Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week book bloggers are given a prompt and asked to answer it in the form of a top ten list. Some weeks I don't feel able to answer the prompt provided and this is one of those weeks. Instead of naming my top ten books read in 2012 (because I've barely read twenty books this year and that's a paltry number from which to choose), I'm going to answer a prompt from October.

Back on October 23rd, the Top Ten Tuesday list was "Top Ten Books to Get into the Halloween Spirit." I hadn't felt able to answer that prompt either, but had promised to make a list of Top Ten Horror Novels Gabe Should Read Before Next Halloween. I had said that I was going to go through the other Top Ten lists as well as taking suggestions in the comments.

And then I never did.

So, today, I present to you: Top Ten Horror Novels Gabe Should Read Before Next Halloween

1) The Stand by Stephen King: I picked this novel up off of the Take a Book/Leave a Book shelf at my library a while ago because I had never read a King novel and because I love post-apocalyptic fiction. 
2) We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Shirley Jackson: I vowed to read this after finishing (and loving) Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House but never did. 
3) Let the Right One In: A Novel by John Ajvide Linqvist: Kayleigh of Nylon Admiral recommended this to me as well as a few other books. I decided to go with this one because I've heard others rave about it. 
4) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: A lot of people have told me about this book so I chose this out of all the picks from The Broke and the Bookish's own list.
5) The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Found this promising title through Thought Casters. I can't pass up a good Jack the Ripper tale.
6) Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Thanks to Tumbling Books for this recommendation. I had seen it on a few blog lists but I finally decided to check it out after seeing it on her list in particular.
7) Feed by Mira Grant: I like zombie books and I had been trying to remember who wrote this novel because I had wanted to read it for a while. Thanks to Life With No Plot for reminding me.
8) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: I love Bradbury so this recommendation from A Bookworm Belle is a no-brainer choice for me.
9) The Twelve by Justin Cronin: As I was putting this list together, something kept nagging at the back of my head. I realized that it was the fact that I *still* haven't read the sequel to Justin Cronin's The Passage, which I have been dying to dig into. Maybe that will be my Yule present to myself this year.
10) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: I saw this on a few blogs but it was the description of it from Ula at Blog of Erised that convinced me that this book should make the list.

And there you have it. Ten scary novels that I intend to read before Halloween of 2013. Thanks to everyone for their awesome lists. And maybe next year when Halloween rolls around again, I'll be able to actually have ten books for a top ten list. 


Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and is a chance for book bloggers to share what they read last week, what they are currently reading, and what they are reading next. It's also an opportunity for us to share other things that we did during the week.

I've finally got back into blogging after several weeks away and it feels pretty great. I've been focusing on this blog, so the only post that I've written so far for The Mind of Gabe since my post on depression is today's post about the tragedy that occurred in Connecticut on Friday. This blog was hopping last week, with a post everyday except yesterday. Here's what I've been up to this past week.

What I Read Last Week:
-No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan
-The Lost Button by Irene Rozdobudko
-Background Noise by Peter DeMarco

What I'm Reading Now:
-Rich, Free, and Miserable: The Failure of Success in America by John Brueggemann

What I'm Reading Next:
-The Language of Trees: A Novel by Ilie Ruby
-We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
-A Brilliant Novel in the Works by Yuvi Zalkow
-Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler

Books Reviewed Last Week:
-The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
-The Natural Navigator: A Watchful Explorer's Guide to a Nearly Forgotten Skill by Tristan Gooley
-Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland

Other Posts Last Week:
-"Posing for Charity"

How has the last week been for all of you?


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Posing for Charity

My fiancé and I are giant dorks who love to show each other stuff we've found on the internet. Occasionally these things are socially acceptable to share with the masses. The other day Don showed me a post he had found on Jim C. Hines' blog that I immediately knew I had to blog about.

Hines, a fantasy writer, is raising money for the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation in a rather unusual way: by taking photographs of himself posing in the ridiculous and hyper-sexualized manner of women on book covers. You can find some of these photos here, here, and here (with special guest poser, John Scalzi). You can also find a post about what we should be laughing about when we see these photos rather than what we might be laughing about here. As Hines himself says:
...if you’re laughing because you’re a straight guy and therefore must declare all male bodies brain-searingly ugly? If you’re laughing because you think a man in a dress is funny and should be mocked? In other words, if you’re laughing because of various aspects of ingrained sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other discriminatory nonsense? Then you’ve missed the point so badly it’s not even funny.
The point Hines is trying to make is a good one. We as a society tend to laugh at that which we find absurd...and we find the wrong things absurd. The media has shown us images of men in dresses (think TootsieMrs. Doubtfire, Work It, etc.) and told us to laugh at them. In a world where sexuality and gender expression are a spectrum and in which rigid gender roles are forced on us from birth even if we don't want them to be, the message from the media is that men should wear pants and suits and that only women can wear dresses and skirts and that any man who doesn't fall into those strict guidelines should be laughed at. Our pink/blue dichotomy is impressed upon us even before we're out of the womb and the media does everything in its power to keep us thinking of ourselves in an either/or sense--mostly for the sake of advertising products and measuring demographics, I'm sure.

Hines is pointing out the absurdity of the aforementioned ridiculous and hyper-sexualized poses that women are portrayed in on book covers. Science fiction and fantasy are ripe with examples of this, but they can be found everywhere. How many times have you seen a man lying across a car in a skimpy bathing suit or lasciviously licking an ice cream cone on a commercial? I'm going to guesstimate here and say the likelihood that you have is around zero.

Escher Girls, a tumblr blog designed to "archive and showcase the prevalence of certain ways women are depicted in illustrated pop media, specifically how women are posed, drawn, distorted, and sexualized out of context, often in ridiculous, impossible or disturbing ways that sacrifice storytelling," explores the issue even further than Hines does by ridiculing and attempting to correct illustrations of women that are featured in comic books, manga, and the like. Both Hines and Escher Girls realize the real thing to be laughed at is the way in which women are portrayed in the media.

We have sexualized women for ages, demeaning and degrading them and making them out to be objects rather than functioning members of society. Men, on the other hand, are portrayed as being strong, rugged, powerful...and irresistible to women. The repercussions of this reverberate throughout the world, leading to rape, abuse, disempowerment, and a feeling that men are the superior sex. Our language further perpetuates this false belief. Someone who is scared or weak is "a pussy." Someone who is bad at pitching is told they "throw like a girl." Women who are strong and in a position of power are frequently portrayed as "bitches" who have slept their way to the top while a man in the same position of power is seen as a driven, hard-working individual who earned his distinction. The gender gap isn't about the differences between men and women; it's an unfortunate byproduct of deeply-held and erroneous cultural attitudes towards women.

As Hines states, it is not just sexism that is the issue. Homophobia and transphobia are similar cultural issues that need to be dealt with. I am a member of the LGBT community and have faced harassment and ridicule. LGBT friends of mine have had even worse to deal with: violence, discrimination, neglect. They have been disowned by their parents or have at least lived in fear of that happening if their family were to find out. A lot of the problems that the community faces stem from cultural beliefs held about us that are perpetuated by the media and religious groups. There is a good reason why GLAAD called ABC out on its show Work It: it's yet another attempt by the media to push the "men in dresses are funny" meme. And it's gotten pretty old.

This honestly started out as a post bringing awareness to Hines' efforts to raise money for a good cause. And I urge you to donate to it, obviously. But what started as a simple "Hey, here's something interesting" post has become a way for me to discuss what I think is a huge problem in our society today: othering. We see the world as "us" and "them." If "they" are different from "us" then we dehumanize them by laughing at them, hurting them, conquering them, trying to keep them from having what we have. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, and the like are all ways of othering, of keeping all the power and money and whatever else we desire away from "them."

The issue isn't with the people being othered; it is with the people doing the othering. This country (and every other country) needs deep societal change in order to push forward toward equality. The only way that we are going to be able to provide safety, success, and a loving environment for all is to take a look at our prejudices, whether we know we have them or not, and to change ourselves. Our beliefs are not our own--they are influenced by the media, the government, religion, our parents. They are pushed upon us at an early age and it is up to us to break out of them and to start thinking for ourselves. They are socially driven but can be individually altered.

How are you working towards changing your own beliefs? How are you trying to break out of the social status quo?


Friday, December 14, 2012

Gilded Age 2.0: A Review of Chrystia Freeland's Plutocrats

Title: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
Author: Chrystia Freeland
Edition: Penguin Press (Hardcover, 2012)
Pages: 330
How I Came by This Book: This was on the "New Acquisitions" shelf at the library I work at. As income inequality is an issue near and dear to my heart, I obviously had to check it out.

About the Author: Chrystia Freeland is the digital editor at Thomson Reuters, following years of service at the Financial Times both in New York and in London. She was the deputy editor of Canada's The Globe and Mail and has reported for the Financial Times, The Economist, and The Washington Post. Freeland's last book was Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution. She lives in New York City.

Synopsis: There has always been some gap between rich and poor in this country, but in the last few decades what it means to be rich has changed dramatically. Alarmingly, the greatest income gap is not between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, but within the wealthiest 1 percent of our nation--as the merely wealthy are left behind by the rapidly expanding fortunes of the new global super-rich. Forget the 1 percent; Plutocrats proves that it is the wealthiest 0.1 percent who are outpacing the rest of us at breakneck speed.

What's changed is more than numbers. Today, most colossal fortunes are new, not inherited--amassed by perceptive businesspeople who see themselves as deserving victors in a cutthroat international competition. As a transglobal class of successful professionals, today's self-made oligarchs often feel they have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Bringing together the economics and psychology of these new super-rich, Plutocrats puts us inside a league very much of its own, with its own rules.

The closest mirror to our own time is the late-nineteenth-century Gilded Age--the era of powerful "robber barons" like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Then as now, emerging markets and innovative technologies collided to produce unprecedented wealth for more people than ever in human history. Yet those at the very top benefited far more than others--and from this pinnacle they exercised immense and unchecked power in their countries. Today's closest analogue to these robber barons can be found in the turbulent economies of India, Brazil, and China, all home to ferocious market competition and political turmoil. But wealth, corruption, and populism are no longer constrained by national borders, so this new Gilded Age is already transforming the economics of the West as well. Plutocrats demonstrates how social upheavals generated by the first Gilded Age may pale in comparison to what is in store for us, as the wealth of the entire globalized world is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

Cracking open the tight-knit world of the new global super-rich is Crystia Freeland, an acclaimed business journalist who has spent nearly two decades reporting on the new transglobal elite. She parses an internal Citigroup memo that urges clients to design portfolios around the international "Plutonomy" and not the national "rest"; follows Russian, Mexican, and Indian oligarchs during the privatization boom as they manipulate the levers of power to commandeer their local economies; breaks down the gender divide between the vast female-managed "middle class" and the world's one thousand billionaires; shows how, by controlling both the economic and political institutions of their nation, the richest members of China's National People's Congress have amassed more wealth than the net worth of all the members of all three branches of the U.S. government combined--the president, his cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress.

Though the results can be shocking, Freeland dissects the lives of the world's wealthiest individuals with empathy, intelligence, and deep insight. Brightly written, powerfully researched, and propelled by fascinating original interviews with the plutocrats themselves, Plutocrats is a tour de force of social and economic history, and the definitive examination of inequality in our time.

Review: As a language geek, it's always fun for me when I can bring that knowledge into this blog. In my perfect world, everyone would multilingual and would be as excited about grammar as I am. This isn't my perfect world. I bring this up because the word "plutocrat" gets thrown around a lot and there are probably a lot of people who are unaware of its meaning. In the ancient Greek "ploutos" means "wealth" and "kratos" means "power." Therefore, the word "plutocrat" roughly means "power through wealth." Chrystia Freeland's timely book about those who have gained power through wealth is an excellent source of information for those of us who are curious as to how the super-rich got that way, what they will do to hold onto their wealth and power, and what this could mean for the rest of us.

The dust has started to clear from the financial crisis of 2008 and with that clarity comes a startling realization: we the people are no better off now than we were at the height of the crisis. Republicans want to throw all the blame at President Obama, but those following the bailout and other aspects of the global financial meltdown who aren't drinking the Republican Kool-Aid can see that those at the top of our economy are doing very, very well indeed. Anyone with a grain of sense in them can recognize a pattern when they see one and I'd like to think that I have a grain of sense. Global financial crisis + bailouts to banks and industries rather than to those of us on Main Street (which was a Bush initiative that Obama carried out no matter how many people want to call it "Obama's Bailout") + concentration of wealth at the top = continued financial strain for the rest of us.

Freeland's Plutocrats explores the world of the super-rich, the billionaires who hold more financial and political power than they should, with an approachable writing style, humor, and an eye towards the Gilded Age. Drawing on history, economics, psychology, and personal interviews, Freeland paints a startling portrait of wealth and privilege around the world. Even an informed reader will be shocked by some of the revelations in this book, as well as by the attitudes of the super-rich. They really do see themselves as being separate from the rest of us and from the interests of the countries in which they were born, raised, and made a fortune.

Examining the lifestyles of the rich and the powerful, Freeland draws conclusions that highlight the danger we are all in of falling victim to the unchecked power and greed of CEOs and other earners of astronomical income--people who will risk capital to the detriment of society all in the hope of becoming even more rich. Anyone who lost their investments or their life savings or their job after Wall Street's meltdown can attest to the perils of a world in which the rich are unaccountable. And yet, because of their own desire to be rich and living the high life, many people affected by the financial crisis are more willing to buy into conservative notions of the danger of raising taxes on high-income-earners, the so-called "job creators," than they are to demand that those who fly in private jets and wall themselves off in large houses away from the troubles of the world should have to pay back into the society that helped them to become wealthy in the first place.

Freeland shows how the super-rich blame everyone but themselves for the financial hardships of the last four years and how they view themselves as being above the mundane issues of everyday Americans (or Indians or Chinese or wherever they are from). She gives evidence of their lack of loyalty to anyone but themselves and of their lack of understanding/concern about what they are doing to everyone else in the pursuit of that next car/house/jet/vacation. She tells of millionaires (and billionaires) who feel that they aren't making enough, giving credence to Plato's ideas about the tyrant--a tyrant is never satisfied with what he has and is always going to the next level of excess looking for happiness and never finding it. The tyrants of our age are the plutocrats and those just below them who desire to be plutocrats. Freeland's interviews and anecdotes about the super-rich prove that. And their constant search for happiness in excess will bring further hardship to the rest of us.

I highly recommend this book. If nothing else, it may sway you away from your support of the "job creators" by realizing that they aren't there to create jobs but to make money for themselves. Once the lower and middle classes in this country--and elsewhere--are informed about what is actually being done behind the closed doors of board rooms and in the lavish mansions of the upper crust, we might actually be able to have reasonable discussions about how to move forward in such a way that the middle class isn't hollowed out and the poor aren't left with no way to clamber out of the pit of poverty they have been thrown into. If you walk away from this book with anything, I hope that it is with a feeling of indignation and a determination to stop the cycle of income inequality that is plaguing this nation and the world.

I'm giving Plutocrats five out of five Gabriels.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dude, Where's That Star?: A Review of Tristan Gooley's The Natural Navigator

Title: The Natural Navigator: A Watchful Explorer's Guide to a Nearly Forgotten Skill
Author: Tristan Gooley
Edition: The Experiment (Hardcover, 2010)
Pages: 296
How I Came by This Book: This was sitting up on the "New Acquisitions" shelf at my library. Being the hiking, nature geek that I am I immediately had to check it out.

About the Author: Tristan Gooley set up his natural navigation school, The Natural Navigator, after studying and practicing the art for over ten years. His passion for the subject stems from hands-on experience. He has led five expeditions in five continents; climbed mountains in Europe, Africa, and Asia; sailed across oceans; and piloted small aircraft to Africa and the Arctic. He is the only living person to have both flown and sailed solo across the Atlantic. Tristan is a Fellow of both the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Royal Geographical Society and is the Vice Chairman of Trailfinders. He lives with his wife and two sons in West Sussex.

Synopsis: Before GPS, before the compass, and even before cartography, humankind was navigating. A windswept tree, the depth of a puddle, or a trill of birdsong could point the way home--and, for the alert traveler, they still can.

Whether you go exploring in the mountains or on a lunch break, natural navigation will keep you on course and open your eyes to the small wonders of the natural world. Almost anything in out environment can help us find our way--if we know what to look for. Adventurer and navigation expert Tristan Gooley unlocks the directional clues hidden in: the sun, moon, and stars; clouds; weather patterns; lengthening shadows; changing tides; plant growth; the habits of local wildlife; and more.

Enriched by helpful illustrations and filled with navigational anecdotes collected across centuries, continents, and cultures, The Natural Navigator proves that anyone with a curious mind can still find south by looking at the moon--and find adventure in their own backyard.

Review: I'm going to be honest with you--I don't notice the little things. I'm much more of a big picture kind of person. Regardless of the fact that my cover letters always say that I'm detail-oriented, I'm not really. (Don't look at me like that. Everyone lies in their cover letter.) Tristan Gooley is a details man. He's also, judging from that photo and some of the stories he tells in his fascinating book on natural navigation, kind of a badass.

I picked this book up in the hopes of learning some things about the world around me that would help me when I went hiking, which is about the only type of adventure that I go on. My desire to learn how to navigate stems from a very bad solo hike I took a few years ago in which I got ridiculously lost and ended up having to call a friend to come pick me up from wherever the hell I wound up in the end. Needless to say, dehydrated and tired and hopelessly-uncertain-of-where-I-am is not a good look for me.

In reading this book I learned a lot of interesting things, although whether or not they would be helpful to me without real, hands-on instruction is doubtful. I think a lot of people who read this book will come away with the same thought. While some of it is easily transferrable from page to reality--it's not hard to look at a tree and see the checkmark pattern caused by the prevailing wind or to locate the North Star--but some of the other things that Gooley talks about aren't as easy to learn from a book, especially when you're not that great at things like angles, patience, or having normal-sized hands.

The book is fun and full of lots of interesting anecdotes from Gooley's own personal experiences and from people throughout the world. Some of the chapters were a bit long and draggy, but that's probably because I don't really have any experience/interest in traversing deserts or oceans. Other chapters were chock-ful of information that could actually be useful for me. I would just have to have the book on hand or at least some notes to go by because there's no way I would remember all of it.

There's something in here for everyone, even those who prefer to have adventures in the city or in their own backyard. Some of the best bits of the book, however, are where Gooley shows off his wit. Two of my favorite passages are:
The name "Greenland" was chosen by Erik [the Red] to entice the Icelanders to come to a land that was anything but green. Twenty-five ships set sail from Iceland to follow Erik to the new land. Eleven of them didn't make it there to discover just how optimistic the name Greenland was... (p. 8)
Snails can find their way over relatively huge distances, a thousand feet or more, but lose this ability if they are shaken in a bag, which raises two questions: Why do they lose this ability and why were they shaken in a bag? (p. 216)
The Natural Navigator combines navigation, history, nature, environmentalism, humor, and anecdotal evidence to create a fun and fascinating read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the world around them or even to anyone who is just looking to impress their friends at parties. Imagine how much cooler you'll look to the hot chick/guy you're chatting up when you tell them that you can not only point out constellations but can use them to find your way to their place. On second thought, that's probably not a good line to use.

I'm giving The Natural Navigator 4.5 out 5 Gabriels.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dea(r)th of News: A Review of Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists

Title: The Imperfectionists
Author: Tom Rachman
Edition: Dial Press Trade Paperback (Paperback, 2011)
Pages: 281
How I Came by This Book: I picked this up from a library book sale a few months ago simply because I liked the cover.

About the Author: "Tom Rachman was born in 1974 in London, but grew up in Vancouver. He studied cinema at the University of Toronto and completed a Master's degree in journalism at Columbia University in New York. From 1998, he worked as an editor at the foreign desk of The Associated Press in New York, then did a stint as a reporter in India and Sri Lanka, before returning to New York. In 2002, he was sent to Rome as an AP correspondent, with assignments taking him to Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Egypt. Beginning in 2006, he worked part-time as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris to support himself while writing fiction. He now lives in London, where he is working on his second novel." (from GoodReads)

Synopsis: "Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome, Tom Rachman’s wry, vibrant debut follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English language newspaper as they struggle to keep it—and themselves—afloat.

Fifty years and many changes have ensued since the paper was founded by an enigmatic millionaire, and now, amid the stained carpeting and dingy office furniture, the staff’s personal dramas seem far more important than the daily headlines. Kathleen, the imperious editor in chief, is smarting from a betrayal in her open marriage; Arthur, the lazy obituary writer, is transformed by a personal tragedy; Abby, the embattled financial officer, discovers that her job cuts and her love life are intertwined in a most unexpected way. Out in the field, a veteran Paris freelancer goes to desperate lengths for his next byline, while the new Cairo stringer is mercilessly manipulated by an outrageous war correspondent with an outsize ego. And in the shadows is the isolated young publisher who pays more attention to his prized basset hound, Schopenhauer, than to the fate of his family’s quirky newspaper.

As the era of print news gives way to the Internet age and this imperfect crew stumbles toward an uncertain future, the paper’s rich history is revealed, including the surprising truth about its founder’s intentions.

Spirited, moving, and highly original, The Imperfectionists will establish Tom Rachman as one of our most perceptive, assured literary talents."

Review: I went into this book with almost no expectations. I saw the cover and read the much-shorter and not-even-really-a blurb on the back and thought, "Huh, this might be a fun, quirky read." What I found instead was a sad character-driven novel where the lives of the characters are unravelling just like the paper they work for. In short, my only expectation was completely off base. 

The Imperfectionists begins with a washed-out, has-been foreign correspondent for an English-language newspaper in Rome living in Paris. From there it follows the lives of the various writers, readers, and editors of the dying paper. Their stories are separate but weave into each other as a character from one story is mentioned in another. You don't realize at first that this is what Rachman is doing but as the novel progresses all of these slightly intermingling stories crash together at the end in a tragic way. 

These are stories of loss, death, depression, madness. Even with the few-and-far-between humorous moments, the overarching mood of the book is sadness. I often felt ill-at-ease, as if I was trespassing on private property or reading someone's diary. Rachman bares these characters, stripping them of any control over their lives and utterly destroying them emotionally--all within the span of about twenty pages. 

There's the woman who is mercilessly teased by her co-workers and who is so incredibly lonely that she pretends to be a woman on a business trip every New Year's Eve so that she can stay at a hotel instead of being home by herself. There is the man whose daughter tragically dies and is forced to face her death through the eyes of a dying woman. There is the woman who thinks she has found a kindred spirit on a plane ride to the states but learns all too late that she is being made a fool of. Each of these characters plays a part in their own story and in other stories; none is left unscarred somehow. 

The writing is often starkly beautiful and the way in which the stories thread together is marvelous, but the depressing tone of the book kept me from fully enjoying it. I think it was the discomfort that I felt intruding into their lives that got me in the end. I wanted to like this novel--and in some ways I did--but by the time I got to the last sentence, I was too overwhelmed by it all to fully appreciate its beauty. 

Maybe it all boils down to my own feelings of sadness, inadequacy, and loss. Maybe even the happiest, most successful person in the world could read it and still come away feeling the same. Who knows? Regardless, the book is well-written and the characters are fleshed out so well in such a short space that it's obvious Rachman is a terrific author. 

I'm giving The Imperfectionists 4 out of 5 Gabriels.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week book bloggers are given a prompt and asked to answer it in the form of a top ten list. This is my absolute favorite blog meme and if you aren't already taking part you should be.

This week's prompt: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors in 2012

Most of the books I've read this year have been written by authors I had never read before. Some of them are authors that I would like to read more of while others are authors I could do without reading again. Instead of listing my ten favorite authors like the prompt asked, I'm simply going to list the ten authors I read for the first time this year and give you my opinion of them.

1) Jasper Fforde: The first time I heard about Jasper Fforde was about six years ago in one of the computer labs at my college. Someone had left behind his first Thursday Next novel, The Eyre Affair, and I picked it up to read the back, intrigued by the blurb. And then I did nothing about it for over half a decade. Friends and fellow bloggers raved about him and told me I should read his books, but for some reason I never did. Then I saw The Eyre Affair at a library book sale a few months ago and told myself that I needed to buy it. I read it this past week and loved it. My review will be up soonish but for now I will simply say that I will be reading more of his work in the years to come.

2) Chris Genoa: Another author that I found at that same library book sale, but this time one that I will probably never read again. I know that as Foop! is his first novel I should probably cut him some slack and give his other stuff a try, but I honestly just don't want to.

3) John Irving: This is another name that I had heard bandied about before as a worthwhile author to read. Reading A Prayer for Owen Meany had me practically salivating for more of his books, which is why I've picked up The World According to Garp and will be reading it in a short while. He's a fairly prolific writer so I won't run out of his novels anytime soon.

4) Max Brooks: I keep meaning to write a review of Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which I read on Don's Kindle a few months before I came back to blogging. I would love to read more of his work, especially if it contains zombie goodness. :)

5) Tom Rachman: My review of Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists will be coming soon. While the writing was beautiful, the sadness of the novel didn't exactly have me clamoring to find more of his novels after I read it. I'd have to say that I'm currently on the fence about reading more from this author but am totally open to people prodding me, telling me that I should get right on that.

6) Charles Benoit: I was completely blown away by Charles Benoit's You and am dying to read his other novels. As a fellow Rochesterian that I've met once before (I only read this book because he came into the bookstore that I work at and suggested it to me) I'm currently trying to work up the lady cojones to ask him if he would be willing to do an interview for this blog. You'll all be the first to know if I do.

7) Stanislaw Lem: Regardless of how I felt about some of the stories in Star Diaries, the book was actually a really fun, thought-provoking read and I'd be curious to read some of Lem's other work, especially Solaris.

8) Robert Heinlein: Despite some issues that I had with Stranger in a Strange Land, I'm looking forward to digging into more of Heinlein's work. One of Don's friends, Andrew, has gifted me with audio books of some of his other novels, so if I don't get a chance to read them I can still listen to them.

9) Louise Rennison: I loved Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and, while I doubt that I'll end up reading the entire Georgia Nicolson series, I will definitely be reading a few more of them in the future.

10) Chrystia Freeland: I recently finished Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else and loved the way that Freeland wrote and would definitely read books by her in the future. A review of the book is forthcoming.

Out of your own top ten list for this week, who was your ultimate favorite new-to-you author in 2012?


Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and is a chance for book bloggers to share what they read last week, what they are currently reading, and what they are reading next. It's also an opportunity for us to share other things that we did during the week.

I haven't been blogging in a while but I've still been reading, albeit not as much as I would have liked to. I'm quickly getting to the end of my current read, however, and am hoping to get through at least twelve books this month. I work at a college library so we get vacation when the students do so even with my second job, I still have ample time off to just sit and read.

What I Read Since Last Time:
-The Natural Navigator: A Watchful Explorer's Guide to a Nearly Forgotten Skill by Tristan Gooley
-Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland
-The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

What I'm Reading Now:
-No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan

What I'm Reading Next:
-The Lost Button by Irene Rodzdobudko
-Background Noise by Peter DeMarco
-Rich, Free, and Miserable: The Failure of Success in America by John Brueggemann
-The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby

How about you? What are you reading?


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Depression Is a Bitch

I'm cross-posting this on my other blog because I've been absent from both for weeks. You've probably been wondering where I am and the honest answer is that I haven't really been anywhere. I've just been avoiding blogging. I would say to myself, "I've read four books; I should review them." Or, "This really great/weird/awful thing happened; I should be blogging about this." Sometimes I would get as far as actually sitting down at the computer but sometimes I wouldn't even do that. I had lost all interest in doing anything productive and didn't really care about blogging anymore. I was struggling to drag myself out of bed. I was hiding the fact that all I wanted to do was cry from Don and from myself. Finally, last week, I broke down. I admitted that I needed help.

I admitted that I was depressed.

Don, who I can now announce is my fiancé and not simply my boyfriend anymore, has been wonderful. He metaphorically kicked my ass until I agreed to see a therapist and even went with me the first day so that I didn't have to wait alone. Everyday he tries to help me see past the sadness, to try and overcome it. He tries so hard to inspire me to break out of this and I love him for it. It is for him that I am posting this today.

I am coming back to blogging. Even if I have to physically force myself to sit down and type I am going to start blogging again. Doing it means so much to me and my recent aversion to it is nothing more than a sad, pathetic attempt to shut out the world and to avoid doing anything meaningful. That might sound a little harsh, but it's true. My depression has been robbing me of my concentration, making it hard to focus, causing me to give up because "it's just too hard." Allowing myself to be complacent, being an enabler to my own feelings of failure, is letting the depression win.

I am a strong person who has been through a lot. I am going to get over this and I am not going to let it take something as wonderful as blogging away from me. If you see that I've stopped blogging for a few days, call me out on it. Send me e-mails (gabrielreads@gmail.com) or leave comments for me to see. It's going to be a hard fight for me. This is something I've struggled with for a while and that I thought I had under control but it's become apparent that that isn't the case. I'm doing all I can to take care of myself and to get better but a kick in the butt from my loyal readers would do a world of good. :)

I am committing to myself and to you all. I will be here blogging and reading and ranting and posting. The depression isn't going to win. Not by a long shot.


And for anyone who's curious, here's the ring:

Don and I got engaged in October but had been keeping it quiet from his friends and family until I could meet his mother on Thanksgiving. I would have posted about it sooner but, well, you know. *sheepish grin*

In other news, looking at this picture, I have just realized that my fingers are even stubbier than I thought they were.