Invisible Monsters

img_3435

Book: Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Date Read: February 6 to 16, 2020

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

The February prompt for The Unread Shelf Project was a book that was gifted to you. This book was gifted to me quite some time ago—I’m going to guess some time around my 25th birthday, back in 2011. My friend Kirsten and I had a tradition of celebrating our birthdays very late with the exchange of books as gifts. It was included in the first chunk of books that I added onto my official to read list on Goodreads; the 50ish books that I consider the true bottom of my to read pile. I digress. I suppose my point is that this certainly fits the bill for the purpose of this project, as it not only meets the prompt but also has been waiting for me for quite some time (sorry, Kirsten).

I had a little bit of a Chuck Palahniuk kick back around that time, which I remember talking about with my friend; I am sure part of the reason that she decided on this particular book as a gift, although I am not sure that she had read it. I read Fight Club, Choke, and then Haunted, all in fairly short succession. While I enjoyed them all, I needed a break from the madness. There is something about Palahniuk’s work that leaves me a little mentally exhausted. Invisible Monsters was no exception to that—I quickly found myself totally engrossed in this book. The writing and style are intriguing, but the story itself is like a train wreck where you cannot help but gape at the disaster.

One of the reviews printed in the first few pages of the book describes it as a “twisted soap opera,” and I feel that really hits the nail on the head. Although generally moving forward in time, the story is told non-sequentially, with many flashbacks that help each bit of this crazy puzzle fit together. The plot twists and turns, while somehow still moving forward at the hurtling speed of a runaway train. There is commentary along the way about the nature of existence, although I feel like it is up to the reader to decide how deeply this should be taken: maybe we are simply dealing with the insane ramblings of the drug-addled troupe, or perhaps there is something more there, in the need to break free from expectations and the possibilities brought forth from utter disaster and chaos.

At several points during my reading, I wondered at how the story was progressing and the direction it seemed to aim. The first chapter gives some not-at-all-subtle foreshadowing of what is to come, and while it all seemed to fit perfectly with the narrative, I felt myself feeling increasingly dissatisfied with how I expected things to turn out. No doubt that the book was entertaining, but the ending I anticipated seemed a sort of anticlimax in that it wrapped things up just a bit too neatly. I should have known better. There were a few additional twists waiting at the end, after the rest of the story and caught up to the opening paragraphs. The conclusion feels perfect, but also leaves a funny taste in my mouth, to be quite honest: an unusual combination of dark humor and philosophical thought.

Boris’s thoughts: “This is all too weird for me. 1 paw.”

Unread Shelf Progress for February

  • Books Read: 2
  • Books Acquired: 1
  • Total Unread Books: 263

The Unread Shelf Project

I got behind this month, so I wanted to write an out of regular sequence post to talk about something that I am working on this year.

I discovered the Unread Shelf Project on Instagram some time near the end of 2018. It felt like a good fit for me, and I decided to participate throughout last year. This is a reading challenge, with a very particular focus: reading the books that are already on your shelves. I have a huge backlog of books that I have collected through the years. While I do want to read them all, the accumulation of high numbers can be daunting, and it can be so easy to grab for something shiny and new rather than look through the stacks that have been waiting.

I started 2020 with my highest number of unread books ever: 270. Needless to say, this is something that I do need to focus on a bit more. I think participating in 2019 was good for me, and I am planning to participate again through 2020. I love to read and collect books, but I do have a bad habit of acquiring much faster than I consume. I could list out many reasons for that, but ultimately, a big part of the problem is that I do not always make reading time the priority that I would like it to be. I am certainly not banning myself from buying new books, but am working on being more intentional in those I choose and not just loading myself up with stacks of new books.

The idea of reading challenges has always been appealing to me. It can serve as an interesting way to choose the next read, and can be a fun scavenger hunt to find something that fits. Unfortunately, I have always had difficulty finding reading challenges that really work for me. With my very long list of books to read, I always made an effort to find books on my shelf to fit each prompt, but would inevitably end up using this as an excuse to accumulate new books. This is part of what makes this project a good fit for me: a reading challenge that is specifically designed to allow you to focus on books you already own. There is a single prompt every month, and each one is written to allow for flexibility: everyone has a book in their favorite genre, or one recommended by a friend.

For 2020, I am adding my own little personal challenge: I want to finish my chosen book and write my review post in time for my final post each month. This is one of many ways that I am hoping to stay more up to date online, as well as challenge myself to read a bit more. If I want to stick to my personal time line, I will need to read quickly enough to finish the book well before the end of the month. In January, I decided to finish off a book series that I started in December as a kickoff to 2020 reading. I have plans to post on that series a bit later in the year. This week Wednesday will be the first of my monthly Unread Shelf picks for the remainder of the year: a book that was gifted to me.

More information on The Unread Shelf Project can be found here:

 

As an overview, here are the prompts for 2020:

  • January: any unread book
  • February: gifted to you
  • March: been on your unread shelf the longest
  • April: most recently acquired
  • May: a backlist title
  • June: from a series
  • July: voted for you by bookstagram
  • August: a buddy read
  • September: forget where or why you got it
  • October: a book that scares/intimidates you
  • November: from your favorite genre
  • December: shortest book on your shelf

The October Country

img_2499Date Read: October 19 to December 1, 2019

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

I read The October Country a few months back as a sort of reward for myself— if you have been following along, you may recall that in October I was challenged to read a book that scares me, and chose the lowest rated book on my to read shelf, which I had been putting off for quite some time. (I wrote about that here, if you’re interested.) I planned on reading this one next, as a sort of carrot for myself: finish the book I was less excited about so that I could move on to one that I was excited to read. Coincidentally, this was also a good fit for the November Unread Shelf challenge, a book from your favorite genre. I have a tough time defining a favorite genre, but I think this was a good fit for that.

This collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury turned out to be that perfect reward. Although it took me longer than I had hoped to finish, it was well worth the time spent. The October Country is introduced as a sort propensity for darkness that exists within us. A place that is not inherently evil, but perhaps a little creepy with the potential for wickedness. Despite an overwhelming sense of spookiness, I would not classify anything in this book as outright horror.

Rather than go for an upfront scare, these stories leave one with a feeling of uneasiness. Many of the endings are at least a tad ambiguous, leaving the level of horror up to the imagination of the reader. Some ease in with some creepiness, but end with a sense of sadness—a man left with a shattered self, an average person born into a family of immortals, a glimmer of hope with a grave consequence.

One story that particularly stood out to me was The Next in Line, which I am positive relates to the fact that I have visited the location of the story in the recent past. I have very clear memories of walking through the cemetery, and looking down the spiral staircase into the crypt. The Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato looks very different now than the room described in the story, but having seen them for myself, the thought of being haunted by the faces encountered there is by no means a stretch of the imagination.

Boris’s thoughts: “It’s always all about the spooky with you, isn’t it? 3 paws.”

Book: The October Country by Ray Bradbury

A Friend for Dragon

img_3067As a kick off to the third year of Books On My Cat, I present to you A Friend for Dragon by Dav Pilkey. This is the first book in the Dragon series of book, which I have written about several times before. Dragon is one of my favorite children’s characters. He is always getting into some sort of misadventure—in this case, Dragon falls for a prank and mistakenly assumes that an apple that has fallen on his head is actually looking to become his friend. Despite the misunderstanding, Dragon finds the apple to be a delightful friend, who is a good listener, has common interests, and shares with his friends.

I admit that this is not my favorite addition to the Dragon collection, but I think it sets a nice tone to the series. We get a good glimpse of his personality, which is then built upon in the later books. Dragon is a little naïve, but is also willing to make the most of any situation with his positive attitude. If everyone else is too busy, why not spend your time hanging out with an apple? Of course, apples do not last forever (especially when you are tricked into thinking you have a special speaking apple, and the culprit of the trick is no longer around to fake an appley voice). Although Dragon is quite distraught at the loss of his friend, he receives a pleasant surprise the summer after laying his friend to rest in the backyard.

Of course, as you may have noticed in the photo, today is also the debut of a friend of Boris: introducing Minka, a sassy little girl that joined our family at the end of December. She was found near where my dad works as a kitten in July; she was alone despite seeming too young to have left her mother. My dad began to care for her, and she moved into the office building. After living there for a few months, and with the weather starting to turn cold, he decided that it was time for her to have a more proper home and asked if Boris needed a friend. I was reluctant, as Boris has always struck me as a lone cat personality, but we decided to give it a try. The two are still getting used to having another cat around, but are starting to warm up to each other a bit. While Boris is still my number one guy, you will start to see a bit more of Minka around here!

Book: A Friend for Dragon by Dav Pilkey

Biggest Apologies

I was so excited about my new plans for Books On My Cat that I got ahead of myself– I started to write content to schedule but just kept writing and never scheduled it!! I had a post ready to go for this week, but alas, it is saved on my laptop at home while I am out of town. My sincerest apologies to readers. I am so disappointed in myself.

So as not to leave you completely without content this week, I will share my current situation, and what I imagine Boris to be doing in my absence: