I am Sad: Reading (or not) when you have Feelings

Hello hello, lads and ladettes. Well. What an inauspicious start to my shiny new website and the escritorial renaissance implied in its creation. Also, what a way to drop the ball on #robynreadsshakespeare. And yet, for once, I am not wallowing in self-loathing or plagued by relentless guilt. This time – this one time – I am not at fault. I blame… FEELINGS. Between an absent lover and a sudden burst of light matriarchal treachery, the emotions have been, shall we say, intense.

So I thought, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, why not blog about this on my blog like a real blogger would?

Back in the old days, way way back, I mean, when the fiction of choice was The Babysitter’s Club and Sidney Sheldon (I was a weird kid okay?), the only thing that could cheer me up when life got too heavy was, you guessed it, reading. When Old Scratch, the step-father, would get started with the screaming and the smashing and the strangling, the best way – the only way – to cope was to crack open a second-hand paperback and read myself out of hell. I spent more time in Middle Earth and antebellum Georgia than I did in my house. And when I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about what I had been reading and imagining myself into the story (long before I knew what self-inset fan-fiction was). Books might not have saved my life, but they sure as hell saved my soul.

I don’t know when that changed, though.

Now I can’t read if I’m even the teeniest bit sad, and I sure as hell can’t read when I’m angry. My theory? I think it’s because reading is the activity I love most. I love it so much that I can’t have stand to have it tainted by bullshit. It’s my recharge time now, not my escape ladder or coping mechanism. Now, conditions have to be perfect:

A quiet space, preferably with lots of windows, and a comfy chair, and a blanket. Ideally, there would be a cat in the vicinity. Tea is an absolute necessity. Phones are verboten. Book is probably a hardcover (I know, I know, I hate me too) and there is definitely a back-up book just in case. Maybe two.

Hm. With those standards, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not making much headway on my Goodreads challenge this year.

Back to the books, chums. Happy reading!

 

Wakey wakey, Billy Shakey

What ho, lambkins and ladybirds! I hope March has treated you better than it has me. I have been suffering through a horrendous book slump. At this point, I think I might just have to reread one of my favourite series to shake it off. (Dragonriders of Pern? Downside Ghosts?? Every single Richard Sharpe book???) But any rereading will have to wait until May because this month, I am doing a thing, possets. It may be a foolish thing. It may be a thing that reveals my literary hubris. It may be a thing that no one but myself cares about at all. But it is most definitely a thing that I am doing. LISTEN UP.

Image result for announcement gif

The thing is that April is going to be a month of SHAKESPEARE. In the next 30 days, I will endeavour to read every single one of Shakespeare’s plays. That’s right, every. single. one. And blog about my thoughts, of course. There will be gifs, and pictures of my cat with my Riverside Shakespeare, and probably a lot of raging about high school English lit curriculum design. And because 2018 is all about The Brand™, I am gonna do the whole bookstagram strut and surround myself with a maelstrom of hashtags. How about… #30DaysofShakespeare. And #robynreadsshakespeare. And also #monthofthebard. I am the boss of this whole thing, so yeah, those work.

Image result for shakespeare gif

Why April? Because it’s the month of his birth and his death, and also National Poetry Month, and because I want to. Why do this stupid thing at all? Because I devoted a large part of my undergrad to studying Shakespeare and still haven’t read every play. And because I feel intellectually stagnant and want to challenge my atrophying brain. And because I like themes and challenges and making big plans that will inevitably go awry and end with me cursing my own overly ambitious goals. And because I want to.

Image result for shakespeare gif

There is only one rule: read every play by old Shakey. I’m gonna go chronologically, which means my month of the Bard will look something like this:

  1. Comedy of Errors
  2. Henry VI, Part II
  3. Henry VI, Part III
  4. Henry VI, Part I
  5. Richard III
  6. Taming of the Shrew
  7. Titus Andronicus
  8. Romeo and Juliet
  9. Two Gentlemen of Verona
  10. Love’s Labour’s Lost
  11. Richard II
  12. Midsummer Night’s Dream
  13. King John
  14. Merchant of Venice
  15. Henry IV, Part I
  16. Henry IV, Part II
  17. Henry V
  18. Much Ado about Nothing
  19. Twelfth Night
  20. As You Like It
  21. Julius Caesar
  22. Hamlet
  23. Merry Wives of Windsor
  24. Troilus and Cressida
  25. All’s Well That Ends Well
  26. Othello
  27. Measure for Measure
  28. King Lear
  29. Macbeth
  30. Antony and Cleopatra
  31. Coriolanus
  32. Timon of Athens
  33. Pericles
  34. Cymbeline
  35. Winter’s Tale
  36. Tempest
  37. Henry VIII

SO that’s 37 plays. In 30 days. Oh, new hashtag (#30days37plays). It’s gonna be one gloriously poetic nightmare of a month.

Related image

See you tomorrow. Now, where the hell is my copy of Comedy of Errors…

xo, R

 

 

 

I owe you actual words

I know, I know, the laziness of the gif review is inexcusable. Mea culpa etc etc. But in my defense, words are hard, and words about words are even harder.

Writing GIF

Today, I’m writing about a genre I usually don’t touch: horror. But Robyn, you are probably (not) asking yourself, why don’t you like to read scary books? Aren’t you a self-confessed horror addict who has seen every scary movie ever made?? (That’s not hyperbole, by the way, I think I could probably write a PhD or two in horror film studies.) Yes, dear reader, you are correct. I love scary movies. They’re my comfort watch. When some people turn to light-hearted rom-coms or nostalgia-oozing childhood favourites, I watch Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining. Literary horror, however, has never been my thing, though the precise reason for this disinterest has always eluded me. Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, even Stephen King of Horror himself; none of their works ever made a single hair on the back of my neck twitch. (Okay, maaaaaaaaaybe Pet Sematary gave me a teeny weeny case of the creepin’ willies, but I am only human and that book is messed up).

Pet Sematary GIF

(Why did I post that, I am gonna have myself some fucking nightmares tonight, believe)

(Actually, I think it might be because of sound. Scary movie soundtracks are the terrifying cherry on the dread-seeped sundae that is a horror film. Whenever the characters start getting slashed, I don’t cover my eyes. No, instead I clamp my hands over my ears so that my frantic heartbeat drowns out whatever nightmarish score is playing over the Final Girl’s artfully piercing shrieks).

Enough chin-wagging. To the Review!

Ararat

Today, it’s Ararat by Christopher Golden, which won the 2017 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.

Cover Talk:

Boring. Yeah, it obviously depicts the setting of the novel, but still. Lazy. I would have preferred something either more stark, all white maybe, with only a ghostly outline of the titular mountain, or even better, something much much darker. The British cover went with the first option. I like it better, but can’t find any HQ photos to link to, deal with it.

The Summary Heist:

When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. The artifact tempts their professional curiosity; so they break it open. Inside, they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man that they expected, a hideous creature with horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain…but they are not alone. 

Robyn Says:

It’s a demon.  Oopsie daisy, my bad, um, spoiler alert? It’s a demon and he possesses them one by one and then the group begins to turn on itself, bad people die and of course some good people too, sacrifices are made, but in the end it’s worth it because the enemy is vanquished, but oh, w h a t ‘s  t h a t, surprise surprise, twisty ending on the last page, demon still chillin in a host body, winner takes it all, final shot of The Omen with Damien breaking the fourth wall and looking back at the audience, aaaaaaaaaaaaand scene.

What a wet-towel of an ending. What a three-days past the expiry date on a carton of milk story. What a colossal, earth-shattering, white-guy-blinking-in-disbelief.gif of a book.

Some genres can have stories that are predictable. That’s ok – look at romance. I know what I’m getting, and if I didn’t get a predictable happy ending, I’d be livid. But horror novels are meant to be scary, and generally, predictability is not scary.

(And I should mention that I thought the characters were all flat, the writing was mediocre, and the only thing that kept me reading was the desire to keep up my Goodreads challenge numbers.)

Sorry, guys. I know I’m being mean, and yeah, I haven’t even managed to finish writing one book, so this author’s already light-years ahead of me… but this is a book review blog, after all, and not all reviews are good, eh? These are savage realities of literary criticism, and here on my shitty little wordpress blog, there is no room for false kindnesses, we are here for bookish real talk, bitches, so sometimes, it’s gonna get mean.

Image result for mean gif

Verdict:

Yeah I’m gonna go ahead and say you might be better off exploring some classic horror films you may not have seen, given that film is a severely underappreciated medium in terms of its cultural and artistic value, and that no genre is more unfairly maligned than horror, especially international horror. Suggested: Rosemary’s Baby, Suspiria, and House.

Best lines:

lol no

Fancasting couch:

Absolutely not.

Actually wait, here is how I envisioned the young, probably good-looking guide who takes the idiots up the mountain.

handsome-Omar-Borkan-500x500 10 Most Handsome Arab Men in the World - Hottest Arab Guys

Okay, so yeah, that author didn’t say he was drop-dead gorgeous, but like, he didn’t not say it either, so????? i apologize for nothing.

Book Boyfriend material:

See above.

Swoon GIF

Rating:

2 out of 10 biblical demon mummies (fuck, there I go again with the spoilers, somebody stop me)

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

Okay, I know I’ve just roasted this book so badly it could be Sunday night dinner, but you know what… it might actually make a pretty good movie.

gif-pride-proud-satisfied-smile-yes-gif

Titus is sleeping, so you will not be treated to his unique brand of savagery today.

ROBYN OUT.

 

 

 

Nonverbal Referral: A Book Too Good for Actual Words

March 1st. March. MARCH. How is it March already?!?!? March??? What even is time???This is adulthood, by the way, just constantly looking at the calendar and being furiously bewildered.

Anyways.

Read a book. So good it fucked me right up and I’ve been in a hell of a bookslump for about a week. Thing is. This book was so fucking good I don’t think I know how to blog about it. Imma try, because I literally have nothing else to do right now thanks to my boss leaving the office and taking all of the database passwords with him (oh, by the way, I’m a failure again, no more library for me – for the moment, anyway… although let’s be realistic, I think I have a better chance of finding Emily Bronte’s second manuscript than of landing a permanent position in a public library again, and fuck you to every motherfucker who made it virtually impossible to do the job that I love so dearly and that I am so. fucking. good at).

Anyway. I’m just warning you straight up that no traditional review will do this book justice, and so I bring you another edition of Nonverbal Referrals. In case you forgot or you’re new here (no point in looking for an escape route, newbie, you’re one of us poor souls now), the rules are simple: I read a book and sum up my feelings in one – YES, ONE – gif. Today’s book is Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak.

Ready? Ok. Here goes…

THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT.

– xo, R

 

 

 

 

 

I can dance the black swan

Zzzzzzzdravstvuyte my little cygnets, how goes the going of the many goings-on that are going on? LISTEN UP. I’m trying a new thing. It’s called Less Than Sober Blogging and it is happening rIGHT NOW. Allons-y muthachukkas!

Tonight, I’m yelling about Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Cover Talk:

This is the hardcover art, and I approve. Everyone knows it is a law that all books about ballet have something to do with pointe shoes on the cover otherwise how will we know it’s about ballet? Visual synecdoche? I can’t remember what synecdoche actually means and I’m just that amount of tipsy to not to care enough to google it.

The Summary Heist:

From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel “Seating Arrangements,” winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the passionate, political world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations.

“Astonish Me” is the irresistible story of Joan, a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan’s career takes off in New York, Joan’s slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry’s success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present.

In graceful, inimitable prose, Shipstead draws us into an extraordinary world, and the lives of her vivid and tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, brilliant satire, and emotional nuance, “Astonish Me” is a superlative follow-up to Shipstead’s superb debut.

Robyn Says:

This may be the booze talking but can I just say, ballet is fucking amazing and it is the best sport of all the sports because it is also ART and plus it’s sexy af with the dudes lifting the ladies and their tights and the way their shoulders are so wide (just like my dragon-slayer’s *swoon*). I know I’m biased (because Russian, obviously), but I will literally read read anything that has anything to do with ballet. So when this came up on the Kindle deal of the day, I one-clicked the fuck outta that shit.

I read this book in one day. ONE DAY, people. And it was, as you can probably surmise, a-freaking-mazing. Fabulous story, richly drawn characters, stunning prose. This book is *kisses fingers* perfect.

One teeny tiny critique. I would have more of a balance in point of views. So much of the book was told from Joan’s persepctive, that the shifts to other characters (her husband, Jacob, her colleague, Eileen, and a few others) was sometimes distracting and felt like they were required more for plot advancement than for the narrative integrity of the story. (Lol narrative integrity, drunk Robyn you are a goddamn genius girl i love u). Also can I just say – Arslan, you sexy soviet son of a bitch, I would a retelling of this story from your point of view faster than you can say Baryshnikov’s bouncing balls. You were truly the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma of this gem of a book… which I think is a bit of a cliche. Where is my book about a Soviet ballerino wunderkid’s suspenseful, sensual, high-stakes gamble on a flimsy Canada-staged defection? WHERE, I ASK YOU? (Yooo maybe I should write that myself eh…)

Other than those few little quibbles, this book was awesome-sauce and I demand that you read it immediately. Yes, right now. Go on. I’ll wait.

I’m actually pissed off that  I hadn’t heard of this book until now. I mean, it was published in 2015. Wtf, bookstagram? Smh do better. And I’m actually pretty ready to flash some steel over that 3.57 rating on Goodreads. Nah, man. This was an easy 5-star for me, and you know I’m stingy with those stars, fam.

Verdict:

Read it. Obviously. And then use it as an excuse to do a deep dive into everything Baryshnikov, upon whom Arslan is so clearly based.

Shit. That’s him at his best. Baryshnikov + Vysotsky = 😍

Best lines:

“Her throat is tight with fear. She is afraid of how this man, this stranger, has already changed the sensation of being alive. She is afraid he will slip away.”

One of the best descriptions of love I’ve ever read. Changed the sensation of being alive. That’s it, that’s it exactly. That’s what my dragon-slayer did to me, my broad-shouldered golden man, my G. He changed how it felt to live. God, love is amazing and terrifying and the only thing worth anything, really. Love love love. Love is all you need.

Fancasting couch:

Joan – Nina Dobrev

Arslan – Mikhail Baryshnikov

Harry – Sergei Polunin

(PSA watch the documentary about the Ukrainian sex-ballet-god above, DANCER, on Netflix right now, just in case that picture sparked a sudden interest in ballet in your loins)

Jacob – Rich Sommer

Chloe – Amanda Seyfried

 

Book Boyfriend material:

I think you all know me well enough to know that I’d be all over Arslan in a hot minute. I like the mysterious ones.

Rating:

10 out of 10 pointe shoes. Because obviously. It’s a book about ballet, I’m contractually obligated to rate on a scale of pointe shoes.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

I can’t dance. I like to dance, but I look like a demented squirrel.

In fact…

I look something like this:

THANK YOU AND GOD SPEED.

Uh oh. Book Cat is here and I’m too drunk to fend him off–

titus reading

Your book reviewing skills, astonishingly, seem to be slightly improved thanks to your midweek bacchic indulgence. Perhaps the old adage contains some kernel of truth. In vino veritas, as the ancients wrote. A pity your sybaritic past-times will not improve your novel, which, I note, you have not touched since November’s authorial frenzy. It won’t write itself, Librarian. If only you spent as much time writing as you do mooning over your dragon-slayer.

Savage. But… true. You win this round, you philosophical feline bastard.

Paka, crumblets!

xo, R

 

Wazzup 2018

Hey hey, kingcakes and queencakes. I hope this glorious, shiny, new year is treating you as well as it is me.

But enough about me, let’s talk about BOOKS (surprise surprise).

Have you all set your reading goals for this year? I’m going big this year: 123 books in 356 days. Crazy? Most definitely. Doable? We will see. As of today, I’ve read 5 (go me):

Image result for almost midnight rowell

My first read of the year was Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell, which I read on New Year’s Day, as befits a book partially about New Year’s Eves (and ok, Star Wars, too), while I was lounging in bed with my wonderful boyfriend beside me, who was playing video games (and making fun of me for reading). It was an indescribably perfect moment. I can’t think of a better way to start this year.

My next read: Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman. Not my cup of tea, surprisingly. I thought it was a cute idea, but pretty superficial. You’d get much more out of a well-run witchy tumblr.

Next, one of my most anticipated reads of the year: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. In my opinion, it’s Black’s best work yet. I usually find her world-building to be amazing, but her prose to be beautiful but shallow. Very pleasantly surprised to say that there is real depth to the characters here. And a few nice cameos (heyyy Roiben).

I chose to read Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil next because apparently it was the highest rated debut on Goodreads this year? Or something? I dunno. Anyway, mystery’s not my usual genre, but I’ve been reading more and more lately. This was pretty good – I definitely did not see the twist coming, which is a nice change. My inner Agatha Christie usually sees these things from a mile away.

And most recently, I read Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking by Bonnie Frumkin Morales and Deena Prichep. Yes, it’s a cook book, THEY COUNT, fight me, dammit. Ahem. This one was amazing, by the way. Actually makes Russian cuisine look, dare I say it, appetizing. I know, shocker. And the photos… hot damn. Soviet chic, my favourite aesthetic. Plan on making so many things I ended up buying this one.

And that’s it so far! I’m currently reading like 30 books (don’t judge me, pity me). I hope to blog at least once a month this year – aim low, right? But if you’re dying for pics of books, usually in close proximity to a cat and some tea, follow me on instagram and never miss a moment in the glamorous and exciting life of me.

xoxo, R

 

 

 

Interlude

ACT ONE

SCENE 1 – INT. ROBYN’S SHITTY LITTLE BACHELOR APARTMENT IN ACTUAL BUTTHOLE OF THE WORLD LONDON, ONTARIO. MAY 2012.

Robyn is alone, as usual. She has finished packing and is about to leave the city where she achieved one of her most cherished life-long goals: obtaining her Masters degree in Library and Information Science, the first step toward becoming a real-life, honest-to-god, defender of knowledge and warrior in the war on ignorance, that most hallowed of professions, a Librarian.

ROBYN

Fuck yeah, I’m gonna be a librarian! I’ll work anywhere, I’ll do anything, as long as I’m slinging books and shushing people, I’ll be happy.

She pauses, considers.

Except academic librarianship. Fuck that shit.

ACT TWO

SCENE 1 – INT. ROBYN’S SHITTY LITTLE BEDROOM IN HELHEIM. NO, NOT THE MYTHICAL FROZEN DOMICILE OF THE CHTHONIC NORSE GODDESS HEL, BUT THE PRETENTIOUS EPITHET USED BY OUR PRETENTIOUS TIT OF A PROTAGONIST TO REFER TO HER FAMILY’S HOUSE. AUGUST 2017.

After years of struggling to break into her profession, Robyn has been a librarian for a little over a year. Currently Queen Bitch of a minuscule branch in a rural library system, she has grown greedy and entitled and self-deluding. The hour and a half drive cuts into time that could, after all, be spent writing her novel, the artistic Sword of Damocles that haunts her every waking moment… or perhaps playing Stardew Valley. She is sprawled on her bed, half-heartedly skimming job postings while listening to Spanish rap and trying not to double-text the broad-shouldered, ill-tempered, gold-hearted love of her life.

ROBYN

Hm, maybe I’ll apply to this academic librarian job.

ACT THREE

SCENE 1 – INT. A PRIVATELY-OWNED ACADEMIC INSTITUTION WHOSE NAME SHALL REMAIN UNUTTERED LEST THE ACCURSED SYLLABLES CONJURE UP SOME UNHOLY DEMON FROM THE SIXTH CIRCLE OF HELL, WHICH, AS EVERYONE KNOWS, IS RESERVED FOR DEMONS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONCEPT OF PRIVATELY-OWNED ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS. LOOK IT UP IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME.

Robyn sits at a desk in a library comprised of three shelves. She has spent the last three months working as an academic librarian: submitting invoices for textbooks, managing databases (a task that she still has no real idea how to complete; she is amazed that no one has caught on to this fact yet), and responding to passive-aggressive emails with the ghost-making venom of Leiurus quinquestriatus, the Deathstalker scorpion.

ROBYN

Fuck.

 

FIN.