Some Tiny Reviews

The Romanov Sisters / Helen Rappaport 

   ARE YOU READY TO GET SAD? Because if you aren't sad yet, you're GONNA BE.This book is really good but also daunting in that there's a dark cloud hanging over the whole thing. Well, there's like eighty dark clouds with one especially giant, especially impenetrable dark cloud.

   Humanizing historical royals! A better understanding of many different motivations! Non-dry writing! Win win win (no matter what).

The Girl With All The Gifts / M. R. Carey

   I had to stop listening to/reading this because I was having trouble turning my back on dark spaces; it is very scary. I thought this book was for children. CHILDREN. It is not, and I was not prepared. I reckon I'll come back to this one, because it is quite good, but not for awhile here.

   Zombies! Experiments! Too scary for me at this time!

Step Aside, Pops / Kate Beaton

   I don't think I'll ever have anything bad to say about Kate Beaton, she is a national treasure. I gave The Princess and the Pony to my nieces and they love it. I could have gotten them a fat pony stuffie for Christmas and I am only just now realizing my grave error.

my new motto


46-50, 2015


   It's a, uh...a weird mix this time. 


Vampires in the Lemon Grove / Karen Russell

   Here is something that is unexpectedly delightful: a story of deceased Presidents who are in some kind of purgatory where they have become horses ("The Barn at the End of Our Term"). Here is something that is unsurprisingly creepy: a scarecrow version of a kid who disappeared that gets thrown into a pit and then begins to get ripped apart, bit by bit ("The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis"). This book is primarily creepy, with bits of sweetness and delight thrown in, resulting in some cognitive dissonance.

   There's a story called "Proving Up" which is about homesteaders and maybe the devil? And I've been realizing more and more lately how much I like creepy stories set in the woods and/or on the prairie, or in which the setting is essentially another character (see: Through the Woods, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, other Shirley Jackson stories). The woods and the prairie can be so peaceful and nice and even homey, but also so scary. They're a bit like deep water, maybe. You know, the water is supporting you and holding you up and you're thinking of that line from Vonnegut about being beautiful in the water and you feel strong BUT WAIT you can't see beneath you and what if something is down there something is definitely down there oh my goodness is it a colossal squid?! They have twirly hooks in their tentacles, I am going to die here.

looked up squid gifs, immediately regretted it, here's a cat

   Karen Russell has a similar ability to Shirley Jackson, where she can take something innocuous and make it worrisome and sinister. Not the same mastery as Shirley Jackson, to be sure, but a definite knack and skill. There are a couple stories that weren't my jam, one about seagulls sort of and one about tattoos sort of, but largely I'd say Karen Russell hits home runs or at least scores many points (how does baseball work). There's also a bit of comedic relief in "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating" which, let's be honest, has "Shackleton" and "Antarctic" in the title so obviously I loved it.

   This books is good! I liked it, even though it took me for.ev.er. to read.


South / Ernest Shackleton

   Polar exploration, will you ever cease to amaze me? PROBABLY NOT.

   I have almost too many feeling about this book to actually write about it. It's composed of Shackleton's recollections and journals/logbooks/etc, as well as excerpts from the crew's logs and diaries. That description makes it sound pretty boring, probably, and while some parts (such as lengthy descriptions of daily ice conditions) may not be everyone's cup of tea they are certainly mine. I could listen to polar explorers talk about ice all day. Ice floes? Ice bergs? Sea ice? Glaciers? Don't matter, I do not tire of ice. Unless the ice is in my real life, because ugh winter.

   SO: in case you do not know the general story of the Endurance expedition, here it is: Shackleton sets out for Antartica with a ship full of men and dogs with the intended goal of crossing the continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. The Weddell Sea is notoriously bad sailing (which is why the main station in Antarctica other than the one at South Pole is at McMurdo Sound), and alas, the Endurance was caught in sea-ice and crushed.

   The portion of the book describing the Endurance being locked into ice and slowly crushed then ultimately abandoned when it sank was so difficult for me to read that I had to take long breaks from reading. I was very emotional about that ship.

   So the ship sinks and Shackleton and the men are left on the ice with a couple of lifeboats, some tents, as many supplies as they could rescue, and the dogs. SO begins a long trek/float/sail/wait for good conditions to trek/float/sail to Elephant Island, a desolate bit of rock in some of the worst sea in the world. From there, Shackleton and a select few make their way to an island with a whaling station on it, but there is definitely rough sea and briny drinking water and glacier crossing to deal with before they can get help and EVEN THEN: its months and many attempts before they can get back to the blokes on Elephant Island and rescue them. NONE OF WHICH HAD PERISHED (unless you count their dogs which were all eaten because meat is meat when you are stranded in Antarctica).

   AND IT DOESN'T STOP THERE because if you're going to cross Antarctica you need some peeps over on the other side to pick you up when you are done and to depot some supplies. The Ross Sea party also had a rough go of it, and suffered fatalities. It's hard and sad to read, especially since these men received (and still receive) much less acknowledgement than the Weddell Sea party.

   And then after all of this, they get home during WWI and some of them just hop right into the fighting after years living on seal meat in dismal conditions.

it was v cold
   Basically: I want everyone in the world to read this book and I want to go to Antarctica and I need to read more about the Age of Exploration because I'll never know enough.

   p.s. do yourself a favour and google Frank Hurley's photos from all the expeditions he took to Antarctica as well as from WWI.