Monday, July 14, 2014

Books Read :: June 2014

I don't know why it has taken me half of July to post this, but it has. Mostly, I reread for June and did the challenge for June via the monthly prompts I've been attempting to follow. I reread all of Harry Potter starting in May and finishing in early July. They were excellent, better even. I last read them seven years ago. I think I will go seven years without watching the films and read them again when I'm 37. I can't believe it's been 7 years since Deathly Hallows came out. That makes me feel very, very old. Two days after I finished, J.K. Rowling posted a "new" story on Pottermore, Rita Skeeter reporting live from the Quiddich World Cup, writing a gossip column about Harry & other members of the D.A. It felt fate-like.

Anyway, the prompt was to read "that classic you never read"-- I always try to read a long summer classic, and there isn't one in particular I avoid, so it was a great month to do just that, read my 2014 summer classic. Even though there's only a couple books on this list, since I don't write up rereads, I did plenty of reading in June...

Books read in 2014 thus far (via GoodReads count): 23/52

Books read this month:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
This was the classic I intended to read this summer, and read it I did. I thought it was excellent, though I would have had some editorial tips for Tolstoy about the last "part" of the book, had I been his editor. The intentions of the last part are clear enough, but they could have been better done. The book leads to a certain point, and once it gets there, the wrap-up that is the last part could have been kinder or more bridge-like rather than seeming to jump so out of the story. I understand why it's essential-- how the book then shows two different descents into madness, how two different people wound up in two different futures despite both suffering. But because of the book's title, once Anna is killed, a whole other part that was at times, frankly, boring and meandering and introducing new characters and information that didn't matter too much to the whole book just to the end, seemed unkind to do to a reader who just had their heart broken for 800 pages. It was kind of him to give the readers a happy ending, but almost tactless to ignore the fact of Anna's suicide for so much of the last part. It illustrates, yes, how people do not speak of those who die by their own hand in the same way that other deaths are spoken of, how grieving is different, but it too specifically avoids mention of her fate after so well allowing us in her head during her long downward spiral. Suddenly she is snuffed out and we are thrust into someone else's world who we care about, but not as much as we cared for Anna. I gave the book 5 stars on Goodreads, don't get me wrong. I just think it was a funny way to end an otherwise pretty much flawless book. One final note: On telling a friend I read this book, he asked, "does she still jump?"

Bluets by Maggie Nelson
This book is something specific and something special and something of which I have never read anything before like. It was about a color but it was about love but it was about grief. It made me want to reread it as soon as I was finished but at the same time not for a long time or even ever. It's like a really good sad song that reminds you too much of something lost or something you could lose and you like the song a lot, but you want to listen to something else first and then forget that you ever wanted to listen to such a sad song again for awhile-- until you do. I liked this book a lot, too. I also gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Books Read :: May 2014

As promised, back in action this May. I read a whole bunch. I "caught up" with my Goodreads Challenge and then some. And that's not even including all the rereads! I was the reread Queen this April and am still going strong-- I'm not going to blog about them, but I'm in the middle of rereading the Harry Potter series. I read most of the books each a couple times back in the day, but it's been at least since the summer of 2007 since I read any of them-- so that's a good 7 years ago. I forget if I wanted to wait 10 or what until I reread, but my husband and I have been watching the movies. I really felt a strong need to reread the books to "get straight" a lot of what the movie ruins/gets wrong. The deeper into the series I go, the more I notice the movie's lack of that UMPH that makes the books The Best. They really are so fucking good. But I digress. Back to what I read  this month outside of being in the throes of the HP series as the month ends--

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
This is on the syllabus for the online class I designed and am teaching this summer. I had never read it before, but I was very glad I did. I feel also like I'd love to see it performed. I love that the Obamas went to see it during its most recent run in New York. So much of this play is still (sadly) relevant today, and even the less relevant points that it make are still historically important. I'm very glad to be teaching it, and I think that the students will get a lot out of it.

Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks
My mother-in-law handed off this novel to me, which I really couldn't put down. It was one of those engaging candy-like works of fiction, and it was even more intriguing that much of it was based on historical events, though the characters and their dramas were invented. I feel like I learned about an era (the Plague era in Britain) I didn't know much about and was riveted by the story as well. This by no means was Literary Fiction, but for what it was-- historical fiction-- it was very good. I feel like this would be a good book club book for people who want to analyze plots and characters to death. I mean that in a nice way.

Fancy Beasts by Alex Lemon
Picked this one up from Strand Books when I was in NYC for the GS StorySalm ThreePointOne. I had been reading Lemon's new book in City Lights when I was stranded in San Fran this past March, and though Strand didn't have a copy of The Wish Book in their now-expanded---though moved!-- poetry section, I was glad to see this one on the shelves and bought it. There was an Ariana Reines title I also wanted to buy, but I didn't want to carry it around with me all weekend, so I swore I would come back on Monday before I left if I had the chance, but I went home Sunday night. Alas. Anyway, I dog-earred a good number of these pages, a sign that I have thoroughly enjoyed a poetry book for sure.

Century Swept Brutal by Zach Savich
I review this book in the forthcoming Gigantic Sequins 5.2! This is a book you enjoy reading but then almost enjoy more thinking on after you're through reading it, somehow. I recommend it.

The Theory of Clouds by St├ęphane Audeguy
For the other reading challenge I'm doing this year, I chose this book for the month of May, when the prompt was to read "a book from another country". The author is French, and a person whom I met when I worked at Strand bought me this title because I told him I didn't have time to have coffee with him outside of work. (Note: I probably wasn't lying; I was working there full time, going to NYU as a full-time grad student, and in the process of starting a lit journal... I digress--) This was a really weird book, and, as I said in my Goodreads review of it "I wasn't sure if there was something distinctly "French" about this book that made its narrative seem looping and odd or if I was projecting French-ness onto it because I didn't quite like/"get" where it was going most of the time."--so, I didn't NOT enjoy this book, but I don't know who I'd recommend it to or why. It was outside of the realm of what I normally would want a novel to consist of, but not in any avant-garde or interesting way.

Backup Singers by Sommer Browning
I reviewed this book, though the review has not yet been placed. I really absolutely 100% think that you should read this Birds LLC title. It's excellent. I hope my review gets picked up by someone so that you can read all about why I loved it so much.

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey
I am thinking of assigning this book alongside the regular textbook I have my American English Grammar class read next semester because it's a more light-hearted approach to the ideas of diagramming and its importance or unimportance and talks more about descriptive language from a grammarians point of view than the Vitto text I assign does. The more descriptive parts of the Vitto text somehow get a bit lost because of the highly prescriptive nature of the book's aims and content. I disagreed with some of the sentence diagrams in the book, but she knew better/whoever diagrammed for her knows better certain grammatical concepts than I-- elliptical clauses and correlative conjunctions are my diagramming kryptonite. I am glad I read this book, though, and recommend it for anyone who enjoys diagramming a sentence every now and again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Books I Will Read This Summer

I saw a bunch of posts over at HTML Giant where bloggers named their summer reads. Summer is fast upon us, less than a month away if we are to believe calendars. Most people there named five books, and though I plan on reading more than five books this summer, it makes sense to only commit now to five, I suppose. Who knows what might strike my fancy as the hot months unfold. Here are five books I will definitely be reading this summer:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I read Crime &Punishment this winter and was surprisingly enthralled. I've always avoided the Russian giants for the most part, but I think I'm ready. I needed a longer classic to knock out this summer, and so this one it is. I will most likely crowd-source what the best translation is, and I may or may not read it on my Kindle. A friend of mine and past GS contrib, Olivia Kate Cerrone, will also be reading it, so I am eager to swap reflections on it with her.

Someone Else's Wedding Vows by Bianca Stone
I picked this up at AWP and have been holding it hostage ever since. I am really looking forward to it, so I am doing that thing where I feel like I need to "save" it because I know it's going to be good. I do this. Anyway, to avoid putting it off for any longer, it's definitely something I am reading this summer. In fact, it will most definitely be the very next book of poetry I pick up.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
I had the pleasure to hear Roxane read at the Tirefire Reading series here in Philly earlier this month, and she killed it. I know her through twitter and PANK and from her always being very nice at AWP and even recognizing me in person by my twitter presence. (Alice Notley is a genius like that too, despite having many fans, always remembering something about people--). Anyway, she read from this, and it seemed like she was going to read more, and when she stopped, I wanted her to keep going. So I bought the book, which I most likely would have read anyway. I'd also like to get my hands on her book of essays, Bad Feminist, when it comes out in August!

Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed
I actually know very little about this book except that it's a novel-in-stories. The best novel-in-stories I've read thus far might be the only other novel-in-stories I've read thus far and that's Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I love to the point of minor insanity-- though my paperback of it is nowhere to be found, to my horror. This book comes recommended specifically for me by Kathleen Rooney, and I have therefore added it to my list of books to consume this summer.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson
I believe this book first came to my attention because GS Poetry Editor Sophie Klahr mentioned it for one reason or another-- either to recommend it to someone or just reference it generally. Perhaps I read about this book in a blog or facebook status of hers? I don't know. I associate the fact that my first memory of this Wave Poetry title comes through her. Anyway, it then has popped up in various other places in my life on the internet that intrigued me, so I used one of the giftcards I got for my birthday to purchase it recently. While I own scores of books that I've book for myself and have never read, something I like to do these days is read books when I buy them because they are new and fresh and obviously I want to read them because I've bought them. So I will read this book. It calls. When I was at Emerson, there was a class I really very much wanted to take all about the color blue. Everyone who took it said it was a great wonderful fantastic class. It never fit into my schedule or was always full by the time I tried to register for it. Reading this book won't make up for missing my chance to take that class, but I will feel better for having missed it by reading this title.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gigantic Sequins 5.2 Contributors!

We've already announced on the GS Editors Blog the list of contributors for our 5.2 issue, but I'd like to re-announce them here and encourage you to donate some of your cashmoney to help this great issue go to print. This winter, we had one of our more selective if not most selective open submissions period. It seemed like a lot of the writing being sent to us was "close" but not quite THERE. For fiction, stories seemed either well written and the story fell flat or with a great story but not as solid writing. As for poetry, when the rest of the poem seemed to be working towards something whole, a single line or a word or an ending would break our hearts and not in the good way. We rejected a lot of very good-- very "close"-- pieces of work, it seemed. As for non-fiction, we never never never get enough and the two pieces we chose really spoke to us. We held onto some others up until days before our announcement of the contributors, but they didn't work in the long run with the rest of what we chose.

That being said, despite our extensive selectivity, we still managed to "fill out" the issue and in it we have our very first lyric essay (hooray!) as well as two great artists whose work we couldn't turn down. We also have a comic-- we LOVE printing comics so any issue with a comic or two (or seven or twelve!) is always a great issue.

Without further ado, here are the Gigantic Sequins 5.2 contributors!

Justin Brouckaert
Michelle E. Crouch
Kayla Haas

Caitlyn Luce Christensen
Caleb Curtiss
Nick Flynn
Patrick Clement James
Tanya Muzumdar

Alex McElroy
Rachel Richardson

Dmitry Borshch
Julie Drallos
Aaron Morgan

Speaking of great writers, Gigantic Sequins opened its doors TODAY for submissions and we are also open for contest entries in flash fiction and poetry. Send us your best work.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This Weekend in Philadelphia & other stories


We like to do things in Philadelphia. We like to do them and we like to go to them and we like to be an audience and we like to listen. This Friday, we will be doing this, which is going to the TireFire reading series, curated and hosted by the lovely duo of Sarah Rose Etter & Annie Liontas.

Friday, May 9th at 7pm  (which means, in special TireFire jive, most likely the reading will start at 8pm sharp) at Tattooed Moms (the first bar I ever drank at legally--) come out to see Roxane Gay (!!), Mike Young, Joseph Riippi, and Tara Murphy. I've read books by at least two of those people and plan to read a book by at least one of them this summer. RSVP here.

On Saturday, May 10th from 8pm-10pm (Does that mean the reading really starts at 9pm? I don't know. I would show up at 8pm because that's what I do, but you can do as you wish...) poets Marion Bell, Meg Ronan and Lee Ann Brown are reading at the wonderful Chapterhouse & Verse reading series. I have a meeting/potluck to attend in Barto, PA earlier that day, and I am not sure if it's the sort of thing that will last into the night or if we will meet, eat, and go home, but I hope I make it back to the city to see these ladies read! RSVP here.


Gigantic Sequins had its ThreePointOne StorySlam this past Sunday at Stonewall Inn in NYC & it went swimmingly. Check out some photos from the event by Ian Carlos Photography. We're hoping to do our next one in the fall in... Philadelphia! And then a Valentine's Day-ish one again February 2015 in NYC. We are planning ahead, we are.

Speaking of GS, we are in the throes of our Spring Friend Drive. We offer rewards with pretty much every level of donation, so please consider sending us something to help get our 5.2 issue, scheduled to debut this July, printed! We'll be announcing the contributors for that issue VERY soon.

I updated this blog about the books I read for the past 3 months in a post the other day and forgot to mention how I was keeping up with this monthly prompt list. In February, the prompt was to read a book recommended by a blog, and that was The Art of Fielding, which I *did* mention. The prompt for March was to read a book that was made into a movie, and even though I was late to the game and read it in April, that's one of the reasons I read The Fault in Our Stars, to fulfill that prompt. And finally, the prompt in April was to reread your favorite book from childhood, but I reread SO MANY damn books in April I just didn't do this. If you consider being 18 "childhood", then I've been slowly rereading Gaiman's Sandman series, so that, perhaps, counts. May's prompt is to read a book from another country. I'm on it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Books Read :: February, March, April 2014

Opening Remarks
I'd hoped to read more, really. February came and went so quickly, though, that I didn't read as much as I'd wanted. There was no point in posting a blog about what I did read, as it was scarce. A combination of February and March's books read proved a better idea. And then, I made a draft of a post & never posted it. So now April is included to...

Books Read (according to GoodReads)

Notes on Books Read
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
This is the second book in a YA series that I began reading way back in the day when I was in a bookclub. I am enjoying the series, but every book ends on such a cliffhanger that as a reader, the books feel like they really should be one long book. This is extremely frustrating, though I understand why this is done. I don't have time to reread the previous books, and I didn't reread the first in the series before reading this one-- that turned out alright, I got right back into it. The cast of characters at the beginning helps a lot.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
I read this book for the reading challenge I found on tumblr, as it was a book recommended by a blog, February's prompt. It took me forever to get into, but then for the last 60 or so pages, I couldn't put it down. I am not sure what my initial frustration with it was-- the weight of the volume & my inability to carry it around with me to read? The lack of determined women characters? The emotional toll taken by knowing that everything was about to go to shit and then having to watch it all going to shit throughout the first 2/3rds of the novel? A combination of the three, I'm sure. I was much happier to read about the characters' lives (mostly) on the up and up, not their undoings in the middle, there. By the end, I was glad I read the book.

Birth Marks by Jim Daniels
Great volume of poetry that evokes a city I am unfamiliar with in all terms except through literature/music/film-- Detroit. Gigantic Sequins published a poem that's in this volume, a villanelle. I bought this at AWP, started reading it there, and finished it soon after. It got me through a lot, considering I went through a lot travel-wise during that period!

In the Songbird Laboratory by Lauren Eggert-Crowe
I read this dancing girl chapbook of poetry on a beautiful sunny day in mid-March, Geoff and I took Jezebel for a walk and I brought this with me. I wasn't sure at first if I were supposed to subscribe to a certain fiction to feel the poems, but then I caught on in my own way without that worry and let myself enjoy the way the words sound and feel and let them mean something enough for me to enjoy this chapbook pretty thoroughly.

I reread Neil Gaiman's Sandman Vol. 5 A Game of You, Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber, Shakespeare's The Tempest, and Tao Lin's Shoplifting from American Apparel. One for pleasure, four for school. Guess which.

O, Democracy! by Kathleen Rooney
I will have more to say about this when I interview her. FOR NOW: this book is great and you should buy it and read it.

The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather by Sampson Starkweather
I gave this book five stars on Goodreads because it deserved it. I had to try really hard not to dog-ear all the pages at times. I liked all four of the books that were compressed into one. Awhile ago, I had a chance to buy this book when it first came out and I thought (and said out loud) "it's too long. I will not read it." But then I bought the book this year at AWP, a year later, and I read the whole thing pretty quickly, all four books, because it was great and I in fact wished it were longer.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I needed some light fiction reading for the end of the semester stress, so as soon as I could, I downloaded this to my Kindle and read it, pretty quickly in fact. I limited myself, at first, to two chapters a night so that I wouldn't blow through it too fast. But after I was halfway through, I was too curious to slow down. Everyone who reads this book knows it's going to end sadly somehow. From the first page or the description on the back cover, even. I thought the main character had a unique voice, and I think her story is worth telling... it just wasn't my cup of tea. I guess I'll stick to fantastical/sci-fi YA or something.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Birthday Club, Part Deux

I think it was two (or maybe three) years ago that I implemented the first Birthday Club. It involved people mailing me books for my birthday, under the condition that if you mailed me a book within a month of my birthday, I would mail one back to you.

It was a great success, and I received and read many awesome books, some of which I probably never would have read had I not created The Birthday Club. I can now say I read every book that a Birthday Club member sent to me that first year I did this, and I am glad I did.

This year, on March 26th, I turn 30, and for this grand occasion, I would like to bring back the Birthday Club for a second round. I really love my birthday. I am one of those crazy people that celebrates her birthday all freaking month. (Shameless plug: I am reading on 3/20 at the Tirefire Reading Series, and this feels like a birthday present somehow.) Anyway, below are the rules for Birthday Club if you would like to participate this year.

[ cupcakes also accepted. ]

1) I have to know you in some capacity. Maybe we are obvious friends or maybe I met you in real person (is that a real phrase?) or maybe we are twitter friends. You just can't be someone completely random. I have to, in some way or another, recognize your name--or you have to, in some way or another, let me know how I know you.

2) Email me, so we can exchange mailing addresses, if you want to make this happen. If you don't have my email address, use the contact page of my website to write me, which goes straight to my email inbox, and I'll write you back.

3) You have a month to mail me a book that you love and think I will love/should read, from today. I will send everyone who sends me a book between 3/15 - 4/15 a book within a month of the date I receive your Birthday Club book to me. If you would rather give me a book in person because you live in Philly/we see each other, that's okay too. We'll arrange for an exchange.

4) You really can send me any book-- as long as I haven't read it. How can you tell? Here is a list of (most of) the books I've read via Goodreads. Small press books are encouraged, but I am open to anything, anything, anything. Used books are fine!

5) Those are the rules, I can't think of any more.

If you have read this blog in the past, many a time in an entry I have said something like, "This book was sent to me by XYZ for my Birthday Club," so you may be famous on my blog for sending me a book.

I hope you help to make this the best birthday ever! I decided not to implement Birthday Club every year because there are a million books I want to read, and some of them I already own and know I want to read-- but not all of them. I am a stacker-upper and a patient completist. I am a bibliophile. I love owning books. I love getting mail, and I love sending mail (well, for the most part.)  When a book comes in on suggestion, as in, someone says, you must read this, I am more likely to read it, and I can't wait to see what you guys throw at me-- and a big part of the fun of this for me is that I get to send you something I think you'll love.