Uncategorized

The End of the Year Book Tag

Saw this on Rachel‘s blog!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

Well…not this year, but there is a book that I started one or two (or three) years ago that I still need to finish.  It’s The World Since 1945 by T.E. Vadney and it’s a really, really good historical overview of world events with a focus on the Third World.  I read like half of it and really enjoyed it but it’s also straight-up history so it does get a little dry.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

I don’t usually do this seasonal reading thing, but this year I thought I might read Rebecca for the month of October! Since it’s supposed to be ~atmospheric~ and all. But I also need to read The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin before the end of October because I’m going to the Sirens Conference in Colorado and she’s the keynote speaker! Not that I think she’ll spoil her book, but I’m sure there will be people in attendance keen to discuss it.  All  this, of course, is if I finish reading War and Peace, Little and Lion, and The Library of Fates by the end of September.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

What am I not waiting for, honestly? There are so many great books coming out. I’m especially looking forward to Madeline Miller’s Circe, Fonda Lee’s Jade City, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, and Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns.  There’s way, way more, but those are the ones that stick out.  (A couple of these come out next year, but alas.)

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

So I mentioned Rebecca, there’s that.  Oddly enough, I also really want to read Wuthering Heights.  Maybe that can be one of my November books.  I’ve also heard great things about Amanda Foody’s Daughter of the Burning City so I want to get my hands on that.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

I have read so many great books this year, from Saints and Misfits to The City of Brass that I think it will be difficult for another book to top them, but we’ll see!

Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

Nope! I don’t really plan out my reading schedule far in advance.  At most I have a sense of the next 3-4 books I want to read, but otherwise I just generally go by my mood.  The only thing I know is that I want to continue expanding my horizons.  Reading War and Peace was something I never thought I would do in my lifetime, and yet here I am, 60% of the way through and on my way to finishing! It was certainly not as daunting as I thought.  So I want to read more classic literature, mainly by women.  There are also some authors I keep seeing that I hope to get into, like Aliette de Bodard and Kate Elliot.

Go for this, y’all! Pingback to me if you do this.

Uncategorized

Stage Corner: War Paint

1200x630_WarPaint_OGFB

Yesterday I entered the War Paint lottery on a whim, since I was entering a bunch of other lotteries, and I didn’t really expect to win. I didn’t even know what the show was about when I put my name in. I think I had some vague notions of an actual war, but that is not what this show is about at all.  It is in fact using “war paint” as a euphemism for makeup to tell the story of rivals Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.

Historically speaking, this was an intriguing story.  I had no idea Arden had had any kind of rivalry with anyone, and I’d never even heard of Rubinstein (apparently what was left of her company ended up being owned by L’Oreal).  According to the Playbill, the show tried to be as historically accurate as possible, with the exception of a condensed timeline, and so it was fascinating to witness the rise and fall of these two giants of industry.

What was not fascinating was the musical itself.  The music carried certain hints and flavors of 40s tunes that I like, but otherwise it was forgettable and uninspired.  I don’t think there’s a single song that has stuck with me (I mean, maybe Fire and Ice?).  Staging was quite basic as well.

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden did fine, though she didn’t wow me.  I did very much enjoy Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein, however.  She was given most of the comedic lines, which she delivered fantastically.  I actually found myself much more invested in the spoken dialogue than in any of the music.  John Dossett and Douglas Sills as Tommy Lewis and Harry Fleming were practically indistinguishable, though perhaps that was intentional.  The rest of this small cast didn’t have very much to do, so there were no particular standouts.

And, not to go into some heavy discourse here, but the hodgepodge mix of varying feminisms was somewhat jarring.  Makeup was praised “war paint” and talked about as if it was the one thing that could raise a woman up.  “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones,” Helena Rubinstein famously said.  In the show Rubinstein also muses on her own unusual beauty: her dark hair, her Slavic nose, and insists this is what makes her unique. In one touching moment, she reads a letter from a girl who wonders why she is still ugly after using makeup.  Arden and Rubinstein also frequently muse on their roles as women in a man’s world.  Through it all runs the thread of makeup as empowering and improving lives.

Then, at the very end of the show, when Arden and Rubinstein finally talk to each other, Arden wonders, “Did we free [women] or enslave them?” Yet this throwaway line, sung somewhat abruptly in the final song, feels like an afterthought, tossed in just to satisfy those who might raise issue with the portrayal of makeup.  It is certainly never given appropriate weight, or even appropriate time.  One the one hand I understand this decision given that the story is, after all, about two women who pioneered the makeup industry.  On the other hand, if that line about enslaving women was going to be included, I would have liked to have seen some more foreshadowing of it throughout the rest of the show.

Overall, I didn’t love this, but I didn’t dislike it either.  I certainly enjoyed the show as a learning experience and Patti Lupone is a master at delivering comedic beats.  But would I recommend it? Not really.

Uncategorized

Top 5 Tuesday: Books for Non-Readers

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bionic Bookworm.

I actually know a lot of non-readers in my life, chief among them my brother, but someone like him is an adamant non-reader.  He simply refuses to pick up books. So I took this tag to be more about casual readers, less “I’ll only read if you pay me” and more “I’m looking for something really really specific and captivating”.

For the “I want fantasy and adventure” crowd:

21414439Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: Truthwitch walks the fine line between YA fantasy and adult fantasy.  It’s about two young women, best friends, who find themselves caught in political machinations beyond their control.  From the first page Dennard sucks you into a harrowing crisis, and from then on the fun never stops.  Dennard is fantastic at writing action scenes; she draws you in and doesn’t ever let go.  The characters are all super-well developed and the world-building is rich and detailed.

For the “I prefer romcoms” crowd:

28458598When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: This book is hilarious and so much fun.  It’s about two Indian kids whose parents decide to set them up – only one of them is unaware she is being set up.  It’s such a sweet story about falling in love and family and cultural expectations.  It’s super light-hearted and ends happily in perfect romcom fashion.


For the “I need a mystery” crowd:

29276588Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia: Attempting to solve the mystery of a teenage girl’s murder in a small town, this book is your classic murder mystery/small town with secrets book.  I literally could not put it down. I think I stayed up until like 3AM reading it because I just could not stop and had to know who the killer was. The end was not shocking, but satisfying because it made sense.

For the “I need pictures and visuals” crowd:

29396738Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu: I’m not generally a graphic novel reader, but I’d heard such good things about Monstress that I had to check it out.  This is a whirlwind of a graphic novel, pulling in from so many different genres – horror, steampunk, high fantasy, science fiction – all blending seamlessly together in a matriarchal world filled with diversity of all kinds.  It’s definitely a lot to take in, but it’s really worth the investment, and it will keep you hooked. From the intricate story to the beautiful artwork, you will not be able to put this down.

For the “I only read non-fiction” crowd: 

8462352Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea K. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock: I’m a frequent non-fiction reader myself, so I had to recommend something in this category.  I actually read this book a few years back for a class in college, and I didn’t expect to like it so much.  It’s rare to come across a non-fiction book that is legitimately a page turner! This book details the treatment of LGBT people from when they are unjustly arrested and profiled to their treatment in the court and prison system.  It focuses heavily on intersections of race and class and is an absolutely eye-opening read for anyone with a rosy view of the US prison system.

Uncategorized

I Dare You Book Tag

This weekend, I was supposed to finish off a book at home, considering War and Peace is taking up all of my subway reading time. Unfortunately, I instead got caught up watching Peaky Blinders (maybe I’ll post about that at some point).  So, instead, I figured I would do a book tag I saw floating around! Not sure where it originated from, so let me know if you know, so I can pingback to them.

RULES:
You must be honest
You must answer all the questions
You must tag at least 4 people

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?

Yikes. I’m seriously guilty of buying books and telling myself I’ll read them but never getting around to them.  Maybe…The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe? I bought it way back in high school when I was seriously emo.  I realized too late that I wasn’t actually all that into Poe.

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

I am currently reading War and Peace, a beast of a novel, which is why I haven’t been posting reviews lately. My last reads were The History of White People and This Savage Song. As for what I’ll read next, it will likely be either Little & Lion or The Library of Fates.

3. What book did everyone like, but you hated?

I think I just talked about this in the last book tag I did, but I didn’t really hate The Wrath and the Dawn. A book I did hate is Marie Lu’s Legend.  I thought it was awful on just about every level, which is strange because I really loved her other series, The Young Elites.  Maybe I’m just not into dystopia.

4. What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?

Oh man. A whole bunch of classic/literary books, probably.  I’ve had The Odyssey on my bookshelf for years and keep telling myself I’ll read it, but…who am I kidding.

5. What book are you saving for retirement?

Well, perhaps not retirement, but I really want to have a lot of time and mental energy on hand when I start Steve Erickson’s Malazan series.  It’s such a dense, gigantic series with so many characters and so much rich world-building that I want to be certain I have enough time to devote to it.

6. Last page: read it first, or wait ’til the end?

Oh my goodness, I avoid this like the plague.  Even if I’m gonna check for a glossary or to see how many pages there are in a book, I will literally cover up the rest of the page. You see, I was scarred as a youngster. When Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came out, I accidentally read a page towards the end and was spoiled for Dumbledore’s death. It was traumatic. Now I am always extra careful when flipping through a book.

7. Acknowledgement: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?

I loooooooove reading acknowledgments; I legit look forward to them.  As an aspiring writer, I really enjoy seeing how authors sum up their work and the effort that went into it. And some authors can be quite witty in their acknowledgements.  It’s also very useful to see authors thank their agents, because when you start querying you might want to go find those agents and/or their literary agencies!

8. Which book character would you switch places with?

Probably Morgan Rowlands from Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series. Like, that series was absolutely formative for me as a teenager. I loved seeing Morgan go from shy high school teenager to powerful and respected witch.  Tiernan captured the beauty of Wicca and magick so effortlessly that I couldn’t help but want to be immersed in all that.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life? (Place, time, person?)

Well, I do have a copy of The Stone Sky signed by N.K. Jemisin. I didn’t meet her or talk to her, but I did attend the book launching event for the book, where pre-signed copies were on sale. It was an awesome event; it felt so cool to be in the same room as so many Jemisin fans!

10. Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.

An ARC of The City of Brass! I was just browsing in and around the author’s Twitter when I saw the publisher had tweeted asking if anyone wanted an ARC! They DM’ed me for my address and a couple of weeks later I had the book!

11. Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?

Not a special reason, but I’ve given away some books that I know I won’t be reading again.  Mainly old Jodi Picoult books (I was obsessed with her books for a long time).

12. Which book has been with you most places?

Harry Potter, though not the same copies.  I’ve lost HP copies to flood and travel throughout the years, so in 2014 I bought a brand new set. But HP, particularly Sorcerer’s Stone, tended to come along with me if I was embarking on any brand new part of my life. So my first day of middle school in Egypt, my first day of junior year back in New York, my first day of college, my first day of work…it brings me comfort. It’s like having a friend with me.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?

Hmm, I actually didn’t hate most of my required reading in high school! I remember liking The Great Gatsby, The Color Purple, The Bell Jar, Pride and Prejudice, and Ethan Frome.  What I did loathe was The Scarlett Letter and a whole bunch of short stories.

14. Used or brand new?

Both! I absolutely love used bookstores, wandering the aisles and discovering a steal! But I really enjoy new books as well; I love the smell of brand new books.

15. Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?

Oh, man. He was another one I was obsessed with when I was younger.  I was really into The Da Vinci Code. Like, to an unhealthy extent.  This was my conspiracy phase, so I got really obsessed with all the history and secret groups mentioned in the books, as well as cryptography.

16. Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?

Twilight, oddly enough. I’m also reasonably sure that I’ll like the movie IT better than the novel. I mean, I’ve never read the novel, but that’s only because I really struggle to get into anything by Stephen King.

17. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?

Hmm…probably Game of Thrones! GRRM is so descriptive when it comes to food! I know some people are annoyed by that, but I enjoy it.

18. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

My friend Rachel @ pace amore libri because I think she really gets my likes and dislikes, and Chelsea @ Spotlight on Stories because we like a lot of the same things!

19. Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g., outside your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?

Well, I’m about halfway through War and Peace now, and that is definitely miles out of my comfort zone, but I wouldn’t say I love it. I like it well enough to continue reading it, but…I definitely have a lot of frustrations with it too.  I guess a better answer would probably be Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  It’s very literary fiction of a cultural bent, a coming of age story, about two girls growing up side by side in India.  Not something I would ordinarily pick up, but the fact that it was about India specifically drew me to it, since India tends to share a lot of cultural similarities with the Middle East, which is where I’m from. I ended up absolutely loving it mainly because of the bond between the two main characters. I’m a sucker for intense, sisterly female friendships (particularly ones that evolve into more than that, although that doesn’t happen here), and this book delivers.  Unfortunately I thought the sequel was terrible and unnecessary, but one day I will go back and read this book, since I read it for the first time way back in 2013.

I’m actually gonna tag some folks, hurray!

I tag:

Pace amore libri
Spotlight on Stories
Lost Purple Quill 
Perspective of a Writer
Words With Bri

Uncategorized

The Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

I’ve been wanting to do a tag like this for a long time, so thanks Rachel @ pace amore libri for tagging me!

1.) A popular book or book series that you didn’t like. 

18798983First one that comes to mind is The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.  I didn’t absolutely hate this (I gave it a three-star rating, but it was definitely on the lower end of the spectrum, more like 2.5).  I thought it suffered from flat characters, meandering plot, terribly written romance, and a protagonist who keeps being referred to as super special.  I liked the book enough to finish it quickly, but I remember rolling my eyes a lot and not being the least bit interested in picking up the sequel.

Also, shout out to Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds and Marie Lu’s Legend.

2.) A popular book or book series that everyone else seems to hate but you love. 

6296885I don’t think people hate The Necromancer Chronicles, but I definitely think that they don’t get the love they deserve (and more criticism than I think they should).  I love these books.  I’m not saying they’re without some technical problems, particularly in terms of pacing and characterization.  However, I think they feature some of the best fantasy worldbuilding I’ve ever seen.  The world of the Necromancer Chronicles is essentially gender-neutral, with women on equal footing as men, and it was a beautiful thing to read.  The magic system is unique.  The cities and countries described are based on real countries (and you can guess which) but they’re well-developed and atmospheric. The writing is lush and lyrical and lovely (though some may find it too purple, but I’m known to like that).  The second book is the apex of the series, featuring excellent romance, a trans character, polyamory, and political intrigue.

3.) An otp that you don’t like.

18006496Aelin/Rowan.  So, Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series always seemed like it would be right up my alley, and indeed, I loved the first and second books, despite their many problems.  However, by the time the third book came along, the books dipped noticeably in quality, and started to lag. Eventually I quit the series.  And I think a big part of the reason for that is Rowan and his relationship with Aelin.  Maybe it’s because I liked her better with Chaol (a relationship that was so slow burn and then ended like a week after it began), maybe it’s because Rowan’s a territorial weirdo, but I just really dislike them together. I think they bring out the worst in each other and they’re boring, frankly.

4.) A popular book genre that you hardly reach for.

Romance.  I’ve never been a huge fan, personally.  I tend to dislike it even in my other genre fiction, but I don’t think that’s the fault of romance itself.  I really like romance if it’s well-written and well-incorporated into a novel (see: The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin) but normally romances are terribly written.  And romance as a genre tends to be very standardized: there’s a particular formula publishers know will sell, and so the plot keeps recycling itself.  I’m not fond of that formula.

5.) A popular/beloved character that you do not like.

I started thinking about characters I don’t like, and I realized there is a very particular type of character I tend to dislike: male YA love interests.  So Noah Shaw (Unbecoming of Mara Dyer), Po (Graceling), Dorian (Throne of Glass), Mal (Shadow and Bone), and I could probably keep listing them.  Most of them tend to be bland and forgettable, an amalgamation of ideal male traits made to cater to our heroine’s needs and desires. A nice fantasy, to be sure, but it means we end up with an archetype rather than an actual character.

6.) A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

618241Terry Goodkind.  See, I really loved the TV show Legend of the Seeker, so I thought I’d read the high fantasy series it was based on, Sword of Truth.  As it turns out, the TV series has little in common with the books and the books are <i>the worst</i>.  Not only do they suffer from comically terrible writing and dialogue, they’re also full of misogyny so horrifically terrible it’s almost satirical – only it’s not.  Unsurprisingly, his books are popular with high fantasy fans, as they’re that sort of old school white farmboy misogynistic fantasy that used to be popular.  But it’s mediocre bullshit.

7.) A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing.

YA is full of  tropes that I can’t stand.  I think the one that takes the cake is when you have a heroine who is established as super special and better than other girls, who are obviously beneath her. I don’t know why this is so popular considering YA is a genre mostly written by women (haha just kidding I totally know why), but so many YA fantasy novels fall into this trap of isolating their heroines from other women.  Not only is it misogynistic, it’s also unrealistic considering most of these fantasy novels take place in psuedo-medieval times when relationships between women were varied, complex, and important! No, instead these books would rather give the heroine a pasty cardboard dude to fall in love with while all other girls are evil/shallow/vain/insipid.  From what I’ve been seeing, though, YA writers seem to be taking steps away from this!

8.) A popular series that you have no interest in reading. 

13455782Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi.  People seem to love this, but I’m really not interested.  Aside from my general disinterest in YA dystopia, the weird writing format is really throwing me off (random sentences are crossed out) and I know I won’t be able to get into it. Plus the summary sounds suuuuuuuper generic.  (I am purposely using the paperback cover here because the hardcover version is…Y I K E S.)

And shout out to anything Cassandra Clare has written.  I actually really enjoy the TV show Shadowhunters based on her work, but I would never read it.

9.) The saying goes “the book is always better than the movie,” but what movie or tv show adaptation do you prefer more than the book? 

This is probably a weird answer, but I’ve always kinda liked the Twilight films? I read the first book when I was a teenager and didn’t like it, but when I watched the film I remember enjoying it. Probably because I didn’t have to suffer through the writing.  This is a terrible answer but I can’t think of anything else! The book really is always better than the movie!

 

I’ll tag:  Anne Reads Them, Perspective of a Writer, and She Reads at Past Midnight!

What do y’all think of my answers? Agree, disagree? Let me know in the comments!