Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A LITTLE LIFE Affirms That Book Buying is Not for Me

It happens, right? Different strokes for different folks. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara has gotten sooooo much positive press from every direction: book websites, "best of" lists, literary awards, my favorite bloggers, you name it. But...

I just couldn't do it. 100 pages into the novel I felt like everything was soooo flat. It took forever to even begin to know the characters, and once I did begin to know them, they were still lackluster. Understanding that everything ahead was over-the-top doom and gloom and potentially caricature, I decided not to torture myself by reading further.

After reading 10 of my own damn books in January, this was my reward to myself. I bought a digital copy to read along with Heather and Care, and I was SO STOKED to talk about it and explore it together.

Ultimately, though, part of my goal in #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks is to cycle through a chunk of my TBR books and NOT force myself to read things I don't want to. This particular DNF experience brought my own evolution in book buying into sharp focus. I don't want to burn money, y'all. I dropped $13 on this book I felt was a really good bet, and I knew within 48 hours that I had essentially burned that money.

With some yet unspoken but very real career changes on my wishlist for the near future, I cannot burn money. CANNOT.

It's high time I make friends with my local library with which I've had an iffy relationship. It's the only one for miles and miles and MILES around. There are no library systems in this neck of the woods unless you go to Dallas (45-50 minutes away). It is a small library with an extremely limited collection of books, though they have branched out in the last few years with more Overdrive selections. It's $20 per year to join the library if you live outside the city limits, and I do.

For a long time I forsook library checker-outing not only because I don't love my local library (it's an easy scapegoat), but because I was stuck in a cycle of buying books and letting them sit on my shelves, sometimes for years, which is how I got to this personal challenge in the first place. It didn't feel so iffy, so wasteful, to spend money on books when I knew they'd grace my house for years and someday possibly be a thing I'd enjoy (or not). But to be actively whittling my pile down, and ultimately working toward a quicker turnaround of reading the books I own, hating a book within two days of buying it made the light bulb go off in a very, very tangible way.

Bottom line: Even though I've allotted the opportunity to buy books for myself, I think I'll stick to books I know I'll enjoy (books I've read as galleys that I want keeper copies of, etc.) and opt for the library on new, spur of the moment reads. Many of you already do this, so I'm sure this post seems silly, but it's a BIG change of mind for me who has been a library dropout for so many years. Will I have to TRY to use my library? Yes. I may even have to think far enough ahead to use interlibrary loan at the university where I work, too, but I think it'll be worth it.

Are you a natural-born library user? Do you live in a place where it takes effort? Was there a reckoning that pushed you to the library?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang: The Great Polarizor

When I tweet the title of a book and "whoa," it can mean several different things, but in the case of Han Kang's The Vegetarian, it meant "this is f-blanking weird and kind of amazing." Bizarre because it's about a woman who suddenly rejects eating meat after a series of bad dreams and whose life fully falls into the realm of the creepy for the rest of the book. Amazing because it's compelling enough that I read it in one sitting mostly because it was creepy and bizarre. Catch-22, yo. Can't look away.

Note: I did receive this book from the publisher in consideration of an honest review. I don't think there's anything more honest than the title of this post. Also, I completely make up words like "polarizor." 

Yeong-hye is our main character, and her story is told in three parts. The first is her asshole husband narrating her decision and her changing habits as she rejects meat, stops serving it to him, and disrupts his life. This section also includes some really disturbing separation from her family and the beginning of a continual process of being estranged from the people around her. The second section is told by her brother-in-law who is much kinder than her husband but also equally messed up and abusive. The final section is narrated by her sister who struggles with the urges to "fix" Yeong-hye or let her be...even if that's a near-impossible decision. 

SO. MANY. THINGS going on in this novel. And it's short...only 197 pages (my e-galley was even shorter). Sadly, I am not as educated on South Korea as I probably should be, but I think anyone with an even passing interest in the news will see how this could be a critique of South Korean culture...especially of decisions that go against cultural norms. Yeong-hye is immediately an oddity and then a freak for rejecting meat in the eyes of everyone: husband, family, strangers. 

As the story progresses, Yeong-hye becomes more "plant like." She likes to sun herself, shucks off clothing at every available opportunity, neeeeeds water. It's pretty clear there's something bigger going on than a dream and a decision to eat meat or not. She's changing, becoming less of the world, and those around her take advantage or they don't. It's fairly heartbreaking to see her losing her agency...but did she ever have much to speak of? 

So why the title of this post? There's no doubt this will be a polarizing book because I already see the ratings split in my Goodreads friends list. It's gruesome at times. While the writing is beautiful and compelling, there's a lot of mentally filling in the gaps, a lot of ambiguity throughout. I loved it, and I was surprised to have enjoyed it as much as I did because in the first section I considered setting it aside. I'm glad I endured and gave it a chance because there's so much to discuss. It would definitely be a great book club pick if your book club likes a certain level of disagreement to stoke discussion. 

Have you read anything outside your comfort zone yet this year? Anything that confronted you? 

February 2016, Hogarth

ISBN: 0553448188

Thursday, February 04, 2016

#ComicsFebruary: The Time is Now

I have so many damn comics to read! Not complaining, just looking forward to immersing myself after letting these pile up on my ereader and on my shelves.

My single issue subscriptions are piling up the fastest, so I'm excited to get caught up on...

  • Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
  • Batgirl by Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart, et al
  • Jem and the Holograms by Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, et al
  • Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro

I also grabbed a few free first issues and subscribed to some new series!

  • Lady Mechanika #0 by Joe Benitez
  • Lady Killer #1 by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1-5 by Steve Ditko, Will Murray, and Ryan North
  • Paper Girls #2-5 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson
  • Pretty Deadly #6-8 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios
  • Monstress #2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

I also have some trades to get to, and I'm really looking forward to these...

  • Thor Vol. 1: The Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Jorge Molina
  • The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  • The Fade Out Volumes 1 and 2 by Ed Brubaker, Elizabeth Breitweiser, and Sean Phillips

Subscription box goodies and graphic novels from my stacks:

  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell
  • Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson
  • Drawing Blood by Molly Crabapple
  • Bone Volumes 2 and 3 by Jeff Smith

Whew! I think that's it for now. There's always more waiting in the wings, so who knows which ones I'll actually pick up!

What are you looking forward to for #ComicsFebruary? 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Gender Outlaws: A Vocabulary for Understanding

This review might be full of serious but embarrassing admissions. Things like...until two years ago, I had no idea what cisgender meant. Or even that it was a word. By extension cis male and cis female were completely alien to me. I went into Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman, with the expectation that I would learn a lot (because I knew, really, nothing), but I got even more than I bargained for.

An expanded vocabulary has happened. Besides the terms above: pangender, bigender, cisnormativity, feminine or masculine presenting, FtM, MtF, etc. I could go on for a while (Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Terms). While I feel ultra stupid, I don't exist in a day-to-day environment where these terms are utilized. Small town Texans are not so much in favor (generally) of discussing gender identity or thinking beyond binaries. A person might get shot for that (only a little kidding). Thank you, Internet, for throwing open the doors of experience and understanding because it was in conversation with friends online that I realized I was missing a lot.

I feel like this book was a great starting point for someone who wishes to gain a greater understanding of the breadth of experience across the gender identity continuum. There were experiences included in these essays and poetry, performance art and comics that touched, entertained, and educated me. As Goodreads puts it, Bornstein and Bergman "collect and contextualize the work of this generation's trans and genderqueer forward thinkers." It blew the top of my head off in the best way, and I can't wait to read more. If you're interested, I have a whole list of book recommendations here that represent LGBTQ+ issues and marginalized voices thanks to Cass

Seal Press, August 2010
ISBN: 1580053084 
Purchased by me during a Seal Press ebook sale!
Images by Freepik