little_tristan: (Bunny)
Snagged from [ profile] catyah:

The rules are: using only books you have read in the last year, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Trickier than you would think, but quite fun.

Describe yourself: Black Cloud
How do you feel: Bitter is the New Black
Describe where you currently live: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Mystic River
Your favourite form of transportation: The Love Boats
Your best friend is: Ella Minnow Pea
You and your friends are: The Losers
What’s the weather like: Good Omens
You fear: The Enemy
What is the best advice you have to give: What We Do Is Secret
Thought for the day: Who Fears Death
My soul’s present condition: Alone in the Trenches

Okay, I didn't read a lot of books that worked well in this kind of meme. Paints a picture, though, don't it? :D
little_tristan: (Look it Up)
These are my favorites of all the new books I read last year. While I re-read many five star favorites, I'm only including books that were read for the first time during 2010. For instance, WWZ would have made the list, but I first read it in 2009. When I didn't make a list.

1. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland

2. Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland

3. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

4. Missouri by Christine Wunnicke (translated by David Miller)

5. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch- How I Survived Nelly Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim

6. Mean Little Deaf Queer by Terry Galloway

7. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

8. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

9. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

10. Pickets and Dead Men by Bree Loewen

I also really want to break my own rules and include Book One of The Losers, which was just reviewed yesterday. It sort of counts, but not really, but just enough to be a footnote. Call it ten and a half.
little_tristan: (Losers Cougar Dead by Now)
Okay, I rarely review graphic novels because I generally don't consider them books, but for this one, I'm making an exception. Partly because it's the collected Book One, so it's like 12 comics, or 2 of the original collections, and that's a lot of reading. Even with pictures. And also, it's The Losers, so it needs to be mentioned on my journal as much as possible.

I read with the movie in mind, sort of working out the arrangements and putting it together, making the usual comparisons. But in this case, I can't say one is better than the other. I love the comic version of the guys, smoking and swearing and just in general being hardcore, which is kind of what they'd have to be to survive. (But I also the movie version, cute and sweet, totally PG-13 and ready to go to TBS next year with minimal editing.) My only disappointment is that it opens rather abruptly in the middle of the action, and without the movie to draw on, I'd have no idea what the hell they're talking about and it would be really hard to follow. It tells us that The Losers are a former CIA black-ops squad who are supposed to be dead, but not really why or how. That would drive me nuts if I didn't already know the answers. As it is, I'm really hoping to see that part in Book Two--issues 13 through 32.

Taken on its own, the writing is excellent and the art is--well, let's just say comics have changed a lot since I collected The Uncanny X-Men in the late eighties. There are a lot of closeups that made it hard for me to tell Clay and Roque apart, but eventually I figured out that Clay's the one who's lower face is never seen. This provides a nice balance for Cougar, whose upper face is always hidden by his hat. And, okay, I kind of like how they can show all the violence now, with the skulls blown apart and brains all over, and everybody saying appropriately inappropriate things about it. Whatever happened to the comic code, I don't miss it. Blood, brains, choppers, blowing shit up--it's a pretty good book, even if it does go heavy on the shadows and the confusing double agent stuff. Who cares, since it also has a sexy hacker nerd, a hot Mexican cowboy, and a seriously badass chick? Also a couple other guys, in case your taste runs that way.

Coming soon...Book Two.
little_tristan: (Look it Up)
Books that were completed in 2010, though some were begun in 2009.

Sounds Like Teen Spirit by Timothy English ★★★

What We Do Is Secret by Thorn Kief Hillsbery ★★★★★

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland ★★★★★

Christine by Stephen King ★★★★

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett ★★★

Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland ★★★★★

All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland ★★

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland ★★★

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers ★★★★★

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan ★★★★
That's only the beginning! )
little_tristan: (Look it Up)
I have to review this book as a kind of warning to others who might be interested in the life of Jerry Lee. If you want a biography of the man, this isn't it. I got it because it was pretty much the only one available for Kindle, and the Amazon reviews were decent. The thing is, this is a book entirely about the music. Or music in general. The author spends a lot of time talking about his own concert going experiences, as well as rock vs. country battles, label debates, The Beatles, and German history. It's sort of like a Chuck Klosterman book, only not funny. And whatever the subject of his books--history of heavy metal, rock and roll suicides, interviews with famous people--you always know it's essentially about Chuck Klosterman. I guess I know that about Joe Bonomo now, too. Shame he's not as entertaining.

The bulk of the book is spent analyzing every track on every album released by Jerry Lee, filling page after page with fascinating (not) details about how the 60's re-recordings of the 50's tracks aren't as good as the originals. The author does as much name dropping as he can, and fills a lot of space with repetitious descriptions of every live show he can find a recording of, but there's really not enough here to make a book. Maybe a really good magazine article, but not a book. Ten percent of which, btw, is source credits, author thanks, index, etc.

So, with all the analytic discussion over which recording of Breathless was the best, there really wasn't a lot of time or space to actually tell Lewis's life story, which was what I wanted. He tells us that Lewis married his cousin Myra, possibly the single best known fact of Jerry Lee's life, and then mentions her maybe three or four more times. There's a line about "increasing violence at home", but I've no idea what he was referring to. Then, after a hundred or so pages about live shows and The Rolling Stones, there's a paragraph about the deaths of Jerry Lee's fifth and sixth wives. There's no mention at all of numbers 2-4, or however many there were after #6. I've always kind of wanted to know how long his marriage to Myra lasted, how many kids they had, that kind of thing. But this wasn't the book for that. There should be a word for biographies that aren't actually about people so I could have saved my $10. I think I'll just look him up on Wiki and see if that doesn't cover it. Too bad I didn't do that first.
little_tristan: (Fatboy Come and Get It)
Pansy Division is possibly the first (maybe the second) popular gay punk-type band. Author Jon Ginoli grew up a fan of punk and rock, which he defines rather narrowly, and music was the main focus of his life. Though long suspecting he was gay, it was the gay lifestyle music that kept him from being sure. If gay people only listened to disco and had to worship Judy Garland, then he obviously wasn't gay. (This is fascinating to me, really. I want to have sex with men, which for a man defines "being gay", but the music sucks so I better go keep dating girls. Is that how that works?)

This is a recurring theme throughout the book, which is ostensibly the history of his life and of the band. But mostly it's replacing one set of judgments with another. After being outraged by fellow gays saying that he wasn't really gay because he liked Bob Dylan, he goes on to make it clear that one can't be a Pansy Division fan (or a proper homosexual) if one also likes Bon Jovie (who are apparently the equivalent of satan) or Oasis (not really sure what the problem with them was). Even playing at Planet Hollywood was a mistake because there were signed Bon Jovie and Spin Doctors guitars on the walls. And for all the times he insists on the importance of punk music and attitude, he even complains about kids coming to their shows in punk clothes because, "that's not our lifestyle". So the fans have to dress according to the band's lifestyle? WTF does that even mean? Basically, for all his talk about rising above stereotypes and insisting everyone just be themselves, in the end he's just like the establishment, defining by his own standards what people should be.

Other than that, it's a pretty fun read. The best parts are the diary entries from their tours with Green Day, who really took Pansy Division under their wing and supported them when they were new to the road. Even to the point of forcing them on venues, promoters and fans who didn't want anything to do with a band that specialized in NC-17 PWP fanfic worthy lyrics. (We're the buttfuckers of rock and roll/we want to sock it to your hole, for instance.) There were a number of shows they wouldn't have been able to play had Green Day not refused to play, too. But their other tours were less successful, and Ginoli doesn't do a good job of not being bitter about that. When they weren't chosen to tour with Smashmouth and 3rd Eye Blind, that turned out to be a good thing because both bands sucked and, ha ha, the band they did choose released one album and vanished without a trace. Basically, every band who didn't do whatever he wanted at the time, or who had a more enthusiastic crowd at a double billed show, had crap lyrics, couldn't play their instruments and/or were overly commercial, anyway. Basically, everyone who isn't PD, Green Day, or an all-lesbian band, sucks.

So it was entertaining, but I wish I hadn't read it because I love Pd's music so much and now I have very little liking or respect for Ginoli. It's the same problem I have with all music writers, really: they insist on labeling everything for the sake of excluding. You can't listen to this because it's not that; you can't like these because they aren't those. It's all about image and lifestyle with no room for mixtures of taste. I may have bought all their albums and DVDs, and told all my friends to do the same, but if Jon Ginoli was aware of the contents of my CD collection, he wouldn't want me at his shows and I wish I didn't know that.
little_tristan: (Books)
This could get long, so I'm not going to spend as much time complaining as usual. Short shrift for the mediocre is the rule of the day.

The Enemy by Charles Higson )

Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon )

Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen )

Like Pizza and Beer by Elle Parker )
little_tristan: (Books)
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.

The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.

~Their Eyes Were Watching God--Zora Neale Hurston
They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. )
little_tristan: (Books)
Overall, this is a thorough and interesting book, and some of the explanations of how the severe weather formed were fascinating (until it got too pedantic). But a lot of the geographical background felt redundant to me, having already read Laura Ingalls Wilder's On the Banks of Plum Creek and The Long Winter so many times. (For the cattle baron years, James Michener's fictional but impeccably researchedCentennial has much more detail and makes a rich, deeply layered story of it.) Laskin's descriptions of prairie fires, grasshopper plagues and, of course, blizzards, don't add anything for those who have read first-hand accounts, or even really good fiction. With the similarities piling up, the absence of any mention of Mrs. Wilder and her books became more conspicuous with every page. Conspicuous enough that around page 55, I checked the index to see if she was going to be mentioned at all.
Click here for the yes or no... )
little_tristan: (Penny Says Explode)
...Fletch remarked, "It's nice to see Corp. Com. mainstreaming people."

Huh? I looked at him quizzically with a mouthful of julienne carrots. Finally swallowing, I asked, "What are you talking about?"

"You know, your company. Mainstreaming. They hired that nice kid with Down syndrome," he replied.

I shook my head and dabbed at my mouth with a linen napkin. "Fletcher, I have no clue who you're talking about."

"The tall kid. He was blond with a striped shirt and gapped teeth."

"In MY office?"

"Yes. He was walking by the reception desk when I came in. When I asked for you, he got nervous and started to pace back and forth. I felt bad because I think I confused him."



"How much wine have you had?" I picked up his goblet and inspected it. Honestly, I always have to monitor that boy's intake. He gets into his cups a little too easily sometimes.

"Whatever was in the glass you're holding."

"Well, if you're not drunk, then you're hallucinating. The Chicago office only has salespeople in it. Maybe you're thinking of one of our suburban offices."

Fletch insisted, "Jen, you saw him. He took me to your desk."

"Noooo," I said slowly, the puzzle beginning to piece itself together. "Arthur brought you over to me."

"Yes! Arthur. That was his name. Striped shirt. Eager to please. Nice kid."

"Fletch," I said, shaking my head, "he's one of my salespeople."

"But I've never heard you mention him."

"Yes, honey, you have."

Fletch sat quietly for about thirty seconds, until he finally understood.

"Holy shit...was that...was that...was that Retard-y Arty?"

I know it's a mean nickname, but before you judge me..."

Yeah, um, Jen? Too late. This conversation runs from pages 21-23, and after I got done cringing and managed to open my eyes again, I very nearly put the book aside for good. (This is what she calls her co-worker at home? So regularly that her husband has never heard the poor guy's real name?) I mean, I'd read one of her other books (Bright Lights, Big Ass) so I knew she was a wicked, self-centered, egotistical bitch, but somehow this seemed beneath even Ms. Lancaster. The only reason I kept reading was that the jacket copy promised me she was going to lose her job and have to overcome serious obstacles, and, in her own words, "The bitch had it coming."

So I wanted to see her get it.
The problem is, it wasn't really worth it. )
little_tristan: (thinky)
Um, so to answer that question, no. But I would not, I mean, I would not ever preclude a black woman from being my girlfriend on the basis that she was black. You know, I mean, you know what I mean? If you're looking about it from, you know, the standpoint of just attraction, I mean, I think that, you know, I think, you know, I think, you know, all women are, I mean, all women have a sort of different type of beauty, if you will. And I think that, you know, for black women, it's somewhat different than white women. But I don't think it's, you know, I mean, it's, it's, it's nothing that would ever stop me from like, I mean, I don't know, I mean, I don't if that's, I mean, that's just sort of been my impression. I mean, it's not like I would ever say, "No, I'll never have a black girlfriend", but it just seems to me like I'm not as attracted to black women as I am to white women, for whatever reason. It's not about prejudice, it's just sort of like, you know, whatever. Just sort of the way, way like I see white women as compared to black women, you know?
--Ray, an otherwise articulate college student, when asked what he thought about interracial dating.
Why this matters... )
little_tristan: (Hangover)
Before everything else there had always been the lake.

It covers 730 square miles, making it three-fourths the size of Rhode Island. At 33 miles long and 30 miles wide, from the shore, you cannot see the other side. It is so big that it stands out even on world maps and pictures from space as a giant hole in a peninsula stabbing from North America toward the tropics. It is the third-largest freshwater lake completely within U.S. borders, behind only Lake Michigan....and Lake Iliamna in Alaska. As an outdoor attraction, the lake outdraws the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. Five times more people visit it each year than nearby Everglades National Park.

But in 1928, Lake Okeechobee wasn't a tourist attraction. )
little_tristan: (Books)
I don't have this book on hand at the moment--it's over at [ profile] oddmonster's where it will surely give rise to a better review than this--so sorry, no quotes. I just want to say a couple things about it in the hope that you'll seek it out for yourself. What this is, is a collection of poems, drawings and essays by LGBTQ youth, compiled and published in 2000. I found out about it when Lambda Literary ran an article saying it was suddenly being pulled from libraries due to parents' complaints. They were calling it "child pornography" and demanding that it be destroyed. And librarians were complying, in ways that went against their own library policy for reviewing books that had been questioned. So this, of course, made me go right over to Amazon and buy a copy. As if I could keep it from disappearing by holding onto a single one.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not every piece was to my taste, because how could they be, but the six or seven that really moved me, did so in a wholly indescribable way. These kids, ranging in age from about 15 to 23, express themselves beautifully, with not just the depth and feeling that one expects of teens and young adults, but also with genuine talent. Their stories aren't happy ones, but they bear telling and the authors do so with class. Though this book is still relevant ten years after publication, I'd love to see a follow up volume and find out what these contributers are doing now.
little_tristan: (Hangover)
I suddenly felt as jaunty as a clever cartoon pig that has just outwitted a wolf. I was only a little girl playing dress-up late at night, but I knew then that I had it in me to be a man. I had looked the intimidating bully of the universe right in the eye and stared it down, if only for a few uneasy seconds. If that were true, that I could be as fearlessly arrogant as my cowboy idols, as recklessly resolute and bold, then I knew those stars were as much mine as anyone's. I had a real shot at becoming, at the very least, the hero of my own story.
If one life doesn't matter, no life does. )
little_tristan: (Books)
I don't have much to say about this book, a story with several overlapping characters and plots told in inter-office email. It was funny and I enjoyed it, but it didn't leave a lasting impression. Possibly because the email format made it difficult for me to keep the characters straight and remember details like who was pissed at whom and why. It was also harder to keep track of the cheating and backstabbing, of which there was much. But all in all, it came off like a regular office, or even a high school, and the more technology takes over our lives, the truer and more relatable it will become.

I've heard there are sequels, but our library doesn't have them. I'm interested because I can see where the advent of FaceBook and MySpace, which didn't factor into this New Year's 2000 setting, would make a really vibrant addition to the story. Hopefully I'll run across them one day.
little_tristan: (Books)
I admit I read this book only to compare it to Alison Arngrim's Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. Billed as Melissa Sue Anderson, Ms. Anderson played Mary Ingalls on Little House, and was my least favorite female character, as well as actress. Frankly, she was boring as shit on TV, and this book is even worse. I was hoping for some insight into some of the things Arngrim said about her: her refusal to socialize, her apparent feud with Melissa Gilbert, the time she called Arngrim "backward" and, when Alison pretended to think it was cute, corrected herself and said "stupid", and most of all, the entire cast's feeling that there was something seriously wrong between Anderson and her mother that was probably responsible for all these things.

But this book doesn't really tell us anything. Unless you're an obsessive fan of the show and just have to have "Mary's" inside view on the episodes she starred in, it's a total waste of time. In fact, it's probably a waste of time anyway. Every chapter addresses two or three episodes that were Mary-centric, and gives a three or four page synopsis of each, broken up with some name dropping and rambling about whatever project she had going on the side. Never before has anyone made so much of three Love Boats and an Equalizer. And, if all that isn't bad enough, some anecdotes are formatted like scripts, with Anderson describing her actions from the third person POV.

There's nothing at all about other cast members, or her own family, except for the occasional, "I went to dinner with so and so, who was interesting, and it was fun." Her mother exists only as a driver, and, in the beginning, the person who signed the contracts so she could do the show. Arngrim says that Anderson didn't seem to have a father, and while she does in the beginning of this book, at age 11, he and her mother both vanish without a trace by chapter 3. The only really personal elements are her sudden, totally random opinions on parenting and why she's so awesome at it. (The child should always be the star of the family show...)

Altogether, this is the most tedious and mind-numbing autobiography I've read in a long time. Maybe ever. If it wasn't such a quick read (Publishing cheat #4: Large font and wide margins make short books long) I never would have made it. Having done so, I fear I may never get this insipid twit's voice out of my head. I can't believe I went all the way downtown and risked a flat for this.
little_tristan: (Books)
Maybe I just like doing them in batches. Who knows? Anyway, here are the books I've completed since my last update.

Well, I, for one, am happy I was "the Nellie". No, not just happy, proud. And eternally grateful. All I can say is, thank you. It's like I tell people at my stand-up shows: by making me a bitch, you have given me my freedom, the freedom to say and do things I couldn't do if was "a nice girl" with some sort of stupid, goody-two-shoes image to keep up. Things that require balls. Things that need to be done. by making me a bitch, you have freed me from the trite, sexist, bourgeois prison of "likability". Any idiot can be liked. It takes talent to scare the crap out of people.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nelly Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim )

Eight Inches by Sean Wolfe )

Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and its Consequences by Sarah Schulman )

Chasing Dogma by Kevin Smith )
little_tristan: (Books)
The woman gestured for Ree to come up onto the steps, under the roof. She pulled the hood away from Ree's head, looked into her face. "You ain't here for trouble, are you? 'Cause one of my nephews is Buster Leroy, and didn't he shoot your daddy one time?"

"Yes'm, but that ain't got nothin' to do with me. They settled all that theirselves, I think."

"I think the shootin' settled it."

Dad could be anywhere. )


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