PopSugar – April & May

I have not been actively reading PopSugar for the past several months. Between school and the YALSA Hub Challenge, my attention has been focused elsewhere. It also doesn’t help that I have now maxed out the number of audiobooks I’ve allowed myself to use (20 out of 40). I have seven books left in the basic challenge, and hope to finish them in either July or August. Once I’m finished with those, I will move onto the advanced challenge prompts.

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
#5 – Nordic noir
The Bird Tribunal wasn’t a slow burning story so much as it was dead in the water. I get that it was supposed to be an atmospheric build up to an explosive conclusion, but was frustrated for most of the book waiting for something to happen, or at least an increase in tension. There were glimpses of possibilities, but the only two things that kept me reading was that this book knocked out one of the tasks for PopSugar, and it was short.

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
#28 – Two authors
Illluminae was amazing (Hal 9000 and reavers, oh my!), and Gemina was almost as amazing, but…Obsidio was not. It was good, but it was too ambitious with too many POVs.  It was hard to keep track of what was happening in Obsidio, and there were times I tuned out what was going on because I couldn’t figure out how a scene related to the story as a whole. It really should have been split into two books. One for Asha and Rhys, and one to tie everything together bringing BeiTech down in the process.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
#32 – Celebrity book club (Reese Witherspoon)
I didn’t know what to expect going into Erotic Stories. I assumed I would have to force myself to finish it because it was a celebrity selection, and I have a hard time reading/enjoying the majority of books chosen by celebrity book clubs. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely LOVED this book. Different subplots complimented or intertwined with each other, each one looking at community and/or a woman’s sense of self. There was also character growth all around! I enjoyed how Niki went in with a set perception, then had it drastically altered as her relationship with the widows grew. The widows were by far my favorite characters.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
#40 – Favorite prompt from past PopSugar Reading Challenge
(2017 – #46 – Subgenre you’ve never heard of – afrofuturism)
This book was so very, very different, and weirdly wonderful. It’s speculative, magical realism, and science fiction rolled into one, though at the same time it felt like something more. Alien contact was the catalyst, and the impact of that event was seen from various perspectives – human, metahuman, animal, and mythological. Political, religious, and climatic implications of first contact were explored as well. It’s a character-driven story, with plot taking a backseat. Because of this, the story was a bit confusing at times, but I think it would have been more so had I read instead of listened to it.

Storytime: Matisse 2

While March’s storytime had large number of children (for my storytimes, at least), April’s was back to 5 children.

Opening Songs
“Hello, Hello, How Are You?”
“Zoom Zoom Zoom”

Books

The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan
Oooh! Matisse by Mil Niepold and Jeanyves Verdu

Egg Shaker Songs

“Shake Your Shakers” (Jbrary)
“Shake it to the East” (Jbrary)

Activity
Matisse-Inspired Collage – I reused paper from my Monet and Van Gogh storytimes, and prepped additional colors/shapes. I cut some in squiggles and triangles, but left other pieces of paper in varying sizes of rectangles so the children could cut their own shapes. For inspiration, I also opened several Matisse picture books and placed them in the middle of the table.

May Books

May saw the wrap up of my final two classes for graduate school, so the long awaited Master’s Degree is on the horizon. I also buckled down on my Hub Challenge books (15 read in May), and kept picking away at my Amazon TBR. PopSugar is pretty much on hold until Hub is over at the end of June.

Audiobooks (12)

         

I felt the urge to revisit Sookie Stackhouse, though this time I listened to them instead of reading them. I really do enjoy this series – the first 6-7 books, at least. After that, the quality went down (coinciding with the release of True Blood).  Book Sookie and TB Sookie are completely different people, and I did not like how the show portrayed her or how it twisted the various plots. Plus, as the series progressed Harris seemed to take sadistic pleasure in torturing/killing her characters and ruining their lives.

Novels (6) / Novellas (7) / Nonfiction (3) / Poetry (1)

       

Still on my alien/dragon romance kick, I enjoyed the two Celestial Mates novellas. The others were not very good. Ruby Dixon worlds are interesting as are the overall plots that connect the individual books in her series together, but she tends to get bogged down in the sex and hero/heroine’s self-reflection. As an example, a good 30% of Fire in His Kiss could have been axed because it didn’t forward the plot or the characters’ relationship. The first book, Fire in His Blood was decent, but I couldn’t make it even a quarter of the way through the third book.

Graphic (8)

    

Read Aloud (1)

I read Phantom to my girls in preparation to see the Broadway musical. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for years, but have never actually seen it. The book provided a decent overview, and the musical was freaking amazing. In both, however, Raoul and the Phantom didn’t see Christine as her own person, only an object they wanted to possess. I wanted to throttle both of them.

Family Slime Time

Given the popularity of slime, I decided to do a family program to show people how easy slime is to make. My plan was to have several demonstration tables to show how to make some of the more complicated recipes, have a DIY slime bar, have a take-home recipe sheet, and provide take-home samples of glow-in-the-dark slime, thermochromic slime, and magnetic slime.

Both the director and I were anticipating around 20 people to attend. The library hasn’t really  offered children’s/family programming other than a regular storytime on Tuesday mornings, and we assumed that there would be a smaller turn out because of this. How wrong we were. 86 people attended the program. It was very chaotic, though full of happy children. If I had figured for that many people, I would have modified my set up.

Three things I want to mention:
1.) Slime is an artistic science. You can visit five websites and find five different ways to make the same recipe. If one version of the recipe doesn’t work, try another; experiment with ratios. I tend to stick with the basic Elmer’s school glue/liquid starch recipe because I have always gotten consistent results.
2.) Brands do make a difference, especially with glue. Elmer’s school glue or Elmer’s clear glue are the best choices. I have used other brands of glue, and found that the slime doesn’t “gel” properly.
3.) White vinegar will get slime out of ANYTHING. The vinegar breaks apart the molecular bonds holding the slime together, even if you discover 3-week old dried slime on the bathmat your children hid.

Recipe Handout & Take-Home Samples

Table 1 was set up for families to get a slime recipe handout, and to take home a sample of slime. I chose glow-in-the-dark, magnetic, and thermochromic so families could take home a “specialty” slime in addition to the basic slime they made at the DIY bar. These slimes are more expensive to make and wouldn’t have been practical to include in the DIY bar. (These are the containers I used to put the slime in.)

Glow-in-the-Dark Slime: I used paint, and it seemed like the the glow was somewhat weak. I did not “charge” the slime, so that might have been a factor.  I would like to use a glow-in-the-dark powder for comparison purposes.

Magnetic Slime: Iron oxide powder is a must for this. I attempted to use magnetic paint, but the smell and the fact that the black leeched onto my hands made it human-unfriendly. It’s important to note that the slime itself isn’t necessarily magnetic – meaning it won’t stick to something metal. It reacts to rare earth/neodymium magnets, not so much regular magnets.

Thermochromic Slime: Make sure when making this, that you use powders that react at a lower temperature, such as 72-74*F. Using a powder that reacts at a higher temperature will render the slime pretty much useless in a color-changing sense unless it is very hot outside. I bought my powder from SolarColorDust. You can also find multiple options on Amazon by searching “thermochromic pigment powder.”

Slime Demonstrations

I set up three tables for demonstrations on how to make saline slime, fluffy slime, and gak/borax slime. I had planned on rotating through them periodically to show families how to make slime variations different from the recipe used at the DIY bar. However, because of sheer number of participants, I ended up only haphazardly being able to man the demonstration tables. Most of my time was spent helping families troubleshoot their slime.

Saline Slime: I still haven’t worked out the best amount of saline solution when I make this. Even with using a 1/4 cup, I had to squirt more solution into the mixture to make sure it gelled properly. As a whole though, I do like this version of slime.

Fluffy Slime: My kids love this version of slime, and it is fun to make. My only complaint is that the “fluff” doesn’t last very long. The slime is still usable, it just doesn’t have the volume of a freshly made batch.

Gak/Borax Slime: This is my least  favorite slime recipe. It’s less “slime” and more “Jello-O”, especially when you store it and try to play with it several days later. Plus, when I made this with my Girl Scout troop, several of the girls complained about their hands stinging. I still included it because it is a recipe that you find on multiple websites, and because many people have good results with it. Be careful with the amount of borax you use – too much and you’ll end up with a bouncy ball.

DIY Slime Bar

I am very glad that Bean volunteered to help because it would have been even more crazy without her. She ended up manning a section of the DIY slime bar in order to refill cups and help with slime-making. The director also ended up having to help as well. If I had known how many families were going to attend, I would have used more tables, spreading out each step to give everyone more space. I would also have shifted the tables a bit to make sure there was space behind them to store supplies to make it easier to refill as needed.

“Toppings”: Several colors and shapes of glitter, mini gems, sequins, and polystyrene/foam beads.

Note: I also included some cut up drinking straws to facilitate blowing slime bubbles.

0.) Get the slime-making supplies. 1.) Choose your glue – white or clear. 2.) Add in some water.

3.) Choose a color. 4.) Make it sparkle.

5.) Mix in liquid starch. 6.) Rinse your hands and/or slime. 7.) Wipe your hands. 8.) Plastic baggie for your slime.

Amazon TBR – December (Part 2)

Before I start posting about 2018 Amazon reads, I figure I should first get my final post from 2017 taken care of.

Chemistry by Weike Wang
Chemistry is a fairly spare book, and the humor is definitely deadpan and underplayed – but it fits with the narrator’s sense of self and both her personal and professional experiences. While it has received mixed reviews, I loved this book. It looks at the intersection of multiple aspects of the narrator’s life and how years of stress and overbearing expectations finally come to a head and causes her to have breakdown. She is miserable from the pressure to measure up to the success of her cohort, to fulfill the goals her spiteful, bitter parents have set for her, and to come to terms with how easy she feels that her partner’s professional life falls into place (and the fact that he came from a loving, supporting home and doesn’t seem to get how different their upbringings are).

Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
I read the prequel, The Strange Case of Finley Jayne, and enjoyed both the story and the set up. However, my enjoyment didn’t really carry over to Girl in the Steel Corset. It started out alright, but went downhill pretty quickly. I forced myself to finish it, but have no interest in reading the rest of the series. The bad YA love triangle is only going to get worse. The characters themselves leave a lot to be desired, and the plot was clunky.

Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen
A fascinating look at the “discovery” of the Mayan civilization, and the recognition of its significance. Carlsen did digress from the main concept, and at times those digressions were distracting, as they focused either on the peripheral players and events, or excessively detailed background information. It would have been better if more information about the Maya and the aftermath of the expedition were included.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
I really enjoyed this book. It’s akin to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, but set in space. The characters are clones, and clones of clones, and they have to figure out who the murderer is before they all truly die. The wrench in this is that each of the characters is hiding a shady background, each of them has something to gain (or lose) through the murders of their crewmates, and both their memories and perceptions can be manipulated. The only thing that didn’t work was that the story seemed to straddle a wobbly line between being serious and rolling with dark humor. It would have been better if Lafferty had chosen one side and dove in. The book would have been phenomenal coming from a dark humor angle.

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer
I’ve been a sucker for time travel romances since reading Outlander four years ago. While The Scribe of Siena is similar, it is its own story and feels more like a slice-of-life than an adventure; there was no sense of urgency. That being said, I loved the story, loved the descriptions of life in 14th century Italy, and loved how it ended. It is not a fast-paced book by any means, and should be enjoyed for what it is.

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
I had a very hard time caring about Reiko. She was so incredibly self-absorbed, wallowing in her own pit of bitter darkness. It’s all very annoyingly melodramatic and instead of adding to the mood of the story, made me roll my eyes more times than I can count. The reason for her self-loathing wasn’t given until towards the end of the book, and by then I just didn’t care. There was definitely potential for the underlying plot of being inhabited by a vengeful spirit and time traveling back to when the spirit was alive, but it just didn’t work.

The Infamous Heir by Elizabeth Michels
Both Roselyn and Ethan needed to be smacked. Both were annoying and made stupid decisions for the sake of the plot. Rosalyn was the stereotypical young, unworldly heroine who is “going to do it herself!”, but in reality places both herself and those around her into danger. Ethan was a total asshole using Roselyn as bait in order to catch the murderer. On top of that, even my dense self was able to figure out who the villain was from almost the very beginning.

The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky
I loved how Brodsky wove elements of fantasy, mythology, mystery cults, and history in to the narrative. Her interpretations were interesting, to say the least, and were my favorite aspects of the book. It reminded me of American Gods in that the ancient gods are still among us, though they have been much reduced. I blew through The Immortals and the sequel, Winter of the Gods, in quick succession because both Selene and the stories were so engrossing.

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
This felt like a darker Alice in Wonderland. The tone and darkness were reminiscent of both Neverwhere and Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times. This was the first Miéville book I’ve read, and I really liked the flow of his words and how he used/wrote imagery. I loved how unique and creative his setting and character descriptions were. The carnivorous giraffes were probably my favorite, and they were all I could think of when I saw the Broadway production of Lion King with my children recently.

DNF

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Nope. I am definitely not the audience for this book. I will occasionally dip into chick-lit, but the genre as a whole is not for me. I don’t care about brand names, which were being dropped like they were hot, or popularity. I was a fringe kid in school, and have turned into a fringe adult.

The Only Thing Worse than Me is You by Lily Anderson
I couldn’t get very far into this one because it reads like an adult who wishes they could redo their geeky high school years in a snarky/cool sort of way. It was an overkill of fandoms and geekdoms, and I have yet to hear teenagers speak like that in real life.

Husband’s Books: 2018 1st Quarter

My husband seems to be in a nonfiction kick with a political/sociological bent. Both the Grant memoir and Radical Inclusion were favorites of his, as were extensive dinner table conversations comparing both books to the current state of politics. And even though he read Tribe last year, he still won’t shut up about it.

       

*White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
*Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
*Hero Tales: How Common Lives Reveal the Uncommon Genius of America by Theodore *Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge
*The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran by Robert Spencer
*Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World by Kirsten Gillibrand
*Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
*The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
*Radical Inclusion: What the Post 9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by Martin E. Dempsey and Ori Brafman
*Two Treatises on Government by John Locke
*The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson
*The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson
*The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (play version by Frank Galati)
*Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America by Kurt Andersen
*The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents by Mark Perry
*Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win by Luke Harding

Sophia’s Book Riot Read Harder 2018 – COMPLETE!

Another year of Read Harder down!  I really love doing these challenges, and it has had a noticeable impact on my reading habits.  I’m more willing to pick up books that 4 years ago I would have passed over after making a snap judgement.  I’m less intimidated by tough topics, particularly political non-fiction.  My understanding of the world only expands and grows more complex with every book I read that’s written by an author who isn’t white and/or male and/or cishet and/or American.  And these challenges have shown me that I can always do better.

Book Riot 2018 First Half

Now for a few of the amazing books I read for the second half of this challenge:

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Dawn by Octavia E. Butler – I never read anything by Octavia Butler until this year, and I have been absolutely, totally, and tragically missing out.  If you’ve never read anything by her, GO.  GO NOW.  To the library, a bookstore, amazon.com JUST GO.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – I consider myself a hardcore introvert, and as I get older I get more comfortable with that reality.  But for a long time I just thought I was some kind of weirdo and therefore deficient in the eyes of people who fit society’s expectations for ‘normal’.  Quiet helped me to better understand introversion, and it was fascinating to learn how American culture has continuously pushed extroversion as the ideal personality type for every situation.  Even if that’s not changing anytime soon, it’s nice to feel validated.

The Incarnations by Susan Barker – I finished this book back in January, and it’s really stuck with me.  It’s not gentle or soft or even particularly happy, but it’s compelling and immersive.  Barker seamlessly weaves every thread together, taking the reader through Chinese history and mythology while examining the complexities of human relationships.  This isn’t a beach read – be prepared to be challenged, appalled, heartbroken, and riveted.

Completed Tasks

1) A book published posthumously – Ariel, Sylvia Plath
2) A book of true crime – The Map Thief, Michael Blanding
3) A classic of genre fiction – Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
4) A comic written and illustrated by the same person – Through the Woods, Emily Carroll
5) A book set in/about a BRICS country – The Incarnations, Susan Barker
6) A book about nature – The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan
7) A western – True Grit, Charles Portis
8) A comic written or illustrated by a person of color – Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Roxane Gay et. al
9) A book of colonial/postcolonial literature – Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
10) A romance novel by or about a person of color – Destiny’s Captive, Beverly Jenkins
11) A children’s classic published before 1980 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
12) A celebrity memoir – Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens, Eddie Izzard
13) An Oprah Book Club selection – The Road, Cormac McCarthy
14) A book of social science – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
15) A one-sitting book – Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
16) The first book in a new-to-you YA/middle grade series – How to Hang a Witch, Adriana Mather
17) A scifi novel with a female protagonist by a female author – Dawn, Octavia E. Butler
18) A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image – Lumberjanes, Vol. 7: A Bird’s Eye View, Shannon Watters
19) A book of genre fiction in translation – Penance, Kanae Minato
20) A book with a cover you hate – Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
21) A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ author – The Cutting Season, Attica Locke
22) An essay anthology – We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates
23) A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 – At Bertram’s Hotel, Agatha Christie
24) An assigned book you hated – A Separate Peace, John Knowles