Tag Archives: RMFAO 2017 Genre Challenge

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty

Image Description: The book-cover of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty. The cover is mostly white, the title text in black and red taking up most of the cover space, in between the title-text and the author-text is the picture of a silver surgical tray with a pile of ash within it.
Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematorium
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Social Media: Twitter, Ask A Mortician Youtube Channel, Goodreads, and The Order of The Good Death
Publisher: Canongate Books
Format and Price: Ebook at $12.59
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Author:
Mortician Caitlin Doughty—host and creator of “Ask a Mortician” and the New York Times best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes —founded The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.

About The Book:
From her first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into her curious new profession. Coming face-to-face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated and the mourning families they left behind, and found herself confounded by people’s erratic reactions to death. Exploring our death rituals – and those of other cultures – she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying. Full of bizarre encounters, gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), this illuminating account makes this otherwise terrifying subject inviting and fascinating

General Observation:
~I Found This Humerus: The book is filled with witty and hilarious observations, it filled with fascinating and funny one-liners about dealing with people and people dealing with death, which isn’t always the best combination as Death can bring out the best in people but also the worst. The Staff of the Westwind Cremation & Burial are also hilarious and surprisingly sweet.

~Highly Educational: It’s fascinating to peek behind the black curtains of the Funeral Process, the funeral process, the embalming process, the cremation process and I loved knowing all the gory details. Caitlin Doughty also mentioned a lot of different cultures and how they proceed with their Grief and Death rituals and, surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with a lot of Caitlin Doughty’s observations. Caitlin Doughty is very passionate about Death rituals, which are fascinating all on their own, but also how the problems in Western society have emerged because we have lost our rituals and thus haphazardly implement new ones to fill the void (whether we are aware of it or not).

~Right In The Feels: As this is a book about Death, and while I highly recommend it, it is not for the fragile, as there will be moments where Caitlin Doughty is making joke or telling a funny story and it will make a sharp turn into the terribly sad (which shouldn’t be too surprising given the topic), however, these moments aren’t jarring as the comedy and tragedy is equally balanced and mixed together well. I felt it was necessary to point out the economic environment and economic hardships that impact upon people’s behaviour. The chapter about the processing the dead infants and the story about cutting the hair of an eleven-month-old baby-girl was so sad.

All in all, a hilarious book about an interesting job, anyone who has read and enjoyed Jenny Lawson’s books Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy will definitely enjoy this, my friends and family are most certainly getting a copy of this for Birthdays and/or Christmas

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books
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Monthly Forcast: June 2017

Image Description: an image of a bookshelf filled to over-full from an unknown library. The books displayed on the shelves are a mixture of reference books in paperback and hardback formats of various sizes, colours and languages.

This is the monthly forecast for June, which includes three reading challenges I probably won’t complete, I doubt I’ll get through all the books listed here (especially since I need to finish my Novel Outline for Volume II: Orion by the end of June), but I will at least attempt to eliminate a few books that have been on my TBR pile for a long time. If you’d like to join me, and read along as well, let me know in the comments section down below.

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge:
The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge is a reading challenge to help promote books written by Australian women.

Image Description: The book-cover of Damned Whores and God's Police. The cover features a white woman with shoulder-length brown hair and 70's style aviator glasses, there is a yellow filter over the cover with the title and author text in white.Damned Whores and God’s Police by Anne Summers
Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: the book cover of Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski. It's a head and torso photo of Magda Szubanski, whom is also wearing round black glasses, a black long sleeved shirt and leaning against a doorframe.

Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski
Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

RMFAO Genre Challenge – Non-Fiction:
The monthly theme for the RMFAO Genre Challenge is Non-Fiction, I’ve chosen Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano and The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher.

Image Description: The book-cover of Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. The cover of the book is simple in design, it's got a solid red background with the title text and author text in a large white sans-serif font, between the the title and the author's name is a yellow box of text with read writing, the text is as follows Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: The book-cover of The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. The background is red, while the foreground contains a close-up, side-long image of Carrie Fisher dressed as Princess Leia Organa (from the movie Star Wars) with a pen through one of her coiled buns of hair. The title and author text are imposed on top of the picture.The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Diverse Books Reading Challenge 2017 – Sexuality and Gender Identity:
Sexuality and Gender Identity books are LGBTQIA+ books (books about them and books written by them) and I decided to pick Out on Good Behaviour by Dahlia Adler and The Stillwater Files: Asylum by K. A. Cook.

Image Description: The book cover of Out on Good Behaviour by Dahlia Adler. The cover has two white women with brown hair, cuddled up together, face to face, on a checked picnic blanket. The woman on the left is wearing a scarf and a coat, while the other woman is wearing a black shirt with plunging neck line that reveals two rose tattoos on both sides of her chest.Out on Good Behaviour by Dahlia Adler
Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo BooksImage Description: The book-cover of The Stillwater Files: Asylum by K. A. Cook. The book-cover has a stained-brown colour (much like an old map) with a large black vintage style key placed between the title-text and the author-text.The Stillwater Files: Asylum by K. A. Cook
Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo Books

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Image Description: The Peguin Classics book-cover of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It features an angry looking brunette-haired woman wearing a black vintage-style pilgrim dress with a white collar and white cuffs, she is cradling to her chest a brunette-curly-haired infant in white swaddling clothes and/or a white sheet.
Title: The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Publisher: Paperback: Penguin Classics and Audible: Cherry Hill Publishing
Format and Price: Paperback at $12.99 and Audible Book at $7.95
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th century American novelist and short story writer. He is seen as a key figure in the development of American literature for his tales of the nation’s colonial history. Much of Hawthorne’s writing centers around New England and many feature moral allegories with a Puritan inspiration. His work is considered part of the Romantic movement and includes novels, short stories, and a biography of his friend, the United States President Franklin Pierce.

About The Book:
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most famous novel was published in 1850 and takes place in Puritan New England, focusing on a community where a beautiful young woman, Hester Prynne, and her illegitimate child are subject to persecution and ostracism; while the mother refuses to name her co-conspirator in adultery, and the father of her child burns up with secret guilt and shame. Hawthorne’s family history caused much of his interest in this time period, but his spiritual leanings toward the popular Transcendental movement precipitated this classic novel where oppression, injustice and intolerance – and their consequences – are explored in turn.

General Observations:
~It’s All Been Done Before: The difficulty in reviewing a book under the category of Classic is that it feels like everyone’s already said what needed to be said.

~The Use of Language: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s style of eloquent and descriptive language isn’t my style of writing, but the flowery language does suite the book’s style, my favourite descriptions are of the forest, the river and the brook, which take place over the couple of chapters that Pearl, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale spend talking in the forest.

~The Lady Doth Protest Too Much: I know Pearl is supposed to come across as this creepy demon-child that only a mother could love, but I honestly didn’t think she was that weird, Pearl came across as a fairly normal child considering her upbringing (and time-period) of only spending time in the company of her mother and pretty much being scorned or ignored by everyone else. A lot of the comments of “she is such a strange child” came across as projection on Hester Prynne’s part.

~Female Protagonist Problems – Passive Character: By the research I’ve done on the book, I’m informed that Hester Prynne is considered not only a martyr but a literary heroine, but I suppose I have a very different idea of what the character arch of a feminine literary hero should be, although it could most certainly be argued that Hester Prynne is a Hero by the Greek Tragedy definition. I understand the concepts of Hester Prynne’s character that Nathaniel Hawthorne is trying to convey, that good lies in the everyday small deeds of kindness and that soft is not weak.

These are good ideas and concepts to put forward, these are things I agree with, but the problem is that Hester Prynne is never an active character, she is a passive character reacting to events occurring around her, and the moment she tries to actively steer the course of her fate, it’s all ends in tragedy. And yes, some of the reason for that is the position women like her have in society and the time period the novel is set in, but unfortunately this does make the novel pacing drag in places and it is the reason why the resolution of Hester’s character arch is so confusing, or at the least, confusing to me.

~A Product of It’s Time: I understand that, at the time this novel was written, the idea of presenting people who committed adultery as people with thoughts, feelings and that they deserved the chance to redeem themselves and to be happy, you know, humanizing them instead of demonizing them, was a radical idea. But nowadays, adultery isn’t that significant anymore, certainly not to the same extent in my experience and environment (naturally this is going to be different for different people). It serves as a time-capsule of what a select group of people in the USA used to be and how the practise of community scapegoating really doesn’t help society develop better into a more progressive community.

All in all, it’s a good book, and while it is definitely worth a read, however, I feel as though I will find Damned Whores and God’s Police by Anne Summers more relevant to my situation.

Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Despository | Kobo Books
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Monthly Forecast: May 2017


Image Description: the image appears to the cluttered surface of a desk. There’s an old vintage style map and on top of the map is a pair of  black thick-rimmed glasses, three black and white photos and two journals. One journal is closed and one journal is open to a blank page with a pencil resting on top.

I take part in multiple Reading Challenges. Why? Mostly because I think I’m more capable than I really am and because I thought having extra structuring for my blog would help me keep to regular reading schedule and a regular posting schedule. My brain is not in a happy place now and I’m sure this post and my more recent posts show it. I’m sorry about that. I’ll attempt to improve but at this point, I’m seriously contemplating shutting down my blog for a while, because a Book-Blog without book reviews isn’t justifiable.

RMFAO Genre Challenge: May – Classic and/or Literary
The monthly theme for the RMFAO Genre Challenge is Classic or Literary. The definitions of a “Classic” or “Literary” book are as follows:

Classics: A classic stands the test of time. The work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written; and the work merits lasting recognition. In other words, if the book was published in the recent past, the work is not a classic.
A classic has a certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch us to our very core beings–partly because they integrate themes that are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses.

Literary Fiction: Literary fiction is a term that has come into common usage in the early 1960s. The term is principally used to distinguish “serious fiction” which is a work that claims to hold literary merit, in comparison from genre fiction and popular fiction. The name literature is sometimes used for this genre, although it can also refer to a broader category of writing.

So I decided I would read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Why? Well mostly because I lack subtlety, the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Besides, I’ve meant to read these two books for a while and I figured now was an appropriate time. Here’s links to the books if you’re interested in reading along (or not, it’s cool, you do you).


Amazon
| Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: The Peguin Classics book-cover of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It features an angry looking brunette-haired woman wearing a black vintage-style dress with a white collar and white cuffs, she is cradling to her chest a brunette-curly-haired infant in white swaddling clothes and/or a white sheet.
Amazon
| Book Depository | Kobo Books

Diverse Books Reading Challenge 2017:
Another reading challenge with a monthly theme and the theme for May is Religious Diversity. I probably won’t get around to reading these, but if I could make a couple of recommendations, they would probably be And I Darken by Kiersten White and If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan. Here’s links to the books if you’re interested in participating in the Diverse Books Reading Challenge:

And I Darken by Kiersten White | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Book Haul:
I bought some books in April and March (too many books to be honest, really need to curb my impulse shopping habit) and, as it’s my birthday in April, I was also given some books as well. It’s a long list, so I won’t include book-cover pictures, but I will divide the books up into formats.

Audio-book Format:
On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

I have been trying to read Otherbound and On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis for a while now, I have both books as Ebooks already, but since I’ve entered into a reading slump, it’s been difficult for me to read Ebooks and Paperbacks alike, however, I’ve had some success with Audio-books in the past, so I figured I’d give this one a go.

The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer | Amazon

I was surprised and happy to find an audio-version of The Dark Wife available from Audible, as I’ve tried to find a physical copy of this book for ages, I can only find a Kindle version for it and as I’m not a big fan of Amazon Kindle, I decided I’d go with the Audio-book format first and check out the Kindle version later.

Ebook Format:
The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

I’m certain I read this when I was in primary school, but I can’t remember for certain, oh well, I’ll just have to try to read it again.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews about this book, so I figured I’d suss it out for myself, especially since it’s a Diverse Book.

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Apparently, Jasper Jones is an award-winning novel by an Australian author, I’ve never heard of this book before I saw an episode of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering interviewing Hugo Weaving about the movie-adaptation (he stars in the movie) and they talked about small community scapegoating practises. They made the book sound interesting enough to check out.

The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

The Things I Didn’t Say is a book about selective mutism and it’s written by an Australian author, so I was very intrigued, I think it’s a mystery as well, so it ticked all the boxes for me.

Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler | Amazon | Kobo Books

I purchased this book for the Diverse Books Reading Challenge as it has an openly Pansexual Main Character and, thus far, the book has been interesting. Apparently, this is Book 3 in the Radleigh University series, but you don’t need to read the other two books for this one to make sense. The characters do a fair amount of “Explaining stuff that has happened in previous books”, for me this is usually an annoyance but the author has handled it better then most.

The Room Mate by Kendall Ryan | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

The Play Mate by Kendall Ryan | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

The House Mate by Kendall Ryan | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Kobo Books were doing a “Kendall Ryan’s books are super cheap right now” special, so I ended up buying three books in her Roommates series. Yes, I am aware these books look a little trashy, oh well.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

As it turns out, I’m a big fan of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs, so I waited until this one came down in price before I bought it (even though I was itching to get it as soon as possible).

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Everyone in the Book Blogging and Book Vlogging Community has been gushing over this book, so I decided to check it out, the premise is interesting, the cover looks nice and it’s only 155 pages long (in Ebook format anyway), so I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about (yes, I occasionally read things because of Book-Blogger Peer Pressure, I have never proclaimed to be without flaws or weaknesses).

Paperback Format:
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride | Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

My partner bought this for me as a Birthday Present. I’ve never heard of this author before, although I’ve heard of her earlier book A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, however, I suspect that my partner bought this novel because of a Burn Notice inside-joke.

So that’s it, I’ll try to post more regularly (but I doubt it will happen), let me know in the comment section if you’ve read any of the books mentioned and what you thought about them.

Blood of The Cosmos by Kevin J. Anderson

Blood of The Cosmos
Title: Blood Of The Cosmos (The Saga of Shadows #2)
Author: Kevin J. Anderson
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Source: Book supplied by Collins Booksellers – Bacchus Marsh
Rating: DNF – Did Not Finish

About The Book:
An epic space opera of the titanic conflict of several galactic civilizations against a life-destroying force of shadows, a dark cosmic force that has swept through the undercurrents of the human interstellar empire.The intertwined plots, overflowing with colorful ideas, a large cast of characters, and complex storylines, span dozens of solar systems, alien races, and strange creatures.

As the second book of the trilogy opens, the humans and Ildirans, having narrowly escaped annihilation at the hands of the Shana Rei and their robot allies in Book One, are desperate to find a way to combat the black cloud of antimatter of the Shana Rei. The mysterious alien Gardeners, who had helped them previously, turn out to be a disaster in disguise and because of them, the world tree forests are again in danger. The allies believing they have found a way to stop their dreaded enemies, a new weapon is tested, but it’s a horrible failure, throwing the human race and its allies to the brink of extinction.

The Reasons Why I Did Not Finish This Book:
Character-Orientated Novel Every chapter starts off inside a different character’s head, so there’s a lot of head hopping and a long list of characters to keep track of, the problem is that except for maybe one or two characters, most of the characters aren’t compelling enough to carry the chapter alone, it’s difficult to connect everyone together, I kept asking myself “What is the point of this?”. Some characters, such as Elisa Enturi, have changed drastically from what they were like in book one to fit the bare amount of plot available (more on this later) and it just doesn’t work for me.

God Mode Sue With regards to a character such as Zoe Alakis, I believe the writer has written himself into a corner, Zoe Alakis is what happens when you make your character too powerful. Zoe has unlimited money, power and technology at her disposal. This is all done on purpose due to her psychological problems and need for control, it’s understandable why she behaves the way she does (even though I disagree with it completely), but it remains that I don’t think the author has thought her particular situation all the way through.

I think her psychological issues are handled poorly (are there no therapists in space?) but the author seems to not know how basic copyright laws and intellectual property laws work. Zoe is a character who will never change because there is no reason for her to change and I’m not interested in a character that can’t or won’t grow or develop. She’s powerful enough and wealthy enough so that no outside factor/character can make her change, Tom Rom can make suggestions, but she’s the one in charge.

The King and Queen may be able to put pressure on her to release her information on the prince’s condition, but they can’t make her (she’s protected herself well enough to make sure this can’t happen). There are problems with the efforts and lengths Zoe has gone to protect herself, such as why not use her wealth and power to remove greedy and morally questionable people working in the academics sector in the first place?

Then she could use her money and power to put in charge academics of her choosing. It kind of comes across as anti-intellectual to me. There’s a common theme of characters going “The problem has become too big for me to handle, but I’m not going to do anything about it, in fact I’m going run away and dump the responsibility on someone else” and although Zoe isn’t the only character that does this, the way it’s handled, combined with Zoe’s psychological issues, it comes across as problematic to me.

But Not Too Gay: Xander and Terry are a couple, however, their relationship was written in such a vague way, their interactions borderline “just good friends”, it would be easy for some readers to miss it completely (I missed it in book one). While there are no sex scenes or graphic sexual content involved in the book, every other heterosexual couple is described as participating/displaying basic acts of Public Displays of Affection such as kissing and hugging. The problem with this is that Xander and Terry are never even described as holding hands. I find this problematic and unacceptable.

Continuous Recapping and Back-story: In the first book, The Dark Between Stars, the author spent a lot time giving the reader back-story, character internal monologue about historical events and “As You Know” Moments (which I find irritating and insulting as a reader). In the first book it was barely tolerable, it had been a few years between the last book of the earlier series and the first book of the new series, so some paragraphs of “this is what we’ve done since then” and as I hadn’t read the earlier series it was good to get some background information on these characters.

The problem is that this is book two and the author is still doing this, in fact, the author is recapping events not just from the earlier series but from the previous book. I got to the 50% mark (300 pages) and there is barely any plot and very little momentum with regards to said plot (mythical space creatures that have existed since the beginning of time known as the Shanna Rei are planning on wiping out all of existence).

Weak Plot Elements: There’s an action scene where the Shanna Rei show up at a temple, destroy the light temple, kill lots of people and then leave. There’s barely any explanation about why this temple is attacked (it’s vaguely hinted at because it’s a temple that creates light, it’s therefore a danger to creatures of darkness such as the Shanna Rei). Lots of people die, which is supposed to be a tragedy but the reader doesn’t get to know these random civilians before they’re killed, so their death has no real emotional impact, there also no explanation about why this temple is so special (or maybe they did, but it was so boring I forgot what it was) or why they can’t just build another temple just like it. It kind seemed like the author just wanted an excuse for the exiled Designated Rusa’h to come back.

Another example of weak plot elements is in character Elisa Enturi, Elisa was adamant that her son stay with her no matter what, it was her driving force and motivation throughout the entire book, now as soon as her ex-husband is like “Screw You Guys, I’m Getting Out of Here” and is clearly planning on taking their son with him, Elisa is like “whatever, just take him”, it’s like she only cared about her son because it was plot relevant, not because her son was an essential part of her character.

In conclusion, this book has a lot good character developement and there are lots of sub-plots going on, it’s just these sub-plots don’t clearly connect to the main plot and the pacing of the novel just isn’t fast enough for me. This novel takes a long time to get anywhere, I felt like God from Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Image Description: A cartoon picture of god from Monty Python who appears to be emerging from glowing clouds

“GET ON WITH IT!”


This style of writing is just not something I enjoy and I don’t want to waste anymore time struggling with a book I just don’t enjoy.

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