Things Get Weird in Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck #weirdathon

Thoughts on Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck chrisbookarama.com

Julianne of Outlandish Lit sent me this ebook along with a some other strange titles. Jagannath was the first one I read. I need to give Julianne a huge THANK YOU. This was so good!

Swedish science fiction writer Karin Tidbeck translated her own stories for the English market. These stories have appeared in various publications, but are collected here under one title. They are all seriously weird. Here's a sampling of my favorites.

...a man falls in love with an airship
...a woman writes letters to her recently deceased father about her missing mother
...a woman grows a tiny creature in a flower pot
...a woman creates a creature in a tin can
...an academic explores the history of a legendary shapeshifter
...a family is unaware of its supernatural origins
...fairy creatures discover time
...a giant insect carries what remains of humanity in its body

The stories defy categorization. They are a little bit science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and even folklore.

Folklore is my jam! I'm always reading local folklore books (on witches and werewolves, for example). There is Swedish folklore in Jagannath, like the vittra in "Reindeer Mountain". One story titled "Pyret" is a fake academic paper about a fake mythical beast. The Pyret is a gelatinous shapeshifter that the author traces from ancient documents to the present time. The author even explores the site of the last documented encounter with a Pyret with creepy results. I liked the tone of the story, the academic detachment, the "research" and the spooky conclusion. I could have read a whole book like that.

Not only did I enjoy the weirdness of the short stories but the honest emotion in so many of the ones about family. No matter how strange the events in the stories were there was no doubt that real human feelings were involved.

So, yes, I LOVED Jagannath! Put it on your TBR list.

Jagannath


If On a Winter's Night a Traveler #Weirdathon

Thoughts on If On a Winter's Night a Traveler

This book melted my brain.

The book opens :
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.
And so on until the book begins in earnest. The story is an intriguing one. An unknown narrator disembarks a train with a suitcase. He is supposed to meet someone but that person doesn't show. The narrator waits at a bar for further instructions. He meets a mysterious woman, but their conversation is interrupted by a messenger. The narrator must leave immediately. And then...

Nothing.

The rest of the book is misprinted and is garbage. You (The Reader, and male) must buy a new copy. You return to the bookstore and buy another copy. There is another Reader, a woman named Ludmilla, with the same issue. You exchange personal info in case this book is also misprinted. This is a good idea because this book isn't If On a Winter's Night a Traveler but another story set in another country. After the first chapter, the rest of the book is blank.

The book I (Chris) am reading continues on like this. Every time a new book is found it is the beginning of a different novel and something prevents The Reader from getting past the first chapter. In every story, there is a man, a mystery, and a woman or two the protagonist encounters. Alternating these first chapters are the adventures of You and Ludmilla who attempt to track down the complete books. More and more obstacles and convoluted circumstances occur, keeping You from finding any finished books.

And then the last line of the book. Brain. melted.

This is a reader's book. It's a book about reading and the pleasure of books. What if every time you picked up a book some odd thing would happen to keep you from reading beyond the first chapter? How frustrating that would be! It's a nightmarish scenario. No wonder You becomes so determined to find the rest of these books.

If On a Winter's Night a Traveler is twisty and weird. It messed with my head. There is a section which is a diary of the translator for the publisher of the books and I have no idea what is happening there. Either he's having a psychotic episode or he's on drugs... or he's an Extreme Liar. Weirder and weirder things continue to happen to The Reader. Meanwhile, he reads the first chapters of these books. Some I really wanted to keep reading and some I could do without.

If you want to totally different and weird reading experience, give If On a Winter's Night a Traveler is try.


If on a Winter's Night a Traveler


I'm On a Boat: Thoughts on Sea of Poppies

Thoughts on Sea of Poppies by Amitar Ghosh


This is the story of the Ibis, once a slave ship, now a ship for exporting opium and on this voyage migrant workers headed to Mauritius. This voyage is special. Deeti, one of the passengers, had a vision of the Ibis and the people that will change her life. Her life has been governed by poppies, as she's watched village after village having to grow the flower to survive. Now, she's on the run, and the Ibis is her only option.

Besides Deeti, Sea of Poppies is peppered with a cast of characters so large and quirky Dickens would be jealous. I'm only going to touch upon a few of them. Zachary is a mixed race American sailor with ambitions but a good heart. Paulette, a French orphan, must get to Mauritius to find her mother's family. Jodu is her foster brother, a charming Muslim boy, with dreams of becoming a sailor. Neel, one of two prisoners onboard, is headed to Mauritius to serve out his sentence for forgery.

This book took me forever to finish. Not that I didn't like it. It was suffering from first book in a trilogy syndrome. There were a lot of starts and stops for the characters- so many characters. Just as I would get comfortable with one character's story, the book would switch to another. I would have to remember what was happening in that character's storyline again. Over and over. This would take me out of the story and I'd lose interest. It took so long to establish the back stories and reasons why the characters ended up on the ship, that it was more than halfway through the book before they even got to the ship.



Once the characters assembled on the ship, the action really got going. I was invested in their lives and what the future held for them. Then, pfft! just like that, the book ended. Now I really want to know what's going to happen to them all. (Though I'm not running out to get the next book.)

I am a bit frustrated at how long it took to get the plot going. Some of it might not have been needed. I'm thinking of Paulette who has plenty of good reasons to want to run away. Ghosh had to add one more weird thing. It was gilding the lily at that point. Sure, it added to the British merchants ridiculousness, but they were already ridiculous. It was time to get things moving along.

I think the second book should pick up the pace- at least I hope it would-unless a whole new cast of characters is added. I guess I'll have to wait to see.

Sea of Poppies is funny at times, with characters you either love or hate. It's an old fashioned adventure, much like the Aubrey-Maturin series, with a less Eurocentric flavour.

How do you feel about series? Do you find they take too long to establish themselves? 


Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)

My #DayintheLife Post for 2016: It's Saturday!

A Day in the Life of Chrisbookarama 2016


It's time for Trish's Day in the Life again! Last year, I did things a little differently and took a photo of all my Everyday Essentials. This year I decided to stick to the rules. I picked March 12 as the day to record my activities. It was a Saturday and that's a day that's a little less organized. A lot less of "Then I cleaned my floors, and went for groceries." Anything can happen on a Saturday! I hope you enjoy this look into my life.



9:00 It's Saturday. No one else is awake yet. It's so quiet. I'm awake but in bed. I look at my phone: Facebook, Twitter, and email. I start thinking about making French toast and search Pinterest for recipes.

9:30 I get up and weigh myself- right on track. French toast sounds even better! I feed the pets and make coffee. I grab the sausages out of the freezer to thaw. All the Pinterest recipes look too complicated. I just stick to the basic recipe and fry up the sausages too. 

10:00 The family finally drags themselves out of bed. We eat. It is delicious! 

I love weekend breakfasts

10:30 I have coffee in front of the computer while listening to a morning indie playlist on Spotify. I contemplate whether to run outdoors but decide it's too cold. I'm a big baby.

Brr!

11:00 After some drama about not being able to find what she needs, the girl goes to the mall with a friend.

11:30 I finally get on the treadmill. Spotify's recommended running playlist thinks I want to listen to a lot of Aerosmith. I do not.

That's not Aerosmith

12:00 Whew! My run is done! Now onto laundry and a shower.

Slow and steady wins the treadmill

12:30 I dry my hair, put on makeup, and get dressed. I'm wearing a favorite sweater and long necklace. I'm into long necklaces lately- very boho.

The basics

1:30 I eat yogurt, raspberries and granola for lunch. My husband puts pork roast in the slow cooker for supper.

2:00 We leave the house, finally. We're off to buy tickets for Chase the Ace and pick up paint swatches from Home Depot. What is Chase the Ace, you might ask? Well, here is a humourous explanation from the last BIG Chase the Ace. Basically, it's a local lottery run for charity that grows bigger every week until there is a winner. This recent one has been growing quietly for some time. On this Saturday, the pot was over $1 million. That's is a lot of money! I got the fever.

And so does everyone else...

The line curves and ends over by those doors

2:30 At the ticket sale venue we go to, the line is so long we have to stand outside. A man who just happens to be walking by asks me, "So what's this all about?" I think for a moment he is joking. Doesn't everyone know about it! "It's Chase the Ace!" I say. He then decides to join us in line and asks me for more information.

While waiting, my phone rings. My daughter "needs" money for lunch at the mall. She spent what she had. I use my banking app to send some to her account. I don't know whether to love or hate this technology. 

About 15 mins later we have tickets in hand. Am I now a millionaire? You'll have to keep reading to find out!

3:30 After Home Depot, we head home. The girl is there already. She shows me her spoils. I look at the paint swatches in living room and choose one called Wet Cement. (Spoiler: We painted this week. It looks great!)

Gray is so hot right now

4:00 I make some tea (Davids Tea Earl Grey) and work on our family photo album for 2015. I try to make one at the end of every year now. I was taking so many photos and they just sat on the computer. I pick the best of the year and arrange them in a photo book from Shutterfly. I only started in 2014. Maybe someday I'll go back and do the previous years. For now, I have this one ready for printing.

Just chillin'

My husband is watching car racing on TV. So many viagra ads! Like, we get it, we know what it's for. Do we really need to hear about four hour erections in the middle of the afternoon? 

5:30 Then we finish making supper. Just as we're about to eat I get a text from my in laws inviting us over for cake. There was a birthday earlier that week. And to watch the live feed of the Chase the Ace draw. Sounds good to me!

Yum!

6:30 We hang out at the in laws, eat cake, and watch the draw streaming on the computer. They draw the number and...I'm not a winner. Boo. We keep streaming to see if the winner is anyone we know. 

Suddenly, controversy! Two ticket holders show up. Shenanigans! Are both tickets real? How are there two tickets? What will happen? The organizers look confused and befuddled. A long time passes before they make an announcement. The two ticket holders have agreed to share the prize if they choose the ace or the consolation prize if they don't. All ends without any chair throwing. It was a Big Deal though and people had a lot to say about it

We stick around talking for a bit and then it's time to go home.

10:30 The husband and I are watching some TV and we make Irish Coffees since it's the weekend. The weekend is time for a little booziness and it is St Patrick's day next week so... I follow this recipe if you'd like to try it. 

A nightcap

12:00 The day is done and it's time for bed. Night all!



So that was my day! Not really how I expected things to end. I thought I'd be an instant millionaire but no. It was not to be. I'm amazed at how much technology is a part of my life. Pinterest, banking apps, Spotify, streaming. It's everywhere.

How was your day? 

My #Bloggiesta Plans



Hello! Today begins another round of Bloggiesta! Since doing the Mini-Bloggiesta in January, I didn't think I had much to do. I did a lot of blog clean up then. Instead I'm going to do a few little things and one BIG thing.


  • Back up blog.
  • Update review page.
  • Update Pinterest.
  • Clean out email.
  • Write reviews.

And the Big Thing: Learn to make graphics in Photoshop!


I have Photoshop as part of my photoing editing subscription but I've been too intimidated to use it. Yesterday I made some graphics in Pic Monkey and was disappointed with the quality. Now is the time to finally figure it out. I have some tutorials to watch and hopefully learn something. Wish me luck!

Happy Bloggiesta!

#Oneword Efficiency Update



I guess the middle of March is a good a time as any to look at my One Word progress. If you'll remember, my word for 2016 was Efficient. I am aiming to be more efficient this year.

How Am I Doing?

I'm not sure if I can quantify my progress, it's more a feeling of whether I'm getting more done or not. The problem is that once I accomplish one thing, I think of at least two more projects to take its place. Am I getting farther ahead or is this a game that will never end until I am dead? (Sorry! Uplifting, I know.) This is something I am beginning to realize. There will never be enough time to do all the things I want to do. I think I have to be happy with the things I do accomplish. Finishing something is a thing to celebrate!

 Are There Any Tricks to Being More Efficient?

I said I would post any tricks, if I could. Keep in mind, I am currently unemployed. Getting things accomplished helps with my mental health while not working. It also means I have more time to get stuff at home done.




  • Get up early. Getting up at a time close to when I would get up while I had a job, helps me feel like I'm getting things done. I can go for groceries in the morning and avoid the crowds. I can get to the gym and get that out of the way before moving onto other things. 
  • Make lists and follow them. About a month ago I realized that I was spending too much time standing in line at the grocery store. I was there almost everyday, because I, or someone in my family, would suddenly "need" something that was forgotten the last time I was there. I've made a rule that if they don't write what they need on my list before I go, they will have to wait until the next time I go: once a week! Funny how they don't need so much stuff now. 
  • Unitask. According to Note to Self: Infomagical, multitasking is a myth. There is a bunch of research that says you only feel like you are accomplishing more. Unitasking is what we should be doing. This is hard for me. Doing one thing takes so loooooong. I have been trying to complete projects before moving onto new ones, with mixed results. I have finished knitting one pair of socks (both feet!) and made the family photo album for 2015. That said, I don't think there is anything wrong with listening to audiobooks for review while doing mindless tasks. 
  • Careful with social media. It can be so easy to get sucked into Twitter! During Infomagical week, one of the tasks was to clean out my phone of apps that didn't "bring me joy." I didn't have that many to delete. Most of my apps are functional, I'm not into that many games. I went through my social media instead. I purged my Twitter following list that week. I want more joy from my Twitter feed. I was finding that a lot of accounts I followed just added to my anxiety. I also get more done when my phone is in another room. Go figure. 
  • Use planners. Planners are all the rage. I had two and a bunch of journals, plus the calendar on my phone. Too many for me! I've culled it down to one and one on my phone. (I'm also using Evernote for blogging tasks.)  Writing out my tasks for the week helps me focus and reminds me of what I have to do that week. There is nothing more aggravating then when my phone blings to remind me that I have an appointment I forgot about in a half hour. 

What Next?


Right now I'm checking out Pinterest to see if they have anything useful there and incorporate it into what I'm already doing. If I see something I'd like to try, I'll report back later. I might do parts of Infomagical again. 


Not Here, But There: My Weird Off


Today I'm over at Outlandish Lit defending my pick for the Weird Off, Lady Into Fox. I was up against Katie with You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine.  I gave it 110%. I really wanted it. I dug deep. I brought my A game. But did it work?


Hop over and see for yourself!

The (Merry?) Widow: Thoughts on The Widow by Fiona Barton



The widow of the title is Jean Taylor. Her husband died after being hit by a bus. This should be tragic but there are a lot of people happy about this event. Possibly even Jean herself. I don't want to give too much away, since I think going into The Widow without knowing anything makes a better reading experience. I knew almost nothing about it, and honestly if I had known more about the plot, I might not have given it a chance. Just know that the Taylors were involved in the investigation of a terrible crime.

The book has several narrators. The Detective and The Reporter want Jean to talk, to tell them the things they suspect she knows. Jean is the only first person narrative the reader gets, she still keeps much hidden from us, and from herself. Once Jean's husband dies, she is free to tell her story, but will she?

Whenever PR claims a book similar to Gone Girl, I want to shout NO! The Widow is pitched as thus and it is not. It's still twisty and people have secrets. There's a married couple, yes, but they are not Amy and Nick.

Jean is a perfect complex character. I have conflicting feelings about her. Her husband is manipulative and controlling. Jean reads as someone both very young and naive, and decades older than her thirty-something years. At times, the things she did reminded me of things women my mother's age would do (my mom's almost seventy). Jean ends up being in a place where she is completely isolated from anyone who could help her. In her mind, the police and the press are her enemies. It's hard to imagine the loneliness she must feel.

The media come off horribly in The Widow. If the Taylors haven't done anything wrong, the media has ruined their lives. This is something I always thought about during the Jonbennet Ramsay frenzy.

The Widow isn't just a straight up thriller. It is a look at the psychology behind the loyalties of the partners of people accused of terrible crimes and the things they tell themselves to stick by them.

Although the book doesn't get into graphic details, there is pedophilia in the plot. I might not have picked this up knowing that. It did make me uncomfortable, but I was  so interested that I never thought of abandoning the book. Just an FYI.

About the Audio: The main narrators are Hannah Curtis, Nicholas Guy Smith, and Mandy Williams, with small parts by Jayne Entwistle (The Mother) and Steve West (The Husband). I can't complain about any of them. This was the first time I used the Volumes app. It is much easier to use than my usual way of downloading files to an old Sony mp3 player. Not all of my audio ARCs have this as an option though.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

The Widow

A Not Very Feminist Short Story for International Women's Day



Since today is International Women's Day, I thought I'd take a look at Project Gutenberg for a short story by a woman to review. There are a number of science fiction publications available on the site now. Many stories written for these magazines were by women, including Marion Zimmer Bradley.

I looked at a few but the title of this one caught my eye and I had to read it. It's I'll Kill You Tomorrow by Helen Huber.

A nurse in a maternity ward notices an unusual silence among the newborns. She picks up one to cuddle and he tries to put his tiny baby hands around her neck to strangle her. She's even more startled when he speaks.

"Careful you fool! You'll drop this body." A thin piping voice. A shrill symphony in malevolence.
"...These hands are too fragile. There are no muscles in the arms. I couldn't have killed you."
"It would be nice to kill you. Someday I will. Someday I'll kill you if I can find you."

These aren't normal babies. They're "bodyless entities" bent on human destruction. This entity is real excited to have found 30 bodies to inhabit. Unfortunately, they are babies and can't do much destroying yet.


I was totally reading this baby's dialogue in the voice of Stewie Griffin. Another baby with a taste for murder. 

The nurse freaks out and runs to her doctor boyfriend (of course she has a doctor boyfriend). They make out a little first.

Lorry came close. "Kiss me. Kiss me—hard."
Pete kissed her, then held her away. "You're trembling. Anticipation, pet?" He looked into her face and the grin faded. "Lorry, what is it?"
"Pete—Pete. I'm crazy. I've gone mad. Hold me."
He could have laughed, but he had looked closely into her eyes and he was a doctor. He didn't laugh. "Tell me. Just stand here. I'll hang onto you and you tell me."
Barf.

He doesn't assume she's broken into the medical marijuana, though he wants to see it for himself. The baby doesn't pull a Michigan J Frog. Instead shares his scheme with the doctor too. Loose lips sink ships, baby monster!

Lorry and Pete know they must save humanity. Pete does the thinking for the both of them and gives her a "I'll take care of this, babydoll" (paraphrasing).

Pete saves the day- I won't say how, you can read it yourself. Lorry heaps praise on him:
"It took courage. Tell me: why are you so strong, so brave? Why are you so wonderful?"
Good grief

Then they make out some more.

It's a dopey story, but I actually liked it! It was unintentionally hilarious and so of its era (1953). There is so much talk of women in sci-fi lately, that I think it's important to point out that women have been writing in the genre for a long time.

I can't find much on Helen Huber, other than that's she's included in science fiction anthologies like Women Resurrected, and Partners in Wonder. I'm unsure if she's the same Helen Huber who co-wrote a home health aide's guide and was a DJ. The obituary of that Helen says she was a gifted writer but doesn't mention I'll Kill You Tomorrow.

Happy International Women's Day, friends!

Book Thoughts: The Unsullied Pleasure of Reading

Book Thoughts

There'a a boundary line: on one side are those who make books, on the other those who read them, so I take care to always remain on my side of the line. Otherwise, the unsullied pleasure of reading ends, or at least is transformed into something else, which is not what I want. This boundary line is tentative, it tends to get erased: the world of those who deal with books professionally is more and more crowded and tends to become one with the world of readers. 

This is a quote from On a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino written in 1979. The person speaking is Ludmilla who is refusing to speak to the publisher of several books that seem to have been misprinted, even though she is invested reading these book. She's very strict!

This quote stuck out to me, especially the part about the tentative boundary line. In 2016, most authors have some kind of online presence. It's very easy to reach out to authors via Twitter or their own websites. It works in the other direction too. The author can get involved in readers' discussion of their own work. Ludmilla would not approve of this at all! What would she makes of this blurring of the lines? And book bloggers? Who else is erasing that line more than we are by writing about authors and their lives daily?

"the unsullied pleasure of reading ends, or at least is transformed into something else" 

What is "something else"? Does the unsullied pleasure end?

You don't even have to have a personal, awkward encounter with an author to experience this. Just a quick Google search can taint the unsullied pleasure. How many of us have struggled with the personal or political personalities of a beloved author by looking a little too closely at their lives? Found out that author was racist, homophobic, sexist, or supported a cause we find repellent? And while the ideal is to separate the artist from the art, can you ever go back once you know what you know? It was a lot harder to find out these uncomfortable truths when you had to go to the library and look things up IN A BOOK.

On the other hand, I remember being blown away while researching the life of Mary Shelley when I had to write a paper on her for university (no internet then either!). It enhanced by reading of Frankenstein knowing about her struggles. I guess that counts as "something else."

There are pros and cons to crossing this boundary line.

What do you think? Are you like Ludmilla? Do you wish it was harder to cross that boundary line? Or are you grateful to have the access to authors we have now?

Happy Plan a Solo Vacation Day!


Yes, it's Plan a Solo Vacation Day on March 1! Now is the time to plan a vacation for yourself. It sounds very adventurous and someday I'd like to try it. I'm a pretty nervous traveler though so it's tough for me.

If you are interested, Pinterest has a lot of ideas, especially if you are a lone lady. Here are a few I've found:

And so. many. more. Just type "solo travel" into Pinterest search. Yikes! It's quite inspiring.

Maybe you can't afford to travel or aren't quite ready. Here are some books featuring solo travel:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
An Age of License by Lucy Knisley
In the Mountains by Elizabeth von Arnim
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Who says "plan" doesn't mean "daydream" anyway? I'm all for that!

Have you vacationed solo? Was it fun? Would you do it again?