readerly rambles

Readerly Rambles: The Read-a-thon mini-review edition

readerly rambles

Dark Shadows, volume 1 by Stuart Manning

Meh. I don’t know if this is the case, but it felt like cashing in on the movie. A whole lot happens in fewer than 100 pages with little character development, no plot tension and middle of the road illustrations.  (2 Stars)

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot

This is a fun little book of poems about cats. I adored it. The poems were clever and fresh and would be a treat for any cheeky cat lover. Illustrated by Edward Gorey. (4 Stars)

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

I hated this little book. It is 40 pages of stupidity. PLOT SPOILERS. Woman finds a bookmobile at night that contains everything she has ever read. She wants to work on this bookmobile that disappears magically for years at a time. She becomes a librarian and is upset that she is still unqualified to be a night bookmobile librarian. So she commits suicide and becomes the night bookmobile librarian for someone else. This “graphic novel” had no character development. I didn’t give two hoots she offs herself and I thought she was whiny and dumb the entire time. The idea is brilliant and this might have worked as a longer, more fleshed out work. (1 Star)

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Honestly, I did not think I would like this book. I chose to read it for read-a-thon because it was under 300 pages and was illustrated by Edward Gorey. It was amazing. I don’t know why I didn’t read it sooner. This tale of Martians annihilating the Victorians was fast-paced, beautifully written, and meaningful all while functioning as a badass Victorian Walking Dead with aliens instead of zombies. Read it. (4 Stars)

Amphigorey by Edward Gorey

This is a collection of 15 of Edward Gorey’s illustrated books. Because I read the book cover to cover in one sitting, the titles tend to run together, but it doesn’t matter. It is fun and macabre and beautifully illustrated. (4 Stars)

Fables: Snow White (v. 19) by Bill Willingham

Oh my gosh I love Fables and this collection is pretty exciting. I didn’t care much for the first quarter of the book that ties up loose ends with Buffkin the flying monkey and his pixie girlfriends. But the last 3/4 of the book is exciting and turns the plot and I cannot say more without spoiling everything. (4 Stars)

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Read-a-thon was terrific. I am getting closer to getting to where I want to be with reading. The rest of October will be finishing several books I have going right now (Quartet in Autumn, Framley Parsonage, M R James short stories, and Rebecca on audio).

Happy Reading!

Welcome to the Sausage Fest: A Review of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

readerly rambles

A few weeks ago the blogosphere was filled with posts bemoaning blog malaise. Folks were exhausted, bored, and frustrated with blogging. I made my peace with blogging several years ago, but I still struggle with self-doubt and feeling like I could always be doing more. I have so many ideas and very little time to write. Also, I need to be doing things to write about: reading, baking, crafting, going places. If I spend all my free time writing or blogging then I run out of material or resort to bored naval-gazing and no one wants that. How in heavens name do people find the time to create?

Enter Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This book is comprised of brief entries about the daily and creative habits of famous writers, artists, dancers, scientists and inventors. Gleaned from biographies, letters, and diaries this book offers an inspiring look at how people make the time to create. Some have firm schedules (W.H. Auden), others superstitions habits (Truman Capote), and still others are decidedly weird (Thomas Wolfe liked to diddle himself before writing…ewww). I started tabbing the book when I noticed three recurring things with many of the subjects: waking early, daily exercise, and coffee. The green tabs are exercise, yellow is coffee, and pink/purple represent waking early. Blue tabs are just my favorite interesting quirks and facts.

wpid-wp-1412600249026.jpgI certainly give this book five stars for how interesting it is and the level of research it must have taken to assemble the over 150 different “daily rituals” into one volume.

HOWEVER…

This book absolutely pissed me off and I haven’t sworn at a book in quite a long time. This book is a freaking sausage fest. There are over 150 creators profiled in this book and only 26 women are represented. What. the. f*ck? There are also very few people of color or from non-American/European countries and nearly everyone in the book is well-off. Thanks for letting me know how hard it is to be a white, privileged, American man and I am so glad you found the time to create.

You will see loads of women on the pages of Daily Rituals. They’re fixing bowls of cornflakes, reading aloud to frustrated authors, editing shit drafts, typing entire novels written on index cards (hello, Mrs. Nabokov), tending children, or simply working to pay the bills. The interesting nature of the entries was marred by the exclusiveness of the artists and creators featured.

Mr. Currey could have saved this book in one of two ways:

  1. My least favorite way would be to talk about it. I just re-read the introduction and he states he, “…tried to provide examples of how a variety of brilliant and successful people have confronted many of the same challenges [finding time to create]“. A simple paragraph recognizing the book was skewed towards men would have gone a long way. He could have talked about class, gender, and race — even briefly — and detailed how it was easier to find privileged or male examples in diaries, letters, and biographies.
  2. The best remedy would have been for Mr. Currey to work a bit harder and find more women, people of color, and working class examples. The stuff is out there if only one would look. I would have especially liked some mothers featured. I know that everyone doesn’t chose to be a mother, but out of the women represented I think less than five mentioned children or household duties.

For inclusiveness I give this book one star meaning the book averages about three stars. In his introduction Currey hopes “that readers will find it [the book] encouraging rather than depressing”. Alas, I left this book depressed at the short-sightedness of the work and angry it was a catalog of the “struggles” wealthy, white men face. Boo, freaking, hoo.

Readerly Rambles: The Read-a-thon Sign-up Post!

 

I’m really looking forward to Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon this October. I love the April Read-a-thon, but the October Read-a-thon is my absolute favorite. Autumn finds me gravitating towards classics, mysteries, and gothic-themed novels and my read-a-thon pile always reflects my current reading mood. Pouring a mug of cocoa and losing myself in a ghost story collection for the day is my idea of bliss.

In fact, I’ve hit on a brilliant idea. I’m going to theme each read-a-thon. The one downside to read-a-thon — and it is a monster of my own making — is that I get overwhelmed by choices. I make piles of short books and graphic novels. I promise to chip away at that Victorian chunkster. I swear that I will spend less time deciding what to read and more time reading. Fail. Fail. Fail. At the end I usually end up slightly disappointed in my progress and wishing I had a way to tie everything together.

OMG. Yes. Themed Read-a-thon. I decided that October will almost always be spooky, but this year I am whittling that theme down even more. My inspiration stuck when I was in the library stacks and saw this book:

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Yes, a juvenile spooky series illustrated by Edward Gorey. That triggered a few other ideas in my head related to Edward Gorey and literature and thus I arrived at the idea of having an Edward Gorey-themed Read-a-thon. Now, it won’t be ALL Edward Gorey as I have a delicious stack of graphic novels to read. The bulk of my reading, however, will some how tie into Edward Gorey and I am having so much fun creating the book list.

Other October ideas for the future include books with “owl” in the title or cover art, classics with movie adaptations, vampires or ghosts, or maybe vintage crime novels. In the spring I tend to gravitate towards fairy tales, myths, and children’s literature and that will be a fun list to create as well.

I’m super-excited about this year and I hope you all will join in. Details are here!

Readerly Rambles: 15 September 2014

readerly rambles

What I read: Earlier in the month I finished up The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This was a re-read for me, but frankly I don’t remember finding the book so creepy and fascinating during the first read. I’ll hold off on my analysis until the Estella Society has their Hill House read-along discussion on October 1st. For a teaser let me just say, HOLY COW THE BELL JAR!!!

What I’m reading: I’m about halfway through Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper. The story centers around Laurel, an aging actress who is haunted by remembering a violent act concerning her mother. Almost s her mother is elderly and nearing death, Laurel feels pressure to discover the truth of what happened that day and to uncover her mother’s secretive past. The novel reminds me a bit of Sarah Water’s The Night Watch simply because it occurs during wartime and the timeline seems to move backwards and then forwards. I hope that makes sense. I’m really enjoying it for the plot and characters and but the crux of the novel focuses on the secret life of mothers and that is the most fascinating element. You know, the fact that we are completely human with passions, interests, faults, etc…. outside of being a mother even though society tends to sum up women based on their role as a mother (or lack of a role as a mother). Good Stuff.

I’m also dipping in to M R James’s Collected Ghost Stories on my Kindle. It is my lunch-break, waiting-in-line read. I adore M R James and he is a masterful storyteller. Thus far the most frightening story in the collect is “The Ash Tree” as it features my least favorite creature: SPIDERS.

What’s up Next: Once I’m done with The Secret Keeper I plan on cracking open Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. I am completely determined to finish The Chronicles of Barsetshire series this year.

Reading Challenge Update: RIP IX is coming along marvelously. I’ll post more extensively on RIP at a later date, but suffice it to say that I am all over this challenge. I’ve read one book out of four (Hill House) and the James counts as my story collection. I also watched The Haunting, which is the film version of The Haunting of Hill House for the Peril of the Screen challenge. This is certainly my favorite challenge.

I’ll write extensively on my reading challenges as I wrap up the year in December / early January, but I did want to note how I’m doing on my goals:

Back to the Classics — 7 out of 10
Victorian Reading Challenge – 8 out of 2 (winning!!!!)
Chunksters – 5 out of 5 (yay!)

Bookshelf Issues: To wrap up this week’s Readerly Rambles I’d like to share my readerly conundrum — my books are still boxed up. We moved two weeks ago and I’ve yet to unpack my books because I don’t have shelves for them. I had two cheap-y Target bookshelves that pretty much fell apart during the move. With two little kids around and knowing these shelves will be full with books I didn’t want to risk cobbling particleboard back together. On one had I want to just buy more cheap shelves as we plan on buying a home in the next three years. I’d like to put built-in shelving when we buy OR make sure that our shelves go with the style of the house. On the other hand, it seems silly to waste money on items that will be used temporarily. And if I did buy some solid shelves they could probably go somewhere in our future home. So what’s it to be?

1). Cheap shelves for now

2). Pull a little savings and get sturdier shelves

I don’t know what to do; I just know I won’t be settled until the books are unpacked!

Readerly Rambles: September TBR Pile and a Readalong

HillHouseReadalong

Heather has succeeded in making the creepiest button for a readalong. Hold me, I’m frightened.

I’m going to pretend that August never happened. By the time this is posted it will be the dawn of a new month, September. I can ignore the fact that I disposed of 400 books and didn’t complete a single book in August. In fact, I went most of the month WITHOUT READING. I’ve thought a great deal about reading and I miss it so much. So here it is Friday, 08/29 and I’m writing about books instead of finishing up all the packing and errands for the move tomorrow. I feel like I should point out that I’m only moving a 15 minute drive away, but the downsizing from a house to an apartment is exhausting.

But I digress…. books…. let’s talk about books.

September marks the start of my favorite challenge, Carl’s R.eader’s I.mbibing P.eril challenge (RIP) right now the challenge isn’t posted, but I know it is on the way. I’ll be choosing mostly “Gothic literature, horror, and all things that go bump in the night” in keeping with Carl’s challenge. I’ll also be participating in an Estella Society readalong of the Shirley Jackson horror classic The Haunting of Hill House. And then there’s Trollope…. I must catch up on Trollope.

Without further ado may I present to you my TBR for September:

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (audio)

The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James (Kindle)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (my Classics Club spin!)

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats

 

September will be an exciting month: settling into the new home, an exciting Autumn project I will be sharing soon, and the start of autumn baking season.

And books…. many, many, many books!

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: Book Vacation, Culling, and a Classics Club Spin!

readerly rambles

I’m writing a Readerly Rambles post despite NOT reading this week. I took a self-imposed one week break from reading. With too much going on at work and with potentially moving I found myself distracted. I picked up book after book and my eyes would glaze over and my brain didn’t even try to keep up with plot, character, and language. During my week of non-reading I did do some bookish things.

I culled 96 books (91 books, plus five cookbooks). I am going to force myself to cull four more. I also packed up my first box of books I’m keeping.
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While I was flipping through cookbooks I started watching The Barchester Chronicles. It is perfect; absolutely perfect.
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I also decided on some reading goals. If all goes well we will be moving the week of September 7th. My goal is to read The Black Count (which is a book I borrowed from a friend) and then read A Clash of Kings on my Kindle. This will be prime reading material and I can go ahead and box all of my books.

Oh yes, the Classics Club spin was also announced this morning. Book number 17 on my list is Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper and I’m excited to read that book once everything is settled on the home front. I read The House at Riverton in August of 2010 when I was pregnant with Atticus and I adored it. I’m glad to get the chance to read more Morton.

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: Trollope and an August TBR

readerly rambles

What I read: Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope rivals the very best Jane Austen has to offer. Doctor Thorne, our hero, is a good man. He is a good doctor and he really endeavors to make the right choice despite how it impacts his life. While Doctor Thorne is our hero and holds all the cards, so to speak, the plot really centers on Mary Thorne — the doctor’s niece — and Frank Gresham, Squire Gresham’s heir. Doctor Thorne has cared for the Gresham family for years and as a result Mary Thorne, who is illegitimate and poor, has grown up as a companion to the Gresham children. Of course Frank falls in love with Mary and the Gresham family is shocked and dismayed. Frank is to marry money to save the financially compromised family estate and Mary has neither money or rank. But what if Mary had money? How would things change? How important is blood and can money outweigh “bad blood?” This book was marvelous especially with the witty dialogue and the excellently drawn characters. I think I would classify Anthony Trollope’s novels as the perfect “gateway” to reading large Victorian novels. Side note, Frank and Mary reminded me of Fred Vincy and Mary Garth in Middlemarch. He is young and brash and she is all sense, but still in love. Anyone else feel that way?

What I’m reading: Tonight I plan on sinking into The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my most favorite classics and I’m looking forward to learning more about the inspiration for the novel. I also think it will be nice to read something under 400 pages and non-fiction. I need a change before I dig back into Trollope and George RR Martin!

What’s up Next: Behold! My August TBR!!!

August2014TBR

  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.
  • A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Born Reading : Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age by Jason Boog
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  • All Joy and No Fun: the Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

Let’s hope August is a readerly month, because I have many books ready to go

Happy Reading!