Monday, January 27, 2014

Bloglovin fish and overhaul

Sure why not, I'll give it a go.

Följ min blogg med Bloglovin

Also, the blog is due an overhaul. I don't want all the linksies, I use a feed reader and they were mostly there for me to find blogs I like, originally. Also, the masthead might need revamping. I was looking through it and JESUS I've changed my mind about a fair few books alright.

I'm not reading The Magician King by the way

Noticed this post in my drafts since months. There's nothing more to say really so why I didn't post I don't know: I borrowed it and my eldest daughter started to read it, and she just went meh I don't want to. So I started to but she's right - meh. I just don't care. I don't care about the characters enough. If it were my own book I might get around to it some day but I don't think it's going to happen... Returned. Funny that, a one-book phenomenon.

Catherynne Valente: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

After the glowing recommendation below

I promptly checked what the library had to offer and borrowed this (n.b. that I'm not naive enough to jump out and BUY it on any aul recommendation, no sirree):

So, oddly they only had the sequel, not the first book. They do have the first one, but as an audio book, and not only that, it seems to be a DAISY edition, which means it's specially made for blind people. Apart from these, I can only see that there's a school library in the boondocks that has her collection of norty sheksy short stories, Palimpsest. So I settled for this. It's a children's book, but I just might rather read that than erotic short stories anyway.

The recommendations are glowing. There are prizes that have been won, there are ecstatic reviews. "The kind of book you don't want to end" and so on.

 Me, I don't get it. I think there are certainly some original and sweet ideas in Valente's version of Fairyland, but she seems a little too enamoured with her ideas because every character our heroine, September, meets holds a long quirky speech for her in a manner that quickly gets old. I don't really see that children would like this. Adults who fancy that they are in touch with their inner child will love this. It's like blogger pics of cupcakes and bunting, a bit pastelly and very artfully posed. "I love children, see how I've made them cupcakes!" Each scene wraps you up in so many words that you never get a sense of or feel for what the words are describing and what is actually happening in the flesh and blood story. Valente will write that something was terrifying but I never feel it. Everything is pretty. Unlike Gaiman's children's books with similar themes that have actual gore, this only glosses. Too clever. Jasper Fforde does this as well, loves his clever ideas so much he murders his book. No-one wants to read 200 pages of wordplay, bro. Anyway, book one might be better and this might just be filler, but I'm not going to go looking for book one.

Damn, this makes a long stretch of boring books. Meh. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014


See this? Don't ever read this. Don't buy it for a young female that you know thinking it'll be something, well, at least exciting and grrll power (the automatic spell check just changed grrll to grill, which is FUNNY). 

One of my daughters borrowed this from the school library to read for some assignment or other which requires them to read an English novel. It was lying around so I read it. The author, Alex McAulay, has one idea. The idea is girls, in tank tops, in a jungle. Based on this he scrapes together a story about young girls sent to wilderness camp when they misbehave, and once there a hike goes wrong and they end up lost and it all goes a bit Deliverance (which frankly has been DONE). Every single idea McAulay has which could have given the story some depth - just some, I'm not asking of r a lot -  he pisses away. It could have been about women's right to their sexuality, religious hypocrisy, society's fixation on women's bodies and how they look, what enduring and committing acts of violence does to your personality, the immorality of keeping children in what is virtually a prison camp - anything. But all leads to something interesting just fizz out. Not one character becomes anything but caricature. And a little over half way through the book he just gives up and just starts to write down what happens next with not even an attempt to tell a story. Like he had a maximum word allowance and was trying to keep inside it. What the hell? I've seldom read worse shite. I'm left with the distinct impression of an unhealthy interest in young girls as sexual objects, especially if they wear tank tops and cargo pants (for some reason one has to say cargo pants and not cargo trousers - why is that? discuss!) and self-publishing. Creepy and stupid. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

So, as my sister pointed out in the comments of my last post I have completely forgotten to write about the book that shall henceforth be known as Ocean because TOATEOTL is a pain to type. Although oddly pleasant to say. Also, sounds like Cthulhus lesser known and less sinister younger cousin. Since I borrowed it from her (and nagged her for it) she naturally has wotsit Reasons to Ask, if only to ever know if she can demand it back wot wot wot. So yes, I have read it.

In the novel a middle-aged author returns to the place where he lived as a child, and as he's walking around the changed neighborhood he comes across the Hempstock's farm, and suddenly remembers The cover of Ocean is best from the back - I just ambitiously attempted to take a picture but since it's dark now there was flash and it didn't work; also, it was hard to also not get my ratty pajama trousers, messy living room and thumb in the photo so I abandoned the project and my oft-spoken-of promise to make the blog more interesting by adding pictures. The front is a girl in water, but the back is a photo of Neil himself, as a child, half-way up (or down) the outside wall of a house, balancing on the pipes. And it's just perfect for the book, which is clearly based to some extent on childhood memories (in the acknowledgments he phrases it as a thank you to his family for letting him plunder the landscape of his childhood). The beginning of the book even reads like a genuine autobiography, to the point where I almost decided to put it down since I'm not that interested in Gaiman's writing to read his genuine childhood memoirs. The back blurb doesn't give much away and I hadn't read up on the book in advance. But I stuck with it for those few extra pages and soon it all swerved into more familiar fantasy territory. And then the strength of the book became the little boy's story and relationship with his family, with the fantasy story just a vehicle to explore how vulnerable children are, exposed to their parents' whims. (The scenes that stick with me are the ones where his parents, influenced by the Creature, completely betray him. This is the work of the Creature, but that's just in the story. In real life we know that kids are betrayed all the time - in fantasy we can pretend that some outside magical influence causes it so that the parents are not to blame, but that's just in fantasy. The escapist solution for tormented kids.)

Anyway, so the end goes on a bit and doesn't feel really - true? necessary? believable? Ha. But I  liked it, and it wasn't long, so yay. I'd like to re-read it sometime.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A new year

I don't read much these days, as I've said before, and the sad thing is that part of the reason is that I can't keep up the blog. I miss it very much. This is only a small part of a whole, I used to have an internet community I felt a part of and my blog (even though I've never had readers really) felt like an extension of that. I feel bereft. I said to mr Bani yesterday that I'd really like a laptop of my own (something we can't afford at the moment at all) - he felt so guilty he started looking at laptops on Ebay for me. And created my own login for me on his which I am currently using. It's difficult to have no space for oneself - the most private space I've got is my office at work, which is pathetic isn't it. In related news I have come to the conclusion that older teenagers are meant to be annoying so their parents will be glad when they finally move instead of panicking at the thought which they did only a few years prior. Because deargodhelpus. Anyway, going back to the first sentence - another reason is that I play Candy Crush (yes yes but I never beg for lives and never pay, I'm not that big of an eejit) and before that Angry Birds Star Wars (I know I know) and also I read other blogs and most importantly my commute now is only ten minutes so less time to read anyway.

There are a few things I've read that I've forgotten about, but let's write about the ones I remember ... I read World War Z by Max Brooks, a millennia after the party and only because we saw the film which was a bit shit (although I admit that I spent a fair amount of time NOT watching the film because scary zombies make me tense), and after that when I was picking Junior up from his friend I mentioned that we'd seen it at the friend's father said but oh! you must read the book here I've got it. So I did, and it was so much better and why the HELL do all those film directors and producers tamper so much with books when they claim to love them? (There is a Hobbit related rant to this, but I'm saving that for what will hopefully be a separate post.) World War Z is a book about collecting personal witness accounts about the disaster that almost destroyed human civilisation (that would be a terrible fast-spreading infection turning the dead into zombies, folks), about the impacts on countries and cultures, about political considerations, about coping and preserving humanity and human values. This makes it sound a lot deeper than it in fact is - it's not by any means Great Literature but I did enjoy it and found it thought-provoking. It struck me that in a lot of ways Earth seemed like a nicer place to live after being almost annihilated, expect in Russia. More just and fair, a bit post-Ark. The film was about Brad Pitt and his inane family, a very traditional classic storyline, purportedly a first-person view but not even managing to be consistent about that. Whatevs. (But yes, scary scary zombies.)

I re-read Justice Hall, by Laurie King. I'd like to collect  her books so I have them all, I find them soothing, and I'd also like to get a hold of the short story collections she's written for. And I read a Margaret Atwood novel, Cat's Eye, which was terrible and lovely.  I wrote a long post about it in my head but I've forgotten most of it. The main character and narrator, Elaine, is now a rather well-known painter and has returned to Toronto for a retrospective, which brings back all the memories of the torment she suffered in the city as a child. It is a brilliant story about a young girl who is almost destroyed by that kind of horrible, psychologically destructive bullying that girls can excel at, to the point where she chooses to forget those years altogether and only has them flood back years later when she is cleaning out the attic with her mother and finds the cat's eye marble she carried as a talisman. Atwood writes such sad characters. Even when they say they feel good and are happy there is a brittleness about it. Sorrow always lies hiding underneath, it never goes away. I feel like only someone who has experienced being an outsider could write like this about it. You always feel like you are acting a part, as though someone is going to find you out one day. Elaine the adult has never really left her childhood behind and is surprised constantly at how established she is, how young people look at her as a grown-up. And still she "hasn't suffered", she describes how she, in the feminist groups of the 70s, feels left-out because nothing really bad has happened to her  - she was never raped, she was never beaten. Always this quantifying of suffering, deciding which pain ranks the highest.

I read loads of Margaret Atwood in my teens, but I lost track of her. Maybe I should re-read everything in a chronological order. I feel like she is capturing a lost age, both in this one and in The Blind Assassin. 

There was something else, but I forget. Hopefully tomorrow!