Friday, September 30, 2011

September books!

The #s represent the position read in year to date. I am closing in on my goal of 115 and and am contemplating upping it to 125. I want to see how October pans out before I do that.

76. Chicks Kick Butt, Rachel Caine and Kerri Hughes, Eds.

This short story collection of women writers with strong female characters was pretty darn good. It was a mix of authors I had read, others I wanted to read, and a third group that I had never heard of. My GoodReads synopsis (because I can't remember the story names at this point):

My favourite stories: "In Vino Veritas," Karen Chance; "Monsters," Lilith Saintcrow; "Nine-Tenths of the Law," Jenna Black; and "Monster Mash," Carole Nelson Douglas.

My interests definitely don't cover fey, necromancers, or nearly incomprehensible Norse mythology, so a few of these stories were less relevant to my sci-fi/urban fantasy interests. But you definitely can't go wrong with a bunch of kick-ass heroines.

77. Rosamund's Revenge, Madeleine Conway.
I had a great piece of luck picking Mario Vargas Llosa's book off the cheap books table at Christmas Tree Shop, but the last time I went it was covered in crappy romance novels. And I figured I would try one out to see if I was missing anything. At the very least I was hoping for a good old fashioned bodice ripping.

Well, Conway ripped something, but it wasn't a bodice. NO BODICES WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF THIS BOOK. I am disappoint. Anyway, it was a bad rip off of Pride and Prejudice.

78. The Lady Matador's Hotel, Cristina Garcia

Another entry in the magical realism genre and I absolutely loved it. Garcia uses an interesting story framing device -- it's told from the perspective of several characters at the hotel over the course of the week, as well as the local media in an unnamed city in Latin America. The conclusion is quite obvious, but it is well worth the read.

79. A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood

A man struggles to live life after his longtime lover's death. Also an interesting framing device -- positing us in as clear observers of the main character as almost a subject in an experiment, but watching him go through the motions of his life in a day.

80. Caesar's Women, Colleen McCullough

Book 4 in a series on Ancient Rome. McCullough posits that this story is really about the...errr...women around Caesar, but they are merely a framing device for the great man himself. And boy does she have a crush on him. It's very detail heavy -- I learned more about the Roman Republic in this book than I ever did in all the studying I did in Latin class and in the few history classes I took on Rome. If you can get through it, it's well worth it historically (even if Phil disputes her take on Marcus Tullius Cicero ;).

81. Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris.

What can I say? I really am enjoying these books. They are remarkably easy to get through and they're just like brain candy. Bits of problematic takes on race and sexuality crop up from time to time, so beware of that. And I can't get how all these supernatural people just find Sookie sooooooooo irresistible

82. Club Dead, Charlaine Harris

See #81.

83. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, Simon Winchester.

I learned many new words! The story was a bit thin to be stretched out like it was, but I also loved the historiography work he put in on it -- the history of dictionaries is something we kind of take for granted. And the impetus for the book was an interesting anecdote in the annals of history. (PS: Americans helped write the OED. Including a guy from Troy NY!)

84. A Palace in the Old Village, Tahar Ben Jelloun

A man moves his family from Morocco to France to earn a better life for them. As he reaches retirement age, he realizes that it may have been a mistake -- his family has become Frenchified and barely recognizes the heritage he tries to give them. It's an interesting look at a generation gap and the ideas of the parents versus those of the children.

85. Dead to the World, Charlaine Harris

See #81

86. Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris

See #81

87. Rat Girl: A Memoir, Kristin Hersh

Hersh is the former lead singer for the band Throwing Muses. I knew of her from her solo efforts -- when I belonged to a Michael Penn fanlist on Yahoo groups, the members were raving about her, so I checked out her music. I saw her promoting the book on Twitter and during Borders' closing sale I picked it up. It's an unconventional memoir of an unconventional woman -- she started performing in bars at 14. During a year of her life in 1986 she ended up becoming diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she had to struggle to adjust to that diagnosis. It's an interesting way of presenting a time in her life where she says she doesn't remember much of it.

88. The Second Duchess, Elizabeth Loupas.

You knew I couldn't stray from my historical fiction for long! This one is the story of Barbara of Austria, the second wife of Alfonso d'Este, grandson of Lucrezia Borgia. His first wife, Lucrezia de Medici died in strange circumstances and he is believed to be the cause. As she is learning the lay of her new land, Barbara also must deal with the rumours of her predecessor as well as dodge whoever may be trying to kill her too. Also told from the perspective of Lucrezia's ghost, it's an interesting murder mystery in Renaissance Italy.

89. Definitely Dead, Charlaine Harris

See #81

90. To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Christy English.

I am a sucker for all things Eleanor of Aquitaine. She's one of my favourite historical personages and I can't get enough takes on her personality, either fictionally or historically. This book delves into her early life -- her rise to power in Aquitaine and Poitou, and her marriage to King Louis of France. English does a pretty good job of keeping us on Eleanor's side -- my only critique is that she keeps Eleanor at a bit of a distance from us. Otherwise, I almost think it makes a great bookend to Alison Weir's "The Captive Queen," a novel of Eleanor and her second marriage to Henry II of England.

91. All Together Dead, Charlaine Harris

See #81, although I want more Sophie-Anne Leclerq. Just saying.

Monday, September 12, 2011

11 September

I usually like to write about the Chilean September 11, but I came across this amazing poem on Tumblr and thought it was important to share it with you. It's long, but I'm not cutting it.

Emmanuel Ortiz (born 1974)'s poem, Moment of Silence:

Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me

In a moment of silence

In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11th.

I would also like to ask you

To offer up a moment of silence

For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,

For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing…

A full day of silence

For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.

Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S. embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,

Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.

Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin

And the survivors went on as if alive.

A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam - a people, not a war - for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it.

A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war … ssssshhhhh…. Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead.

Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,

Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador …

An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …

Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …

None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.

45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas

25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.

There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.

And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…

100 years of silence…

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of right here,

Whose land and lives were stolen,

In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.

Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness …

So you want a moment of silence?

And we are all left speechless

Our tongues snatched from our mouths

Our eyes stapled shut

A moment of silence

And the poets have all been laid to rest

The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,

You want a moment of silence

You mourn now as if the world will never be the same

And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.

Not like it always has been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.

This is a 9/10 poem,

It is a 9/9 poem,

9/8 poem,

A 9/7 poem

This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.

And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:

This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.

This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977.

This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York, 1971.

This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes

This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told

The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks

The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.

This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?

We could give you lifetimes of empty:

The unmarked graves

The lost languages

The uprooted trees and histories

The dead stares on the faces of nameless children

Before I start this poem we could be silent forever

Or just long enough to hunger,

For the dust to bury us

And you would still ask us

For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence

Then stop the oil pumps

Turn off the engines and the televisions

Sink the cruise ships

Crash the stock markets

Unplug the marquee lights,

Delete the instant messages,

Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of Taco Bell,

And pay the workers for wages lost.

Tear down the liquor stores,

The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,

Then take it

On Super Bowl Sunday,

The Fourth of July

During Dayton’s 13 hour sale

Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence

Then take it NOW,

Before this poem begins.

Here, in the echo of my voice,

In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,

In the space between bodies in embrace,

Here is your silence.

Take it.

But take it all…Don’t cut in line.

Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,

Tonight we will keep right on singing…For our dead.

EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002.

(Link to the tumblr post I found it in.)

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Hello friends! I just finished another book, and I realized it's Sept 3! Time to talk about the books I read last month.

64. The King's Pleasure, Norah Lofts.

This was a historical Tudors novel written in the 1950s and boy does it show. The maligns on Anne Boleyn's physical character are present, and I felt that Lofts did a lot more telling than showing. I didn't like the foreshadowing usage. Read Anya Seton instead.

65. Feed, Mira Grant.

In the mid 21st Century, cancer and the common cold are cured, but unfortunately the side-effect was zombies. They're somewhat contained now, but the remaining human population no longer trusts its news media sources and is relying on bloggers for information. So Georgia and her brother Shaun get selected to cover a presidential campaign and end up in way over their heads.

Now I have such zombie fear as you've never seen. But I loved this book. Yes, there are zombie attacks, and they are scary. and the mysterious conspiracy isn't all that shocking. But the bond between brother and sister is really what drives the book.

66. Point Omega, Dom DeLillo.

I totally misinterpreted what this book was about. An aspiring filmmaker goes to the desert to seek out one of the masterminds behind the Iraq War and interview him. Instead he spends his time in the desert boring the hell out of the reader as he vaguely contemplates banging his host's daughter.

67. The Scarlet Lion, Elizabeth Chadwick.

A followup to "The Greatest Knight," continuing the Marshal family saga this time in the court of King John. A little repetitive at points, but I definitely enjoyed the story as much as I did TGK. If you're into medieval historical novels that really try to get it right, Chadwick is for you.

68. The Wars of the Roses, Alison Weir.

Another Weir compendium, this time about the historical roots and how the Wars of the Roses came about. It gets complicated especially toward the end when names are repeated apace. Thank goodness for the genealogical trees at the back of the book.

69. Daughters of Rome, Kate Quinn

A prequel of sorts to "Mistress of Rome," Quinn takes us to the year of Three Emperors by telling us the story through the lives of 4 women all named Cornelia. She continues her themes of having at least one woman in the story bed a strapping man who is a prisoner or in dire straits but is incredibly handsome and amazing. It is damned good reading, although a bit predictable.

70. Classic Stories 1: R is for Rocket & Golden Apples, Ray Bradbury.

Bradbury's writing always fuels in me a nostalgia for the space race age. The stories are ridiculously outdated, but they are nice to read in a "look how they saw this coming" sort of way. There are some of my favourite pieces in here including "The Long Rain."

71. Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, Crystal Renn (TW: eating disorders)

Renn is a plus-sized model who overcame an eating disorder trying to remain at a size 0 in order to stay in the world of modelling. She is funny, very interested in the statistics and reasons for disordered eating. This was an easy and good read, but I wish the editors had done a better job -- it's riddled with errors and bad transitions.

72. Christ Stopped at Eboli, Carlo Levi

Levi was exiled to an impoverished region in the mountains of Italy for a sentence of three years. He spent one in Eboli, and wrote a journal of his experiences. It is an incredible look at a place neglected by time and government. Keeping in mind that Levi is a bit sexist and classist, it is nonetheless a unique look at a place and time gone unmentioned in most of history, Italian or otherwise.

73. Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal.

A science fiction book set in a Regency-esque England. It tries to be Pride and Prejudice, but it was more like The Wayward Muse and merely bored me. The magick in the world was a minor plot point that could have been excised. I was mostly whelmed by this book.

74. Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris.

Okay NOW I see what all the hype is about. Everyone and their mom watches True Blood (except me and Phil). But seriously? Sookie Stackhouse is funny, interesting, and I really enjoyed this book! It was a quick little story and I look forward to the rest of the series.

75. Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul

Haters gonna hate. Some of the tales in here were really good looks at the contestants' views of the process, others were great looks at back stage workers knowing how they got the show to be the way it was, and others were just there.

I've read 3 more books in September so far, but you'll just have to wait til Oct to see what they are. Tell me what you're reading! I have to pick a new book to start, but since I cleaned up again at the Borders' closeout sale, I have plenty of choices!