I Read Ahead

I read ahead.

I’m not ashamed.

I get into a story. I get about 50-100 pages into it, and I have to know what I’m reading towards. I’m impatient. Don’t blame me. Blame the story for being good. Blame the parents who gave me my way all the time as a kid. I’m the youngest and I was spoiled rotten. Blame my awesome brain.

But really, I’m kind of weird. I like spoilers.

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I like knowing the outcome. The fun part for me is how it gets there.

I’m not allowed to talk during Sherlock anymore.

The first time I watched Sherlock with my old roommate and my other friends, I started to talk, got yelled at, and she said “Oh yeah she does that…” because I have an uncanny ability to unwind procedural story lines and name killers frighteningly early. We now fondly refer to this habit as Sherlocking and names are called whenever anyone does it. It causes oodles of laughs.

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The whole point of this is to say that I am nearly half way through Magician King by Lev Grossman, and last night I read the last five pages because of course I did, and I am still bouncing over the fact that it was almost nonsensical in terms of predictability. I mean, I had inklings about things and such, but the end game was SO NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING.

Now I can’t wait to see how he gets there.

Go read Harry Potter for adults immediately. It’s tons of fun. And there’s sex. And magic. And Brooklyn.

Yeah do it.

This is really short.

Online Dating…but for friends and books

The most glorious thing about living in NYC is that I get the opportunity to actually meet a lot of my online friends in real life or IRL as the kids call it these days. It started practically the moment I got here with brunches and coffees and invitations to birthday parties for people I only knew by pseudonyms in boroughs and neighborhoods I was completely afraid of and convinced I would need a cab to keep myself from getting both lost and shanked in the process of getting to and from the party.

I am from the Midwest. Any neighborhood I didn’t already know or hadn’t been walked through by a friend was potentially terrifying to me for the first month I lived here. Don’t judge me. I’m now that person who walks on dark streets with her headphones in and a preternatural sixth sense when another human being is within ten feet of me.

In addition to quickly becoming a regular rider of the NYC subway and navigator of the bus system, the friends I had only known through 100×100 pixel avatars and pseudonyms soon became my closest friends. Two years later, I’m still doing this. I collect friends I make through the internet the way other people date online. They get to know people. They go on dates with many of them. Then they whittle it down to one person to date. I just never do the whittling.

It’s kind of awesome.

I have friends here in NYC from every background both professional and personal. They work in all kinds of industries and have all kinds of interests. The great commonality seems to be that almost everyone I catch in my net of friendship is a big fan of books, so when a new friend looks me in the eye and says, “Rachael, you absolutely have to read this book,” I take it very seriously.

I’ve been known to stop at a bookstore on the way home and pick up a copy even.

Sometimes when I don’t have the time – or the $25 a brand new hardcover costs (so many of my friends work in the book business and rave about brand new releases they get to read for free and then I get all jealous and it’s sad) – I just wait until I come home and download it to my e-reader.

I have a Kobo. It’s awesome. They do not sponsor me in any way, shape or form, but I talk them up to everyone I know. I am pretty psyched that I basically buy e-books from my favorite Brooklyn bookstore, Word, instead of the evil monopoly named after a large river in South America. And the interface is really friendly and paper-like. It’s great. You should get one.

This is all a really long set up to tell you a simple fact: I just finished reading The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld because Erin Morgenstern told me it was beautiful. And she was right. The book is incredibly beautiful. It deals with the worst ideas, most inhuman topics, and brutal people in stunning, gorgeous ways.

I couldn’t stop reading it even though there were definitely times that I desperately wanted to abandon it. I got off the train last Friday night and went to meet some of those online friends for drinks completely still stuck in the scenes I had just read. They were so disturbing that I dwelled on them all night, talked them over repeatedly with those friends, and sighed about how I still wanted to finish reading it.

And I just want to thank the internet for bringing this now IRL friend into my life. For that moment when I saw a notification scroll past above my right hand when she followed me on Tumblr as I was reblogging away. And then the pop-up on my phone when she followed me back on Twitter. And I giggled a little bit because I’m a total fangirl (which she already knows so it’s not embarrassing to put it in type…she kind of wrote an awesome book) and because I am notoriously unrestrained in the number of times a day I post to social media platforms. I hit the tumblr limit with regularity. I can never believe that cool people choose to keep following me when I know that my feeds dominate their dashboards regularly.

So thanks internet. I’m glad I met you back when I was 14 and picking out my first email address.

Yes I still remember it.

No I will not tell you the horrifically sappy thing it was.

Thanks for introducing me to what I fondly refer to as the Bookternet and awesome bookish folks (and cats). I stopped into Community Bookstore on my way home tonight and purchased a copy of The Magician King from Tiny. It will be my next bookternet recommended read.

You’re pretty great Internet. And I kind of love the home you’ve made for me.

Couples Counseling: My habits & Me

It’s totally possible that I’ve damaged two of the relationships most central to my life.

I’m talking, of course, about books and food.

I didn’t think there was anything wrong. Then I was lying in bed at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, thinking wistfully of the Girl Scout cookies I had eaten half a sleeve of not an hour before and skimming the final few pages of The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage under a comforter on the nicest weekend New York City has seen in months.

It wasn’t the fact that I had made a “brunch” of sliced soppressata and Thin Mints. It wasn’t the fact that I was skimming the last essay of a 250+ page collection that I had started reading less than 24 hours before. It wasn’t even the fact that I was choosing to stay inside, in bed, on a day that had half my twitter feed posting borderline manic 140 character missives about the return of the sun and the cursed Daylight Savings Time hangover everyone seemed to be experiencing well before noon. It was the sudden realization that I’d become a gorger – a binger and metaphorical purger if you will.

Don’t worry. I’m not actually throwing anything up.

The problem is that I seem to have lost the ability to consume my two favorite things in moderation. Not every meal is a feast, but my behavior around the act of eating is that of a gorger.

I’ve become so detached from the act of feeding myself that I’ve spent most meals since Christmas in bars and restaurants. I stopped cooking almost completely with the exception of the occasional elaborate stew or roasted meat dish. Until Saturday, I hadn’t even been to my local farmers market in more than six weeks. Going to the farmer’s market used to be my thing, my Saturday morning ritual with a stop at my bank for cash and the cafe next door for a coffee from my favorite neighborhood baristas. Even in the winter I loved it. And then this winter it just stopped. I just stopped. It was too cold. I didn’t have the expendable cash. I didn’t want to leave the house. Oh and I got really, really sick for almost a solid month.

Likewise, for months, I have been struggling to read. That’s right: struggling to read. It hurts my heart to even put the words in writing.

Nothing has held my interest.

I have been trudging, with all the dogged determination of a hobbit, through the Lord of the Rings novels. Don’t get me wrong. They’re great. But it’s not like I don’t know what happens. It’s not like the Orcs and bad guys lurking around every corner aren’t absolutely terrifying, but there’s nothing surprising about them. It took me three weeks to read Two Towers. THREE WEEKS. It hasn’t taken me that long to read a book in years. (Shut up, I’m not talking about 1Q84.) And I’ve been listening to podcasts on the subway instead of cracking a book. This feels like confession, and I am not Catholic.

I only realized how utterly twisted these relationships had become this weekend when I strolled through my farmers market, picking and choosing from the piles of root vegetables that are pretty much the only produce available this late in winter, and smiling at the happy weather. It became more clear when I sat down that afternoon and proceeded to read more than half of The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage before 10pm. By Sunday afternoon, as I tucked into an advance copy of The Haven, previous book finished and reshelved, I had to stop myself and try to really remember what I’d read.

And I couldn’t do it. I’d read so quickly that all I was left with was vague recollections of characters and story lines. The meals I had eaten while sitting devouring my books were equally grey and thoughtless. I’d sat at a local bar, munching on fries and drinking a beer in the sunshine, and I couldn’t tell you what the beer was or anything about the fries except that they were exceptionally salty. But nothing substantial. I had jumped straight from the starvation stage to the gluttony stage, and I couldn’t control it.

Realizing that something was wrong was disconcerting and confusing, and I still kind of feel like I’m on shaky ground and just figuring it all out.

Sure I’m reading again, and I cooked twice this weekend, but I can’t shake the feeling that these relationships have become tainted and dark. I’m going to have to put in some real effort to get them back on track. To read a book and really let it into my heart and soul. To not get 50% of my sustenance from someone else’s kitchen. I CAN DO IT.

Maybe once I work on these issues, I can get back to unblocking my writer’s block? I think a troll is squatting on my brain.

Is it too late for New Year’s resolutions?

Reading books…Reviewing books…Silent City

Crime and mystery novels are not normally my genres of choice. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good who-done-it, but I’m more likely to grab a little literary fiction or fantasy when set loose in a bookstore. But when I heard that best selling and critically-acclaimed comic writer Alex Segura was publishing his first full length novel – a crime novel – I had to give it a chance.

Silent City wades into the seamy underbelly of Miami and the Cuban crime world peopled with gangsters, drug cartels and money laundering. After an opening chapter with the brutal abduction (possibly murder) of a young woman hot on the trail of murderer-for-hire the “Silent Death” perspective shifts to Pete Fernandez as he is drawn into finding the missing woman and uncovering, once and for all, the identity of the mysterious fixer of Miami’s mob families.

The story is peppered with characters unable to hide their weaknesses from friends and readers alike, a mystery spanning years and, in the case of our main character, generations, Miami’s rich cultural makeup, and the families we build outside the families we’re born into. I really enjoyed the characters, even when they gave me few redeeming features of their own, and the story drew me in and hooked me.

Silent City was a quick read. I finished it in just a few days, and by the time I was reaching the climax, I was turning off the television and flying through the last twenty pages just to know what happened to Pete and all his friends. If you’re looking for something engaging this holiday season, or you have a relative who loves a good crime story, I definitely recommend picking this one up at your local bookstore.

With the subtitle “A Pete Fernandez Mystery” on the cover, I’m hoping we’ll see another book out of Segura sooner rather than later.

How Does She Do It? She Doesn’t – Not Really

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Someone asked me this week: How do you do it all? Read books, watch shows, write? How do you get it all done.

I have to be honest. I read the question and laughed. My life is so not challenging in the grand scheme of things no matter the moment-to-moment panics I experience. I have a warm home, food in my fridge, a job with health insurance, and family and friends who support me when I’m down.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally sit in my living room, TV off, and mentally review my To-Do list with a sinking heart and feeling of dread.

So darling anonymous question asker on Tumblr, here’s the real answer to your question: I lie.

I don’t get it all done. And I’m really good at faking it. My IRL friends (Good God, I cannot believe I just used that abbreviation in seriousness) know this because they ask me about shows, and my answer is “Oh I don’t really watch TV.” Because it’s true. I only really watch two shows regularly and those are two I don’t really blog, write or tumble about. The rest I catch on HuluPlus, Netflix and network websites if I have time or during hiatuses. I also am known to marathon a good thing when I’m sick or when I get completely addicted to it.

Though, truth be told, I may add Sleepy Hollow to that repertoire of regularly watched shows if it continues being as awesome as it has been. I’m really, really liking it.

I spend a lot of time on the internet. It has taught me to lie well and frequently. I see a gif set I like and I share it and add commentary for what I have heard the show is about, why I like it, what it says to me, and I walk away. I am careless with my affection for pop culture. I use my tumblr promiscuity – I follow a LOT of blogs – to learn about shows I will never have time watch, books I only wish I had time read and music I would love to see live but know I never will.

Oh it feels good to be honest.

I know I’m not alone in this. There’s too much out there to consume now. Too many shows to watch. Too many books to read. The never-ending onslaught of entertainment distracts me from the other things I want to do: cooking, baking, traveling to visit my family, spending quality time with friends that doesn’t involve a cellphone, a computer or a camera. Eye contact. Real conversation.

I used to try to do it all – watch all the shows, read all the books, and provide thoughtful commentary on them. You know what? It was exhausting. I resented it. I hid in social media and let it teach me this new way – this easier way.

The last month or so has been a lot of networking and not a lot of anything else. I’ve only read three books since September. I usually average two a week. Three in a month is depressing.

I’m feeling the pull and tug away from the internet again though. I’m finding myself not wanting to hit power. Not wanting to open another tab. Not wanting to wrack my brain for another password combination I will not forget the second I hit “change” on the account. Books smell better. My bed is layered with blankets that I can twirl into a nest at the slightest whim, and I’d rather curl up there with a paperback than with my laptop.

So look out readers of my blogs, tweets and status updates. There will be more bookish things in the future, more real response to things I read – actually sit down and read every word of and inhale the perfume off pages bound with glue and mildew. There may be fewer individual pieces of entertainment blogged and reblogged and shared, but at least you’ll know I really read them.

Sorry if I made it look like I was actually doing it all. I kind of doubt anyone can. We make choices and lie about the rest.

I read too much and that got dark fast

“God, I wish I read as much as you do.” I hear it on a regular basis. Friends, colleagues, strangers on the internet. Everybody says the same thing.

And I’m always a little confused. I guess I never thought that I read all that much.

I mean, I get through 50 pages on a good commute, and I might spend 30 minutes with a book on a work night before turning off the light. But even I am susceptible to the ridiculous internet addiction that seems to be plaguing the world these days. Now, more often than not, I spend that last 30 minutes before I put out the light scrolling through Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook. I’m almost ashamed to admit it.

I always have good intentions. I’m going to put my phone down in just a second and pick up that book I’ve been reading for the last few days or weeks or months. I’m going to take another stab at Murakami’s 1Q84 which I still haven’t finished over a year later. I’m going to get on with my reread of Emma because that is how excited I am about Emma Approved coming to an interweb near you in the near future. (But really. I AM SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED.) But I never do. Regardless of my good intentions, I find myself looking at the time an hour later and realizing that I have to get up in a few hours, and jeez, I really should go to sleep or I’m just going to hate myself when the alarm goes off. My light is flipped off before I get to crack a spine or read a word. I guess I still get a lot more reading done than other people my age. I devour a book or two a week – sometimes more if I’m on a roll or in a zone or some other crazy metaphor you want to make that equates with sports or another extracurricular activity I am not familiar with at this point in my life – or ever if we’re being honest.

Reading a lot, which I’m told I do, isn’t actually hard.

Obviously, when I say “just do it” I am not saying that men and women with small children and absolutely NO time to do anything but care for those children should be finding the free time I do. I mean, I get it. I do. But at the same time – as a single, free-of-responsibility kind of adult – it’s second nature to me. I’m noticing more and more that other people don’t do it the way I do. No one else has integrated books, reading and literary pursuits into their daily lives the way that I do.

Frankly, at this point, unless I’m talking to someone I already know is a heavy reader like me, I don’t ask what they’re reading as an ice breaker. It won’t be greeted positively. The last few times I have done so I’ve been met with blank stares.

The blank stares make me more sad than anything else.

“I haven’t read a book since someone made me read a book for a class” used to be the most common response I got.” I just don’t have time to read” was another.

And then I talk to my nerdy friends and they say the same thing, and I start to wonder if I’m some sort of freak.

It’s middle school all over again. I can’t possibly read as much as you all think I read. And it can’t possibly be more than you read yourself, right? RIGHT?

I’m not actually reading entire libraries at a time. Half the time, I’m nose-deep in a book I’ve already read once or twice because I fall that much in love with a good character or a good writer. There are so many new releases that I just never get around to. Is it really just that I have more free time than the parents and paired up single folk. Others watch Housewives of Orange County and I read antiquated literature because I think it’s fun.

Others have lives where they connect with the rest of the world and have relationships and boyfriends, and futures.

Wow that got dark fast.