Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of the Year Thingie

Everyone's doing a wrap-up post, with statistics and analyses and best-of lists.  Do you all think more coherently than I do?

Anyway, since Goodreads crunches the numbers for you, I figured I might as well throw this out there.  So here are my stats.

Total titles for the year (according to Goodreads): 132

But wait, some of those are books that I gave up on but logged anyway: 17

Okay, now how many were comics?: 38

(Slightly embarrassing aside: how many of those comics were from the Buffy franchise?: 18)

What about kids' books--like, chapter books from the children's section?: 11

And sometimes you put in a short story or novella: 8

So how many "actual" books does that leave?--YA, nonfiction, novels: 59

So much good stuff.  Above were a few of my favorites--not necessarily my most-most favorite, but the ones that I am not seeing on everyone else's top 10 lists.  Fangirl, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Saga, Eleanor & Park, Americanah--a lot of my favorite bloggers are raving about these, so I'll just add some to the mix.

I'm back in a groove with some great reads in process now, so hopefully there will be more posts to come.  And I am already making a list of 2014 releases I can't wait for. In the meantime, happy new year, everyone!

(And, once again, I edited this because I left out a book!)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Time Travel Done Right

Let's skip over my long absence, and please don't expect a year-end post because not today.  Let me just give a quick shout out to the best book I've read this month, just what a lot more books should be: All Our Yesterdays, by Cristin Terrill.

Time travel narratives can rarely stand close deconstruction, and there's almost always some "wibbly wobbly timey wimey" hand waving to make things go smoothly.  All I ask is that you explain the rules and then stick to them: check.

 You've got all kind of sort of things here that might drive me nuts--there's kind of a sort of love triangle, but oh, it's not like that.  There are so many kinds of love  here, just among the few main characters--siblings and like-siblings, parents and like-parents, crushes and longings and necessary-friendship-has-brought-us-together.  They're all sensitive and complicated.  Marina knows full well her parents are useless as parents, but it still breaks her heart anew whenever they fail to come through for her.  Her best friend's brother and guardian is an amazing guy and knows his brother's friends and has inside jokes with them.  It's so real.

It grabs you at the beginning--Em is trapped in a cell, periodically tortured, thinking about escape, her only companion a voice from the next cell through the vent.  A hidden message, an escape, a time machine, and the story unfolds, in the present and in the past to which she travels.  You get enough information that you're not confused, but there are plenty of secrets.

And thank you, Cristin Terrill, for not making your suspense depend on keeping secrets that we all figured out early on.  With an author I've never read, I always worry--once I figure something out, are they going to pretend or assume that I don't know this until it's the big reveal at the end?  No, no--there are plenty of reveals, all along the path.  Yeah, I knew who was what early on (mostly), but there were more surprises.

A lot of the sense of the story relies on awkward emotional truths--basically, on a determined but really unhappy about it assassin.  At first, the whole "can't bring myself to do it" thing worried me, but god, do you remember that really good friend of yours that you once had a crush on--no, loved--who was so wonderful to you, but just so obviously didn't see you that way that you never even said anything?  But you hoped, and you accidentally leaned against them sometimes, and god, if only they'd see?  Yeah, I am so right there with you, Cristin Terrill and Team All Our Yesterdays.

There will be a sequel.  It does not need one.  This book made me really happy.

Update: 12/30: I am editing this post because I left out my favorite thing about the book! So, so many books about big world changers ignore the dark side of this stuff, the moral ambiguity that exists when the world is going to change.  Everyone wants to make the world better, but the stakes are already so high that there's no way for that to happen without something ugly taking place.  That recognition is what makes the bad guy bad AND what makes the good guys good.  I have so much respect for this complexity.  So I wanted to add that.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Stalker Follow-Up

For the record, I'm more than halfway through this book, and it's absolutely awful, and here's the quote that is probably going to make me quit it:

"I began to feel that I and other men were beginning to occupy a position in our society like that of women in repressive traditional societies, where the merest suggestion of sexual transgression could mean death."

There are so many things wrong with this sentence.  So. many.  First, death?  A tainted reputation is not death. The notion that someone might give him the side-eye because someone spread a rumor that he had an affair is NOT COMPARABLE to the possibility of being stoned to death for making eye contact with a man you're not related to. He'd be better off comparing himself to a Victorian lady--his vapors would support the comparison.

Second, your white dude suffering is definitely EXACTLY like what third world women go through. How perceptive of you to relate the experiences.  You know exactly what it's like.

And yes, men in general suffer like that, on an institutional level!  Poor widdle guy. 

He's a freaking doink.  I hate him. Not sure if I can finish the book.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Everything on Stalking, Please

The title of the book is Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. But the cover distinguishes between the title and subtitle only by the color differentiation, so it can be read as though a guy walked into a library and asked the librarian to "give me everything you have on being stalked."  And yes, this book would be on that list.

This book is very much a memoir, and it suffers, as some memoirs do, from the fact that I don't like the narrator very much.  I feel for James Lasdun, and unlike a lot of Goodreads reviewers, I don't assume that he was having an affair with this woman, or is misrepresenting his role in what happened somehow.  But the guy comes across as seriously self-absorbed, a complete snob, and maybe a little socially awkward (that could just be a reflection of his full-of-himselfness).

Now, I'll admit, I'm writing this before I've finished it (if I wait till I'm done with a book I never review it), so it could be that there's something at the end that will make me say, "Yes, my god, they are right. He must have slept with her."  But have you read The Gift of Fear?  (If not, you should.  Between this book and that one, Everything You Have may be the more literary, but Gift of Fear is the more compelling and psychologically honest.)  There are people who are just like this, who will fixate on you to one degree or another and not obey any of the social rules, without your doing anything out of line.

So yeah, I believe that things happened, even as he described them.  And yeah, his protests that he recognized her flirting but ignored it is probably disingenuous--either that or he's really dumb.  But engaging in an online flirtation does not mean he "asked for it."  It just makes his surprise less believable.

And then--here's where his negative Goodreads reviews get more on point--he starts to examine the exact emotional place he was around the time that their correspondence took place.  Really, this structure is weird for a lot of reasons: first, he relates the whole story in a relatively succinct and matter of fact way--a very interesting, long-article-length piece that is very factual and not speculative.  Then he backs up and puts layers of context and psychology and introspection on top of it, which is kind of tortured. 

This is clearly a man who's been taking notes for his memoir for years and has FINALLY found something interesting enough to sell to people, so is squishing all his favorite entries from his journal into this book.  Seriously, your emotional state during the period when you were not writing to her does not relate in any way to what she did.  Your silence over email conveyed no subtleties of the human condition.  Get over yourself, dude.

And if you do take this at face value--if you say, okay, being stalked gave this guy a reason to blather on a bit about Life and Art and things.  Let's measure him by that yardstick.  Really, this is where I really start to dislike him.  He wishes he wanted to write poems about Big, Important Things, instead of just personal, introspective poems about things like his relationship with his father.  But he's not compelled to write about those big issues, and he hates himself for that, considers himself a small man without any claim to High Art.  His father, now there was a guy who knew High Art.

Etc.  Seriously, you guys can guess how I feel about High Art, particularly as distinguished from The Kind Of Art That Appeals To The Masses.  I try not to misuse the word "pretentious"--it's not pretentious to like classical music, it's pretentious to fake liking it because that's what classy people like--but I'm pretty sure this is the worst kind of pretension.  He's horrible.

And that's pretty much where I am with this.  I'll finish it, because I want to know what's going to happen with the stalking.  But I'm not going to recommend it.  I think enjoying this book might mean you're pretentious.  But hey, tell me if I'm wrong.