Friday, January 10, 2025

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What I Read in 2012


1) Folktales in Fragile Dialects by Catherynne M. Valente
2) In the Cut by Susanna Moore
3) Vox by Nicholson Baker
4) Crash by J.G. Ballard
5) Telepaths Don't Need Safewords by Cecilia Tan
6) Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams by Steve Lyons
7) Vermillion Sands by J.G. Ballard
8) Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard
9) Doctor Who: Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner
10) Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon
11) Doctor Who: Only Human by Gareth Roberts
12) Doctor Who: The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards
13) Women on the Edge of Space edited by Danielle Bodnar and Cecilia Tan
14) Story of O by Pauline Reage
15) Return to the Chateau (Story of O II) by Pauline Reage
16) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
17) The Female Man by Joanna Russ
18) The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin
19) We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ
20) The Two of Them by Joanna Russ
21) How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ
22) The Adventures of Alyx by Joanna Russ
23) To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction by Joanna Russ
24) Orlando by Virginia Woolf
25) And Chaos Died by Joanna Russ
26) On Strike Against God by Joanna Russ
27) Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts by Joanna Russ
28) Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, translated and annotated by Ursula K. Le Guin
29) Robotica by Kal Cobalt
30) The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
31) Manners from Heaven by Quentin Crisp
32) The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
33) The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice
34) Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin
35) Juliette by Marquis de Sade
36) Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
37) The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature by C.S. Lewis
38) The House of Sable Locks by Elizabeth Schechter
39) Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
40) A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris
41) Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris
42) The Julius House by Charlaine Harris
43) Dead Over Heels by Charlaine Harris
44) Clues to Christie: The Definitive Guide to Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy & Tuppence and All of Agatha Christie's Mysteries
45) The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
46) Nemesis by Agatha Christie
47) Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
48) A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
49) The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness by Epictetus (A New Interpretation by Sharon Lebell
50) Doctor Who: Devil in the Smoke by Justin Richards
51) Doctor Who: The Angel's Kiss—A Melody Malone Mystery by Justin Richards
52) On the Shortness of Life, and Other Essays by Seneca

Short Stories

1) "Fantomina: or, Love in a Maze" by Eliza Fowler Haywood
2) "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gillman
3) "When It Changed" by Joanna Russ
4) "Poor Man, Beggar Man" by Joanna Russ
5) "The Canterville Ghost" by Oscar Wilde
6) "The Case of the Perfect Maid" by Agatha Christie
7) "Robot Dreams" by Isaac Asimov
8) "Secretario" by Catherynne M. Valente

Graphic Novels
1) Mass Effect: Invasion by Mac Walters, John Jackson Miller, and Omar Francia

Monday, January 10, 2011

Slow Reading Review

Slow Reading by John Miedema

Slow Reading examines the research in voluntary slow reading, from the earliest references in religion and philosophy, to the practice of close reading in the humanities, and the recent swell of interest associated with the Slow Movement. It looks at the diverse angles from which slow reading has been approached in education, library sciences and media studies. Research in psychology and neurophysiology provides a tentative explanation for the ongoing role of slow reading. The theme of locality in the Slow Movement provides insight into the importance of physical location in our relationship with information. Most of all, Slow Reading represents a rediscovery of the pleasure of reading for its own sake.

Miedema's tiny volume is meant to be a scholarly argument for reading: reading for pleasure, reading for comprehension, reading as escape. In five essays, he picks apart different aspects of speed reading and its associated trends, and argues that slow reading is as valid in modern times as speed and efficiency.

It's clear from the outset that this book was meant to be academic, and while it is clear and readable, it often requires concentration from its readers (which, I suppose, was intentional). So, readers should be aware that this is what they're getting into with this book.

This isn't to say that Miedema's work is without emotion or art. He often speaks of the inherent sacredness of reading, its therapeutic powers, and its timelessness as both deliverer of information, and pleasant hobby. He also makes resounding and compelling arguments for libraries and their use in modern times. His proposed make-believe book, A Librarian's Guide to Getting Lost would be an excellent next project for him. I would love to read it.

However, there are times when Miedema shows his prejudices on this topic. This book was written just before the current boom in eReaders, and so he doesn't understand them as well as he would now. However, he argues that they could never replace books because they have too many "bells and whistles" and that they, like hypertext online, are too distracting to allow true concentration. To me, this seems to be a bit of projection. I'm pretty old school about reading: I really don't like reading lengthy texts online either. However, I adore my eReader because it feels like reading a book, and it allows me to carry two hundred books in my purse. It would be interesting to see what Miedema would write a year after receiving a current-generation eReader as a gift.

The real shame is that this book was written as an argument at all. When Miedema speaks about slow reading, books, and reading and writing in general, he becomes almost rhapsodic. That is the book I wanted to read: a gift from one bibliophile to another. But then, that's my prejudice. Miedema writes one hell of an essay, and makes some excellent points all through the book. It's a quick read (har har) but a deep one, and any problems with it do not outweigh the importance of what Miedema's saying here. If you're feeling rushed, and want motivation and justification to take a breath and enjoy your life for once, Slow Reading will give you that and much more.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed Review

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef

Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen.

Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen’s published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane’s own work—and truly a life revealed.

This little book is both a love letter to Austen and her fans, and a fine introduction to Austen for young readers. Reef begins with a quick and savvy trick to draw her readers into Austen's time and place, and into the world of her novels. She then proceeds with a light and loving touch through Austen's life, using her novels as a framework. This volume also includes pictures and illustrations, which are useful for cultural and historical context.

I'm a big advocate of drawing younger readers to Austen's work. I wish I had met her when I was a teenager: her heroines (for the most part) are far more interesting than those in the majority of teen fiction. What's striking about this book is that Reef doesn't "dumb down" her writing. Her prose is clear and uncomplicated, but she has no compunctions about drawing the reader deep into a literary world, and explaining a radically different social setting. As a reader who has read far too much about Austen, I was never bored, and was pleasantly entertained by Reef's retelling of The Lady's life.

My one complaint was Reef's emphasis on Austen's flirtation with Tom LeFroy, which I thought might have been influenced by Becoming Jane, and also by a desire to make Austen a more sympathetic figure. I personally don't see much evidence that this romance was a great love affair in Austen's life, and I don't like the idea of it being treated as such. However, pedantic grumblings aside, I'm willing to acknowledge that there really is very little we know about Austen, and some elaboration can be forgiven.

Overall, Reef does an excellent job making the little-known life of a well-known woman clear, readable, and absorbing. A superb introduction for young readers, and a treat for fans who want a fresh look at Austen's life and times.

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is scheduled to be released in April 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What I Read Last Year

I fell short of my yearly goal of fifty books, but I got a lot more writing done than I usually do. Partial win?


1) A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
2) The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
3) The Big Book of Sex Toys by Tristan Taormino
4) Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson
5) Radical Ecstasy by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
6) Underneath It All: A Girl's Guide to Buying, Wearing and Loving Lingerie by Jennifer Manuel Carroll and Kathy Schultz
7) The Innocent's Progress by Peter Tupper
9) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
10) Over 100 S&M Sex Tips by Lisa Sussman*
11) Dare... to Have Anal Sex by Coralie Thinh Thi*
12) The Illusionist by Francoise Mallet-Joris
13) Cheri and The Last of Cheri by Colette
14) Like the Knave of Hearts edited by J. Blackmore
15) 1901: A Steam Odyssey by Lionel Bramble
16) Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
17) Pink Box: Inside Japan's Sex Clubs by Joan Sinclair
18) Gerald's Game by Stephen King
19) Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup
20) Like a Vorpal Blade edited by J. Blackmore
21) The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography by Angela Carter
22) Love and Friendship and Other Stories (Juvenilia) by Jane Austen
23) I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840 edited by Helena Whitbread
24) Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders by Josephine Ross and Henrietta Webb
25) Elementary Erotica edited by J. Blackmore
26) New Blood by Gail Dayton
27) Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
28) Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction by Susan Blackmore
29) Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
30) The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
31) No Priest But Love: The Journals of Anne Lister from 1824-1826 edited by Helena Whitbread
32) The Convent of the Pure by Sara M. Harvey
33) The Labyrinth of the Dead by Sara M. Harvey
34) The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
35) HebrewPunk by Lavie Tidhar
36) An Occupation of Angels by Lavie Tidhar
37) The Frugalista Files by Natalie McNeal
38) Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef
39) Ariel by Sylvia Plath
40) Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
41) The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
42) The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister edited by Helena Whitbread

Short Stories

"The Call of Cthulu" by H.P. Lovecraft
"The Haunter of the Dark" by H.P. Lovecraft
"The Burial of the Rats" by Bram Stoker
"The Cold Embrace" by Mary Elizabth Braddon
"The Colour Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft
"Derelict" by Albert Berg
"The Diary of Philip Westerly" by Paul Compton
"The Doom of the House of Duryea" by Earl Peirce Jr.
"The Doors of Death" by Arthur B. Waltermire
"The Dreams in the Witch House" by H.P. Lovecraft

Graphic Novels

Shekhar Kapur's Snake Woman 1: A Snake in the Grass by Zeb Wells and Michael Gaydos
Snake Woman 2 by Zeb Wells, Dean Hyrapiet, Vivek Shinde, and Michael Gaydos
Snake Woman 3: Tale of the Snake Charmer by Zeb Wells and Vivek Shinde
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

*Reviewed for my now-defunct adult store gig.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Palimpsest Review

Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente

Jacket Blurb:
Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse -- a voyage permitted only to those who’ve always believed there’s another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important -- a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.

There's not really anything I could say that can do justice to this book, but bear with me and I'll do my best.

Catherynne Valente's Palimpsest is a world you want to bathe in. Valente has a genius for true sensuality of place, and each and every scene is the expression of a desire. Her prose is heartbreakingly beautiful, and intricately dense. I found that, every few chapters, I would have to put the book down and stare into space for a while. She weaves a tapestry of dreams within dreams, and as a result everything and everyone is dreamlike. Sex is a spell, a sacrament, a flippant prayer, and she creates new magics for her characters to obsess over: bibliomancy, cartomancy... This is truly a love letter to every deep dreamer and great lover of words.

However, Valente is also unafraid of addressing the darker side of desire. The futility of possession is a recurring theme, and she clearly links it to the disease of obsession, and all the destruction that can come in its wake. Those who have been to Palimpsest are irrevocably marked, and though they all deal with this in different ways, every one of them allows it to steer the course of their life. Sometimes their decisions, their thoughts, their passions are frustrating for the reader. This does not steal from the beauty of the book, and perhaps this is Valente gently showing the reader how easy it is to become attached to one's own desires for other people.

Reading Palimpsest is a journey and, I suspect, one that is difficult to forget. Valente's characters are larger than life--easily and unapologetically queer, kindly and sweetly deviant--but they are human, and they could be us. It might be impossible to parse, in the end, whether to take their story as the fulfillment of wishing, or as a cautionary tale. Either way, Palimpsest is an experience you shouldn't miss.