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katepeck

Lost (in books) in Los Angeles

I spend six days a week around books, then come home and play with them some more. Won't you help me play?

Currently reading

Cat's Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut
The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights
A.S. Byatt, Richard Francis Burton, Anonymous
Death of Kings
Bernard Cornwell
First Blood - David Morrell Blood. Lots of blood.Did you know this book was assigned reading in some places before the movie came out? True story. I can see why, too. One generation pitted against another, good intentions gone awry, and people seeking their place in the world. It also happens to be accompanied by vicious murder, which probably keeps the young people interested. It also shows the trauma of PTSD in a time before that condition had a name.This is not the Rambo who appears in Rambo 2-4, or even in the ending of 1 (also called First blood. If you have the chance, watch the alternate ending to 1 - it's a lot closer to the book, and a lot more fulfilling, if depressing.This book is brutal, but, then, so is war. Maybe that's the point.
Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, #2) - E.L. James let me refer you once again to Katrina Passick Lumsden. this is magical.
Fifty Shades of Grey  - E.L. James there's nothing that I can say that Katrina Passick Lumsden has not said better. seriously, I reread that review once a month and laugh as much each time.
Crash - J.G. Ballard Another book that my roommate suggested. This one also involved a lot of semen and sodomy (though nowhere near as much as Ancient evenings - sodomy, that is, there might be as much semen). I sometimes get the feeling when reading books like this, or seeing art-house movies, that I'm kind of a failure. I emerge from the experience saying "wait, what?" and feeling frustrated because I have no idea what happened. I get the basic plot. The narrator (James Ballard - tricky author makes it easy for me to remember the character's name) is in a horrific car accident, spends time in a hospital recovering, becomes involved with the widow of the man who was killed in his car accident, and meets Vaughan. I was trying to come up with an adjective that would describe Vaughan, but he's a whole heap of contradictions. He's a handsome man with an attractive body, but he's been badly disfigured to the point of being almost grotesque. He's charming, but also rather creepy and stalkerish. He's a complex character who seems to slowly lose his mind over the course of the book, culminating in his fatal car accident (not a spoiler, you read about it on the first page). I had the unsettling feeling that Ballard (the narrator) was slowly transforming into Vaughan, as Vaughan started wasting away. Would the culmination of that transformation be the scene where he has sex with Vaughan? I'm glad that finally happened, by the way. The sexual tension was killing me.There was a lot of sex, but most of it was passionless. Maybe that was the point, but it all felt really emotionless. I had the same problem when I read The day of creation. Perhaps Ballard (author) and I are just not meant to be.Time to go re-watch the movie, which I remember as being suitably bizarre. Cronenberg and Ballard, a match made in heaven.
The Stand - Stephen King I love that it was Key & Peele that reminded me of the "magical negro" in this book.Also, this book is epic, with a huge cast of characters and some straight up evil. I had this ranked as 4 stars, but now that I think about it, it was totally a 5.
Ancient Evenings - Norman Mailer this is my roommate's favorite book (and I knew that before moving in with him), so I said I'd give it a try. sweet merciful egyptian gods, what was that? I can't even use my "didn't quite expect that" tag, because I don't know what that was. It's well written, and if you're into loveless sodomy and incest, this might work for you. I even like Ancient Egypt, but that couldn't get me over the wtf? factor.If you're looking for slightly more accessible Mailer, I would recommend The castle in the forest. It has Nazis. And moves a bit faster.I would suggest that reading Ancient evenings as your first Norman Mailer book is akin to seeing Inland Empire as your first David Lynch movie. It's just too mind-achingly bizarre to start there, unless you're really into bizarre things.
Bastard Out of Carolina - Dorothy Allison Beautifully written and agonizingly heartbreaking. It's clear why Dorothy Allison has been compared to Harper Lee, because Bone is reminiscent in so many ways of Scout, and both Allison and Lee show the good and the bad in southern society. Bone has the love of her family, which is probably the only thing that keeps this book from being unbearably sad. It's not a perfect family, not by a long shot, with its alcoholics and perennial jailbirds, but the love they have for each other is powerful, and makes me sad in some ways that myself is so small. The new postscript by the author that accompanies the 20th anniversary edition is also powerful, and shows the effect that one author can have on the way that problems of class and familial relations extend to all sections of American life.
The Wolves of Midwinter - Anne Rice This book... I made myself read it, because I read The wolf gift, and there are very few series that I will stop in the middle of. This may join the elite group that I give up on, along with the 50 shades atrocities. For some reason, when I read books, I like them to include some narrative tension, which was almost entirely absent in this book. It felt like someone was playing the Sims, and had been given the cheat code that gives you as much money as you want. You're able to build a house that's as rich and fancy as you want, and you can make alĺ the characters beautiful. The only difference is that in the Sims the characters have some autonomy, so things don't always turn out the way you want.Reuben, the main character, gives me the opportunity to describe someone with a word I have always wanted to use, but have never had the opportunity: milksop. He's so full of awe and wonder, so in love with EVERYONE he meets (only a slight exaggeration), that it gets incredibly tiresome. That leads me to a slightly unrelated question, but why doesn't Anne Rice write in the first person as Reuben. The story focuses almost entirely on him, and never wanders away from what he knows, but it's still written in the 3rd person. Anyway, Reuben is so in love with Laura, even though he is worried about what she will become now that she has accepted the Chrism, blah blah blah. He will always love Marchent, whom he knew for all of a week, who left him her palatial estate, and whose tormented spirit now haunts him, kind of. He loves Felix and Margon and Stuart and Sergei and Frank and on and on and on. He seems almost like he's mentally deficient, but that can't be the case because he's familiar with the Venerable Bede! Name dropping like that annoys me, especially because Bede was an Anglo-Saxon prat, with a lot less talent for entertaining than Isidore of Seville. But I digress.Rice seems to be at her most content when she is describing the Christmas festival in the little town of Nideck, as well as the Yuletide Ball at Nideck Hall. Her loving description of the marble creche figures would be well-suited to some bodice-ripper set during the holiday season. Frankly, I wish that that was what she had written, and just left the damned werewolves out of it. These were some of the least interesting supernatural creatures I have ever read about, and I feel like she's unwilling to make her Ageless Ones capable of evil. The only ones who approach it are quickly killed. All they do is protect the innocent, and kill the bad bad men. And it's always men who are bad.There's a subplot with Reuben's brother Jim, the priest, who is tortured by his past and now weighed down by Reuben's secret. The whole thing seems like an excuse for Anne Rice to create her ideal version of a Catholic priest. Someone who is troubled, but still good, someone who wants to serve others, but may be stifled by the institution.I probably won't make any friends with this review, but this book isn't really worth the time for any but the die-hard Anne Rice fan. I gave it two stars rather than one because the writing isn't bad, and I wouldn't mind going to the Christmas gala that she describes, though I don't think that I would weep when the choir sings the Hallelujah, as everyone in the book does.If you're looking for a sexy werewolf thriller, stick with Glen Duncan's The last werewolf, or the sequel, Tallulah rising. They're not the best books in the world, but at least something happens.
City of Bohane - Kevin Barry This book was a challenge, but in a good way. It's set 40 years in the future, in a fictitious city in the west of Ireland. (In the interest of full disclosure: I lived in Galway, a real city in the west of Ireland, for three years, so I'm a bit biased toward the country and the region.) The characters speak in an invented regional patois which takes a bit of time to get used to, but is worthwhile. The city of Bohane is controlled by a gang called the Hartnett Fancy, which I think is a delightful name for a criminal organization. The characters are an interesting mix of beautiful but deadly women, aging, slightly paranoid criminals, and young ruffians who are decidedly reminiscent of Alex from Clockwork orange. I found the book to be original and unpredictable, and look forward to reading Barry's Dark lies the island, a short story collection that's sitting on my shelf at home.
The Green Mile - Stephen King This book made me really sad that Michael Clark Duncan is dead. The movie was a much smoother story, probably because the book was originally issued in serial format, so there's a bit of repetition each time a new section starts. I enjoyed reading this even though I knew what happened, and, I won't lie, I cried a bit at the end. Damn you, Stephen King, for melting my cold, cold heart.
Cock & Bull - Will Self Uhhhh... Yes. That happened. It was really fucking weird, but it was definitely well written and memorable. Whether I liked it or not is still up in the air.
Ghost Story - Peter Straub It was spooky. Things tied together nicely. And a month later, I've basically forgotten it.
West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders, and Killers in the Golden State - Mark Arax I felt like it had been too long since I read some non-fiction, so I gave this book a try. The essays were good, interesting stories (not enough killers for my taste, but what can you do), and I learned a few things about California. Where the best pot is grown, for instance. How the founder of Zankou Chicken killed his mother and sister in a murder suicide. Little things like that.
The Shining - Stephen King I can see why Stephen King was pissed off with Kubrick's movie. Jack is very much a stand-in for King, the alcoholic writer with a young family, and events are beyond his control in the book. In the movie, he just turns into a crazyface because of the solitude.That being said, the movie was great, and is worth re-watching after you've read the book, because little things suddenly make sense. Like that guy in the dog costume. I was all, what the hell is that about? And once I read the book I was like, aha, now it makes sense. And gave a knowing nod. To the book.The one thing that I liked more about the book was the ending because 1) Scatman Crothers doesn't die as soon as he shows up at the hotel in the snowstorm (yes, I know, the character's name is Dick Halloran, and Crothers was the actor, but I don't care - Scatman Crothers is just so much more fun to say) and 2) there's a big goddamn explosion, and if there's one thing I like, it's a big goddamn explosion. I also think it's interesting how positive the ending in Stephen King's books can be. For all that he writes scary stories, he tends to be big on happily ever afters.
It - Stephen King Beep beep, Richie. Loved the characters, loved the stories, loved the ending. Evil, thy home is Derry, Maine.

MaddAddam: A Novel

MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood You don't have to read Oryx and Crake and Year of the flood before you read Maddaddam, but I promise that it's worth your while to do so. The dystopian future that she creates, full of genetically created cross-breeds, hearty survivor-types, and flashbacks to equally strange times where the world is overrun by corporations and inequality is glorious in it's scope and originality. That sentence was far too long, but I make no apologies for it, because it's all true.Atwood summarizes the first two books in a "Last time, on Year of the flood" kind of way, but without being dull. There's a big information dump if you haven't read the other two books, but that's the price you pay for foregoing those amazing works of fiction. Shame on you. Jimmy, the chosen protector of the Crakers (weird genetically perfected humanoids whose genitals turn blue when they're in heat), is out of commission following a run in with some Painballers at the end of the first two books, so Toby has to take over the ritual storytelling and wearing of the hat. A number of chapters consist of her speech as though it were transcribed, which is cleverly done, and frequently involves her asking the Crakers to stop singing. Those crazy buggers just love to sing. Toby is finally able to reconnect with Zeb, and many of the stories that she tells are modified versions of his tales, from the early days of the God's Gardeners.I'm going to stop now, because I really don't want to give anything away. I don't know that this book was as good as the first two, but I felt satisfied by the ending. Not all of the problems were resolved, but enough were so that the reader had some hope for the future.