Reading List – June 2021

It’s well known out there in Internet Land that June is Pride Month.

I’ll admit that with my upbringing, I have very little knowledge about LGBTQQIP2SAA+ things (and, by the time you’re reading this, there may even be more parts to the impossible acronym). This is honestly a travesty, and I have taken it upon myself to at least attempt rectifying my lack of information.

This month, I’m reading some books that I’ve found with the intention of exploring a new facet of life that I’ve not done any official reading on before.

Johnny Appleseed – Joshua Whitehead

I don’t get the title at all, but Johnny Appleseed is supposed to be a novel about a two-spirit (a.k.a. a person who identifies as a member of a sexual minority but in an American Indian sort of way) man who has to deal with his identity. I don’t know much about Canada or the tribes there beyond “Canadian whites really bad to their land’s indigenous population, too,” but this seems interesting. I’m not usually a fan of contemporary works, so I’m hoping this is intriguing enough to keep me coming back for more.

Sissy – Jacob Tobia

One of the most popular LGBTQQIP2SAA+ pieces of media I’ve ever enjoyed was She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. One of the characters in that show, Double Trouble, was a non-binary shapeshifter voiced by a non-binary actor. Not only that, but this actor is from North Carolina.

And you people know about my feelings surrounding the greatest state in the Union.

So of course I had to read Jacob Tobia’s autobiography/memoirs or whatever. I simply had to.

Transgender History – Susan Stryker

History is one of my jams. As much as a novel and memoirs matter in terms of individual experience, history will always be essential for granting context to works. I have consumed some podcasts on lesbian and gay history that focused on the Stonewall riots, but the history of the modern transgender movement interests me more. I decided to read this book as a result since it’s written by a historian (rather than a rando) and seems from a first glance to be well-researched.

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

Reading List – May 2021

May has become my “hardcore classics month,” and this year I’ve got some doozies for you.

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickinson

Charles Dickinson is pretty famous, and I can dig him. I enjoyed Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol is of course a good annual read (also, I played Scrooge once while in school!). I have no idea what A Tale of Two Cities is supposed to be about, but that’s why we’re here: to read old books and realize what kinds of mistakes life is made of.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I’ve never been a fan of Sherlock Holmes in any shape, form, or media. Even the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock didn’t do it for me. I didn’t like the Robert Downey Jr. version, and I didn’t even like it when Data played Sherlock Holmes in Star Trek. I also know I don’t like another of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, The Lost World. So why am I doing this?

Two reasons: for that stupid “100 Books to Read Before You Die” (I’m not even sure what year my list is – is it 2018? 2019?) and because I like to give authors two chances. I’m almost certain I’ll hate this one, but it’s shorter than the others on this list and by god that’s going to be necessary as I prep for this month. I’ll go ahead and reveal that I had to start WAY early on reading this stuff.

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Last year, I read The Count of Monte Cristo and thought it was really good – unexpectedly good. This book, for whatever reason, gets associated with The Count of Monte Cristo in my mind a lot, even if that’s stupid. As a result, I decided to give this one a shot with great hopes.

Also, my mom hates this story. She refuses to tell me why, so I do fear that it’ll get a bit too erotic for my typical tastes. That’s just the way my mom operates, though – one penis, and it’s curtains. Tears for days with her. We’ll see.

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

One of my favorite books from 2020 was Gone With the Wind. The printing of Gone With the Wind I borrowed from my library included a forward from someone (Pat Conroy, maybe? I don’t know for sure). In this foreword, Anna Karenina was mentioned as an earlier work with an unlikeable, female protagonist that works. 

After finishing Gone With the Wind, I was like, “By God, Scarlett was one of the best-conceived characters I have ever read.” And, if Anna Karenina has some similar traits, I want to know. I want to see if Margaret Mitchell has a stranglehold on cold-hearted bitch.

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

Reading List – April 2021

We’re on to 2021’s second indie book month – and it’s going to be exciting as we delve through some books with female leads!

What to do with Baby Ashes – Marnie Heenan

I’ve followed Heenan online for quite a while. She used to be active in the WordPress scene, but now I keep up with her on Twitter and gaze every so often at her website. You all know I’m not a mom and don’t plan to be, but I’ve kept up with Heenan enough to know that she’s really, really good at poetry, and this book is her first chapbook. I think my heart’s ready to get ripped out. Stick around for the emotion bath.

Amazon Link

A Choice for Essence – Katelyn Uhrich

This summer, I read an anthology called From Ashes to Magic, and that contained one poem about the gods Life and Death that just blew me away. I chose to read Essence because it is told from the perspective of gods reminiscent of those in Greek myth, and I thought it could be as beautiful or interesting as the short I’d read this summer. However, I did note that it’s YA, so I’m not sure how that’s going to play out for me (just ok with YA).

Amazon Link

Marriage Unarranged – Ritu Bhatal

Marriage Unarranged read 2021

Everyone loves Bhatal online. It’s honestly hard to find a sweeter person. And, what’s more, I completely decided to buy this book when she self-described it as “Chickpea Lit”. How cute is that? I’m a sucker for puns, and I’m always looking for books about non-English, non-American cultural norms, and this book seems to be it. What’s more, I trust Bhatal’s experience, interpretation, and craft enough that I’m sure it’ll fulfill my international needs.

Amazon Link

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

Reading List – February 2021

Despite my deep love of political history, I’ve not read any political treatises! Woe, woe is me! This month is intended to fix that gap in my knowledge.

As you may also know, the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic is starting this month! Be prepared at ANY MOMENT for a Sue Vincent book review!

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

atlas shrugged read 2021

Ayn Rand’s philosophy of “objectivism” is one of the most important political philosophies in modern (mostly American) politics. Libertarians, especially, can point to a lot of her writing as essential. She’s cited by famous people such as Mark Cuban, Ben Shapiro, and both Pauls (Ron and Rand). Objectivism states itself to be entirely logical, which makes it really hard to argue against because believers can just claim you illogical to argue against them.

But what really is objectivism, and how did Rand develop it? That’s what this dive into a horrifyingly long book is going to be about. At least there’s supposed to be a fiction element surrounding the political!

The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto reading 2021

What better way to follow up a libertarian, capitalist behemoth than by reading the Communist Manifesto? Partially chosen because Atlas Shrugged is so long that I worry about getting everything done in the timeframe I’ve planned for myself, the Manifesto is short and entirely focused on talking about… well, communism. At risk of getting myself put on some sort of list, I’m reading this and hoping to learn more about the world in which we live.

The Prince – Niccolo Macchiavelli

The Prince reading 2021

The Prince is the 16th-century political treatise on how to be a dangerous mofo and unify Italy. Most kids learn in high-school about this how-to manual for dictators and evil monarchs, but I happen to question the modern applicability of a book written so long ago. Nonetheless, important books such as these are essential to understanding our world, times, and culture.

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

Reading List – January 2021

Welcome to a brand new year! We’re starting off the year with a sci-fi indie book month. If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can also check out my 2021 TBR on my Review Archive page.

Steel Reign: The Flight of the Starship Concord – Braxton A. Cosby

Steel Reign flight of the starship concord read 2020

This book actually came from a reading suggestion/request on Twitter. Not going to lie, space operas are one of my jams, so I totally bit into the premise of this action adventure. The main character is a mercenary with an epic resume, and it screams action. Though I bought the book when it was relatively new, it has since become quite popular on Amazon and sold very well in the sci-fi category. I’m excited to see what happens!
Amazon Link

Our Dried Voices – Greg Hickey

read 2021 our dried voices hickey

This book came up on my review request page! It’s another sci-fi, but this time in what seems to be a dystopian future. The book seems like it will be similar to or have inspirations from Wells’s Time Machine or other classic sci-fi, and I’m excited to see how the author puts a new twist on these old elements.

Amazon Link

Dust & Lightning – Rebecca Crunden

Another book that popped up on my review request page, Dust & Lightning is the final sci-fi read of this month. Another space opera, this one promises action as well as a side-romance. The author’s style seems very different from that of Cosby above, so I’m looking forward to checking out another way to do one of my favorite genres.

Amazon Link

More Reviews

Toward the end of last year, I started getting a lot more review requests from my review request page. Unfortunately, the spots on my blog for review requests this year are already taken (wow!), so I’m actually going to be a bit more selective as to which books I read and especially picky as to which get a blog post. I regret having to make this decision because one of my favorite books last year came from a request I was skeptical of!

Book Review: Moby Dick

I didn’t read this in high school, despite it being considered one of the Great American Novels. We read a selection of passages and a summary, then moved on. Many people have told me to be grateful and not pursue reading this now.

But, you see, this book supposedly has a small passage about how great Andrew Jackson is, and I kind of have to read it now.

The Book

800px-moby-dick_fe_title_pageMoby Dick
Author: Herman Mellville
1851
Gutenberg Project Link

This book is famous for being highly allegorical and, simultaneously, nearly unreadable. At the same time, with all the cultural references to this book, I thought I should give this a read.

Non-Spoiler Review

First, don’t read Moby-Dick like Ron Swanson.

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Don’t read Moby Dick like Steven Colbert:

Moby Dick

This wasn’t as difficult to trudge through as I had expected, but I wouldn’t say it was easy. The extended passages talking about the finer points of whaling definitely take a toll on this book’s readability, and it makes it quite difficult to appreciate any of the characters or actions. I think an abridged version of this book could take up perhaps a third or a tenth of the space and give you the same story.

At the same time, those extended passages of nonsense give the book an Old-Testament feel, wherein massive passages are just records of troops, measurements of buildings, or lineages. The passages in Moby-Dick are extremely reminiscent of these passages, so I don’t fault Melville for these horrifyingly boring paragraphs and pages.

The themes of Moby-Dick, from anti-racism to the deeper meanings of a relationship with God, are sometimes flaunted in your face while, simultaneously, riding in the undercurrent of all things. The names – good lord, all the biblical names! – require one to have a pretty deep understanding of the Bible in order to understand the exegetical importance of everything. I’m pretty good at Bible knowledge, but not as good as Melville probably was. The book is magnificently researched, extremely true to itself and to its time, and the writing style in and of itself flows smoothly.

So I think I enjoy the fact that I read this book, but I would not read it again.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Overall, the book proceeds much as you probably expect. The whaleship hunts whales, comes upon other boats that lead you through a Biblical expectation of prophecy. The dream of Fedallah was especially telling, and I hope you pay attention to that, especially, if you read it!

Otherwise, I’m afraid there aren’t many spoilers. The end of the book – a.k.a. the ruin of the Pequod and Ishmael’s survival – is something I think everyone expects. I think it’s supposed to be metaphorical of all the times Old Testament kings and rulers failed to heed generations of prophecy (which was symbolized, in part, by the meetings with the other boats).

Also, the Andrew Jackson passage was good enough but not great.

Next week:

It’s a new year! Will I keep reviewing books, or will I suck? Stay tuned!

American Chimera – 30.6

American Chimera Cover Small

“And I gave the other trophy to that giant spider all over the news.” The interrogator laughed and picked up her cans once more. “I fucking ended the Chimera war. I watched Dr. Kim die. I fucking found the American Chimera who, through no fault of her own, was always destined to throw the planet into chaos, destruction, and doom. And you, you pathetic little worm, think you can make me pay for this miserable canned food?”

The woman shook her head.

“You want to know the worst part?” She tucked the pack of cans under her arm. “I’ve had genetic testing since they cut me up. I didn’t inherit the gene.”

The interrogator took her food out of the warehouse and left.

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American Chimera – 30.5

American Chimera Cover Small

And I waited. At a time I knew only one soldier was on patrol, I left my door ajar. When he passed, not noticing anything was out of place, I exited after him. I put a Kevlar-gloved hand over his mouth and a knife to his throat. “Do as I say if you want to live.”

Of course he fought. My voice didn’t sound exactly Korean, and it sounded female – something everyone, especially the Koreans, took as a sign of weakness.

I didn’t want to get blood everywhere. I pushed the man into one of the cage doors where a man dying of starvation was kept. The man yelped with delight at the delivery, and he weakly pulled the guard’s hands in through the iron bars. “Give him to me!” he cried. “I saw you give the other man to that family. Give this guard to me, and I won’t tell anyone.”

I took him up on that offer.

I slit the guard’s throat and let the blood leak out onto the floor. Though the jacket had gotten bloody, I took it before it got worse. I removed the belt, pants, and boots, then unlocked the door and kicked the corpse inside the cell. “They’ll kill you for this, you know,” I told the man.

“But I will die with a full stomach,” he replied through flesh-filled mouth. I supposed he was at least right about that.

I took the billy club from the guard and fished around for his taser. I ordered one of my drones to show itself and serve as a distraction, then delved deeper into this cavernous horror.

That’s when I heard her. Fiendish Dr. Kim.

I knew Americans had only seen secondhand propaganda of her, unflattering clips rendered dull and taken from extremely flattering North Korean propaganda films and holos. She didn’t look so young in real life, and she wasn’t nearly as menacing.

In fact, she was as normal as they come. Normal like a certain Dallin Smith in Nevada. Normal like you, even.

She sipped some hot water and pointed to some of the cameras. “A drone? What does that mean for the facility? Please don’t put us on lockdown again – it slows the whole process. I wanted to go home on time this evening.”

The guard tapped the monitor. “It looks like a scout. It’s shown up several days in a row, so they’re probably looking for a way inside.”

“Then don’t open the doors or go after it. Don’t put us on lockdown, please-”

“There’s no reason to be alarmed yet. Tell your people not to start anything new…”

I snuck by them and pried a panel that led to the cool floor beneath their computers. I told my drone not to do anything out of the ordinary until I found my safe, quiet spot where I connected to their computers and began interpreting their security scheme. I downloaded all the research data I could, got all the proof of their governments’ treachery necessary. You’ve seen some of it during the trials, some of it during the signing of the Accords. For two days I lived off emergency rations and data collection, and then I found the controls for lockdown.

I changed the parameters. Open all the cages, close all the exit doors.

Then I called in all my drones and stormed the doors.

Lockdown was called. The ape men, always enraged, stormed out of their cages. I watched on my screen as one ripped even Dr. Kim’s stomach open, then proceeded to kill and eat everything in sight. The family upstairs I had fed the corpse to? Chimera food. The guard? Wasted.

It calmed after several hours of carnage, after most of the ape men had – with no orders and no control collars – resorted to killing each other.

And so I climbed out of the place. Dr. Kim was, somehow, still alive. Perhaps the ape men really did love her, since she hadn’t been fucked to death or eaten. A bloody hand reached up to me. “Help,” she said. “Please, help.”

“You can fucking bleed out for all I care.” I whipped out a knife to cut out her kneecaps as trophies. She didn’t even scream – the cut on her stomach hurt so much more than what I was doing, she probably didn’t even notice. I gave one of those trophies to the president.

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American Chimera – 30.4

American Chimera Cover Small

That’s why I went to North Korea before the war even started. It’s how I nearly starved while I waited for opportunity to move in. I was the one who eventually found Dr. Kim’s labs near Pyongyang, and I was there during the failed assault. I stayed after, waiting and watching with all the patience I could.

Then, after living off garbage, emergency rations from myself and off corpses, and stolen vegetables for two weeks, some poor Korean sot tried to escape the gulags.

I remember his face, because I watched it through one of my drones. I could zoom in on the gaunt and boney skeleton. Despite his youth he clearly had no teeth.

Instead of shooting him, they released an ape-man chimera. I’d seen plenty of them before – killed my fair share, too – so I knew what was coming. I watched, helpless through the lens of my drone, as he ripped the head off the man, fucked the corpse, and started eating his entrails.

And, lucky me, the ape man wouldn’t respond to calls to stop. It wouldn’t return to base.

A soldier, one of the well-fed humans in the DPRK, approached with a gun and a billy club. He hit the ape man on the back and shouted, “Get back inside, you stupid animal!”

The ape men rarely talked. This time, the creature wrapped its hand around the soldier’s little head, and he squished it. Blood popped out between the chimera’s fingers, and it laughed at the feeling before tearing off arms and legs.

Other soldiers who had been keeping watch took out their guns and rushed the ape man. They shouted for it to go back inside, but it was enraged and filled with bloodlust. One man shot it, but this just got the animal further upset.

I didn’t wait. While the door was open behind them, I snuck inside. My drones had already pointed out where the cameras were, so I crept beneath its field of view and remained out of sight.

The hallway inside was covered with rubble from the last attack. Cages on either side held humans, some already dead, some trying to reach into the dead’s cage so they could get a bite of something to eat. Only a couple even looked up at me, and their faces and eyes were so empty that I wonder if they registered what was going on.

The shooting outside stopped, so I took my lockpicking set from my bag and opened the door to a cell with a dead man inside. I stripped off his clothes, placed my bag under the cot, and pushed the bloated corpse to the bars of the cell next to me where a small family of prisoners started ripping him to shreds and eating his raw flesh.

“Blessings to you,” they said. “Thank you so much! May the eternal ruler smile upon you!”

I curled up on the floor and hid my black face when the guards came by. They saw nothing out of the ordinary, probably felt like the corpse I’d fed to the starving family was at least going to some use. I calmed myself with breathing exercises and counted the seconds, minutes, and hours between the shifts and patrols. I obviously wasn’t going to have to worry about getting caught at feeding time.

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American Chimera – 30.3

American Chimera Cover Small

“I don’t see why that’s important,” the woman said. “Everyone suffered back in the 60’s and 70’s while they were doing all the first sterilizations. Now let me go – I’ll call the cops to come get you if you don’t just put down your items and get out!”

The interrogator clutched the old woman’s collar. “You don’t think I’d sacrificed enough, do you?” She shoved her against the wall. “You’re working in a warehouse, doing a job they could probably get machines to do. I’d be surprised if you have and viable offspring. But you’re ok with that – and you know why? Because at least others like you, other whites, didn’t go under the knife. At least you weren’t like my people, of whom only the luckiest and healthiest few made it through unscathed.”

“I wasn’t trying to be racist! What the hell are you doing!?”

“I’m making you understand, because you’re the last person who’s ever going to care about what I’m saying. So pay attention, ’cause no one else knows what I’m going to tell you next.”

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