The Monday Check-In ~ 1/20/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I’ve been home recovering from my minor medical procedure, and I can’t say that being stuck home with piles of books is too awful a way to spend a week! I did end up “working from home” about half the time, since work emails and work crises wait for no woman, apparently. Still, I was able to rest, stay cozy, and read, read, read quite a bit, and I’m feeling good!

Back to work this week. Sigh.

What did I read during the last week?

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: Thought-provoking and engaging. My review is here.

The Toll by Neal Shusterman: The final book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy. My review is here.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone who’s read this book. My review is here.

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez: Surprisingly beautiful science fiction. My review is here.

Pop culture:

What I’m watching:

Grace & Frankie is back! Season 6 dropped this week, and while I haven’t made it through all the episodes quite yet, I’m loving hanging out with these amazing women once again.

Reading a couple of excellent posts from Megabunny Reads recently reminded me that I’d been meaning to give Anne with an E a try. I’ve just watched the first episode, and loved it! I’ll definitely be continuing.

And on HBO, I’ve watched the creepy first episode of The Outsider. I loved the (highly disturbing) book, and have high hopes for this adaptation!

Fresh Catch:

I mean, yes, I still have two books in the series to read before I’ll be ready for Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7)… but my Amazon fingers got itchy and I couldn’t help myself.

And, as per usual, three of my library requests came in all at once. Which to read first?

General reading plans:

Despite my best intentions, I find myself suddenly buried in ARCs! I have 22 ARCs for books coming out between February – May, with a whopping 12 in March alone! I try my best to read and review ARCs around their release dates, but this feels really daunting and challenging at the moment.

I’m thinking I’ll try to space these out, starting now, by reading at least one ARC per week. I’ve never scheduled reviews before, but I think I’m going to have to make an attempt to write reviews as I go along and then hold them for posting until the release date is closer.

I know most publishers prefer that reviews not be posted more than two weeks before a book’s publication date. I’m curious how others handle this: Do you stick to the two-week rule, and if so, do you find yourself scheduling reviews and/or writing them in advance and then holding them for a later date to post?

If I don’t find myself a system, I’m going to end up really frustrated, really quickly. And I swore I would focus more on reading what I feel like this year, versus going by a schedule.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri: My book group book for January! Racing to finish before discussion starts this week.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Book of Dust (La Belle Sauvage) by Philip Pullman: I’m picking this back up after a couple of weeks without audiobooks. It’s nice to be back!

Ongoing reads:

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Getting close to the end!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 1/13/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Well, once again — and for completely different reasons — this was a surgery week for me! Weird, right? I’d been on a waiting list for an elective procedure for almost two years, and right at the end of December got a call that my doctor had a cancellation coming up, and did I want it? I said YES and didn’t allow myself to do any second-guessing… and here I am, almost a week post-procedure, feeling fine and taking some time off work to rest and heal.

And hey, we all know that “time off” to “rest and heal” really just equates to more time to read!

What did I read during the last week?

Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald: Sad to say, I didn’t end up loving this slice-of-life novel, which was a big disappointment to me, since I loved the author’s first book. Ah well, can’t win ’em all! My review is here.

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey: Ooh boy, I went a little Expanse-crazy this week, finishing not only this massive book (#4 in the series), but also 4 shorter works and a graphic novel. My review of Cibola Burn is here. The other stuff I read:

And also this week, after my Expanse binge:

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire: The newest installment in the excellent Wayward Children series. I loved it! My review is here.

Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse: A fun middle grade adventure grounded in Navajo mythology. My review is here.

Pop culture:

Somewhat against my first instincts, I ended up watching The Witcher. After two episodes, I was convinced it was pure cheese, but then the story started growing on me, as did certain characters (especially Yennefer.) (And I’m kind of fascinated by the bard, too.) I’m on the fence about whether I actually recommend this show, but it did keep my interest. And I may even have to give the books a try. And yeah, I’m sure I’ll be back whenever season 2 comes around.

Oh, and in case you’re as obsessed with the bard’s song “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” as the rest of the world seems to be, here’s a Twitter thread with versions of the song in twelve different languages: https://twitter.com/_lemonowa_/status/1210171703432765442

Fresh Catch:

One new book this week — Come Tumbling Down (above), already devoured! Yum yum.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Ooh, debating which of these two to start next!

They both sound great!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Book of Dust (La Belle Sauvage) by Philip Pullman: I just didn’t make much progress this week, considering I was out of commission for most of it. I’m hoping to get back into a daily walking routine this week, and if I do, it’ll be with this book plugged into my ears!

Ongoing reads:

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Really a fun book!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 1/6/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

The holidays are over, and now it’s back to the usual routine. I can’t complain too much — it was nice to have a couple of slower, quieter weeks to regroup, relax, and read!

What did I read during the last week?

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan: Fascinating non-fiction. My review is here. (And no, I will never ever ever want to climb a mountain!)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: My first 5-star read for 2020! I loved this book so much. My review is here.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman: I finished my audiobook re-read! The audio version is really suspenseful and enjoyable, and now I’d dying to dive into the 3rd book in the trilogy… but I know I should finish up a few ARCs first so I don’t fall behind so early in the year. Must. Control. My. Impulses.

Pop culture:

My son and I binged season 4 of The Expanse this week. Wow – fabulous season. It’s kind of funny watching it now that it’s moved to Amazon Prime, freed from TV restrictions, and hearing all the characters suddenly dropping f-bombs. I’m so grateful to Amazon for picking the show up after it was cancelled on Syfy. It’s an excellent adaptation, and I can’t wait for the next season!

Fresh Catch:

No new physical books this week… although I did take advantage of all sorts of year-end price drops to add yet more books to my Kindle!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald: This small town slice-of-life isn’t quite catching my attention yet, but since I enjoyed the author’s previous book, I’m sticking with it and giving it a shot.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Book of Dust (La Belle Sauvage) by Philip Pullman: Time for another re-read! I’ve forgotten most of the detail already from this book, so I need a refresher before starting The Secret Commonwealth.

Ongoing reads:

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. I think I’m enjoying this book more than most of my book group friends are — it’s just so funny!

So many books, so little time…

boy1seria

The Monday Check-In ~ 12/30/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I got on skis for the first time in about 5 years! And I wasn’t… awful. It was actually pretty fun. My husband, kiddo, and I enjoyed a few days away in the mountains, skiing by day and relaxing by night.

I didn’t do much reading, but that’s okay! It was nice to have time together as a family.

What did I read during the last week?

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. Absolutely a five-star read. This is the one and only book I finished this past week, and it may actually be my last complete book for 2019, which is not at all a bad way to end the year. I’ll try to write a review this week when I get some breathing space… but suffice it to say, this book is beautifully written, often funny, frequently heart-breaking, and simple a must-read.

Pop culture:

Along with the rest of the human population, I saw the new Star Wars movie this past week. I liked it, didn’t love it… but then again, I’m not a die-hard fan, so deep dives into mythology and the greater meaning of events are somewhat lost on me. I went to be entertained, and I was.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week. Not that I lack for reading material…

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan: This non-fiction account of a major mountaineering disaster is fascinating so far!

Now playing via audiobook:

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman: Continuing my re-read of the first two books in the trilogy, before starting #3. I barely had any listening time this past week, so my progress is more like baby steps. I hope to finish this week so I can start The Toll finally.

Ongoing reads:

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. I really like the writing, and I’m finding the characters really funny.

So many books, so little time…

boy1seria

The Monday Check-In ~ 12/23/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn: Contemporary romance — my review is here.

Shrill by Lindy West: This collection of essays is a must-read. My review is here.

I read three graphic novels this week:

  • Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds: Great illustrations for a selection of Poe’s best-known pieces really bring the stories to life. This might be a good choice for a teen reader who scoffs at reading anything that smacks of “classic literature” (like my own reluctant reader…)
  • Runaways, volume 4: But You Can’t Hide by Rainbow Rowell: The Runaways series is always fun, and it’s nice to revisit these characters, although the plot itself isn’t particularly memorable or earth-shaking in this volume.
  • The Magicians: Alice’s Story by Lev Grossman and Lilah Sturges: For fans of The Magicians, this book tells the same story as volume one of the trilogy, but from Alice’s perspective. It’s nicely done, but the story feels a bit repetitive, since we already know it all. (Also, I can’t help getting the TV series characters stuck in my mind as the definitive characters, so it’s jarring to see them illustrated so differently here.)

In audiobooks, I finished my re-read of Scythe. The audio version was terrific!

Pop culture:

I went to see this movie. It was excellent.

Fresh Catch:

Yay, Goodreads! I won a giveaway, and the book arrived this week!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: My husband started this book last week, and convinced me to read it too, even though I thought I had all my end-of-year reading already figured out and lined up. Liking it so far!

Now playing via audiobook:

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman: Continuing my re-read of the first two books in the trilogy, before starting #3. The audiobook narrator is great!

Ongoing reads:

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. I’m liking it so far, although it seems like the rest of the book group isn’t all that into it. Let’s hope it picks up as we go along.

So many books, so little time…

boy1seria

Book Review: Shrill by Lindy West

Title: Shrill
Author: Lindy West
Publisher: Hachette
Publication date: May 17, 2016
Length: 260 pages
Genre: Essays
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss–and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.

I’d never read anything by Lindy West before picking up this book, although I’d certainly heard of her. And now? Consider me a fan.

To be shrill is to reach above your station; to abandon your duty to soothe and please; in short, to be heard.

In Shrill, the author presents both personal stories from her own life and sharp critiques of society and culture, and manages to insert humor and clever language into even the saddest moments.

There are asome particularly funny pieces, like an analysis of Disney’s fat female characters. Upshot: There aren’t many, and they certainly aren’t main characters, or presented as worthy of either desire or empathy. A realization related to the animated version of Robin Hood:

The most depressing thing I realized while making this list is that Baloo dressed as a sexy fortune-teller is the single-most positive role model of my youth.

More serious pieces deal with body image, fat shaming, and the awful, insidious nature of internet trolls.

One piece that brought me to tears was “The Day I Didn’t Fit”, which is all about flying while fat. It made me mad and also made me feel guilty. Haven’t we all glared at people coming down the plane aisle, praying for whatever reason — their weight, having a child with them, or just some introverted/anti-social instinct — that they won’t end up sitting next to us? This essay really made me think about being on the other end of the equation, and how soul-killing it must be to have to deal with this every single time you fly.

I love Lindy West’s forthright, blunt statements, as in this one from the essay “You’re So Brave for Wearing Clothes and Not Hating Yourself!”:

As a woman, my body is scrutinized, policed, and treated as a public commodity. As a fat woman, my body is also lampooned, openly reviled, and associated with moral and intellectual failure. My body limits my job prospects, access to medical care and fair trials, and — the one thing Hollywood movies and Internet trolls most agree on — my ability to be loved. So the subtext, when a thin person asks a fat person, “Where do you get your confidence?” is, “you must be some sort of alien because if I loked like you, I would definitely throw myself into the sea.”

This book is entertaining and moving and inspirational. I will absolutely be seeking out more by Lindy West (including her newest book, The Witches Are Coming, which I just got a copy of).

I need to also mention that I came to the book Shrill after watching the Hulu series Shrill (adapted from the book, with Lindy West as an executive producer). The Hulu series is a fictional account of a woman based on the author, who starts off pretty downtrodden and mistreated, but over the course of the six half-hour episodes, finds her voice and grows into a proud, loud, shrill woman. Aidy Bryant is awesome and adorable and wonderful in the role. And the pool party scene is one of the best things ever, seriously.

I highly recommend the series, and can’t wait for season 2, coming January 24th, 2020.

SHRILL, season 2

And meanwhile, read the book!

The delights of summer TV: Sparkling nails, warring brothels, and a severed leg

It’s summer! Whatcha watching?

I’m having oodles of fun binge-watching TV… and I’m totally in love with three shows that are ridiculously fun.

First up: Claws on TNT

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the glory of Desna, the nail salon owner turned money launderer turned Dixie Mafia kingpin (queenpin)… who always looks completely fabulous, whether sitting poolside or driving her Maserati or breaking into a drug-smuggling warehouse. The show’s true heart is the nail salon and the friendship of the women who work there with Desna. They’re hilarious, ridiculous, outrageous, over the top, and also, surprisingly moving.

Desna got into a life of crime reluctantly, needing a way to support her autistic brother and working toward her dream of establishing a more upscale salon. Pill-pushing clinics, gun-toting criminals, and plain bad luck have gotten in her way, but I keep rooting for Desna to free herself from all the crazy criminal shenanigans and get back to that amazing nail art.

I absolutely did not expect that this would be a show for me, but after much prodding from a couple of co-workers, I gave it a try, and I was hooked. You can’t take it seriously, but if you want escapist summer fun, Claws is top of the list.

 

And then there’s my more recent discovery: Harlots on Hulu

Yes, it’s about harlots. 18th century London prostitutes, two competing madams bitterly at war with one another, the “culls” (customers) who frequent the brothels, and the overall rotten condition of being a woman at a time when women had no power over their own lives. The show is written, directed, and produced by women, and it shows: The emphasis is not on bodies and sex, but on the women characters’ minds, desires, frustrations, and yearnings. It shows the limited options women had to control their own lives, and paints a pretty grim picture of what sex workers experience each day.

And yet, it’s a remarkably fun and entertaining show! Visually, Harlots is a treat. We alternate between seeing the mucky streets and filthy dress hems with ogling the gowns and wigs of the upper class (and the brothels that cater to the rich and noble). Oh, those wigs! Can we talk about the wigs for a minute? Powdered, sky-high, utterly glorious… between the wigs and the costumes, this show is just a feast for the eyes. Add in a compelling plot and terrific acting, and you’ve got some idea of why I’m obsessing over this show right now.

 

Finally, I’m loving the hell out of C B Strike on Cinemax:

And this is where the severed leg comes in.

C B Strike is a TV show that crept in while I wasn’t looking! I’d heard that a TV adaptation of the J. K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith) detective series was in the works, but had no idea it had been completed and released already! Three seasons are all available on Cinemax, each season covering the plot of one of the three books in the series. Season 1 is The Cuckoo’s Calling (murdered model), shown in 3 episodes. Seasons 2 and 3 are two episodes each, covering The Silkworm (murdered writer) and Career of Evil (body parts by special delivery). All are excellent, in large part because of the two excellent actors in the lead roles of Cormoran and Robin. They have great chemistry, and Cormoran especially is just what I imagined from the books.

The plots of the books are really dense and packed with detail, so the pacing of the TV series took a bit of getting used to. They manage to squeeze in enough to make the storie make sense without getting bogged down. It actually amazes me that they were able to condense the plot threads and clues enough to work in so few episodes — but the show is definitely a success.

Added bonus: It has been a while since I read Career of Evil, but now I’m back up to speed and completely ready to continue reading about Cormoran and Robin when book #4, Lethal White, comes out this fall!

 

Those are my top three… but I’m also really excited about the new season of Killjoys, and plan to dive into Castle Rock this week too.

What are you watching this summer?

Children’s Books: Two terrific girl power books by Chelsea Clinton

 

 

Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer.

They persisted.

If you’re looking for easy-to-follow kids’ books to empower and inspire, check out this pair of picture books written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexander Boiger.

Each book offers a selection of profiles of women who persisted — women who were told “no” or faced major hurdles, whether legal or cultural or physical. Each of these women followed their dreams, and made their marks on history by achieving something that no one thought possible.

She Persisted tells the stories of thirteen American women, among them such luminaries as Harriet Tubman, Florence Griffith Joyner, Sonia Sotomayor, and Sally Ride. Each gets her own two-page spread, with images lovingly drawn to show each woman’s progress and achievements, and often, a childhood image to show where she started. A brief, easily digestible paragraph tells each woman’s story. What I especially loved is that for each, there’s a quote, so the young reader will get to hear each woman speak in her own words.

 

Wonderful selections include:

“I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.” (Sonia Sotomayor)

“I have never written a word that did not come from my heart. I never shall.” (Nellie Bly)

“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” (Helen Keller)

 

It’s not always easy being a girl — anywhere in the world. It’s especially challenging in some places. There are countries where it’s hard for girls to go to school and where women need their husbands’ permission to get a passport or even to leave the house. And all over the world, girls are more likely to be told to be quiet, to sit down, to have smaller dreams.

 

Don’t listen to those voices. These thirteen women from across the world didn’t.

They persisted.

In She Persisted Around the World, Clinton chooses thirteen women from all over the globe, all of whom made a difference against the odds. Highlights include Malala Yousafzai, J. K. Rowling, and Marie Curie — but really, they’re all wonderful. The Around the World book follows the same format as the first book, and once again, I really loved the pages with the quotes.

“We are tired of having a ‘sphere’ doled out to us, and of being told that anything outside that sphere is ‘unwomanly’… We must be ourselves at all risks.” (Kate Sheppard)

“I don’t really know why I care so much. I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it.” (Wangari Maathai)

“The more I did, the more I could do, the more I wanted to do, the more I saw needed to be done.” (Leymah Gbowee)

I do have one complaint about these books, and it feels almost petty to bring it up… but I found it odd and kind of frustrating that no dates are provided for any of the stories. I’m not sure how young readers would know where these women fit into American and world history without providing some sort of timeline or dates as context.

Other than that, I think these are wonderful additions to the world of children’s literature. Both books are lovely, thanks to the clear, intelligent writing and the colorful, eye-catching, girl-positive illustrations. In some ways I loved the Around the World book more, simply because it introduced me to the names, faces, and stories of women whom I hadn’t heard of before. But really, I do recommend both, and hope that lots of parents and teachers will make these books available to the girls and boys they love, nurture, and inspire.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Geekerella

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Oh my, this geeky Cinderella story is oodles and oodles of fun!

Elle is Cinderella — the unloved girl forced to wait hand and foot on her self-centered stepmother and awful twin stepsisters. Elle is still devastated by her father’s death, and seeks solace in the Starfield fandom, which she shared with her father and which helps her find meaning in life. She sees the cosplay contest as a possible path to freedom, with a prize that could help her fulfill her dream of escaping from her terrible life in Charleston and moving to LA to pursue a screenwriting career.

Elle is pretty disgusted by the casting of Darien in the lead role of Prince Carmindor. He’s a pretty-boy soap actor — how can he possibly do justice to such a noble, iconic character? She voices her opinion, loud and clear, on her Starfield-devoted blog… and suddenly, her followers and page views are through the roof.

Meanwhile, Elle and Darien meet-cute through an accidental text, and begin a texting relationship which escalates from silliness to true friendship and soul-baring, all the while not knowing each others’ true identity.

This book is charming and funny in all the right ways, and yet manages to be deeper and more serious than the title and cute cover art might suggest. Both Elle and Darien have serious issues to confront about self-image and being valued for who they are and finding a place to fit in. Elle’s situation is much more dire, of course, as she lives with people who don’t love her and make her life hell. But Darien’s life isn’t perfect either, as his sudden fame results in betrayal by his one close friend, being considered a poser in the fandom (even though he’s been a devoted fanboy for years), and having no privacy while having to constantly put on a public face in keeping with his star status.

The relationship between Elle and Darien is sweet and funny, but equally wonderful is Elle’s growing friendship with her coworker Sage, and her belated discovery that one of her stepsisters isn’t the awful person she thought she was.

Geekerella has all sorts of wonderful shout-outs to the world of cons and fandoms:

As the green room door disappears behind us, I give it one last forlorn glance when a guy with thick brown hair and an even browner coat catches my eye.

“Gail!” I skid to a stop. “I think I see Nathan F–”

Gail yanks me toward herlike a yo-yo. “You can get him to sign your first-edition Firefly comic later.”

The author allows the characters to voice what draws people to their fantasy worlds and makes them so important:

Of course it’s not real. I know it’s not real. It’s just as fake as the Styrofoam props they use and the cardboard sets and the tinny laser sounds and the ice cream machines they try to disguise as “data cores” — I know it’s all fake. But those characters — Carmindor, Princess Amara, Euci, and even the Nox King — they were my friends when everyone in the real world passed around rumors behind my back, called me weird, shoved me into lockers, and baited me into thinking I was beautiful only to push me away just before we kissed. They never abandoned me. They were loyal, honorable, caring, and smart.

And while I don’t usually mention author acknowledgments in reviews, I do love this passage from the author’s acknowledgements in Geekerella:

So I want to thank you. You, the reader. You, who cosplays and writes fanfiction and draws fanart and runs a forum and collects Funko-Pops and must have hardcovers for all of your favorite book series and frames for your autographed posters. You, who boldly goes.

Never give up on your dreams and never let anyone tell you that what you love is inconsequential or useless or a waste of time. Because if you love it? If that OTP or children’s card game or abridged series or YA book or animated series makes you happy?

That is never a waste of time. Because in the end we’re all just a bunch of weirdos standing in front of other weirdos, asking for their username.

Geekerella has a sweet teen love story as its central storyline, but it’s also a love letter to fandoms and geeky delights. And as a fangirl with Funko-Pops and hardcovers of my favorite book series and all sorts of random geeky toys and t-shirts, I could absolutely relate… even though my teen years are way in the rearview mirror by now

Definitely recommended for anyone who loves to dream of fantasy kingdoms and schools for magic and impossible universes. I just hope that the author will treat us to an expanded view into her made-up Starfield world, because I’d definitely like to know more!

A reading note: I read a finished copy of the book from the library, and not an ARC — and since it was a finished copy, I do need to say that the book could have used another copyediting pass. There are typos (like “use” instead of “us”) and missed words scattered here and there throughout the book, and they’re jarring. No one likes to be interrupted in their fictional pursuits by having to stop and figure out what a sentence is supposed to mean!

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: April 4, 2017
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Young adult
Source: Library

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Guts: The Anatomy of the Walking Dead

In this first and only guide to AMC’s exceptional hit series The Walking Dead, the Wall Street Journal’s Walking Dead columnist celebrates the show, its storylines, characters, and development, and examines its popularity and cultural resonance.

From its first episode, The Walking Dead took fans in the United States and across the world by storm, becoming the highest-rated series in the history of cable television. After each episode airs, Paul Vigna writes a widely read column in which he breaks down the stories and considers what works and what doesn’t, and tries to discern the small details that will become larger plot points.

So how did a basic cable television show based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic comic series, set in an apocalyptic dog-eat-dog world filled with flesh-eating zombies and even scarier human beings, become a ratings juggernaut and cultural phenomenon? Why is the show such a massive hit? In this playful yet comprehensive guide, Vigna dissect every aspect of The Walking Dead to assess its extraordinary success.

In the vein of Seinfeldia,Vigna digs into the show’s guts, exploring its roots, storyline, relevance for fans and the wider popular culture, and more. He explores how the changing nature of television and media have contributed to the show’s success, and goes deep into the zombie genre, delineating why it’s different from vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. He considers why people have found in zombies a mirror for their own fears, and explains how this connection is important to the show’s popularity. He interviews the cast and crew, who share behind-the-scenes tales, and introduces a cross-section of its diverse and rabid viewership, from fantasy nerds to NFL stars. Guts is a must have for every Walking Dead fan.

 

I’ve only recently become a convert to the cult of The Walking Dead. After years of turning up my nose, I finally broke down and gave it a try this past spring, and immediately became completely hooked. I binge-watched the entire series to date within about 2 months (not bad for 99 episodes!), and read all of the graphic novels as well. So naturally, when I heard about Guts, I had to read it, and the timing couldn’t be better, as season 8 of The Walking Dead starts TOMORROW. *jumping up and down and hyperventilating with anticipation*

Guts is a truly fascinating book about the show, examining it from all angles and giving thoughtful consideration to its popularity and relevance in today’s world. The author includes recaps of the major events of each season so far, and covers the show’s history, the background of Robert Kirkman, who created the comic series and is an executive producer of the TV series, some anecdotes from behind the scenes, and the ups and downs of production, including the still-ongoing lawsuit by the first showrunner, Frank Darabont, against AMC.

The book also includes interactions with fans, including some observations from a day at Walker Stalker Con, a fan event at which fans interact with cast and crew. The description of the vibe at Walker Stalker shows the deep impact of The Walking Dead on its devoted fan base.

Most interestingly, author Paul Vigna goes deeper than the pop culture tidbits (such as fan favorites, iconic weaponry, and best episodes) to show the philosophical underpinnings of The Walking Dead, connecting the show’s impact to sociopolitical and economic climate of the era. He examines the religious themes that find their way into the show, as well as the political constructs of the various societies and the ways in which both Maslow’s hierarchy and Hobbesian views on the natural state of man can be discussed in relation to themes of community and family as shown in TWD.

Some random and various pieces from the book:

Hobbes argues that the natural state of man, as in a state without the collar of a central government, is one where every man is at war with every other man. There is no industry or security, no artistic pursuits, just the “continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” Hobbes writes… In Hobbes’s argument, people enter a social contract and surrender some of their personal freedoms in exchange for the kind of security and permanence that will release them from the terror of that brutish life in the wild.

Like giving up their endless wandering to join the community of Alexandria, right?

On political structures in TWD:

What seems to matter most is that a leader in the post-zombie apocalypse is decisive… Negan and the Governor are homicidal and suicidal, but they are also decisive. Negan may be as liable to throw you into an oven as feed you a spaghetti dinner, but in his decisiveness, he can bring some sense of comfort — so long as you don’t cross him.

Acknowledging that “Rick has made enough mistakes to fill a book,”, the author comments:

Now, I don’t have a problem with Rick making mistakes. It wouldn’t be realistic for him to make the right choice every single time. Rick’s greatest quality, apart from an uncanny survival instinct, is the ability to simply choose. In a world where life is measured in hours and days rather than decades, that is an essential quality to have.

Further thoughts:

The biggest key to survival, really, is how quickly you can shed your old morality and discover a new one.

And finally, a quote from the season 7 finale, spoken by Maggie, that sums up the essence of TWD. This is who the main characters are and what they do — and what makes us love them:

To sacrifice for each other, to suffer, to stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live, to fight for each other.

This is what Rick, Maggie, and all the other characters in Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom represent, and why we keep tuning in, season after season.

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and happen to be inclined to dig in and go beyond the blood and gore, definitely pick up a copy of Guts. It’s a quick, interesting read, with just the right mix of plot points and food for thought.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Guts: The Anatomy of the Walking Dead
Author: Paul Vigna
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Publication date: October 3, 2017
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Non-fiction/entertainment/pop culture
Source: Library

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save