Outlandish Lit

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? [Aug 22, 2016]

Monday, August 22, 2016

Getting back into the swing of things with a normal old It's Monday post! I guess I haven't technically checked in with what I've been reading in weeks, and that is partially because I haven't been reading. But I did finish 2 books while I was traveling! Sadly, they both continued the streak of 3.5 star books, though I guess maybe I gave The Girls 4 stars. I don't even remember. Just looked at Goodreads, and literally the last 8 books I've read have been 3.5s. And within the last 27 books I've read, there have only been seven 4s to break up the 3s and 3.5s. That means 75% of the books I've read since March have been just ok. No wonder I hate reading!!

I'm participating in the Bout of Books readathon this week and you can track my progress here and on Twitter. I'm starting with some heavy hitters in the hopes that we'll find a five star this week.

  • The Girls by Emma Cline (finished in Japan)
  • Confessions by Kanae Minato (finished somewhere over the Pacific Ocean)


I'm around 50 pages, maybe more, into The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood. I had been looking forward to this Australian novel for what felt like forever and right now I'm kind of hesitant about it. Right now I'm kind of pessimistic about books (see above), so I'm worried the feminist horror plot might be a little too obvious. But so many bookish people I love and trust threw five stars at this bad boy, so I'm hopeful.

I'm similarly around 50 pages into The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I thought I would be on top of this one and read it well before publication, but then Oprah happened. I'm not sure if I've read a slave narrative since high school, so I'm really excited to continue reading this one. I'm pretty enthralled at this point and, again, everybody is throwing out the full 5 stars. Can't wait to cry!!!

What are you reading this week?


A Readathon: Bout of Books 17!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I've been looking forward to Bout of Books all week long. I desperately need some incentive to get myself out of this reading slump. And you should join me! Bout of Books is a pretty relaxed week-long readathon with a bunch of fun challenges, opportunities to win books, and Twitter chats to meets new bookish people. Here are the specifics if you'd like to get in on it:

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 22nd and runs through Sunday, August 28th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 17 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I'm going to be posting all of my updates here, so be sure to check back. My work schedule is kind of horrible and not super conducive to readathoning, but oh well. I'll also be chatting and updating more frequently on Twitter, complaining w/ weird filters on Snapchat (uulianne), and posting pretty book photos on Instagram. Follow me there and say hi! And be sure to leave a comment if you're participating, so I can see what you're up to!


I don't actually wholly know what I want to read this week. I kind of just want to ~go with the flow~. But here are some I've had my eye on or am halfway through and need to finish.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
UFOs by Leslie Kean
The Swan Book by Alexis Wright
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn 
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard 
Riverine by Angela Palm
Neon Green by Margaret Wappler
How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball
Moonstone by Sjon
Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone by Sequoia Nagamatsu
The Devourers by Indra Das


Number of pages read today: 10
Books read from today: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Total number of books finished: 0

Starting with a bang, day one!!! I sort of expected not to read much, but I did have four hours between my two different work shifts. I was hyped and ready to read. But then my grandpa wanted to get lunch. And not just any lunch: Thai food. How could I say no? So that just sort of threw everything off. Still not completely into The Natural Way of Things, but I want to give it more of a chance.

Number of pages read today: 50!!
Books read from today: The Natural Way of Things
Total number of books finished: 0!

Ok, this is much better! I know 50 pages isn't wildly impressive, but I'm finally enthralled in this book and really enjoying reading. Tonight was my big night to read, BUT I had a surprise visit by a friend who insisted on arguing about politics for a couple hours. Then we watched Bob Ross. SO MESMERIZING, I had never seen a full episode of his show. I almost took more time away from reading to see if I could become a master painter in 30 minutes, but I controlled myself. Next week I will paint.

Number of pages read today: 6
Books read from today: The Natural Way of Things
Total number of books finished: 0

I worked 12 hour! Nope!

Number of pages read today: 25
Books read from today: The Natural Way of Things
Total number of books finished: 0

It felt like I had read a lot today, but I was wrong. Tomorrow and Saturday are my days to fix this very slow Bout of Books.

Number of pages read today: 86
Books read from today: The Natural Way of Things, Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Total number of books finished: 1

There we go!! I finally finished a book. And read more than 50 pages. Unfortunately, I have really mixed feelings about The Natural Way of Things. I don't know if I liked it or not. There are PARTS I liked. But I think I went in with too high of expectations, because at no point did it blow my mind. I'd rate it somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. I hate to say this, but it might be another 3.5 in the streak of 3.5s I've read. I really have to mix it up right now. I grabbed Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone, because it's a collection of weird short stories. But I feel like I might have to even stray from my stack because nothing there is really exciting me. I need to find a book that excites me back into reading this week!

Number of pages read today:
Books read from today:
Total number of books finished: 

Number of pages read today: 
Books read from today: 
Total number of books finished: 

Japan Journal #2: When Things Don't Go According to Plan

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I've been home for 5 days or so, and I've had so much trouble getting myself to write this post. As a blogger, there's a lot of weird pressure to put a positive spin on everything for the sake of the reader. I kept getting stuck on how I was going to spin the last week of my trip to be some sort of positive learning experience. And I'm not even someone who aims to be "inspirational" or anything. I fully embrace negativity in most aspects of life and blogging. While I definitely learned a lot during my trip, that doesn't make some parts of it shitty. And that's ok. So I'm just going to take the time to write an honest post, because I think that's more valuable and interesting anyway.

If you missed part one, you can read it here. Buckle up, girls and boys. Where did we leave off?


As some of you may know, I've gotten into CouchSurfing - a site where you can find free accommodation/friendship while traveling. I hadn't done any surfing, I had only hosted people and had wonderful experiences. For a month before our trip I spent AGES trying to nail down as much budget accommodation as possible and had 2 CouchSurfing hosts lined up for the last leg of the trip.

Ok, anyway, we took 7 different trains (9 hours) to get from Tokyo to Kyoto and went to our host's apartment. Within 15 minutes there, we felt so uncomfortable that we had to leave. The apartment was one of the most disgusting places I had ever seen in my life. Trash everywhere, things rotting, grime coating everything, and to top it all off - cockroaches. Kyoto isn't a poor, rural area. This is a big, modern city and the rest of the apartment building did not look at all like this guy's apartment. I don't have high standards at all, but it was unacceptable. I felt grossed out and I felt offended and I felt sort of duped. Why would somebody invite people into their home if it looked like this? You don't make money. It's completely voluntary. You can have literally any other hobby. Play a video game! Ride a bike!

So it's 11 pm or so and we're alone at night in a new city with nowhere to stay. I was really upset, both because of the circumstance and because I had spent so much time trying to find accommodation and I had fucked it up. I try not to be hard on myself, because he had 16 references and only one mentioned a messy bathroom. It's just hard to have plans that you worked hard to make fall apart. So I cried in my pajamas in a weird cowboy themed restaurant in Kyoto (surreal) for a few minutes then started looking for hotels. We ended up having to drop a surprise $120 to stay in hotels for the next couple days. A good thing that came out of it: I got to experience the public bath they had, which was one of the weirder/most relaxing times I've ever had. We had a place to stow our luggage and sleep, so we put everything behind us and focused on visiting many of the beautiful shrines in Kyoto. What's interesting about Kyoto is how much older it is than Tokyo. It felt very different.

Fushimi Inari Taisha was one of my favorite places in Kyoto. You may know it from the Thousand Torii Gates (the rows of red wooden gates featured in many photos). I didn't realize it was actually a mountain that you climb until I was too far in to turn back. It was hot as fuck, but I'm so glad we took the time to go all the way up and explore the little paths that ventured off the main path. There were wild cats living there!

Another shrine I loved was Kokedera, the moss shrine. It's smaller and less well known than the big ol' Kiyomizudera or the bamboo grove (both of which I went to), but it's sooooo enchanting. It felt like I was in another world. And now I really want to get some moss terrariums in my life. BEAUTIFUL.

At this point in our trip, we felt sort of lonely. Many people had insisted that that a lot of Japanese people would be coming up to us randomly to use their English or take photos of us, which is a weird promise to make anybody. And it totally didn't happen. Ever. It's hard to explain how isolating it is to be somebody who isn't Japanese in Japan. It's to be expected, of course, but it's really intense how separate we are. We're not necessarily treated badly or anything, we're just made to feel like we live in separate, impenetrable bubbles. A perfect representation of this loneliness was one day we were walking through a market and we spotted a white guy on a bike. He wasn't the first non-Asian person we had seen, but we also had learned on this trip that non-Asians are not always English speakers! SURPRISE! He spotted us and smiled, then I smiled, which made him grin even bigger and blurt "Hey, guys!" I hadn't seen someone so excited or outgoing in a long time. It brightened my mood entirely, and then he was gone.

I had scheduled one night where we'd stay in a hostel, and it ended up being one of our favorite nights of the entire trip. The owner was sooo nice and his friend introduced himself to us. He studied English, so he wanted to speak with us and we ended up chatting for hours into the night. A hostel guest from South Korea also joined us, and she was an absolute doll. It was really fun talking about the differences in our languages and cultures. In Japan there are vending machines literally everywhere outside with soft drinks, cigarettes, and alcohol. We told them that we have snack vending machines in America and everyone at the table started HOWLING with laughter. There was laughter abound that night.


We had been alerted by our friend who got us buddy passes that people were getting stuck in the Tokyo airport for weeks, so very sadly we had to leave early and from the central Japan airport. Our plan had been to spend our last days in Tokyo, but, again, my plans were falling apart. It was hard. There were a lot of things I didn't take photos of, because I assumed we would be back. Since we had made friends with the hostel owner that night, I asked him if he had any openings at the hostel for one more night. He didn't, but he agreed to let us stay at his other property for a meager $30. I was so grateful.

After that night we headed to Nagoya and managed to fly out of Japan on the first available flight. And, WAY outside of our plans, it was to Hawaii! Getting to fly business class on an international flight almost made up for what happened next.


We were stuck in Hawaii for 5 days. I know, I know, it sounds just AWFUL. But let me clarify. For one, there was the initial (and very long) "where will we stay for less than $300 a night" panic. Luckily, I found out that Lindsay from Lindsay's Library lives in Honolulu and she graciously let us sleep in her beautiful home. We stayed with her way longer than we should have, but she was so nice and made us feel so welcome. Every day at 4:30 am we went straight to the airport. And then we waited through all of the flights, getting our hopes up that we'd be let on and being crushed each time it didn't work out. If you're flying with a buddy pass, you never make any progress on the standby lists. You're always lowest priority. Also, when we first got to Hawaii I made the joke "I can't wait for the Hawaiian music that I assume plays all the time." The airport actually never stops playing Hawaiian music. I nearly went insane. Thankfully, one day we were able to go to the beach, and another Lindsay and her husband showed us around the island a bit. It was so lovely. I never thought I'd go to Hawaii, or at least I wouldn't until I was much older and richer. O'ahu is a beautiful island and I'm delighted we made new friends during our short time there.

Aloha, mother fuckers

But the airport wore me down so much that I was crying multiple times a day by the end of our lengthy lei-over. Delta help desks are much meaner and less helpful than one would think. But airport strangers are much kinder. A woman I was having a friendly conversation with about Hawaii and Japan and traveling shook hope back into me by giving me $100 while her husband wasn't looking, completely unprompted. She told me she was "being obedient." I'm not religious, but I can't help but start tearing up just typing this. People are amazing, you guys. They really are and I'm so grateful for everyone that I've had the opportunity to meet on this trip.

We did finally get out of Hawaii. Seattle was where we had our lowest moment, however. I'll keep it short. Delta's servers went down. Great timing, right? We got in at 11 pm. The flight to Minneapolis was at 12:50. Then it was delayed to 3 am. But we were still giddy, because it looked like there were plenty of seats and very few people on the standby list. The gate agents started working through the standby list late. We were two people away from getting cleared. They suddenly were unable to clear standby people for seats, even though there was plenty of room. The flight was about to time out, meaning they would have to cancel the entire flight if they didn't push out (look at all this airport terminology). They closed the doors on us even though there were ten seats open. I sobbed like a baby in public.

A bunch of flights were all cancelled and there was no way out. We caved and had to spend $400 extra on tickets to Phoenix then Minneapolis through a different airline. It was so dreadful, but I'm happy to be home. It was hard to adjust initially, coming from a society that's generally very quiet and polite then ending up at the Seattle airport where rude strangers are coming up to me or complaining loudly to nobody in particular about being stuck in the airport for a few hours (cry me a river). Honestly, my amazing time in Japan feels very far away now and I already want to go back. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to go there with good friends, for the time I had there, and for the people I met throughout the entire journey.

Maybe I will make a list of things I learned after all.
  • So much about how airports work.
  • I know so little Japanese.
  • I knew enough Japanese.
  • If something sounds interesting, but it's a little off the beaten path - do it.
  • Start conversations with people. Meeting people was the best part of our trip and we did far too little of it. Only good things came from the conversations we did have. At a bar in Kyoto we met a random French man who we ended up going to the best tonkatsu restaurant in the city with. It was a great night. In Hawaii, we got $100 off a car rental just because we took the time to have a friendly conversation with the woman at the counter. You can find kindness anywhere you go, it's incredible!
  • If you feel uncomfortable, do something about it. Fuck politeness, even in Japan.
  • Don't ever think that things can't get worse. They totally can.
  • When planning, severely overestimate how much money you think you're going to spend on a trip.
  • Try the free samples.
  • Don't take the tentacle sushi off the conveyor belt, it's not worth it.
  • Let yourself sit still if you need to sit still.
  • Press all of the buttons on the fancy Japanese toilet.
  • Book bloggers are STILL the nicest people in the world.
  • You can never prepare for everything.
  • Take time to really appreciate every good thing in your day.
  • Always bring duct tape with you.

If there's anything you want to know about traveling in Japan or about Japan in general, please let me know! I'm considering going more in depth about certain topics people are curious about. I certainly didn't get to cover everything in these journals.

13 Books To Look For This August

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Aloha, book nerds. The first week of August is done now and alreadya bunch of interesting books have come out. I'm in Hawaii now for ~who knows how long~ so I don't have access to my copies of these new books. But I can dream about them from afar as I sit in the ocean and try not to get eaten by sharks. Fill up your TBR list with some new books for the tail end of summer reading!

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjon (August 2)

Máni Steinn is queer in a society in which the idea of homosexuality is beyond the furthest extreme. His city, Reykjavik in 1918, is homogeneous and isolated and seems entirely defenseless against the Spanish flu, which has already torn through Europe, Asia, and North America and is now lapping up on Iceland's shores. And if the flu doesn't do it, there's always the threat that war will spread all the way north. And yet the outside world has also brought Icelanders cinema! And there's nothing like a dark, silent room with a film from Europe flickering on the screen to help you escape from the overwhelming threats--and adventures--of the night, to transport you, to make you feel like everything is going to be all right. For Máni Steinn, the question is whether, at Reykjavik's darkest hour, he should retreat all the way into this imaginary world, or if he should engage with the society that has so soundly rejected him. - Sjon is so interesting, and I'm excited to see anything he does. I was very enchanted by The Blue Fox.

The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward (August 2)

In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, The Progressive magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin’s 1962 “Letter to My Nephew,” which was later published in his landmark book, The Fire Next Time. Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: “You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.”

Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin’s words ring as true as ever today. In response, she has gathered short essays, memoir, and a few essential poems to engage the question of race in the United States. And she has turned to some of her generation’s most original thinkers and writers to give voice to their concerns. - Important.

The Hike by Drew Magary (August 2)

When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike. Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily. With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects.

On a quest of epic, life-or-death proportions, Ben finds help comes in some of the most unexpected forms, including a profane crustacean and a variety of magical objects, tools, and potions. Desperate to return to his family, Ben is determined to track down the “Producer,” the creator of the world in which he is being held hostage and the only one who can free him from the path. 

War Porn by Roy Scranton (August 2)

“War porn,” n. Videos, images, and narratives featuring graphic violence, often brought back from combat zones, viewed voyeuristically or for emotional gratification. Such media are often presented and circulated without context, though they may be used as evidence of war crimes.

War porn is also, in Roy Scranton’s searing debut novel, a metaphor for the experience of war in the age of the War on Terror, the fracturing and fragmentation of perspective, time, and self that afflicts soldiers and civilians alike, and the global networks and face-to-face moments that suture our fragmented lives together. In War Porn three lives fit inside one another like nesting dolls: a restless young woman at an end-of-summer barbecue in Utah; an American soldier in occupied Baghdad; and Qasim al-Zabadi, an Iraqi math professor, who faces the US invasion of his country with fear, denial, and perseverance. As War Porn cuts from America to Iraq and back again, as home and hell merge, we come to see America through the eyes of the occupied, even as we see Qasim become a prisoner of the occupation. Through the looking glass of War Porn, Scranton reveals the fragile humanity that connects Americans and Iraqis, torturers and the tortured, victors and their victims.

Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi (August 2)

When eighteen year old Keiko Yamada’s father dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a one way ticket to Japan, an unintelligible death poem about powerful Japanese spirits and their gigantic, beast-like Guardians, and the cryptic words: “Go to Japan in my place. Find the Gate. My camera will show you the way.”

Alone and afraid, Keiko travels to Tokyo, determined to fulfil her father’s dying wish. There, beneath glittering neon signs, her father’s death poem comes to life. Ancient spirits spring from the shadows. Chaos envelops the city, and as Keiko flees its burning streets, her guide, the beautiful Yui Akiko, makes a stunning confession – that she, Yui, is one of a handful of spirits left behind to defend the world against the most powerful among them: a once noble spirit now insane. Keiko must decide if she will honour her father’s heritage and take her rightful place among the gods. - Just heard about this book and because it's Japan-y, I obviously had to include it.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (August 9)

In the ten years since the publication of her beloved, groundbreaking Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, #1 New York Times bestselling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal has been quietly tinkering away. Using her distinct blend of nonlinear narrative, wistful reflections, and insightful wit, she has created a modest but mighty new work.

Why the title T​extbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal?​

• Because the book is organized into chapters with classic subject headings such as Social Studies, Music, Language Arts, Math, etc. • Because textbook ​is an expression meaning “quintessential,” as in, Oh, that wordplay and unconventional format is so typical of her, so textbook Amy. • Because for the first time ever, readers can further engage with a book via text messaging. • Because if an author’s previous book has E​ncyclopedia i​n the title, following it up with a ​Textbook would be rather nice. Not exactly a memoir, not just a collection of observations, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an exploration into the many ways we are connected on this planet and speaks to the awe, bewilderment, and poignancy of being alive. - I haven't read Amy Krouse Rosenthal before, but I'm SO intrigued by the weird format of this book.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville (August 9)

THE LAST DAYS OF NEW PARIS is an intense and gripping tale set in an alternative universe: June 1940 following Paris’ fall to the Germans, the villa of Air-Bel in Marsailles, is filled with Trotskyists, anti-fascists, exiled artists, and surrealists. One Air-Bel dissident decides the best way to fight the Nazis is to construct a surrealist bomb. When the bomb is accidentally detonated, surrealist Cataclysm sweeps Paris and transforms it according to a violent, weaponized dream logic. - This one doesn't quite seem like my kind of book, but it's China Mieville, the god of strange who I love, so here I am.

Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere But Here by Angela Palm (August 16)

Angela Palm grew up in a place not marked on the map, her house set on the banks of a river that had been straightened to make way for farmland. Every year, the Kankakee River in rural Indiana flooded and returned to its old course while the residents sandbagged their homes against the rising water. From her bedroom window, Palm watched the neighbor boy and loved him in secret, imagining a life with him even as she longed for a future that held more than a job at the neighborhood bar. For Palm, caught in this landscape of flood and drought, escape was a continually receding hope.

Though she did escape, as an adult Palm finds herself drawn back, like the river, to her origins. But this means more than just recalling vibrant, complicated memories of the place that shaped her, or trying to understand the family that raised her. It means visiting the prison where the boy that she loved is serving a life sentence for a brutal murder. It means trying to chart, through the mesmerizing, interconnected essays of Riverine, what happens when a single event forces the path of her life off course. - GRAYWOLF!

Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) by N.K. Jemisin (August 16)


The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken. - I still haven't read the first book in this series, but I want to so badly. N.K. Jemisin is perfect and amazing. Shaina Reads raved about the first book here.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (August 16)

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is—a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friend—an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably—but only because it’s over. - I can't help myself, I think she's just so funny.

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal (August 16)

Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing… - I really enjoyed Kowal's Forest of Memory, so I'm interested in giving this one a shot even though historical stuff isn't normally my specific wheelhouse.

The Nix by Nathan Hill (August 30)

Meet Samuel Andresen-Anderson: stalled writer, bored teacher at a local college, obsessive player of an online video game. He hasn’t seen his mother, Faye, since she walked out when he was a child. But then one day there she is, all over the news, throwing rocks at a presidential candidate. The media paints Faye as a militant radical with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother never left her small Iowa town. Which version of his mother is the true one? Determined to solve the puzzle—and finally have something to deliver to his publisher—Samuel decides to capitalize on his mother’s new fame by writing a tell-all biography, a book that will savage her intimately, publicly. But first, he has to locate her; and second, to talk to her without bursting into tears.

As Samuel begins to excavate her history, the story moves from the rural Midwest of the 1960s to New York City during the Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street to the infamous riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, and finally to Norway, home of the mysterious Nix that his mother told him about as a child. And in these places, Samuel will unexpectedly find that he has to rethink everything he ever knew about his mother—a woman with an epic story of her own, a story she kept hidden from the world. - I heard Nathan Hill read the first two pages of his book and it was AMAZING. It had me completely.

We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly (August 30)

Ash and Pia's move from Brooklyn to the bucolic hills of Vermont was supposed to be a fresh start—a picturesque farmhouse, mindful lifestyle, maybe even children. But just three months in, news breaks of a devastating superstorm expected in the coming months. Fear of the impending disaster divides their tight-knit rural town and exposes the chasms in Ash and Pia's marriage. Ash seeks common ground with those who believe in working together for the common good. Pia teams up with "preppers" who want to go off the grid and war with the rest of the locals over whom to trust and how to protect themselves. Where Isole had once been a town of old farm families, yuppie transplants and beloved rednecks, they divide into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools.

What book are you looking forward to this August?

Japan Journal #1: Tokyo

Monday, August 1, 2016

Japan Journal #1: Tokyo :: Outlandish Lit
Sensoji in Asakusa. We got there early before the market was open.
Week one of my two week Japan trip is over! I've done a shit ton of stuff so far and explored a lot of Tokyo. My calves hurt just thinking about it.

Thank god most of the cats were squishy faced, munchkin cats, or both.

I slept through a level 5 earthquake my first night. I managed to fix my sleep schedule within one or two days. I visited the beautiful big temple and crazy market in Asakusa. I saw millions of wildly inappropriate anime girl figurines/videos/manga/body pillows in Akihabara. I avoided going to any maid cafes because NO. I visited Meiji shrine then shopped in the madness of Harajuku. Considered becoming gothic lolita for half a second then realized I would be too beautiful and I would have too many friends. I went to a mother fucking cat cafe and felt pure bliss. I wandered around bustling Shinjuku and checked out the street food in cramped Piss Alley. I went to a Japanese stationery store and a Japanese bookstore, fulfilling all my paper-y Japanese dreams.

Piss Alley, where the restaurants are outside and the space between the wall and the counter is about the size of a person

I took an hour train out to Kamakura and saw the Pacific ocean from the other side. I saw a giant Buddha. I then proceeded to play on the black sand beach, sit in the ocean, drink a can of some sort of pineapple alcohol from 7 eleven (on the beach, it's legal), experience more bliss than I did in the cat cafe, get my first jellyfish sting, and get peed on by my boyfriend for the first time (jellyfish related), all with Mt. Fuji in the background.

You can't see it because clouds, but Mt. Fuji is right above the right-most building.

I went to a conveyor belt sushi place where I had the most delicious salmon, tuna, and calamari I've ever had in my life. The calamari made me feel way too confident about tentacles, so I grabbed a tentacle sushi plate and almost threw up at the table. I'm still queasy about fish 3 days later, which isn't great when you're in Japan, but that just means I have an excuse for eating tonkatsu (fried pork, you have to try it if you haven't) every day. Like I need an excuse.

Our first meal in Japan was bentou boxes, featuring the beloved tonkatsu on the bottom and in the red bowl.

I went to the Pokemon Center in huge, busy mall where a Hawaii festival was happening and spent way too much money on stuffed pokemon, a weird pokemon bag, and a coin purse. Do I use coin purses? No. But do I love Inkay? Yes. I wandered through random markets by accident and got fresh melon bread from a bakery. I've walked by a million vending machines and I'm charmed each time I see one. I've eaten all sorts of strange snacks, mystery fish, and sodas with strange names (Lemon Squash and Orangina are the most delicious. Not into Calpis, believe it or not). I've gotten countless butt baths on fancy toilets. I caught a Farfetch'd in Pokemon Go (region exclusive, bitches. But you can maybe get it from an egg, I don't actually know). I almost played Pachinko, but I the minimum was $10 and I was willing to invest maybe $5. I've gotten used to Japanese money for the most part (why is $5 a coin??). I had sake at a Japanese bar, as well as the most delicious peach and kiwi sour. YUM.

I had an amazing experience staying at an AirBnB with my friends and getting to live off a subway stop right in the city for 5 days. I loved sleeping on the floor in a tatami mat room. I love the weird deep bathtubs. I love how beautiful rural Japan is. I love the seemingly haphazard placements of beautiful houses along small, confusing alleys. Everything here is so different, I don't even have words to explain it. I can list all of the factual things that are different, but that doesn't explain the feel or the smell or the beauty of this place. But I have been keeping a list of some differences that I find interesting that nobody had told me about.


  • Streets are a free for all. You kind of just walk wherever you want to.
  • Most people bike on sidewalks. They also don't say anything if they're behind you and need to get by.
  • Blush is worn bright, unblended, and very high up on the face. A strange trend.
  • There are caged areas for people to smoke outside, but smoking is still totally cool in restaurants, bars, hotels, etc. CONFUSING. Saw the chef at a restaurant smoking in the kitchen, because ~anything goes~.
  • There are virtually no benches.
  • There are also virtually no trash cans. When there are trash cans, they're very specific about trash v. different types of recycling. They're also mostly on the sides of big vending machines.
  • I don't think I've seen a vending machine with food. Only drinks, beer, or cigarettes.
  • Smiling at people on the street is not generally received well.
  • In addition to on the subway, nap time happens at McDonald's. Still curious as to why this is.
  • Public drinking is completely acceptable, but walking while eating is super rude.
  • Single serving consumption seems to be the norm for buying just about anything. No bulk buying here. Or, at least, it's generally not a better deal.
  • Most of the storefronts are wide open and people wheel goods out onto the sidewalk.
  • Backpacks are often front packs!
  • So many stores require you to take an elevator up to a different level on a huge building.
  • You can buy anything at 7 eleven and they're open forever and you have no need to ever go anywhere else.

Yesterday we took a 9 hour collection of local trains to get out to Kyoto. We also had the most horrific experience once we arrived where we were supposed to stay. We opted for homelessness and ran the fuck out of there. What happened to your friend, Julianne in this new, strange city?? Tune in next time.

Leaving for Japan

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hey, everybody. I'm currently sitting in an airport waiting for my flight to Tokyo which is going to depart in an hour. I've never left the country before, so I don't really have any idea what to expect. I'm just so grateful to have the opportunity to visit a place whose language and culture I've studied for many years of my life (though off and on).

This is a journal I received ages ago (of course it's Tolkien-themed). I never used it, because I wanted it to be a travel journal. I've never left the country, though, and I haven't strayed that far from Minnesota. So it's blank.

I've always wanted to travel. I've done a ton of travel reading and learning about expat lifestyles. I've always felt restless when I feel too comfortable. Now I'm actually confronted with an experience where I'll undoubtedly be uncomfortable and confused a lot of the time. I'm about to get exactly what I want, and I'm interested to learn if how I see myself and my desires actually lines up with who I am. So, in short, this trip is a big deal to me for many reasons. Also, cat cafes.

I'll be going to Tokyo, then Kyoto (a much older city), then back to Tokyo before leaving. I'll be gone for two weeks. So the blog will be a little quiet with sudden random posts. There will maybe be one book review up within the next two weeks, but it will mostly be journals of my experience in a vastly different country from my own. Here's hoping some of the 700 kanji characters I've studied and learned before this trip will be helpful. Here's hoping I don't get too lost. Here's hoping I learn a lot. Here's hoping I surprise myself. I'm excited to fill my journal.

"Home is behind, the world ahead."


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