Reading Decathlon – Silver Medalist!

I discovered Epic Reads’ Reading Decathlon Challenge: Read 10 Books in 10 Days! eleven days ago and dove right in. I aimed for the middle with silver because I knew I wouldn’t be able to blow through ten novels (for the gold!) while working full time. Well…that’s not entirely true, but I have other obligations at the moment that cut into reading time. Five novels and five graphic novels sounded much more manageable. Some of the novels took me longer than expected, and even though I had not intended on using audiobooks, I listened to two – The Curse of the Tenth Grave and Sleeping Giants.  That fact is what more than likely allowed me to complete the challenge within the allotted time frame. Overall, it was a fun little challenge; a nice breather before jumping into PopSugar’s 40 category challenge.

Five Novels

mt char*The Library at Mount Char – This was an odd book. It took me a while to get past the weird/don’t know what to think about it phase, but it ended up being an interesting read. Quirky. Dark. Twisted. A bit violent. And I liked how it wrapped everything up. A sequel would just ruin it, so I hope one is never written.

 

summer hill*The Girl from Summer Hill – A lighter, fluffier version of Pride & Prejudice. Really, more of a generic romance with a stage production of P&P as the backdrop, characters reflecting their P&P counterparts. Not a lot of snark or sly wit. I did love that parts of the story were told from Devlin/Wickham’s perspective. A very good job was done with that. I also loved how the opening performance went off. It was a good ending after a slightly lagging middle (where Casey acted utterly stupid when Devlin pulled his Wickham card on her).

grave 10*The Curse of the Tenth Grave – I stumbled upon this series last year while looking for books set in New Mexico (the land of my childhood). This is my favorite one by far. The characters have come into their own, and the various pieces of overarching plot are finally coming together. I like that in each book, multiple smaller plot lines play out while the overarching plot continues to unfold. I have to admit that Charlie does have to be taken in small doses as she can be both obnoxious and obtuse. I learned the hard way that she shouldn’t be binge listened.

pterodactyl*Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend – I didn’t really like this book. The story was surreal and some of the scenes were squidgy, and I couldn’t get a grip on what was going on. It took a normal high school romance situation, and introduced a pterodactyl exchange student into the mix. Everything operated as normal except for this added bit of WTF?. Sheils’ mother was also very annoying. It’s no wonder the girl had such an identity crisis.

 

sleeping giants*Sleeping Giants – This was a philosophical mecha sci-fi. It felt like a slowly unfolding cautionary tale. The focus was on characters as opposed to the “science”; which was more like the backdrop for what caused the characters to behave as they did. I found listening to it (with a full cast) very fascinating. There weren’t really any revelations as the book progressed, more of a sense of foreboding and a potentially downward spiral for humanity. The nameless narrator was amoral to the point of being sinister. I desperately want to know what his angle is, and what he expects/wants to get out of the entire situation.

Five Graphic Novels

LJ 4*Lumberjanes, Vol 4: Out of Time – After a disappointing third volume, LJ was back to it’s volumes one and two self. Riley was back to being entertainingly over-hyperactive, and readers learned more about the camp itself (even though in learning more only created additional questions). I really want to know what is going on at that camp, in those woods, and if/how the Scouting Lads are affected by the strangeness.

 

paper girls*Paper Girls, Vol 1 – I am starting to think that Brian K. Vaughan can do no wrong. Paper Girls was a surreal, WTF? adventure, but in a good way. I want to know who the two players are, stealing technology or people (depending on the group). I want to know the significance is of Apple/apple and the Tree of Knowledge, and how that will play out in future volumes.

 

sex criminals 1*Sex Criminals, Vol 1: One Weird Trick – I thought I would like this more than I did. It received a lot of hype when the first volume came out, but I just didn’t get into it. The whole thing felt “meh”. The concept was interesting, but didn’t play out very well. I didn’t connect with the characters, and the illustration style didn’t sit right.

 

east west 1*East of West, Vol 1: The Promise – I’ve wanted to read East of West for several years because it is weird west akin to The Sixth Gun (a series I absolutely love). I liked the idea – the three horseman of the apocalypse trying to bring out the end of the world, while horseman #4 has other goals and ambitions. I’m curious about the seven nations North America was carved into. However, it didn’t grab me and shake me the way The Sixth Gun did. I would read more of this series, but only if I could find them at the library.

starlight*Starlight – Beautiful, sad, self-redemption, vindication, hope. That pretty much sums up Starlight. My heart went out to Duke McQueen, a man who accidentally wormholed to another part of space and became a hero. On his return home, no one believed him except his wife. Fast forward 40 years, his wife has died, his sons are selfish jerks who think little of McQueen because of “stories” they were told as boys, and have stood him up for a dinner in memory of their mother. On this note, McQueen gets pulled back into his space hero ways for one last grand adventure. I love the ending.

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Emma’s Read Harder 2016

I had such a fun time discovering new books and authors last year, that I could not wait to participate in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge again this year. Three of my four favorite books are ones I never would have read otherwise (Written in the Stars being the only one on my TBR list beforehand).

Two categories proved to be hard for me to find suitably interesting books to read: #8 – Published in birth decade and #21 – Politics, fiction / nonfiction. The former was challenging because I really wanted to find a book published in my exact birth year. The latter because politics is not a subject I’m overly interested in. I enjoy political intrigues from hundreds of years ago, but to make it “fun”, I fixated on the modern era.

Emma’s Read Harder 2015

Favorites

sapiens written in the stars dawn all single ladies

*Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
(task 2: Science, nonfiction)
Sapiens blew my mind. It’s definitely a book that needs to be read with an open mind as it goes against much of what is taught regarding humans, what sets us apart from other living creatures, and how we interact with our world both concretely and abstractly. We are the only living beings that live in the abstract, and much of what dictates our lives is based upon the intangible.

*Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
(task 13: Set in the Middle East)

Beautiful and frightening at the same time. The fact that various characters justified their actions and behaviors towards Naila made the reality of her forced marriage even worse. Gaslighting in the extreme. I could not put the book down, and ended up finishing it in one sitting (bedtime at 2am).

*Dawn by Octavia Butler
(task 16: First book in series by minority author)
Dawn
was an amazing book. There is enough going on that it takes a while to realize it’s actually all happening. Yes, the Oankali have come to save humans from themselves, but the cost is tremendous – both in what humans lose and how the aliens accomplish their “trade”. The Oankali justify the wholesale destruction of species and planets because they feel their trade makes the receiving species better. Their trade essentially strips away everything that makes humans human, with the belief that humans should be happy and grateful for the interference.

*All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister
(task 19: Nonfiction feminist / feminist theme)
All the Single Ladies looks at the history of single American women, how early feminists laid the groundwork for today’s single women, and that it is okay to not follow the historically traditional path. Repeating myself from a previous posts about this book (again), but I wish it existed when I was in my early 20’s. I needed the knowledge and validation that finding a husband didn’t have to be a top priority – and believe me, the fear that I would be alone forever was very strong when I was younger. Marriage does not have to be a straight shot out of high school or college, and it certainly isn’t the only path available.

Tasks

  1. Horror: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
  2. Science, nonfiction: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  3. Essay collection: I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
  4. Read aloud to someone else: Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein
  5. Middle grade novel: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
  6. Biography: A Great and Terrible King by Marc Morris
  7. Dystopian / post-apocalyptic: Citrus Gold Fame by Claire Vaye Watkins
  8. Published in birth decade: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  9. Audie award winner: Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
  10. More than 500 pages: The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
  11. Less than 100 pages: We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  12. Transgender author / main character: Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  13. Set in the Middle East: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
  14. Author from SE Asia: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  15. Historical fiction set before 1900: The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
  16. First book in series by minority author: Dawn by Octavia Butler
  17. Non-superhero comic published within last 3 years: Velvet, Vol 1: Before the Living End by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting
  18. Book adapted into a movie: The Martian by Andy Weir
  19. Nonfiction feminist / feminist theme: All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister
  20. Religion, fiction / nonfiction: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
  21. Politics, fiction / nonfiction: March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
  22. Food memoir: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
  23. Play: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  24. Main character has mental illness: Made You Up by Francesa Zappia

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July Books

My South Carolina workcation took up the first three weeks of July, though this caused less of an impact because I spent most of my Fourth of July weekend reading. I had also reached my social interaction limit, and other than occasionally surfacing to play Cards Against Humanity, holed myself up in my room.

Audiobooks (9)

lamb menagerie sea wolves vulcan driving mr dead
blood starlight isabella orient express agent to the stars

Lamb was an tongue in cheek satire from the perspective of Jesus’ best friend Biff, sent back to earth in order to set the record straight. I found it entertaining, if a tad bit long. ~ Menagerie was beautiful. It was hard to listen to at times, but that was more because of the implications of what could happen, than actual violence. I couldn’t imagine how unbelievably hard it would be to have your identity and humanity stripped from you, and then be so callously and inhumanely treated. ~ I love books about strong women, and Isabella: The Warrior Queen does not disappoint. The history I learned in school always portrayed her with a given slant, and it was interesting to see her from a different perspective. She had very rigid morals and ideals, and everything she did was done in order to force her country to live up to and maintains those ideals. She was a powerhouse who brought a level of stability that hadn’t been seen in generations.

Novels (17)

penumbra beauty queens daughters samurai great terrible beauty enders game koch 1 koch 2 koch 3 koch 4 Untitled-3 girl midnight orlando grace jones speculation sexiest man golden dynasty fantastical

Beauty Queens is one of my favorite satires – and Survivor-style pageant adventure. ~ Daughters of the Samurai was a fascinating look at how Japan’s opening of its borders to the Western world directly impacted three girls who were sent to the US to be educated. By the time they returned to Japan, the country had cooled on Western ideas and the girls ended up stuck in a no-man’s land, trying to reacclimate themselves into a society they’d been away from for ten years. ~ The Book of Speculation was awful. Really neat idea, poor execution. After some initial excitement, the story plodded along. The characters weren’t able to save it, either. Simon was whiny and hand-wringy. His sister was utterly obnoxious and self-absorbed. ~ Both The Golden Dynasty and Fantastical hooked me because of the romance/switching places with your inter-dimensional doppelganger. Of the two, Fantastical was better. The Golden Dynasty was a bit too culturally-rapey-still-falls-in-love. There are other books in this series, but one of them was didn’t seem interesting, and the heroine of the other was too annoying (couldn’t finish reading it).

Manga (2) / Graphic (1)

saga 6 tokyo ghoul 6 tokyo ghoul 7

Saga, volume 6 was the weakest of the volumes so far, but “weak” is relative as the story was still riveting. ~ Tokyo Ghoul continues to keep me hooked, especially with how volume 7 ended.

 

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Read Harder – July Progress

I quite frankly have no clue what to put in the introductory paragraph. I finished the challenge? Sophia is has only four books left and should actually complete the challenge this year? My husband read a book relevant to Read Harder? I will leave it at this because I have nothing witty to add.

With out further ado:

Me 24/24 **FINISHED!!**
My Husband 9/24
Sophia 20/24

#6 – Biography

notorious RBG

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is amazing and this book absolutely does her justice (not sorry).  It was engaging and well-organized, incorporating archived images, internet memes, and excerpts from some of her Supreme Court decisions and other court cases.  She’s had a fascinating and impressive life so far, and I’m in awe of her intelligence, thoughtfulness, and sense of balance.  I particularly enjoyed reading about her seemingly unlikely friendship with Justice Scalia, and I also appreciated the added annotations explaining some of the finer details of her legal writing.  She’s an awesome lady, and I hope she sticks around for many, many years to come.  Final verdict: everyone should read this.

#8 – Published in birth decade

enders game

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
This book has been nominally on my TBR list since I was 15 and one of my classmates loaned me his copy to read over the summer. I never got around to reading it. Fast forward over 20 years to my workcation, and the incredulity of my equally bookish seatmate who was boggled that I had never read it. My sister was equally surprised, so I bought the book and read it. I don’t know why I waited so long to read it, because Ender’s Game was awesome. Ender is not a likeable character in the least, but he lived by the code he set for himself. The story might seem underwhelming  and tropy by today’s standards, but the idea for it was developed in the 1970’s. Using that lens, it’s a hard look at a society justifying their actions to defeat an enemy.

#10 – Book more than 500 pages long

twelve

The Twelve by Justin Cronin
The most I could get out my husband was, “Yes, I liked it. I read all three books, didn’t I?”

#12 – Transgender author/MC

orlando

Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Orlando the movie was one of my favorites when I was an (older) child. And even though I managed to buy the book several years ago, it still took me until now to actually read it. It was enjoyable and dream-like, even if it did take some getting used to how the narrative flowed.

#16 – First book in a series by minority author

devil blue dress

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
I enjoy noir mysteries and this one was excellent.  It’s a well-crafted story that moves along at a nice pace (I would have read it in a single sitting if I hadn’t had to go to work).  You get a good feel for the time period, and Mosley has a canny touch when it comes to social and cultural insight.  I will be picking up more Easy Rawlins mysteries in the future.

#22 – Food memoir

voracious

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti
This book is fun and warm and imperfect, which makes it utterly relatable.  The author and I shared many of the same thought processes when it came to certain books, especially about the food, and it was cool to see the recipes she chose to accompany each story.  Her personal essays aren’t particularly profound or groundbreaking, but a lot of her experiences were also my experiences, which gave the whole collection an overall feeling of comfortable (and sometimes bittersweet) familiarity.  Kind of like revisiting a well-loved book.

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2016 Manga/Graphic Novels (First Half)

After a manic run a few years ago, my reading pace for the graphic format has died down a bit. I’m assuming (especially with the manga) that it is because I’m having a harder time finding titles in print. I also don’t have the time or inclination to deal with scanlation sites. That being said, I’ve still managed to find several series that pulled me in.

Graphic Novel Favorites

lumberjanes 1 lumberjanes 2 velvet 1 velvet 2

Lumberjanes, Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy & Lumberjanes, Vol 2: Friendship to the Max – The first two volumes were freaking amazing. I loved the strength and ingenuity of the girls. I loved the idea of a more awesome version of Girl Scout camp mixed in with multiple supernatural elements. Each chapter begins with a badge description, and almost all of them had me wishing those badges actually existed. Volume 3 did not make the favorites because I felt it was a weaker entry in the series.
Velvet, Vol 1: Before the Living End & Velvet, Vol 2: The Secret Lives of Dead Men – Velvet is what happens when it turns out Miss Moneypenny was actually a secret agent. Who then gets set up and framed for the murders of other agents, and how she goes about trying to figure out why this is happening. Mixed in with her on the lam in the present, are scenes from her past that help flesh out why Velvet was so much more than just a secretary.

Graphic Novels
Roller Girl
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
The Phoenix Requiem, Vol 1-5
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Ms. Marvel, Vol 2 & 3
Awkward
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
SuperMutant Magic Academy
An Age of License: A Travelogue
March: Book One
Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling
Trashed
March: Book Two
Space Dumplins
Nimona
Lumberjanes, Vol 3: A Terrible Plan
Something New
Rat Queens, Vol 3: Demons

Manga Favorites

tokyo ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul, Vol 1-5 – I  love this series. It is horror (not one of my usual genres) and it can be grotesque. However, the characters and the realities of their lives are fascinating. Humans see ghouls as monsters, ghouls see humans as both monsters and prey. Tensions are high with threats and killings on both sides. Throw into this Ken Kaneki, a human who has been turned into a human-ghoul hybrid who is trying to adjust to his new life.

Manga
He’s My Only Vampire, Vol 1-4
Fairy Tail, Vol 1-5
Blackbird, Vol 1-3, Vol 18
One Piece, Vol 1-30
Psyren, Vol 1-6
A Silent Voice, Vol 1-3
The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol 1-4

 

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My Next Next Hold List

My South Carolina workcation is finally winding down – I should be driving home as this posts. And even though I still have 9 books left of the 27 I brought with me, I have already placed hold requests at my library for 20 additional books from my “Next Next Hold” list.

My main list, “Emma”, had over 300 books on it, so I added “Hold Nonfiction” and “Hold Next” to make things more manageable. Even after creating the two splinter lists, I still have over 200 books on “Emma”, so manageable is relative. “Hold Next” initially intended to do just what it says…until I realized I had too many books on it as well.  Thus, my “Next Next Hold” list was created. I will only put 10 books on that list (there are currently 20), and once those have all been requested, I will shuffle books from the other three lists onto it in a most likely unsuccessful attempt to get all lists under control.

Eclectic is again the name of the game for book selection. Some of the books are part of ongoing series (One Piece and Tokyo Ghoul on the manga side; The Rose and the Dagger on the YA novel side). Some books are ones my sister has told me I need to read (A Wild Swan: And Other Tales, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, and The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg). In the case of Dead Wake, not only my sister has admonished my lack of reading it, but three of my coworkers have as well.

tenth grave wild swan rose dagger night circus notorious RBG homecoming hot pterodactyl boyfriend infectious madness ink and bone ivory and bone
rook one piece omni 11 one piece omni 12 tokyo ghoul 6 tokyo ghoul 7
hex hall dead wake and i darken act of god across the universe

The Curse of the Tenth Grave – Charlie Davidson, her shenanigans, and attempts to save the world from Satan and various pan-dimensional gods
A Wild Swan – Psychological fairy tale retellings
The Rose and the Dagger – “Rescued” by her husband’s enemies: her family. Now what?
The Night Circus – Ill-fated, dueling magical lovers
Notorious RBG – Because my sister told me to read this book RIGHT NOW!
Homecoming – Multi-generational tale of two half-sisters
Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend – Need I say more?
Infectious Madness – Mental illness is caused by bacteria/viruses instead of genetics
Ink and Bone – The Library is the totalitarian gatekeeper of knowledge
Ivory and Bone – Prehistoric Pride & Prejudice
The Rook – Amnesiac secret agent dealing with supernatural threats
One Piece – The continued adventures of Monkey D. Luffy’s scrappy pirate crew
Tokyo Ghoul – Ghouls or humans: who are the monsters?
Hex Hall – Reform school for witches who mess up prom night spells
Dead Wake – The story of the Lusitania
And I Darken – If Vlad the Impaler was actually a 16 year old girl
Act of God – A heat wave, biblical rains, and a rampant mushroom infestation
Across the Universe – Dystopian mystery on a colonizing spaceship

 

June Reads

Being in South Carolina has had an impact on my reading. Twenty books in June as opposed to the 30+ of previous months. It’s still relative given the fact that most people (probably) don’t read even 20 books in a given month. Just think what my reading totals would be if I didn’t work…

Audiobooks (5)

off to be wizard witch's handbook Woodard_5.indd trigger warning scary mommy

Off to Be the Wizard was entertaining, especially if you game or play(ed) D&D. I liked it better than Master of Formalities, but not enough to read the rest of the Magic 2.0 series. The Republic of Pirates was also interesting, but not what I was expecting. It focused mostly on the lives of several men and their impact on Caribbean piracy, and not on Caribbean piracy as a whole. Though it could be argued that by focusing on these men, the whole was being examined. Neil Gaiman is as always awesome. Trigger Warning was beautiful, odd, and somewhat haunting. Multiple times I had to pause my phone in order to digest the story as it unfolded or finished. If All the Single Ladies and Spinster should be on all women’s TBR lists, Confessions of a Scary Mommy needs to be right there with them. Women face pressure to get married and have children. And once those children have arrived, to be a perfect, self-sacrificing mother. Motherhood is full of barf and judgement, and while we love our children, it is very hard to reconcile society’s expectations that we completely subsume our needs to those of our family’s. Scary Mommy shows the warts, embraces the warts, and tells you that it is normal to be an imperfect mother.

Novels (12)

rebel sands red queen star touched queen 1000 days dark alpha claim regional office court thorns court mist fury eligible idol weight of feathers beautiful bureaucrat

For most of the twelve books I read, I have only lingering impressions. I enjoyed both Rebel of the Sands and The Star-Touched Queen, and will read their sequels. The Star-Touched Queen had a darker feel to it, in that the love interest was not perfect and happy (think Cruel Beauty or A Court of Thorns and Roses). The Regional Office is Under Attack! was odd. I liked the premise of an elite assassin business being attacked by other elite assassins, but it took me until 2/3rds of the way through for the writing style to gel. A Court of Thorns and Roses is still a favorite, and given that it was my third time reading it, I noticed clues of foreshadowing that I hadn’t noticed before. A Court of Mist and Fury was amazing. Even better than ACOTAR, if that’s possible. Feyre started to come into her own, was encouraged to embrace herself and not allow herself to be shut into a preconceived box.  Sarah J. Maas has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Pride & Prejudice is one of my favorite books, and Eligible did not disappoint. Both the plot and characters were cleverly transported to modern times, scathing wit intact. It is not as subtle as P&P, but then Austen’s wit has been watered down because we do not have the social understanding to catch all the snarkiness she puts forth.

Graphic (2)

something new rat queens 3

I’ve enjoyed Lucy Knisley’s other books, and her chronicle of her path to the altar in Something New was no less entertaining. I like that she shows both the ups and downs that surround weddings. Rat Queens, Vol 3: Demons was disappointing. The plot felt flimsy and incohesive. Nothing really happened; nothing really advanced. The Queens didn’t act like themselves. The illustration style also felt weird. Their features and body shapes were different enough to be somewhat jarring.

Children Read Alouds (1)

school for good evil

I ended up liking The School for Good and Evil more than I thought I would. I had issues with Sophie as a character until I realized what exactly was going on – good isn’t always good, evil isn’t always evil, and what looks like it should be one can end up being the other. I have no interest in reading the rest of the trilogy, so my daughter decided to listen to the rest of the books on audiobook.