Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “pyrajane”

pyrajane’s review #44: Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell


I love Sarah Vowell because she loves America.  Not in the scary “We need to take our country back!” kind of way where things can go real bad real fast if you don’t believe in the right god or have the right skin color, but in the kind of way where she ponders our history and realizes, fuck yeah!  America!  See the difference?

I really enjoy all of her books because she is so smart and so funny.  I always feel like we’re BFFs and she’s excitedly telling me about the latest thing she’s discovered in the library or sharing a tale of bemused exasperation at her family.  Yes, I know I don’t know her in real life and I’m not going to stalk her and pet her hair until she hugs me or anything, but she is awesome and if I ever saw her in real life I would probably panic and either look away or be all “I know about assassinations because of YOU!!!  …  Because of your book!  YOUR BOOK ABOUT ASSASSINATIONS!” and then other people would be all “WTF?” and if we weren’t in NYC when this happened then the cops would be called but if we were in NYC then, honestly, people would probably just shrug and go about their business.  They might not even shrug.

Read more about why I liked this book, how it compares to her other books, and mutual masturbation in regards to Disney World.

pyrajane’s review #43: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I managed to avoid all spoilers about this book. I refused to read any interviews, book reviews, or any other posts about what people thought. I didn’t look at any ratings, other than to note that it’s averaging 3.4 out of 5 on Goodreads.

The main reason (maybe the only reason) I read this was because J.K. Rowling wrote it. Unless it showed up on a ton of OMFG YOU GUYS HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!!! lists, it wouldn’t have appeared on my radar. I don’t know how to categorize this type of book. I guess it’s realistic fiction, and maybe I don’t read much of that. Looking at this year’s CBR, the only two fiction books like this I see are The English Major by Jim Harrison and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. Everything else has a twinge of faerie or fantasy or alternate reality, or historical fiction with the author’s own bias. But this book was written by Rowling, so here we are.

One way a casual vacancy happens is when a current council member dies. The seat must be filled by special election, unless the remaining council members are able to appoint someone through majority. Our story starts with Barry Fairbrother dying from an aneurysm and creating a casual vacancy.

All the joys of small town politics pour over the pages, heavily laced with small town gossip. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s going to be a fight and an election will have to be held. But that’s not what this book is about.

And it’s delightful when you realize this.

Read the rest about why I liked this book and why it’s not what you think it’s about.

pyrajane’s #42 Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by by Kenzaburō Ōe, translated by Paul St. John Mackintosh and Maki Sugiyama

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie that you knew wasn’t going to end well, but for some reason you stuck with it? You had a sinking feeling in your stomach that slowly hardened into a rock and just sat there, pressing down, letting you know that things were not going to be OK at the end. Bad things were coming. You know it, but you’re going to stand here and watch.

That’s this entire book.

As soon as I started reading I kept asking myself “Are you sure you want to do this?” For some reason I decided that yes, I did want to keep reading. I prepared myself to be shocked, sad and depressed. I knew before I even finished the introduction to the author and his writings that this was going to be one of those books that you can’t shrug off and walk away from and it was going to leave me physically affected. I was going to be twitching off the sensation of not wanting to remember. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien did this to me. I kept wondering why I was reading the book and I had a sick feeling in my stomach, but the book felt important and I felt like I should know what happened, and that’s why I kept reading Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids.

I haven’t even gotten to the part where I talk about the book and my face is already twisted into a grimace of not wanting to think about this anymore.

Read the rest over on my blog and why I’m glad I read it, even though I want to forget it.

pyrajane’s review#41: Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work Is Done by Susan J. Douglas

I love non-fiction books that are solidly researched and then written in a conversational tone.  There’s a time for textbook-like writing, but I prefer non-fiction where the author’s voice comes through.  Sarah Vowell does it and whenever I read her historical books I feel like we’re hanging out and she’s all “Oh, hey!  Did I tell you about President Lincoln getting assassinated?  Check this out…” and then we laugh and laugh and are best friend forever.

Douglas writes in this same way here and I really enjoyed it.  A different author could have easily made this a book of facts and I would have zoned out quickly and put it aside as things I sort of already knew, but am not interested in reading about in terms of numbers and percentages.  Instead, Douglas pulls from the research and applies it to pop culture and media and says “OK, look.  Here’s what the data tells us, but let’s look at what’s happening on TV.”  I appreciated this approach, and while it still didn’t make for a quick read over a day or two, it was a pleasure to spend time with it and think about my own stance on feminism.

Read the rest here and why this is good read for anyone.

pyrajane’s review #40: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

How did this

turn into this?

Because Hollywood!

I haven’t seen the movie Practical Magic in years, but it’s one of those movies that makes me stop and watch if I’m ever flipping channels and it’s on.  I’m not actually sure if I’ve seen the entire thing.  I like it a lot though and picked up this book on a whim after reading some heavy non-fiction.  I thought it would be nice to relax with a good couch read.

As I read I kept wondering if this was the book the movie was based on or if there is another book called Practical Magic that was used.  I even went to IMDb to check because, seriously… how?  My friend Jenn figures that  the script for that movie was waved NEAR a copy of the book once.  A few things stuck, but then they just did whatever was going to test well.

Happily, I liked both the book and the movie, but I really wish when Hollywood gets  a book and changes it, they should rename the movie and add Inspired By The Book “Blah Blah Blah”.  You’re just confusing people and making die-hard book snobs snobbier.

Read the rest of my fairly quick review over on my blog.  This was a nice relaxing read after a few serious non-fiction books and some depressing fiction.  It’s nice to have a beach read at the end of September when you’re nowhere near the beach.

pyrajane’s review #39: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Illustrated by Jim Kay, Inspired by Siobhan Dowd

How do you grieve for something that isn’t over?  If you acknowledge your fears, does that mean you’re giving permission for the end to happen?

Thirteen year old Conor has been having nightmares.  12:07 on the dot.  Wide awake, trying not to scream, wishing he  had someone to talk to.  He’s been alone since everyone found out his mom has cancer.  The kids at school figured out that the best way to deal with their own unease is to ignore him.  The bullies know he won’t fight back or tattle, so he spends his school time invisible and bloodied.  His only friend betrayed him and he can’t look at her without feeling angry, and he doesn’t want to feel anger because that reminds him of the dreams.  Reminds him of the monster.

But then a different monster appears.  Huge, reaching branches.  Roots that could crush his house in a moment.  A gaping maw that can swallow him whole.

But he doesn’t care.  He’s not even afraid.

This isn’t the real monster.  It’s not his monster.

But why is it here and why does it insist that Conor has a story to tell?


Read the rest over on my blog.  This book is beautiful, the artwork is amazing, and you’re going to need tissues to mop up tears.  I loved it.

pyrajane’s review #38: Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow makes me feel smarter because I like the way she explains things.  She also makes me feel woefully under-informed because she is crazy smart.  But she makes me feel hopeful because she knows what’s going on even if I’ll never be able to keep up.  I love her.


I never would have picked up a book on military history if she wasn’t the author.  It’s not that I don’t care about it, but I don’t understand it and find it confusing and super depressing.


This was fascinating and scary and, yes, depressing.  Read more over on my blog, including an apology for any mistakes.  I had the audio version for this and wasn’t able to tag the millions of things I wanted to talk about.

pyrajane’s review #37: How To Be Black by Baratunde R. Thurston

A few years ago my friend Tamatha (organizer of last year’s CBR!) told me about Pajiba.  Later she told me about CBR and got me started last year.  This year she verbally attacked me with excitement over How To Be Black.  I don’t even think she had actually read it yet, but she was going to, and by god, I was too.  She posted her review back in May and would occasionally ask me if I had gotten a copy.  I told her it was on my To Be Read list (along with, no lie, around 600 other books) and I’d get to it.

I finally got to it.  And she was right to demand that I read it.  It’s smart, funny and honest, and since I didn’t read it during Black History Month, I am totally ahead of the game.

Please please go read my review.  This book is amazing and I think maybe I’m not racist anymore, but I’m not sure.  (I should have bought it and not gotten it from the library!)

pyrajane’s review #36: The Birth House by Ami McKay

Babies, vibrators, midwives, hysteria, murder (?) and marriage.

Oh my!

I was mad for so much of this book, but this means that I cared.  You can’t get mad about something if you don’t think it matters.

Dora Rare is seventeen and living in a remote town in Nova Scotia at the start of World War I.  She’s the first daughter to be born in many generations of Rares, so right away she’s got a strike against her.  She doesn’t fit in and she’s not sure what she should be doing with herself.  Lucky for her, she has Miss B.

Read the rest, naughty words and all, over on my blog.

pyrajane’s review #35: Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker

Sometimes it really sucks to be a demon.  If no one respects you, it’s going to be a long eternity.  Sure, you get to wander around Earth and kill a bunch of babies, but what’s the point if you don’t matter?

Meet Jakabok Botch.  How much power does this demon have, and should you be worried when you open this book?  At least he gives you an out with the very first sentence.  If you decide he’s too powerful, simply pick up a match and burn the book.

Read more over on my blog, including my short theory on the people that hated this book because it was written by Clive Barker.

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