What I'm Reading In June: A Vlog

I’m a dumb ass…I’m reading Ship Breaker with Debi, Kelly, Heather and ANA!!! I swear my brain is not working this week….I’m surprised I remembered at all who I was reading with :/

Oh…and I remembered the book I couldn’t think of by Foer…Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close…yes, must read that too.

She Loves You, She Loves You Not… by Julie Anne Peters

Julie Anne Peters strikes again with another amazing book. I’m convinced that this wonderful woman can do no wrong. She tackles so many very important issues that often are avoided. I’ve read four of her books now. In Between Mom and Jo, she addressed gay parenting; in Luna, transgenderism; with By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead she addressed teen suicide and now with her most recent release, she’s tackling coming out and the numerous rejections that can come along with it.

Another powerful book that happened to hit close to home. With this book, we meet Alyssa…a 17 year old girl who is disowned by her father for being “unnatural” when he finds out that she’s a lesbian. On top of that, she’s had horrible problems with her girlfriend, Sarah as Sarah is coming to terms with her own sexuality. With nowhere left to turn, she moves away to stay with her estranged mother, Carly, who has secrets of her own and works as a stripper during the day.

While Alyssa’s there, she finds herself more. But not without pain. She finds a job waiting tables, gets to know the townspeople, makes some important friends and try as she might not to fall in love again and be vulnerable, she meets Finn…a gorgeous Native American girl with once again…problems of her own.

This book points out one thing above all else. No one has it easy. I think we compare our lives to others sometimes and in those ruts, can think to ourselves “God, I really have it bad.” That’s not to dismiss at all what you go through as you struggle with your own life, but people so often put up veneers to protect themselves from getting hurt and we’re blind to those things. In a way we have to or else we’d be a walking mess. Everyone in this book has problems though that are slowly broken down. And that’s typical of life…we all have issues.

It also points out that coming out…admitting your gay…is not an easy thing. As I think most people are aware of. But it shows the courage it takes to do that. Alyssa goes through what I think most people coming out go through. What if my family disowns me? What if people think I’m diseased? I can’t be public like straight people can with the people they love…I could be beat up. Eventually these thoughts go away, but it’s a big scary world to enter. Yes, it ultimately leads to happiness, but it’s not easy getting there.

What Peters does best is capture the HUMANNESS of all of her characters. Gay, straight, bi, black, white, native american, male female, transgendered…she gets it right. What amazing insight to be able to put herself in her characters shoes so well. And what a gift as a reader to be able to share in that insight.

Coming To My Shelves In 2011

So I thought I’d be evil today and show you everything I’ve preordered for this year so far. Yes, I say “so far” because there are sure to be more to come :p Click the thumbnail for the full covers.

1. The Unwritten Volume 4 by Mike Carey – I still have volume three here to read, but I love this series so damn much. Ana got me into it when Volume 1 came out and as you will see, she still influences my reading greatly :p

2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – Yay a new Murakami!! As you can guess by the title, this is his take on 1984.

3. Sweet Tooth Volume Three – Debi told me about this series and it completely took me by surprise. OMG I love it so much. It’s such a touching, horrifying, important series in my opinion.

4. American Gods: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman – My favorite book ever…god, has it been 10 years already since this came out?? I’m so excited about this. It’s the author’s preferred text with lots more content!!

5. Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer – Just found out about this one today and I’m stoked. I fell in love with Pfeffer’s writing after the Life as We Knew It series….though the last book was a bit meh for me. But still…she can certainly get your blood pumping!

6. Celluloid by Dave McKean – I might have squealed when I heard about this series. McKean is my favorite living artist and I can’t wait to read this. From what I’ve read, it’s a very sexual book.

7. The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins and Dave McKean – Yeah…just read that over again. It’s a science book for kids written by Dawkins and illustrated by McKean! Thanks for the heads up on this one, Ana 🙂

8. Wildwood by Colin Meloy – Yes, the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. Seriously. Thanks again Ana for the heads up 🙂

So what am I missing here? What else is coming out that I don’t know about? Really…I need more books :p

Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet

Richard is a surgeon keeping a woman named Eve hostage in his home. Eve is kept in a room where Richard screams commands at her through an intercom and has her perform sex acts while he watches through a two way mirror. His moods go from longing for her to assaulting her all in a matter of seconds. There is also Mygale…a man holding Vincent captive in the basement of his home, gradually giving him more freedom and then taking some away. And then there is Alex; a young man who has committed a crime and spends his time running. And this is really all I can tell you about this novel. That’s all you’ll want to know, trust me.

This novel has one of the best plot twists that I’ve read since Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith. And that’s saying a lot coming from me. You start reading and you can see that the three story lines will come together somehow, but aren’t quite sure how exactly. Now this isn’t a “nice read.” I should warn you of that ahead of time. If I had to describe it with some sort of catch phrase, I might call it a sadist, sexual thriller. There’s a new genre. On the back cover, the Washington Post describes it as “an unholy collaboration between Sade and Sartre…Tarantula is a story that invites both respect and repulsion. As a reader, you are happy to have read it and just as happy, ultimately, to close the cover on it’s weird world.” And I couldn’t agree more with that description.

It’s a short book at just 124 pages, but that’s part of the beauty of it. Jonquet doesn’t waste a word. The story is expertly weaved in it’s few pages and every detail is closely paid attention to. It’s written beautifully and I wish I could read it in it’s original French to see exactly how the language is, but I can assure you that the translation is done very well.

This book is being made into a film by Pedro Almodovar, retitled The Skin I Live In, and I’m ECSTATIC about that. I knew that ahead of time and reading it just painted an Almodovar film into my mind so perfectly. It has that perfect dark, twisted, human, sexual feel to it that Almodovar always capture so well in his films. Films like Bad Education, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Volver…this will definitely be a gem added to his collection, I’m sure.

This book was published by Serpent’s Tail Press, which is a new to me publisher, but their catalog is incredible! I’ll certainly be browsing it in the future 🙂 Their World Literature section has some incredible looking books and they have quite a few lgbt books too. And their covers are amazing…which lets face it, always wins me over :/

As I said, this book is not for those who are offended by sex or violence in literature. Not for those who are offended by deviation from every day life in literature. But for those who are ok with a little (or a lot) WTFery in their books, Tarantula is a book for you.

A Big Bad Bloggers Post

Too many books :p But I’m excited about every one of them! So many books, so little time…there’s such truth to that statement. Here’s what came into the house since the last bad bloggers post!

1. Ruby by Francesca Lia Block – Just because I wanted more Block…(paperback swap)

2. The Cuter Book by Aranzi Aronzo – OMG I love this book!!! Heather sent it to me along with the next three books. It’s a bunch of patterns for adorable little felt animals XD I’ve made 4 already and I love them. So much fun. I want more books like this! (Gift from a friend)

3. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – I’ve actually read this already but didn’t have my own copy! Now, thanks to Heather, I do 🙂 (Gift from a friend)

4. The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine – Another from Heather! I know nothing about this, lol. (Gift from a friend)

5. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin – I’m intrigued just by the title of this one! (Gift from a friend)

6. The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto – I STILL have not read anything by Ms. Yoshimoto…but this book sounds really good. And it’s all Bellezza’s fault. Point to Bellezza. (Bought it)

7. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen – I still haven’t read anything by her either, but I own quite a few of her books! This one sounds great just like the others. And I love the covers to her books! (Paperback Swap)

8. Shattering the Stereotypes by Fawzia Afal-Khan – The subtitle of this one is “Muslim Women Speak Out”. Sounds like it will be a powerful book! This one along with the next few came from Debi as a result of her cleaning her shelves! (Gift from a friend)

9. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson – Can you believe I still haven’t read this book? Well I haven’t, lol. But it’s been on my wishlist forEVER, so I was very glad when Debi offered it to me 🙂 The point for this one goes all the way back to Becky’s review from when this first came out!  (Gift from a friend)

10. Wish Vol. 1 by CLAMP – My favorite group of manga artists/writers. When I saw Debi was getting rid of this I swooped it up! (Gift from a friend)

11. Wish Vol. 2 by CLAMP – Same as above (Gift from a friend)

12. The Legend of Chun Hyang by CLAMP – Once again, same as above :p (Gift from a friend)

13. Poison Study by Maria Snyder – I asked Debi for this one because I read Maria Snyder’s name as Midori Snyder :p But it still looks excellent!! (Gift from a friend)

14. Shooter by Walter Dean Meyers – I’ve read something else by Meyers and loved it…though I can’t remember what now >> So I was happy to take this one off of Debi’s hands too! (Gift from a Friend)

15. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi – SO EXCITED about this book!! Last time I went to visit Matt and Renay, we went book shopping. And I’ve been wanting this one ever since Renay put it on the top of her best of list last year. It was so much fun bookshopping with her by the way 🙂 Point to Renay! (Bought it)

16. Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters – I just love Ms. Peters so much. Her books are amazing. And I didn’t have this one so I bought it when I saw it :p (Bought it)

17. A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski – I actually had this one preordered and it just came in. It sounds excellent. It’s exactly what the title says…a history of the lgbt movement in the US. (Bought it)

18. CraftCycle by Heidi Boyd – This is a really cool little book that my sister gave me for my birthday. It has a bunch of ideas on how to upcycle a bunch of items and make new things from old stuff! (Birthday gift)

19. The Seer of Shadows by Avi – I just really want to like Avi’s books. The only thing I’ve read is Crispin and I didn’t like that at all…so I’m trying something else now! (Paperbacks Swap)

20. Dude, You’re a Fag by C.J. Pascoe – I’m super duper excited about this one too! It looks at the bullying of gay kids in high schools as well as the different gender roles that people play. (Bought it)

21. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – See who wrote this book? That’s why I bought it :p And I’m totally giving Patrick Ness a point for his own book because he should take the blame for writing such amazing books…and for making me cry like a baby. (Bought it)

22. Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet – I’ve literally just started this one and it’s very interesting so far. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this for review. It’s the book that the new Pedro Almodovar film is based on. And I LOVE Almodovar. Such amazing films. Should have a review of it up pretty soon! (Sent for review)

23. The Stuff of Legend Volume 2 by Mike Raicht – Well Debi will always get points for these :p Because she introduced me to the series and got me hooked! So excited that this second volume is out! Point to Debi. (Bought it)

Thrifty Green by Priscilla Short

I was really excited about this book when I bought it. When I finished it, I was even MORE excited about it. So many little things that I can do to change the world. What I worry about with books like this is that they will be impractical. That they’ll paint this overwhelming ideal of saving the world that is so over the top that it just completely shuts you down and you end up doing nothing but sobbing and worrying constantly because you are DESTROYING THE EARTH!!! But Ms. Short doesn’t do that. Yes, she presents the extremes, but she says “let’s meet in the middle somewhere.”

Priscilla was inspired to write this book after living off of the grid completely for one year in Taos, New Mexico. What I wouldn’t give to live in Taos. I’ve never been but I have a coworker who goes at least once a year and it sounds gorgeous. She got rid of all modern conveniences. Well she had some, but learned that she couldn’t use them as often. Her home’s power came completely from solar energy. She didn’t have a refrigerator…she used a cooler. And in doing that spent less money on food because she couldn’t hoard it all. She collected all of her water for all of her needs in a tank that was filled with rain water. She used passive temperature control techniques like using the sun to heat her home. She decreased her garbage dramatically and found other uses for things due to no garbage pickup. These are just a few of a myriad of things that she did.

And then she moved back to Colorado and back onto the grid a year later. But in doing so, she carried over a lot of her “green” habits and passed them on to us. What I love about this book is that it’s not unrealistic. She’s not trying to say that everyone should live completely off the grid, but instead talks about the benefits of it. The little ways we can make the world better, reduce our carbon footprint, form communities, be healthier…all through little choices that we make.

It’s also not preachy. Instead it educates with facts. Facts that are often big eye openers. I realized that there are a lot of things I can be doing that not only save the world, but save my life and save my wallet. There’s a myth out there that living green is EXPENSIVE!! I can’t do it because I can’t afford organic food or to install solar panels, etc. etc. And that’s fine! The truth is, living green is much cheaper. Reducing your energy consumption SAVES money. Growing your own food (if you can) saves tons of money and you can grow it without pesticides. And if you can’t do that, there are plenty of other things you can do.

Another excellent thing about this book is that it’s a great guide for those thinking about moving off of the grid. She shows us what worked and what didn’t work for her. What’s realistic. One of the best things she said in this book was that we all have these material possessions that we feel are NECESSITIES. I’m not talking cell phones or alarm clocks, etc, but things like washing machines, refrigerators, electricity, plumbing, etc. We think we can’t live without these things. And she’s not saying to get rid of them all, but what she is saying is to reevaluate how you use them. She says that if it didn’t exist 100 or 200 years ago, you don’t ACTUALLY need it. People have survived for millenia on far less than what we have now. It’s a good way to think.

Here’s just ONE example from each of the categories she talked about that shows what you can do to limit your consumption:

Heat: Apply passive solar principles to your home, or find a new home (don’t build one) An example of this would be opening the windows and blinds to allow the sun to naturally heat your home.

Power and Light: Turn off your lights when not in use to enjoy natural light and darkness.

Water: Do fewer loads of laundry and dishes by using clothes and dishes more than once before washing them.

Food: Grow your own, whether that means herbs on a windowsill or full-scale crops in the backyard.

Garbage: Stop buying packaged food.

Transportation: Stay put. Slow down your life and enjoy being at home and all the places within walking distance.

Stuff: Share big ticket items with a neighbor or friend: lawn mowers, tools, snow blowers or anything you use infrequently.

These are ALL things that we can do very easily. We take for granted that we can just leave the lights on in every room whenever we want….when if we turn them off, we can enjoy nature AND save on electricity. Buying food in bulk instead of in packages saves us money…walking places that are close by instead of driving or biking there not only saves gas, but it makes us healthier too….who wants to do laundry and dishes every day? Stop :p And save money in the mean time. And in doing all of these things, we’re saving the earth too. Oh, and she’s a woman after our own hearts too. She says that we all have that one thing that we CAN’T give up…and that’s fine. For her, it’s books 🙂

I really loved this book and was left with a lot of inspiration. Like I said…the tips I mentioned above don’t even touch on everything she has to offer us. And there is a great list of resources in the back of the book if you want to continue your reading on the matter. Definitely a book that should be on every shelf!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Whew…here goes. Remember that reading slump that I’ve been in? I think I may have finally snapped out of it thanks to Mr. Ness. A Monster Calls reminded me that there are amazing books out there. Books that won’t let you put it down. Books that will make you cry your eyes out. Books that will make you feel things you haven’t felt in a long time. Books that stimulate your mind and give you a feast for the eyes as well.

After reading Mr. Ness’ four young adult books that are out now (he does have a couple of other books that I own but haven’t read yet), I can see that he is a master at capturing human emotions. Not just capturing them, but relaying them to you and bringing you into the story as well. I didn’t know what to expect with A Monster Calls. I didn’t even know anything about the book. Just that it was based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd and was written by Mr. Ness. I did know that it would be engrossing as all of his books are. And I was warned that I should have plenty of tissues handy (which you should, by the way).

A Monster Calls is, at it’s surface, the story of Conor, his insecurities, his mother who is suffering with cancer, and a monster. As his mother’s cancer progresses, a monster comes to visit Conor. The monster tells Conor three tales and expects a fourth from Conor when he is finished his three. Conor’s story has to be the story he holds within him. The truth of things that he is afraid to tell.

Aside from the time spent with the monster, we get to know Conor and all he struggles with. This is what hit me the most. The honesty of the book. Ness says himself in the novel:

“Stories are important,” the monster said. “They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.”

And that’s one thing that Ness always shows us. The truth. And I think it’s one of the reasons that his novels are so hard hitting. They take us to places that we don’t always want to go. We live the stories with the characters and see that there is a bad side and a good side to everyone. But that having a “bad side” doesn’t make us a bad person. That because something is universally acknowledged as being good, that it its taboo to act any other way does not make us a bad person if we don’t always meet society’s criteria. That it instead makes us human.

You can imagine what Conor goes through watching his mom suffering with cancer. I’m not going to give anything away, but I can imagine that it was just as gruelling a story to write for Patrick Ness as it was for me to read. I love him for that. I love that he jumps into subject matters that so few other authors do.

And this amazing story is accompanied with equally amazing art throughout the book. Here, look at a page:

And that’s just a page with a border illustration. There are two page spreads of amazing artwork throughout this book that capture the feel of the novel perfectly. This aspect of it actually reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. In fact, Jim Kay’s illustrations often brought to mind Dave McKean’s illustrations. They are gorgeous and haunting and lend a perfect accompaniment to the novel.

I can’t give this book enough praise. Except to say that it’s the best novel I’ve read this year. And it will forever remain in my heart. Ms. Dowd would have been proud. Thanks for the stories, Mr. Ness.