meghan rose allen

March 2017

Posted by in this month I ...

I read:


All the Places I've Ever Lived by David Gaffney: Review posted earlier.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: Review posted earlier.

Are You There Krishna? It's Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever. by Rachel Khona: Review posted earlier.

The Universe is a Machine by James Michel Hughes: Review posted earlier.

I feel I'm slowing down on reading. I don't know why. So little makes me want to read, but then I crave reading constantly, so I think it's just standard meghan brain nonsense.

Favourite book:

We've all heard the hard sudoku comment (if not, in a creative writing class, another student said reading what I wrote was like doing a hard sudoku puzzle, and no one wants to do a hard sudoku puzzle because it's too hard. Of course, I only do hard sudoku puzzles if I'm going to be doing a sudoku puzzle, so the comment was demonstrably wrong, but I kept my trap shut). Pat Barker is hard sudoku. I'm not even sure I know what she's talking about half the time, but I love it anyway.

Most promising book on my wishlist:

I watched:

I wrote:

Faerie story is done. Just writing random scenes since then. Trying to get my new-writing groove back.


Review of Everything Reminds You of Something Else by Elana Wolff

Posted by in netgalley copy

I'm still not sure if I know how to read poetry. I find poems don't stick in my head very long, like they blend into my neurons' background noise after reading them, thinning out until there's not much left. Like yesterday, less than twelve hours ago, I read Everything Reminds You of Something Else, with a poem about the ringing postman, and laying in bed not getting up, and I knew exactly that feeling and thought I'll write about that in my review! and then forgot about it entirely until this moment when I was flipping (well, e-flipping, it's a PDF) through and remembered. So I went from knowing exactly that feeling, a poem with perfect resonance, to, less than a day later, wiped from my mind. Is that me or the poetry? What does it say that the only poems I manage to recall are A.A. Milne's and Shel Silverstein's poems for kids?

Unprompted, here is what I remembered from Everything Reminds You of Something Else:

  1. there is a poem with a guinea pig in it (for eating, not cuddling; they are in Ecuador);
  2. this quote: writing is compensation for a shortfall of some sort.

Maybe poetry is like air and we breathe it in greedily, use it in our muscles, but then, usefulness exhausted, we breathe out the remains and forget about it?

I think I liked Everything Reminds You of Something Else. There were many >, which make me think of greater than's. Indents are cut lines all over the pages. I liked the flow. It seemed consistent. Maybe I should stop requesting to review poetry books, but I like having poetry in my life, even if I don't know how to speak intelligently about it.

A pigeon in a crack of the Wailing Wall -- that was in the poetry book too. See, I can remember some things 🙂

Everything Reminds You of Something Else by Elana Wolff went on sale April 1, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review of The Universe is a Machine by James Michel Hughes

Posted by in netgalley copy

In which Meghan judges requests books by their cover and finds herself reading a self-published physics manifesto.

See this cover:

It reminds me of this cover:

even though the blue and green are inverted and the first is about physics and the second about modern algebra. The second I bought when I was eleven or twelve at the Port Charlotte public library, thinking I was so smart because I totally knew what algebra meant. Me thinking algebra meant the elementary algebra of solving linear equations. The book thinking algebra meant abstract algebra starting by defining what I vaguely recall as a group and going from there. Smack down to eleven-year old Meghan. I think my copy of Modern Algebra might be somewhere. Geoff's office maybe? I always meant to go through it and be super smart. Then I went and got some math degrees, so I probably don't really *need* to go through it any more, especially since I don't know where it ended up.

Is any of this relevant to The Universe is a Machine? No. Not really, other than I am interested in things that remind me of other things I didn't read.

So here's the rub: The Universe is a Machine is a self-published book about classical mechanics, specifically centrifugal forces, which acted on the (cutest nomenclature ever) baby universe, giving the universe an ellipsoid shape, which one can infer through imaging of the CMB in which a doppler effect is observed. Spinning at startling speeds at its outset, all matter was flung to the edges, while anti-matter was not. So somewhere in the center of the universe is a big glob of antimatter, while at the edges is matter. If we assume a big crunch, then eventually matter and anti-matter will meet, EXPLOSION, and possibly cause global warming.

It all sounds ... plausible maybe? I have no idea. I'm not a cosmologist. It definitely sounds science-y enough, but I can't shake the feeling that, while I shouldn't discount outsider scientists, wouldn't you rather share your ideas in a peer-reviewed setting? Or even on arXiv? How do I know you're not just cherry-picking the examples and numbers that support your hypothesis rather than taking a look at everything to find a hypothesis that best suits the data? You know that feeling you get when your grocery bill is a whole dollar amount (like $63.00) and you think Wow! How rare is that!, even though it's just as rare as getting a decimal of $0.89 or $0.12 or $0.45, except we tend not to notice the other decimals, only the times when it's $0.00. Felt that way the whole book.

So I have no idea. It's dry and it attempts to sound scientific. But without peer review by people who actually know astrophysics, I can't say much. Even though I did. A whole lot. Up above.

The Universe is a Machine by James Michel Hughes went on sale September 28, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review of Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us by Ananth Hirsch and Yuko Ota

Posted by in netgalley copy

I understand the sentiment. Tesfa had a birthday party for our cat the same day as my party. More people came for the cat party.

Little slice-of-life comics collected together. No real over-arching plot. At the end they get married (out of nowhere, but maybe if I had followed along on the webcomic it wouldn't have been so out of nowhere). There are cats. I enjoy reading books where cats are present. Ananth and Yuko's cats seem very much like my two cats (although, perhaps all cats seem like my cats because all cats are essentially interchangeable and we cat lovers are deluding ourselves into giving our pets personalities and ... nah. Cats are each and every one uniquely awesome.)

Nothing earth shattering, but a pleasant way to spend an hour, reading about cats and New York and bits of other people's lives.

Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us by Ananth Hirsch and Yuko Ota went on sale March 29, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review of Are You There Krishna? It's Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever. by Rachel Khona

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There wasn't a whole lot here that resonated with me, probably because I'm not going to have a lot of similarities with someone who sees a pubic hair peaking out of a bathing suit crotch and freaks out. Or who expects her friends to pull the emergency-stop lever on a train after she misses it. But, at the same time, there's something to be admired about a woman who acts, to take Mindy Kaling's words, "with the entitlement of a tall, blond, white man." Something. But then many tall, blond, white men act like jerks. The vignettes Khona recounts in her book also make her look like a jerk. So success? Yay?

It's a sort of fluff-feminism, like a collection of Cosmo articles, which is fine. Nothing wrong with fluff-feminism, and, as Khona points out a handful of times, nothing wrong with being a feminist and also enjoying fashion, makeup, etc. But this book is just potato chips: you aren't going to feel that full afterwards, even if you get a grin or two from it.

Are You There Krishna? It's Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever. by Rachel Khona went on sale February 1, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Posted by in netgalley copy

Why are you smiling? my daughter asks me. You never smile.

It's funny I say. The book.

Oh my daughter says. That's good.

And it is funny. It's almost light-hearted as it touches on the different aspects of growing up mixed-race in apartheid and early-post apartheid South Africa. Obviously, none of the racism, sexism, colourism, poverty, domestic violence, general violence, etc., is funny or light-hearted, but Noah's approach makes all the heavy stuff manageable. He pokes fun at the inane society he was born into, taking its power away by demonstrating how ridiculous apartheid and its consequences are. Some of it is shtick (what memoir isn't?), but it's a genuinely well-written, well-thought-out memoir about South Africa in transition, about his mother (who I loved), about being a kid and doing stupid things in a brutal world.

And, thankfully, it's not rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps-despite-injustice read. As Noah himself writes:

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.

Maybe some of our neo-con politicians need to sit down and think about that.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah went on sale November 15, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


four posts from me in one day!

Posted by in longer stories

To be fair, three were scheduled book review posts, so they were written when I actually finished those books. This is the only one actually written today, March 7, 2017. Although I have a migraine so who knows, perhaps I'm reading the date wrong.

But ... ... (it requires two sets of ellipses for adequate suspense): FAERIE STORY!

I have written all the way to the end. For a limited time only, as always, here it is, both as PDF and ePub. I make very little claim for the ePub because I took my LaTeX file and I think it went through something like htLaTeX or LaTeXht or something, that gave me an HTML file, then I ran that through a Calibre converter to an ePub and I looked it over and it seemed acceptable, but maybe it isn't. But it doesn't matter because I have a completed version of my middle grade novel: How To See The Faeries.

LINKS REMOVED: Contact me for access.

I'm pretty pleased with myself, but also really unsure. Maybe my story is awful. Maybe it isn't. The point is I actually completed something. Good for me.

But seriously, my head feels like it's going to explode, so if those links don't work, let me know so I can fix them.


Review of Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

Posted by in netgalley copy

I am rarely this enthused about my ARCs.

But yes. All the yesses.

A collection of comic strips from a book-loving, anxiety-feeling, over-thinking, always-cold introvert whose uterus often just pops up and surprises her? You can bet your bippy that when it shows up on Netgalley with the Read Now button right there I'm going to stop everything I'm doing, click on it, and then devour it immediately, actual work be-damned!

It's basically me, in comic book form, and it's funny, and I laughed laughed laughed laughed laughed, which I rarely do.

Granted, if you're not exactly like me/Sarah Andersen, maybe it won't be as wonderfully awesome, but it'll still be, if not wonderfully, then at least adequately awesome. I might even buy a paper copy of it just to have around for smile-needing, surprise-uturus-depression emergencies.

Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen went on sale March 7, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review of Bright Air Black by David Vann

Posted by in netgalley copy

I guess spoiler alerts for a story that originated around 700 BCE. Consider yourself duly warned.

Another of those Netgalley books I must request in a! trance because it's a retelling of the story of Medea and I knew nothing about the initial telling of the story of Medea so how much did I really need to read a retelling of it? (Surprisingly though, from somewhere in the great media stew that is popular culture, I did know that Medea is known, in part, for killing her own sons. Now, where did I learn that? I doubt it was from forgotten nineties CBC melodrama The Odyssey, which had a character named Medea. Does anyone other than my mother and I remember that show? Can't drive past a field of corn without thinking about it.)

So we're thrown right in mid-story. Jason has stolen the golden fleece and is escaping with Medea, who has just killed her brother and is launching him, bit by bit, overboard (they're on a boat!) to slow down her father, who is pursuing them. There's a presumption that the reader knows the story of Medea and doesn't need to look this background information up or if they do, they have internet access and aren't, say, sitting in their car in the parking lot of the public pool waiting to pick their kid up from a birthday party.

But honestly, I got half-way through the book before I decided to look up the story of Medea (thank you wikipedia), which actually means that even thrown into Bright Air Black blind, there was enough there to keep me going. It's dense, sure, but intriguing to read, with an interesting take that many of the stories of Jason's Argonauts were enriched in the telling, i.e. fish story lies with only nuggets of truth as the base.

But for a book about Medea, from Medea's perspective, all that could be said is that she's angry. The prototypical angry female. Obviously, much of the anger is justified (like being made a slave by her uncle-in-law), but other times (like having sex with a corpse), I just don't get it. Take away that anger and it's hard to say something specifically about Medea. She's not a flesh-and-blood character as much as raw rage. Raw rage is forceful enough to move a story forward, but not as compelling as a character in-and-of itself.

Still, those are after-thoughts. While reading it, I kept at it, wanting to see how Vann would portray the next step of the story. So maybe I'm overthinking everything.

The ultimate bitches-be-crazy book, except, just like in real life when someone mansplains away a woman's anger as bitches-be-crazy, Medea justifiably has a lot to be pissed off about, in part because men in the book keep mansplaining to her and saying bitches-be-crazy in her direction.

Bright Air Black by David Vann went on sale March 7, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review of The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Posted by in netgalley copy

I hate saying a book about war, about refugees, about trauma, was a quick read. It's like saying: Show me the worst parts of your life and I'll be through it in an hour or less. Sometimes I think I need a life for each sad book I read, to do it justice.

The Best We Could Do is sad. Not overwhelmingly so, but it's definitely not unicorns smiling rainbows. In a sense, it's about disappointments, little, large, and in between. It's the story of Bui's parents, of Bui and her family fleeing Vietnam, of resettling in California, of Bui becoming a mother. But a book of disappointments can end up as nothing other than a disappointment. It's only a teeny one: by the time we're getting into the groove, into the feeling of these people's lives, the book ends. Just stops cold. And some of the themes that I wanted explored more (in particular how Bui becoming a mother affects her view of her parents) aren't. The Best We Could Do skims the surface when I want to go deep.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui went on sale March 7, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.