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in flux

Category: Book Reviews

Mo in CO: Month One

I’ve lived in Colorado for a month and a half now. I’ve read seven books, started two art projects, entered a writing contest, lost 8 pounds and started waking up before sunrise all on my own. I am so happy here it’s unbelievable.

Those books though… most of those seven books were not good. On my way out of Texas I went on Amazon and grabbed a bunch of free books just to have to pass the time. That right there is the murky dark side to the wonder that is e-reading. It’s hard to tell good from bad once the paid reviews and author’s friends get their two cents in. I won’t name the (mostly indy) titles here, but I sure won’t be so laissez faire with my selections in the future. Two of them were great, though, so it wasn’t a completely wasted effort. (Not that reading ever is!)

The first, The Blue Lagoon, was one i thought I’d read in high school. Apparently I got mixed up with either Island of the Blue Dolphin or The Cay, maybe both, but this book is not either by a long shot.  The Blue Lagoon was written back in the early 1900s and is titled as a romance. Were that not on the title, I’d never have guessed it. I could see how the author could have used ‘romance’ in an ironic sense, but then I think I’m reaching much too far. And for a book that tells the story of a shipwreck and island life, it moved awfully slow. The first half was the best, I think; the end is shit. I swear, I did like it! It was pleasant to pick up and read a few chapters at a time, but I wasn’t hungry for it. I’m happy to have read it, but won’t read it again.

The second was The Girl and the Bomb. I admit that I was surprised by this one. The story is set in Finland and follows the lives of a group of graffiti artists, and one girl in particular. This book, while not a ‘romance’, used the theme of love as fuel for creative revenge. I read this practically overnight, I liked it so much. I finished it a few days ago and still wan to give Metro a hug. Fun bonus: Both the author, and the translator, are total hunks. I got this book for nothing, but would have gladly paid. I will definitely keep an eye out for more of Jari Järvelä’s work.

Since moving, I have a ton of free time and am trying not to waste it – I truly hope that means more books, art and writing in my very immediate future. Seven books in a month and a half, shit. Thats a pretty good start. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going.

Starship Go Boom

Starship troopers cover

‘Debra Messing Space Bugs’ is the first of many failed Google searches I’ve made while trying to remember the name of this damn book. I’ve spent the past month trying to finish reading it, but the title escapes me unless I’m staring right at the cover. I know they made it into a movie, and I know Debra Messing was in it. Not according to IMDB she wasn’t! Or was it Isla Fisher? Nope, not her either. It was Dina Meyer, as it turns out, and the book itself is Starship Troopers.

One of the best things about falling in love and moving in together is all the new books! My boyfriend’s tastes are very different from mine, but when I spotted his newly unpacked copy of Starship Troopers, I could not wait to read it. The movie is one big cheese-fest explosion covered in goo, and I loved it when I first saw it in theatres. It probably should not have come as a surprise that the book was nothing like that at all.

I wasn’t expecting hologram popups and hawt alien sex, but I was hoping for something to help move things along. For a book based in space, with rocket suits and dangerous missions, I just do not care. The book isn’t awful, just incredibly dull.  It reads like a long college lecture, with no excitement in the descriptions or the story itself. The main character, Rico, is entirely blank, with no discernible personality beyond Guy Who Observes Things. I like Zim, but that’s about it. Maybe all the flashbacks are what’s pulling me out of the grove, or the stilted way it plods along. Whatever the reason, I’m bored.

I refuse to believe that Robert A. Heinlein, with all his influence and accolades, just isn’t for me. Possibly it’s the genre, but that doesn’t sit well with me, either. Sci Fi is never my first choice, but I’ve read enough to know that it interests me, generally. I’m more than halfway through, and out of respect for the author, I absolutely intend to finish it. Hell, I’d even like to give another one of his books a shot. But considering I’ve finished two other novels while also working through this one, probably not any time soon.

Exposed and naked

Cora had believed that living built a cumulative bank of memories, thickening and deepening as time went on, shoring you against emptiness.

The present was always paramount, in a way that thrust you forward: empty, but also free. Whatever stories you told over to yourself and others, you were in truth exposed and naked in the present, a prow cleaving new waters; your past was insubstantial behind it, it fell away, it grew into desuetude, its forms grew obsolete.

The problem was, you were always still alive, until the end. You had to do something.

I’m 93% finished with London Train, a little gem I picked up on my Kindle last month and am just now getting around to reading. It’s so wonderful, sweet and sad – and full of lovely imagery, like that.

People are shitty sometimes

I was scrabbling for a way out of my own head, and Fate handed me a $.99 ebook and a pat on the ass.

The pat on the ass may have been wishful thinking.

Things have not been great at home. Come to think of it, things haven’t been all that great outside of home, either. What’s important is, it’s getting better wherever you look. Attitude, I’ve discovered all over again, has a larger impact on life than everyone else in it combined. Easy to see that now, as I relax on the couch with the day off work and a drink in my hand. It’s all so simple, after the fact.

This book reminded me of my family, in the most unexpected ways. The collective sense of humor, the teasing, the pain and guilt over being yourself. I saw everyone I knew in this great little novel, alive and existing in yet another world that I cannot control. Cheating, swearing, hurting and laughing together, in a big nasty mess. A big nasty mess – that’s how it feels sometimes. You can get so worked up in the sticky details of living with someone, being someone’s child, sister and colleague that everything else goes grey as you deal with whatever Major Crisis is occurring today. Oh, please.

Anyway, Jessica Anya Blau: Please write more novels, because you are fantastic. Drinking Closer To Home was exactly what I needed to help wake me up from the telanovela (needs more Bumblebee Man) that has been my life lately.

The misrepresentation of Forrest Gump

I found Forrest Gump on TV tonight and tuned in right around the time Jenny plays guitar naked and threatens to jump off a bridge. Just now, Lieutenant Dan asked Forrest and Bubba if they’re twins. I love this movie. I’ve seen it so many times, I have large parts of it memorized.

(“‘I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” Swoon)

When I came across an old copy of the Winston Groom novel in a bookstore, I bought it on principle. Turns out it’s a really fantastic book that puts the movie to shame in so many ways. I know all book-to-movie adaptations lose a lot of details that fans will miss, but the story Hollywood tells isn’t even the most entertaining part of his life! I suppose saving Mao from drowning in a lake isn’t as cool as boxes of chocolates? I guess a career in professional wrestling isn’t as believable as running across the county while unsuspectingly developing a cult following? I’ve got five words for you: drugs space monkeys cannibal sex. All of that is in the book. Plus, it repeatedly mentions how huge his dick is. There, I said it!

The author, adorably, envisioned John Goodman for the role. Forrest was originally 6’6″ and 240lbs, after all.

“I gotta pee.”

All in

I’ve been reading a memoir called Half-Assed between appointments over the last few days. It was written by a weight loss blogger I’ve never heard of but she seems very nice. The story itself is light and quick, so it isn’t one you’ll need a quiet room and a fireplace for, but I’m liking it so far.

I got mine for free on Kindle but it doesn’t look like they’re doing that anymore.

I love memoirs. There are so many people I will never meet who live interesting lives and have insightful things to say about themselves. I’m not so crazy about biographies, however  – if I want to read what someone else thinks of another person, I’ll read a tabloid. Other people’s opinions tend to be shaded with unfair bias. Yes, people will see themselves a different way than they truly are (a point the book brings up again and again) but that attitude colors how they interact with others and how they live their lives, and becomes part of the larger story.

Which brings me to my point: I fell in love with this book on page 130, when I read and re-read the following passage…

I convinced myself to tie up my running shoes after I repeated an old saying: You wouldn’t care about what other people think of you if you knew how infrequently they do. In other words, “Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too.”

I never wanted to exercise as a kid because my childhood asthma didn’t let me move the way I wanted to, and being out of breath made me feel self conscious. Rather than run, I read. Rather than join a team, I played alone. Not much has changed over the years, and as I face down 30 I know this sedentary habit needs breaking. My husband, Zeus love ‘im, is so supportive about getting me to work out with him, but he always frames it as, “No one is looking at you, no one cares what you’re wearing/doing/look like”. I know he means well, but that statement is just not true.

I have ears. I hear what gets whispered and giggled over out in public, whether its at the zoo or in a waterpark. I have always been very aware of myself when I am with other people, even those I love and trust. This quality most likely is a result of all the people-watching I’ve done in my life. On the plus side, I never (okay, almost never?) get very drunk in public, but I can also never really relax. Getting sweaty in a huge room full of other sweaty people, in my ugly ass running shoes and ratty ass yoga pants, all of us jiggling away on various machines, is not appealing. I don’t care if hitting the gym five days a week will make me look like a movie star and help me live to 163 years old, I don’t want to. I don’t want to because it makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being judged.

People will look, and they do judge, but there’s not much I can do about it. I have within my reach the power to make myself healthier and fitter, and I’ve let what some person might possibly think at some point hold me back for five fucking years! The worst part is, I’ve never thought of it that way until I read that line. It makes so much sense.

“Everyone else is a self-centered bastard too” is my new mantra, and after reading it I picked up my cell phone and told my husband I wanted to join his gym.

We’re going tonight to sign me up. I’ve heard it’s a pretty nice place, and they even have yoga!