I went to ALA Annual Conference and gathered 43 books.

Fact: ALA Annual Conference was in Anaheim, CA this past weekend.

Fact: I am blogging about it here. Go read it.

Fact: there were 5,000 vendors in attendance and many, many, many of them were publishers.

Fact: these publishers give away a lot of Advanced Reading Copies (or ARCs), or books not yet published, but almost there, for reviewers to…read and review.

Fact: I have a lot of these ARCs

Fact: I’m going to Read and Review them here on my book blog.

Be prepared.

Ra(w)R: Slaughterhouse-5

Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut

This was published in 1969. It took me a few days to read, and while it wasn’t difficult, I couldn’t speed read it like normal. I think this is because I was afraid to miss something.

8 out of 10 optometrists say this book is awesome.

Review:

This book was amazing. Completely whack, and I feel like just by reading it you get high, but amazing. It starts, I believe, with the author himself narrating, from his point of view. He tells us what the book is about, who it’s about, some of the stuff that is important, the first and last sentence of the book, why it’s named the way it is- basically if you have any questions, he answers them there. And then you read the book, which tells the tale of Billy Pilgrim, a sad sort of fellow who, like Kurt, had the misfortune of being present at the fire-bombing of Dresden in February of 1945. He also was abducted by aliens who exist in every moment of time that they exist, and he has come unstuck in time. Thus you experience everything out of order, just like Billy. The worst experience is probably the fire-bombing. The abduction is crappy too, but the only thing that is bad is that no one believes him (would you?).  Because of his un-stuck-in-time-ness, Billy knows when things are going to happen, and so do you. The book ends just like Kurt says it will end.

Mind-blowing. Navel contemplatingly deep. Hysterical. Terrifying.

I can’t believe I’ve never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut before, and I totally get why people would want to ban this book. You gotta think to read it, and that’s some dangerous shit man.

So it goes.

Ra(w)R: Arthur and George

Arthur and George by Julian Barnes

Published: 2006

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Allie stats:

Difficulty: it was a real live novel folks; I actually had to read it.

Time to completion: about a week- a few days to get into in and then nonstop for about a day and a half, whenever I had the time.

Rating: twenty million stars out of 10. Yes, that many.

Review:

This beautiful book, recommended to me by a beloved friend of mine, is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s about two men- Arthur and George- and how their lives reflect the kind of men that they are in the world they are forced to live in. Neither is particularly happy with their respective world, but each forges a life that is a direct picture of his identity.

Arthur grows up in a not unhappy family situation, but a poor one, and resolves to rescue his mother and siblings one day by becoming very successful, which he does after training as a doctor, but finding his place as an author. George grows up the son of a vicar in the countryside, shy, but smart, and becomes a local solicitor. Possible spoiler, but one you’ll find out if you read the back cover of the book, so try very hard to avoid it if you want to be totally surprised. Otherwise, highlight this blank spot:

What we find out is that Arthur is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, our very favorite mystery writer who invents the eternally famous Sherlock Holmes, who haunts him for the rest of his life. George is the son of a Parsee vicar and his Scottish wife, raising the question of prejudice and its place in turn of the century England. This book is based on a true story. But it is also a novel. It is a majestic, astonishingly well-researched story of these two men, drawing on newspaper articles, reports, letters, and the papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I found that bit out at the end, so I’m counting it as a spoiler. Also, I loved that the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I made up in my mind while reading Sherlock Holmes seemed to coincide so well with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  of the book.

While life happens to both George and Arthur, George gets it harder and hits a rough spot, which eventually Arthur becomes involved in, and so goes the story.

The writing in this book is beyond words. I think it works against the author and the reader a little bit at the beginning, where it seems a bit slow, but later you come to realize that it must be that way because without those fifty pages, the book wouldn’t mean nearly as much as it does. It is so well researched that you can’t help but fall right into it and not even realize you haven’t come up for air for hours.

Go, read this book. Now, please.

Bonus Ra(w)R: Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection

I’m not going to list all of the titles of Sherlock Holmes. I’m pretty sure it’s this collection that I read, but it was only 99 cents on kindle. Anyway, on to the main event!

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Published: 1887-1927

Publisher: Lordy. Every house has probably published a Sherlock Holmes story at one point or another now.

Allie stats:

Difficulty: Like many “classics,” it’s just adjusting to the writing and vocabulary because it’s unfamiliar. By the end I was racing through and loving every minute.

Time to completion: unknown. I started reading these last August, before I moved, and finished them maybe two or three weeks ago. The joy of short stories!

Rating: 10 stars. 10 shiny, mysterious, impossible stars.

Review:

I loved these novels and stories. I started reading Sherlock Holmes because like so many of the greats, it’s free on kindle. So sue me.  For the record, it was before Sherlock the BBC awesomeness blew up in the U.S. That might make me a book hipster?

ANYway, what happens in the books is that stuff happens and then Sherlock Holmes figures it out and then Dr. Watson writes about it. Over and over and over again. Which you think would be boring, but totally isn’t! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (you must use his whole name) is a genius. I don’t know how he came up with his famous consulting detective (but I might get more insight into that! I’m reading Arthur and George by Julian Barnes next), but it’s the clever word play and the snarky commentary that kept pulling me back in. Of course, we find some of literature’s most famous quotes here:

“We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,”

” ‘Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’

           ‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’

‘The dog did nothing in the night-time.’

          ‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes.”

“I have usually found that there was method in his madness.”

“You know my methods, Watson.”

and of, course,

” ‘Elementary,’ said he.” -what?! “Elementary, my dear Watson,” isn’t a quote?! NO, it isn’t! It’s a misquote! But luckily all those other ones are real, which make them much more fun.

All of those quotes are super well known, and if you’re saying, “I’ve never heard of any of those!” you probably live under a rock. Here are a few more quotes that aren’t as well-known, but should still be well-loved:

” ‘From the point of view of the criminal expert,’ said Mr. Sherlock Holmes, ‘London has become a singularly uninteresting city since the death of the late lamented Professor Moriarty.’ “

” ‘You know, Watson, I don’t mind confessing to you that I have always had an idea that I would have made a highly efficient criminal. This is the chance of my lifetime in that direction.’ “

” ‘Besides, on general principles it is best that I should not leave the country. Scotland Yard feels lonely without me, and it causes an unhealthy excitement among the criminal classes.’ “

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creates this magnificently conceited hero, with a sidekick you want to hate for being such a pushover, but he’s so opinionated that you can’t help but love him, and the two of them create this back and forth that any reader should feel fortunate to be a part of. It’s like reading Joss Whedon or Steven Moffat, but with more class. And history. Mr. Sherlock Holmes is actually quite an ass, but you can’t help but follow his every word, just like Watson does. And Dr. Watson allows the reader to see what is happening without taking away the mystery, because he never has any idea what the freak is happening either.

What about Sherlock, the amazing kick-ass BBC version written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss? I love it. It’s so true to the books and yet is brilliantly updated. There are some changes, but that’s because the writers are right, sometimes the stories just end and it doesn’t work for a medium like t.v. (Like Irene Adler- the original ending would make a really, really boring t.v. show, yet I LOVED “A Scandal in Belgravia,” based on the original story “A Scandal in Bohemia.” The t.v. show was much more like the book, while the Robert Downy Jr. movie just happened to have a female character with the same name, and that was about it.) I think it’s a great way to introduce people to the stories, and if more people are reading them, so much the better!

Everyone should read Sherlock Holmes! You can read a novel or a short story, take your pick. Or read them all! Look for the snarky bits and the social commentary and the funny parts and sad parts and romantic parts and the adventure parts and…you get the idea.

 

Ra(w)R: Logan’s Run

Logan’s Run by William F Nolan and George Clayton Johnson

Published: 1967 (my copy printed 1976, with the movie poster as the cover!)

Publisher: Bantam Books

Allie stats:

Difficulty: zilch

Time to completion: I don’t even know. I was reading it at the same time as ten other books. 3 days. Completely made up number.

Rating: 7.5 red flowers out of ten

Review:

Logan’s Run is a science fiction novel set in the 23rd century that takes on one of the most popular problems in sci fi: population control. The short version is it was decided post-revolution that in order to make sure there was enough to go around, that it was fair, and that things didn’t get to insane, everyone gets to live to the ripe old age of…21! When you’re a mini you get a crystal flower implanted in your hand (it’s red) and when it starts blinking, you’re on Lastday, and then when it turns black you turn yourself into a Sleep Center, and well, die. If you don’t turn yourself in, then you get chased. And it isn’t pleasant.

Logan is a Sandman- he works for the DS (Deep Sleep) center. He chases Runners and is a fine, upstanding citizen all in all. But, he’s getting on in age, and any day now he’s going to be on Lastday. So as he gets there, he decides that to be even more of an upstanding citizen, he’s going to chase after Sanctuary and try to bring it down. Every population control sci fi book has a Sanctuary equivalent- where the outcasts or renegades go to buck the system. To find Sanctuary in this version, one must go through all this crazy to find your way there. I can’t really say more because that’s like…the book.

I liked this one! I mean, it was a really typical 1960s sci fi in that Logan is pretty he-man like and our lady love is pretty featureless, but it isn’t really about her, it’s about Logan, so forgiven/forgotten. I really like books that explain the “why” of the world, and this one hits closer to home because the revolution that caused this new social system was brought on by young people fed up with the shit being to them by their elders, and one night young people under the age of 18 set Washington D.C. on fire and brought down the government. I’m not saying violent revolution is the way to go, but a youth rebellion (a successful one) is an interesting thought. Minus points because it the writing was sometimes a tad too much disjointed for me, but it is clearly the style of the book, so I can’t fault it too much. It was slightly creepy to read about a society where I’d be dead already. Normally when I put myself in the book, I get to live. (I mean, of course I always make it so that I live, but I try to do it by the rules- I almost always win because I’m young and female, and that’s always needed at some point in a sci fi book, but there’s no getting around that stupid black crystal flower! I’d definitely be dead already.)

This one was recommended to me by a friend, and I tracked it down but had to give it to the roomie to hold until the semester was over- worth the wait! I’m glad I read it, and you should go read it too!

Quotable quotes:

At 9.3o P.M. Common Standard Time, on Tuesday, March 3, in the year 2000, a seventeen-year-old from Charleston, Missouri, named Tommy Lee Congdon, was holding forth outside the Sheraton Bar. With firebrand intensity he called upon his youthful listeners to follow him in a march on the White House.

“If you wanta march, why don’t you damn fool kids march home to bed?” demanded a paunchy, middle-aged heckler whose name is unrecorded.

It was the wrong place, the wrong time and the wrong mode of expression. Words and blows were heatedly exchanged. The Little War had begun. By morning, half of Washington was in flames.

Note: there’s a movie! I’m going to watch it. It’s probably going to be awful and I’ll love every moment. Also, there are two sequels and a novelette that was published as an e-book according to Wikipedia. Also, there’s supposed to be a remake of the movie! But it’s been in the works for 20 years, no joke. Currently Ryan Gosling is attached to it. And that would be awesome.

Holy cow! I almost forgot to mention my favorite part: the dedication. I honestly cried when I read it, and while it’s too long to reproduce in its entirety right here, it’s worth a highlights reel. So here it is.

TO ALL THE WILD FRIENDS WE GREW UP WITH- and who were with us when we wrote this book:

To Frankenstein and Mickey Mouse

To The Iliad and the Odyssey, Superman and The Green Hornet

To Mr. Hyde and The Phantom of The Opera

To Rhett Butler and Jiminy Cricket

To The Man in the Iron Mask

To Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, Krazy Kat, and The Dance of the Dead

To the Unicorn in the Garden

To Beauty and the Beast

To The Beanstalk

To The Day the Earth Stood Still

To The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Ship of Ishtar

To Astounding, Amazing, Fantastic, Startling, Unknown, Galaxy, Weird Tales, Planet Stories, Black Mask, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

To Rhysling, Blind Singer of the Spaceways

AND, WITH LOVE

To The Green Hills of Earth

[AMC: there are way more, but these are my favs, for one reason or another. I hope you understand all the references, especially the last two. If you’re foggy on those, let me know and I will lead you out of the darkness and into the light. Those were really what made me cry.]

Ra(w)R: Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy

Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One, Fifty Shades Darker: Book Two, Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three by EL James (aka Erika Leonard)

Release date: May 25, 2011, September 13, 2011, and January 17, 2012

Publisher: Vintage

Allie stats:

Difficulty: Sometimes the writing was so awful that I had to take a couple of runs at it to get it. Also, the blushing slowed me down a little. But not by much.

Time to completion: all three books in a weekend

Rating:
This conversation:
Me: I don’t know how I’m going to rate these books.

Chelsey: On a scale from one to porn?

Review:

I had to read these because EVERYONE was talking about them and sometimes but not always I like to know what’s going on.

The books themselves (BEWARE this is sort of spoiler-y, but not really, but still..sort of): doofy, clutzy, not-at-all-chic college senior Anastasia has to fill in for her roommate, a journalist, and interviews Christian Grey, mega-bazillionaire hotty who apparently runs some really impressive company that does some really impressive stuff. She trips into his office (literally, I don’t mean the skipping along kind of trip. She falls on her face) and they have “a moment,” followed by an awkward interview, whereupon she again trips out of his office, and boogies home, glad its over with a little of the “what the heck that was weird ok whatever” feeling. She runs into him again a couple of times, and its clear there’s this weird mutual attraction thing, and then  stuff happens, and then he asks her to be his submissive. Boom. She has a little taste of what it would be like, and the weird thing is that although she’s not sure how she feels about BDSM, she’s very much into him. And while he’s normally really removed from his submissives (except for this crazy contract they have to sign about working out an hour every day and eating healthy and no snacks between meals except for fruit [AMC: deal’s off right there] and signing an NDA, which is my favorite part), he’s into her too, in a romantic way? Except for the part where he likes the uber-kinky during the sexytimes.

SO, Ana is busy trying to understand Christian (who is “fifty shades of fucked up,” and therefore, she’s trying to figure out her “fifty shades of Grey”- HA clever. No.), and in the meantime, shenanigans happen, like her job, her friends and family trying to understand what she’s doing and why she’s basically just disappeared, her trying to get her over-controlling boyfriend to back the freak down and calm down about her work (also, buying her extremely fancy and apparently super-safe cars because she might get in a crash). They might also break up at one point, where she is all depressed and doesn’t eat, but it only lasts for a week, huzzah!, instead of a whole book. Then her boss sexually harasses her and Christian goes all crazy with the protecting, and she gets more fancy stuff, and meets the family (“you’re so good for him! we’ve never seen him like this! keep doing it! we love you!”) and then they get married. Like, two or three months in. Then there’s more revenge and murder attempts and Ana may or may not try to sacrifice herself for the Steele family because she loves them SO MUCH and by doing so she will keep them safe. Then they live happily ever after with their kidses (oh, which I almost forgot, Christian didn’t want and it caused this big upset but now he’s ok with it. And they live in the house that he bought for her.).

The difference between Fifty Shades and Twilight would be the lack of sparkly vamps in the former and the lack of actual sex scenes in the latter. The writing is pretty crappy in both- in Fifty Shades we have the same catchphrases over and over again- just like Twilight (while hearing about her inner goddess the first time was clever, by the end of the book, the next time her goddess got ready to have sex I was going to to slap her). I can’t even tell you how many times I read the same thing over and over again, and it wasn’t because I was not hitting the next button, but just because I think EL James just ran out of programming and started to repeat herself.

Basically, it’s a pretty crappy book that has attracted the attention of the world and is running circles around everything else. It spreads like wildfire, and while I’m not exactly sure why, I have some theories.

One, it’s fun to read what everyone else is reading. Then you know what’s going on, you can actually converse about it (and boy is there stuff to talk about in this book), and you feel connected. We like connected.

Two, romance is a huge seller in general, and I doubt that it’s that uncommon for romance best-sellers to…well, be best sellers.

Three, Fifty Shades is a media-grabber because 1, it was originally fan fiction, 2, it was originally published as an e-book, THEN went to paperback, which isn’t usually how these things are done, and 3, it’s erotica, not romance. Yes, I said it. I will also say it is NOT “mommy-porn,” which is a phrase that really bothers me and I’d like to hurt the person who invented it. Ana is just out of college, completely naive about the world, falls for a 28 year old guy- on what planet was this written for women who have children alone? It was written for fans of Twilight. Who may or may not be mothers, college students, doctors, teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, IT geeks, whatever. I could really give a crap who reads this, except that I wouldn’t recommend it for the book club. Could be awkward.

So beside the crappy writing and the sometimes questionable sexual choices (note: the BDSM stuff is really only the first book. The second two are much, much more what Christian so fondly calls “vanilla,” and only ventures into unknown territory once in a great while. I am seriously frustrated with reviewers who say women who read this are seriously into S&M and it’s a reflection of the kinky things women want, without mentioning the second and third books. It’s about a woman falling for a dangerous man and her attempt to change him while not changing him and how that never works, unless he wants to change himself. OR she changes for him), what’s my problem with this book? Nothing really. It isn’t my cup of tea, but whatevs. Neither is Ayn Rand.

What I do have a serious problem with, is the backlash against this book, especially coming from librarians. There’s been a LOT of chatter over the last week or two about LIBRARIANS (DEFENDERS OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND PROTECTORS OF THE FAITH) pulling these books from shelves and refusing to buy it for their patrons! I’m fairly frothing at the mouth. Censorship is bad. Judging your patrons based on their checkout habits is bad. Refusing to buy popular fiction because you don’t like it/agree with it/someone complains about it is bad. What about the ALA Code of Ethics and Bill of Rights!

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

(from the ALA)

It says it right there. Books should be provided for the interest of the user (Fifty Shades certainly has interest. 1933 holds on 434 physical copies, 2203 holds on 144 e-book versions at the NYPL alone). Books shouldn’t be excluded based on the views of the authors. E.L. James thought Edward would be a freak in the sack and that Bella would go for it, and she wrote it down and is making bank. Librarians who are pulling this book are embarrassing me. Stop doing that, and go do something else, like program a writing seminar for your patrons. If there are any more fan fiction bestsellers, I’d like them to be better written.

Backlog

Books I need to put up reviews for:

Fifty Shades of Grey (I have a draft)

Slaughterhouse-5 (omg AMAZING)

Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (made me blush)

Books I’m currently reading:

Lady Chatterly’s Lover (this might be the best book I have ever read. Not that I agree with all of it, but it is so incredibly well-written)

The Bluest Eye (this is also amaze-balls and I don’t know why I haven’t read anything by Toni Morrison before this. Probably because I’m dumb.)

All this and more to come!

I’ve also read a bucket of trashy romance novels over the last two weeks, but I’m not going to review them. It’s summertime baby! If you absolutely must know, they all go something like this: boy meets girl. Boy and girl hate each other/love each other/work with each  other/solve a crime together. Boy and girl get their sexytimes on. Boy and girl come up against insurmountable problem. Boy and girl overcome problem, grow as individuals on the life-paths to enlightenment, figure out how to be decent human beings and play nice with the other children, and get married. They ALWAYS get married!