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miss contraire's little library

Zet's book reviews and book photography. Read more about this blog or check out the list so far. Visit my main tumblr.

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Palo AltoBy James Franco
I think I know better than to complain about a book that a lot of people have warned me about. I haven’t finished all of the stories, but I have formed an opinion about it.
This collection is full of teenage angst and constant whining. Maybe that’s where people get the whole “Catcher in The Rye” comparison. The difference is that I enjoyed Holden’s thoughts a lot more. I’m not a professional fiction writer or anything, but there is that phase in writing (at least, for me) wherein you get stuck in one voice for too long that it gets hard to break away from it. I don’t know if James Franco intended his stories to be this way, but the they all feel the same to me.
I haven’t decided if I want to keep reading.
One thing I really can’t figure out is the deal with his author portrait. I can’t tell if he was being serious or not when he chose it. Was he mocking himself or was he seriously trying to look literary in it? I’d rather think the former.

Palo Alto
By James Franco

I think I know better than to complain about a book that a lot of people have warned me about. I haven’t finished all of the stories, but I have formed an opinion about it.

This collection is full of teenage angst and constant whining. Maybe that’s where people get the whole “Catcher in The Rye” comparison. The difference is that I enjoyed Holden’s thoughts a lot more. I’m not a professional fiction writer or anything, but there is that phase in writing (at least, for me) wherein you get stuck in one voice for too long that it gets hard to break away from it. I don’t know if James Franco intended his stories to be this way, but the they all feel the same to me.

I haven’t decided if I want to keep reading.

One thing I really can’t figure out is the deal with his author portrait. I can’t tell if he was being serious or not when he chose it. Was he mocking himself or was he seriously trying to look literary in it? I’d rather think the former.

ShortcomingsBy Adrian Tomine
My main problem with this graphic novel is that it ended. I was having such a great time reading it that by the time I reached the last page, I couldn’t believe how Adrian Tomine could betray me like that. Dammit.
Needless to say, this graphic novel is awesome. I only borrowed a friend’s copy, but I am determined to get my own and re-read it many, many times. Its accurate depiction of an aimless life after college and during semi-adulthood really affected me. It also touched issues of race (Asians in the US, to be specific), fidelity, and important life decisions. Beautiful art plus deadpan humor and the depressing reality of each of the characters’ lives made Shortcomings an incredibly enjoyable book. I would seriously recommend it to everyone.

Shortcomings
By Adrian Tomine

My main problem with this graphic novel is that it ended. I was having such a great time reading it that by the time I reached the last page, I couldn’t believe how Adrian Tomine could betray me like that. Dammit.

Needless to say, this graphic novel is awesome. I only borrowed a friend’s copy, but I am determined to get my own and re-read it many, many times. Its accurate depiction of an aimless life after college and during semi-adulthood really affected me. It also touched issues of race (Asians in the US, to be specific), fidelity, and important life decisions. Beautiful art plus deadpan humor and the depressing reality of each of the characters’ lives made Shortcomings an incredibly enjoyable book. I would seriously recommend it to everyone.

No One Belongs Here More Than YouBy Miranda July
This collection in three words: candid, heartfelt, and a little bit pesky. The challenge with reviewing this short story collection is that I’d give one story five stars out of five and another, a star or maybe none at all. But that’s to be expected of collections and anthologies.
I’ll say it straight-out: Miranda July’s writing is not for everyone. I loved “The Shared Patio” so much that I wanted to quote the whole story. On the other hand, a particular story made me want to throw away the damn book. Sometimes, she gets so brutally honest that it’s hard to continue reading. I’m not sure of her intentions, but I really cringed at some of them.
Some people think she’s pretentious, but I think her mind is really just… all over the place. Her thoughts go from this to that so fast that you sometimes lose track of the whole point of it all. But when she’s good, she’s damn good.
What am I trying to say? This book is worth it. I think she’s a brilliant, multi-talented person (with the coolest hair). It’s a lovely collection with more hits than misses. She’s nasty sometimes, but aren’t we all a little bit of this and that?
(I’m not sure if this review even made any sense.)

No One Belongs Here More Than You
By Miranda July

This collection in three words: candid, heartfelt, and a little bit pesky. The challenge with reviewing this short story collection is that I’d give one story five stars out of five and another, a star or maybe none at all. But that’s to be expected of collections and anthologies.

I’ll say it straight-out: Miranda July’s writing is not for everyone. I loved “The Shared Patio” so much that I wanted to quote the whole story. On the other hand, a particular story made me want to throw away the damn book. Sometimes, she gets so brutally honest that it’s hard to continue reading. I’m not sure of her intentions, but I really cringed at some of them.

Some people think she’s pretentious, but I think her mind is really just… all over the place. Her thoughts go from this to that so fast that you sometimes lose track of the whole point of it all. But when she’s good, she’s damn good.

What am I trying to say? This book is worth it. I think she’s a brilliant, multi-talented person (with the coolest hair). It’s a lovely collection with more hits than misses. She’s nasty sometimes, but aren’t we all a little bit of this and that?

(I’m not sure if this review even made any sense.)

(Source: planetickets)

Sexing The CherryBy Jeanette Winterson
I’m actually not done with this book yet, but it is BEAUTIFUL. I’ll try to post the review before the week ends. :)

Sexing The Cherry
By Jeanette Winterson

I’m actually not done with this book yet, but it is BEAUTIFUL. I’ll try to post the review before the week ends. :)

ElephantBy Raymond Carver
After so many predictable book choices (my taste is heavily skewed towards metafiction), I decided to go with a recommendation by a friend. I started with this collection which I later learned isn’t his best and shouldn’t be the one you start with if you’re new to Carver.
Carver’s short stories seem simple and straightforward at first with its characters mostly dealing with internal squabble. I say simple because his writing is entirely without pretensions and almost always precise. He’s quite the minimalist and his stories do not affect you much after a first reading. After a second reading, however, you slowly get the smaller details within seemingly uncomplicated sentences, or statements, and they just end up blowing you away with the kind of impact that just hits you right where it should.
The best part about Carver’s stories is how relatable and humane his characters are. They are among us. Heck, they are us. We all face these things and think these thoughts. Carver’s talent in putting our fragile, human feelings into words is so apparent in this collection. And this isn’t even his best collection. I am definitely eager to read more.
Because I usually mention my favorites in short story collections, I will mention one which affected me the most. “Intimacy” is about a writer who visits his ex-wife without notice and she ends up giving him a passionate soliloquy about all the hurt she has experienced since he left her. Its end lacks a resolution that we typically search for in stories (beginning, middle, and end), but Carver follows no such structure. His stories often leave you confused and discontented. In need of an answer or two. Maybe if you read them once or twice more and you just might get a clue, at the very least. There’s also the possibility of getting no such answers, just like in life where experiences are often open-ended or without resolve.

Elephant
By Raymond Carver

After so many predictable book choices (my taste is heavily skewed towards metafiction), I decided to go with a recommendation by a friend. I started with this collection which I later learned isn’t his best and shouldn’t be the one you start with if you’re new to Carver.

Carver’s short stories seem simple and straightforward at first with its characters mostly dealing with internal squabble. I say simple because his writing is entirely without pretensions and almost always precise. He’s quite the minimalist and his stories do not affect you much after a first reading. After a second reading, however, you slowly get the smaller details within seemingly uncomplicated sentences, or statements, and they just end up blowing you away with the kind of impact that just hits you right where it should.

The best part about Carver’s stories is how relatable and humane his characters are. They are among us. Heck, they are us. We all face these things and think these thoughts. Carver’s talent in putting our fragile, human feelings into words is so apparent in this collection. And this isn’t even his best collection. I am definitely eager to read more.

Because I usually mention my favorites in short story collections, I will mention one which affected me the most. “Intimacy” is about a writer who visits his ex-wife without notice and she ends up giving him a passionate soliloquy about all the hurt she has experienced since he left her. Its end lacks a resolution that we typically search for in stories (beginning, middle, and end), but Carver follows no such structure. His stories often leave you confused and discontented. In need of an answer or two. Maybe if you read them once or twice more and you just might get a clue, at the very least. There’s also the possibility of getting no such answers, just like in life where experiences are often open-ended or without resolve.

How We Are HungryBy Dave Eggers 
I don’t know why I didn’t review this before. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to flood Miss Contraire with consecutive reviews of Dave Eggers’s books. But anyway. I’m reviewing it now because I re-read it today and it made me feel all sorts of wonderful. Just like the first time.
You probably consider me an unreliable reviewer when it comes to Dave Eggers because I so obviously love everything he does. Well, I concur. I don’t even know if I could ever hate anything he’s written or done.
How We Are Hungry is a collection of fourteen short stories about all sorts of things. One of my favorites is “The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water” because of Hand’s appearance which reminded me of just how much I miss him and Will. It’s a wonderful short story of a love between two friends that can’t decide if it wants to take that jump to the other side or not, while concurrently tackling other things such as surfing, foreign lands, and strange men. It’s pretty long compared to the others and for good reason.
Another favorite is “She Waits, Seething, Blooming,” which is about a mother waiting for her son to get home way past his curfew while imagining the things she’d say and do to him once gets in. It’s a very familiar story that takes place in the mind of a worried mom who’s also aware of her authority over a delinquent teenager. I can’t remember how many times I’ve felt that way; scheming in my head all the things I’d say and do only to end up tongue-tied in the end.
All in all, it’s a wonderful collection. I didn’t love every single one of the stories, but none of them disappointed me either. As a big fan, I was reminded of all the things I love about Dave Eggers as a writer, a constructor of beautiful words, and an observer of people. Corny as it may sound, but I am hungry for more.

How We Are Hungry
By Dave Eggers 

I don’t know why I didn’t review this before. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to flood Miss Contraire with consecutive reviews of Dave Eggers’s books. But anyway. I’m reviewing it now because I re-read it today and it made me feel all sorts of wonderful. Just like the first time.

You probably consider me an unreliable reviewer when it comes to Dave Eggers because I so obviously love everything he does. Well, I concur. I don’t even know if I could ever hate anything he’s written or done.

How We Are Hungry is a collection of fourteen short stories about all sorts of things. One of my favorites is “The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water” because of Hand’s appearance which reminded me of just how much I miss him and Will. It’s a wonderful short story of a love between two friends that can’t decide if it wants to take that jump to the other side or not, while concurrently tackling other things such as surfing, foreign lands, and strange men. It’s pretty long compared to the others and for good reason.

Another favorite is “She Waits, Seething, Blooming,” which is about a mother waiting for her son to get home way past his curfew while imagining the things she’d say and do to him once gets in. It’s a very familiar story that takes place in the mind of a worried mom who’s also aware of her authority over a delinquent teenager. I can’t remember how many times I’ve felt that way; scheming in my head all the things I’d say and do only to end up tongue-tied in the end.

All in all, it’s a wonderful collection. I didn’t love every single one of the stories, but none of them disappointed me either. As a big fan, I was reminded of all the things I love about Dave Eggers as a writer, a constructor of beautiful words, and an observer of people. Corny as it may sound, but I am hungry for more.

VacationBy Deb Olin Unferth

"Between us we had space, silence. We had longing shooting one direction and nothing coming back. His despondency tied me to him. His jagged wanderings. His sad starlight vigils. I gave in to it. I went along."

How do I even begin? I loved this book so much. So much that it pained me to finish it. I took my time with this because despite how depressing it was, I kind of enjoyed it. Ugh. Let’s get real. I really, really loved it.
Deb Olin Unferth is unlike any other. Her way with words is amazing, as I’ve said before, and reading this book just made me feel so lucky. More people should read her stories. You have no idea just how much you’re missing out on.
Okay. Enough gushing.
This book is about a man who follows his wife while she follows a stranger. That stranger goes out of town and the man goes after him. But that’s not all. The book shifts from narrator to narrator adding so much mystery to the story. The first chapter will get you hooked. You will not rest until you finish the whole thing. Trust me on this. (It’s so hard not to gush about a book as good as this.)
Please. Do yourself a favor and read Vacation. It will change you and make you feel things you’ve never felt about a book before.

Vacation
By Deb Olin Unferth

"Between us we had space, silence. We had longing shooting one direction and nothing coming back. His despondency tied me to him. His jagged wanderings. His sad starlight vigils. I gave in to it. I went along."

How do I even begin? I loved this book so much. So much that it pained me to finish it. I took my time with this because despite how depressing it was, I kind of enjoyed it. Ugh. Let’s get real. I really, really loved it.

Deb Olin Unferth is unlike any other. Her way with words is amazing, as I’ve said before, and reading this book just made me feel so lucky. More people should read her stories. You have no idea just how much you’re missing out on.

Okay. Enough gushing.

This book is about a man who follows his wife while she follows a stranger. That stranger goes out of town and the man goes after him. But that’s not all. The book shifts from narrator to narrator adding so much mystery to the story. The first chapter will get you hooked. You will not rest until you finish the whole thing. Trust me on this. (It’s so hard not to gush about a book as good as this.)

Please. Do yourself a favor and read Vacation. It will change you and make you feel things you’ve never felt about a book before.

BOOKFACES This book is huge and pretty! Edition
Currently reading. I’m sorry, Colum McCann. I’ll get back to you soon.

BOOKFACES This book is huge and pretty! Edition

Currently reading. I’m sorry, Colum McCann. I’ll get back to you soon.

Minor RobberiesBy Deb Olin Unferth
This is a particularly difficult book, or author, to review. Deb Olin Unferth made me feel so many different kinds of emotions with this short short story collection. In fact, I immediately started on “Vacation” right after this one simply because I couldn’t get enough. Though in comparison, “Minor Robberies” has more wordplay which may annoy a few and delight the rest.
Let me give you an example of her marvelous writing if you’re unconvinced:

And now, he says, after being so honest he feels like he must be in an exceedingly healthy relationship with someone he can tell everything to. But the fact is, he says, he feels like he is, or he felt like was a second ago, but that doesn’t mean that he is and, in fact, he probably isn’t, so he tells me that in order to be honest too. And now, he says, he’s feeling many things connected to memories and ideas and each thought is a revision of the last thought, each thought is a new emotion requiring honesty and each thought changes him and he can’t explain to me each shift quickly enough before a new shift occurs and so the only way he can be honest is to sit across from me and say, “I’ve changed. I’ve changed. I’ve changed. I’ve changed. I’ve changed.”

The very obvious verdict is this: I loved this book. I am in love with Deb Olin Unferth. I can’t get her words out of my head.
The cheesier version of the very obvious verdict is this: I am forever changed by Deb Olin Unferth. I’m not even done with “Vacation” yet!
And that’s all I have to say about this.

Minor Robberies
By Deb Olin Unferth

This is a particularly difficult book, or author, to review. Deb Olin Unferth made me feel so many different kinds of emotions with this short short story collection. In fact, I immediately started on “Vacation” right after this one simply because I couldn’t get enough. Though in comparison, “Minor Robberies” has more wordplay which may annoy a few and delight the rest.

Let me give you an example of her marvelous writing if you’re unconvinced:

And now, he says, after being so honest he feels like he must be in an exceedingly healthy relationship with someone he can tell everything to. But the fact is, he says, he feels like he is, or he felt like was a second ago, but that doesn’t mean that he is and, in fact, he probably isn’t, so he tells me that in order to be honest too. And now, he says, he’s feeling many things connected to memories and ideas and each thought is a revision of the last thought, each thought is a new emotion requiring honesty and each thought changes him and he can’t explain to me each shift quickly enough before a new shift occurs and so the only way he can be honest is to sit across from me and say, “I’ve changed. I’ve changed. I’ve changed. I’ve changed. I’ve changed.”

The very obvious verdict is this: I loved this book. I am in love with Deb Olin Unferth. I can’t get her words out of my head.

The cheesier version of the very obvious verdict is this: I am forever changed by Deb Olin Unferth. I’m not even done with “Vacation” yet!

And that’s all I have to say about this.

MY VERY OWN HOLY GRAIL. Signed and numbered edition of Dave Eggers’ “The Wild Things”. <3

MY VERY OWN HOLY GRAIL. Signed and numbered edition of Dave Eggers’ “The Wild Things”. <3

Deb Olin Unferth.

She had me at the first sentence. This is sort of like falling in love at first sight, but even better. Her writing is so beautifully structured that it almost feels like an indulgence to read. I am most definitely in love.

Slaughterhouse-FiveBy Kurt Vonnegut
I realized that I&#8217;m probably one of the many ignorant kids of my generation who have been too busy to pick up a book by this author, so this is officially my introduction to Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes.
I admit that my venture into reading a Vonnegut book was triggered by my curiosity, yet again, after reading a lot of positive, even gushing, reviews about most of his books. For a book that&#8217;s dealing with the horror and gore of war conflated with issues of time travel and alien abduction, it is so incredibly well-written. He describes the events so matter-of-factly that descriptions of corpses and human waste don&#8217;t throw you off. Instead, you keep on reading. He writes with a certain level of humor washed with sarcasm that makes you appreciate the experiences that&#8217;s being presented to you without feeling any kind of disgust.
Billy Pilgrim becomes &#8216;unstuck in time&#8217; after a plane crash. The story takes you back and forth to different points in Billy&#8217;s life&#8212;from his experiences pre- and post-war. The novel also has some science fiction elements with regards to Billy getting abducted by the aliens from the planet of Tralfamadore. His daughter refuses to believe him and instead takes it as one of the many signs of his deteriorating health. The Tralfamadorians teach him about seeing life in the fourth dimension. They believe that their body never truly dies and that it continues to exist in other times and places when it was still alive.

&#8220;I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of  the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does  not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is.&#8221;

It may sound like a weird book and it is, but it also heartrendingly humanistic. The truth is, this book reminded me of J. D. Salinger&#8217;s &#8220;The Catcher in The Rye&#8221;. The experience as a whole felt familiar and the difference is that, I enjoyed this book a lot more than the other. Don&#8217;t get me wrong. The similarity lies in the writing style and how Billy Pilgrim reminded me so much of Holden Caulfield, but that&#8217;s about it. This book stands on its own, definitely. So does Salinger&#8217;s &#8220;The Catcher in The Rye&#8221;. I&#8217;m re-reading both in the near future because they are the kind of books that call for a second or third visit.

Slaughterhouse-Five
By Kurt Vonnegut

I realized that I’m probably one of the many ignorant kids of my generation who have been too busy to pick up a book by this author, so this is officially my introduction to Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes.

I admit that my venture into reading a Vonnegut book was triggered by my curiosity, yet again, after reading a lot of positive, even gushing, reviews about most of his books. For a book that’s dealing with the horror and gore of war conflated with issues of time travel and alien abduction, it is so incredibly well-written. He describes the events so matter-of-factly that descriptions of corpses and human waste don’t throw you off. Instead, you keep on reading. He writes with a certain level of humor washed with sarcasm that makes you appreciate the experiences that’s being presented to you without feeling any kind of disgust.

Billy Pilgrim becomes ‘unstuck in time’ after a plane crash. The story takes you back and forth to different points in Billy’s life—from his experiences pre- and post-war. The novel also has some science fiction elements with regards to Billy getting abducted by the aliens from the planet of Tralfamadore. His daughter refuses to believe him and instead takes it as one of the many signs of his deteriorating health. The Tralfamadorians teach him about seeing life in the fourth dimension. They believe that their body never truly dies and that it continues to exist in other times and places when it was still alive.

I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is.

It may sound like a weird book and it is, but it also heartrendingly humanistic. The truth is, this book reminded me of J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in The Rye”. The experience as a whole felt familiar and the difference is that, I enjoyed this book a lot more than the other. Don’t get me wrong. The similarity lies in the writing style and how Billy Pilgrim reminded me so much of Holden Caulfield, but that’s about it. This book stands on its own, definitely. So does Salinger’s “The Catcher in The Rye”. I’m re-reading both in the near future because they are the kind of books that call for a second or third visit.

The Wild ThingsBy Dave Eggers
I started reading this yesterday after two weeks of Infinite Jest and in desperate need of a light read. I browsed my shelf, looking for an unread book, and picked this up. I decided to read a few pages first, but this book, it turned out, was a total page-turner. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. It may be due to its beautiful simplicity, which I terribly missed, and how it reminded me of a time when I was young and confused and how I wanted everyone to think that I was the center of their universe.
It&#8217;s funny because Max, the protagonist, gets so heavily disturbed after learning about the sun and how it&#8217;s bound to die someday. Which to me, greatly shadows his worries about his own family and how they have seemingly lost all interest and trust in him.
This is not the usual Dave Eggers kind of book and it&#8217;s totally okay. You won&#8217;t even mind the absence of his colorful language. I enjoyed every minute spent reading this and would probably reread it when I&#8217;m in the mood for yet another rumpus with Max.

The Wild Things
By Dave Eggers

I started reading this yesterday after two weeks of Infinite Jest and in desperate need of a light read. I browsed my shelf, looking for an unread book, and picked this up. I decided to read a few pages first, but this book, it turned out, was a total page-turner. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. It may be due to its beautiful simplicity, which I terribly missed, and how it reminded me of a time when I was young and confused and how I wanted everyone to think that I was the center of their universe.

It’s funny because Max, the protagonist, gets so heavily disturbed after learning about the sun and how it’s bound to die someday. Which to me, greatly shadows his worries about his own family and how they have seemingly lost all interest and trust in him.

This is not the usual Dave Eggers kind of book and it’s totally okay. You won’t even mind the absence of his colorful language. I enjoyed every minute spent reading this and would probably reread it when I’m in the mood for yet another rumpus with Max.

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