Reading in Purple

Reading. One of my life's greatest passions, alongside travel, photography, cats, and purple things. This is where I'll write about what I'm reading.

 

I should also use this area to note the potential and probable use of strong language. You have been warned.

Historical uncertainties leave room for fictional invention

The Scribe of Siena - Melodie Winawer

The fun thing about historical fiction is that ambiguity and uncertainty inherent in certain time periods leave a lot of room for play. That leads to stories like The Scribe of Siena, about a neurosurgeon in New York who travels to Siena, Italy to continue her recently deceased brother's research. From there, she winds up on the trail of a possible conspiracy leading to the fall of the city, assuming she can survive long enough to share what she has learned.

 

I want to say upfront that the half star was docked from this book's score solely because of the length of some of the chapters. One was 43 pages and I am not a fan of chapters exceeding 15 pages in length. As you can likely see by the number of books I have going at any one point in time, I've got a bit of reading ADD.

 

That said, this book has FAR more strengths than weaknesses. Chief among them is Winawer's attention to detail, which feeds into and strengthens the narrative of the story. The world she creates in mid-14th Century Siena is rich and deeply imagined, coming to vivid life in my mind as I read. I don't remember the last book that was this effortless for me to imagine how things looked, felt, and smelled. As an example, I had never seen pictures of the Ospedale before, yet the other day I googled it out of curiosity and it was identical to what I had pictured as I read the book, down to the set-up of the other buildings and streets around it.

 

That takes a special level of skill and Melodie Winawer has got it.

 

Beatrice, our main character on this historical romantic adventure, was another relatively strong point. While she maybe could have been a little more flawed, it wasn't particularly necessary in this case due to the inherent flaws that came with a 21st Century woman being transported to 1347 and required to figure out how to function in a new, but old, society.

 

Overall, I very highly recommend this book and actually intend to buy a hard copy myself. I may even spring for a hard cover, and I save those for special cases.

A solid start with a strong appeal for Sherlock Holmes fans

A Study in Silks - Emma Jane Holloway

This, the first book of the Baskerville Affair, is a solid start to a trilogy that will appeal strongly to any who count themselves fans of Sherlock Holmes, so long as they don't mind a bit of magic alongside their mayhem. 

 

While it wasn't a perfect book, with a complex and sometimes difficult-to-follow plot floating between multiple characters' points of view, I did find it highly intriguing and have to wonder if I read the same book as those who claim nobody cared about the murder 200 pages in. I also normally abhor love triangles, but again I wonder if I read the same book as those who said that the love triangle was the sole focus of the book.

 

It really, truly was not. The complex murder case and the intrigues going on below the surface were what grabbed my attention as being the focus of the book, which was, I believe, much the purpose of the book. All that said, I personally really enjoyed this book and am glad I have the other two books in the series to read. I'll be hard-pressed to resist jumping into A Study in Darkness right away.

That was... something.

The Circle - Dave Eggers

Unfortunately, common sense does not always win out.

 

Don't get me wrong, this was a really enjoyable book and I read it rather quickly - in a weekend, basically. But it was creepy and terrifying and deeply unsettling. I'm not really sure what else I can say about it without diving off the depend into spoiler-land, and I don't really want to go there.

 

I do think that more people should read this book, especially before the movie comes out in April. It'll probably make a lot of people uncomfortable and squirmy, but it also makes an important point about our right to privacy.

When is enough "transparency" finally enough?

The Circle - Dave Eggers

Warning: Light spoilers ahead that may not really be spoilers? I dunno.

 

I was recently introduced to Dave Eggers' 2013 novel The Circle by way of the movie, which will be released later this year. As a fan of Emma Watson, I naturally was intrigued by the trailer, and then by the premise of the movie and book. I had seen the title floating about a few places online and decided that this time I would actually check it out. A couple weeks later, I had the opportunity to order a copy. Upon its arrival on Thursday, I found I couldn't resist it and started reading, just a couple pages here and there as I toyed with the idea of starting yet another book when I have a stack of five plus an ebook to be getting on with, as well.

 

I wound up falling into it, hook, line, and sinker, on Friday, including staying up until 4:30 am reading in bed and then promptly digging back into it upon waking up today. That's how intrigued I am by the premise of this book.

 

Although I'm not quite halfway through, it has already started to creep me out in various ways. Video of sexual encounters without the consent of both people involved? Forced social interactions online and in real life, which then translates to online behaviors? Basically being lured into literally living at work, with long work hours and guilt-trips if you don't spend time socializing at work events after? This does not sound like the kind of world I would want to live in, yet it sounds eerily like one that we could be headed toward, with some of the biggest names in the Internet already having unprecedented access to any information we'll let them see. 

 

I think I'll be taking more precautions about what I post from here on out as I seek to strike a better balance. I don't particularly want my entire life to become digitized. 

At last, credit where credit is due

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly

It has been a really long road for women, black women in particular, to get to where we are today. Don't try to argue and fight with me over this, either, it's written in enough history books just how much discrimination there was (and still is) on the basis of gender/sex, race, ethnicity, and nationality. Remember, just because there's a rule against it doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

 

Hidden Figures was, for me, an exhilarating account of Civil Rights, feminism, and aeronautics, flight, space, engineering, and mathematical history all rolled into one neat little ball and tossed into the world, only for Hollywood to come along and royally screw it up with a movie. Don't get me wrong, the movie is really, REALLY fantastic and I adored it, but history is nothing like the movie. It never is.

 

I felt so much anger and pain for the women mentioned in the book, as well as those unnamed hundreds implied, throughout the course of my reading. The brick walls they faced in the forms of discrimination, segregation, and simply being a woman and thus thought of as somehow less capable - despite the job performance reviews and outcomes of their work clearly demonstrating otherwise - were beyond aggravating. To know that performing to a higher level than some of the men would result in nothing more than a slap on the wrist for trying to be more involved is to experience empathy for those who had to go above and far, far beyond in order to accomplish anything.

 

We still have a long ways to go as a society, but this book does a good job of demonstrating how far we have already come. It's time we band together and try to go the rest of the way.

Because sometimes a body count is necessary

Playing with Fire: A Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) - RJ Blain

What do you get when you mix angels, gorgons, pixie dust, NYC, magically-infused napalm, and a barista-turned-fire-breathing-unicorn?

 

RJ Blain's newest book, Playing with Fire, is the simple, short answer.

 

The much longer answer is a madcap magical romantic comedy with a body count, a lot of fire, and a lot of highs that left me actually CAPSLOCK YELLING at the author for the second book to be written. And I don't even like romance novels, which this definitely is.

 

Here's the thing, though. Chief Quinn is hot. Bailey is hot but doesn't realize it due to a craptastic upbringing by parents who sucked at being parents. Of course they're meant to be together, as the rules of RomCom go. But when you throw in the fact that Bailey is the reason Quinn isn't married, the fact that she's a poverty-stricken barista with many other things working against her, and the fact that absolutely everything is insane in this particular version of the world, things don't click together quite as easily.

 

And I love that.

 

Just as one who has read anything by RJ Blain might expect, this book was loaded with some crazy shark-jumping in a the funnest way possible, twists and turns, and hilarity. Most characters are clearly muddy shades of grey, with ulterior motives for those serving on the antagonistic side of the story. I don't really want to say too much because I am not a fan of spoilers, but if you enjoy rather weird fiction and are open to the idea of entertaining new ways of thinking about nearly every kind of supernatural anything you can think of, I'd HIGHLY recommend giving this one a try.

It brings up some important questions...

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

There's more to this post than JUST the review, but the content ties into why I enjoyed the book. The story itself was sweet and simple, if a bit predictable. I found Treena and Pat, particularly, really irritating and self-centered. Lou was decent but cliché. Will was depressing, but I don't mind a depressing character here and there. I loved the very British humor demonstrated Lou's family, as it helped set the darker tone for the book without making it dark. What I really loved was the thought-provoking questions it brought up for readers, which kept it from being an average 3-star read for me.

 

One of the major questions that this book brings up is at what point does a person whose condition is terminal get to say "no, I cannot keep living like this?" Should we be allowing more people who are able to make coherent decisions decide the conditions under which they want to die? Lou struggles with this question throughout the book, and while she thinks she is firmly against it, in the end she starts to see just how much Will is suffering as a result of other people's determination to dictate to him what he needs in life.

 

I think this is a major moral issue and I can understand where those on each side are coming from, including those in the novel. On one hand, you've got those firmly against it. They love Will, they want him to live because they know that even if he only lives five or ten more years, he'll be surrounded by people who love him and want to help him, even if they don't always understand the best way to do so.

 

On the other hand, there are those who do think that Will (to keep this post from straying away from the topic at hand, which is supposed to be a review of this book) should have the choice of when to end his life. He's miserable in his chair and feels like an alien in his own skin following the accident. People are constantly trying to tell him what he wants to do without stopping to think that he's capable of making those decisions still. Nathan, possibly my favorite character in the book, is one of few people who truly gets it: why should Will be forced to live a life he feels so separated from?

 

While the case can be made that Will is too depressed to really see the opportunities in front of him, it's made clear that the depression came after he worked incredibly hard to improve following the accident. He did everything he could and tried to will into being his ability to recover fully, but his injuries were simply too great.

 

Bodily autonomy is a HUGE thing nowadays, and honestly I think that's something that comes up indirectly in this book. Kudos to Jojo Moyes for bringing it up. Ultimately, we get to decide what happens to our bodies, or that's how it should be. Scientists can't even take organs from a corpse unless the person gave permission while sound-of-mind. For me, this is (not-so-)simply another issue of bodily autonomy. For those with terminal illnesses, those who know with a very high degree of certainty that their condition will result in their death, I think the most loving thing to do would be to let them pick. Counsel and guide them, certainly, and feel free to try to do as Lou did and show them the possibilities in life if they choose to stay with you, but the pain and suffering they're going through must also be taken into consideration. After all, the disabled, the chronically ill, and the terminally ill are every bit as human as the rest of us.

 

You are more than welcome to voice your disagreement or agreement in the comments if you wish. I welcome and enjoy a good discussion on difficult issues such as this.

""Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the present." And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory."
1984 - George Orwell, Erich Fromm

Scary how fiction can sometimes apply to current events, isn't it? With all of the "alternative facts" stuff going through the media, social media included, right now, this quote stuck out to me as being unbelievably relevant. Those in control of the government in the book are seeking to control what is perceived as true through careful control of the past, the present, and the future.

 

Yes, for the record, I am reading this because many are reading this. I am also reading it because I haven't before and always meant to do so. I think it's an important book, and now is probably a pretty critical time to read and understand anything involving mass control over what we, the general public and perceived plebeians, understand to be true.

 

Reading is very, very important, whether you want to admit it or not. It allows for the challenging of one's thoughts and opinions, opens the mind up to different ideas, and feeds the brain to keep it from falling into complacency and disuse. Empathy grows with the reading of fiction, as does how we understand the world. Politics have always and will always play a significant role in fiction.

 

Read as much as you can.

Oh, Felicia Day, You Inspire Me

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day

I know there's a slim chance she'd ever actually see this post, but I thought it would be worth it to aim my title directly at her regardless.

 

Because seriously, guys, I love her. I have always admired and respected her, ever since I first watched her in Dr. Horrible, and that respect and admiration has only grown as a result of reading this book. Equal parts funny and, at times, heart-breaking, I love seeing where one of my favorite people came from.

 

It gives me a small amount of hope at a time when I desperately need some.

 

Her upbringing was definitely weird, but her intelligence and determination shove through, even if she was simultaneously rather neurotic about it all. I've experienced that same "I CAN DO THE THING JUST TO DO THE THING" drive. That's actually part of the compulsion that drove me in graduate school while I worked on my currently worthless Master's degree.

 

Needless to say, I adored this book, just as I adore Felicia Day. And if she does ever actually see this review somewhere? Hi Felicia! You're one of a few celebrity-type people I'd genuinely like to sit down and have coffee with.

 

(Also, I wound up not even really reading at all on Sunday, so the 24in48 thing died pretty quickly, but I guess that's just me.)

24in48 Readathon - Hours 3 and 4...

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day

...

 

...

 

I'm not gonna make it to the full 24 hours like I wanted to, but I will definitely be finishing this amazing memoir autobiography thing, and soon! I'm going to sleep before I do so, but at least I will have knocked out a great read in a weekend before this thing wraps up. Once I do so, I'll keep reading other books to see how many hours I can read before midnight and continue posting updates. 

 

I've got a few options: Me Before You, The Scribe of Siena, a book of short stories by Virginia Woolf (supposedly a complete collection), and a curious little book called Church of the Divine Duck, which I read a chapter of in mid-December and haven't touched since. This isn't because of lack of interest, mind you.

 

Nope. This is entirely because of a lack of an attention span on my part. It's honestly somewhat miraculous that I am on the cusp of finishing my fifth book for the year, not counting the book I had to read about 40% of to finish off.

 

That's all for now, guys. Assuming anybody is reading this, that is. I'll drop a review of Felicia Day's book at some point tomorrow amidst the general turmoil that is going grocery shopping within 50 miles of New York City.

24in48 Readathon - Hour 2 Progress Report and more Felicia Day

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day

Oh, I do so adore how my brain short circuits. "Let's take a screenshot of the timer on our phone so we can share that we spent another hour reading."

 

*closes timer without taking screenshot*

 

"Excellent. Well-done, me."

 

On the plus side, I did just spend another hour reading. I'm realizing this is going to be much harder than I thought it was going to because of distractions, like my boyfriend looking over while I'm in the middle of reading a chapter asking if I want to go for a walk. Yes, I do, but give me a bit.

 

On the reading front, I'm now on Chapter 5 of Felicia Day's fabulous and funny autobiography. She is so fabulously human in her writing and in her actual life, even if she is ten times the genius/prodigy that most people ever will be. My boyfriend even commented that he saw the cover earlier and thought it was probably a funny book, although I don't know how much he knows about Felicia Day. Probably not much.

 

I think I made a solid choice for my first read of this weekend, though. I don't normally get into celebrity biographies/memoirs/etc. but there are a few I'll gladly make that exception for and she is one of them.

 

In other news, there's worldwide women's marches going on today and I am so, so proud of those going out there to stand up for women everywhere. I just need to do a better job of avoiding the comments sections, because people can be rather putrid. It's all fuel for my fire, though, and I'll keep reading and learning and fighting.

24in48 Readathon - Hour 1 Progress Report

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day

Well, this is it. This weekend I am attempting to spend 24 out of 48 hours reading. I've kicked it off with a one-hour reading session from an autobiography written by the Queen of Geeks herself, Felicia Day. I ADORE her and admire and respect her endlessly, because let's face it: she's unabashedly weird, she's very smart, and she's sickeningly talented and funny. Naturally, she's also pretty, because why not give her everything?

 

But I digress.

 

This book is a fun one to kick off the weekend with, despite my headache and weird eye issues. Thankfully, those are finally maybe going away a little bit, which means I should have my vision back properly soon.

 

Oh god I hope so. It's really hard to read, play video games, and watch things when one eye is blurred to all hell.

 

Again, I digress.

 

So far, I'm only two chapters into Felicia Day's rather fabulous autobiography, covering her weird upbringing - it's genuinely weird, you guys, trust me - and how she became so fabulously nerdy. The book has her signature self-deprecating sense of humor within, as well as nerdy jokes and references and plenty of embarrassing pictures of her as a kid/teenager for the reader to enjoy. Thus far, I definitely recommend this to anybody who is so much as a casual, passing fan of hers.

 

And, because there's some thing with providing proof of my reading if I want to go for the full 24 hours, here's a screenshot to accompany this update:

 

 

24 in 48 Readathon

A few things worth knowing about me:

 

1) I'm prone to random whims. This is true in terms of jobs I'll apply for, books I'll read, and even one time a vacation I booked. To my credit, my boyfriend had agreed to take said vacation, I just had no patience and didn't let something silly like an actual conversation to decide on a date stop me from going ahead.

 

2) I really like to read and tend to not be limited in what I read. If it sounds interesting, I'll try it.

 

3) Have I mentioned the things about being prone to random whims? Because I am.

 

4) I'm nowhere near as funny as I think I am. Probably. So you're probably not laughing right now and just think I'm kind of weird, but that's ok. We'll forgive each other.

 

5) I am 100% uncomfortable with certain events currently taking place in the USA. You can probably guess what it is I'm uncomfortable with, given that a large portion of the population currently feels the same way.

 

That said, I have decided to sign up for the 24in48 Readathon - https://24in48.com/ - which is happening this weekend. Part of this is my desire to take my mind off the state of things (see #5 above). Some weird part of my brain tells me reading is a great way to separate myself from how dumb I think the world is, and that part may be onto something.

 

Another thing is simply that I felt like it BECAUSE of how much I love to read. Since I'll have a full 48 hours to get my 24 hours-worth of reading in, it will be easy enough for me to read as much as I say I'm going to. And I'm honestly looking forward to this, because, again, I love to read and I have a lot of books I want to read. I'm not sure what I'll read yet, but that's ok.

 

And finally, I feel like bombarding my almost non-existent followers with posts and updates that I find funny, but you probably don't. That's okay, honestly, because I'm writing this book blog thing for me, not you. If I feel like overwhelming you with posts, I will, and I'll have fun doing it.

 

That said, go sign up! Join me in the madness and we can read half the weekend away together.

I knew it within seconds - I'm on page 88 of Me Before You

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

I knew Jojo Moyes was British within a few pages of this book thanks to my upbringing in an Air Force family and British teachers when I was young. It's that dry, slightly twisted sense of humor that is so common among the British people that tipped me off about this author I knew absolutely nothing about before starting this book.

 

That's also what's saving this book for me. The story itself is decently written with a nice plot, but the humor in it is what makes me continue reading it. The characters themselves I find a bit annoying, but I also have never cared for irredeemably pessimistic characters. I find it hard to relate to them, which is a relief for me at least since it probably means I'm not as pessimistic as I sometimes fear. Lou is slowly growing on me, although her complete lack of interest in developing a life for herself is a bit irksome, as well. Even when I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, I was determined to explore some options and try to find something that attracted me.

 

I'm still not that far into the book, though, so I'm going to continue on reading and hoping that Lou will grow as a character and that Will might hopefully be a little less of a drag to read about.

Reading Habits, Riding Habits, Good Habits, Bad Habits

The Booklikes folk asked what our reading habits are on their blog recently, so I thought I'd answer their questions! Read on!

 

Do you have a certain place in your home for reading? Nope! But I do usually read on the couch or, sometimes, in bed. There's not really a lot of other options, unfortunately, as my tiny NYC apartment doesn't have a bathtub big enough for me to enjoy a nice hot bubble bath and a good book.

 

Bookmark or random piece of paper? Bookmarks, unless I can't find one or I start a book away from home and don't have one handy. A number of the stores I go to or buy from online send free bookmarks, so I tend to use those.

 

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages? Technically, I can just stop reading wherever, so long as I've finished a paragraph. I have a strong preference for ending at a chapter break, though. I try to do that when I'm stopping for the night.

 

Do you eat or drink while read? All the time, especially drinking. I'll usually have water or sometimes tea with me. If I'm snacking, it's usually just something small and/or easy to grab. I can't do greasy snacks while I read, of course, because that would mess up my books' pages.

 

Multitasking: music or TV while reading? Depends. Wordless music, like soundtracks from movies or classical music, is ok, as is chill, trance-like music. TV/Movies have to be ones I've seen so many times they are literally just background noise. There are some days when I can't focus at all if there's noise, so those days I either have to turn everything off or disappear into the bedroom if I can't turn stuff off.

 

One book at a time or several at once? I've usually got several going at once. I have a limited attention span, so unless I get really sucked in by the book I'm reading, I find myself jumping around a lot.

 

Reading at home or everywhere? If I can bring a book, I will. I read on the train, I've read at work (after finishing my work, guys), I read before appointments, at my boyfriends' mom's house (when it's quiet enough). My favorite place ever to read is on the balcony of my cabin on a cruise ship. I've taken two cruises and nothing compares to reading as I listen to the ocean crashing around against the ship while I head for an island far away from the smelly hell that is New York City.

 

Reading out loud or silently in your head? Silently in my head, usually, unless I really need it to sink in or I'm feeling quirky. When I first started reading Pride & Prejudice, I read the first two or three chapters out loud in the worst British accent imaginable, just because I could. 

 

Do you read ahead or even skip pages? Nope, although I was recently tempted to by the plethora of unwanted, poorly written sex scenes in Breath of Fire. Fortunately, the author got over it and I was able to resist that temptation.

 

Barking the spine or keeping it like new? I try to preserve my spines so I can make the books last longer. I read mostly mass market paperbacks when I can, and those don't last quite as long, so it's important to me that the books not get destroyed the first time I ever read them. It's nearly impossible with the longer books, of course.

 

Do you write in your books? Not normally. Non-fiction is more likely to get a few notes written in here and there or passages highlighted if there's something I want to go back and reference.

Remind me why people read stuff like this...

Behind Closed Doors - B. A. Paris

It's not fun. It's not relaxing. In fact, it kept me up until 5 am after reading about Molly's fate (I saw it coming, but that doesn't change how much I hated it) and I kind of wanted to throw up most of the time while I was reading this book. I'm fine with pushing boundaries in literature, even pushing multiple boundaries at once, but this one pretty much was it. Animal neglect and abuse, domestic abuse (verbal, mental, and sexual mostly), and threatened abuse towards a very sweet, very bright mentally disabled person? Nope. Not what I want in my fiction

 

The ending is all that's keeping me from giving this book a solid two stars, as it worked out well in the end. I also really loved Esther, as she was extremely intelligent and knew from the start that something was very, very wrong with the perfect picture she was being shown.

 

While I normally keep the books I acquire, I don't intend to keep this one. I also doubt I'll ever bother with reading another book by B. A. Paris again, as her ability to come up with stuff like this scares me. She's an excellent writer, don't get me wrong, but if she's going to write about this much abuse and torture, I don't want in on it.

Currently reading

The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf, Susan Dick
Progress: 33/343 pages
Church of the Divine Duck
Mark Lages
Progress: 24/277 pages
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
Sonia Shah
Progress: 9/217 pages
The Baskerville Tales (Short Stories): The Adventure of the Wollaston Ritual, The Strange and Alarming Courtship of Miss Imogen Roth, The Steamspinner Mutiny (The Baskerville Affair)
Emma Jane Holloway
Progress: 2 %
The Speed of Dark
Elizabeth Moon
Progress: 50/340 pages
1984
George Orwell, Erich Fromm
Progress: 63/312 pages
Hag-Seed
Margaret Atwood
Progress: 78/289 pages