Monthly Archives: March 2014

Short Story Sunday: “Her First Ball”

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“Exactly when the ball began Leila would have found it hard to say.”

Her First Ball” by Katherine Mansfield, originally published in The Garden Party, and Other Stories.

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Review: Book Lovers edited by Shawna Kenney

cover38323-mediumTitle: Book Lovers

Author: Various, edited by Shawna Kenney

Rating: 3 stars

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

You know how in my last review, I gave the book flak for focusing too much on sex? Yeah, well in this one I have to give it some flak for not focusing on sex enough. It is an erotica collection, after all, but some of the stories are so aggressively unsexy that I found myself bored and wondering why they were there.

I don’t generally read erotica collections, so I have no idea how to review them. But I try to keep an open mind about reading all kinds of fiction, and I figured a collection about people who are turned on by books and literature was tailor made to appeal to me. Worth a try, right?

Like most story collections, of any variety, Book Lovers is firmly middle of the road. The stories vary so much in quality and interest level that I can’t give it a very high review. But nothing is bad enough to knock it down to a negative review. So all that’s left is to give it a 3.

There are 23 stories in this collection. Some are purportedly nonfiction or more essay-like, and those were definitely the ones that I found the strangest. But when it came to the fiction, there were some good stories. They touch on a pretty wide range of sexual interests. Most involve strictly heterosexual relationships, but four (by my count, though there were a couple of stories where I lost interest before finishing) have same-sex relationships. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly white collection, though there are a few people of color. If you are the kind of person who judges potential partners on their bookshelves, collects books, or loves reading and literature more than most anything else, you will probably find something here that sparks your interest. You just might have to wade through a lot of other stories to find it.

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Short Story Sunday: “And Wash Out By Tides of War”

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“I am sitting at the top of the spire of the Observance of the War, one of three memorials equidistant from the Colony Center.”

And Wash Out By Tides of War” by An Owomoyela, published by Clarkesworld.

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Review: Kicking The Sky by Anthony De Sa

18266809Title: Kicking the Sky

Author: Anthony De Sa

Rating: 2 stars

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This is yet again one of those books that looks like it was designed to appeal to me, but falls flat in almost every way.

Antonio is an adolescent boy living in the Portuguese community of Toronto in the 70s. When another young Portuguese boy is found raped and murdered on the roof of a sex shop in Toronto’s seedy gay underbelly, Antonio becomes somewhat obsessed with the crime. He also has to deal with burgeoning confusions about his sexuality, strains in his parents’ marriage, and growing apart from his friends. His father uses him as a money grab, claiming that he is a saint and a healer to scam the religious community. And during all this, Antonio finds himself increasingly drawn to a mysterious 20-something white stranger who has moved into the neighborhood.

Sounds promising, right? The Portuguese community is given life through De Sa’s prose, but in the end learning about a new culture was about all I found of interest in the novel. It’s unfortunately a dull, tortured coming of age tale, obsessed with sex but not really saying anything new, with little structure or purpose. Things just happen in Kicking the Sky, and then similar things happen in different ways, and Antonio never seems to grow or learn from them. The real world may work this way, but fiction shouldn’t. Every adult in Antonio’s life uses him for their own purposes, but though he begins to understand this is happening he never does anything about it. In fact, for a first person narrator he is incredibly passive and kind of boring. Things happen to him, but I never was able to muster enough sympathy to care.

I have literally nothing original to say about this book that I haven’t already said about other books that left me feeling cold in the same way. So, here’s a list of things in Kicking the Sky.

Number of time Antonio talks about peeing: 13

Number of nipple references: 6

Number of animals that are graphically killed: 2

Number of times Antonio talks about dicks: 13

Number of people that die: 3

Number of times Antonio vomits: 2

Number of times Antonio spies on people having compromising/taboo sexual encounters: 4

It was the overwhelming preoccupation with sex that really got to me, in the end. I don’t consider myself prudish by any means, and I understand that by their very nature coming-of-age stories often deal with burgeoning sexuality. But very quickly it became the only focus of the book. Antonio is almost always thinking about sex, though he never once comes to any resolutions about his own sexual identity. He also turns into a creepy little voyeur, watching the adults around him having sex and saying nothing as one of his supposed best friends is pimped out and then raped. It was excessive, and disgusting, and I didn’t find anything of value in the story to offset the bad taste it left in my mouth.

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Blog happenings

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Hello lovely readers. I just wanted to drop you all a quick note to let you know some of what’s up with the blog. This week, I’m going to be going into the hospital for heart surgery. I have a number of already written posts scheduled through the rest of this month and April, but when I’ll get back to blogging after that all depends on how I feel throughout recovery. I’ll be back eventually, hopefully with lots and lots of books read. The TBR pile is huge–I’ll need plenty of distractions since I won’t be allowed to get out of bed for awhile! But I may not be approving/responding to comments for quite awhile. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, as always, happy reading!

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Short Story Sunday: “1966”

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“Bill Houston’s Honolulu shore leave commenced with the forenoon watch, too early for a man with money to spend: on top of everything, the Navy wished to deny him any night life.”

1966” by Denis Johnson, published by The New Yorker.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite fantasy books

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Books in a genre. I kind of avoid genre distinctions, because then you get into subgenres, and things just get all nitpicky and confusing. But, since in the most general sense I usually read fantasy, I figured I’d do my top ten fantasy books.

742751. Lynn Flewelling- Stalking Darkness

I love the entire Nightrunner series, of course, but this is my favorite, because I am a total angst whore. And oh god, the angst. Identity crises, characters separated just as they are falling in love, sacrifice in the face of evil, emotional trauma. Plus hot boys making out. Ugh. Love it to bits.

2. George R. R. Martin- A Storm of Swords 6307964

Angst. Whore. You got that part, right?

Even looked at objectively, I think this is considered the peak of A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s all downhill from here.

Also, this is the book wherein I fell in love with Jaime Lannister, a love which will never die.

158190283. Helene Wrecker- The Golem and the Jinni

One of the best books I read in 2013, an unusual romance with incredible characters and beautiful prose.

4. Mary Robinette Kowal- Without a Summer 15793208

I love Kowal’s entire Glamourist Histories series, but the latest entry is my favorite so far, and I’m looking forward to more.

6715605. Lynn Flewelling- The Bone Doll’s Twin

The beginning chapters of this book still creep me out to this day, and I love all of the gender issues raised by this novel.

6. Tamora Pierce- Emperor Mage 858668

I haven’t read the Immortals series in forever, but I adored it when I was a young’n, and Emperor Mage was definitely my fave–I own two copies, apparently because I completely destoryed the first one but could not bear to part with it. (also, there are newer covers but I am ALL ABOUT that old skool version)

8833147. Patricia C. Wrede- Dealing With Dragons

My first feminist fantasy. Do kids still read this one? They should.

8. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman- Good Omens 12067

My first Pratchett and my first Gaiman. I read it back in high school and honestly, it’s probably due for a reread. Two of my favorite movies are Dogma and Life of Brian, so it’s probably not surprising that humorous send-ups of the Bible/the Apocalypse are totally my jam.

64370619. N.K. Jemisin- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Jemisin is my favorite fantasy author of the moment. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself when I finish getting through her books.

10. C.S. Lewis- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe 100915

A staple of the fantasy genre. Every early villain I ever wrote was the White Witch, though it took me years to realize this. And a little part of me still hopes that one day I will open a door, and find another world.

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Short Story Sunday: “The Card”

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“Ever since Mary’s hip replacement, it was Jack’s responsibility to get the mail.”

The Card” by H. L. Fullerton, published by Flash Fiction Online.

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Review: A Curse on Dostoevsky by Atiq Rahimi

cover37176-mediumTitle: A Curse on Dostoevsky

Author: Atiq Rahimi

Rating: 3 stars

This book was received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Great literature transcends culture to say something universal about the human condition. But how individuals relate to literature has a lot to do with their cultural experiences. A Curse on Dostoevsky transplants Crime & Punishment to Afghanistan after the Soviet war, and raises the question, what happens when you live in a society where atonement and justice for an individual crime is considered at best a luxury, at worst a waste of time? What happens when murder is considered less consequential than denial of faith?

A Curse on Dostoevsky begins in media res as desperate Rassoul murders an old pawnbroker/madam who is prostituting his fiance and bleeding him dry of money. Immediately, the Russian scholar thinks of Crime & Punishment, and flees without accomplishing his supposed purpose of robbing her. In the aftermath of his crime, Rassoul wanders aimlessly, spends most of his time smoking hash, and struggles to come to terms with his guilt. Eventually he attempts to turn himself in to be punished for the murder, only to find that that the corrupt, war-torn government is more concerned with crimes of ideology than the murder of an inconsequential woman.  As the philosophy goes, if God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted; therefore, if everything is permitted, does it mean that God doesn’t exist? It is this supposed radicalism that Rassoul is to be punished for, not the crime he actually committed.

This is not a novel that will appeal to everyone. It is unquestionably a work of translation–translations vary widely, but to me they often feel stilted and somewhat awkward in their language. It is unapologetically philosophical and mystical. And it has one of the strangest narrative voices I’ve encountered in a long time–part universal narrator, part internal dialogue within Rassoul.

But it is a fascinating piece of intertextual literature. This is the first piece I’ve read by an Afghani writer (though it was originally written in French). It uses Russian literature as a lens through which to examine Afghani culture, which provides an interesting access point for Western readers probably more familiar with the former than the latter.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Never Read

toptentuesday

The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Popular Authors I’ve Never Read. I definitely have nothing against popular fiction. I will read the buzzworthy book of the moment as fast as anyone else, as long as it’s something I’m interested in. But I also work in a library, and the longer I do the more strongly I feel about authors who are more a brand than anything else. So these are 10 authors that I’ve never read, and will probably never read, either because they’re a “brand” more than an artist, because their personalities annoy me, or because I was never that interested in them to begin with and came to hate them in principle around the billionth time someone told me I HAD to read them.

1. Dan Brown

2. Dave Eggers

3. Janet Evanovich

4. Sue Grafton

5. E. L. James

6. Debbie Macomber

7. Stephanie Meyer

8. James Patterson

9. JK Rowling

10. Nicholas Sparks

How about you guys?

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