little_tristan: (Book Reading)
Now that you've seen all the books I've read, here are the ones I loved the most. Note: I usually only do new books for these lists, but I repeated so much this year that a couple are books I'd read before. They were still among the best reading of last year, though.

Now on with the list:

1. True Grit by Charles Portis Unlike either of the movies that bear its name, but much closer to the recent Coen brothers film than the old John Wayne version, but I love them both. I love them all. Apparently there is no wrong way to tell this story.

2. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein A look at how toys and entertainment target little girls in an effort to convince them that they must be pink and frilly and princessy at all times, at all costs, and above all NOT SMART. Because self-absorbed little girls are the best market ever when it comes to selling a lot of crap that no one actually needs. And Disney is largely to blame.

3. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez Magical, other-worldly fiction in which every god ever believed in actually exists and is available to worship in exchange for his/her/its special favor. Chaos ensues.

4. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange An epic poem centered around the troubled lives of Black women in the 70s. But still applicable today.

5. Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt The story of the West Memphis 3--three teenagers convicted of murdering 3 little boys in West Memphis TN, one of them sentenced to death and the other two to life in prison, in a sham of a trial and with no real evidence beyond the prejudice of a heartbroken town. In between the reading of the book and the compiling of this list, the conviction was overturned (with conditions) and the three men released after 18 years in prison.

6. Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim Pretty much what it sounds like, but there was a lot I didn't know and very few writers are willing to take on the subject. These writers did it with humor and grace, while leaving nothing out.

7. Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite A love story about two men and their New Orleans restaurant.

8. The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan Crazy writer goes crazy in spooky house near tree of evil.

9. Blackwater by Michael McDowell A novel in six parts detailing the decades long internal battles of a powerful family in a small Alabama town. One member of which is secretly some sort of lizard creature who has powers beyond those of buying and selling their fellow townspeople.

10. Cowboys edited by Tom Graham A collection of beautiful, plotty, porny, short stories about men who love men. Actually, two of the stories I thought were unbearably awful, but they were both by the same author and the rest of the book more than made up for them.
little_tristan: (Kindle)
Making it public is probably the only way to stick to it. But it's still subject to change as books are added for Oddlittlecat reading.

Figuring Sex Between Men by Paul Hammond
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South by E Patrick Johnson
One Hundred Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know: Math Explains Your World by John D Barrow
Prime by Poppy Z. Brite
Soul Kitchen by Poppy Z. Brite
Whipping Girl by Julia Seran
The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan
A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
Friendship Chronicles: Letters Between a Gay and a Straight Man by Chris Hassett/Tom Owen-Towle
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Devil You Know by Poppy Z. Brite
Why Can't Sharon Kowalski Come Home? by Karen Thompson/Julie Andrzejewski
Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man by Chaz Bono
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
When Your Loved One Has Dementia by Joy A. Glenner, et al.
Blackwater: The Flood by Michael McDowell
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein
Cowboys by Tom Graham
The Help by Katherine Stockett
Haunted by Judith St. George
Drum by Kyle Onstott
Master of Falconhurst by Kyle Onstott
Mean Little deaf Queer by Terry Galloway
Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart
Strange Bedfellows by David P. Barash/Judith Eve Lipton
The Negroes Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union by James M. McPherson
Kicked Out by Sassafras Lowrey
Love, West Hollywood by Chris Freeman/James J. Berg
Called Out by Janet Boynes
Firestarter by Stephen King
Demolition Angel by Robert Crais
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Four Past Midnight by Stephen King
Iola Leroy by Frances EW Harper
The Junket by Mike Albo
Schuyler's Monster by Robert Rummel-Hudson
Black Confederates by Charles Kelly Barrow/J.H. Segars/R.B. Rosenburg
Black Southerners in Confederate Armies by Charles Kelly Barrow/J.H. Segars


Edit 1: Okay, the TBR isn't carved in stone. Gone, Baby, Gone has been moved to next year so I can read it with the rest of the series. This won't really affect the numbers, since several [livejournal.com profile] oddlittlecat books will be added over the next couple months.

Edit 2: 10/27/11 I've read 100 books this year! But there are still two months to go and the list continues! :D

Edit 3: 10/31/11 Lost Souls is stricken from the list. I got over vampires in the early nineties, and those were good books.

Edit 4: 12/10/11 Three books to go, and the last paper one is finished! Nothing but Kindlechen and iPod from here on out.

Edit 5: 12/24/11 The TBR is complete! I finished the last book last night and now am free to read as I will! (Wally was right. Goals are a form of self-inflicted slavery. But I'm free! I'm free!)
little_tristan: (Kindle)
According to my GoodReads counter, I read 134 books this year. I call it 135, because I really did read Blackwater I: The Flood all the way through twice.

And, unlike previous years, i have only three in progress to transfer to next year. One is boring but totally finishable nonfiction that I started a couple weeks ago and didn't sweat because it wasn't on the official list; one I started this afternoon, and the third I'll start when I go to bed tonight. (Because the one I started this afternoon is too scary to read in the dark.)

Altogether, I call 2011 a successful book year. Click to see what all I read and how much I liked it. )
little_tristan: (Kindle)
It's difficult to say exactly what kind of book this is, and that's part of why I love it so much. It starts out with Jean Paget inheriting a small fortune, in her eyes, at least, and trying to figure out the most reasonable thing to do with it. She has a decent job for a young woman in post-WWII England, but it's not exactly profound work. And after what she's been through the past few years, she wants to do something more important than take shorthand in a shoe and handbag factory.

She tells the attorney handling the estate about her experiences in Malay (I assume this is Malaysia, although Shute never uses that name) during the war, where she had also been doing secretarial work. Jean is trying to get to Singapore with the rest of the civilians when the Japanese capture them and send the men to a prison camp. The women are told that they were going to a different camp, just a short walk away. No big deal, they're assured. Easy walks, no more than they can manage in a day. But what's easy for Japanese soldiers is a death march for a group of middle aged English women who are used to relying on servants and now have to carry their children, as well as everything they own, across the Malay Peninsula.
More synopsis and probably spoilers behind the cut... )
little_tristan: (Books)
Identical twins Bruce and Brian Reimer were born in 1966, two happy and healthy babies with nice middle-class parents in Winnipeg. When they were eight months old, however, they developed a condition where their foreskins were healing over and blocking their urethrae, which caused painful urination. The fix was simple and easy: circumcision.
But sometimes simple isn't that easy after all... )
little_tristan: (Kindle)
Mary Fisher lives in the High Tower by the sea. She's blond and rich and tiny and beautiful and she gets everything she wants. Or everything she thinks she wants. When she decides she wants Robert "Bobbo" Patchett, she gets him. But Bobbo comes with strings attached, and Mary is in over her head almost from the moment they meet.

Ruth Patchett is an unusual woman. Nearly six feet tall, broad of shoulder and thick of--well--everything, she's nobody's idea of physical perfection. Least of all her own. Ruth has no illusions about herself, though. All of her illusions are reserved for her husband, whom she believes loves her. She knows he sleeps with other women, Bobbo thinks honesty is the most important thing so he tells her whenever he falls for someone new, but he always comes home to her and she thinks that matters. It doesn't.

Bobbo, an avaricious philanderer with an adding machine for a heart, thinks he can have whatever he wants and no one will get hurt. He believes in logic, but only his own. Logically, if he tells Ruth he's seeing another woman, he was honest and that makes it okay. She has no right to be hurt because he wasn't in love when they married. But she was. If he ever knew that, he didn't care then and he doesn't now. Not now that he has Mary Fisher on the side. His life is perfect, with Ruth and the children at home in the suburbs making him look like the perfect family man and Mary in the converted light house, writing her romance novels and being the perfect mistress.

Until Bobbo pushes Ruth too far. His logical honesty doesn't extend to his parents, and when she stands up to him in front of them, revealing his affairs and her own unhappiness, he snaps and walks out on her. It looks like his victory, taking all the money, giving her a pittance for an allowance and leaving her with the kids, but he makes a fatal mistake. On the way out the door, he tells her she's not a woman at all--she's a She Devil. And in that concept Ruth finally finds her power.

A She Devil doesn't have to be honest. She doesn't have to care about people's feelings, or even their lives. She can have and do whatever she wants, because she is a devil. And with that new knowledge firmly in mind, Ruth begins to systematically dismantle both Mary and Bobbo's lives. Along the way, she takes down some secretaries, a few of Bobbo's clients, and guides a similarly misfit nurse into a life of lesbianism and adoptive motherhood. And then she makes medical history with a series of cosmetic surgeries that have never been done before and that she probably shouldn't have been able to survive.

This is not a happy book, yet it makes me happy to read it. It's not a funny book, but it makes me laugh. Ruth isn't a sympathetic character--in fact, she scares the hell out of me--but I love her and want the best for her. Some of her choices seem questionable at best and an affront to God and nature at worst (and her worst is pretty bad), but it seems to give her satisfaction, if not actual happiness. I don't think she can ever really be happy, because she is a She Devil and devils aren't a happy race, but she does get what she wants. And, unlike the unfortunate Mary Fisher who is probably the only real victim in the story (except maybe Ruth's children), she's totally on top of the situation. Maybe it's her height, but one gets the idea that Ruth, after she discovers her inner devil, is never in over her head again.
little_tristan: (Kindle)
Revisiting the wonderful world of Kindle Singles--long essay type books, running from 30 to 80 pages, available for Kindle only and never costing more than $2.99. (I think I paid $1.99 for each of these. And it seems a fair price, for what you get. Always keep expectations in check when buying a Single.)

The Gay Bar: It's Riotous Past and Uncertain Future by June Thomas )

Accused by Paul Alexander )

Crazy Girls by Max Lance )
little_tristan: (Dancing)
John Rickey and Gary "G-Man" Stubbs, life-long residents of New Orleans, are partners in every sense of the word. They were best friends as children, became lovers at sixteen, and now they're chefs, always looking for a good kitchen where they can work together. But jobs like that are hard to find, at least in the kind of places they'd like to work. And then Rickey gets an idea. People in New Orleans like to eat. A lot. And maybe the one thing they like better than eating is drinking. So what could be better than a menu where every dish, from appetizers to dessert, involves liquor? After trying it out at a small bar, they meet a backer who thinks they should have their own restaurant. And that's where the fun starts.

Between Rickey's paranoia, and the fact that his old boss--an equally paranoid coke-head with a troubled family history--really is out to get him, and some questionable activities on the part of their backer, Gary isn't sure this deal is really worth it. But Rickey wants his own place, he wants to be the boss, and what Rickey wants, Gary wants for him.

When it isn't being a mystery, a tour guide, or a seafood lover's wet dream, this is really a very sweet romance. That's what drew me in to begin with, having read the prequel The Value of X and been promised by my book guru, [livejournal.com profile] oddmonster, that the rest of the series was even better. And it is the perfect kind of romance. Rickey and G are so comfortable with each other, so established and in sync, that it's like a peek into a great marriage--sweet and cooperative and still kinda spicy. And, unlike virtually every other book I've read with an m/m relationship, no one cheats. That's a huge plus. But what really sucked me into the book and kept me there past my bedtime two nights in a row was the restaurant action. Which is weird, because I don't cook, I have a very narrow and pedestrian taste in food, and I would never eat any of the things they so lovingly prepare and serve to their adoring customers. (Except possibly the coffee cake and chocolate mousse. I think there was a mousse in there somewhere.) Yet it's so well-written and fascinatingly described, I couldn't get enough. Luckily, due to my complete ignorance on the subject, I was reading it on Kindle and was able to look up all the specific terminology as I went. It saved all kinds of trouble.

The really good news? There are still two books in the series.
little_tristan: (Kindle)
This is a really aptly titled book, because I think Ann Heche might be crazy. She certainly was, and we have only her word that she's recovered her sanity, but she thought she was sane before, too. When she thought she was Jesus, when she was walking through the desert looking for the spaceship that was to take her to heaven--she was perfectly rational about all these things.

But. Whatever her mental state might be, she wrote a hell of a great book. It centers mostly around the subject of her childhood of hyper-religion, sex abuse and denial. Her father was a shadowy figure in his children's lives, always jetting off to work in New York at jobs that he never explained and that never brought in any money. Even his wife was clueless as to how he was buying the plane tickets. Well, he wasn't. His gay lovers were paying his way and his wife's cluelessness is pretty obviously deliberate. She doesn't take Anne to a doctor when she's an infant and breaks out with herpes on her face, nor does she attach any particular importance to the "diaper rash" that's so severe she can no longer actually wear diapers. She's a good Christian wife who obeys her husband without question, no matter what. Even when one of her daughters dies, apparently. It's just one of those things.
Cut for possibly triggering descriptions of child abuse )
little_tristan: (BBT Penny Now You've Got It)
Even textbooks and gynecological literature make menstruation seem so, well, dweeby and passive, that what's actually going on, far from being the dynamic, incredibly complex process it is, is instead vaguely pathetic. We are left with the impression that the sad-sack uterus (pun intended) has once again not been asked to the pregnancy prom, so it just stays at home and lets it all go--that menstruation is, essentially, a lame combination of inertia and failure.

If this is how you see your period, past or present, or you need some fun facts to liven up your friends', then you need to read this book. Actually, I think everyone needs to read this book. It's lively and fun--yes fun--and I was disappointed when it ended. Kindle said it was at 88% and I was really excited about having so much still to read, but the last 12% turned out to be notes and bibliographies and such. Because this fact filled book is annotated within an inch of its life, backing it all up with sources you can check.
Click here to find out why it's headed for my Top 10 list )
little_tristan: (Kindle)
This past weekend, I read all three of the so-called Siddalee Walker novels back to back. I've read the first two, Little Alters Everywhere, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood multiple times and really enjoyed them. The third, Ya-Yas in Bloom, disappointed me badly the first time, so I read it again to remind myself why, and maybe see something in it that I missed the first time. Alas, it was even worse than I'd feared.
A quick rundown of the novels in question... )
little_tristan: (Kindle)
I went into this book expecting to love it. Seriously. It's the memoir of a female Marine who served in Mortuary Affairs, processing the dead and preparing them for the journey home. I was impressed by the review on NPR and ran right out to buy it (figuratively speaking--I ordered it for Booker).

But it has problems. First, Ms. Goodell isn't a writer. She had a co-author, which probably helped, but she doesn't know how to tell a story. It's repetitive in many places, and at the same time she also tends to refer to technical things for the entire book and then doesn't explain what they mean until three quarters of the way through. There are a lot of setups to what promise to be good stories, like the chapter on the additional strains on female Marines that ends by saying one responded by committing suicide, that never materialize. As she'd already told the story of a male Marine who blew his brains out, I naturally expected the next chapter to open with the story of the woman, but it doesn't. She's never mentioned again.

There are really only a couple chapters that deal with the specifics of Mortuary Affairs, which is the premise of the book. These contain some extremely gruesome details, and I'll never be able to look at the Dover pictures in the same way again (hint: what you think is in those boxes is probably not. It's probably something way worse than you can even imagine--unless you've read this book). But in a way it's like she's glossing over that. It reads less like a Mortuary Affairs Marine who happens to be female, and much more like a female Marine who happens to work in Mortuary Affairs. She expresses a great deal of bitterness toward the Marines in general, based on how she was treated as a woman, and disappointment in the service's failure to live up to her expectations. This is interesting and certainly worthy of a much longer book of its own, but it's not what this book is supposed to be about. The final 20% is the story of her post-Iraq life at home, her PTSD and abusive Marine boyfriend, and eventual return to college. Again, interesting and worthwhile, but not what was promised. There was also a disturbing lack of closure, in that she still seems to be involved with the boyfriend (after fleeing halfway across the country on two separate occasions to escape him), and doesn't really seem to have gotten her shit together at all.

But maybe that's the actual point of the book. Maybe she set out to write about processing the dead and shattered into the story that she ended up telling because it's the only story she can tell. Maybe the scattered incoherency with which she writes at times is simply the best she could do, and maybe that's ultimately all that matters. She tried to tell us what broke her, but in the end, all she could say was that she's broken.
little_tristan: (Kindle)
Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy's Journey to Becoming a Big Kid by Simon Pegg )

Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt )

Dave Barry Talks Back by Dave Barry )

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides )

I also read Microserfs by Douglas Coupland for the third time in 18 months and still adore it (although the Kindle version is riddled with typos, some quite serious, like rendering the thought provoking new word interiority as inferiority; however, I recently got an email saying that there was a newly repaired edition of the single volume Lord of the Rings set that I bought months ago, and it downloaded for free the next time I connected, replacing the error-laden first copy--so, because Microserfs is brand new and they were rushing to get it out, I have hope that user complaints will get us a fixed edition soon). Wow, that was a long sentence. Sorry.
little_tristan: (Books)
I didn't really get this book. The protagonist, Walter, is a self-absorbed gay man whose life seems to be divided into two parts: his teen years before the death of his older brother, and his return to the barren Midwest twenty years or so later. I was excited about reading it because, hello, gay men and death, two of my favorite things. But Walter's complete self-absorption made him so unlikeable that I just didn't care what happened to him. I wanted to know more about his brother, but Walter didn't really like him--he doesn't seem to like anyone--so it didn't get into his personality or feelings at all.

All sorts of characters have the potential to be interesting, but they all fell short, imho, because of Walter's total lack of interest in them. Like, what was up with the lesbian aunt who looked, talked, and acted like a lumberjack, yet was obsessed with opera and ballet? If it was designed to break stereotypes, yay, but it didn't read that way. It really just came off to me like an eclectic collection of personality traits randomly assigned to the characters, as if the author was a little girl dressing a box of Barbies. (This coat doesn't go with that dress, but all the other dolls have coats, and this is the only one left, so okay. And we're out of Ken shoes, so he gets the go-go boots with tassels and we'll just pretend that's significant.)

Ultimately, I couldn't figure out where the story was going or what it was supposed to mean. Walter didn't really change or grow, nor did he (or the narrator) explain any of the minor mysteries that kept me going in the hopes of resolution. It's a shame, because about twelve sentences could have resolved all of my problems. Hamilton just didn't write them.
little_tristan: (Bleeding Hearts)
A little girl in an orphanage is happy, surprisingly so for an orphan story, but wants more out of life. She climbs a wall, finds what she thinks is a secret house, and tries to set up housekeeping for herself. It's a cute story, not sad or pokey, but sort of bland. I know there was more going on, but my overall impression was 300 pages of an otherwise happy little girl lying, stealing, and tying herself up in knots for the opportunity to dig in a garden and plant flowers. Which the loving and understanding orphanage staff cheerfully offered to let her do on her own in their garden.

I know that she had to go through all this in order to get to the extra-happy ending, but the motive seemed slim to me. Ultimately, I think Julie Andrews simply lacked the skills necessary to make us feel what she, and Mandy, were feeling about the house and garden. The writing is extremely bare-bones, mostly statements of facts made in the starkest way possible. (For instance, when Mandy is lifting a flat of plants onto the wall with a rope, it tips and some dirt falls out. The narrator tells us that Mandy's heart raced and, "she felt she would lose all her plants". She felt, rather than she feared. Odd choice of words, and not one likely to rouse sympathy.)

Anyway, it wasn't a bad way to waste a morning, not to mention boost my book total for the year. And it's probably a great book for people who are really into, you know, gardening.

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