Archive: May 2016

tweets for 2016-05-30

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Book Review: Some Possible Solutions, Helen Phillips (2016)

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Tales With Teeth

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.)

Once something I wrote made the judge of a contest indignant. He wrote, “This is something that this woman should share with her husband alone, if with anyone, and probably not even with him.”

If there’s one passage that best encapsulates Some Possible Solutions: Stories, it would be this.

Helen Phillips’s second collection of short fiction is vulgar, imposing, and (at times) weirdly funny: all of which I mean as a compliment. Phillips sees your appeals to smile and act like a lady and raises them with the shocker – flashed while sporting an oh-so-snarky smirk, of course.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the author’s penchant for bodily fluids and other gross things (“Flesh and Blood,” I’m looking at you!), the eighteen stories in Some Possible Solutions deal with Very Adult Matters: marriage and parenthood; growing up and growing apart; watching your parents age, sometimes ahead of their time, and the cosmic betrayal this entails; loneliness and (too much) togetherness; and sometimes smothering societal norms.

While I found the collection entertaining enough, I often felt left in the dust, unsure of what to think or how to interpret what I’d just read. Many of these stories are downright surreal. Usually when reading anthologies I’ll take notes, assigning a starred rating to each piece and summarizing it briefly to help with the coming review. My notes for Some Possible Solutions? Kind of a mess. See, e.g., “Game,” “How I Began To Bleed Again After Six Alarming Months Without,” and “The Worst,” the summaries of which read “I have no idea!,” “WEIRD.,” and “WTF,” respectively. I wasn’t even sure how to rate a few of the stories. That said, I didn’t give any story less than three stars, and even these are enjoyable reads.

(More below the fold…)

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Monday, May 30th, 2016

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Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: May 2016

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

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First things first: My birthday was earlier this month. (Yay me!) Shane made me a chocolate cake with almond buttercream frosting AND BITS OF COOKIE DOUGH STUFFED INSIDE (genius!) and I got a big stack o’ comics and vegan thin mints and a Supernatural messenger bag that I’m maybe probably most definitely too old for.

(The Orphan Black TP is still on my wishlist, in case anyone wants to send me a late gift. Just saying.)

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I requested yet another journal from Blogging for Books; I’m pretty sure I have enough to cover the next decade at this point! Even though I’m kind of over the teeny tiny sizes, I just had to have the Brain Freeze Journal. It looks so much like a Neapolitan ice cream sammie I salivate a little every time I look at it!

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True story: I put in for a copy of Long May She Wave (also from Blogging for Books) mostly on accounta I was wondering just what the heck it was. A book of American ephemera? Tear-out postcards? A stationary set? As it turns out, it’s a cross between two and three: a faux book housing 100 individual postcards: 50 unique designs, with two of each so you can send a card/keep a card, if you’d like. Kind of neat, eh?

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Thanks go to Natalie C. Parker for this ARC of Places No One Knows! I also won an ebook of Beware the Wild in her twitter giveaway!

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For review through Goodreads: the children’s book Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana and Francisco Javier Olea. This is the first GR giveaway I’ve won in, like, a year! That’s okay, though; since I started with NetGalley and Edelweiss, I’ve been entering fewer drawings for physical books, so that’s probably (mostly) why.

For review on Edelweiss:

    For review on NetGalley:

  • American Girls by Alison Umminger

    (I’m still working through last month’s stack, so it was a slow month, galley-wise!)

    tweets for 2016-05-27

    Saturday, May 28th, 2016

    Mini-Review: The Mermaid Girl: A Story, Erika Swyler (2016)

    Friday, May 27th, 2016

    A short prequel story to The Book of Speculation.

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley.)

    The problem with stealing the magician’s assistant from a carnival was that you were always waiting for her to disappear. […]

    The problem with marrying the mermaid girl from the carnival was knowing that one day she’d swim away.

    — 3.5 stars —

    Simon and his younger sister Enola were just kids when their mother drowned. A former circus performer – a mermaid, in fact – Paulina bid her children farewell one day, walked the steps from their crumbling, 1700s colonial house down to the beach, and continued right on into the Atlantic Ocean.

    Years later, Simon – now a librarian at Napawset library – comes into possession of a mysterious ledger dating back to the 1700s. His grandmother’s name, written all the way in the back, sets him on a journey through his family’s past – seemingly set on a collision course with Enola’s future. Simon makes a sinister discovery: all of the women in his matrilineal line die. They die young, but not before having a daughter; they die of drowning, even though all are mermaids; and they die of apparent suicides, even where no clear history of mental illness exists. Most shockingly of all, they all perish in the same way on the same day: July 24th.

    The story begins in late June, and Enola has just announced that she’s returning home after a six-year absence.

    (More below the fold…)

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    Friday, May 27th, 2016

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    Thursday, May 26th, 2016

    Book Review: The Sudden Appearance of Hope, Claire North (2016)

    Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

    Hope Arden is one character you won’t soon forget.

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for suicide, rape, and general violence.)

    And at Edinburgh Waverley, I bought a notebook from the stationery shop, and a bag of pens, and as the engine blared its victory over inertia and the train began to crawl south, back to England, back to the warm, back to Derby and my sister who waited, I began to write.
    I wrote of the past.

    Of the things that had brought me here.

    Of being forgotten, and being remembered.

    Of diamonds in Dubai, fires in Istanbul. Of walks through Tokyo, the mountains of Korea, the islands of the southern seas. Of America and the greyhound bus, of Filipa and Parker, Gauguin and Byron14.

    I wrote, to make my memory true.

    The past, living.


    Here, in these words.

    I wrote to make myself real.

    — 4.5 stars —

    When she was sixteen years old, Hope Arden began to disappear – from peoples’ memories.

    It started small: teachers would forget to pester Hope for her homework; friends stopped saving her a seat in the cafeteria. One day, she came home only to find her mother clearing out her room, bagging up her belongings to donate to a charity shop; for a second, she forgot that Hope still lived with them.

    Eventually people ceased to remember Hope altogether: a minute or two after turning away, she’d slip from their minds like a shadow. Details of their seconds-old interaction with her would linger, but the girl at the center of the memory was nowhere to be found. Hope’s parents held out the longest, but one day even they forget their oldest daughter. You could say that Hope ran away from home that day, but is it still home if you’re a perpetual stranger?

    Being unmemorable is more challenging than you might think. Reliable health care, housing, gainful employment, continuing education – all of it was beyond Hope’s reach. And so she did the only thing she could with this new ability-slash-curse: become the best damn thief she could. Like her anonymity, Hope’s career as a criminal started small: shoplifting led to pick pocketing led to elaborate jewel heists that required months of planning. If she wasn’t always a consummate professional, at least she could fall back on her forgettable-ness. The few times she was arrested, all Hope had to do was wait for someone to leave her in a room, alone…and forget all about her.

    (More below the fold…)

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    Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

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    Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

    Book Review: The Wolf in the Attic, Paul Kearney (2016)

    Monday, May 23rd, 2016

    An Egyptian Werewolf in Oxford

    three out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for sexual harassment/assault and allusions to rape.)

    I understand now all the fairy tales, those that talk of the dangers of the deep forest, and the beasts that lurk there. All those fears were true. I know them now. I am in the middle of one such story, and all I want is out of it.

    — 3.5 stars —

    It’s 1929, and another year is drawing to a close in Oxford. Eleven-year-old (almost twelve!) Anna Francis hates it, all of it: the cold, dreary weather. The short days and unforgiving nights. The drafty house and her empty belly. Her father’s sadness, so often drowned in a bottle of Scotch. The isolation and loneliness and profound sense of alienation.

    Anna and her father are refugees; the last surviving members of the Sphrantzes clan. Once they lived in Smyrna, a Turkish city on the Aegean Sea, like their ancestors before them. But the end of the Great War gave birth to the Greco-Turkish War – after which most of the Christians remaining in Smyrna were forced to leave. When their community was sacked, Anna and Georgio wound up on a ship bound for England. Anna’s mother wasn’t as lucky; along with many pretty young girls and women, she was kidnapped by Turkish forces. Nor do they know the fate of Nikos, Anna’s older brother and a member of the army deployed to fight the Turkish forces. Her trusty doll Penelope – named after Odysseos’s wife, Pie for short – is all she has left of him.

    Though Anna and Georgio live in a ginormous house, just the two of them, Anna has trouble finding time for herself. During the day, she’s hounded by the strict Miss Hawcross and her menacing ruler; and at night, her father frequently hosts Committee meetings, such that her house is teeming with strangers. So she sneaks out to roam the streets of Oxford, and explores the upper floors of the house, long since closed off and forbidden to her, in search of adventure. This is how she meets the strange boy, with dark hair and skin like hers: but eyes that glow in a way that no human’s should.

    (More below the fold…)

    tweets for 2016-05-22

    Monday, May 23rd, 2016

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    Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

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    Saturday, May 21st, 2016

    Book Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black, Gregory E. Pence (2016)

    Friday, May 20th, 2016

    A fascinating look at the science behind Orphan Black.

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

    Bioethics is one of today’s most exciting new fields. Orphan Black is one of the most exciting shows on television. Bioethics explores ethical issues in medicine and science. Orphan Black dramatizes ethical issues in medicine and science. What could be more appropriate than a marriage of the two?

    Even casual fans of BBC America’s hit television show Orphan Black have no doubt wondered about the science that drives the plot: How much does the show get right, and where does reality diverge from the fictional world of our favorite sestra orphans? What are the moral and legal implications of cloning? Is it possible to own a person – or a piece of one, in the form of DNA patenting? If the Ledas (and Castors) share the same basic building blocks of life, how could they look, behave, and think so differently? What (if anything) does the creators’ choice to write Cosima as a lesbian, and Tony as a trans man, say about the idea that gender identity and sexual orientations are “lifestyle choices”? (Spoiler alert: it’s not what you think.) How does cloning fit into the history of eugenics, and how does the show acknowledge this connection? WTF is the Castors’ malfunction?

    Well, wonder no more. Bioethicist and fellow Clone Club member Gregory E. Pence has got us covered. In What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black, he examines the science and ethics of the show, giving us a greater understanding of both genetics and bioethics – and our favorite science fiction drama.

    (More below the fold…)

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    Friday, May 20th, 2016

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    Thursday, May 19th, 2016

    Mini-Review: Three-Year-Olds Are A**holes, Sarah Fader (2016)

    Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

    That escalated quickly.

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

    Sammy would blow up entire planets just to get the pink jellybean instead of the white one. God love her, but she may as well have been Darth Vader.

    This is the story of three-year-old Samantha – Sammy for short – who just wants to make a beautiful, sparkly rainbow. At three in the morning. On the bathroom floor, using mom’s birth control pills and body lotion as her medium.

    Sammy kicks off her morning of mayhem by throwing mom’s cell in the toilet and peeing on it and, while mom is preoccupied scrubbing the bathroom clean, Sam sneaks out and –


    – nope, spoilers! Suffice it to say that things escalate quickly (and probably in a way that keeps parents awake at night). It’s rare that a book makes me LOL, but this particular scene did just that.

    Three-Year-Olds Are A**holes is a silly picture book for adults that would make a most excellent gift for parents – expecting, new, old, doesn’t matter. I had the pleasure of reviewing this on NetGalley and was surprised to find a “send to Kindle” option in addition to the expected “download a protected pdf file,” which is the norm for books that are heavy on graphic elements (picture books, graphic novels, photography books). Not only is it easily readable on a Kindle, but I think it actually looks better: the grayscale coloring minimizes some of the harsh, contrasting colors of the artwork.

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    Horrifying, innit?

    I suppose that some people will object outright to the title of the book (children are precious!), and I get it. But calling kids a-holes is both a term of endearment and a way of blowing off steam; acknowledging that parenting is a hard and frustrating and often thankless job. Sometimes you’ll get overwhelmed or annoyed, and that’s okay!

    I do the same with my rescue dogs – who, while not exactly like kids, are family members just the same. They are (affectionately) my assholes and shitbags and little monsters. Whether it’s Mags, nipping my hand as I lift her onto the couch (at her request!), or Rennie, plopping her fat ass down on the bed as I try to make it, they can sometimes be awful (though not always intentionally so), and usually I just love them all the more for it.

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    My thirteen-year-old asshole Mags, who always turns the other cheek when I try to take her picture. I thought teens these days lived for selfies, no?

    Pairs well with: Go the Fuck to Sleep; You Have to Fucking Eat.

    (More below the fold…)