The Mediocre Gatsby

I’m in a foul mood, crumpets. No spirit for a preamble. Time to savage a book.

Today, it’s Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility  – which is yet another of my library’s book club picks.

Cover Talk

We haven’t even opened the book and already I feel like I’m in West Egg. Or is it East Egg? I have no idea.

The Summary Heist

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast–rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. 

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is ahead of her time, and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets.

Robyn Says

Omfg.

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Guys, I tried. I really did. And this book almost defeated me. I tried hardcover. I tried paperback. I even bought the goddamn ebook ff. I tried reading at home. At work. In the bath. In bed. In the morning. At night. On the treadmill. And I just could not get into it.

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But this is not a book I could DNF. So I did what I vowed I would never do.

I got an audiobook. YES I KNOW WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF.

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Audiobooks. *full-body cringe* See my previous post for more on that.

I will say that while this strategy worked, as unpleasant as the experience was, I still think audiobooks are trash, fight me.

And this books. Jesus Hamilton Christmas. I don’t even know guys. I just don’t know. I mean, if this was a gif review, I’d post this:

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But it’s not a gif review goddammit and I actually have to provide words. SIGH. Saddle up, bitches.

The characters were all flat, hollow, unlikable Fitzgerald rejects (except for Wallace). I hated the narrator/protagonist, I hated her stupid viper pal Eve, I hated her Matthew-Crawley-esque milksop crush Tinker (fuck you, Tinker, you hear me? FUCK YOU), I hated the old bish and I hated the side bishes and I really fucking hated the SHITTY handling of minor POC characters (sidenote – this is where audiobooks go from ugh to HECK NO; pro-tip don’t have your white female narrator attempt a “negro” (which also… like ???) accent). I hated the meandering style of writing that aimed for depth but ended up sounding like it was written by someone who would use “blood-orange” to describe a garment (so pretentious) and I hated the motherfucking story that wasn’t really a story but more like a series of events that happened and there were no lessons or revelations or insights, and then the characters were like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and the readers were like 「(°ヘ°) and I was like (ꐦ ಠ皿ಠ ) so yeah. NOT MY FAVOURITE BOOK, GUYS.

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Verdict

Don’t read it. Just read all of Fitzgerald and actually FEEL something.

Best Lines

“That’s the problem with living in New York. You’ve got no New York to run away to.”

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Fancasting couch

Katy – the physical manifestation of pretentious

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ugh.

Eve – some blonde

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Ok fine it’s Jean Arthur.

Tinker – this blond bitch

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NO.

Ann Grandyn – middle-aged Lauren Bacall, which this character does not deserve but I needed some goddamn snacks in this fancasting couch, ok?

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Noice.

Wallace – Michael Shannon

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SPEAKING OF SNACKS *fans self* *spontaneously combusts* *worth it*

Book Boyfriend material

WALLIS OBVIOUSLY

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Rating

2 out of 10 stereotyped minor POC characters, who are too good for your Gatsby knock-off anyway.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

In the end, wasn’t the real East Egg inside us all along? Or is it West Egg…

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-xo, R

In Which I am Schooled

Guten Abend meine leckeren kandierten Nüsse. (Yes, I just called you my delicious candied nuts because I LOVE YOU that’s why). How goes it? All well and good in your cozy den of iniquity?

Today, I will share with you a brief anecdote that just goes to show you that even your most hardened prejudices, your most firmly-held opinions, can change.

LIFE COMES AT YOU FAST, and if you need proof… I am listening to an audiobook! (?) Me! An audiobook! Right??? I am as confused at you, and yes, a little frightened.

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So as you might remember, I am running my branch’s book club, and believe it or not, I am struggling with some of the books that I myself picked (oh, the irony). Surprisingly, it is Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility that was giving the hardest time. I just couldn’t get into it. Which is weird, considering I loved his most recent book, A Gentleman in Moscow. So after doing that thing where you read one line over and over again until your eyes start to blur and realizing this was one book I couldn’t actually DNF, I decided to cave and yes, try the audiobook.

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I know. Listen, I hate audiobooks. HATE THEM. The way the readers do the voices…. *full body cringe* … and there’s something disquieting about the way hearing an actual human person reading a story influences my perception of it. Their interpretation of tone and inflection in character’s speech, their accent, their gender – these things colour the story too much for me. I need to read it with my own eyes and hear the words in my own internal narrator’s voice.

But I couldn’t see any other way to get through this book, and with the book club meeting approaching and me no farther than page 7, I checked out the audiobook on CD and popped it into my car’s player, determined to make use of my hellish daily commute. (And yes, ha ha, my car is old, get over it)

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Welly welly welly.

Guess who’s four CDs deep into the book and reading ahead in the paperback copy?

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Yeah, I still don’t like it… but I will admit, hearing the story – this story, as least – pulled me in.

So the moral of the story is that I ‘read’ an audiobook, and my ears did not start bleeding, I even kinda got into it. People are complicated, we’re all onions, and we are never too old to be surprised.

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But now… back to my paperbacks.

– xo, R

 

 

Grand High

Hey hey, welcome to another edition of Less Than Sober Blogging. Tonight’s drink is the tears of my enemies on ice… jk, it’s vodka coolers cuz I’m a basic bish and A LOT OF THEM.

I guess I should tell you why I’m Less Than Sober, right? I mean, the actual reason, not the vodka coolers (yum).

I am in a bit of a fucking funk, to be honest, dear readers, and since I know that the only people who read this terrible blog are my anonymous internet pals and also my mom (hi mom) I feel like I can tell you the TRUTH. The TRUTH is that I didn’t realize getting engaged would be so stressful. I am in the early stages of wedding planning and I already want to throw myself off the tallest 12-tiered wedding cake I can find. My dudes, I want a marriage, not a wedding. And although I think G would, like me, actually prefer to do a quick city hall ceremony, some people are not pleased by that… and for some reason, that is something we (?) have to think about. Even though it is our wedding. Paid for with our money. Planned on my time, causing my stress.

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Anyway, good thing is, there are still books to be read, and vodka coolers to be chugged with wanton disregard for tomorrow’s responsibilities, and words to be smithed (smithed? smithied?) in the frigid darkness of my gelid bedroom.

And I ramble on… TO THE REWIEW!

Today, it’s Roald Dahl’s The Witches and yes you can bet your goddamn square-toed feet that there will be gifs as far as the eye can see.

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Cover Talk

*Cries in nostalgia*

The Summary Heist

‘A REAL WITCH is easily the most dangerous of all the living creatures on earth.’

That’s a pretty horrifying thought. More horrifying still is that real witches don’t even look like witches. They don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, despicable, scheming harridans who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies.

So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Read this story and you’ll find out all you need to know. You’ll also meet a real hero, a wise old grandmother and the most gruesome, grotesque gang of witches imaginable.

Robyn Says

I was raised with this story. I knew it before I knew it. The movie was my childhood favourite, watched over and over and over again, the fraying VHS tape an early demonstration of the destructive potential of whole-hearted love. I watched so often I could probably recite every line of the film from memory. I watched it so often that by the time I learned to read, the book was one of the first I sought out, and thus was one of the first I read on my own.

Because it’s fucking awesome.

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Dahl is a goddamn genius, you don’t need me to tell you that. But I do recommend that if you haven’t read this book since you were a kid, READ IT AGAIN because it is a whole new kind of awesome when you read it as an (alleged) adult.

This book is dark and hilarious and scary and narratively creative and also weirdly empowering. One of the best parts was that the witch mythology is timeless and familiar, but also uniquely Dahl’s as well – the square-footed, bald witches with overly-large nostrils is so quintessentially absurd and terrifying that only old Roald could  have dreamed it up.

I’m too tipsy to be insightful right now but this kind of savagery reminds me of the old fairy tales. And I’m not even talking about the old Grimm’s, though those are so much darker than the watered-down Disnified dishwater we get these days. I’m talking old old school. Ancient school. Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Bluebeard and his wives. Baba Yaga and her creepy fucking chicken-legged house. Stories that make feel that iron-tasting fear. That’s the kind of terror you get from this story, if you look past the gross-out humour and the silly songs and the Quentin Blake doodles.

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Also, can I just say, the Grand High Witch tho. I mean, I know I’m supposed to be afraid of her but goddamn YAS QUEEN. WERK GIRL. WE STAN A PATRIARCHY-REJECTING FEMINIST HBIC.

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I could say more but I’m drunk and really do I need to say more though? It’s Halloween, man, read the damn book and see for yourself.

Verdict

READ IT. So good. Makes me want to hunt children and maybe even get short bangs again (yeah I said it, deal with it, G, you coiffure-dictating despot)

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Best Lines

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

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Fancasting couch

The Boy

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Bruno

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Grandmama

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The Grand High Witch

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😍 😍 😍

Book Boyfriend material

Get your mind out of the gutter, this is a children’s book.

Rating

10 out of 10 cigar-smoking grannies. This book is so freaking good, guys.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Hey. How are you? No, no, really. Are you good? And not just in the ‘are you happy’ sense. I mean, are you good? Are you trying your best?  Are you kind? Do you do unto others as you would have them do unto you? If Anubis had a go at it, would your heart weigh less than Ma’at’s feather? I look at you all, and it breaks my heart, because I know we are scared and struggling and hurt, but good god almighty, my darlings, you have still got to try. There is enough cruelty in this world already, and fuck I am sooooo drunk, guys, but I feel like I am also in that seeing-things-a-sober-bitch-wouldn’t phase of drunkness, and I just wanna say say, if you need to be a blade, be a blade, but remember that not every problem is a Gordian knot waiting to be hacked to bits. Have you ever tried slicing a marshmallow? Im-fucking-possible. So what I’m saying is some of us are marshmallows and some of us are butter and all of us are knives when we need to be, and G why you gotta be so mean sometimes, man? Anyway, be nice but also be a Grand High Witch when you need to, cuz no one is gonna conquer the world for you, O Cruel One. You gotta do that all on your lonesome.

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NEXT TIME ON THE READING ROBYN: a sober blogger/librarian will review a mediocre/terrible work of literary fiction. Fascinating.

-xo, R

 

 

 

Double double: A FUN SIZE REVIEW

A very spoooooooky hello to you, my perfect little pumpkin pies. How has the month of Halloween been treating you so far? I hope you wake up and blast this festive carol every morning to get you in the spirit of the season:

Today I bring you yet another fun-size review (find the other three here, here, and here, because I am too lazy to tag these posts). You know the drill: a teeny tiny review of 100 words or less, not including gifs, because I am all-powerful and lazy. Today I am reviewing the last book I read, and the only book I’ve liked since the summer (curse you, book slump). It’s A Double Life by Flynn Berry.

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ROBYN’S FUN-SIZE REVIEW OF A Double Life BY FLYNN BERRY:

This book was an unexpected delight, and has a lot of my bookish catnips – dark, moody atmosphere, English setting, an unsolved grisly crime, a protagonist with an obsessive thirst to uncover the truth, and unresolved father issues. Oh yeah, baby. And the pacing is terrific. By using the first-person point of view and splitting the narrative into present and past through the use of very strategically employed flashbacks, Berry makes this book impossible to put down. It’s the book equivalent of a bag of mini-marshmallows… utterly impossible to leave uneaten. This is one book you will want to keep eating.

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Now I’m hungry. Time to bust into the Halloween candy. Here I come, mini pack of peanut m&ms…

– xo, R

Fix Youuuuuuuuuuu

Ignore that title, you are all perfect.

How is life, mes petits mignons? Is that correct? I have no idea, my French lessons are a nightmare, the teacher is an absolute turnip (I am teaching myself).

Life is good and God is great and every moment is a blessing, and I hope all things are as right in your world as they are in mine, my gorgeous internet friends. In case you missed it (in which case, scroll down and check out that rock boiiiiii), my broad-shouldered dragon-slayer and I got engaged (on Hobbit Day fyi) (I know) and I really can’t focus on much else. This just goes to show you, guys, the best way to find your soul mate is to end up working 15 feet away from him in a public library, and spend 6 months creeping on him from behind your computer at the reference desk while he mans the circulation desk in an indescribably swoony display of competence porn and also ignores you pretty much entirely until your last week on the job.

ANYWAYS. I’m so happy all I say is…

On to the review!

Today, in the spirit of everything being pretty flippin’ awesome, I bring you a pretty flippin’ awesome book: it’s The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature by Viv Groskop.

Cover Talk

ZOMGGGG GORGEOUSSSSSSSSSSSS красиво *heart-eyes*

The Summary Heist

Viv Groskop has discovered the meaning of life in Russian literature. As she knows from personal experience, everything that has ever happened in life has already happened in these novels: from not being sure what to do with your life (Anna Karenina) to being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back enough (A Month in the Country by Turgenev) or being socially anxious about your appearance (all of Chekhov’s work). This is a literary self-help memoir, with examples from the author’s own life that reflect the lessons of literature, only in a much less poetic way than Tolstoy probably intended, and with an emphasis on being excessively paranoid about having an emerging moustache on your upper lip, just like Natasha in War and Peace.

Robyn Says

This book was awesome and I plan on recommending it to everyone. Basically, it’s a self-help book via the Russian literary canon. And if that isn’t the very definition of book crack to you then I don’t know how to help you.

But seriously, it’s genius. Because if you haven’t read any Russian literature, this is an amazing, very charming introduction to some of the major works that strips away the layers of inaccessibility and makes them far less intimidating than they seem (although let’s be honest, they will always be a little intimidating – they’re the Russians, after all). And then, on the other hand, if you have read the Russian classics, you’re obviously already a fan and dying to read a fellow fan fawn over them. (Unless you hate them, and then yeah, you won’t even be reading this blog post, let alone the book – there’s no middle ground, either, you love the Russians or you hate them, it’s all or nothing over here, golubchik).

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So Groskop very cleverly ascribes a life lesson to each major work. I am pretty satisfied with her selections, both of literary works and life lessons. Her writing is very charming, and I really enjoyed her anecdotes about her own experience falling in love with Russian culture and literature as an expat in the Soviet Union. I kinda wish this book had been longer, actually – I was genuinely sad to reach the last page. I also loved being introduced to the Hedgehox/Fox philosophy, which I’d never heard of before. According to Groskop and wikipedia, it’s based on an essay  written by philosopher Isaiah Berlin in 1953.

Berlin “divide[s] writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include PlatoLucretiusDante AlighieriBlaise PascalGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelFyodor DostoyevskyFriedrich NietzscheHenrik IbsenMarcel Proust and Fernand Braudel), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea (examples given include HerodotusAristotleDesiderius ErasmusWilliam ShakespeareMichel de MontaigneMolièreJohann Wolfgang GoetheAleksandr PushkinHonoré de BalzacJames Joyce and Philip Warren Anderson).” (Thanks, wikipedia, I love you.)

Cool, right? I am obviously a fox (in love with a hedgehog).

Yup. Me and G, to a tee.

Verdict

READ IT. And then go read (or reread) all of the books discussed in this one. Winter is coming, what else are you going to do, right?

Best Lines

“This is the definition of a good person: he makes someone else feel that it was fine for them to be very drunk.” (About Chekhov, course – my darling foxy Chekhov)

Fancasting couch

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Leo Tolstoy

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Boris Pasternak

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Anna Akhmatova

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Ivan Turgenev

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Alexander Pushkin

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Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Anton Chekhov, bae

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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Mikhail Bulgakov

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Nikolai Gogol

Book Boyfriend material

Chekhov. I mean

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godDAMN, Tony!

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Rating

10 out of 10 fearless Russian writers, literally risking their lives to disobey a genocidal autocrat and bear witness to the horrors of the Stalin regime (*cough* Akhmatova, my queen)

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Listen, you’re all busy people, so I’ll just leave you with this:

I am made slightly uneasy by how many of these appear in my own fiction… AND MY OWN LIFE. “Pushkin reference.”

-xo, R

Radiance: the RiRi’d Review

Welcome to our very first RiRi’d Review. Today’s book is Radiance by Grace Draven.

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THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined. 

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE 

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light. 

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

Robyn Says

Oh yes, I like this one VERY much. It’s fantasy romance at its best: swoon + smut + some first-class world-building. It’s also the first book in the Wraith Kings series and lord knows there’s nothing fantasy readers like better than a series.

RiRi Says

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The RxR Rating

8 out of 10 uber-ripped alpha-male wraith-king heroes. Oh yeeeeeeeah.

– xo, R