Saturday 5 November 2016

Things I Read In October

Please try to ignore the fact that it's already the 5th of November (remember remember!) and act like I'm more up to date with books and life and all of that good stuff. I have essentially spent the whole month so far trying, in my little pockets of free time, to finish building the furniture I foolishly had delivered on a Sunday and so didn't have time to build before the whole damn work week. However, it's Saturday lunchtime and I'm typing this at my brand new shiny desk (sitting on my brand new shiny chair) so everything's coming up Milhouse, really. 

Before I even get to books, allow me to just recommend a podcast. I have, for so long, been incapable of listening to shit- I think maybe because my old job literally just involved listening to shit- but now. A podcast for the ages. I needed something to listen to whilst trying to sort out the complete mess that is my life (room) and The Babysitters Club Club podcast was that thing. I'm in no way original in my recommendation cause Book Riot already wrote a thing about it, but it is so funny and silly and at this point I feel like I'm listening to a couple of my friends talk about something I REALLY love, which is excellent. Interesting fact: I literally discovered book blogs through a couple of Babysitters Club blogs I used to read (totally snarky but affectionate ones) and now I'm kind of like, have I discovered podcasts through the same route? Spoooooky. 

But anyway. That's quite enough of shit I've been listening to, what did I read last month? Well:

Audition by Ryu Murakami 
Ah, the other Murakami. Not my favourite Murakami, of course, but he has his charms. Audition focuses on a guy (definitely can't remember his name) who, with his friend, decides it's a good idea to set up auditions for an imaginary film, through which he hopes to find a lovely new wife. Because it's (this) Murakami, you know things aren't going to go well, and the end is fairly predictably horrible and violent. I had quite a few problems with this book, namely that nothing really happens until the end (that the blurb handily hints at so it's not even really a twist), and all the things that do relate to it are kind of laughably heavy handed. It's all like "and in that moment I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN" "EVERYTHING WAS WEIRD AND WRONG but I didn't care because my girlfriend was pretty" and it not only made me sigh at a lack of subtlety but also (horribly) made me think that the guy kind of deserved his fate if he wasn't willing to be at least a little bit smart about, you know, life. 

Definitely not my favourite read of the month, let's just say.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman

From my not-favourite read of the month to what I can only describe as my favourite read of the year (so far... c'mon November and December!) I have reviewed this already, but to summarise, it's essentially 40 2-ish page musings on potential afterlives and it is too awesome for words. It's kind of philosophy and kind of fiction but it's all just excellent excellent stuff.

Horns by Joe Hill
Another one I've reviewed already (what even?!) and it has become my favourite Joe Hill, out of the three very good books of his I have read. If that isn't enough incentive, then it's also a little bit funny and heartbreaking and truly truly gripping and I read it in basically a day because I had to. Exactly.

Something New by Lucy Knisley
Ellie, aka the bestest person, sent me this as a pre-operation good luck/read this to recover please present because she knew that, essentially, I wanted it more than any other book at that moment. She is an excellent excellent person and I believe also she bought me Horns which is a weird and cool coincidence. I read Something New the day after I came home from hospital when I was in a fair bit of pain, really sleepy and headachey from anaesthetic, and feeling sick from the painkillers (I don't really get on with codeine, who knew?) and it made me forget about all these things for good ten minute stretches at a time! I do wish I'd saved it until I felt a little better cause I think I was not in a good place for reading at that point, but I still really enjoyed Knisley's take on being a kind-of reluctant (plus surprised!) bride. Her love story is so cute and weirdly exciting, and her viewpoint on weddings, traditions, and, of course, the food, is well thought out and interesting and, obviously, adorably and excellently drawn. I doubt I'm ever going to find a way to criticise any of her books, but this really was great, and I can't to read it again as a well person!

The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
One of my recovery days literally consisted solely of reading this book. It took a whole day to read because it's HUGE, but I was slightly miffed to realise when I was done that there's also a Complete Dykes To Watch Out For. I'm trying to take solace in the idea that the Complete version just has the strips Bechdel created on weeks where she had less time and put less effort in (i.e. the crappy ones), but damn I want to read them all! Which, really, should tell you something about how much I enjoyed this book. I liked it so much. Read all together, it's a pretty spectacular feat of, not only a 20 year chronicle of engaging characters and their relationships and lives (I genuinely kind of believe basically all of them exist in real lifenow? Because they should) but also a chronicle of the history of the end of the 20th and start of the 21st Century, told through an essentially left-wing, (mostly) lesbian perspective.

I realise that last bit sounds a bit overblown, but I genuinely believe that Dykes To Watch Out For is a piece of cultural history, and it deals with literally everything. Politics and cancer and GLBTQ rights and academia and underachievement and promotions and job losses and friendships and relationships and essentially all of the things that comprise lives? It's especially cool in that it tracks the recent developments in GLBTQ rights, so you have things like characters going to Vermont to get married (remember when that was a thing?) and then getting married again when it becomes legal in their own state, and other stuff that, reading it now, seems so outdated and such a weird thing to deny people. Set up against this, which I found really interesting, is one character in particular who essentially doesn't really want any of these rights, not because she doesn't think gay people aren't people, but almost because she thinks that having these rights means giving into a system that's corrupt and broken and that she doesn't want to be a part of. I found this a really interesting point of view (one I think I have heard before, but haven't seen such an extended expression of) and really the book itself, whilst tracking the growing rights of its GLBTQ community also shows a decrease in its radicalism- for example, the one year where none of the characters show up for Pride because it doesn't really feel like it means that much to them anymore. 

I think the length of this mini review proves that I should probably have written a full review of it, and maybe one day I will because I had a lot of thoughts but also too much pains to do anything about it. One day, though.

Duma Key by Stephen King 
I'm definitely going to review Duma Key because Stephen King books, you know how it goes. To be extremely brief about it though, I think I overall enjoyed it but it's kind of a strange book, in that it feels like it's telling two different stories at times- it's telling a family saga sometimes, and others it's going straight for the supernatural, and it feels like they don't always mesh well? But I'll (try to) unpick it in longer form. You know, maybe.

A Storm of Swords: I: Steel and Snow by George R R Martin
I finally got round to the third book in the Game of Thrones series (yes that's what we're calling it), except actually I guess it's part one of the third book and is this just one book in America? Enquiring minds want to know! (I think you can get it all as one book over here, but it's more commonly found in two) I don't have all that much to say about the story itself cause, y'know, I've seen all of this in the TV show, just saying. It's as readable as ever, as non-portable as ever, and AND here is where I saw its first real deviation from the TV show, in terms of pacing. To me, a veteran of the TV show, this book has unbelievable (in  bad way) pacing, and let me explain why. In just this half of a book, Jon Snow's story covers what takes two seasons of the TV show to cover, whilst Daenery's entire chapters are covered in literally the first episode of season 3. Maybe that's why Jon Snow's story in the show can sometimes feel dull as shit whilst Daenerys is always a fucking Queen, but even in the book it does feel as though Daenerys is getting nowhere whilst the other characters' narratives do actually progress. 

Of course, I do perhaps come to these books from the unfair angle of the TV series, but dammit this is my reaction to them so I get to say what I want, correct? Yes, good. IN SPITE OF THIS weirdness, I still had a pretty good time reading this so can I really criticise? Not so much. It's all good stuff.

And that was my October! I am already failing at reading this November in that I have basically read nothing except two copies of The New Yorker (a true commitment in itself, to be fair) but remember way back at the beginning of this post with the furniture building? Exactly. I'm only one woman dammit!

But tell me, I'm desperate to know. What did YOU read last month? Anything I should know about?