Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tranny - Laura Jane Grace with Dan Ozzi

The subtitle of this book is as arresting as the title and cover: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout. It's the autobiography of Laura Jane Grace, the founder of the band Against Me! It's a well written, fast read that chronicles the author's life, including childhood, the formation of the band, all that's comprised in having a band these days, starting out in the punk scene and risking the label "sellout" if one is successful, and of course the gender dysphoria that the author experienced through all of this.

Random rambly thoughts:

The cool cover looks kind of like a 'zine, which after reading the book I can only assume is intentional. Like I said, the writing is solid and I couldn't put the book down - I read it in the course of several hours after getting it from the library. I am not super familiar with the band Against Me! or their music, but reading about how they came to exist and the general trials and tribulations of being a punk band in the late 20th/early 21st century was interesting to me, someone who is older than the author and who once had ambitions to be in just such a band, but much closer to when punk got its start. Frankly, after reading this book, I am fairly glad that my lack of talent prevented this from ever happening - the tightrope walk of being constantly called a sellout if you experience any success would suck. Do people really buy tickets to shows just to flip off the band as some sort of protest statement?? Yeesh.

In any case, I enjoyed this book and hope there are more from the author, as she's obviously a talented person and writer.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Humans - Matt Haig (Spoilers)

Hi Readers! I managed to read a book! Hooray! :) If you're still reading my blog, thank you! please stick around :)

So this book was a recommendation, and to be honest, I was looking for something written in what I like to call the "common vernacular" - as opposed to, say, Jane Austen, and I took a chance on this book, hoping it would spur more reading.

The good news is, I do feel more like reading these days, so that's good!

The bad news is, this book wasn't a new fave.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad book or anything; and it truly fit the bill of being a fast read that was indeed written in the common vernacular.

However, it was a letdown in many other ways. It reminded me way too much of "The Time-Travellers Wife," a book that advertised a really interesting premise and then quickly became a book that was really about infertility. The supernatural elements didn't need to ever exist; the author could have just written a book about someone struggling with infertility, as the time traveling parts of the book were actually silly in the overall context of the book. And so it is with this book, which is supposedly a book about an alien coming to Earth but in reality is a cliched ode to a specific woman and their teenage son. I have no problem with a writer doing this - Judd Apatow, for one, has made a huge career while mainly writing movies that are nothing but love letters to his wife and kids - but I was honestly looking for a book about aliens, not a family drama. I feel like there are 10000000000 books that are family dramas and not even a fraction as many books that might be about aliens, so it was disappointing when the "alien" aspect is quickly overtaken by the other stuff. So it wasn't an awful book or anything, it just wasn't what I was hoping for when I read the description and assumed a book that was supposed to be about an alien coming to Earth and trying to fit in as a human, and instead I got a book about a dysfunctional Earth family, and how much the father figure suddenly decides that he LOOOOOOOVES his dysfunctional family and needs to try harder, like so many other books. Sigh.

I don't mean to be a downer, but I was hoping for more from my first read in a while. Luckily I have an enormous TBR pile to draw books from, now that I am more inclined to read. Let's hope I can get some momentum!

Friday, June 30, 2017

June - This Month in (Not) Reading, the Sequel

Not much to elaborate on - I didn't get any reading done in June! Sigh. I'm obviously getting really behind in my challenges, so let's hope I can get out of this slump soon.

I hope y'all did more reading in June!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May - This Month in (Not) Reading

Ugh, no reading this month. In my defense, I had some "finals" for some classes I was taking and that took up a lot of brain time, so that didn't help. And now it's almost summer, sigh. I'm hoping the awful heat and humidity will keep me indoors and lead to some serious reading!

Are you ready for summer??

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April - This Month in Reading

Well, I managed to meet my goal this month - too bad it was super paltry! I'm hoping May will be a better month for reading.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri

This was a good Library Sale shelves find, although to be honest if I had realized that it was short stories instead of a novel, I might have passed. As it happens, there was some overlap in at least 2 stories so that was more enjoyable for me, and in fact, it was good to read different sides of the same story, so maybe I"m warming up to short stories after all this time, ha ha.

In general, I enjoy this author's writing, and it's always an easy and fast read, even if it does conform to that Atlantic article I link too far too often to do so in this post. Definitely great beachy reads for the upcoming season.

Friday, March 31, 2017

March - This Month in Reading

March was not the best reading month I have ever had - I read a total of 3 books. I guess it's better than 0 books, so I'll let it go. For April, I hope to read more books but at this rate I will just shoot for one.

How is your spring reading going?

Monday, March 20, 2017

The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton

The story of Lily Bart, the main character of this novel, is one that is particular to her time, but also strangely specific. Many of the events in the novel are based around outdated social customs and mores that we don't follow or adhere to today - nor should we. On the other hand, at its heart the book is about wanting to live above or beyond your means, and how you can thereby make poor decisions that ultimately ruin you. And it's a rather wicked satire on the so-called "upper classes," who buy things just for the sake of buying things, but who are hypocrites without consciences who are actually very uninteresting, and have no interest in the world around them, despite being able to afford to see that world.

Something about this book reminded me a lot of one of my favorite novels, Frank Norris' McTeague. Both books seem to be about people wanting to escape the class their family was in, but in the end becoming trapped at the level to which they were born, incapable of escape. One main difference is that Lily Bart is portrayed as someone who refuses to surrender her principles, while some of Norris' characters are willing to toss theirs aside if it means they will get what they want (or what they think they want).

What struck me most about the book was that the real tragedy of the story is that so many people were constrained by the silly "rules" and were unable to be who they wanted to be. More than once  while reading I thought to myself, why don't these characters just run off and live someplace else? Why are they so attached to this setting and these other people? Maybe I'm too much a product of my times and don't understand things as well as I should, but I feel like I'd rather be myself than have to put up with a lot of nonsense in order to have something different.

All in all I see why this book is a classic. Recommended.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Dangerous Animals Club - Steven Tobolowsky

This is yet another of my interesting Library Sale shelves finds, which I grabbed because I like the author, arguably America's most recognizable character actor. Possibly most famous for his role as insurance salesman Ned Ryerson in the wonderful comedy Groundhog Day, he pops up in virtually every movie and TV show. I wanted to read something light today, so I grabbed this from the pile and settled in.

Several hours later, I confess I have mixed feelings. The writing in this book came off as sort of pretentious. Before I started reading, I didn't quite realize that he was a Baby Boomer, but it made the writing make more sense once I figured that out. There was also what I can't help but view as bragging by said Baby Boomer that in his day one could move to a big expensive city like Los Angeles and find a reasonable, decent, affordable apartment as an out of work actor. For Pete's sake, we get it, in YOUR day, these things were possible, but strangely enough, they aren't any more. Go figure! Sigh. I also got tired of hearing about his ex, Beth. It's evident that he is working through his feelings about this long term relationship, but it's unclear to me why they were together for so long. Honestly, she just sounded exhausting, and I would love to hear her side of it.

In any case, this was a relatively fast read that kind of went all over the place. It wasn't a bad read, but wasn't great. So this is a mixed review, I guess.

On the plus side, I am claiming it for my "brown" book for the Color Coded Reading Challenge, based on the cover (see photo):

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Gypsy: A Memoir - Gypsy Rose Lee

Yet another fortuitous Library Sales shelves find. I had heard of Gypsy Rose Lee, and of course the award-winning Broadway musical based on this book, although I've never seen it. After reading this book I am not sure how much I actually know, and how much of it is made up, or at least embroidered.

All the same, it's a very entertaining book. It chronicles the early lives of the author and her sister (who ultimately became actress June Havoc). The sisters shared a stage mother that couldn't have been more on the nose if she had been sent over from central casting. Equal parts con artist and ambitious show biz wannabe, the mother looms large in this book, and her presence even sort of overshadows Gypsy Rose Lee as the star of her own book.

The tales are amusing and well told, and the author paints a picture of life in show business as vaudeville was succumbing to the "talkies" and then the Depression, and performers often had to switch to burlesque and similar specialities to keep performing. I feel like I can picture with great clarity what this life was like, and can also understand the allure of the transient life of "show folk" - and also be grateful that I am not dealing with people trying to cheat me, sleeping in fleabag hotels (if you're lucky), getting lice, and other perils of life on the road.

The book has less detail in the later parts, and in fact we gloss over such events as the birth of her only child, son Erik - we don't even learn who Erik's father was. The book ends sort of abruptly; maybe the author was adhering to the show biz mantra of "always leave 'em wanting more." If you do, it turns out Gypsy Rose Lee wrote a couple fiction books and many short stories before penning this memoir; she's a good writer so I would like to check those out. All in all this was a memorable read that paints a picture of a bygone era of show business. Recommended.