All the Books I’ve Read in Korea (16-30)

Here’s part two (Books 16-30) of “All the Books I’ve Read in Korea,” a thrilling series that only one person in the entire world cares about (me.) Enjoy!

16. The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket. I suddenly got the urge to read the first Series of Unfortunate Events book, because despite knowing the stories well I don’t remember ever reading them as a child. Also because I realized at this point that I was behind on my book count for my reading challenge, and children’s books are always the way to go for quick catchups. I think I read this in one sitting, and it was the same sort of feeling I got from not reading it in childhood: the idea is totally for me, but the book itself isn’t.

17. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay. I listened to this while getting my classroom ready before school started, I think? I have memories of climbing onto the cabinets to take some truly horrendous paper vines down off the bulletin board at the same time as Gay is talking about Green Girl and the need for truly feminist media. It was empowering, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Mostly, I think, because it was too long in parts.

18. Why Not Me – Mindy Kaling. Oh. This book. This book may have very well saved my life. Well, or my sanity. Definitely one of those, maybe both. So let me tell you a story. This is a story about a girl who, despite being naturally fairly durable with quick reflexes, does not like to exercise. Or go outside. Or, you know, be active in general. This girl thought it would be fun to go on a light hiking trip to one of the most beautiful places in Facebook photos, Seoraksan, a very tall mountain in Korea. This girl thought that, for the trip to be open to the public and publicized as a casual hike with some options for more experienced hikers, the way would be, if a bit sweaty, still doable. This girl then went hiking with a group of people who were obviously masochistic psychopaths parading as casual hikers, including her trip-buddy, a military trained outdoors hiker from Finland who decided to do the 12-hour hike up to the very highest peak of the mountain “just because.” That girl, if you didn’t already know, was a pitiable Past Weatherly, who had no idea that Korea is the Land of the Morning Calm, the Country of Kimchi, and the Nation of the Worst Mountains in the History of Mountains Seriously Who the Fuck Decided to Make This Torture a Pastime?

Basically, I separated myself from the group of crazies, turned on my Mindy Kaling audiobook, and took frequent stone naps, starting at 3am and progressing to 4pm. It was a learning experience wherein the thing I learned was that I refuse to ever experience that again.

The book was hilarious, though.

18. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell. I’m a big fan of Rowell’s other work (see Fangirl, my comfort read to end all comfort reads), but this one was just ok. It felt like a novelty. I mean, it was sort of a novelty, but the best novelties feel important, at least in the moment. I guess that made it a novel novelty. heh.

19. Devil in the White City – Erik Larson. Because nothing says “relax into a cozy chilly November” than reading about serial killers. What, that doesn’t work for you? huh.

20. Tampa – Alissa Nutting. To be perfectly honest, reading about a teacher who sleeps with her young students while being a teacher constantly surrounded by young students was one of the most disturbing reading experiences of my life. This book was super difficult to read (I think it took me four months in total, actually), and the comparisons to Lolita stop at the pedophilia– the writing isn’t anything gorgeous. It’s straightforward, though, and it definitely does its job in crafting a truly horrifying villain in the main character. So… good job? I guess? *Rushes to take 1,000 showers*

21. Julie & Julia – Julie Powell. This is another comfort read for me, and I read it more as a motivational book than a memoir. The idea of doing something every single day for a year and documenting it is something I’m SUPER INTO, though of course you’d never know it by my complete lack of blog… Whenever I read this book, I also get the completely unfounded notion that I might be a culinary genius. This high lasts for about as long as it takes me to fail at baking a potato, or burn a grilled cheese that I have put expensive cheese on, for the flavor palate. 

22. Blue is the Warmest Color – Julie Maroh. This broke my heart into a thousand pieces. I read this as a substitute for watching the movie, which I am self aware enough to realize will deliver an emotional blow from which I will never recover.

23. Flora and the Flamingo – Molly Idle. Look, I was behind on my book count so I read a children’s book alright? Sue me.

24. Under the Banner of Heaven Jon Krakauer. Being completely non-religious myself, I find great joy in learning about religious practices leading to a violent, crazed end. Plus, you know, Mormons. I can’t get enough of Mormons.

25. One More Thing – BJ Novak. This was a reread, and is one of my favorite short story collections of all time. My dad hates it because when we listened to the audiobook in the car, the first two minutes had the word ‘fuck’ maybe 16 times. It’s an acquired taste, I guess.

26. Pixies – Sean Patrick O’Reilly. Pass.

27. Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak. So I read several children’s books. SUE ME AGAIN, THEN. MY LAWYER’S NUMBER CAN BE FOUND ON A BILLBOARD IN LOWER ALABAMA.

28. Powerpuff Girls, Various– Troy Little. I mean. It’s the Powerpuff Girls. (Whenever a series of comics comes up, I’m just going to count them as one, because I probably have no idea which individual book is which anyways, and you probably don’t care. It’s a win-win, if by “win” I meant “arbitrary decision.”

29. Adventure Time, Various. I mean. It’s Adventure Time. (Actually, no, these weren’t my favorite, I read them to catch on my lagging book count, and because they was free on Scribd. I really like the TV series, but I find the comics to be a little dull, except for the ones about Marceline x PB, and the ones about Fionna and Cake.)

30. Conversation #1 – James Kochalka. This is a conversation about philosophy and what art means and other deep stuff, that takes place between two artists in the medium of art. It’s pretty neat.

 

The next 15 contain a lot of chick books and a lot of comic books. What joy.

W

 

January Wrap-Up: Prose for Big Kids and Little Kids

What I Read in January (Non-imagey books)

tumblr_nin2v2et4h1qm7imdo1_500

Ok. So I read an absurd amount in January. Just, too much really. (That’s a lie, and I said it only for effect, of course. How dare I.) But seriously, the number is at 25 at the time of posting, so I could have slowed down a little. 

However, almost all of those were comic books. So. Maybe “slow down” wasn’t so much needed as “read some prose, man,” but such are the spoils. Here are my non-comics, non-graphic novel reads from this month. ENJOY. 

 

Fiction

 

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

metamorphosis-book-cover

This is not the edition I read, but I couldn’t resist this cover. This book… this book was extremely depressing. This was one of those books that I feel like I should have already read, and I knew the story of, but I’d never read the actual text. I still haven’t read the actual text, haha, because I listened to the audiobook from Librivox, which took me only a few hours. It was much, much more entertaining than I was expecting. Kafka’s writing is excessively accessible, and his characters are very relatable, very human. But the story itself was so miserable that I was quite happy to finish. From Goodreads:

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 6.12.03 PM

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

 pride-and-prejudice-book-cover-by-jessica-hische

This was a reread that I go back to every year or so. It’s such a comfort read for me that it’s almost not worth mentioning, except that I am insanely competitive and I have a competition to win, here, so IT COUNTS. I actually listened to the audiobook from Librivox. STILL COUNTS. 

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

the20importance20of20being20earnest

I’ve read this before, and this time I listened to the Librivox audiobook after finishing Pride and Prejudice because I was still in the mood for something a little light and fluffy. Although it is silly to the point of being sometimes trying, this is a hilarious play and a very quick read. I recommend it for anyone scared of being bored by the classics– the fight over Earnest is both totally ridiculous and totally entertaining. 

At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson

129700631

This is a book of short stories that came with crazy high recommendations from most of the internet book people I listen to. I’m not usually a short story person, but I decided that 2016 would be my year to change that, so here I am, la ti da.             This book was an experience to read. I’m glad I read this early on in 2016, because I really feel like it will affect the way I read and choose books for the rest of this year. These stories were a huge departure from what I normally read, and I realized how much I’m missing in my reading life by not reading more short stories. I loved some of these stories, and I didn’t love others. Some of my favorites: Ponies (oh my god, Ponies. That’s one I really want to print out and send to people.), 26 Monkeys, Fox Magic, and Chenting in the Land of the Dead.
I’m definitely going to be recommending this, but I’ll be very careful who I recommend it to. I think it will appeal to a very particular type of reader– it’s weird, it’s vague, it’s an anxiety-ridden read. It’s strange to review the book as a whole when all of the stories seem to exist on their own, but I really enjoyed it.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Listened to the audiobook, my first Patrick Ness book. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I’ve been burned a few YA audiobooks before, especially when narrators try to sound like a teenager (why you gotta be like that?) But I was really impressed with this book. The premise is pretty simple and, at this point, pretty cliche (as all anti-cliche things quickly become). “What if you’re the guy that’s not the Chosen One?” It’s pretty heavily reliant on the concept and its constantly describing the “chosen ones” as “Indie Kids” was pretty silly, honestly. But the main characters, the “normal kids” this book follows, are exceptionally drawn. I felt so hard for the narrator dealing with his anxiety, trying to be good but still a slave to his emotions at times. He just felt so REAL. He was a dick sometimes because people are dicks sometimes, even if they’re the main character, and even if you feel for them, and I really liked that. I also really appreciated how sex and love were handled in the book. The characters are in high school, and I’m often so uncomfortable with how high school characters put so much emphasis on true love in YA, but the way Ness presents this idea of love not needing to be romantic, or permanent, to be real and powerful is neither condescending nor particularly dramatic and it’s EXACTLY WHAT I’VE BEEN NEEDING from my YA. I wish I had this book in high school, I’m going to push it on my high school cousin and hope she thinks I’m cool. READ IT.

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami518zeqsrfzl

This book. Man oh man. So it only took me 7 days to read (I read multiple books at once, so that doesn’t say much– it’s super short, you could probably get through it in a day if you had the stomach for it.) Despite that… it feels like I’ve been reading this book for years. It was so. hard. to. get. through. The basic premise is Kenji, a young Japanese man, has a job escorting foreigners through the red light district of Japan, to various foreigner-friendly sex shops and strip clubs and stuff. There’s this horrible, gory murder of a schoolgirl around the same time that Kenji gets a new customer, an American named Frank who’s weirder than any character Kenji (or Weatherly) has ever encountered. And the plot goes from there, getting more and more disjointed and surreal with every twist. It is so bonkers. Ryu Murakami’s prose is really lovely to read– he cuts right to the quick of every sentence so that no description is overwrought but you get a keen sense of the atmosphere and exactly what’s happening. It’s really quick reading, too, it took me *maybe* an hour to read the first half. And then 6 days of painfully pushing myself to read the rest of it, and then an actual bribe to finish the last 15 pages. It’s been compared to Silence of the Lambs, and while it was gory, it wasn’t exactly scary. Just… really depressing, and uncomfortable, and brutally honest about human nature, and Japanese and American culture. When I finished, I was so relieved but I’m also in a book slump now, because of how much uncomfortable a reading experience this was.

Click here for my more spoiler-y review of it, I go into detail about a theory I read about this book that made me like it 100 times more.

Guards! Guards!  64216

This was my first Discworld book, and my first Terry Pratchett book, and I must say I had extremely high expectations. And I also must say… it didn’t meet them. Granted, while I was reading it, I enjoyed the experience, I could see, on a surface level, that the jokes were funny and the plot was fairly engaging. But I was never really engrossed by it, and when I put it down, I found it hard to pick it back up again. I’ll be reading another Discworld novel eventually, but I’ll be more careful about which one I pick.

Non-Fiction

 

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald

41c8uys2wvl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

My first nonfiction title of the year, and one I started six months ago. This book made me scared to connect my computer to the internet. So before reading this, I knew about Edward Snowden and the NSA and all of the other stuff this book was about from the news, of course. Or at least… I thought I did. But this book goes into such detail into Snowden, the leaks, the underlying privacy problems in the US and other countries, and all sorts of other terrifying stuff that I really feel like even if you have a decent understanding of the situation, you’ll learn stuff that will keep you awake at night. Truly excellent, really well written. Some parts were a little dragg-y because of the sheer amount of information that had to be conveyed, but I’m glad it wasn’t cut– it’s about the truth, and everything being done to try and hide it. So good.

51pueh2cuul-_sy344_bo1204203200_We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I can’t talk about this book highly enough, and I also can’t praise it as eloquently as many people, so I’m just going to say this: You need to read this. Yes, you. “But I’m not a feminist!” You say. “But this is a new trendy thing that is the result of millenials!” You say. I don’t care. Read this. Then, if you still disagree, then you can come air your grievances. Not that I will care about them, as people who aren’t feminists are denying my right to be thought of as fully human, but like go for it. It’s less than 50 pages. Seriously, go. I’ll wait.

Notorious RBG notorious-rbg-cover

This was a late-finish, and my last book I finished in January. And let me tell you, it was excellent. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a personal hero of mine for her badassery on the court and her logical, even-keeled view of the law. This is a really interesting skim of her life leading up to becoming a Supreme Court justice, as well as what she’s been up to during her term. I really loved all of the little anecdotes about very RBG things (her collar and fashions, her relationship with her husband Marty, her grammar sticklerosity), because it made this glorious powerhouse of a woman seem that much more interesting. A definite must-read, and totally on-trend with the cooler, more accessible looks at important figures in history (I’m looking at you, Hamilton.)

Children’s Books

 

Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

go_the_fuck_to_sleep9781921758843-4

If I wasn’t sure all of my pregnant and babied friends didn’t already have this on their shelves, I would be sending copies to all of them. LOVE. Absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud all the way through.

 

The Monster Machine by Nicola Robinson 

nicola-l-robinson-themonstermachinespread1

I don’t have much to say about this one. I picked it up after Go the F**k to Sleep because I had the stray notion of getting really knowledgable in children’s fiction this year. But then it was pretty terrible. The illustrations are glorious, truly. Great colors, interesting, lots of textures. But the writing is just… boring. And the story? Well the story is in the title. (Guess what the machine makes? I bet you won’t guess. Nah, you have no idea.) I think I’ll keep browsing for children’s books on Scribd, but I was pretty disappointed by this one.

 

 

Those are the non-comicy books I read in January! Stay tuned for my wrap-up of comics and graphic novels (yes, there’s more. Hold onto you hats and butts, it’s a LOT. January was a pretty crazy reading month, mostly because of how little actual work I had (desk-warming for the win!!) so I’ll probably not have a month as productive as this again for a while, but it was a great kickoff to the year!

What did you read in January?

W

The Propaganda Game (50 Movies in 2016 #1)

The Propaganda Game (2015), directed by Alvaro Longoria

Netflix, watched 1/11/16
Propaganda_ 3Poster_creditsA4_3

 The gist: This is a documentary on North Korea, specifically the propaganda being spread about North Korea by the regime itself and by other countries (cough the United States cough).

The Viewing Experience: was not great. I watched the majority of the movie while deskwarming, and the video was really stuttering and strangely edited, though I’m assuming this had more to do with my school’s internet than the actual movie.

My Review: If you know me in real life, you may have noticed I have sort of a thing for North Korea. And, indeed, one of my motivations for moving to South Korea was how interested I am in North Korea (though, I must say, living here has been fairly useless on that front. Excepting one air raid drill early in the year that was looked at by students as an excuse to escape class for 20 minutes or so, South Koreans seem generally pretty uninterested in their angry hat.) It’s not like a “man, I wish I lived there” thing, obviously, thank God, but it’s more of a “look at this real-life Hunger Games happening in front of us, why isn’t everyone obsessed with this, man I’m probably going to see a nuclear war in my lifetime and I really want to know why” sort of thing. I designed a class on the subject, I’ve read a ton of books on it, I’m into it.

pyongyangSo because of that, this is far from the first documentary I’ve seen about the country, and all the ones I’ve seen approach the topic in a similar way: present footage of smiling people in clean, seemingly thriving Pyongyang, and contrast that with the numerous reports from human rights groups and defectors of mass starvation, totalitarian control, and other atrocities. It’s not that this formula isn’t effective, it absolutely is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did enjoy the cuts from the DPRK supporters saying one thing, to the Amnesty International people saying the exact opposite, though after a little while it got a little heavy handed, and it never really had the shock value it seemed to be searching for. I mean, if you tell the viewer that citizens can be killed for saying something against the regime, it’s hardly surprising that you get no footage of citizens saying something against the regime, is it? Also, I found its view of North Korea to be very limited. The film showed many beautifully shot sequences in Pyongyang, and interviewed citizens living and working in the city, but because the filmmaker was not allowed to leave the city, there are is no coverage of the countryside. I appreciated the lack of bias shown in the coverage of Pyongyang, (there’s a point made that tourists and filmmakers often thing the entire city of Pyongyang is staged for them, which a worker says shows the tourists think themselves much more important than they are, and I think I agree), and because the film focuses on propaganda, it seems appropriate to use the only city open to foreign visitors. However, without showing any of the rest of the country, the film’s scope suffers, and I found I learned nothing that I had not already seen in other documentaries or in well-known books.

All of that aside, I did enjoy it (is enjoy the right word here? Probably not…) There were two things that stood out as different from other DPRK docs that really helped the film. First, the filmmaker makes use of the self-called Spanish Soldier, Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez, who is a Westerner working in and liaising with North Korea, as his guide. 440px-alejandro_cao_de_benc3b3s_de_les_y_pc3a9rez_in_pyongyang_in_2012This Chris Christie lookalike takes blissful ignorance to a whole new level. He founded the Korean Friendship Association (check the website for a wild ride), and is a believer in the DPRK’s ideals and the Kim regime. He was apparently complimented as a child for his communist beliefs by a North Korean party member, and had since nourished a dream of being a part of the North Korean system. He is treated well and has gained many awards from the military, but when watching this film one gets the sense that Alejandro is a pawn being used as a symbol for Western admiration of North Korean beliefs. It is equal parts entertaining and bone-chilling.

The second thing I appreciated as being fairly different from other North Korean-focused films I’ve seen is the acknowledgement of American propaganda against North Korea. The film made it clear that although North Korea is committing war crimes (and they are, even more than this film lets on), the United States is still compliant in spreading false information, which clouds any sense of truth about the Hermit Kingdom. I suppose this isn’t that shocking, seeing as how Fox News controls a large chunk of American news media, and would probably report that Santa was real if Santa came out as a muslim-hater, but it’s still refreshing to see a documentary on North Korea call out the United States on its role in spreading false information.

joel-shannon-dc
Note: this isn’t a screenshot of false information, but I gave up looking for the screenshots they used in the film after about 500 screenshots of “Is Obama American?” shows. My patience is only so stable.

TL;DR: This was a decent documentary on an endlessly-fascinating subject, and I’ll be surprised if we don’t see many more like it in the future. It would be a good place to start for newbies to North Korean research, or for those with a casual interest in the country. If you’ve got some knowledge of the country, but are still interested in seeing the absolute clusterfuck that is a European supporter spouting regime doctrine while being massaged into compliance, definitely give it a go, it was an entertaining watch. If you’re looking for new information, though, look elsewhere, as this covers much of the same ground as most of the popular films of the genre.

 

W

Beauty and Alco-Haul

 

So I want to do more regular old posts catching up on my days, because I take lots and lots of photos. Like lots of photos. A lot. Many. So prepare to know a lot more about my life than you probably wanted to.

(Then again, you’re reading a blog literally named The [My Name] Channel, so maybe if you’re that against it, you should examine your own internet habits. I’m just trying to help here.)

Okey doke, so here’s a haul of stuff I bought. My skin’s been freaking out recently, so I got some stuff to hopefully help that, and because my skin’s been freaking out, I also bought alcohol, because that makes skin troubles seem like they’re happening to someone else, like maybe someone not enjoying a carefree cocktail in a coffee mug. It’s the little things.

(Seriously, so little. Geumsan, South Korea hasn’t heard of liquor that comes in bottles bigger a… what is that… 750ml? Get it together, guys, some of us are not raised on soju.)

 

Mini reviews so far:

 

Clinique Acne Solutions Foundation — like I said, my skin’s been freaking out. I think it’s mostly due to stress, and my absolutely terrible diet, and the fact that I don’t drink a lot of water or get a lot of sleep… But like, besides that, what could possibly be the reason, right? Anyways, I bought this because one of my former roommates used to use this all the time and had excellent skin, and I thought it would be good for my skin. Impressions so far… not that impressed. My skin is still not happy, but now I have the added benefit of having a weirdly patchy and mismatched foundation dealing with the problem. The texture is just strange. I’m still wearing concealer and usually BB Cream on top of this, because the color’s not quite right, though, so I am probably negating any positive benefits due to that. I may put it aside and try it once I get my skin to a more neutral place (if that ever happens. Coming up on year 25 of being alive and year 405 of having completely ridiculous skin, so my fingers aren’t crossed*.

Make Up For Ever HD Finishing Powder — this is a finishing powder. It does the same thing as my ELF Finishing Powder, but comes in a smaller container and is about 14 times the price. I will not be repurchasing. *sticks tongue out at capitalistic marketing bullshit that convinced me to buy it in the first place*

Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer — this stuff is excellent. Actually full-coverage. It’s a little yellow toned for my skin, but wearing it with my current BB Cream (Dr Jart+ Black Label) helps it blend into my skin. I’m pretty bad at keeping my hands away from my face during the day, so staying power is not something I register on makeup… (for some reason, makeup doesn’t like it when you’re just smudging it around everywhere. How sensitive), but the coverage is excellent, and I’m on my second tube.

Grapefruit Soju — I dig it. I’m convinced there’s this conspiracy surrounding soju where everyone has agreed to advertise how strong it is and how crazy-drunk it gets you while having never actually tried it. Take it from me, a fairly small lady: soju is really not that strong. The unflavored kind tastes like the love (hate?) child of cheap vodka and sake, and the flavored kind tastes like soda. Both kinds are drinkable, fairly mild, and neither have never left me anywhere close to waking up in a ditch having forgotten my name (as so many advertised before I got here.)

 

Granted, my name is Weatherly. So, you know. That’s pretty hard to forget.

W

 

*Learned recently: “fingers crossed” is not a universal saying. I guess this may be obvious, but it never occurred to me before moving to Korea. I had to explain it to my carpool ride the other day, and let me tell you “it means good luck, but like hoping something happens, like really hoping it happens, and also it’s trying to make it happen, like trying to fix fate into making it happen, with luck and also just hoping really hard…” does not translate especially well. Sigh.

All the Bright Places: A review in Goodreads blurbs.

18460392

Let me just say right off that I did not like this book. At all. In fact, I would have put it down after the first 30% (note I say percent, because I listened to it– always a bad move when it comes to YA for me, I get so annoyed when I can’t speedread through the bad parts… and a LOT of this was bad parts.) BUT I am nothing if not aggressively competitive with my Goodreads numbers and persistent with finishing even the most annoying of books, so I finished it.

After a long, long time. Seriously, this took me over a month to listen to, and for a short little book like this that’s bogus. It was just not good. The characters (cough I mean personifications of mental illnesses and paper thin stock people), the plot (cough I mean basically Paper Towns but with even less sense and a shit ending), just everything was a no for me.

Here are my thoughts as recorded while reading, in the small amount of characters allowed by Goodreads status updates. Enjoy the bitterness.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.12.44 PM

Rating: The one that made my eyes roll so hard they fell out of my head and I didn’t even bother putting them back. 1 star. Zero stars? I don’t even remember what stars are. giphy

 

W

May Reviews: The Future for Curious People

The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl
I bought this book from Kramer Books in Washington D.C. off of a ‘Staff Picks’ shelf. This is my favorite way to choose books at an independent bookstore when I have no wishlist in mind.
kramerbooks
I started reading it immediately, got about halfway through on the trip, put it in my backpack as I was getting off the airplane, then forgot about its existence entirely for three solid weeks. I read other things I had lying around, I bought books on my Kindle, I packed up my entire life into boxes and put them into temporary storage, and I continued forgetting about this book, though there was always this nagging feeling of forgetting, like I’d met someone for coffee but their face smudged into the background so that only the vaguest sense of an espresso and lights lingered.
kramerbooks2
Finally, though, I cleaned out my backpack and picked this book back up, started reading from where I left off (halfway through, the plot was not so difficult as to require rereading) and finished in about a day. It was… not bad. Again, much like Oscar Wao, I started out loving it. I think with most books, this is the case for me. I am generous with my first opinions, but after that I expect for my attention to be earned.
The Future for Curious People is about two strangers, Evelyn Shriner and i-can’t-remember-his-name-even-though-I-just-closed-the-cover (edit: Godfrey Burkes. yes. of course), both in relationships that aren’t *quite* right. They go to an Envisionist to see their future. An Envisionist, in this barely-future world, is a doctor who can hook you up to a machine so you can watch your hypothetical future with a romantic partner. The reasoning behind it being that though free will exists, human brains have the power to semi-accurately project future possibilities by processing sensory information and memory. Or something. The science is fairly vague, honestly, it’s a sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-fuck that requires a painless but necessary suspension of disbelief.
The book is mostly a love story between two predictably quirky, average-ish MC’s who get together after a book’s worth of will-they-won’t-theys. When Godfrey describes Evelyn, it is almost always in reference to either her legs or her quirky as shit rainboots with flowers glued on them. She has a kleptomaniac friend who also has a dorky (and non-threatening to the main character but good enough for a supporting character) love interest. I was looking for something that was just a half step up from the regular YA romance that I read for stress relief. After reading Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins, I am 100% convinced that a love story can be both adorable and quality, both squeal-inducing and leave a lasting impression, so I’m not going to settle for any crappily-written YA shit anymore. That being said, this one fell pretty perfectly into what I was looking for. It was cute, but not overly so. It had some interesting things to say about life and living in the moment and the ideas of memory, etc., but I wasn’t blown away by its thoughtfulness. It was quick, and I found it… endearing. Not amazing quality when examined closely, but not the worst thing humanity has ever produced.
 I would recommend it to those looking for an adult version of a light YA romance read, probably. My biggest problem was the manic pixie feel of the whole thing. How Evelyn was still this princess to be caught at the end, how Godfrey was this charming prince who isn’t appreciated by his fiance, (who at first seems perfect but then, of course, turns out to be vapid, shallow, etc. etc. etc.). It was just so damn twee. And so obviously written by a white guy from a barely-veiled version of his own experiences, with some very light sci-fi thrown on top. And just… I don’t know. Cliche? Is it a cliche to call things cliche?
Nevertheless, 3 Stars. Probably won’t read any more of his books, but I didn’t feel cheated while reading it. It’s definitely not on par with Rowell or Perkins, but it wasn’t truly heinously offensive either. Oh, how high the standards of this blog.
-W
P.S. Check out a better review than mine. I’d forgotten that Evelyn changes the endings to famous books to make them happy endings when reading for the blind. And later she finds out that she has fans. Of course she does. She’s Evelyn Shriner, and she glues flowers onto her rainboots. Of course the people listening to her dulcet tones butchering classic literature are like HELL YES, I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT ANNA KARENINA SHOULD HAVE ENDED IN A WEDDING. ALL THAT TRAIN BUSINESS IS JUST SO MESSY!
*eyes roll out of head and onto the train tracks*

May Reviews: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
When I started this book, I was sure it was going to end up being my favorite book of the year. The titular Oscar is one in a family of Dominicans who believe they are cursed by a fuku, a curse put on the family in part by the dictator Rafael Trujillo. The book is an exploration of the tragedies that afflict this family, which are blamed on this fuku. The story dives deep into Dominican nationalism, racism and class issues, the effects of dictatorships, and problems of depression and anxiety. It is, in a word, complex, and I think it’s really important that I read it. It is also a big step forward in my quest to read more diversely, as Junot Diaz himself is Dominican American.
My review:
The writing was amazing, rich and intricate, atmospheric in a way that made the Dominican Republic, something I know nothing about, come to life. And I loved the switching of characters, the way some of the viewpoints were omniscient and some were first person, some looked forward, some looked backwards and some were stuck exactly where they were in time. Every single character had an entire life, and it was sometimes difficult to imagine that they did not actually exist in real life.
But after about 50% of the way through the book I realized that I was no longer engaged. I was semi-interested in what the actual end of Oscar was, what eventually, finally, brought it about. And I was semi-interested in the further relationships of the family and the life of Yunior, the unflappable narrator.
But I just… didn’t care THAT much. I was reading for the writing, not the story. And when it was done (a very disappointing ending, if you ask me, which you did implicitly by reading this blog), I realized I was grateful that it was done. I’m going to rad more Diaz, I’ve already bought This is How You Lose Her, and I think that may do the trick, because a big complaint I had was how very tediously long the book felt.
All of this being said, I’ve found myself referencing it and thinking about it in the weeks after reading it. Maybe it will become a book I like more and more in retrospect. At the moment, though, I give it 3.5 stars, but 4 for Goodreads’ sake. 
-W

Weatherly Reviews– Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Warning– some people may find this review a little harsh. If you’re bothered by this, then

GROW A PAIR PUMPKIN BEAR, THE WORLD IS HARD AND MEAN.

Or you could click away. Life is full of choices.

For those of you not crying into your Elmo bib right now– on to the review.

Image

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Back  of Book:

An invisible boy.  A girl who floats.  A boy with bees living inside him.  What sounds like a circus act are just a few of the children living in Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children.  When Jacob Portman discovers the orphanage may be in danger from the same monsters that killed his grandfather, he must summon all his courage (and peculiar talents) to rescue the children and possibly save the world from destruction.

Image

The Weatherly Channel says:

What I liked about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was the author’s name.

Yep.

Look, I really tried to like this book. I really did. You can tell I’m being sincere about this because I used italics to indicate how very serious I am. And really, it wasn’t the book’s fault. Well, not completely. Well, let’s call it half and half. I listened to it on audiobook from Audible, and I think the narrator had at least a small part in how difficult it was to force my headphones into my ears, knowing this this could be the time the Sisyphusian* struggle ended with me giving up and letting the boulder roll over me to squeeze out my brains like toothpaste in order to escape.

Ok, I’m exaggerating. And using terrible metaphors. It really wasn’t that bad. At times, I was even kind of rooting for the main character, whose name escapes me at the moment, and who was in all honesty not much of a character. The story had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and at times I know I was listening to his plight without really disliking it. But the whole package was just not… good.

The thing was, it just had so much potential. I mean, it had the shambly old house; the timid but eventually courageous teen boy hero; the completely-disposable parental figures that are conveniently uninterested in their child’s whereabouts until nagging is needed to make the main character look put-upon; and, oh yeah, a bunch of kids with special abilities who may or may not be dead.

With all of this, I feel like I was right to expect just a little bit… better. All of the elements were there, but the final product felt a bit forced, a bit cliche, and a bit spoonfeedy. I know, I know, it’s a kids book. Here’s what I say to that:

Image

That’s not an argument. Don’t even. Don’t even. I’m talking to you, thinking that. Don’t even. Children’s books can be scary, and smart, and heartbreaking, and complex. This was really trying to be that, it just fell a little bit short.

Ok. I give it… 2.5/5 stars. That’s half-awesome, half-something else I wasn’t that impressed with. Read it if you want, it’s fast and who knows? You may like it some. Don’t listen to the audiobook if you can help it. Also maybe read it while you’re eating fries or spaghetti or something equally as delicious and distracting so the experience bumps up to like a 3 or a modest-but-pushing-it 3.5 and isn’t so-disappointing-it-kind-of-makes-you-sad-inside-but-also-mad-cause-like-come-on.

And this concludes the bitchiest review of a children’s book on record! Oh Miss Peregrine. I’m so hard on you because I expect so much of you… You’ll understand when you’re older. Or possibly in the sequel (which, let’s be real, I’m not gonna read.) 

Toodle pip!

W

(I felt kind of bad about how mean this sounded, so I included a picture of me from a few weeks ago at NOLA Mardi Gras, which I hope illustrates my intense devotion to being responsible, and therefore establishes me as a trustable source for literary criticism.)

drunkpic

wink.

*is this a word? do I care? why can’t the internet agree on a proper adjective form of Sisyphus? Non-answers to these questions and more brought to you by The Weatherly Channel, LLC, Copyright 2014. Tune in daily! ish.