22 November 2014

It Is Time!

WELCOME TO 8AM, my lovelies. Actually you're in the future; it's 12:39am as of this writing and I've been staying up FAR too late drinking (according to Minithon tradition), although this time I have a valid excuse as my German cousins are in town and there was a Gathering.

If I'm late to the Twitter, it's because I'm currently typing this with one eye firmly held shut. Rest assured I will arrive shortly with a silo of coffee and many apologies.

SNACKS! I went to Trader Joe's (bless) and picked up a multitude of mini-foods, which I fully intend to consume later:

The mini carrots are for HEALTH.
And my reading plan is to drink a shitload of coffee, then finish the audiobook of Gaskell's Wives & Daughters (of which I have less than a chapter left - a miniature amount), then to dive into the audiobook of The Hobbit (hobbits! Dwarves! They're all small and I am generally more appropriate and sensitive I swear). I've got some mid-grade children's books (mini-people!) for if I want to turn actual pages.

Turning actual pages takes effort, you guys. Minithons are not about effort, they are about indulgence and excuses reasons to eat and read whatever we want. Just put the literature in my ear holes and let's have no more about it. I turned down Queen Croissants because they have to proof overnight.

What are your plans? Link them below!
(We've got some newcomers this time around, and welcome! Usually we'll link our initial Minithon posts, then edit that post with an update at the end and point it out in the comments below.)

And now if you'll excuse me, it's 1:01am and there is a pillow that needs to meet my face.


Darlings, it is (nearly) finished. We started off beautifully and late (thank you all for not calling me at 8am) and then we dicked around on Twitter for awhile like usual and I read all your posts and then I settled down to the last 21 minutes of Gaskell's Wives & Daughters which is one of my absolute favorites but was cut one chapter short by Mrs. Gaskell's literally and literarily untimely death. Listening to the final chapter is always hard for me, because Mrs. Gibson does go on and on and I wish she wouldn't quite so much so that the story could have an ending instead. But of course that's not how things actually work, and I'm always left with a

feeling. It's so good, though. And you should listen to the audiobook because it is narrated by Prunella Scales of Fawlty Towers fame and she is an utterly delightful narrator.

Then I started the audiobook of The Hobbit and I am very close to 2 hours in, which means I did the actual activity of reading for more than 25% of the Minithon, which is a personal best! Go me!

What is that face sir? DO YOU MOCK ME?

I also ate half of the puff pastries, all of the chicken pot pie bites (super-delicious), and am about to reward myself with a mini-ice cream cone and then probably continue to listen to The Hobbit and knit for the rest of the day because I can and not because there's some rule telling me I should.

Minithons are the best, even when we have to share a hashtag with some sorority doing weird face-painting stuff for no discernible reason.

So, tell me! How did you fare? Upon what did you snack? WHEN DO WE DO THIS AGAIN? (I'm thinking April.)

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18 November 2014


Wait, is anyone even still here?
Well for those of you who are, IT IS TIME! Break out your comfy pajamas, kids, because it's time for a 

Yes indeed. As announced last week on Twitter, this Saturday, November 22, will be what is by my count our FOURTH miniature readathon. In January, we will have been doing these for two years

Look on our dedication to tiny snacks, talking about books on social media, small things in books, generally dancing around the idea of reading in any actual capacity, AND TREMBLE you 24-hour readathons with your prizes and your cheerleaders. We need none of you, for that is Too Much Effort.

We haven't done one of these for awhile because the one we planned for June went down in a fiery ball of OITNB Season 2 Release Weekend flames (see above re. too much effort...). But as far as I am aware, this weekend there are no major media events and in most of the northern hemisphere things seem to be getting rather chilly outside, so it's the perfect time to curl up with your book on your lap and your phone in your hand and tweet (#minithon) about how much you're really going to start reading any moment now.

Accepted Minithon Guidelines are as follows: 

1) Mini-everything! Mini snacks, mini naps, mini discussions (aka tweets),  and of course, some justification of why your reading material falls into the category of "miniature," the sillier the better.

2) Just 8 hours, beginning to end. We will begin at 8am Pacific time (that's 4pm UK, Laura!). And when we end at 4pm PT, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief at a job well done. 

3) Let's keep it to only 2 posts this time around - one introductory and one to close out the 'thon - so as to leave us plenty of time for... reading.  Alice has ironically proven herself the most motivated of us all and gotten a head start! 

See you at 8am on Saturday, lovers! 

04 August 2014

How to Build a Girl: In Which We Should All Be Kind... Later

It's 2:17am PST on Monday morning and there are 2962 people ahead of me in the internet queue to buy tickets to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet next fall. Not coincidentally, 2962 is the number of people I currently hate. It's up substantially from an hour ago but down from 10 minutes ago, when the number was 3045.

I really like sleep, so this evening before bed I was having second thoughts about this plan to rise at 1:55, buy tickets, and fall back into bed. I texted Megs to make sure I wasn't being crazy:

In the end, this was a sound plan.
Anyway, let's talk about other British Things We Love, shall we? Like Caitlin Moran and her delightful novel - which you can pre-order here! - wherein we spend most of this section learning about Johanna's deflowering, her adorable relationship with Krissi, and that Caitlin proooobably suffers from cystitis much like her heroine.

In time-honored teenaged tradition, Johanna amplifies her sex life before it's an actual Sex Life. But for her, once she actually has sex - a thing that is actually at issue as to when that happens because apparently I am not up on my British slang for making out and doing it (not ONCE has the word "snog" been used) - she is ready to do it all the time, forever and always. A sensible biological impulse, I suppose, but one that clearly amuses all of the adults in the room.

(This post is taking forever. It turns out that I have the focus of a particularly manic squirrel on crack at 3:01am, and there are still 2315 people on my I Hate You All list.)

Johanna's attempts to learn more about sex are hilariously true and so, so cringe-worthy. In the days before Internet porn, brought up in a strictly religious household in a small town with one high school, I learned about sex by piecemeal.  I built my own dubious library of knowledge based on Jean Auel and Jilly Cooper, with a fair bit of VC Andrews and Danielle Steele thrown in. Needless to say, reality did not match my imagination the first few times around. Perhaps if I'd had this book, I might have been better prepared for the "wait, what are you doing? Does that go there? Am I supposed to cuddle you now? Is it normal for you to fall asleep so qui-... okay I'm going to just lay here then. Can I reach my book?" realities of the relations between men and women.

Please remember it's 3:45am and there are still 1564 people I hate.
You can order this book here from Odyssey Books, employer of the fabulous and ever-patient-with-me  Emily Crowe, who is our hostess!

EDIT: 5:15am - I no longer hate anyone and am now in possession of an email that says I have tickets. Feeling pretty damned smug right about now.

03 August 2014

How to Build a Girl - In Which We Do Not Have Nits

Last week I had a case of the Serious Mean Reds and couldn't function beyond Work/Come Home and Watch Merlin - a show which has managed to keep my attention despite 1) the use of the words "okay" and "wotcha" in Camelot, 2) the costumers use of zippers and bare shoulders, and 3) the writers completely ignoring Actual Pre-Medieval Behavior Guidelines whenever it suits them.

So this week I owe you two posts, and two posts you shall have!

Okay but for serious, first you need to pre-order this book because it is amazing. And then go thank Emily for the GIF-Fest that this readalong has become.

We begin with Johanna on a plane for the first time, and this whole sequence is adorable. She recognizes a thing that never fails to surprise me, too: it's always sunny above the clouds. This is the kind of "every cloud has a silver lining" cliche that should make me crazy, but doesn't because it's true. Awwww.

And then she falls in Teenaged Love with a Celebrity, which is surely the worst kind of love ever and paradoxically doesn't only happen to teenagers, as evidenced by the Victorian-lass-worthy swooning I did earlier this year over a person I will never, ever meet in real life (probably for the best...). Anyway. Back to Johanna, who is at least of a proper age for this kind of thing.

This book is mostly hilarious "oh god, I remember that bit of being a teenager...::cringe::", but it's peppered with heartbreaking moments that feel familiar and... not... all at once. Johanna carefully brings her father a glass of Guinness from Ireland - one of those pre-2001 things that will absolutely confuse younger readers - and his reaction is merely, "Christ, that's flat." Christ, I would like to flatten YOU, sir. Do you not see the gesture she is trying to make? The approval she is trying to win? That she lost her father the day he fell off that building, and now she's lost her mother to post-partum depression and she's struggling in a family raised by ghosts and being a teenager is just. so. awful. already you are making it worse and giving me italics?

I slap you! 
And then, everything that Johanna feared comes to pass. Her father's benefits are being reduced, and... oh my heart. Oh, Johanna. This cannot be your fault. Caitlin couches her extremely pointed, very cogent remarks about poverty behind an extra layer of novelization - John Kite's remarks in a magazine article - but they are powerful, nonetheless. And how will Lupin ever discover who killed Laura Palmer? Spoiler: he won't. But neither will we, so you dodged that one, kid.

And now, Johanna, we need to have a sit-down discussion about your Drink of Choice. Don't worry, it'll be quick:

Class dismissed.
How you made it onto your train after a bottle of MD 20/20, five gins, and whatever else came afterward will be a matter of cognitive dissonance forever more. Was it one of those magical nights when you can drink everything in sight and not get shitfaced? Because I've had those. They're fantastic and you can't plan them or trust that they'll ever happen again. The one thing you can trust is that they will assuredly not be those nights in your 30s and you've waited for 3 months for all of your friends with babies to have babysitters on the same night and you finally get together. Nope.

21 July 2014

How to Build a Girl: In Which We All Wanted to be Dolly Wilde

Aaaaaand we're off! Not in quite the same way as the first section - AHEM - but moving along plot-wise. Get your minds out of the hairbrush and deodorant-filled gutter.

SO! Johanna Morrigan is dead, long live Dolly Wilde! Let us pause for a moment and fondly recall 1992, when we were in our early teens and the third wave of feminism was - I say in retrospect - just getting off the ground. Grrrrls were rioting, grunge was happening, and my mother was Distinctly Unhappy with the amount of Angry Lady Singers caterwauling from my bedroom. It was an abrupt shift from the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Rodgers & Hammerstein that were previously issuing from the CD boombox I got for my birthday. I had just begged for my first set of pointe shoes and was fantasizing about choreographing a full ballet to Little Earthquakes.

What I'm trying to say is that it's hard for me to stop relating for long enough to have a coherent thought about this book.

I have maybe a lot of feelings about 1992.
I love Johanna and her Dolly Wilde persona. I love how she likes music whose creators she could probably take in a fight, her vulnerable relationship with her father, and her initial terror and then love of a mosh pit. I love that she thinks Smashing Pumpkins are too mopey. I laughed hysterically at her opinion of band security, having talked myself backstage a few times and thought the same thing.

So, in conclusion,

and if you're beginning to feel the same way too, you can pre-order it right here from Odyssey Books, which is where our lovely host Emily works! Thanks for putting this shindig together, madam!

I luf you.

14 July 2014

How to Build a Girl: In Which it Takes 28 Words

Remember last week when we didn't know about Johanna's preferred masturbatory equipment?

It was a tenser, yet simpler time.
Actually, Johanna's self-exploration is something I'm a little envious of. I grew up in a very religious household and believed with every fiber and nerve ending of my being that Jesus was watching me all the time, so needless to say I didn't discover the finer points of - well, anything really - until after I left home.

But with that one exception, Johanna is speaking my language. She lives in a world where most of her information is gathered from books. She researches things like Spiritual Midwifery. She is pragmatic and hopelessly naive and mixed up and more than a little in love with Gilbert Blythe. 

You can start by removing that shirt...
And woven in between those moments of hilarious contradiction that is a byword for adolescence, there are moments of gut-piercing truth about the pressures of growing up in an unstable home: 

In later years, I can always recognize someone else who received this shot of fear at an early age... Children raised on cortisol. Children who think too fast. (41)
That is all I have to say publicly about that. 

Because I've read the back of the book, I know that this is all leading up to Johanna's transformation into the Self that she thinks she wants to be. And because she is an odd bird, I am very much looking forward to seeing what that Self is. 

You should most definitely preorder this book from this handy link right here! Thanks to Emily for hosting this online shindig - once we meet up in the Caribbean, 

07 July 2014

How to Build A Girl: In Which We Introduce Ourselves

There's an embarrassing amount of internet dust on this blog. I haven't posted since Bleak House; how did THAT happen?!? I don't know what to say about The Goldfinch and Frog Music, you guys. And I read along with Lady Audley's Secret (mostly), but I just... didn't post.

Well, if there's any book that can make me want to blog again, it'll be the new one by Caitlin Moran that you can preorder from Odyssey Books right here. And huge thanks to Emily for hosting this online shindig!

I wanted those Docs so bad when I was in high school.
I've written about Caitlin on this blog before. In fact, I bought How to Be A Woman new with actual dollars at full price and not bookstore credit because I liked it and her and her Twitter feed that much. Her writing makes me want to stand up on the train where all the Silicon Valley techies are dicking around with Snapchat on their phones and say, "THIS is what feminism is! Sister Suffragette, I support you! ALAS FOR MRS. PANKHURST HAS BEEN CLAPPED IN IRONS AGAIN!" 

and then I would read sections of it out loud - or declaim it from memory - until they're all laughing and have also learned something, just like on Sesame Street but with feminism and wanking. 

ANYWAY. A bit about me to begin: 

- By day and sometimes by night I'm an executive assistant at a Silicon Valley start-up you've never heard of because we do investment banking... stuff. Bankers need startups too. Apparently.

- I like books and read them a lot. I like knitting and spinning and I do those things a lot too. I have serious opinions about the State of Handcrafts in this Country.

- Feminism, man, I swear to god. The more I think about it, the more I want to be independently wealthy so I can become a modern-day Alice Paul. She probably knitted, right? 

Okay, Cat-lin. Here we go. 

18 March 2014

BleakAlong - Post the Finalmente

Every time we finish a readalong, The Doors "This is the End" plays in my head the whole time I'm writing my final post. It's very distracting, especially because for most of my young life I was pretty sure that Val Kilmer was Jim Morrison and that is a very handsome movie poster, I tell you what. Have I mentioned this before? Possibly.

Anyway. Part of the reason I was behind most of the readalong is that I was listening to the audiobook, which is approximately 548 hours long. I enjoy audiobooks immensely because they allow me to pursue two hobbies at once (reading and knitting, or reading and spinning, or reading and eating...), but they do slow down my Goodreads challenge. Last night I went to bed with 3 chapters (two hours!) left, so I gave in and read the last ~50 pages in the paperback that Amanda sent me for our Secret Santa, and I am SO glad I did because the afterword to this edition is delightful. Elizabeth McCracken is a Dickens fangirl whose first sentence to her afterword apologizes to the reader for encountering an afterword at all following roughly 1000 pages of novel.

Not to mention that the splash page on her website is delightful.

Salute the McCracken.
How are we feeling now that mostly everyone we didn't like ::cough Skimpole cough:: and a few people we did - POOR JO - are dead?

They had nothing to do with it.
I had a shouty moment when Esther turned Woodcourt down and I was prepared to be Very Upset Indeed, but Jarndyce made the right decision - some might say unlike Dickens himself later in life - and while I dislike the idea that Esther was his to reward Woodcourt with, I support the final outcome of Esther being happy and loved for who she is.

You know who never calls Esther "Dame Durden"? Woodcourt.
We're gonna circle back to the birdcage theme for a second - remember that one from way back when? - to just mention that Miss Flyte names all her birds and probably has to recite them in order every night like Arya Stark, and with all the Ashes and Penitences and Wards in Jarndyces, she has a bird named Spinach. Bless you, Miss Flyte.

And bless YOU, Charles Dickens, on behalf of all the Volumnias of the world, with our spare little drops and feeble prismatic twinkling. You rapscallion, you brimstone bogtrotter, you brilliant and ginormous tool.

It's not your fault that sometimes in my head I get you mixed up with Charles Darwin.

04 March 2014

BleakAlong - Post the Fifth: There Be Italics Ahead

Against all odds, the Oscars Movie Party on Saturday, the Oscars themselves on Sunday, and a dear friend's breakup today which necessitated an hour-and-a-half phone call to get all the details and express an appropriate amount of "what the fuck is that guy's problem?!?," I have caught up on Bleak House you guys.

And boy am I glad I did, because what the what is going on right now? NICE WORK ALICE in choosing where we've been ending up.

Until the fateful lack of clocks warning Tulkinghorn about his impending doom,

way to go, pal...
I spent most of this week's chapters thinking about who in this story are the villains and who are the heroes. Which ones are the worst/best, respectively? This ended up being mostly made up of a list of Who I Like Best in descending order. Dickens is doing an admirable job of directing our attention toward Ada and Richard, who at the outset seem to be the heroes of the piece. Ada is obviously the ingenue and Richard (can I call him Dick? Yes let's do) is the person who thinks he loves her so he must be the hero, right?

No. Primarily because we I don't like Ada in any role except Esther's darling and that Dick is... pigheaded and stupid, shall we say. I submit to you instead that the true heroes of the piece are Esther and Alan (Allan? I'm listening to the audiobook). While I know in my Tumblr-addled soul that Esther and Ada need to end up together, I was pleased by Alan comforting Esther about her looks when no one has done that yet areyoufuckingkiddingme?!?

Villain: Harold Skimpole.

For I am such a child, don't you see. AND CHILDREN CAN'T BE TRUSTED.
Lord he's just so awful and managed to snow everyone into believing him and I'm screaming internally like Leo at the Oscars (don't get me started but also Glenn Close and Gary Oldman have also not won Oscars so a little perspective please tumblr). Arrrggghhhhh.

And then there's Jo and I couldn't help but picture Dickens chuckling to himself about how affecting this death scene will be and how the ladies would just cry buckets of tears over poor Jo and his caaaaaa-*sniffle*-aaart.

There's a lot of death in this book, you guys. At least Lady Dedlock's secret is safe! Who shot Tulkinghorn? It definitely wasn't me, although I did harbor a suspicion that Tulkinghorn had a frisson for our Lady.

Poor Esther. I want to shake her and yell that NOTHING in this book is her fault and WHERE ARE THE ACTUAL ADULTS this book is peopled by children much like Frozen (also don't get me started). And then I will stride around London and Chesney Wold and administer slaps. To everyone. Asking Esther to marry you, indeed. BAH.

24 February 2014

BleakAlong - Post the Fourth

Well well well. Here we are in week FOUR, which if you all recall was originally when we were supposed to be completely finished with this amazing Bleak House readalong.

I have a few things I'd like to discuss. Firstly, as much as I like Charley and want her to have a good life, I'm really supremely unhappy that it was Esther who got the ugly end of whatever mysterious illness they both came down with. Did she really deserve that, Dickens? No she did not. So why does it happen to her? I don't think necessarily that Dickens would have been on board with our working "so Woodcourt wouldn't love her and she would be free to live with Ada for the rest of her life" theory. But you never know.

(Also, 1850's germ theory: the era of We Haven't Quite Figured This Out, Have We?)
And then Boythorn is super-awesome and offers Esther his house to rattle around in, which is not at all a plot device to get Esther closer to Lady Dedlock, nosiree. It's just him being cheerful and nice and not at all creepy like the other jolly fat guy who likes animals.

Plot twist!
So last week I was really behind and missed the spontaneous combustion bit, and Alice and I discussed it yesterday and there's the moment where Guppy and Weevil nee Jobling are falling all over themselves to get out of Krook's room, and I couldn't stop picturing them as these two:

Guppy and Jobling, respectively.
which led to a conversation about dream casting for Bleak House. Shall we have at it to cover up that I'm STILL three chapters behind? YES LET'S DO.

Who would you cast?!?

18 February 2014

BleakAlong: Post the Second-and-Third

I can't even believe you guys are still reading this book. I mean, the characters are all bland and the story is boring. Also Lolita needed to go further into the "juicy stuff."

Can we talk about the SUPREMELY DISMAL parenting going on in this book? I am fairly sure that it's on purpose, given Dickens's first examples of motherhood are 1) the horrible godmother/aunt 2) Mrs. Jellyby and 3) Mrs. Pardiggle.

And then we have Mr. Turveydrop, whose deportment is the envy of us all I am sure, but sir,

Although while he's a trial to everyone around him and will expect Caddy and Prince to wait on him hand and foot until he expires in a cloud of lavender water, he's not as emotionally manipulative as the horrid Mrs. Jellyby being snide and ridiculous and so dismissive of her daughter and the things she wants. PARENTING, you guys. I know it's not easy but seriously, get your shit together. And you, Rick. Yeesh.

Mrs Rachel from back-in-the-day is Mrs. Chadband? Ugh he is so gross and his utterly nonsensical "sermons" give me the giggles.

"When this young heathen now among us - who is now, my friends, asleep..."

Hah. But I love how Dickens just throws the detail of the Chadbands in as if it's not important - she just walks up in the middle of an unrelated chapter and is all, "hey, remember me? I made your childhood a living hell. Also I married a guy you don't yet know you hate. Peace."

I'm sure that won't come back around later. Anyway, the bird imagery continues, have you noticed? And Hortense comes in and begs Esther for a job but does it in a very interesting manner. The kind of manner where she promises to do anything... she's very hot-blooded being from France, you know... she'll take care of Esther better than anyone could ever...

07 February 2014

The Girl who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There - Catherynne M. Valente

Sometimes you finish a book that was ohhhhhkay and you feel like all the good books were written in the past, and you're so woebegone that you ignore the somewhat glaring inconsistency that by definition ALL published books were written in the past.

"Books today," you think, "are just not what they used to be. I'm going to go back to classics and books with dragons on the covers.*"

And then you feel very smug with yourself and pick up this slim novel by Catherynne M. Valente, promising yourself that it's nothing but Brontes and Dickens and Collins after this because at least they weren't writing to be able to sell movie rights. This is when Valente - who is a year younger than you, what have you been doing with your life?!? - takes you by your smug nose and teaches an object lesson in Creative Writing.

Chapter 1: Exuent in a Rowboat, Pursued by Crows
 Valente's imagination should be a national treasure. Her work is full of the details that make Oz and Wonderland such indelible places.
"Once upon a time, a girl named September had a secret."
This is the second book in the The Girl Who series, which I'm sure has a better, more proper name but who cares about that. The point is, in theory you've already read the first book or at least heard its title, which is The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making. Thus it is not a spoiler to tell you that September's secret is that she has been to Fairyland before, and it's not much of a spoiler to tell you that - much like the rest of us would if we had been September - she spent a large portion of her time thinking about how to get back.
"Now, secrets are delicate things. They can fill you up with sweetness and leave you like a cat who has found a particularly fat sparrow to eat and did not get clawed or bitten even once while she was about it."
Nice job, Puss.
But they can also get stuck inside you, and very slowly boil up your bones for their bitter soup. So we may be very glad that September had the better of her secret...
Those are some Trufax (TM), you guys, and it's only page 1.  Observe page 180, if you please:

Wit laughed, which for a crow is a loud, rough sound. Crows look down a bit on birds that make pretty, trilling sounds. Pandering to humans, they say. Just shameless.

I gobbled this book up and ordered the third one from the library, tout de suite.

10.5 out of 11 Mazes that wouldn't be caught dead without a minotaur. It's not done!

*Can we please have a moment of silence for Anne McCaffrey, without whom  I would probably not be here - either as a writer or as a reader of books. Pern is a much beloved mark on my soul, and if the future doesn't bring me a fire lizard then what, I ask you, is science even for?