Category Archives: pages

2014 in review: Books.

In 2012, my goal was to read 60 books. I achieved that goal! I read 62 books! In 2013, I increased my goal to 70 books. I did not achieve that goal. In fact, I failed in 2013, and again in 2014. Meh, life goes on. But DEFINITELY I will reach that goal in 2015, because now I have a baby, ahem. REGARDLESS, here is my Year in Review: Books.

The 5 best books I read in 2014:

Hyperbole and a Half — Allie Brosh (10/10)

This book was super hilarious and I laughed out loud multiple times.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia — Mohsin Hamid (9/10)

Hamid is suuuuuch a great writer. GREAT style. I liked The Reluctant Fundamentalist more than this book, but I liked Fundamentalist more than 95% of everything I read, so I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison. ANYWAYS, this was really good.

On Such a Full Sea — Chang-Rae Lee (9/10)

If a book review mentions the phrase “post-apocalyptic” or “dystopian future,” congratulations, you have found my kryptonite and shut up and take my money I will now check that book out of my local library.

The People in the Trees — Hanya Yanagihara (9.5/10)

Okay, here is the thing: I am super tired right now and I can only dimly remember this book but I know I liked it BUT I also can’t think of WHY I liked it so much, other than to say “I liked the plot.” Oh my god, this is what it’s come to. Earlier today I pronounced “Yosemite” as YO-zem-mite, so whatever, at least this is somewhat coherent.

Annihilation — Jeff VanderMeer (10/10)

OKAY! This book was AWESOME. Genuinely one of the best books I’ve ever read. So descriptive. It tried to make me feel nauseous, and guess what, it worked! I felt sick reading parts of this! That’s HOW GOOD the writing is! Also, there are a ton of fun, cool mysteries that are brought up! Questions are raised! But guess what! This is the first book of a trilogy, and a lot of those mysteries and questions are never solved/answered by/in the third book and that is super frustrating. Do you remember the TV show LOST? This book is like the first couple of seasons (SO good!), the second book is like the next couple (getting antsy, not much ‘splaining going on…), and the third book is like the last season EXCEPT instead of saying “purgatory,” it says “LOL you thought there was an explanation for that? That’s so cute!” AARGGHHH. It basically offers nothing, which is the author trying to say that some things are just unknowable. I GUESS!

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Tigerific! (Not so much for the tiger, though)

From The Remains of the Day:

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From Crazy Rich Asians:

tiger_jpeg

 

 

Okay, maybe the passages aren’t THAT similar, but it’s still kind of a weird coincidence.

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December 4, 2013 · 1:16 pm

Oh, Brother.

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver is a deeply weird book. Except for the main character’s emotional austerity and some explicit parallels detailing how sister/brother relationships can be very much like mother/son relationships, there is little here that resembles Shriver’s most well-known book, We Need to Talk About Kevin. An incredible and disturbing book about a mother questioning the impact of nature versus nurture in regards to her sociopathic son, Kevin is now ten years old, but it left such a stain on the “books I’ve read” part of my brain that I couldn’t help but to read Big Brother in its shadow. Not a fair fight, really.

Big Brother is intentionally broken into three parts by the author. She does this for the purpose of storytelling, but thematically it fits into how I saw the book: part one is where the author feeds into the absolute worst stereotypes about obese people and makes it clear exactly how disgusting she thinks they are; part two is where things become too bizarrely fantastical to be true; part three is where you learn things seemed untrue because they were. The ending is a trick, but one that doesn’t quite work because what came before wasn’t believable enough in the first place.

The three main characters — Pandora, her brother Edison, and her husband Fletcher — bounce between being merely obnoxious to maliciously cruel. And yet, no one in the book seems to really care what insults and emotional abuse is casually thrown around. In particular, Fletcher, who calls Edison a “fat fuck” several times throughout the novel and moves on to a worse invective-filled rage from there, is still treated as someone who is basically decent. It is mind-boggling that Pandora wants to stay in a relationship with a man with seemingly no redeeming qualities. Not that Pandora is a prize herself. Her company creates and manufactures dolls that spit out phrases chosen by the buyer and made to resemble someone the buyer knows. Buying the doll is a passive-aggressive measure, meant to embarrass and chasten the person to whom the doll is given by pointing out that the person tends to repeat annoying, dumb phrases, over and over. Just what everyone wants: a gift that tells them how annoyed their loved ones are with them. Somehow, the reader is to believe that these dolls are both in high demand and incredibly expensive, and in this way, Pandora has become very wealthy. Edison is generally just very obnoxious, speaking in this ludicrous “jazz” shorthand — “I play with some heavy cats,” “you dig?,” “jive,” and so on. He is a pathetic figure, but at least he isn’t outright cruel, and if he weren’t so irritating he would be a sympathetic character.

The “surprise” ending is a strange decision, and I wonder if it was the intended ending all along. Whatever minute movements the characters could have been interpreted as making towards learning anything or becoming better people are wiped away. The reader is left with no character development and very little plot development. No one learns anything, people stay cruel, no one changes, and all we are left with are Pandora’s vague doubts about her inaction. However, Shriver indicates that even if Pandora had taken the action of constant, insistent surveillance over her brother (like Big Brother, get it?), the outcome would’ve been the same regardless. The moral is that some people are beyond help, so don’t worry yourself with trying.

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An open letter to the j crew March 2012 catalogue

Dear j crew March 2012 catalogue,

I must formally request that you refrain from treating your readers like morons who don’t realize that j crew clothes are very preppy and very expensive and as such, the ridiculous hair styling presented before us can only be a total joke. No one who wears j crew from head to toe is styling her hair like this.

This isn’t even “she just woke up” hair. This is hair that has been carefully styled to look, I don’t even know, like she’s been wearing a winter hat for days and she’s been really sweating into it?

What is even happening here? What is the look you are going for, catalogue? You are full of the preppiest clothes possible, but you want readers to believe that the same woman who wears preppy, expensive clothes also rubs her scalp in grease and carefully makes her hair look like a giant comb-over before she leaves the house? Stop.

By far though, catalogue, this is the worst offender:

Catalogue, PLEASE. These women are in bridesmaid’s dresses. You mean to tell me that at a wedding where all of the bridesmaids are wearing expensive j crew dresses, they are going to arrive with hair like this? No. That is ridiculous. They look like they just ran a marathon and then pulled on these dresses. No. I will not accept this, catalogue. This doesn’t make any sense. Who are you trying to appeal to? This doesn’t look casual and effortless. It looks like a LOT of effort went into making sure these women had messy, greasy, hat hair. This isn’t 1994. You aren’t selling grunge clothes in a misguided attempt to capitalize on a nostalgic customer base. You sell SPERRY’S, for god’s sake!

Get your act together, catalogue.

Do better, be better: Let this be your motto for your April 2012 catalogue.

 

 

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Top 7 books I read in 2011

I read 57 books in 2011. Initially that sort of sounds impressive, but really, it’s barely more than a book a week. BOOOO! That is not that great. Regardless, here are my top 7 favourite books that I read in 2011, in no particular order:

1. Swim Back to Me — Ann Packer

The last book I read in 2011, this is a collection of short stories that inspired me to resolve to start writing something substantial in 2012. One of the stories falls a bit flat, but the rest more than make up for it. I look forward to reading more of Packer’s (older) work in 2012.

2. Hark! A Vagrant — Kate Beaton

She’s smart, she’s Canadian, and I have a total crush on her. 2011 was a great year for Kate Beaton, and for me fans to stalk see her at comic shows and author festivals. I love her clean drawings and the way she perfectly captures facial expressions. And let’s face it, anyone who can make Wonder Woman interesting is clearly an amazing talent, ha ha.

3. Eating Animals — Jonathan Safran Foer

I was already vegan when I read this book, but if I hadn’t been, Eating Animals would’ve tipped the balance for me. At times a very painful and sad read, this book should be required reading for those who choose to remain ignorant about where their edible animal products are coming from.

4. Ten Thousand Saints — Eleanor Henderson

If you’re at all interested in reading about New York City in the late 80s, this is a great starting point. The story lags a bit at times, but the way that Henderson uses major cultural and social touchstones of that place and time — the AIDS crisis, the straight-edge movement, CBGBs — as a backdrop to her story is deft.

5. The Historian — Elizabeth Kostova

HAHAHAHA oh boy this book was ridiculous! But in the best way possible! Very entertaining, and I inadvertently learned a lot about Vlad the Impaler, so.

6. The Paris Wife — Paula McLain

Paris in the 1920s with Hemmingway. What else do you need to know? Read this, and then watch another medium’s interpretation of that place and time in Midnight in Paris. A great, nerdy combo.

7. Sarah’s Key — Tatiana de Rosnay

A heart-breaking work of historical fiction centred around the Vélodrome d’Hiver roundups. I hadn’t really read anything about the Nazi presence in Paris during World War II, so this book was very illuminating for me. A definite page turner until the book’s central mystery is solved — it should’ve been wrapped up a bit sooner after that.

Honourable Mentions:

The Leftovers — Tom Perrotta: Not as strong as some of his previous work, but certainly well-written and interesting.

Zone One — Coulson Whitehead: I found the main character (and narrator) a bit dull, but the ending is realistic and spectacular.

Cutting for Stone — Abraham Verghese: To be blunt, this book is way too long. Almost 700 pages! I mean, come on. However, the final 300 pages were worth the initial read.

The Uncoupling — Meg Wolitzer: Like Tom Perrotta, Wolitzer is one of my favourite authors, and I found that The Uncoupling just didn’t measure up to previous work.

Anything by Jennifer Haigh: Besides Ann Packer, one of my favourite new-to-me author discoveries!

For a complete list of the books I read in 2011, see Books I’ve Read 2011!

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Get your war on

Yes yes yes. It’s back!

I love you David Rees.

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George Bush does care about Kanye West (‘s opinion)

…and also was AGAINST the war in Iraq, duh.

What a fucking asshole!:

So, Kanye’s statement was “disgusting,” but that whole “leaving people to die” thing, a close second, I’m sure. Or was 9/11 second? Hard to say when being pointed out as a racist ranks so high on the list of things you are disgusted with.

 

LOLOLOL!!!!! What?!!?!? I didn’t realize his memoir was going to be mostly fictional!! What a great book this will be. Good Christmas gift, I’m sure.

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