The Shameful Book Club: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This was my fantasy pick for 2017.

Right off the top I want to acknowledge that Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband have been accused of some really awful child sexual abuse. I did not know that when I bought this book, but I probably won’t be buying anymore of her work. If I feel the need to read further in the series (which I don’t), I will borrow the books.

This audio book is fifty hours long. FIFTY HOURS. LONG. Y’ALL. So understandably it took some time to get through.  I’ve been riding a serious witch high lately, learning about moon religions and pagan practices. The world has been very scary, and I haven’t felt very powerful as a human and especially not as a woman, but learning about these practices and the honoring of female strength has really been uplifting for me. That’s why I selected this one for my April fantasy read in 2017. Mists of Avalon seemed like just what I needed at this point in time. I was not 100% correct, however.

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A print of Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot hung in my childhood home and had a profound effect on me. I always loved the Aurthurian legends, but this painting made me think, “What about the women?”

So as many know, Mists is a retelling of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table told from the perspective of the powerful women involved in putting Arthur in power and working toward saving their country and identities. It’s pretty much a badass version of the saying, “Behind every great man is an even greater woman.” I don’t know where that saying came from, and I generally hate it, but in this context it’s pretty interesting. Another incredibly interesting (or depressing) thing about this book (and series) is how it examines the demise of the old religions, the pagan traditions, and the matriarchal attitudes that were more common before Christianity became the law of the land.

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The Shameful Book Club: Atonement by Ian McEwan

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2017 was the summer of Dunkirk, seriously. I saw the movie in theaters twice (I firmly believe it’s one of the best movies ever made. I will talk about why for hours), I read Atonement which has important plot points and scenes based in Dunkirk and around the entire ordeal, and I got engaged on a beach…after seven years of dating, I’d call that my own personal Dunkirk.

I loved Atonement, and thank god I did because I have a quote from the book tattooed on my right inside forearm. And the reason why this book is extra shameful for me is that I got that tattoo years ago before I even read the entire book. I read just far enough to find a cool quote about writing and then was like, “THAT’LL DO!” But I did love the movie, and I’m really happy that I enjoyed the book just as much. It was beautifully written, totally gut-wrenching, and thoroughly entertaining. And man, Briony is quite the character. This was the perfect beach read (pun intended).

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Shameful Book Club: 2017 Recap, 2018 Preview

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Look at all those movie tie-in covers…hmf.

Well, 2017 was not a 100% success. I was unable to finish my personal reading challenge, aka the Shameful Book Club. I read 10 out of 12 books, leaving 2 in the dust of yester-year. I’m even more behind on posting my thoughts on the books I did manage to read. I learned a lot, however, and will be tackling 2018 differently. This personal challenge has evolved quite a bit over the three years I’ve been attempting it, so eventually I will get it to a place that is manageable.

I had a lot of favorites this year, including The Princess Bride, Under the Banner of Heaven, and Practical Magic, but the one I can’t stop talking and writing about is The Haunting of Hill House. Just ask my friends who were over on Halloween for a movie night…I cannot and will not shut up about this book. It really grabbed me and meshed with a lot of other books I was reading at the time; the right book at the right time. I’ve been very attached to Shirely Jackson lately, and this book really spoke to me.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirely Jackson

Note: I read/listened to The Haunting of Hill House months ago because I couldn’t stay away, and because this one is ready on time and my June/August/Sept aren’t even close, I’m going to just post our of order. I think it’s safe to say that I have failed my own book challenge for the year.

Oh my god. Oh, my god. This woman is just…damn. I love her so much. This is not the first time I have read her for my Shameful Book Club. I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle in 2015 and it blew me away. Before TSBC, I had only read The Lottery. Welcome to high school. I also knew I should be ashamed of myself for this, because Jackson is everything I love in a writer: demented, tortured, eerie, subtle, full of magic, lover of murder…you get the picture. I knew I had to pick The Haunting of Hill House for this October’s creepy AF read. Perfect for Halloween!

Show of hands, how many of you were just as obsessed with the 1999 adaptation The Haunting as I was? If you came to my 12th birthday slumber party, your hand better be up! I hadn’t seen it in a while, so I ordered it and the ’63 adaptation from my library and refreshed my memory. Listen, some things should be left in the past. That ’99 version was probably one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen as an adult, and it’s so different from the book. Not in a good way. The ’63 version, however, was wonderful! I thought it was very true to the book, both in plot and spirit, and it stars one of my favs, Russ Tamblyn (Riff from West Side Story). It was so much fun that I later bought a copy.

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The Shameful Book Club: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman for June

And the crunch begins for me to finish this book challenge! I’m months behind in all aspects. Ugh. But I’m finally at June, so here we go! As a very witchy person who absolutely loves the film adaptation of this book, it was really quick surprising to me that it took me so long to pick it up! When I worked at a small public library in the next county over, I saw a beautiful hard copy of Practical Magic in the pile for the book sale. I had to have it for so many reasons, but honestly the book jacket is everything…

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I just started reading Hoffman this past year. I started with her newest release, Faithful, and then jumped right to Practical Magic. Very rarely in my life do I feel that I encounter the right thing at the right time. As you read through my Shameful Book Club posts you will see a trend of me saying, “Oh, if only I read this when I was 15/13/18/24!” But no, I believe that picking up Hoffman at 29/30 is the best thing I could have done. She writes with such an amazing subtly, and her work drips with feminine power/pain/strength. Just what 29-year-old me needs! I love it!

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The Shameful Book Club: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer for May

IMG_4801So… behind…on posts! For once I’m actually not all that behind on reading the books, but life changes (new job YAY engagement YAY) have really slowed down my posting. But anyway…here’s May’s selection!

There was a period of time when my boyfriend and I were not terribly happy with our lives, so we fell deep into a codependent relationship with all the wonderful programming TLC had to offer. One of these was, of course, Sister Wives. Man, were we obsessed with Sister Wives. This turned into an obsession with the FLDS church, which I find fascinating. I want to say, before I get too deep into this post, that personally I am not religious, but I respect religion immensely. It does profound good for people that I have witnessed with my own eyes. I love it when people are strong in their faith, and I find inspirational and powerful things to appreciate in many religions. But also, some things are harmful.

Some harmless faiths fuel harmful tendencies in people. Most faiths have promoted and still promote to an extent bigotry against many groups of people, like the LGBTQIA community, people of color (Mormons have a deep history of racism), and women. Most faiths have a shocking history of violence (certainly all the big ones do). Some faiths are cults. I’m looking at you, Scientology. I’m also very hesitant when it comes to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Fundamentalism, in anything, is dangerous. I know a lot of amazing Mormons (the faith was founded in my neck of the woods, after all), and none of them subscribe to harmful, abusive practices that some of the FLDS sects of their religion do. Child brides, blood atonement, incest, racism…it can get pretty bad, and Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven shows just how bad it can be. Before I get caught up in the general summary of this book, my intention is to talk about the cycle of hate and the harm that brings. That will come near the end of the post.

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The Shameful Book Club: 1984 by George Orwell for March

 

1984-book-coverI don’t know what I expected from this book, and honestly I’m not sure how I feel now that I’ve read it. I think this has been made clear by my delay in writing up this post. The dystopians I’m used to usually involve teens and slick latex jumpsuits. And many of them have some empowerment and optimism attached to their plots, even when the price is high. When 1984 sales spiked after the election, I was excited to read it for my Shameful Book Club March read, which is science fiction. I should have known, however, that I was going to get something more complex and less glossy. Fair warning, this post is not graceful. My brain is all over the place on this book, and I’m definitely not educated enough on the book or the era it was written in to speak on it in any new or insightful ways, but these are my thoughts all the same.

Quick summary for those who don’t know: Winston is part of the Ingsoc (English Socialism) Party, an outer party member who lives in what was once London, now called Airstrip One, in the super state of Oceania. He works in the Ministry of Truth and his primary job is forging documents of all kind to ensure that everything on record consistently praises the Party and Big Brother (the ruler of the party who might not even be a real person). This is the Ingsoc idea of “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past,” which is totally true, and ALSO used as a banger Rage Against the Machine lyric. Man, I miss those guys right now. Winston knows he’s engaging in revisionist history, but he lacks the courage to do anything about it, at least when we first meet him he does. At this point in society’s downward spiral, if you step out of line at all or commit even the smallest act of “thought crime” (individual thought or free will), you will be swept up by the Thought Police and disappeared. You’re constantly being watched and brainwashed by the telescreens that have a dominating presence in every room in every building, pumping out propaganda and recording your every move. Sounds familiar, right?

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The Shameful Book Club: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

220px-Outlander-1991_1st_Edition_coverWhat a surprise! I’m behind on my posting. February was romance, because I am a walking cliche. I decided on Outlander because I really enjoyed the show, and everyone keeps gifting me copies of the book. And rightly so, the book seems to have everything I love in it: time travel, Scotland, historical fiction, hot Scots, some light witchcraft, castles, sexy-times, everything! And yet, I was really disappointed. I don’t want to enrage my many friends who love this series, but I honestly don’t see what everyone else sees in it. If you would like to enlighten me, I encourage you to do so in the comments.

At first, I was pretty excited. I loved the setting, the magick, the time travel, and the characters. The show is such a good time, and my mom and I really had fun watching season one together with some red wine! I thought perhaps the book would offer the same thrills, but I can safely say that this is one of those times where the adaptation is better than the book. At least for me. But it didn’t start all bad! The beginning of the book was very strong. Claire was incredibly interesting, and I really liked her agency and attitude. It was intriguing to follow a woman who had just been through a war — who had served as a nurse and saw all kinds of horror — as she tried to reacclimate herself to life as a woman in “polite” society. What would she do now? Where was her place? And I was especially interested in her relationship with Frank, having spent most of their married life apart and under extreme stress due to the war. I want that book…the book where Claire and Frank put their marriage back together. Instead, Outlander is like the exact opposite. It’s a woman leaving her very excellent husband for some man-child.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

img_4205January sucks. It’s cold, everyone is fat and bloated from the holidays, there’s serious financial regret going on, and maybe you decided to stop talking to you uncle for the foreseeable future. That’s why I wanted to make January the month for humor. This January was SUPER hard, ahem, and so I was very grateful for this month’s humorous Shameful Book Club read. The Princess Bride, the film, was a staple in my home growing up. It is one of my all-time favorite movies, and most of the people I know have seen it just as many times as I have. A true classic! And I had heard so much about the book, but of course, never read it. Well, I am super glad I finally did.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. The format of it is confusing, and I know people who were so frustrated by it that they actually gave up reading it all together. Why? Well because for a while you can’t really tell if the book is completely fiction or if it’s partly true or entirely true or what have you. If you know me, you know I love this shit. Long-con deception! I frequently tell people that I want my wedding to be so confusing, people walk out unsure if I actually got married or not. So for me, this was two thumbs up. But then there is the constant interrupting, which also bothers a lot of people.

Let me explain, no that would take too long, let me sum up (GET IT I QUOTED THE BOOK): Goldman starts the book talking about his experience with the original Princess Bride manuscript and his father’s interpretation of it. He then goes on to present The Princess Bride in the abridged format that his father used to tell him as a kid, constantly interrupting the story to inject his own interpretations or stories about his father’s readings and his reactions, etc. This make for a very confusing situation for people who don’t know that The Princess Bride is not and never was a real manuscript or book about the history of a far-off European country. That should have been everyone’s first clue: there is no such place as Florin. But hey, there are people who still think the world is flat, so who am I to assume these things. Some of my friends also did not enjoy the tonal shift that occurs sometimes during these interruptions. The style is definitely weird.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

December’s genre is mystery, my personal favorite. I paired it up with December because it’s usually a cold and stressful time with the holidays and the winter and such, so I figured I should be allowed to treat myself to my favorite genre in the midst of unpleasantness. I picked The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because it is arguably Agatha Christie’s best novel, and I, as a massive Christie fan, had not yet read it. I actually haven’t read as much Christie as one would think. I can count on one had the number of novels and novella’s I’ve tackled, so I personally find that rather shameful.

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Me and a real cool dude on Halloween. I am Agatha Christie, holding her book Halowe’en Party, at a Halloween party.

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Annd a close up. The only thing I can explain in this picture is that I deliberately drew age lines on my face so I look old.

I was very excited to finally get to Ackroyd. I’ve seen it appear on tons of lists like “Top 5 Biggest Twist Endings of All Time” and “Novels That Will Make Your Head Spin So Hard It Will Pop Right Off You’ve Been Warned”. And a coworker of mine, who actually hates this kind of old-school Scooby Doo novel, told me she really enjoyed Ackroyd because of it’s unique twist. I was very successful in avoiding spoilers and could not wait to try to guess who committed the crime, which I did at around page 133. I was very proud of myself.

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