Hi guys do you miss me? I miss you

January has been every bit as crazy and hectic and off the walls as we expected it to be and I’M SO GLAD IT’S OVER HOLY CRAP

Marci Selfies

David was having a rough day so I flooded his phone with stupid selfie pictures to cheer him up, and then GoogleSingularity was thoughtful enough to make a gif out of them. Cheers!

The good news is we’ve moved. We’re in our new little home and we’re not moving anywhere any time soon. Because bleck. The bad news is we aren’t going anywhere any time soon because we’re trapped by the mountains of boxes. I thought things were going really well but holy crap that last load, guys. It was the worst. It was that point where I just didn’t understand why we didn’t just throw every single thing away because it all looked like trash that we could live without except when I did that in our last move, David got all upset that I threw important things away. Like fans. I don’t know. It just seems so disheartening to pack it all up when you’ve already got the apartment looking pretty decent and nice after a move and you don’t know why on earth you need to add anything else to the mix. Ugh. I’ll live, but ugh.

Let’s end on a happy note, eh? One of the first times we were driving past the apartment I saw a sign in a building for one of my favorite used bookstores. It was so exciting and I squealed all the happy squeals. All of them. I tried pointing it out but David didn’t see. Then my mom and I were driving by and I tried to point it out but I didn’t see the sign. It was awful. This happened every time we drove by that spot and starting thinking maybe I had imagined it, but then I walked to work (because I live UNDER A MILE FROM WHERE I WORK OMG HEAVEN) and I saw it! I saw the sign! And I saw a truck with the same bookstore name unloading boxes! They’re putting a bookstore only like half a mile away from me! Oh my gosh guys! The best part is? That’s not the only bookstore near me. There are two just slightly on the other side of my work, and we’re equidistant from two libraries, like the tasty tasty center of a library sandwich. The only downside is having the libraries a block further away from me than the bookstores. Seriously, though, I now live in heaven, because heaven has five separate sources of books, all either used stores or libraries, within a mile of where I live. It just doesn’t get better than that!

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Whoa guys I’m writing about clothes again

Marci 91813 WTW Bookstore Face

I know. I know, it’s been a while. But for what it’s worth, that entire time I didn’t do outfit posts? I was still at least wearing clothes. Be grateful for the little things. Anyway I’m participating in this week’s What to Wear, hosted by the one and only Nicole at Gypsy in Jasper. So. The bookstore. Or, at least according to these photos, what to wear when you’re sporting the worst hangover. Yesterday my mom picked me up and took me to the Third Place Books, which is my happy place. I ate a delicious bbq baked potato and we browsed books for much longer than we intended to. I opted for the most comfortable outfit in my closet, so a jersey skirt and a chunky knit cape poncho thing felt perfect. The whole point of a bookstore (to me) is cheering up and feeling calm. Something about a good bookstore centers me, so when I have an off day that’s the first place I want to go. Also I broke out these tights, which are the color of an almost-too-ripe pumpkin and I’m pretty sure the Fashion Police have rules against wearing them in any season that isn’t fall. It felt right. My feelings were further justified when I saw my breath this morning on Lyra’s walk. Hi there fall!

Marci 91813 WTW Bookstore Full

I just realized I don’t remember where I got like any of these items of clothing. The bag is Modcloth and the dress is old navy and the rest is only heaven knows. Sorry.

Don’t talk to me. Basically, like ever.

Okay that’s not actually true. But unfortunately, it’s pretty close to true. What can I say? I’m a shy introvert, through and through.

————-

I’ve had one pair of sunglasses for about six years. They cost three dollars when I bought them, and I fully attribute their longevity to the fact that I live in one of the more overcast places in the country and that I don’t wear contacts. I wear them when I’m really desperate to keep people from approaching me, though, and I tend to have my headphones on as well. Because seriously, who approaches a girl with dark shades and headphones? At a bus stop? While reading a book?

People who are dicks, that’s who.

Like, one time I was on the bus reading. With headphones going. And this guy waved me down–like, walked to a seat in front of me and waved his hand in front of my face until I looked at him (I kept the headphones on). “What are you reading” he asked, and my response was holding my book in front of his face while still reading. People like that are douchebags, and that is the worst way to approach a girl who’s reading.

Anyway. The other day I was leaving a bookstore for an appointment. I was wearing my skull-print dress, brown tights and my studded faux-oxford-shoe-things. I also had my purse on my shoulder and a large moleskine art journal under my arm. Most importantly, I was wearing my headphones and my sunglasses. Why are all these details relevant? An older man stopped me. Like, physically moved in front of me so I couldn’t go around him, and asked if I worked there. I just stopped and stared. Do you work here, he asked again. I couldn’t help it (nor do I think I should have) but the snarkiest “uhhh no” came out of my mouth. My bitchy sixteen year old bratty self would have been so proud.

Because seriously–who does that? He even asked again–so you don’t work here? He looked disappointed. I ignored him and pushed my way past. I mean, even if I did work there, I clearly wasn’t on the clock, so fuck off dude! The help desk is a whopping five feet from where I was standing. No excuse.

What I Read In June

Embarrassing story to start us off–I gathered up all the books I’ve read to take the photo, and then realized I left one out. So I redid the photo, began typing up my reviews, and realized that my first review of Leviathan Wakes felt eerily familiar. I looked it up on the blog and completely forgot which books I read in June–which will teach me to not put off writing these posts until halfway through the next month, eh? So yeah now I’m too lazy to redo the photo for a third time. You get what you get, people 😉

MayJune Reads

Are You My Mother?

I read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home back in my college days and really loved it. A person who was pretty close to me at the time said it gave them a lot of insight into who I am as a queer lady, as well as my rather unique relationship with my dad. All in all, I would give that book a super positive review. I was excited, then, to pick up this one, a book she supposedly wrote about her mother. Giving a less-than-awesome book review is hard for me, because I don’t want to come across as insensitive. It would be so easy to just write “not really my style” and be done with it, but that’s lazy.

On one of the very last pages, there’s a dialogue between the author and her mother that is such a painfully accurate description of what you just spent the last two hundred pages figuring out. “It’s a metabook” her mother says, to which Bechdel enthusiastically agrees. Fact is, though, I don’t think that’s a good thing. She didn’t write a book about her mother. She wrote a book about herself, about how Alison Bechdel handles her mother’s strained response to the previous book, about Alison Bechdel’s journeys in therapy, about Alison Bechdel’s struggle to write this book.

She did, in fact, write an actual book. Just not one about her mother. Which, I suppose, is fine. The art style is brilliant, as usual, and the issues she juggled were complex and whole. They just weren’t, in my opinion, the fodder for an interesting book. It doesn’t help that I have an almost zero-tolerance for psychoanalysis, but reading entire chapters of Bechdel recounting an abstract dream and attributing it to the one word she saw on an article that relates to her mother and the conversation they had a few weeks ago felt like a waste to me. It felt like her talents needed a slightly stronger editorial hand, someone gently reminding her that while it’s all fine and well to journal about your feelings and strained relationship with your mom, that you probably need to include an actual plot in order for it to be a stand alone, solid book.

I feel like such a bitch for writing that.

The Brief & Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Definitely needs a few re-read throughs, but he did an amazing job writing about Dominican history through a family narrative–which isn’t all that original in structure, but amazingly effective and Diaz has a very strong voice that carried throughout the story. I’ve written briefly before about how each region of the world has a different approach to fantasy and science fiction, and latin america has a very distinct flavor that I usually have a harder time with. This book was a great way to ease into that flow, though, and I really enjoyed it. Also, it was my official June Pulitzer Read. Huzzah!

 

Faithful Ruslan

I cried. That’s the best summary I can offer. This is a Russian novel, one of those contraband ones that took decades to get published and then another decade to make it’s way to the states. The whole story is, essential, an allegory for what Russia was going through at the end of the Stalin era, when camps were closing and how those who spent their life in those camps, as prisoners and as workers, survived the shift. It’s told from the perspective of one of the camp dogs, animals that were trained to be brutal and ruthless. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the need to compulsively shower Lyra with hugs and pets every ten minutes while reading this, but it was still an amazing book.

The back cover spells out the basics of the plot, which was based on a true story, so it’s no spoiler when I say that the book starts when the camps close and ends when a train of passengers arrive in the town where the dogs migrated to, waiting for their next shipment of people. It has an expectedly horrific ending but even knowing what was going to happen, the way the author ended the book took me completely by surprise. If you have a strong stomach and a love of Russian literature (I meet about 2/3 of the requirements) then this should definitely go on your list.

 

Land of Loss | Everworld Series Book 2

It’s no secret that I’ve been into Animorphs since they first came out, so I remember when i was in middle school and the KA Applegate put out a new series called Everworld, I jumped on that train so fast it’s not even funny. A few books in my mom tuned into the gore that is the series’ inner covers and asked if maybe I should wait a few more years for the series. I’m stubborn and told her no, I could handle it, and continued reading. Long story short, it was too much for me. My tender, gentle middle schooler heart could not handle the gory violence in the books and, defeated, I set the series down.

So…. when I found a couple books at Goodwill, I got super excited. Finally! I’m old enough now! Huzzah! I started reading them, wondering if now I would find them light and trivial and easy reads. They’re still violent. Shockingly so, considering I read them in middle school. Like holy crap violent. For a middle schooler. I like the premise

You know that moment when you’re on vacation?

And, while you realized you forgot to pack essentials like an additional outfit, your toothbrush, conditioner, etc, your body takes a little bit of time figuring it out? Well, the moment my brain ran out of actual outfits and my hair realized it hadn’t been getting it’s normal product and was feeling abandoned over lack of styling, that’s the moment when I managed to get an outfit photo taken.

Marci 5-26-13Outfit Details

 

Eh, fuck it. You guys get to see my off days all the time, I just don’t tend to announce them so majestically in the beginning of posts. This was one our last full day in Salem, where we had to follow through on one of my mini traditions. I love stopping by the Book Bin and shopping their clearance (they always have the best selections!) I think David underestimated the power this store would hold over me when he took me there three years ago on our first trip to Salem, but I seriously ask to work it in every time we’re in town. Call me cheap, but there’s something about not paying sales tax that just gets me really excited (politics aside, because honestly there’s a lot about not paying into such a regressive tax that hurts the poor the hardest). Ahem anyway, books! So many books!

Marci 5-26-13 BooksMarci 5-26-13 SidewaysMarci 5-26-13 Top

This outfit was definitely a hodpodge mess of mixing from a couple other planned outfits. I forgot to pack a sweater which is an all new level of fail. It might sound silly, especially since it was so warm out and I remembered a denim jacket, but sweaters are definitely my security blanket. I feel like you guys get the mild version of what my arms look like sans-sweater, although my in-real-life peeps say they aren’t that noticeably. Whatever, they’re probably just too distracted starting at my awesome pterodactyl, amiright?

Marci & David 5-26-13

Oh look! A mushball photo!

May’s Awkward Middle Child

I’ll admit it with a sigh–I only read one book in May. Okay, actually, I only finished one book in May. It was a month of starters, apparently, and I’m going strong. Ish. Strongish. We’ll see where June leaves us, but I’m feeling better since I’ve already devoured two whole books this month. Back to what I was saying–I read Caliban’s War, by  James S.A Corey, the follow up to Leviathan Wakes

This novel can be described so succinctly in less than five words– overachieving middle child syndrome. Within the first sixty pages you know that this is not a sequel, but rather is a book being sandwiched between the first and the looming shadow of the unwritten last. I try not to hold any grudges against middle books in a trilogy, because it’s not their fault. I can’t think of any trilogy that had a strong, independent second book; a second book that served a purpose separate from being the set up for the final book’s conclusion. Even my all-time favorite trilogy, His Dark Materials, The Subtle Knife–as wonderful as it was–exists primarily as set up for The Amber Spyglass.

I almost hold a grudge against Caliban’s War, though, because for a couple hundred pages you really start to believe that the authors are going to be bold enough to finish the story line they start in the same book. It’s a gamble, but it’s one that kept me enthralled throughout an otherwise plodding pacing. Don’t get me wrong–the story concept itself was strong, and I really enjoyed reading the expanding details of the political world the authors are creating. The new characters were all strongly written without overlap to too many tropes. The few times the authors seemed to be rewriting old characters into existing name slots, they caught themselves and used other characters to call them out. “You’re turning into X___,” one character accuses another. “You better cut that out.”

Still, something overall about the novel just didn’t click as well with me, and I’ll chalk it up to being the middle child. It took me a lot longer than I expected to read it. My biggest disappointment was felt at the end of the book where, and I’m attempting to do this with no spoilers, but it goes back to expectations. The book starts out with a strong middle-of-the-trilogy feel, introducing a whole swath of new characters that aren’t immediately relevant and you know it’s set up for the next book. A new crisis emerges, and you start to feel like the book couldn’t possibly be complete without the conclusion of said crisis. Detailed (and perhaps overly obvious) foreshadowing managed to tie in another looming crisis with the one we were currently reading about, and maybe that’s where the disconnect happened. I suppose I read them as too intricately entwined, and silly me, I started to believe that one crisis would be the catalyst that solved the other crisis. I was wrong. The end of the book wraps up one, and leaves with an all-too-predictably cliffhanger.

But that’s okay. For all the criticism I might pour onto this book, I pour it out of love. This series has been one of the easiest, candy-like sci-fi books. They read fast because they are fun, and I haven’t felt let down with that element. Sure Caliban’s War might have gotten tripped up with its pacing a couple of times, but it’s stil about space cowboys who’ve gone rogue against the big worlds in order to fight big scary space monsters. So you can’t complain too much, amiright?

What I read in April

The past few months have definitely been a lot more about art than literature–both in the sense of creating and consuming, but there you go. I’m getting better at building a reading schedule into my routine. My personal reading goal is three books a month, and I’m really glad to say that I topped out this month with four (and a half, but you know, that goes into the May pile).

Leviathan Wakes, Author
David and I are starting to get into the obnoxiously couple-y habit of buying books we’re both interested in reading, and this was one of them. It’s a bit mammoth in concept, but the authors handled it a lot better than I expected. The concept blends the themes and style of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with a fifties black noir dime novel. My one critique, which is more of an observation than anything, is that co-authored books (like this one) is that they tend to read with almost a starchy level of structure. Honestly I loved this book and I’m already halfway through the follow up one, which I am shocked to admit holds up all on its own. My biggest complaint was realizing that the authors are the assistants to George R R Martin, and my main thought was ‘What the heck are you guys doing writing your own books? Let’s get the Game of Thrones series finished already!!’

The Prisoner of Heaven, Carlos Ruis Zafon
David’s coworker passed this book along to me after her initial recommendation, The Shadow of the Wind, was met with my confession that I already read it (it happens embarrassingly often, #humblebrag much, which is why I avoid book recommendations like the plague). This is a follow up to Shadow of the Wind, which was a scary and creepy and good. This book was also scary and creepy and very good. It was a lot more violent, though, which I could have done without. It was the worst kind of oh-this-really-happened violence, too, which makes it so much harder to stomach. This book was a fast read, though. The first half took me through the three hour boat ride to Victoria and the second half kept me occupied during the return boat trip home. It also ends with a very clear set up for another book, which seems like it’ll be a really good one.  

Single Infertile Female, Leah Campbell
Read this one after the blogger self published. I’ve read her blog for a couple years now, and the book provided a lot of “behind the scenes” details to her story. Similar to other blogging authors, her book’s story and writing style is a slightly more polished very of her blog’s story and writing style. I’m hesitant to write anything but a glowing review, because the author is a blogger whom I admire quite a bit on a personal level. In the end, though, I have to be honest. Her book felt incomplete, as though it lacked purpose. If she had written a memoir, she was missing too many details and structure to give a complete picture of her life. If she was writing with the main goal of giving a voice to women who suffer from infertility, then I’d say she let her story get a little overshadowed by the boy drama. In the end, her book was neither a memoir nor about her journey with infertility–it was a summarized, slightly polished version of her blog posts.

The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer
Since this is part of my Pulitzer Prize Reading Project, I’m going to save my full review for one of my monthly recaps, but I’ll leave you with this. Oh man. So much yes. It was intense, it was emotional, and like everything that man writes, reading it was like a gentle massage for your eyes. Well, maybe more like a deep tissue massage. A little painful but in a good way.

What I read in March

Ugggh I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that I didn’t spend the last week furiously reading my books to try and finish something anything before having to write this post, but no such luck. If you don’t count the ten Animorph books (and I don’t, since they take me twenty minutes to read), I’ve only finished 1 book. *le sigh.  I have 80 pages left in Vang Gogh’s biography, I’m 450 ish pages into The Executioner’s Song and 30 pages into Sybil Exposed, but now I’ve gone and given away my April recap before the month even had a chance to start…

 

Blindness, Jose´ Saramago
I picked this book up on a whim, which isn’t at all uncommon for me. I’m afraid of reading books that I dont’ think will be good, though, so I avoid Booker Prize books (oh snap) and pick based on the author that wrote an introduction, if the book won a Nobel Prize or a Pulizter or something. Or if the cover is designed really well, I guess. Anyway, this one apparently won the 1998 Novel Prize for Literature. This book was a bit of a trip to read, but in a good way. The entire city is infected with a blindness plague, and his writing style fits perfectly with the essence of the story. Long, run-on ‘dreamy’ sentences and conversations with no quotation marks all build up the disorienting experience of being surrounded and engulfed by unexpected blindness. It has a very dark, post-apocalypse style approach to the humanity and experiences which made it a little tough to read. Very worthwhile, though. I want to check out the sequel now!

What I read in February

I mentioned a month ago that January is my month for excessive reading. Just as predictably, February is my month of writing and art. Case in point: I purchased a  new journal on January 26th, and to date have written over 12,000 words in it. Which, for me, is a lot of words. This month has also been a month of wonderfully excessive painting. Still, though, there were books. In my world, there are always books.

An Unquiet Mind, Kay Robinson
My sister recommended that I read this once I started reading about people who are bipolar. My initial response to the first part was judging the author with my judgin’ face for her perfect little childhood, but that is so unfair. So so unfair. The way she documents her mental health history, weaving it seamlessly into her life story, is amazing and powerful. It’s an essential read for anyone with an equivalent diagnosis, or anyone living with or loving or compassionate towards someone with an equivalent diagnosis. David read it after I finished it and is really glad that I threw it at him. 

The Post Office, Charles Bukowski
This is a book I finished in an entire day, and my reaction to it sums up my entire reaction to Charles Bukowski. I love him, but I hate him. I love his prose. I love his poetry. I love the raw element of outsider art that sneaks in through the pages of his works. I hate that he just casually rapes a character and moves on with a level of candidness that makes me suspect he would do it in real life.

Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, Mo Yan
More than anything I read this for the title, but it was an amazing book. You know every country has their own style of fiction and fantasy? Japanese fantasy like Murakami is so easily identifiable as Japanese, while Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s fantasy can’t be identified as anything other than S. American in origin. Mo Yan clearly articulates the aesthetic for Chinese fantasy. He’s probably not the first to do so, but I haven’t read a lot of Chinese works so he’s the one that defined the style for me. I loved this book.

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin
Those who read all the way back to my Moose days will recall Kels’ boyfriend, with whom I’ve been good friends for years. He’s been trying to get me to read anything ANYTHING by this author for a while now, and I’m glad I did. Not quite my favorite scifi, but definitely a strong and thoughtful read. Four distinctly different quotes have become unintentional prompts for some long writing sessions. Her insight into politics and the motives of humans is really interesting.

Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith
To be honest, I’m still reading this one. And I started it in mid-January. It’s fascinating, heartbreaking, and disillusioning. My heart breaks for the lack of any mental health care that Van Gogh so clearly needed, and it’s horrible to read about what an unpleasant person. To what extent it is just his mental illness, I am left unclear. All I know is that as much as I love him and respect his art and am an avid fan, I don’t think I’d want to be his friend. Except for that overwhelming desire to give him a hug and handfulls of lithium pills.

Recap of January’s Reads

Historically speaking, January is always my busiest month for reading. Something about the new year just inspires me to buckle down with my books, I guess. Here’s a quick recap of everything I finished* in January.

January Books

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell finished 1-2-13 *
This book inspired its own mini post, and was a gift from my Dad. My sister Carol gets credit for finding it and introducing it to my family, though. A much deeper read than I originally expected, it’s a novel that spans centuries of mankind and postulates on slavery, self-empowerment, and the power of hope.

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky finished 1-5-12
It took me several attempts to finish this book, and I must have read the first 15 – 20 pages a half a dozen times during 2012 before finally settling into a rhythm and honestly reading it. It’s a (failed) attempt at comedy that features a hyper-narcissistic woman as the first-person narrator and touches on themes (including pedophilia and emotional abuse) that I found, in the end, inappropriately handled. I don’t need to like a protagonist in order to like a book, but in this case the author wrote the narrator too antagonistically, leaving me to find not just her character but the whole book unredeemable. 

Marbles by Ellen Forney finished 1-6-13 *
Ellen Forney is a local Seattlelite who draws regularly for The Stranger, and reading her graphic memoir about her journey with a bipolar diagnosis was a very intense and beautiful experience. Her art style was masterfully used to capture the varying moods that accompany her diagnosis, and her attention to detail in her research outside of her own specific experience places this squarely on the Required Reading list for anyone diagnosed with a personality disorder, and anyone who has friends or family with such a diagnosis. I could go on for hours about how much I loved and was impacted by this book, but hopefully this quickie review sums up my appreciation thoroughly enough.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie finished 1-12-13
This was unintentionally the perfect follow up to read Forney’s
Marbles, since she was the illustrator for this young-adult novel. Alexie is also a local Seattlelite with his writings appearing regularly in The Stranger, and this was his first novel I’ve read. It was beautifully and honestly written about an American Indian boy who very bravely steps out of his tribe in search of a better education and economic opportunities. Alexie doesn’t dumb down the writing or gloss over the issues of race and acceptance in this novel and effectively reaches his audience with the raw portrayal of the protagonist’s experiences.

Reached by Ally Condie finished 1-14-13
I read this at the suggestion from my friend Violet over at List Love Laugh. It’s the third in a Young Adult trilogy that is basically a plot combination of Hunger Games (romantic angles) and The Giver (societal structure). The whole thing was fairly well written, although it lacked any amount of originality for me to feel comfortable promoting it. I was a huge fan of The Giver growing up, though, so I was happy to read a three-part storyline about a world almost identical to The Givers. 

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zappo finished 1-16-13
This is one of my sister’s favorite books and she gave it to my mom for her book club. Then she gave the original Spanish version to my dad for Christmas. See what I mean about passing books around? I had to get it for myself, and I really enjoyed the story. It was super creepy and scared me in a couple of spots. I’ve never really read mysteries, mostly because I feel like I’m supposed to have it all figured out but I never do. In this story, about a boy who saves an old book and finds a mystery surrounding it, I had the mystery solved in the first twenty pages. And then I was wrong. And then I solved it again. And then I was wrong. And then I solved it aga—-catch my drift? Basically, it was a ton of fun. Creepy creepy fun.

Just My Type by Simon Garfield finished 1-21-13 *
I had a lot of high hopes for this book, which presents itself as a design history of typography. Mostly, though, it’s just a type nerd nerding out over his favorite fonts. The history was fairly rich, but I was a little stumped by the lack of examples and diagrams of fonts. I think this book would have gained a lot from almost instruction-like illustrations. It was an easy read, but I don’t feel like I gained anything out of it. Especially since he’s a little harsh in how he bashes Brush font, which I happen to use on the blog. And don’t think I’ll be changing anytime soon.

Animorphs # 8, 14, 26, 33 + The Andalite Chronicles + The Ellimist Chronicles  by KA Applegate
Okay so in the realm of guilty pleasures, these books are definitely it. I look for them every time I’m in a used bookstore or thrift store because they are the best easy, half hour reads for me. I love them like candy.

*These books were technically started in the last week of December, or in the case of the last one, I’ve been reading it on and off for months, but I’m still counting them for January. Since that’s when I finished them.