Reading Diaries: A Few Gems Among the Disappointments

Last month we shared our reading resolutions for 2015. This month we checked in to see how everyone is doing.

Binary Star, Two Dollar Radio, 2015Christa: Since the new year started with me moving to a new city and starting a new job I haven’t had as much time to read as I would like. But I’m currently in the middle of reading When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid. Last year it won the Governor General’s award and this year it’s on the Canada Reads longlist. It’s a fantastic story about a gay teen named Jude who lives in a rather unforgiving, small town. In order to cope with his situation he envisions himself as a celebrity and the people around him as either paparazzi, or extras or members of the film/tv crew. There are just so many great lines in this book I have to read it with my pen in hand so I can underline them. And I’ve just started Binary Star by Sarah Gerard. It’s the story of a young woman struggling with anorexia and her long-distance, alcoholic boyfriend. It’s written in a kind of stream of consciousness style, which I’m not sure I love yet, but I am definitely intrigued by.

darkest parAl Rosenberg: I ordered myself all of the books off of Miranda July’s recommended list on Goodreads. While I waited for them to come in I read actress Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday, Maybe. The story about a young actress trying to find her break has a lot of the humor I’ve come to expect from Graham’s performance. I’m also working on Celia’s Song by Lee Maracle from the Canada Reads longlist. I’m struggling to get into her writing style, but I enjoy the idea. Recently I finished Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest and it was fantastic! There have been a few graphic novels and comic books too. Bob’s Burgers, Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi, and Women Loving Women by Diane Obomsawin. All so, so good!

Words Will Break Cements, Masha Gessen, Riverbed Trade, 2014Ginnis: I spent the first part of the year catching up on trades that had been sitting on my shelf for some time: American Vampire, Young Avengers, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Black Science. In between, I kept starting some young adults books. When I left for my vacation in Montana, I really wanted some heavier stuff. I brought Sherman Alexie’s collection of short stories, Blasphemy. I also brought two nonfiction books: Masha Gessen’s Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot which is a journalistic look into the development of the Russian feminist protest group and Marya Hornbacher’s memoir Madness: A Bipolar Life which follows her diagnosis of bipolar, following her memoir Wasted — a personal and cultural account of anorexia and bulimia. I like reading stuff that weighs on my heart in winter then lighten it up for spring, summer is all about fluff, and fall begins to bring it back around again. I actually look forward to reading books in winter that will rip my heart out.

the namesake jhumpa lahirir mariner books 2004KM: I started out with the most recent volume of Saga, which was excellent of course. After that I finished The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which I had started late last year. I’ve been trying to diversify my reading list, and Lahiri is an author I’ve had my eye on for the last year or so. I loved her first novel, and I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of her work (Interpreter of Maladies is pretty high up on my TBR too) I’m currently reading Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and The Touchstone by Edith Wharton, in addition to the comics on my pull list. Howl’s is delightful and allows me to indulge the lover of spells and magic in me. I’m having a little more trouble getting into The Touchstone, and I’m thinking about leaving it for another Wharton instead. As far as comics go, yesterday I read what’s been released of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, Bitch Planet, Captain America, and Captain Marvel. I got just a little behind (okay… a lot behind) on my comics at the end of my last semester and am still catching up!

My reading resolutions are coming along pretty well though; all of the books I’ve read thus far count towards the Read Harder challenge which is awesome.

Claire: I tried a Liza Marklund novel after the secondhand book shop didn’t have any Fred Vargas or any Kallentoft I hadn’t read. Woman journalist vs the various murderers and terrorists of the world. Sounds solid. I was disappointed, though, I found it very boring. I wouldn’t say that it was a bad book, probably many people would enjoy it, but many people enjoy legal procedurals and I find those atrocious as a genre. There’s a passage detailing the state of mind of the protagonist’s husband as he’s deciding to cheat on her that is just so baldly contemptuous and mocking of men who cheat, in the way it lays down his entitlement and masculine social programming, and like, fair enough. But it’s so pat that it turns him into a straw man, and effectively asks the reader to believe that YES, ALL MEN are shitty and will cheat. The murderer, also, was not possessing of interesting or meaningful motivation, and nobody in the book was enjoyable to meet. There is a touching scene of clarity as a character realises that her ex-husband has truly got over her, but for one little smartie, I will not buy a tube of raisins. No more Marklunds for me.

I haven’t started my New Zealand adventure, as outlined in our 2015 reading resolutions. But I have watched Top of the Lake! So. Baby steps.

Jamie:  Been a busy new year. I can’t believe it’s already February. I’ve been struggling to keep up with my comics, let alone my books. The one book I have read this month, though, warrants more than just a diary entry. Full review on the way for Half Resurrection Blues.

Inherent Vice Thomas Pynchon Penguin 2009Romona: I was all jazzed that Inherent Vice was being released theater wide on January 9th and read the book as quickly as possible once my hold came in. Then early last week I pinged my friends to go catch the movie, but it was already pulled from every theater within a hundred miles. I had been looking forward to seeing it on the big screen and I’ve been moping for days. But I did enjoy the book. There was a surprising amount of parallels between The Man’s criminalization of drugs in the 1960’s and The Man’s current attack on internet access. Check out this quote: “Remember how they outlawed acid as soon they found out it was a channel to something they didn’t want us to see? Why should information be any different?”

Outside of that, I’ve been on a string of dud audiobooks. I listened to J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy after hearing that the BBC and HBO were adapting it for a series. “It’s a mystery set in a charming English village. It must be good” I thought. But it wasn’t. It tried too hard to be dark, too hard to shock the reader. Next I tried David McCullough’s 1776, which was essentially a love letter to George Washington with constant reminders that the U.S. army would have been an absolute mess without him. It lacked women primary sources and hardly mentioned women at all. It was detailed but dry, and I was relieved when it was over. Tomorrow I am starting Bernard Schlink’s The Reader.

Christa Seeley

Christa Seeley

Books Editor. Maple Flavoured Darth Vader Fangirl.