. I’m really interested to see where this goes for the sequel, which comes out in spring.

Books read: 108

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Aeneid Book VI, Virgil (translated by Seamus Heaney): This was apparently the last work that Heaney did before his death, and it shows in his choice of words. The element of crossing over into the land of the dead, and legacy is really strong in this translation. It’s got the original Latin side by side with the translation, so if you know Latin, there’s that bonus. (I don’t. :p) Heaney also apparently did this in honor of his high school Latin teacher. A fun, quick read to wrap up 2017

Books read: 109

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On ‎1‎/‎22‎/‎2017 at 2:49 PM, Venneh said:

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood: I first read this in Honors/AP English in high school, and I've reread this on a regular basis ever since. Started this on Inauguration Day, finished it yesterday morning. There's always new details that come out every read in this, which I've always loved. Feels more foreboding than it has on normal reads.

Books read: 8

Since it has been nearly a year since you posted about reading The Handmaid's Tale I wanted to know why you thought this was so foreboding? Have you noticed anything different from then and now?

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Finders Keepers by Stephen King.

My second King fiction novel, not strictly counting "On Writing", this was another great page turner. The guy's simply a quintessential storyteller. He gets every aspect of writing down to a fine science. My only niggle with him is his propensity for farm-y, old school phrases that I've never heard in real life and also sound like baby talk. Always makes me cringe but that's not to take away the engrossing nature of his plots and ideas.

I also wasn't aware this was the second in a trilogy of novels focusing on a detective character. I was a little annoyed when he and his supporting cast showed up halfway through, but eventually I was on board. I understand there's a tv show based on the preceding book Mr. Mercedes, so I think I'll head for that next and maybe check the show out.

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Just gonna make this a general thread, starting over for ‘18.

1. Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado: This is fucking exquisite. I’ve got a new author to follow. I’d already read the first story in this collection, “The Husband Stitch”, but the rest is all new and absolutely amazing. I even cried after a few of them. There’s only two of eight stories in this that don’t quite hit home for me, but even those are still good. She’s got a memoir coming out next year that I am already here for, and I am currently trying to find more of her writing that I haven’t read. Read this. It’s amazing, and well worth your time.

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2. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, Anya von Bremzen: A well written memoir that combines the food culture of the USSR, and the author and her mother’s lives growing up, and eventually immigrating from, the same. Also includes recipes for each chapter at the end of the book.

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3. Hold Your Own, Kate Tempest: Fair to middling poetry, relies too much on rhyme for my taste, only had a few standout lines.

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On 1/5/2018 at 3:26 PM, Donomark said:

Finders Keepers by Stephen King.

My second King fiction novel, not strictly counting "On Writing", this was another great page turner. The guy's simply a quintessential storyteller. He gets every aspect of writing down to a fine science. My only niggle with him is his propensity for farm-y, old school phrases that I've never heard in real life and also sound like baby talk. Always makes me cringe but that's not to take away the engrossing nature of his plots and ideas.

I've never really noticed the problem you had with his odd choice in phrases. That said, I don't really doubt it, either. 

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4. Lust, Caution; Eileen Chang: The short story that inspired the film of the same name, and goddamn I need to see if my bookstore has any more of her collections remaindered. Absolutely tense for the duration of the short story, and has some really memorable passages. If you've seen the movie, I highly recommend getting this. Also has introductions and essays from individuals involved with the movie.

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5. Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, Sara Marcus: A really good deep dive into the Riot Grrrl subculture, both through the bands and the fandom of the subculture, and a look at the larger politics that framed them. A good evening/bath read, and a good, honest look at a subculture I’ve been interested in.

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6. Lady Be Good, Lauren Hilger: Solid poetry, very deliberately evokes Golden Age Hollywood and luxury, does some neat stuff with formatting, but I won’t remember most of these poems in two weeks’ time.

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Recently, I've gone through Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier and third John Dies At The End book. They're both pretty good, but I think I enjoyed The Final Dossier more. 

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Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds

This novel is roughly about Miles having a rough time of it attending Brooklyn Visions Academy. His Spider-Sense keeps going off when there's seemingly no danger, he feels pressure to achieve from his parents, and he feels inextricably bound to a fate of criminality due to his heritage considering his father and brother were once criminals. All good stuff to move forward, and this was an engaging read. The problem is that for 98% of it, Miles is never Spider-Man. He uses his powers a few times, but it's really not until the final couple of chapters where he is Spider-Man fighting a villain. I'm not complaining on a "I want to see my super hero"/Netflix Punisher level. As it's written the overwhelming majority of this book has so little to do with Miles' alter ego. It's mostly ignored, and rarely incorporated into the plot. This was a huge missed opportunity. I appreciate Reynolds keeping everything grounded where you're meant to care about Miles' character, but this also relies on you going into the book already a fan of him to not require any exposition. It's not explained why he is Spider-Man, how he became Spider-Man (the spider bite is mentioned in passing but there's no correlation to Oscorp/Osborn Industries), how he has web shooters or what they even are, where he got his costume, or what keeps him being Spider-Man. Not only is Peter Parker never mentioned, none of the Marvel Universe appears or is referenced once. I'm guessing this takes place in a post-Secret War 616 continuity because his mom is alive and his father knows his identity, but that's not explained either. It really numbs the greater potential for the book because it doesn't feel like a complete story. What's present is good, but it could've been a lot better.

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7. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, Rebecca Traister: Besides the slightly eye rolly title, this is a really well researched book into how being single for women has changed the landscape. It’s mostly organized into topics, but includes a mix of history and personal subject experiences in each chapter, which keeps it from getting too dry, and the write doesn’t hesitate to inject a good dose of humor in the telling. Though it does focus on America, the book does include the experience of immigrants and minorities (both racial and sexual), and is careful to be intersectional in its history as well. There’s only a few moments when it feels like she’s trying to go “oh hey, I am hip with the young things, look at who I am quoting”, not anything that’s going to rock your world, but definitely a fun read, especially for $5.

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8. The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher: Carrie Fisher writing about her time filming the first Star Wars, along with her relationship to Leia and all it’s bought her, and about her affair with Harrison Ford (along with diary excerpts that she’s found from that time). There’s a lot of stuff she says as a mentally ill person that I relate to intensely in this.

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9. Pain, Parties, and Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953, Elizabeth Winder: This feels like a college paper, maybe a thesis, that got a book deal. Partially a reconstruction from interviews with fellow girls on the Mademoiselle college guest editor program, magazines from the day, and minimally Plath’s own diary (this month is barely mentioned, but the months leading up to it and the aftermath are). Gorgeous imagery, short chapters, and a light read, again, worth the $5 I paid for it.

10. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin: A group I’m in is reading books we read when we were kids. I vaguely remembered this from reading it for lit class in middle school, but forgot most of it in the fifteen plus since years since I read it. Really well plotted for a kid’s book, and dives into topics that feel ahead of its time for being written in the late fifties/early sixties. A lovely unfolding mystery, and a fun quick read.

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11. Robots vs Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe: Not quite as thick as the Starlit Wood, but still a solid evening read. On the one hand, it’s neat to see how everyone interpreted the anthology theme and how they side; on the other hand, there are only so many variations you can do on fucking Pinocchio. There are a lot more misses this time around too. I’ve got a few more authors to look into beyond the ones that got me into the anthology in the first place, though, which is always good. 

12. Spiral Bound, Dessa: So, it turns out Dessa had collections of poetry and prose out that I wasn’t even aware of, and given what a good lyricist she is, it’s unsurprising that she’s also really good at poetry and short stories. Quick read (finished this in under a half hour in the bath tonight), and more than a few things that are going to stick with me for a while.

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Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

The book I should've read before Finders Keepers, as references to this novel in that one spoiled some aspects of the ending. Not only had I known that Bill Hodges and his plucky sidekicks would make it out of this one, I knew how some characters would die and how. Nevertheless, King's a master at tension. Every book I've read of his so far has the best written climaxes. Even if you're wanting to book to end, even if you're eager to see how everything ends up, his climaxes are some of the most intense reading experiences ever.

I liked Finders Keepers as a story better. This was a traditional action thriller, very much something I could see a movie stemming from, let alone a television series. King keeps the cringe factor consistent. In Finders Keepers there's explicit prison rape implemented in scenes, and in this there's a fair amount of incest. This is also more violent than Finders Keepers, but closer to The Long Walk, which I loved. Whenever death brings about tragedy, there's always that extra gore factor to really make it horrible, which is great. This was another solid from from him. The middle part dragged a bit, leading to the dramatic halfway point, but King's style continues to impress. There's one more book left in this Bill Hodges trilogy but I might go back and re-read parts of Finders Keepers before then now that I've read its predecessor. 

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13. A Pound of Steam, Dessa: A 25 page chapbook, some unbelievably gorgeous poems within. I feel like I’m cheating by including a chapbook, but it’s real good.

14. Empress Orchid, Anchee Min: Back in the early ‘00s, there was a trend in literature aimed at women that mainly consisted of “woman with a Chinese sounding name writes about empresses trying to survive in the Forbidden City, mostly it’s an excuse for vaguely described sexings and female intrigue and a country girl who Becomes the Empress through intrigue”. This falls pretty firmly in that category, focusing on the final empress of the Qing dynasty, and her ascent to power (but cuts off before she actually gets to exercise her power as ruling Empress, thus leading to a bit of a feeling of literary blue balls). I picked this up in a used bookstore this afternoon and just finished this while I was in the bath. It’s basically literary junk food, and you need that every once in a while.

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15. Animal Money, Michael Cisco: I’ve been chewing on this book since roughly the end of last year, and only just finished this a few minutes ago. I’m sick, slightly feverish, and I think that actually might be helping my understanding of the book. Your mileage may vary on this.

This is an almost 800 page brick that doesn’t hesitate to let the narrative spin off for a few hundred pages, constantly change the rules of POV, and go hard into theory, yet still manages to keep a (relatively) coherent narrative that still leaves you wondering what in the actual fuck is going on at any given time. There’s no real summary on the back or online, and honestly, just approach it and see what it does for you. It’s dense as fuck, take it at your own pace, but it’s definitely going to be one of the more interesting things I read this year. 

Sidenote: this is apparently one of Cisco’s most accessible books. Jim has Celebrant around the apartment, having attempted to start it. I have a feeling he’s going to be working through it for a while, but will be interested to read it when he’s finished. 

Also: this cover is fucking gorgeous.

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