Times Colonist Annual Book Sale Haul

It’s that special time of year again. Christmas, you ask? No, much better than that. This weekend was the 19th annual used book here in Victoria. Every year they receive thousands of books by donation and sell them for one to three dollars. The proceeds go towards local literacy programs, and any remaining books are then made available for schools to pick up for free.

This means guilt-free book shopping! I also donated about nine of my own books, so I don’t even really have to worry about space.

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The only book I really had in mind going in was Tooth & Nail by Ian Rankin, as his books are always easy to find and I’m still undecided on the series, but I actually wasn’t able to find it. I think I came across every other book he’s written, but this one was nowhere to be found. I find that’s often the case with this sale. I never find what I’m specifically looking for, but I always still come home with a full box.

  • The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud
  • Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
  • Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
  • The Massacre Of Glencoe by John Buchan
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • So, Anyway… by John Cleese
  • The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes
  • The Tenth Man by Graham Greene
  • Congo by Michael Crichton
  • Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
  • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

All this for $34, and that’s actually more expensive than usual, but I picked up more hardcovers this year. I nearly bought John Cleese’s autobiography last month and then waited, so I was happy to pick that one up for $3. I’m also quite exited to get to The Salzburg Connection, as I love early to mid 20th century espionage and detective fiction, and I spent half a year in Salzburg during university. I plan to start with Gentlemen of the Road first, though, as I’ve been meaning to read a Michael Chabon novel for ages now.

Let the countdown for next year’s sale start now!

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Wishful Drinking

Wishful DrinkingWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Published: 2008
Narrated by: Carrie Fisher
Length: 03:08 (163 pages)

With the latest Star Wars release a few months back, I went down a black hole of interviews on YouTube and was reminded of how hilarious Carrie Fisher is. I knew she had written an autobiography, so I thought this would be the perfect time to check it out. It turns out she actually has three autobiographies and a number of novels, and after reading this I think I’ll eventually make my way through them all.

This first autobiography is based on her one-woman stage show, and it’s basically an overview of why she is so messed up, starting right from the beginning with being born the child of two celebrities, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.

Carrie Fisher has dealt with fairly severe bipolar disorder her entire life. Before she was diagnosed, as happens with many who suffer the same, her use of drugs and alcohol got out of hand and she found herself essentially self-medicating without knowing it – uppers for when you’re down, and downers for when you’re manic. It got bad enough that she underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) a few years before writing this, and I read somewhere that she has continued to use it to treat her depression since, which she goes into more detail about in later books.

ECT has come a long way from how it’s portrayed in the movies, even current movies, where someone is strapped to a table as punishment and the lights dim and flicker in the room as the patient’s body convulses. It is now done while the patient is medicated, they feel no pain, and it can apparently have incredible results in some people.

One side effect it can have is memory loss, which Fisher experienced, and she writes this from the perspective of regaining her memory after receiving ECT and seeing her crazy life from the outside – a fictional, drug-addicted princess with parent issues who not long ago awoke to find a dead gay Republican next to her in bed.

Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.

This is dark and hilarious, and Fisher’s narration of the audiobook really added to the experience. Her delivery was perfect. One of my favourite bits was her telling the story of how George Lucas explained to her his scientific reasoning of why she couldn’t wear a bra in space.

This is mainly stories from her childhood and her struggles with mental health, so you won’t get many Star Wars anecdotes in here. She’s actually been very outspoken about mental illness and the stigma around it for years now. It’s clearly something that’s affected her life and something she’s passionate about, and she tackles it with a lot of humour, which is always the best way to talk about potentially awkward topics.

I thought I would inaugurate a Bipolar Pride Day. You know, with floats and parades and stuff! On the floats we would get the depressives, and they wouldn’t even have to leave their beds – we’d just roll their beds out of their houses, and they could continue staring off miserably into space. And then for the manics, we’d have the manic marching band, with manics laughing and talking and shopping and fucking and making bad judgment calls.

Fisher is brutally honest on this. I don’t know how people can write so scathingly about their family and still be on speaking terms after, but she definitely doesn’t hold back anything here. At times it felt like she was trying a little too hard with her jokes, and presenting stuff as a little more scandalous than they came across, but it was never enough to take away from the experience.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Her next is Shockaholic, which I’ll be keeping an eye out for at the book sale next week.

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The Sculptor

The SculptorThe Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Format: Graphic Novel
Illustrated by: Scott McCloud
Publisher: First Second Books
Published: 2015
Length: 496 pages

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, but I kept hearing excellent things. I know Scott McCloud from, but haven’t yet read, his trilogy of non-fiction graphic novels on the topic of comics: Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics.

David Smith is a struggling artist who achieved minor fame early in his career and then watched it crumble away. He’s broke and facing possible homelessness, feeling like he’s hit rock bottom in his life, when he’s presented with a deal: his life for his art. He will be given a short amount of time to live, and in that time he will be able to create anything his imagination can conjure. Most people would not make such a trade, but for a depressed, selfish, fame-obsessed artist it seems perfect – a way out and a chance for his vision to live on. Of course, he meets an impossibly cool artsy girl along the way, and it complicates things. This is a tale of finding oneself, of the plight of an artist, and of an ill-fated romance.

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I thought this was fantastic. There were quite a few cliches in the storytelling, but because it was told in a whimsical way (both through the art and the plot), I found that easy to overlook. He balanced the two sides of the story, falling in love and pursuing his art, perfectly, adding tension in a way that didn’t feel too contrived.

This is the sort of story where the reader really needs to completely buy in from the beginning and just go along with it. Questions will arise, and it’s best to just smile and move on. Would someone willing to give their life for their art really spend what little time they have to selfishly pursue a new relationship, knowing that the best case scenario would only leave her, and his art, worse off? Would a sculptor receive the same pleasure from his art if it took no skill to create? Wouldn’t more people question how quickly he was able to produce his art or why they didn’t hear any hammering coming from his studio?

I also really didn’t like how he romanticized bipolar disorder. Perpetuating the tortured genius ‘I must suffer these lows to continue living a creative life’ cliche is both lazy and unhealthy. He did have characters who who took the side of medication, but he fell back on the idea of pushing through it with love, which is just silly.

I found myself able to easily brush these issues away while reading and just enjoy the story, which is strong enough to overcome these fairly minor problems. It was paced extremely well for such a chunky graphic novel, sometimes hectic and sometimes meandering, and I absolutely loved the art – his illustrations and the art the character creates. There is something really fun in watching someone vandalize a city in such an extreme way in the name of art.

I don’t know if McCloud has done much other fiction, but this has definitely given me a push to pick up his famous Understanding Comics soon.

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Golden Son

Golden Son (Red Rising, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Published: 2015
Series: Red Rising #2
Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 19:02 (464 pages)

Red Rising was one of my favourite books last year. I marked it as my first favourite, but I made the list right after reading it, and I might have still been coming down a bit. Either way, it was a fantastic novel. This is the second of the trilogy, and it easily lived up to the first book.

He always thinks because I’m reading, I’m not doing anything. There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extroverted.

I had a couple of small problems with the first book, mainly that the protagonist, Darrow, was a bit of a Gary Stu. He was fantastic at almost everything, which I could overlook since there were valid story elements that made that possible, but things seemed to come a little too easy for him. In this novel, outside of the ‘academy’ environment of Red Rising, not everything goes as smoothly, and that does serve as an interesting contrast to how he was used to being treated.

The first novel mainly took place in a training, clan-based, Hunger Games scenario, which was fun, but it left you feeling like not much happened. The scenario had real-world consequences, such as death and the forming of future alliances, but in a way it didn’t feel like it furthered the overall plot of Darrow’s mission. That turned around in this book, though, as he left the academy environment and made huge strides not just on Mars but throughout the galaxy. It made the stakes feel that much higher, the victories far more important and the failures even more painful. With this wider scope it did unfortunately meant there was less of the specific Ender’s Game like analysis of his tactics and motivations, which was my favourite part of the last book, but it made up for that in other ways. There are some brilliant scenes in this book

I will die. You will die. We will all die and the universe will carry on without care. All that we have is that shout into the wind – how we live. How we go. And how we stand before we fall.

This managed to avoid becoming the awkward middle child of the trilogy. I thought the plot had a strong fresh start, built off the first book, finished in a great place, and left the reader curious about what’s next to come. Everything a middle book in a trilogy should be. In many ways this improved upon the first, in some it fell a bit short, but overall this has been a fantastic series so far. Tim Gerard Reynolds’ narration of this is extraordinarily good as well.

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The Last Colony

The Last Colony (Old Man's War #3)The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Published: 2007
Series: Old Man’s War #3
Length: 336 pages

I’m a big fan of John Scalzi, and the Old Man’s War series are some of his best. This is the third novel, and in this we return to John Perry, the protagonist from the first book, and Jane Sagan.

This is a tricky one to summarize without giving away parts of the first book, but in a nutshell, the Colonial Defense Forces have decided to colonize a new planet despite pressure from a coalition of hundreds of races not to do so. John and Jane are chosen to lead the colonization efforts, and not only must they guide the settlers to thrive in a new environment and protect them from any dangers on the surface, but they also have to help the colony survive extraterrestrial threats.

This wasn’t my favourite of the series, but it was still a blast to read. I love Scalzi’s sarcastic dialogue, and the universe he’s built in this series is endlessly interesting, filled with different races and government intrigue. This definitely could have been a bit of a slower read, compared to the plots of the first two books, but it does turn out to be quite action packed. I was as equally interested in the managing of a new settlement as I was in the space opera-ish side of the story, which is a testament to how well he paced the plot. I also like how each of the novels in this series feels like a serious departure from the previous story, while still maintaining an identifiable tone and cohesive feel.

It’s good fun, but I did feel like it lacked some depth, as some parts of it felt underdeveloped. There’s a species on the planet that the settlers spend some time investigating, and confronting, and it felt like it led nowhere at all. I suppose the point was to add tension, and to drive home the fact that they were left on this planet without sufficient information, but by the end it just felt like an unfinished subplot or some action for action’s sake. This entire plot was also put into place because the Colonial Union, the human organization in charge of space expansion and defense, has apparently turned both stupid and evil, willing to sacrifice thousands of humans for recruitment purposes as a seemingly first option, and we don’t really get much background on that. It’s not one man with a mad scheme, it’s apparently a tactic agreed upon by all of the leaders.

There was a lot going on in these few hundred pages, which did cause them to fly by, but it also left us with some unexplored plot elements and flat main characters. This was supposed to be the last novel in the trilogy, but he’s written two more since this was published. I feel like if I thought this was the end, it would have been a fun but slightly disappointing end to a great series. The next book is actually a retelling of this same story, but told from another character’s point of view, which is an interesting idea. It’s hard to imagine that it’ll grip me the same way if I already know the outcome. It does sound like many of the underdeveloped plot points in this book will be expanded upon in Zoe’s Tale, so I’ll have to see how that goes.

Despite its minor problems, this was a lot of fun. If you’ve enjoyed any of his other books, definitely give this series a try, because it’s fantastic.

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March in Review

Books Acquired:
The Tragedy of Mister Morn by Vladimir Nabokov

Books Read:
The Last Colony (Old Man’s War #3) by John Scalzi
Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

I really enjoyed everything I read in March. Two were sequels to novels I love, so those aren’t too much of a surprise. The third is a graphic novel that got a lot of buzz last year and came highly recommended from a number of people I trust, so also not a huge surprise. The fourth was Carrie Fisher’s first autobiography, which I picked up on a complete whim and honestly had no idea what to expect. She’s hilarious in interviews, so I took a chance, and it turned out to be a complete riot.

This wasn’t just a good reading month, but a good gaming month as well, as you’ll see below. Unfortunately, this was partly due to having some routine medical procedures a few weeks ago, and I dumped a bunch of time into gaming to distract myself from all that, but nevertheless it resulted in some great games being played. I have a feeling I’ll be playing The Division for at least a few months more.

Also in book-related news, my girlfriend read her first Terry Pratchett novel, which is very exciting. I had a hard time recommending where to start, as the first few novels, while I love them, aren’t necessarily the best representation of his work. I ended up on The Wee Free Men. It’s fairly separate from most of the reoccurring characters, it’s the beginning of a mini-series, and I knew she’d get a kick out of the Nac Mac Feegles. Those are the most recent Discworld books I’ve read as well, so they were fresh in my mind I suppose. She just started A Hat Full of Sky, so that’s a good sign!

Movies watched:
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) – We really loved the first movie, and this sequel was a fun revisit, but not quite on the same level.

TV watched:
Cooked: Season 1 (2016) – Netflix turned Michael Pollan’s book of the same name into a four-episode documentary series, and we really enjoyed it. I haven’t read any of his books yet, so maybe I’ll seek one out soon. My girlfriend started making bread from scratch after watching this, so yay Michael Pollan.

Games played:
Tom Clancy’s The Division – (2016) (PC) – I’m having a lot of fun with this. The story is a bit anemic, but the gameplay is quite good, and playing with friends is a blast. There’s a player versus player element to this which can be quite exciting.

The Beginner’s Guide – (2015) (PC) – A short game that uses an analysis of game development to tell a cool story. Starts off slow, but I loved it by the very end. There’s a lot of stand-out moments in this.

Dreamfall Chapters: book 4 – (2015) (PC) – Book 4 was much better than the last couple of installments, thankfully. Still quite an average game and really only recommended if you’re a huge fan of The Longest Journey series.

Emerald City Confidential – (2009) (PC) – This is an early game from a favourite developer of mine, Wadjet Eye Games, maker of the Blackwell series. This starts off very slow, and doesn’t really get interesting until the last quarter. Enjoyable overall, but a bit basic. It did make me want to read the Oz books, though.

Clash Royale – (2016) (iOS) – This is a multiplayer strategy mobile game. Each match is only a few minutes, so it’s fun to squeeze a few in throughout the day. It seems simple at first, but the gameplay has surprising depth. It does have those free-to-play hooks in it, unfortunately. You can have a lot of fun playing it without paying, though, which I’ve still managed to do.

What have you been reading/watching/playing this month?

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Splutter in Senseless Sounds

The last post was getting a bit full of quotes, so I thought I’d leave these two slightly longer excerpts to their own post. They were too good not to share. The first on his attitude towards work:

It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me: my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more. I shall have to throw out a wing soon.

And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take a great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.

But, though I crave for work, I still like to be fair. I do not ask for more than my proper share.

And secondly, on the connection between food and emotion:

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, “Work!” After beefsteak and porter, it says, “Sleep!” After a cup of tea (two spoonsful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god- like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!”

After hot muffins, it says, “Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field – a brainless animal, with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life.” And after brandy, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, “Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow-men may laugh – drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of alcohol.”

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Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

Three Men in a Boat (Three Men, #1)Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
Published: 1889
Narrated by: Steven Crossley
Length: 06:44 (184 pages)

I can’t remember where I heard about this, I think this time last year it was unknown to me, but I would like to extend an enthusiastic thank you to whoever brought this to my attention. I absolutely loved this novel.

This follows three men, and a dog, as they take a two-week holiday to travel down the Thames by boat. This was originally meant to be a serious travel guide, but it quickly become more about the humourous insights that occurred along the way. He tried to work in some history to each chapter, but the publisher, rightfully, threw most of that out. A few of those sections remain and actually feel quite out of place in this. The end result was that the trip became a framing device for hilarious anecdotes and rants. This became a novel of tangents, and for a book with essentially no plot, something that would typically annoy the hell out of me, this turned out to be a joy from start to finish.

Young Jefferson only learnt to play one tune on those bagpipes; but I never heard any complaints about the insufficiency of his repertoire — none whatever.

There are rants on food, stories of rogue boat towing, tips for tricking a tea pot to boil, meditations on the struggles of amatuer bagpipery, and hilarious insights on an endless number of other topics. For being written a century and a half ago, this feels so modern. Not just the humour, but how he writes about the current times. I found it really interesting how he kept referring to the nineteenth-century as having problems with over-crowding and being too fast-paced when that’s a time we look back on as being idyllic in its simplicity.

I like to watch an old boatman rowing, especially one who has been hired by the hour. There is something so beautifully calm and restful about his method. It is so free from that fretful haste, that vehement striving, that is every day becoming more and more the bane of nineteenth-century life.

I just searched for the above quote purely for the mention of the nineteenth-century, and it happens to be hilarious in its own right. Every line in this novel is comedy gold and beautifully written. I love his turn of phrase. When speaking of not wanting to carry on due to rain, for example, he writes that “[…] to give in to the weather in a climate such as ours would be a most disastrous precedent.” I wish I could commit every line of this to memory.

I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.

So, I realize this post is mainly quotes with a bit of squealing in between, but open this novel to any page and you’ll find something worth quoting. It looks like he’s published quite a few other novels, plays, and short stories, including a sequel to this and an autobiography, so it is now my mission to track all of these down. Steven Crossley did an amazing job narrating this, but I’d like to find a physical copy to read as well. I could see myself coming back to this often.

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Animal Farm

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell
Published: 1945
Length: 112 pages (but read on e-reader)

This wasn’t part of my high school curriculum, so I finally decided to give it a try. I knew going in that it’s an allegory of the Russian Revolution, but I think even if you know embarrassingly little of that, like me unfortunately, the message of this and the conclusions drawn would be the same, which I suppose proves how well it was written.

This will include spoilers.

This is the story of a revolt gone wrong, of a successful revolution that ends with a government more oppressive than the one that was overthrown. This happens gradually. The farm is thriving at first, after the animals drive the humans out. They have goals for the future, such as a plan to build a windmill to provide running water and electricity, and food is plentiful. A pig on the farm, Snowball, takes initiative and begins teaching some of the animals to read and write, while also establishing Animalism. This is an ideology with seven written commandments to preserve the values they hold dear, such as ‘All animals are equal’.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long, as another pig on the farm, Napoleon, vies for power. Democratic meetings are replaced with a ruling committee, extra food is set aside for all pigs to enjoy, Snowball is driven from the farm, and the other animals are manipulated, over time, to forget Snowball’s achievements and the initial dreams of the revolution. By the end, the seven commandments are replaced with a singular phrase, ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’, and as the animals of the farm watch the ruling pigs interact with the humans, their original oppressors, they can hardly tell the difference between them.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

It always feels a bit silly to read such a widely known classic as an adult, one that most high school kids in the west are forced to read, and give an opinion on something that has been analysed to death. I will hazard to say that I thought this was very well written and entertaining, half expecting the earth to shake with a resounding ‘no shit‘ from everyone in the world who read this years ago. It’s so well written that it seems almost a simple endeavour to take a revolution, pull out the key characters, turn them into anthropomorphized animals and have them play out what happened on a farm, but to do that and have it not turn out as trite nonsense is a testament to Orwell’s skill as a writer.

I always find it fascinating to read how entire populations of people are manipulated like this. It’s easy to feel immune to this sort of exploitation, but it does seem very effective. A common approach is to cut off access to outside information, feed lies to the society, and to use their fear to manipulate them. That’s how Napoleon turned the farm against Snowball, and it’s the same approach Malala Yousafzai describes the Taliban using to recruit new members. With our access to uncensored Internet, you would think, and hope, that such a tactic would be ineffective in a lot of the world now, but who knows with the strange things people come to believe. Educated adults with working Internet connections have been voting for Trump and not vaccinating their children, so I suppose anything is possible.

I should mention that this is still, unsurprisingly I suppose, banned in a few communist countries around the world, as well as in the United Arab Emirates for violating Islamic values (talking piggies), but I was surprised to see that Orwell had a difficult time getting it published in the first place, due to Britain’s alliance with the Soviet Union during the second world war. Four publishers refused it, one of which initially accepted it but later declined after speaking to the Ministry of Information, and it was apparently found later that the ministry agent believed to have persuaded them to reject the work was actually a Soviet spy.

As an aside, this was my first e-book! I thought a shorter novella would be a good place to start, so I borrowed my girlfriend’s Kobo and tried it on there. I thought not having a physical copy with a bookmark sticking out to gauge my progress would bother me, but the chapter and overall progress percentage was quite satisfying. The estimated time to finish the chapter was handy as well. I love stats and will take any I can get. I have such a backlog of physical books, and I don’t really read away from home that often, so I don’t think I’ll be switching any time soon, but there are a few slightly obscure novellas that I think I’ll be picking up on there soon.

Great little book. I can’t wait to read more from Orwell. I have my sights on Down and Out in Paris and London next, I think

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You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day
Published: 2015
Narrated by: Felicia Day, Joss Whedon (foreword)
Length: 06:17 (260 pages)

I first came across Felicia Day in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which I loved, and I later picked up a copy of The Guild‘s first season on DVD at a signing, which was nearly a decade ago now. Not having seen the show at that point, I accidentally ignored Sandeep Parikh at the singing table. which is a shame because he was probably my favourite of the cast when I finally got around to watching it. We even all took an awkward photo together, which I made slightly more awkward by absentmindedly referring to myself as a cotton candy lumberjack, due to the bright plaid shirt I was wearing.

I haven’t seen most of her latest television roles, but I do keep an eye on her YouTube empire Geek & Sundry. She has really created something cool there, and it hasn’t been an easy road. She’s had to deal with mental health issues and assholes on the Internet every step of the way.

Because if you can’t be your own weird self on the internet, where can you be? And what would be the point?

This autobiography doesn’t go too much into her acting career, really just focusing on the experiences that relate to her Internet presence, and as much as I’d enjoy hearing stories from the set of Buffy, I think focusing the book in this way makes sense. If you’re going to write an autobiography at a fairly young age, before you’re winning lifetime achievement awards, there needs to be a very specific focus. Her acting career seems solid, but it’s not groundbreaking, whereas she could be seen as a pioneer in successful online media.

An uncredited study she read once said, quote, “Girls become really stupid in science after they get their period, so you’d better learn as much as possible before that happens.” I had such anxiety about this “clearly proven” biological fact that I was studying calculus by the age of twelve. When I finally got my period, I cried, not because I was growing up, but because I had just learned derivatives and really enjoyed doing them.

It begins with her childhood, growing up without many friends, largely due to having been homeschooled by hippy parents. It sounds like her studies were very slack, but something seemed to work out because she managed to get a full university scholarship and graduate with degrees in both music performance and mathematics. Many of the friendships she cultivated were through online games, which kickstarted her love with the Internet. We cover her time with those games, included a very awkward meet-up between the players, her first experiences with the web in university, her addiction to World of Warcraft, the trials of making The Guild and publishing it online, and finally how she managed to create her latest Geek & Sundry YouTube channel.

Throughout this, particularly in the last few years, she struggled with depression and anxiety and developed a fairly severe thyroid issue. When she cut her hair quite short a few years ago, and people on the Internet went crazy the way they do when a celebrity does something like that (which, to be clear, is pathetic and sad), she was actually losing chunks of hair due to being ill. I imagine having legions of idiots commenting on how awful her haircut was probably didn’t help things, but I guess that’s one of the joys of fame.

After finishing the book, she decided to add another chapter on Gamer Gate, which had just sparked up, and I really enjoyed that chapter. Gamer Gate, if you’re lucky enough not to know, was a ridiculously convoluted flame war a couple of years back. From what I understand, the simplest explanation is that it was originally touted as a criticism on the integrity of gaming journalism, but really just became a guise for angry misogynists on the Internet to harass women. This included, but was not limited to, making public the addresses and phone numbers of any women who spoke out and sending them death and rape threats. The chapter was on how she was afraid to get involved, having been doxxed and threatened in the past already, and how she eventually decided to anyway, which resulted in her being immediately doxxed. That whole controversy left a horrible tarnish on the gaming industry, but hopefully it resulted in more people understanding what many women face when they jump into an online game or post a YouTube video, thanks to those who risked speaking out.

This was a fun read, despite the content described above. It’s full of Felicia’s quirky humour, and her narration of the audiobook was great and really added a lot. Joss Whedon also provided a nice foreward, but I found his narration really odd. It felt more like he was breathlessly narrating a harlequin romance novel. Definitely the most sensual introduction to an autobiography I’ve ever heard.

I enjoy reading about people following their passions and having success in personal projects, and I love a little nerdy comedy mixed with some serious issues, so this was a great read for me.

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