The Female Man by Joanna Russ

This was the first book selected for my scifi/fantasy book club.  In order to prevent the lag that occurs when people choose horrible books, I selected a list of 50 “to read before you die” books and made a book jar.  This was a rough start.

The comment that keeps coming up is that The Female Man is a feminist book, no scifi.  Yes, there are scifi elements to it but they are so much thinner than the feminist agenda.  Now, I am a feminist and I get what Russ is trying to do but even I felt that it was too heavy handed at times.

The Female Man is about four J’s: Joanna, Jeannine, Janet, and Jael.  In essence, these women are the same women living in different times and realities.  They have been shaped by their realities so that each one is different.  They have been collected together by Jael who is fighting an actual battle of the sexes in her time and wants them to allow her to place stuff in their realities, bases and soldiers and such.  However, the J’s made the book very hard to follow and the characters didn’t feel distinct enough to tell apart until about half way through the book.

I agree with a lot of the social commentary that is made throughout.  My problem with this book is that it doesn’t feel true to me.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Of course it’s not true.  It’s fiction.”  If you read enough, you can tell when an author is not telling the truth.  I could never pin it down but I never trusted this story.

I would like to see this exact book tackled now.  I think that would be interesting to see.

In Memoriam of My Cat

When I see pictures of my wedding, I’m always kind of surprised that Otto isn’t in them.  That may seem weird, but Otto is as much of this marriage as anything.  My best friend and I got married in the same year, a little less than a month apart.  I was at her bachelorette party when we found Otto.  Me, ever the dutiful bridesmaid, had drank just about everything in sight and still managed to be sober enough to hold the bride’s hair as she threw up in her sisters’ yard later.  While she was puking, a kitten came out of nowhere and started eating her mostly booze puke.  Being Liz, she scooped him up and handed him to me and said, “Rachael!  Kitten!”

And it was love.

I took that cat inside and I loved him until I fell asleep, even when he was puke covered.  When I woke up in the morning he was still next to me even though he had free range on the house.  He laid down on me and I knew that I would take him home.  When the older sister went to put him out the next day, I collected him instead and took him home with me. He was great in the car.  He sat on my lap and looked out the window while I asked him what his name was until he answered to Otto.

When I got home, I presented him to Hubby and he wasn’t happy.  We already had three cats and he did not want another cat.  Otto was the reason we almost didn’t get married.  A week or so later he freaked out and called off the wedding, siting my new cat as the reason.  Then he returned about ten minutes later and all was well.

Otto wormed his way into every heart.  It wasn’t long before he was laying all over Hubby and letting him do whatever he wanted.  He slept on the top of the couch a lot, waking to lick my hair.  He licked me constantly, once on the same part of my arm until it was raw.  In recent days, he cuddled me every morning when my alarm went off and he was the constant, strong presence on my legs at night.  He would crawl up in my armpit and lick me.  He saved me from so many panic attacks.

I wish that I could tell you everything about him.  I wish that I could share him with every single one of you.  I wish that I had more mornings to stay in bed after my alarm to cuddle.

Otto was the loudest personality of all of my cats.  He was a constant presence in my life.  It wasn’t until this week that I realized that I had built my life around his constant presence.  I woke up and cuddled.  I turned on the faucet for him and worked out.  Then he would wait on my towel while I showered.  I couldn’t leave the closet door open because he would climb into the food bag.  He followed me around the house.  He was the warm thing at my feet in the basement.  He waited for me to come home, excited and ready to be held and put out his big monster paw.

Last Thursday, Otto went out with Hubby in the morning.  Usually I would let him right back in but my arms were full and I forgot.  When I left for work, he was nowhere to be found.  That night, my late night, he didn’t come when I called him for dinner.  He never missed a meal.  There is a very good chance that dear Otto was already injured or sick then.

But last Friday when I went to work, he still wasn’t back and when I turned the corner, something rolled out from my car.  I went back to look because what if.  And only when the snow melted on Tuesday did we find him.  Right there on the corner, the thing that rolled out from under my car.

My poor, dear boy is no longer with us.  And I can tell you that I am feeling GRIEF.  That I am feeling BEREAVEMENT.  That everything that I do while I am in this house reminds me of him.  I only had my Otto for two and a half years but those two and a half years were years of joy.  When I came home, he was the thing that I was the most excited for and he was excited for me.  He loved everyone.  But I was his Mommy and Hubby was his Daddy.  And this house is so quiet without him.

I am grateful that I finally found him, that I know he didn’t just run away.  But my life is full of the what ifs.  What if I had looked harder when I turned that corner?  I can tell you that he hated cars, that I knocked on my hood before starting it, that we found a couple of marks on him like bites.

And what I know about grief is this:  You can feel it for people and for animals, that my sadness for Otto is as raw as my sadness for my father.  I am feeling the stages of grief just the same.  And that while a pet, I cannot even call them that because I let them run this house, an animal may be just an incidental to everyone else, they can be your baby and your love.  I miss Otto with all of me, right down to my atoms.  He was my constant companion and I thought that I would have more that 2.5 years with him.  I thought that there were ten more at least.

Love your kitties well.  Know that nature takes its course.  That the hunters become the hunted.  That the dear ones, no matter the species, will not always be with us.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

After last summer’s Libba Bray listenathon that took me through the Gemma Doyle books, I thought that I had an idea of what to expect from the author.  I mean, historic paranormal fiction, right?  The Diviners is historic paranormal fiction too.  What I’m getting at here is that, if I had not known and had gone into it blind, I never ever would have guessed that Bray was the author of Going Bovine.  Yes, it has the paranormal elements to it but it is hilariously contemporary.  What do I mean by that?  Just you wait.

Going Bovine is about a guy named Cameron who begins the story as a sarcastic, jerky kind of guy.  He doesn’t have friends, just associates with the stoners in the bathroom and the guy who owns the record shop, and his twin sister and him aren’t really that chummy anymore either.  He basically spends a lot of time smoking weed and slacking off.  Then he actually DOES get jerky, in a physical way.  After his parents assume that he is on drugs and send him to a shrink, he ends up seeing a specialist who diagnoses him as having mad cow disease.  He begins to quickly deteriorate and ends up in the hospital.

But there is an angel afoot, Dulcie, who tells him that he has to go on a mission to find a certain Dr. X.  Dulcie tells him that what is really going on is that Dr. X has opened a wormhole in the universe, allowing in protons and fire giants and general chaos, and if Cameron doesn’t find him the world will end in two weeks.  She gives him a special Disney E Ticket to keep his disease at bay, tells him to take Gonzo, the dwarf, with him, and sends him on his way.

What follows is this crazy, hilarious road trip.  Following signs in random places, they travel from Texas to Florida, causing general mayhem along the way.  They make friends, most notably Balder who is really a Norse god trapped in the lawn gnome form.  They make enemies, like the United Snow Globe Wholesalers.  They even join a cult for a short amount of time.

This was a great book to listen to.  It sucked me in again and again.  It had me laughing.  It almost made me cry.  (It would have made me cry but I told myself to man up because there was too much crying the day before and my eyes are all puffy and my face hurts.  There is currently a ban on crying.)  A definite recommendation.  And, seriously, Bray can write, you guys.  Bray can write.

Tally Monday- January 25, 2016

Checked Out

  1. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Condo

Bought

  1. Eating the Cheshire Cat by Helen Ellis

Read

  1. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

TBR 15

Dear Reader, did you know that my house is mess?  I bet that you never guessed that.  I bet you thought it was perfectly possible to work full time, read 100 books a year, write, play games, have a social life, give attention to you loved ones, AND stay on top of the laundry and house work.  Well, I am here to tell you that it is IMPOSSIBLE to do all of those things, at least without getting a hard hitting whiskey habit.  (It’s true.  Some of the best housework I have ever done was done drunk.  I suggest wine or cider, though.  You know, day drinks.)

Last week I took on the BIG project of taking everything out of our tiny storage room, building shelves, and putting everything in.  There is one clean room in my house right now.  It’s that one.  Hubby and I suffer from two problems: We have too many hobbies and we really like things.  Basically, we are constantly filling our house with records, instruments, books, and games.  There is a room in my basement that is actually impassable.  Part of the reason is that there is a huge bookshelf sitting in the middle of the floor, waiting to be filled, but still.

I read organization books the same way that I read financial books.  I never actually intend to use the advice but I like having to think about how to untangle my own webs.  I checked out the Kondo for this reason.  I will read it and it will get me fired up for a little bit, just enough to get off my ass and actually do something.  That’s all I need, you know.  I don’t actually want to change.  I’d just like to get reacquainted with my counter tops and floors.

I’ve been hearing so many rave reviews of Helen Ellis’s new book of short stories.  So.  Many.  I read Eating the Cheshire Cat when I was in high school.  I was working at the library and I was drawn to it for two reasons.  The first was the goldfish on the cover as I was going through my crazy goldfish keeping phase and the second was the mention of Cheshire cat in the title because I was an Alice Head.  It was a crazy book that took me on a path that I was not expecting in the least.  I think about the book a lot because it was so damn bizarre.  I finally caved and bought it.  Another nostalgia purchase is in the mail to me right now and I can’t wait to talk about it next week.

As for my reading, I only finished one book last week.  I got all tangled and confused about my reading.  I finished Stargirl and then I wanted to read my next LBC but I had a book to read for my book club and then I switched back and forth and back and forth and got myself so upset that I couldn’t read.  Finally, I attached myself to reading my book club book and told myself that I would read TWO LBC’s when I finished.

It’s time to start plowing through these books!

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

This was the second time that I’ve read Stargirl and I had one of those strange reading experiences.  I revered this book for years, always suggesting it and talking about how much I loved it.  When I started my second reading, I wasn’t sure why I loved it so much the first time.  Then, halfway through, I felt that ache to be a better me.  When I finished it, I was a heartbroken mess.

Leo is a typical guy.  He’s just typical.  He has friends.  He has interests.  He has plans.  He’s not a bad guy, just typical.  Then along comes Stargirl.  Like someone from a different planet, Stargirl does everything her own way and is surprised when she finds out that there might be another way.  She seems like happiness and light, the kind of person who cannot be pinned down.  At first these are the things that make her so popular but when she does something that goes against the grain too much for the rest of the school she finds herself shunned.

Leo is torn.  He loves Stargirl but he can’t help but wish for things to be easier, for Stargirl to be more normal.

I honestly don’t know what to tell you about this book besides the fact that it made me feel all of the feels.  Now I need to lock myself in a room a cry for a bit…

Tall Monday- January 18, 2016

Checked Out

  1. Sorceress by Celia Rees

Bought

  1. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
  2. Greenwitch by Susan Cooper
  3. Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
  4. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Read

  1. Traffic by John Ruskin
  2. Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
  3. Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling

TBR: 15

As we write, there is a battle raging internally.  See, upon making an honest assessment of my reading, par the usual, I realized that the reason I was so frustrated with myself was that I had three books that I had been dying to read sitting in my pile and I hadn’t cracked the cover on a single one.  Two of them were purchased as new releases because I NEEDED them.  And I want to read them.  I want to read them desperately.  So, I kicked it into high gear this week and it was actually really nice.  I spent a couple of hours in bed, propped up on my new pillow with a blankie and some tea.  It was lovely.  I felt a little better.

But right now, my house is in shambles and I have Christmas presents that need to be dealt with still.  There are dirty dishes piled up in the kitchen.  The laundry needs done.  There are empty leftover containers littering the coffee table.  There is a room in my basement that you can’t even walk through.  The coat closet is like you’re playing Jenga every time you open it, threatening to crush you with boots and cat food.  One thing is for sure, I never managed to strike a balance in life.  It’s just not one of my skills.

I’m not whining, though.  It struck me the other day that I had been whining about my reading life a lot lately and I don’t want to do that.  I am ahead of my goal for the year so far and I have a pile of irresistible books waiting for me.  There are things to live for!

Lately I’ve been going through my TBR book, crossing off things that I’ve read and scribbling out things that I don’t really want to read.  It feels good.  It feels like I am coming to terms with the kind of reader I am, not just trying to shove any books I can down my throat.  Maybe I am growing as a reader.

One thing is for sure, my TBR pile is growing…

Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling

Just when I was beginning to lose faith in my Little Black Classics box set, I go to read this little gem.  Collected here are a number of short paranormal stories from China.  Sometimes, this is just the ticket for me.  It made for great reading while I chipped away at chores today because the stories were so short and I found most of them to be engrossing.  Magic, myths, beasts, ghosts, foxes.  The tone was very fairy tale like and easy to read.  I plowed through this.

Now I kind of want to read about China, which tells me this book was a success.